Ever ponder what Satan might personally be doing to you as enemy #1? I have. I mean, I know there are those weaknesses that we all have. Might as well put a K-Mart flashing light on top of them and loudspeakers around them because everyone else knows them too. But what about those things that we don’t see? What about those subtle things? What about the little things that keeps us from serving and glorifying God every day? What about distraction?
Here’s a quote from a man who cut a guy’s ear off in a passionate attempt to protect his King, and then late that same night denied he even knew this King…3 times. Peter says this in his first letter, 5:8, “Control yourselves. Be on your guard. Your enemy the devil is like a roaring lion. He prowls around looking for someone to chew up and swallow.” I think Peter knew a thing or two about how sneaky Satan can be and how weak we are in our flesh and bones.
So what might this prowling lion like to do with you? How could he take you down? How could he easily keep you busy or distracted so you don’t hear God well or see His direction? How could he, Satan, cause us to think we’re doing “good” things yet neglect the “better” things God wants us to do?
Distraction is huge! It doesn’t seem ‘evil’ does it? Sometimes we’re distracted with things that seem very worthy in our eyes. But remember, the devil doesn’t need us evil…he just needs us separated from our God.
Love-Serve-Spread the Word,
Could God have created a better ending? I don’t think so. In the beginning of this collection of books we have the words, “In the beginning God created…” At the end we read the invitation, “Come!” And in between we have tons of history, wisdom, explanation, direction, evidence, and instruction. We see a story, His story, about His plan for His people. Not all will choose to be His people…but the invitation is still given. “Come!”
At many points in our lives we have those ‘Ah Ha!’ moments when we realize something is true. John here, in Revelation 22, is coming to the end of the vision given to Him from above. He is about to give this book, this letter if you will, to the churches that he was instructed to give it to (see chapters 2 & 3). Something is near. Something is coming soon. The angel and the Spirit and Jesus say these phrases too many times for these readers to think this letter isn’t really for them but for believers way off in the future. The time for them is now. Ah Ha!
Jesus has given them constructive criticism. He’s given them instruction. He’s given them a road map about what’s going to happen soon, and then He ends with an invitation. He’s not saying that they will be kept from the bad things pointed out in the book…but those things are earthly…persecution coming from the rulers at hand. They are not of this world…John 15:19, Romans 12:2. We’re not either. We’re of another way and life if we’ve chosen Jesus.
So who is this invitation for in 22:17? Well, I think this sentence contains two invitations. What’s interesting here is that in the first half of 22:17, it states that the Spirit, the Bride (Jesus’ church) and those who hear all say “Come!” I think this is the invitation for Jesus to come back and do what He says will be done in the first part of this letter. In the timeline of the church at the point this vision is being given, the city of Jerusalem and the temple have not yet been destroyed. If you think through what we’ve read in this letter so far, we’ve seen the holy city of Jerusalem move to become a description of Jesus’ bride, the church. We’ve also seen the temple, where the Spirit dwells, move to a description of Jesus’ church as well. And the church at that point in time, in John’s vision from Christ, is calling for Jesus to “Come!” and finish the work of the old covenant and to bring in the new one where God’s words will be written on our hearts and minds (Jeremiah 31), where the church won’t be a place but a people (1 Corinthians 6), and when Jesus is the High priest and we are the priests beneath Him (1 Peter 2:5…notice the phrase ‘being built’). John’s vision saw all this as though it had come to pass. The destruction of the man made things had to take place so that the spirit made things could become evident.
This invitation is also for all those who wish to be a part of this new covenant…this new way of having a relationship with God. The second half of 22:17 says that any who want to have this living water can have it….”Let all those who are thirsty come…” This part of the invitation is for anyone this side of Heaven. At one point in time though, we will no longer have the time to respond.
The next logical move for God is to bring those who have responded to Heaven to spend eternity with Him. So our invitation to believe and follow ends with our last breath…and we don’t know when that will be. It could also end if God chooses to move to the next big change tomorrow.
Here’s what it comes down to. Have you responded? This might sound harsh, but as I read it, waiting to answer is really a “no” answer. Yes is the only way. Do I understand how all of this will fall out? Not a bit. But I know what I read…and there is an end.
I made a decision when I was younger. There’s been a few times when I’ve revisited that commitment and reaffirmed it. But the point at which I crossed over the bold line in the sand, I entered eternity. I started drinking the water of life at that point. Death to my body won’t be to me…only to my skin, bones and bald head. So what is your response?
If you’re reading this, you probably have some knowledge of God and Jesus. Now you know a little bit more. Maybe enough to make a decision…maybe enough to ask some more questions. Either way…I hope that you move toward that water (v. 17). I know many people are thirsty because they know there’s something more to life. Well I’m here to tell you there is. The lie is that this life on this planet is the end all. But it’s not. I can’t make the decision for you. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3 that we only plant a seed. God grows the seed in your life. I hope I planted something…let it grow. J
Love, Serve, Spread the Word,
I’m sure you’ve said the phrase, “I knew I shouldn’t have done that!” It’s usually after you’re laying on the floor beside the ladder with the sticker on the second to last step that states DO NOT CLIMB ABOVE THIS STEP. Or maybe it’s after that argument with a family member or coworker…just after those words flew out of your mouth while in your head you’re thinking ‘why am I saying this?’ Maybe it’s while you’re sitting on the side of the road with a car behind you…bright lights flashing…enough said. Maybe you’ve said, “I knew I should have done that!” instead. Like when you went to bed thinking I should go to the computer and pay that one bill … midnight passed and the creditor tacked on a late fee. Or you find out that one of your friends needed some help … and for some reason you didn’t call them when they were seriously on your mind the day before.
Present day situation. Did you hear of the man in Alabama who just before he drove off a cliff, texted this to a friend: “I need to quit texting, because I could die in a car accident.” Now the man is alive, but with a crushed face, broken neck and a fractured skull. He knew. He knew ….but still went ahead.
Revelation is an uplifting book to those who know they are in the hand of God. Yes, we may see tough times and persecution and there may be people against us…but in the end…we win! It’s already determined who the trophy goes to. Jesus. However, throughout the book Christ continues to tell the churches and individuals who have an ear to hear, to start following and obeying or to start again. They are without excuse. These readers, who are soon going to experience a situation where their very lives are a stake, are encouraged to not worry about their lives if they are following Christ.
In Revelation 22:10-16, we get the picture that John is kneeling before two figures. One – the angel who just told John not to bow to him (vs. 9). And Jesus, who is now going to speak…almost as in wrapping up the whole vision John’s been privileged to see. But, the point isn’t that John was just invited up to “see” what’s going on. The point is to have John see…and record…and deliver this message to a group of people. The message is simple too all of us and the readers in that age. Jesus wins. The message for those readers specifically was, there is trouble in the near future, but don’t worry.
But between the messages to those receiving churches and us today, we see a slightly bigger theme. Remember the man in Alabama? Knew he was in the danger zone when texting and driving. The message the angel and Jesus gives here is…you now know what you need to do. At the end, there is no second chance. For many in that time…the end was very near as Rome’s plans to annihilate Jerusalem, and the Christians with it in 70AD, were well underway. If they were killed then, and were a believer and follower of Jesus, they were safe even though they face physical death. They still would overcome this world. Today, when our last breath has been taken, it’s over. The man in the truck had the chance to stop texting because he knew the present dangers it presented. You know what you need to do with your relationship with Jesus. Make your move towards Jesus before there’s no more moves to be made.
Love-Serve-Spread the Word,
Christian Wedding Ceremony
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE:
You may be seated.
Family and Friends: We have come together in the presence of God to witness the joining together of this man and this woman in holy matrimony. This sacred relationship of marriage was established by God in creation.
The marriage of husband and wife is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given to one another in prosperity and adversity. Therefore, marriage is not to be entered into lightly, but soberly, deliberately, and in reverent fear before God.
Into this holy union, ________________ & ________________ now come to be joined.
Prayer – Lord please bless this day, the words and promises being said and bless ________________ and ________________ as they begin their new life together. Amen
DECLARATION OF CONSENT:
Groom: ________________, do you take this woman to be your wife; to live together in the holy covenant of marriage? To love her, comfort her, honor and keep her and to be faithful to only her for as long as you both shall live? If so, please answer, “I do.”
Bride: ________________, do you take this man to be your husband; to live together in the holy covenant of marriage? To love him, comfort him, honor and keep him and to be faithful only to him so long as you both shall live? If so, please answer, “I do.”
THE GIVING OF THE BRIDE:
To the bride’s father: Who is giving this woman to be married to this man? The bride’s father answers, “Her mother and I do.”
(Escort can hug/kiss ________________ and hand bride off to groom…and ________________ and ________________ will walk to center stage to face minister)
THE MARRIAGE VOWS:
(Bride hands flowers to first or second lady in her party. One of these two also will help straighten her gown if necessary. Bride and groom stand beside each other and will then move as cued … see next line … )
________________ and ________________, will you face each other and join hands, and repeat these vows after me?
Groom: I, ________________, take you, ________________ to be my wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death; as God is my witness, I give you my promise.
Bride: I, ________________, take you, ________________ to be my husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death; as God is my witness, I give you my promise.
READING OF SCRIPTURE:
(Bride and Groom continue to face each other while listening to this portion of scripture)
God’s word reveals what marriage is intended for. Paul , in Ephesians 5:21-31, chose to use the symbol of marriage to describe the church family and it’s relationship to Jesus.
Reading of Ephesians 5:21-33 with comments.
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.29 After all, people have never hated their own bodies, but they feed and care for them, just as Christ does the church—30 for we are members of his body.31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one …
This section of scripture begins with, ‘submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ As a husband and wife, you are asked to lift each other up, look to the needs of your spouse and to love and respect your spouse…in reverence before our King. When you not only focus on that first part…with the husband and wife…but the second part about Jesus, you realize that this isn’t just wisdom for a marriage that is long lasting through good and bad times, but it’s done because of our Creator and for Him.
We are made in very different ways, wired differently, and then when you place differences in personality and how you were raised and your own personal experiences, it can be tough to sort things out and make decisions about how to lift the other person up.
If you look at how we are to treat each other as Christians, and Jesus’ life example to us, you find that marriage isn’t a situation where each person gives 50% and meets in the middle. We’re asked to love the other 100%…even when it’s hard and outside of our comfort zone. In a second I will explain the reason for this even further.
Guys are known for doing things…and talking about jobs, careers, hunting, racing, fixing, protecting, and providing for. Wives are asked to respect them for the way God has wired them. In this way a wife can lift her husband up and help him feel needed for what he brings to the marriage.
The husband is asked to love his wife as Christ loved the church. Women are known for their ability to build and hold relationships. They are in touch with emotions and look for security and safety for her family. Guys are asked to love their wives in this way, to respect them for the way their Creator has wired them, to build them up and to help them feel needed for what they bring to the marriage. Jesus went to the cross and died for his church. Scripture asks that a man love his wife like that…and when he does, she will feel open enough to respect him the way that lifts him up.
This is very much a “love each other as you want to be loved, scenario.
Here’s the big picture. Many people get “married” by a signature on a certificate provided by the state. But a marriage before God is very different and has a much greater purpose.
How a husband and wife love each other, forgive each other, work through each other’s weaknesses and mistakes and sins, shows others how Jesus loves His bride, the church. It’s a living flesh and blood picture for the world to see. Marriage can very well be, for those who willingly take the challenge, a mission and ministry…for that is what it was created to be
The Word of God describes the kind of love we are to have, each for the other:
Reading of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
THE EXCHANGE OF RINGS:
Having this kind of love in your hearts, you have chosen to seal your vows by the giving and receiving of rings.
May I please have the rings? …
These rings are symbols of the love you are pledging yourselves to today. They are made in a circle which reminds us that perfect love, like God’s love, never ceases. And they are made of precious metal…reminding us that the unconditional love is often rare and often may be very costly.
________________ please take the ring you’re giving ________________ and repeat this promise after me…
________________ (repeat after minister) – I give you this ring, as a symbol of my vows and promise, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you.
________________ please take the ring that you’re giving ________________ and repeat this promise after me…
________________ (repeat after minister) – I give you this ring, as a symbol of my vows and promise, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you.
Through the time that ________________ and ________________ have known each other, they’ve exchanged cards and notes and letters. And as many couples have done, they’ve put them away as keepsakes. Last evening they both wrote a letter to their fiancé on the eve of their wedding. Now the other has not read what was penned, but on their first anniversary this box will be opened and they will go through their past notes and then read this new letter to the other.
________________ and ________________, you’ve chosen to remember Jesus in a very special way today. In the Bible, believers in Christ are invited into a very unique and deliberate act…the act of communion or the Lord ’s Supper. There’s a very simple reason Jesus asks us to do this. He knows that in our imperfect and sinful state, we’re going to forget about Him. With the kids that I help lead in worship each week, we take communion and I ask a simple question. How many of you remembered Jesus all of last week? No one raises their hand, because we often forget our Creator and our Savior. We forget about the one who can take us to eternity with God forever. How in the world could we forget about that? Well, we forget because …it’s pretty simple… we’re selfish. When Jesus was sitting at what we call His last supper He raised both the bread and juice and thanked His father for supplying them as food and drink…then asked to disciples to eat them with him to “remember.” We often read the phrase, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Today you’ve chosen to close this God given ceremony by remembering the reason we exist and the reason you have way to Heaven…through Jesus’ death on the cross.
________________ and ________________, as you take the bread, you remember Jesus’ body, which walked among us on this planet, was beaten and hung on a cross for your sake and then later came back to life defeating death. As you drink the juice, you remember that His blood, the Blood of the Lamb of God, wipes away the sin that separates you and God, so that you can again become close to Him from now into eternity.
(Bride and Groom walk forward to center stage facing crowd…We all pause while ladies in party return flowers to bride and straighten gown if necessary)
PRAYER FOR THE BRIDE AND GROOM:
Let us all go to the Lord in prayer. Lord we thank you so much for this day. We thank you for the love that we can see is shared between ________________ & ________________. We also thank much more for your love. I ask that you wrap your unconditional love around them.
Help them to lift each other up in this lifelong commitment. I ask that you encourage their family and friends to lift them up, and model for them healthy and Christ centered marriages and relationships. Bless this day to be just the first day of a marriage full of happiness, peace ministry, and most of all your love. It’s in your son’s name that we pray. Amen.
PRONOUNCEMENT OF MARRIAGE:
________________ and ________________, by the authority of the State of ______ and the infinitely higher authority of our God and Creator, I pronounce that you are husband and wife and ________________…you may kiss your bride.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s my pleasure to introduce to you Mr. and Mrs. ________________ ________________.