‘Tis the Season

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Gordy McCoy

‘Tis the season to be giving. There are so many opportunities to give this year. So many needs. Deuteronomy 15:7-8 says, “But if there are any poor in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need.” It’s a good reminder for me to pay attention to the needs of others around me.

What do you do when you see a homeless man in our local library? Imagine if you will, you are taking a lunch break. After you have finished the first half of a ham and cheese sandwich, that homeless man’s face comes to mind. You offer him the other half of your sandwich, and he accepts it. This short encounter helps me realize that God has richly blessed me and I need to do more to help those less fortunate than I.

Linda remembers when she was out painting at Point Defiance early in the morning and a homeless woman came out of the woods. She went over to the garbage can and was looking for something to eat. She then went over to a park bench and sat down quite a ways from Linda. Linda had brought two apples with her that day because she had planned on being there for quite awhile. She walked over to the lady, who looked more uncomfortable the closer Linda got to her. Without making eye contact (on purpose), Linda offered her an apple.

The woman said, “Do I have to eat it now … in front of you?” Linda replied, “No, of course not.” The lady snatched it out of her hand and Linda walked away …but she kept thinking about her, and how blessed we are, and how hard life must be for the woman who lived out in the woods at Point Defiance.

It also says in Deuteronomy that an open hand symbolizes the way God wanted His people to provide for the poor – willingly and freely. When we offer up to the poor, even though this isn’t our motivation, God blesses us for our kindness.

Psalm 41:1-3 says, “Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor. The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble. The Lord protects them and keeps them alive. He gives them prosperity in the land and rescues them from their enemies. The Lord cares for them when they are sick and restores them to health.”

Proverbs 19:17 says, “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord – and He will repay you.”

In this season of giving, think about what you can do to help those less fortunate. Perhaps you can look back and see the many ways the Lord has helped you. Seek him and He will lead you to those who could use a little help, if you are able.

One way to help is our “Feed the Homeless” program, and another is “Freezing Nights.” If you haven’t already, come up some Monday evening to Freezing Nights and see this powerful ministry in action. It is a beautiful thing to see the tender way our people take care of those who are cold, hungry and needing a safe place to stay. We can always use your help, and you WILL be blessed!

In closing, I would like to thank all of you for allowing me to serve on the Elders Board. It has been a privilege.

Respectfully submitted,

Gordon McCoy

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

Uncomfortable

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Larry Short

If you knew exactly what you could do to make Jesus happy, would you do it?

I think the answer to this question is much clearer, and simpler, than most of us realize. We think: Oh, I know. I need to read the Bible more. Or pray more. Or share Christ with my neighbor more.

All these things are certainly needed. But Matthew 25 gives a very different twist in answer to this question. And I think it’s one that makes us a bit uncomfortable. (At least it makes ME uncomfortable!)

In this chapter, Jesus is telling parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. But suddenly He stops speaking in parables and begins to give a very direct prophecy about a phenomenally significant event that will surely occur at the end of time. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne,” Christ tells His disciples. “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”

To the sheep Christ will say: “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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, 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.’

This apparently surprises both the sheep, and the goats. They sheep say, “But Lord? When did we see you hungry and gave you something to eat?”

You know the story. Christ responds: “When you did it to the least of these, my brethren, you did it unto me.”

And, in case you’re wondering … you don’t want to be a goat. You want to be a sheep.

Who are “the least of these?” The question is a little like the rich man’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” The “least of these” are anyone who is vulnerable. Children, for instance. Anyone who suffers injustice, anyone disempowered. Anyone who is poor! Scripture assures us, over and over again, that the poor occupy a special place near God’s heart.

At Elim we are rejoicing because this week this church took a huge step forward in serving the poor, in serving Christ. You probably remember Monday night as a night of wild weather. We listened to the wind howl as we tried to sleep, and many of us experienced hours of power outage. Fortunately, though, we all remained warm — and indoors.

Many here on South Hill aren’t so fortunate. Due to economic and other pressures, we have a growing homeless population in our midst. Imagine spending Monday night out sleeping under a bridge, or under a makeshift tent (with branches coming down all around) near the river?

So, Monday night we were privileged to partner with a local organization known as “Freezing Nights.” Starting November 1, this organization arranges churches who are willing to host homeless guests, under very controlled circumstances. More than a dozen Elim volunteers helped turn our facility into a warm, welcoming and safe environment for local homeless, participating in the program, to spend the night. These volunteers spent time listening to and getting to know these people better, helped them set up and tear down cots, and prepared and served snacks, a hot breakfast, and sack lunches.

Several of these volunteers say that the experience was life-changing, and that they will never look at the poor the same way again.

Our participation with Freezing Nights was a pilot, or a test, and we are currently debriefing with the Outreach Team and with the Puyallup Homeless Coalition to determine whether there will be any ongoing involvement for us. But one thing is clear: Reaching out to and serving the community around us is something that God is calling us to do, here at Elim! Living the Gospel is not simply sending missionaries to the furthest corners of the earth. It is also about making life sacrifices so that we can build relationships with and share Christ’s love with people who need Him, here at home.

I realized how important this relationship-building was when I watched a young man named Greg (and I’m changing his name to protect his identity) interacting with Brian Holthe. Greg was newly homeless, only about two weeks on the streets. A victim of severe depression resulting in a prior suicide attempt, he had been recently cast out by his family and by his fiancee. He was clearly very troubled. Brian, who himself has survived a near miss with homelessness and relational disappointments in his past, sat and listened to Greg’s story, and shared with him the hope that Christ had brought into his own life situation.

It was clearly a divine appointment. What Greg needed was the hope that Brian had. And fortunately, Brian was there! And he was eager to share.

I don’t know whether we will continue to host “freezing nights,” or not. I hope so. But I do know that we need to continue to share Christ’s love and hope with people like Greg. In so doing, in reaching out “to the least of these,” Christ’s brethren — we are in truth doing it unto Christ.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.