What is Cathedral Made Of People?

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Photo By: Michelle Pearson Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Pride in Your Weakness

Take Pride in Your Weakness

As you might have noticed, I’m spending a lot of time studying the book of Ephesians right now. The two verses that really stuck out at me today were Ephesians 3:8-9 which say, Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.” It has always amazed me how humble Paul was even though he was used so mightily for God.

He also said in his first letter to Timothy, “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them all.” 1 Timothy 1:15. You see, this wasn’t some false piety that Paul was taking on, he truly viewed himself as the worst of all sinners. Of course, it is true that before Christ he persecuted Christians and that is pretty bad, but Paul knew that those sins were covered by the blood of Christ when he accepted Him as his personal savior. So, what kept Paul so humble?

To understand this, we need to go to 2 Corinthians chapter 12. The first 4 verses of this chapter are talking about some of the amazing things that God chose to show Paul. He even talks about being caught up into the third heaven and, in his own words, “heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.” 2 Corinthians 12:4.

Paul goes on in verse 5 to say, “That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses.” So, Paul admits that the things he has witnessed and experienced are worth bragging about but says that he would rather brag about his weakness. He even goes on in verse 6 to say that the reason these are worth bragging about is that they are true. But, why wouldn’t he brag about it? “Because, I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,” 2 Corinthians 12:6. Paul wants it to be clear that every good thing he has in his life comes from God, so he can’t boast about things that he had no part in, he would rather boast in his weakness.

In verse 7 Paul says, “even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.” Paul recognized that, what he called the thorn in his flesh, was there for a reason, it was there to keep him humble. It would have been easy for Paul to be proud of the gifts that God gave him, we see this all the time with people who God has entrusted with gifts, but Paul had this infirmity that kept him from being proud.

So, what exactly did Paul mean when he said that he takes pride in his weakness? Let’s look at verses 8-10, Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” So, on three different occasions, Paul begged God to take this infirmity away from him. It is interesting that Paul never, in any of his writings, explains what the illness was. We assume, judging by some of the things he said and the fact that other people did most of his writing for him, that it was some kind of eye problem, probably a residual from when God blinded him on the road to Emmaus. But, the point is that Paul begged God on three different occasions to relieve him of this problem and got the same answer every time. What was that answer? God said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Do you see that? God’s grace is all we need! God went on to tell him that His power works best in our weakness. In fact, Paul told the Church at Corinth, 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” in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. So, if we are so foolish and poor, where do we get our wisdom from? Look at the last 2 verses, 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.’” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31. God united us in Christ for our benefit. He made Christ to be our wisdom.

So, here’s the point, God usually chooses the foolish and weak things, so they know that it is of God, but in Paul’s case, he was considered wise by the world, so God had to give him something to keep him humble.

I have been told by many people that God wants us to be well, He wants us to be healthy and happy. The truth is that God want’s what’s best for us, even if that is being unhealthy. He doesn’t necessarily want us to be happy, he wants us to have joy, no matter what our circumstances are, read James 1:2-4, Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” You see, joy is better than happiness. Happiness is a feeling, it comes and goes, but joy comes from God and you can have it even when you are flat on your back in the hospital. Galatians 5:22-23, 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

Cathedral Made of People

Cathedral Made of People

Everyone loves the title of my blog, which is also the title of my upcoming book, but I can’t take credit for this title, Cathedral Made of People is the title of a song by the group, Downhere. The song lyrics say:

If they shut down the churches
Where would you go?
If they melted all the
stained-glass windows
Replaced every sanctuary
with a condo
Where would you go?
Where would you go?

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

It goes on to ask questions like, “If they burned every Bible, what would you know?” And, “If they declared your devotion to be criminal, what would you know?” This has been the theme of everything I have written for the last four or five years, we are the body of Christ. Your church building isn’t your church, your church is you and your local group of believers, no matter if you meet in a building, in a park, or on a street corner. We must get this through our heads, we are the called out ones, “you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.” 1 Peter 2:9.

The passage of the Bible that best describes this phenomenon is the last few verses of Ephesians chapter 2. Paul has just talked about tearing down the walls of division and has said that there is no division in Christ, no Jew or Gentile, no bond or free, no male or female, we are one in Christ. He ends this passage by saying this, 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:20-22.

What does Paul mean when he says we are “built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets?” He is saying that our foundation must be the word of God. A building is only as strong as the foundation it is built on and there is no foundation stronger than the word of God. I remember back in the 80s when we were living in central Florida, I was managing a hotel which is located at the entrance of Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven. Right across the street, they were building this high-rise condominium building called The Marlborough. We watched for months as the workers were building it, it was huge, and the top floor was all one penthouse condo for the owner. Months had gone by and they had already presold many of the units when one day we came to work and noticed that the building was leaning drastically to the right. They had to tear down the building and the owner went bankrupt because they didn’t build it on a firm foundation. So, I need to say this, if you are attending a church whose foundation is not on the word of God, you need to get out and find another church because that is not a church, it is a social club.

We see more about this foundation in the book of Matthew. He chronicles many of Jesus’ teachings and parables throughout his book. In chapter 5 Matthew tells us about the sermon on the mount and then goes on to give many of Jesus’ sermons all the way through chapter 7. The last in this list is found in Matthew 7:24-29 where he says, 24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.” Again, Christ is telling us that we must be built on the firm foundation of the word of God.

Paul goes on to say, in Ephesians 5:20, that Jesus Himself is the cornerstone. So, what is the significance of a cornerstone? According to Wikipedia, “The cornerstone (or foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.” So, our foundation is on God’s Word, and Christ is the stone that determines the position of the entire building. Christ makes sure we are always positioned right.

Paul goes on to say that we are “carefully joined together in him”. We aren’t just thrown together, we are laid carefully right where God wants us, and we are joined together in Christ. This might be a good time to go back and read my blog titled, “In Christ” and remind ourselves what it really means to be In Christ. Paul goes on to say that through this process we are becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Remember, your church building isn’t the temple of the Holy Spirit, you are, in fact, Paul told us 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.”

He ends the passage by saying that, through Christ, we Gentiles are made part of God’s dwelling. Remember what we talked about the last couple of weeks. The big racial divide in those days wasn’t what we deal with today. It wasn’t about the color of their sin; the big racial divide back then was between Jews and Gentiles. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Jews were God’s chosen people, but because of religion, they believed that if you weren’t Jewish, you weren’t anything. God never told them this, their religion did. So, Jesus tore down that wall of religion and built a new building for His Holy Spirit to live in, a Cathedral Made of People.

How Do We Stop Division?

How Do We End the Division?

A few weeks ago, we looked at how the Gentiles were separated from God by religion, then last week, in my blog titled “Let the Walls Come Down”, we talked about ending division in the body of Christ. Okay, so if we are going to end this division, how do we do it? The beauty is that, just like with salvation, Christ has ended it for us and all we need to do is accept what He has done.

Let’s pick up where we left off last week and look at the next two verses. Ephesians 2:15-16 says, 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.”

Paul starts out these two verses by letting us know that the first thing Christ did to stop the division was to end the system of law. You see, the law did nothing but divide the Church. The Bible is clear that the law was never meant to save us, it was meant to show us our need for God. If we try to keep the law, we will just end up sinning. Take a minute to read Romans chapter 7, Paul explains it very well in that chapter. We also read in Romans 8:3, “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” So, the Jewish people of the Old Testament were not saved by the law as some will try to tell you, they were saved by God’s grace, through their faith in the coming Messiah. If you question that, read Hebrews chapter 11, now take a close look at everyone mentioned in that “Hall of Faith”; Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the people of Israel, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel, every one of these people lived before Christ, they all lived during the Old Testament times and were all saved by their faith.

So, Christ ended division, first by ending religion. You see, the religious people of the Old Testament times were the ones who made salvation about keeping the law, just like the religious people today often do. Religion is manmade and always tries to make it about us. But, the truth is, we can’t save ourselves, without the death burial and resurrection of Jesus, we have no hope.

Paul finishes verse 15 by saying that Christ was able to end the division between the two divisive groups, “by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.” He made us all one body. I believe I showed you these verses last week, but they are worth looking at again, Galatians 3:26-29 says, 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” So, what exactly is this saying? It says that once we are in Christ, ALL division is gone. He says there is no more racial division, there is no more sexism, there is no more class envy, and why is that? Because we are all one in Christ!

So, Christ ended religion, He ended racism, sexism, classism…He ended all the isms. The reason we don’t see denominations in the New Testament is that Christ ended them when He died on the cross.

Verse 16 goes on to say that he brought us together as ONE BODY. So, how did He do that? As this verse goes on to say “Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross” Christ’s death on the cross ended denominations, it ended division, it ended religion. Religion and division were hung on the cross with Christ!

Paul ends this passage by saying, “and our hostility toward each other was put to death.” Friends, if you belong to a church group who are hostile toward anyone, you need to leave, it’s that simple. And, it’s time to ask ourselves, “has my hostility towards others been put to death?” If the answer isn’t a resounding YES, even if you had to hesitate for a moment to think about it, then you need to take care of that right now. Lay the burden of hostility, hate, and division at the feet of Jesus. As it says in Psalm 55:22, “Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”

Here’s the thing, it’s not really our doctrines that divide us, it’s our pride. You see, we have developed these doctrines and will fight for them to the death. Many of which were contrived by taking scripture out of context, or even worse, someone came up with an idea and then took scripture out of context to back it up. I’ll say it again, the only doctrine that matters is salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ…absolutely nothing else matters! Paul told the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.” Again, nothing else matters!

Let The Walls Come Down

Let the Walls Come Down

Far too often people accuse Christians as being racist, prejudiced, or sexist and sadly that is often the truth. I have even heard pastors and other people who identify as Christians try to take scripture out of context to defend their bigoted beliefs. Ephesians 2:13-14 tells us, 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. 14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” You must realize, at that time Jew and Gentile were the big racial division, Jews hated Gentiles and vice versa.

Do you see what it says in verse 14? It says that “Christ himself has brought peace to us.” Then, it goes on to say that He united all races on the cross. It says He broke down the walls of division. By now you know that I love music and there is a song from the 90s that I love. It’s by the artist, Steve Green and the song is called, “Let the Walls Come Down”, the song says:

All throughout the spirit realm a fearsome battle rages
The fates of men and nations hang suspended in the fray
Walls designed by Satan in the twilight of the ages
Now stand as great divisions all across the world today

Walls not born of government nor strife amid the nations
But walls within our churches and between denominations
Stones of dry tradition carved in fear and laid in pride
Become a dismal prison to those withering inside

Chorus:
Let the walls come down
Let the walls come down
Let the walls that divide us
And hide us come down
If in Christ we agree
Let us seek unity
Let the walls
Let the walls come down
Let the walls
Let the walls come down

Here’s the thing, Paul said in Galatians 3:26-28, 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” How much clearer could he be? There is NO division in Christ!

We see this again in Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 12, he is comparing the Church to a human body. He is talking about how we all have different spiritual gifts and abilities and how each of these gifts represents different parts of this body. In verses 26 and 27 he says, 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” I want to be clear because I never want to look like I’m taking anything out of context. This passage is talking about the gifts of the Spirit not different races, but these two verses apply to both. We are all different parts of the same body; no part is better than the next and no part is dispensable. If one suffers, we all suffer and if one is blessed, we are all blessed.

In 1 Corinthians 1:10, right at the beginning of the letter, Paul pleads with the Church to get along, he says, “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.” Do you see that? He says there is to be NO division in the Church!

I’m going to move away from the topic of racial division for a minute. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it. If you are a Christ follower, you are my brother or sister. The only thing that should divide us is, do you believe in salvation by God’s grace, through your life-changing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Absolutely nothing else matters! If the Church is going to survive, if we are to make an impact on our world today, we must tear down the walls of prejudice, racism, sexism, and denomination. This is the only way we will survive!

As a whole, racism and sexism have been removed from the Church today. Sadly, there are still people calling themselves Christians who are ignorant, and there will always be ignorant people out there. But we must stop the division of denominations! Again, I’m not talking about ecumenicalism. I’m not talking about throwing out all doctrine and standing around a campfire and singing kumbaya.

The problem is that most of the doctrines that divide the different Christian denominations were derived by someone taking something out of context, or even worse, someone coming up with a doctrine, then taking scripture out of context to validate it. I wrote one of my earlier blogs titled, “An Example” on one of these divisive doctrines, that of dispensationalism. I chose that specific doctrine because it was one I was taught my whole life and believed most of my life. But, when I put away everything I was taught by men and took the Bible literally, in context, as a whole, I saw the truth.

When I started writing my book, which should be coming out soon, I asked many pastors why they were part of whatever denomination they belonged to. I kept getting the same answer, they would say, “I am, fill in your denomination, because of how we interpret scripture.” I then would ask them, “Do you believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, verbally inspired word of God?” Well, not surprisingly, they all said yes, so I went on to ask them, “Are you perfect?” They all answered no so I said, “So, if you are not perfect, then your imperfect interpretation would make scripture no longer perfect.”

You see, the Bible never says that we are to interpret it. We must start taking the word of God literally, in context, as a whole. The problem is that this approach takes a lot of time and effort and it is easier to believe what other people are telling us. We, that is all Christians, must start doing the work. We must do the hard work as it says 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.” The thing is, we should want to. This is the book that God wrote to us, if you love God, you should long to read His book.

It is my belief that if we all were to do this. If we all were to study the word of God literally, in context, as a whole, we would all believe pretty much the same thing, and the walls of division would start coming down.

All My Hope is In Jesus

All My Hope is In Jesus

I grew up in an Independent Baptist church in South Florida. I loved my church, they were kind and good intentioned people, they loved God and loved each other, but that was where it ended. Their philosophy was, if you aren’t us, you are wrong! They had that “Us four and no more” mentality. Their view of church unity was that our little church needed to be united against sin. Well, that didn’t go very well for us because, like so many other churches with that mindset, we had church splits, and feuding among the members…we weren’t very united even among ourselves.

We see that same attitude among the Hebrews of the Bible. Look at Ephesians 2:11-12. This passage comes right after Paul talked about salvation being by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith and how we are God’s masterpiece. These two verses say, 11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.” See there? Paul is saying that, up until that point, the Gentiles had been pushed out by religion. But here is the real question, how many people today are still being pushed away from God by religion? Religion ostracizes unsaved people for their sin. It judges them and tells them that God hates them. The fact is that God doesn’t hate anyone. He doesn’t hate homosexuals, He doesn’t hate Muslims, He doesn’t even hate criminals or murderers. God hates their sin, but He still loves the sinner.

A great example of how religion pushes away sinners is the town where we planted a church back in Florida. We kept meeting people who were struggling with addiction and would ask them why they didn’t go to any of the four churches in town. Every time the answer was that they didn’t feel welcome at any of them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that any of those church people were intentionally trying to make the addicts feel unwelcome, but their religion was.

Here’s the thing, sinners will sin! We can’t push them away for sinning, if we do that they will never come to Christ. Now, that being said, we can’t water down the gospel either. We must preach the truth about sin but not make the sinner feel ostracized for their sin, we must preach the truth in love as it says in Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” We must stand strong against the sin but love the sinner.

Let’s take a look at the parable of the Great Feast in Luke 24. If you remember this parable, the master was throwing a big feast and invited all of his friends. When the day of the feast came, his servant went out to bring his friends in. The servant came back with the message that these so-called friends all gave excuses why they couldn’t attend. Then, in verses 21 through 24 we see, 21 “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ 23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. 24 For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’” This is a picture of heaven but notice that when he sent them out to bring in the poor, cripple, blind and lame, he didn’t say to clean them up first. The same thing happened when they went back into the country lanes and behind the hedges. He just said to bring them to Him, in fact he said to beg them to come in. He didn’t tell us to clean them up first, that’s His job. The Gentiles were only able to come to Christ after the walls of religion were brought down and they were able to see the love of Christ in the believers.

But, he didn’t stop there. He goes on to say, “In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them.” Do you see that? Because of religion, the Gentiles never knew God’s love. I have to ask again, how many people today miss out on God’s love because all they see in the Church are people who fight amongst themselves and look down their nose at everyone else?

Some think that God restricted salvation to the Hebrew people in the Old Testament, but we know that this isn’t true. Look at Rahab, she not only was able to come to God, but even ended up in the lineage of Jesus. We don’t see many of these examples in the Old Testament because religion kept the Gentiles out, but there are some.

This verse ends by saying, “You lived in this world without God and without hope.” What a desperate place to be. Living without God IS living without hope because all hope is in Christ, take a look at Colossians 1:27, “For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you the hope of his glory.”

When I was a child, I got lost in one of the Smithsonian museums while on a family vacation in Washington, DC. I was only 5 years old, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was probably only a minute or two before they found me, but it seemed like an eternity. We have probably all been there at some point in our lives, so you know that feeling of hopelessness. Wondering if they will ever find you.

The beauty is that in Christ we have the Hope of His Glory. All our hope is in Christ! I want to leave you this week with the lyrics to a song by David Crowder.

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood

Live Free and Love Others

Live Free and Love Others

In honor of the 4th of July, I wanted to talk a little about freedom. Freedom is something we talk a lot about in America, and we must protect our freedom as Americans at all cost, “against enemies both foreign and domestic.” But, today I want to talk about real freedom, I want to talk about what it means to be “free indeed”. Jesus said it Himself in John 8:34-36 when He said, 34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” You see, we were slaves to sin, but when the Son sets us free, we are truly free. Isn’t that beautiful, to be free indeed? So, if you want to know where to find true freedom, 2 Corinthians 3:17 tells us, “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

We see that in Christ we are free from sin. There are many more verses about this, verses like Romans 6:14 where it says, “Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” Do you see that? Before Christ we were slaves to sin, that means that sin was our master. Now that we are in Christ, we are free from the mastery of sin. It also says this in Galatians 3:22, “But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.” So, there is no promise of freedom outside of Christ.

Christ has not only set us free from sin, but He also set us free from the law. Look at Galatians 4:5, “God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” You see, as it says all through the book of Romans, and for that matter all through the New Testament, the law was never meant to save us, it was only meant to show us our need for God. The Hebrew people of the Old Testament made it about keeping the law because we humans always want to make it about us. There are many churches today who still do the same thing. I’m sure we all know people who believe that if you are a good person you will go to heaven, but the Bible is clear in the fact that that isn’t true. We are not only free from sin, but we are free from the curse of the law and need to make sure that we never put ourselves under that curse again. Look at Galatians 5:1, “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” If we are TRULY free in Christ, why would we want to put ourselves under the law? That doesn’t make any sense at all. Let’s not even think of going back there. Look at Galatians 2:4, Even that question [the question of Titus’ circumcision] came up only because of some so-called believers there—false ones, really—who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations.” Do you see that? The people who try to put us under the law, the Bible refers to as “the false ones.” They are false teachers trying to deceive and enslave you! In fact, in Galatians 4:12 Paul pleads with them not to fall for this, “Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws. You did not mistreat me when I first preached to you.” In fact, even creation looks forward to this freedom, look at Romans 8:21, “the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”

Here’s the thing though, freedom doesn’t come for free. First, we see that there is a responsibility that comes with freedom. 1 Corinthians 8:9 tells us, “But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.” So, do I have the freedom to drink a glass of wine at with dinner? Of course, I do unless I’m having dinner with an alcoholic or a nonbeliever who doesn’t think it’s right, then it is my responsibility to abstain so as to not make them stumble. We see this scenario in 1 Corinthians 10:27-33. In this passage, it is dealing with a believer being asked to someone’s house and served meat that was offered to an idol. First, it tells us to eat and not ask questions, but if they tell you, don’t eat it for their conscience sake. Then it asks the question, “why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks?” His answer is in verse 31 through 33. Verse 31 says, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” And, then he finishes it up in verse 33 by saying, “I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.” So, the answer to the question is that if we are offending unbelievers with our freedom, then give them up so they can be saved. Do everything to God’s glory.

Galatians 5:13-15 sums this all up so well, it says, 13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” First, don’t use your freedom to do sin. We are not free to sin, we are free to live in Christ. He says to use our freedom to serve each other in love. To the world that seems like an oxymoron, “I’m free to be a servant?” Yes, exactly. Our world today lives for themselves, but as Christians, nothing gives us more joy than helping someone else. Then he says the whole law can be summed up in one command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s that simple.

The last thing I want to look at today is that freedom always comes with a price, and that price is always blood. Our freedom as Americans came with the price of the blood of many soldiers who have fought and died for our freedom. Men and women who have laid their life down for our freedom, and we want to salute them today. But our freedom in Christ came with His blood. He laid down His life for you and me. His first sacrifice was to leave heaven to live here on earth, then he was beaten, humiliated, and crucified for you and me, and He did it at just the right time. 1 Timothy 2:6 says, “He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.” So, Live Free and Love Others.

God’s Masterpiece

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God’s Masterpiece

You’ve heard me say before that we are not saved by our good works, but we are saved for good works. Well, I don’t ever want to say anything without backing it up with scripture, so let’s look at what the Bible says about this concept. We always go to Ephesians 2:8-9 but let’s add verse 10 to the mix. So, Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us, God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

This passage lays to rest any false teaching that we might be saved by our good works, let’s look at it. Verse 8 starts out by telling us that we are saved by God’s grace, through our faith in Him. We know that grace is a gift that we can’t earn, it is unmerited favor. So, if I give you a dollar, that’s grace, but if I give you a dollar for raking the leaves in my yard, I have a very small yard, that is not grace, it is payment for services rendered. So, if we get salvation as a result of the good works we do, it isn’t grace its payment.

Okay, so what about faith? Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” This is telling us that faith is believing in something that we can’t see. But, as we’ve discussed before, faith must be life-changing. Too many people today are trusting in their faith instead of the one they are supposed to have faith in. Faith that is not life-changing is not faith at all. Matthew 7:22-23 says, 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” So, clearly believing isn’t enough. In fact, this tells us that there are church leaders and even people working miracles and casting out demons who aren’t even saved. How is this possible? James 2:14-17 says, 14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” In fact, James 2:19 tells us that Satin himself has faith, look what it says, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”

So, the Bible is clear that we are saved by God’s grace, and the salvation comes as a result of our life-changing faith, but it even goes further. He goes on to say that you can’t take credit for it. And why is that? Because “it is a gift from God”. And, he says that, since it is a gift from God, you can’t brag about it either. Let’s face it, if you earned your salvation by not sinning, then bragged about it, you just committed a sin and are no longer worthy of the salvation you earned. That system wouldn’t make any sense.

Like I was saying at the beginning, we usually stop there, but let’s look at verse 10 in conjunction with these verses. Verse 10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” This is the good stuff. “We are God’s masterpiece”, isn’t that amazing? He isn’t talking to all humans. He isn’t saying that our bodies or our minds are God’s masterpiece, he is saying that our redemption is His masterpiece. Because, He has taken us, these broken and even dead blobs and made us a new creation. That is truly beautiful!

But, why did He recreate us? He recreated us “so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” And, what are those good things? To answer that we need to go back to long ago, Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” God recreated us to carry out His plan…to do the good things He has planned.

The Picture at the top of this blog is me and my oldest grandson, Micah. He is five and a half years old and accepted Christ as his savior this year, he is a masterpiece. Isn’t it truly awesome how God made salvation so simple that even a child can understand, and not only that, but He said that we must come to Him as children? We must trust Him like a child trusts a parent.

These three verses make it infinitely clear that we were not saved by our good works, but we are saved to do the things He planned for us long ago, we were saved for good works!

Matthew 5:14-16 tells us, 14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Now more than ever the world needs to see our good works. We must be that shining city on a hill. We must become the beacon of God’s love to the world. We must be His masterpiece. The only hope for our world today is a Great Revival, another Great Awakening, and the only way that will happen is if the Church will tear down their walls of division and come together as the Body of Christ. Then, and only then, will we be that light to this dying world.

How

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How to Love Your Wife

Men are typically self-centered and proud…there, I said it. But, it is true! We naturally think of ourselves first. Have you ever noticed that nowhere in the Bible does it tell women to love their husbands? God didn’t have to tell them that, because loving comes naturally to most women. Men, on the other hand, need to be reminded over and over. We tend to focus on one thing at a time, and it is usually ourselves. That’s why it’s not as common to hear of women neglecting their families for their carrier, but it happens all the time with us men. So, God reminds us several times throughout scripture to love our wives.

I was reading in Ephesians 5:25-33 the other day and wanted to share a few things I learned. This passage says, 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.30 And we are members of his body. 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

As you may have noticed in my previous blogs, I believe it is important to go back and look at the original language to help us keep scripture in context, so let’s analyze this one. Look at verse 27, it says “He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church…” The Greek word translated “present” also means “stand by”, and the word translated as “glorious” also means “gorgeous” and “Honorable”.  Later in this verse, it says that He presents this church without any blemish, which also means “without rebuke, without blame”, and then he uses the same word at the end of the verse where it is translated, “fault”. So, what these first three verses are actually saying is that we husbands should love our wives the way that Christ loves the Church. He loved His Church so much that He gave His life for her, just so He could present and stand by her, as a glorious, gorgeous and honorable Church without a spot, or wrinkle, or any other blemish, in other words, without rebuke or blame. And, instead of looking like that, He made her holy, set apart, and without blame. That’s how we are to love our wives.

In the next three verses, God goes even further by telling husbands to love their wives the way they love their own bodies. You see, God knows how selfish and self-centered we are, so He tells us at the end of verse 28, “For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.” He’s playing on our self-centeredness and pride. And, then He says in verse 29 and 30, “No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.”

In verse 31 he says, “As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’” This is referring to Genesis 2:24 where it says, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a beautiful picture that pastors have used for centuries, but what’s even more beautiful is when you look at it in the Hebrew language. The word translated as “one”, also means, “another”. So, when God says that we will become “one flesh”, He isn’t saying that we will both become the husband, or we will both become the wife, it is saying they will become something new, “another flesh”. When a man and woman come together as husband and wife, they become another flesh, they become something altogether new…isn’t that beautiful. We also see this relationship between Christ and His Church in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

In verse 32 he says, “This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” So, this great mystery of two people becoming something altogether new illustrates what? You guessed it, this illustrates the Unity of the Church…there it is again. I can’t stress how important Church unity is. This topic is seen continually throughout the New Testament. The problem is that the Church today is no longer united, we are divided into different denominations and subgroups. And, what did Jesus say about a house divided? IT WILL FALL! (Matthew 12:22-28)

He ends this passage with verse 33 where he reiterates what he has been saying, “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” There again, notice that even after this long dissertation about men loving their wives, he doesn’t say that women should love their husbands, he says they should respect their husbands, which really puts the onus back on us men because respect must be earned…just sayin’.

So, to answer the question of how men should love their wives, it’s pretty simple. Love her the way Christ loves us, He gave His life to make us holy. Then, love her the way you love yourself. Take care of her, feed her, clothe her, and put her first. If we do this we will be obeying God, and as a double bonus, our wives will respect us. So, to put it simply…Love Her!

Sitting at The Head Table

Sitting at The Head Table

I’m sure we have all been to wedding receptions or banquets. Everyone is sitting around those big round tables with the white tablecloths, often surrounded by six or seven other people you don’t know. If you look up in the front of the room, you see the head table where the wedding party or the honorees are sitting. Those people at the head table always seem to be having the best time. They all usually know each other and let’s face it, this is their day.

Have you ever had the opportunity to sit at that table? If you are married you probably did at least that one time, and maybe at an awards ceremony in high school, but it’s not something that most of us do more than once or twice in our lifetimes. But, the day is coming when we will all get to sit at the head table, the one that really matters.

Look at Ephesians 2:6-7, For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” Do you see that? He raised us from the dead, remember we were dead in our disobedience and sin, then He seated us with Him in the heavenly realms. Wow, that’s better than any head table I’ve ever seen. But, that’s how much God loves us. He doesn’t just forgive us, He doesn’t just raise us from the dead, He brings us to the front of the room and sits us next to Him. In fact, Romans 8:34 says, “Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” Isn’t that awesome? No one can condemn us, because Christ died for us and is pleading our case to the Father.

Now, since God has done all this for us, we are obligated and should desire to live for Him. Colossians 3:1-4 says, 1Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” So, since we have a new life, we need to fix our eyes on heaven. We must die to this life and live for Christ. Frances Chan once used an illustration of a rope. He had a rope that came in from the back of the room, ran up and down the aisles, up onto the stage, and ended in his hand. The tip of the rope that he was holding was painted red. He said that the rope represented eternity and the red tip represented our life here on earth. He then asked why we are so concerned about this little red tip, and not about the rest of the rope. We need to take our eyes off the red tip and fix them on the rest of the rope. Take a look at the video.

The reason we are still on this earth is to be ambassadors. We are ambassadors of our homeland, heaven, to this foreign country we live in, earth. As ambassadors, we must represent our homeland in a positive way. We need to live our lives before the world the way Christ lived His life on earth. The pastor I grew up underused to say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people ever open.” If they know you are a Christian, they will be watching to see if it is real.

Okay, so how did this happen? Why are we raised from the dead with Christ? He tells us very clearly in this passage, the end of verse 6 says, “because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Yep, there’s that unity thing again, are you beginning to see a theme? It’s not my theme, it is one of the key themes of the New Testament. Again, how many different denominations do you see talked about in the New Testament? Just sayin’.

As with everything, there is only one reason that God did all of this, for His glory. Verse 7 says, “So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” Have you ever been sitting in a room full of people, whether it was at church, or a meeting at work or school, and the person speaking uses you as an example in their speech? An example of a good thing, of course. How does that make you feel? Even the shyest person feels pretty good about being pointed out in that way. How much more special will you feel when God uses you as an example to future generations of how His grace and kindness affected your life? To coin a phrase, I could only imagine. Remember, glorifying God is our job, “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.” Isaiah 43:7.

So, the next time you find yourself envying the people at the head table, know that one day you will be at an even better, even bigger, even more, important head table. If you have accepted what Jesus did for you on the cross, if you have confessed your sin to Him and asked Him to be the Lord of your life, you will one day be seated at His right hand. Look at John’s description of the throne room of God in the book of the Revelation and know that one day, you will be there seated with Jesus…wow!