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poverty in australia

October 14-20 is Anti-Poverty Week in Australia.

In a new report just released, the Australian Council of Social Services said that around 1 in 8 Australians live below the poverty line.

17% of all children live below the poverty line.

This equates to around 2.2 million people.

Poverty in Australia is measured by 2 standards. The first standard of poverty is 50% of the Australian median income. The second standard is slightly higher at 60% of median income.

For a single person this equates to $358/wk (50% of median income), $537 for a couple with no children, $573 for a single parent with 2 kids and $752 for a couple with two children.  Read the rest of this entry

bitterness, anger, forgiveness: reflections in ephesians 4 (part 3)

Forgiveness by Eyob B Kassa

This is the final part of a three part series reflecting on Ephesians 4:31-32. You can see the other parts on anger & bitterness here and on forgiveness here.

This part is going to focus on how we can “put off” bitterness and “put on” forgiveness. What drives us to forgive in this extravgant manner? How can we forgive this way without burning ourselves out?

Let’s remind ourselves of the passage in Ephesians 4 one more time:

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

The way we can forgive like this without burning out is found in the last part of v32. Paul instructs his readers to forgive, not out of obligation, not purely so to obey a command, not out of guilt or in order to be pious. Paul says, forgive because in Christ you have been forgiven.

Unless we see that we are just as broken, just as evil, just as in need of forgiveness as the persons who sin against us, we will not be able to forgive. Read the rest of this entry

bitterness, anger, forgiveness: reflection in ephesians 4 (part 2)

Forgiveness by Eyob B Kassa

Yesterday I began some reflections in Ephesians 4:31-32 about bitterness and anger and this post will focus on forgiveness. How do we forgive? Do we need to forgive and forget? How can we ensure that someone doesn’t hurt us again and again?

These were some of the questions that were raised at the end of the last post and I noted that I needed to answer them here.

Let’s remind ourselves of the passage in Ephesian 4:31-32;

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

The first question involces the notion of “forgive and forget”. I noted that, in Tim Keller’s words, in order to forgive not only do you have to forego being the executioner, you also revoke your right to judge the person. You cannot be the executioner, you cannot actively seek to bring about your own idea of justice or vengence. And you also revoke the right to be the judge, to pass sentence and will the penalty or will revenge on the person even if you do not carry it out. Bitterness is the inward condition which holds a person liable for a sin (Tim Keller).

So if you cannot act as judge or executioner when someone sins against you, does this mean the only option is to forgive and forget?

Not only is this not the only option, it is often not the right option! In addition, it is almost impossible to forget, especially in serious cases. You may forgive and actually forget, but most of the time this is not a conscious decision – it just happens. But in cases of  serious sins, such as abuse or worse, this is almost never a reality. Read the rest of this entry

house of hope – sydney morning herald article

Just wanted to post a link to an article about a guy in, Mount Druit, Western Sydney who I met when I was studying at Morling College. Here are a quote from the Sydney Morning Herald article to get you going:
 
 
 

It’s a fair bet that if Jesus Christ were around today, he’d be doing what the Owens are doing in Mount Druitt. They feed the poor and house the homeless. They lead the lost and counsel the conflicted…

They’re experts at unconditional love: alcoholic mums, runaway kids, petty thieves, everyone’s welcome at the Owens’ home, a four-bedroom brick house that for the past five years has been equal parts street kitchen and safe house, as well as a home for their daughters Kshama, 8, and Kiera, 7.

“The most we’ve had here is 13 people,” Jon says, showing me around the cramped, single-storey home, the floors of which are strewn with sheets and sleeping bags. “They crash on the couches, on the floor. It’s busy, but it’s fun, too, especially at dinner time.”

an average day of revolutionary love

Reading The Irresistable Revolution I was inspired by how Shane Claiborne describes “an ordinary day”. I was going to write about this but I figured that this quote says all I wanted to say. Read the rest of this entry

An Advent Conspiracy

Christmas can still changeTHE WORLD. Every year Australians spend $37,000,000,000 (that’s BILLION in case you can’t be bothered counting the zeros!!) on Christmas…. every year!

But Christmas isn’t about shopping and Christmas trees and presents and turkey… is it? Christmas is about God coming to us. The story of Christ’s birth is a story of promiseHOPE, and a revolutionary LOVE.
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Adding to the figures… lack of clean water kills more people everyday than anything else in the world. To solve this global water issue it would take an estimated $15 Billion… less than half of an Aussie Christmas! This Christmas enter the story…

It begins with WORSHIP

At Christmas time we so often find ourseld overwhelmed with shops and presents and food… we act like Christmas trees and gifts represent the true meaning of Christmas. They don’t. Christmas is about WORSHIP not shops. It’s about the Creator of the Universe coming to us in Jesus Christ.

We are then FREE to SPEND LESS
If Christmas is not about presents and shops, but about worship we are free spend less at Christmas time. We don’t have to buy into the advertising about presents, because let’s face it… consumerism does not equal happiness or love or fulfilment. When we see the that Christ is actually about worship and not about consumerism there is a weight lifted from us… we don’t need to be worried about shops and traffic jams and credit card debt…. this doesn’t consume us and we are free to worship fully and spend less.

But we are also able to GIVE MORE

Instead of buying useless gifts, gifts for the sake of a present under the tree, presents that don’t mean anything, presents that just add to the junk we already own… how about giving something meaningful?? Like your time, your energy…. YOURSELF! At Christmas time, God gave the GREATEST gift. Jesus came and gave himself for us… all of himself…. his time, his energy, his… LIFE! At Christmas we can emmulate this by giving gifts of ourselves… make presents instead of buying them (they mean so much more when you spend time on them) and give your PRESENCE… yourself. But, what about that money you didn’t spend on gifts? Couldn’t you give that away too? To people who really need it? At GCC and Cafe Church we’ll be giving money to a Water Fund which will buy wells, sanitation, training and equipment in the developing world with Baptist World Aid Australia and TEAR Australia.

By doing this we can LOVE ALL
Jesus came to love all of humanity… particularly the hurting, the vulnerable, the poor. As you WORSHIP God this Christmas and seek to GIVE more of yourself, why not give to thise who Jesus gave himself to?
THIS IS THE ADVENT CONSPIRACY

See www.adventconspiracy.org for more info…

Baby’s Coming: Is Everything Ready? – Part 2

In my last post I commented on the incredible disparity between a mother or mother-to-be in Australia (such as my wife Katie) and in developing countries. While maternal death in Australia is relatively good (1 in 13000), in Africa as a continent it is 1 in 9 and in Niger it is only 1 in 7. To add to that 9.2 million children die every year before the age of 5 and 7 million of these deaths are preventable with affordable measures. The chances of you as a mother surviving your pregnancy and then your child surviving past the age of 5 is incredibly different purely because of the country you live in. So what can be done?

I want to suggest 3 ways you can help: (1) become educated, (2) educate others and (3) act & give generously.

Become educated about these sorts of issues. Read the stats, read about the issues, talk to people who know about the issues… whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to become ignorant to the plight of the poor. It’s easy to gloss over something and not actually think about, let alone dig a little deeper to see more of the injustices in our world. Become educated so that you know about the issues and learn about what people are doing to help. For information about this issue of maternal health, see World Vision’s page on Maternal and Child Health.

When you are educated you have the ability to educate others. Tell others and speak up for the plight of the poor – this is called advocacy. In the same way that you haven’t allowed yourself to remain ignorant, don’t allow others to do the same. Teach others, educate other, empower others… help people to help. Help people to care, to love, to be compassionate towards the poor and to be empowered to do something about it. Educating people where they feel horrible about themselves or guilty to the point of despair disempowers people… educate people about the problems but also about the solutions and give them opportunities to respond with compassion and with generosity. To learn more about advocacy, see World Vision’s page on Advocacy or Baptist World Aid Australia’s page on Advocacy.

Finally, do something yourself – act & give generously. You can do something about these issues. You can use your skills, your training and go to where help is needed. But if that is not possible for you, you can do something where ever you are right now. Give generously. You can give to Aid and Development organisations such as World Vision or Baptist World Aid Australia (BWAA) or others and give to help fight poverty and injustice. To give concerning this issue of maternl and child health, it is easy. Through BWAA you can give a gift which can help someone in need. Just $105 will  train three traditional birth attendants in rural Cambodia in health, hygiene and essential midwifery skills, giving support to women and babies where there are no doctors – that only $35 per birth attendant! And World Vision has plenty of ways you can help too.

You can help with this issue of child and maternal health – learn, teach and give!

Proverbs 31:8-9: 8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

A Flicker in the Dark…

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the community of God being like salt (Matthew 5:13), preservers of culture and enhancers of culture. The following verses in Matthew 5:14-16, speak about the community of believers being like light saying, You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a lamp stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Clearly, when this verse says, You are the light of the world, it is implying that the world is in darkness and in need of light. Light is an image that Jesus used to speak of himself. In John 8:12 Jesus says, I am the Light of the World (see also John 9:5) and so it is interesting that Jesus here says that very same thing about those who follow him – YOU are the light of the world. Writer Leon Morris explains this saying, “Christ himself is the light, whereas his followers are no more than pointers to and reflectors of Christ the Light” (see Eph 5:8 and Phil 2:15).

How is the world in darkness? I am not sure I need to say too much here as you only need to watch the news or a read a paper to get some idea of what Jesus is saying. Darkness is a metaphor for evil and evil, disease, sickness, injustice, slavery, violence, addictions, broken families, broken relationships, lack of resources/food/education/health, abuse, wars, famine, greed and selfishness… these things and more are so readily seen in our world today that it would be almost impossible not to know or have experienced “darkness”.

What is the light that is required in this dark world and how are we to be the light? Being light in this dark world is being willing to be a counter culture. Jesus says, let you light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. The light required is good deeds. These good deeds do not come out of a sense of duty or guilt, but out of a knowledge and transformation because of the cross. In the cross we have experienced the light, true light. Our lives were dark and in the cross we experience the light of God. We experience compassion, mercy, generosity, forgiveness, reconciliation, justice and restoration (among other things) through Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross. Once we have experienced these things and understand that we were totally undeserving of any of it, we can live lives that love with extravagant compassion and mercy, do justice, and give with eye-popping generosity because this is what God has done for us.

The light we shine is love where there is hatred and division. It is hope where there is hopelessness. It is mercy and forgiveness where there is pain and suffering. It is peace and reconciliation where there is hostility and violence. It is extravagant generosity where there is greed and selfishness. Justice where there is injustice. Compassion where there is hurting…. I think you get the picture…. This is light.

What Jesus is saying is that his followers are to be a counter culture in the world… in a very similar way to how we are to be salt (Matt 5:13). We are to be a counter culture, not to blending in with the world… we are to be like a city on a hill which cannot be hidden (v14). While it may be only a constant flicker in the darkness, any light makes the darkness more bearable and a community of light will reach far beyond the limits of one small candle. Live as part of a commmunity of light, releasing people from the oppression of darkness.

UK Riots: A Response

More and more talk has been heard in the media about the ever-increasing gap between the rich and poor, in London and the UK, as a major contributor to the recent London riots. With multi-million pound homes being built in the boroughs of London and more and more shops setting prices to match, some of the lower socio-economic citizens are feeling like they are being pushed out of their own suburb (see ABC News). High prices are set for rent and sale of properties, high prices for food and services, combine with high rates of unemployment (around 10% in some areas) and a government who is cutting funding for social welfare due to the current economic situation and massive debt, result in communities where people have little or no money to buy the ordinary requirements and still want the luxuries. Education is also harder to obtain for people from poorer families, and a dysfunctional or broken family structure only adds to already concerning list of social issues (see Guardian Article). People are unable to afford the designer jeans or big screen TVs and so when the opportunity arose to fight back against the system and take what they want, the opportunity was jumped on by hundreds.

Although those involved sound a bit like victims of an unjust system, it does not in any way excuse or condone the behaviour of the last week. But the situation of an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor is not isolated to the UK. Indeed in some countries around the world the gap is so large that the rich are rich by any measure and the poor are some of the poorest in the world. However, even in developed countries and even in Australia we see similar symptoms of a system which promotes hand-outs which dis-empower the poor and make them reliant on a system which, in the end, will enable them to move out of a cycle of poverty and disadvantage.So what is a response, not only to the situation in London and the UK, but in any area where a similar situation exists?

We must approach this issue as people who have an understanding of the Cross and as people who have been transformed by it. We must see the Cross and how God treated us when we were destitute, poor, broken and dysfunctional. When we were broken, Christ came to make us whole. When we were poor and destitute, Christ became poor so that we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). Christ came and gave up all he had in heaven, to become a poor man in Galilee, without a home, without money, died a death of criminal and was buried in tomb he didn’t own. Christ took on our sin and gave us his riches of righteousness… all this when we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10). We were totally undeserving of any compassion, grace, forgiveness and mercy. Yet Christ came and gave up all he had for us. When we are transformed by this Gospel, we see the poor in a new light. We know that we ourselves were poor and God was extravagant with his generosity and lavished his grace and mercy and compassion on us. We too must see the poor this way and lavish grace, mercy and compassion on them in extravagant generosity.

Riots may get the issues in the headlines, it may bring to light some injustices of society, but only extravagant generosity, radical mercy and compassion, and a community which seeks justice and loves mercy and walks humbly with God (Micah 6:8) will have any lasting impact. Only people who have been transformed by the Cross will be able to act in a way which seeks the flourishing of others at their own expense and seek to empower the community to act with the same generosity, humility, servanthood, grace, mercy and compassion. A community like this can empower society to release people from disadvantage and poverty because they themselves have been transformed by the Cross and have been liberated from poverty and brokenness in Christ.

I don’t think I have covered all aspects or adressed the whole issue. What are your thoughts?

Designed for Community

Below is a video clip from US pastor Francis Chan as part of his BASIC Series. It’s called BASIC Fellowship.

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