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.

Advertisements

Just…Read.

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

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.


Just…What Now?

**Click here to listen to the audio version.

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…Freedom.

**Click here to listen to the audio version.**
Greetings my English Speaking Friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

Last Sunday our country of Peru voted for a new president. Through a democratic process, the people of Peru have chosen their next leader.

It was a close vote. Some of you are happy. Some of you are sad. Maybe it was a difficult choice and you are not sure what to think about the results. Everyone can be thankful that Peruvians have the freedom to vote.

A democracy allows people the freedom to make a choice. Voting is one of many important freedoms.

What is freedom and why is it important?

Freedom is basically the right to do what you want, to make your own decisions and express your own opinions. Having freedom encourages creativity. Freedom leads to new thoughts. Freedom brings hope for our future. Freedom even allows for learning and growth through failure.

Of course, with that freedom we need to respect the rights of others. I’m not talking about having no laws or raising our children without discipline. That is not what I mean by freedom.

It might help you understand freedom’s value by giving you an example of what is the opposite of freedom. This week my family made a new friend but her life is a sad story. She is a 10 year-old girl who has not known freedom. Her mother kept her in a locked room since birth. She had no freedom. She is not able to walk or talk. Without freedom, there was little development in her life.

Can you imagine being kept in a locked room for most of your life? I cannot. I like to walk around my neighborhood. I like to have the freedom to make choices. I enjoy the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of religion, the freedom from slavery.

Slavery is a big problem today around the world. There are many people, even children, who are slaves. Some people are slaves for financial reasons. Some people are slaves for labor. Even worse, some people are slaves for sex.

With our own freedom, we need to help those who do not have it. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “With freedom comes responsibility.”

We have the freedom to do wrong. But we are called by God to use our freedom to do right.

In the Bible, we read that, “You were indeed called to be free, brothers and sisters. [But] Don’t turn this freedom into an excuse for your corrupt nature to express itself. Rather, serve each other through love…” (Gal. 5 – GOD’S WORD Translation)

We are called to use our freedom for good.

God wants you to be free.

God freely chooses to be in relationship with you through his son, Jesus. He gives you freedom from evil and guilt: you are forgiven in Jesus. It cost a lot – Jesus died to pay for your freedom. And He gives that freedom to you as a gift. Through that freedom you are able to serve others with love.

True freedom for people of any country is not found in an election. True freedom comes through a relationship with God.

Go, live in freedom this week. I’m Leon Smith.


Just…Making a Decision.

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

Greetings my English Speaking Friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

Everyone in Peru knows that the elections are taking place this Sunday between Keiko Fujimori and Ollanta Humala.  We all want the right decision to be made.  We want every person who will vote to think about his or her vote.  We want the country of Peru to make a good decision.

Voting can be difficult.  Today, I’m not going to tell you which person to vote for or against.  That is up to you.  However, I would like to talk about how to make good decisions in life.

How we make our decisions is a topic called ethics.  Ethics are an important aspect of justice.  Citizens, cities, countries, all need to make good decisions for justice to happen.

How do you make your decisions? Do you honor your family and God with your decisions?

I hope that you do not make your decisions by chance or luck, for example, by the roll of dice.  There is more to life than luck.

I hope that you do not make your decisions by your feelings alone.  Sometimes our feelings can be wrong.  Sometimes a bad decision can make me feel happy.  Sometimes a good decision can make me feel sad.

If we want to make a good decision, there are five important points to remember:

# 1. Consult God.  It is very important to remember this point.  If we want to make a good decision, it is important to ask our God what He wants us to do.  Our good God will help us to make good decisions.

Begin with Him. Pray.  Then, search the Bible, for answers.  In Psalm 119, verse 105, it says that God’s Word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.  Follow God’s lead.  Many people like to ask at difficult times, “What would Jesus do?”

# 2. Learn, about your choices.  In the time you have, be informed.  Read, discuss your options with wise people.  Listen to experts, even listen to opposing opinions.  Study the topics affected by your choices.  Know as much as possible about your options.

# 3. Think.  Seek advice but do not simply do what others say to do. Each person has the God-given freedom to make his or her own decisions. Take time to use the mind God gave you.  Think about the future and the results your choice might create.  Think about how your decision will affect other people.  Ask, “Will my decision bring honor to God?”

# 4. Choose.  With strength, make your decision and stay with it.  Have faith that you make the best choice you can at this time and place.  Be confident that God is with you now and into the future.

# 5. Honor the Results.  You may or may not like the results.  Celebrate the decision or congratulate others, whatever is needed.  Whatever the result, be peaceful.  You can be peaceful in any situation through faith in God.

Making a decision is never easy. Maybe at times you feel like you are choosing between AIDS and Cancer!  However, if you make your decisions by using the five steps of consulting God, learning, thinking, choosing and honoring the results…you can feel good about your decision and be at peace with yourself.

You can only be responsible for the choices you make.  But we must take responsibility for all of our choices.  Our personal decisions do affect other people.  They also affect our relationship with God.

In ethics, do your best.  As you need, live in forgiveness.

Let us all make decisions in freedom, mercy and peace – for this presidential election and always.  I’m Leon Smith.