Those in attendance at Gospel Light’s morning service on Resurrection Sunday were able to take in the superb sounds of the many talented men and women who sang praises to our Lord. The number of individuals who took part in the three music specials was too numerous to list here, but I will mention that the accompanying piano players, Julia and Koari, played beautifully. We heard “Without the Cross”, “Christ is Our Risen Lord”, and “He is God, He is Lord”.Pastor Vince Giardino made a special effort to salute and commend all those who helped out with this past Friday’s Youth Rally, making note of the key individuals. The head count was nearly 400 and 7-9 people made professions of faith. Pastor was especially pleased that the time that it took the flight attendants to distribute boxed lunches everyone at the rally was less than 9 minutes. Calling those who served “a tremendous team of people”, Pastor stated that Gospel Light is getting a reputation of putting a lot into our Youth Rallies.Pastor Giardino’s introductory story was of the magician and escape artist, “The Great Houdini”. After a brief biography, Pastor told about “the one door that almost defeated him. A crafty jailor tried to out fake Houdini by leaving the rust jail cell door unlocked, causing Houdini to work against himself in his efforts to escape. “Isn’t religion just like that”, Pastor asked, “trying to figure out how to open the door to heaven that’s already been opened by Jesus Christ?” The jailor should remind you of Satan, one who is trying to deceive you. “Think about this question”, Pastor requested, “Is there somebody, a spiritual being, crafty enough to deceive you?”
The key verse for the sermon was Jonah 2:9, where a repenting Jonah recognizes that “Salvation is of the Lord”. Jonah was a prophet who did not want to preach to a wicked Gentile city. He did not want the door open to the Gentiles and he resisted God’s will. Thus did Jonah experience hell in the belly of a whale. Chapter 2 is the prayer from hell from a changing and repentant Jonah. “There is nothing like a trip to hell to scare you into the service of God”, our preacher remarked. Jesus mentioned Jonah in Matt 12:40, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” After 3 days and 3 nights in hell, Jesus rose from the dead, taking the sting out of death.
A trademark with sermons from Pastor G. is the use of illustrations. This past Sunday was no different. Pastor read Lam 3:7 “he hath made my chain heavy”, then asked for help hauling a heavy basket in front of the pulpit. From the basket, he pulled out a large, heavy, rusted chain and wrapped it over his shoulders. “I can hardly move like this”, he commented; but “it’s not as heavy as death to someone who is not saved … If I wasn’t saved, I would go to hell like greased bacon and fry.” People are prone to say “I’ll worry about it when it happens”, but the sting of death can happen very quickly.
Pastor Giardino defined chains as a series of connected links used for binding or restraining. People need to be reminded of their chains”, he said.
Chain of Death: The unsaved are destined for hell after they die. That is their burden, that the chains of death will someday be around them. When Jesus died on the cross, he descended into hell and preached to those who had been under the law. Jesus had the keys to let them out of hell, just as He has the keys to get free us. “No one else has the keys”, our pastor declared. Jesus is our way to escape death.
We were told of the time Pastor’s tire went flat on 490 West. Before help could arrive, he had to sit in his vehicle as it was rocked by the wind of passing cars. He felt the presence of people passing by who did not care about his predicament. Pastor’s analogy was that unsaved souls pass by us, busy in their lives, while the chains of death are in their future. “Do you feel that?”, he asked. We should allow the Holy Spirit to touch us, to appreciate the burdens of others, and to reach out and help them. “It has to come from somebody”, Pastor pointed out.
Chain of Deeds: Pastor G. told the story of an ancient Persian king who could not find someone to mend his injured ankle. After being told of a slave who could, he sent for him. The slave was in rags and weighed down with chains, but was able to heal the king. The elated king sent the slave a gift … gold chains. Pastor G. then related the story to people’s lives today where they trade one set of chains for another. They trade their retched, sinful lives for a life of religion and a chain of deeds. They spend their time and effort trying to earn their way into heaven. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph 2:8-9.
Even a follower of Jesus can allow themselves to be encumbered with deeds. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus came to the house of two sisters. “Martha was cumbered about much serving” while Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.” After Martha complained, Jesus answered, saying that Martha was “careful and troubled about many things”, but “Mary hath chosen that good part”. Jesus would rather have us spend time with His Word than put a chain of deeds around our neck. Pastor warned that we need to be sitting at Jesus’ feet and in the Word lest we be troubled; “Your mind clears up when you listen to the Word”, he said.
Chain of Desire: To give us a perspective on how heavy chains can be, Pastor spoke about the chains and anchor on the RMS Titanic, which sank in the North Atlantic in 1912. The three anchors weighed 30 tons each. Each link on the three 1800 foot long chains was 3 feet in diameter and weighed 175 pounds. Because a ship will drift when stopped, the anchors and chains are vital for stability and safety. Then Pastor asked us “How strong is your anchor? Are you linked to what God would have you do?”
In Mark 5:1-4, we read of “a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains”. The man was tamed and liberated by Jesus. Likewise today are there men filled with unclean desires, wild and untamed. Pastor spoke of Charles Manson, of homosexuals, and others with bad desires. “Jesus can tame them and take the chains of desire away”, Pastor Giardino said. He also spoke of our tongues, which can defile the whole body. “Is your tongue out of control?”, he asked.