A Word About Value

The Bible teaches that when God created man, He created him in the image and likeness of God: “So God created mankind in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26–27). The foundational principle of this truth is also the moral and practical foundation for the protection and defense of human life at all ages and stages.

All human life is of equal worth and immeasurable value, from conception to natural death, because man is made in the image of God.

Men and women are intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual beings that will never cease to exist; all of these attributes are reflections of characteristics possessed by God. God’s image is also reflected in every virtuous character trait we possess: love, faithfulness, justice, righteousness, patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

The Bible speaks clearly about God’s sovereignty over all of His creation, but it makes a special distinction for mankind—men and women—for we are the only beings created in the image of God. (This distinction is not reserved only for followers of Christ, but extends to every member of the human race.) God has made each of us with a purpose (Psalm 100:3, Psalm 139:13–16a), and He has a plan for our lives that begins at conception—the first moment of our existence (Jeremiah 1:4–5).

Adapted from The Journey of a Life-Giver (2016) Training Curriculum.

My Tryst with Radio

Written by Vinita Shaw, Founder & CEO of Disha Foundation

While watching Bye Bye Love, a Hollywood comedy on the lives of divorced men, the scenes of radio presenter Dr. Townsend brought afresh the powerful reach of radio to my mind, pushing me down memory lane. I remember the mornings when I was woken up to the signature tune of Back to the Bible children’s program, followed by a Bible story presented by Aunty Olive.

Amidst the hurried routine of the early morning and gulping down of breakfast, as we darted out to get our school bus, the seeds of the Word of God, which the radio program had scattered, got sown deep in the depths of my soul!

Years and many miracles later, I responded to the call of full-time Christian service and entered Trans World Radio-India, where I served for more than 20 years. The power of radio, as I witnessed firsthand, was so immense that I was prompted to write a book on the power of radio in India.

My tryst with radio continues to this day as through Disha Foundation. I speak in multiple languages in multiple weekly radio broadcasts that reach an estimated 80 million people across the Indian sub-continent, crossing all political, gender, religious, literacy, and caste boundaries.

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Radio listeners call in by the thousands every week from all parts of India, even from the neighboring countries, saying:

“We listen to you every single week. If a man would only listen to your radio programs on gender equality four times in a row, I promise, he will be a changed man.” This was a male listener!

Another listener writes, “I am paralyzed. I love listening to your radio programs. Even though I cannot get up from bed, I tell people who come to visit me to listen to your program and know Jesus.”

A farmer calls from a remote village saying, “My family and I are the only Christians in this village. We received Jesus through your programs. We went across to all the computer centers asking for Christian songs to be downloaded, but they drove us away. Will you please send us songs about Jesus. We love Him.”

For those who think radio is outdated today, this is the testimony of a radio listener turned radio speaker; my journey from being a radio-fruit to fruit-bearing through radio.


To learn more about Disha Foundation and other life-giving ministry partners of LIFE International, check out our Story page!

This is My Father’s World

Excerpt from the blog of Pastor Mark Shaw, Calvary Baptist Church, Greenville, Michigan. 

The grandchildren like to play Chutes and Ladders, Trouble, Don’t Break the Ice and other games that I haven’t played in a long time. One thing I have to be aware of is their tendency to change the rules of the game. I’m generally the learner in these situations and they are teaching me to play. Their position of power is an occasion to demonstrate their depravity. They state the rules but when the roll of the dice causes difficulty for them they often try to change the rules. 

This is the problem of autonomy.  

Francis Schaeffer (explaining Rutherford, 1640) would have said this was the difference between Rex/Lex and Lex/Rex. In Rex/Lex, the king makes the rules and can therefore change them when they don’t suit him. In Lex/Rex, the rules govern the king; he is subject to them in spite of his place of power. Our culture was rooted in Lex/Rex for many years.  We believed there were certain moral absolutes that were not to be changed at the whim of the “prince or the people.” 

We have, in recent years, been drifting toward Rex/Lex. Believing mankind to “be the measure of all things,” we believe we can make the rules. We have not embraced complete anarchy where we all do what we please but we have embraced (as a culture) the idea that either the elite or the popular vote can adjust the rules to suit our situations. 

In 1973, the Supreme Court made the taking of preborn human life legal. More recently, they changed the definition of marriage and even allow the individual (regardless of science) to pick their gender. Of course this has no end. Once we abandon moral absolutes and transcendent values we are on a crash course of self-destruction. Make no mistake, science is no longer king, and law and absolutes were jettisoned years ago; autonomy is king today. 

The mantra of this worldview is “my body my choice.” I still believe this is my Father’s world and though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet. Humbling ourselves under His mighty hand leads to freedom and life that the proponents of autonomy only dream about. Peter said it well, “Save yourselves from this wayward generation.” And, choosing to apprentice with Jesus is still the way, the truth and the life!

What do cafés and elephants have in common?

Quite contrasting images indeed.

Since the only part of France I've seen is an airport, I buy into the Hollywood depiction of a nation of people sipping coffee in quaint little cafés. However, I do have first-hand knowledge of the sights and sounds of India: its noisy streets, colorful citizens, and lumbering elephants. 

The two cultures are—as you'd expect—quite diverse, as is portrayed in the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey where an Indian family settles into a small French town and opens an Indian restaurant. It is a case study in culture shock and cultural adaptation worth analyzing.

There are three ways we generally adapt to living in or visiting a different culture. Some refuse to adopt any aspect of the new culture and isolate themselves by creating their own little familiar world within their home or community compound. Others may take the opposite extreme, rejecting their own culture entirely while immersing themselves into their new context. Neither extreme is healthy. We must understand where we are, but not forget where we come from. 

Balance is found when we know what parts of our own culture to retain while adopting parts of the new culture. With this in mind, I encourage you to watch the movie and analyze how all three of these cultural responses are instrumental in the transformation of the protagonists and their families.

As you enter into a culturally diverse situation ask yourself: 

  1. What aspects of the culture should be adopted?
  2. What aspects of your own culture should you retain?
  3. How does your biblical worldview impact both?

As Christians, our biblical worldview and example of God's incarnation should influence our personal cross-cultural transformation. Jesus immersed himself in the human culture without forgetting from where He came. (See Philippians 2:5-8.) Jesus adopted a human identity but rejected the parts of culture in conflict with the Kingdom of God. As we go about our days in a multi-cultural world—both at home and abroad—Jesus' example can guide our conversations and direct our steps, whether we're enjoying a cappuccino with a friend or steering clear of elephants in our path. 

An Island Nation Devastated

Three weeks ago, Hurricane Matthew killed more than 500 people in Haiti. This death toll is the official count, but in a nation where many make their living fishing from the belly of a dugout canoe, many more are certain to have perished than will ever be known.

Almost 200,000 have been left without homes, and over a million continue their struggle to survive in the midst of complete catastrophe and total devastation. Cholera, a waterborne disease caused by sewage-polluted water, now threatens the entire population of the affected area, as clean water remains scarce.

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Haiti has been heavily deforested for many years, and the storm winds of 130 MPH decimated most structures in the affected area—leaving hundreds of thousands of people without any shelter. No roofs, no trees, no shade of any kind—leaving people to suffer beneath the punishing tropical sun.

An entire season’s harvest is gone, along with the fruit-bearing trees that could have sustained the people. Banana, coconut, mango, guava, even private gardens—all of them are gone.

At LIFE International, we are committed to caring about the most vulnerable, and right now, the people of southwest Haiti are among the most (or are the most) vulnerable people on the planet. They were exceedingly vulnerable the day before the hurricane! Today, they are extraordinarily desperate.

What can be done?

Pray!

  • Pray that the evangelical church in Haiti will lead the way in providing not just physical care but spiritual care for the community. This calamity is a great opportunity for the light of Christ to shine through the compassion of Christ-followers.
  • Pray that there would be sustained cooperation among the various relief efforts in the region, that the response would be coordinated, effective, wise, and timely.
  • Last, pray that the land will recover quickly. Pray that the Lord would bring bountiful growth and fresh water to a suffering people.

Additionally we can act. Many organizations are raising funds to provide for the people. The three organizations listed below can be trusted to steward donations responsibly, and direct resources conscientiously.

As you finish reading this post, please pause and intercede with our Father on behalf of the beloved people of Haiti.

Haiti Hurricane Relief Organizations

TearFund Haiti
Reach Global
World Team International

Anne Nelson, LIFE International’s Vice President of International Ministry, went to Haiti at three years old, as the middle daughter of missionary parents who went on to serve the Haitian people for more than four decades.

Is God Disappointed?

Excerpt from the blog of Pastor Mark Shaw, Calvary Baptist Church, Greenville, Michigan. 

I have mentioned Philip Yancey’s book, Disappointment with God a number of times. I have read it or portions of it on several occasions over the years. I also read a reaction to the book a few years ago and the writer was incredulous that someone could possibly be disappointed with God! I felt convicted because I confess I have been disappointed with God.  

Sometimes it was because it felt like He didn’t keep His end of a promise. 
Sometimes I just felt like He must have been looking the other way when something bad happened. 
I am learning to trust Him more and I think in recent years I have been disappointed with Him less as a result.

Another lesson I am learning may be even more important—I am reading the Calvary Baptist Ladies Book Club book titled Sensible Shoes. I read a portion that has transformed my thinking and renewed my mind; a spiritual director in the story reminds a hurting woman that “God cannot be disappointed.”

I have believed for years that my teen years were a “real disappointment” to Him. I have lived under a shadow of despair in pastoral life quite often because a failure or sin of mine “surely disappointed God.” I feel like my inability to figure things out or fix problems must be “quite a disappointment.”  

Disappointment is the result of a failure to perform up to perceived expectations. I have been disappointed in God because He didn’t live up to my perceived expectations. I have been disappointed with other people for the same reason. But, here is the simple thought that transformed my thinking this week, God already knows what I am and what He was getting, and He saved me and called me anyway! 

God commends His love toward us in this, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That’s grace! That’s unmerited favor. That’s liberating. Because of Jesus’ perfect obedience I can rest in the smile of the Holy One. I am not saying that I can sin so that grace can abound. I am saying that the work of Christ and my union with Him by faith means that God cannot be disappointed with those who are His. That is grace; truly unmerited favor means that my performance has nothing to do whether He is happy or not.

That may seem too simple to make your heart beat but it sure blessed this child. Now, to live in light of His joy this week is my goal because grace is truly amazing.


 
 

Pastor Shaw regularly ministers to, and prays daily for, the staff of LIFE International. He volunteered with LIFE International in Guyana in 2013, and in South Africa in 2014 with his wife, Diane.

“You shall not murder”

These are four crystal clear words, spoken directly by God to Moses (in Exodus 20:13), and they don’t leave much wiggle room for interpretation. After all, this imperative is one of ten commandments. It’s not one of ten suggestions or proposals…or one of the “Tips for a Happier Life!” that you were reading about online.

Many in our world seem to be in need of a reminder of this necessary regulation within any civil society. In a little more than a week, dozens have been murdered in high-profile attacks: most by gunshot, others being run down by a man driving a cargo truck. While the vast majority of humans remains incredulous over these heinous acts, others are even now quietly plotting to murder, and some will find themselves unlawfully discharging their lawfully carried arms.

“You shall not murder.” But I’ve been wronged! It’s not technically “murder” if…
“You shall not murder.” Okay. But what about when…
“You shall not murder.” I’m enraged by the systematic violence against…
“You shall not murder.”

“You.” Yes, you. Not that person over there.
“Shall.” I strongly advise you to do this.
“Not.” This negates the “do” part of the preceding “shall.” Whatever you were going to do, do the opposite.
“Murder.” Unlawful killing.

Since the circumstances classifying a particular killing as “lawful” are quite rare, and usually well defined (self-defense, for example), most killings are unlawful (abortion excepted) and are therefore, by definition, murder…which is the thing we’ve been commanded (by God, remember?) not to do.

So why have we been commanded not to murder? Apart from the obvious answer—that no one could ever be safe and civil society would utterly collapse—Scripture paints a vivid picture of God’s heart toward humans, and what makes us valuable to Him. These truths serve as a bedrock foundation of the Biblical directive against murder.

  • God created human life in His image (Genesis 1:27), and it is this image that establishes our worth.
  • Human beings are created by God, and we are—in God’s eyes, by His words—“very good” (Genesis 1:31a).
  • God hates the shedding of innocent blood (Proverbs 6:17). (Remember that God is the arbiter of innocence and guilt.)
  • God has created human beings, taking great care in our formation (Psalm 139:13-14).
  • God has a plan for each person’s life, and it was determined before any of us were even born (Psalm 139:15-16).

We only have to witness the devastating effects of a single “unlawful killing” within our community (or even in another community) to quickly understand the rationale for God’s commandment against murder. But even more significant than the destructive effects on society is the gravity of the offense against God, Creator of life, when a human being is murdered.

A murderer takes upon himself or herself an authority not given. The taking of another’s life through murder is never warranted, and always prohibited. This is the fundamental reality at the heart of God’s directive against murder, and one that must receive greater consent if our world hopes to halt its accelerating descent into vigilantism, barbarism, and violent extremism.

We must love TODAY

“All human life is of equal worth and immeasurable value,
from conception to natural death,
because man is made in the image of God.”

Excerpt from The Journey of a Life-Giver, LIFE International’s training curriculum on the sanctity of human life.

Our value to God, the Creator of humanity, remains the same no matter what differences there are among us in sex, sexual orientation, age, skin color, ethnic background, caste or tribe, religion, language, nationality, level of intelligence, social status, or any other factor. There is simply no attribute or trait that can diminish our value in God’s eyes, or diminish His love for us.

God prohibits and detests the taking of human life. LIFE International therefore condemns the massacre in Orlando, Florida—on Sunday morning, June 12, 2016—as a deep transgression against His law (“You shall not murder” Exodus 20:13), disobedience of Jesus’s “second greatest commandment” (“Love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:39), and a violation of fundamental human dignity. We offer our deepest condolences to the families of the slain.

The sole mission of the enemy of all mankind is “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10a). He doesn’t do these things himself though; he entices, persuades, and coerces others into acting on his behalf. And he accomplished his mission yesterday in Orlando:

He stole: Hundreds have been directly traumatized, and hundreds more have lost a dear family member.
He killed: Fifty people made in the image of God are dead.
He destroyed: An entire community is in shock. A nation reels in response to another massacre.

Photo credit: Joshua Lim/Orlando Sentinel

Photo credit: Joshua Lim/Orlando Sentinel

Our only hope in the face of such evil, and the antidote to the enemy’s tactics, lies in the second half of John 10:10, which says, “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b). Murder is the antithesis of Jesus’s message; He came to bring abundant life! In the face of evil and a temptation toward retaliation, then, we must reject “an eye for an eye” (Matthew 5:38-39), and aspire to proclaim, like the LIFE International partner whose father was murdered by terrorists in the Philippines: “I returned to get revenge by spreading love and Christ across [the region].” A vengeance of love! That is the “abundant life” at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Jesus demonstrated deep and abiding love and compassion for all who encountered Him, regardless of their circumstances. Those who claim the name of Christ have been given an opportunity to follow His example and exhibit Christ-like love and compassion for those affected by this tragedy. We must also renew our diligence to share His Gospel to all yet living, for we have been tragically reminded, once again, that we may not get another chance.

We must love today.

Learning from the “Experts”

“This can’t be done here. We don’t learn this way.” That was the host’s response when I asked him if we could arrange the chairs in a circle for a training event, instead of leaving them in neat rows.

I went on to suggest that this arrangement would encourage dialogue, which was critical to the success of our training. Thirty church leaders were coming to learn from the “experts,” replied the host. This seating (and learning) arrangement wouldn’t be familiar to them.

I’m sure he was right: they weren’t familiar with this arrangement. But could it be done? Could they learn in an unfamiliar (to them) way?

Adults will gain a greater level of commitment to ideas—especially new ideas—when they are led to discover information for themselves, rather than simply being told what to do. When adults are given the opportunity to express their own experiences and opinions, they are honored, valued, and empowered to make the learning experience relevant to their own particular needs and situation.

During this training we left the room in a more formal style for the first couple sessions. After I began to ask questions that required discussion, we found that the participants were struggling to interact. During a break, the host agreed to rearrange the chairs into a circle, allowing participants to more easily engage with one another.

The results?

Every participant returned every day for the seminar, and they stayed engaged the entire time, something the host said he had never seen happen before. They all discovered the transformative effects of dialogue education! When learners are invited to engage their hearts and minds during the learning process, they not only retain more information, they assimilate the material in a way that doesn't happen when they are mere recipients of lecture notes.

Being an effective teacher is less about being an expert and more about being a facilitator of a dialogue that empowers participants to discover truth for themselves, trusts them to grab hold of relevant material that relates to their current needs, and encourages them to make the material their own, equipping them to carry the message boldly into their own communities and nations.


To learn more about dialogue education, check out Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach by Jane Vella.