The Symbol of Marriage

For those blessed enough to live under a rock and never watch/read the news, the latest cultural skirmish is about a law on the books in Indiana that codifies religious freedom.  Supporters of those with ‘alternative sexual preferences’ fear that this law will allow for discrimination against this group of people.  The flashpoint for this harrumph was about a caterer refusing to work for a same-sex wedding.

With that as a backdrop… I read an interesting take on this from a secular source.  The author indicated that the caterer/restaurant in question was being hypocritical because they would not serve at this wedding but they would help out the same-sex marriage by providing food to the couple as they lived out their ‘married lives.’  The author says that the owner protests the symbols of gay marriage but help out the substance or marriage – the day-to-day living together that is married life.

It is amazing how much of God’s law is written on our hearts (Rom. 2:15).  The author is right – the wedding is a symbol of marriage.  I shiver involuntarily when I see a couple spend upwards of $50,000 to get married, yet fail to get any pre-marital counseling or anything else to help them meet the life that follows the ‘I do’, the wedding cake and the honeymoon.

But what we as Christians must know is this:  our marriages are also a symbol – a picture of Christ and His bride (Eph. 5).  Marriage is one of God’s witnesses to an unbelieving world about Himself.  Marriage spans all cultures and eras – a sign that can be clearly seen by all showing how God cares for His people.  Complitarianism – the idea that men and women are different in function but equal in value – is a key idea lost upon the world but is a sorely needed correction to the biases of today.

The battle for ‘same-sex’ marriage was lost by this culture when divorce (which God hates – Mal. 2) was freely available and socially acceptable.  I pray that the church stays true to the symbol and that all of us strive to preserve and care for what God has joined together.  Pray for your marriage and the marriage of others.  Seek to improve marriage as in institution and the individual marriages that you know.  Give grace when possible and give God glory at all times.  Finally – remember that the light will shine brighter as the backdrop gets darker.  (BTW - It will get darker - evens, come Lord Jesus...)

The Last Days?

Today, the feast of trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) continues for Jews all over the world as their new year. Aside from a time of celebration, Biblically the festival calls for contemplation and repentance in preparation for the Day of Atonement (as mentioned in the previous post). These Jewish festivals established by God Himself call Israel to recall God’s acts of faithfulness and remain steadfast in their commitment for God. As also mentioned in the former post, many of these feasts have fulfillment in Christ’s redemptive work. Furthermore, there are some who speculate that God’s future acts may revolve around the symbolism and timing found in these festivals. Jesus’ crucifixion occurred around Passover and His resurrection during the accompanying feast of unleavened bread. There are also those who speculate that Jesus’ Divine conception or actual birth occurred on the Feast of Tabernacles symbolizing Divinity tabernacling again with humanity. 

For similar reasons, there are some who speculate that Jesus’ rapture may occur around the Feast of Trumpets in light of the 1 Thessalonians 1:16 trumpet of God. While Jesus did say in Matthew 24:36 that no man knows the day or hour of Christ’s return, He did answer the disciples’ question with signs for the timing near His return. So, will Jesus someday rapture His church around the Feast of Trumpets? We have no way to know for sure. We simply know that His return is soon and we must therefore be ready at all times (Acts 1:11, Revelation 22:7)!

Regarding the times of the seasons and the imminent return of Christ, it is indeed interesting what is going on in our own world today.

Amidst all of the turmoil, unrest, and persecution, we also hear opinions about the timing of Jewish festivals and even some talking about signs in the skies like the tetrad blood moon events this year and next year.

Through all of this attention on the end times, what is to be the Christian’s response and focus?

First as foundational and foremost, we must always come back to the Scriptures for they are our bedrock source of truth. The following is simply an attempt to steer our minds that Word-centered direction…

The events of our day are increasingly troubling as we hear of atrocities committed against religious “minorities” on the other side of the world. It’s very easy for us to read of promised persecution in Scripture and somehow diminish it’s seriousness. It’s difficult for those of us, who live shielded from the realities of violent opposition in our “safe” American cocoon, to see the chaos unfolding on the other side of the globe as part of what Jesus promised would come (John 15:18-22; 16:1-4; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 10-15). It’s hard for us to realize that Hebrews 11:35-38 describes violent persecution that occurred with God’s people that is quite similar to what actually is happening in our own day. 

What then is to be our Biblical response to this ongoing persecution on the other side of the globe?

My mind is drawn to Matthew 24 where the disciples ask Jesus about the sign of His coming, and Jesus responds with the birth pain signs we read through the chapter. At the end of his answer, however, Jesus’ challenge for them is to stay awake and be ready (Matthew 24:41-44).

We may hear David’s anguishing heart for God’s deliverance from his enemies during his life as a fugitive from Saul and be motivated to pray for similar deliverance for those under persecution. Yet, we often don’t see physical deliverance from persecution. At the other end of the Scriptures, we read in Revelation 6:9-10 where the martyrs cry to God for vengeance saying, “How long, O Lord?”

So what can we as Christians living in these last days do?

Answer: We are to be about the very same things Jesus commanded us to live for… waging the war on His mission of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 28:18-20) and picturing this Gospel through our Christlike actions (Ephesians 2:10, 3:10). This is seen largely in Ephesians 4 where Paul challenges the Ephesian church with it’s calling, which was for those spiritually gifted with teaching roles within the church to equip the rest of the church to do the work of God’s ministry all with the goal of seeing all of Christ’s followers mature into being like Jesus. Thus, our lives are to be about worshipping God, actively submitting to His equipping of us through the church, and then being the church on mission together as we proclaim and exemplify the Gospel to a hurting, sin-wrecked world. 

In Philippians, Paul’s words to the concerned church in Philippi drip with his perspective of suffering for Christ. Writing literally from prison, Paul encourages the believers to be encouraged that Paul views the Gospel immensely worthy of suffering, for he was suffering for Christ’s sake (Philippians 1:29-30). Earlier in chapter 1 Paul shared his eternal perspective that must have been greatly frustrating for his opponents. If the opposition allowed Paul to live, that was for Christ as he still proclaimed the Gospel. If the opposition put him in prison, he still sang praise to God and shared Jesus with those in prison. If the opposition decided to kill him, Paul said that was great gain for He would then be with Christ in heaven (Philippians 1:21)!  

Literally, for us as the church today, if we live, it is for Christ and if we die, it is eternal gain for we too will be with Christ. This is a difficult perspective to sometimes maintain, as our world subtly chips away at it with the gods of comfort, apathy, acceptance, tolerance, and ultimately tragic deception. May our supreme cry of our lives, the very heartbeat of our hearts, resonate loudly with Paul’s in Philippians 3:7-11… that we actively engage in Christ’s purposes all for His glory, which will bring persecution worthy of the redemption purchased at Calvary!

We read from Ephesians 6 that this indeed is a spiritual battle that we must actively engage through the Spirit’s power every day. Never do you find in Scripture the idea that we are to run from opposition that comes from faithfulness to Christ’s mission. We do, however, have promises that opposition will indeed come, especially in the last days.

Regardless of the next opinion of when Christ may return, we must keep our responsibility constant before us. As we continue to see the birth pain signs from Matthew 24 become a reality in our own day and the days ahead, we have two choices with our lives. We can plod forward in complete apathy, numb from the brevity of our calling in life. Or… We can engage in the mission as Jesus’ church and advance through the darkness of this sin-wrecked world in the power of the Spirit, proclaiming the message of Jesus’ redemption, and bringing glory to the Father. 

Engage in our study of Scripture. Engage in our communion with God through prayer. Engage in our pursuit of holiness. Engage in our Gospel-centered, self-sacrificing marriages and parenting. Engage in our raising up successive generations as committed disciples of Jesus. Engage in our Biblically redeemed calling to be men and women according to God’s design. Engage in our submission to living each day in the Spirit and thereby producing the fruit of the Spirit as characteristic of our lives. Engage in our passion to share the Gospel with those God places in our path. Engage in our responsibility of using our own spiritual gifting to intentionally make disciples. Engage in our calling to be committed to the local church. Engage in our calling to intentionally allow ourselves to enter into authentic relationships of discipleship community. Engage in our passion to picture the Gospel through our outreach with the downtrodden and poor.

You get the idea… engage in living as Christ did, all flowing from your worship of Him! We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)!

Finally, as we see Biblical signs (like intensified suffering) become realities in our own day, may we allow them to have the impact Jesus challenged in Matthew 24 of keeping us awake and ready, fully engaged on His mission for us as His church! If you want to put words to the confidence we have going forward amidst intense opposition and trial, read Paul in Romans 8:18-39 or 2 Corinthians 4:8-18!

 

- Derek

Rosh Hashanah - Feast of Trumpets

This season of the year is very important for Jews around the world. Tonight (Wednesday) at sundown marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, or Feast of Trumpets. This time from tonight until sundown Friday traditionally according to Scripture was ordained by God in Leviticus 23 as the Jewish New Year and a time of repentance leading up to the Day of Atonement (10 days following when the high priest would offer the annual sacrifice before God in the Holy of Holies). Originally, God only required a one day observance (the first day of the new year). Time and added traditions have turned the festival into a two-day observance. The trumpets would blast throughout the land this day vividly reminding each Jew that the day of sacrifice soon approached and they stood in need of contemplation and repentance.

Additionally, this Jewish year marks the seventh year for the sabbath land requirement. Rosh Hashanah this year will mark this seventh year, where abiding Jews will cease their normal agricultural activity for 1 year. According to Exodus 23:10 and Deuteronomy 15:1-4 this seventh year provided needed food for the poor. 

Day of Atonement (or Yom Kippur) occurs this year on the evening of October 3 for one day. The significance of this great day of Old Testament sacrifice of course has been fulfilled in Christ at the empty cross. 

Following this day, the Jews’ Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles/Booths occurs from the evening of October 8 through October 15 again according to Leviticus 23. Tabernacles recalls God’s tabernacling among His people and His guidance/provision/protection of Israel in the wilderness journey to the promised land. The significance of this is enhanced when we learn of God’s presence departing the temple in Ezekiel’s day and then returning as Emmanuel, God with us, as Jesus comes to earth.

Tragically, many Jews today fail to see the fulfillment of these feasts in Jesus the Christ (Messiah)! Those of us who follow Jesus, may we study the Word diligently and be equipped to point others to the harmony of the Scriptures from the Old Testament to the New Testament to today and for the future! 

Furthermore, there are Messianic Jews today who still choose to celebrate these Leviticus 23 feasts in light of Christ’s fulfillment. Whether you have ever participated in one of these Christ-centered celebration of these feasts or not, a study into their significance amplifies the richness of God’s Word and His glorious purpose for mankind! Maybe a familiarizing of their Scriptural significance would be fruitful for you?

Each time we hear of these feasts celebrated by Jews today, may we recall God’s faithful acts among His people in the past as well as His graceful and masterful act through Christ at the empty cross!

More thoughts on these Biblical feasts, end time events, and our responsibility in light of it all to come in the next post...

 

Derek

What is Truth?

On December 19th President Obama addressed the Nation concerning gun control in the wake of the horrible events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and 6 adults were murdered.  In his prepared speech he stated that any actions should begin “inside the home and inside our hearts.”  He is correct.  Which makes one wonder, what has changed inside our homes and inside our hearts?  It appears that many no longer obtain the common sense to know that it’s wrong to murder.  Have we lost the ability to raise our children to know good from evil?  For dads to be actively involved in their children's lives, to correct them in child rearing regardless if they are sane or mentally ill?  For us to come alongside parents who have mentally ill children and seek to help them and pray for them?  Our Nation is forgetting what is good and what is evil.  Some of us are old enough to remember a Nation that understood absolute truth.  Tragically, many people have swallowed the "truth is relative" pill and today's culture is the product of that result.  These shooters are making up their own "truth," and why not?  Truth is relative to each person right?  I really don't think most of these people realize that absolute Biblical values within this country have restrained much evil over the years. 

In regards to access to guns, people who are intent on evil do not care how they access a gun, stolen, bought, borrowed, it doesn't matter.  They will obtain them however they want, even if laws make it a little harder, or our Second Amendment right is totally stripped away.  Nor do they even need a gun to do evil.  A man shot and killed 2 people in a Wyoming college two weeks ago with a high-powered bow and arrow.  If people start using those as their choice of weapon will we take those away too? Others have used bombs and various other methods.  I am not saying that some laws or practical limitations on weapons are fruitless, but I also do not believe they are the total solution.  It starts in the heart and the home.  We live in a godless society, and as Christians we need to be doing it better.  Our job is to reclaim the importance of Biblical truth and teach it and practice it in this troubled Nation.  To share the love of Jesus Christ with unrepentant sinners.   We need to be an influence, not passive.  Parents, our homes need to be the place where children are taught what the 10 commandments mean, “you shall not murder.”  On a grander scale, we all need to repent of our sins, humble ourselves, and turn back to God.  He is the only fix to this mess we call our temporary home… the United States of America.

 

Pastor Todd

Evil shows that God is

Evil shows that God is

This post deals with mature topics. 

I have been following the trial of Jerry Sandusky with more interest than most people in the area. (He was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse of minors – the details are unpleasant and are not helpful in this context)  Some of that has to do with the fact that the trial took place in Pennsylvania, near my aunt’s house.  Some of that has to do with the nature of Mr. Sandusky – he and Joe Paterno were minor demigods in the area where I grew up.  If they were at a football game, scouting players for Penn State football, it was a big deal.

To see the details from the trial was sickening.  Further details that came out after the trial about Mr. Sandusky’s relationship with his adopted children were even more sickening.  The man will spend the rest of his life behind bars, which is good but will not heal the victims.  He will have to answer to his Maker – I pray that Mr. Sandusky knows Christ and that his sins were paid for on the Cross of Calvary.

An interesting sidelight, however, has been the (justifiable IMO) moral outrage over the crimes that Mr. Sandusky committed.  People know that a wrong was done (BTW – so did Mr. Sandusky – why else did he commit his crimes alone in the basement or in the showers after hours? John 3:19).  There has been much outrage over the crimes and why no one did anything.  The question I am asking is – why?

Why are people who believe in moral relativism so upset?  Those who say that we make our own right and wrong are angered over Mr. Sandusky’s choices of right and wrong.  I believe that their anger comes from the imprint of God on their heart (Romans 2:14-15).  There is a right and wrong.  We know that.  We did not makes it – we live by it and when we see gross actions that violate this sense of right and wrong, we get angry.

Where does this sense of right and wrong come from?  God.  Where does this anger come from?  God.  The same anger that burns against this sin burns in the heart of God against all sin – were it not so, He would not be a good and just God.  Evil has been defined as the absence of good and of God.  The fact that evil is – and our passionate reaction to evil – shows us that God is.

Urgent Need for This Hope

Bretheren - what a great opportunity for This Hope's home church to be a blessing!  Sunday Morning (11/20/11), we'll be taking a love offering to help our boys stay on the road.  Let's give them an extra blessing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season!  Pastor John

Greetings from THIS HOPE.  We wanted to let you know about an urgent financial need.  We just learned that we have to replace the entire engine in our bus at a cost of $40,000.  In the past, we have been able to absorb unforeseen expenses like this, but we are not able to cover this cost at the present time.  We are praying in faith that the Lord will provide the needed funds for us to purchase a new engine, and even put us in a more solid financial position to begin the new year. 

We're sharing this need with you for two reasons.  First, we ask that you would join with us in bringing this before the Lord in prayer.  Above everything else, we want the Lord's will to be clearly demonstrated, and His glory to be magnified in this situation.  While this expense has the very real potential to bring our traveling concert ministry to it's conclusion, we also don't want to miss out on how He might provide beyond all that we could ask or imagine.  

With that in mind, we are also asking that you would prayerfully consider how you might be able to help us.  We don't want anyone to take away from their existing financial commitments to the local church or any other Christian ministry.  We're asking that you seek the Lord's face, and consider how He might direct you to help us continue moving forward.  If the Lord guides you to participate in this need, you can make out a check payable to THIS HOPE, and send it to the address listed below.  We also have a secure online webpage where donations can be given via debit or credit card:   http://www.thishope.org/support.php 


THIS HOPE is incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Your gifts are tax-deductible.

There will be a 6-8 week turn-around time for the engine replacement which will start whenever we are able to place an order for the new engine at an initial cost of $20,000.  We will be traveling in a 15-passenger van until the bus is fixed, so please pray that the Lord will keep us physically strong and healthy during this grueling season.  We currently have 21 concerts scheduled over 22 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas day.  Due to the change in our transportation, we've had to modify our travel plans, and adjust concerts in order to effectively minister throughout this time.

Thanks for your faithful support over the years.  We look forward to see how God will direct in the days to come.

Mailing Address:

This Hope
1061 Deer Hollow Dr
Woodstock, GA  30189


www.thishope.org

Halloween?

Halloween: What’s a Christian to Do?

by John Rysdyk

            The contemporary Christian often finds Halloween an uncomfortable topic.  Some want to blackball it all together because of the evil often associated with it, while others are reluctant to give up what is still a cherished childhood memory.  How should a Christian respond to this holiday known as Halloween?

            If we are to come to a conviction on the issue, some history of this particular day is needful.  It may surprise you that the celebration we know today as Halloween is actually a combination of pagan, Christian, and civil traditions.  Yet, the truth is, I could say that of almost every holiday.

            The beginnings of Halloween go back more than two thousand years.  A people called the Celts lived in what are now Ireland, Great Britain, and France.  Among the Celtic people was an elite intellectual class known as the Druids, who served as religious priests, judges, lawmakers, and scientists.  They celebrated a number of elaborate pagan religious festivals.  Chief among these was the Fire Festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-een) observed at harvest time to mark the Celtic New Year.

            The Celts believed that on this night the barrier between the natural world and the supernatural was removed, and the spirits of the dead were able to move freely among human beings.  On this night it was believed that Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans who could only escape by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves.

            In response to this pagan ritual and tradition, the church decided to offer and alternative and they invited people to celebrate Halloween.  Chrysostom tells us that as early as the fourth century, the Eastern Church celebrated a May festival that honored believers who had died.  This festival became known as “All Saints Day” or “All Hallows Day.” The night before the celebration was commonly referred to as “All Hallows Eve” or “Halloween.” On that night, the church gathered for a sacred time of worship, prayer, and testimony.  In 835 AD the church moved this day of celebration to November 1st, in order to replace the observance of Samhain.  They believed that this was a unique opportunity to declare how the Lord God can truly change one’s life.  So while the neighbors were fearfully dodging the evil spirits sent by Samhain, Christians were rejoicing in their rich heritage, a heritage that proclaimed that Christ had conquered both evil and death.  Let’s remember that our celebrations of victory in Christ are always set against the dark background of the overwhelming evil that made the cross necessary.

            Now, although pagan and church history adds light to our understanding, there are still some traditions in the U.S. that seem unique to this holiday, especially that of “trick-or-treating.”  This custom is thoroughly American in origin.  In the traditions of North America, Halloween had become an occasion for pranks and mischief.  Vandals would wander through the night, soaping windows, overturning outhouses, and pulling gates from their hinges.  These pranks were playfully said to be the work of witches and ghosts, but by the 1920’s the joke wasn’t funny anymore.  To counteract Halloween vandalism, community clubs like the Boy Scouts began to organize alternatives that were safe and fun.  Children were encouraged to go door-to-door and receive treats from homeowners and merchants, in hopes that the mere presence of so many people out in the streets would keep the troublemakers away. By the 1930s, the practice was popular nationwide and young voices crying, “Trick or treat!” were echoing through neighborhood streets.  In this way, a combination of pagan, Christian, and civic elements formed the Halloween celebration we know today.

            So in light of all this information, it is time to come back to our initial question: How should a Christian respond to this holiday known as Halloween? It is my personal opinion that the ancient Christians thought out their strategy quite well.  “All Hallow’s Eve” can be a ripe time of communicating Christ’s power over death and evil.  In fact, I think it’s quite interesting that the Reformation began on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.  It was his proclamation to the Catholic Church that salvation was by faith in Christ alone and that the Scriptures, not popes and councils, are the standard for Christian faith and behavior.

            In my opinion, October 31, is a day Christians can and should celebrate.  Maybe as one church in Fairfax Virginia does, we should also have an “All Saints Party” for children with costumes of Bible Characters and heroes of the faith.  I’ve heard of other churches having Reformation parties.  Children need to learn their Christian heritage and Halloween may be great day to do that!

            Why allow Halloween to be a pagan holiday in commemoration for the powers of darkness? Why not instead fill the church with light and celebrate the victory of Jesus over darkness? Let’s make it a day that we celebrate our salvation through faith in Christ alone and honor the godly saints who lived before us and gave us faithful examples to follow.

 

 

Wild at Heart – NOT

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.  Titus 2:1

Here at the Bible Chapel, we take these words of Paul seriously.  We want to make sure that what we teach the congregation is sound – that we teach what the Lord reveals to all of mankind through His Word.  We don’t want to teach our people our thoughts, our opinions, what sounds good – instead, we want to teach the truth!

Unfortunately, Wild at Heart is a book that does not ‘accord with sound doctrine’.  Frankly, much of it is a mixture of “psychobabble, blockbuster movie plots and open theism.”  Pastor Jim found these reviews of this book to share with SBC.

We want you to know this because a new book by the same author is coming out. Initial reviews show that this new book – Beautiful Outlaws – is just more of the same.  There are groups in the area currently studying both books.  While I don’t question the motives of the author or those who support/study these books, a quick glance will show that these tomes are not in ‘accord with sound doctrine.’  Please be kind but cautious here. 

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. Acts 20:28