What is Cathedral Made Of People?

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Photo By: Michelle Pearson Photography

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.

Names of God – El Qanna

Names of God – El Qanna

Exodus 34:14 says this, “You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.” El Qanna means Jealous God…thus, His very name is Jealous. I know what you are probably thinking, isn’t jealousy a bad thing? It can be, but God is jealous of our time with Him, He is jealous of our worship. I am not a “jealous man” because I can trust my wife, but if my wife were to start giving her affections to another man…watch out.

All throughout the Bible, God refers to us as His bride, Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthian Church, 2 Corinthians 11:2 “For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.” If you are a Christ follower, you are the bride of Christ, and he is jealous of our praise, our affection, and our worship.

There is a great worship song. I first heard it performed by David Crowder, but it was written by John Mark McMillan. This song is called, “How He Loves”, and it says:

And He is jealous for me,
Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory.
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

He loves us so much, that He gave His only Son to die on the cross for us. Think about this for a minute. First, Christ left Heaven to come to earth as a man, that alone was a huge sacrifice. But, then He lived a life, literally as a homeless man, and ministered to people, many of which rejected everything He said. After that, He was beaten beyond recognition and hung on a cross to die. His body was then buried in a borrowed tomb, then on the third day, He overcame death and the grave by rising from the dead. He did that for you and me, so we must praise Him.

In Deuteronomy 5:9 God told the Israelites, “You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.” Many of you may be thinking, but I don’t worship other gods like they did back then. Don’t you? We often think of other gods being Buddha or some other idol, but what about money, or your career, or your house, car, or other worldly possessions? Do we spend more time with God than we do with our homes, or cars, or friends, or jobs, or even our TVs? The truth is that we all have things that we put before God, and He is jealous of them. He deserves our attention, and He demands our attention.

We’ve all heard people say, “It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship.” Sometimes those clichés lose their punch, but it is so true. God does not want religion, He does not care about organ music, or stained-glass windows, or any of that garbage, all He cares about is a relationship with His Church…His Bride.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Every time that religion is mentioned in the New Testament, except for one verse, it is mentioned in a negative light. The people that Jesus had problems with were the religious people, not the “sinners”, and Paul kept talking about how he left the religion of his fathers to follow Christ. The one time that religion is mentioned in a positive light is in James 1:27, where it says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” So, what God sees as pure religion is helping widows and orphans, and keeping yourself pure. That’s it! Pure religion is glorifying God!

God’s love for us is unspeakable. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is the last verse in the book of John. The whole book is talking about all that Jesus did for us out of His love for us. It talks about His baptism at the beginning of His ministry, it talks about His ministry and how He was rejected by the religious people. In chapter 17 it recounts His prayer for us just before He went to the cross. It goes on to talk about His betrayal and crucifixion, His resurrection and ascent to heaven, and then it ends by saying, John 21:25 “Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” Stop for just a minute and think about what this verse is saying. Look around at the room you are in and think about how many books it would take to fill that room. My office is small, about 12’X12’ with 8’ ceilings, so it’s about 1,152 cubic feet. That means that, if each book was about 1 cubic foot, it would take almost 1,200 books to fill this little office. But, to write down all the things that Jesus did for us out of love, the world couldn’t contain the books…wow! What a humbling thought! He loves me that much.

Let’s all, purpose in our hearts to love God as much as He loved us. I won’t write it all here, but stop for a minute and read 1 John chapter 4, starting at verse 7, and fall in love with God. You may think you already love God, and you probably do, but do you love Him like He loves you? Probably not, I know I don’t.

Names of God – El Olam

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Names of God – El Olam

John 3:16 says, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” In order for God to give us this eternal life that He promised, He must first be an eternal God, and that is what this name is telling us. The name El Olam means, “God Eternal”.

An eternal God is one of those things that is very hard to comprehend. We can almost grasp the idea of a God with no end, but no beginning? That’s a lot harder. We are finite creatures, trying to explain an infinite God. We try to explain it with a circle, but the reason it’s impossible to grasp is that everything in this world is finite. You had a beginning, your parents and grandparents had a beginning, this nation had a beginning, even the world itself had a beginning. But, the Bible tells us that God is everlasting, He had no beginning and will have no end, and this is just one of those things that we have to accept on faith.

The Psalmist put it this way, Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.” One beautiful thing about God being eternal is that He never changes, Malachi 3:6 “I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed.” Could you imagine a God who is eternal, but keeps changing the rules? That would be chaos! I have worked for companies before, that were constantly trying to “reinvent” themselves. They would change things, just to change them. But, our God never changes. I’ve heard people say, “but what about salvation? Weren’t the Old Testament people saved by keeping the law? The answer to that question is, absolutely not! The Bible makes it infinitely clear that the law was never meant to save, read the book of Romans, particularly chapters 5-7. And, if you look at Hebrews chapter 11, what we call the faith chapter, the writer names many Old Testament people and says that they were made righteous by their faith.

Not only does our God not change, He is patient…very patient, Isaiah 42:4 “He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.” We often have a problem with God’s patience. We always want things to happen in our timing, but God does things in His timing. Remember, He knows the beginning from the end, and always has our best in mind. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” So let’s trust him and be patient.

And, He can be trusted, He is our eternal Rock, Isaiah 26:4 “Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” Remember what Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Jesus put it this way in John 8:58, “Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am!” Notice He didn’t say, “I was before Abraham”, He said, “I Am!” Remember the name, Jehovah means, I Am? You see, God operates outside of time. Think of it this way. If time were a straight line, the beginning of the line being creation, and the end of the line, is the end of the earth. We are all somewhere on that line, but God is off to one side of the line. He can see both ends and everything in between. God can see the end from the beginning, Isaiah 46:10 “Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.”

Let’s circle back to John 3:16. What does eternal life mean? When does it actually begin? Here’s the thing, we all assume that this eternal life starts when we die. We figure that we accept Christ and then when we die we get this prize…everlasting life. But that’s not at all what it is saying. First of all, in order to accept Christ, you have to repent. Repentance means turning away. It means doing a 180 and going the opposite direction. Accepting Christ is not a “get out of Hell free card”, it is a change of heart, of attitude, and of direction. You must fall in love with Christ. Let’s face it, if you are married and only spend one hour a week with your spouse, how long do you think that marriage would last? And yet, we try to do that with Christ. If you are not completely in love with your Savior, then stop now and get to know Him. Here’s what I’m getting at. Eternal life does not start when you die, or when you get to Heaven, it starts when you fall in love with Christ. Eternal life can start right here, right now, it can start today. John 11:25 says, “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.’” See what I mean? He didn’t say “after death”, He said, “even after dying.”

We serve an eternal, unchanging, patient, loving Father. Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” For more about His patient, unchanging love, study 1 Corinthians 13, then go back to my blog entitled “A More Excellent Way”.

Names of God – El Elyon

Names of God – El Elyon

The Most High God! In Old Testament times, as it still is today, people had many gods. But, most of the pagans recognized that the God of the Hebrews was more powerful than their gods, they feared the God of the Hebrews, because He is the Most High God. In fact, even Satan himself recognized this fact. Isaiah recounts Satan’s fall from Heaven, and in Isaiah chapter 14 Satan gives 5 “I Will” statements, the last of which is, Isaiah 14:14 “I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.” You see…even Satan himself had to admit that God is the El Elyon…the God Most High.

We find the first reference to this in Genesis 14:18-20, 18 And Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abram some bread and wine. 19 Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing: ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you.’” Many scholars believe Melchizedek to be an early appearance of Christ, and I agree. You see, Melchizedek is only mentioned after this in Psalm 110, where God the Father is speaking to God the Son and says, Psalm 110:4 “The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow: ‘You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.’”

The only other time we see him mentioned is in Hebrews chapter 7, where the writer goes into more detail on Melchizedek. First, we see in verse 2 that his name means “King of Justice”, and he is the King of Salem. Salem, or Shalom, means peace, so he is the King of Peace. The writer goes on to say, in verse 3, “There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God.” And it goes on to talk about how Melchizedek was greater than Abraham.

So, what does it all mean? Okay, so He’s the Most High God, what does that mean to me? I could take you through the Bible and show you in Daniel 4 where King Nebuchadnezzar met El Elyon, or in Numbers 24 where Balaam met El Elyon, but we need to know just what that means to us. What this all means, is that, no matter what happens, He is in control. Look at Jeremiah 29:11-13, 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” The Most High God has a plan for my life! That’s amazing!

Allow me to give an example from my own life. This isn’t an easy task because there are so many that I had to sit here and decide which one to share. You see, from the day I proposed marriage to Michelle, on Christmas Eve 1983, we decided to follow God no matter what that meant. On our wedding announcement was Psalm 48:14, “For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die”, the song we often sang was a song by Dr. David Livingston called, “Lord Send Me Anywhere”…and He did. Michelle and I have moved more times than I can count and have lived in 7 different states and it was all because El Elyon had control of our lives and we trusted Him. Years ago, there was a popular bumper sticker that read, “God is my co-pilot.” The problem is that isn’t good enough. God must be your pilot…you are nothing more than a passenger along for the ride.

This particular time happened in January of 2007. Our youngest son, Caleb, had expressed interest in acting, so Michelle had entered him in an acting competition the previous summer and he was accepted to go to their competition in Orlando, FL, we were living in Ohio at the time. So, we made that our family vacation and took him to Orlando. While we were there one of the judges, a Hollywood agent, signed Caleb on the spot and told us that we needed to get him out to LA. On the way back to Ohio, we prayed about it. We told the Lord that, if He wanted us in LA, then He needed to make it very clear. At that time, I was serving as a youth pastor in a small church that couldn’t pay me, so I had a management job at an insurance claim office. When we got home from vacation, my first day back to work I was called into the boss’s office. He informed me that my position didn’t exist anymore, handed me a severance check, and showed me to the door.

Some of you are probably thinking, “does God really send people to LA?” I know that’s what my father-in-law asked. Here’s the thing though, as a direct result of us moving to LA in 2007, Caleb now owns a movie and TV production company. He doesn’t make “Christian films”, he just makes films with good messages and uses his business to witness to actors, directors, grips, and anyone he can on set. Caleb believes that, if he can be a conduit for God to change Hollywood, they can change the world.

You see, God had a plan for us, He had a plan for Caleb, and He has a plan for you. He truly is the Most High God. He is orchestrating all of this and He already knows the outcome. Isaiah 46:10, “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;” Remember, He is the Alpha and the Omega…the beginning and the end, The Most High God.

Names of God – Jehovah Mekoddishkem

Names of God – Jehovah Mekoddishkem

This name of God is only found twice in the entire Bible, and they are both in Exodus chapter 31. This name means The Lord Who Sanctifies You, or The Lord Who Makes You Holy. But, like some of the other names we have looked at, although it only appears twice as a name of God, it is illustrated throughout Scripture.

So, what does it mean to be sanctified, or holy? I mean, we hear these words a lot, especially holy. We hear about how God is holy, the Holy Bible and, of course, songs like Holy, Holy, Holy. But, did you know that you are supposed to be holy just like God is holy? So, what does that look like? The Hebrew word for sanctify or holy is Qadash and it means, to be set apart. We, as Christ-followers, are called to be set apart. The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:15-16, 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” Notice he says, “For the Scriptures say,” he is quoting Old Testament Scripture here; specifically Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, and 20:7. Then, he goes on, just a little later in the same letter to say, 1 Peter 2:9 “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” Let’s look at what this verse is saying. First, he says we are a chosen people. I’ve said it before. The Bible often refers to us as being adopted, and that means we were chosen. We weren’t thrust upon God, we weren’t an accident…He chose us! The next thing it says is that we are royal priests. David Guzik had this to say about that phrase, “The offices of royalty and priesthood were jealously separated in Israel, but Jesus, who is our King and Priest, has brought them together for His people.” So, in Christ, we are both royalty, and priests. After that he says that we are a holy, or a set apart, nation. As believers, we must be set apart from the world. Romans 12:2 says, “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.” See what it says? “Let God transform you…by changing the way you think.” Don’t be like the world, be transformed, be a holy nation! But Peter wasn’t finished there, he went on to say that we are to be God’s very own possession. The KJV says, “a peculiar people”. So, don’t be like the world…be peculiar, be set apart, be God’s very own possession. Peter ends that verse by saying, as a result of being these things, we can show others the goodness of God, because He has called us out of the darkness they are in and into His perfect light.

How do we do this? How can we be set apart? Well, the first thing we need must do is, we must die to ourselves. Romans 8:13 says, “For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” Singer-songwriter, Joshua S. Porter of the band, Showbread, changed his name to Josh Dies to remind himself that he must die to himself daily. That’s what we must do, not change our names, but remind ourselves that we are nothing without Christ, and die to our sinful nature.

Once we are holy and set apart, and in His perfect light, we must show the world that light. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He said this, 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 the light of the world! So many people today that claim the name of Christ think they are the judges of the world, and that their job is to stand on a street corner and hold signs to condemn people of their sins. News Flash, sinners will sin! It’s not our job to point that out, it’s our job to be a light. Once we have shined God’s light, His light will expose their sins. Look at the Parable of the Great Feast in Luke 14. After he was rejected by the first people he invited, he sent his servants out to bring in the homeless and outcasts. Read that account carefully, did he say to clean them up and then bring them in? No, he said, 21 “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ 23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. 24 For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”

So, keep in mind that our job is to be holy like He is holy and to be salt and light to the world. Earnest Humphries, the pastor I grew up under, used to always say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some will ever open.” If you proclaim the name of Christ, the world will be watching. So stop judging and start shining!

Names of God – Jehovah Sabaoth

Names of God – Jehovah Sabaoth

This one is, by far, one of my favorite of the names of God. But, it didn’t become my favorite until about 10 years ago. You see I grew up reading the KJV which translates it as “the Lord of hosts”. Now, that isn’t a wrong translation, but in today’s language, it didn’t really mean anything to me. Then, one day I read it in the NLT which translates it as “the Lord of Heaven’s armies”, or “the Lord of angel armies” and that changed everything.

We find this name used 269 times in the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments and this name is important because it, once again, speaks of God’s protection…He is the Lord of Heaven’s armies. Let’s look at just what that means. There is an old hymn that says, “He could have called Ten Thousand Angels.” That is a lot, but it isn’t quite accurate. You see, this song was taken from Matthew 26:53, which says, “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” So, how many are twelve legions? One legion is equal to six thousand troops, so twelve legions are 72,000 troops. Each troop was roughly a horseman and 10 footmen, that’s 792,000 angels. So, when Jesus told His disciples that His Father would have sent twelve legions of angels, what He was saying was that He would send more angels than they could count. In fact, there are far more angels than that in Heaven. According to Revelations 5:11, there are: “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands.” Now, this translation from the NASB is the most accurate. The KJV translates it as ten thousand times ten thousand, but the Hebrew word that was translated here as myriads is the Hebrew word “Murias” which is where we get the word myriad. Murias is translated as, “an innumerable multitude, an unlimited number.” You know, when we were kids we used to say, “infinity times infinity”? Well, that’s what myriads and myriads means. This is Heaven’s armies! So, what exactly are you afraid of? There is a great worship song by Chris Tomlin titled, “Whom Shall I Fear” and the chorus says:

“Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind

The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine

The God of angel armies
Is always by my side”

The God of Angel Armies is always by my side…isn’t that an awesome thought? Have you noticed a common theme in many of these names of God? Jehovah Shalom, The Lord is Peace; Jehovah Ra’ah, The Lord is my Shepherd; Jehovah Sabaoth, The Lord of Angel Armies; they are all talking about His protection of His children. He is the Lord of Peace, so we can have perfect peace and contentment. He is our Shepherd, so we can lie down in those green pastures and feast before our enemies because He is watching over us. And, He is the commander in chief of Heaven’s armies…again, God’s got this!

We often think that God’s got too much to do to worry about my little, insignificant problems. Don’t you think it matters to God when you are cheated out of something? Check out James 5:4, “For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” He’s listening to your cries, and He’s there for you.

We are His adopted children, He chose us. Malachi 3:17 says, “’They will be my people,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child.” Here’s the thing, none of us deserve His favored. I hear people everywhere, both Christian and non-Christian, saying, “You deserve this,” “You’re worth it”. We deserve nothing but punishment, but through His grace and mercy, He has forgiven those of us who have asked for it. My wife wrote this on Facebook recently, and I couldn’t agree more, “So many Christians have gotten on the bandwagon of telling themselves and others “you are worthy”. Where does the Word of God say so? The Bible does point out over and over our unworthiness, though, in order to highlight God’s love and grace – His UN-merited favor. So, please, don’t tell me I am worthy … I know I am unworthy… but, I also know that Christ is worthy and that His Gift has made me worthy … nothing else … And, that I am loved.

When one focuses on whether they are worthy or not, they are not focusing on God, His love, His Mercy, and His grace … the story we are here to tell. Not to tell others they are worthy! In fact, we can never have this gift unless we admit our sin and unworthiness, and give ourselves to Him to live in exchange for His Gift of Grace.” Romans 3:23 “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Amen!

Here’s the beauty of all of this. I don’t have to be worthy!  People who believe in works-based salvation are constantly living under the stress of being good enough. They think, “what if I sin right before I die?” The Bible makes it very clear that salvation has nothing to do with how good we are. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” So, don’t try to be worthy, just live every day to glorify the one who set you free.

Know this, although you are not worthy, you are loved. You are loved by Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of Heavens Armies…therefore, whom shall I fear?

Names of God – Jehovah Ra’ah

Names of God – Jehovah Ra’ah

If you grew up in church, pretty much any denomination, you memorized the 23rd Psalm at some point in your life. It starts out, Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” The Hebrew word for “The Lord is my shepherd” is “Jehovah Ra’ah”.

So, what does it mean to be our shepherd? I mean, all throughout the Bible, it refers to Christ as our shepherd. Why does He call Himself our shepherd? Let’s start by looking at this short psalm that talks about how He is our shepherd, and what that looks like.

The first thing he says in this verse is, “I have all that I need.” This doesn’t mean that Christ will give us everything we want, it means that, when we have the good shepherd, He is all we need. When you have a good shepherd you have food, you have shelter, you have protection. But most of all, we have Him, and that’s truly all that we need.

The very next verse says, Psalm 23:2 “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.” So, the first thing it says is that our Shepherd keeps us safe and makes sure we have food and water. Being in an open meadow, the shepherd can watch for any predators that might be coming. So, the meadow provides a place where He can protect us, as well as an ample source of food and water. When you have the good shepherd, you have rest.

He goes on to say, Psalm 23:3 “He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” He renews my strength… Isaiah 40:31 “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Also, in Galatians 6:9 it says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Our shepherd gives us that strength…that perseverance to keep going so that in the end, we can receive the blessing from Him. This verse goes on to say that He guides us along the right paths, which brings honor to Him. Let’s not forget that our only purpose is to glorify Him, Isaiah 43:7 “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.” So, He guides us for His glory. Michelle and I claimed Psalm 48:14 as our wedding verse, “For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.” And He has, through more moves than I care to count in seven different states, and He has been our guide every step of the way. Let me tell you, whoever says the Christian life is boring, has never tried it. When you have the good shepherd, you have strength.

Then he says, Psalm 23:4, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Because the Lord is our shepherd, we don’t have to fear anything. Everywhere you look today you see the No Fear gear. It’s on clothes and on car windows. But, as Christ followers, we truly have nothing to fear, because His rod and staff protect and comfort us. In fact, the Bible tells us not to fear 365 times, I think that’s something we need to listen to. When you have the good shepherd, you have true peace, as we saw in the last post, Jehovah Shalom.

The next verse says Psalm 23:5 “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.” This first part is another picture of His protection. We can feel so safe with our shepherd, that we can sit down and feast, even when surrounded by our enemy. David Guzik said this about this passage, “David gives a beautiful picture: “table” suggests bounty; “prepare” suggests foresight and care; “before me” suggests the personal connection.” He is our shepherd. A shepherd cares for and loves his sheep…it is personal! He then says, “You anoint my head with oil.” In the Bible, the anointing of oil is always a sign of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so the shepherd gives us the Holy Spirit. He ends this verse by saying, “My cup overflows with blessings.” When you have the good shepherd, you are blessed beyond comprehension. In Ephesians 1:3 says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” The good shepherd blesses us with EVERY SPIRITUAL blessing in the heavenly realms! And, spiritual blessings are always better than physical blessings. Charles Spurgeon said this, “Our thanks are due to God for all temporal blessings; they are more than we deserve. But our thanks ought to go to God in thunders of hallelujahs for spiritual blessings. A new heart is better than a new coat. To feed on Christ is better than to have the best earthly food. To be an heir of God is better than being the heir of the greatest nobleman. To have God for our portion is blessed, infinitely more blessed than to own broad acres of land. God hath blessed us with spiritual blessings. These are the rarest, the richest, the most enduring of all blessings; they are priceless in value.”

The last verse in this passage says, Psalm 23:6 “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Okay, check this out. He says that “Surely” …not maybe…goodness and unfailing love, that love we talked about in the blog titled “A More Perfect Way”, will pursue me. Did you get that? He’s not saying you’ll stumble upon it, he’s not saying you’ll find it, he’s saying that His goodness and Agape love will pursue you…wow! The last thing he says is, “and I will live in the house of the Lord forever”. This isn’t talking about when we get to heaven. Forever starts now! When you are with the good shepherd, you are in the house of the Lord, no matter where you are. When you have the good shepherd, you have goodness, you have unfailing love, and you have a home.

Names of God – Jehovah Shalom

Names of God – Jehovah Shalom

Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is Peace. Most of us had a good idea of what this name meant when we saw it. We all know that the Hebrew word, shalom, means peace, but it goes so much further than that. In fact, the Jewish people use this word, shalom, to say hello and goodbye.

As soon as we hear the word peace, most of us automatically think of the peace sign, holding up two fingers, peace demonstrations. But, the word shalom conveys muc7h more than that. It means complete peace, a feeling of contentment, being whole, being complete, it puts across a wish of well-being and harmony. The definition of shalom in the Strong’s Concordance is, “7965 Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb Shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full. In modern Hebrew, the obviously related word Shelem means to pay for, and Shulam means to be fully paid.”

I know this is starting with a lot of facts, but I wanted to dispel any preconceived notions of what peace is before we get started. The name Jehovah Shalom is only used once in the Bible, but the picture of the God of peace is throughout. Gideon used this name when he built an altar after the angel appeared to him in Ophrah, Judges 6:24 “And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the Lord is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day.”

We’ve seen the definition of Shalom, so what exactly does Jehovah Shalom imply? First, notice that Jehovah Shalom does not mean the Lord brings peace, it doesn’t mean the Lord gives peace, it means the Lord IS peace. The Lord is the very embodiment of peace, and when the Holy Spirit lives in you, you have perfect peace living in you. You have contentment, completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, and the absence of agitation or discord, living in you. In fact, in John 14:16 Jesus told His disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.” Christ was talking about giving us the Holy Spirit in this verse, and the word He used here that is translated as “advocate” is the Greek word “Parakletos” which also means, comforter, encourager, or counselor. So, what all of this is saying is, when you have the Holy Spirit living in you, you are complete.

We find the word peace 362 times in the Bible, that’s almost one time for every day of the year. We see it used by the angels when they were announcing the birth of the Christ, in Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” We see over and over throughout the gospels Jesus telling people, after He heals them, to go in peace. On Christ’s “Triumphant Entry” into Jerusalem, just before He was crucified, He said this about the city, Luke 19:42 “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.”  You see, the way to peace is only through Christ. He said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Okay, I’m going to be controversial again. People today, even some who claim the name of Christ, say we are all worshiping the same God. That is not the truth. The problem is that we have redefined what “tolerance” means. Tolerance does not mean to give validity to everything others believe, that is lunacy. Tolerance means to tolerate what others believe, even if it is wrong. We can’t hate people for having other beliefs, in fact, the Bible tells us to love them and pray for them. But, we have a responsibility to share the truth with them, and that truth is that Christ is the ONLY way to the Father and the ONLY way to true peace…because “They don’t know where to find peace.” Romans 3:17.

Peace is a gift from God. Jesus said in John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” In John chapter 16, Christ is telling us about the work the Holy Spirit will do in our lives. He starts telling His disciples how He will be leaving them, but that their sadness will be turned to joy when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. Then He ends it all in verse 33 by saying, “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.” We can have true peace in Christ. Notice again, He doesn’t say that our lives will be easy, He says that we will have many trials and sorrows in this world, but He doesn’t end with that, He says “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” There’s that perfect peace. We can rest assured that, as my son, Caleb likes to say, “God’s got this.”

I won’t go over every verse on peace, but I encourage you to do a study on the subject, keeping in mind the true meaning of the word. The world today is searching for peace. The problem is they are looking in all the wrong places. They think they will find peace by redefining tolerance, they think they will find peace by marching and demonstrating, they think they will find peace by seeking the pleasures the world offers. But, we have the truth. We have true peace and the only source of it.

If you are a Christ follower, it is your duty, both to God and your fellow man, to bring them true peace. If they reject it, that’s on them. 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.” So, as Christ said right before He ascended to heaven, go and make disciples.

Names of God – Jehovah Rapha

Names of God – Jehovah Rapha

Jehovah Rapha…this is a name that all of us have had to cry out to, many times in our lives. In fact, many unbelievers cry out to this name in desperation. In fact, I cried out to that name just this morning on behalf of my wife. This name means, “The Lord Who Heals You.” I love that, the Lord who heals you. He is our healer! He heals us physically and spiritually. In the New Testament, Jesus is shown as the Great Physician for this very reason. We saw Him heal people in both ways in His ministry here on earth. Through His word, we got to witness the blind regain their sight, the lame walk again, lepers cleansed, as well as demons cast out and sins forgiven. Christ is, indeed, the great physician.

People have asked me if I believe in “faith healers”. The answer is, no. Do I believe that Christ still miraculously heals people today? Do I believe that He uses people as a conduit of His healing? Of course, I do, I have seen miraculous healings in my ministry, and I have been blessed to be part of some of them. In 2011, my family drove 400 miles to pray over a 16-year-old boy who had been in a car accident and was in a coma for several months. We laid hands on him, anointed him with oil, and prayed over him. The next morning, he spoke his first words, and today, he is married with a daughter of his own. Here’s the thing, my family didn’t heal that young man. It wasn’t our hands, it wasn’t the oil, it wasn’t that we prayed just the right words. We were just acting in obedience. God told us to do it, so we did. He used us to show His power. You see, we can’t put our faith in any man. It was God alone who healed Jessie.

So many times, throughout history, those with the spiritual gift of healing have made it all about themselves. I’ve heard some of these guys say things like, “you weren’t healed because your faith wasn’t strong enough.” When people were healed when Peter’s shadow fell on them, do you think it was about their faith? When Jesus cast the demons out of the maniac, was his faith in Christ all that strong? No, here’s what’s up, God heals who He wants to heal, it’s that simple. I know that some of you are thinking, God wouldn’t refuse to heal someone who sincerely asked. Let’s look at Paul. He prayed three times to be relieved of his physical affliction, and every time God answered no. God told him in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” God wanted to keep Paul humble. He wanted to make sure that Paul never made it about himself, so instead of boasting in himself, Paul boasted in his weaknesses so that the power of Christ could work through him. Paul went on to say, in verse 10, “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Today, Christians have some convoluted belief that God is some kind of magic genie. That He is just sitting around waiting for you to rub His lamp and say the magic words and He will make your life perfect. So many believe that, when you follow Christ, your life will be easy. Let’s see what the Bible says about that. Jesus, Himself, made it very clear in John 16:33 when He said, “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.” Notice He doesn’t say He will take away our troubles, He just tells us not to worry, because He’s got this. We also see in 2 Timothy 3:12 “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Notice it says here that you WILL suffer persecution, not might, or could, but will. Simply put, if you are living an easy life, you are not living a godly life in Christ. You see, it’s not a bad thing to suffer a little. James 1:2-4 tells us, Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” From this trouble, we learn endurance, which makes us perfect and complete. And, at the end of the trouble, we have the Jehovah Rapha, the Great Physician, to heal us and comfort us.

Now, again, I’m not saying not to pray for healing. As in the story of Jessie at the beginning of this post, God does miraculously heal. My wife has a congenital disease that causes her to not be able to process sugars of any kind. This has caused many other problems in her life and it took us twenty years to get it diagnosed. I pray every day for her healing, and I believe that God will heal her. Don’t forget that Matthew 7:7-11 says, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” So, don’t stop praying! I have seen so many miracles in my life, and I want to see more. In fact, please take a minute to respond to this post and tell me about some miraculous healings you have witnessed in your life.

And, if you are facing trouble, if you are sick, or if you need physical or spiritual healing, run to Jehovah Rapha, The Lord Who Heals You…He is waiting.

Names of God – Jehovah Nissi

Names of God – Jehovah Nissi

Jehovah Nissi means, “The Lord is My Banner.” We first see it used after the Hebrew people defeated the Amalekites in Exodus 17:14-16 14 After the victory, the Lord instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”).16 He said, “They have raised their fist against the Lord’s throne, so now the Lord will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.” So…what does that mean?

When we think banner today, we think advertisement, right. Those pop-up banners on the internet that are always in the way. Well, in Old Testament times, before the internet, banners had a different significance altogether. In fact, they had several different meanings.

First, they identified you. In the first 2 chapters of Numbers, God had each tribe of Israel put up a banner that identified which tribe they were. Numbers 2:2, “When the Israelites set up camp, each tribe will be assigned its own area. The tribal divisions will camp beneath their family banners on all four sides of the Tabernacle, but at some distance from it.”

Second, the banner was to call them to come together. Psalm 60:4 says, “But you have raised a banner for those who fear you—a rallying point in the face of attack.” When the soldiers were under attack, it could get chaotic and they didn’t have 2-way radios or satellite tracking…or satellites for that matter. So, they would raise a banner to regroup the troops. Later, in Isaiah 11:10-12, the profit prophecies about the second coming of Christ, and Him being a banner (Jehovah Nissi) to gather the saved, 10In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to bring back the remnant of his people—those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt; in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, and Elam; in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands. 12 He will raise a flag among the nations and assemble the exiles of Israel. He will gather the scattered people of Judah from the ends of the earth.” This goes back to what I keep saying. One of the key messages of the New Testament is the unity of the body of Christ. If the Lord calls us together, then why do we keep dividing ourselves with denominations? Now, in case you missed my earlier blogs, I’m not talking about the dread “ecumenicalism”, where, as some believe, everyone sets aside their beliefs and comes together, I’m talking about seeking God. For more depth on this subjects, you will need to go back to previous posts, but to put it in a nutshell, if we quit trying to interpret scripture and just believe it literally, in context, as a whole, we won’t need these divisions. The Lord is Our Banner, He wants to call us together.

Third, the banner would guide them through the battle. Depending on which banner was raised, the soldiers would know exactly where to go, where to stand when they got there, when to attack, and even when to retreat. Jeremiah 4:6 says, “Raise a signal flag as a warning for Jerusalem: ‘Flee now! Do not delay!’ For I am bringing terrible destruction upon you from the north.” So, God positions us where He needs us. And, He may reposition us on occasion. God has repositioned our family many times. Throughout the early years of our marriage, Michelle and I sang an old hymn by David Livingston, called “Lord, Send Me Anywhere”, and He did. Over the last 33 years of marriage we have moved more times than I want to count and lived in 7 different states, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Let the Lord position you where He wants you. It will probably be difficult, but it will never be boring.

Fourth, banners kept the truth in front of them. Whether in battle, where they could always see what was happening or in the tabernacle, where the banners would focus them on the provision of God. But here’s the thing, banners don’t have to be literal banners either. In the first example, Moses built an altar; that was a type of banner in and of itself. Banners, proclaim the truth and remind us of it. And, remember what we learned in a previous post, the Lord is truth. He doesn’t just show us the truth, He is truth.

Lastly, banners proclaimed victory. As soon as they knew they had won the battle, they would raise their banner. We even saw this as recently as 1969 when Neil Armstrong planted the American flag on the moon. That act was signifying that we won the space race to the moon…it was a Victory Banner. Psalm 20:5 says, “May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God. May the Lord answer all your prayers.” And, in Christ we have the victory, 1 Corinthians 15:57 “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 8:37 “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” 1 John 4:4 “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.”

So, Jehovah Nissi has a lot of meanings. It doesn’t mean He’s our pop-up ad, and it doesn’t mean He’s a long narrow sign. What it does mean is, that the Lord is who identifies us, the Lord calls us together, the Lord guides us through battles and through life, the Lord keeps truth in front of us, and the Lord is our victory…that is truly awesome!

Names of God – Jehovah Jireh

Names of God – Jehovah Jireh

One of the songs we sang a lot back in the 90s was one that said, “Jehovah Jireh, my provider your grace is sufficient for me.” Jehovah Jireh, The Lord is My Provider.

Remember the story of Abraham, when he had to sacrifice his only son Isaac to God? At the last minute, God provided a ram as a replacement sacrifice. Abraham named that place Jehovah Jireh, Genesis 22:14 “Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

But, here’s the thing, God’s provision didn’t stop with Abraham. Paul told the church at Philippi in Philippians 4:19, “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.” God will provide. Throughout scripture, we see example after example of God providing for His people. Whether He was providing Angels to fight a battle for them or making water come out of a rock, or making manna fall from heaven, or even having ravens bring them food, He always provides. Deuteronomy 31:6, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Did you get that? God will personally go ahead of you…personally! Think about what that is saying. The God of the universe, not the lowly king or president of some country, but the God of the universe will prepare the way for me…wow! Also in Exodus 14:14, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Stop and think about this for a minute. The God of the universe will personally go ahead of you, He will fight for you. It doesn’t say He will send an angel to go ahead of you or fight for you, it says He will do it Himself. That’s huge! It goes on to say, “He will never fail you nor abandon you.” He provides for us in any situation. He will never fail us and He will never abandon us. Keep calm and trust God!

When we look at Matthew chapter 6, starting at verse 25 and going through the rest of the chapter, we see instructions on how to handle anxiety. We first have to answer the question, is worry a sin? In this passage, it says that it is a sign that you don’t have enough faith in God. It also says in verse 32 that these are the things that “dominate the thoughts of unbelievers.” So yes, it is a sin not to trust God. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, how can we not worry? This passage compares us to birds and wildflowers. Christ is telling us that God takes such good care of these insignificant things, there is no doubt that He will take care of us. He provides for birds, He provides for wildflowers. He will provide for us…but there are conditions. It says, at the end of verse 32 that He already knows what we need, but remember, He tells us in James 2:14-26 that faith without works is dead. So, we must have faith. Faith doesn’t mean that we just sit back and wait for God, we must put our faith to work. The next verse says, Matthew 6:33, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” God will not take second, or third, or fourth place in our lives. He is a jealous God, as we will see in a future post. We must seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and we must live righteously, that’s the works that are behind our faith. In Micah 6:8 we read, “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  A lot of people treat salvation as a “get out of Hell free card”, but the Bible makes it clear, repeatedly, that salvation is a changed life. God expects his people to do what is right, He expects us to love mercy, He expects us to be an example to the world, Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Then, and only then, will He provide for us.

We are not saved by our good works, the Bible makes that very clear as well, Ephesians 2:8-9 says, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” But, we are required to do good works so that God will be glorified. Glorifying God is our full-time job as Christ followers, Isaiah 43:7 says, “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’” You see, that is why we were created, for His glory. Besides, if we truly love someone, we want to please them. So, if you truly love God, you will want to spend time with Him and others who love Him, and you will want to please Him, that’s just human nature. If you are in love, whether with your spouse or someone you are dating, you want to be around them, and with people who like them. You won’t want to spend time with people who don’t like the person you love. So, if you truly love God, you will desire to spent time with Him and His people.

So, glorify God, do justice, love mercy, seek God’s Kingdom above all else, and live righteously, and He will be your provider and you will have nothing to worry about. KEEP CALM AND TRUST GOD!