Just…Back to Life?

Greetings my English-speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

Could a website “die” for several years and then suddenly come back to life?  Certainly. This one just did.

How about a person?  Could a person die for several years?  Maybe months? Could a person be dead for several days and then come back to life? Certainly not.

It has been said that there are two things which are certain: death and taxes. What makes something certain?  If a person claimed to have truth, how could we be certain?  If a person claimed to bring  truth and justice, how could we be certain?

What would a person have to do in order to prove that he could give truth and justice to all people?  Might he have to feed the hungry?  Might he have to heal the sick?  Might he have to give sight to the blind?  Might he have to bring people back to life? Might he have to bring himself back to life? Two-thousand years ago, there was a person who might have done all these things.  In fact, many people say it is certain that Jesus came back to life after death.

Followers of Jesus claim that he died on a cross.  Roman historians say that their soldiers put Jesus on a cross.  Roman soldiers were very good at killing people.  They did their job or else they would lose their own lives. A cross was deadly.  The Roman soldiers confirmed that Jesus was dead.

Then, several days later, people claimed that Jesus came back to life.  Not only his followers saw him alive.  Even Jesus’ enemies saw him alive.  Jewish historians declared his tomb empty.

Jesus’  followers were scared when he died.  They abandoned him.  Several days later his followers had courage.  Now they were willing to die for him.  Something big changed their minds.

Could it be that Jesus was alive?  If so, could he bring truth and justice back to life?  Study the facts. At least, this website is back to life.

I’m Leon Smith.

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Just…The End?

Greetings my English-speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

Some philosophers have said, “The end justifies the means.”

Does the end really justify the means?  For example, in order to clean up the world, should we kill all bad people?  If so, who decides which people are bad?  Adolf Hitler?  Ronald Reagan?  Mother Teresa?  Mohammad?  What makes one person’s end more valid than another person’s end?  Are there no wrong means?

In business, are personal goals more important than corporate goals?  From a different view, are corporate values more important than personal values?  Should the vote of the majority always win over the vote of the minority, even when it has to do with human rights?

There are other ways to think about ethics, morality and ends vs. means.  From a Christian perspective, decisions can be considered good when they glorify God.  What brings glory to God?  Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…And, love your neighbor as yourself.”  It’s that kind of life that brings glory to God.

It has been my personal goal during the short life of this program to give glory to God by sharing His simple truths with love.  To that end, I hope the means have worked some positive outcomes.

As I think about this topic, I am saddened to share that this program must end.  The radio station here in Peru has decided that too many people changed the channel when they heard Just English.  This program wasn’t a good means to their desired end.  That’s why the last two programs haven’t included audio.

What will happen to Just English?  Maybe you have an idea.  Maybe these small beginnings will lead to better means to teach basic justice.  I have learned quite a few things in the process of clarifying my thoughts on justice.  Now, I sure could use your prayers on learning better Spanish!! Whatever the case, please let me know if you have been listening to the program or enjoying the weekly transcripts.  Maybe I can continue online on a monthly basis.  Maybe I could put all this in a book?  Would you buy it?

Thanks for listening…

The End.  (At least for now)

 

 

 


Just…Property.

Greetings my English-speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

“Mine!” It is an idea learned early in our childhood. This is mine. That is yours.

What is “ours” is important to humans. In English we call things we own, “property.”
Sometimes we are given property. Sometimes we earn property. Sometimes we take property that is not ours. We call that, “stealing.”

Governments provide justice when something is stolen. In fact, one of the main reasons that governments exist is to protect property. Governments sometimes go to war with other governments because of arguments over property.

How should we think about our things? How should we treat property?

Here, the Constitution of Peru (1993) guarantees all persons the right to own and inherit property. Of course, under our current form of government, there are people who own more things than others. There are rich people. There are also poor people. Such differences can lead to greed and jealousy.

To deal with problems of greed and jealousy Karl Marx created Communism. Communists tried to make a world without rich or poor. However, communism failed. As a wise man once said, “The poor will always be with you.” People are selfish beings. Humans are by nature greedy. We desire control. We desire power. We want more property. Think deeply about yourself and your own desires. If you are honest with yourself, you will realize that what I am saying is true. We are born with a selfish nature. As adults, we still claim, “Mine!” A form of government is not the answer to this problem. The answer comes from God.

From early in history, God gave laws about property. He told people not to steal. He told us not to be jealous of other people’s property (Exodus 20:15-17). God does not only tell us what not to do about property. He teaches us to treat property in good ways. He teaches us to love others by sharing our property. Sharing is honorable and loving because it gives away ownership. You cannot truly share without the idea of ownership.

Early Christians lived this way. In the Bible, we find that followers of Jesus shared everything with each other. They sold their land and other possessions and gave the money to anyone who needed it.

Why do followers of God want to live this way? It is because they believe that properties, all things, are a gift from God. From this viewpoint, property “owners” might be better understood as, property “managers.” Followers of God consider what He wants them to do with His property.

What does God want people to do with His property? Jesus told His followers, “Whoever has two shirts should share with the person who doesn’t have any. Whoever has food should share it too.”

When tax collectors asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” Jesus told them, “Don’t collect more money than you are ordered to collect.”

When soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” Jesus told them, “Be satisfied with your pay, and never use threats or blackmail to get money from anyone.”

Property is important but, as Jesus warned, “Stop storing up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. Instead, store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust don’t destroy and thieves don’t break in and steal. Your heart will be where your treasure is…”.

I’m Leon Smith.


Just…End Slavery.

**Click here to listen to the audio version.**

Greetings my English-speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

The headlines open our eyes. It was reported recently that police in Peru rescued nearly 300 women from sex trafficking. Among those rescued from about 50 brothels were at least 10 minors – the youngest was a 13-year-old girl.

Human trafficking is a growing problem in our world.  It is a crime that knows no borders. It is modern slavery, and slavery is wrong.

There are estimates of 10-30 million slaves today around the globe.  That means there are more slaves today than ever in the history of the world.  After illegal drugs and weapons trafficking, it is the third-largest crime.

Human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar business. Yet, the average price of a slave is less than $100.  Victims are trafficked for many purposes, such as commercial sex, agricultural work, or housekeeping.  They all share the loss of the basic human right to freedom.

Many children are victims. To buy young children for sex is very evil. If I must explain to you why it is so evil, you have a problem. Get help.  As a popular campaign says, “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls.”

Slavery is not only a problem in poor countries.  Between fourteen to eighteen thousand people are trafficked INTO the United States each year. Studies have found that just New York City has nearly four thousand sex trafficked children. That number does not include children from foreign countries.

Slavery has been a problem since the beginning of time.  But why is there such a big problem with human trafficking today?

There are several reasons for this problem.  One cause is a need for money. There is a great divide between the rich and the poor in today’s world.  Poor people struggle to live.  In order to stay alive, they need their children to work.  It is easy for a poor person to be tricked for money.  Bad people come to villages and claim that there is money to be made in big cities.  They offer poor parents money if their children will come to work for them.  It sounds like a good deal when you are hungry for food.  But, it is a trap.  The children are brought into a life of slavery.

A large cause for sex trafficking is the growing pornography business. New technology allows sexually graphic material to easily enter our homes. The Internet, for example, is full of evil material. Even satellite TV with “X-rated” shows can be found in the smallest villages of the Andes Mountains.  The use of pornography can become an addiction and often leads people to the purchase of sex.  Again, there is money to be made.

C.S. Lewis once said, “All that we call human history–money, poverty…war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

Brothers and sisters, it is right to fight for freedom.  Never stop.  Die for it if you must.  But always remember that true freedom for our world can only be found in God.

As the Bible says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).

I’m Leon Smith.


Just…Serve.

**Click here to listen to the audio version.**

Greetings my English-speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

We all want justice in our world.  We want people treated fairly.  Where I work, at Paz y Esperanza, we have a passion for justice.

Today I want to talk about one of the most important ways that you, as an individual, can help to build a culture of justice. That is through service.  When you learn how to truly serve others, justice will be served.

Do you know how to serve others?

When I was a youth, my family lived in Africa.  My African friends told many stories about animals.  One story went like this:

Once there was monkey who lived by a river.  One day he looked down from his tree and saw a fish struggling in that river.  The fish was working hard:  he was jumping high out of the water.  The monkey had compassion.  He wanted to help.  And so, the monkey reached down from his branch and grabbed the fish.  He then threw the fish onto the bank of the river. 

The monkey was very proud of himself.  He thought that he had helped the fish.  The fish looked happy…it was flopping on the ground.  In fact, after a while, the fish calmed down and it did not move at all:  it was very peaceful.  The monkey was very proud…

Did the monkey serve the fish?  No!  The monkey killed the fish!

Do you understand the moral of the story?  Sometimes we want to serve others but we do not help them.  We think we know what is best for them but we may not know the right answer.  First, we need to listen to their needs.

To serve best, we must listen first.  Is this difficult for you?  It is difficult for me.  I often think I know best and sometimes I act before listening.

For both justice and service, we must listen first.  This is true for individuals.  This is true for organizations.  This is true for churches.  This is true for governments.  Listen.  And then fulfill needs.

How does this proper service relate to justice?  It relates by helping to raise people’s dignity. Cultures that do not work to raise people’s dignity usually have trouble providing justice for all of their people.

My father once said,  “One serves best when one fulfills the needs of others in order to raise their dignity so they can also glorify God.”

What exactly is dignity?  Dignity is proper respect.  It is based on the idea that every person deserves to be treated equally well.  And why should all people be treated well?  It is because you and I, and all people, were created in the image of God.  We are all made to glorify Him.  Universal human dignity is a difficult idea to accept if one does not believe in God.

Even for people who believe in God, some other people can be difficult to serve.  Some people are bad people.  But they still deserve human dignity.  Maybe they do not know that God created them.  Maybe that difficult person does not know the purpose of his or her own life.  Serve them, and they may come to know their own purpose through your service.

Sometimes we can only do small things to help.  Of course, Mother Teresa once said, “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.”

Serve the poor. Serve widows and orphans.  Serve victims of violence and abuse. Even serve people in prison. Serve and raise someone’s dignity.  Justice will be served.

I’m Leon Smith.


Just…Parent Your Children.

**Click here to listen to the audio version.**

Greetings my English speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

Justice begins with parents.

It was both the happiest and scariest moment in my life: the day my first child was born. I was speechless. Suddenly, I was a father. What was I going to do? The baby looked so small in my hands. She looked so fragile. How would I raise her? Would I be a good father?

Right then my life changed. My wife and I were now responsible for a new creation. And our daughter depended upon us. She needed us for food. She needed us to change her diaper. She needed us to protect her. She needed us for love.

It has been over fourteen years since our first daughter was born. We survived. My daughter can now feed herself. I am joking. Our daughter is a lovely, intelligent, responsible young woman. And we now have three other beautiful children, two other daughters and one son. Our children are blessings from God.

Even after these years of raising four children, it is still hard to be a parent. I pray everyday to be a good Dad. I pray to be a good example. I pray to be faithful to my wife and children. I pray to be faithful to my Heavenly Father.

Maybe you are a father or mother. Maybe you want to be a parent someday.

How should you raise your children?

Let me give you an illustration. Let us imagine that you plant a garden. You plant some seeds. You want them to grow. You water them. You pull the weeds. You might even talk to your plants and encourage them to grow. It would be bad to leave the plants to grow on their own. Eventually weeds would surround them. Eventually, they would wither and die. Plants take work.

In some ways, children are the same as plants. We need to tend to them. We cannot leave them alone to grow. God gives children parents to help them grow.

Almost 3000 years ago, Wise King Solomon wrote, “Train a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not turn away from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

To train a child, we need to give correct discipline. This does not mean we allow them to run free without limits. Children need limits. Limits help them to understand how the world works. Early limits protect children from danger. Limits help children understand relationships.

Sometimes when young children defy parents’ limits, they need spankings on their bottoms. This does not mean you should beat your child into submission. That is not my point. As the Bible says, “A spanking and a warning produce wisdom, but an undisciplined child disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).

Never spank a child out of anger. Calmly explain to the child why you are spanking him or her. After you spank your child, forgive them. Give them a hug. Tell them you love them. St. Paul added, “Fathers, don’t make your children bitter about life. Instead, bring them up in Christian discipline and instruction” (Ephesians 6:4).

It is not someone else’s job to raise your children. Be a responsible parent.

Teach your child about God’s love. And teach your child to love God and their neighbors. Teach your child about God’s truth. And teach your child to tell the truth. Teach your child about God’s justice and forgiveness. And teach your child to be just and to forgive.

Parents, you are the most important people in the lives of your children. Take responsibility: parent your children.

I’m Leon Smith.


Just…Have Courage.

**Click here to listen to the audio version.**

Greetings my English speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

It has been 10 years since September 11, 2001.  The acts of terror in the United States on that day changed the world.  The violence brought fear to many people.  The rescuers displayed courage. Many heroes lost their lives trying to save others.

This past Monday, another much smaller act of terrorism occurred in Lima, Peru: there was a bomb threat at the Scotia Bank. It was a false alarm.  Nobody was hurt.  But for a moment, many of my emotions from ten years ago returned.

Terrorists seek to frighten people into change.  Their acts are scary.

It is easy to become afraid.  It is a normal human response.  Fear protects us.  In English, we say that fear leads to one of two actions:  fight or flight.  Some people fight what scares them.  Other people run from what scares them.  Sometimes we need to do both…fight and then run.

But what should we fear?  Are you afraid of something?  I fear heights.

Some people fear the dark.  Other people fear flying.  Others fear speaking in front of a crowd.

American President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear it’self.”

The phrase is nice.  But, I am not sure the topic is that simple.  If we are talking about only the physical world, I agree with President Roosevelt.  Yet, there is more than the physical world.  There is also a spiritual world and we are part of it.

As Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

We need to fear God because he rules over both the physical and spiritual world. Fear Him, yes. But does that mean we are to be scared of him? No. To fear God is to know that he is the most powerful being.  If we are under His care, we can be at peace because he has all power.

If we are with Him, we can have courage.  As Joshua said in the Bible, “Be strong and courageous! Don’t tremble or be terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Lt. John Putnam Jr. fought in World War II and said, “Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it.”

With God, we can face fear.

As Dorothy Bernard said, “Courage is fear that has said it’s prayers.”

Recently, my father left on a missionary journey to a dangerous country.  I told him to stay safe.  He responded with the same words as many brave missionaries before him, “Son, safety is not the absence of danger but the presence of God.”

In the Bible, King David was a brave man.  He sang,

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Who is there to fear?
The Lord is my life’s fortress.
Who is there to be afraid of?
                                                     (Psalm 27)

Do you live in fear? Have courage!

Live in the presence of God.  As God blessed his people in the past,

The Lord will bless you and watch over you.
The Lord will smile on you and be kind to you.
The Lord will look on you with favor and give you peace.
(Dueteronomy 23:24-26)

I’m Leon Smith.