Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In India, Poverty Inspires People to Action

“In Redmond, you don’t see 7-year-olds begging on the street,” said Sean Blagsvedt (former Microsoft engineer).

This statement refers to the difference between the streets of India and the streets around Microsoft's headquarters in the US. A growing trend in India is that wealthy workers are seeing the poverty around them and are being moved to do something with technology to help these people.

Mr. Blagsvedt idea was to build a social networking site for poor street workers looking for employment. It seems that the rich complain about not having enough people to hire, and the poor complain about not having enough jobs. the problem was that there was no connection between the two. Mr. Blagsvedt answer? Technology!

The biggest problem was the fact that the poor don't have access to computers, and the rich don't want to trust just anyone they find online. So, the design of Babajob.com was to pay the people with computer access to set up profiles for good workers that they have found. Fairly ingenious. You can see the whole article here.

If you have ever read the Bible, especially the New Testament, you might have been struck by the idea that we are supposed to do something about poverty. I've always wondered why so few of us do that. Heck - I've wondered why I have a hard time doing anything. I think some of it has to do with the attitudes of the most visible poor: the corner beggars. I've gone and talked to a few of them, even offered to help them apply for jobs. They aren't interested in doing that. Now, I know that those people represent less than 5% of the actual poor out there. But they are the 5% that most of us ever get to deal with, so I am assuming that they are (unfortunately) influencing our national attitudes toward the poor. Why would we want to help those that just want a free hand out?

There has got to be a way to get something like this started here in the US. Some kind of site that links us needs with those willing to give. I am thinking mostly time here, and not money. I would love to go do something about poverty, if I could just find where to go on my free Saturday afternoons.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Whole Gospel From All Angles

A recent post at the Thinklings, as well as a session that my wife taught at a retreat this weekend (Holistic Health), got me thinking about the Gospel. The whole Gospel. Most spiritual people, even if they don't follow Jesus specifically, tend to be able to tell you what they think the Gospel is.

The simple answer for most Christians is that the Gospel is the "Good News" of the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Some have been arguing that the Gospel is really something else - specifically, it is offering social justice to the oppressed. A few are slowly beginning to realize that it is both and even more.

A few months ago, my wife and I attended a "community health evangelist" training at our old church back in Waco. The session started off by looking at Jesus' mission statement. When Jesus began his public ministry, you see him in the temple reading a specific passage from Isaiah (chapter 61, verse 1, but I have included more here):
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners (or the blind),

to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Many people look at these verses from the spiritual angle. When He speaks of restoring sight for the blind, we think that God will give (in)sight to the spiritually blind. The interesting thing is, Jesus then went around physically healing the blind.

The intent of The Gospel was to minister to the whole person - physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. And we see this is so in the verse from Isaiah above (with a smattering of social justice thrown in for good measure). Take a look at this part of the scriptures from a non-spiritual angle:
  • "to preach good news to the poor": what is better news for the poor than to know that their oppression is gone? That they can be free from debt maybe? There's your social justice.
  • "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted": healing our emotional wounds and issues.
  • "to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners": freedom from addictions (physical health), from oppressive relationships (social health), from destructive emotional conditions?
  • "to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion... and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair": emotional comfort in tragic situations.
  • "They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations": rebuild devastated communities, or even social relationships.
  • "And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God": even when looking at this scripture from a non-spiritual angle, there is still an obvious reference to addressing spiritual issues.
The interesting thing is that Jesus took this passage of scripture from both a spiritual and non-spiritual angle at the same time, and lived his life fulfilling both angles daily.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Song of Solomon

Want to hear something crazy? I am preaching a sermon this Sunday. I've done some preaching in my life, but the last time I did was in 2002 in India. I still do some public speaking at conferences and other places for work, so I won't be totally rusty, I just still wonder if I have a good lesson in me now.

The reason I wonder is that my church is going through the Song of Solomon right now. So I am working on something out of that. The deal with SoS is - I've never really had a problem with it. Many people do - they don't understand why it is in the Bible. And that's okay - most people have a book or two in the Bible that they have problems with. Martin Luther himself had problems with several books - James, Revelations, etc. So it's okay.

But for me, I've always been okay with SoS being in there - even if you think it is strictly a love poem. You see, I have (for a long time) believed that God is concerned with every part of our lives. If you take SoS out of the Bible - there is a huge part of married life (the romantic part) that is missing from the Bible. I mean -- what else do you have in there? Sampson and Delila? Hosea? Even David's stories aren't that romantic.