Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Setting the Captive Free

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Serving Jesus by stomping down the trash! Awesome!
Luke 4:18 (Isaiah 61)

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

 Isaiah 61 is where this passage from Luke is quoted from. It has for a long time, been kind of like my personal mission statement. It clearly describes what I believe I am called to be doing as a follower of Christ. Jesus, after all stood up and read this passage publicly and then tells those listening that "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” It seems to me that if these are things that Jesus thought important enough to be doing then I should be concerned with those things as well. I have found the more I have spent time with Jesus, the more I am able to be used to do these kind of things and you can too.  

He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor;
A major highlight of my week is the time that I spend with our homeless and poor neighbors at our Sunday Feed.  Each week we make a meal for them. I spend my time in the kitchen helping prep the meal and then as the folks arrive I am usually out in the big room loving people. I look at Jesus and he was hanging with the sinners, tax collectors, Samaritans, lepers, blind and lame folks, prostitutes, the demon possessed. They are not a pretty church-ified bunch. Hobnobbing with the poor will not get you ahead in society.  Last week I had a man, as he was leaving hand me 35 cents because he wanted to help. I tried to give it back to him - "I'm sure you need this more than we do". But he insisted and so I turned it in as a donation. There are many weeks that I see these people who have so little, give from what they have to help someone who has less.  There was one day that a lady came in and her shoes were falling apart and off her feet - We were out of shoes but the Lord tugged on my heart and I gave her mine. I had to decide if I was really going to live out Luke 3:11 or just give it lip service. It says "John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." You and I have a closets filled with multipul pairs of shoes and extra stuff. She was going to be walking for hours in the rain with ratty shoes and wet fet. I would walk 20 paces from the building to the car in my socks. Hmmm - it really was not a hard decision. This girl is not all there I think I was told she had been hit by a bus and had never been quite right since. It is little things, like dry socks and a warm meal, some one who will sit and listen, or even share a smile. None of which are things that would be a hardship for most of us to share. Most of the time all I can do are little things. I can't solve the bulk of the problems they are encountering. I can encourage, and pray and there are some that God has allowed me to walk more closely with who have become like family.  "He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory." 1 Samuel 2:8  Do you see it? God takes the poor and sets them with the princes of his kingdom. The princes of the kingdom are you and I and God wants to set some poor beggar from the gutter or ash heap right next to you. He wants for you to model the ways of the kingdom, to give that person a hand up not just a hand out.

To proclaim liberty to the captives 
I can remember back when I used to be in the city and see people holding up signs and panhandling for pocket change. I would move to the far side of the side walk and avert my eyes in another direction. I like so many others would treat those people as if the simply did not exist, like the were invisible. Any more I know most of the folks holding up signs and I don't often have anything to give them but I will smile and wave and sometimes ask how their day is going. I make a point to see them. I think I had to get beyond feeling guilty that I had a warm bed to go home to, and a place to keep my stuff. Most of us live pay check to pay check - in reality all it takes is an illness, or a job loss, a domestic trauma and you or I could easily find our selves among the invisible people. Did you know that most of the folks are not addicts and drunks. The majority of homeless in America will be homeless for a short span of time due to loss of a job or medical bills, a messy divorce and they find them selves having to stay with friends or relatives. Some will find themselves in cheep motels, in shelters for a bit or living in their cars. In most cases homelessness is a temporary thing until they can get back on their feet. We see the chronic homeless too,  the bunch that due to addiction or mental illness have made the box under the bridge their home. They want to keep their dogs with them for comfort and protection and that makes them unable to stay in the shelters. They prefer campin' out. There are also those who have jobs and the shelters restricted hours make it impossible for them to come and go and so they too choose to live out doors.  Some of the roughest of the bunch are my favorites. I think they are taken aback that I am not afraid of them.  I don't push the gospel on anyone. I make a point to love each one, to physically touch each one. To talk and listen, to smile and laugh. Some times they will try and test my bible knowledge and will pull up some obscure bible story and try to see if I really do know my bible. I know they have done this little test before to others because they are surprised when I know the answer or the story. All these little things lead to eventually a trust that will allow them to open up and share the sadness and pain of their story and life. It is then that he sends me to heal the broken hearted, to bring liberty to the captives and the oppressed. I watch for that open door. I wait for the questions like "why are you here and doing this" at that point they are ready to listen. 

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted 
I find myself ministering to the broken hearted and setting captives free all the time. Not in some big splashy way. Its usually things like being led by the Holy Spirit to call a friend and check to see if they are ok. I did this the other day and my friend who picked up the phone was beside herself with grief and fear and in the middle of one doosie of a panic attack. She had been laying on her bed wondering who she could even call - when the phone that she had just turned back on rang with me on the line. I did not do anything all that spectacular. I obeyed the nudging of the Holy Spirit to call, I listened, I encouraged, I prayed and bound some stuff. She said after the call that she had such peace and it had carried her thought the next few days. Today when I called she was back to her normal faith filled self. But she kept asking "How did you know to call?"  I didn't know to call, it was just a little nudge that I have learned to follow.  

Recovery of Sight to the Blind
Well that sounds like fun but I have not yet gotten the opportunity to be used in such a way. I do get to help the spiritually blind see. Helping people understand the Word and the ways to the Kingdom. 

To set at liberty those who are oppressed. I am amazed by the number of believers that I meet that are weighed down with guilt and shame, thinking they have to be good enough, spiritual enough, read their bible or pray enough to some how tip the scales of God's hand in their favor. I know for some that it takes hearing the truth of God's acceptance over and over before it begins to sink in and and the chains of oppression begin to loosen and fall away. It generally comes down to forgiving those who have wronged you and repenting for the things that you have done to wrong others. Those are the things that break the chains.

I leave you with this verse to chop on "John 14:12
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.
He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."

Its not that I am so special, I am just watching to see what Jesus was doing and is doing. I have made a point to be available. I have made a point to spend time with Jesus daily. I have practiced being led by the Spirit and using the gifts he has given me and it adds up to getting to be part of the cool things that Jesus is doing. I have bad days just like you and I have been on the other end of a phone or chat when someone else has encouraged or ministered to me. We do that for each other, its ok to have a bad day, but on those days reach out and be open enough to receive the help that God would send you.  Turn to those safe people in your life and be open and honest. Let them use their gifts to minister to you. Next time they may need your help. 

Dear Lord,
Help us to see what you were doing in the stories in the Bible. Helps us to see what you doing today in and through our life. Help us to be humble enough to allow others to help us on days that we are struggling. Help us to be there for others on their difficult days. I pray that you would be glorified as we reach out to one another with your love.

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