Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Obstacles that test our faith

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

I have had my brian working on other things today and it is now 11 pm and I am remembering oops I need to write O. I could get up and write it in the morning and may well do that if I fall asleep while writing. You will know thats what has happened if you would see something like the following.  seeaighsf;owwwwwwirsfo;wiahefAIOS"kajfegnrfan;vw''''''''''''''LK?ERMBNai'prj. This has been a test of the emergency blogging system. If this were a real blogging obstacle.....I would tell you. Actually when it gets late I get silly or sarcasm sets in.

Actually I thought I would write about obstacles that test the faith of believers. Before you think I am so amazingly wise - I got this ideas right out of my bible concordance from a section called Practical Helps for Christian Workers. Its gives 3 pages of ideas that might be useful. I found this idea in the list of topics one might use for prayer or devotional meetings.

I have a Thompson Chain Reference bible - it has been my favorite for most of 30 years. I lost the one I had had most of my Christian journey about a two years ago and tried to limp along with my other extra bibles but in the end found a way to come up with the money to get a new one. I just like how I can chase a topic through the chain references. Its probably just a habit that I got used to as a growing believer and it works for me so I stick with it. This copy is not as marked up and underlined because I now have Bible Gateway and various other apps that I use when writing these posts.

So next to the topic listed it showed me to go to 1213 in that section it gives me four things that can be obstacles. See what you think.

#1 Lack of Sympathy on the part of the church - ouch  Matthew 15:23 and Mark 10:13. Wait while I open yet another window on my awesome Mac Book Pro and get those verses for you.
Matthew 15:21-28 The disciples were tired and being bone heads and this poor woman had to really make a strong case that she should have their attention. I call this story the Dog Lady. To save space I will just post the link to that passage. In a nut shell the lady had a daughter who is suffering from demon possession. Jesus is in Gentile territory for this little encounter an this woman is not part of Israel. Jesus comes as the Jewish Messiah and yet this woman persists and is willing to take the crumbs and scraps that are left by Israel. It is interesting that so many in Israel, particularly the religious leaders wanted nothing to do with Jesus. He allows her to persist in her faith and belief that he is able to do something to help her daughter. She is commended by Jesus for her great faith and her daughter is healed. Thank you I'll take the scraps.

I guess I have to wonder how many people we turn away because they are not like us. People who are looking and crying out for real answers while we are focused on me me me. Bless me Jesus - we want more and more rather than taking what we have already been given and doing something to bless others. For years I would have avoided even eye contact with the scruffy, often smelly homeless folks that have now become friends. Is the good news only available to people who have money to toss in the basket to keep the doors open. How does one do a church in our culture for the poor?

The other story mentioned in this section is us from Mark 10: 13- 16 about the parents who were bringing their children to be touched and blessed by Jesus. The disciples decide they need to protect Jesus and are trying to send them away until Jesus catches wind of what's happening.
What I notice in both of these passages is not that Jesus is unwilling to minister to outsiders and children but his closest followers would like to stick to the more important folks.
Who are we overlooking, or sending away. Who is it that does not fit our little narrow Christian box?
We make room for some sinners in our church but what about people who are coming from homosexuality or addiction or a life of prostitution. Are we secure enough to have those folks around? The journey to freedom is a long one for some folks - often two steps forward and one step back. Will we walk with them? Will we make room for them in our churches or at our table or do they have to go to a segregated church for the severely broken while we piously sit in our pews and thank the Lord that we are not a bad sinner like them. Let me remind you of this little story Jesus told in Luke 18: 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
   14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

#2 Unbelieving Friends - Mark 5:35  This guy really needs a miracle - his daughter has died. His friends tell him. Mark 5:35  (NIV1984) 35 While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?" I love how Jesus responds.  '"36 Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Maybe the people around you are telling you don't bother Jesus about that healing you need just accept that your are sick, or mentally ill, or trapped in addiction. Its hopeless just make the best of your lot in life. Jesus is says to you to ignore those voices and listen to him “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

#3 Scoffers John 9:24 In this story Jesus heals a blind man and the religious leaders give the man a hard time because he can see and keep questioning him repeatedly. Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” Then they start hurling insults and having a general religious tantrum. The mans response is wonderful. 30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Here is a guy who is defending his faith in the guy who has given him sight after a life time of blindess. Sometimes we need to be bold and stand up to the guff that some folks want to dish out. 

#4 Divine Delays John 11: 3-6  This post is a devine delay of my bed time tonight,  but I'm almost done.  The dear sisters of Lazarus track Jesus down and send word that Lazarus is sick - come quickly.  Jesus stays where he was for another two days. It does severely test my faith when God does not get with my program and do things by my time table. Think of the images of dead stinky Lazarus hopping out of the burial cave all wrapped up in mummy cloths that we would have missed out on if Jesus had rushed to the scene.  Carmen would not have been able to write that cool song back in the 80 called Lazarus Come Forth. Well I will embed it for you just in case you missed it.  God's timing is quite often not at the pace we might like it to be but God has a plan. I have come to trust that he is working even when I don't understand what the heck he is doing. Sure he could have come right away - who knows what awesome parts of your story would be missed if he did. Think back on the times he has come through at the last minute -leaving with you a story of his faithfulness to now share. 
 Carman / Lazarus from tbarrett8 on GodTube.

Ok that is it for tonight - my pillow is calling me. 

Prayer
Lord, help us when we face these obstacles to press on through to the other side and to be over comers. 

Yep O is for obstacles but it is also for Over comers. Rise up by faith in Jesus - stand on the truth of His word and be an over comer!
  

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