Friday, March 23, 2012

The Same Yesterday and Today and Forever

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
I remember flowers of yesterday and trust that Spring will come again.
2 Samuel 19:
24 Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, also went down to meet the king. He had not taken care of his feet or trimmed his mustache or washed his clothes from the day the king left until the day he returned safely. 25 When he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, the king asked him, “Why didn’t you go with me, Mephibosheth?” 26 He said, “My lord the king, since I your servant am lame, I said, ‘I will have my donkey saddled and will ride on it, so I can go with the king.’ But Ziba my servant betrayed me. 27 And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king. My lord the king is like an angel of God; so do whatever pleases you. 28 All my grandfather’s descendants deserved nothing but death from my lord the king, but you gave your servant a place among those who eat at your table. So what right do I have to make any more appeals to the king?” 29 The king said to him, “Why say more? I order you and Ziba to divide the fields.” 30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Let him take everything, now that my lord the king has arrived home safely.” 

Some of the disabilities that we see in the bible are barrenness, blindness, deafness, muteness, lameness, seizures. Those disabilities can be the result of physical or spiritual causes. I was thinking today about how Jesus responded to these needs. In Matthew 9: 27 Jesus encounters two blind men. They cry out to him to have mercy on them. He asks them a question "Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  Do we believe that Jesus is able to do something about the things that hinder and concern us,  be it a disability or a life issue?  These two guys say yes, and Jesus says to them “According to your faith will it be done to you”; 30 and their sight was restored. 
It sounds to me like in this case it was not Jesus' faith but the ability of the blind men to believe that Jesus was able and willing.  It says that in his home town of Nazareth that he could do nothing because they did not believe and could not get past seeing him as the son of Joseph and Mary - he was just a kid from the town, he was no one special in their minds. They had no faith to believe in him.

In Matthew 15:29-31 Jesus feeds the four thousand and it says" 29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. 

In this case it says nothing of who's faith was involved. But the people had to some how had to leave their normal regular day and come out to him on the mountainside. Some must have needed the help of loved ones to even get there. There is another story where the friends lower a man down through the roof to Jesus. I think it is important to have people who will stand with us and bring us to Jesus in our weakness. I think that they must have heard about this Jesus and hope that he could help them was strong enough for them to go out to meet him on the mountain side.

In Mark 7:31- 37 31 We have yet another example of Jesus making time for someone with a disability. Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.
 33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
 36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Matthew 21: 14
 14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 

Luke 7:21-23
 21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 23 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

It says in Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." His power to save, deliver, set free and heal is no less today than it was in the days that he physically walked on this earth. Sometimes I think like the folks in Nazareth that we want to keep Jesus in a very small box. He is far more able than we are willing to believe. We turn to every other thing at our disposal before we finally turn to Jesus as our last resort. He should be our first resort. 

Paul had some kind of disability and he cries out and asks the Lord to remove it more than once. In his case God gives him not the end of the problem but the grace to be able to deal with it. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  Paul was doing all kinds of amazing miracles and revelations and he says that God left this thing so he would not become conceited. 2 Corinthians 12:7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
In the next story, in classic fashion we want to place the blame for the difficulties that we face on someone or something.  In the case of this person in John 9, Jesus says it was no ones fault but part of how God was revealing his glory. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
We all have areas of weakness that we must manage or work to overcome. Some of it helps us remember our dependence on Jesus.  I think we see very clearly that Jesus had compassion on those with disabilities. Our own response to peoples needs should follow his. I think we should pray and believe that God is able to heal, deliver and set people free. Sometimes its a process that takes time. Sometimes the miracle is in having the grace to believe that God is able, and willing but to accept that the miracle is one of his grace being sufficient to serve and love him even when the problem is not removed. 

It is pretty clear in the Old Testament that we are to treat those with disabilities with respect, to not take advantage of them, and to provide help for them.  In the verse about Mephibosheth. He is one of the sons of Jonathan, the son of King Saul. Jonathan was the best friend of David and looks out for him even during his fathers anger and campaign against David. The standard practice of the day when a new king took power was to remove to exile, or to death the family of the former king. Mephibosheth was five when David came to power. His nurse with good reason and in great fear runs away with the young prince. In her haste she trips and falls and the child is lame for the rest of his life. Sometimes our problems are the result of the actions of others. In this case the nurse meant well but had an accident. I think there is a bit of grace revealed here as David makes a place at his own table for this son of Jonathans along with his own sons.

I do think there is something in Mephibosheths response to David that is quite remarkable and a good reminder to us. "All my grandfather’s descendants deserved nothing but death from my lord the king, but you gave your servant a place among those who eat at your table. So what right do I have to make any more appeals to the king?”  We too deserve death for our sins. Yet Jesus forgives us and sets a place for us at his table.  We have received far more mercy than we deserve and like Mephibosheth what right do we have to make any more appeals.  We serve a God who also loves to bless us in more ways than we sometimes remember.

I was talking to a friend the other day and someone had asked her "Don't you want to know why you have had all this trouble?" She said at first she did want to know but then she realized that God owed her no explanation, her life belongs to him to do what he choses and to use how he sees fit for his glory. She came to a place of trust and stopped asking for a reason.

Sometimes the very obstacles that we must work to overcome and deal with are building in us a strength of character and a trust and dependence on God that is a miracle in its own right. 
Even Job in all his troubles demands an answer from God. He says 1 The LORD said to Job:
 2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?  Let him who accuses God answer him!” 3 Then Job answered the LORD: 4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
   I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—
   twice, but I will say no more.” 6 Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm: 

Sometimes like Job we need to put our hand over our mouth and quit our griping and complaining.
God goes on to list all the amazing things God does and has created and controls. In the end Job replies the following two chapters later.  1 Then Job replied to the LORD:
 2 “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
   Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;  I will question you, and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” 

I guess I have no easy answers for many of the troubles that we face in this life. My intent is to remind you to look to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you. I have through the years seen miracles of healing and at other times I have seen great people of faith go home to be with the Lord. I have seen some people overcome far more than their share of troubles with astounding grace. I have learned that God is always working even when it is not according to how want things done. I have come to realize that he sees the bigger picture, he know the back story and he knows whats around the next corner. What I have learned is that in everything I must keep my eyes on Him. He is the author and the finisher of our faith. My story is really just a tiny part of his bigger story. To Him be the Glory and the Honor and the Power forever, AMEN.
Dear Lord,
We belong to you. You know the things that we face. Some of those things, you will in your time remove and some you will allow to remain. One way or another we believe you are able and do want the best for us. Forgive us where we have demanded an explanation from you. Help us to put our hand over our mouth and like Job to approach you with humility and a repentant heart. Help us to trust that your timing and plan is right and good. Help us to keep our eyes on you. Be our shelter through the storms and cause our life to bring you glory, honor and praise.

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