Monday, December 19, 2011

Removing Obstacles & Road Blocks

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Found this photo on-line - yikes thats quite a road block!

Isaiah 57:14-15 (NIV1984)

And it will be said:
“Build up, build up, 
prepare the road! 
Remove the obstacles 
out of the way of my people.” 

For this is what the high and lofty One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with him who 
is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.

I was trying to think about this verse today in terms of preparing a road to knowing and following Jesus. What are the obstacles or the things where people get stuck and how might we help to remove them. I probably won't think of everything maybe some of you will post in comments things that have been obstacles for you and how you overcame them.  I love Revelation 12:11 "Our brothers conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to their lives even in the face of death." Perhaps you will share in comments below this post a bit of your testimony of how you have overcome in some area of your life.

I think complacency is a big issue - some people look at faith in Christ as spiritual insurance. They said the sinners prayer, the attend church when its convenient. Its like the guy who finds the woman he wants to marry and puts lots of effort into winning her, he marries her and pretty much checks finding a wife off his to do list. Then wonders years later why his marriage is falling apart.  I think we have a mixed up notion that we can have relationships with people and have no interaction with them. Kind of like all those facebook friends that send you a friend request and then never talk to you. Marriage, friendships and even walking with Christ are things that are about being done together.  For relationships to grow there must be time spent together.
Complacency is described in the dictionary as self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. These folks are happy to watch from the sidelines and let others live and work while they watch, or sleep on the sidelines. With all our computers and tv's and other boxes we think we are participate just by watching. Stop watching reality shows and really live. 

Fear of Getting Hurt: 
I think lots of people try to live behind walls of their own making they they have tried various relationships and gotten hurt. They have taken the Paul Simon option of being a rock or an island that is alone but does not get hurt or feel any pain. Pain is a good thing it lets you know you have felt something. I won't be too hard on you because I have been an expert at building walls around my heart and not letting people in. I suppose for some if they could attend a virtual church where they pick the music, and the message, and the people around them it would be ok. Life, church, relationships are messy. Following Christ is more than just me and Jesus. It's me and Jesus and the rest of his family. 
He calls us to be living stones in a spiritual house. He calls us to lay down our lives for one another. 
I'll take an order of church but hold the people.  Kingdom life is lived together. Iron sharpens iron. 
I can't take the splinter out of your eye till I remove the plank from my own. 
You are right you are likely to get hurt, people will disappoint you. Just about the time you think you can count on someone they are gone. We were not created for lives of lonely isolation we were created to live in community with others. 

Family or Relational Pressure: Unbelieving family can be a road block. They may view you as shallow or foolish. What will your friends and co-workers think if they found out. Some may not want to have anything to do with you in the future. In some parts of the world one can be cast out of the family structure and even risk death for choosing Christ. In America we have it pretty easy in that respect.  

The Cost of Following Jesus: Luke 9: 57-62 
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”   Objection: Security - Having to walk by faith and not by sight

He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”   Objection: Family duty or responsibility 

Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Objection: Desire for a last time with the old life

Performing for Gods approval:
Thinking that you must clean up your act enough for God to accept you. We are created to do good works but our good works do not gain us salvation in Christ. We can not do enough to pay the debt that we owe to Christ for paying for our sins. The good works that we do should be motivated by gratitude not in a vain attempt to atone for our own sins. He accepts you just as you are in this moment, with all your faults, and failures. The thief on the cross next to Jesus, never had a chance to walk a church isle, or get baptized, or do any good works. He believed Jesus was God and Jesus told him that he would see him in paradise. You don't have to wait for your dying breath to accept Jesus you could walk with him from this point forward. Julian of Norwich is healed on her death bed and she says she wanted to live so she could know Christ more.

Pride or Social Status: We get the stories of the rich young ruler Luke 18:18-23  and Nicodemus in John 3  Our quest for money and things or our desire for prestige and power can be major stumbling blocks that keep us from having a faith that is deeper than lip service. Maybe its your job, it is important to work.  Work and that paycheck should not become the center of your existence. It should not define who you are. Who you are is defined by Jesus. It is not your job that provides for you - Jesus is your provider.

Here's some good news from Isaiah 57:  
15 For this is what the high and lofty One says—
   he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
   but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
   and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Some synonyms for contrite: apologetic, regretful, remorseful, repentant,  sorry

Its amazing that God who is high, lofty and holy is willing to be with those who are sorry for the choices they have made, and realize their need for Him in their life. It says he wants to revive the spirit of the lowly and the heart of the contrite.  Maybe thats you today. Call out to Jesus - let him into those dark places. 

Why are some Christians shallow and stuck, often making the same bad decisions over and over again, they don't seem to progress or grow? Why does it seem that the Christian life does not work for them?
Could it be because the came to a road block and decided that going any further was too hard?
Maybe that shallow, stuck, bad decision making person its you. You keep hitting that same old brick wall again and again. You can't walk with Jesus in your own strength or because of how good or together you might one day hope to be. He accepts you today. He extends his hand to you and says come, follow me. Yeah I know you are a mess, but your my mess and I love you. I want to help you, look I have clean clothes for you and let me show you a better way to live. I understand and know you better than you know yourself. Mostly just come and spend time with me, lets do this life journey together, I have everything you need. You just need to decide to leave the past behind come with me. 

What are the road blocks in your life that are keeping you from following Jesus with your whole mind, soul and body?

What are some ways you might be able to overcome those obstacles?

Dear Lord,
Help us to actually see the obstacles that are blocking our growth and progress towards knowing you more fully and deeply. What keeps us from abiding in you and following you by faith day by day. Help us see some of the ways we might begin to overcome those obstacles or road block in our life. Lord maybe we need to help others to clear their road blocks. Help us look around and see who we might encourage or share the journey with for a while.  Thank you Lord that while you are high and Holy God you are also with those who realize the depth of their need for you.  Lord help us to move in our relationship with you from it being a side thing to being vital like air or water to our body. Let us not put off till someday, the abiding relationship we could have with you today. I pray you will give us the courage to bust through that road block that is keeping us from going further with you.

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