Category Archives: Biblical worldview

Severe but Curable

On average, over 22,000 children die each day from preventable, hunger-related causes.  This fact that receives so little media attention should be among our most urgent priorities.

Over half of these deaths occur on the African continent, so as the World Cup turned attentions there, I sought answers to why the tragedy of hunger persists so cruelly and what can be done about it.  My reading included Richard Stearns’ The Hole in Our Gospel and Thurow and Kilman’s Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty.  Taken together, these provided a well-rounded mix: the heart and perspective of a luxury goods CEO turned children’s champion, and pragmatic detail from on-the-ground Wall Street Journal correspondents.

Structural

Thurow and Kilman describe the structural problems that give rise to African hunger.  Bad policy decisions by governments, the World Bank, USAID, agricultural councils, and other groups lock many African nations into a cycle of dependency.  US crops that are dumped on the world market at heavily-subsidized prices undercut African farmers, driving them out of business.  Insistence on food-only aid exacerbates this problem; for example, during the 2003 Ethiopian famine, international aid trucks drove their loads of US grain past warehouses that were overflowing with the same unsold, unused staples grown by local farmers.  Approachable infrastructure problems lie festering.  More recently, subsidized Ethanol production diverted food to fuel, driving grain prices out of reach of the world’s poor.  As a result, the Green Revolution which decades ago lifted Asia out of hunger and poverty still evades Africa.

Spiritual

Richard Stearns decribes how it’s a spiritual problem.  He reminds us of our scriptural obligations (such as Matthew 25 and Isaiah 58) to provide for the poor and feed the hungry.  A gospel with a hole in it is one that accepts personal salvation but ignores the parables of the Good Samaritan, Lazarus, the Sheep and the Goats, and the 2,100 other Bible passages about caring for the poor.  Stearns describes how that conviction led him to leave a life of luxury and head World Vision.

Attainable

Spiritual and structural.  They’re both right.  And the solutions are well within reach.

Modifying food aid programs to allow local purchase may reduce US farm subsidies, but it will help African farmers become self-sufficient.  Providing African farmers the same financial security measures (such as futures and crop insurance) that farmers in developed nations enjoy will help shoulder their risks and smooth out the boom and bust cycles.  Relatively small investments in infrastructure (dams, irrigation, higher-yield seeds, and road improvements) can dramatically improve farming productivity.  Simple treatments and immunizations can very effectively prevent and confront the crises of malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS.  Small yet powerful innovations like Plumpy’nut and the KickStart pump can be rapidly deployed.   These proactive and preventative measures are not only affordable, they’re collectively less expensive than remedial aid has been.

Making a Difference

But most of us can’t hop on a plane tomorrow to go build a dam or start a futures exchange in Africa.  So what can we do?  As Mother Theresa has said, “we cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”

For some quick encouragement and ideas, read Chapter 10 of Enough.  If you don’t already support World Vision or a similar ministry, sponsor one or more children from their web site.  I’ve seen first-hand the effectiveness of World Vision’s work in the developing world, and I highly recommend them.  And if budgeting is an issue, consider your very prominent position on the Global Rich List; for example, if you make $35,000 annually, you’re richer than 95% of the world.

Global hunger is a large-scale, often overwhelming problem, but that’s no excuse for paralysis or inaction.  It can be solved, one step at a time, one person at a time.

You’ve Got Questions…

“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.
Job 38:2-3

Sometimes problems come in groups, and that seems to be the case lately among many friends and family members.  Often times, our immediate reaction is to ask, “why God?”  If asked in anger, we need a perspective checkDave’s latest sermons on Job 38 and 39 provide that, and tell us how, comparatively, we have ostrich brains.  Give them a listen.

March for Life

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
Deut 30:19b

This year’s March for Life was well-attended; several thousand marched in Atlanta, with hundreds of thousands in similar marches in Washington, D.C., and at state capitols across the nation.  Tina took some thought-provoking photos that you can view in her Picasa gallery.

Abortion is a moral issue, not a political one.  It is the slavery and holocaust of our day, defended by the same arguments, to the same end.  May it soon be just as far behind us.

Hands & Feet Project

“…to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”
Matthew 25:40b

The scope of the damage, the length of relief, and the need for prayer are all so great right now in Haiti; it just doesn’t fit into the brain.  It could take decades to recover, but basic survival and rescue are the needs of the day right now.

When giving, it’s prudent to find a proven, reputable, right-minded organization that’s already there.  I commend to you the Hands & Feet Project, an orphanage in underserved Jacmel, Haiti.  Please visit their web site for more information.

This New stuff really is Old

One might think it’s a lesser known communicable attribute that we drop hints.  If asked to keep a secret too long, fragments of it will sometimes percolate out of us until the gig is up.  Let my wife buy you a Christmas or birthday present early enough and, by the time that gift-giving day arrives, you will have probably pieced together enough “slips” to at least take a really good guess at what it is.  Just ask her about woks some time.

Redemption and resurrection are such well defined New Testament concepts that we often don’t look for them in the Old.  And God, who is outside of time and space, wasn’t impatient getting to them.  Yet that news was just too good to keep hidden during Israel’s trials and discipline.

So redemption and resurrection are clearly communicated in the Old Testament.  The clues were often missed, but they certainly weren’t subtle.  They were so common and so not-subtle that Israel developed idioms and “shortcuts” for them.  Something like those two friends who numbered their jokes to save time retelling them.

“Redeemed from the pit” (or Sheol) is one of these. Perhaps the most familiar is in Psalm 103; others include 1 Sam 2:6, Psalm 16, and Psalm 30.

“Light of light” is another.  To suffer or go down into the pit and then “see the light of life” meant to be risen from the dead. My favorite use of this is in Isaiah 53:11, because it’s such a clear prophecy of Christ’s resurrection, but also because it was just too good to keep hidden.  Some manuscripts had the verb for “see” with the required object missing, causing early NASB translators (and others) to add it in italics.  The “it” was “the light” (of resurrection) and it was there all along, with the Dead Sea Scrolls providing the final proofs.

In today’s sermon, Pastor Dave Stephens covered Job 33, and verses 28-30 lept out.  I’m not sure how I previously missed the weight of these two foreshadows being so clearly and beautifully presented, but they were certainly there all along. In this most ancient of works, the very future concepts of resurrection and redemption are exceptionally clear.  As Dave points out, Job contains some advanced Christology (and, of course, very beautiful language), so we should discard any idea that ancient man was primitive.  Listen to his series on Job for more on that.

Warfield said described the Old Testament as a room “fully furnished but dimly lit” and Augustine said that what is “concealed in the Old Testament is revealed in the New”.  Indeed.