Beth's Blog Series: Scripture as International Development, Part 2

November 29, 2017

Ralph Winter founded William Carey International University with the intention of guiding students to focus on development efforts that would glorify God and display God's will and character to the world. This "Scripture as International Development" blog series honors Ralph Winter's lifelong devotion to the Bible.

     "To me there is nothing more spectacular or significant than getting to know the Bible better and better, and in a real sense it is that process which has been for me the most exciting thing in my entire lifetime"—"Getting to Know the Bible," in Frontiers in Mission, p. 248. Listen to an audio excerpt of Winter's seminar that explains his devotion to the Bible.

     "We can take the Bible for what it is, a divinely inspired showcase of true heart faith and trust in a supreme, creator God, a faith that transcends, even while infusing, multiple cultural traditions"—"The Story of Our Planet, Part 2," in Frontiers in Mission, p. 264.

 

Read Part I of this Series here.

 

Blog 8: 1 John and the Psalms as International Development

 

"We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him" (1 John 5:18, ESV). This certainty that God doesn't let the evil one "touch" his children reminds me of Psalm 36:11 where the psalmist asks God, "let not the foot of pride come against me, and do not let the hand of the wicked remove me."

 

Psalm 91 also hints at this theme that evil does not "touch" the one following God's ways. Instead guardian angels will "lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone" (Psalm 91:12).

 

Leaders need this encouragement when they face all sorts of pressures in their attempts to do what God has called them to do. I think this means that when a person is dwelling and abiding in the “secret place of the most high” (Psalm 91:1 KJV), letting God’s priorities be theirs, and not succumbing to the world’s system and ways of self-aggrandizement, they can be emotionally removed from the chaos of power plays. They can be willing to give up responsibilities and other things if necessary, knowing God will bring something good out of their troubles. The intentions of the evil one cannot touch and change the character of the child of God.

 

Because “the kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy” (Romans 14:17), leaders don’t have to let the ignorance or power-hunger of others affect their emotions and future. Righteousness means abandoning the world’s systems and powers. Knowing that we have something worthwhile to do in God’s Kingdom gives a sense of joy and of peace.

 

In this sense, the foot of pride and the evil does not touch God's children. We are hidden in God’s hand, in the cleft of the rock (Exodus 33:22), the secret place, etc. I guess bad things have at least a 50/50 chance of happening, but it ultimately won’t affect me or God’s Kingdom negatively.


This is one way to describe shalom: the opposite of chaos and opposition to God's will. Shalom indicates a desire for right relationships with God, other people, self, and where relevant, with creation. This is a good start at international development.

 

 

Blog 9: Colossians 3 as International Development

 

At first you might think Colossians 3 is encouraging people to forget about developing good societies on earth and just concentrate on the future reality of heaven:

  • “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (vs. 2).

  • “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (vs. 4).

But actually this chapter is full of principles for living well in a thriving, developed society. First it describes negative moral characteristics that belong to the “earthly nature.”

 

Negative Moral Characteristics (vs. 5-10).

  • Immorality

  • Greed

  • Anger

  • Lying

When people relate to each other in these ways, they can’t trust each other, can’t work well together, can’t agree on goals and ways to accomplish those goals, etc. A society dominated by these characteristics is also a society that is likely to be underdeveloped in terms of meeting peoples’ basic needs.

 

Positive Moral Characteristics (vs. 12-14)

Next comes a list of the characteristics of the kind of people needed in order for a society to thrive:

  • Compassion

  • Kindness

  • Humility

  • Gentleness

  • Patience

  • Forgiving one another

  • Love

When people demonstrate Christ’s life in these ways, the result is peace and thankfulness. "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful" (vs. 15).

 

Honoring Relationships in Societies (vs. 11, 18-23)

Then Colossians 3 gives examples of relationships in which different spheres of society honor each other and think of how to benefit each other:

  • Slaves and free people (or lower class and upper class)

  • Immigrants and nationalists (Gentiles, Jews)

  • Wives and husbands

  • Children and parents

  • Employers and employees

The result is a society in which people are working wholeheartedly, giving their best efforts, in Jesus’ name. "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (vs. 17; also see vs. 23). A society with a tipping point of enough people demonstrating the principles of Colossians 3 will be an example to the world of international development. A society without these positive qualities will remain under-developed, chaotic, and even dangerous.          

 

 

Blog 10: Images of Darkness, Light, and International Development

 

This blog is an excerpt from Beth's book, Chaos Is Not God's Will: The Origin of International Development.

 

As for the earth,

            it was destroyed and desolate,

            with darkness on the face of the deep,

            but the Spirit of God stirring over the face of the waters

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light!

And God saw that the light was good.

(Gen. 1:2, 3)

 

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,

    for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.

(Ps. 112:4)

 

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

(Isa. 9:2)

 

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.

Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.

 (1 John 2:9, 10)

 

Chaos is not God’s will. In a cosmic battle God is deliberately overcoming darkness with light, evil with good until, in the end, Jesus will reign in his Kingdom of shalom. But until God ushers in that final perfect new heaven and new earth, international development is needed to demonstrate God’s will for people, for societies, and for God’s originally good creation. Jesus’ followers serve as God’s display window, [1] showing what Jesus’ reign is meant to look like.

 

There is a need in all societies for restoring order and relationships to reflect God’s will for this world, overcoming evil with good, overcoming darkness with light.

 

 

Blog 11: Development and the Old Testament

 

This blog is an excerpt from the book, The Goal of International Development: God’s Will on Earth as It Is in Heaven, pages 162-63.

 

What are the essential conditions for a society to experience wholeness, peace, and safety?

 

When a society repents and turns to God, Scripture shows, God is willing to restore and bless the people with shalom. (See Ps. 30:11—"You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy"; Jer. 33: 6, 9—Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to [this city]; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. … Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.")

 

A concordance study shows there seem to be two conditions for a society or person to experience shalom. One is the intention to follow God’s laws and principles. The other is acceptance of God’s provision of a substitute punishment for not following God’s laws and principles. In both cases opposition should be expected from the enemy whose goal is the opposite of God’s will.

 

The principle of keeping God’s requirements as a condition for blessing and shalom was specifically stated to Isaac shortly before he encountered Abimelech, king of the Philistines (Genesis 26:1-5). It is through following God’s guidelines that a society can function well. In fact, all nations on earth willing to function according to the will of God as revealed through His chosen people, will end up being blessed materially and spiritually (shalom). This is seen in Genesis 26:4, 5 where God repeated the promise to Isaac that was originally given to Abraham: “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees, and my laws.” Immediately following this promise is an illustration of one of the nations, the Philistines, being blessed by the presence of Isaac’s family, in spite of various problems, and sending him away in peace/shalom (Gen. 26:29, 30), without further quarreling or fighting.
 

When God’s principles are followed, peace results. This is also seen in the encounter between Moses and his father-in-law. Jethro showed Moses how to satisfy the peoples’ need for justice, without wearing himself out, by delegating some of the work to others. Jethro specifically stated that if “God so commands” that the principles of delegation be followed, and if Moses did follow them, then Moses would be able to stand the strain of leadership and the people would go home satisfied (shalom/ “in peace”). (See Exodus 18:7-23.)

 

But shalom does not come easily. A spiritual enemy has it as his goal to prevent shalom; to prevent God’s will from being done. Broken relationships among people and with God characterize the activities of people and nations throughout the Old Testament. A pattern seen throughout the Major and Minor Prophets is the repeated description of God allowing one nation to punish another for their evil ways, with the focus on the people of Israel and Judah who had the most opportunity to know God’s expectations, yet failed to follow Him. As God would withdraw His presence and hand of protection, the evil one, the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31) would step in and create havoc. The Old Testament prophets recognized that God was somehow using or allowing one evil nation to punish another. Then the instrument of punishment of one group of people would in turn experience punishment for their own evil ways, in a seemingly never-ending cycle. (See, for example, Hosea 8:3-8; Joel 3:1-7.)

 

But a climactic statement by the prophet Isaiah points toward the possibility of a break in this vicious cycle. Speaking of the coming Messiah, Isaiah prophesied: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace (shalom) was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Is. 53:5). Jesus brought an end to the cycle of one society punishing another for the evils it commits in its rebellion against God. Jesus took the final punishment on behalf of any person or society that will accept his peace offering. This was the defeat of the evil one’s schemes against humanity (1 John 3:8: “the Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil”). By accepting this substitute punishment, people and societies can break out of a vicious cycle and experience healing of broken relationships with God, people, and nature.

 

 

Blog 12: Development and the Old Testament

 

The visual image of the fiery stones adorning the guardian cherub in Ezekiel 28:11-15 and the one-for-one correspondence with the stones of the high priest’s breastplate in Exodus 28:17-20 hint strongly at the decision-making authority granted to a high level angelic being, a guardian cherub, before he rebelled against God. In a pre-creation state these stones had spiritual significance about the role of the king-like or priest-like angelic being who later fell. The fact that the decision-making breastplate of the high priest has all the same stones as the guardian cherub hints strongly that they both had authority to make judgments and decisions.

 But the high priest’s adornment is more glorious, having three additional precious stones, perhaps indicating that humans living in line with God’s purposes have more ability to reflect God’s glory than the guardian angel who eventually turned his authority toward wrong purposes.

 

There is also a post-creational significance to these stones. In Revelation 21:18-20 the twelve stones in the foundations of the gold city include seven of the original nine (those adorning the guardian cherub), retaining all three of the stones added for the high priest, with two new stones to replace those that were omitted. The precious stones are a visual image of the glory of God, showing that the Ruler of the heavenly city, Christ the King, has even greater authority than the angels and humans with whom he has shared decision-making authority.

 

What went wrong? From being adorned with these precious fiery stones, the angelic being became the prince of darkness.

 

By creating humans and putting them in charge of a local part of the world, God was setting up a counter Kingdom and throwing out a challenge to Satan. The serpent’s insinuation to Eve was Satan’s initially successful response to that challenge. But God struck back with a long-term plan, first mentioned in Genesis 3:15, to defeat the dark prince of this world and restore the world to what it was originally intended to be, under the rule of the Creator-King. The cosmic war, a battle for God’s creation, is reflected in the image at the center of First John: “The Son of God appeared for the purpose of undoing/destroying the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). From Genesis to Revelation, the theme of Scripture is God’s purpose to win a people for himself back from the ruler-ship of Satan.

 

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Jesus has shared his decision-making authority with his people. He has made us to be “a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father” (Rev. 1:6). We can engage the powers of darkness through international development in order to demonstrate that chaos is not God’s will. Just as the precious stones in the foundation of the heavenly city show the splendor of God’s glory, Christ’s followers serve as God’s display window, showing what Christ’s kingdom is meant to look like.

 

 

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