Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hybels On Serving The Poor

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, in an interview in Business Week, May 23, 2005...

Q: What impact will the growing clout of evangelicals have on the U.S.?

A: I have great hopes that we will do even better in the future in regard to serving the poor, bridging the racial divide, engaging in the AIDS crisis, and taking a stand for the oppressed. Community engagement will rise to a higher level than it has in the past.

The Second Chance

I just went to a luncheon with Steve Taylor, Michael W. Smith and Jeff Obafemi Carr promoting their new movie, The Second Chance. Michael plays a pastor's son from a wealthy white suburban church who gets sent to the city to work alongside an African American pastor. I haven't seen the movie but it looks like a good one. It will be released on February 17th and will show at AMC City North Theater at 2600 N. Western and the AMC Yorktown in Lombard in the Yorktown Center.

Coretta Scott King, dead at 78

Civil Rights Activist, Andrew Young, called the Today Show this morning with the news that Coretta Scott King passed away during the night. "I understand she was asleep last night and her daughter tried to wake her up." King suffered a serious stroke in 2005 and was unable to attend the birthday party for her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, this year for the first time in 20 years. Coretta married Martin in 1953 and continued his legacy of advocacy for human rights and equality after his assassination in Memphis in 1968. She kept his dream alive while raising four children.

Heat or Eat

I was thinking last night about how hard the new Peoples' Energy bills are going to hit those who have to choose daily between eating or heating their homes this winter. Then I read in the Tribune this morning that the oil companies are reaping thier highest profit ever! We should be outraged! We have an executive branch that has deep roots in the oil industry and a Congress that gave $14 billion in subsidies to the oil industry at the same time they cut student aid by $14 billion. With gas prices that have pushed $3 per gallon and little old women shivering in front of their space heaters, how can the oil executives and politicians sleep at night? I just don't get it!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Chicago Public Schools Face A $325 Million Deficit

The Chicago Tribune reported today that the Chicago Public Schools are facing a funding crisis again. Superintendent Arne Duncan is proposing larger classrooms, shorter kindergartens, and special ed cutbacks. Why do poor school districts suffer while those in upper income neighborhoods get all the goodies?! It is time for an equal distribution of school funding throughout America. We need more, not less, funding in Chicago's impoverished communities than in the wealthy neighborhoods because there are more challenges. Who will advocate for children?
"History will have to recall that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only for words and actions of the children of darkness, but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light."
                       --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Goodbye Honda Civic!

I loved my Honda Civic. It has been the greatest car ever. Today I called my daughter, Monica, at 3:44 to tell her I was on my way home. At 3:49 I called her again to tell her I had been in a bad accident. I was OK, buy my poor baby Civic was totalled. The God stuff... It wasn't my fault. A pickup spun out in front of me and I did everything in my power to avoid him, but there was nooooo way. After I hit him the guy behind me hit me and then I hit the wall. Three collisions and I walked away with nothing but a couple of bruised knees. My friend Candice happened to be about five minutes behind me and stopped to pick me up and help me gather my belongings out of my car and drive me home! I felt so protected! God is so good!!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dr. Stanley Tam

Last weekend I had the privilege of meeting the daughter of Dr. Stanley Tam, the founder of US Plastics. I was deeply inspired by his story.

At the age of twenty, Tam had an idea and started his own business. In 1936, on the road trying to sell his idea he ran out of money. “I was stranded and broke except for thirteen cents and two gallons of gas."

God,” he prayed, “what shall I do?”

"Start for home. I’ll see that you get there,’” recalls Tam. He accepted the challenge and started to head toward home. He spent his last thirteen cents, a nickel on a hamburger and eight cents on gas.

As his gas was running out he felt led to pick up a hitch hiker. The stranger turned out to be a farmer in need of a ride and he paid for the rest of Stanley’s gas to get home.

Tam never forgot that God sends strangers along our paths to meet our needs if we will step out and obey God.

As his business grew Tam made God his formal business partner and committed 51% of the business profits to Christian ministry. Years later as his business continued to succeed he heard the Lord ask him “Would you be willing to turn your entire business over to Me?”

Believing that God wanted to transfer his earthly wealth into eternal treasures, he said, “Thank you Lord. You can have it all.”

“We always lived on a moderate salary”, his daughter told me, and Dr. Tam gave millions to Kingdom work. Now in his 90’s Dr. Tam still travels to share his giving testimony. You can learn more about this amazing man at this link

Several books he has written are available for purchase at this link.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

10 Reasons to Make Poverty History

A recent email from World Vision challenged readers to take action against poverty.

Here’s ten reasons why:

1. Half the world’s population (2.8 billion) lives on less than $2 a day.

2. 300 million children suffer from hunger.

3. Every day, nearly 29,000 children under age 5 die, mostly from malnutrition or preventable disease.

4. Man-made food crises have more than doubled since 1992.

5. In the developing world one in five children does not have access to safe water.

6. 90% of deaths from war since 1990 have been civilians. 80% of these have been women and children.

7. 40 million people are infected with HIV/AIDS.

8. Today, 15 million children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

9. Of the total number of young people infected by HIV/AIDS in Eastern and Southern Africa, 76% are women.

10. Life expectancy in South Africa: Today, 43; before HIV/AIDS, 68.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Family Pictures

This picture was taken last summer in June in Branson, MO, where we celebrated my mother's 80th birthday with my brothers, Dean, Doug and Darvin Monkemeier and their families.

My son-in-law, Napoleon, my daughter, Monica, me, my daughter, Teri and my grandson, Jayden

My grandaughter, Naomi, born 7-26-05

My buddy, Jayden

Bible Reading Guide

I'm reading through the Bible again this year. I like this guide from the Big Creek Pentecostal Church of God.

John Piper has cancer

Here is a letter from John Piper to his congregation...
Dear Friends,

I hope this letter will encourage your prayer, strengthen your hope, and minister peace. I am writing with the blessing of the Bethlehem Baptist Church Council of Elders to help you receive the news about my prostate cancer.

At my annual urological exam on Wednesday, December 21, the doctor felt an abnormality in the prostate and suggested a biopsy. He called the next day with the following facts: 1) cancer cells were found in two of the ten samples and the estimate is that perhaps 5% of the gland is affected; 2) my PSA count was 1.6, which is good (below 4 is normal); 3) the Gleason score is 6 (signaling that the cancer is not aggressive). These three facts incline the doctor to think that it is unlikely that the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, and that it is possible with successful treatment to be cancer-free.

Before going with my wife, Noël, to consult in person with the doctor on December 29 about treatment options, I shared this news with the Bethlehem staff on Tuesday morning, December 27, and with the elders that evening. Both groups prayed over me for healing and for wisdom in the treatment choices that lie before us. These were sweet times before the throne of grace with much-loved colleagues.

All things considered, Noël and I believe that I should pursue the treatment called radical prostatectomy, which means the surgical removal of the prostate. We would ask you to pray that the surgery be completely successful in the removal of all cancer and freedom from possible side effects.

With the approval of Bethlehem’s executive staff and elder leadership, we are planning surgery in early February, following the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. The recovery time is about three weeks before returning to a slow work pace, and six weeks to be back to all normal activities.

This news has, of course, been good for me. The most dangerous thing in the world is the sin of self-reliance and the stupor of worldliness. The news of cancer has a wonderfully blasting effect on both. I thank God for that. The times with Christ in these days have been unusually sweet.

For example, is there anything greater to hear and believe in the bottom of your heart than this: “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)?

God has designed this trial for my good and for your good. You can see this in 2 Corinthians 1:9, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” And in 2 Corinthians 1:4-6, “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God . . . If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.”

So I am praying: “Lord, for your great glory, 1) don’t let me miss any of the sanctifying blessings that you have for me in this experience; 2) don’t let the people of Bethlehem miss any of the sanctifying blessings that you have for us in this; 3) grant that the surgery be successful in removing cancer and sparing important nerves; 4) grant that this light and momentary trial would work to spread a passion for you supremacy for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ; 5) may Noël and all close to me be given great peace—and all of this through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.” I hope God will lead you to pray in a similar way.

With deep confidence that

“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting.
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:54-57

Pastor John

With Sam Crabtree, Lead Pastor for Life Training
Kenny Stokes, Lead Pastor for Spreading
Tim Johnson, Chairman of the Council of Elders
Ross Anderson, MD, Bethlehem Elder

Technorati Tags: John Piper

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Rick Warren's Awakening

Here's what Malcolm Gladwell wrote on September 12, 2005 in the New Yorker about Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life.
In the wake of the extraordinary success of "The Purpose-Driven Life," Warren says, he underwent a period of soul-searching. He had suddenly been given enormous wealth and influence and he did not know what he was supposed to do with it.

"God led me to Psalm 72, which is Solomon's prayer for more influence," Warren says. "It sounds pretty selfish. Solomon is already the wisest and wealthiest man in the world. He's the King of Israel at the apex of its glory. And in that psalm he says, 'God, I want you to make me more powerful and influential.' It looks selfish until he says, 'So that the King may support the widow and orphan, care for the poor, defend the defenseless, speak up for the immigrant, the foreigner, be a friend to those in prison.' Out of that psalm, God said to me that the purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.

That changed my life. I had to repent. I said, I'm sorry, widows and orphans have not been on my radar. I live in Orange County. I live in the Saddleback Valley, which is all gated communities. There aren't any homeless people around. They are thirteen miles away, in Santa Ana, not here." He gestured toward the rolling green hills outside. "I started reading through Scripture. I said, How did I miss the two thousand verses on the poor in the Bible? So I said, I will use whatever affluence and influence that you give me to help those who are marginalized.

He and his wife, Kay, decided to reverse tithe, giving away ninety per cent of the tens of millions of dollars they earned from "The Purpose-Driven Life."

Friday, January 06, 2006

Becoming An Ally To Oppressed People

Marlone Finley, Breakthrough's Coordinator of Family Advocacy, sent me a link to a great paper by Anne Bishop entitled, How to be an Ally and another from the Rehabilitative Review entitled, Pondering Power: What is Power and How Does It Work. Marlone was in our BUILD program last quarter and has become a resource maniac. Thanks Marlone!

Commissioner Vargus

I noticed in the Tribune this morning that Carmella Vargus, the Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Human Services, has resigned. The article didn't make the front page of even the metro section. The Trib suggests that he made an inappropriate remark that precipitated his resignation and that other Latino leaders feel he was forced out by people in the mayor's office.

I appreciated Carmella for his big heart and his grassroots advocacy for the homeless. He spent years driving a DHS van around the city picking up homeless people and urging them to get into shelters and apartments. But running a city department was not his best gig. I'm hoping Mayor Daley and his crew will identify someone for that position with strong leadership skills who can be effective in bringing money to the city to fund human services. The people of the city who need help deserve a CDHS that is well managed. And I hope Carmella can get back to doing what he loves to do, operating on the front line of service provision.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Urban Injustice

Dr. David Hilfiker will be coming to Breakthrough's Joshua Center on January 28th to do a workshop about the contents of his book, Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen. He gives a great overview of historical causes of the poverty we see in some of our urban communities. It will be very helpful for those of us who are seeking to understand. He will be at 3330 W. Carroll Ave., Chicago from 1PM to 3PM on Saturday, January 28th. It would be great to see you there. Here is a link to an interview with him on public radio.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Anne Lamott upon seeing her first book...

“I understood immediately the thrill of seeing oneself in print. It provides some sort of primal verification: you are in print; therefore you exist. Seeing yourself in print is such an amazing concept: you can get so much attention without actually having to actually show up somewhere. While others who have something to say or who want to be effectual, like musicians or baseball players or politicians, have to get out there in front of people, writers, who tend to be shy, get to stay home and still be public. There are many obvious advantages to this. You don’t have to dress up, for instance, and you can’t hear them boo you right away.”

Mid Day Connection

Anita Lustria interviewed Michael Allen and me today on WMBI's Mid Day Connection. Here's the link to the podcast. It's always a bit frightening to be on live radio. Thanks to all who prayed for me.

Nathan Strand sent me this quote this morning and I had planned to use it on the show, but left it on my printer.

For GOOD people, the poor are friends to be helped,
For those INDIFFERENT they are embarrassments to be ignored,
For the GREEDY RICH they are cheap labor to be exploited,
For the POLITITIANS they are the masses to be manipulated.

But for CHRISTIANS they are God’s saving presence calling us to repentance, generosity and justice.

Fr. Shay Cullen, Manila, Philipines


Monday's Trib had an interesting article about community gentrification based on a recent study released from CURL, the Center for Urban Research and Learning, at Loyola University in Chicago. The study describes how new residential development and increased housing costs can displace some residents while attracting new ones. Their fear is that skyrocketing property values and taxes could displace the elderly on fixed incomes, low-income residents, working-class residents and even some middle-class ones.

Among other things, the report recommends initiatives that foster face-to-face contact among neighbors, a citywide community service curriculum to aid in interracial and ethnic understanding, and policies that can break the "damaging cycle" of displacement by keeping low-income families in their communities.