Thursday, 24 September 2015


From a Self-Centered Life to a Self-Centered Life?
By Jean Cader

What Paul had to say in the book of Ephesians touches a range of moral and ethical behaviours designed to ensure that the Christ followers are living up to their heavenly calling after they are saved by grace, through faith. This morning as I was reading about Paul’s missionary journey, I came across a passage from Ephesians 2:8-9 once again, and thought it was worth stopping to ponder on its inference. The passage reads like this: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not works, so that no one can boast.” It’s very clear from this statement that works does not justify a person. There is nothing we can do or are required to do in order to gain salvation, except believe on Jesus and be converted. This is one of the strongest statements in scripture dealing with salvation by faith.

Along this line of thought Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision, and the author of Unfinished: Filling the Hole in Our Gospel, whose book I quoted from in my last blog, writes: “Even when we read perhaps the strongest statement in Scripture of salvation by faith alone and not by works, we find in the very next verse the outline of our kingdom mission to then go and do good works.” This morning verse 10 of Ephesians 2 arrested my attention stronger than ever before. The passage reads: “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." In other words, we are saved by grace, and through faith. But, we are saved for works! God has rescued us from our old self-centered lives in order to enter into a new life of service for Him.

Ephesians deals with topics at the very core of what it means to be a Christian – both in faith and in practice. It encourages believers to walk as fruitful followers of Christ. The keyword here is fruitful. We are to be fruitful followers of Jesus Christ. While our works cannot save us, they nevertheless matter to God, who created us in Christ Jesus to do good works. And these are works that God prepared or determined in advance for us to do. And our works matter also to those who do not know Jesus yet. In another of Paul’s New Testament books, in which he explains that salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ, he referrers to those who do not know Christ: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” – Romans 10:14. Our good works are necessary! God has called us away from an egocentric lifestyle to enter a life of service for Him. The letter to the Ephesians is broad in its application and applies as directly to us today as it did to its first recipients.

We are not called from a self-centered life to a self-centered life. Instead we are called from a self-centered life to a life centered on God. How then can the Christ followers not go on to do good works?

Friday, 18 September 2015


by Jean Cader

A person who has discovered Jesus Christ is a changed person! That person can no longer wake up each day, like everyone, and get on with life as if nothing has happened to his or her awareness of a spiritual reality. A person who then goes on to understand God’s plan of salvation for the whole of humanity cannot ignore the call to go and make disciples of all nations.

In an inspiring book on God’s call, entitled Unfinished: Filling the Hole in Our Gospel, Richard Stearns writes ‘[i]t was not a call to give up on the world, now holding our “tickets to heaven” firmly in our hands and retreating into our churches. It was a call to go into the world to reclaim, reform, and restore it for Christ.’ The author goes on to expand this thought along the line of finding purpose in life as Christians. He notes: ‘[t]he implication of this is profound. God created you intentionally to play a very specific role in his unfolding story. God didn’t create any extras meant to just stand on the sidelines and watch the story unfold; he created players meant to be on center stage. And you will feel fully complete only when you discover the role you were born to play.’

Two points jump out from the above passage. First, in the call to action in God’s great work of salvation among the Nations there are no substitutes who stand on the sideline waiting for injured or disqualified players to be called off the playing field before they can be involved in the action. All who have discovered Jesus Christ and His commission are called to take part in God’s great work of salvation among the nations! There are no exceptions. We all have a specific role to play in the unfolding event throughout the world. Second, it is that involvement in the plan of salvation that gives purpose and direction to the Christian life. And without this purpose and direction the Christian can never really feel fully complete in their life, as they will have missed the very thing they are called to do as disciples.

This then raises the question whether all who have discovered Jesus and God’s wonderful plan of salvation are called to go to the nations. To address this pertinent question we must refer to the Commission as Jesus issued it in the New Testament; and also note Stearns once more. Matthew 28:19 reads, “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” There is really no specificity in the command to particular individuals, unless we want to argue that the gospel commission was only binding on the few who were present when Jesus spoke these words. That of course is a slippery slope argument, as we would need to apply the same logic to everything Jesus ever said. But the commission appears to be a broad and inclusive command to go to the nations. Verse 20 of the same chapter indicates that Jesus issued the commission to everyone who will ever become His disciples, even “to the end of the age”. And as Stearns noted earlier “God didn’t create any extras meant to just stand on the sidelines and watch the story unfold; he created players meant to be on center stage.”

The author of Steps to Christ, Ellen G White, adds validity to this argument when she writes on page 91 of her book: “If the followers of Christ were awake to duty, there would be thousands where there is one today, proclaiming the Gospel in foreign lands. And all who could not personally engage in the work would yet sustain it with their means, their sympathy and their prayers.”

The rationale brought out in the above argument suggests that the commission in Matthew 28 is a requisite for all who have discovered Jesus and His call. It appears that all are called to help take the gospel to the nations.  And all who for legitimate reasons cannot go will yet seek to respond to the call via their finances, their encouragement and their intercession. I’m fully aware that many Christians take issue with the argument that we are all called to go; and present the argument that we all have a specific calling on our individual lives. While this is certainly true, it nevertheless does not negate the general command to help take the Gospel to the nations. That command does not seem to be negotiable even if we are fully involved in our home church as clergy or laity; or even if we are involved in compassionate activities throughout the world. The command to go and make disciples of all nations is binding on all who have accepted Jesus!

If we are true to ourselves we would recognize that Matthew 28:19 is unquestionably rallying every Christian to answer their call of duty to help take the Gospel to the nations. For a deeper and richer appreciation of God’s call on your personal life the two books I’ve quoted from will direct your steps to a focused and purposeful life in Christ. Make an effort to acquire and read them both. And then determine to take the Gospel to the nations in ways that God is revealing to you.

Monday, 25 November 2013

80,000 Hours and Giving What We Can

There is an ongoing discourse spanning the centuries on charitable giving. History will place classical philanthropy in ancient Greece where it was intrinsically philosophical. Practical philanthropy, certainly in the British Isles, can be traced to the Scottish Enlightenment and the works of the English politician, Anthony Ashley-Cooper (1671-1713), who stressed the existence in humanity of a natural moral kind, and the Irish philosopher, Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746), who proposed in opposition to Hobbes’s theories that human beings have an inner desire to do good. This articulation gave rise to charitable and philanthropic activities among several sectors of society.

Over time some have promoted the virtue as something ethical or spiritual while others have cautioned against it for a number of reasons. At one end of the spectrum in a 1972 essay ‘Famine, Affluence and Morality’, Professor Peter Singer argued that ‘we ought to give until we reach the level of marginal utility – that is, the level at which, by giving more, I would cause as much suffering to myself or my dependents as I would relieve by my gift.’ Singer’s excessive advocacy of an ascetic lifestyle would not be appealing to most of us. At the opposite end of the spectrum, while we can’t pull together a literature on the-scrooge-philosophy-of-not-giving, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that some echoes of the miserly protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’s 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol, can sometimes be heard. But here too, Scrooge’s excessive advocacy is not a practice most of us would adhere to.
Toby Ord 

Somewhere in the middle are those who take a moderate view of giving (we give what we can), and those who take a moderate view of not giving (by offering critiques on charitable organisations). A cluster of recent initiatives suggests that the philosophy of giving is making headway in the consciousness of the more philosophically minded. Oxford University scholar Toby Ord founded the society Giving What We Can ( in 2009. Giving What We Can is ‘dedicated to eliminating poverty in the developing world...[and believes]...that our comparative wealth can prevent a significant amount of suffering if only we allow it to do so.’ The members of that organisation have taken a pledge to give at least 10% of their incomes to relieving suffering. Their work also involves examining ‘the effectiveness of different aid programs’ and ‘expos[ing] all the weak arguments against giving’. You can read their deconstruction of eight persistent myths about aid on their website if you are interested.

Peter Singer

On that note is a November 2012 article on ‘How Charity makes Life Worse for Africans’ ( published by the Telegraph. Researchers from the University of Bristol (in conjunction with Addis Ababa University) found a link between giving to African villages and urban poverty. The study suggests that ‘improving water supplies in villages increased the population, forcing...young people [aged between 15 and 30] to move to the city slums to find work.’ It goes on to suggest that those ‘with access to taps were three times more likely to migrate’ to the city and end up living in slums. While the research itself is in no way suggesting that rural Africa should remain without access to tap water but instead focuses on identifying ‘unforeseen consequences of international development’, the underlying idea of the Telegraph reporters does echo the growing rationale against charitable work in the developing world.

80,000 Hours Team

We will of course never be unified on the topic. Not everyone will give. But if you are already persuaded that giving is a good thing and want to make a difference with the 80,000 hours it’s estimated you will have in your lifetime career then I want to introduce you to an organisation called 80,000 Hours ( 80,000 Hours was founded in October 2011 to help people with an altruist vision to use the 80,000 hours they have in their career to make an impact on the world. They ‘provide life-changing one-on-one career coaching...for people who want a meaningful career that makes a real difference.’ Even if you’re not persuaded by the altruist lifestyle you may still want to take a look. Altruism is a dominant movement in the world despite some negative press given to charitable work; and altruists have impacted a countless number of lives over the years. Organisations like Giving What We Can and 80,000 Hours restore faith in humanity in a world where corporate structures have to do with what we can accomplish for ourselves – often at the expense of somebody.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Helping The Marginalised And Poor

Do you know what it’s like to be poor? Of course you do! You've seen images of the poor on TV and have seen poor people in the towns and cities where you live. Perhaps you've also been exposed to poverty on your travels around the world in Asia or Africa where the problem is widespread. But here’s a penetrating question for the inquiring person: Have you ever stopped to think what it must feel like to be poor? Being able to see with our eyes what poverty is reveals a lot about the plight, but knowing what it feels like for the poor is a rather sobering realisation. With our eyes we see the makeshift shelters, the dusty feet, the scantily clad and the pot-bellies that poverty breeds. But to feel the frustration, the loneliness, the bewilderment, the hopelessness and fear of the ones caught in poverty brings us even closer to their predicament.

A Complex Knot
For many of the world’s ultra-poor (those living on less than a dollar a day) their lives have descended to such a depth that they are in fact no longer able to help themselves. The society they live in seem to only push them further and further down while the people around use them for their personal gain. In that hopelessness they fear for their life and that of their children. Their daughters and their sons lack the security that parents want to offer their children. Even in the hustle and bustle of a busy city like Kampala or Kolkata they feel isolated and alone in their hopeless existence where people seem too busy to care. They have no one to turn to for help. They wonder how their luck can be so bad, who cast the die against them, and why they are excluded from the prosperity that is all around them. Many give up the fight involuntarily and accept the hopeless fate they find themselves in because they have run out of ideas and energy to rescue themselves; and because of the frustration of getting knocked down each time they try to do something about their situation and end up in a deeper mess than before – owing more and more money to moneylenders and having to surrender themselves or their children to a lifetime of servitude even in this century. The poorest themselves have described their position as being trapped in a “complex knot which can lead to further knots if wrong threads are pulled.” For these poor souls someone must step forward and reach down to them or they will remain in that state.

'Horse' before the 'Cart'
Speaking to a group of parliamentarians in London toward the end of the nineteenth century, William Booth (1829-1912), founder of the Salvation Army, defended the plight of the poor with the illustration of the cab horse that was common on the streets of London in those days. ‘What happens’, he asked, ‘when a cab horse collapses on the roadway? Men do not gather around the fallen creature and say, you stupid animal, you got yourself there, get yourself up! Nor do they gather round and academically analyse the environmental difficulties that caused the horse to fall down’. ‘No’, said William Booth, ‘men of goodwill will gather round, put straps under the horse’s belly and lift it back to its feet. They will then make sure it has three things – food to eat, shelter and work. And if you will do that for a horse, why will you not do it for a man...?’

Changing Lives
Many understand the combined physical and emotional predicament of the poor and do step forward in compassion to help somebody experience a better quality of life.  Many understand that sometimes people need help to escape their predicament.  As a result, many lives have been changed because someone caught the vision of giving. You actually have the ability to feed at least one person on the planet that is genuinely living a life in abject poverty. Together we have the capacity to put a roof over many orphaned children or marginalised families. Collectively, we can supply education and create industry for the poor today to survive tomorrow. As Jacqui Kennemer, founder of Soul Bags (, from Portland, Oregon puts it “Giving is a beautiful thing – no matter where you are or who you choose to give to. Just make it happen somehow today.” Be part of a movement that changes lives!

Monday, 9 September 2013

No Exercise Better For The Heart

The American physician and writer John Andrew Holmes, best known for Wisdom In Small Doses (1927), wrote that “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” I think this kind of sums up the essence of what my last three blogs have been discussing – that giving of our time, talents or finances to help those in need possesses hidden remuneration for the giver. Studies by prominent neuroscientists, psychologists and sociologists suggest that volunteering at an orphanage in Kolkata, giving financial support to a needy family in the Karamoja, or using our talents to hold a charity concert for a depressed part of Kansas actually enhances our happiness, our health and draws us closer to people.

We all experience the personal benefits of giving. Every year hundreds of young people at university take a gap year in their studies to volunteer and are buzzing when they return home! Often adults recognise a need in their life to become involved in some form of giving and those that do feel better for it. Two years ago a good friend of mine in her mid-fifties decided to volunteer for six months. She put all her personal effects in storage and let her home out. When she finally returned to London eight months later it was as if this mortal had drunk from the nectar of the gods and was conferred immortality as she talked of plans to go back out. She was no longer the submissive and inert life she had once been. Her volunteer experience had given her a new lease of life and motivation, and she told me ‘it has been a life changing experience and no vacation I have taken before has been this rewarding.’ Recognising the benefits of giving, she now works to volunteer each year. Others give financial help and are thrilled and proud to see what their giving has accomplished. I visited an orphanage in Kenya earlier this year and happened to be there at the same time as several donors to that project. It wasn't difficult to see how happy these supporters were as they watched fifty little children gathered around tables tuck into their evening meals. I think I too would be delighted to know that because of my giving a child will not go to bed hungry or a family can have clean water to drink.

Of course giving benefits the recipient and is essentially the reason why people seek to give. In my next blog I want to begin to look at giving from that perspective.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Third Reason Why We Should Practise Giving

Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky explains in The How of Happiness how giving fosters a heightened sense of connection between people. The pioneering neuroscientist John Cacioppo resonates with Lyubomirsky in Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection when he describes how giving strengthens our ties.

To Give
Donors experience a strong sense of connection with their beneficiaries when they give as it brings them to think more about the issues confronting others. Their initial empathy is further heightened, and they develop greater compassion and concern than they would otherwise. Giving feeds their sense of care and develops their kindness for others. The more they practise giving the kinder they persuade themselves to be. Many people practise the virtue of giving throughout life. The act is not only practised by generous billionaires like the Microsoft giant, Bill Gates. Even the most humble will practise it. It is an honourable act that has helped countless – providing for the basic human needs of water, food, health, education etc. And the greater the social connection that arises between the donor and recipient, the more donors will commit to helping a project or someone succeed. They want to see the child they are supporting go through school and graduate and make something out of their life. They want to see the adult with a desire to work draw up a plan and put it into action and begin to make a living. Donors give because they care and because they identify with others.

Or Not To Give
There are those who choose not to give. They do not see it as their responsibility to help in this way. They believe that governments should be responsible for providing for the needy. They believe that there is not much that their small donation can accomplish. They wonder what difference it can make. Some would go further and say that charities are not honest. And others would go further still with their disapproval and suggest that the poor ought to work harder. These are all legitimate reasons for choosing not to give. However, I wonder if those who choose not to give can experience firsthand the individual hardships of the needy if their viewpoint would remain the same. It is my opinion that many people cannot see the forest from the trees because they are looking too closely at the details and miss the big picture that often in life people need a helping hand.

That Is The Question
Giving helps cultivate and advance our social connection with others. It helps us to think more about the problems of others as we become a solution to their struggles. We can all do something to help those in need. It’s a choice. We don’t have to be rich to practise the virtue of giving. And of course we don’t have to respond to every cause or every plea. Where would you place yourself in this dialogue, and why?

Friday, 16 August 2013

Second Reason Why We Should Practise Giving

Time is precious! We all live by the maxim that ‘time is money’ and only a small number of us will give it away for nothing. We choose to be involved in activities that pay because we need to survive in a world where everything carries a price tag. And so we leave volunteering to those who have plenty of time or plenty of money. What most of us don’t realise however is that giving time away freely actually pays!

Giving of our time helps to keep us healthy. Dr. Stephen Post, author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People (2007), has carried out a number of studies that show just that. His research illustrates that when we volunteer our service to help others not only does it improve our physical health but also promotes longevity. His studies show that high school kids who give of their time have better physical and mental health throughout their lives; while older people who are involved in helping others live longer than those who don’t.

The dystopian science fiction In Time (2011) produced by Andrew Niccol starring Justin Timberlake is an unpleasant and undesirable representation of living a life that is controlled by time. Dystopias are usually characterized by dehumanization, disasters and decline. I sometime wonder if we've created a dystopian mindset when we allow time to rob us of the benefits of living a benevolent and rewarding life.

The Pragmatic
Giving of our time enriches us. There is nothing fictional about the benefits of giving. The more we give of ourselves the more we can create our very own personalized little utopia around us and be remunerated for it. Perhaps I’m being a little idealistic and semi-controversial like Sir Thomas More back in 1516 with his imaginary island of Utopia in the Atlantic Ocean, but I don’t want to discard what researchers are discovering about the practice of giving and least yet I don’t want to ignore my personal sense of satisfaction when I engage in giving of my time. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) turned the table around on time by giving it away and experienced greater reward and satisfaction than he did when he put in for overtime at the factory. Okay, so I should probably throw in a caution right here: Like anything in life don’t overdo it. Balance is important. You shouldn't go giving it all away and find yourself ‘timing out’ like Henry Hamilton the drunken suicidal from New Greenwich. But let’s not let time control.  Give and give wisely.