Sunday, April 29, 2007

Christmas for the Poor

The lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation is the greatest health problem in the world today. According to the second UN World Water Development Report, “… 1.1 billion people still do not have access to an adequate supply of drinking water and some 2.6 billion do not have access to basic sanitation. These people are among the world’s poorest.” Without clean water, water-borne diseases needlessly kill many children, and the daily difficulty of obtaining even contaminated water consumes enough of the productivity of the world’s poorest to present a formidable barrier to climbing out of poverty. The Report states:
Poor water quality is a key cause of poor livelihood and health. Globally, diarrheal diseases and malaria killed about 3.1 million people in 2002. Ninety percent of these deaths were children under the age of five. An estimated 1.6 million lives could be saved annually by providing access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.

The good news is that although the political causes of this crisis are complex, there are some amazingly simple solutions at our disposal. Ministries, charities and other non-governmental organizations are already at work delivering the equipment and knowledge needed by poor communities in developing countries to establish clean water supplies along with proper sanitation. Low-tech, low-cost solutions such as well drilling, protecting water sources from contamination, and constructing filters out of common materials like gravel, sand, and concrete are the answer in the vast majority of cases. This type of simple construction combined with basic education on sanitation and hygiene can transform communities and save many lives.

Providing clean water to the world’s poor requires money on the order of tens of billions of dollars, which is well within the ability of the Christians in the United States to give with little sacrifice. What an opportunity! We can save millions of lives by sacrificing a small portion of our wealth in the name of Jesus. The question for the Church in the United States is how can we withhold the resources desperately needed by the world’s poorest, which we possess in abundance? How can we expect the world to receive the Gospel if we neglect to implement such an achievable solution? This leads to the following proposition: raise $10 billion for water projects on Christmas Day 2009.

Here is how it will work.

Plan of Action

For Individuals and Families:

Instead of purchasing gifts for your family and friends, donate toward water projects on behalf of each of those people. In addition, ask those who might normally give you a Christmas present to donate toward water projects instead.

For Pastors and Christian Leaders:

Lead the people in your church or group to participate in Christmas for the Poor. Share the vision for the effort and explain its biblical motivation. Lead from the front by openly sharing about your own participation.

For Organizations Working on Water Projects:

Prepare to receive and utilize the new funds donated for water projects. Post a link on the main page of your organization’s website that will allow people to easily donate toward water projects under the banner of Christmas for the Poor. Communicate the unique opportunity that Christmas for the Poor represents to previous donors, partner organizations, and churches with whom you have an established relationship. After Christmas Day 2009, report the contributions you received for Christmas for the Poor to be tallied with the totals from all other participating organizations.

A Few Important Details

• Christmas for the Poor is a plan of action, not an organization. Funds will be donated directly from individuals to the participating organization of their choice with no middleman.

• By the numbers: 20 million people giving $500 each makes $10 billion. According to Forbes magazine, Americans spent $580.56 each on Christmas gifts in 2005. According to the Barna Group, there are 101 million people in the United States who describe themselves as born again Christians.

• The current central reference is the blog and the point of contact is Sam Peterson at christmasforthepoor [at]


The Christmas for the Poor plan is not the only way for the American church to address poverty in the world, but it is a definitive plan of action that can efficiently get everyone on board and working together. Safe water and sanitation is certainly not the only grave yet treatable threat to human health worldwide, but it is the biggest, so why not start there? And what better time to unite the efforts of Christians across the nation to provide for the basic needs of the poor than when we celebrate the incarnation of our Lord and Savior, who, “…though He was rich, yet for your sake, He became poor…” (2 Cor. 8:9)? If our desire is that Jesus be revealed to the world, then to that end let us imitate Him, caring for the poor in His name to the glory of God.

Spread the word; tell every Christian you know about Christmas for the Poor.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Saving premature babies

This morning, there was an article in the news about the earliest premature baby ever to survive; she was born at 21 weeks. There was a link to a related article about how some doctors appose the effort to save such premature babies. Ther was also a discussion board. This was my response:

When I first saw the link to this discussion and the one below it about doctors who say these babies shouldn't be saved, I was sickened. I have a 3-month-old daughter, and I can't imagine neglecting to do anything that could save her if she were in such a predicament. To neglect trying to save the baby because the odds of survival are low is inexcusable, unless it is because the resources dedicated to the task would be diverted from others who have a better chance at survival. I'm pretty sure that's not the case, however. As for sparing the child from a life that includes suffering (or so you predict), that justification is based on hypotheses, not fact. We do not know the future! And even if the child will experience suffering, does that give anyone the right to take its life through neglect? To answer "yes" would be to reveal a complete lack of a viable and coherent system of morals; in this state of mind, you could be convinced to do anything as long as it maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain, because feelings are your god. This makes perfect sense, though; without God, there is no moral framework that is consistently logical from beginning to end without recursive suppositions (that is, circular logic.)

If you feel convicted as you read this, my aim is not to beat you down and condemn you for your evil thoughts, rather, Jesus wants to save you. When you repent and believe that He is God and that his sacrifice on the cross atones for all of your sins, your mind and conscience will be wiped clean of not only your guilt before God, but also any shame you have ever felt in your life, because God removes your shame. He doesn't hold your sins against you, he forgets them and welcomes you! If you want to be reconciled to God today, then repent of your sinful way of life and believe that Jesus is God and that He rose from the dead. Then tell somebody about it and start reading the Bible for yourself. You can't even imagine the freedom and newness of life that awaits you in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Repsonse to an atheist's essay had this feature where a bunch of prominent people shared an essay about their religious experience and then people were allowed to comment. I wrote this in response to Susan Jacoby.

Unfortunately, some of these comments convey an attitude of mockery and hatred toward atheists from supposed Christians. This is lamentable. As a Christian, Jesus has saved me from my wretched state as a sinner, and I am no better than anyone else.

The type of questions that have been called unanswerable in numerous posts are not too difficult to answer, however the answer goes to the heart of a person's pride. The existence of God is a logical conclusion. Something has always existed from eternity past, either dead matter or a living being. If you don't concede to this, then your assertion is subject to the question "Where did that come from?" over and over again, every answer you give begging the question even further. This very attribute that logically *must* be possessed by something is itself boggling to our minds. Of something in the universe we must conclude: "This had no beginning and therefore has no end as well. It is eternal." If the physical world is itself eternal, and there is no spiritual reality, then why is everything that is most important to every person in the world unseen? We want to be loved, and to love others, to be known, to enjoy intimacy, to be respected, to leave a legacy, to be feared, to have power over other human beings, and the list goes on of both good and bad desires. Why are we afraid of death? From a purely physical standpoint, it seems pretty peaceful and serene, with an absence of suffering. If you simply observe yourself and catalog your own thoughts, you'll realize when you get down to the heart of what you care about and think about and strive for, it is almost all immaterial. Even when you work hard for money to live the good life it's ultimately to have a feeling of security and experience pleasure inside that you hope will be induced by your physical possessions. Finally, most people, whether they believe in God or not, would say at the end of their lives that they gained the most satisfation from their relationships with family and friends and everything else matters little. This is no accident: it tells us in very simple terms both our purpose for existence and the nature of the One who created us.

God wants to be your father and mother, you sister and brother, your spouse, and your best friend. The reason he created human society with these relationships is so that we would understand the different facets of His own relationship to us! The natural and the supernatural are congruent, as Paul writes in Romans chapter one.

One of the major objections mentioned in multiple posts is the way God deals with human life and rights in the Bible. This is going to be tough for you to swallow, because it offends your pride, but here it is: something is right, because God says it is and something is wrong because God says it is, and for no other reason. Legitimate moral reasoning begins with that. Please bear with me, this is not illogical, although it is simple. Since God exists and is the Creator of everything, then He owns everything and is completely within His right to do whatever He wants with it. Since He Himself has authority of life and death, He can also can explicitly delegate that authority to human beings. Who can tell God that He's wrong? Seriously. How can the creature tell the creator what to do? That would be ridiculous. With a few notable exceptions, God has decided that everyone will physically die; we know this already. It's just a matter of when. Do I have a right to get mad at God when He gives someone only 25 years on earth instead of 80? It was all a gift from Him in the first place! As the Creator and Owner of everything, He has the right (and He is truly just) to do whatever He wants. This is not illogical in the slightest; it just offends our pride.

If you can humble yourself and admit that God is always just and right to do whatever He pleases, included taking anyone's life at any time, then you've started toward Him. If, however, you reject His very nature of omnipotence and righteousness, then you are choosing to remain separated from Him. I assure you that He wants you. This is where the sacrifice of Jesus comes in. People get offended when Christians say that God will punish all sin. How can God be so cruel? For your sake, he poured out His terrible wrath that each one of us deserved for our negligence to glorify Him properly and draw close to Him in relationship - He poured out this just wrath on His own Son, because His heart is so unimaginably filled with fiery, passionate desire to be reconciled to each one of us as a Husband. (As a side note, this identification of God as a husband to his people is first found in the Old Testament...see Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Psalms.)

There are so many people who call themselves Christians who really are not. They don't understand this framework of God's love and redemptive free grace to save us from His terrible yet just wrath, which is clearly revealed in the Bible. My heart breaks for people like Ms. Jacoby who were introduced as children to a loveless, intellectually flimsy, perversion of true faith in Christ that pushed them away from the man Jesus Christ. He is alive, and He's waiting for you to come to Him. Like the parable of the prodigal son, all you have to do is come to the end of yourself and ask for His help and His heart will leap for joy to see you coming, and He'll start running when He sees you in the distance and He'll embrace you and wrap His arms around you and kiss you, and then all the angels of heaven will rejoice with a party like you've never seen before, because the heart of God is overflowing with joy at your return. You may think this is flowery language and wishful thinking, but it's *literally true.* Not only have I reasoned through the logical challenges to faith in Jesus, but I've tasted His presence, and He changed my life. Repent of your sins and come to Jesus today.