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Lessons From Animals--"Stray" part 2

"When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands."
Deuteronomy 24:19


My parents have a new cat! Well, maybe. That is to say, my parents have been adopted by a new cat. A cat that moved in, no less, while they weren't even home! Some explanation is in order.

My parents had been on vacation, and asked others to feed their cats while they were gone. This generally consists of leaving food for the cats outside in the backyard. Unfortunately, such a task leaves open the possibility that others--strays, neighbors, raccoons--will take it upon themselves to eat as well. And so it was that my parents found themselves adopted by a new cat upon their return. A cat that, truth be told, my parents probably would rather not be adopted by. For my parents, two cats are already enough. Their lives would be just fine if this newcomer were to go on his way.Why yes, thank you, I'd love to stay!

I first met "Tiger" (hey, if they aren't going to name him, I will!) on a visit to see my folks. I woke up in the morning to hear a cat meowing out in the backyard, and I immediately knew it wasn't either of my parents' two cats. My father told me (with what I swear was a suppressed smile) about this odd cat who had taken residence in the bushes, and was helping himself to the food. I went to the backyard, expecting the same reception I receive from many strays: panic, and a bolt to escape. To my utter surprise, though, this cat came running--running--up to me. Even more, when I sat down, he not only jumped on my lap, but even jumped up onto my shoulders!

He really is a handsome cat, and clearly once belonged to a loving family. After all, cats do not naturally embrace strangers the way he did. Yet his friendliness left me a bit sad for him; that he was now living in my parents' backyard tells me that he had either lost his family, or been abandoned by his family. Furthermore, the desperation of his attention-seeking--crying in the backyard of strangers, leaping onto the lap and shoulders of another stranger--tells me that he was (perhaps literally) starving for attention. Even more sad was to see Tiger try to fellowship with my parents' cats Fe and Kreme, who wanted nothing to do with him. He really was in need.

Did you know that, in the Old Testament, God makes provisions for those who are in need? We touched this in the last article. One of the most poignant examples for me, though, is Deuteronomy 14:28 - 29--


"At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands."


Now, a tithe is essentially that which belongs to God. Numbers-wise, it is ten percent of our income. And remember that in the context of Deuteronomy, God is talking to farmers. They aren't people who get a paycheck every month, and then tithe out of that; they tithe their crop--ten percent of their crop goes to God. But in this passage, God says: "Every three years, don't give it to Me--take it downtown and give it to those who are in need." Amazing! God tells us to take what rightfully belongs to Him, and instead give it to those who are need. What an incredible passage and command.

Come to think of it, why don't we do this anymore? That's a good question, and there is an answer to it. Anyone who has read through the Old Testament knows that there are a lot of things we don't do anymore. And the reason for that--basically--is that sometimes things change. And sometimes, God is the one who changes them. For example, in Leviticus you'll find several commandments about offering sacrifices and rituals for seeking forgiveness; but when Jesus came, He died as a once-for-all sacrifice--which meant that most of those Leviticus sacrifices were no longer necessary. Some of the other laws changed because circumstances changed.

But one thing that doesn't change is God's heart. And God has a heart for those who are in need. 2 Corinthians 9:11 tells us, "You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion…" We see that God is generous to us, so that we can be generous to others.

But maybe you're like me--always more than willing to give to a stray cat (they're so cute!), but stray humans are another matter. I'm sure we have all had times when our lives would be just fine if this "newcomer in need" were to simply go on his way. There's concern about safety, or whether we want to open ourselves up to a relationship with others, albeit briefly (or, perhaps the fear is that this new relationship won't be brief). Well, remember that God has a heart for those who are in need--and it breaks God's heart when we don't. Remember also 2 Corinthians 5:20, which tells us that we are Christ's representatives, as though He were making His appeal through us. We are called to share in Christ's work, which is multi-faceted, but which undeniably includes taking care of those who are need: feeding the hungry, sheltering the cold, and watching over those who rely on you to live. It is here that we indeed find God's heart.


In Christ,


--Pastor Dan


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Stray Part 1


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