False gospels, poverty and justice

I don’t see his face. I know he is wearing a blue shirt and shorts, I guess he is about 10 or 12 and I think he is thin. Why do I know so little about him?  Because he is just in the edge of my vision. I am walking quickly out of the shopping mall amidst a cloud of boys.  They are asking for dinero (money). I am feeling stressed – are these guys genuine or were they sent out to beg by gang leaders? Or is that just my excuse not to stop, to give, to get involved? He isn’t asking for money, just lying on the floor, perhaps the poorest of them all. I don’t know.

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What is my purpose?

This is a question I’ve asked myself for years and I imagine one that plagues the minds of many. In the past I would have answered it with something like “to help people” or “to tell people about Jesus” or perhaps a more vague “to serve God”. Those are great aims in life, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think they’re quite there. As a church worker, I’ve tried to do those things. I’ve worked very hard at helping people. I’ve told lots of people about Jesus. I’ve tried to serve God through giving talks, writing studies, organising events, hosting parties, driving people round, baking cakes, brewing tea, mopping floors and being a shoulder to cry on. But somewhere in the midst of all that, I forgot that my primary purpose in life is to glorify God, and that starts with simply knowing Him (John 17:3).

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Overhelpful?

Being helpful is a notable Christian trait, though something we often carry to excess. Even more so for mission workers. We care, and we hope to change things. We see people hurting and our compassion drives us to improve things for them. We want to solve problems. We want to make things better. We need to see healing. It’s a trap we can easily fall into. One of the hardest things for compassionate people to do is sit and watch someone struggle with pain, confusion and need.

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The Crowd and the Finishing Line

Like many runners, I was transfixed recently when Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon distance in under two hours. I know it wasn’t a race and it doesn’t count as a world record, but it was still impressive. When he broke away from his pace makers and sprinted to the line, I was in bits. Frankly, I could run half a mile at the pace he managed, much less a marathon.

Of course, this was his second attempt at a sub-two hour marathon. His first try at the target was on Monza race course and he missed his goal by a very narrow margin. One of the things that he identified as a problem at Monza was that he was too far from the cheering crowd, so in Vienna the route was chosen so that people could be close to him and cheer him on his way. Crowds do help. Even running in a small, local half-marathon, it gives you a little spring in your step when kids hold up their hands for a high-five as you go past.

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Hope does not disappoint

The Evangelical Alliance has called the UK to believe for a hopeful future following the outcome of the General Election which returned a majority Conservative government.

In a statement responding to the election outcome, Gavin Calver, CEO, said: “I am hopeful for the future of the United Kingdom as we head into 2020.

“Not because one party has won and another has lost, but because we believe in a God who is powerful.

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How big are your prayers?

I found it hard to fully relax the first time that I travelled in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The streets of Bukavu were full of brightly dressed women buying and selling but every time I looked at the surrounding hills I felt unsafe. Rebel militias could strike at any time. One warlord in particular stood out. General Nkunda had an eagle-topped cane and a brutal reputation. His militia were highly effective fighters and so when he threatened to march on the capital Kinshasa and take over the government it was no idle threat.

But, in his pride, he had forgotten that ‘the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to whoever he wishes’ (Daniel 4v17).

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Young people call for flight-free mission trips

Global Connections’ CEO John Baxter-Brown recently spoke to Premier Christian Radio. Here is what they reported:

A group of young people is urging mission organisations to consider a ‘greener’ approach to overseas trips in a bid to cut carbon emissions.

12 year old Jamie Hawker has written a letter to the Global Connections Short-Term Mission Forum to request project organisers provide flight-free options for volunteers wishing to serve on international short-term projects. His letter, which has been signed by a further 20 people under the age of 30, highlights the impact climate change has on the poor communities that mission trips seek to serve and suggests there are alternative ways to help whilst reducing damage to the environment.

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The Culture Gap

This past weekend I just happened to watch two movies which were about the Pacific conflicts in the second world war.  Both movies brought out the point that there was extensive difference between the Japanese and the British/American culture. For example, the Japanese thought their opponents were cowards because they surrendered rather than fighting to the death.  The Allies thought the Japanese were fanatics because they preferred death to surrender.  These assumptions coloured their treatment of each other on the battlefield and in the POW camp. But this misunderstanding arose due to a lack of appreciation of culture.  The Allies weren’t cowards, but they valued life and preferred to live to fight another day.  The Japanese on the other hand, valued honour, and would prefer to die honourably in battle than live with defeat.

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