Posts filed under Blog

Did God Devise Vicious Animals, Destructive Parasites, and Deadly Germs?

Ralph Winter, who died in 2009 from multiple myeloma, became “increasingly puzzled by the amount of pain, suffering, tragedy and death in the world. From the smallest animals to the largest, all seem to live lives fearful of predators whether animal or human or bacterial. Did God devise vicious animals, destructive parasites, and deadly germs? Is this the good creation the Bible speaks of God creating?”

Winter concluded that “our inherited theology allows us to fight ‘terrorists’ that can be seen with the naked eye but not to fight tiny terrorists that can only be seen in a microscope. … Evangelical leaders are not constantly promoting the destruction of Satan’s works in general, much less in the area of disease. The Bible would urge us not to blame God for Satan’s endeavors. Is not God asking us to fight disease in the Name of Christ?”

Read more at: A Growing Awareness about Disease.

Posted on March 8, 2017 and filed under Blog, Fifth 30.

The Secret Message in Some of Our Most Popular Christmas Carols

By Brian Lowther

With Christmas just days away, Christmas music can be heard on every radio station, and in practically every store and elevator in America. Often we don't pay attention to the lyrics of Christmas music because we’re so accustomed to them. It’s easy to sing along, but how often do we think about the words as we sing? Some popular Christmas songs are rather inappropriate, but the lyrics of several Christmas carols are marvelous and profound, and if you listen closely you might discover a secret message. One such carol is “O little town of Bethlehem.”

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.
   Yet in thy dark streets shineth
   The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
   O morning stars, together
   Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God, the King,
And peace to men on earth.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sins and enter in,
Be born to us today.
   We hear the Christmas angels
   The great glad tidings tell:
Oh, come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

“O Little Town of Bethlehem” has many common Christian themes such as an everlasting light shining in the dark, our sins being cast out, and peace on earth. It concludes with a word that sums up all of these themes: “Emmanuel,” which is commonly known to mean, “God with us.” But hidden within the name Emmanuel is an awe-inspiring biblical vision.

Thy Kingdom Come

In singing “Emmanuel,” we are, in affect praying for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. In other words, we are singing / praying for shalom, a one-word summary of God’s will for the earth and everything living on it.

The usual connotation of shalom is “peace.” And, while peace is one aspect of shalom, it doesn’t begin to describe the full meaning of the word. In the biblical sense, shalom is an all-encompassing term that essentially means perfect harmony, rest, and completeness. In her essay, “Shalom: The Goal of International Development,” Beth Snodderly defines shalom as, “wholeness and wellness in the context of right relationships with God, people, and nature.”[1] That says it all. 

During this holiday season which is so thoroughly associated with gift giving, what gift can we give to a person or a society in need that will reflect the shalom God wants for all of creation? What will it take to see God’s kingdom come to the troubled lands of the Congo, Sudan, Myanmar, or Aleppo?  

As an answer, we can extend shalom at an individual level by proclaiming good news to the poor, freedom for the oppressed, and sight for the blind.[2] But these proclamations need to be empowered by intentional acts of service like sharing our possessions with the needy and helping the poor,[3] or healing the sick, the blind, and those tormented by evil spirits.[4] We can also provide a preview of what God’s Kingdom will look like when it comes in its fullness by participating with others on a global scale to resolve major human problems like disease, poverty, illiteracy, apathy, corruption, racism, exploitation and violence. These are ways we destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and how we can assist God in extending shalom to our sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrifying corner of the universe.

If that sounds vague, I’ll make it more specific.

If you want to extend shalom in your neighborhood and around the world, I think you should sit down and make a list of everything you can think of that is wrong, unfair, ungodly, deadly, and dangerous, and then ask the Lord throughout each day, “What would you have me do about these evils?” If you sense something, and it is consistent with the self-sacrificial love exemplified by Jesus, do it. The worst-case scenario is that you will perform a small act of love or compassion for someone in need. The best-case scenario is that you will accept profound responsibility to do something significant about one of these global evils.

Still too vague?

Okay, if it were up to me, everyone reading this would find a way to focus their specific set of gifts, abilities, and interests onto the global cause that I personally feel is most compelling and strategic: disease eradication. There is a considerable list of 16 diseases which we already know how to extinguish completely, but haven’t. If I were you, I would set out with all of the willpower and courage I could muster and direct it with a laser-like focus on one of those diseases, or partner with an organization that is already doing so. I think there is every reason to see this as your Christian calling. (Read this article for why).

Does that sound impossibly ambitious?

If so, that's because it is. But while we cannot predict or count on human success in eradicating the next disease, or quelling any specific kind of evil completely, we also cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into a complacent sense of resignation. As if the problems are so big we shouldn’t try. We as the collective body of Christ know far more about the problems and far more about the solutions than ever before. Yet we mainly sit back and let civil organizations[5] take the lead in tackling the great world problems of our day. I believe the principal reason shalom isn’t more widespread is because the body of Christ has not adequately accepted the challenge along with civil forces to exterminate the roots of disease and evil.

We can resolve this here and now, and empower our evangelism while we’re at it.

What we need—it seems to me—is a rally cry, a moral and spiritual equivalent of “For King And Country.” We need a sticky concept that will inspire a massive, urgent, sacrificial concentration of human effort against not humans, but human problems and against the spiritual enemy of God and of all creation.

The obstacle is, there are so many competing rally cries in today's world of advertising overload. Many of us have compassion fatigue. We are indifferent to the plethora of causes we can join, to the slew of appeals we encounter on behalf of those who are suffering. We need a rally cry that will cut through all of that fatigue and indifference, one that will turn our hearts to fire and our nerves to steel.

What if God is providing this rally cry right now on every radio station, and in practically every store and elevator in America? I think this rally cry is the secret message in many of the best Christmas carols. “Emmanuel, God with us, peace on earth, goodwill to men, the Lord is come, the Savior reigns.” When I hear these words, I hear the expectant visionary language of revolution. I hear the ultimate heavenly plan of peacefully bringing God’s kingdom of shalom to this darkened, violent planet of ours. I hear the one quality that makes any rally cry truly effective: the capacity to instill absolute confidence that the battle can and will be won. It’s the same quality contained in the famous question, “What one great thing would you dare to dream, if you knew you could not fail.”

No one anywhere is doing anything truly important if it is not part of the battle to defeat evil and extend shalom. This calling is inescapable. There is no reason for non-involvement. We either live for him and his purposes, or die in vain.

Even if you don’t tear yourself away from the work you do to join this cause “full-time,” do you consider the job you have a holy calling? Is it just a source of income and an opportunity to witness? Or, is it the most significant kind of work you could choose to do? You have only one life to live. Why not choose something most others can’t or won’t do?

Over the next few days until Christmas when you’re in the car, or in an elevator, or shopping for that last gift and you hear a Christmas carol, know that God is speaking to you, calling you to join him in defeating evil and extending shalom. Are you listening?


This blog entry was inspired by the following three blog posts that first appeared on the William Carey International Development Journal website:

Brian Lowther is the Director of
the Roberta Winter Institute


Posted on December 23, 2016 and filed under Blog, Fifth 30.

Links for Today (December 12, 2016)

By Beth Snodderly

Subversive Kingdom

The printed title of Ed Stetzer’s 2012 book whimsically conveys his main point—God’s Kingdom is upside down and backwards to the world’s expectations.

Succinct truths like these are punctuated throughout the book:

  • “If you are a follower of Jesus, you have been made a citizen of this kingdom” (p. 8).
  • “We are God’s ‘store window’ on earth where he shows off his kingdom (p. 186).
  • “The kingdom’s work is done in small ways by people living as agents of the King” (p. 227).

The Devil Under a Microscope

From the book, Hope Rises from the Land, written in 1955 by Ralph Almon Felton:

  • “They come from many miles to see the devil. Even African pastors, deacons, and deaconesses come to the laboratory of Alice Strangway to see for themselves real ovilulu (evil spirits). They watch the moving microfiliaria that causes so much blindness in Angola. How could there be a worse devil! What a collection of devils to be seen through one microscope! Rickets, pellagra, anemias, goiter, scurvy, diarrhea, and many more.”
  • “Here are the red and blue stained parasites of malaria.”           
  • “Three of my six babies left us because of these,” one mother sighs.

Read more about this book here.

Awakening the Christian Imagination

In his 2013 book, Evil and the Justice of God, N.T. Wright wrote:

"The Christian imagination … needs to be awakened, enlivened and pointed in the right direction. … Christians need to sense permission, from God and from one another, to exercise their imaginations in thinking ahead into God’s new world and into such fresh forms of worship and service as will model and embody aspects of it. We need to have this imagination energized, fed and nourished, so that it is lively and inventive, not sluggishly going around the small circles of a few ideas learned long ago." (p. 126)

And, speaking of imagination...

Why Imagination Matters

Over at, Greg Boyd talks about the flesh being “shaped by Satan’s web of deception that deeply infects our imaginations. … We need to imagine truth and savor it; only then can the flesh that holds us in bondage be broken. We need to see pictures of grace in our minds and savor them ….”

Could a Holy Spirit-fueled imagination help us envision creative ways to join together to fight such things as disease in Jesus’ name?

The Kingdom Strikes Back

By Ralph D. Winter

Editor's Note: Perhaps one of Ralph Winter's most popular and well-loved essays is entitled, "The Kingdom Strikes Back." It is a centerpiece chapter in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course reader. Below, we've excerpted a portion of that essay that to us highlights the rationale for the existence of the Roberta Winter Institute. Enjoy.

…the first eleven chapters of Genesis constitute a scary “introduction” to the entire problem of evil, indeed, to the plot of the entire Bible. Those few pages describe three things: 1) a glorious and “good” original creator; 2) the entrance of a rebellious and destructive evil—superhuman, demonic being—resulting in 3) a humanity caught up in that rebellion and brought under the power of that evil being.

Don’t ever think that the whole remainder of the Bible is simply a bundle of divergent, unrelated stories as taught in Sunday School. Rather, the Bible consists of a single drama: the entrance of the Kingdom, the power and the glory of the living God in this enemy-occupied territory. From Genesis 12 to the end of the Bible, and indeed until the end of time, there unfolds the single, coherent drama of “the Kingdom strikes back.” This would make a good title for the Bible itself were it to be printed in modern dress (with Gen 1-11 as the introduction to the whole Bible). In this unfolding drama we see the gradual but irresistible power of God reconquering and redeeming His fallen creation through the giving of His own Son at the very center of the 4000-year period ending in 2000 BC. This is tersely summed up: “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:6).

This counterattack against the Evil One clearly does not await the appearance of the good Person in the center of the story. Indeed, there would seem to be five identifiable epochs of advance prior to the appearance of Christ as well as five after that event. The purpose of this chapter is mainly to describe the five epochs after Christ. However, in order for those later epochs to be seen as part of a single ten-epoch 4,000-year unfolding story, we will note a few clues about the first five epochs.

The theme that links all ten epochs is the grace of God intervening in a “world which lies in the power of the Evil One” (1 Jn 5:19), contesting an enemy who temporarily is “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4) so that the nations will praise God’s name. His plan for doing this is to reach all peoples by conferring an unusual “blessing” on Abraham and Abraham’s children-by-faith, even as we pray “Thy Kingdom come.” By contrast, the Evil One’s plan is to bring reproach on the Name of God. The Evil One stirs up hate, distorts even DNA sequences, perhaps authors suffering and all destruction of God’s good creation. Satan’s devices may very well include devising virulent germs in order to tear down confidence in God’s loving character.

Therefore this “blessing” is a key concept. The English word blessing is not an ideal translation. We see the word in use where Isaac confers his “blessing” on Jacob and not on Esau. It was not “blessings” but “a blessing,” the conferral of a family name, responsibility, obligation, as well as privilege. It is not something you can receive or get like a box of chocolates you can run off with and eat by yourself in a cave, or a new personal power you can show off like rippling muscles. It is something you become in a permanent relationship and fellowship with your Father in Heaven. It returns “families,” that is, nations to His household, to the Kingdom of God, so that the nations “will declare His glory.” The nations are being prevented from declaring God’s glory by the scarcity of evidence of God’s ability to cope with evil. If the Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the Devil, then what are the Son of God’s followers and “joint heirs” supposed to do to bring honor to His Name?

The “blessing” of God is in effect conditioned upon its being shared with other nations, since those who yield to and receive God’s blessing are, like Abraham, those of faith who subject themselves to God’s will, become part of His Kingdom, and represent the extension of His rule, His power, His authority within all other peoples.

Photo Credit: Dan Pearce/Flickr

Ralph D. Winter (12/8/24 – 5/20/09) was
an American missiologist and missionary
who founded the Roberta Winter Institute.

Posted on December 7, 2016 and filed under Blog, Fourth 30.

Sixteen Reasons 2016 Wasn’t So Bad

By Beth Snodderly and Brian Lowther

For some people 2016 was a disastrous year (e.g., the Zika outbreak, the Syrian refugee crisis, political upheaval, terrorism, racial unrest, and the list goes on). But here are sixteen reasons why 2016 offers some hope.

1. During his January 2016 State of the Union Address, President Obama announced the establishment of a “Cancer Moonshot” initiative to eliminate cancer as we know it.

2. An example of progress toward eliminating cancer: Chinese scientists tested gene-editing in a person for the first time in November 2016. “Researchers removed immune cells from the recipient’s blood and then disabled a gene in them using CRISPR–Cas9, which combines a DNA-cutting enzyme with a molecular guide that can be programmed to tell the enzyme precisely where to cut. The team then cultured the edited cells, increasing their number, and injected them back into the patient, who has metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer. The hope is that, without the eliminated portion of DNA, the edited cells will attack and defeat the cancer.”

3. In July 2016, scientists announced they have identified a new gene that contributes to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). This provides another potential target for gene therapy development and brings us one step closer to eliminating this always-fatal disease. Progress is partly due to the online activism of the Ice Bucket Challenge. 

4. Although the world had bad luck last year with Ebola, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that systems are now in place that will speed up development and delivery of vaccines for the next outbreak. WHO is looking, hopefully, towards an Ebola-free future.

5. Scientists are producing artificial limbs that may someday “eliminate disability.” TED talks illustrate these advances:

6. India officially eliminated yaws and maternal and neonatal tetanus in their country this year.

7. Child mortality is down in nearly every country around the world.

8. The only two diseases ever eradicated, remain eradicated.

  • Small Pox remains eradicated worldwide. The United States saves the total of all its contributions to the Small Pox Eradication Campaign every twenty-six days because it is no longer necessary to vaccinate against or treat the disease. The last endemic case of smallpox was recorded in Somalia in 1977.
  • Rinderpest (also called cattle plague—a highly contagious disease with high death rates) also remains eradicated worldwide. After a global eradication campaign, the last confirmed case of Rinderpest was diagnosed in 2001.

9. The final steps toward worldwide eradication of polio began this year. Health teams in 155 countries and territories have begun switching to a different polio vaccine—“a significant milestone in the effort to achieve a polio-free world,” the World Health Organization reports. The new vaccine will protect against the two remaining strains of the virus—types 1 and 3—and will no longer include the type 2 polio virus, which was eradicated in 1999. There have been only 33 cases of the paralyzing disease as of November 2016—all of them in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

10. Guinea Worm is close to becoming the second human disease, after small pox, ever eradicated. This parasitic disease “is a particularly devastating and painful disease that incapacitates people for extended periods of time, making them unable to care for themselves, work, grow food for their families, or attend school. In 1986, the disease afflicted an estimated 3.5 million people a year in 21 countries in Africa and Asia.” In early January 2016 the Carter Center announced that only 22 cases were reported during the previous year.

11. The International Task-Force for Disease Eradication lists eight candidates for disease eradication that researchers and practitioners have continued to work toward during 2016:

  • Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease)
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Taeniasis/cysticercosis (pork tapeworm)
  • Lymphatic filariasis
  • Yaws

12. The World Health Organization published a booklet in April 2016, “Eliminating Malaria.” In October 2016, Bill Gates published a blog, “So Long, Sucker: Mapping the End of Malaria.”

13. In November 2016 the Annual Meeting for the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) featured a cross-disease elimination and eradication discussion with polio, malaria, Guinea worm, and Chagas disease experts. The goal is to ensure momentum carries from discussion to real-world collaboration on research and programming.

14. In the last month of 2016 a new HIV vaccine trial is starting in South Africa. “If deployed alongside our current armory of proven HIV prevention tools, a safe and effective vaccine could be the final nail in the coffin for HIV,” says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

15. In a May 2016 news release, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that globally, life expectancy increased by five years between 2000 and 2015—the fastest increase since the 1960s. The increase was greatest in the African Region of WHO where life expectancy increased by 9.4 years to 60 years, driven mainly by improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control, and expanded access to anti-retrovirals for treatment of HIV.

16. And last but not least, the parent organization of the Roberta Winter Institute (RWI)—the former U.S. Center for World Mission, now known as Frontier Ventures—celebrated its 40th anniversary in September. Founder Ralph Winter explained how the RWI contributes toward the vision of Frontier Ventures: “It is truly astonishing how much greater we can make the impact of our missionary evangelism if the true spectrum of concern of our loving God is made clear and is backed up by serious attention [from believers] not only to treating illness but to eradicating the evil causes, the works of the devil.” 

If 2016 was a rough year for you, we hope this list provides a few reasons to keep your hope alive. For the Lord delights in those who put their hope in his unfailing love (paraphrased from Psalm 147:11). Ralph Winter longed to see believers participating with others in these sorts of disease initiatives so that the world could see that we represent a loving God who is not the source of sickness and disease, and that he is actively and visibly opposing sickness and disease through us. 

Photo Credit: duncan c/Flickr

Beth Snodderly is the RWI's Theologian in
Residence and Chair of the Board.

Brian Lowther is the Director of
the Roberta Winter Institute

Posted on December 1, 2016 and filed under Blog, Fourth 30.