Oh man, I am so excited to see where the Lord is going to be leading my pastor and my church. Last year, my husband and I were seriously praying about finding a different church. We were struggling with the fact that we were not growing there. Now, it's easy to jump down a pastor's throat and blame him for one's own lack of spiritual growth. And we talked often about our own lives and whether we were doing our own part to grow spiritually. But, we are heavily involved in the children's ministry at the church, so leaving is a big deal. And, we were not willing to force the issue. We just talked about it and prayed about it and watched to see if the Lord would lead us to another church.
Not only were we not growing, but the church overall was not growing. I really think that the pastor's job is to expound on the Word in such a way that he sends you home hungry, passionately, for more of the Word. Of course, it's not a pastor's fault if one is not hungry. But I believe that is the overall duty of a pastor. And we just weren't getting that. We talked to others, some agreed, some found his messages to be riveting and they actually did go home and get into the Word. So we began to think it was us, and maybe the Holy Spirit was cutting ties so he could lead us elsewhere.
I had my own personal 'conversion' to a more Lord-ship salvation/election-oriented personal system of beliefs and I wondered if that was where the Lord was going to lead us. To a pastor and a church that believes that. I'd love that!
This past spring, I called my mom and was basically complaining about it all. And I asked her to pray for us, for wisdom and guidance. And I told her about how we just want to sit under preaching that pushes us to get into the Word more. To get meat and not just milk, both on our own, and in service. We also really were struggling with the worship-it was so 'put on' we felt, and repetitious with the worship songs, but all milk and no meat. We also really were struggling with the NIV version and wanted to study the ESV more. I shared all of this with my mom, sitting on the front steps, while the kids rode their bikes out front.
De ja vue. Weird stuff. Only a few months later, sitting on the front steps, watching the kids play outside, I called my mom again. Probably no calls in between-I'm a bad daughter. And started animatedly telling her about the changes my pastor said were going to be taking place in his sermons over the next few months. The exact things I had told her about in the last conversation! He felt he was not doing his duty, but that was going to change. He wanted us to not only hear the Word on Sundays, but to go home desperately wanting to learn more on our own. He felt we needed more meat on Sundays and less milk. He wanted to change to the ESV, since the new NIV had some serious issues and the old one was no longer being printed. Even the worship songs began to be more balanced. It was soo crazy! Drew and I were pretty excited when he said that. And we hoped that this was the Lord's leading us to stick around a little longer at least.
Well, that was this summer and nearly 6 months have passed since. And I must say, we have not been disappointed. Well, we never care for the speakers in the summer, as it's 'summer conference' and we get all the Dallas Theological guys in to speak. :) But, Pastor Minema started a series on Hebrews, and it has gotten better over the last few months. More meat, which somehow still leads to more application-at a heart level I guess. My pastor's enthusiasm for the Word is contagious, just as it ought to be. See, even preaching is TJE style! Lead, not teach. :) It's the way humans are wired man, you can't argue with it!
A few weeks ago, my pastor preached a message that I have mediated on a lot. It was about how we are to be eagerly awaiting the coming of Christ-our bridegroom. In order to give it more significance, he went over, in detail, the marriage customs of Jesus' day. I've heard over and over again, that we are to be ready and waiting. But hearing the customs really helped to clarify it for me and to get me even more eager about his return!
He told how a man would go to the household of a woman (often as young as 12, and the man was considerably older-skeevy for us today, but then it was normal) whom he wanted to marry. He would bring 3 cups and some wine along, and he would make his offer to the woman/girl's father. If he was accepted, he would pour the wine into a cup for himself and the father. But, the girl also (generally) had to agree. And if she did not agree, she would take the 3rd cup and turn it upside down. But, if she agreed, then she would take some of the wine and pour it into her cup, and they would all drink together. It was called a betrothal, and it was as permanent as marriage, and if broken, it was necessary for a divorce to complete it.
Generally, at that point, the man would return to his own house and prepare for his coming bride. Usually he lived with his father and built a room onto his father's house. Again, ugh, but such was the times. He would make sure he had enough livestock to feed her and their sure-to-be-family. And do whatever else was necessary to prepare. Apparently it was not unusual for this betrothal period to last a whole year. I can't imagine! But the woman knew that at any time, her man would show up with his friends and family, and take her, in a big party, to be his forever bride. And she spent that time preparing herself for becoming a bride and mother (probably eating tons of fish and egg yolks).
When the man was ready, he would gather a procession and walk to his bride's house, with trumpets and songs, and calling 'I am coming my bride' and she was sure to hear it from a long ways off. When he came, she would be standing in the door, all dolled up and ready for her new position in life. He would carry her home and there would be a feast of I think, 7 days. Wow, he had to prepare for months just for that!
The obvious analogy here is that Christ came to us and asked us to be his bride. If we said yes, and drank of the cup (communion), then we entered into an agreement with Him, that we would keep ourselves pure, and that we would be ready at all times, for him to come and take us to be his forever bride.
He will come back someday. And all he has asked us to do in the meantime, is to prepare ourselves, so we can be the best bride ever, to him, for eternity. And we're not talking about marrying somebody who is a sinner with needs and baggage. We are talking about the Creator God, the Word, life and love itself. He wants to be with us forever! It's pretty amazing!
So... are we ready? Are we waiting, expecting him every minute? Will we be ready when the trumpet sounds? Or will he find us 'in bed with another man'? It's so easy to get caught up in the world. In some ways, it's necessary to live in it. But yet, God expects us to be ready when he comes. He expects us to be as excited as a bride, biding the time, waiting for her betrothed to come and consummate his promise to her, to take care of her until death do them part.
For some reason, the details made it more tangible for me. And i find myself thinking with almost a giddiness, about the fact that I am in this waiting period, knowing that at any moment, my beloved will return to take me home. Heaven. Glory. To sing Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord Almighty' with the angels, and the dolphins and the stars, forever....
Even so, come Lord Jesus!