Sunday, August 28, 2005

Here Comes the Bride

We had one of those services where God was just all over this place today. It began during our Praise & Worship time. Our first chorus was Soon and Very Soon (we're going to see the King) and that was followed by What A Day That Will Be (when my Jesus I shall see. When I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace. He will take me by the hand and lead me through the Promised Land. What a day, glorious day that will be).

As we started our third song, He Is Exalted, you could begin to sense that sweet presence of the Holy Spirit as He began stirring peoples' hearts as they worshipped. This portion of the service drew to a close with Open Our Eyes, Lord (we want to see Jesus). This flowed into the special music which happened to be my daughter, Hannah, singing a Ray Boltz song entitled "Thank You."

The entire singing took over 40 minutes as He was lifted up, as He was glorified, and as He was praised.

The message was entitled You Are Cordially Invited. This was based on Revelation 19:6-10 as the Bride of Christ being called to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. I used the backdrop of a Jewish Wedding Ceremony to set the stage for the pictures and symbolism of the rapture.

THE CHOOSING OF THE BRIDE (John 15:16)

A young Jewish man chooses a young woman to be his wife.

Jesus Christ came to seek and to save.

THE INVITATION TO THE FATHER'S HOUSE (John 14:2-3)

A marriage contract is presented that outlines to promises of the groom and the obligations of the wife. If she agrees to accept this contract then it becomes an official espousal which means they are legally married but they have not yet consummated the union. Once she agrees she receives a gift(s) as an outward symbol of her beloved's intention.

The husband then tells her, "I go to prepare a place for you." The couple is then separated as he and his father prepare them a home.

THE CHOSEN BRIDE IS THEN SANCTIFIED AND SEPARATED (Matthew 25:1)

She knows not when her groom will come but she is to keep herself pure and ready for his return. At this point she wears a veil to signify to all others who see her that she is not available. This was a visible witness.

We, as the Bride of Christ, need to be ready (lamps trimmed and burning) and set apart. People should to look at us and see that we belong to another... to Christ.

THE GROOM RETURNS FOR HIS BRIDE (Matthew 25:13)

He comes and he calls her unto himself.

Christ will come and call us unto Himself.

THE CEREMONY OF THE WEDDING (Psalm 27:5 and Isaiah 26:20-21)

The Groom awaits on the altar under a Chuppa (canopy). This represents the Cloud of Glory of God who was their protection by day and led them as a pillar of fire by night. It also represents the Bridal Chamber that sets the couple apart from everyone else.

The Bride is carried into the ceremony. She is lifted up onto the altar to her awaiting groom under the Chuppa. This is a picture of the Holy Spirit carrying us up and out (Rapture) to meet the Lord.

THE INVITATION

First, everyone needs a wedding garment (Matt 22) ... 4 people saved today

Second, is the Bride ready? Have we kept ourselves faithful and pure?

We invited people to come and repent and pray on the platform under the Chuppa as a symbolic gesture of understanding that we are HIS Bride and we need to keep ourselves consecrated for Him and His imminate return. By the way, people came forward as the instrumentalists played the Wedding March!

People are still crying, shouting, and rejoicing over what became a powerfully moving experience.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Israel ... God's Chosen People



There is a dangerous doctrine being spread in our churches today called REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY that basically teaches that the church (Christians) have replaced Israel as God's chosen people.

Those of us who adhere to a biblical position that the Jews and the church are two separate and distinct entities are now being called CHRISTIAN ZIONISTS. Replacement proponents, also known as Covenant Theologians, are comparing us to the New Testament Messianic believers who attempted to mix Judaism with Christianity. This is simply not the case. We are taking a stand on an historic fundamental position that God's covenant with Abraham and his descendants was literal and eternal.

Genesis 12-17 outlines the Abrahamic Covenant where God promised Abraham that his seed would be blessed and be God's chosen people.

When the Jews rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah the gospel was then given to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). This is not to say that we were an after thought and that the gospel was given to us as God's Plan B. It simply changed how it was presented to us. If the Jewish people had embraced Jesus Christ as their Messiah then those of us who are not Jewish would have been given provision to convert. Since they did reject Him the gospel was offered to us directly.

Galatians 3 teaches that we, the Christians, are now able to "share" in the Abrahamic Covenant but we DO NOT replace Israel. God is now working through the church but He is NOT finished with Israel. The Tribulation period (The Time of Jacob's Trouble) is their opportunity for redemption and reconciliation with their Savior, Jesus Christ.

Proponents of REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY base their belief on a misinterpretation of I Peter 2:9 "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people..." as being proof positive that the church are now God's chosen people. While we argee that as Christians we can apply this verse to ourselves we must ALSO remember the context of the message of the passage. According to I Peter 1:1 Peter was addressing the "strangers scattered" which were Messianic Jewish Believers who were scattered from their homes and their lives because of their new found faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, Peter was telling these converted Hebrews not to lose heart because they were still God's chosen generation. He wanted them to understand that they were not losing out by accepting Christ but they were gaining.

The argument is given today that the Jews who inhabit Israel now are apostate and secular. They have not kept the covenant. That is true, however, the whole point of Genesis 17 was the fact that God already knew from the beginning that they would not keep covenant BUT He chose them anyway!

It pictures our salvation. We don't work to keep ourselves saved. God does the saving and the keeping. It's ALL on Him. Hallelujah!

God's heart still cries out to Israel. He's a Father. Even when a child becomes rebellious and disobedient it may cause the father not to give his blessing or his favor or even his full help to that child BUT it does not change the fact that that child STILL belongs to that father and he still loves them. God loves His people. Yes, they need to accept to Jesus Christ as their Savior and without Him they will spend eternity in Hell but that doesn't mean that God doesn't still have a plan for them. They are STILL the apple of His eye!

"For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon theface of the earth." Deuteronomy 7:6

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Need A Rest?


If you are feeling tired, run down, and on the brink of burn out then let me pass on some helpful advice... DON'T GO ON VACATION.

This has been a rushed summer for me personally. We rushed to finish school and then rushed into VBS and then rushed off to a Youth Conference and then rushed back to host a southern gospel concert. In between those events there were two weddings to officiate, two graduation ceremonies to host, a youth director to interview - hire - and move here, and my wife has gone back into nursing two days a week. Did I mention we still have four kids, I coach tee ball two nights a week, and there are a (couple) of projects going on at church as well????

Thursday we rushed off for a two day vacation so we could "rest" and relax. We arrived at a six flags amusement park. Most of the day was spent consoling two of our younger children who were constantly being told there were too small to ride on the rides they wanted to go on. After seven hours of that fun we headed to our hotel and checked in. Down to the pool was our next stop. My wife slipped and fell but wasn't badly hurt as Iassisted her to pool side. The sign out front said "heated pool" but I haven't figured out what it was heated by other then perhaps a dump truck load of ice. We went back to our room and thawed out.

Following a minor argument among the siblings over who would sleep on the roll-a-way bed it was off to dream land and the muffled sound of 400 bikers roaring past our hotel every fifteen minutes. I hate hotel beds. I have never found one to be comfortable. Tossing and turning on my part allowed my wife to "feel" the realistic rumble of the bikers as they rolled along.

Next morning it was off to an All You Can Eat Breakfast Buffet at Howard Johnsons and then a tour of a British Fort from 1757. That was engaging and my kids loved the tour and the demonstrations of musket rifles and canons being fired. Ice cream on the boardwalk and an afternoon at the arcade then led us back to our hotel and the arctic wave pool. My daughter Hannah swam while Ira and Andrew tried out their Kentuckian Musket Rifles from the fort "we got 'cha if wanna leave" gift shop. Charity, my youngest daughter, was the selected target of prey for these two wilderness patriots.

We ventured out for a ride and then diner. Later in the evening it was tv back in the room with a delivery from Dominoes Pizza. We packed up early this morning, enjoyed breakfast with Ronald and his gang at the Golden Arches, and have now arrived back home where I am sifting through mail, email, and phone messages as my father-in-law finishes his surprise "I just wanted to take a look at your plumbing so there's no water until I put your house back together" greeting.

Now that the vacation is over I can rest.

Jesus taught by example the principle of going apart before you fall apart in scripture. There were times when He separated Himself from His disciples and the people. Why? Yes to pray and fellowship with the Lord but also to rest His mind and His emotions. You may not be able to go on a vacation this summer but you can rest.

1)

Make Time - just like going to work, eating, laundry, and etc... make time to rest.

2)

Separate - get alone even if it means sending everyone else away for a little while.

3)

Meditate - pray, praise, and worship.

4)

Rleax - do something you enjoy even it's only taking a nap or watching an old movie.

Just take a deep breath before your world comes crashing in and.... rest awhile. You can do it right now. Give it a try.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Golf & Grace



Several years ago I made an investment in a set of golf clubs when I was working as car salesman. One of the guys who worked in the auto prep department, that detailed the cars and got them ready for delivery, made custom golf clubs. He was ticked one afternoon when a customer of his decided NOT to buy the clubs he had worked for several weeks on. I had never played golf much before that other then borrowing some clubs on occassion and then hacking away on a par three course somewhere.

Most of the other salesmen played on a regular basis so I decided it was time I took up golf. I bought the clubs that consisted only of irons and no drivers.

I began to read GOLF Magazine and do some homework on what kind of bag to buy, which golf shoes where the best, what drivers to purchase, and so on. I jumped in with both feet. Soon I was spending one evening a week at the driving range and two days a week playing at local golf courses. I played everywhere from country clubs to municipal courses that never mowed the grass much less take care of the greens.

I wasn't a great player. In fact, I wasn't even a very good player but I enjoyed it. I stood wrong, held the clubs wrong, lifted my head, bent the arm that was supposed to be straight and staightened the arm that was supposed to be bent. There was one "old timer" I really loved to play with because he always encouraged me. Rather then always trying to fix me he would say things like, "shake it off, kid. The next hole is a new game."

My golf career was simply a hobby. I was not going to make the PGA tour nor was I threat to Tiger Woods' records.

After I became a pastor I had less time to play. One year I had a nationally known speaker and author come to speak at the church. As I was driving him the sixty minutes from the airport to the hotel he asked me if I played golf. I answered, "I play enough to be able to say I play golf." He suggested we play nine holes while he was in town. Sounded like a plan to me. Two days later we were on the first tee early in the morning. I took two practice swings as he prepared his clubs and gear. It was obvious he PLAYED. He told me had played semi-pro several years before and gave private lessons at home when he wasn't traveling and speaking. My heart sank. Instead of being excited to play with someone of this caliber I worried about foolish I was about to look. I didn't care he could help me.

I teed off. I was actually proud of well I did. With a confident smile I turned to face him. He looked at me and said, "Marty, don't people you play golf." Talk about being deflated. It wrecked my game, my day, and my love for golf. For six years I stayed away from golf. The clubs sat in a closet in my house. Occassionally my kids would ask what those "things" were.

Three weeks ago I was watching a classic episode of the Honeymooners with my family. It was the one where Norton taught Ralph to play golf. "Plant your feet firmly on the ground, address the ball 'Hello Ball' and swing..." Something started to stir inside of me. I went to the closet and got out those "things" that hadn't seen the light of day for six years. I went to Wal-Mart and bought some balls and turned my six acre backyard into a driving range. My two boys acted as ball retrievers. It was fun.

Last week I took one of the teens from my church out for a morning of golf. I actually did pretty good for not having played in over six years. What was the difference? Several things...

First... I wasn't under any pressure because of who I was playing against. Sometimes weaker Christians do not find it comforting that stronger Christians are there to help them. They find it intimidating to the point of wanting to quit. Afterall, "I will NEVER measure up to him and his walk."

Second... I was there to have fun. Christian living is not about me pleasing someone else. It's about me living a life that pleases Him.

Third... I remembered some wonderful advice. I was doing well until about the7th hole that had a water trap. That hole didn't go so well but I remembered what an old timer told me many years ago, "shake it off, kid. The next hole is new game." That's Grace! When we mess up, when we sin... God offers us another chance.... a new hole... a new game. His mercies are new EVERY MORNING. Each day is a new hole, a new game.

When you mess up in your walk just remember... it's not about living up to some professional Christians' expectation of you. It's about you being for God all that He desires you to be. Remember, He will never ask you to be something that you cannot be. Be the one God wants you to be and you will discover in His grace that you are more then you ever thought you were.

What an awesome thought. What an awesome GOD!