Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Sheep and Goat Standard

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

1 John 3:17 If anyone has material possessions 
and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

I could tell you stories about each of these people-they are the faces of real people that we minister to every week.
Its Valentines day and I could write some sappy love piece but I'm not because I believe that love is more than lip service, nice words, dinner out, flowers and a box of chocolates. When I look at Jesus' example of love I see that love is action, love is laying down your life, making sacrifices and caring for others. Love is leaving your place of comfort and to go to be born in a smelly barn and to hang on a cross. Love does not stop when our own life is healed, prosperous, and strong, love turns around and goes back for the out casts and the lepers of our world.

My post today is about God's heart for the poor.  Did you know that the word "poor" is found 175 times in the bible? I found the word homeless one time and surprisingly not about the people I expected to be homeless. You expect that those who know the Lord and follow his word - should prosper right? We are pretty steeped in the American Apple Pie Prosperity Gospel because guess who the homeless are in 1 Corinthians 4? Its the apostles. They actually followed Jesus's example. He left his home to reach those who were broken and perishing. So did they. Here's what the apostles have to say. "8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings—and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world."

If these guys, the apostles who were the closest to Jesus and are presumably his best trained representatives. Would it not seem to you that they probably had a handle on what was important to Jesus. We find them laying down their lives for others. They are sacrificing many of the pleasures of life so that they can accomplish the priorities of Jesus. I am not saying that you need to dress in sack cloth and ashes or move to a box under the bridge, I am saying that we should care about those who are suffering. That care should be more than agreeing that something should be done to help. We should be finding ways that we can make a difference.

There are days when after ministering to street people that it is hard for me to sleep because I know I am in a warm bed and they are under the bridge in the cold. I am surrounded by a sea of needy people, I have to pray Lord what do you want me to do because I can't do it all. Sometimes it is simple kindness, or to listen and encourage. Sometimes I work in the kitchen serving a meal, sometimes I sit at the tables and visit with people. Sometimes I go home because I'm tired and that ok too. Sometimes it is to appeal to my Christian brothers and sisters and asking Will You Help!

My family is not rich, we struggle to pay the bills each month. I don't have a big house but I have made room on my couch for the night for homeless friends who missed getting into the shelter or who's dog got hit by a car and they were beside them self with grief.  Trust me I try to be very wise and discerning about who I bring home. I realize that one of my assets my couch. So I try to use it to bless others from time to time. If I can help - so can you.

Here's the standard that I try to live by:
I call it the sheep and the goat standard. I want to be a sheep. So heres the things sheep should be doing. Its not that we should not have good things, it is really more that if we do we should be a channel through which blessings flow to those who are in need. Here's Matthew 25 and what Jesus says to the sheep.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,36 I needed clothes and you clothed me,  I was sick and you looked after me,  I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

A lady who spent the night on our couch recently, got into her own place. She needed a table, I had an extra one in my garage. What should I do? It's really a no brainer - give her the table.

Isaiah 58:10
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
What is true religion or how true faith in God should be manifest in our lives?
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. 

Widows and orphans at the time this verse was spoken were the lowest of the low. They could own no land, and they were dependent on men of their family to provide for them. If they had no men in their family they had no real way to support themselves. Orphans were even lower they did not even have a mother to care for and comfort them. 

Being a good Christian is more than going to church or attending a mid week bible study and talking about faith. True Christianity is taking those things we have discovered in the Word and putting them to practice. It's not all big things sometimes its taking a bag of wet clothes home and washing them for someone who slept under the bridge because everything they owned was wet. 

I am not saying that everyone should be a missionary or that everyone is called to work in inner cities with the poor and homeless. I do think we are all called to care and to help in some way. 
Luke 3:11 John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."
Churches or people who have a lot should be helping those who have little 
and are reaching people with very little.  There are always people who are less fortunate than us even if we are homeless and living on the streets.
 Will You Give A Financial Love Gift to help?
We could do so much more if you would partner with us?

There are two places on our web site 
where you can give an online donation. 

1. If you want to help support a church for the homeless and poor pull down the "About" tab an at the bottom you will find Tithes and Offerings and that will take you to a paypal donation page.

2. If you would like to help pay to feed the homeless a hot meal each week you would use the "Streetwise" tab and donate though paypal to Streetwise.

                                               Thanks, Margot 

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