This morning I had a conversation with a friend, a dentist who is preparing to go on his first missions trip. He expects that he will be called upon to perform dental extractions in the poor community where his team will be ministering. During our conversation he expressed his desire to extend the reach of his contribution. Even before he goes, he realizes that unless he deliberately thinks and acts strategically, the value he adds to the community will be only to relieve some individuals’ pain. He desires to do more. He asked me if it is reasonable to think about a longer range strategy, something like setting up a clinic and training some local people who could perform the most basic dental procedures.
During the ensuing conversation we arrived at three important conclusions:
1. He wants to invest in something that will bring real positive change for the community.
2. Real change will come when the local people are able to help each other in a way that is sustainable.
3. Sustainable positive change will require humble inquiry, strategic thinking, and a long-term commitment.
We also noted a couple warnings:
1. My friend should work to not undermine the local economy. For example, he should attempt to not extract any teeth that would otherwise be taken care of locally. He should endeavor to only help those who are doomed to suffer if he doesn’t help them.
2. He should not, even inadvertently, stifle local initiative. He should look for and enable local people who are attempting to bring positive change. How can he help their efforts become effective and sustainable?
I am delighted that more and more people are thinking like this. It has been too long that, with the best of intentions, our philanthropic efforts have fallen short. Often our efforts to help actually hurt the people who suffer most.
One way that I like to organize my personal prayer time is to divide prayer topics into three categories: personal, local, and global.
The personal topics concern me directly. Often, these prayer items are immediate and pressing, so I usually start my intercession with these requests to keep me from being distracted when I pray through the local and global requests. If I am not deliberate, my personal issues will consume my entire prayer time, so I pray through these items first with a specific time-allotment in mind. Then I move on to the requests in the other categories.
The local topics include my family, neighbors, people in my church, requests that friends (nearby and distant) have sent me, etc. Generally these prayer topics are geographically close, but not always. They are always relationally close. These requests arise out of my personal relationships.
The global topics originate from the news. I attempt to stay alert to important global events and prayerfully bring them before God. In 2011 concerns like the US debt, uprisings in the Arab world, and the leadership transition in North Korea occupied much of my prayer time.
How do you organize your personal prayer times? I’d love to hear your feedback.
With the way this year has gone for authoritative national rulers it seems appropriate that Kim Jong Il died before the end of 2011. Regardless of the degree of aggrandizement these rulers achieved, they were still subject to the laws of truth, justice, sin and death. Like Qaddafi and other tyrants, Kim Jong Il appeared great in his own eyes. These “leaders” managed to subdue and oppress their people for a while, but they did not lead. Their influence was caustic and their legacies are tragic.
Jesus instructs us to judge a tree by its fruit. (Luke 6:43f) When we apply this wisdom, the dramatic differences between Jesus and the likes of Kim Jong Il are so obvious and striking that it is cliché-ish. Nevertheless, as we celebrate Jesus’ incarnation and life as a human during this Christmas season, it is worthwhile to pause and be refreshed by the different way Jesus taught and lived.
Thank God for Jesus!
The Apostle Peter urges us to be holy. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” http://biblia.com/books/niv/1Pe1.13-16
I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t feel holy. I mean, I haven’t killed anyone or done anything else that I would consider heinous. Nevertheless, I still don’t feel holy. I fail daily. My mind tends to wander. I am often not prepared for godly action. I still struggle with the same evil desires I had when I “lived in ignorance.” I feel more conformed to this world than “set apart” unto the Lord.
Am I living by God’s standards or the world’s?
Oh Lord, help me daily live a set-apart life, not trying to “blend in” with the world. Keep me from substituting worldly pleasures for the deeper experiences of your love. Teach me obedience according to your Word as I study the Bible and pray.
For the past couple decades missionaries and businessmen have been talking about “business as mission” or BAM. This idea combines profit-mindedness with cross-cultural Christian ministry. BAM companies minister at two levels. First to the people who directly relate to the company – employees, vendors, customers, competitors, etc., and the community in which they operate. The idea is that these companies bring glory to God and service to people through honest to goodness business.
BAM is a great concept with strategic advantages over traditional missions for several reasons. Let me list two. First, many countries with the greatest need for the gospel place restrictions on “missionary” activity, but are eager to bring in effective companies. Second, we have come to understand that it is generally not helpful or even counter-productive for outsiders to try to develop communities. It is better to help local people build their own communities. BAM provides needed goods and services, and jobs. Local people with jobs transform communities.
We are currently attempting to launch a BAM organization. Our idea is to train indigenous (local) entrepreneurs in emerging global markets/the developing world. We believe that helping local talent succeed will bring the greatest value to struggling communities and will shine the brightest light on Jesus, the God of Love.
Please visit our web site: http://www.andaleadership.com/
This evening our Growth Group is discussing James 3:1-12, “An Unruly Tongue.” As I was preparing to facilitate the conversation, two points seemed particularly potent.
First, teachers are held to a higher standard than other people. At first this seems unfair. Why does God accept this double standard? Possibly some of us are asking this as we watch the Penn State abuse scandal unfold. In comparison to similar cases, it seems that Joe Paterno is being treated more harshly than other people in similar situations. Maybe it is unfair, but it is right. Joe Paterno has been a role model for many people. His influence is very large. Therefore his failure affects many. Those of us who wish to influence others must be aware that if we are successful, we will be held to a higher standard.
Second, as I evaluate my speech patterns I recognize that I often use humor to diffuse awkward or tense situations. Generally, this is an appropriate use of humor. However, I think I tend to overuse this tactic. There are times when I could encourage someone with a straight answer, but instead I jokingly say something ridiculous. That might be fun, but it tends to dilute teachable moments. As a teacher, I should be alert to every opportunity to extend a blessing or a word of encouragement.
I hope that your mouth and mine will be like a spring of fresh water.
What do you think?
Our friend and fellow growth group member, Terri, died Wednesday just after noon. I considered canceling our meeting Wednesday evening, but decided not to because I personally felt a need to be with other people who also loved and miss her. Apparently, others in our group had the same felt need. We did not continue in our study of James. We did not spend much time catching up with each other. Instead, we talked about our last interaction with Terri and planned how we will celebrate her life with a memorial service.
We prayed, read scripture and sang a song, but our meeting was not structured with an agenda like usual. Rather, it meandered. It felt more like a stream of consciousness than a typical meeting. Several of us wept. At least one of us expressed regret for missing opportunities to serve Terri as she neared the end. Others felt a deep sense of joy as we contemplated the freedom Terri is feeling now – walking, talking, singing. Because of the limitations caused by multiple-sclerosis, it somehow seems that her heavenly body will be even more appreciated.
I reminded our group that grief is a process. To some extent the stages of grief are predictable and it can be helpful to know what to expect and to be reminded that our experience is normal and healthy. But we did not study the stages of grief. Instead, we simply sat together.
Psalm 116 15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. 16 O LORD, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains.