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Christmas Thoughts: Happy Holidays and the Kingdom of God

A few months ago, my friend and fellow blogger (the one who inspired me to start, actually), Bill Moore, got me thinking about the culture war.  In his post, Conscientiously Objecting to the Culture War, he talked about the American Christian war for the American Culture (which somehow adopted Bill O’Reilly as it’s mascot…or he adopted himself as the mascot…who knows?).  I used to be all about this.  Our need to claim moral authority on our society.  Bill (Moore) challenged me to rethink my focus.

What do we prove to the world at large with our letter writing campaigns to reality shows about questionable “stars”?  What do we gain by refusing to shop in stores that somehow, through the process of being guilty by association, may promote something we disagree with (not talking major things here)?  What do we gain by fighting against gay marriage (I know I may get some backlash on this one)?  What do we gain by only being willing to vote for a Christian into elected office?  What do we gain by waging war against “Happy Holidays” replacing “Merry Christmas?”  I know all of these have room for debate, but I am asking what do we gain by these?

Do we gain sinners realizing that their only hope for life and acceptance by God is through Jesus Christ on the cross and his resurrection?  Do we gain people battling their way out of poverty?  Do we gain a decrease in children without families?  Do we gain people taking care of other people?  Do we gain the Kingdom of God?  Do we?  These are what we have been called to find important as Christians.  These are the hills we should be choosing to “die on.”

Of these things, I am going to focus on the whole “Happy Holidays” thing…it is, afterall, Christmas.

Is it really that important that everyone says, “Merry Christmas?”  Is it really?  Is there a need for all people, Christian and nonChristian alike to wish everyone a happy Christ’s Mass?  I am not so sure.  Besides, it is being placed with a word that means “Holy Days,” isn’t that enough for us?

The Spirit has really led me to some new thoughts on this recently.  I have been thinking a lot about Christmas, the traditions, and the commericialization of it (thus the Christmas thoughts posts), and something occurred to me.  There really is a Christmas spirit…or Holiday spirit.  Now, I am not saying we should be caught up in the warm-fuzzy Christmas and forget the true meaning of it…another post for another day…but there really is a “spirit” about this time of year that most people get caught up in, no matter how religious or non-religious.

This “spirit” has a way of changing people…there is a reason why “A Christmas Carol” has been so popular for so very long.  It is a true change that people feel.  People become nicer.  They think of others first.  They help the needy.  They feed the poor.  They care for the orphans.  They look out for the widows.  They help the down and out.  Hey, this sounds a lot like the list of stuff that Christians are supposed to be doing!

Christians are supposed to be about the Kingdom of God.  Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology book, says that the Kingdom of God is when the reign and rule of God in the hearts and lives of people.  A part of this is how we care for others.  Jesus himself said that there are two commandments: Love God and love one another.  How we care for others is half of the job.

So, this Christmas/Holiday “spirit” has people all around us thinking and loving their “neighbors” as themselves.  In a way, we are seeing what God’s Kingdom here on Earth will look like, at least a little.  People are caring for each other.  This is important to God.  Look in either the Old or New Testaments.  God wants us to care for others like we are compelled to at Christmas.

I say whether you say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” it doesn’t really matter.  The question is, “Are we taking care of each other, especially the down-and-out?”  Are we?  Where is our focus?  Ourselves?  Or is it on using this “Christmas spirit” as a way to reach out to others and help them see the true meaning of Christmas?  Are we living a life that shows Jesus, even at Christmas?  Or are we busy fighting a battle that should not be fought, while those saying “Happy Holidays” are living out what we are called to?

Happy holidays, everyone!!  Joe

Father, Jesus, Spirit, please help me to pick the right battles this year.  Help me to see that it is about loving you and loving others.  Thank you for allowing the “Christmas spirit” to show us your Kingdom.  Please help me to use this to reach out and tell other people about the source of this “spirit.”  I love you.  Your son and dependent, Joe

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Uganda, the LRA, and Invisible Children — Repost

This is an older post, but I have decided to post it again because it is a very current subject.  This post includes what is going on in Uganda, what the LRA is, and how you can help through the organization called Invisible Children.  Most of this was written by a guest blogger, Chris Rosenberry.  Please read, learn, and then help.  It is so easy and can be done right through this blog.  Thanks!

Two weekends ago, I started a segment called “Why Weekends” in which I want to look at problems in the world that we, as inhabitants of our planet, are all responsible to be a part of changing.  I do believe the Christians should be motivated by the love of God to make a difference in light of these issues, but I also think it is something for everyone to work on no matter what you believe.  The first one was about extreme poverty in the world and one way to be a part of the solution (give it a read if you haven’t Why Weekends–Why and WorldVision-Part 1).  I intended to get to Part 2 this week becauase I was sick over the weekend, but another solution to an extreme poverty related issue presented itself to me and I wanted to move on it.

“How You Can Be the Change” will be an occasional segment for opportunities that come up to offer you ways to “be the change” that the world needs with minimal effort on your part.  Part of this will be to include “experts” when I can to give you first hand information and experiences from other people.  Today I was able to do that.

I have asked my friend, Chris Rosenberry, to write and tell you about an organization called “Invisible Children.”  If that sounds familiar it might be because it is on your computer screen right now.  Look to the left of the page.  There is a widget called “Social Vibe”.  This is a way for you to raise money and support for charities by just watching ads online.  That is all you have to do.  You only have to sacrafice a couple of minutes.  So easy!  I have chosen Invisible Children for my charity because what they do is awesome and what they are fighting is awful.  Instead of me telling you about it, I will let Chris give tell you about his experiences with the organization and about why it is so important to him.

Chris went to North Greenville College with me for a little while (Go Mounties!).  He is now the Youth and Arts pastor at The Refuge in Hilton Head, SC.  He is the husband of but one wife and the father of three.  Chris has a passion for social justice, obscure music, and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Okay, take over Chris.

Five years ago my eyes were opened to an unseen tragedy that would change my life, and the lives of my family, forever.  I had just begun working as a youth pastor in Hilton Head, SC and was looking for ways to get my students involved in missions projects which we could support without getting in a van or on a plane.  In my research, I found a video, backed by the Killers’ song “All These Things That I’ve Done” (an instant selling point), where high school and college aged students were giving up the comforts of their beds to sleep in fields and parking lots, writing letters, and trying to make people aware of one of the greatest disasters of their generation.

For well over 20 years a war has been waging in East Africa, in the nation of Uganda.  This war, a civil war, began as a well supported uprising within the Acholi people, the people of Northern Uganda, against the nation’s government.  But when its leader was exiled and a new leader, named Joseph Kony, attempted to take control of the rebellion by creating his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) support dwindled.  With little support from his own people, Kony and the LRA resorted to abducting children and forcing them to fight as part of the LRA.

Since Kony took control of the rebellion, thousands of children have been abducted and thousands have lost their innocence and their lives.  It is estimated that currently 90% of the LRA is made up of children, and that over the years as many as 66,000 children have been abducted.  It is also estimated that over the course of the war, over 1.8 million Northern Ugandans have been forced into Internally Displaced Camps (IDP camps) as a way of minimizing the casualties of this war.  And though about 900,000 of these people have been allowed to return to their homes, there are still almost 1 million people living in IDP camps where approximately 1,000 people die every week.

The war in Northern Uganda, which has now also spread to Congo and other East African nations, has been called the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today.  What is worse, is that for many many years this crisis was completely invisible to the outside world.  That is, until 3 film students from San Diego got on a plane and discovered what was to become their life’s work.  They came home with footage of children walking for miles each night to find a safe place to sleep, footage of the Acholi people living in fear of the LRA, and footage of aid workers asking for help.  They also came home with a mission, and shortly thereafter released their footage as a documentary film entitled Invisible Children: Rough Cut.  This film was the genesis of an organization that would commit itself to ending the war in Uganda, restoring the Acholi people, and helping to make the universe of East Africa a safe and thriving place for children to grow up.  That organization is called Invisible Children.

Since that first film, which was released in 2003,  Invisible Children has seen much change in Northern Uganda.  Schools have been rebuilt, peace has been as close as a signature way, children feel safe to sleep in their own homes, laws have been passed in the United States to aid Uganda in the capture of Joseph Kony, and hope seems very much alive.  But the work is not complete.  Joseph Kony and the LRA are still at large.  They continue to terrorize the people of East Africa, with most of their focus on the nation of Congo, and they continue to abduct, abuse, and enslave children, but Invisible Children will not give up.

Since my first encounter with Invisible Children n 2006 my family and youth group have seen, and been a part of, some of the major changes in Uganda.  We have slept in fields for days, we have been to Washington to enlist the help of our government, we have told the story of these children whats seems to be a thousand times, and we have seen our own lives changed for the better.  It is truly amazing what happens when put others before ourselves, when we take care of our neighbor, even if our neighbor is halfway across the globe.  Our involvement has taught me the depths of what the Apostle James calls pure religion:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

There are times when we say to ourselves, “Someone else will take care of that problem” or “That is not my problem,” but what I have learned is that there are those who do not have voices of their own, who cannot speak up and ask for help, who do not have the power or influence to affect change, and therefore it is the job of those of us who have a voice to speak up, to act, to not rest until justice has been found..  The cause of Invisible Children has shown me my voice, my students’ voices, my wife’s voice, and even the voices of my small children.  We will not rest until there is peace and restoration in East Africa, and we pray that you will join us.

For more information, ways to get involved, media resources, or ways to donate to the cause please visit Invisible Children.

 

Back to Joe:

Don’t forget, you can EASILY help Invisible Children make a difference by just clicking on the widget to your left and watching some ads.  Come on.  It is simple.  Then go to the website and find out other ways to help, like Chris said.

Make a difference.  Be the change.

Don’t forget to become an email subscriber. Updates will be sent automatically to your inbox!  If Chris blogging brought you here, please check out my other posts.

Performancing Metrics

 

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September 12th

This picture is permenantly burned in my memories from 10 years ago.  I am not sure if the flag was raised on 9/12 or not, but this is the image I think about when I think about the day after the 11th.  I believe this is even more powerful to me now than it was then.  There is just something about the flag being raised over the wreckage by some of the men who were there when the buildings fell.  This was a message.  It said to those who planned the attacks, “We are still here.”

After NB went to bed last night, my wife and I watched a special about 9/11 on CBS.  It was called, 9/11 Ten Years Later.  It was amazing.  It really was.  It was pieced together from the footage from two brothers who were filming a documentary about a rookie firefighter along with the interviews in the time since.  It was almost unbelievable that there just happened to be these two guys filiming these guys at the very moment the first plane crashed…and they were only a couple of blocks away from the World Trade Center!

The firefighters were some of the first to the scene, and their chief was the first chief there and he allowed the filming brother with him to come into the building.  It was surreal to see this footage from inside Building One.  You are walked through the events from the perspective of the crew from this one firehouse.  Everything was filmed.  You feel like you are there when the buildings fell, because the camera was rolling.

It was a little hard to relive everything from that day, but I am so glad we watched until the end.  What stood out most to me was what happened following the buildings collapsing.

The firemen from the house were separated in the confusion running from Building One and it coming down.  The brother that was not at the WTC was at the firehouse.  He filmed everyone as they came back.  One by one they all returned, even the rookie who did not get back for six hours.  Everyone got back.  They were happy, but they took it hard as well.  They were one of the only firehouses that did not lose one person.  In a lot of ways, they felt guilty.  They were still here, while so many of their brother firefighters were not.

I was not ready for what came next.

After going home for a few hours, all of them came back to ground zero.  They felt like it was their duty to go and start digging and looking for people in the rubble.  They were still here, and they owed it to those who weren’t to go look for them.  Hundreds of firefighters, and others, came and dug.  They were on 24 hour shifts.  The first shift ended and they only found one person alive, but they came back again to look for more.

There was more to the show, but this is where I want to rest.  How beautiful is that thought in the middle of the tragedy.  They were still here, and they owed it to those that were not to risk their own lives to go looking.  In a lot of ways, the firefighters in the documentary should have died.  Most of them literally made it out of the building only minutes and seconds before it fell.  They survived though the odds said they shouldn’t have.  Instead of resting in that, though, they put themselves back into danger to look for others who were dying.

Isn’t this the story of how life should be?  Isn’t this how Christians should view life?

We were dying in our sins.  We were helpless from saving ourselves.  The world was crashing around us and we should have been caught up in the debris, but we weren’t.  Someone took our place.  Someone died in our place.  Jesus died the death we destined for.  The building fell on him, not us.  We were saved.  We are still here.  We are still here.

What is our response?  Do we rest in the fact that we are alive?  Or do we put this new life on the line to go search the wreckage of the world?  Do we risk our safety to dig and offer life to those who are helpless, just as we were?  Are we even trying?  Or are we taking our life for granted?  We are still here…but what are we doing about it?

I don’t know.  This really spoke to me.  I have lived most of my Christian life taking my “survival” for granted.  That is changing.  I am starting to see we need to leverage what we have for others.  To help them see that they can be saved from the wreckage.  To offer life.  It does not mean just sharing the gospel when the situation comes up, but it means loving other people.  It means serving other people.  It means giving up comfort and safety to try to make a difference in other people’s lives.  I am still here.  I want to spend my life making sure other people have the chance to say the same thing.

What about you?  What do you think?  Are you still here?  What are you doing about the others who aren’t?

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Poverty: An Imbalance of Opportunity

Today I have the honor of a guest blogger. 

I guess the process started a year or so ago, but my friend, Joey Espinosa, felt led to pack his life and family up and move to the lower part of South Carolina to Allendale County, which is a part of the Corridor of Shame.  Allendale is, per capita, the poorest part of the state.  He was living in the upstate and the children’s pastor of my church.  God moved him in the direction of going to live out his faith and restart a Boys and Girls Club in Allendale.  The whole story is amazing, and you can find out more on his blog, Mission: Allendale.  Additionally he has another blog about faith and parenting called A Different Way.

When we think about poverty, we have to move beyond considering the lack of resources. Generational poverty is also about the lack of opportunities.

Our Basic Desire

Years ago, when I had a “real” job, my co-workers and I were having a discussion about a war going on in another part of the world. It was a divided group, with some very strong opinions from both ends of the political spectrum. As you can imagine, the conversation was going nowhere fast.

After trying to stay out of the fracas, I felt like I had to say something, to redirect the issue. “You know what I think about? That there is some dad in that country with kids my age. He really doesn’t care about which side is right or wrong. He’s just trying to provide for his family, so his kids can grow up safe, healthy, and educated.”

No matter what social status you are in, everyone has the  common bond of wanting a chance. For some of us, it’s the opportunity to buy  more and better stuff. For others, it’s the opportunity for a more fulfilling  job, or a way to better use their gifts. And for many  people in the world (including the USA), they
merely want opportunities to obtain basic needs for their families, like food,  shelter, and health care.

When I pause and reflect, something just isn’t right about many of the imbalances  we see. And it’s not so much the imbalance of consumable resources, but the  imbalance of opportunities.

Imbalance of Opportunities

This past summer, a few high school students from Greenville  lived with a friend in the Allendale area, and they also spent a handful of  nights with us.

Late in July, one of the boys came to me in the morning and calmly informed me that his ear hurt. I told him that it would probably feel  better later. But my wife (the compassionate mom) knew what it was: an ear infection.

After trying to contact his mom (unsuccessfully) and trying to figure out if he had insurance or Medicaid (“I don’t know”), my wife took him to a local clinic.

Joanna explained to the medical staff the situation, and he received the attention he needed. The payment was based on a sliding scale, and was a trivial amount (for us).

But the part that stood out was having to pay $8 for the prescription drug amoxicillin. Why did this irk us? Because in Greenville, this drug would be free at a Publix pharmacy.

So, in the most under-resourced part of the state (Allendale), people pay $8 or more for a particular medicine. And in one of the wealthiest areas in the state (Greenville), you can get it for free.

Opportunities in Education

How many more advanced placement (AP) classes do you think are available in the average school in Greenville or Columbia, compared to Allendale? Surely there are children with above-average intelligence and motivation in this area.

How are kids going to consistently develop relationships of trust with educators in this school district, with the highest teacher turnover ratio, and where half of the schools have new principals in 2011?

We are seeing a negative trend of the imbalance in many areas. Not only have suburban schools gained advantages over urban ones, but they tend to hoard these advantages. Under-resourced schools become more under-resourced, comparatively.

“I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice”

I am not pushing for socialism or communism. I’m not proposing mandatory wealth distribution. But I am saying that our hearts need to be stirred and softened. We need to be moved to take action when we see the scarcity of opportunity in areas of generational poverty.

Consider what your life would be like if you were in their shoes. What resources would you need? What opportunities?

Try not to think of those in poverty as a group, as in “What they need is . . .” Consider the individuals, the families. For, however much of little that you have, there is always someone else worse off, who just needs a chance.

Related Links

They’re Baaack!

What’s Our Ultimate Purpose in Allendale?

So, what do you think?  I believe there is STRONG biblical evidence that when it is all said and done, what we are going to be judged most for in the end is what we did concerning those less fortunate, specicially the extreme poor, those in generational poverty because of a lack of opportunities, orphans, and widows.  We have “pet sins” in the Amercan Church.  We like to pick on premarital sex, drunkedness, and homosexuality…but we leave out what it seems the God holds more important, taking care of each other.  Never donating time and money to helping give those in need a hand up is not often talked about as a sin, but it is.  Throughout the Old and New Testament, this is one thing that comes up more than anything else.  How did you treat the poor, widows, orphans.  What did you do about it?

I am not suggesting that everyone do what Joey and his family did, but you need to do something.  Donate some time (not just money) to a cause for those in generational poverty.  Pray about it.  Find something.  Do it.  And then see if you don’t start to see God start to change you.

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Uganda, the LRA, and Invisible Children

 

Two weekends ago, I started a segment called “Why Weekends” in which I want to look at problems in the world that we, as inhabitants of our planet, are all responsible to be a part of changing.  I do believe the Christians should be motivated by the love of God to make a difference in light of these issues, but I also think it is something for everyone to work on no matter what you believe.  The first one was about extreme poverty in the world and one way to be a part of the solution (give it a read if you haven’t Why Weekends–Why and WorldVision-Part 1).  I intended to get to Part 2 this week becauase I was sick over the weekend, but another solution to an extreme poverty related issue presented itself to me and I wanted to move on it.

“How You Can Be the Change” will be an occasional segment for opportunities that come up to offer you ways to “be the change” that the world needs with minimal effort on your part.  Part of this will be to include “experts” when I can to give you first hand information and experiences from other people.  Today I was able to do that.

I have asked my friend, Chris Rosenberry, to write and tell you about an organization called “Invisible Children.”  If that sounds familiar it might be because it is on your computer screen right now.  Look to the left of the page.  There is a widget called “Social Vibe”.  This is a way for you to raise money and support for charities by just watching ads online.  That is all you have to do.  You only have to sacrafice a couple of minutes.  So easy!  I have chosen Invisible Children for my charity because what they do is awesome and what they are fighting is awful.  Instead of me telling you about it, I will let Chris give tell you about his experiences with the organization and about why it is so important to him.

Chris went to North Greenville College with me for a little while (Go Mounties!).  He is now the Youth and Arts pastor at The Refuge in Hilton Head, SC.  He is the husband of but one wife and the father of three.  Chris has a passion for social justice, obscure music, and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Okay, take over Chris.

Five years ago my eyes were opened to an unseen tragedy that would change my life, and the lives of my family, forever.  I had just begun working as a youth pastor in Hilton Head, SC and was looking for ways to get my students involved in missions projects which we could support without getting in a van or on a plane.  In my research, I found a video, backed by the Killers’ song “All These Things That I’ve Done” (an instant selling point), where high school and college aged students were giving up the comforts of their beds to sleep in fields and parking lots, writing letters, and trying to make people aware of one of the greatest disasters of their generation.

For well over 20 years a war has been waging in East Africa, in the nation of Uganda.  This war, a civil war, began as a well supported uprising within the Acholi people, the people of Northern Uganda, against the nation’s government.  But when its leader was exiled and a new leader, named Joseph Kony, attempted to take control of the rebellion by creating his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) support dwindled.  With little support from his own people, Kony and the LRA resorted to abducting children and forcing them to fight as part of the LRA.

Since Kony took control of the rebellion, thousands of children have been abducted and thousands have lost their innocence and their lives.  It is estimated that currently 90% of the LRA is made up of children, and that over the years as many as 66,000 children have been abducted.  It is also estimated that over the course of the war, over 1.8 million Northern Ugandans have been forced into Internally Displaced Camps (IDP camps) as a way of minimizing the casualties of this war.  And though about 900,000 of these people have been allowed to return to their homes, there are still almost 1 million people living in IDP camps where approximately 1,000 people die every week.

The war in Northern Uganda, which has now also spread to Congo and other East African nations, has been called the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today.  What is worse, is that for many many years this crisis was completely invisible to the outside world.  That is, until 3 film students from San Diego got on a plane and discovered what was to become their life’s work.  They came home with footage of children walking for miles each night to find a safe place to sleep, footage of the Acholi people living in fear of the LRA, and footage of aid workers asking for help.  They also came home with a mission, and shortly thereafter released their footage as a documentary film entitled Invisible Children: Rough Cut.  This film was the genesis of an organization that would commit itself to ending the war in Uganda, restoring the Acholi people, and helping to make the universe of East Africa a safe and thriving place for children to grow up.  That organization is called Invisible Children.

Since that first film, which was released in 2003,  Invisible Children has seen much change in Northern Uganda.  Schools have been rebuilt, peace has been as close as a signature way, children feel safe to sleep in their own homes, laws have been passed in the United States to aid Uganda in the capture of Joseph Kony, and hope seems very much alive.  But the work is not complete.  Joseph Kony and the LRA are still at large.  They continue to terrorize the people of East Africa, with most of their focus on the nation of Congo, and they continue to abduct, abuse, and enslave children, but Invisible Children will not give up.

Since my first encounter with Invisible Children n 2006 my family and youth group have seen, and been a part of, some of the major changes in Uganda.  We have slept in fields for days, we have been to Washington to enlist the help of our government, we have told the story of these children whats seems to be a thousand times, and we have seen our own lives changed for the better.  It is truly amazing what happens when put others before ourselves, when we take care of our neighbor, even if our neighbor is halfway across the globe.  Our involvement has taught me the depths of what the Apostle James calls pure religion:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

There are times when we say to ourselves, “Someone else will take care of that problem” or “That is not my problem,” but what I have learned is that there are those who do not have voices of their own, who cannot speak up and ask for help, who do not have the power or influence to affect change, and therefore it is the job of those of us who have a voice to speak up, to act, to not rest until justice has been found..  The cause of Invisible Children has shown me my voice, my students’ voices, my wife’s voice, and even the voices of my small children.  We will not rest until there is peace and restoration in East Africa, and we pray that you will join us.

For more information, ways to get involved, media resources, or ways to donate to the cause please visit Invisible Children.

Back to Joe:

Don’t forget, you can EASILY help Invisible Children make a difference by just clicking on the widget to your left and watching some ads.  Come on.  It is simple.  Then go to the website and find out other ways to help, like Chris said.

Make a difference.  Be the change.

Don’t forget to become an email subscriber. Updates will be sent automatically to your inbox!  If Chris blogging brought you here, please check out my other posts.

Performancing Metrics

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why Weekends–Why and WorldVision (Part 1)

Why Weekend?  What and why?

I have been trying to figure out when I will be blogging and if I will have occasional themes.  A part of this internal discussion was whether or not I would post on the weekends or not.  I know a lot of blogger don’t.  I just didn’t know until we were driving home from LA’s grandparents’ house (a long enough trip to have thinking time).  God gave the the thought about a weekend theme.  And that is the theme of “Why”.

“OneCupofJoe guy, ‘why’ is not a theme.”

Yes, by itself it is not a theme.  But my “why” is going to be a challenge.  These challenges are going to be based challenges God has been pounding my heart with as of late (and more that I have no doubt will continue to come).  They will vary from week to week, for the most part–except the first two, and will usually hover on issues in our world at large.

I have decided not to rest solely on the “Christian Spin” for this…actually I am going to avoid that as much as I can.  Why?  Because, though I do see everything I will write about as things Christians need to take a stand and fight for, I see all of these things as human issues that we all need to view a little more closely and work together to make changes.

That said, I will probably have my normal references to God and faith, especially when it comes to why I have taken on some of these causes, but please read on.  It is just a means to explain how I got there and have been challenged by these issues. However, these things are challenges that we all have to face.

There is so much hurting and need in the world.  It is not fair for us to hoard the resources and leave the rest of the world to fend for itself.  I think it is almost just as wrong for us to wait for governments to step in and fix things.  To paraphrase something I heard at a meeting about adoption and foster care this week, “These are not government problems, they are [HUMAN] problems.”  It is time for us to step out of our comfort and reach out to those less fortunate around our world (which is a vast majority of the residents of Earth).

So, I will start with my first “Why”.  This is going to be a two-parter.  I will delve into it more next week.  Because you have soldiered on through the long explation of my weekend theme, I will reward you by just dealing with the “set-up” of this challenge.

Why is there so much EXTREME POVERTY around the world?

Early this year, mid-January to be exact, God caused a radical transformation on my heart. Through a variety of sources and ways, he pretty much changed my perspective on almost everything. I will write more on this later (be on the look out for “My Time Travel Testimony”). One of the things that he changed is how I viewed the rest of the world in the light of poverty.

Now, I have always had a want to help those in need. I have sponsored children through both Compassion International and WorldVision (seperately most of the time, but for a little while at the same time). I have given to various ministries, worked at an emergency boys shelter for three years, and currently work at a school in a low-income area (going into my sixth year there). Despite all of this, God needed to teach me WHY this was important and lead me to take these things even more seriously.

I would love to get in to the Biblical reasons for why people in extreme poverty should be important to you, but like I said, I am going to take a different perspective. I want to appeal to believers and non-believers alike. I want to grip your human heart and make you want to reach out to the world because it is the right thing to do.

Did you know that as members as the “civilized industrial west”, statistics say that we (almost all Americans…even those considered poor) are a part of the 20% of the world’s income earners. 80% of the world lives off of less than $10 a day!! $10!!! But even more shocking…just under 50% of the world’s population lives on around $2.50 a day. WE PAY MORE FOR A BURGER FOR ONE MEAL.

Let me just say this. This is wrong! So wrong that I can barely stomach it. Even as you read this, can you believe it? And guess what? As bad as many people in the US may have it, even our poorest would be considered blessed in most of the rest of the world.

Before I move on, I will just say that I am by no means saying we should not support the poor in our country. Not in the least. I am even more motivated for those around me than I ever have. BUT, the rest of the world needs to be a part of your “giving/caring deal”. You CAN NOT just pretend the extreme poverty in the world is not there. You can’t. You just can’t.  (If you do want a perspective on poverty around us, though,  check out these blog posts: Saul 1, Saul 2, Saul 3, and Final Reflections on Saul.)

Now back to the numbers. Look at them again. Around 50% of the world lives on less than $2.50. A lot of people pay more for a cup of coffee. If I lost $2.50, I probably wouldn’t tear up the house to look for it or retrace my steps for the day (maybe, but not likely). This is insane. The fact that 30% of those who live off of more than $2.50 still live on less than $10 should make us all really take stock of our lives. 80% of the world makes a living on less than $10!! I would look for $10 if I lost it, but I wouldn’t cry over it if I didn’t find it.

“But, OneCup guy, these people don’t need as much to live on, so it is not as bad as you are making it out to be.” True and false. Yes, it takes less for most to scratch out an exsistance, BUT it still takes more than $10 a day…and way more than $2.50!!

I won’t get into the statistics on mortality, health, nutrition, and education this week, but just know, that you really can’t excuse being okay with the disparity between the top 20% and bottom 80%! You can’t. You just can’t.

If I am not mistaken (and I am pretty sure I am not) we live in a time of unparalelled resources.  Why are there so many people literally dying becuase 20% of the population lives in extreme comfort?  This is not okay.  This is something we can do something about.  Seriously.  What can you give up?  What can you do without?  What can you sacrafice?  It is more than easy to help.  There are so many organizations out there…they just need the resources we are hoarding.  Think about it.

I am going to be pushing WorldVision because I believe in them, I love the way they do what they do, and know they are making a difference, but I don’t care who you go through.  Just do something.  Your comfort is not worth other people dying for.

Okay, I have set this up. I will get into the just mentioned stats next weekend. I just hope your eyes are opened a little.

If this is something you would like to follow up on for yourself, let me lead you to WorldVision’s website (www.worldvision.com). I will talk much more about this organization next week, but the heart of their mission is to change the dynamics of poverty around the world one community at a time. Check them out. Please sponsor a child if you feel so led. Please do. And let me know if you did, I want to encourage you in this! It is an awesome thing!

Oh, and click on the picture to find out a really cool thing going on with WorldVision for the next week or so.  Awesomeness!

To be continued next weekend!

Performancing Metrics

 

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