Don’t Deride the Bride

wedding

PB and I have officiated over, participated in and paid for enough weddings in the last 29 years to be semi-experts. Over the years we’ve learned that it’s okay to poke fun at the groom, it’s permissible to kid around with the groomsmen, and you can even tease the bridesmaids (a little bit). But you never, ever, ever deride the bride.

Deride: (v.) make fun of; insult

Never. Why? Because she is the bride. Because her husband wouldn’t stand for it. Because she is the dearest thing in his life. Because if you diss the bride, you are automatically offending the groom and inviting his wrath.

ring

The church is the Bride of Christ.

He gave His life for Her.

I think we’d better be careful how we talk about His Bride.

The word “church” conjures up all kinds of emotions for people. Some have fond memories of early Sunday school flannelboard lessons and singing “The B-I-B-L-E”. Others have an indifferent attitude about what they consider to be a boring, outdated cultural institution. Many walk away from church and carry painful experiences with them.

The church is messy and imperfect.

It struggles to be relevant while maintaining its integrity.

Yet, the church is Christ’s Beloved.

Don’t deride the Bride.

“For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready.”
Revelation 19:7

Spinning

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” Luke 12:27

When my brother was in college, he rode his bike from Wisconsin to Texas. I’m not talking about a motorcycle here — I’m talking about a 10 speed bicycle. He and two buddies pedaled 970 miles in June of 1972 to attend a Christian conference for young, radical “Jesus people”.  It was worth it, though, because he came home with a great girl and married her six months later.

bike wheel

I don’t know much about long distance travel on a bicycle. My cycling experience is more like the monotony of pedaling a stationary exercise bike in the basement. I can pedal all the livelong day and never get anywhere.

That’s what worry looks like.

Lots of energy and sweat for no progress.

Lots of fussing and exertion, but no destination.

Lots of spinning, but the same old scenery.

When I l give in to anxiety, I’m riding the wrong bike.

It’s time to come up out from the cellar, pump up my tires and feel the wind in my face.

That’s what trust looks like.

bike

One Tongue Too Many

Charles Wesley had a good sense of humor.

He wrote lots of hymns, but my favorite is “O, For A Thousand Tongues To Sing”. It’s the first song in the red Methodist hymnal I grew up with and it’s full of rich phrases that I have grown to appreciate more and more. I used to think Mr. Wesley was dreaming of a Sunday attendance of 1,000 people who would all praise God together. But now I think Charles had something else in mind.

My paraphrase: “If only I had one thousand tongues in my mouth! I would use each and every one to sing of my great Redeemer’s praise! I would wag all those tongues and declare the glory of my God and King! Just think how much talking I could do about the triumphs of His grace with 1,000 tongues!”

But I see a problem here. I have enough trouble with the one tongue I have. Controlling my only tongue is often more than I can handle. How would I ever get one thousand tongues to unite in praise when I can’t even seem to get my one tongue to consistently speak of God’s glory and grace?

tongue

The Psalms are full of references to the mouth, lips and tongue and most of them are negative.

  • “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.” Ps. 34:13
  • “His mouth is full of lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.” Ps. 10:7

Psalm 71 is different. The writer resolves to use those muscles in a positive way.

  • “My mouth will tell of your righteousness.”
  • “My lips will shout for joy.”
  • “My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long.”

Sometimes I have to show my tongue who’s boss and resolve to use it for the good stuff. All day long.

o-for-a.jpeg

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I used to think I was like the Good Samaritan.

The hero. The protagonist. The good guy. Sure, I’d help someone lying in a ditch, stripped and bleeding and unconscious. Maybe I’d load him up in my car, take him to the Best Western and nurse him all through the night. It’s possible I’d use my paycheck to pay for his recovery.

I grew to see that I was more like the priest and Levite.

The self-righteous religious professionals. I’d be afraid to get involved, ready with a litany of excuses and in a hurry to get somewhere. Maybe I’d go take a closer look to evaluate the situation. Perhaps I’d think about doing something. It’s possible I would pray for the man in the ditch as I crossed over on the other side of the road.

I now know that I am most like the wounded, beaten, half-dead person.

I was walking down a dangerous road away from God, all by myself. The devil stripped me of my right to be a child of God. The world beat me with temptation and sorrow. I was left for dead in my sins. No one would stop to help me.

Then, a compassionate Savior came along and rescued me. He brought healing to the pain and wounds of my sin, poured into me the comforting oil of the Holy Spirit, and brought me the wine of communion to cleanse and strengthen. This kind Savior took me to an inn, His Church, where the innkeeper, my Pastor, was appointed to look after me and care for me. My Rescuer will return with rich rewards.

Who was a neighbor?

The one who had mercy.

Go and do likewise.

neighbor

The Crowd

“Who do the crowds say I am?” Luke 9:18

Five thousand people were talking. News was out that five little loaves of bread and two measly fish somehow multiplied into dinner for a multitude.

two-fish

The throng was trying to figure out who Jesus was. And they were struggling.

  • John the Baptist, come back to life? Wrong.
  • Elijah, come back to life? Wrong.
  • One of the other Old Testament prophets, come back to life? Wrong.

The crowd was easily confused.

The word “crowd” is found 38 times in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus taught the crowd, He healed the crowd, He fed the crowd, He told the crowd stories, He answered questions from the crowd. And then the crowd disappeared, only to show up later, shouting, “Crucify him!” That’s the crowd for you.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Luke 9:20

Ah. Now there’s the question.

Step away from the rabble and the opinions and the ego-centric philosophies.

Don’t put too much stock in National Geographic’s “The Story of God” or Amazon Video’s “Who Was Jesus?” or  Oprah’s “Belief” series.

Be careful when dabbling with “religions” that were founded in 1965 by a guy named Bob.

The crowd is confused.

confused

What about you? Who do you think Jesus is?

It’s the most important question you’ll ever answer.

Here I Am!

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

I love this question for several reasons.

  • God knows the grammatically correct way to use “whom” and “who”.
  • The Lord combines two questions here — “Whom shall I send?” and “Who will go?” Because sometimes we’re sent, but we don’t go. In other words, He’s looking for someone who will say, “Sure, I’ll go” and then actually goes.
  • God is speaking for a group, namely the Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit were alive and well in the Old Testament. They communicated with each other and decided to put out the call for volunteers.

send-me

I love this response for several reasons.

  • Isaiah just experienced a threshold-trembling, foundation-rattling, smoke-filled vision, complete with six-winged creatures flying around God Almighty’s throne. I’m impressed that Isaiah was able to speak at all.
  • Isaiah didn’t give a list of reasons why he wasn’t qualified. He didn’t ask for details about the job before signing up. God just said, “I need somebody” and Isaiah said, “I’m your man” even though he was the only man in the room.
  • The exclamation point! Isaiah is like the kid in the back row of the 3rd grade classroom who desperately wants to be the first one to give the answer to the teacher. He shoots his hand up in the air and almost falls out of his seat, saying “Ooo, oo, oo, me!  Send me!!!  Pick me!!!”  God must have loved that.

pick-me

I love Isaiah for several reasons.

  • Being a prophet was a hard calling. They were persecuted, misunderstood, mistreated and often killed. The hard truth they spoke was not usually well received.
  • They were asked to do some pretty weird things to make a point. Hosea had to marry a prostitute and keep taking her back every time she was unfaithful to show how God felt about Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him. Isaiah had to walk around naked for three years to be a visual example of how Israel was going to be stripped down to nothing by their enemies. (It’s right there in Isaiah 20:3.)
  • God told Isaiah up front that he was going to fail. His assignment was to preach to people who wouldn’t respond. In fact, his preaching would only serve to harden the hearts of the people, making God’s righteous judgment sure.

I’m not sure I’d sign up for that. I’m afraid I would have been the one in the back row, hiding behind the kid in front of me, being careful not to make eye contact, whispering, “Please don’t pick me, please don’t pick me.”

How Many Tears?

When I was little, I heard tales about my older cousins that I’m not sure are verifiable, but they made memorable stories. As I am the youngest in that generation, there’s a possibility that by the time the recounting got to me, there was a bit of embellishment.

One such story was that when my cousin cried and refused to be consoled, my aunt would place a potted plant before her and say, “If you’re not going to stop crying you might as well put those tears to good use and water the plants.” My aunt didn’t believe in wasting tears.

ivy

I cry at weddings.

I cry when saying goodbye to loved ones.

I cry during Hallmark commercials.

I rarely cry over my sins.

Rarely, meaning, I can’t remember the last time I wet my cheek with penitent tears.

“….and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears.” Luke 7:38

How many tears did it take to wash His feet?

tears

Little confession of little sin results in little love.

“He who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47

Who weeps over their own sin anymore?

Is it any wonder that love falters in our world?

Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way.

Search me and try me, Savior today.

Wash me just now, Lord, wash me just now,

As in Thy presence humbly I bow.