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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Plain Speech

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Plain Speech

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

In June of 1982, at the age of 19, I joined a Christian Musical Drama team. I was not particularly “sold out for Christ” at that time, but I was a Christ follower and loved music. We spent twelve weeks in the summer studying and learning programs. We studied music theory, voice, and drama, but also things like Bible, biblical fasting, prayer, and soul-winning. During summer training, God started tugging on my heart. Then, while we were on the road, traveling all over the country and ministering in churches, schools, malls, and even prisons, I gave into God’s call and started pursuing full-time ministry.

I spent a total of 3 years with this group doing full-time ministry. At the end of year one, I met Michelle, and we were married about 17 months later. We stayed with the group the rest of the year after we were married, then that spring the group disbanded, and we moved on.

For the next couple of years, we served in churches in central Florida as youth and music minister, but the words of the pastor I grew up under kept ringing in my ears. Pastor Humphries always said, “A call to serve is always a call to prepare.” Well, I had been spending all my extra time studying the Word, but felt I needed to go to Bible School. I found a job near a Bible College in Northern Florida, and we moved up there. When we arrived in town, we checked into a hotel with our 1-year old son, Joshua, and I went to the place where I was supposed to start working. When I got there, the manager apologized and said the person I was supposed to replace decided not to quit, so he didn’t have an opening for me. We stayed in town until we ran out of money, then moved to Indiana to stay with Michelle’s parents until I found a job. So, God shut those doors.

I tried several more times over the years to go to school, but God kept closing those doors, so I finally realized He didn’t want me to go to Bible school. My pastor was right, a call to serve is always a call to prepare, but that doesn’t have to involve some lofty diploma. I have been, and still am, preparing my whole life. Michelle and I read through the Bible every 90 days. I’m dyslexic, so I use an app called YouVersion, that reads it to me. We also do in-depth studies and pray over them that God will open our eyes to see what He is saying. Reading it in 90 days helps get the context of the entire Bible so we can study it literally.

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul says, When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.” You see, Paul did have those lofty degrees. He was a Pharisee, but what does he say about that? I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.” Philippians 3:5-9a. So, Paul counts the education he received from men as garbage, refuse, dung! It is like the things you throw to the dogs.

So, why does he think so lowly of his education? Look back at 1 Corinthians 2. He says that he came to them with plane speech because he didn’t want to impress them with his wisdom. Paul consciously decided to forget everything he had ever learned except Jesus Christ and His crucifixion. He came to the Corinthian church weak and trembling, with plane speech. He didn’t want them to look at him and think how great he is; he wanted them to look at him and see Christ. He said he relied on the Holy Spirit, not his own clever speech, and he did this so they would only trust in the power of God. We see pastors every day trying to impress people with their lofty degrees, their doctorates and such. They try to woo them with their clever speech and humor, but Paul said we need to rely only on the Holy Spirit.

I thank God that he kept me out of Bible College because I probably would have relied on my education and my own wisdom rather than on the Holy Spirit. We talked a little about this last week. I am weak, but He is strong. I am poor, but He is rich. I am powerless, but He is omnipotent, He is All-Powerful!

These Bible schools and seminaries teach what men think the Bible is saying instead of teaching men to study the Bible literally and keeping it in the context of the whole Bible. This type of education is where all the division comes from in the Body of Christ. The Baptists say the Pentecostals are wrong and the Pentecostals say the Methodists are wrong. And, why do they say this? Because that’s what men have taught them. I have said it many times before, but it bears repeating; the only doctrine that should divide us is that of Jesus Christ and Him crucified! Literally nothing else matters!

Boast in the Lord

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Boast in The Lord

1 Corinthians 1:30-31

I used to work with a guy named Rob. I think we have all worked with a Rob or two in our lives. You know this guy, completely full of himself, confident that he is the best thing since sliced bread, and sure that the company could never run without him. Almost daily, Rob would bestow upon me the legends of his greatness and the great things he had accomplished for the company. Yes, Rob was a legend in his own mind. I often wondered how Rob was able to accomplish all this greatness since all I ever saw him do was sit at his desk and shop on eBay, but I didn’t dare say anything since he was my direct supervisor and regularly reminded me of that. Well, eight months later, after he had worked for two years with the company, he put in his notice and left. As he was leaving, he told me that he never stays with a company more than two years, I think that’s about how long it takes them to realize that he is full of hot air.

After Rob left, I was promoted into his position as General Manager. Right away I started realizing that all those great things Rob had said he did were actually executed by others, many of them before he even worked there, he just took the credit for them all. There were many things wrong with the physical building that he said couldn’t be corrected. But once our team realized they could do what it took, within reason, and that their opinion was valued, we were able to fix them all as a team.

We all know people like Rob, and we think, how can a person take credit for what others have accomplished, but don’t we, on occasion, do this with God? I would never ask God for the gift of healing because so many men and women who I believe God gave that gift to eventually started making it about themselves. I love something I heard at Bethel Church in Redding, California recently. One of the pastors said, “Healing is not about the anointed man of God, it’s about the anointed God of man.” Because of so many people who have made the spiritual gift of healing about them, many churches have pushed the Holy Spirit out of their gatherings. I grew up in a church like this. The Holy Spirit was talked about in vague terms, but you don’t dare mention His gifts.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, 30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.’” Did you see that? God made Christ wisdom itself for our benefit. So, what exactly does Christ do for us? First, and most importantly, He makes us right with God. You see; the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the only thing that can make us right with God. No matter what anyone tells you, you can not be good enough to be made right with God. The Bible says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12. It doesn’t matter how good you are, or how much money you have given for starving children or aids, you are a sinner just by being born. Look at Psalm 51:5, “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” And, Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” And, Jeremiah 17:9, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

So, we can’t be good enough, but the beautiful thing is that we don’t have to. What does it say in Romans 6:23? “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” So, what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 1:30 is that thanks to Christ, we don’t have to try to get right with God. What else did Christ do for us? He made us PURE, He made us HOLY, and He made us FREE!!! It doesn’t get any better than that! Let’s look at those three words.

Pure: The Greek word in this verse translated as pure is the word, ἁγιασμός hagiasmós, hag-ee-as-mos; which means; purity, holiness, and sanctification. The blood of Christ washes us whiter than snow, look at Isaiah 1:18, “’Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.’”

Holy: the Greek word used here actually means equity, justification, and righteousness. In Christ, we are righteous, we are justified, and we are Holy, set apart. John 17:17 says, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.” The word of Christ makes us holy.

Free: This word is used for a ransom that is paid in full, it also means deliverance and redemption. In Christ, our ransom has been paid in full. We are no longer a slave to sin…we are free! 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Also, in John 8:36 it says, “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” Christ has truly set us free from the bondage of sin, but, as with all freedom, this freedom came with a price, the shed blood of Jesus. Because of this great price we can’t take our freedom lightly, we are indebted to Christ and must live the rest of our lives as such. But we can never use our freedom as an excuse to sin, “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.” 1 Peter 2:16.

Paul ends this chapter by saying, “Therefore, as the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31. Paul drives this point home through this chapter. The entire introduction of his letter comes down to this point, God is God, and we are not! We can’t brag about anything, because everything we have comes from God, through Christ!

Putting the Strong to Shame

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Putting the Strong to Shame

1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Have you ever watched ants? No, not the movie, the actual insects. I know, that’s a strange question, but have you? We all know they can lift, what is it, like ten times their weight? But have you ever found yourself just sitting there watching them? Michelle and I go hiking every week, and on one of our hikes, after reaching the end of a long out and back trail, we decided to sit down and eat something before we headed back. This hike was more than five miles each way, a total of almost eleven miles. We were at the top of the Ice House Saddleback on Mt. Baldy here in Southern California and while we were sitting there on the ground looking at the spectacular view, some ants caught my eye. There was this seemingly endless line of little red ants walking along this old dead fallen log, no they weren’t carrying the log, but many of them were carrying things that were huge in comparison to their tiny size.

That would be like me carrying a car on my back. Now, I was carrying my backpack that, by this point felt like a car, but we could never do what these little ants did. I just sat there amazed at their strength.

Well, that’s the way that God works in us. He takes the weakest, wimpiest, strangest, oddest humans He can find and uses us in spite of our inabilities. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. Paul starts in verse 26 by reminding us, “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.” Think about the believers you know who are truly sold out for and used by Christ. How many of them were wise, or powerful, or wealthy in the eyes of the world when God called them? Probably not many, right? I could go on all day about people I know like this, but I don’t have to go any further than my mirror. I gave my life to Christ at the tender age of 5. I spent my life studying and memorizing His word. I knew He wanted to use me to minister for Him but had no idea how. I tried on several occasions to go to Bible school, but God shut those doors every time, so I went on to get a degree in biology. Instead of having me spend tens of thousands of dollars getting a piece of paper from some humans saying that I know the Bible the way they see it, God showed me years ago that the Bible cannot be interpreted. You see, the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, verbally inspired word of God, so if we put our errant, fallible interpretation on it, it is no longer perfect. God showed me that we must study His word by taking it literally and keeping if in the context of the entire Bible. The thing about doing this is that it takes a lot of work, but if you love God’s word, then it isn’t work. Michelle and I try to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation every 90 days. Doing this gives a lot of perspective and context for our studies.

There is an app for your smartphone called YouVersion that will read it to you in whatever translation you want, so I try to switch it up every time. Currently, I am reading it in the NASB, the New American Standard translation. The next thing I do is, when studying a passage or topic, I don’t just read that chapter, I start by reading the whole book. Next, I look up keywords in the original language. You don’t have to be a Greek and Hebrew scholar to do this; I use BlueLetterBible. With this app or website, you can go to the original language translations, look at the Strong’s Concordance definition, and read commentaries on it. I will warn though, commentaries can help, but they are what that man thinks it is saying, so always test what they are saying with scripture. For that matter, test what I am saying to scripture.

Paul goes on to say in verse 27, “Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a family I know who most people would write off as being very backward but are truly genius and giants in God’s kingdom. You see, God loves to use those of us who the world sees as common to confound the wise. If you take a look at my twitter page, @tapearsonwriter, you’ll see that my bio says, “A Christ Follower. Author-fiction, non, screenwriter, blogger, & podcaster. Confounding the wise. 1 Cor 1:26-29” I know that I am not wise in the world’s eyes. I don’t have some lofty degree from men, and I am dyslexic but I have a passion for my God and want to see his word proclaimed. I love to study His word and worship Him in spirit and truth, and I believe He uses me because of that, and in spite of myself.

I love what He says in verse 28, “God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.” So, it’s not just the things the world sees as foolish or powerless, He also uses the things that the world counts as nothing, those things they see as useless and detestable, to bring them to nothing.

So, here’s the 100,000-dollar question. Why does God do this? Why does He take someone like me and probably many of you reading this, to confound the wise and powerful of this world? The answer is simple, and Paul tells us in verse 29 where he says, “As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” If I am not wise, but God imparts wisdom on me if I am powerless and God makes me powerful if I am thought of as nothing by this world and God uses me to bring the world to nothing, then how could I ever boast about that.

Take a look at the miracles done by Christ’s disciples in the New Testament. First, these guys weren’t anything special they were fishermen who were thought of as poor by the world, common people, and a tax collector who was despised by the world, and yet God used them to demonstrate His power, and as a result of those demonstrations, many came to Christ. Jesus told us in John 14:12-14, 12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. 13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” Because Christ has given us the Holy Spirit, we can do the same works Jesus did and even greater, but it’s not through our power. Always remember what John the Baptizer said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30.

Where Is The Wise Man?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Where Is the Wise Man?

1 Corinthians 1:20-25

Last weekend Michelle and I took a very quick trip up to Redding, California. We drove over 8 hours each way to visit Bethel Church and were truly blessed there, that will be for a future blog. But God didn’t stop there; He also blessed us by a couple we met. Amore and Terry had also driven to Redding to visit this church, but they live a little closer to it, in Fulsome. Michelle and I arrived at the church early Saturday morning. It was cold and raining, but we made our way into the building and were sitting in the foyer when this couple came in. We immediately hit it off and in minutes were in deep conversation about the love of God and what He has done in our lives. It was amazing how, even though we were so different in some ways, our lives paralleled each other in a multitude of other ways. God truly brought us together with this couple.

After we were finished with that amazing service, again, for another time, Amore asked if we would like to go to lunch with them. It didn’t matter that we had just met them, or that we had another 8+ hour drive ahead of us, we quickly agreed as we didn’t want this time of fellowship to end. So, the four of us went to a small restaurant just a few miles from the church and sat for 3 hours talking, sharing stories, and praising God. Amore had us on the edge of our seats talking about the things God has done for them in their lives. But here’s the thing, like us they are not wealthy, but they are blessed. They don’t have a lot of physical possessions, but they have a close relationship with God. Also, like us, they have never been to seminary or Bible college, and yet we were amazed at the wisdom that poured out this man. Amore didn’t go to Bible college; he went straight to God. You see, it isn’t about the world’s wisdom, or the college you went to, or what you have learned from men about the Bible, it’s about God’s wisdom and what He reveals to you from His word and your daily fellowship with Him. I remember one time while watching the TV program, Restaurant Impossible; I heard the host, Robert Irvine, talk about how he never went to culinary school, he just learned under some great chefs. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s not about the school you learned from; it’s about how much time you spent at the feet of the Master. It’s like something they said at Bethel, “It’s not about the anointed man of God, it’s about the anointed God of man.”

Today I would like to look at 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 where it says, 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

The first thing Paul does here is he asks some questions. He asks where the wise men, scribes, and great debaters are. Next, he says, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” That’s how it is. We think we are so wise with our big words and fancy educations, but it’s all foolishness to God. We try to impress people with all of our knowledge, but it doesn’t mean anything to God.

He goes on to say how, through the world’s wisdom, it didn’t come to know Him. That is so true! The world’s wisdom tries to explain away God. The world’s wisdom has come up with nonsense like evolution, and even though it is nothing more than a theory, they teach it in our schools as if it is a fact and mock you if you believe otherwise. My degree is in biology, so when someone tries to tell me that they believe evolution because it is scientific, I love to ask them to quote the laws that govern science. The first rule is that, if something is to be considered scientific, it must be observable and repeatable. So, by the rules of science, evolution is not scientific at all, it is nothing more than a faith based belief system.

Paul goes on to say that, because the world doesn’t find God through their wisdom, He is pleased, it actually says He is “well-pleased,” to save us through the foolishness of preaching. He says that when we preach Christ crucified, it is a stumbling block to the Jews because they don’t believe that He is the Messiah, and it is foolishness to the Greeks because they seek worldly wisdom. Let’s face it, there is nothing scientific about faith, but that’s the point, isn’t it?

And, here’s where it gets really beautiful, it says that for those of us who are the called of God, no matter what our background is, Christ is the Power of God and the Wisdom of God! Wow, that is so true! If we have Christ, we have the Power of God, and we have the Wisdom of Christ. What more do we need? We don’t need human power or human wisdom; we simply need Christ!

I love how Paul wraps up this part of his letter. He says in verse 25, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” You see, God’s foolishness is wiser than the wisest man, and His strength is stronger than the strongest man.

So, when you start thinking of yourself a little higher than you should, picture yourself up against Christ, then step back and take a look at yourself. If that doesn’t make you feel tiny, nothing will.

No Clever Speeches

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

No Clever Speeches

1 Corinthians 1:17-19

Have you ever sat through a church service, the whole time thinking to yourself, “Wow, this guy is an awesome speaker?” You know those sermons, he had some hilarious jokes, great anecdotes, and really waxed eloquent on the subject…um, whatever it was.  Wait, what did he talk about? Hold on; I remember it was something about…no that wasn’t it. One of those pastors who sounded great, looked great, probably even smelled great, and said a lot, but it turned out to be a lot of nothing.

I have watched a few of these TV pastors, who shall remain nameless. These guys are brilliant speakers, extremely well spoken, and charismatic, but never really say anything. Don’t get me wrong, they make you feel really good about yourself and tell you all the things you want to hear, but not what you need to hear. Many of these people never open their Bible. They will preach for an hour and never even quote a verse. And, if they do quote a verse, they are taking it totally out of context to try to prove some point. These people have built huge “ministries” and amassed massive amounts of wealth for themselves, but they are not preaching the word and will have to answer for that one day.

In 1 Corinthians 1:17 Paul said, “For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.” Paul had just finished writing about how he was glad that he didn’t baptize but a few of them, so they couldn’t say that they were baptized in the name of Paul. Then he goes on in this verse to tell them that God didn’t send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel. But notice what he says at the end of the verse, he says that he wouldn’t preach with clever words, but why? Because clever speech might take away from the power of the cross.

You see, this is the problem with those types of pastors, it becomes all about them. They aren’t preaching the good news; they are telling you things that make you feel good about yourself so you will like them and give them money. Their preaching is taking away from the power of the cross! Please don’t get me wrong; there are popular pastors out there who are preaching the cross. Men who aren’t getting caught up in the trap of popularity yet are still well followed. Men like Francis Chan and Mark Driscoll are preaching the Word, not with clever speech, but with conviction. So, don’t write a pastor off just because he is popular, listen to what he is saying and test it against scripture.

Paul goes on in verses 18 and 19 to say, 18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.’” See what he says? If someone sees the gospel as foolish or useless, that is a good sign of where they are heading. Then Paul says, “But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” We know that the gospel is not foolish, we know that it is the very power of God. But notice that it says, “we who are being saved.” The verb tenses of this phrase, as well as the phrase, “are perishing,” are both very significant. You see, both of these phrases describe a work in progress. Every one of us is moving in one direction or the other. We are either being saved or perishing; there is no middle ground.

We will be looking at the end of this chapter in a few weeks, but what does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29? He says, 26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” So, God isn’t worried about the wisdom of this world; He doesn’t care what we think about any of this. We may try to impress people with our fancy words and eloquent speech, but we don’t impress God. He doesn’t call the wise or rich or famous; He uses the poor and foolish and things the world counts as nothing to bring to nothing the things the world considers important.

I know this family who most people would consider backward hillbillies. They live in a trailer and drive an old beat up car. They have very simple and unpretentious speech and just seem uneducated. But once you get to know them you find out that the father and the son are both geniuses, they are both spiritual giants, and they are very wealthy, as the world sees wealth. There are no pretenses to them, but they regularly confound the wise.

We need to stop trusting in our wisdom. We need to become more like Paul and simply present the gospel. If there is a pastor that you love listening to, take some time to listen to what he is saying and doing. If his life and message don’t line up with scripture, then get away from him. But, like I said last week, if he is preaching the cross, you still need to do the work of studying out what he said with the Bible. If he is a man of God, he will be pleased that you are doing this.

Who Do You Follow?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Who Do You Follow?

1 Corinthians 1:11-13

A few years ago, there was a Christian worship band who made a public statement that they believed in creational evolution, just another belief system that can be corrected by taking the Bible literally but keeping it in the context of the whole Bible. But what I want to focus on is not that comment, but the comment he made to defend himself in response to the outrage of the Christian community. In one of his statements defending his point of view, he stated that there is no difference if you say you follow John Calvin and I follow C.S. Lewis. That is wherein the problem lies. Let’s look at today’s text, 1 Corinthians 1:11-13 says, 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” You could take this passage and change the names. Verse 12 could say, “What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow John Calvin’; another, ‘I follow C. H. Spurgeon’; another, ‘I follow Christ’.” Friends we need to stop following men and women and take the mindset of Paul when he said, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2.

I get it, it is easier to let some pastor or theologian tell you what to think, but that is not what God has told us to do. He told us, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15. Please don’t get me wrong; I am not saying to stop listening to your pastor, there are several pastors I listen to regularly. What I am saying is, when you listen to a pastor, you need to keep in mind that he is just a man and as such could be wrong. It is your responsibility to go home and study what he just said. In the end, God will hold pastors accountable for what they teach, but He will hold you accountable for what you do with it.

So, what exactly is the pastor’s job? What does the Bible tell us we are supposed to be doing? In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul is talking about unity of the Body of Christ. Starting in verse 11 he says, 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 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.” In my book, Cathedral Made of People, I dedicated an entire chapter to this one passage, but to sum it up, if you are a pastor, you are the trainer for a bodybuilder. You have the best equipment available, so you need to train your bodybuilders to use the equipment for themselves. If you use it for them, what benefit will they get out of it? Years ago, I attended a family member’s church where the pastor told them that they couldn’t understand the Bible for themselves, so he would tell them what it is saying. This is exactly what the Catholic church did in the middle ages. The Bible was only available in Latin, so they would tell the church what they wanted them to believe. Not to worry, this family member is no longer in that church and, not surprisingly, that “pastor” now has a compound where he lives with his 10 or 12 remaining members.

So, if we pastors are doing our job and teaching our local gathering how to be that “workman who does not need to be ashamed” and how to “accurately handle the word of truth,” then our people can do the work themselves of studying the Bible literally and in the context of the entire Bible. But, a note to pastors, keep it literal. Your people don’t need to hear what you believe it is saying; they need to know what it says. I used to enjoy listening to this one Christian speaker. She was a good speaker and was usually on track with the Bible. Then one day as I was listening to her, she read a passage of scripture and said, “what I think this is saying,” then went about taking it completely out of context to prove a point. To me, it didn’t matter if her point was valid or not, I said out loud, “I don’t care what you think it says,” and changed the channel. I’m sure the other people in the gym thought I was crazy, but it infuriated me that she would manipulate scripture simply to prove a point.

What it comes down to is that we need to stop saying, “I’m of John Calvin” and “I’m of C. H. Spurgeon” and “I’m of C. S. Lewis.” Again, listen to your pastor, then do the work. If you think something he said doesn’t align with Scripture, then go to him, no one else, and talk to him about it. And, pastors, that means, when they come to you, you need to take it seriously, one person in this scenario is wrong, and it could be you. So, when this happens, pastors should set aside time to sit down with this person and study the Bible together to see what it is truly saying. Then, if you were wrong, you need to take that to the church and let them know. As I said earlier, God does hold us pastors accountable for what we preach, so we must make sure we got it right.

In Spirit and In Truth

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

In Spirit and In Truth

John 4:23-24

 

My whole life, I have heard people talk about this passage. Pastors telling us we need to worship God in spirit and in truth, but what does that mean? How do I worship God in spirit and in truth? I will start by saying that I don’t know if what I came up with is right or not. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I always try to research the verses we’re talking about by taking the Bible literally, while keeping it in the context of the entire Bible. This has been a tough one, but I will tell you what I have found. At the same time, I would welcome your thoughts on the matter, feel free to post them in the comment section.

If we look at John chapter 4, we see that the first 42 verses are telling the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. We have all heard this story our entire lives, but I want to look at a few points in it. First, let’s look at the book of John as a whole. Notice John, Jesus’ best friend, doesn’t waste any time. He starts by proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ, the Word, and was in the beginning with God the Father. Then, John goes right into the ministry of Christ.

In chapter 3 we see that John the Baptizer is baptizing in one town and Jesus is baptizing in another. John’s disciples come to him and ask him about this because everyone is going to Jesus instead of John. Here is where John says, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30.

So, chapter 4 starts by saying that, because the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making more disciples than John the Baptizer, He decided to leave Judea and go to Galilee. But I want to point out verse 4 of John chapter 4, it says, “He had to go through Samaria on the way.” You see, it’s not that Jesus had to pass through Samaria because it was the quickest way to Galilee, it was actually out of the way. Plus, as a Jew, He would have been expected to go around Samaria even if it was on the way. So, what it comes down to is that Jesus needed to see this woman.

In this conversation, the woman asked Jesus in John 4:19-20, 19 ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?’” Let’s look at Jesus’ response to this question. He said in verses 21-24, 21 Jesus replied, ‘Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.’”

Let’s look at this phrase. Jesus said that at that time some worship God in one holy place and others worship Him in another holy place. Then He says that the day is coming, and it’s already here when true worshipers…let’s stop and look at that phrase. He says, true worshipers. The best definition of the Greek word, ἀληθινός alēthinós, (al-ay-thee-nos’) is “that which has not only the name and semblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name” (Tittmann, p. 155). So, He is talking about people whose very nature is worship. These people will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

These people, these true worshipers won’t need a place to go and worship God, they can worship Him in spirit wherever they are. So many churches, even to this day, keep the doors to their buildings open so their parishioners can have a place to come and worship. But why? We don’t need a building to go to and worship God! Look at the Church of the new testament. There is never any mention of a church building. They met in homes, in the street, the church at Philippi met by the river. In Acts chapter 2 it does say that they met in the Temple, but that was the Hebrew temple. Picture this for a minute. The Jewish leaders had just crucified Jesus, days earlier. Then His followers begin holding services in the courtyard of their temple, worshiping the one they just crucified…that took guts! So, them worshiping in the temple was a statement, not a religious act.

If you have never studied the book of John, I would highly recommend it. In fact, if you haven’t, stop now and do it…it’s that important. After studying it you may want to watch Mark Driscoll’s series on it, it’s very good. When you get to chapter 14 you will see that Jesus is telling us that He is the only way to the father, then in the second half of the chapter, He is introducing us to the Holy Spirit. In John 14:17 Jesus said, “He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” Do you see that? The Holy Spirit leads into ALL TRUTH! Then Jesus goes on to say that the world can’t see Him because they aren’t looking for Him.

In the last two verses of chapter 15, John says, 26 “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. 27 And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.” John 15:26-27. Here Jesus calls the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit of Truth.” He then tells us what the Holy Spirit will do in us. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will testify about Him and then we must testify about Him. You see, the Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus to us so that we can testify about Jesus to the world.

What I believe it comes down to is that first of all, we can worship God anywhere, it doesn’t have to be on a mountain or in a church building. We have the Holy Spirit living in us and must worship God in the Spirit. Secondly, we must come to God truthfully, with no pretenses. Worship Him in the council of the Bible; His word is truth (John 17:17). We must allow the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to speak through us in worship (Phil 3:3, Rev 1:10).

So, as you go into your day, ask the Holy Spirit to testify to you about Jesus and then tell others what He told you. Always remember that prayer is a dialog, not a monologue. When you pray, always listen, He’s trying to speak to you.

Live in Harmony, Life’s Not a Solo

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Live in Harmony; Life’s Not a Solo

1 Corinthians 1:10

 

Today, America is more divided than ever before. Each political party keeps saying they want “bipartisanship” but is unwilling to work towards it. The fact is, whether you like what President Trump is doing or not, he is our president, and we must stand behind him. In my lifetime there have been several presidents that I did not agree with, two, in particular, worried me about what would happen to this country in their administration. But the fact is that the Bible tells us in Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” So, as Christ followers, no matter what you think of a president, we must submit to him and pray for him. But the fact is if you are a Christ follower, you should be voting for leaders that follow biblical principles and, whether you like his policies or not, President Trump does stand for biblical principles.

But I digress, this isn’t a blog on politics, it’s a blog about unity. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says a lot in just 41 words, take a look at it, “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” First, Paul is appealing to the Church, but not on his own authority, in the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. We all need to take this lesson from Paul; he never did anything in his own strength, he did it all in the authority and strength of Christ. Notice also that he doesn’t specify that this is to the church at Corinth, he says, “dear brothers and sisters.” You see, all of Paul’s letters were written to specific churches, but for the Church as a whole, because once that church was finished reading it to their body, they would pass it on to other church gatherings around the region. Eventually every church in the known world would have read it, and of course, some of them were included in the canon of scripture, and we all got to read them.

Paul goes on to say for what he is appealing to us. First, let’s look at that word appeal, exhort, or beseech, depending on your translation. It was translated from the Greek word παρακαλέω parakaléō, (par-ak-al-eh’-o) which the Strong’s Concordance translates as, “to call to one’s side, call for, summon.” So, this is a call to arms, if you will. Paul is summoning all Christ followers to come together and live in harmony with each other. After writing my first book, Cathedral Made of People, I realized how important unity of the Body of Christ is, so I began writing a second book that I am calling, One Church, One Body. In my research, for this second book, I started counting the verses that refer to Church unity and was astounded at my findings. What I realized is that about 10% of the verses in the New Testament talk about Church unity. Notice the capital “C,” Paul is not talking about the unity of your local church body, although sadly we aren’t even very good at getting that right, he isn’t even talking about the unity of one denomination, since there were no denominations at that time. When the Bible talks about Church unity, it is talking about the unity of the entire body…all believers!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should throw out all doctrine and stand around a campfire singing Kum Ba Yah. What I am saying is that there is only one doctrine that should divide us, the doctrine of salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. We need to set aside all our petty doctrinal differences, study the Bible literally and in the context of the whole Bible, which will in itself dispel most of those doctrines, and worship God together in spirit and in truth.

Right after Paul says to live in harmony with each other, he tags it with an exclamation by saying that we are to let NO divisions in the Church! Friends, there is no room for any division in the Body of Christ. If we are to function the way that God intended for us to function, we must drive out ALL division. Remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:15-21, 15 If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? 18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’” Don’t you see? A body can’t function correctly if some parts don’t cooperate, that’s why Paul continues to use this analogy throughout his writings.

So, if we are going to live in harmony and not allow any division in, how can we do this? Look how he finishes this verse, “Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” The Church, the Body of Christ, must be of one mind! We must be united in thought and purpose, and the only way we can do this is, as I just said, lay aside all of these doctrinal differences and worship God in Spirit and in Truth! We will talk more about what this means in the upcoming weeks.

You Are Blessed Because You Believed

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

You Are Blessed Because You Believed

Luke 1:26-45

 

For many, the Christmas season is a truly blessed time, it’s my favorite time of the year. We get to be with family, see our children or grandchildren and watch them open their presents. But sadly, the Christmas season is not a blessed time for everyone. This time of year has the highest incidence of suicide. I believe that everyone, in their core, want’s to be blessed. We all know people, and maybe we are that person, who will say to someone as they are leaving, “have a blessed day.” The Bible tells us that Mary was blessed, but why was she blessed.

In the first couple of chapters of Luke we read the story of the birth of Jesus. This time of year, we often focus on chapter 2, but for this let’s look at chapter 1 for a minute. The first 4 verses are Luke introducing himself and telling why and how he wrote this book, then he gets right into the story. But he doesn’t start with Mary, instead he starts with Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin.

Now, Zachariah and Elizabeth were quite old. They had been praying for a son for years, but Liz was said to be barren. Zach was a priest of the order of Abijah and we read in verse 6 that they were both righteous in God’s eyes. Zach was chosen by casting lots to burn incense in the sanctuary. You see, there is no coincidence with God, He even controls where the dice will fall. While in the sanctuary, an angel appears to Zach. The angel tells him that God has heard his prayers and that his wife was pregnant. The angel even tells him that it is a boy, they didn’t even have an ultrasound first, and that he was to name the boy John. Now, look at what the angel tells Zach about his son in verses 14-17, 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God.17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

So, this angel tells him that his wife is pregnant in her old age, that it will be a boy and then all these other details about his life, and what is Zach’s response? “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Luke 1:18. So, what does the angel say next? “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” Luke 1:19.

Let’s take a look at what just happened. The angel Gabriel came to Zach and let him know that he was about to receive what he had been praying about for years, and Zach didn’t believe him. So, this means that, although Zach had been praying for a son for years, he didn’t really believed that God would do it. Don’t we all do that sometimes? We ask God to provide something, all the while in the back of our minds, not believing He will do it.

We’ve all probably heard this story many times. Gabe made Zach a mute until John was born because of his disbelief.  So, now let’s look at how Mary handled the same event in her own life.

Six months later that same angel, Gabriel, appears to Mary and says, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Luke 1:27. This confused and disturbed Mary, but Gabe said to her the same thing he said to Zach, “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” and once he calms her down a little bit he says, “for you have found favor with God!31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Luke 1:30-33.

Notice what happens next. Mary questions this but doesn’t doubt its possibilities. So, Zach doesn’t believe that his wife can get pregnant when she is old, even though he would have undoubtedly known the story of Abraham and Sarah, While Mary believes that she can conceive, even though she is a virgin. She says, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” So, because she asks an intelligent question, without doubting, he answers her by saying, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.” Luke 1:35-37. And, this is how Mary responds, “Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’ And then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38.

Next, Mary immediately goes to visit Liz. It says that she went to Judea a few days later and this is where we see the unborn John the Baptizer leaping in his mother’s womb when they come together. Think about this, Mary had just conceived Jesus a few days earlier and John recognizes Him.

But I love what Liz says in verses 44-45, 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” She said that Mary was blessed because she believed the Lord would do what He said he would do. Here’s the thing, God wants to bless us, but He won’t do it if we don’t have faith. He wants to see that we believe first, then He will bless us to overflowing. Have a blessed week.

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