Friday, November 7, 2014

Remembering the Mission - Philippians 1.12-20

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. 

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