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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My Book is Here!

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Available on Amazon

Well, it’s finally here. My book has been published and is available on Amazon in both paperback and electronic versions. My book is the same title as this blog and, although there will be some of the same content, it is different.

This book compares the early church we see in the New Testament to the Church today and looks at where we went wrong as well as what we can do to get back to where we should be. Together we are His house. Cathedral Made of People is a book to the Church and for the Church. Have you ever wondered why the Church today isn’t world changers like the early Church was? When studying to plant my first church, God led me to compare the Church today to the early Church of the New Testament. As I did this, I began to see vast differences that answered many questions for me. The first Church fought against religion, they focused on unity and were world changers, while the Church today is religious, divided, and largely ineffective. It is my goal through this book to awaken the Church to seek to be more like the Church of the New Testament.

Please read it and share it. If you are a pastor, share it with your church, if you are not a pastor, share it with your pastor. This is a message that we all need to hear and changes we all need to work on.

You can buy a copy by clicking on the link above, or contact me and I will ship you a copy. Also, and most important, pray for me and this book that the message will spread across the country and the world.

What’s a Pastor to Do?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

What’s a Pastor to Do?

Have you ever wondered why God gave us Pastors? Well, let’s look at Ephesians 4;11-12 and see what the Bible has to say about them. It says, 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”

So, the first thing this tells us is that Christ Himself gave the Church 4 gifts; Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors. How often do you look at your Pastor as a gift from Jesus? If you don’t, maybe it’s time you start…just a thought. Anyway, let’s take a minute to look at these 4 gifts.

  1. Apostles, these are special ambassadors of God’s work, they provide a foundation for the Church as described in Ephesians 2:20, “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.”
  2. Prophets are also here to provide a foundation for the Church, as we just saw in Ephesians 2:20. The Prophet is defined in the Strong’s Concordance as: “One who, moved by the Spirit of God and hence His organ or spokesman, solemnly declares to men what he has received by inspiration, especially concerning future events, and in particular such as related to the cause and kingdom of God and to human salvation.”
  3. Evangelists are specifically gifted to preach the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
  4. Pastors and teachers (or, pastor-teachers; the ancient Greek clearly describes one office with two descriptive titles). The role of a pastor goes far beyond just teaching, the word literally means shepherd. The shepherd is responsible for the wellbeing of the sheep.

These gifts of the Spirit are given at the discretion of Jesus, working through the Holy Spirit, as we see in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

So, what does this passage say the pastor’s job is? We all know that he is to shepherd the Church, but what is his specific job? Verse 12 gets right down to the brass tacks, it says, “Their responsibility is…” that’s pretty clear, right? So, what is it? “to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” So, the pastor is a trainer for a bodybuilder, the Body of Christ. He makes sure we have the proper equipment, and that we know how to use it. But, even if the bodybuilder has all the best equipment available, and has been taught how to use it, but doesn’t put any work into it, he won’t be effective. Like in the movie Central Intelligence, Kevin Heart’s character asked Dwayne Johnson’s character, “What did you do?” referring to his muscles, and Dwayne’s character said, “I just did one thing…I worked out six hours a day, every day, for the last twenty years straight.” You see, the pastor is not there to do the work for us, he is there to equip us and make sure we are doing the work properly. And, by the way, that work can never end. I once saw an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he was asked if he will ever stop working out. His answer was that if he stopped, it would kill him. He said that he would have to keep working out for the rest of his life. We can never stop doing the work. One of my favorite stories was told by a former pastor of mine, Terry Larimore. He was talking about a visit to his 92-year-old grandfather, who was a retired pastor. He said that when he walked into the room, his grandfather was sitting at the table reading his Bible. He looked at Terry and said, “Come here Terry, let me show you what I learned today.” You see, we can never stop doing the work, we can never stop learning, we can never stop growing.

The next thing it says is, the pastor will keep doing this until we are mature and can measure up to Christ’s standard, and after that, we won’t be swayed by false doctrine. We will be so immersed in the Scripture that nothing or no one will be able to move us. We will be so filled with the Word of God that when those false teachers come, and they will come, we will speak the truth in love, and in every way, we will grow more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body…we will become Christians, Christ-like. I love the way he ends this passage. In verse 16 he says, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Christ, being the head of the body is the glue that holds us together. Then, after we are mature and held together in Christ, we will work together to be healthy and grow and full of love. Did you see that? We are training so that we can work together as one body to become more like Christ. And, notice he is very clear that we all are different parts of the same body. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:17, “If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?” So, we need to celebrate our different Spiritual Gifts and grow together in Christ.

You see, we were not called to be spectators, we were called to be doers of the word, James 1:22, and we were called to be disciples or imitators of Christ, Matthew 28:19. If we all would set aside our preconceived beliefs and what we have been taught by people, and study the Bible, in context as a whole, we wouldn’t need all the different denominations. If we all did this, I genuinely believe we would all believe the same things. Now, of course, we are human, and we will probably have some minor differences, but overall, we will see eye to eye. Overall, we will be united, we will be one body.

ONE!

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

ONE!

You may be wondering what this week’s picture has to do with my topic. The birds pictured here are called Skimmers, and if you ever see them you will be left in awe of the way they fly. You see when they fly they move in waves as if they were one entity. It’s a beautiful thing to see. This week I want to speak again about Church unity. When the Bible speaks about unity of the Body, it isn’t talking about one local church body, it isn’t talking about one denomination, in fact, there were no denominations when the Bible was written, so when scripture speaks of the unity of the Body it is talking about the Church as a whole. As I’ve said before, the only doctrine that should divide the Church is that of salvation by God’s grace and through our life-changing faith, absolutely nothing else matters.

As I’m putting the final touches on my book I’ve been praying about whether or not God wants me to write a follow-up book and I feel He wants me to write one on Church Unity. While I was praying about this, just yesterday, God gave me a specific passage of scripture. I couldn’t remember exactly where this passage was found but planned on looking it up. As you may have noticed, I have been going straight through the book of Ephesians for a while now. Well, this morning I sat down to write this week’s blog, and wouldn’t you know, the next passage in the book is Ephesians 4:4-6, the very passage that God has been laying on my heart. It never ceases to amaze me how He puts affirmations in front of us every day. So, here’s that Passage, it says, For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”

Paul starts out this part of his letter by saying, “there is one body and one Spirit.” Do you see how important unity is? He starts out with unity of the Church. He says that we are one body, and there is one spirit. We have unity because we share one Spirit in Christ. Now, let’s look at each of these.

One Body, as we have seen many times before, the Church is often referred to as the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 describes it best where Paul compares the different gifts of the Holy Spirit to the different parts of the body. He starts out in verses 12-13 showing how even socioeconomic differences don’t separate us, 12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.” It doesn’t matter where we are from, if we are rich or poor, if we are slave or free, we are all part of the same body.

He goes on to talk about how, if the foot or ear says it doesn’t want to be part of the body, that doesn’t make it any less a part. So, we are all part of the same Body whether we want to admit it or not. Then he emphasizes how, since we are all different parts, we can’t all have the same gifts, look at verse 17, “If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?” So, if anyone tries to tell you that there is one Spiritual gift that we all should have, direct them to this passage.

Looking back at Ephesians 4, he goes on to say, One Spirit. There is only one Holy Spirit. According to the Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word is pneuma (pnyü’-mä) means “the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, coequal, coeternal with the Father and the Son. He is sometimes referred to in a way which emphasizes His personality and character (the “Holy” Spirit), He is sometimes referred to in a way which emphasizes his work and power (the Spirit of “Truth”), but He is never referred to as a depersonalized force.” So, there is no mistaking what Spirit Paul is talking about.

Next, he says there is One Hope of Our Calling. This is speaking to the unity or brotherhood, we have in the hope of our calling. The word “hope” here isn’t hope as in, “I hope this will happen,” this is an expectant hope, a sure thing. We have an expectant hope in our calling as believers; which draws us together and sets us apart from the world.

He then says, One Lord! Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something. In John 14:6 we read that Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” Did He sound “iffy” in that statement? Did He say, I am a way? No, Jesus is the one and only Lord. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Great I Am, the one who was and is and is to come. Praise God!

One Faith. This goes right along with one Lord. There is only one faith that will save your soul. Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” And, remember what Hebrews 11:6 says, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” We must have that one faith and it must be a life-changing faith. James tells us in James 2:14, “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?” Then he goes on to say in verse 17, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” So, you see, it can’t just be lip-service, it must be life-changing.

One Baptism. This is not speaking about water baptism, it is speaking about Spiritual baptism. Just like water baptism, spiritual baptism is separate from the salvation experience, in fact, there are several instances in scripture where someone had been a Christian for some time and later was baptized in the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 3:11 John the Baptizer said, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Acts 1:5 says, for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” And in Acts 11:16 we read, And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”

One Father of All! Here Paul is showing the hierarchy of the Godhead. He is a triune God which means He is one God with three separate parts that have three separate jobs, but The Father is overall. He goes on to say, “who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

Unity of the Body is paramount to the health of the Church. Jesus Himself said, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.” Matthew 12:25. We must get this right if the Church is to survive and make a difference in our world today.

Am I Worthy?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Am I Worthy?

This week, I would like to start looking at the 4th chapter of Ephesians. The first thing we need to remember is that Paul didn’t write the book of Ephesians in chapters and verses, it was a letter to the church at Ephesus. So, Paul starts out what we know as chapter 4 verses 1 by saying, “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”

Notice that he starts out by declaring himself a prisoner of the Lord. The Greek word used here is not the same word used by James, Jude, Peter, and Paul in other locations, that we spoke about last September in our 2-part series on the word “doulos”, but this word means the same thing. It is a bondservant, a servant by choice. I won’t go into depth, but you can read the series on my website.

Let’s look at the first word in the verse, “Therefore.” I had a pastor that used to always say, if you see the word “therefore,” you need to find out what it’s there for. If you read last week’s blog, we talked about Paul’s prayer for the Church. He ended that prayer by saying that, as a result of Christ living in us and empowering us, we will be able to do infinitely more than we could ask for or ever dream of. Because of that power, Paul is begging us to live a life worthy of that calling. But what does he mean by this statement?

I see it all the time on Facebook and Instagram, people saying, “you are worthy.” But, what does the Bible say about it? John the Baptizer said, “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Matthew 3:11. So, John, the cousin of Jesus and the forerunner of the Messiah, said that he wasn’t even worthy of being Christ’s servant.

Look at the Roman officer who came to ask Jesus to heal his servant. What did he say? “But the officer said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.’” Matthew 8:8. This was a Roman officer, respected by everyone who had enough faith in Christ that he knew that all Jesus had to do is say the word and his servant would be healed, but he didn’t consider himself worthy.

There are many other instances, such as Peter in John 13:8 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:9. Look at the parable of the great feast, which is a picture of heaven, where the master said, “The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor.” Matthew 22:8. And, Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.”

So, who in the Bible thought they were worthy? Let’s look at Matthew 7:22-23, 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.’” These are people who think they are worthy of getting into heaven, but Jesus tells them to go away. He says He never knew them. Remember, pride was the original sin. What did the serpent say to Eve? He talked her into eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by telling her that she would be like God. He played on her pride. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Saying that you are worthy is nothing more than pride. We are not worthy of salvation, we are forgiven. Salvation is a gift from God that cost His Son’s life, a gift that we don’t deserve.

So, we are not worthy, but Paul begs us to live a life that is worthy of our calling. And, what is that calling? Let’s look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28. In verses 19-20 it says, 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The Great Commission is to go and make disciples. A disciple is someone who imitates the one they follow. So, our calling is to imitate Jesus. What Paul is saying is to live a life that is as close to Christ as possible. That’s a high calling, but one we must strive for.

Going back to Ephesians 4, Paul tells us how we can live a Christ-like life. Look at verses 2-3, Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” The instructions are pretty simple: be humble, gentle, patient, stay close to the Holy Spirit, and…you guessed it, be united as the body of Christ.

If you wonder why I talk so much about the unity of the Church, it’s because the Bible talks so much about it, and the Church today isn’t doing it. The body of Christ is more divided today than ever. My book, also titled Cathedral Made of People, addresses this as well as other symptoms of the Churches disease. The book is the same title as this blog, but it isn’t the same. It is a compare and contrast between the Church of the New Testament and the Church today. It will be available next month on Amazon and some other electronic sources and my goal is to have it printed by the end of the year. So, as soon as it is out I will let you know where to get it and if you would like to see some ideas of what we can do to heal the Church, buy a copy and share it with your pastors to see what they think.

But, to sum it all up. Since you have that power living in you, pray that God will help you live a life worthy of the calling of Christ.

Infinitely More!

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Infinitely More

There are many prayers recorded in the Bible. When we look, we find the Prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, the prayer Jesus prayed before going to the cross in John 17, as well there are many prayers in the Psalms and more than ten of Paul’s prayers printed in the Bible. But, the one we want to focus on this week is found in Ephesians chapter 3, Paul again tells us what he prayed for the Church. He says in verses 16-19, 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

He starts out his prayer by asking God to empower us. A more literal translation is “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” We have seen this word he uses for power before. It is the Greek word, δύναμις, δυνάμεως, ἡ; dynamis; (dü’-nä-mēs) From the Strong’s Concordance: (from Homer down); the Sept. for חַיִל, גְּבוּרָה, עֹז, כֹּחַ, צָבָא (an army, a host); strength, ability, power; a. universally, “inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth”: Luke 1:17; Acts 4:7. This is an inherent power, it is innate within God, and it is the root word for our word, dynamite.

So, Paul is praying that we can be strengthened with this power. If you remember, this isn’t the first time that Paul prayed this. Back in Ephesians 1:18-19 Paul said, 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” Paul is praying that God would strengthen us with the same innate, explosive power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of the Father…Wow!

But, he says that he wants us to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in the inner man. We all know the importance of strengthening our outer man, but it is equally important, actually more so, that we strengthen our inner man. The only way we can strengthen our inner man is to spend quality time studying the Word and praying. And, He’s not going to just give us some of this power, He is going to give it according to the riches of His glory…that’s a lot!

He goes on to say that as we gain this power, then Christ will make His home in our hearts and our roots will grow deep in God’s love to make us strong. The Psalmist also compared us to a tree. He said in the first chapter of Psalms that those of us who delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it all the time will be “like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” Again, we strengthen that inner man by delighting in the Word of God and meditating on it day and night.

In verse 18 Paul says that through this power we may be able to understand the length and width and depth of God’s love, but then in verse 19 he says that we could never fully understand it. Once we have gained that power and understood His great love, to the extent that we can, we will be made complete. You see, that is the only way we will ever be made complete because without Christ we can never be complete. There is a hole in our soul that only Jesus can fill.

Now, let’s check out the end of his prayer. In verses 20-21 Paul says, 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” Not only can this Dynamis power strengthen us and empower us, but it can accomplish INFINITELY more than we could even ask for. In fact, this power can do more than we could even imagine. Now, I have a pretty good imagination, but God’s Power can do more than I can even dream up…that’s a lot.

This isn’t just the end of this prayer, it is wrapping up every blessing spoken in these first three chapters. God can do all of this because He can do far beyond our ability to ask or think. One translation says that God can do “exceeding abundantly” above what we can ask or think. Charles H. Spurgeon had this to say about that phrase, “He has constructed here in the Greek an expression which is altogether his own. No language was powerful enough for the apostle, – I mean for the Holy Ghost speaking through the apostle, – for very often Paul has to coin words and phrases to shadow forth his meaning, and here is one, ‘He is able to do exceeding abundantly,’ so abundantly that it exceeds measure and description.” In Jeremiah 32:27 God said, “I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?” The answer is a resounding NO!

Paul ends this prayer by giving praise to God because, at the end of the day, that’s why we are here.

Come Boldly to God

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Come Boldly to God

Ephesians 3:12 tells us, “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” So, what does this mean? Is this saying that I can barge in on God and demand that He answer my prayers? Of course not! Let’s take a few minutes and see what Paul is talking about.

The Greek word that is translated as “boldly” in this verse is the word, παῤῥησία parrēsia” (pär-rā-sē’-ä) which the Strong’s Concordance defines as, “outspokenness, i.e. frankness, bluntness, publicity; by implication, assurance: confidence, freely, openly, plainly (-ness)…” This word is used 32 times in 31 verses of the New Testament. Most of these occurrences are talking about preaching with boldness or speaking confidently, only 4 other passages speak of coming before God with boldness.

Hebrews 10:19-22 says, 19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house,22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” This one is a great picture of what he is talking about. The writer of Hebrews is comparing coming to God today to how they had to do it before Christ. You see, before Christ, the only way to bring something before God was to first go to the High Priest, because he was the only one who was allowed to come before God. So, once a year, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place, to offer a sacrifice and petition God for His people. Even this High Priest had to prepare himself first. He had to make sure there was no sin in his life and, just in case there was, he had to wear bells around the hem of his robe and have a rope tied around himself. This way, if there was unconfessed sin in him and he was struck dead, those outside the curtain would know when they heard the bells stop ringing and could drag him out by the rope.

But, because our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus, we can enter the Most Holy Place with boldness. See what verse 20 says, “By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.” Jesus made a new way through that curtain. How do we know this? Because, when Jesus said, “it is finished” on the cross, that curtain tore from top to bottom. This act was no accident or earthquake, that curtain was about 80 feet tall and as thick as your hand is wide. God tore that curtain open because the Holy Spirit was moving out and moving into us. Now, Christ is our High Priest and He is the only one that we can go through to get to God, remember what Paul told us in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.”

So, how do we develop this confidence in Christ? 1 John 4:17 tells us, “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” If we live in God, if we are living to please Him, our love will continue to grow into perfection. This will enable us to come before God boldly…and why is that? Because we know that our sins are forgiven and that He is our loving Father who longs for our relationship and obedience.

If we look back a little in 1 John 3:18-21 we see how that works, 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20 Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence.” This goes back to James 2:14-26, where James tells us that faith without works, is dead, well the same goes for love. You can say you love someone until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t show it, it is useless. I was raised in the South and when someone from the South says, “I love Bubba to death”, you know they are about to say something horrible about Bubba. They don’t love Bubba, that is just lip service, saying one thing but demonstrating another. So, don’t just say you love each other, show it. What does John say about that? 1 John 4:7-8, Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Did you catch that? If you don’t love others, you don’t know God, because God IS Love!

The last passage about coming boldly before God is found in Hebrews 4:14-16 and says, 14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Jesus is our great High Priest in heaven, He is the only mediator between God and man, and He will plead our case. Look at verse 15, Jesus understands our weaknesses. He faced all the same temptations that we face, but, unlike us, did not sin.

So, because Jesus came to this earth, lived a perfect life among us despite temptations, died as a sacrifice for our sins, rose from the dead to claim victory over death and the grave, and sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven, we can come boldly before God. Romans 8:15 says, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’” That phrase, “Abba Father” is best translated as “Daddy”. God wants an intimate relationship with you, a relationship where you can run to Him for comfort and assurance. Because of Christ, the Father is our Daddy who we can come boldly to…isn’t that beautiful?

Take Pride in Your Weakness

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

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

Friday Night Gathering
Photo by Michelle Pearson

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?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

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!

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