Are You Ready For Departure?

This blogger can’t help but be proud of my church family at Gospel Light Bible Baptist Church after all they did to prepare and perform before and during the Youth Rally this Friday evening. By the grace of God and through the vision and planning of those who served, this event was a monumental success.Gospel Light would like to thank all our many guests for attending. We saw folks from: Bible Believers Baptist (Corry PA), Old Paths Bible Baptist, Chili Bible Baptist, Walker Bible Baptist, Trinity Baptist, Calvary Bible Baptist (Elbridge NY), Sampranius Baptist (Moravia NY), First Bible Baptist (Lockport NY), Grace Baptist (Medina NY), Lighthouse Bible Baptist, First Assembly of God, First Bible Baptist (Lancaster NY) and other bible believing churches. Our guests were subjected to airport security screening prior to admittance, in keeping with our event’s theme, “Preparing For Departure”. Each was given a raffle ticket and a song book. The ladies of Gospel Light were dressed up as airline stewardesses and Pastor Vince Giardino was decked out handsomely in a captain’s outfit, complete with cap and pilot wings. “Welcome to Flight 1611”, Pastor greeted his guests. As a backdrop behind the pulpit was a 7 foot wall of luggage. As guests settled into their seats, the background sounds of an airport could be heard through the sound system, enhancing the atmosphere.

The lights were lowered and the stewardesses took their places in the aisles. “Thank you for choosing Northwind Airlines” came over the speakers. Safety instructions were demonstrated by the stewardesses, complete with bible verses and singing. “Flight attendants please prepare for takeoff” was heard, followed by the roaring sound of takeoff.

With the lights still dark, a video presentation was show on the main screen and the many monitors placed around the building. We saw the Bard family at home and poor Peter first losing a video game to his daughter and then losing his cell phone. He then accidentally oversleeps and rushes to get to the Youth Rally on time. His car won’t start, so he hops on a kid’s bicycle and heads down the road. He is met by a hillbilly (played by Grayson K.) named “Willie” in a pickup truck, who gives him a ride. We then see Peter arrive at church, instantly change into a pilot’s outfit, and miraculously, he ran up on stage in real life! Brother Peter Bard is the beloved youth pastor here at Gospel Light.

Peter B. played the part of M.C. for the Rally. After giving a run down of the coming events for the evening, he introduce Pastor Vince Giardino, who provided the opening prayer. Then, with the help of the stewardesses in the aisles using hand gestures, we all sang “ I’ve Got Joy Down In My Heart” with enthusiasm for God. Following the song, a funny and confused old lady (played by Brenda D.) in a colorful hat and a southern accent came onto the stage from behind the luggage, giving Peter more than he could handle. She meandered down the steps and began to toss handfuls of candy into the delighted congregation.

The song leader for Gospel Light, Mateo V., led us in singing 3 hymns from our song books. Our first music special for the evening was from the harmonic quartet of Lori, Michael, Julia, and Ross G., who sang “Living On Higher Ground”. Pastor Giardino had the pastors from each of the churches in attendance stand up and introduce themselves, which brought loud cheers from their church members.

The first game of the evening, “Are You Smarter Than A Teenager”, was hosted by Kevin S. The youth pastors in the crowd were asked to come on stage to compete. Bible questions were given to pairs of pastors, the loser being eliminated. To much hooting and hollering, a winner was determined and given a small prize. And then came the confused old lady again, down the aisle saying “I’m getting the word”. She had a security guard’s headset on; Joe C. came running to collect his absconded equipment. This was followed by the first of the raffle drawings. Six numbers were drawn by Peter B. throughout the evening and each winner given a gift card. Another music special followed, this one by another talented quartet. Lori G., Bonnie V., Jaime S., and Melody C. sang “Are You Ready For The Call”.

Our original 15 minute preacher called in sick, so we welcomed Phil Huber, senior pastor at Walker BBC, to the pulpit. His message was based on Luke 11:14-23, where people were finding fault with Jesus. After admitting to being a Yankee fan, Brother Huber said, “There comes a time in your life where you have to pick which team you are on.” Some people will find fault in the church. These are Christians that can’t decide which team they are on. However, Bro. Huber submitted that there is “no walking the middle ground.” “Pick your team”, he said, “Decide which team you are on and fight for it … stand for your church.” For those brought up on the bible, he chastised by saying, “What is our excuse for not taking a stand for the Lord’s side.” Bro. Huber warned of the consequences of making the wrong choice, which he likened to standing at the wrong gate at an airport. He said that, for some of us, the final call may be imminent and “we ought to be on the right plane.” He said to consider what gate you are at, and if you see it is the wrong gate, then get to the right gate to heaven. At the conclusion of the message, Pastor Giardino invited us to come forward to the alter as he built on what Bro. Huber had said. Brother Tony Shirley was asked to sing at the piano while people came to pray.

Peter then began the first round of Bible Sword Drill questions. The game score was tallied on a giant scoreboard on the wall at the right of the alter. Church names were lifted by stings to the height matching their score. All in the congregation were quite familiar with the game and most participated with their “swords”, the Word of God. Kevin went around with a box of candy bars and winners were allowed to chose one.

Eleven men, old and young, from Gospel Light made up a chorus that came forward to sing “I’ll Fly Away”. Grayson accompanied on his banjo and the singing was spirited, both with the men and in the congregation. And once again came the confused old lady to entertain, this time with Brother Shirley on stage. Using a hand flicking motion, they discussed how to shout “shore”, Bro. Shirley’s way of saying “sure”. The old lady thought it would be a good idea to hold something in your hand while flicking and suggested Bro. Shirley use his handkerchief. She used her hat, but snatched off her wig also, exposing the hairnet underneath.

Kevin was back on stage for another game, this time inviting 1 or 2 teenagers from each church to come on up. He passed out bubble gum to each contestant and said “start chomping”. The goal was to blow the biggest bubble. After a slow start, several were able to manage a bubble, winners were determined and prizes given. The winning churches were given points on the scoreboard. Another round of sword drills was hosted by Peter, and at this middle point, Walker BBC led with 8000 pts and Old Paths BBC was 2nd with 6000 pts.

The lights were turned down and our eyes were drawn forward to a skit performed by Julia G. and Derek M. Each had a different approach to getting ready for an upcoming trip. Julia prepared thoughtfully and prudently. Derek was distracted by other things. When time came to depart, Julia was organized and happy. Derek found trouble. Julia said, “I’m so glad I was ready for departure.” Derek saw his flight leave without him.

The final game of the evening saw Kevin asking for items from the congregation. The first person to produce the item scored points for their church. The items were: paperclip, nail clipper, $20 bill, silver gum wrapper, 1980 quarter, pocket lint, green highlighter, tooth brush or paste, and hairbrush. This gave us our final scores. Walker BBC was the 1st place winner and a $50 gift certificate was given to the youth pastor. Lighthouse BBC was 3rd, winning $25, with Gospel Light coming in 2nd.

Pastor Giardino introduced our featured preacher for the evening, Brother Tony Shirley, pastor at New Manna Baptist Church in Marion, NC. Stepping up to the piano, Brother Shirley sang “Jesus Never Fails” and “He’s Been There”. Then stepping to the pulpit, he found a few items that amused him: a “whacking stick” (Mateo’s conducting wand) and a “half sucked cough drop”, which reminded him of a story. His story was about a man who ate peanuts, only to find they previously had the chocolate sucked off. Bro. Shirley said the thing about Youth Rally’s is that you can tell gross stories. So he told two more. The first being about the rough flight into Rochester and a boy 2 rows back vomiting. A young girl struggling not to do the same despite the sounds and smell said “This is not happening”. Brother Shirley thought, “If she goes, we all go … it would have been like a horror movie.” His second story was even funnier and more gross and involved a dead mouse at the bottom of a soup bowl … enough said.

In keeping with the theme of the evening, Brother Shirley chose 2 Tim 4:6-8 to base his sermon on. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand” 2 Tim 4:6. Paul had been preparing for his departure for a long time. Bro. Shirley asked a series of questions about our own departures:

  • Where are we going? Heaven, a place where there will be no more sin or sorrow.
  • How are we going? Either by death or by the rapture.
  • When are we going? The exact departure time is unknown, but is “at hand” as Paul said. “None of us know if we are going to make it home tonight”, Bro. Shirley reminded.
  • What are going to be the signs? The disciples of Jesus asked him what signs there would be (Luke 21:7). Jesus said there would be “distress of nations” Luke 21:25. A graphic was shown on the church video screens showing Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and Yemen, middle east countries currently in turmoil. Jesus also spoke of “the sea and the waves roaring” Luke 21:25. The next few graphics shown were of the huge waves, the recent tsunami that destroyed the Japanese coast. Jesus also said that knowledge would increase; “it’s going through the roof”, Bro. Shirley remarked. Jesus was letting us know of when the time of departure was imminent.

Brother Shirley asked the congregation, “Are You Prepared?

Reservation “The first thing you do is get a ticket”, Bro. Shirley counseled. Even before you pack your clothes, before you do anything else, you must have your seat reserved. Our ticket is being “born again”, he said. “Jesus paid for the ticket … but it doesn’t mean everyone will go … not everyone has received his ticket”, he continued. Brother Shirley warned that, “If you’ve never prayed yourself and asked Jesus into your heart, you are not saved.” If we cannot remember the date we were saved, we should at least be able to remember the moment in detail. Then we can be assured of a reserved seat for the flight to heaven.

Inspection In 2 Tim 4, Paul knew he was ready; he had perfect peace. He knew he’d be with Jesus when he died. Bro. Shirley asked, “Can you say like Paul ‘I’m ready’?” Further he asked, “Would you be willing to face Jesus with the life you’ve led in the past two weeks?” There is an inspection we will face. Bro. Shirley had Mateo come up with him, and with a hand-held security metal detector, did a spiritual scan of Mateo. “What if Jesus were to inspect you tonight?”, he asked:

  • Where have those feet been taking you? “It breaks Jesus’ heart if you have been going where you shouldn’t”, Brother Shirley remarked.
  • What have those hands been doing? Would the scanner go off if over what you have been touching, or what you have been texting, or what you have been doing?
  • What is it that your heart really loves? Are their things we love a little bit more than Jesus, such as sports? We should not want to grieve Jesus.
  • Would the alarm go off around your head? What have we been looking at or listening to? With regard to music, Bro. Shirley reminded that “fools make a mock of sin.” What have our lips have been saying?

“Will you be OK with how you’ve been running the race if you have to stand before Jesus tonight?”, Brother Shirley asked as a followup. “The good news is that we can get rid of the junk from our lives and put it into the basket of grace.” The invitation to come forward was made, and so many came to the alter, that there was hardly room for us all. Brother and sister Michael and Julia G. softly sang “Amazing Grace” as Michael played piano. “We are in the valley of decision right now”, Pastor Giardino said, continuing the invitation, “Let’s get ready for departure.” Brother Peter Bard came to the pulpit with the names of those who made professions of faith. At least 8 names were given!!!

To the surprise and delight of the congregation, boxed lunches were delivered to all present by the stewardesses. Using carts, they went down the aisles passing out the boxes (containing a sandwich, chips, cookies, and a coupon to Clubhouse Fun Center) and cans of soda. One box contained a golden ticket, which was retrieved by Elizabeth B. of Old Paths, winning her a 12 mega-pixal camera! Finally, Brother Scott Strobel, pastor at First Bible Baptist Church in Lockport NY, dismissed us in prayer. Animated and uplifting fellowship ensued as a successful evening slowly wound down.

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