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Jesus’ Economy

  • When Jesus Comes to Town: Life Lessons from Bihar, India

    by John Barry

    Sounding a little surprised that I didn’t understand why such a large crowd had come out that day, my friend Biju said: “They came to be healed.” Placing his hand on my shoulder, Biju then looked at me and said: “When Jesus comes to town people are healed.”

    With fervor and conviction in his tone, it was as if Biju was saying, “You Mr. M.A. in Biblical Studies, who has edited a study Bible, do you actually know what the Bible says?”

    You can live your entire life studying the Bible and not know what it actually means. Right there, in that moment, in Bihar, India, I realized that I knew the gospel but did not understand it.

    It wasn’t the first time I had seen people healed, but it had never dawned on me that healings are meant to be a major part of ministry—that freeing people not just from spiritual oppression, but also from physical oppression, is a central part of Jesus’ message. It is something all of us should pursue and believe in.

    Jesus begins his ministry by proclaiming that freedom for the oppressed is his message. In a synagogue, Jesus read an Isaiah scroll—at Isaiah 61:1–2 and 58:6—saying:

    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19 ESV).

    Jesus, as the fulfillment of Scripture, chooses these lines to articulate what he is all about. It is this message that John the Baptist makes the way for (Mark 1:1–8). And it is this message that ultimately confirms for John who Jesus is. When Jesus is asked by John’s disciples if is indeed the one John had been waiting for, Jesus responds:

    “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear; the dead are raised, the poor have good news announced to them” (Luke 7:22).

    The gospel is all about Jesus coming to town and changing lives. It is about the blind seeing, the lame walking, lepers being cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised, and the poor having good news announced to them.

    Life transformation should be our expectation when spreading the good news about Jesus. Jesus is not just a message to be preached; through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is at work in our very lives and those who we meet. Jesus is transforming lives here and now—and he wants to do so. The gospel unlocks the very power of God to change and transform humanity.

    Think of all the times the gospel describes crowds surrounding Jesus and his disciples (e.g., Mark 3:7; Matthew 5:1; Luke 14:25). And think of how this continues straight into the time of the apostles (e.g., Acts 2:5–41). Why should it not go on today?

    The blind deserve to see. The lame deserve to walk. The deaf deserve to hear. If people desire, they should have their demons cast out. Jesus wants to free people now. Let’s unleash the power of Christ for all who are impoverished—the spiritual and physically impoverished.

    The good news of Jesus is good news for the poor. When Jesus comes to town, people are healed. When Jesus comes to town lives are renewed—restored, as they should be.

    Our faith and our actions should be inseparable. Let’s act like we actually believe in the Jesus of the Bible, for he is resurrected and alive today.

    Learn about our project to Renew Bihar, India: we're offering access to the gospel of Jesus to thousands who have never heard his name.

    John D. Barry is the volunteer CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

  • Authentic Empathy and the Good Samaritan: Considering Jesus' View

    by John Barry

    What type of love will our lives show? Can our love move beyond our own perspectives to empathizing with the lives of others? Are we able to empathize with the difficulties of our brothers and sisters—with our local, national, and global neighbors? At the core of Jesus’ message are these questions.

    The idea of a Christian who stands stagnant is an oxymoron. I don’t believe I am the first to say that, but it’s worth echoing whoever said it before me. We must move with God. We must seek justice and mercy. We must walk humbly before God, in peace (Micah 6:8). We must say the difficult and act according to our beliefs.

    Jesus moves us—both spiritually and physically. If the Holy Spirit is at work in you, he will move you. With so much tragedy present in our nation and world—I wonder if we are ready to be thankful. Stop and think about it for a moment: Have you turned your thoughts toward gratitude lately—towards a God who is with us, no matter what?

    Gratitude teaches us to love. When I stand before God in prayer, I realize that I am not capable of defending myself before him—that I desperately am in need of Jesus. And by nature of admitting that, I am reminding myself that my neighbor and I are the same in many regards. We are all extremely impoverished spiritually. We all need to be filled by the living God.

    We have an opportunity now, even in the midst of tragedies being played out nationally and globally, to draw closer together. When we recognize the image of God in one another, we see what God sees in each of us.

    I think of Jesus and the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:27–37). You’ve probably heard this story dozens of times—even in our biblically illiterate culture, it’s an idiom: “Way to be a good Samaritan!” people say. But I’m betting that you’re about to see something about this story that you’ve never seen before.

    This whole scene opens with a question: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The scene also ultimately evokes the idea of “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells this story to answer these two questions.

    And here in the middle of the Good Samaritan parable is a man dying, being left for dead. There is real-life at stake. (We say we know God, yet we're okay with leaving the man on the side of the road.) And the point is obvious: a person who lives like the two men that walked by don't know God at all—and they don't recognize their real neighbor for that matter. Being a Christian requires authentic love, even for those we don't know. It requires that we mourn with them and care for them.

    The "upstanding citizens" in the story of the Good Samaritan, though highly regarded in their society, ignore the commandment to love their neighbor, but the Samaritan doesn’t. The Samaritan, who Jesus’ first-century Jewish audience likely would have despised, sees this beaten man on the side of the road and not only takes care of him—he goes above and beyond to be sure that the man is cared for.

    This story begs the question: Who is your Samaritan? Who do you put on the outside? Who do you fail to empathize with? (My dear white friends: How often do you judge a situation you really can’t ever understand?)

    You see, I can never understand what it is like to be a Samaritan, so how can I act like I do? I can never understand my neighbor fully, so that means that the first step to loving him is recognizing that I haven’t walked in his shoes.

    Jesus crosses all boundaries to show God’s love, and we should do the same. The world needs Jesus. Will we show Jesus to the world?

    If we truly know Jesus, he will change us. Jesus transforms us. Jesus changes everything. Jesus shows us what it means to love our neighbor.

    John D. Barry is the volunteer CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

  • Faith as Beautiful as Fireworks: Calling, Atheism, and Oxford

    by Ryan Pemberton

    Cole, Jen, and I attended a fireworks display in Oxford’s South Parks one Saturday night in November. He told us it was to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, a British holiday neither of us were familiar with.

    In something of an informal history lesson, Cole told us that Guy Fawkes was a man who made plans to blow up parliament a few hundred years ago, and how he was discovered and thwarted at the last minute. He told us the British still celebrate catching Guy Fawkes to this day by lighting giant wooden effigies of him on fire each year, all around the country. They top the whole thing off with a fireworks display.

    It was dark when we made it to the park, along with hundreds of other people, all funneling through a small iron gate. The ground was covered in straw and the park was filled with the sweet, salty smell of fried food as carnival rides lit up the night sky with neon bulbs and children’s laughter. It felt like we had walked into a county fair.

    We settled on hot pork sandwiches for dinner and found a spot in the crowd to enjoy the show. The air was cold and steam rose upward, pouring out from our sandwiches. It wasn’t long before the fireworks began. The crowd was gathered together tightly. Everyone’s heads were craned upward, taking in the show.

    I looked over at Cole about halfway through the fireworks and asked him how much he’d give me to start singing, “God Bless America.” He laughed, and he told me he’d give me a pat on the back. I decided against it, figuring I didn’t need an effigy in my honor.

    The fireworks really were beautiful, though. And I found myself remembering something I had read a few days before, a quote from a British journalist named Matthew Parris, a professed atheist.

    "The New Testament offers a picture of a God who does not sound at all vague to me. He has sent his son to Earth. He has distinct plans both for his son and for mankind. He knows each of us personally and can communicate directly with us. We are capable of forming a direct relationship, individually with him, and are commanded to try. We are told this can be done only through his son. And we are offered the prospect of eternal life—an afterlife of happy, blissful, or glorious circumstances....

    Friends, if I believe that, or even a tenth of that... I would drop my job, sell my house, throw away my possessions, leave my acquaintances and set out into the world burning with the desire to know more and, when I had found out more, to act upon it and tell others" (Matthew Parris, originally published in The TImes).

    As I watched the fireworks light up the black canopy overhead with bright whites and blues and reds and oranges, I found myself thinking about the kind of Christianity the atheist Matthew Parris had described. Watching the fireworks explode in a bouquet of colors, I thought how beautiful that kind of Christian faith would be. Like fireworks, it would stand out. I think it would be so captivating that people would stop to take it in when they heard about it. When they had seen it for themselves, I think they’d tell their friends. And, as they closed their eyes to go to bed at night, I think the scene would play again before the darks of their eyelids. They’d fall asleep with a smile on their face, thinking about how beautiful it was. Just like fireworks.

    Called: My Journey to C.S. Lewis's House and Back AgainThis pre-released excerpt is from the memoir Called: My Journey to C.S. Lewis's House and Back Again by Jesus' Economy board member Ryan J. Pemberton. You can preorder Called here.

    A volunteer board member of Jesus Economy, Ryan Pemberton is a graduate of Oxford, Duke Divinity School, and is the past President of the Oxford University C.S. Lewis Society. A communications consultant, Ryan has authored two books, including the forthcoming memoir, Called: My Journey to C.S. Lewis's House and Back Again.

  • What is a Soul Worth?

    by Kriselle Dawson

    What value do you place on a human life? Can you even name a price? Since Jesus died to save each one, then aren’t all of infinite worth?

    It was a cool, wet evening in Lae, Papua New Guinea. I was relaxing at home with my husband when my cell phone began to ring. Answering the phone, I listened carefully as my guard told me in broken English that his little girl (my namesake baby, Kriselle) was very sick and had fainted. Given the wet weather and the risks of driving at night around Lae, I asked him hesitantly if he wanted us to drive as close as we could to where he lived and take the little girl to the hospital, or whether he would prefer to watch her through the night and take her to the hospital in the morning if necessary. He assured me that he thought it would be okay to wait until morning, and we hung up.

    The next morning as I was washing the breakfast dishes, my neighbor came rushing into my kitchen. He informed me that our guard and his wife were at my house, and that baby Kriselle had died in the night. My heart sank and a million thoughts raced through my mind. I should have done more. I should have insisted we take her to the hospital last night. Why on earth did I let a bit of rain and fear deter me?

    Fortunately, there was a happy ending to this story. I sorrowfully accompanied my neighbor outside to greet my guard and his wife. Strangely enough, the child in his arms looked just about the right age to be baby Kriselle. Yes, she was sick and needed medical attention, but she most certainly was not dead yet.

    It seemed there was a misunderstanding. In Tok Pisin (the common trade language in Papua New Guinea, which has more than 850 languages) the word “dai” (pronounced “die”), refers to unconsciousness, but the phrase “dai pinis,” refers to death. My neighbor had simply failed to differentiate between the temporary and permanent forms of “dai.”

    But this incident did cause me to think seriously about the value I place on a human life, and how I determine and express that value. It also made me realize the vast difference between my system and God’s system of determining human worth. God sent his Son Jesus in the form of a human baby to rescue the volatile and ungrateful bunch that we are. The delivery of Jesus in a stable was risky—just think of the potential for infection. And then while still tiny, he was at risk of being slaughtered by a maniacal king. And in the prime of his life, he was tortured and murdered by the very same people he came to save. Jesus held nothing back in his mission to save lost humanity.

    “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:4–8 ESV).

    How can we apply Jesus’ approach and value system to our own situations? What kind of risks (personal, financial, or other) are we prepared to take in order to contribute to God’s work?

    I challenge you to hold nothing back. Put it all on the line. Every soul is of infinite worth and the rewards are literally out of this world!

    Kriselle Dawson is a volunteer writer for Jesus' Economy. Kriselle lives in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where she is a full-time mom and homeschool teacher; she also serves with Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Lae City Mission.

  • About Jesus’ Economy

    Articles provided by Jesus' Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. In each community Jesus' Economy serves, they offer church grants, microloans, and meet basic needs. To fund life transformation, Jesus' Economy provides an online fair trade shop.