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Biblically Based

The Traditional Christian Wedding

SYMBOLS IN GOD’S COVENANT

God sanctified marriage as a union between a man and a woman under a covenant by God. In Genesis 15:9-10, God used a blood covenant as a formal, solemn and binding agreement–a vow or pledge–between two parties made by “cutting” or dividing animals into two parts. After splitting them precisely in half, the animal halves were arranged opposite each other on the ground. leaving a pathway between the two halves. The two parties making the covenant would walk from either end of the path, meeting in the middle.

This ground in the middle of the two pieces of the animal were regarded as holy ground. On this ground, the two individuals would cut the palms of their right hands and then join these hands together as they mutually pledged a vow, promising all their rights, possessions, and benefits to the other. Then, the two would exchange their belt and outer coat, and in doing so, take some part of the other person’s name.

FAMILIES SEATED ON OPPOSITE SIDES

It is customary for family and friends to sit on opposite sides of the church or the setting, if outside. This is to symbolize the cutting of the blood covenant. The witnesses–the family, friends, and invited guests–are all participants in the wedding ceremony, or covenant, and many of them have made sacrifices to help prepare the couple for marriage and to support them in their holy union.

CENTER AISLE

The significance of the center aisle is to represent the meeting ground, or the pathway between the animal pieces where the blood covenant is established. Sometimes a white runner is placed down the center aisle to symbolize the holy ground where two lives are joined together as one by God. (See Exodus 3;5 and Matthew 19:6)

PARENTS SEATING

In Biblical times, the parents of the bride and groom were ultimately responsible for discerning God’s will concerning the choice of a spouse for their children. The wedding tradition of seating the parents in a place of prominence is meant to recognize their responsibility for the couple’s union. Today the groom’s parents (including family and friends) are seated on the right side, facing the wedding platform or front where the vows are exchanged between the two parties. The bride’s parents (including family and friends) are seated on the left side opposite the groom’s family.

GROOM AND MINISTER ENTER FIRST

Ephesians 5:23-32 reveals that earthly marriages are a picture of the church’s union with Christ. God initiated the relationship through Christ, who called and came for His bride, the church. Christ is the Groom, who established the blood covenant first initiated by God. For this reason, the minister leads the groom and groomsmen into the auditorium from the right side of the auditorium or setting, if outside.

FATHER ESCORTS AND GIVES AWAY THE BRIDE

It was a Jewish tradition that the father’s duty was to present his daughter in marriage as a pure virgin bride. Today parents (father and mother) took responsibility for endorsing their daughter’s choice in a husband. With the father escorting his daughter down the aisle he is saying, “I have done my very best to present you, my daughter, as a pure bride. I approve of this man as your choice for a husband, and now I bring you to him.” So when the minister asks, “Who gives this woman to be wed to this man?,” the father responds, “Her mother and I.” This giving away of the bride, demonstrates the parent’s blessing on the union and the transfer of care and responsibility to the husband.

BRIDE’S WEDDING DRESS

The white wedding dress has a two-fold significance. It is a symbol of the wife’s purity in heart and life, and in reverence to God. It’s also a picture of the righteousness of Christ described in Revelation 19:7-8. Christ clothes His bride, the church, in His own righteousness as a garment of “fine linen, bright and clean.”

Today many brides choose a wedding dress of various colors to add a touch of personality to the old-school tradition and prove to be a serious standout in a sea of white.

BRIDAL VEIL

The bridal veil shows the modesty and purity of the bride and her reverence for God. It reminds us of the temple veil which was torn in two when Christ died on the cross. The removing of the veil took away the separation between God and man, giving believers access into the very presence of God. Since Christian marriage is a picture of the union between Christ and the church, we see another reflection of this relationship in the removal of the bridal veil. Through marriage, the couple now has full access to one another (1 Corinthians 7:4)

JOINING RIGHT HANDS

As we saw in the blood covenant, the two individuals would join together the bleeding palms of their right hands. When their blood mixed, they would exchange a vow, forever promising all of their rights and resources to the other. In a Christian wedding, as the bride and groom face one another to say their vows, they join right hands and publicly commit everything they are, and everything they possess, in a covenant relationship. They leave their families, forsake all other, and become one with their spouse.

EXCHANGING OF THE RINGS

The wedding ring is an outward symbol of a couple’s inward bond, illustrating with an unending circle the eternal quality of love–it signifies so much more in light of the blood covenant. A ring was used as a seal of authority. When pressed into hot wax, the impression of the ring left an official seal on legal documents. Therefore, when the couple wears a wedding ring, they demonstrate their submission to God’s authority over their marriage. The couple recognizes that God brought them together and that He is intricately involved in every part of their covenant relationship.

PRONOUNCEMENT OF HUSBAND AND WIFE

The pronouncement officially declares that the bride and groom are  now husband and wife. This moment establishes the exact beginning of their covenant. The two are now one in the eyes of God.

PRESENTATION OF THE COUPLE

When the minister introduces the couple to the wedding guests, he is drawing attention to their new identity and the name change brought about through the marriage. Similarly, in the blood covenant, the two parties would exchange some part of their names.

THE RECEPTION

A ceremonial meal was often a part of the blood covenant. At a wedding reception, guests are invited to share with the couple in the blessings of the covenant.

CUTTING OF THE CAKE

The cutting of the cake is another picture of the cutting of the covenant. When the bride and groom take pieces of the cake and feed it to each other, once again, they are showing how they have given their all to one another, and will care for the other as one flesh. At a Christian wedding, the cutting and feeding of the cake can be done joyfully, but should also be done lovingly and reverently, in a way that honors the covenant relationship.

THROWING OF RICE

The tradition of throwing rice at weddings originated with the throwing of sed. It was meant to remind couples of one of the primary purposes in marriage–to create a family that will serve and honor the Lord. Therefore, guests symbolically throw rice as a gesture of blessing for the spiritual and physical fruitfulness of the marriage.

Most recently, rice has been substituted by sunflower seeds because as birds eat the rice, it tends to swell and causes them to bloat and eventually suffocate and die. Therefore, sunflower seeds are less harmful and more accepted.

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A Time To Grieve

I stood at the side of the hospital bed when a man who was a member of my church lay dying from a long-suffering illness. I was holding hands with his wife and daughter. We watched as he struggled at times to breathe. The doctor had placed him on morphine to help him deal with the pain. Once the pain become so unbearable, he increased the dosage. With the increase in dosage, he slipped into a comatose state and became almost completely motionless. We watched as each breath seemed to take longer to exhale and wondering if he would inhale again.

Not all patients die the same way, as I have stood at the side of many patients as they drew their last breath. I’ve held the patient’s hand and prayed with the siblings or children as life slipped out of this world and into the hands of the Father in heaven. Yes, it hurts to watch a person lying there as their life on earth comes to an end. When we hurt deep down inside our soul, we often cry. When Jesus came to Mary, the sister of Lazarus, she was weeping along with the Jews who were with her. In John 11:35 it says “Jesus wept.” So it’s ok to cry. Cry all you need to. Jesus cried because He was hurt and because He was Lazarus’ friend. It’s ok to hurt and it’s ok to cry.

We grieve several times when a loved one is dying. But most importantly we cry before and after a loved one dies. Grieving is the natural process of life. We never want to see a loved one suffer so we grieve. We never want to lose a loved one, but when they die, we grieve. We grieve because they’re gone from this life. We will never again see them in this life. However, Jesus said in John 14:2-3, “. . . I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Those are the most encouraging words a Christian wants to hear.

We’ve heard it said by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “. . . to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” Although this is without some controversy, let me say that it is of my opinion, that when we die, our soul is disembodied from this body and exists in a separate state; not in a state of inactivity or sleep, for that would be undesirable, but of happiness and glory, enjoying the presence of God, and praising Him, believing and waiting for the resurrection body, when both will be united together and no longer absent. I don’t believe God would leave us in a state of in between. Hallelujah!

My Gratitude!

I am so blessed to have so many great friends. Every year, on this day, I receive so many cards and letters wishing me a Happy Birthday! Facebook has made it so easy for friends and relatives alike to render birthday wishes, and this year is no different. And like many folks, I am deeply grateful for them.

The Apostle Paul reminds me in 2 Timothy 1:3, “I thank God, who I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.” Seriously, I do make it a practice to thank God daily for all those friends whom He has placed in my path over the many years He has allowed me to live on this earth.

Indeed, God has brought me in contact with so many people of all races and nationalities it is impossible to mention them all by name. Regardless of whether you are friend or family, I will take this one opportunity to express my gratitude to God for you. Many of you have prayed for me when I entered ministry. That, in itself, means more to me than you will ever know. As many of you know, ministry is a calling and I accepted that calling with heart-felt thanks to God.

Ministry has given me the opportunity to meet some of the most wonderful people, including Dr. Charles Stanley, Dr. Bailey Stone, Dr. D. L. Lowrie and Dr. Jerry Sutton, just  to name a few. These men have inspired me more than I’ll ever be able to express. Oh, I’ve also had many pastors who have supported me and prayed for me as I entered the ministry and proceeded to go to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for a much needed education. I mostly want to thank my dearest friend in the ministry, Rev. Ken Flowers, who encouraged me through my time at seminary and then in my pastorates. So you see, I am most grateful to all my friends.

Lastly, I will forever be grateful to my wife Deanna, for the love and companionship and support she has given to me during our nearly 48 years of marriage. Not only did she give me her moral support but she sacrificed her life to me so that I could follow my calling. And to my mother-in-law, Dean Ogden, who quietly and reverently prayed for me up until her death.

Gratitude sometimes just doesn’t seem like enough. That being said, I am so very grateful to have had so many wonderful people in my life. Thank you Lord Jesus!

Christian Stewardship

I remember reading, in one of the old books in my personal library, that stewardship is the practice of the Christian religion. It is not man’s plan for raising money, but for rearing God’s children.

Where did this conception of stewardship come from and what does it mean?

In New Testament times a steward held a position of honor and dignity. The word itself comes from two words meaning “House Manager.” It was a position of responsibility and trust. Wealthy people found it advantageous and necessary to employ staff to manage their estates and their servants. A lot of responsibility was given to the steward and the owner looked to the him for results.

The steward was not the owner and any profit accrued from the operation of the estate belonged to the owner, not the steward.

The steward also was not a tenant, who paid a certain portion as rental of the property leaving him with the balance of the receipts. Jesus never spoke of tenancy as the idea in a Christian’s relation to  God, but always as stewardship, where all property belongs to God. Man is entrusted with the administration of the things God has committed to him for his use.

We are workmen in God’s vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), under His command. We are never able enough to put God under obligation to us. Whatever God does for us is by His grace. Nothing can take the place of obedience to God’s commands.

The early Christians in their gratitude to God set an example in stewardship which has been the inspiration of all Christians since that day.

The generosity of the Christians under the compulsion of love far surpassed anything known among the Jews under the compulsion of law. They not only gave the tithe but many times more. This boundless and open-handed generosity attracted the attention of the pagan world and was influential in winning of converts.

  • God owns everything. We do not have any absolute rights to ownership of anything, but we hold possessions “in trust” for God. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.”
  • After giving God His rightful part–a tithe from our “first fruits”–we are to give in proportion to how God has blessed us, no matter what our income is. This refers to spiritual as well as material blessings.
  • We give generously to those in need. This giving will be a testimony to others who will glorify God.
  • From the early days in the Old Testament, God’s people have come to worship bringing gifts. So giving is a form of worship. Do not come to church empty-handed, but bring your gift to God.

I generated this site so that I may be a good steward of my time left on this earth.