Thursday, May 31, 2012

Christian First, Missionary Second

One thing that has helped me over the years is having the right perspective about who I am.  My identity first and foremost is who I am in Christ, I am a Christian.  After my identity as a child of God comes the plan God has for my life; because I am His child I go to Him to see what it is He wants me to do.  However, if I get these two things mixed up I might have some problems.
As someone who lives and works for God in a country that is not their country of origin I am usually referred to as a missionary.  As I wrote about in a previous blog, the word missionary is used to identify people who actually do many different things but generally a missionary is someone who lives in a country they do not originate from.  No matter what work a missionary may do, or what anyone might do for that matter, our work does not define us.  And no matter where we live, our location does not define us; it is our relationship to God that matters.
One problem that missionaries have had in the past is that rather than go to evangelize and teach others, missionaries have gone to countries and worked more to change customs and culture than they have to promote God and His Word.  When living in another country where things may be different than what we are used to it can be tempting to only focus on trying to make others like us and not to make them disciples like Jesus talked about in Matthew 28:18-20.  This focusing on changing customs and culture without changing people normally ends in failure and frustration.
Many missionaries, spiritual leaders, and other people working for God get "burned out" because they are focusing on the wrong things.  Too often people are missionaries first and Christians second or even, Americans first and Christians second.  While I am very thankful for the work God has called me to and I certainly do appreciate my country of origin, my plan is to focus first of all on being a Christian and to let everything else come into line after that.  In my view that is the way to be successful as a missionary or in anything else we might do for God.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Were The "Good Old Days" Really That Good?

"Do not say, Why were the old days better than these? For it is not wise or because of wisdom that you ask this."
Ecclesiastics 7:10 (Amplified)

In the Old Testament we read about God delivering Israel from bondage in Egypt.  The people of Israel were in "oppression" in Egypt (Exodus 3:7), they were "mistreated and afflicted" by the Egyptians (Deuteronomy 26:6), and there was even a time when the Pharaoh commanded the people of Israel to kill all of their baby boys (Exodus 1:16).  If you continue reading the story about Israel being delivered and their journey towards the land God promised them you see something very strange happening, the people of Israel started saying that they wished they were back in Egypt!  Over and over again when Israel ran into a problem in their present situation they said they would have been better off in Egypt.

What happened with Israel in the Old Testament sounds a bit crazy, people talking about going back into slavery just because things get difficult.  But what the Israelites did is the same thing that happens today when people talk about "The Good Old Days" and how wonderful things were in the past.   When we face a problem in life and things are difficult it is easy to look back to the past and think that everything was better back then.  If we are looking back to some time or situation in the past and believing that it was so much better than what we have now we are falling prey to deception. 

In Philippians 3:13, 14 Paul talked about forgetting the past and moving forward to the goal God has for us.  If you really take an objective look back, the "Good Old Days" were really not always as good as we remember.  If we stop or slow down to take a look behind us we will delay our process of moving forward and even create more problems for ourselves.  We need to stop being deceived by romantic views of the past and move forward in our life. God has a plan and a purpose for us and it is not found in the past but in our future!