Friday, October 30, 2009

To Live is Christ

This video puts the words behind Trip Lee's summary of the book of Phillipians from the 13 Letters project.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Should tax dollars be used to help the poor?

There is much political debate over whether American tax dollars should be used to bring aid to the poor. Some believe that this is completely the governments responsibility. Others think that the government should not be involved at all.

What do you think?

I think that we should consider how God felt these things should be handled in the nation of Israel. Looking at the Old Testament law can give us some insight into God's dealing with a nation. A few of the many verses to consider:

I have heard many refer to Matthew 26 where Jesus quotes the OT and says the poor will always be with you. But few go back and look at what was being said. Deuteronomy 15 does say that the poor will always be with so "open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land". This is about generousity, but not about government involvement.

Exodus 23:11 talks about the Sabbath year. Every seventh year, the farmer is to not harvest his own land so that the poor may eat from it. That would mean that about 14% of the food from their field would be designated by law to the poor with no strings attached.

Leviticus 19:9,10 tells the farmer to not go around and pick up all of the leftover harvest, but to "Leave them for the poor and the alien". Again governmental law to leave some extra for the poor. Lev. 23:22 repeats this again in case they missed it.

Leviticus 25 talks about the year of Jubilee (which the Israelites never actually practiced). A time of land being returned to original owners. A time of resting from work. In this chapter, the Israelites are told that they are to care for the poor and not lend them money with interest. So much for all of the banks and payday loan places that exploit the poor.

Deuteronomy 24 talks about paying the worker who is poor daily because he needs it. It also talks about paying him a fair wage. So much for those who are against a minimum wage.

And then there is the tithe. This is the tax of the day for the Israelites. There were three tithes. Two to be paid yearly and on to be paid every three years. Basically a 23% tax when you average it out. One tithe was general. One tithe went to the feasts, celebrations, etc. The other tithe which was given every third year was for the Levites and the poor - orphan, widow, alien. So in Israel, 3.33% of all that people earned was set aside for assistance to the poor among them. This is talked about it Deuteronomy 14 and 26.

Does this mean that the US should set aside tax money to care for the poor? Not necessarily, but I think that we should consider our responsibility as a society to those who are less fortunate.

What do you think?

Monday, October 12, 2009

ABC 7 News Chicago Features Friday Night Lights

This news story was featured several months ago. It reminds us of the need for the church to continue to be creative in promoting a culture of peace.

I thank God for my good friend Chris Butler and the leadership that he is offering to promote peace in our city.

What do you think the church's role should be in promoting peace?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Are you worn out?

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hurting for our youth

Last week, I found myself heartbroken once again by the violence that has affected our young people. I began to cry as I watched video online of the incident in Roseland that ended with a young life taken. I thought of my friends who work at the Agape Center who watched this unfold in their parking lot.

Much is being spoken and written about youth violence because this video brought to light things that are happening day in and day out in many communities. I can't say that what I saw on the video was something that I haven't seen in front of my own house on occasion. Mobs of people fighting. Boards. Bats.

The Chicago Tribune published an article today titled "Fenger kids tell why they fight". It gives a bit of insight into the challenges that many urban teenagers face daily in their pursuit of an education and a better life. Some of them are honor students like Derrion Albert.

Dennis Byrne points to all male high schools with all male teachers as a solution. I think this has some validity, but the problem is more complex than one solution can offer.

Youth violence has many causes: male aggression, youthful indiscretion, rebellion, hopelessness, racial neglect by society, poverty, etc. But I believe that one of the core issues is a breakdown of the family. We live in a culture that does so many things to discourage strong family relationships. As a result, we are reaping what we have sown.

What do you believe is the answer to the violence of our youth?

What can be done to strengthen the role of the family in society?