Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wedding Homily for Wesner and Twana

Below is the basic manuscript I wrote for Twana and Wesner's wedding today.  It was a glorious day.  God truly blessed.

Wesner and Twana, the moment you've been looking forward to for your whole lives is here. The day your families, friends and church family has been thinking about for so long has finally come. Now I say finally, but in reality it's only been since last summer that you've been picturing the person before you now in your wedding day dream. 

Time has flown by and a WHOLE lot has happened since Twana's unforgettable birthday when there was cake, canvassing and e-ven-tu-al-ly a ring…but no Caleb hiding in or jumping from the bushes with his hidden camera after all.

I smile about your love story for one, because Deanne and I have a similar experience. We met in August 2008 just before school started and were married the following August with just enough time for a honey moon before another school year started.

It wasn't our plan, but once God got us to understand that He wanted us to be together, He just sped up the process. Now as I look at my marriage, I feel like I'm getting a better and better understanding of why He wanted us to be together and the relationship gets more and more satisfying as time goes by.

As amazing as today is, God wants your marriage to get better and better for you both. But that will only happen as you continue on in the same way you started.

In Matthew 6:33 Jesus said to, "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." In my relationship with both of you that is the only context I know you in, the context of pursuing and sharing Christ. Only more recently have I seen you pursuing and sharing each other. I love marriage counseling.

Twana, I first got to know you when Deanne and I went canvassing with you and Sierra.  You helped to retrain me into literature evangelism.  At the end of that summer we went with a team to Kenya to preach evangelistically.  I remember the story you told of how the great controversy between Christ and Satan was playing out in the street by your site as you preached on that very topic. I remember how decked out you were with gifts from your listeners that final night in the hotel before we returned home.

Wesner, I’ve got to tell you, you're not the first to ask for Twana's hand in marriage. There were others in Kenya who wished they could have stood in your place, but praise God she refused them, so now she could say yes to you.

I first met you at a group Bible study, and then we studied together one on one and started playing music together.  It was months before I found out that you used to be a professional soccer player because your focus was so totally on learning about the Bible. It just never came up because we talked almost exclusively about the Bible and church and music because that’s what you were into.

One of the highlights of my time here in Pennsylvania has definitely been that gorgeous afternoon at Chestnut Hill when you were baptized. The sun poured in through the stained glass windows to just as the tears are flowing from your eyes.

You have both been seeking God and He's been adding, "all these things." If you look at the previous verse in Jesus’ sermon on the mount you can see that, "these things," refers to what Your Heavenly Father knows that you need and provides for you as you seek Him first.

What a thing we are celebrating today. Could it be today that God is declaring that you need each other in your lives? It was apparently not good for this man to be alone any longer. It is not good for Twana to be alone anymore either so He's brought you together.

God wants to bless you with that love that Lamar read about in 1 Corinthians 13. He wants you to understand His love that is kind, compassionate, humble, honoring, generous, peaceful, forgiving, truthful, protecting, trusting, hopeful, persevering and unfailing. He wants you to understand that love like never before through each other.

God will use this relationship to help you to understand His intimate love deeper than you have to this point. This marriage will stretch you. It will remind you again and again that you must depend on Christ for the kind of love I just mentioned, because no matter how cute she is or how handsome he is, no matter how good of a cook she is or how handy he is, there will be some nights when that's just not enough to keep you from frowning at your spouse who just ate that infamous last piece of chicken. I almost feel like we should have talked about chicken in our marriage counseling after your wedding shower.  It seems like it runs pretty deep.

There may be times when one of you does something to upset the other that makes you feel as distant as New York is from Haiti.  In those times I hope you will refocus on Christ.

Colossians 1:17 (NIV) says that Jesus is “before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Verses 19 - 20 say, "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross." Praise God His sacrificial love is always enough, it can always span the gap and bring His people back together.

As I was thinking about this homily I wondered how many women imagine having their wedding day on Resurrection Sunday? People often say it's the bride's day, but if it's on the same day we celebrate Jesus rising from the tomb doesn't it get trumped somehow? I think your date choice is amazing. It is Jesus' day.  We all know this particular day is about Him.

What's beautiful is that your wedding is so clearly designed to glorify Him.
As I've seen the thoughtful program and way you both have handled yourselves leading up to this moment I just get the sense that it's not really about you.     You have been serving everybody else. It's about Jesus and so are your lives

I look at your relationship and I see Jesus. Relationships with people can help us to understand our relationship with God. But today, in honor of Jesus sacrifice and resurrection, I want to just take some of Jesus' last words and use them to give you some practical advice for your marriage.

In Jesus last prayer with His disciples gathered around Him, He prayed out loud to His Father for His believers, “that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:22-23 NKJV)

Jesus wants you to be one with each other and with Him but here's the practical part. In Dr. Phil's book Relationship Rescue he cites a study and says, "…an interesting statistic…reflects that the divorce rate in America is at a minimum one out of two marriages. But the reported divorce rate among couples that pray together is about 1 in ten thousand." Couples that pray together stay together.

There is no other practice that anybody could suggest that would hold this same kind of promise for your relationship to make it for the long haul, not just surviving but thriving. So, just as Jesus did with His disciples, pray out loud together daily.

When Jesus was crucified between two criminals he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NIV) Always be ready to intercede and forgive. Jesus prayed for the soldiers who crucified, mocked and cast lots for His clothing. When your spouse does something that hurts you, don't try to fix it yourself by taking it into your own hands for revenge, but pray for them and for yourself.

Remember that God has brought you together, that you love each other, and that you are on the same team.  Most of the time, if your feelings are hurt, it wasn't intentional. If one of you wins the argument, you still lose because you haven't won anything. You've only built distance between yourself and your mate. Being quick to forgive will be one of the most liberating things you can do for your relationship.

Some of the most incredible words at the crucifixion were spoken when one of the two criminals Jesus was crucified between rebuked the criminal on the other cross who was mocking Jesus saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong."  He said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." and Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:40-43 NIV) Give each other grace, and practice treating your spouse better than their actions deserve. Love them as unto Christ.
For me the saddest moment for Jesus on the cross was when everything had been covered in darkness for three hours and Jesus cried out saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 NIV) The gospel of Luke tells us that after that Jesus cried out, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." (Luke 23:46 NIV) He trusted His Father was still there even when He couldn't sense Him. Even when you are confused in your relationship just as Jesus didn't understand the distance between Him and His Father at that moment, continue to humbly submit to each other in unconditional love. Imagine where we'd be if He hadn't continued on to fulfill His Father's will.

Just before Jesus died He said, "It is finished." (John 19:30 NIV) He bowed His head and died. You would think that death would end the relationship but Jesus sacrifice did something very different. When He died He won the victory over the sin and selfishness that separates us and reconciled us to God. He made the cross a bridge. When we die to self it takes our relationships to a whole different level, He makes it a connection that cannot be ultimately taken away.

On the third day Jesus rose from the grave and according to Matthew's account the first thing he said to those who first saw Him alive was, "Rejoice!" (Matthew 28:9 NIV) REJOICE!!! Remember to celebrate in your relationship with each other.  Jesus is alive and well and always enough for you. Continue to praise him in song and dance, in cooking and cleaning and everything. I'm looking forward to hearing the music you will make together as you rejoice in Him.

The next thing Matthew records Him saying is, "Do not be afraid." (Matthew 28:10) Let God's perfect love cast out all your fears for the future, Your future is always bright in Him. Satan will be attacking and he will certainly try to use fear.
Always remember that Jesus is near.

Lastly, Jesus parting words to His disciples, "“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV) Let the love God has poured out into your relationship touch the lives of those God directs you to, it will only make your love grow. Finally, know that Twana and Wesner are never just Twana and Wesner, God will always be with you, pouring out His limitless love, presence and blessings into your life. It is His joy to do so.

Who knows what God will decide you will need next in your relationship with Him. Be ready for anything and continue to seek God first in your lives as individuals and as a couple together and He will use all things to bring you back to Him.

Look out though! You never know when God might decide you need your own personal flower girl or Bible boy in your life 24/7. Enjoy every moment you have.

I love you both.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spread the Word in Your Sphere

A couple of weeks ago the head pastor of my church (my boss) sent me an email with some examples and ideas of how to improve the ministry here at REACH Philadelphia, specifically in regards to the importance and use of media.  Deanne and I have been heavily immersed in media, computers and phones from grade school and I have often thought of it as just a distraction from real life. Spending countless hours watching cartoons after class, on with the wireless home phone talking to cute classmates, typing away in IM chat rooms, Myspace, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  waaay too much!  I know I would be shocked if some angelic messenger were to reveal to me the record of how many hours I've spent with my eyes on screens and the influence it's had on me. I don't expect any such visit, especially because the Snell family has really been seeking to make major cuts in that area. What's surprising is the message God has been trying to convey to me in regards media…use it! Sure there is a lot of stuff out there that distracts to the detriment of a healthy life, BUT that is exactly why I should be sharing the new mercies God gives me day by day.  The internet is just like a tool in the hands of a builder or an instrument played by a musician, the user's purpose determines their product.

Check out a couple of the videos Pastor Tara sent me and think of the implications they have for your life and impact on the world. Though this first video is short and sweet. The second is an hour, it really is worth your of the most engaging presentations I've ever seen!

Initially after watching Dr. Martin's techy seminar I was uncomfortable with a few of the videos and subconsciously wondered if they were all worthy of the gospel, as the song about "skin-tight jeans" and "teenage fantasy" went around and around in my head for days. That's not the point.  At first I missed his powerful point. He was simply sharing videos that were really popular for whatever reason and showing that the web is a great place where people share their lives.  It is an opportunity for Christians to speedily spread the gospel of the kingdom, to exude Jesus' influence of life and love in a context where viewers are more receptive. The internet is where people are and thus it is where we should go.

At the beginning of this past Sunday I still hadn't gotten it, but Jesus helped me to get it as I was taking a mini spiritual retreat.  I was just walking around in the Pennypack Park praying and reading Patriarchs and Prophets and the Bible.  I read about Noah preaching God's message of repentance before the world was destroyed with a flood.  That connected me with Paul's 2nd letter to Timothy about how people will be at the end of the world before Jesus' return to take His friends home and another Noah-esk earth cleansing (not with water but the brightness of Jesus glory).

"People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power…always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." 2 Timothy 3:2-5,7 (NIV) 
We see so much of this on the internet.  People have an insatiable appetite for knowledge.
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (NIV) 
We are called to be different, to learn the truth from the Scriptures that sets men free.
"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction." 2 Timothy 4:1-2 (NIV) 
These passages led me to my main takeaways from my time with God. I'm called to be the opposite of the people listed in the first passage.  I find that life in studying the Bible. Finally, I am charged to share that message with others.
I left the retreat with a head full of ideas of how to "Preach the Word," on the internet and started sharing them as soon as I got home. Now here I am, sharing my experience.  I pray it's just one of many more to come.
As a young pastor I have longed to have more preaching appointments.  The process of preparing a message and sharing it probably impacts me more than anyone who hears it. I think it helps me to "come to a knowledge of the truth." I don't need to long for those opportunities anymore.  My eyes have been opened. With my computer in hand, I can share messages and have an audience at basically anytime. So can you.  As Christians living in the presence of the only One whose judgments matter, we are all charged to share Jesus with whoever will listen to us.  Those who listen to you may not listen to me and vice versa.
My wife and I have had this Snellections blog sitting around for a couple of years now and it has been fun to write from time to time. It's been interesting to see that people from around the world have read our posts.  But it isn't about having a massive online audience in every country. We must share what we've been given with those who will listen. God has been repeatedly impressing this urge on our hearts recently. This is a step forward.

I pray that after hearing a bit of my process you will go on from this blog to disperse the blessings you receive in your daily life within your spheres of influence, and that the ripple effect will continue. There are people who will read, watch, and listen to what you put up simply because you are you and they care about you. My mom faithfully likes the pictures I put on Facebook of my daughter because she is my mom.  If you have a child, I doubt my mom will be as faithful to look at your pictures as she is to look at mine regardless of how cute your kid is. There may be people you have relationships with who will follow you just because they care for you and are interested in you. Use that opportunity to point them to Jesus. 

I pray that your posts will be a benefit to many, but I know for sure that it will be a blessing to you. If God calls you to it, He'll bless you through it.

This definitely doesn't replace sharing the gospel with people God brings your way in person.  It is simply giving another part of our lives over to God's masterful control.  I hope you find that in giving over this area of your life you are brought closer to giving Him the wholeness of it.

If you aren't up to writing and posting your personal thoughts online yet, at least pass along your findings online that you think could really make a difference for someone else.  We are so quick to share the amusing.  May we run to share the Amazing One.

Maybe you could see yourself doing what Vincent did in the video above.  Whatever it is, I hope you'll respond to God's leading in your life, because He's the only one to get you and your loved ones where you want to go. Spread the Word.

Nick Snell

P.S.If you don't see many more posts from me in the near future, pray for me and feel free write to me to remind me of this calling. Also, if you feel this is something God has in store for you, let me know…just for my curiosity and so I can potentially be part of your process.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hopeless Like A Hungry Crowd

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.  As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”  Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”   “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.  “Bring them here to me,” he said.  And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.  -Matthew 14:14-21

There are times in my life when I feel as hopeless as a starving crowd of 5000 people.  Just as it seems impossible to feed that many people, sometimes I feel so lost, unmotivated, depressed, and unfulfilled that it seems utterly impossible to ever feel any other way.  I get so stuck that I can’t give anything to others either.

In the story above, the disciples saw a problem that was impossible.  There was no way for them to feed 5000+ people with what they had.  However, Jesus had a solution and it was simple: whatever you have, bring it to Me.  In this case they had 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and Jesus used that to make more than enough food for everyone.  They were all “satisfied.”

Right now, I don’t think I have anything that I can bring to Jesus.  But I do have myself and all the issues that go with me.  I can bring me.  The bread and fish that were brought to Jesus were not the best choices in the land.  In fact, the bread was barley loaves (food for the poor) and the fish were like sardines (tiny and smelly).  Nonetheless Jesus used the barley loaves and little fish and not only made enough food to feed the great number of people, He satisfied them so much that there were leftovers.

In this rut that I’m stuck in, Jesus has called me to bring myself to Him.  I don’t know exactly what will happen or what that even means.  But I do know that He can do what feels impossible.  He can use imperfect me in ways that will satisfy me so much that I will feel completely full.  And I’ll be so full that I’ll have leftovers to share with others.