Just…Read.

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

How can we teach freedom and justice?

James Garfield, the 20th president of the United States once said, “Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be maintained.”

Former Prime Minister of England Benjamin Disraeli agreed.  He said, “Upon the education of the people of this country, the fate of this country depends.”

When asked how much educated men were superior to those uneducated, the philosopher Aristotle answered, “As much as the living are to the dead.”

What is a good education?  In the English speaking world, it is said that there are three “R’s” to good education:  Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic.

The first and most important “R” in that list is reading.  To read is the base of a solid education. Reading helps you to learn other subjects. Reading opens you to a world of new ideas.  As the famous author C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know that we are not alone.”

People tell me that here in Huánuco, Peru children can finish their primary education without ever reading a complete book.  If that is true, we have a big problem.  Schools here need to change. Reading needs to be the number one priority in education.  It needs to be a priority for our region.

In English, there is a word that describes people who read.  Such people are called “literate.”  For example, a person is literate if they have the ability to understand and use printed information.  Literature is printed information:  books, magazines, newspapers.  And a person who uses literature is literate.  A literacy rate tells how many people are literate.

One can study literacy rates.  Here in Huánuco, Peru there is a problem with our literacy rate.  While there are worse literacy rates in the world, there is a gap in the literacy rate here between men and women.  Sixteen point six percent of adults from Huánuco cannot read.  But 23.8 percent of women cannot read as compared to 9.5 percent of men.  (See: http://www.globalissues.org).

To develop our region we need to help ALL citizens to read:  BOTH men and women. And if we want better leaders we need better literacy.  It has been said, Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.

There is an important connection between literacy and justice. To develop a love for justice, we need to develop a love for reading.

The facts are in. Research tells us:  raise the literacy rates in a community and it will help reduce crime and repeat offenders.

    • Criminals have lower average literacy levels than other citizens.
    • Neighborhoods with lower literacy rates have higher crime rates.
    • Literate people are less likely to be accidentally put in jail.
    • Even literacy programs in prisons have good outcomes (such as being able to help ex-convicts find and maintain jobs) and reduce rates of repeat offenders.

The former slave Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” So, reading is an important way to keep freedom and justice in society.

Don’t be alone.  Seek freedom.  Seek justice. Learn to read.  Teach to read.

I’m Leon Smith.

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Just…Live at Peace.

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

The world is not a peaceful place.  Natural disasters are scary enough. But then, people are scary too: wars, corruption, family violence, sexual abuse, and abandoned children.  What shall we do?

Someone asked me the other day, “How can we change our culture of violence?”

Personally, my natural desire is to FIGHT for peace.  But, is that wise?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.” (Nobel Lecture, 1964)

What do other wise people in history say about this topic?

Buddha once said, “Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace.”  (BrainyQuote.com)

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who make peace. They will be called God’s children.”  (Matthew 5:9).

Lao Tzu said,

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart. (Peace-Quotes.net)

These seem to be very wise statements.  We cannot bring peace among our nations, cities, or neighborhoods without knowing peace in our own families or hearts.

But how do we find peace in our own heart?  How can you find peace?

Jesus said that he gives us peace as a gift.  He said, “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly” (John 14:27).

If that is true, if Jesus gives us peace, how then shall we live in order to share that peace with others?

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  And then he added, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:34-40).

That said, it seems that the best way to bring peace, the best way to change my culture, is to change myself.  We cannot always control the way others act but we can control ourselves.  This is true, even within our own families and relationships.  In order to bring peace, we must live at peace.

And, if our hearts are troubled, we need to communicate with the “Prince of Peace” himself, Jesus.

One of Jesus’ early followers wrote, “Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Brothers and sisters, as King David said, “There is lasting peace for those who love God and His teachings.  Nothing will make those people stumble” (Psalm 119:165).

Love God. Love others. Love and live at peace.

I’m Leon Smith.


Just…Married.

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

Our countries are debating the definition of marriage.  What do you think about marriage?

Some people think marriage is important, while others disagree.  Some people say it is OK to have sex outside of marriage.  Others disagree.  Some people marry only one person for life.  Others get divorced.  In some countries, it is OK to marry more than one person at a time.  Sometimes men want to marry men and women want to marry women.  Other people think this is a bad idea.  There are many opinions about marriage.

To debate about marriage, we need to remember how and why marriage began.  Marriage began because of a man who was alone.

Humans need other people.  Some time alone is good.  But too much time alone will eventually make a human crazy.

In the Bible we read, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is right for him’” (Genesis 2:18).

God created a mate for man.  He created a woman for that purpose.  The man and the woman were to live together as one.  They were made to complete each other.  Physically, emotionally, and spiritually they were created to fit as one:  married.

God now creates some people with the special ability to be single for life.  This is for God’s special purposes in their lives.  Other people God blesses with marriage.  And God gives them a wedding gift: married sexual intimacy.  Sex, within marriage, is a way to fully and safely know another person.

Marriage intimacy is God’s cure for loneliness.  And, through sexual intimacy, God truly cures it.  He gives humans more humans: children.  And, in marriage, God provides a safe place to raise these young humans.  Along with creating marriage, God created the family.

If we have questions about marriage, we need to turn to its creator for answers.  We find God’s answers in the Bible.

In the Bible we read that how we treat a spouse is important.  God’s design for marriage can be ruined.  In fact, one of God’s Ten Commandments is to keep marriage pure.  “Never commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).

Wise King Solomon came from a family that knew the problems of adultery.  He stated,

Whoever commits adultery with a woman has no sense.
Whoever does this destroys himself.
An adulterous man will find disease and dishonor,
      and his disgrace will not be blotted out  (Proverbs 6:32-33).

God doesn’t only tell us what not to do.  He also tells us what to do in marriage.  For example, we read in the Bible:

“…husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies. A man who loves his wife loves himself”  (Ephesians 5:28).

We are to treat our spouse as we want to be treated.  We are to serve each other for life, in sickness and in health.   If we are rich or poor, by serving our spouse we can both have joy.

God created a good and safe cure for loneliness. He gave us the gift of marriage to be between one man and one woman. Sometimes temptations are difficult to resist.  However, let us be strong against temptation.

Let us celebrate the gift of marriage as God created it. Let us work to keep marriage pure.  Let us keep marriage between one man and one woman.  Let us honor the creator of marriage.  Let us honor marriage until death makes us part.

I’m Leon Smith.


Just…What Now?

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

For the past several weeks I have talked about God’s plan for justice.  His message is important. Did you hear it?  It can change your life.  It changed mine.

Again, let me summarize.  The plan for justice is written in the Bible – a very special book.  We needed God’s plan because humans became sinful.  We broke the relationship with the God of life.  People chose separation from God.  People chose sin and death.   God deserved justice.  Yet, He fixed the relationship.  He chose life for us.  He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the price for sin and guilt.  By Jesus’ death and resurrection, we know the plan worked.  We can have hope.  We can have peace.  We are forgiven.  Rejoice!  By God’s great kindness, through faith in Jesus we are saved for life with Him (Ephesians 2:8).

But, now what?  If you and I are saved by God’s kindness what are we to do now?  Should we sin some more?  That would not honor God.  Should we sit and wait for God?  There must be a better idea. Should we get up and celebrate?  Maybe.

God gives us things to do.  First, God tells us to come together in His presence.  We are to worship him.  He tells us talk with Him.  We are to pray.  He tells us to pray for more workers. He sends us to serve.  He wants us to love others.  He says to tell others the Good News about Jesus.  He says to make him followers from all nations.  He says to teach and to baptize. He says to heal the sick.  He says to comfort those who grieve.  He says to feed the poor.  He says to defend the fatherless.  Yes, God’s people are to be God’s ambassadors.

But, never fear.  God tells us that we will not be alone.  He will send a person to help us.  And, God does not send just any person.  He sends His third person, the Holy Spirit.  This Holy Spirit helps us to understand God’s Word.  And, the Spirit helps us to live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  The Holy Spirit gives gifts that help people to know God.

So, if you are wondering what to do today, it is time to get off your chair.  It is time to become God’s ambassador.  It is time to spread the Good News of Jesus here in Huanuco, Peru.  Up to the mountains, down into the jungle.  From Lima to La Paz, from Santiago to Quito, from Jerusalem to your heart it is time to spread the love of God.

That is “what now.”  You have a purpose.  You are an ambassador.  You have great value to God.

I’m Leon Smith.


Just…God’s Kindness.

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

In past weeks I shared with you the story of God’s plan for justice. And you have heard that we have justice by God’s free kindness. But you might still be confused. God’s plan might seem too good to be true. Other people have told you that nothing is free.

You are not alone. For thousands of years, people right here in this land, have thought that God’s love was difficult to earn. People believed that they must make sacrifices to earn God’s love. The Incas even made human sacrifices to earn God’s love. And yet, God gives His love as a free gift.

You do not have to pay anyone for forgiveness. You do not have to pay anyone—even a church—for God’s eternal peace and hope. God’s justice is not of this world. God has paid the price for the problems of this world. He gives you life, now and forever, as a gift.

It is hard to understand. But it is true. God saved us because of His great love for us. Jesus’ death has paid the price for our failures and sins. His resurrection proves it. Listen to how Paul describes God’s justice in his letter to the first Christians in the city of Ephesus. Paul writes:

You were once dead because of your failures and sins. You followed the ways of this present world and its spiritual ruler. This ruler continues to work in people who refuse to obey God. All of us once lived among these people, and followed the desires of our corrupt nature. We did what our corrupt desires and thoughts wanted us to do. So, because of our nature, we deserved God’s anger just like everyone else.

But God is rich in mercy because of his great love for us. We were dead because of our failures, but he made us alive together with Christ. (It is God’s kindness that saved you.) God has brought us back to life together with Christ Jesus and has given us a position in heaven with him. He did this through Christ Jesus out of his generosity to us in order to show his extremely rich kindness in the world to come. God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It’s not the result of anything you’ve done, so no one can brag about it. God has made us what we are. He has created us in Christ Jesus to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do. (Ephesians 2:1-10 – GOD’S WORD Translation)

Listeners, how we respond to God’s free gift is up to us. We can reject God’s gift or we can live in the peace and hope He gives us. God wants to baptize us. By that, I mean that He wants to wash us. As our Father, He desires to wash us in His Son’s perfection and comfort us with His Holy Spirit. He wants to clean us from evil.

He wants justice.  Shall we reject His justice…His kind gift? I think not. Today, let us live in God’s kindness.

I’m Leon Smith


Just…a Resurrection.

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

It was a Sunday morning over 2000 years ago. Yet it changed history. It can also change your life today. A man called Jesus was said to have risen from the dead. Was it true?

Today, we look at the facts about Jesus resurrection. Did it happen? Last week I challenged you to try to disprove it. Could you do it?

If this were a case in court, we would need to look at the evidence.

First of all, was Jesus even dead? Death on a cross was almost certain. Roman soldiers would make sure of it otherwise, if not. Jesus was nearly beaten to death before being placed on the cross. Then both friends and enemies saw Jesus die. Next, a soldier speared him in the side, while his body was still on the cross, to make sure that Jesus was dead. Both blood and water flowed from his side. The separated fluids help to prove his death (John 19:31-34).

Doctors today agree (See: JAMA March 21, 1986—Vol 255, No. 11). Jesus was dead, and if not, he would have died in the tomb.

Next, did people know where Jesus was buried? Could his followers have looked in the wrong tomb?

Many people knew the location of his tomb. A member of the Jewish Council, Joseph, donated the use of his tomb. The place would have been well known. Jesus’ enemies wanted people to know that he was dead. They could have produced the body if there was a question about the death.

Could his body have been stolen? (Matthew 28:11-15) No, the tomb was sealed with a huge stone and Roman soldiers guarded it with their lives. They were professionals. If the body had been stolen, there would have been an investigation.

Are there other reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Yes.

Over the next 40 days, it is recorded that Jesus appeared alive to over 500 people. He even appeared to groups of people all at once.

Also, consider the rapid change in Jesus’ followers. Something incredible happened. Just before Jesus’ death, his followers were afraid to live for him. They ran away when soldiers captured him. Peter denied that he knew Jesus. Later—after the resurrection—the same followers, including Peter, changed. They were now willing to go to death for Jesus. Most of them died for their belief in Jesus and his resurrection.

People are willing to go to death for something they believe to be true. But people are not willing to go to death for a lie.

Finally, before Jesus’ death, he claimed that he would rise from the dead. No other man has made such a claim and then made it happen. If the resurrection did not happen, Jesus was a liar. Then he would be no different than any other religious leader: dead in the ground.

But the facts are strong, Jesus words were true. We can trust him. Our faith can be based on fact. He can provide justice. He can provide forgiveness. He can give us peace and hope. He can change the world. He can change you.

I believe it. So can you.

It’s a fact. Case closed.

I’m Leon Smith.


Just…Jesus.

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

Last week I talked about God having a plan of justice for you. It was a plan for the whole world. It was a plan that gave justice against evil. It was a plan of love and forgiveness. That plan was to send a savior.

Christians claim that Jesus was sent by God to save the world. If Jesus was God’s plan for justice, what should we know about him?

Both Christians and non-Christians agree that Jesus lived. There is no educated doubt that a man called Jesus walked the earth about 2000 years ago. But, if we look at the history of Jesus’ life here on earth, who was he? Was Jesus a simple religious leader? Was he a great teacher? Was he a liar? Was he a crazy man? Or, was he the Son of God?

According to historical documents, Jesus was the son of a Jewish girl named Mary. Both Muslim and Christian documents claim that He was miraculously conceived by God and born in Bethlehem. It was a little town in the Middle East that still exists today.

Jesus grew up in another town nearby called Nazareth, and it is reported that he lived a perfect life. He was without sin. When he was 30 years old, he began to teach and perform miracles (Luke 3:23). It is said that he healed the sick, fed the hungry and even cast out demons. Because of Jesus, lives were changed.

Jesus taught that God wants people to love Him first. Second, we are to love other people. We are not to worry about material things but to think about heavenly things. We are to walk humbly and live at peace.

Many people followed Jesus, but some people did not like him. The religious leaders were jealous of him. They were angry when he questioned their teachings. He taught with more authority than they did. He lived the way he taught.

When Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Jewish leaders brought him to trial. It was a sin to claim to be the Son of God unless, of course, if it was true. The punishment for such a sin was death. The leaders led the people against Jesus. They brought him before the Roman ruler, Pilate, and wanted him condemned to death. Finally, the Roman ruler said the Jewish people could have their way with Jesus. After suffering beatings by Roman soldiers, Jesus died upon a cross. It was a Friday afternoon (John 18-19).

Jesus body was placed in a tomb…Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Three days passed on the Jewish calendar.

Today we have reports from Jewish, Roman, and Christian sources that something special took place on that Sunday morning. The tomb was empty. Jesus’ body has never been found. Christians claim he rose from the dead (Acts 2:22-24).

If Jesus rose from the dead, we need to study his teachings. If Jesus rose from the dead, we can have faith in our future. If Jesus rose from the dead, He can give us life; He can give us justice. He would be the Son of God.

But if Jesus did not come back to life, this message would have no meaning and Christian faith would have no meaning (1 Corinthians 15:14).

Here is a challenge for you. Try to disprove the resurrection this week. Let me know if you can. I base my life on it. I dare you.

I’m Leon Smith