The Least of These

You know who they are. The luckless losers. The broken, bruised, battered and bankrupt. The weak and worn. The sick and the unsanitary. The helpless and hungry. The convicted and the crazy. The tired, toothless and torn.  The jobless junkies. The deceived and the deceivers. The least, left, lonely and lost.

The shadow dwellers, who like zombies come out in public, if at all, only under the cover of darkness to shop our grocery stores and wander under the stars safe from the sanctioning eyes and callous snubs of the clean and the normal. These are the least. And though we may not realize it, these are you and me but for the grace of God.

And, Jesus said, whether we care for them or ignore them will reveal the condition of our heart and thus, determine our destiny. Grace causes repentance, requires action and compels mercy.  One day, God will hold us accountable for our compassion or lack thereof toward the least of these.

“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. 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.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Matthew 25:34-46.

Perhaps you, like me, have more often been counted among the goats on the left who look the other way than you have been gathered with the hospitable sheep on the right. Guilty of a hard heart and disparaging, dismissive thoughts, we go about our days uninterrupted by those for whom we truly could not care less.

Father, forgive me and all those like me. Open our eyes. Help us to see that these are our neighbors, who are just like us. Help us to see you, Jesus, so that when you give us the next opportunity to meet a need for another, we do it for you.

Advertisements

Take Back Your Right to Vote

If average Americans like you and I ever had the freedom to choose who will serve as President of the United States, we no longer do.

What this election has made crystal clear is that somewhere between 1776 and 2016 we delegated that right to two powerful political factions – the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. If a person wants to get elected President today, he or she must spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and affiliate with either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. These political organizations control our elections and thus control our nation. In other words, they control us.

If you are satisfied with politics as usual in our country, then you will not find this statement troubling. However, if instead like me you are fed up with both the Democratic and the Republican parties because neither of their Presidential candidates or their respective political agendas reflect your own values and beliefs on the issues and policies that matter to you, then the total and absolute control exercised by these two political entities over our nation should deeply disturb you.

Especially because you and I have given them this power. Every time we vote for a person simply because they are a Democrat or a Republican, and not because we agree with the particular candidate’s policies, values and beliefs on the issues that matter to us, we endorse the current two party political system and enable those entities to continue to control our nation.

George Washington, our first President, was also the only President who was not affiliated with any political party. In his farewell address, Washington prophetically cautioned against the dangers of political parties, including their vengeful and self-interested practices. He warned that “the alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”

Washington was concerned that parties put their own interests above those of the country. Party members would feel beholden to and have greater loyalty toward their particular political party, and not to the nation as a whole. Parties were more concerned with ensuring that a member of their party was elected President than they were about electing the best person for the job.

As a conservative, I have been told that I must vote for the Republican nominee for President, Donald Trump, or else I am effectively voting for Hillary Clinton. The day I vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to run our country will be the day they pry my ballot out of my cold dead fingers and someone else votes for me. Neither candidate remotely represents my Christian values and beliefs. So what am I to do? Throw away my vote by not voting? Vote for the lesser of two evils?

I am tired of voting for the lesser of two bad options. The last time I voted for a Presidential candidate because I actually liked the person and most of his policies, values and beliefs resembled mine was in 1984, the very first election in which I was old enough to vote. Ronald Reagan was the candidate and ever since then the quality of candidates for President has declined. However, this is the very first year where we are truly voting for the lesser of two evils. We have been told by the controlling political parties that we must vote for one of two terrible choices for President of the free world. The difficulty lies in trying to figure out which candidate is the most evil so that we can vote for the other,

But is their another option? Do we have to do what the Republicans or the Democrats tell us to do? Or, perish the thought, can we vote for a person whose positions on the issues most important to us best align with our own, regardless of whether he or she is the designated Republican or Democratic nominee? What would happen if we took control back from these powerful political machines by voting our consciences, sending a message loud and clear that we are no longer interested in what these self-interested political parties are peddling?

“The best way to discredit and ultimately supplant the two-party system is not to abstain from voting or to vote for the lesser of two evils, but to have every voter vote his or her conscience. The first two alternatives only perpetuate the status quo.”  Independent Voter Project, Andrew Gripp, 12/21/15.

On Election Day, if you don’t want Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to be your next President, then don’t vote for them. Instead, vote for whichever candidate you prefer, regardless of whether that person was forced to drop out of the race as a result of the action of delegates supporting one of the two major political parties during the primaries. Write that person’s name in on the ballot, if necessary.

Your candidate is unlikely to win, but that is not the reason you vote. You vote because your vote is your voice. Your vote is valuable because it allows your opinions to be heard in a political election. Your responsibility in voting is not to pick a winner, but to have your voice heard.

If you vote for someone you don’t want to be the President, then you have indeed thrown away your vote because you have failed to communicate your opinion. No one will ever know whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump was elected President because everyone despised the other candidate more or because they really believed the person elected would be a good President.

If we all voted our consciences, instead of voting for a person we don’t like and do not want to be our President, imagine what could happen. If the winning candidate – either Hillary or Donald – becomes our next President with the smallest percentage of the popular vote in history, they would have no mandate except this: Wake up, Mister or Madam President! You are in the minority and do not think like or speak for the majority of the citizens of the United States. You need to listen up and be responsive not just to your obsolete political party, but to the vast majority of Americans who did not vote for you.

We might be surprised to discover that there are more citizens in our nation who hold Christian values and ideals dear than we have been led to believe.

Our collective voices would shout to the two major political parties who have controlled us for far too long that their days are numbered. The winds of change are blowing. The reign of the bipartisan regime soon will be toppled. They no longer represent the values and beliefs that matter to most of us.

I urge you to use the power of your ballot this November and vote for the best candidate for President of the United States, regardless of whether he or she is a current major political party nominee. You do not have to vote for who these power hungry parties tell you to vote for. Join me in taking back from the controlling political parties our freedom to vote for the person we believe is best equipped to lead our nation.

“Of two evils, choose neither.” Charles Spurgeon.

 

Do the Next Right Thing

It was time to re-order my contact lenses online. Right eye, this number, left eye, that number. How hard could it be?

Apparently, harder than you think. Yet even more startling than the very bad customer service I got was the bad attitude I got with it. Bad to the bone bad. Big bad mean dog bad.

Not them, mind you. Me.

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell….no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:6, 8. Lord, have mercy – ain’t that the truth.

I started off the first of multiple phone calls and e-mails all Woman of the Word, child of the One True King, angel-like goodness and light, gracious, patient, understanding and kind, and ended up during the last phone call foaming at the mouth rabid dog angry, insulting, demanding, scathing and self-righteously unrighteous.

Big time shameful, embarrassing, disgusting and disappointing bad girl bad. Who WAS that nasty woman? Oh, yeah, that’s me. The PASTOR’S wife, who claims to be a follower of JESUS. Mmm hmmm.

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” James 1:26.

Ouch.

Have you ever been there, friend? You are growing in the grace and knowledge of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You feel like God has made big changes in your heart and life. You know the good you ought to do and most of the time you do it, and then – BAM!

Out of nowhere Satan knocks you up side the head, takes up temporary residence inside you and pours venom out of your mouth, reminding you that he is still the Prince of this World and that as long as you live on this planet you will struggle with sin. His goal is to destroy you. He knows your areas of weakness and can and will exploit them to your detriment. He is constantly working to take away your peace and replace it with turmoil, discontent, and strife.

So, what can we do about it?

  1. Wake up! “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8. Accept the fact that Satan is actively trying to take us out. We can then begin to recognize his schemes, take away his element of surprise, and better defend against his attacks.
  2. Submit to God. “Submit yourselves, then, to God.” James 4:7a. Whoever or whatever you submit to will eventually control you as you continue to submit to him or it. Just make sure you are submitting to God first, and not to yourself, another or any other thing. When we submit to God, we stop struggling and unleash the power of the Living God to fight evil for us. As Moses reminded the Israelites just before God delivered them from the Egyptians by parting the Red Sea: “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14.
  3. Resist the devil. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7b. Refuse to surrender to the enemy. The devil is an opportunistic coward and will turn and run if you resist. With each stand you take against the devil’s schemes you will grow stronger and better able to defeat him in the next battle.
  4. Come near to God. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:8. Spend quality and quantity time with the God who loves you. Get to know Him by regularly reading His word and purposefully applying it to your life. Talk to God and be willing to listen and wait for His answer. Pray every day, all day, throughout your day, about anything and all things. Draw near to God. Get closer to Him and as you do, He will come near to you. “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8.

Lucky for me, although I blew it this time, as long as I live I will have many opportunities to do the next right thing.

Lord, please help me to wake up, resist the devil, submit to and draw near you so that next time I will respond with more Christ-like character, leaving behind a fragrant aroma and not a bad smell. “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2.