Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial to No Offense

image used under Creative Commons license, photo by US Army Africa,, from Flickr,
Today is Memorial Day in the US.  It's the day we annually remember  those who lost their lives defending our country.  Other countries have other dates reserved for their own fallen heroes.  It's one thing we can all share in, no matter what the date or which country.  And more.

Pastor Peter Sheff, visiting from Maine, preached the main sermon in our 9am service.  He started by talking about John the Baptist, in jail, trying to find out if Jesus was the Christ.  John sent messengers to Jesus, asking Him.  And Jesus replied.

Matthew 11:6  And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me."

Pastor Sheff made the point that we're all offended by something, whether it's a wild driver, someone being verbally offensive, or circumstances not going the way we think they should.  And it comes down to our having some level of personal uncomfortability.  Think about that.

It was Memorial Day that really got me thinking about this.  This "holiday" celebrates those have not come back from battle.  It and other military holidays honor those who went to war, knowing they might not return home, and took no offense to that fact.  There might be some who went unwillingly, but they went.  Most probably had some level of fear, but they went anyway.

Those of you who follow me on social media and read this blog are familiar with me joking about being the least likely missionary.  That's because I have physical challenges, plus having both COPD and emphysema.  But God gave me a vision to be part of our church team in San Jose, Costa Rica.  And that's still my goal, despite more recent events.

About a month ago, I had a strong flare up of my COPD.  Breathing became difficult, added doctor's visits and medications have been slow to restore my usual "normal", while putting a hefty dent in my finances.  Healing has been like a roller coaster, some days really good, some days seeming not so good.  Since then, my experience of church has been through the blessing of our online stream of our services.  Then, in the midst of that, a volcano near San Jose became active, spewing ash and foul air on the city.

All of that certainly makes my being a missionary in San Jose seem like a pipe dream.  Certainly, till I have a better idea of where my health will stabilize, I don't feel comfortable seeking financial support for that.  Yet my prayers, my thoughts, and my desires are still to be with the people I know in San Jose.  I am a soldier of the Lord, still true to the mission till my orders change.  Am I unrealistic?  Maybe.  Am I a little dense?  Probably.  But God hasn't shown me enough reason to change the earthly goal.  And I can be stubborn.  It made me realize that we see a common denominator between those we honor today and those who are not offended by Jesus.

  1. In both cases, the focus is on something beyond, something greater than themselves. -- Hebrews 12:2  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
  2. Not only does their focus change, but they are active in making that happen.  The target is the possible, not the impossible. -- Matthew 6:33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
  3. The reason for what is sought is that, given reality, nothing is impossible. -- Luke 1:37  For with God nothing will be impossible." 
  4. There's a recognition that we don't know all things, but God does.  Which gives Him a much better perspective on how things should go. -- 1 John 3:20  For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
  5. Trust.  Trusting God's love and wisdom for us is essential. -- Psalm 4:5  Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the LORD.
  6. There's an acknowledgement that, while there is a hoped for result, neither circumstances nor God are like a trained pet.  There's no guarantee that what we seek is necessarily best nor a sure thing. -- 1 Chronicles 29:11  Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all.
It's simple.  And, while my describing my own personal experience may seem like the focus is on me., it's not.  Remember, I said I can be dense and stubborn.  For me, those six qualities aren't things I can generate on my own.  It took and still takes God guiding and drawing me.  Otherwise, they'd never reside in my soul.

So, I walk on a spiritual tightrope.  On one side is a drop into unbelief that what I desire in my heart is impossible.  On the other side is the certainty that only what's in my heart is the goal in this present life.  Then there's the tightrope itself, inclined upward toward the platform in front of us.  We may not clearly see the goal on the platform, but we trust the rope to take us to the best result.

Whether it's soldiers in war or Christians depending on our Lord, let's focus on the rope and the platform ahead of us, not the drop on either side of the rope.  Because we're all on that tightrope. And let us not forget those whose faith included a dear price for our freedoms.

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