Tag Archive: justice


twocents2

Two Cents is the blog associated with Common Change, the non-profit that tbV and myself work for. It is a blog site which we are hoping till become a hub for conversations, dialogue and media sharings on the theme of where FAITH intersects with ECONOMICS [with a healthy measure of JUSTICE added in] and it is starting to gain momentum. Here are a selection of some of the top articles from the last couple of weeks that people have been particularly interested in. We would love for you to pick one [or all of them] and go and read it and leave your thoughts [your two cents?] in the comments section…

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http://twocents.co/features/the-amish-and-economic-innovation

‘What can we learn from this case study about finding imaginative and innovative ways to stay true to our own principles in the modern economy?’

http://twocents.co/articles/moving-from-a-minimum-wage-to-a-living-wage

‘The principles and foundations Nigel expresses have deep significance across geographic contexts. What does it mean to pay a living wage in our context? What will paying a living wage “cost” you and what are the potential effects doing so will have on the individuals and societies you find yourself engaged in? Is it worth “finding a bargain” on wages that impact people’s ability to live?’

http://twocents.co/articles/a-pontiff-for-the-poor-is-there-any-other-kind

‘In his short tenure, Pope Francis has redefined and breathed life into the papal office. As a result, a office that many saw as dead and irrelevant; is now brimming with life. While we at Two Cents applaud much of what he has done, we are especially interested in how he views the intersection of faith and economics.’ 

http://twocents.co/features/the-liturgy-of-abundance-and-the-myth-of-scarcity

‘Can we, like Jesus, imagine a new reality, an economy of enough, a liturgy of abundance? “When the disciples, charged with feeding the hungry crowd [as told in Mark’s gospel] found a child with five loaves and two fishes, Jesus took, blessed ,broke and gave the bread. These are the four decisive verbs of our sacramental existence. ” But our taking, blessing, breaking and giving – our sacramental expression of our fundamental belief in “creation infused with the Creator’s generosity” and our call to express this same open-handedness to our neighbors – cannot exist if we continue to believe in the myth of scarcity. With that all we can do is  hoard, profane, accumulate and keep to ourselves the richness of God’s abundance.’

http://twocents.co/features/the-not-so-simple-life

Below are three points I want to remember as I attempt to gouge entitlement out of my own life. I suspect, like pulling weeds, it’s going to be a life-long exercise:

1. I have enough.

2. People matter most.

3. God simplified.

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So there you have it – just a glimpse of what we are trying to do at Two Cents and we would love for you to get involved which you can do in a number of ways:

[1] Visit the site, read the articles, comment on them – share them with people who you know that you think they will resonate with.

[2] Send me articles/videos that you feel are relevant to the theme of where FAITH meets ECONOMICS [with a generous helping of JUSTICE] – I won’t be able to use all the ones I get but if you find something that is particularly challenging or encouraging then please email it to brett@commonchange.com and give me the option of using it.

[3] Suggest a writer – if you know someone that writes well on that theme who might be up to writing an original piece for the site, please send them my way.

[4] Volunteer – we are looking for a team of 10 to 20 people who will donate an hour or two a week to Common Change by committing to visiting Two Cents a few times a week and commenting on at least one but preferably two of the new articles we post. If this sounds like something you’d be up for or if you know someone who has a passion for this theme of stuff then email me at brett@commonchange.com and sign up.

changeA little bit of a catchup on how tbV [the beautiful Val] and my work is going at Common Change

Things are going pretty well – we have moved from a space of setting things up and getting them ready to having them ready and seeing people start to slowly come on board and so it is an exciting time but also feels a bit like a time of pregnancy [no, we’re not!] in terms of something has happened but the main event still feels a little bit in the future.

I have moved from doing a lot of bug fixes and testing on the new site to a space of marketing and sharing the vision of Common Change and seeing people take steps to sign up. We had a really successful online webinar a few weeks ago and most of the people who were part of that have started or continued a journey with us at Common Change. That is a great way to get started and have some of your questions answered and we will be doing two more on Tuesday the 6th of August so if you are interested then check out the event and sign up.

Val does a bunch of stuff involving policy and procedure but is also largely involved with moving people from being interested parties to joining Common Change and becoming part of functioning groups [when a group is fully active and functioning it gets passed on to me to keep an eye on and walk alongside] and there are a bunch of groups at the moment that are close to full on launching stage and so that can be really exciting although hugely-patience-enducing too as we just want to see them jump and get going. She does a really excellent job at managing that side of things and staying in touch with people. She has also recently jumped into the finances side of things as well so learning and contributing much there.

So the online phone call is one way to get involved. But we have recently added another which is a great way for people who are excited about it but maybe have not got a group of people around them who are interested or at the point of jumping-in’ness yet and are really wanting to get moving. We have started a group called CONNECT [with a monthly contribution of $25 asked for] and one called MOVE [monthly contribution of $50 required] as a 6 month commitment for anyone who is wanting to try this Common Change thing out and see how it works and get started with it. The hope is that as you take part you will have some stories to share your friends or colleagues and that after the 6 month participation you may have found the people in your life to be able to start your own group with. So a great way to get ones feet wet with a fairly low input.

Another part of Common Change that we are excited about is the Two Cents blog we have going which looks at aggregating [collecting] and also creating articles and other media looking at the intersection of where FAITH and FINANCES [or economy] meet up [with a healthy side order of JUSTICE] and so we have three to five articles added there every week and are inviting people to get involved in the conversations and discussions that emerge as people engage with what is going on around the world. We would LOVE for you to stop by there and add your two cents. Bookmark it and visit it regularly or simply subscribe to the blog to stay in touch with what life-transforming conversations are being had.

At the moment Common Change is set up [from the money perspective largely] specifically for American groups but we have had a lot of interest from countries as varied as Costa Rica, South Africa and Holland and so people are wanting to get going with this and we are definitely investigating ways in which people from other countries can more easily become involved.

So ja, exciting but looking forward to to when the groups that are processing take the final leap and start presenting and meeting needs and we will have more stories to celebrate together.

For those of you who may not be familiar with how Common Change works, in a nutshell it is about connecting resources to people in need through already established relationships. The idea is for a group of people to commit to contributing a certain amount of their finances each month into a common pool. At any point anyone in the group can then share a need of someone that they know [a person they are in one degree of separation of relationship with] and the group will share wisdom and ideas on how best to meet the need long-term and then vote to approve the need. The question we generally hold on to is not whether or not we will meet the need but how will we meet it. This is based on the early church in Acts method of everyone sharing their resources and no-one being in need and feels like a really healthy way of helping us to be intentional in stewarding that which we have well.

For more information check out the website at commonchange.net, jump aboard one of the phone conversations on Tuesday 6 August or check out our blog at twocents.co.

“I think the church has lost its path, you know. It is so entertainment-focused. The true place of the church is here, where Jesus would be and we are trying to bring that back. We are motivated by convictions around justice, and looking at the life of Jesus, and the book of Matthew in which we learn to love our enemies. The job of the church is to be a sign of hope for a community and the greatest weapon we have as Christians, is love. At the end of the day Christianity is about sacrifice and the cross.” [Nigel Branken from this article by Jessica Eaton titled, ‘Hope in Hillbrow: ‘If Jesus lived anywhere, it would be here.’]

branken

The Two Cents blog I help put together [conversations on the intersections between FAITH and FINANCES with some JUSTICE thrown in for good measure] recently ran a deeply challenging article by Nigel looking at the difference between minimum wage and a living wage in terms of how we pay those who work for us. So not too much surprise that I discover that him and his family are practicing what they preach having moved into one of the worst trouble spots in South Africa.

In the midst of everything that has happened around us in Americaland such as the whole Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman shooting case which brought a lot of issues of colour to the fore], this feels like a timely word and example. As church leaders, families and individuals wrestle with trying to find an appropriate response and to journey with those who would return violence for violence [understandably to an extent as this is not an isolated incident but rather one more to add to a history of fear and prejudice] the example of this middle class South Africa family might have something to say:

Nigel takes me out to the balcony overlooking Kapteijn Street and points at all the people he knows. “The best way to keep safe around here is to know as many people as you can. If you know people, they won’t hurt you.”

This all sounds too familiar to my own journey of reading Acts 2 and 3 and looking at the early church and sensing something different from what it has become and the line about church being entertainment-focused does not sound too far from the truth for a large number of them at least. Having moved into Kayamandi township for 18 months and then spent some time at the Simple Way in Philadelphia, although I didn’t quite find the answers and resonance I was searching for there I certainly was introduced to some of the deeper questions and made connection with a variety of different people who are seeking out this Truth in very different contexts and ways.

Like Bono, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, but I feel like I’m getting closer. Looking at Nigel’s motivation there are some similiar echoes and a call for me to head back to Matthew:

“I had been going through a bit of a journey myself … now obviously we are doing this as a result of our Christian faith and we looked at Matthew 5,6 and 7, huge scriptures for us, all about Jesus’s beatitudes and the same text that inspired Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King and all of those significant leaders.

“They have all looked at those teachings of Jesus and have felt that their lives were totally different from how we live our Christian faith. And when I looked at those scriptures again five years ago, I was shocked because I realised my Christianity looked nothing like it.

So take the time to read this article and try and hear and see the sounds and smells of Jesus in their story and ask the difficult questions about your own life, the church you are part of, the mission Jesus really called us to. And if there is something that needs to change, then be bold enough to step out – start small if you must, but do something, because this status quo is starting to smell…

forgives

i don’t feel very strong right now.

i feel wronged. badly done by. hurt. betrayed. disappointed.

and yet again and again it comes back to me that the call is on me to forgive.

pride. ego. self-righteousness. my idea of “justice”. all these things rally against me, trying to convince me that i am in the right [maybe i am] and that the other should approach me [maybe they should] and seek peace and restoration. and maybe in the ideal world that is what should happen.

but i come from a far greater than ideal world. i come from a kingdom. and in this kingdom it often appears as if everything is upside down. and yet when you tilt your head, change your perspective, and open your eyes to really see how the upsidedowness really takes shape, it is quickly obvious to see how this new way is so much better. this new way is right. this kingdom brings life.

it doesn’t demand love, it earns it. it showers it indiscriminantly on whoever is in arms reach. and those beyond. it seeks out people to Love who may not be the likeliest of candidates or people who i might feel are all that deserving.

am i? am i deserving.
if ‘forgiveness is the attribute of the strong’ then i don’t feel so strong right now.
i feel tired from having walked that road before. so many times.
always the one to seek peace, to chase with repentance, to humble myself [that’s probably not true, but it’s certainly what i like to think]

forgive those who deserve it? easy. i can do that. i have. again and again.
but those who don’t? sure, but can i at least make them feel bad? can i at least see them ask for it or at the very least even seek it?
because often they don’t. often it has to be me who has to set out on that same journey again [my shoes feel worn down, and in the absence of shoes, my feet]

i think of my buddy Dunc. how is he still my friend? i honestly sometimes don’t know. oh i get why we are friends and what we share in common and how we can laugh and enjoy life to the full together. i get how we can be friends. and are.

but i have given that boy some crap. man, he has experienced some of the depths of my bad moods and hockey-related tantrums and unfairness accusations and passive aggressive looks [that if they could kill i’d have been put away for life]. and yet he has still stayed around. and loved me. and been so incredibly generous to me and Val just again and again and again.

and so thankx Dunc. maybe in you i will discover some hope for myself.

and in Jesus! cos He sticks with me. and i know i’ve let Him down again and again.
and yet He keeps welcoming me back. and He keeps being incredibly generous. and He keeps putting amazing opportunities in front of me

and more importantly, when i don’t seem to possess enough of this particular attribute of the strong
and when i arrive once more at a place where i feel wronged. badly done by. hurt. betrayed. disappointed.
He refuses to let me stay there. He refuses to let me wallow.
or wait [fruitlessly perhaps] for the other person to set out on my path.

the nudge comes. the Spirit speaks. the call is made.
you put this right. you Love. you forgive. and I will give you everything you need to be able to do it.
seventy times seven – My kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

[to all those friends and family of mine who have never given up on me – despite quite possibly having cause – i thank you so much – it means the world to me – despite how completely wrong i can get it from time to time, i really do try.]

the danger of this, for me, much like for a preacher to be planning a preach, is that the reading becomes preparation for blogging as in reading to find my blog point… and so i am doing my best to ensure that doesn’t happen by trying to read the psalm a number of times, where a later one of those will be to draw out the point i am wanting to share, but the first one is simply to read and embrace the psalm for what it is…

and so on to psalm 9:

for starters, this is a great reminder of a good place to start prayer – with recognition of Who God is and praising His name…


‘I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.’ [vs.1-2]

Then this part of the psalm jumped out at me:

‘The LORD reigns forever; He has established His throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity.
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek You.’ [vs.7-10]

what i was reminded of is the two facts i know about God – one, that God is Love, and two, that God is Just… and sometimes those characteristics may seem to contradict each other, but the reality is they never do. God’s Love never cancels out His Justice [His Justice makes the punishment for sin death but His Love causes Him to send His Son Jesus to take that punishment of death in our place] and likewise His Justice never cancels out His Love.

there is a lot more, and this psalm is worth a couple of read-throughs, but those were two things that stood out for me… what about you?

[To continue on to Psalm 10, click here]

[To return to the start of this series on Psalms as well as some other Bible things, click here]

listened to an ephesians 3 devotional by john piper who i have heard a lot about but have never heard or read any of his stuff before – really want to go back and watch that clip without sound because he looks a bit like a muppet on steroids – very energetic in movement

anyways i wasn’t overly inspired by most of what he said until right at the end when he basically said there are two tensions in the room and he is going to say something, that if people ‘get’ it or really embrace it, has the power to really change things or shake people up – so he built that up quite a bit and then went on to explain the two truths:

the first truth is that when the love of God takes root in us it sends us out to go and feed the hungry and clothe the naked and visit those in prison and take a stand against trafficking and get involved in the AIDS crisis and all other forms of practical involvement and justice seeking

the second truth is that when the love of God takes root in us it sends us out to save the lost with the power of the gospel message and what Jesus has achieved for us on our behalf

then he went on to say, “For Christ’s sake, can we Christians care about all suffering now, especially eternal suffering. Don’t choose between the two truths..”

[which is a valid statement as a lot of churches preach or live out ‘it’s all about the gospel of Jesus’ with no works of justice or service and the other extreme is all about doing works and justice with no Jesus and it really has to be a combination of both – the gospel is a message of hope both for now and for after we die]

and then went on to say “if either of these truths makes you angry or offends you, then either you have a defective view of hell, or you have a defective heart.”

i liked that.

do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

i really struggle to ‘get’ how people have such issues with Jesus-following when the basics of what it is all about is gems like that – love God, love people, look after orphans and widows, forgive those who wrong you, look after the land you’ve been given, share this love message…

i do sadly understand how people can have issues with christians and a lot of the things they have done in the name of religion or Jesus or the church, but the message itself – reminds me of the statement kleinfrans made – the God i believe in is not the God you don’t believe in – if more people just read the bible and understood the basics of Jesus-following instead of reading christians it might be a completely different story

but i love that verse – it comes from romans 12.21 and was one of the verses that was really meaningful to me when i was doing my dts (discipleship training school) in holland and then outreach in malawi in 2000 – we reduced it to a 1221 code between three of us in the team so that if someone was being dumb or christian (as opposed to Christ-following, oh that there wasn’t a difference!) one of us would mention it or subtly write it into the ground with a stick and the other person would see it and be reminded – fight evil by gooding it to death

i love the concept, but it is one of my biggest struggles to live out consistently – my inherent sense of ‘justice’ (and it’s a warped sinful idea of justice that is fed heavily by pride) makes me want to return evil for evil – tit for tat, eye for eye, tooth for tooth

but as gandhi said ‘an eye for an eye only leaves the whole world blind’ and it’s true – revenge feeds revenge – there is no natural end to it – and so when someone pushes into the line of traffic i’ve been sitting in for twenty minutes, or a unicorn player hacks one of my friends in a hockey match, or or or… my response needs to be good

then, in the same passage, just for me i think, paul sets it out like this, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ (12.20)

i have often offered to skip the first two steps and go directly to pouring the burning coals on the person’s head, but God has never taken me up on it – it was Jesus’ revolutionary love that disarmed people – when most of us would be shouting curses as the crowd nailed us literally or metaphorically to the cross, Jesus responds with ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’

this is powerful, powerful stuff. i firmly believe that if Christ-followers in south africa could really start living the 1221 we could transform this country cos it would catch on. i also firmly believe that if all christians in South Africa could become Christ-followers… south africa would be unrecognisable in months!

how about it? pick it up for just this week for starters and see how it goes – Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!

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