The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
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          An obstacle is defined as “an obstruction, hindrance, or impediment that interferes with or prevents action or progress.” Similarly, an obstacle is “a thing that blocks one’s way or prevents or hinders progress” or “something that blocks you so that movement, going forward, or action is prevented or made more difficult.” 
          As presented in earlier editions of From Daniel’s Den, Refraining from Criticism and Reinforcing Fellow Christians are necessary in order to make progress in the battle for purity in Christian relationships. In addition, Removing Obstacles is fundamental for “getting along” with others and for establishing and maintaining purity in one’s own life. To the Christians in Rome, Paul declared “It is better not to eat meat and drink wine or to do anything else that would cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves” (Romans 14:21-23).
          As I greeted folks prior to the morning worship service recently, an older lady to whom I had spoken as I entered the sanctuary called out to me indicating that she wanted to tell me something before I left that morning. Having teased her and another senior lady about gossiping a few moments earlier, I asked if I needed to come closer where only I could hear what she wanted to tell me or did she mind if everyone heard what she told me. She responded that everyone was welcome to hear. Not knowing this lady too well and being cautious, I decided to move back to the pew in front of her for a visit. She said, “Look at me.” When I complied with her instructions, she laughingly said “I just wanted to look at you in your face.” While she really had nothing to tell me and was only teasing me back for having teased her earlier, I responded “Well, I look at myself each day in the mirror to see if I can figure out what’s going on.”
          The ancient Greeks knew that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” In like manner, Examining Oneself is necessary in order to remove obstacles that would hinder a follower of Christ from “getting along” with others. Christians must examine themselves regularly in various areas and contexts of life in order to determine if they are presenting a hindrance to someone’s faith. In your activities, are you doing anything that might present an obstacle for a babe in Christ? Might the manner in which you spend your leisure time, the places you go, or the events you attend keep someone from growing toward spiritual maturity? What about your attitude? A well-respected man once asserted “You don’t merely have an attitude…you are an attitude.” Christians should strive always to project a Christ-like attitude. Why? Because no matter who you are or where you go, someone is watching you. Thus, your example and influence through both activities and attitude can either help or hinder the development of someone else’s faith. 
          Removing obstacles also entails Exercising Discipline. In terms of discipline, a wise person once stated “The greatest freedom man has is the freedom to discipline himself.” Maltbie Babcock was the distinguished pastor of the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York. Being concerned about his pastor’s health, a member of his church who was a physician offered Babcock some theater tickets and encouraged him to go see a play. Recognizing that the tickets provided admission to a play that he could not conscientiously attend, Babcock thanked the man and said, “I can’t take them. I can’t go.” When the physician questioned Babcock, the pastor replied “Because you’re a surgeon, you scrub your hands meticulously prior to surgery. You wouldn’t dare operate with dirty hands. I’m a servant of Christ. I deal with precious human souls. I wouldn’t dare do my service with a dirty life.” Paul reminded the Christians in the church at Rome “Blessed is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves” (Romans 14:22b).
          The examination of self and the exercise of discipline produces little benefit unless you actually Expel the Obstacles. The saying “It is not enough for the gardener to love flowers, he must also hate the weeds” has relevance for winning the battle for purity in the area of relationships. Paul implored the Roman Christians to “…make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way” (since) “It is better not…to do anything…that will cause your brother to fall” (Romans 14:13 & 21). 
          The capitol architect was called to investigate the cause of people regularly stumbling down a group of steps located on the main walkway leading from the U.S. capitol building towards Pennsylvania Avenue. Only on these particular steps did stumbling occur as such was not observed on any other groups of stairs. 
          The architect was amazed to see how many people stumbled going up and down this group of stairs. He commented aloud how he could not understand what could possibly be wrong with the steps. After all, he had spent weeks arranging those steps and had built several wooden models. Then, he had walked over them repeatedly until he was satisfied. An assistant asked the capitol architect “Isn’t one of your legs shorter than the other?” The architect quickly realized that he had made steps that were suitable only for him and those pedestrians sharing his same physical condition. As a result, he was responsible for the stumbling of others. The steps were redesigned to eliminate the cause of stumbling. 

Dear Heavenly Father, May I be reminded to examine my actions and attitude daily with the goal of being a source of encouragement to others in their Christian walk. May I exercise discipline in order to avoid condemning myself by what I approve. Help me to expel the obstacles in my life that may be currently or could become a stumbling block for a brother or sister in Christ. Amen.