Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Is A Missionary?

Although it may surprise some people, the word missionary is actually not in the Bible. The word missionary came into use in the early 1600s and the word means, a person who goes on a mission, especially a religious mission. The closest word in the Bible that could be used for what is known as a missionary would be the word apostle, which means someone who is a delegate or an ambassador, someone who is sent out. However, because the word apostle has often been misused in the church world I would not want to call myself an apostle. But the word missionary can be so vague and it sometimes gives the wrong impression.

When people think about a missionary they often think of someone who lives in a jungle or some other primitive conditions. While this can be true many people like me live in very modern cities in modern countries. So a missionary cannot be defined just by where or how they live.

Some people think missionaries are those who help the underprivileged get access to food and clean drinking water. This may be the case but not always. Some missionaries combine humanitarian work along with their spiritual work but this depends on the missionary and the work they are called to do. Some missionaries spend time translating the Bible into the language of the people they work with. That is not an issue in Germany; Martin Luther translated the Bible into German about 500 years ago.

Missionaries can be from any one of the five spiritual leadership offices listed in Ephesians 4 (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher) or even in the helps ministry. But to define a missionary as only being a pastor or evangelist would not be accurate. Sometimes I have difficulty explaining to people that while I am considered a missionary and that I use the term because people understand it, my real calling in the context of Ephesians 4 is that I am a teacher and teaching the Bible is what I am called to do.

So what is a missionary? A missionary is someone sent out and equipped by God. Missionaries live in a variety of places, under a variety of conditions, doing all kinds of work. While every Christian is not sent out to another country, every Christian is called and equipped by God for some "mission" so in one sense of the word everyone is called to be a missionary. Next time you meet or hear about a missionary in another country, find out exactly what God has called them to do; I am sure you will be happy you did.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

God And His Word Do Not Change, We Change

In 2 Kings 22 there is a story about King Josiah. King Josiah commissioned people to do some work in the temple and while these people were working they found a copy of the Book of the Law, which would have been the first five books of the Bible. When they read what was written to the king he had a dramatic reaction to what he heard. It says that King Josiah tore his clothes, which was a sign of his deep sorrow. King Josiah realized that he and the people had gotten away from the principles God had given them to live by. King Josiah made a positive change when he heard what God's Word said and King Josiah's change in turn affected the whole nation.

In Jeremiah 36 there is a story about another king, King Jehoiakim. God gave the prophet Jeremiah a message for the king with the intent that the king would repent and change his ways, which is what King Josiah had done. However, when King Jehoiakim heard the message God had given to Jeremiah and that Jeremiah had written on a scroll, the king took a knife and cut the scroll up and threw it into the fire! This is quite a different approach and attitude towards what God had said than King Josiah's. The end of those stories is that God blessed King Josiah but King Jehoiakim was taken captive and carried away to Babylon.

In James 1:21 we are told to receive the word with meekness, which means we need to come to God's Word with a sense of humility. There will be times in the life of every Christian when they see something in God's Word that is contrary to what they see in their own life. This is when we have the choice to be humble, put God's Word first and make a change; this is what King Josiah did. The opposite reaction is to try to ignore what we have learned or try to justify why we need to continue living the way we live; this what King Jehoiakim did.

There is one thing we can be very sure of; God and His Word do not change. God has given us His Word to show us the best way to live and to fulfill His will for our lives, if a change needs to take place that change will be with us. Sometimes our actions, attitudes, or beliefs needs to change to line up with what God's Word has to say. If we are wise we will be like King Josiah and make the change because the end result will be for our benefit.