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SEEN: Bits Seen, 27

, Nov 27.

A few bits seen around the Internet:

Technology Review: Isaac Asimov on how people get new ideas. Profound and insightful.
World Bank: Philippines: Stopping the scourge of open defecation. “Defecation mapping.”
World Bank: How telecommunications changed the lives of herders in Mongolia.
Mission Catalyst: review of “Know & Go: Inspiring and informing Global Mission” by GMI
40 Days, 40 Bites: A family guide to pray for the world, by Trudy Parkes
5 non-evil ways to get people to do what you want (Dan Pink)
Why arguments don’t work (which impacts evangelism)
Global Trends (from 2013, but still a good summary), Floyd McClung

H/T @pauldz, @M_catalyst, @reactpartnering, @brentsfulton, @floydmcclung

Thankful

Generally in order although some may be a bit random:

1. I know God. I do not have to sacrifice to idols, live in fear of spirits, or wonder if God exists.

2. I am married to a wonderful woman, and in spite of the culture around us, I have never had to worry if she is faithful to me (or, her about me). She is my true companion, partner, helper, and reality-check.

3. I have four wonderful children. I have never lost one to disease or death, and all are following the Lord.

4. I have a good extended family. We have our ups and downs but in general things are well. And we have friends in virtually every time zone of America, not to mention in most time zones around the world.

5. I have a job that is meaningful and purpose-fulfilling, where I can make a difference in the world using the talents God has given me.

6. I never have to worry about having clean water to drink out of my tap. I don’t have to walk miles to get water or buy bottled water at the corner store.

7. I have nearby supermarkets that stock every sort of food – both good and bad – that I could want, and markets from other cultures should we feel like experimenting.

8. We have a solid house that doesn’t leak or have any structural safety issues. Most everything is up to code (the fence needs to be worked on, but generally…). It’s warm, and safe, and dry.

9. We are unlikely to catch any major disease any time soon. (despite the fact that we live in DFW, the odds of even Ebola, for example, are very low.)

10. Our town is peaceful, and the odds of being in a riot are very low.

11. Traffic moves smoothly and is well coordinated. Although planes are still safer than cars in America, the odds of us being in a traffic accident are very low. I haven’t been in a car accident in decades.

12. I have broadband access to the Internet in my home.

13. I have a toilet INSIDE my home. Two of them, actually. And one of the bathrooms has a heat lamp, should it be needed when you get out of the shower.

14. My US passport lets me in with visa on demand to MOST of the countries I need to go to, and I can pretty easily get visas for the ones that need it.

15. Although I have terrible vision, corrective lenses are easily worn and I barely even know I have contact lenses in.

16. Civilization: Beyond. And an iPad. And an iPhone. And technology in general.

17. Falling gas prices. And the fact that gas is easily gotten, to begin with. And that I can own a car here, pretty easily.

18. That, really, compared to some places I’ve been, our government is pretty good, and I don’t live in fear at night of secret police coming to take me or my family away because of something I’ve posted on Twitter or Facebook. I can say pretty much anything I want.

19. That, really, compared to some places I’ve been in, I live in freedom of religion and never worry about meeting someone to talk about Christianity, or going to church on Sunday, or even telling the immigration guy that I’ve been at a mission conference.

20. Books. And Kindle. And magazines. A wealth of information, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, at my fingertips, any time day or night.

I could go on. But I think you get the point. We have a lot to be thankful for, really. And even those in less materially blessed situations than I probably have 20+ items they could list too, and theirs would humble mine. (I met a guy who has seen thousands of churches planted by his team.) Let’s be thankful to the Lord, for He is Good.

SEEN: The problem with International Development

, Nov 26.

Hobbes, Michael. “Stop trying to save the world: big ideas are destroying international development.” New Republic, 17 November 2014. A long and detailed read on some of the complexities of international development and aid.

To get exponential growth, you must be an exponent

It’s not an easy being an exponent:

a typically small number (usually just a 2 or a 3)

printed in a small, hard-to-read font

shoved up and out of the path of the bigger numbers

just part of a mathematical equation–

but magnifying the size and power of the numbers they are attached to.

To build an exponential movement, leaders must be exponents for the followers they raise up.

Can we use “Allah” ?

The idea of using “Allah” as the word for God is controversial in some Christian circles. It’s also controversial in some Muslim circles, as believers in Malaysia can attest.

But for me, I think that we can use Allah as the word for God and not make a big fuss over it.

Now, I am not a degrees theologian. I am quite possibly theologically wrong in this regard. I am open to correction. And this should certainly be taken as my thoughts, not an official position of our organization. But the Baptist theologians seem to agree with me – see this.

Most Muslims I have encountered – and I will admit I have not encountered many, unlike people in, say, Frontiers — are just people who happen to be Muslims, usually nominal ones, just like most Christians are nominal Christians. They are mostly what their parents were. They have a few religious ideas often tied to family or friends or patriotism. And when they say Allah, they do not have a significant systematic theology worked out. They mean God.

Some will argue that because of what they think about God or how they approach him, they are not worshipping the same God as we are. But aside from the linked article above (which argues it thoroughly an academically) two biblical cases suggest to me it is possible.

The first is the Jews themselves. We worship the same God… but differently. Our understanding and approach is modified by our beliefs about Jesus and the result of salvation on the law. It’s not as if Jesus introduced a new God–just made possible a new approach.

Second is Mars Hill where Paul spoke to the people about their statue ’to an unknown God.’ he began to reveal who this God was to them. He equated their reference to God with God and then began making this unknown God known.

When a Muslim says Allah, who is indicated? A single all powerful all knowing all present God who made us and to whom in some way we must relate.

It’s not as if there is a clear construct in their mind that there are two distinct monotheistic gods. It’s more like we hear God described and say ’that is a false image of God’ and ’that’s not the God I worship’ and ’that God doesn’t exist.’

Wouldn’t it be much the same if someone told my kids some description of me and they said ’that’s not my dad’ and then ’I don’t known the person you’re describing’ and then ’that Justin doesn’t exist.’ They aren’t denying that I am alive. They are just saying someone has a very false idea about who I am. They are interacting with a deceptive perception rather than the real me, which explains why their attempts to interact with me go bad. But it’s not like there are two Justin’s who are wholly different–a me and a different me.

I agree that there is deception at work in the Non Christian perception of God whatever religion is embraced. But I think the best way forward is to understand the Muslim wants to worship the One God–not multiple
Gods as Hindus do, nor impersonal forces, nor karma, nor spirits etc–and we need to reveal to the Muslim who Allah–who God–really is, and how much God loves them.

Most people it seems to me have less of a problem with the idea of the existence of God and find the idea that he loves them so much he would
Incarnate in flesh and die for them to be the bigger challenge to accept.

Written on an iPhone while traveling, so forgive the typos.

Passing over

It is chilling to think how air travel has empowered connection with places and peoples we want to get to while at the same time enabling us to leap right over places and peoples we have no wish to visit.

In ancient times you had to pass through many places to get to Rome or Beijing, and many were disciples ’as they were going.’

Disconnects

You’ve undoubtedly heard the old line about how if each believer won one person to Christ each year (or month, or whatever) within a short time the whole world would be saved.

Why does this approach never work? Because of the limits of our social circles. We presume that everyone in the world is connected to everyone else. In fact, we are only loosely connected, with some having many connections and others having few. Information passes through the strongly connected ‘hub’ people, and they serve as gateways. They can stop the flow of information if they desire.

Thus while it is theoretically true that everyone is connected, in fact the non Christian world is cut off from casual relationships with much of the Christian world. Thus the in the each one win one scenario, Christians would pretty rapidly run out of people to win if they stay within their existing social networks.

Mission is about leaving ones existing social circle, and intersecting a new one. We are more comfortable with the idea of winning friends and family… And less comfortable with the idea of seeking out complete strangers. It is these disconnects–when people avoid other types of people–that cause the break down of world evangelization. Intentionally intersecting a new social circle is hard work but work that must be done.

Should

Should we invite our unsaved neighbors to come to church?

Should we encourage unsaved neighbors to read the Bible and try to obey it?

Should we encourage them to read the bible with their families? With their friends? With their unsaved friends?

Should we encourage them to pray and try to obey what scripture says and see what happens as a result?

Should we encourage them to do this weekly?

If they do this weekly with friends and family, does this make them a spiritual authority?

Should we do that? What are the possible results?

Now, what if we replace the words “unsaved neighbor” with “sinner”?

Now, what if we replace “sinner” with “greedy” or “murderers” or “tax collectors” or “diseases” or “adulterers” or “homosexuals” or “thieves”?

At what point in the above list when you change the words do you start to say “no, we should not do this?”

Traveling

I am traveling to the Global Ephesus Consultation from the 10th to the 20th, and I don’t know how much I will be online during that time. If you have a pressing question send an email to justin@beyond.org.

Question it

If it starts with a big show, question it.
If it never grows up, question it.
If there is no cost, question it.

The Kingdom is a replacement, not an add-on or an upgrade.