When It’s Not About Others

The longer I live in this world and walk with the Lord, the stranger this world seems, and hopefully, the stranger I seem to this world. That is not a problem, that is by design – God’s design. 

This world is in constant reaction mode — responding to crisis after crisis. Politicians feel the need to respond to the latest media fed frenzy, and have press conferences and meetings in response to the issues of the day. 

There is a lot of talk of inclusiveness. From the world, it is the idea of globalization and the global community. For years we’ve heard terms like “one-world government” and “gobal partnership.”

In our churches, it takes a slightly different look or speech, but still, it is an attempt to erase, as much as possible, the boundaries that separate us so that there is less difference between us and the world we live in. 

These thoughts were somewhat prompted by listening to a recent, news-making press conference given by the newly elected president of the Philippines. I will not get into the politics of the nation, but something that seemed appalling to the media and many other “globalists” were his comments about how that if the United Nations did not like what he was doing, they (the Philippines) could just leave the U.N..   (Many of us have wished we had a president and congress in America bold enough to lead us to do that very thing.)

Here, however, seems to be the thinking of this nations’ new president, “The Filipino first.”

May I say, though I may not understand all of the politics here and would not want to advise on political matters, I do believe this man understands that he is elected to be the president of “the Philippines.”  Filipinos elected him and he is to serve the interests of the Philippines. 

“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” – 1 Timothy 5:8

Certainly, we want to get along with those around us. Certainly, we want to help those around us who are in need. Certainly, we want to be good neighbors and lend support where it is needed. Certainly, we want to be friendly and have and be an ally. But, those are secondary to meeting the needs of our own. 

Some may call it selfish to care for your own and not help someone else – I call it being responsible. God made me the husband of my wife. God made me the father of my children. God made me the pastor of International Baptist Church. 

None of that prohibits me from helping those outside of my family or church; in fact we are also instructed to love our neighbor. Yet, my first responsibility and responsibility above helping my neighbor, is meeting the needs of my own. My family, and then your family. My church, and then your church. 

If our faith does not bind us together so that we see ourselves as one body (family or church), then others do not see our faith as relevant.  If those who faithfully sit at our table are not being helped by those who sit at the same table – yet we help those who never show up at the table – we may think we are leading people to our faith — but the truth is, we’ve denied the faith. 

God takes care of His own. They are peculiar to Him. A people above all people – a people unto Himself. We must care for our own before we care for those who are not.  It doesn’t have to be one or the other – we can do both and wisdom dictates where we’ve done enough for our own so that we can and should begin helping or working with others. 

We are to have and give identity. Meaning, it should mean something to be added to the church.  Being an active church member does not mean the church owes you anything, but it should mean something.  Being a part of a family should mean something. People need to be part of something that is defined – distinct.  Let’s not lose our identity, otherwise, where do people go when they need something different than what they have?  When what they are doing is not working?  Let them see that we take care of our own. Let them see that our faith is real and binds us together. Let them see that our faith works, as God supplies our needs. 

We can’t help everybody, but let us start by taking care of our own. 

Oh, That Was Unexpected. 

I am not complaining, per se, but maybe just a little bit. But in all sincerity, I am “ok” with it.   Do you ever feel like you’ve done everything you were supposed to do, even anticipating what could be needed even though it is not stated, only to find out that it was not enough?

Welcome to the life of a missionary and working with a foreign government in order to remain a “guest” in their country. 

As a missionary, we have the privilege (tongue in cheek) of taking multiple trips each year to extend our visas – the permission to live and work in our host country.  This year, in fact at this moment, we are going through the process once again.  We’ve done this before, several times already. 

Each time we go through the process we do our best to remember what we had to do the previous time (things that were not necessarily spelled out in the instructions).  We over prepare, anticipating (because of experience) things we might be asked to produce such as extra photocopies of documents, etc. 

We approach the window with everything in hand, hoping that this year they will find everything in order, organized just the way they want it (like they reorganized it the year before) – nothing impresses them, in fact, if you were cynical you might think that they are not allowed to let you get it right the first time. 

This year has had some new caveats. And now I find myself at the airport, taking an unanticipated flight to Manila to care for something that as of last month can no longer be done in Cebu.  Last minute, my wife is overnighting documents just in case the scans I have are not sufficient.   Is it frustrating? Yes. Is it expensive? Yes. Am I having fun? No. Am I really complaining?  No.  To be honest, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and to have life interrupted in order to continue the life we are called to. 

I find it humorous actually. Maybe that is the secret, not to allow yourself to become so prideful that inconveniences ruin your day. To learn not to expect everything to line up for you, no matter how much you try. 

As I reflect on it, is it not the repeating story of history?  As we read the pages of the Bible, don’t we find twists and turns?  Isn’t that what makes books and movies so captivating to people?  Unexpected events keep the plot interesting. The excitement is in seeing how they work through it, overcome it, etc. 

Maybe if we viewed our lives as playing a leading role in a movie directed by God it wouldn’t bother us so much.  If we thought that history will provide the fans who will watch how we handled the circumstances of life and look forward to the next chapter. 

All I know is, for all of the “trouble” we’ve gone through, a whole lot of good has taken place!  Not sure what would have been different without the twists and turns, but I’m not sure I would want to change the script to find out.   All I know is that the story is not over yet. God is good and His story will have a happy ending.