Volume 3 Issue 3 November 2014
or most believers today, spirituality is all about devotion to God which is expressed in many ways—early morning prayers, daily Bible reading, weekly Bible studies, Praise and Worship, Church attendance, regular tithing, outreach, so on and so forth. As long as someone is active in all these, such a person is considered truly spiritual. Devotion is seen as the ultimate expression of one’s spirituality and the surest way to please God! Undoubtedly, the Bible teaches the importance of loving God and showing our utmost devotion to Him (Deut. 6:5, Rev. 2:4). An on-going devotional relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is not just imperative but indispensable (John 15:5–6). The vertical dimension of spirituality is the basis of authentic Christianity. Any activity that helps a Christian build his or her devotion to God is praiseworthy. Nevertheless, Christian devotion which is devoid of good works is lop-sided. Unfortunately, many Christians today are so content with their devotional life. Concern for the practical side of Christianity is either nil or marginal. The Bible places a high value on good works or actions. We are not saved by good works but we are saved for good works (Eph. 2:10, Titus 2:1–3:15). James shows the futility of deed-less devotion: What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (Jam. 2:14–20). According to James, true devotion always results in good works (Jam. 1:27).
Social action and social service is not alien to Biblical Christianity. Rather, it is right at the centre of God’s concern for the fallen world. Throughout the Scripture, we see God reminding his people of this (Exo. 23:6–8, Deut. 15:7–8). In the book of Amos, God reveals his heart for the poor and his concern for those who are being mistreated unfairly in the world. The empty devotion of the Israelites was despised by the Lord and He refused to accept their burnt offerings and grain offerings (Amos 5:22). We live in a nation where poverty, social oppression and injustices are rampant. India still accounts for a third of the world’s 1.4 billion poor people. 43% of Indian children are malnourished, a third of the world’s total. Over 35% of Indians are illiterate, and more than a third of Indian children are out of school. Add to these the atrocities against Dalits, abuse of women and children, corruption, rural unemployment and many more evils. Can we turn a blind eye to people’s needs and claim to be devoted to God? We cannot afford to remain merely as Bhaktas (devotees). As individuals and communities, we need to pray and act so that justice will roll on like a river and righteousness like a never failing stream in our nation (Amos 5:23).
Sam K John Editor-in-Chief email@example.com
This magazine exists to inspire its
readers to live for Christ and His kingdom. It seeks to apply the Word of God to contemporary issues Christians face in their day-to-day life. Also, it aims at instilling a passion for world missions. Contents copyright©2014 by Kingdom Friends Network. All information is published in good faith. The publisher and the editors are not liable for inaccuracies. Publishing of any item does not reflect the official stand of the magazine.
Small, But Significant
The God of Blessing
Jesus’ Manifesto and Ours
Sam K John
The Poor Will Always Be With You
ACCEPTing Those Stigmatized
Should I Get Involved?
Good News About Injustice
Are You Waiting for an Opportunity?
This magazine is financially sustained by freewill contributions. If you would like to contribute, please write to us. firstname.lastname@example.org
Changing one life at a time
A man who served God and man
Cricket... Building God’s Kingdom
Book Review: The Hole In Our Gospel
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Bryant L Myers
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Malcolm F Ezekiel
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Gary A Haugen
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Interview with Selvam Daniel
Heather A Goodman
aggai 2:1–9 is a familiar story for many of us. The people of God— after being in Babylonian captivity for almost seventy years—were finally allowed to return to their native land by King Cyrus. After the return, the major task that was before them was to rebuild the city of Jerusalem from its ruined state… the temple, the walls, their homes, their market places… all had to be restored. And the first thing they did was to start the restoration work of the temple which was completely destroyed during the Babylonian siege. However, soon
Sam K John
...whatever work the Lord has entrusted us, however small or hidden it may be, let us continue to do it faithfully. Remember this: Only eternity will fully reveal the real significance of our labours for the Lord. 4
they were overwhelmed by external opposition and apathy. Eventually, they messed up their priorities, resulting in neglect of the temple. In order to reawaken and challenge them, a few years later God sent His prophet, Haggai... and in the first chapter of the book, we see Haggai reminding the people of their unfinished work and calling them to action. Hag. 1:7–8: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up to the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured.” What is so heartwarming here is the immediate response of the people. Hag. 1:14b: “They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God.” It was an amazing event. What I want to point out is what follows next. The work on the temple progressed well and within a month they were able to lay the foundation. In the book of Ezra we read that they even had a time of celebration at the completion of the foundation work (Ezra 3:10–11). Many rejoiced and praised the Lord for what God had
done through them. But the Scripture also notes that many from the older generation, instead of rejoicing, were weeping (v12). What was the reason? When they compared the temple they were building with that of Solomon’s, they felt they were not doing anything significant. The smallness/simplicity of their work discouraged them. The temple built by Solomon was in fact a great structure. It was a grand project that involved thousands of skilled labourers working day and night for about seven years. The materials used for the building were some of the best available in the world during that time—imported wood, gold and silver. It was truly an imposing building, grand and beautiful. So, when the older generation compared their work with what Solomon had done, there was enough reason to be discouraged. For some the present project looked like nothing… totally insignificant. At this juncture, God sent his prophet Haggai one more time amidst his people, and this time with a message of encouragement. God knew exactly how they felt in their hearts (Hag. 2:1–3). The Lord first addressed the leaders, encouraging them—Zerubabel be strong, Joshua be strong—and then to the people—be strong…for I am with you… do not fear… carry on the work. It was a declaration from the Lord. (Hag. 2:4–5)
be assured that our Lord is pleased with our work. Our work is indeed significant to the Lord irrespective of the recognition the world gives. History is biased. It is often written from the standpoint of the popular. Historians naturally tend to write about people who have achieved great things or extraordinary feats in the world. People who go about doing simple, unattractive and ordinary tasks seldom find a prominent place in history. Rev. Robert Eaglen is one such name. He was one of the circuit preachers employed by the Methodist church in the middle of the 19th century in England. Apart from a line or two in the Methodist registers, not much is known about this person. He was a thin man with a weak body. There was nothing remarkable about his preaching. His messages were too simple and his voice was not attractive. Did he make significant contributions through his life? Yes, at least in the life of one person. January 6th, 1850: On a Sunday morning, Eaglen was invited to preach in a primitive Methodist chapel to a very small congregation in a place called Colchester. He was not the first choice. As the appointed preacher did not turn up, he was given the opportunity. He spoke from Isaiah 45:22. The sermon was very simple
and brief but it made a fifteen-yearold boy commit his life to Jesus. The teenager who offered himself to the Lord through Eaglen’s message was none other than C H Spurgoen, the man who was later called ‘the prince of preachers.’ Let me give you one more example before I close. Edward Kimball was a Sunday School teacher. For a long time, he had set his mind on winning a particular young man who occasionally attended his Sunday School. One day, he prayerfully decided to meet the boy at his work spot. The eighteen-yearold boy was working in a boot store as a salesperson. Let me cite to you the remaining part of the story. These are Kimball’s own words: “I found him in the back part of the building wrapping up shoes. I went up to him at once, and putting my hand on his shoulder, I made what I felt afterwards was a very weak plea for Christ. I don’t know just what words I used, nor could the boy
tell. I simply told him of Christ’s love for him, and the love Christ wanted in return. That was all there was. It seemed the young man was just ready for the light that then broke upon him, and there in the back of that store in Boston, D L Moody gave himself and his life to Christ.” The likes of Robert Eaglen and Edward Kimball will not occupy the front pages of history. If at all they are mentioned, it will only be a passing remark. However, what they did with their lives for the Lord is significant. So friends, whatever work the Lord has entrusted us, however small or hidden it may be, let us continue to do it faithfully. Remember this: Only eternity will fully reveal the real significance of our labours for the Lord. So, can something be small and yet be significant? Yes! Sam K John is an itinerant Bible teacher based out of Bangalore.
In other words, God was telling them, “Although your work may not match with the greatness of Solomon’s, I am pleased with what you are doing. I am taking note of what you people do for me.” And then comes the punch line— v9: “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house.” What we see here is amazing. God is redefining the meaning of significance. Significance is not all about doing something big, grand or noteworthy. It is doing the will of God and completing the God-given task. It is being faithful to whatever task God has called us to do. When we do the will of God in our lives, however small, simple or ordinary it may look (in the eyes of others or even to ourselves), we can
The God of Blessing
and our broken world Michael Thomasraj
he Bible is filled with snapshots of a God of blessing. God blessed Adam and Eve. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it…” (Gen. 1:28). Think of what God told Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12: 2,3). Likewise, consider God’s words to Noah: God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth...” The creation was blessed even before it came into being (Gen. 1:22). Israel was blessed even before she became a nation. We serve a generous God who desires to bless everything He created. God’s blessings in the Old Testament included wealth, land, children and material things. In the New Testament, Jesus assured us that the Father, who clothes the flowers so beautifully and feeds the birds, would certainly provide us material blessings (Matt. 6:25–30). In line with this, Apostle Paul encouraged us to expect God to supply all our needs (Phil. 4:19). Even in this fallen world, we enjoy God’s blessings, like rain for instance, even though not all people attribute those blessings to our God (Rom. 1:21). Think of terrorism, organized crime, the drug mafia, sex traders, human traffickers, all sorts of mafia, self-serving politicians, egocentric leaders and those who perpetuate all kinds of violence against women and children. One wonders how this planet still survives even as it is being destroyed from every angle. I believe
that God still cares for this world and He restrains evil in our society. God is interested in this material earth. Now that’s good news! As the psalmist would say, there is plenty of reason why the whole earth should rejoice. Even the rivers must clap their hands; the mountains must sing together, and the sea must resound. There is a God who is bountiful in his blessings. (Psa. 98: 4–9) Now there is a problem with this proposition. Not all the citizens of this world enjoy God’s blessings. God seems not to be generous with all people. The truth is, God is a God of blessing and He is always faithful. He continuously blesses His earth. For instance, the un annual reports tell us that every year the earth produces more than sufficient food grains for all its residents. God faithfully provides for all. Now why is that one-third of the world’s population still goes on starving? Why doesn’t every member of this world get his or her equal share of, at least, food? Perhaps we must question our economic and political systems. Are these systems actually unfair, corrupted or simply tilted to favor one group of people? The answer is yes. But we must also ask another important question. What does the gospel mean to a broken and unfair world? Is there any good news that we can share about a God of blessing with a broken world? Can we still proclaim about His care for his creation? The answer again is a resounding ‘yes’! But we as Christians can ghetto ourselves in the comfort of our homes and wish away harsh realities. We may turn up our car windows and pass by the stench assuming that we have shut out the tragedies of the real world. We may escape that teenage girl begging at the
traffic intersection as the light turns green and the traffic gets cleared. We may pass by a slum overflowing with unfortunate beings that squeeze out a living among piles of the city’s garbage and drainage. “What to do?,” we may say. Yet with this powerful gospel about our God, we can do few things. I wish to suggest few steps that we can take. The first step is to challenge traditional notions about our God. That means we stop considering our God merely from a religious or spiritual point of view. God is not only interested in our worship services and religious activities. He equally cares for this material world and the overall well being of his creation. Jesus could have healed lepers with a word spoken from a considerable distance. Nevertheless, he chose to touch them. He was not merely interested in saving souls. He gave dignity to lepers and paved way for their inclusion into the very society that spurned them away. Jesus encouraged us to think of a God who identifies himself with those in prison, naked and hungry. He reminded some exorcists and miracle workers that they failed to visit him when he was in prison. They were surprised! Jesus even reminded his audience that God desires mercy more than sacrifice. The second step is to identify with this generous God. That means we can support the idea that all men and women deserve to enjoy their rightful, divine share of blessings. But have we subconsciously accepted this unequal world order? Sadly, some even argue that poverty and deprivation of some people is God-ordained and Godintended. The third step is to testify about this God to a broken world. That means we can challenge the corrupted structures
of this world both in principle, preaching and practice. James did it in his time. So can we! (Read James. 2.1–7).The so-called Prosperity Gospel focuses on God’s generosity. But it deviates into a miry pit. God’s blessings are sold out exclusively to one-sided or self-oriented parties. The motto is simple: It’s all for me and more for me! This caters to our world’s crooked paradigm of the super-blessed on the one hand and super-poor on the other without any sense of social justice. The fourth step can be to live out this good news about a generous God. That means that we share our blessings with others. God who blessed the heroes of the Bible gave them a purpose too. He desired that Abraham and his descendants would be a blessing to all people even as they first partake in God’s abundant blessings. At times, God’s children sadly missed that part— their call to share with others. We do well in answering theological questions about eternity and the afterlife. We can do better when we take our material world seriously. We can creatively engage with our world to promote justice, peace and reconciliation of humans. Our God has promised to return to His earth and has planned to reclaim the world order where justice, fairness and righteousness will flow. Till then this good news must be actively shared and lived out. We can take this good news about our God or just be thankful that the traffic light has turned green for us so that we can get away! We have a choice. Michael Thomasraj is a New Testament scholar and Bible teacher based in Bangalore.
rnesto was afraid all the time as he lived on the street for nearly three years in cardboard boxes. Since he was very small for his age, the bigger boys were always beating him up at night. Night time was the best time for stealing the money that the smaller boys got from begging. Ernesto was always afraid of hunger. The gnawing pain of an empty tummy was a feeling he experienced often. Rain was also a very fearful thing because it inevitably meant malaria fevers. As he shivered in his cardboard, but hoping morning would come soon, one of his worst fears of all would haunt him. Would one of the bigger boys come and rape him again tonight? Life for Ernesto was a living hell. One day one of his best friends offered to take him to Casa Elephant for soup and medicine. He did not tell him about the singing and praying that went on in this gathering of street children. When I met Ernesto I was immediately struck by his beautiful gentle face and his intelligent eyes. After we shared about how Jesus came to preach good news to the poor and set the captives free, he was up in front of the crowd on knees asking Jesus to come into his broken heart. That very night I brought him home to our children’s centre to live. He loved the warm shower and the clean clothes, but the best part was bed with a blanket. He felt safe at last. One day while he was praying he had a vivid vision of heaven. He said it was a beautiful place full of light. The angels took him to Jesus and as he sat on His lap Jesus told him to stay in the children’s center where he would be safe. Jesus also told him to live a pure and holy life. He said He was coming back to earth very soon, so Ernesto had to tell others about Jesus. Soon after the vision, the third most powerful man in Mozambique came to our center. His name was Mr Komichi. He was a minister in President Chicano’s office. After Mr Komichi gave his speech he asked if any of the children wanted to tell him about what they did in the center. There were over 500 children in the meeting. Up went Ernesto’s hand. He was the first one to respond. He ran up to Minister Komichi, looked straight up into his eyes, and said, “We worship Jesus here, and He is all that matters. Jesus takes away our fears and changes everything.” Ernesto continued to preach one of the most powerful Gospel messages I have ever heard. With absolutely no fear at the end of his message he pointed at the minis-ter who was twice his size and said, “You need to know Jesus too.” By then many of us including the minister had tears in our eyes. Ernesto had seen the Lord’s face. He was no longer afraid of anything or anyone. He loves preaching on the streets with me even with the threat of prison. One of his favourite things is praying with the children who live on the streets.
Heidi Baker Mozambique
Jesus’ Manifesto and Ours How should the church love its neighbours? W Heather Payne
hy did Jesus come to earth, leaving his peaceful, beautiful, heavenly home? He set out His own reason for coming, in His manifesto in Nazareth at the start of his ministry in Luke 4:14–21, quoting Isaiah 61:1,2: “The Lord’s Spirit has come to me, because He has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. The Lord has sent Me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers, and to say, ‘This is the year the Lord has chosen.” Jesus closed the book, then handed it back to the man in charge and sat down. Everyone in the meeting place looked straight at Jesus. 21 Then Jesus said to them, “What you have just heard me read has come true today.” Contemporary English Version
Jesus was anointed, chosen, commissioned by the Lord’s Spirit and given a mission by the Lord. This was a task of the whole triune God, and this was the
time set to make a massive change in their created world. Did Jesus succeed in his mission? An emphatic ‘Yes, of course!’ we all answer. At the end of His ministry Jesus tells His Father in John 17:18, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” Today, we should ask ourselves if this scripture is fulfilled in our work as sent servants of the Lord, as His body, the Church.
We are clear that the role of the church is to reflect the nature of God and to demonstrate God’s heart of compassion, forgiveness, grace and peace. Today’s church has focussed on justification, salvation and service in evangelism and has not demonstrated God’s heart of justice as seen in the Bible. These two roles of the church, justification and justice, can either be seen as two parallel streams, or as one integral mission of the church. Justification is about a right relationship with the holy God and justice is about upholding the rights of people to restore them in dignified, equitable relationships with other people. These are not mutually exclusive roles but facets of the inclusive, integrated mission of the church. Jesus’ mission manifesto gives the model for this, the whole gospel. The President of World Vision, Richard Stearns, comments on Jesus’ mission: First, we see the proclamation of the good news of salvation... first and foremost to the poor. But this is not the whole gospel. Second, we see… a compassion for the sick and sorrowful— a concern not just for our spiritual
condition but for our physical wellbeing also. Third, we see a majestic commitment to justice, …to anyone who had been the victim of injustice, whether political, social or economic. The Year of Jubilee was God’s way of protecting against the rich getting too rich and the poor getting too poor. This whole gospel is truly good news for the poor, and it is the foundation for a social revolution that has the power to change the world. And if this was Jesus’ mission, it is also the mission of all who claim to follow him.
(The Hole in our Gospel, p21–22, 2010)
“Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus was asked, and He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matt. 22:37–40 (niv). These two laws reflect the twin streams of biblical justice that come together in Jesus’ life and resurrection: salvation of our souls and social justice, justification before God and justice between people in society. They are both called ‘doing good’ in the New Testament as in Eph. 2:10. “God planned for us to do good things and to live as He has always wanted us to live. That’s why He sent Christ to make us what we are.” These two streams of justice come together to show Jesus’ redemption of the whole person: not just of the soul, but body, mind, emotions and soul. More than that, Jesus’ manifesto reaches beyond personal salvation to include the salvation of society as a whole. As Jesus’ followers, this manifesto is, therefore, an imperative for us too, to save, not only souls, but also, societies. Jesus’ fulfilment of His earthly mission, bringing both God’s streams of justice together looks something like this: • Social Justice: this came through the benefits of His life, His interpretation of the Law.
• Good News: for instance, not to in-
terpret calamities as God’s displeasure Luke 13:1–5, widow’s small offering is acceptable, Mark 12:44. • Release of the prisoners: for instance, Jesus, with just a few words, achieved freedom for the woman arrested for adultery, John 8:1–12. • Sight for the blind: Jesus healed many blind people to see the beauty of God’s creation, Mark 8:22, John 9:1; healing of deaf and mute man, Mark 7:33. • Freedom from oppression for women in Jesus patriarchal society—Jesus was radical in His relationships with women, treating them with unusual respect, equality, like the Samaritan woman at the well, John 4; Jesus’ approach to women is later expounded by Paul when he describes equality, mutuality in the marriage relationship, 1 Cor. 7:1–5. • Freedom from oppression of the people by the hypocritical Pharisees about the important matters of the law, justice, mercy and faithfulness, Matt. 23:1–37. “You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth’. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matt. 5:38–39 [niv] “You have heard it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matt. 5:43–44 [niv] • Spiritual Justification: the benefits of His death and resurrection. • Good news to the spiritually poor: Sermon on the Mount Matt. 5:3–6. • Freedom from the prison chains of sin: Redeemed us from the curse Gal. 3:13, “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life sets you free from the law of sin and death.” Rom. 8:2 [niv] • Recovery of spiritual sight so that we can understand God’s real plans and purposes for all people. “Those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.” Rom. 8:30 [niv]
• Year of the Lord’s favour: jubilee.
Every 50 years for all slaves and poor people who had sold land, to be restored to their former state. Our inheritance, a kingdom that cannot be shaken, Heb. 12:28; freedom from slavery, 1Cor. 7:22.
Jesus final teaching, His important new command and promise of the Spirit’s coming to His disciples before His death, much of which is only recorded by John, Jesus gave the very significant, but often neglected, new command in John 13:34. “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He was raising the bar on the quality of love expected. Who loves better, you loving yourself as in the ‘royal’ Old Testament law, or Jesus’ love for us in His new commandment? Loving as well as Jesus loves is, of course, a tall order. But He goes on to say how it will be possible for us to do this, with the promise of the Holy Spirit. “ …the Holy Spirit will come and help you, because the Father will send the Spirit to take My place. The Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of what I said while I was with you.” John 14:26 Another self-declaration of Jesus’ mission describes a wholistic purpose. “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full,” John 10:10 [niv]. This refers to the quality of life Jesus wants for his people, a full life, not necessarily rich materially, but not poor either. It will be rich in spiritual blessings which are all based on God’s justice and love: joy, peace, health, good relationships and a purpose in life to glorify God and build with Him the new coming, full-orbed Kingdom. This is surely how we, the church, should love our neighbours. Heather Payne works as a social development consultant based in Delhi. Born in India to missionary parents, Heather has lived here for over twenty years and she has lived and worked in Nepal for about nine years. She is the author of ‘Justice Just as God Requires - Learning Resource’. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Poor Will Always Be With You Bryant L Myers
ne sometimes hears Christians, tired with the news of poverty and exploitation around the world, try to deflect the news by reminding us that Jesus said, “The poor will always be with you” (Matt. 26:11). This is offered as a way to stop the conversation. Did Jesus say this? Yes. Does it mean what it appears to mean? Not really. So what does this troubling phrase mean?
The Unforgettable Woman
Jesus’ statement comes in the context of a story that really has nothing to do with the poor directly. It does have to do with a woman whom Jesus said we would all remember as long as the gospel is proclaimed. Late in Matthew’s account of the life of Jesus, just before the Lord’s Supper and his arrest, we are told that a woman, whose name we do not know, poured expensive perfume from a jar onto Jesus’ head and worked the perfume reverently into Jesus’ hair. Jesus knew that the woman was honouring Him by mimicking the preparation of the dead for burial. She understood before most of the rest of Jesus’ followers that the cross is where Jesus was headed. The disciples, full of self-righteousness, criticize this act of devotion. What a waste of money, they say. The perfume could have been sold and given to the poor. Jesus’ reply is withering: “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” Jesus understood the meaning of her act and considered it a wonderful gift. Perhaps we are to remember her because of her insight into the future sacrifice of Jesus and her costly sacrifice to her Lord. It is at
this point that Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me,” referring to Deuteronomy 15. Only he and the woman seemed to understand that Jesus would not always be with the disciples.
The Mistaken Activist
There is an important lesson here for Christians who do relief and development work among the poor. Too many Christian activists are ruining their health and destroying their families while justifying the zeal because of their commitment to the poor. In the name of the poor, activist workaholics suffer from poor health and burnout, and they damage their spouses and children. This is not a gospel stance. This is not what Jesus asks us to do. Our devotion must be directed at Jesus, not the poor themselves. While we certainly are supposed to love our neighbour, especially our poor neighbour, we are
to worship only Jesus. The woman understood this and the disciples did not. Getting your spirituality and worship right is key to sustaining one’s service to God and the poor.
The Unintended Poor
By now you’ve probably figured out that I am not comfortable with the way some Christians take this statement of Jesus out of context. But my disappointment is deepened by the fact that a little curiosity as to where Jesus came up with this statement reveals a rich and challenging understanding about God, His people, and the poor. The section of Deuteronomy that Jesus refers to begins with a complete contradiction of the claim that the poor will always be with you. “There should be no poor among you,” states the law in Deuteronomy 15:4. Really? This unambiguous claim is followed by the reason why this is so. “For in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, He will
richly bless you.” The land that God is going to give Israel has more than enough for everyone. There are to be no poor because there will be enough and more than enough. “For the Lord your God will bless you as He has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none” (Deuteronomy 15:6). There will be a surplus, a surplus that can be traded with the nations of the world. I can believe this, because I believe that the loving, caring God who created the world for humankind could never have intended a world of scarcity. The God whom I worship would never place humankind in a land that was unable to provide for life and life abundantly. I can believe this before I can believe that God intended that the poor would always be with us. But there is a condition to the promise. “He will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today” (Deuteronomy 15:4–5). The blessing and abundance of the Promised Land are dependent on the faithfulness of God’s people to God’s commands. It is at this point that an apparent contradiction enters the text: “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tight-fisted toward your poor brother. Rather be open-handed and freely lend to him whatever he needs” (Deuteronomy 15:7–8). How can this be? We’ve just been told that “there should be no poor among you,” and then we are given instructions as to what to do if there is a poor person. Did Moses get confused? Is this a contradiction? I don’t think so.
The ones who failed
There will be poor in Israel, not because God’s Promised Land failed to provide, but because human beings were not faithful to God nor to each other. There has to be provision for the poor in the Promised Land, not because God failed or intended it, but because Israel failed. And so it is today, I suspect. It is a fact that there is enough agricultural production today to feed every human being on the planet. Yet people are dying of hunger,
and children are stunted because of chronic malnutrition. It is not that God’s planet cannot provide; it is that we do not follow God’s commands. We neither love God nor love our neighbours.
What Jesus really meant
So what did Jesus mean when He said, “The poor you will always have with you”? Did He mean that poverty is something we should tolerate because it is just the way things are? Was Jesus asking us to tolerate poverty? I don’t think so. First, Jesus was making a point about worship. The only reason Jesus brought the poor into the conversation was in response to the self-righteous misreading of the devotion of a woman we are never to forget. Second, Jesus was being ironic. By referring to the passage from Deuteronomy, Jesus was reminding the disciples that the only reason there are poor in God’s abundant creation is because of human sin and self-centeredness. The disciples did not care about the poor as much as they did about trying to make points at the expense of the woman. “The poor you will always have with you,” was a rebuke to Jesus’ disciples. The passage in Deuteronomy closes with a command. After the verse, “There will always be poor people in the land,” we find this: “Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:11). I think God knew that He faced a profound contradiction. God’s world is productive enough to meet the needs of all. Further, human beings created in the image of God are creative and productive enough to make it so. Yet the sin in the human heart and the curse of a fallen creation means that God’s world will not be what it was created to be. Even though God never intended that there be any poor, He also knew that there would always be poor people as long as there are sinful people in the world. Jesus’ statement about the poor always being with us is intended to shame us, to remind us that this is a true statement only because we have failed. Jesus never intended to justify tolerance for the presence of poor people in the land.
The Message For Us
What can we conclude from all this? First, Jesus was not excusing the presence of poor among us. He knew full well that his Father provides more than enough through His creation. Jesus was reminding us, with some considerable irony that the poor are here because we have failed to keep God’s commands. Second, the real lesson from Deuteronomy is that unrighteousness—of those who are not poor and of the poor themselves—is the cause of poverty. At the most fundamental level, sin distorts our relationships with God, with each other, and with our world. Our relationships do not work for our wellbeing, and the result is poverty, racism, and other expressions of injustice. Poverty was and is not part of God’s intention. Third, to tolerate poverty by excusing it in Jesus’ name is an insult to our Lord who so consistently extended his affection and touch to those who were poor, sick, and suffering. It makes a mockery of Jesus’ statement of His mission in Luke 4:18. God’s commands in Deuteronomy regarding the response to the poor among us are clear. Finally, our response to the poor is to be open-handed. Moreover, we are to enjoy sharing what God has given us. “Give generously to him (the poor) and do so without a grudging heart” (Deuteronomy 15:10). The result of this attitude of sharing is that the “Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” Caring for the poor is good for us! As long as we live in a fallen world, we are to be open-handed, to lend freely, and to do it without grudging. If the loans are not repaid after seven years, we are to write them off. The goal is caring for our family, not running a business. After all, if we were doing our job, there would be no poor. It’s our fault, not God’s. Bryant L. Myers is the Vice President of international program strategy for World Vision International. This essay appeared in the May 2003 issue of World Vision Resources. Used with Permission from Ethne in which the article was re-published in 2006.
ACCEPTing Those Stigmatized by Society Testimony of Raju K Mathew
n 1995, we as a family moved to Bangalore after 21 years of secular work. All those were years when the Lord was changing me from a hypocrite to a person with deep convictions and a desire to live a Godhonouring practical Christian life. What always challenged me is the fact that with the right doctrines, if we also have practical life, what an impact that will have on the people around us and how blessed our lives will be! During an outreach work of our church (Agape Christian Assembly) in our neighbourhood, we came across an hiv/aids care centre and further regular visits to that place helped me see the real need of such infected and affected people. This was shared in our church and to other believers from different churches. In the year 1999, seven of us came together to start the accept ministry. Initially the work was from our home but soon we felt the need for a place where they can be admitted as many of them badly needed medical help. With God’s grace, by faith we started looking for a place and by His people’s help in 2001 we were able to buy a land and build a 25-bed care centre and later it was expanded to 35. In 2005 further ministry to hiv-positive orphan children was started. Over the last 15 years we have seen the Lord using this ministry to impact many lives for Him. “Compassion (of Christ) in action” is our slogan. In the path we have trodden hitherto we faced many challenges, discouragements, and also wonderful encouragement from many of God’s people. One of the main challenges was
to dispel the unnecessary fear people usually have about hiv. Many wrongly think that hiv is very contagious and therefore all kinds of contact with the infected person must be avoided. The truth is that caring for the hivinfected does not involve risk if the caregiver follows normal precautions. Also, many have a judgmental attitude that since hiv is mostly transmitted in India through illicit sex, those who got it deserve the pain they go through. The fact is that many hiv patients are victims of their spouses’ sinful life. Likewise, all infected children are innocent as they got it from their parents. We should not be judgemental; instead, we should have the compassion of Christ even to the ones who got it by their own sin. This is demonstrated by the Lord in John 8 where love and truth are balanced in His final words to the woman caught in adultery. Thus, we ought to see the hiv scenario as an opportunity to show people the love and compassion of our Lord and guide them to eternal life. Many among us do not consider this kind of ministry as the work of the Lord. I do not worry about it. I have two deep convictions. One is to share God’s love without sacrificing the truth [Eph. 4:15]. The other is that such ministries should be carried out with the local church’s guidance and active participation. The main purpose of accept ministry is to share the gospel to all who come through our door and see them come to a saving knowledge of the Lord. Through this ministry thousands of patients and their families have been ministered to and also the lives of many children here. Some of the widows and others who came as patients have put their faith in the Lord and are rehabilitated here as staff
or helpers in the care home. We have seen people who were so desperate; those who even attempted suicide get transformed through the love of Christ. Today, some of them are serving the Lord with us and actively participating in the church also. The future of many children who are in our care is a big challenge but we are already seeing the Lord’s hand in their lives. Recently our oldest daughter of the accept family got married to another young person who came here and became a believer. We hope and pray that families of believers will come forward to adopt these children into their families without fear. What a joy it will be for you to give an opportunity to at least one such precious one. Eternity alone will reveal the full extent of the impact of this ministry as many patients, when they go from here, take the Bible with them and are followed up by God’s servants in their native places in some cases. God’s faithfulness in this ministry, providing the needed staff and resources, is marvellous. Without any fund-raising techniques we have seen the Lord providing on time. We love to see it continue as a faith ministry. Having seen much pain and sorrow of people and over 640 deaths (mostly young people) in our centre in the last twelve years, I have a deeper appreciation of this ‘one life’ that God has given me... and I desire to invest it for Him and His kingdom. All glory to God alone. Raju K Mathew is an evangelist with the Agape Christian Assembly, Bangalore. email@example.com +91 94486 19619
Should I Get Involved? Joseph Oommen
couple, on their retirement, went back to their home state built their house, became a member of the local church, started new friendships with their new neighbors and started their retired life. Over a short period of time as they built relationships in their new community, they started becoming aware of the difficult situations some of their neighbors and church members were passing through even though the external indicators showed a perfect normal life. Some were caught in the trap of slick bank promotions and were now servicing loans which they could not afford. Some were sick and unable to get the right treatments. Some were considering discontinuing their children’s education as they did not have the means to pay. Some were living on day to day wages hardly making both ends meet. A member of their church fellowship group had become a widow at a very young age with two small children to bring up and no income. Some were making wrong choices due to ignorance, lack of wisdom, bondages and incorrect perceptions. Do you see a similar picture in the community you live in? They faced several questions—Should they get involved? What can they do for their neighbours and brethren from their church? Will people see this as an intrusion into their private matters? Where are the resources? Will people take advantage of their willingness to help? What are the boundaries and where should they start? First and foremost, they started bringing the needs they saw around them before their heavenly Father—inter-
ceding, asking God for intervention and making themselves available to do what was needed. Our heavenly Father is a compassionate God who will certainly hear the cry of the widow, the fatherless, the exploited and wronged. (Exo. 22:23,25) Over the past nearly 20 years since their retirement they have become a channel of blessing to people in several different ways. • Education: Paying for the education of needy children so that the next generation is able to provide for their own. A girl who completed nursing school is now working and is able to support her family. A young man is on his way into the shipping industry, another has begun studies in the area of logistics and several others. • Deliverance from bank loans: Evaluating loans taken from banks and providing practical guidance for re-financing. In some cases providing interest free finance to settle the loan. Several families are now able to live outside this trap. • Providing for the needs of widows and the fatherless: Becoming the father figure for these people—providing food when there is no food, paying medical bills, ensuring that the children are educated, writing to authorities on their behalf, looking for jobs for them and providing practical guidance. A neighbor died at a premature age leaving behind three teenage daughters. This couple did all of the above and helped pay for their marriages also. • Medical help for the sick: Helping pay the medical bills of the needy and ensuring that timely treatment is given. • Establishing a giving community of believers: Making the need of people
known to others, seeking help on their behalf and supporting these needs collectively. Over the years a network of people who are willing to get involved with social issues has been created. When Jesus saw the widow weeping for her son, He felt compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep”. When Jesus saw the crowds He told his disciples, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send those away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” God has called us to be imitators of Jesus and wants us to see the social needs around us through His compassionate eyes. He wants us to feel for them as He feels for them. Unfortunately the world around us is becoming more and more inwardly focused. The ‘i’-phone, ‘i’-pad and their equivalents are taking our eyes, ears and minds off the issues around us. Slowly, but surely, the insensitiveness to needs around us is increasing. Forgive us, Lord! God expects us to step out in faith, yield to the Holy Spirit and obey Him in addressing the needs of the community we live in. May this be our prayer everyday just as the song writer has written: Heal my heart and make it clean Open up my eyes to the things unseen Show me how to love like you have loved me Break my heart for what breaks yours Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause As I walk from earth into eternity Are you willing to step out in faith and get involved? Joseph Oommen works with an MNC as a senior manager.
Good News about Injustice God’s Call and the Church’s response Malcolm F Ezekiel Injustice: A Story of Hope
When he was only five years old, Kumar suffered great loss: His father died suddenly and his mother abandoned him after the death. Two years later, Kumar’s tragedies were compounded when a brick kiln owner used a small debt incurred by a relative to conscript seven-year-old Kumar into bonded labour at his brick kiln. Kumar struggled alongside adults at the kiln, bewildered and scared by what he saw. All day, seven days a week, he carried heavy clay bricks back and forth in the kiln as they dried. Every moment was occupied. He woke early each morning to begin labouring at 6:30am and continued until the evening hours, his hands raw and his body exhausted from the strain of the brickwork. Kumar’s owner hurled abusive threats at him and the other labourers when he felt they were not working hard enough. “They tortured me so much,” he remembers. “We worked hard and suffered terribly.” Even when Kumar was sick, his owner beat him and dragged him to the kiln. Though he was only a child, Kumar knew that his situation was wrong. “I wanted to study. I wanted my parents. I wanted to play. At times I would think of all those things,” he remembers. Kumar was trapped. When another labourer at the kiln had attempted to flee, the owner tracked him down and brought him back to the facility, publicly beating him as a warning to the others. There was no escape: “I did not think about freedom,” Kumar remembers. But one day, everything changed for Kumar.
A team of local government authorities, supported by the Bangalore office of International Justice Mission (IJM), came to the kiln and rescued Kumar. After two years of forced servitude, Kumar was free. IJM helped Kumar enroll in school, where he quickly began to make up for lost time. After completing several grades at an accelerated pace in a school specifically for former child labourers, he is now continuing his studies in a mainstream school. Today, Kumar’s life is full of hope.
Injustice: The World Today
However, the rescue that God provided to Kumar has yet to reach millions. The Walk Free Foundation and Harvard scholar, Siddharth Kara, estimates that in 2012-2013 there were between 10.7 and 14.7 million bonded labourers in India. The statistics also show that the practice of bonded labour, a form of modern-day slavery, is more virulent than ever. There are more people in modern-day slavery today than all the people stolen from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade.1 Furthermore, a human being’s worth is less than before—while the price of a human slave in the American South in 1850 was approximately $40,000usd, today it is less than $100usd.2
Justice: God’s Call
The practice of bonded labour is a type of injustice against which God has set himself. Our God delights in “steadfast love, justice, and righteousness.”3 N T Wright understands justice as “shorthand for the intention of God, expressed from Genesis to Revelation,
to set the whole world right.” 4 Gary Haugen defines justice as occurring “when power and authority between people is exercised in conformity with God’s standards of moral excellence.”5 Thus, to do “biblical justice” is to establish an order that conforms to God’s call to righteousness and moral excellence through the right exercise of power or authority, waiting in hope for the day when God will complete His work of justice in all the earth. In contrast, injustice exists when the strong abuse power in order to exploit the weak.6 For a person held as a bonded labourer, the owner who forces him into slavery commits the first injustice. The policeman, government official, judge or other member of society who fails to stop the owner commits the second injustice. God commands Christians to “seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless,[and] plead the case of the widow.”7 The Lord opposes all those who abuse their power or authority over others. He also calls us to stand with Him on the side of justice. While the Resurrection represents the final victory over evil and injustice, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, sent to us by the resurrected Jesus, we are able to work for God’s justice in the present.8
Justice: The Church’s Response
A Christian with the power to free a bonded labourer would have the responsibility to exercise that power in obedience to the commands of scripture. However, most in the Church do not have such power. What is their responsibility to the victims of bonded labour all around them?
Jesus answers this question in the parable of the Good Samaritan.9 The lawyer’s question to Jesus indicates that he (and us, by implication) is guilty of not following the commandment to love his neighbors as himself. The lawyer’s instinct is to hide from his guilt by claiming that those he should have loved are not his responsibility. Jesus, however, does not engage the lawyer by defining those who are the appropriate recipients of the lawyer’s love. Instead, Jesus focuses on our duty to be aware of the needs of others and to take decisive action to meet those needs. By directing the lawyer to “go and do likewise,” as the Good Samaritan did, Jesus shows us that we are required to “be neighbours” to all. There are many ways that you can be a neighbor to those suffering without freedom, in systems of bonded labour. First, you can pray for their rescue and for those who work to rescue them. Second, you can speak or preach or teach about biblical justice to groups in your sphere of influence. Third, you can join letterwriting and other advocacy campaigns to urge government officials to do more to end such practices. Fourth, you can help meet the basic needs of survivors. For example, providing simple housing, sponsoring a child’s education or adult vocational training, or helping survivors access the basic transportation they need to travel from remote areas to find work and sustain themselves. These are vital steps in the process of rehabilitating survivors and ensuring that they are not pulled back into bondage. Finally, if you are a social worker, you can donate your time and skills, from time to time.
The Old Testament resounds with calls to “do justice.”10 The New Testament recapitulates this command, directing Christians to “love one another.”11 The Church is commissioned to be the neighbour to all who suffer, until the return of the King brings gladness and joy and the end of suffering and sorrow. Our pursuit of biblical justice shows that the good news we preach is real; that it has power; that it is worthy of our trust and gratitude. It rests on the foundation established by Christ, and inspires us to live as travelers in this world, assured that one day we will reach the homeland that our holy, good, and living God has promised us. Passionate about human rights and justice, Malcolm Ezekiel has been involved in sensitizing the Christian community about biblical justice to help respond to injustice in society. He holds an MTh in Missiology from SAIACS and is intent on developing young leaders.
1 Bales, Kevin. Disposable People (University of California Press, 2004), 9. 2 Id. at 16. 3 Jer. 9:24; see also Psalm 97:2; Deut. 32:4; Psalm 89:14; Exo. 6:6; Isa. 59:15–16; Isa. 1:17; Isa. 58:6; Jer. 22; Hosea 10:12–15; Amos 3:9,10; Amos 5:12; Jer. 21:11–14. 4 N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), 213. 5 Gary A. Haugen, Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 71. 6 Gary A. Haugen, Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2008), 46. 7 Isaiah 1:17; see also Micah 6:8; Amos 5:15. 8 Wright, Surprised by Hope, 264. 9 Luke 10:25–37. 10 E.g., Micah 6:8. 11 E.g., John 13:34–35.
Changing one life at a time
Are You Waiting for an Opportunity? Thomas Abraham
r Philip Alexander, who used to be in CMC Ludhiana for almost twenty years before he moved to Manali (Himachal) to look after the mission hospital there, was telling us about the fellowship group he was in. The members were all comfortable in Ludhiana, but all open to move where God wanted them to. And today, not even one is in Ludhiana. All are in different mission situations. That set me thinking. Why do fellowship groups or churches exist? If a church is so strong that after years of existence, it only adds people, and nobody leaves it, is that a good sign? Does a fellowship merely exist as a cocoon for believers to enter and find solace? From the story above, I concluded that a church exists eventually to be broken up. If a church or fellowship group has a vision of needs to be met in the country, and is praying and preparing its members to meet those needs, then it cannot remain static or simply keep sucking in more members. Professionals like doctors have easilyportable skills, and so they can move easily, one may argue. But they still face challenges of living conditions, schools for their children, etc. Mission hospitals are closing down on account of this. A friend from Darwin, Australia, was recently telling me that the entire hospital his wife worked at was staffed with CMC Vellore doctors. The ortho department had Vellore graduates in all the support roles as well. The Christian Medical College was established by Ida Scudder in order to meet the needs of people in
the impoverished Arcot district, and by extension, we can say for impoverished Indians. People are quick to condemn doctors who do not display selfless service. As engineers do not work on human bodies, it is considered alright if they sell their skills for the highest price (Isn’t that why most of us change companies?). But in reality, just as different gifts of the Spirit are given for the kingdom’s service, engineering skills can also be used to directly impact people’s lives. If we go one step higher, the five star chef who quit his job to feed mentally retarded people in Madurai (http://www.thehindu.com/ life-and-style/society/article857017.ece) decided that his skills could be set aside in favour of meeting some urgent needs. This is what strikes me when I read about ‘tent-making opportunities’. Not only do we lack common goals and vision to serve the nation and society at the local church level; even at the individual level, whatever we do is based on opportunities (and here I include myself). Why do we, servants of the Lord of compassion, not feel like dumping everything and feeding the destitute in this nation? Even when we have pangs of conscience that challenge us to serve, why do we look for suitable ‘work opportunities’? And how do those who do not know our Lord, from Narayanan Krishnan to Arundhati Roy, decide to set aside budding international careers to be unpaid servants of society? Some time back, I was at a medical camp at a remote village with Dr George Varghese (Laji), gold medallist of his batch from cmc Ludhiana, who could have gone anywhere in the
world, but chose to come to remote Manali in 1979 for one year, but has stayed here ever since. As he examined children with puss oozing out of their ears, he explained to me how a lack of simple hygiene in blowing their running noses had resulted in the nasal discharge finding its way to the ear drum, which it broke through and came out. In essence, every child with a discharge had a broken ear drum and had already lost 30% of his or her hearing. I looked at the lot, hardly anyone more than ten years old. Beautiful and intelligent, they would have gone to any of the upscale schools if their parents had been professionals in cities. But now they were reconciled to a life of increasing self-imposed quietude, unable to join even in lowly games of their mates with good hearing. What had they done wrong? Nobody had taught them to blow their noses! And there we sit in our local churches and fellowships, discussing deficits and strategies while a nation bleeds. We are smugly satisfied with our parttime efforts when we are not abroad on business or even-more-blessed h1b trips. Meanwhile, the children of the land await someone to come and show them how to blow their noses. What skill does it call for? Is it not an opportunity? My friends, let me remind you all that none of us will be judged on the success of our careers. We are a generation of successful, well-to-do professionals. As role models to future generations, we only foster more generations of successful, well-to-do graduates. As I write this, I think about a brother from Andhra who came to Himachal to serve the Lord, and was teaching at the local mission school in
Manali. Later he came to know that the sub-district of Spiti does not have any Christian witness to show the love of Christ. So he quit this place and moved to a school in a remote area, where relationships even among believers from outside are as cold as the winter temperatures of -30 degrees. He was not satisfied with being in Manali. In reality, Manali has a believing community of about 300 members. Spiti has no church or member. Does need speak? It shouts out. It is shouting out to you now! As individuals and as churches, we need to have a vision to “break-up.” Our fellowships must specialize in transforming individuals from successful professionals to successful servants. Twenty years from now, every member of our fellowship groups should be working, nay struggling, in a mission field of need. Otherwise, our cocoons will become our graves and the gospel we proclaim will merely adorn our gravestones. Thomas Abraham has an engineering degree from IIT and an MBA from IIM. He worked in Bangalore with an MNC for a while. Currently, Thomas, along with five others, is based in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, as a tent-maker. They have set up a software company called ‘SoCIT’, which provides software solutions for mission hospitals.
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An idyllic childhood is what most of us have experienced—summer holidays, family outings, playing with friends, reading books, watching cartoons... the list goes on. These memories bring a smile to our face as we look back to those times with fondness. But what if those memories were not a part of our life story, what if the memories we were to have of our childhood are of poverty, of eking out a living, working in a factory twelve hours a day to support our family, in conditions not even conducive for an adult—living a hand to mouth existence, not knowing what it feels like to run with abandon in a field with friends enjoying the innocence of childhood. Or worse still, to be promised a way out of this bleak existence only to wake up to the reality that we have been tricked or sold to a life of slavery, to abuse at the hand of strangers with no way out. Now think about any child you have seen recently, begging at a traffic signal… Did you feel like giving a rupee or two? Did you feel sad for them? Were you moved by their plight? The truth is you can do much more than this. A few years ago, on the way back from work, my colleagues noticed a child begging at a traffic signal; the child was then rescued and rehabilitated. Today that child goes to a good school in Bangalore and has hope for a better tomorrow. Is change really possible? Of course! I have seen it firsthand and continue to see it through the ministry of Oasis. In Oasis, we have the privilege of being a small part of the story God is writing in the lives of many children. Oasis works in slum communities and one of the ways we bring about transformation is through sports. We have seen lives changed; young men who once loitered around are now focused on doing something with their lives. We have also had the privilege of seeing them play for clubs and doing well. We are one of the many organizations who are involved in this kind of work but there are still many more needed to transform hundreds and thousands of lives in our nation. How can you help? Either as a church or as an individual, you can give your time, your skills, your talents or you can commit to pray for these issues. These are a few of the many ways you can get involved to make a difference. While I write this, I confess, I was once blind to the reality around me but being a part of Oasis for the past four years has changed my perspective on life. I now know that people need others to invest in them; we were fortunate enough to have had people invest in us to make us what we are today. Now it is our turn to invest in the lives of others to give them a second chance. We can bring God’s kingdom to earth if we get involved and there is no better time like now for the church to be a part of the story of change that God is writing in the lives of those who are in bondage around us. Divya is social worker who works with Oasis, Bangalore. Oasis is an NGO.
William Wilberforce A man who served God and man Shibu K Mathew Wilberforce took these two causes as his life’s mission and persevered till he achieved them. William Wilberforce was born in a wealthy business family. He was the only son of Robert Wilberforce and Elizabeth Bird. His grandfather William was a successful businessman and was twice mayor of Hull.
an one serve God and one’s nation in parliament?
This question troubled William Wilberforce, after his conversion at the age of 25. Wilberforce was elected Member of Parliament (mp) for Hull while he was a student at the age of 21. He was the youngest member of the House of Commons. He went to get counsel on this troubling question secretly to an old man called John Newton, who was earlier a slave-ship captain and author of the famous hymn Amazing Grace. “When I came away I found myself in a calm tranquil state, more humbled and looking more devoutly up to God,” Wilberforce wrote in his diary after this meeting. Newton advised Wilberforce to remain in Parliament, and later wrote to tell him, “It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of His church and for the good of the nation.” After one year, God’s calling for his life became clearer. “God Almighty has placed before me two great objects: the Suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners [morals],” he wrote in his dairy on Oct 28, 1787.
As a child, he was delicate, with shortsight but intelligent. His father died when he was 7. So he was sent to live in Wimbledon with his uncle and aunt, who were strong evangelicals. It was his aunt that initially influenced him in spiritual matters. Slowly, he started to show interest in Methodism. His mother and grandfather were upset and brought him back. In order to divert him from spiritual matters, they introduced him at the age of 12, to the social life of the town, which included theatre, supper parties, cards and race meetings. In a way, they succeeded in their plan. At the age of 17, after his schooling, he joined St. Johns College, Cambridge. During this time, he inherited wealth following the death of his grandfather and uncle. So he was not interested in studies, but spent much of his time playing cards and gambling. At college, he became a friend of William Pitt, who later became the youngest Prime Minister of Britain. In 1780, at the age of 20, he became the mp of Hull. He was invited frequently to the supper parties because of his eloquence, charm and beautiful singing. In 1784–85, on a trip to Europe, he was accompanied by one of his former school teachers. During their trip, they read together the Greek New Testa-
ment and a devotional book. This created in him a new interest for spiritual matters. He slowly was convinced of the gospel. He started a new life repenting of all his old life, committing himself to serving God. From that day onwards, he approached politics based on his Christian convictions. The British campaign to stop slave trade was initiated even before Wilberforce in the 1780s by Quakers’ antislavery committees. In 1783, they presented the first slave trade petition to Parliament. In the same year, he met Rev. James Ramsay, a ship’s surgeon who had become a clergyman and was medical supervisor in the plantations of St Kitts island. Ramsay had witnessed the conditions of the slaves in the sea and plantations, which horrified him. After returning to England, he lived in Kent and met a group of believers who decided to fight against slavery after hearing Ramsay’s stories. After three years, in 1786, Wilberforce received a letter from Charles Middleton, who was part of a group asking him to bring abolition of slave trade to the Parliament, which he reluctantly accepted. Then he started to study about slave trade and met with others of similar interest. In early 1787, he met Thomas Clarkson, who wrote a book against slave trade. That started a great friendship of working together with him to fight slave trade, which lasted for more than fifty years. Clarkson spent his life researching, documenting and campaigning about the plight of slaves, while Wilberforce used Clarkson’s research and documents to fight against slavery in the Parliament.
On May 12, 1789, he made his first major speech for three hours on the subject of abolition in the House of Commons. Though he never lost a parliamentary election from age 21 to 65, the cause of abolishing the slave trade was defeated eleven times before its passage in 1807. Yet he persisted. Wilberforce reintroduced the Abolition Bill almost every year. Although little progress was made, Wilberforce remained optimistic in the long-term success of the cause. The opposition against the bill was mounting as Britain’s wealth depended on slave trade. For Wilberforce personally, it meant enduring vitriolic attacks in the newspapers; he was physically assaulted, he faced death threats and he had to travel with an armed bodyguard. Along with this, mental breakdown, health problems and failing eyesight were hindering his pursuit. He continued it with strength from God and with the support of his fellow-believers. Many like John Wesley encouraged him. When John Wesley was 87 (in 1791) he wrote to Wilberforce and said, “Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of man and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you.” His diary shows that he always depended upon God. “Help me, O Jesus and by thy Spirit, cleanse me from my pollutions, give me a deeper abhorrence of sin, let me press forward. A thousand gracious assurances stand forth in Christ’s gospel. I humbly pray to be enabled to attend more to my secret devotions, to pray over Scripture, to interlace thoughts of God and Christ to be less volatile, more humble and more bold for Christ.” During this time, he directed some of his efforts into other arenas, largely evangelical or philanthropic, and was instrumental in setting up many organizations. He was, at one time, active in support of 69 philanthropic causes. He gave away a quarter of his annual income to the poor. He fought on behalf of chimney sweeps, single mothers, Sunday schools, orphans, and juvenile delinquents. He helped found many groups like the Society for Better-
ing the Cause of the Poor, the Church Missionary Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the Antislavery Society. In 1796, the Abolitionists thought they had sufficient support in Parliament to succeed at last. But parliamentary opponents offered free opera tickets to some of the bill’s supporters for the night of the vote. Several chose to go to the opera rather than stay in the House and the Bill was defeated by 4 votes. Wilberforce had a nervous breakdown and his physical health collapsed. In 1797, he settled at Clapham, where he became a prominent member of the Clapham Sect, a group of devout Christians of influence in government and business. That same year he wrote Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians— a scathing critique of comfortable Christianity that became a bestseller. On May 30, 1797, he married Barbara Ann Spooner. Slowly, the campaign against slave trade gained more supporters by the intense work of evangelical groups across Britain. On the February 23, 1807, abolition of the slave trade was once again debated in Parliament. At one point “the House rose almost to a man and turned towards Wilberforce in a burst of Parliamentary cheers. Suddenly, above the roar of “Hear, hear,” and quite out of order, three hurrahs echoed and echoed while he sat, head bowed, tears streaming down his face.” At 4 o’clock in the morning, the Commons voted by 283 to 16 to abolish the slave trade. The capturing, transporting and selling of enslaved Africans was now illegal, but slavery itself remained legal in Britain’s colonies. He wrote in his dairy,“Oh what thanks do I owe the Giver of all good, for bringing me in His gracious providence to this great cause, which at length, after almost nineteen years of labour, is successful.”
Wilberforce took another important cause for the promotion of missionary efforts in India. He was burdened by listening to the stories of sati and injustice due to the caste system. In 1813, he got the opportunity. The charter granted to the East India Company was about to expire, and the East India Company policy was to be brought before Parliament. For more than 20 years, the East India Company had forbidden any kind of missionary work in India, due to their business interests. Carey and his friends pleaded with his friends in Britain to take this opportunity to make amendments in the law for “legal permission for missionaries to proceed directly to India, and to reside, and to itinerate without molestation.” The parliamentary discussions prolonged for many months. Meanwhile, different Christian groups got together and sent many petitions to the Parliament to allow educational and missionary work in India. Wilberforce and his friends fought for the amendment. On July 3, 1813, the East India Company charter was amended, which allowed missionaries to come to India. After this many missionaries came to India. After stopping the trading of slaves, he devoted himself for the next twentyfive years to ending the institution of slavery itself. Wilberforce went on to lobby the governments of other nations, including the us, to adopt similar measures, and to assure that the laws were enforced.. In 1826, he resigned from Parliament because of his failing health. Three days before his death in 1833, he heard that the House of Commons had passed a law emancipating all slaves in the British Empire. At his death, the British nation honoured Wilberforce by burying him in Westminster Abbey and erecting a statue in his memory. Shibu K Mathew is a mission mobilizer and resource person based in Bangalore.
Transforming the destiny of child labourers
oday we look with horror and despair at reports of the millions of children who toil under abusive labor conditions around the world. At the turn of the century similar conditions were not uncommon in North America. Edgar Gardner Murphy, a minister of the gospel from Alabama, was certainly familiar with them. The Reverend Murphy was particularly burdened by oppression suffered by the tens of thousands of children under age fourteen who toiled in the textile mills of his native American South. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, Rev. Murphy chose not to surrender to despair in the face of such a tragedy. In 1901 in response to his expanding knowledge of the atrocities of child labour in the mills, Murphy founded the Alabama Child Labor Committee. Rev. Murphy began to write to inform the public of horrors he witnessed. He authored nine pamphlets on the subject and distributed 28,000 copies throughout the United States, often at his personal expense. His writing effort has been called “the first body of printed material of any considerable extent or value” in favour of legislation restricting child labor in the American South. Rev. Murphy believed that children belonged in “God’ s outdoors, in home, or in the schoolroom.” On one occasion, Rev. Murphy examined a seven-year-old’s hand that had had three fingers torn from it during dangerous mill work. When the mill owner explained that the child had been careless, Rev. replied, “Hasn’t a child of seven years of age got a right to be careless?” In 1904 Murphy joined with other advocates of reform to found the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC). The NCLC came to be regarded as the most effective voice in bringing about the abolition of child labor in America, and Rev. Murphy is referred to by contemporaries and historians alike as its father and founder. Perhaps Murphy’ s greatest personal victory came, however, when his home state of Alabama finally issued legislative restrictions on child labor in 1907. Even more substantial, though probably unrecognized by Murphy himself, was the fact that he had “pricked the conscience of the country alive to the existence of child labor as a shame and a curse to America.” One man’s faithful devotion to his Master’ s call to care for “the least of these” helped transform the lives of millions of American children.
Gary A Haugen
Taken from Quest for Hope in the Slum Community
Wielding Authority Are you a slave or a master? Sarah Susannah Anji
ow should a Christian handle the world of entertainment?
At the pace in which the world is moving, for a Christian to strike a balance between legalism and a carefree attitude is the biggest challenge. The same holds true with entertainment. Legalism is the scrupulous keeping of the law with the idea of showing oneself righteous before people and before God (self-righteous) and lawlessness is the exact opposite—total disregard and disrespect for the law. In addressing issues such as recreation, one always runs into the risk of being charged either with legalism or lawlessness.
Slave to Entertainment
Movies, television shows, pornography, novels, magazines exalt that which is depraved and debase that which is exalted. Shows with sexual presentations, violence, horror, bloodshed, blasphemy against the holy God, depictions of violence, often glamorize vicious behavior. They offend the Holy Spirit and make you less sensitive to the needs of others. Sports too has a strangle grip on people. Sabbath days see churches empty but stadiums full. The players become their gods and the praising of God turns to the praise of man and his abilities. Music is a peril for young people. CDs released by youngsters, encourage young people to use dope, engage in promiscuous sex and exalt sex. Their heart and soul are into it as numerous youngsters sing such songs in huge concerts. Video games on shooting, stunts and terror-strikes make it hard for students to demarcate between the
real and the virtual world. A student in the US is said to have shot his school mate… the reason being the inability to discriminate between the real and the unreal world as he was a video-game addict. What may begin as a curious indulgence can become a destructive habit that takes control of lives. An average adult spends 30 minutes on facebook everyday. They sell their data online making privacy almost impossible. A 30-minute internet consumption turns into two hours, watching one movie becomes watching two, tweeting is done everyday, downloading apps has become a growing fashion. Smart phone users live in an electronic world and are unaware of the real world around. Everything may start as an experiment and later lead to an addiction. Beware! for you are being enslaved into an enchanting world of entertainment. Romans 6:12: Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Romans 6:17–22 speaks about being slaves to sin and impurity if there is no room for the righteousness of God. Proverbs 14:16 says that a wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but the fool is arrogant and careless.
of Christian faith. There is certainly a legitimate place for entertainment in the life of a child of God. He can go on a vacation, a jolly ride, picnics, crack jokes, watch a match or a tv show, etc. A Christian also needs to be aware of the danger of exercising one’s liberty, which may become a stumbling block to another (1Cor. 8:9). Paul uses his freedom in Christ in an amazing manner and whenever he used his freedom it was for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must be willing to join with Paul in saying that, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (1Cor. 9:19–23) Entertainment and fun are gifts from God and God gives us such times to be renewed in Him and grow in faith. As James 1:7 says we must remember to thank God for good gifts. Practise Philippians 4:8 and have the courage to say no when entertainment doesn’t build you. Wield your authority and make it your slave.
These are a few questions that we can ask ourselves regarding entertainment: • Does it cause others to stumble in their faith because I do it or watch it? (1Cor. 10:23–33) • Does it cultivate inappropriate fleshly appetites in me? • Does it violate my conscience? (Rom. 14:22,23) • Can I glorify God in my body while I do it? (1Cor. 6:19,20) • Will it put me under evil influence? (1Thes. 5:21,22) • Does it jeopardize my priorities? (Matt. 6:33) • Is it legal to watch? Does my country allow it? • Does it violate my parents’ wishes? (Eph. 6:1–4) • Am I a slave to it?... Or have I mastered it? • Does it distract me from serving God? Sarah Susannah Anji, UESI Staff, Uttrakhand
Master of Entertainment
Entertainment is not a Sodom and Gomorrah to flee from… neither is it a land flowing with milk and honey to reside in. A Christian needs to see the world through the eyes of the word to strike a balance with regards to entertainment. Entertainment can never be divorced from our calling as Christians to serve God. The values of the entertainment industry require scrutiny in the light
Cricket as a means of Building God’s Kingdom Selvam Daniel is an environmentalist and an ecologist working with rural people of Maharashtra for over 30 years. He sincerely believes in strengthening, deepening and widening of the kingdom of God and has commitment towards developing the youths in the district of Maratwada, Maharashtra. Recently soul connect interviewed him. Some excerpts from the interview with Sakthivel Sundaresan:
Tell us about the cricket tournament you organized for the youths. After being in Maharastra for a while, I realized that unless the youths of the area are reached, there is no possibility of Church growth. In most churches, I saw only women young and old, not many young men. Consequently, I took a special expedition to search for the boys from Christian families to see what they do and to find out why they don’t come to church. I figured out that they were not only absent from the churches, but they were also becoming a burden to their families, to themselves and ultimately, to the society. Most young men lacked aim or purpose in life. And the churches were not able to relate with them. I was attending a church in Parel. One day the pastor of the church announced that there would be a cricket match for the families. An idea flashed in my mind, “Why not conduct a cricket tournament to gather all the youths?” I realized that cricket could be a great forum to gather young people.
Sounds interesting! Tell us about the shaping of the event.
Cricket as a means to build the kingdom of God?
Initially when I and my wife went and spoke to pastors and elders, they were all questioning that why should the church conduct cricket matches. Many even made fun of this idea. However, there were some young pastors who saw the potential in this idea to draw youths. Subsequently, we networked with a few businessmen and professionals who shared a concern for young people and we formed an association called “Christian Premier League (cpl), Maratwada”. We travelled to all the eight districts of Maratwada and shared this idea with almost all the churches across denominations. When we met the youths of the region, they showed great interest in having such a tournament.
We think that we could contribute to the kingdom of God by doing this. Cricket is merely a tool to meet people who otherwise cannot be met at all to give the gospel. I don’t know if this could work out in other places, but by God’s grace the idea of cricket helped us to reach boys for His kingdom.
One of the conditions we set for those who wanted to play in the tournament was that their participation should be endorsed by their local church elders or pastors. Many were worried about this because they had no relationship with their respective churches. We told them to form teams and we would get permission from their pastors. Subsequently, they formed teams and we started conducting training camps for them with the help of professional coaches. Most of them never played in a real cricket setup, especially with a leather ball. So many were excited and keenly participated in the training. During these training sessions, we set apart some time to share the gospel with them. We talked about faith and life. We encouraged them to channelize their energy and potential in profitable ways. We witnessed close to ten thousand youths participating in the first edition of cpl.
Book Review Review by Heather A Goodman
fallen world. Stearns desires to broaden our understanding of the gospel and of evangelism as we proclaim the gospel in the world. Specifically, he wants to see Christians active in not only prea-ching eternal salvation but bringing Christ’s victory to the oppressed and relief to the poor in the world. The Hole in Our Gospel is Scripturally-based, focusing especially on Jesus’ teachings about the gospel and the kingdom of God and on the prophets’ condemnations against Israel, who ignored the poor as they participated in religious ceremonies. Stearns doesn’t just reference Scripture; he quotes whole passages, forcing the reader to confront it. In doing so, he also avoids taking ideas out of context or proof-texting his arguments. Stearns also uses his story of how the CEO of Lenox became the CEO of World Vision so that we can see how God works in and through this broken man. He’s honest about his shortcomings and fears in taking up this task, with which the reader easily identifies. He peppers his message with stories of leaders throughout the world who know the power of the gospel and puts faces to the poor, who we tend to dehumanize. This combination presents facts heard everyday in fresh ways that makes the reader pay attention.
You spoke about lives being changed after the cpl. Can you elaborate the impact of cpl on that line? Overall, the character of boys has changed after cpl because of what they heard in meetings and camps. They do not involve in any antagonistic activities nowadays. Many have become responsible men to their families. Few guys from the first batch, who professed their faith in the Lord Jesus after cpl, now are involved in politics in their efforts to change the society for God’s glory. God also gave us the opportunity to mentor many young boys. But that is not all. Churches started to get transformed after that because of the power of youth. Many young people became regular to their churches, some got saved and their lives started to change. A boy who was a gang leader got saved during cpl. Today he is a well-respected young leader in a church. I believe that God can change lives by our unconventional efforts and nobody is worthless in God’s kingdom. That’s what I learned from my experience. Sakthivel works with an MNC in Bangalore. He is also part of Kingdon Friends Network.
In The Hole in Our Gospel, Richard Stearns, President of World Vision, challenges believers to rethink the gospel message. His approach holds on to the tradition of eternal salvation by faith alone and reclaims the neglected aspect of fullness and victory through the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. Stearns argues that in our good attempts to make the gospel understood, we have narrowed and simplified it, focusing on saving people from hell in the next life. This has short-changed our discipleship and our participation in God’s redemptive work, which changes and challenges everything in our
He follows up his exhortation to flesh out the gospel with practical application, acknowledging that though it may be difficult, the task at hand is doable through the power of God. Perhaps in his writing Stearns gets repetitive, but the reader can forgive him for that. God gets repetitive with this same message throughout the Bible.
C2C Call to Consider
Call To Consider (C2C) is a discipleship-level one-day seminar tailor-made for Christian youth groups. C2C with its three main teaching sessions and related activities will challenge the participants to consider ‘the call and cost of Christian discipleship.’ C2C’s main objective is to motivate young Christians to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and surrender their lives wholeheartedly to do His will and purpose. C2C seminars are available in three languages: English, Malayalam and Tamil.
Day of Discovery
Do you long to know what God is doing in the world? Do you like to hear about God’s mighty acts in history? Do you want to discover the meaning and purpose of your life? Do you want to impact the world through your life? If your answer is yes to all these questions, this program is just made for you! This one-day mission-awareness program is very ideal for young adults & teens. This program is available in English, Tamil and Malayalam.
Merely reading the Scripture and studying what someone else has said about it cannot satisfy your hunger and thirst to know God and His Word in a deeper way. You must interact with the text yourself, absorbing its truths. L2S is a Bible Study workshop which helps you to acquire Inductive Bible Study skills through teaching and learn-by-doing sessions. This program is ideal for small groups of 15–20, who can spare a weekend (Friday evening to Sunday evening). L2S is available in English and Tamil.
Learn to Study L2P Learn to Preach
At a time when Word ministry is sidelined, the need for reviving authentic Biblical preaching is a high priority. Preaching (Homiletics) is both an art and a science. It is both a gift and a skill. L2P is a workshop to train young people in the art and science of preaching. This workshop combines teaching sessions, video presentations and exercises. L2P program requires a minimum of four days. We also have a special component in L2P on evangelistic preaching. L2P is available in English and Tamil.