On April 17th, by the grace of God, the church at Gospel Light came together to worship and praise Him and to hear his most blessed Word. Your blogger fervently hopes to bring past Sunday morning’s service and sermon to light through this brief summary. Just as Pastor Vince Giardino prays before each sermon that the Holy Spirit guide and inspire his message, so to do I pray that my written words will reflect the sermon given and be a blessing to those who read it.
Pastor G. has reminded us that purpose of singing hymns is to praise God. With sincere passion, our three brothers, Mateo, Jeremiah, and Gabriel, sang in harmony to the Lord, “Rock of Ages”. Just prior to the sermon, our pastor’s son, Michael, was asked to sing (at the piano), “Word of God Speak”, so that we, the congregation, would examine our hearts and open our ears. “We need to hear from God … to ask God to speak to our hearts”, and be “hungry for God’s word”, Pastor urged.We opened our bibles to Psalms 90, which is a prayer of Moses. Pastor Giardino read the whole chapter, explaining the verses as he went. The prayer begins by acknowledging the power and glory of God and the insignificance of man. Moses then writes about our sin and God’s chastisement. He concludes by asking God to “teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalms 90:12) and to “let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us” (Psalms 90:17). Moses’ hope was that “the work of our hands” (Psalms 90:17) can do something for God.
Our Pastor read several quotes from this country’s past founding fathers, statesmen and public officials in order to show that “God’s hand has been upon this country”. However, in recent years, there has not been very much evidence. Pastor asked, “Is God’s hand coming off this country … loosening its grip?” Most often, those passing laws today do not have our best interests in mind. Even as the bible shows us that God’s hand has been on nations guiding them, so also should God’s hand be on our country, our church, and ourselves.
What causes God to remove his guiding hand? Pastor Giardino explained that we ourselves limit God, stepping back into the world, and failing to search Him in his Word. He encouraged us to let God speak to us by reading the bible. “Shame on you if you are not opening up the bible?” he scolded us. By reading His Word, we allow God’s hand to be upon us. “A thumb print on the bible is better than a foot print on the moon”, Pastor quipped. “What we do will bless God if we do it right”, he continued. God opens His hands and gives, but we have to have a righteous life to get things from God. “Are you limiting what God can do for you?”, our preacher asked.
The importance of thanking God was driven home by a story of a professional beggar. James Steward of Hull, England, had “Thank You” tattooed on the palm of his right hand. He knows that he has to thank those who give to him. Pastor Giardino pointedly asked us, “When was the last time you thanked God?” Because God’s hand opens up and generously gives to us, “’Thank You’ should be embedded on your mind and heart”, our pastor admonished. He then warned us against “biting the hand that feeds you” by complaining, murmuring, and foolish behavior.
The Apostle Paul, to the Ephesians, exhorted, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” Eph 4:14. Likewise, Pastor Giardino warned us of deception and trickery in churches today. There are crafty men in churches that want to con you and hide the truth. Jesus spoke of the evil of scribes and the Pharisees: “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” Matt 23:4. There are religions today that want to burden the people with religious duties, ordinances, idol worship, and other heresies. However, Paul admonishes us to speak “the truth in love” and to “grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” Eph 4:15. We need to grow up in the Lord as Christians.
To demonstrate that “even you own eyes can deceive you”, Pastor Giardino invited his friend, Jonathan Blaze, to perform for us. We all were amazed at his very wonderful act, which used five Chinese leaking rings. With Mateo as his helper, John linked together and separated the apparently solid rings in a variety of combinations. Was there a trick behind the performance? Of course. Are you being deceived by a church that tells you heaven is earned on your own merits? Of course. The slight of religious deception leads people away from the bible and the truth. If you are not trained in the knowledge of Christ, you are vulnerable to religious con artists. And the deception goes deeper as Satan infuses his beguiling influence and lies into the body of these churches.
And so we return to the words of Paul, that we “be no more like children”, vulnerable to those that “lie in wait to deceive” and that we “grow up” in Christ. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2:15.