Posts Tagged ‘joblessness’

Recently I had posted an article on Face Book with the intent to bring awareness of the fact that many children and young people in the United States are trapped in the human sex trafficking trade and how organizations such as Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) https://ourrescue.org that use undercover teams of former CIA and Special Ops personnel go into the darkest corners of the world to help local law enforcement rescue  enslaved children and dismantle the criminal networks.

I was a bit disturbed and amazed when a Christian left a response to my post voicing his opinion that he does not believe that Christians should have anything to do with trying to help those who are caught up in the world’s evil because we belong to the kingdom of God and nothing we (Christians) do will ever change the evil that remains in the world.

He ended his response by insinuating that anyone who tries to help those who are caught up in the world’s problems, (poverty, homelessness, abuse) has a humanistic view of the world and is not what Jesus or the apostle Paul taught.

I have since discovered (To my dismay) that there are many Christians who believe that we should only help those who belong to the Christian faith. That when Jesus said that we are to love our neighbor, he was speaking about only our Christian neighbor—our brothers and sisters in Christ.

But what does the Bible teach about this?

In Luke 10:25-37 we read about a lawyer who tried to test Jesus asking, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asked him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Or how do you understand it?) The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But the lawyer, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus then told him the parable of the good Samaritan, a story about a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him for dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road and when he saw the man he passed by on the other side. Then a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side as well. 

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he gave money to the innkeeper and told him to look after him, and said, “When I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” Jesus then asked the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

So according to Jesus, EVERYONE is our neighbor. And if everyone is our neighbor, how is refusing to help someone in need when we have the power and resources to do so, showing love to our neighbor? And how is obeying Jesus by responding to the needs of the poor, the downtrodden or those caught in the trap of human sex trafficking considered to be humanism?

Mistakingly believing that loving our neighbor refers to only other believers is nothing new. It was also a problem in ancient Judaism because of the people’s self-consciousness of being the chosen people and sealed in the rite of circumcision. This set Israel apart, made the people particularly loyal to their own kind, but at the same time, led to the tendency to neglect, and even condemn, those who were not Israelites. With such tendencies, it is not surprising that commandments had to be given to Israel to encourage compassion and justice for the non-Jew. Thus, Moses prescribed rites of conversion for the foreigner who wanted to eat Passover with Israel. (Exodus 12:43-49) He also commanded that some crops were to be left for the poor and the alien. (Leviticus  19:9-10)

In the New Testament period the Jews understood the biblical laws of the Old Testament that speak of neighbors as a command for special treatment of fellow Jews. Jews showed special love for fellow Jews because they were covenantally and racially bound together. There was a general social friendliness to Gentiles, but Jewish prejudice still remained. Even early Christianity showed a similar kind of “prejudiced love”. (Gal 6:10)

Jesus sought to expand the concept of “neighbor” to include non-Jews and even unbelievers. This was clearly challenging to many in Judaism as well as the early Church. Jewish practice had come to the general conviction that a “neighbor, ” in purely legal terms, was a Jew or proselyte to Judaism. For Jesus, a neighbor was anyone with whom you came into contact with—whether Jew, Samaritan, Gentile—or even pagan!

This profound parable of the good Samaritan, with its teaching on the importance of showing love for anyone within one’s reach, along with Jesus’ command to love one’s enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) and his love for Gentiles, (as in the case of the Roman Centurion—Matthew 8:5-13) Samaritans, (as in the case of the woman at the well—John 4:1-26) became foundational for the early Church’s missionary efforts and for interpersonal relationships within the largely non-Jewish churches of Paul. Paul urged the Galatians to love their neighbors as themselves and here the implication is that it involved both Jewish and Gentile Christians (Galatians 5:14) and we find in Luke 6:27 an emphasis on loving one’s enemy, (Meaning Jew, Gentile, or pagan) and doing good to them.

There are other Bible verses that confirm this:

Philippians 2:4 – Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Proverbs 19:17 – Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

Matthew 5:42 – Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Romans 15:1- We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Allison Stevens wrote a very good article for the Daily Bread website concerning this subject in which she stated:

Jesus’ entire adult life was characterized by a deep concern for the spiritual condition of the nonbeliever. He saw them as desperately lost, and His heart was broken because of that. His compassionate purpose for their well-being was deep-rooted, and He showed this concern specifically in the way He met them where they lived, fed them, taught them, and healed them. (Matthew 9:9-11; Mark 1:33-34)

The example Jesus set for us is to build relationships with people who don’t yet know Him. When we meet a person who has not yet experienced God’s saving grace, we are to have the heart of Jesus and extend a helping hand at their point of need. If they are thirsty, we can give them a cup of water; if they’re hungry, we can feed them. (See Matthew 25:35-40)

Let’s not forget that Jesus came to our rescue when we were lost. So now, out of gratitude and love, we can find opportunities to do what we can to help others who are separated from God. Isolating ourselves from sinners misses the point of sharing the good news of Jesus, and it feeds into a self-righteous attitude.

I think it’s clear that we, in countless ways and opportunities, can and should reach out to non-Christian people. We can show them love by offering them a meal, a job, or friendship, and most importantly, we can introduce them to Jesus, the Savior of our souls.

My heart grieves for my neighbors who don’t know the joy that is available to them through Jesus. I believe that we can do much more to be Jesus’ hands and feet to those who are lost and alone in this world.

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I first learned of Sam Herron              on Face Book. I was impressed with his talent as a photographer. But I was even more impressed with his empathy for those he photographs—the homeless men and women who live on the streets in Omaha, Nebraska.

People might wonder how Sam gets these up-close-and-personal glimpses of homeless men and women who spend most of their lives invisible to the general public.

Sam will tell you that it’s because he understands them. He understands them because he was once one of them. “Just lose your entire life,” he says. “Live in your car. And you, too, can photograph the street.”

Sam doesn’t take pictures just to be taking pictures. He knows many of the people he photographs personally. They talk sometimes for an hour before Sam takes out his camera and asks them if he can photograph them. They tell Sam about their life on the streets, how their day is going, and Sam can relate to all of them.

Just like so many others, Sam never thought he would be in their situation. “Not me,” he says. “But when I was…it changed me. And I wanted to show it.”

It happened slowly at first. He lost his job. He found another job, but lost that one, too. He was jobless for a month, then two, then four. He struggled with depression and anxiety and he sometimes drank too much. Eventually, after spending his life’s savings and selling most of his possessions, he realized he had nowhere to go. It was the dead of winter, right around Valentine’s Day.

The first night, he parked underneath the 10th Street Bridge and shut off his car. He woke up in the morning shivering uncontrollably. His toes were numb. By the end of the first week, Sam had started to develop a routine. He would wake up in the morning, pull on one of his shirts he had carefully folded in the trunk, and drive to the Blue Line Coffee in north downtown just as it opened. Once inside, he would walk to the bathroom, lock the door, and using the sink and the soap dispenser, he would give himself what passed for a bath.

He would buy a cup of coffee, open his battered laptop computer and apply for jobs online. And then, if he had any change left, he would buy another cup of coffee and write. He wrote about his life; about his homelessness; or whatever popped into his head. In the afternoon, Sam headed to 13th Street Coffee & Tea in the Old Market and continued to apply for jobs and write on his laptop.

At night, he would go to the Rose & Crown Pub near 20th and Howard Streets. The regulars there got to know him and would buy him drinks. Everybody thought he was just an eccentric, tattooed writer who liked to drink. (This was partially true) But what they didn’t know was that Sam stayed there until closing every night because it was warm.

After closing time, Sam would steer his car toward the same spot beside a church on Leavenworth Street. He would blast the heater during the drive, and then he would park and shut off the car. Each night, he would sleep with his work boots on. He would wake up at 6:30, get dressed, and start all over again. After a while, he began to wonder, “Am I ever gonna get out of this car?”

It’s hard for Sam to choose his lowest point while he was in this valley, but he says it’s easy to pinpoint the moment when he started climbing back out. It was the moment that he first picked up his old Canon SD 400 camera, (one of the few things he hadn’t sold) and began to shoot photos of his fellow down-and-out fraternity brothers.

Sam had developed a pattern for the men he didn’t know. He would offer them a cigarette and then strike up a conversation. He would tell them his story and eventually he’d ask: “Can I take your picture?”

Last year Sam hosted an exhibit at Creighton University called “Street Life Chronicles,” which featured images of the homeless in Omaha. Sam said it was “soul crushing” having to relive his time on the streets. “I went to my old homeless haunts twice a day to catch the right sunlight.” He recalls. “That was the easy part. Having to endlessly live out my recent past with those who still suffered was the difficult part.”

Sam is doing much better now. He worked as a stand-in for Bruce Dern in Alexander Payne’s movie, “Nebraska.” And he picked up a few photo jobs. Then he picked up a few more. He also started his own freelance photography business.

He soon plans to work on a long-term shoot with a fashion photographer. And if things work out, he will travel to exhibit his photos at a Creighton sister university in China.

Last year Sam was nominated for Best Emerging Visual Artist by Omaha Entertainment & Arts Awards of 2014. Some of his photos were showcased during the award ceremonies at the RNG gallery in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Sam has done more than just take great photographs. He has given us a glimpse into the invisible world of the homeless community. If you look closely, you will also get a glimpse of the man behind the camera—and hopefully, see a little of yourself there too.

Sam still thinks of his companions on the street and says, “Many tonight will be in a similar situation without the benefit of an automobile to sleep in, and it’s a sad fact that should give all compassionate people pause.”

Our heart should reach out to all the invisible people in our city. They are someone’s mother, father, brother and sister—and they are created in God’s image. Remember Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

 

“I was and continue to be exceptionally poor by some people’s standards. On the other hand when compared with a large percentage of the planet, I’m suffering from an embarrassment of riches.” – Sam Herron

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© Ipso Facto Photography – by Sam Herron – used by permission

You can contact Sam at— https://www.facebook.com/samuelherron

More stories like this can be found in The Heartland News Street Newspaper. The Heartland News primarily addresses issues related to poverty and homelessness and is distributed by poor or homeless venders. Venders sell the paper for a set price, (usually $1.00) and keep the money they make. For many, this gives them the opportunity for a first small step toward independence and permanent housing.

To donate contact:

The Heartland News 4001 Ames Ave, Omaha, Ne. 68111.

 

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.” (Romans 13:1-3 NIV)

Many in the Church have interpreted these verses to mean that all believers should obey the government because its authority has been ordained of God for our good. This particular view is a gross distortion of the truth. And the most dangerous lie is the one that is the closest to the truth, but is not.

We should learn what Romans 13 really means. I’ve found that when a certain text that doesn’t seem logical, it’s useful to look at the actions of the writer and the context in which it is written to see if it is consistent with your interpretation of his teaching.

Paul writes that “whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” But the book of Acts shows Paul repeatedly doing just that! So there must be something wrong with our understanding of the text.

Some modern translations make Bible verses more clear than the King James Version, while others misinterpret the true meaning. The Greek word used in Romans 13:1 for ‘governing authorities’ is ἐξουσία (exousia) and refers to the authority instituted by God, or what the King James Version refers to as ‘higher powers’. So the obvious question is just who or what are the higher powers?

Obviously, in the spiritual realm, there are good and bad powers. On one side we have the Lord and his great angelic host. In the other group, we find Lucifer and the fallen angels, who most certainly qualify as a ‘higher power’ for Satan is referred to as the “prince of the power of the air.” (Ephesians 2:2) Later in that same book, Paul tells us, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Common sense should tell us that Paul is not telling us to be subject to the satanic higher powers in the spiritual realm, so why do we assume he is telling us to be subject to evil earthly powers? How could it be scriptural for us to cooperate with the earthly agents of spiritual wickedness?

The next verse says “Whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” If we resist the evil in the spiritual realm, it’s clear that we won’t bring judgment on ourselves as a result. How then, could this verse mean that if we resist evil in the earthly realm we receive judgment from God? In other words, in cases where the evil is vested in government, the idea that we are to no longer resist this evil is ludicrous!

When Paul had been beaten illegally by evil men within the Roman government, he refused their command to come out of the jail and defiantly says, “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” (Acts 16:37) Isn’t that resisting the earthly governing authorities?

And after Peter and the apostles were released from jail they were brought before the Sanhedrin and were given strict orders not to teach in Jesus’ name. (Act 5:12-29) Peter told them, “We ought to obey God rather than men. “ The NLT is translated as, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

The second time that Peter is assisted in a jail-break by an angel, (Acts 12:7) did he bring judgment on himself because he left his jail cell without permission? How is breaking out of jail obeying the government?

Paul is telling us we must not resist the righteous power of God when it is manifested in the various earthly sectors of government. But as far as I can see, God’s righteous power is rarely manifested in government. While corruption can exist in any human organization, it seems that corruption in government is the worst. The 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, published by Transparency International, reported that people worldwide have the perception that the five most corrupt institutions are: political parties, the police, public officials, the legislature, and the judiciary.

King David gives us definitive instructions when he tells us to “Defend the poor and fatherless.” (Psalms 82:3) Wouldn’t that include a baby that is murdered as he is trying to be born? Under the current law, a doctor can legally murder a baby while still in its mother’s womb. Yet it’s against the government’s law to even protest this hideous crime within so many yards of the murderer’s so called, medical facility! Where do we draw the line?

We are expected to obey God rather than the government – regardless of what the government tells us is legal or illegal.

For example, a 90 year old Florida man, Arnold Abbott, was arrested for feeding homeless people. Abbott and two pastors in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were charged for feeding the homeless in public, a new ordinance banning public food sharing. Now they face possible jail time and a $500 fine! But they chose to “obey God rather than men.” Abbott said the threat of charges won’t stop him from doing it again. “I’m not afraid of jail. I’m not looking to go, but if I have to, I will,” he said. On Dec. 2 a judge ordered the city to temporarily stop enforcing the law. Judge Thomas Lynch told all sides to enter into mediation during a 30-day period. That mediation has not yet begun.

We must always remember that God’s Kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) And if we become conformed to the ways of this world, how can we then be “counted worthy of the kingdom of God” for which so many are suffering? (2 Thessalonians 1:5)

“Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—a throne that brings on misery by its decrees? The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the LORD our God will destroy them.” (Psalm 20-23)

The question you need to ask yourself is, are you committed to obeying God rather than man, or are you committing spiritual fornication by obeying the corrupt government of man rather than God?

Their stories are as varied as their circumstances. Some of the homeless have graduate degrees; others served with honor in the military; still others once held high-paying jobs. What causes homelessness? A serious illness or disability, a lost job, and domestic violence are among many reasons. But even so, there are some important lessons we can learn from the homeless:

1. Be content with what you have
You might be surprised to know that there are a lot of homeless people who are quite content with their lot in life. Many are happy to be out of the rat race and free of the trappings that the rest of us have in our lives. Not only that, many homeless people remain upbeat and positive despite what life has thrown their way.

2. Be Thrifty
Homeless people know the value of a dollar in a way few of us can understand. And they know how to make it last. Every quarter, dime, nickel or penny that comes their way is used in the most efficient way possible. You won’t ever see a homeless person paying for a $5 coffee at Starbucks when they can get it for free at any day shelter across the city. We could learn a thing or two from them about spending wisely.

3. Be Resourceful
We’re conditioned from a pretty early age to get a good education, work hard, earn a good paycheck and then buy what we want. But many homeless people don’t have the benefit of a good education—or a good paycheck. But they do know where every food pantry and soup kitchen is; when every bakery disposes of their day-old products; and where the best thrift stores are. They feed and clothe themselves on their own initiative and savvy. We should all try to cultivate this kind of resourcefulness.

4. Help others
Being homeless is no picnic for those unfortunate enough to find themselves on the street. However, if you were to watch them closely you would discover that many of them share what they have with other homeless people. This should challenge us to share what we have with those around us as well. There are a thousand daily comforts we take for granted that homeless people never get to enjoy. We have these luxuries that we keep to ourselves while others go without. We should share with others out of the abundance that we have, because in the end, we’re no different than anyone else, and tragedy could befall us as well.

5. Persevere
A homeless person will stand at a corner all day begging for change or for any kind of work. I know there are stories of some people begging on street corners who are not really homeless, but they are the exception rather than the norm. Most of those you see on street corners really are homeless. They tough it out for as long as it takes, every day, to get enough money to eat and maybe a bed for the night. They don’t get sick days or vacations and many of them refuse welfare handouts, choosing instead to work for every penny they get.

Many of them look at their homelessness as a ministry. They persevere because they know that they are homeless for God’s greater purpose—the same purpose that God put us in our homes, at our jobs, and with our families. No matter what our economic status is, we should all be willing to learn from the homeless.

The Bible speaks plainly about homelessness:

“If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.” (Leviticus 25:35-36)

“Then the King will say to those on the right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ And the King will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Many people ignore the homeless, I think because they believe there is little they can do to “fix them”. But it seems to me that we’re the ones who need to be fixed. Anyway, it’s not God’s intention that we “fix” the homeless any more than it is His intention that the homeless fix us.

The apostle Paul wrote that we are one body in Christ. (Romans 12:5) Everyone—rich, poor, every race, every age—has a legitimate role to play in that body. We may go to a homeless shelter, or an orphanage, or a nursing home with the intention of helping someone else, but ultimately, we will be helping each other become the body God envisioned from before creation.

Mother Teresa, who worked with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta for most of her life said, “God makes no distinctions between rich and poor. In fact, the rich are often poor in spirit, while the poor may have many qualities the financially wealthy lack.”

Think about this: Every one of us is spiritually homeless. We live in temporary bodies, in a temporary house, on a temporary planet. No matter how modest or grand our living situation is now, we are all waiting to take our permanent places in God’s kingdom.

The most important thing we can learn from the homeless is that God has not forsaken them—and He’ll not forsake us either.

Ahh, Christmas time has come to us again! That time of year when joy fills the hearts of people everywhere. When we find people bustling through department stores and shopping malls to purchase that perfect gift for those they love—that one time of the year when we have peace on earth and good will toward all men. Right? Really? Ask any homeless person if they feel there is good will toward all men.

Homeless people are not respected by and large. Many of them will receive a Christmas dinner at a shelter and a few stocking-stuffers, and then it’s back on the street. The number one thing that they need and often deserve, even if you don’t know them, is respect. Respect them as a human being and fellow traveler on this journey we call life.

Living on the street is not like camping. You must be consistently on the move, and ready to get up and leave when you are asked to do so. If you are on the street, it is usually because circumstances beyond your control have forced you into that position in life. Living on the street, life is far harder than you could ever possibly imagine if you have never been there. Homeless people have needs like everyone else in this world. Their needs are usually very basic and to give of your time just to talk to them sometimes can really help. But if they don’t want to talk to you, respectfully back away. Otherwise, listen to what they have to say even if it makes absolutely no sense to you. It doesn’t have to. They are talking because they are alone and feel that they are without hope. And being without hope will eventually kill you.

There are many things that people on the streets will need to survive. For the homeless to lack some of these items could well lead to their death. To survive, they need things—small things. Like soap, shaving gear, postage stamps, pencils, and paper. Even having a good book will help to alleviate the burdens they carry around mentally every day.

The list above is good, but it does not cover the whole issue of how they will get money. Money is the key ingredient that everyone needs, but many will abuse it. If you really want to help a homeless person, give them a job if you can do so. There are many carpenters, electricians, and factory workers that are now homeless. Please do NOT discriminate against them; because everyone else is already doing that.

So during this Christmas season of giving, if you have anything that you can give, do so. Some people will argue that this only encourages them to stay on the street. It’s true that it will encourage a few of them to remain where they are, but there are those out there who, by simply giving them a bottle of water, a hot meal, or simply a smile and a kind word, will possibly save their life.

Some simple gifts that most of us can give:
• Instead of giving them money directly, go out and purchase Subway gift cards, and the like. Think about this, Subway and many of the sandwich places are selling subs for fewer than five dollars! By giving a homeless person a gift card for 10 or 20 dollars you may well give them food for three to four days! A lot of homeless eat very little and their stomachs are no longer as strong as they used to be. Sandwiches, especially from healthy places like subway, provide a great deal of nutrition that they desperately need.
• Do not give a homeless person greasy food! You know what that does to you and what ends up in the toilet? Try eating that and not having the opportunity to use a bathroom!
• One of the greatest problems that the homeless have right now is the need to bathe and finding a place where they can do that at. Most locations will force them from the property because of health risks, but most homeless people know where they can go to clean up. If you want to help, give them small bottles of antibacterial liquid soap. (Bar soap is harder to store and they may be allergic to some types of scented hand soap)
• An inexpensive sturdy back pack can prove to be invaluable to a homeless person. They can use it to safely store all of their items while still being able to remain mobile.
• You can usually find inexpensive seasonally appropriate clothing at a local thrift store to give to the homeless—Coats and accessories such as mittens and stocking hats in the winter and shorts and flip flops for the summer.
• The reason that you see homeless people carrying around cardboard is that the cardboard provides a layer of protection between them and the cold concrete they often sleep on. A Yoga pad that can be rolled up would help considerably. (And they’re not as unattractive as a rolled up piece of cardboard)
• Blankets are important too. Even when it’s warm during the day, weather can turn cold at night and a person should stay covered when they sleep.
• There are many things that can be done, if we simply think of the homeless as our fellow human beings and give them the respect that all humans deserve.

Don’t leave taking care of the homeless just up to the shelters. Remember what Jesus said: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (See Matthew 25:31-46)

 

Flower in ConcreteLately there have been so many reports of bad things happening in the world—from terrorist attacks, to riots, to shootings. But if we look hard enough finding good that’s being done is like finding a flower blooming in concrete.

Here are a couple of flowers I discovered lately:

Omaha’s street paper

M,A,Yah saw the homeless in a different light, because at one time he too, was homeless. So he has great compassion for those struggling to survive on the streets. He dreamed one day that he would own a street paper and dedicate it to getting the homeless jobs and hopefully, off the streets. Omaha’s Heartland News street paper has been finding its way into homes and businesses since 2011.

But M,A,Yah’s dream literally went up in smoke February 5, 2013, when someone had set fire to his newspaper which was located at 62nd and Ames Avenue at the time. Fortunately no one was hurt. However, M,A,Yah had been residing in the upstairs of the building, and due to the fire he found himself homeless once again. But that did not deter him from going after his dream.

Although someone tried to crush it, they didn’t succeed. All he could think about from the time of the fire was getting his paper back up and running again. He said he only lost a building, not his dream. Within 4 months of the fire, M,A,Yah found refuge just 20 blocks east of where his original building was. He moved his newspaper into a building that is shared with a barber at 4001 Ames Avenue and now his paper is back and doing better than ever!

The vendors are told to tell people the suggested donation price is $1.00 per paper, but once a person finds out that the venders are homeless, they usually get generous amounts of donations—All of which they get to keep for themselves. This program is designed to help the homeless “Charge Straight out of Poverty,” as the motto goes, by allowing the vendors to keep 75¢ from each paper they collect a dollar donation for. Then they pay The Heartland News .25¢ for each paper they distribute. The money they give to The Heartland News goes back into the fund to get the next issues printed.

M,A,Yah also has people that set up tables in front of stores, such as Walmart, No Frills and Bakers who do nothing but collect donations for the paper itself. However, because vendors do not set up at the same locations as the Salvation Army bell ringers, the paper doesn’t do so well in donations this time of year.

The Heartland News is not just another venue for panhandlers. Some of the venders are able to find a place to live, while selling the Heartland News. Others meet people that might open up job possibilities for them. The North American Street Paper Association says in just 2 months a vendor could make enough money to put a permanent roof over their head.

Table Grace Café

Table Grace Café is a place that offers food for a free-will offering. They don’t suggest a certain amount of money as a donation. You just give what you feel like giving and nobody knows how much you donated because it all goes into a wooden box at the counter.

The pizza-salad-soup combo is standard fare at Table Grace Café. Owner and professional chef Matt Weber is a trained chef who studied at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. Pizza and soup is handmade every day at Table Grace Café and the varieties they offer depend upon what they have available.

They have a relationship with Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Wohlner’s Grocery and during the growing seasons they get fresh produce donated by local farms. These donations help keep costs low, and helps Matt and his crew continue to offer nutritious food to folks who might otherwise go hungry.

It’s important to know that while Table Grace Café certainly helps people who might not otherwise be able to afford this type of meal, this place is for everyone. Everyone is welcome, and everyone is free to pay whatever they want to pay for the food. Whether you drop a couple of quarters into the donation box or a hundred dollar bill, you’re going to receive the same friendly service and wholesome meal as everyone else.

The purpose of Table Grace Café is to promote a healthy community by offering great food prepared and served in a graceful manner to anyone who walks through the door. They believe that everyone; regardless of economic status, deserves the chance to eat wonderful food while being treated with respect and dignity.

Paying it forward
Table Grace Café also has an Internship Program that allows individuals to complete a 2 week training course in restaurant work. After they complete their training they are given job placement assistance by Matt’s staff and volunteers.

Catering
Table Grace Café also caters dinners for 10-30 people. Just give them a call and they’ll be happy to work out all the details for your event. Whatever your event; Table Grace Café will work with you to accommodate your catering needs. And best of all, by choosing Table Grace Café, you’ll be helping their ministry in downtown Omaha of ‘Nourishing Hungry Bodies and Souls’.

See more at: http://www.tablegracecafe.com/our-mission.html#sthash.rEeflMLt.dpuf

 

Remember that Jesus said, “Whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

“Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.”
(Genesis 13:13)

What was the sin of Sodom that was so great and outrageous in the eyes of God? What was the sin that so angered him, so outraged him, that he annihilated the city with fire and brimstone? Many think it was the sin of homosexuality and point to the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah found in Genesis chapters 18-19. Although Sodom is mentioned many times in both Old and New Testaments and is synonymous with great and outrageous wickedness, the truth is that Sodom’s greatest sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. (Ezekiel 16:49)

Just like Sodom, America has lost her way. She no longer knows right from wrong. She has turned away from the way of truth and light found in the Bible and followed in the way of lust, wickedness, immorality and evil. She has lost contact with Biblical moral standards – that set of attitudes, outlooks and values that the Bible represents. She has rejected God and followed his great adversary, the Devil, who is the master of illusion and deception. She has lost her faith in God and instead put her faith and confidence in the god of this world.

People have exchanged the truth of God for the false ideas, dogmas, religious traditions, doctrines of men and secular humanism. Spiritual darkness has descended on the land. The evidence is everywhere. There can be no better or more convincing evidence of this than the way the country has condoned and embraced that great sin of pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffer on our streets.

The fact that we now live in a country in which so many people view themselves as Christians and yet condone and accept behavior that is so radically at odds with the outlooks and attitudes of the Bible shows the extent to which even Christianity has become twisted, contorted, corrupted and perverted in this land.

A person is not a Christian just because he/or she calls themselves a Christian or because they are a member of some church or denomination, or because they recited some robotic prayer to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Just believing in God doesn’t make one a Christian either. Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror! (James 2:19)

Christianity is about substance. It’s about what and who you really are inside. It’s about a faith and love in God that is accompanied by serious godly, upright living. It’s about an attitude and commitment of the heart–a commitment that results in virtuous, good, moral living. It’s a mind-set, a way of thinking, a philosophy, a set of outlooks, attitudes and values based on God’s Word. It’s a lifestyle against sin and a lifestyle of goodness and virtue.

The Christmas season is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of Jesus. But more than any other time of the year you will find people rushing through retail stores pushing, shoving and fighting over trinkets that will be broken or discarded within a year–while others are praying for a warm meal and a safe place for their children to sleep. A person who considers himself a Christian and sees nothing wrong with this gross depravity is deceived.

As C.S. Lewis puts it in his short essay ‘The Weight of Glory’: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

The world is hungry, lonely and hurting. It needs to know the loving, accepting God of the Bible–not the haughty, uncaring and judgmental God that we have shown the world for too long.

So instead of ignoring the poor as you mindlessly drop a few coins into the Salvation Army bucket on your way out of the store, maybe you could buy a few extra things. Take them home and wrap them up to give to a few homeless people in your city. You see, sometimes God doesn’t just want our money. Sometimes he wants us to be Jesus to someone who is hungry, lonely and hurting.

Here is what God has said regarding the poor:

“Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (Proverbs 14:31)

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” (Proverbs 19:17)

 

 

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (I John 1:5-7)