What is Cathedral Made Of People?

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Photo By: Michelle Pearson Photography

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If you would like a copy of my new book, Cathedral Made of People, you can purchase it on Amazon in both paperback and electronic forms by clicking on the picture above. You can also request a copy from me and I will make sure you receive it.

 

Welcome to my blog. The title comes from a song by the band, Downhere, and is on their album, End from The Beginning. I chose this title because it sums up what my overall message is in these upcoming blogs. The chorus of the song says:

We are a cathedral
made of people
In a kingdom that
the eye can’t see
We’re a house, we are the bride
Where God’s Spirit lives inside
And nothing ever
can stand against her

The decision to start this blog was born out of an event in my life in 2010. My wife and I had moved to a small, North Florida town to help my mother, and God called us to plant a church there. The town only had about nine hundred people, and already had four churches, so most people thought we were crazy. If we had been opening a business, like the fourth McDonalds in this town, I would have to agree that this was a dumb idea, but the church isn’t a business. I started checking around, and these four churches all run thirty-five to forty people, so that’s between fifteen and eighteen percent of the population. I started asking the locals why they didn’t go and got the same answer over and over. You see, a large part of this town’s population were alcoholics and addicts, and when I would ask them, they would say, “I don’t feel welcome in any of them.” Now, I hope that wasn’t a conscious effort from those churches, but it was very real. Here’s the thing, if you don’t feel comfortable in church, that’s the Holy Spirit convicting you, but if you don’t feel welcome…that’s on us.

So, in starting this church, I asked God how He wanted me to do it, and He told me to look at the first church, so I did. I spent about a year studying the first church, and do you know what I found? They were a family, and everyone was welcome. There were no denominations, they were one body, in fact, one of the key themes of the New Testament is the unity of the Body of Christ.

After this, I started talking to many pastors from all over the country and asking them why they chose the denomination they were part of. The answer I kept getting was staggering. Over and over, they told me that they chose the denomination based on the way they interpreted Scripture…did you get that? The way they interpret scripture. Every one of those pastors said that they believe the Bible is the verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God. So, here’s the problem, we are not infallible, we are not inerrant, so when we put our fallible and errant interpretation on the perfect word of God, it is no longer perfect. The Bible was never meant to be interpreted. It must be taken literally, but in context, and as a whole. Not just in the context of that chapter, because the Bible wasn’t written in chapter and verse. Not just in the context of that book, but in the context of the whole Bible, as well as historically and linguistically. So, what I’m trying to say is that it takes work, but in today’s technological age, there is no excuse. On my phone, I have Greek and Hebrew dictionaries, lexicons, and the Bible in any translation I want to look at. I firmly believe that, if every Christ-follower took this approach, there would be no need for denominations. We may still see some minor things differently, but we would all agree on the major issues.

I am, by no means, saying that I have all the answers, but the Bible does. If you disagree with something I have written, feel free to contest it, I could be wrong, but anything you write, must be directly from Scripture and taken in context…so do the work. I have had people try to contest Scripture using a book on Baptist Polity before, you can imagine how that went over. So please, read and join in on the discussion. I look forward to growing together in Christ.

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Submit To One Another

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Submit To One Another

Ephesians 5:21-33

This is the problem with doing an expositional study, you can’t pick your topics…that means you even have to do the ones you don’t want to. Because of that, I’m going to cover a lot more ground in one blog than I usually do. Normally I only take 3 or 4 verses at a time, but if I did that today, this blog would have been called, “Wives Need to Submit to Their Husbands”. Somehow, I don’t think that would have gone over so well in today’s society, and if we look at it in context that’s, not what it is saying here. So, let’s do that, let’s take it in context but please read the entire blog before you make any judgment.

In order to look at it in context, we need to go back to the beginning…literally, the beginning! Look at Genesis 2:18 where God said, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’” The KJV uses the word “help meet” here. The Hebrew word used in this verse is the word, `ezer {ay’-zer} which means help, succor, and succor means, “A person or thing that gives help, relief, aid, etc.” So, although we have all heard it from some pastors, the truth is that the wife was not created to be the husband’s servant. She was created to be his helper, to aid him in leading. Now, I feel like I need to stress that men were created to be the leaders, but not at the expense of the woman, even if you are just looking at it physiologically. My degree is in biology, specifically human anatomy, and physiology, and the male body and emotions were created to handle the physical and emotional strains of leading. But we’ll go into that more a little later.

Now, let’s get back to our passage. Paul starts out by saying, “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In Ephesians 5:21. You see, a lot of “those pastors” like to leave this verse out and skip right to verse 22 that says, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” But, the fact is that he begins by saying we all need to submit to each other, husbands to wives and wives to husbands. He goes on in verses 23 through 24 to remind us that God did place the husband as the head of the home just as Christ is the head of the Church. I have heard many Christians try to say that this doesn’t apply to us anymore, but the truth is, there is no scripture to back that up. Some try to say that it’s because we are no longer under the curse but there are a few holes in that thinking. First, although the man being the head of the home was part of the curse of Adam, it was also set up that way from creation. Second, the Bible never says we are no longer under the curse of Adam, it says we are no longer under the curse of the law…two totally different curses. Look at Galatians 3:13, “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” And, thirdly, if this didn’t pertain to us today, then why would Paul have written it to the New Testament Church? I know I sound like a broken record, but we need to stop trying to interpret the Bible, so it matches what we want to hear. We need to take it literally, in context, and as a whole.

These two verses also go back to the fact that the husband and wife are one body, as God said back in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Because, in verses 23 and 24, when he tells us that the husband is head of the wife just like Christ is the head of the Church he is saying that, just like Christ is the head and the Church is the body, so, the husband is the head and the wife is the body…we are one flesh.

The next section, verses 25 through 30 are all addressing the man, that’s right, 3 verses for the women and 6 verses for the men, we need twice as much direction. Paul reminds us men to love our wives the way Christ loves the Church, “just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.” Notice it doesn’t say just that Christ died for the Church, it says that He gave Himself for her. You see, Christ didn’t just die for us, He gave everything for us. He left the splendor of Heaven and came to live as a pauper here on this broken earth for us. Yes, we should be willing to die for our wives, but we should be willing to do much more than that. With Christ as our example, we must live for and love our wives as He did the Church. And, why should we do this? To make our wives holy, that means set apart, and clean, and washed by God’s word…to lift up our wives, not to put them down.

As if that wasn’t enough, and knowing how self-centered we men can be, he hits us again. In verse 28 he says, “In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.” That’s right love your wife as much as you love yourself…ouch! And then he ends the section to the men by reminding us that we are all part of the Body of Christ.

Now, I would like to go back to verse 21 which says we need to submit to each other. Because, next it says in verse 22, “For wives, this means…” and in verse 25 he says, “For husbands, this means…” So, do you see what it is saying? Submit to each other! For women, it means you need to let your husband lead by God’s authority. And, for men, this means you need to love your wives.

So, why do you think Paul focused on these two things? As I mentioned earlier, part of the curse of Adam was “Then he said to the woman, ‘I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain, you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.’” Genesis 3:16. By nature, women want to take control, but that isn’t how God intended it. Again, that doesn’t mean that men control everything, and women have no say in it. Women were given to us as our help meet. They are there to aid us in leading, but we men have to answer to God for how we lead our families. And, as for men, we don’t love naturally…not like women do. Most women love naturally, it’s like a second nature. You know, that motherly, nurturing instinct, but we men are pretty self-centered. We think that providing for the family is enough, but it isn’t. We need to step back and take a hard look at how we love our wives.

So, to sum it up, submit to each other, follow God’s plan, and love! It doesn’t get much easier than that, right?

Don’t Live Like Fools

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Don’t Live Like Fools

Ephesians 5:15-20

If you grew up in church, especially if you are around my age, you probably grew up singing a song in Sunday School that says, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see,” “be careful little mouth what you say,” and “be careful little feet where you go, because the Father up above is looking down in love.” Sometimes I think we need to go back to those children songs, their so simple and yet so profound.

Our passage today sums this all up. In Ephesians 5:15 Paul says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.” Just be careful how you live, it’s that simple…Right? He says that we shouldn’t live like fools, instead we should live like the wise. Okay, the first question is, how do we get wisdom? James 1:5 tells us, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” We quote this verse quite a bit, but sometimes we forget to go on from there. Verses 6-8 say, But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” So, yes, ask God, but you must have complete faith and trust in God alone. That means, don’t look for wisdom in Confucius, Plato, or Socrates, and don’t trust your own wisdom. We must remember that true wisdom only comes from God. We may ask God for wisdom, then wonder why He hasn’t given it to us. It’s because we keep trusting in our own wisdom or that of other humans, our loyalty is divided.

So, what are the attributes of true wisdom? James 3:17 tells us, 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” God’s wisdom is Pure, Peace Loving, Gentle at all times, and always willing to yield to others, in other words, it’s not proud. If your wisdom can’t be described as all these things, it is not of God. But, did you see what else it says? Look at it, “It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds.” It’s not that wisdom brings about good deeds, it is the product of good deeds. Wisdom is produced by us asking God for it and doing good deeds.

So, if we want to live by the Spirit’s power, we first must live like the wise, not the foolish. But this passage goes on to say, 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If you hadn’t noticed, we are living in very evil days, but Paul tells us to look for opportunities and make the most of them.

And, how can we make the most of these opportunities? We need to stop being thoughtless and start understanding God’s plan. As we’ve seen many times before, God’s plan is for us to glorify Him…that’s all! And, here’s how we can glorify God:

Step 1: Don’t be a drunk! Why? It will ruin your life! I can’t begin to tell you how many lives I’ve seen ruined by alcoholism, even in my own family.

Step 2: Be filled with the Holy Spirit. We must empty ourselves of self and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and rule in us.

Step 3: SING! Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. A study was recently released on the benefits of singing 10 minutes each day. It strengthens your immune system, it is a workout in itself and even strengthens your lungs, it improves your posture, it aids in regular sleep, it is a natural anti-depressant, it lowers stress levels, it improves mental alertness, it can widen your circle of friends, boost your confidence, broaden your communication skills, and increase your ability to appreciate other music. Sing out loud, but also make music in your heart to the Lord.

Step 4: And, most important. In the name of Jesus Christ, give thanks to God for EVERYTHING! Not just the good things…everything.

We all need to ask ourselves daily, am I living by the Spirit’s power? This word, power, is a word we talked about quite a while ago. The Greek word is dunamis, which is the word we derived our word dynamite from. It is an explosive power and an inherent power. It is a power that is inherent within us and only comes from God. In contrast, the word the Bible always uses when it talks about Satan’s power is exousia which means the ability or strength with which one is endued. It is a power that God has allowed Satan to have for a season.

So, pray every day that God will fill you with the Holy Spirit. In fact, pray to be filled to overflowing, so the Spirit will spill out on everyone you come in contact with. Don’t be drunk but allow the Spirit of God to rule in your life. Then sing…sing with joy in your heart to the Lord. If you are singing all day every day, whether out loud or to yourself, you will be filled with joy, you will be doing good deeds which will bring about God’s wisdom in your life, and you will be living in the power of the Spirit of God.

Figure Out What Pleases God

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Figure Out What Pleases God

Ephesians 5:10-14

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. As Christ followers, we were created for one purpose and one purpose only, to glorify God! Isaiah 43:7 tells us, “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.” This is why Paul says in Ephesians 5:10, “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.” Because, this is our job, our only job. It’s like working on an assembly line. You have one job and one job only…don’t screw it up. If we are not pleasing God, we are not doing the one thing He has put us on this earth to do!

Paul started out chapter 5 of his letter to the Church at Ephesus by telling us to Imitate God because we are His dear children. He then goes on to implore us to stay away from all types of sin and to live as people of light. Now he is about to tell us what to do with that light. Look at verses 11-14, 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’”

He starts out by telling us to take no part in the evil and dark deeds of this world, but he goes so much further than that. He says, instead of participating in them, we need to expose them. This is a huge problem with our society today. We are all so afraid of offending someone, that we just say nothing. In fact, we would rather stay blind to it, we have that, “ignorance is bliss” mentality. I am currently working on two more books. One is a follow-up to my first one, Cathedral Made of People, titled, One Church, One Body. The second book my wife and I are writing together, it is titled Life as We Knew It. This book accounts Michelle and my awakening to what is going on in the world today and starts exposing some of it. There is so much darkness in our world that we as Christ followers often would rather stay blind to. But, that’s not what God wants, He wants us to expose the darkness.

Look what God told the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 33:7-9, “Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself.” Do you see what God said? If we don’t warn them, and they die in their sin, their blood is on our hands. Believe me, I know, no one wants to expose that darkness of this world, in fact, no one really wants to know about a lot of it, but as Christ followers, it is our duty to know about it and to shine God’s light on it.

You’re probably asking, as I was, how can I expose this darkness? First, if we are going to expose it, we must recognize it. We need to ask God to open our eyes to what is going on around us. Michelle and I had things happen to us all throughout our lives that should have opened our eyes, but it wasn’t until a recent development that we started connecting all the dots.

Once you have started recognizing the darkness you need to stay away from it and start exposing it. Last week we looked at Living as People of Light. If you are a Christ follower, you have that light within you, now it’s your job to let it out for the world to see.

The verses go on to say that the things these people are doing are so wicked that it is a shame to even talk about them. And, trust me, you would not believe the things that go on among our politicians and celebrities…deplorable things. I won’t get into them today, but be watching for my book, I will be exposing a lot of it. Our passage then says, that “But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them.” You can’t help but see things when they are well lit. Have you ever been out at night in a dimly lit place, then passed a mirror and thought, “I look pretty good tonight”? Only to get home and realize your zipper had been down all night. As I get older I notice it more. I need more light to see things better, but it’s true of all of us. That’s why makeup mirrors are lit, so you can really see what you are working with.

Paul ends this section by saying, “This is why it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’” Friends, we need to Wake Up! We can’t keep living with our heads in the sand! We must know what evil is in this world so we can stay away from it, but also so we can expose it. None of us wants to be responsible for people dying in their sin.

I’m not going to tell you that if you start exposing the evil of this world, everything will be fine. Jesus told us, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Do you see that? We will have trials and sorrows on earth! In fact, Matthew 10:22 tells us that every nation will hate us, and we will be persecuted! But, I love how Jesus ended John 16:33, He told us to take heart, why? Because He has overcome the world!

If we start exposing the darkness of this world, we will be persecuted, but that’s okay because we serve the King of kings, the Lord of lords, The Great I AM!

Live as People of Light

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Live as People of Light!

Ephesians 5:6-9

At my day job, I have an employee who loves her job and loves Jesus. Every time this young lady is around, the room lights up. She always has a smile on her face and is a joy to be around. She’s one of those people who you can’t help but smile when they are around them. I also have an employee who does not love her job and, if she loves Jesus, it doesn’t show. She’s a Debbie Downer, every time she enters a room, it’s like a cloud overshadows everyone, she rarely smiles and even her posture tells everyone that she doesn’t want to be there. There’s an old song I love by DC Talk that says:

I want to be in the Light
As You are in the Light
I want to shine like the stars in the heavens
Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation
Cause all I want is to be in the Light

We all know what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16, 14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” We are that shining city on a hill! No one in their right mind would turn on a light and then cover it. If you turn on a light it is to light up the house, covering it would just be a waste of energy and senseless. Just like that lamp, we need to let our good works shine for the world to see. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We are not saved by our good works, but we are saved for good works. James tells us that, if our faith is not backed by good works it is useless.

Today’s passage, Ephesians 5:6-9 tells us, Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So, live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” Paul starts out by telling us not to be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins. So, what sins is he talking about? Those sins listed in the last few verses, sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes. But, it isn’t limited to those sins. We all try to excuse our sin. We tell ourselves that it isn’t as bad as what that other person is doing, or it doesn’t affect anyone but me, but sin is sin whether it is sexual immorality or using foul language. If we give ear to those who try to excuse those sins, we will allow ourselves to fall into them ourselves. That’s why Paul tells us not to participate in the things these people do.

Sin has a way of creeping into our lives undetected. It starts by us listening to those people that say it’s okay to cuss because the Bible only says not to use the Lord’s name in vain. First of all, as we saw last week, the Bible has a lot to say about the words that come out of our mouths, but it goes so much farther than that. You see, once you give in to one sin, it becomes easier to give in to other sins. It’s like with drugs, people don’t just pick up a needle one day and say, I think I’ll try heroin. They start by smoking a little pot socially, then they think that maybe cocaine isn’t that bad. The next thing you know they are trying uppers and downers, then acid. Before they ever know what hit them, they are an addict. That’s how sin works. One day you are justifying your cussing, then you think it’s okay to lie as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else. The next thing you know, you are into porn or adultery or any number of other sins and justifying it all the way.

You see, the Devil is no dummy. He knows that if he planted a seed in your head to rob a bank you wouldn’t do it. But, if he tempted you with some little thing in a store that you want and can’t afford, then can get you to justify in your mind that this big store would never notice it, he’s got you.

Here’s the thing, if you are a Christ follower, Satan has lost you. In John 8:34-36 we read, 34 Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.’” We are free from the power of sin. Satan has no power over us. His only hope is to tempt us so that we will slip and ruin our testimony before the world. He can’t have us, but he can stop us from winning others.

Let’s look at the end of today’s passage. Paul said that at one time we were full of darkness but now we have light from the Lord. 1 John 1:5-7 tells us, This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” There is no darkness at all in God, so if we have the Spirit living within us, we have the light of the world within us.

Paul ends by saying that since we have the light of God within us, we need to live as people of the light! And, why should we do this? Because this light within us, the light of the world, only produces things that are good and right and true…nothing else. So, if what is coming out of you isn’t good and right and true, it is not coming from the light, we are allowing ourselves to be slaves to the darkness again. Just remember what Philippians 4:8-9 says, And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praiseKeep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” Let’s all make it our daily goal to fix our thoughts on these things and live as people of the light!

A Stern Warning

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

A Stern Warning

Paul just finished telling us to imitate God and now, in the next 3 verses, he is telling us what not to do. Ephesians 5:3-5 says, Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.”

Look at the sins he lists here and the order in which he lists them: Sexual Immorality, Impurity, Greed. Then, after he tells us that we have no business doing these things, he continues the list with Obscene Stories, Foolish Talk, and Coarse Jokes. There are a lot of Christians out there today who believe that it is okay to cuss and use foul language. They say the Bible never says not to cuss, it just says not to take the Lord’s name in vain. Well, those Christians have obviously not read much of the Bible.

In this passage, it lumps dirty stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes with sexual immorality, impurity, and greed so I would say it is pretty important. The Greek word used here that has been translated as foolish talk isn’t used anywhere else in the Bible in this form, but the root words are. The root word translated as foolish is the Greek word μωρός mōrós, mo-ros’, which means, “Foolish, equivalent to impious, godless.” According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. So, this word could be translated as foolish, disrespectful to God, or godless talk, that opens the playing field quite a bit.

There are verses all throughout the Bible that warn about the tongue. Jesus Himself talked a lot about it. Remember the story when the religious leaders were trying to trip Him up and asked why His disciples didn’t observe the tradition of washing the outside of their cup before drinking from it? Let’s look at the last part of Jesus’ answer in Matthew 15:16-20, 16 ‘Don’t you understand yet?’ Jesus asked. 17 ‘Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.’” Jesus told them straight up that what you put into your body doesn’t defile you. He is actually giving a little anatomy lesson here. You see, medically speaking, the digestive tract is outside the body. It is a hole that starts at your mouth and ends at your…well you get the picture. So, anything you eat is technically outside your body. Nutrients are absorbed into the body during the process of digestion, but the food itself is never inside the body. Therefore, what you put into your mouth could never defile you, it might make you sick, but it won’t defile you. Conversely, what comes out of your mouth can definitely defile you. I mean, look at the list, evil thoughts, murder, adultery, ALL sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. I know some are asking, how can I murder with my words? Well, what did Christ say about that? Look at Matthew 5:21-22, 21 ‘You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment] 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.’” In fact, we see this all throughout the Bible. What did John say in 1 John 3:15? 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” You see, what you say can and does defile you.

As Christ followers, we must watch what we say. The apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:10-12, 10 For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. 11 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” Notice he starts out by saying, “For the Scriptures say,” this is because Peter is quoting from Psalms 34:12-16. In both of these passages the Word of God tells us that if we want to live a long and prosperous life on this earth, we need to guard our tongues.

James also had a lot to say about watching your mouth, as my mom always said. Look at James 3:2-12, Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.” He makes it pretty clear, doesn’t he?

The Pastor I grew up underused to always say something that sums this up so nicely. He would say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people will ever open.” The simple fact is, why do you use foul language? Is it because you don’t want your friends to think you are different? We are called to be a peculiar people in 1 Peter 2:9. That doesn’t mean we should be so weird that people don’t want anything to do with us, we can’t win them if they don’t want what we have, but we also can’t be conformed to this world, Romans 12:2.

Imitate God

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Imitate God

Matthew 28:19 tells us, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Notice it doesn’t say to go make congregations or go make audiences. The word disciple was coined by the Pharisees. A disciple was a student of that Pharisee but was much more than that. They would follow the Pharisee around everywhere and imitate exactly what they did. If the Pharisee was studying the Torah, the disciple was studying the Torah, if the Pharisee was eating, the disciple was eating, if the Pharisee was going to the bathroom…well, you get the picture. So, when Christ said go make disciples, He was telling us to go make imitators of Him. If we are truly a disciple of Christ, we do everything that He would have done. Remember those WWJD bracelets and shirts? Of course, like everything else, it became more religion, just another Christian fad, but that is a true disciple. A real disciple would ask themselves in every situation, What Would Jesus Do?

So, it’s no surprise that Paul starts out the 5th chapter of Ephesians by saying, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2. Notice he doesn’t say to imitate God in some things, he says to imitate God in everything we do. Remember what he said in 1 Corinthians 5:31, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” We must glorify God in everything we do, even eating and drinking.

Paul even goes on to tell us why we should imitate God, he says at the end of verse 1 that we should want to do this because we are His children. Remember back to Ephesians 1:5 where Paul says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” Notice he specifically says that we were adopted as sons. He doesn’t say sons and daughters, but that we are all, male and female, adopted as sons. The reason he says this it that at the time this letter was written to the church at Ephesus, the male child got all the inheritance. So, what he is saying here is that we are all equally adopted with full benefits. You see, there might have been some chauvinism among the people of that day, but not with God. Paul laid it out even clearer to the Galatian church when he said, 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” Galatians 3:26-29. You see, people can be prejudiced, sadly even God’s people can get that way, but God loves us all equally.

Verse 2 of our passage goes into the theme that is throughout the New Testament, the theme of Unity of the Body of Christ. I know this particular verse doesn’t say to be united directly, but that’s what this message of love is all about. Remember what Jesus said when the Pharisee asked Him what the most important law was? Matthew 22:37-40, 37 Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” If we love God and love each other the way that God loves us, we won’t be breaking the commandments. We talked a lot about love in a previous blog titled “A More Excellent Way.” Love is the one spiritual gift that all of us can have and the only spiritual gift that we can take to heaven with us because it is the only one we will need in heaven. Think about it, we won’t need prophecy because we will know things the way God knows us. We won’t need tongues because we will all be speaking the same heavenly language. We won’t need miracles because there will be no sickness or disease. And, as far as gifts of teaching and admonishing and service, we will be learning at the feet of Jesus…is not that beautiful?

Paul tells us to follow Christ’s example. He says that Christ’s sacrifice was “a pleasing aroma to God.” Jesus selflessly gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins. He left the perfection of heaven to come to earth, be born as a man, live 33 years all the while being ridiculed and persecuted, then died on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Paul says this was a pleasing aroma to God. The Old Testament talks a lot about the sacrifices being a sweet-smelling aroma to God and Paul is saying that Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, was a pleasing aroma.

He goes on to say that our love for each other is a fragrant aroma to God. Look at Philippians 4:15-20, it says, 15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. 16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. 18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. 20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.” You see, the gifts that the Philippian church sent to Paul were a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God. By loving others, by helping others, by imitating Christ, we can present a fragrant aroma to God.

To sum it up, Imitate God, Love Others, and take what God has blessed you with, and use it to bless others.

Just Do Right!

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Just Do Right!

In our last 3 blogs, we talked about what a pastor’s job is and then what will happen when he does his job. The Bible tells us that, once the pastor trains us to do the work for ourselves, we will become mature and will not live like the heathens do. Paul finishes Ephesians chapter 4 by summing up what will happen once we all fall in love with Christ and spend our days studying His Word.

He starts out in verse 25 by saying, “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.” This is one of the 10 Commandments, “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor.” So, don’t lie to, or about your neighbor. Remember the name Christian means, “Christlike.” We are to be like Christ and love our neighbor as ourselves. Did you know that the Bible tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves 10 different times? The first time was in Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Then we see it all throughout the New Testament. Remember in Matthew 22 when Christ said that the most important commandment was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” He then went on to say that the second most important commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Christ finished this in verse 40 by saying, “The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” You see, if we love God and love our neighbor like we love ourselves, we will be keeping all the commandments.

In Ephesians 4:26-27 Paul goes on to say, 26And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” The reason “don’t sin by letting anger control you” is in quotes is because it is a quote from Psalm 4:4, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.” When we go to bed angry we are laying there stewing on the thing or person we are angry about. What did Jesus say about this? Matthew 5:21-22, 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” Jesus didn’t mess around, He is saying that if you hate someone in your heart you are guilty of murder. Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I wish they were dead?” Then, you are guilty of murder. He goes on to say the same goes for adultery. If you lust after someone in your heart you are guilty. Christ said all this to show us that we can’t get to heaven by keeping the law because the law is impossible to keep. Paul goes on to tell us throughout his writings, as you can see in Romans chapter 8, that the law was never meant to save us, it was meant to show us our need for God. That was just a side note…no charge. But, the point is that we shouldn’t go to bed angry, it will lead us to sin. So, if you are angry don’t hold a grudge, take care of it before you go to bed. You may be tired in the morning, but you’ll feel a lot better.

The next thing we see in our passage is “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.” Ephesians 4:28. Paul doesn’t pull any punches, he hits it with both barrels. There’s no need to explain this one, just don’t do it!

The next verse is tough for a lot of Christians today. Many believe that it’s okay to use foul language as long as they are not taking the Lord’s name in vain. I have been told by many people who claim the name of Christ that the Bible never says not to cuss, it says not to take the Lord’s name in vain. These are people who haven’t read much of the Bible. Ephesians 4:29 tells us, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” In fact, Jesus talked about it in Matthew 15. He said in verses 10-11, “Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘and try to understand. 11 It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.’” Then, after Peter asked what He meant by that, Jesus said in verses16-20, 16 ‘Don’t you understand yet?’ Jesus asked. 17 ‘Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.’” The pastor I grew up under always said, “Your life may be the only Bible some people ever open” and that is so true. We are defiling ourselves before the world by claiming the name of Christ, then talking like the world. And, by the way, you can take the Lord’s name in vain without ever opening your mouth. If you are claiming to be a Christian and living like the world, you are taking the Lord’s name in vain. In fact, the next verse in our passage says just that, “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30.

Paul ends this passage by saying, “31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32. Look at this list. He says to get rid of ALL bitterness, ALL rage, ALL anger, ALL harsh words, ALL slander, then he says that while you’re at it, just get rid of ALL evil behavior.

What does Paul end it with? He says to just love each other and forgive each other the way that God has forgiven you. Bob Jones Sr. said it best when he said, “Do right until the stars fall.” Just Do Right!

Don’t Be Hopelessly Confused!

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Don’t Be Hopelessly Confused!

So, once our pastors start teaching us to study and do the work for ourselves as we discussed in “What’s a Pastor to Do,” and once we start maturing, as we saw in “Let’s be Grownups,” what happens then? Let’s move on to the next 8 verses of this passage. Ephesians 4:17-24 says, 17With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

Notice Paul starts out by saying that he is talking with the Lord’s authority. Paul is always clear when he is speaking from the Lord and when he is just saying what he believes is true. We see an example of this in 1 Corinthians 7:6 where he says it is good to stay single but qualifies it by saying, “I say this as a concession, not as a command.” So, in our passage, Paul is saying this is actually a command from the Lord, he is speaking with the authority of Christ.

The first thing he tells us with Christ’s authority is not to live like the Gentiles do. The word here doesn’t just mean Gentiles as a nation or specifically non-Jewish people, the Greek word used here can be translated as Gentile, but also can mean heathen. So, what he is saying at the beginning of verse 17 is that we can’t keep living like heathens do. He says that they are “hopelessly confused.” The word he uses here is the Greek work, “ματαιότης mataiótēs, mat-ah-yot’-ace” which the Strong’s concordance defines as, “What is devoid of truth and appropriateness, perverseness, depravity.” So, he is saying that they are hopelessly confused, devoid of truth, and depraved…they are living without God and we don’t want to be living like them.

In verse 18 he describes it even further by explaining how their minds are full of darkness and they just wander through life far from the life God can give them. I won’t go into all the detail here, but if you read my book by the same title as this blog, Cathedral Made of People, there is an entire chapter dedicated to the walking dead in the Church. If we are not in Christ, we are not walking in life, but are the walking dead. Paul also says in verse 18 that this is because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against God. Does that last phrase ring a bell? It should, we see this all throughout scripture. Remember when God was leading the Israelites out of Egypt? The Bible tells us that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Then in Deuteronomy chapter 2, we see that God hardened the heart of Sihon, the king of Heshbon. In 2 Chronicles chapter 36 we see where Zedekiah stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against king Nebuchadnezzar. And, this theme carries on throughout the New Testament. When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water in Mark 6 they were astonished because, “for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” Mark 6:52.

This term, hardened hearts, comes from the Greek word πώρωσις pṓrōsis, po’-ro-sis which means hardness or covered with callouses. There was a great worship song written by Keith Green called Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful. I have a recording of the first time he sang this song and when he was introducing it he told about this letter he wrote to God. In the letter, he asked God to remove the callouses from his heart and give his heart baby skin. He said that these callouses didn’t come from anything he was doing, but rather from things he wasn’t doing. You see, when we don’t spend time with God every day, when we don’t pray and study His word every day, our hearts get calloused, they get hardened and we fail to see what He is trying to show us.

Paul goes on in verse 19 of Ephesians chapter 4 to tell us how these heathens had no sense of shame and just lived to please themselves, they only did what felt good to them. Doesn’t that sound a lot like our world today? Nothing has changed in 2000 years, or for that matter since mankind first fell into sin. Then in verse 20, he says, “But that isn’t what you learned about Christ.” So, what did we learn about Christ? Philippians 2:3-8 says, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Christ was truly selfless. He was humble and always put the needs of others ahead of his own needs. Christ didn’t live for His own pleasure, He lived for others.

Paul goes on to tell us to throw off our old sinful nature that is corrupted by our lusts and let the Spirit of God renew our thoughts and attitudes. Remember what Paul told us in Romans 12:1-2, 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

The Bible tells us over and over to be righteous and holy. The word holy means to be set apart, so what that means is that we can’t be conformed to this world. This doesn’t mean we should be so weird the world wants nothing to do with us. How can we win them unless they want what we have? We must be in the world, but we can’t take on the world’s values. Jesus was in the world, He even ate meals with sinners, but He never acted like them. Don’t get me wrong, if you live for Christ you will be persecuted just like He was, but who was it that persecuted Christ, was it the sinners or the religious people? Just a little something to think about.

Let’s Be Grownups

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Let’s Be Grownups

Last week we looked at what our Pastor’s jobs are and how he is not there to spoon feed us but to train us to do the work for ourselves. So, what happens when the body starts doing the work for itself? The next 4 verses tell us exactly that, this passage says in Ephesians 4:13-16, 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

What is it this passage is saying will continue? The training from the Pastor will continue, and it will continue until we become united in our faith. This is the first goal of God’s work through these offices of the church, working towards the edification of the saints. This lines up with both the ultimate purpose of God, seen in Ephesians 1:10 which says, And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth” and the mystery of God which was revealed through Paul in Ephesians 3:6, “And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.”

Notice that Paul calls it a unity of faith. He didn’t call it a unity of organization, but a spiritual unity around a common faith and knowledge of Christ. When I was 19 years old I joined a Christian musical drama group. I traveled with this group for 3 years, in fact, that is where Michelle and I met and married, the people we toured with on that team became our brothers and sisters in a very literal way and that is a spiritual unity that no one can break. We all went on with our lives and live all over the country. We all are from different backgrounds and denominations, but even though it has been over 30 years, if I find myself in Fayetteville, North Carolina, I know I can stop in on Dave and Sonja or Ken and Deb and it will be like we were never apart. And, the same goes for any other of the members of that group, there is a relationship there that can’t be broken. You see, when these spiritual leaders work together to train us to do the work for ourselves, we will become united in Christ and the result is an increased maturity and greater intimacy in our experience with God.

Paul goes on to tell us that, once we are mature and know how to study the Word of God for ourselves, we won’t be blown around by every wind of doctrine. You see, that is what has happened to the Church. We don’t know how to study the Word for ourselves, so we rely on what we are taught by men and accept whatever doctrine they are teaching. This is where all these denominations and divisions come from. We don’t have very many mature Christians anymore, there are a few mature Church leaders, but the Bible tells us that we all need to be mature.

Look at 1 Corinthians chapter 3, I won’t copy it here because it is the entire chapter, so stop and read through it before you read on. What does this chapter say? First Paul is rebuking the church at Corinth for not maturing. He said in verse 2, “I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready.” He goes on to tell them that the reason they are so immature is that they are controlled by their sinful nature. He said the proof of this is their jealousy and quarreling. He tells them in verse 4, “When one of you says, ‘I am a follower of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I follow Apollos,’ aren’t you acting just like people of the world?” Doesn’t that sound like today? Except, today it’s “I’m of Martin Luther” or “I follow John Calvin,” but isn’t it the same thing? Isn’t this just more spiritual immaturity? Paul goes on through Chapter 3 explaining to them that the men don’t matter, the only one who matters is Jesus Christ.

Going back to our main text, Paul says at the end of Ephesians 4:14 that, if you know the truth, you won’t be tricked by people who tell you things that just sound like the truth. He says that instead of being swayed by things that sound true, we will speak the truth in love and that, by doing this, we will become more and more like Christ. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did all throughout His ministry? He always spoke the truth in love. Paul goes on to remind us that we are all one body and that Christ is our head.

Paul ends this passage in verse 16 by reminding us that because Christ is our head, all of us different parts of the body fit together perfectly. Then he says, “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

You have your own special job within the body of Christ and we need each of us to be mature and do the job that Christ has assigned to us so the whole body will be healthy and grow full of love. So, let’s all get out there, put aside all our differences, get to work, do our special jobs, and grow in the love of Christ.

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