Saturday, December 08, 2007

Finding The Balance

A thought provoking article from Christianity Today:

How We Fight Poverty
U.N. Millennium Development Goals are good—as far as they go.
A Christianity Today editorial | posted 12/05/2007 08:29AM

Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary general of the United Nations and one of the world's most influential leaders, did the unimaginable a few weeks ago: He met with a diverse group of evangelicals near Washington, D.C., and asked for help from the church.

Speaking on behalf of 192 nations that committed themselves to cutting global poverty in half by 2015, Ban told evangelicals, "We cannot do it alone. We need good allies such as you. We need … the faith community to help be a voice to the voiceless people. Your engagement can push governments to push through on their commitments. Do not underestimate your power. With faith and the will, we can make a difference."

Tripping Over Micah: It's too bad Ban's predecessor didn't make the same speech nearly eight years ago. During a pre-9/11 burst of optimism in 2000, the United Nations and other global leaders issued the Millennium Declaration. That statement commits the world's top leaders to reduce poverty by setting eight enormously ambitious goals, subdivided into 18 specific global targets.

These U.N.-endorsed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are as follows: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, to achieve universal primary education, to promote gender equality and empower women, to reduce child mortality, to improve maternal health, to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases, to ensure environmental sustainability, and to develop a global partnership for development.

The world's leaders gave themselves 15 years to achieve these objectives. But it's sobering to look at the report card at the halfway mark in 2007. New cases of infectious disease are increasing. The extreme poor still number more than 1 billion people. Infant mortality rates are persistently high.

The most notable progress has been in education with the new enrollment of millions of young children in public education in the developing world. Botswana, rich with gem-quality diamond mines, is an example of a nation using its material wealth to improve the lives of its citizens. But Thabo Mbeki, the plain-spoken president of South Africa, after looking at the 2005 MDG progress report, said the world's overall response was "half-hearted, tepid, and timid." Experts estimate $150 billion in annual aid is needed, but donor nations have never given more than $107 billion a year.

Despite the limited progress, Joel Edwards, general director of the Evangelical Alliance U.K., believes Christians worldwide should persist in encouraging their national leaders to fight chronic poverty. Edwards strongly supports the Micah Challenge as a key to biblical activism. Evangelicals created this organization in 2004 to shape the overall church response to global poverty, drawing on Micah 6:8: "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

"We are not social workers at large; we are not social activists," Edwards told a reporter for a U.K. website. "We are biblical Christians seeking to behave biblically, and we have spotted something that world governments have done that resonates with the prophetic imperative to care for the poor, and we want to join that. We want to say, 'Good for you, governments. You have tripped over Micah.'"

Keeping Our Balance: Tripping over Micah is a step forward. And the Micah Challenge offers a model for interpreting the prophetic vision for justice with the gospel. But tragically there are misguided church leaders who have lost the balance between advocacy for MDGs and the biblical priority of gospel proclamation. This lost balance, which appears to displace the gospel with social advocacy, must never happen to evangelicals.

God has a single mission to our world, a mission that involves the reconciliation of all things. But our evangelical dna is such that we almost always tell the Good News of Jesus Christ first. This is the historic pattern. We sense a call to go somewhere and share the Good News. While there, we spot a serious problem—poverty, hunger, illiteracy—and our impulse is to solve it. Decades ago, the late Bob Pierce was doing evangelistic work in Asia and noticed the plight of orphans. He returned home and raised money for those orphans, leading eventually to the creation of World Vision.

Evangelicals have been addressing the MDGs for generations: when we see illiterate people, it is our natural instinct to educate them. When we see sick people, we try to heal them. When we see poor people, we want to empower them economically. This is what scholars mean when they say evangelicals are "activists." We get stuff done.

A globally coordinated effort to reduce poverty calls for broad-based partnerships. We did this in working globally against religious persecution and sex-trafficking—two areas for which we've received many plaudits. We can do it again in fighting the national policies and politics that keep too many families in a cycle of generational poverty.

Yes, these broad partnerships require us to leave our comfort zones. But as we learn to partner with others, they will have to learn to partner with us as well, accepting our commitment to make the proclamation of the Good News about Jesus the foundation of our working for justice. We fight poverty through the agencies of the church on behalf of Christ for the reconciliation of everyone—not only to one another, but especially to God.

Click here to visit the CT webpage for more information and related articles.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What Will We Do?

Here's a thought provoking post I found at Waving or Drowning. What will we do?

Too Close For ComfortI was struck by one of those thoughts the other day. You know the kind, where there's an audible "crack", and the ground beneath your feet shifts suddenly, throwing you off balance. I'll tell you about it, and you can let me know how it strikes you.

Pete and I were checking out, and discussing the whole One Laptop Per Child concept when the "incident" occurred. Admittedly, I was dead-set against the idea when it first came out. Nicholas Negroponte is brilliant, but this idea was crazy. I was bothered by all the energy going into the development of a $100 laptop when there are countless children still dying because of a lack of clean water, food, medicine worth pennies, or a mosquito bite. I'm still not sold on the concept , but I'm open to having my mind changed. It remains to be seen.

Regardless, there we were checking out the features of the XO laptop on the impressive web site. Heavy duty antennae, rotating screen, built-in camera and microphone - this thing has everything you need to get online. (Not much of a hard drive, but that's beside the point.)

Wait a minute...


Built-in camera and microphone?

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I thought about all the people I met in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya earlier this year. The adults. The children.

What if?

What if, by some miracle, one of these friends gets online?

What if my computer beeped one night?

What if I tapped the keyboard and saw one of those faces staring back at me?

"Hi Mike. I haven't eaten in two days. What should I do?"

"Hi Mike. My little sister has malaria and she'll be dead in a week if we don't get her medicine. We have no money. What should I do?"

What if my friend looks through her screen, over my shoulder, and sees my four walls and a roof, and my hardwood floors. What if she sees my dinner on the table. What if she sees my flat screen and multiple pairs of shoes by the door?

What if?

The world just got way too small.

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

Lamentation over the dead body of Christ by Sandro Botticelli, 1495

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Let's Get Small

My life has gotten too full. Not just because of work commitments or church commitments or family commitments, although all of those contribute. I can only blame myself for the "too much to do" feeling because it's all related to my many "great" ideas that are okay in and of themselves but then turn out to be too much to manage.

Case in point: I've been trying to maintain four different blogs recently and feel guilty when I don't post regularly to each of them. Believe it or not, I've spent late nights and early mornings writing content just so I don't miss my self-imposed deadlines. Insane, I realize, but nonetheless real in my own mind, so everything is being brought back into Glory Rumours.

My other issue is with notebooks. I love them! I can't get enough of them! I have 5 different notebooks, each with their own special purpose, not to mention the note pages in the back of my daytimer to confuse the issue even more. Well, something has to give, so I've decided to condense everything into one "life book," a job which will be handed over to my trusty Moleskine. Now I'll have the deepest reflections of my spiritual journey right next to my list of movies to rent next time I'm in Blockbuster. It sounds crazy, but then again, such is life - crazy, muddled, and confused with occasional flashes of brilliance.

Not to spiritualize the whole thing too much, but God is really impressing me with the need to simplify and condense - less of me, more of Him - and get back to what matters rather than worrying whether or not I'll get my next book review posted in time. I'm tired...really tired, and I just need to let go of all of the "stuff" that keeps me distracted.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Top Ten Movies

It's a frequent topic of discussion around our office about what our favorite movies are. I always seem to draw a blank. You know, one of those "I can't think of anything on the spot" type moments. So without further adieu, I present for all the world to see my top ten favorite movies*:

Casablanca (1942)
Braveheart (1995)
In The Name Of The Father (1993)
Moulin Rouge (2001)
The Constant Gardener (2005)
Schindler's List (1993)
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
The Navigator (1988)
The Commitments (1991)
Amazing Grace (2006)

* Contents of this list may change at any time without notice, blah, blah, blah...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Review: The End

I have a general tendency to avoid end-times books because they are often alarming or extremist or worse and they usually try to set dates for the return of Christ. The End by Mark Hatch intrigued me though because he is a futurist (what a cool business card) who is a member of the World Future Society. He has been quoted in Wired magazine, worked with MIT, and has an MBA from the Drucker Center. Sounds like someone who should know what he's talking about.

Hatch takes a different approach than many end-timers out there in that he looks not only at Biblical prophecy but also at what current scientific thinking has to say about the future of our planet. I like this approach because much of what I am reading in newspapers and magazines would seem to support what Hatch is saying - that our planet probably has no more than another 40 or 50 years left before we reach the point of unsustainability. Hatch provides a summary:

"What are we currently facing? If you examine Biblical prophesy, secular predictions and general observations about today's global climate, here's the state of the world: The state of Israel exists, the gospel is preached around the globe, and we wander all over the globe in search of knowledge. Iran is on the path to joining the nuclear club, despots are pursuing genetic weapons, and nature is kicking back with AIDS, avian flu and super bugs.

Scientists believe that we will transcend the limitations of our species, merge with robots, radically evolve ourselves with genetic upgrades and live forever. Defense departments fret over asymmetric biotech assaults, regional nuclear war and the dissemination of more and more powerful weapons of mass destruction. NASA worries about asteroid impacts. Geophysicists are concerned about super-volcanoes and environmentalists are concerned about massive global climate shift.

Conclusion: Add them up and you have a persuasive case for these days truly being the last days. As I have shown in this book, it isn’t just Bible scholars who are saying it. This growing contingent of secular scientists, from the most respected universities and institutions are beginning to make the same type of statements."

I am still not convinced that dispensational premillennialism is the one and only correct view of Bible prophesy (a la Tim LaHaye, Billy Graham, and a host of other prominent evangelicals), however the scientific and social evidence alone suggests that we are in serious danger of reaching a crisis point sometime in the middle of this century beyond which we are unable to recover. That being said, I still fall back on the belief that God will keep us here as long as He wants us here. That's not an excuse for not caring about the environment, or trying to eradicate poverty, or working for peace, or being kind to your neighbour. It is simply trusting in the sovereignty of God to work it all out.

The End is not the most scholarly of reads but it is certainly worth investing an evening to read this short book. It will give you a good understanding of the dangers the world faces and will hopefully prompt you to pursue more information about some of the topics discussed. 3/5

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

CBA Advance

For those of you not familiar with the Christian book industry, there are two major trade shows each year: CBA Advance in January and the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in July. Advance is considerably smaller than ICRS but is still a good opportunity to make connections and see what products are coming out in the next 3-4 months.

I had several meetings scheduled this year that took up most of my time on the show floor, but there were still opportunities to do some wandering and check out some of the vendors that we don't deal with directly. In fact, we had a bit of a contest to see who could come up with the wackiest product being displayed. Now, you have to understand that, while most companies are on the level, there are still a fair number of people out there that are either trying to make a quick buck or even worse, have no clue that what they are selling is downright wrong.

Case in point: Fisherman. This is a company making Jesus figurines playing soccer, surfing, riding a Harley, bull riding, etc. I kid you not! Check out their website! While I understand the concept - Jesus is with you no matter where you are or what you're doing - there is something unseemly (if not outright sacrilegious) about the creator of the universe wearing a football jersey, fading back into the pocket to throw a screen pass 15 yards downfield. By the way, I won the contest.

I often come away from these shows with a general sense of uneasiness but this time I actually felt dirty after having spent the better part of three days looking at this stuff. There are some wonderful book publishers out there who have real hearts for ministry (many of whom I have the privilege of working with) but all of the Jesus junk vendors make me want to run away and never look back in case I turn into a pillar of salt.