Monday, June 1, 2015

Superhero or Feet of Clay?

This picture is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy,
taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of
the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.
"Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you." Thomas Jefferson

One of the people I follow on Twitter is John Sykes.  Much of his content is more politically oriented than Bible teaching.  There's nothing wrong with that.  It's sound thinking for a conservative Christian outlook.  Just not as openly Bible oriented as some of the others I follow.  He's the one who shared the quote we started with.

Jefferson's statement certainly can be applied to the political and secular arenas.  But what first struck me was how much it speaks to the reality of our Christianity.  Come see what I mean.

Today's illustration is two superhero characters and Donald Rumsfeld, who was  Secretary of Defense at the time.  It was highlighting an Avengers comic book that was going to be distributed to our troops, particularly those in the Middle East.  And it was part of  a campaign to draw private citizens and companies into doing things to support the troops and their families.  But it was the picture itself that got my attention.

Superheroes are depicted as men of action.  Holding off the bad guys, getting them put in jail, protecting the populace.  That fits right in with that quote from Thomas Jefferson.  And there's the Secretary of Defense, whether he realizes it or not, sending a message that our entire military structure, from the top down, are equivalent to superheroes.  The guy or gal with boots on the ground is, in their own way, a superhero.  Although we pointed very much in that same direction in our Memorial Day weekend blog posts, that's not the direction were headed in, today.

The focus at our 9am Sunday service was missions.  Pastor Schaller shared a verse that has the same focus we do, today.  But we'll look at the whole passage.

Isaiah 58:6-7 (KJV)  Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?  Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

And, in contrast:

Matthew 26:11 (KJV)  For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.

I said "in contrast" because those passages appear to conflict.  But they don't.  When we look at Christ's ministry, He spent a lot of time helping those in need.  Separately or together, these passages highlight a very real truth.  Yes there are physical and psychological needs that we shouldn't ignore.  But the real area of starvation is spiritual.  And, once the spiritual needs are met, the rest fall into place.  The proper priority gets the best results.  The real superhero is Jesus Christ. By extension, the missionary becomes a superhero.  Or does he?

Daniel 2:42 (KJV)  And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.

Isaiah 64:8 (KJV)  But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

When Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream, he points out that the statue in the dream appears beautiful (gold and silver) and strong (iron), but the clay feet weaken it.  But then, Isaiah puts that in perspective, indicating we're the clay.  And, because we're clay, we're malleable to whatever God needs us to be.  Our weakness becomes our strength.

If we're active in our faith, we tend to put missionaries on a pedestal.  But that's the last thing they and God want to happen.  The real successes are where we get out of God's way and let Him work through us.  Think about some of the leaders of the Bible.  Moses was a murderer, ran away in fear, was susceptible to fits of anger.  Lot got drunk enough to not realize he was fathering children by his own daughters.  David fell prey to adulterous lust and conspired to murder Uriah.  Peter was also susceptible to anger, could be prideful, denied Christ three times.  Good old 20/20 hindsight has shown them to be great leaders.  But not always.

Modern day missionaries are much the same.  Perhaps not with the same extremes.  But it's not always all spiritual.  Take a look.  We'll examine my own journey -- or at least parts of it.  Before we go any further, I'm not one of those who subscribe to the theory that if I experienced it, it's truth with no exceptions.  But I think the things I'm going to share have a broader scope than just my own experience.  So, let's get to it.  It hinges on one verse.

Romans 8:28 (KJV)  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

I don't care who we are, there are times when we feel like we're powering through a situation and we revel in that verse.  But there are also times when we feel like things couldn't get any worse and are certain that verse is really, really wrong.  Neither one of which is a proper spiritual viewpoint.  

I was born with some physical handicaps that required corrective surgery.  I was too young to even consider Romans 8:28.  But I learned to make the best of it.  Or maybe I made the worst of it.  I'm not going into detail and glorify any of it.  Much certainly wouldn't be defined as Christian behavior. And some of it resulted in a combination of COPD and emphysema.  These days, the wrong humidity, barometric pressure, temperature and I'm somewhat limited in what I can do and still breathe comfortably.

In the process of living life and getting an education, I did get to study Spanish for some time.  And, over the years, Costa Rica has come to my attention a number of times.  However, never enough to actively think about going there.  Now, guess where one of the best climates is for my breathing? And several other places that might have seemed better have come off the list because others have decided they're good, then brought their pollution with them.  That gives San Jose an edge.

We can add that I've been friends for years with the members of our missionary team there.  Some more than others, some closer and longer than others.  Along with that, I don't believe God had Costa Rica stay on my radar that long without Him wanting me to consider it.  And it's seeking someplace where I can be more consistent in personal evangelism and discipleship.  That all sounds very spiritual.  But there are times when I feel more like I have feet of clay than being the Potter's clay.  Is it the spiritual or the breathing driving the idea of the move? Which is where it gets interesting.

The devil would like to have every believer questioning their call, their ability to hear from God. Questioning everything, including their relationship with God.  We're all familiar with Jeremiah 17:9, which says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?". And the devil would have us stop there, without thinking about the next verse:

Jeremiah 17:10 (KJV)  I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

It's not Satan's place to judge us.  It's not our job, either.  We start with the recognition that only God is perfect.  And the realization that God knows our heart.  He can sort out the good from the bad.  As the creator of everything, only God can judge.  That gives us an amazing freedom to do our best to live as God wants us to, repent of what we get wrong, and allow Him to work through us. We can live in Isaiah 58:6, "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?".

For all of us, that leaves room to move forward, accept salvation, repent as needed, and grow in our relationship with God.  On a personal level, that means that it's less important whether my breathing or seeking God's moving through me has the forefront in my thinking.  God will sort it out and nudge me in the right direction.  

There's still a reality that there's a 3700 foot difference in altitude.  And I still need to take the first trip to verify whether that will have a negative effect on my breathing and, as a result, will hinder any of my plans for personal evangelization and discipleship.  We still need about 2/3 of the funding for that trip.  But we're still moving forward with that plan.  If you'd like to support the trip, we can use the help.  Go to our finance campaign page and become one of the superheroes to Send Bill to Costa Rica.

No comments:

Post a Comment