"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
November 30, 2016
In Matthew 25:34-46, Jesus is teaching and says, "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at His right hand and the goats at His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation 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 say, "I tell you the truth, when you did it to the one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!' Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, 'Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn't feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn't give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn't invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn't give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn't visit me.' Then they will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?' And He will answer, "I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'"
This past Sunday evening, this passage of scripture was brought back fresh to my mind and I realized that I hadn't really been doing these things.
Living in and being in the city all the time, I see panhandlers out and about almost every time I go anywhere. There are particular corners where there are almost always people standing there, holding handmade signs, asking for money or work or food. Often, I see the same people over and over again.
Our church is not located in a real desirable area of Tulsa. There are generally homeless who live across the street from our property. There is a fence surrounding our property, and we have to keep the gate across the entrance locked, when no one is at the church. We have an alarm system on the buildings.
Almost every single Sunday morning when we leave the church, there is a homeless man standing on the corner by the stop light catty-cornered from our property. We drive by him, week after week, without waving or acknowledging him or doing anything to help.
I really think that I've became jaded, regarding panhandlers, to the point of thinking, "They're all dishonest! They are lazy and could get a job, if they really needed money! They're just taking advantage of people." Shame on me!! I'm judging them, without knowing their stories or situations. And honestly, if I do something to help them and they are being dishonest, then really it's their conscience, not mine. My duty is to obey the scriptures; not try to figure out whether or not someone really deserves my helping them.
Yes, we do need to use discernment and be wise; not putting ourselves in positions where we could be harmed or give away money or things that we don't have.
This past Sunday evening, we had Bible Study at our church for the ladies. Normally, we meet twice a month at Pastor Janie's home, and have been doing so for the past 2-3 years. This month we have started doing it differently; meeting at the pastor's home the second Sunday evening of the month; then meeting at the church on the fourth Sunday evening. There are some who can't come when it's in the home, due to the distance. This was the first time that we had met at the church for Ladies Bible Study. Jon and my nephew had came, so that they could set up some shelves and do some work on the metal building, while the ladies were meeting.
People were leaving, and Jon had gone inside to get something that he had forgotten. Janie had a lady and her little girl riding with her, so Jon and I were going to give Devin and another lady a ride. They were inside the car, and I was walking out to the car when I saw someone walking up the drive of the church towards me. I was a little cautious, because it was dark and at first I couldn't tell whether it was a man or a woman.
The woman came up to me and asked if there was anyone who could give her a ride. She didn't need to go far; only about 3 miles. I'm not sure of exactly what had happened, but she was needing to get away from a man who was apparently being threatening. She told me that normally she would be too scared to ask anyone in that area for a ride; but felt safe asking, when she saw that it was a church. She didn't ask for money or anything; only a ride. It was really cold and windy out. She had bought a hot drink from a nearby convenience store to try and keep her warm, intending to walk to her mother's home. Her phone had died, so she couldn't call for help. She kept telling me, "I promise I'm not going to hurt anyone! Whoever I ride with can hold onto my wallet until they drop me off. All I need is a ride."
I talked to Pastor Janie and told her what was going on. We were the only ones still there, except for two deaf women who were each driving alone, and we didn't feel safe asking them to give this women a ride, because we didn't know her. We ended up having Devin get in the car with Pastor Janie, then this women got into the car with Jon and me and the other lady, whom we were taking to where her truck was parked. To be safe, we did have Janie follow behind us while we dropped this woman off.
This woman was so appreciative and thankful! Before we got to the house where she was staying, she asked if we would mind praying for her. I told her that she didn't have to spill her guts and tell us any details, but was there anything in particular that we could pray about. She started crying and said something along the lines to pray that she could her life straightened out.
When we reached her house, I asked if we could pray for her before she got out, and she said yes. As I prayed for her, she sobbed! I invited her to come to church, and she said that she might be there next Sunday. I hope she comes.
Jon and I were talking after we got home, that we both knew that what had happened was by Divine appointment. There were too many things that were right, for it to be coincidence. This was the first Ladies Bible Study on a Sunday night at the church; Jon went with me, so was there to be with me to give this lady a ride; and her walking by just as we were outside and getting ready to leave. We knew that God had provided us with an opportunity to minister to this lady. We don't know her life story. Perhaps she has a godly mama or grandma who has been praying that God would send someone to pray with her and encourage her. I asked her if she knew Jesus, and she said, "Yes!" Perhaps she needed a reminder that Jesus loves her and hasn't forgotten about her.
This situation has been life changing for me. What if we had turned the lady away, saying that there was no one available to give her a ride; because we were scared to have her in our car or didn't want to be inconvenienced? She had walked up to the church, feeling like it was a safe place; but what if we had refused to reach out to her? I pray that giving her a ride, on a windy, cold night, and praying for her was life-changing for her.
I've realized that I can't close my heart off to people, just because they may misuse any money that I give to them. I can't refuse to give a desperate women a ride, because I'm scared or don't want to be put out or because she reeks of cigarette smoke. When God puts opportunities and people in my path to reach out to and minister to, then it's my responsibility to obey. By doing so, then I'm fulfilling the scripture I quoted at the beginning.
"I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to ME!!" I want to hear Jesus speak those words to me, when I stand before Him one day! I don't want to hear Him say, "When you refused to help the least of these, you were refusing to help ME!"
I pray that my heart stays tender and softened towards those less fortunate and those who are struggling and desperate. I never want to close my heart off again, thinking that I'm justified in doing so!
I don't want to sound like Loretta and I are stingy. We do give well. But we've made a habit of giving in ways that we don't have to be personal about it. We give to the church, and trust that it is getting used well. We also know that a part of our taxes are shared with others, and hope that a significant amount goes to people who really need it.
We tend to use that as an excuse, though, and avoid giving to people face-to-face. Even if we can be sure that what we give gets to the man panhandling on the corner, we neglect to tell him we wish him well, or hope that he will join us at church, or just shake his hand. And from time to time, they may need a handshake much more than they need food.
This isn't the only way we make excuses. Excuses are great, right? They help protect us from feelings of guilt when we should otherwise feel guilty. They help us to do things we just couldn't do otherwise. And if we're clever enough about an excuse, they can feel like they are sound reasoning, and not just an excuse. Maybe that should be a topic for another week.
Million Dollar Fudge
4-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups nuts, chopped
1 can evaporated milk
2 large (4-1/2 ounce) Hershey bars
1 stick butter
2 packages chocolate chips
1 container marshmallow cream
Mix sugar, milk, and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly. Place candy bars and chocolate chips in a large bowl and pour the boiling mixture over the top. Beat well. Add marshmallow cream and nuts (I prefer pecans or black walnuts). Beat until cool. Pour into buttered pans.
Church Bulletin Bloopers:
The Pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.
Ushers will eat latecomers.
The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.
Tuesday at 4:00 PM there will be an ice cream social. All ladies giving milk will please come early.
The Senior Choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.
God created you, approved of you, breathed life into you,
and has plans to use you for His purposes. - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon