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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Our Calling

Thomas Guesthouse
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Our Calling

If you know Michelle and me, or if you have been following this blog or have read my book, Cathedral Made of People, you know that back in 2009 through 2014 God called us to plant a church in a small rural island community in Northwest Florida. That five years was a great time for us. We made a lot of good friends and saw many people come to Christ, as well as many people delivered from addictions to alcohol and drugs.

In 2014 we left Cedar Key and took jobs managing retirement communities. We left because we felt we had done as much as we could there, but it seems God has different plans. About a month ago we got an odd phone call from an old friend on Cedar Key inviting us to a revival. We hadn’t heard from him in years, and he knows that we now live in Los Angeles, so it was a bit strange that he called. We didn’t think much of it, but a few days later we heard from someone else on the Key asking us to help them with something. Now, I don’t believe in coincidences, so we asked God to show us if we need to go back there. We told Him that we were willing to go back, but only if that is what He wanted, some of you may know that Florida is our least favorite state. Also, all our grandkids live in Los Angeles. Well, two weeks later, with no warning or reason, my job let me go.

Michelle and I have come to realize that we have some unfinished business down there and God is sending us back to finish it, so we are preparing. We are asking for prayer and have some very specific prayer requests.

First, and foremost, that God will prepare the way for revival in Cedar Key. We are praying that the Holy Spirit will go before us and go with us. We are praying that He will begin now to prepare the hearts of the locals to receive His word and that He will prepare our hearts to carry it.

Second, Pray that we will be accepted back by the locals. They often don’t trust outsiders but when we were there for five years, they began to trust us. They are used to people leaving and coming back, so that shouldn’t change things, just pray for grace and favor. We love these people and truly want to reach the island for Christ.

Third, for our support. Michelle and I are not part of any denomination and don’t feel that God wants us to be. As such, we don’t have any funding to do mission work, so we are praying for financial support. If you feel led to help us financially, you can Click Here to go to my Patreon account and set up to support us monthly, but if you don’t feel led to do so, please pray for us. Your prayers are more important than money; we know that God will provide.

Here’s a little information about Cedar Key to help you know how best to pray. It is a very rural part of Northwest Florida. It is called the Hidden Coast and Nature’s Coast and is known as the only “Old Florida” left. For many years Cedar Key was a fishing village, fishing mainly for Mullet, but in 1995 when the State of Florida banned the use of gill nets, they lost their livelihood. Shortly after that the government came out and showed the fishermen how to farm-raised clams. Cedar Key is 11 miles from the mouth of the Suwanee River, this causes the water around the key to be brackish which encourages the growth of algae and plankton, and that’s what clams eat. This has made Cedar Key one of the largest producers of farm-raised clams in the Country.

I have told you all this history to help you realize that Cedar Key, very much, has a “Fishing Village” mentality. They work hard all day to party all night. Alcoholism and drug addiction, particularly meth, are very prevalent. In that town of fewer than 900 residents, there are already five churches, but they each run 30 to 40 people, and the people that need the help say they don’t feel welcome there. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the church members are trying to make them feel unwelcome, for the most part, but they don’t feel comfortable in a “church setting.”

When we planted the church there in 2009, we were looking to be more like the first Church, found in the New Testament, and while we did a pretty good job, we missed the mark in many areas. We did manage to have a church that ran 40 to 50 every week, and most of those people were addicts and alcoholics, but still ended up looking more like a modern church than I think God wanted.

We are not looking to start a religious organization; we are looking to start a gathering of the Church and to bring true revival to that area. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus told us to go and make disciples, not congregations. He wants us to make people who imitate Him, not an audience. We will not be incorporating or getting a 501c3; I believe that when a church does this, they are removing Christ from the position as the head of the body and replacing Him with the government. I don’t understand how churches can complain about government interference when they have literally signed up for it.

Again, please pray for us as we go and support us if you can. Our prayer for Cedar Key is that it will become a beacon for Christ. We want to see the Church come together as one body the way Christ intended us to be and to be effective in our world today.

I was talking to Michelle the other day and mentioned that, when we were a young married couple, we used to sing the hymn, Lord Send me Anywhere. We truly meant it but didn’t think it meant He would send us everywhere. In our lives, Michelle and I have seen God do great things; we are excited to see what He has for us. Thank you for your support and your prayer.

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.” Ephesians 6:18-19.

God Fights For Us

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

God Fights for Us

1 Corinthians 3:17

When my son Josh was in 7th grade, we were living in a small town in Indiana. One day he was in line at school, I believe they were in the lunch room, the kid behind him was joking around and gave him a shove. When he did, Josh fell into the kid in front of him. Clearly, Josh didn’t hurt the kid, he just bumped into him. This boy turned around and punched Josh in the nose, breaking it. Josh did not provoke it, nor did he retaliate, he just stood there holding his nose.

Well, to make matters worse, after they were both taken to the Principal’s office and had both explained their side of the story, they were both given three days of in-school suspension. When I found out what had happened, as a father, I was furious. I was mad at the kid who hit Josh, but even more angry that the school would punish him for this incident.

Michelle and I marched down to the school and gave that Principal a piece of our collective mind, but he stood his ground. He said that Josh was “rough housing” and was equally to blame. We made it clear that this was not true, that getting shoved isn’t “rough housing,” and that Josh was a victim, not an instigator. None the less, Josh had to serve the three days of in-school suspension and life went on. It was a great example of what I always told the kids as they were growing up. If they would say something wasn’t fare, I’d tell them, life isn’t fare, but we have to deal with it.

The point is that, as parents, Michelle and I were livid and marched right down to that school to defend our son. I’ll be honest, I’ve never wanted to hit a 12-year-old so bad, but I restrained myself…with the help of Michelle.

The Hebrew people of the Old Testament never thought of God as their Father, that’s why it was so strange for the disciples when Jesus gave them the model prayer in Matthew chapter 6. When He told them to Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.” Matthew 6:9. They had never been taught to think of God as their Father.

Later, we see that Paul embraced this thought system when he said, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” Romans 8 15. You see, the Hebrew people looked at God as an angry taskmaster, but He always wanted to be their loving Father. This term, “Abba! Father!” is a term of endearment, it’s like saying, daddy. And, notice that Paul says we were all adopted as sons. Paul wasn’t trying to cut down women here, he was showing us our place with God. You see, back then, the sons got all the inheritance, they figured that the daughters would marry men who got their inheritance. But Paul is telling us that we all, men and women, are adopted as sons. We all get the full inheritance! Isn’t that awesome?

So, in our passage today, 1 Corinthians 3:17, we read, “God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” God, our Father, our Daddy, will destroy anyone who tries to destroy His temple…His sons. That’s how much God loves you and me, He won’t just defend us, He will destroy anyone who tries to hurt us. And, in case you think that God has changed since the Old Testament times, Moses told the Hebrew people in Exodus 14:14, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” God wanted to be their Daddy, but they wouldn’t see Him that way.

Here’s the thing about God, He will never force us to love Him, He will never force us to obey Him. Why do you think He put the two trees in the middle of the garden? It wasn’t to tempt Adam and Eve; it was to give them the choice to love Him. You see, if you don’t give someone the choice, that isn’t love, it’s slavery.

What does John 3:16 say? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Do you see that word? He gave His only BEGOTTEN son. We are His adopted sons, but Jesus was His only begotten Son, and He gave Him for us. That’s how much God loves you and me. He gave the life of His only biological Son so we could be adopted…wow!

I recently had someone tell me that the God of the Old Testament was an angry God, always smiting people. So, I took him to my favorite verse, which happens to be in the Old Testament, Zephaniah 3:17, which says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Look at this verse. God isn’t up in heaven pronouncing judgement on us, He is living among us. The verse goes on to say that He is my Mighty Savior, that He takes Delight in me with Gladness, and that He Calms All my Fears. And, then, as if that isn’t enough, it says that God, the creator of the universe, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, will rejoice over me with joyful songs! When I read this verse, I think of a father holding his baby son in his arms and singing to him. That’s what God wants to do to me, that’s what God wants to do to all of us. Does that sound like an angry God to you? To me it sounds like a loving Father.

The Temple of God

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

The Temple of God

1 Corinthians 3:15-16

It’s interesting that this verse came up now, right after the burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In fact, it would have been posted last week, but I did the Easter blog instead. It never ceases to amaze me how many times things like this happen. When I right these blogs I do it expositional, going straight through a book of the Bible, so when the blogs line up with current events, I know God is doing something.

Now, I’m going to do my best to not be too controversial here. It is a shame to lose such an architectural masterpiece, especially since it is almost nine-hundred years old, but the Notre Dame Cathedral is not now, nor has it ever been, the house of God. That’s not just a statement about the Catholic church, our God does not live in buildings! Look at what Paul said in Acts 17:24, “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples.” You see, these buildings, these cathedrals, are nothing more than exhibitions of what man can do. They are not the house of God and, quite frankly, were not built for the glory of God.

I’ve had people tell me that God commanded the Hebrew people to build a beautiful, ornate temple. That is true, but He had them do that because that temple is where the Holy Spirit lived, the Jewish temple of the Old Testament was the house of God, but your church building today is not. In fact, I challenge you to do a study of the New Testament and find where the Christian Church had a temple or building, it isn’t there.

Look at the crucifixion. Matthew 27:50-51 says, 50 Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart.” That curtain mentioned in these verses was the veil that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple. That veil was eighty feet tall and as thick as your hand is wide, and it ripped from top to bottom. Why did it rip? Because the Holy Spirit was moving out, He was moving into us, His church. From that point on we didn’t need a building to house God, He was housed in us, that’s why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” These buildings are not for God, they are for the men who built them and paid for them. They are just more religion.

In this week’s passage Paul said, 16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. So, not only is your body the temple of the Holy Spirit, but all of us together make up the temple of God, that is why I named my book, Cathedral Made of People. We are His temple, not some of us, not just a certain denomination, but everyone who believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ is part of that body. If we as the Church are ever going to be effective in this world, we must set aside our denominational differences and come together as one body with Christ as our head. Again, I am not suggestion ecumenicalism, I am saying that everyone who believes in salvation by lifechanging faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone is part of that Body. If you believe in a works-based salvation, or salvation by any other means, you are not part of that body, “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6. But if you do believe, it doesn’t matter what denomination you are part of, you are my brother or sister, part of the Body of Christ.

Verse 17 of this week’s passage says that “God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple.” God’s love for His Church is unfailing! He will defend us when others come up against us, Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” See that? He won’t have His angel armies fight for us, He himself will fight for us! So keep calm and trust God!

The end of verse 17 says, “For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” God says that we are His holy temple, we are set apart for Him. That is a beautiful picture of God’s love. Our God, the God who created the universe and everything in it loves us so much that He will personally fight for us. That’s what a father does! God protects us because we are His holy temple, we are adopted into His family, we are His children.

Let’s work together to tear down the walls of denominational division. Steve Green wrote a song in the 90s called, Let the Walls Come Down. Take a minute, go on YouTube, and listen to the lyrics of that song. This is the only way that His Church will ever be effective in this world. I recently did a study of what the Bible has to say about unity of the Church. I found that the topic of unity is talked about in about ten percent of the verses in the New Testament, that’s significant! Of all the topics in the New Testament, ten percent are about the unity of His Church.

Religion Sentenced The Messiah to Death

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Religion Sentenced The Messiah to Death

Mark 14:53-64

Last Sunday was Easter. I’m sure we all got dressed up in our nicest clothes, put on our biggest smiles, even though we fought with each other all the way there, and scurried on to the church building for our Easter service. For many, this was the only time they will gather with the Church all year, maybe one of two times. I’m sure we all heard pretty much the same message, the message of the cross of Christ.

I believe that Easter is the most important holiday we celebrate every year. It is imperative that we remember what Christ did for us on the cross, although we need to remember it more often than once a year.

Think about it; Christ’s suffering began long before the cross. It began on that morning when He left the perfection of Heaven to come here to this broken earth. Picture in your mind a king leaving his palace to live in the gutters as a homeless man; this was infinitely worse. Christ left a place more perfect than anything we could imagine, to come here, be born in the feeding trough of a stable, live a life of poverty, spend three homeless years ministering and being rejected, only then to be betrayed by one of His own, beaten and crucified. And, He did all this for me, wow!

Today I don’t only want to talk about the Easter story; I want to look a little deeper into why He was crucified. Look at Mark chapter 14, starting at verse 53 and going through verse 64. These verses are the section where Christ has been brought before the Jewish council in a mock trial.

First of all, there was no due process here. Jesus was taken from the garden and brought before the council in the middle of the night. Verse 55 tells us, “Inside, the leading priests, and the entire high council were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn’t find any.” So, after they brought Him before the council, they began their investigation, but couldn’t find anything, so what did they do next? The passage tells us in verses 56 through 59 that they brought in many false witnesses to testify against Him, but they couldn’t get their stories straight, so even in that kangaroo court, they had to throw out those witnesses.

Finally, in the act of desperation, the high priest stood up and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” Mark 14:60. But Jesus didn’t answer him. Next, the high priest asked Him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Verse 61. This time Jesus did answer him. Mark 14:62 says, “Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” Side note; if anyone tells you that Jesus never claimed to be God, take them to this verse. At this point, the Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to death for blasphemy.

The point of all this is to ask the question, why were the Jewish leaders so focused on condemning Jesus to death? Did they believe He was blaspheming? To answer this, we need to go back to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Look at the first two verses of John chapter 3. The beginning of John 3 is the story of Nicodemus coming to ask Jesus some questions. In verses 1 and 2, it says, 1 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘we all know that you have come from God to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.’” Take a look at what Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader, said to Jesus. Nicodemus said, WE ALL know that you have come from God.” Who? All the Jewish leaders. You see, the Jewish leaders all knew that Jesus was from God, and they all probably at least suspected that He was the Messiah, which is why they had to get rid of Him.

These religious leaders had a good thing going. The people did whatever they told them to do, they had positions of authority and power, all respected them, and the people gave them whatever they asked. Religion had made these guys rich and powerful, sound familiar? They had a good thing going and weren’t about to give it up for anyone, not even the Messiah!

Because of their misinterpretation of scripture, they thought Christ was here to set up His Kingdom, and that would put them on the street. So, what did they do about it? In their ignorance, they fulfilled the scripture, “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:5. They kept their position, but at what cost? These men sold their souls for religion.

Sadly, many of us today are right back where these men were two thousand years ago. We are so caught up in our religion and traditions that we have forsaken Jesus. Read the New Testament. Jesus and His disciples spent their entire ministry fighting religion. Paul kept saying how he left the religion of his fathers to follow Christ.

There is only one verse in the New Testament that portrays religion of any kind in a positive light, that verse is James 1:27, which 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.” You see, the only religion that God recognizes as pure and genuine is not religion at all in the sense that we know it. What God sees as true pure and genuine religion is simply, taking care of widows and orphans and keeping yourself pure from the world.

Lets all purpose in our hearts to practice God’s religion, not man’s. Let’s practice caring for widows and orphans while keeping ourselves pure. Don’t let the world or its religion corrupt you, don’t conform to its mold as it says in Romans 12:1-2. And, show God’s love, that’s true religion.

Tried by Fire

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Tried by Fire

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

            Last week Michelle and I took a long weekend to go to Redding California. It’s an eight-hour drive, and we mainly went to visit Bethel Church and see Amore and Terry, some friends we made in that area just a few months ago. A couple of the days we were in Redding we drove just outside of town to the Whiskeytown National Reserve. We took one of our weekly hikes out there and spent some time around Whiskeytown lake taking pictures.

Some of you may know that this is part of the area that was hit by the Carr Fires last Summer. The destruction left by the fire was so sad to see and yet had a beauty all its own. The burn area went as far as we drove, and further. We later found out that the devastation went on for thirty miles and was twenty miles wide. It was unfathomable how much loss there was. This fire burned 229,651 acres, destroyed 1,604 structures, a total of $1,659 billion in damages, and took eight lives. It is touted as the sixth most destructive fire in California history and after being there to see it first hand, howbeit almost a year later, I can believe it.

But here’s the thing, amongst all that destruction you would come across a structure made of stone or metal that, although being burned, was still standing. Last week we talked about building a good foundation that others could build on. We mentioned how we must make sure it is deep enough and take into consideration the elements it will have to endure, but another thing we must take into consideration is the materials used to build it.

Back in the old west, around the turn of the twentieth century, this was a problem that existed. You see, wood was abundant, and it was a quick way to build. During the gold rush, some of these cities were practically going up overnight. Because of them building these cities almost completely out of wood, fires were a constant problem, especially since that’s how they heated the structures. Wikipedia has a page called, List of Town and City Fires. Take a look at how many fires there were in the 1800s and early 1900s that wiped out entire cities; it’s staggering.

This is the issue that Paul was addressing with the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, when he said, 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Paul tells us that one day our foundation will be tested with fire, so we had better take a look at what it’s made of. There’s an old song I love, written in the 1980s by Ron Hamilton, called O Rejoice in the Lord. I got to hear Ron give his testimony of this song in person. He said that he went to the eye doctor for a routine visit and the doctor didn’t like what he saw. He set Ron up for a surgical procedure and told him that if it were nothing, he would wake up with a sore eye, but if it was cancer, he would wake up with his eye removed. Well, after the surgery, Ron woke up to realize that they had removed his eye. Many people would have gotten mad at God at this point. Ron was serving God as a worship leader in his church and loved the Lord with all his heart, and now this. But Ron didn’t react like that, in fact, while laying in that hospital bed he wrote this song:

God never moves without purpose or plan
When trying His servant and molding a man.
Give thanks to the LORD though your testing seems long;
In darkness, He giveth a song.

I could not see through the shadows ahead;
So I looked at the cross of my Savior instead.
I bowed to the will of the Master that day;
Then peace came, and tears fled away.

Now I can see testing comes from above;
God strengthens His children and purges in love.
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care;
Through purging more fruit, I will bear.

O Rejoice in the LORD
He makes no mistake; He knoweth the end of each path that I take,
For when I am tried
And purified,
I shall come forth as gold.

The story goes on that Ron did come forth as gold. His first Sunday back in church, now with a patch over his eye, a young boy came running up to him and said, “Mr. Hamilton, you’re a pirate now!” From that, Ron launched Patch, the Pirate, and if you grew up in Church in the 80s and 90s, you knew Patch the Pirate, my kids loved him.

Because Ron had built his foundation on gold, silver, and precious stones, when the fire came, he just got better. Had he built his foundation on wood, hay, or stubble, it would have burned up in that fire, and he would have lived the rest of his life, a miserable man, blaming God for his deformity. What did verse 13 say? “Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”

Maybe your fire already came, and your foundation burned up. Maybe you’re one of those people who is sitting there blaming God for your problems. If that’s you, then get up and start rebuilding, but this time, use the right materials and make sure that foundation is deep.

If your fire has not come yet, then start inspecting. Just because you go to church once a week and pray before your meals doesn’t mean you’ll withstand the fire. I’ve talked about this before, but if we just tithed our time, if we just gave God ten percent of our time, that’s 17 hours every week. So, ask yourself, do I give God 17 hours a week? If not, that’s a good place to start.

Withstanding the Storm

Thomas Guesthouse
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Withstanding the Storms

1 Corinthians 3:10-11

The picture above is the Honeymoon Cottage in Cedar Key Florida. This structure was built as a guest house in 1959 by the Thomas family of Gainesville. The Thomas’ had a vacation home on Cedar Key and in 1959 decided to build this guest house. When they originally built it, it looked much better than this, and many people stayed in it over the years, including a famous author. After a local couple used it as their honeymoon suite in the 1970’s, it was given the name, The Honeymoon Cottage.

The problem with this guest house is that it was not built to survive the elements of the Cedar Key area. You see, Cedar Key is not part of the “Florida Keys,” it is off the Gulf Coast, just below the Panhandle of Florida. This area gets some terrible hurricanes that will stall in the area and stay right over Cedar Key for what seems like an eternity, and that’s exactly what happened in 1985. Hurricane Elena came up the Gulf of Mexico and, as usual, built intensity over the warm waters of the Gulf. By the time it got to Cedar Key it was a category 4 hurricane and it stalled over Cedar Key. There wasn’t much left of the Honeymoon Cottage after that and by that time State regulations had changed that banned the building of structures over the water, so they were not allowed to restore it. But, because of its name and the condition it was in, the Honeymoon Cottage became one of the most photographed structures in the state of Florida, you’ll even see it on postcards sold in other countries, like Germany.

Ask any builder and they will tell you that the most important thing to think of when building any structure is the foundation. And, yes, they did sink the polls deep enough for the Honeymoon Cottage, but there is much more to think about in the building of a foundation.

This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 when he said, 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” When Paul planted the church at Corinth, he did it like a wise builder by laying a good foundation, while taking all the elements into consideration. You see, Paul knew that he wasn’t going to do all the building of the church himself, so he wanted to make sure that when others came to build on it, they had a firm foundation to work on.

We see Paul building this foundation in Acts chapter 18. This passage says that Paul devoted himself to the scriptures and preached Christ to the Jews first, then when they rejected him and blasphemed, Paul went to the gentiles. Paul then went and started a home group at he home of a man named Titius Justus who lived next to the synagogue. Then, Crispus, the leader of the synagogue who believed in the Lord, joined them and it says, “and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.” Acts 18:8.

Apparently Paul was worried about the Jews coming after him, because it says in verses 9-10, And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.’” So, God had to calm his fears and let him know that He’s got this. Then it says that Paul spent a year and a half there teaching the word of God among them. Here’s the thing, preaching is good as we read in 1 Corinthians 1:21, “God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” But there is no foundation without sound teaching. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” In fact, the Bible tells us to preach the gospel to the unbelievers, and to teach believers. Look for yourself, the word preach is used 109 times in the New Testament, interestingly it is only used 8 times in the Old Testament, but every one of the 109 times it is used in the New Testament, it is talking about preaching the gospel to the unsaved, or the message you were preached when you believed.

Far too often pastors stand in front of their congregation and preach when they should be teaching them so they can preach. If you are a pastor, you should be both a preacher and a teacher. You should be out in the world preaching the gospel to the unsaved, and you should be with your church teaching your church and giving them a foundation so they can preach to the world, then you deserve a double honor as it says in 1 Timothy 5:17.

Think about it, if every person sitting in a pew on Sunday was taught to be a preacher and was equipped and commissioned to go out and preach the gospel to all the world, how many more people would be coming to Christ?

This is what Paul did with the church at Corinth. He laid a solid foundation with good teaching. He taught them good biblical principals for them to build on. Yes, there were some problems that he had to correct later, they were humans and messed up here and there, but because of the foundation he laid with good Bible teaching, he was able to make the corrections and move on with doing the work of the Lord.

God Makes Us Grow

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

God Makes Us Grow

1 Corinthians 3:4-9

 

Michelle and I live in a 3rd-floor apartment about 20 miles east of Los Angeles. About six months ago, we were at a farmer’s market, and she saw a stand that sells succulents. She talked about how she wanted a succulent garden, so we bought six or seven of them and put them on our balcony.

For a couple of months, I was pretty faithful to go out there about once a week and water them. The problem was, to get to the balcony, I had to open the blinds, take the stick out of the top of the sliding glass door, take the other stick out of the bottom of it, unlock the door, open the door and screen, then go out and water the plants, if I remembered what I was doing by that point. Once I got them watered, I had to do all that in reverse. So, needless to say, I didn’t stay faithful to it for long.

Last week, Michelle opened the blinds and noticed all those succulents that had not been watered in about three or four months and then decided to go out there and water them herself. Yesterday I looked at them again, and they were green and perked up. That’s the beauty of succulents; they are really hard to kill.

Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:4-9 which says, When one of you says, ‘I am a follower of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I follow Apollos,’ aren’t you acting just like people of the world? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.”

So, those baby Christians were arguing about who they followed. But do you see what Paul said? Paul might plant, and Apollos might water, but it is only God who can make the plants grow. You see, Michelle didn’t make those plants grow, she just watered them, God made them grow.

I think we all do this at some point in our lives; it’s human nature. We see some Pastor or Evangelist and place them on a pedestal. Sadly, that is what has happened to most of the body of Christ today, only instead of Paul and Apollos, we say “I am of Calvin” or “I am of Wesley.” We need to realize that it is the same thing that the church at Corinth was doing. We are as much spiritual babies as they were. Calvin may plant, and Wesley may water, but only God can give the increase. We get so caught up in listening to what men have told us that we don’t do the work of studying it for ourselves.

The problem is that the pastors today think it is their job to spoon feed us, but we can’t blame them, that’s the only option we give them. As we talked about last week, we leave a church because “we weren’t being fed there.” Here’s a news flash, it’s not your pastors’ job to feed you! We also talked last week about needing to take some time to desire the sincere milk of the word of God. If we do that, we will grow up and learn how to feed ourselves. We can’t be satisfied with being fed for the rest of our lives, we must work towards feeding ourselves, and that’s your pastor’s job, to get you to that point.

So, if we grow up and learn to feed ourselves, we won’t find ourselves following the teaching of men, we will follow the teaching of God. We will learn to do the work of studying the Bible in the context of the whole Bible. We will study the original language; we will read and study the entire Bible; we will look at the history of what was going on at that time. Again, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t listen to the preaching of men, but we must do the work of checking what they say against the truth of scripture. We must study it even further than they taught us. We must “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15.

What it all comes down to is that we need to choose who we will follow. Joshua posed this question way back in the early part of the Old Testament, when he said, 14 “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15.

If you put anything or anyone above God, that thing or person is an idol. If you say, “I am of Calvin” or “I am of Wesley,” you are making those men an idol, whether you realize it or not. So, stop now and ask yourself, “Who am I going to serve?” Am I going to serve Calvin? Am I going to serve Wesley? Or, am I going to serve God? As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord!

Spiritual Babies

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Spiritual Babies

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

 

In my day job, I manage people. I am the General Manager of a retirement community, so we provide housing, transportation, housekeeping, and three meals a day for 115 to 120 residents who currently range in age from 57 to 102. Yes, my residents can be trying at times, but many of them suffer from various forms of dementia and can’t help the way they are. I understand this and see my job as being able to help these people enjoy the final days of their lives. I am honored to have the opportunity to care for them.

So, my problem isn’t with the residents as much as with my employees. I oversee 30 adults, and I use the term loosely, in various aspects of the community. It never ceases to amaze me how juvenile people can be. I recently had an employee sitting in my office crying because the Chef got upset with her. She even admitted that he didn’t raise his voice, but she said, “he made me feel uncomfortable.” You don’t know how hard it was not to tell her that life can be uncomfortable and that she needs to grow up and deal with it like the adult she claims to be, but I didn’t. I was caring and concerned and transferred her to a different job, so she won’t have to work with the Chef anymore.

Some people have to be treated like children, and sadly, our society is creating more and more of those people. This whole political correctness movement coddles people and makes it impossible to correct an employee that is doing wrong. They expect a trophy for participating and think they are doing you a favor by just showing up for work. The problem is, when you can’t correct people, they will never learn and consequently will never grow up.

Paul ran into this same problem with the church at Corinth. He told them at the beginning of chapter 3, 1Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready,for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.

You see, Paul wanted to teach them, to correct them, to see them filled with the Holy Spirit, and to live fruitful and productive lives for Christ. Like he told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” He wanted to talk to them like adults and use the scripture to shape the rest of their lives, but all he could do is give them a bottle and spoon feed them strained peas. Notice what he said in verse 1, “I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people.” The church at Corinth was not spiritually mature; they were spiritual babies. He said he had to feed them milk because they weren’t ready for anything stronger.

Look what Peter said in 1 Peter 2:1-3, 1So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment,now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” Peter is telling these believers scattered all over the east exactly what they need to do. He tells them to get rid of all evil behavior. Don’t be deceitful, don’t be hypocrites, don’t be jealous, and even to stop talking unkindly. Then he tells them to be babies…for a while. He says to crave the milk of the Spirit of God and to grow. Then they can fully experience God’s salvation. He even says to cry out for nourishment.

This is the problem with the church at Corinth. They didn’t CRAVE that spiritual milk. They didn’t CRY OUT for nourishment. They were satisfied with being spoon fed. They would get just enough to stay alive, but never enough to thrive, never enough to grow up.

There are so many people today that are just like that. They don’t want to do the work, so they sit in their pew and let the pastor spoon feed them, then complain if they aren’t “getting fed” at their church. They accept Christ as their savior; then they go about their lives as usual. The only difference is, now they give up an hour of their Sunday morning to go to a building, drop a few dollars into the offering plate, and listen to a man tell them what the Bible says. These people live the rest of their lives as babies. They never grow, they never mature, they stagnate, and sadly, this is the majority of believers today.

If you are one of these people, you need to recognize it and start doing something about it. Stop playing church and start craving that spiritual milk. Spend time with God every day. Read His word daily, all of it! Reading about 3 chapters a day will get you through the whole Bible in a year. Reading it for about an hour a day will get you through it in 3 months. But don’t stop there! Also, take time to study it in the context of the entire Bible. Look at the original language and definitions to the keywords. When you have questions, ask your pastor or another spiritually mature Christian, make them do some digging with you, it will help you both. I love it when people bring me questions about scripture; it makes me dig deeper. Then pray! Pray for your spiritual leaders, pray for your country, pray for each other, and pray for me that God will use me and this little blog to bring the Church back to Him. Then you will start growing and becoming mature in Christ. For more help, check out my first blog series from about a year and a half ago titled, How to Put on All of God’s Armor. If you would rather listen, I also did a podcast on that one. You can also pick up a copy of my book, Cathedral Made of People, on Amazon. But always remember, if you are reading anything that is not scripture, test it against scripture.

Foolish Preaching

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Foolish Preaching

1 Corinthians 2:13-16

 

I have a friend who is older than me; we’ll call him Ron. I see Ron almost every day at work, and we have great conversations. We talk about the hikes that Michelle and I go on every week, about sports, politics, and the Bible. Ron is not a believer, although he is very religious. He is blinded by his religion as well as his intellect and thinks he knows more than everyone else, including God. He doesn’t believe that the Bible is the word of God; he believes that it’s a book written by theologians throughout history. He believes that the Old Testament is nothing more than a book about the history of the Jewish nation and has no significance. He says the God of the Old Testament was an angry God who was constantly destroying people and says he wants nothing to do with a God like that. I had challenged him to read the Old Testament, all of it, specifically paying attention to those times when God took out His wrath on His people and to look at how many chances, He always gave them first.

The last time Ron said this, I asked him if I could read my favorite verse in the Bible. When he said I could, I took him to Zephaniah 3:17 which says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” I then asked him, does this sound like an angry God to you?

But here’s the thing about Ron. No matter how many times he reads the Bible, or talks to pastors, or tries to reason it out, he will never understand the thoughts of God until he has been indwelled by God’s spirit.

In 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 Paul says, 13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” You see, when we speak by the Spirit, the world cannot understand us. Years ago, I knew two pastors in the same town who both pastored in the same denomination. One of them was a great man of God. He preached from the Word, discipled his people, taught them how to win souls, and ministered all over town. The other stood up every Sunday and read the sermon that had been sent to him that week. When I would speak about spiritual things with that one, he would stand there with a blank look on his face. You could see it went right over his head.

When I tried to speak with Ron or that pastor about spiritual truths, they both saw it as foolishness. As we just read in verse 14, that’s how the world will respond. 1 Corinthians 1:18 also tells us this when it says, “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.” So, if people see spiritual things as foolish, how can they be saved? Paul goes on to say, just a few verses later, “Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21. People will be saved through our foolish preaching. You see, we can’t save anyone! Throughout my life, I have heard so many pastors saying things like, “I saved 200 people this year.” No, you didn’t! If they were saved at all, it had nothing to do with you. God used your foolish preaching to reach people and bring them to salvation. When we preach, or blog, or do a podcast, or even witness to someone, we need to remember that all we can do is share the gospel and pray that the Holy Spirit does the rest.

Now, that doesn’t mean we say whatever we want and leave it up to the Holy Spirit; we must be prepared. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” And, then again in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” You see, the Lord will only bless our foolish preaching if we are prepared. We must study, work hard, and be prepared to give an answer. Look at the end of that last verse where it says, “who correctly explains the word of truth.” We must be ready to explain the word of truth CORRECTLY. The KJV says “rightly dividing,” and the NASB says “accurately explaining.” The only way you can accurately explain the word of truth is to know what it says. Read it, study it, meditate on it, and be ready to explain it. We must put aside everything men taught us and study the word by taking it literally and keeping it in the context of the whole Bible. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to pastors or read commentaries. What I am saying is when you do, test it against scripture, even what I am writing. God doesn’t want any of us to sit back and coast. He expects all of us to do the work.

In my book, Cathedral Made of People, I dedicated an entire chapter to this subject. Read Ephesians 4:11-16. In this passage, Paul says that God has given a gift to the Church in the form of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These people were given to the Church to equip them to build the body. A trainer for a bodybuilder doesn’t do the work for them. The trainer provides the proper equipment and teaches them to use it. In the same way, your pastor isn’t there to do the work for you; he is there to teach you how to use the equipment you have properly. So, let’s get to work and be prepared!

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