Sunday, December 21, 2014
Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember that it’s now the Christmas Season. Sure there are reminders that it is, with all the sales ads that we can see on TV or read in our email boxes. And the decorations help, too. Yet if it weren’t for these, would we know that it is this season?
A few blocks over from Madison Square Gardens, during the lighting of the tree, there was an officer involved shooting and a teen is dead. Of course, we can’t forget what has happened in St. Louis. That has been in the headlines too often. Not to mention all of the other unrest there seems to be. Amazingly, I didn’t see any trampling at a “Black Friday” sales event this year. But those are the economic woes, a lackluster year by some counts and others are still counting to see if it can be spun differently.
And God’s children wonder, “how long, O Lord, before our rest, before your return?” But times, they really aren’t any different from when the prophet spoke. A nation of God’s children were also having their woes. Isaiah was a prophet at the end of Israel and Judah as nations. Their leaders lead the people further away from God’s will, including the desecration of the Temple to appease the king of Assyria.
The God, the Almighty, our Heavenly Father gave him the words to record that we now know as the book of Isaiah. In it, the good news is revealed that God will send His Messiah to deliver all nations from the hopelessness of the times. He was to be one to remove our sins and our bent to sinning. He is our comfort, our salvation, and we know him as Jesus.
The world does, too, know him. Yet especially now, they only see a baby in a manger. Oh as a parent how I wish I could freeze time with my children as they continue to grow. Yet they are growing. As of Wednesday past, I officially became the parent of two preteens. Wednesday coming, my preschooler turns 5. They are ever growing. And so did Jesus.
Jesus came as a gift for us, to clothe us in righteousness so that we could approach the Creator of the Universe and call Him, Daddy. To be that gift, he grew. He lived and died and rose from the dead having sacrificed himself. Then he left his message, the good news, in the hands of a few. From there, we are now here today, nearly 2,000 years later, asking once again, “How long, O Lord?”
This is where Peter’s words of encouragement come. Let’s read our passage.
One of the problems that we have today is that we’ve forgotten our encounter. We’ve forgotten the grace of our salvation that the world so needs to hear. Instead of Jesus being someone we strive to follow, going to church has become the weekly activity. And society continues to worsen.
The promise he gave to his disciples was that he was going to go away for a spell, to prepare a place for them, and for us. Then after a while, he would return. Yet when is that while? For how long? God’s timetable is unfathomable. For Him, a 1000 years is nothing.
Mind you, this isn’t dealing with the creation recorded in Genesis. This is dealing with Christ and His return for us. And that return can happen at any moment. Be it now or in another 1,000 years.
Christmas then becomes a time that has a sense of urgency to it. The time is a short one. Come January 1, we stop thinking about the person of Jesus and instead ridicule the neighbor who’s lights are still up and going. So I see a double meaning for this time. We are closer to salvation
This is the time of opportunity. To share the Gospel.
“Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert. Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled; the uneven ground will become smooth and the rough places, a plain. And the glory of the Lord will appear, and all humanity together will see it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Monday, November 10, 2014
Friday, November 7, 2014
They're called, the Houston 5, or H5 for short. These are five pastors who may or may not have been vocal in their churches about the mayor's action to make public restrooms coed. Their sermons were demanded for review, their text messages, their emails as well as anything else that might mention homosexuality, coed bathrooms or the mayor herself.
Why this happened is interesting. After she declared bathrooms coed, she and the city's attorney were served with 50k signatures demanding that the people of Houston should decide if bathrooms were to become coed. 50k people against her? The signatures must have been forged. She rejects them despite city protocols. Of course the people who spent time collecting the signatures didn't appreciate their hard work being tossed, and their integrity being questioned. They filed a law suit.
So if there were really 50k people against her, then there has to be someone rallying the troops, perhaps these 5 pastors were deemed the most influential against her agenda. Now 5 pastors stared at court orders demanding everything that mentioned those 3 items. They were in a conundrum. What were they to do? They decided to fight the subpoenas.
At the same time, I wonder if they, and not just H5, but Christians across the nation had forgotten the primary mission of the church? Opportunities to share the gospel is something we ever need to be seeking, perhaps even creating. This morning, as we continue in our journey through Philippians, we'll look at 3 results that can happen as we carry out the mission. Let's read the text:
Before I point out these results, I will say something that will challenge every patriotic fiber each of us has, regardless of the label we claim. Now the primary mission of the American Christian is to share God's love and grace, or the good news of Jesus to those around us. Though our nation was founded on rights of the individual, rights aren't new to us. Paul had rights as a Roman citizen. Citizens usually have rights.
Ah but in America, we fought for them. We fought and fight for others. And there is nothing wrong with that. It's noble for a young citizen to sacrifice a few years or even his or her life for our nation. Yet at the end of the day, when option A is to hold on to those rights, or B to lay them aside and share the good news, then we need to lay aside those rights. Paul did as he founded this very church.
So the first result is that bad things may happen. Paul laid aside his rights when he was flogged and is now in chains heading off to see Nero.
In this cultural war, a term I take strong issue, we are being told to attend for our rights. We get downright ugly against someone who doesn't know Christ. We've forgotten that the Houston mayor isn't the real enemy. She's a pawn. Our enemy is the devil. Let me go further, in this culture of war, we tend to expect Christian behavior from both non Christians and corporations. We are too reach the nonuniform, but we teach and mentor one another. As for corporations? God didn't call them to behave as such. Jesus didn't die for Home Depot, nor Hobby Lobby. He died for you, me, our lost neighbor.
This war, anyway, started off with a photographer and a baker. It moved on to a family that opened up their ranch. Now a couple who run a wedding chapel, pastors they're called, are being sued. Next will be a church. And I can see it being in a small rural church, not too different from ours here in Bisbee.
Just as Paul did, are we prepared to lay aside our rights for the opportunity share the Gospel?
Not only does our laying aside our rights lead us to discomfort, but it may also encourage others. Paul states in verse 14 that others have gained confidence.
It's not to different from the whistle blower. Once a victim comes forward, other victims are encouraged to come forward. They do so because they're not alone. Just as Paul suffered, others gained confidence because they're not alone.
For now, a church standing to preach Christ alone, apart from political rhetoric, is rare, but we're not alone. There are many churches that refuse this battle so that they can reach lost souls.
Which brings up our last result. Others preach. Regardless of their motives, they are preaching. Perhaps it's from Catholics versus Protestants, but somewhere, though we vocally deny it, we can see other churches as competition. Perhaps it comes from the love of sports. But we are not competing.
We have, regardless of church label, the same mission, to reach lost souls for Christ. One time Jesus sent out his disciples to preach and prepare the community for his arrival. They came across others preaching about Jesus, well more doing miracles that they were doing in Jesus name as well. Well the disciples told them to stop. Jesus then said whoever isn't against us is for us. Basically we're on the same team.
Competition should enter our minds until more people are in Christ than are not. Unfortunately that's unlikely to happen.
This is why we are instead to pray for different eyes. Eyes that allow us to see the world ready to hear the good news. It won't be easy. It flies against everything I've been taught, and even lived.
Prayer is the first step. The second is to be in the word. This isn't our shield but also and primarily our sword. By the Word, we know how to love God, and to know that we should love our neighbor. And then there's fellowship. Through fellowship, we not only encourage one another, but also hold each other accountable, to living love and grace.
As you read, listen to the news this week, consider a different way we might handle the situation as we remember the mission.
Friday, June 27, 2014
Here is the truck that I drive. It is a 1994 Chevy Suburban Silverado. Back when I was selling cars, Silverado was Chevy's tag of quality (and still is).