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!

Valentine’s Day-What is Love?

The Kiss
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Valentine’s Day-What is Love?

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, and we all have love on our minds. Some of us are thinking of our spouses, some are thinking of their boyfriend or girlfriend, and some are lonely today, wishing they had someone, but love is on our minds, one way or another.

I posted a series on 1 Corinthians 13 several months ago titled “A More Excellent Way”, and I will be talking about some of that passage again today. If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you will realize that I talk a lot about keeping scripture in context. One of the biggest mistakes the Church today makes is interpreting scripture, because, if we put our flawed interpretation on scripture, it is no longer perfect. When talking about this, I often use 1 Corinthians 13:1 as an example. I won’t go through the whole example, if you are interested you can go back to my series, “A More Excellent Way”, and read it. But, suffice it to say, that if you take this passage literally, it is saying that Love is a gift of the Spirit, it is the only gift of the Spirit that every believer can have, and it is the only gift of the Spirit that we will need in Heaven.

So, what is this gift of Love? Well, 1 Corinthians 13 gives us a list in verses 4-7, Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wrongedIt does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins outLove never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” Notice that this list gives both the things that love is, as well as the things that it is not. So, let’s break this down.

  1. PatienceVs 4 “To be longsuffering, as opposed to hasty anger or punishment. To EXPERIENCE understanding and patience toward persons.
    1. Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses.”
    2. Proverbs 17:9 “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.”
    3. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 “Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.”
    4. 1 Peter 4:8 “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
  2. KindVs 4
    1. Ephesians 4:32 “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
  3. Not Jealous Vs 4
    1. Proverbs 14:30 “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.”
  4. Does not brag and is not arrogantVs 4
    1. 1 Corinthians 4:6 “Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another.”
  5. Does not act unbecominglyVs 5
    1. Philippians 4:8 “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
  6. Does not seek its ownVs 5
    1. 1 Corinthians 10:24 “Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.”
    2. Philippians 2:21 “All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.”
  7. Is not provokedVs 5
    1. Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”
  8. Does not take into account a wrong sufferedVs 5 An intentional wrong that was done
    1. 2 Corinthians 5:19 “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.”
  9. Does not rejoice in unrighteousnessVs 6
    1. Psalm 119:1-3 1How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
      Who walk in the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart. They also do no unrighteousness; They walk in His ways.”

Pretty clear, isn’t it? Okay, now I want to talk to the husbands out there. I have been a husband to my wife Michelle for thirty-three years, but believe me, that does not make me an expert. To be honest, I struggle with loving my wife all the time. You see, I am a very selfish person, and I don’t like putting anyone ahead of myself. But, God recently showed me something that I would love to share with you.

Ephesians 5:25-30 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.” First, notice that the Bible never tells the wife to love her husband. You see, loving others, and putting others first comes naturally to most women, it’s part of that motherly instinct, so God never had to tell them to love their husband. But, us men are a different breed. We tend to be selfish and need a little reminding occasionally.

This passage starts out by telling us to love our wives the same way that Christ loved the church. He loved us so much that He died for us. He is reminding us to put them and their needs first. He is telling us to love them, even if they don’t seem to love us. Because, let’s be honest, sometimes it seems that way, and for good reason. I know that I am not always that loveable. Look at Romans 5:8, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Now, skip down to verse 10, “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.” Verse 8 tells us that He loved us while we were still sinners, and verse 10 tells us that He loved us even when we were His enemies. That’s how we need to love our wives, unconditionally. What is our goal in this? Verse 27 told us, “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.” Our goal is to make our wife look spotless and without fault.

So, men, on this Valentine’s Day, and every day hereafter, love your wife like your own body. Nourish her, care for her, and love her unconditionally.

More Churches – Thyatira

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

More Churches – Thyatira

Thyatira was an interesting choice for Jesus to send a letter to in the Revelation. You see, Thyatira was a very insignificant city, in fact, according to Barclay, “The elder Pliny dismissed Thyatira with the almost contemptuous phrase ‘Thyatira and other unimportant cities.’” The only thing Thyatira had going for it was its trade guilds, it had more trade guilds than any two cities of its size, and it was known for making purple dye and purple fabric…the fabric of royalty.

This time, when Christ describes Himself, He comes right out and says, “This is the message from the Son of God” in Revelation 2:18. Then He goes on to describe Himself even further when he says, “whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze.” Again, He takes this from John’s description of Him in Revelation 1:14-15. So, what did He mean by eyes like flames? Fire often represents the Holy Spirit, as we see in Acts 2:2-4, another sign pointing to the triune nature of God. Fire can also represent refinement, as with metals, or judgment. The feet like polished bronze is referring to His steadfastness. Bronze was the hardest metal known at that time and the bronze feet represent that Christ is immovable. So, this description of Him is demonstrating His steadfast, immovable judgment on the people.

He goes on in verse 19 to say, “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.” So, as with the church at Ephesus, He starts out by complimenting them on what they are doing right. But, notice that He begins by saying, “I know all the things you do.” He’s about to compliment them, but lets them know up front that He knows it all…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then He goes on to talk about their love, their faith, their service, and their patience. Do you recognize these? You should, because they are some of the fruits of the Spirit seen in 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!”

It’s looking pretty good for the church at Thyatira, but then He hits them with, “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols”, in verse 20. So, there was a woman in the church leading them astray. She was obviously a woman of authority, some believe she could have been the pastor’s wife, but she was a self-proclaimed prophet. Now, this is where many churches are divided, and is where we need to take the Bible literally and in context. The Bible never says that a woman can’t be a prophet. In fact, if you look at the accounts of the birth of Christ, it talks about Anna who was a prophet, and there were many other examples. But, the problem here is that they didn’t do what they were taught. John says in 1 John 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” So, the problem wasn’t that she was a woman, the problem was that she was a false prophet and the church didn’t test what she said against scripture, they just believed her. Jesus goes on to call her Jezebel. It is possible that her name was actually Jezebel, but it is more likely that Christ is using that name to describe what she was. So, let’s think about who Jezebel was in the Old Testament. She was found in 1 Kings 16-21, and in 2 Kings 9:30-37, and she was one of the evilest people mentioned in the Old Testament. She was the wife of King Ahab and tried to use her place of power to combine Israel’s worship with the worship of Baal, which included sexual sin and pagan practices.

In verse 21 Christ says, “I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.” Even this horrible, evil woman who was trying to lead the Christ followers astray, Christ gave time to repent. You see that? He didn’t just give her a chance, He gave her time, but she wouldn’t turn from her immorality.

In verses 22 and 23, Jesus tells them what He will do to her, and them, if they don’t repent and turn from their evil ways, He says, 22Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.” There are those who say that a loving God wouldn’t punish us. The problems with that school of thought are that, as we just saw, He always gives us a choice. He won’t make us do right, He wants us to choose Him, to choose to do right. And, secondly, He is a loving Father, and a truly loving father will discipline his children. First, to try to correct them and turn them back to the right path, and second to demonstrate to His other children that there are consequences to doing wrong, Proverbs 13:24.

He goes on, in verses 24 through 27, commending those who are victorious, and tells them that He will give them the authority to rule nations. Then in verse 28 He repeats that promise and tells them that He will give them the same authority His Father gave to Him. He ends verse 28 by saying, “and I will also give them the morning star!” So, what does He mean by this? If we look at the end of the book of the Revelation, we see in Revelation 22:16, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.” This is truly awesome! What Jesus is saying here is that if we are victorious, He will give us the greatest gift of all…He will give us Himself!

Of course, like in all the other letters, Christ ended this one in verse 29 by saying, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” He wants us to hear the warning to this church, and He wants us to be victorious and claim the ultimate prize…Him!

Two Bad Examples – The Second

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Two Bad Examples – The Second

Last time we looked at the first example from Revelation chapter 2. This time I would like to take a look at another, the church at Laodicea which is talked about in chapter 3, verses 14-22. He starts out in verse 14 by saying, “This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation.” Notice it says that the message is “from the one who is the Amen”. The word “Amen”, has several meanings, but they are all related. For instance, when your pastor is preaching, and someone says “Amen”, they are saying “Surely, truly, of a truth”. When you end your prayer by saying, “in Jesus name, amen”, you are saying, “so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled”. But, in this case, where it is referring to a person, it is a metaphor for faithful. So, what this is saying is, “This is the message from the one who is the faithful one.” And, we all know there is only one truly faithful one…Jesus.

Now, once He is finished identifying Himself, He get’s right into it. He doesn’t sugar coat anything, He doesn’t even make a compliment sandwich this time. He simply says in verse 15, “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!” If you remember, when He spoke to the church at Ephesus, he started out by talking about all the good things they were doing, but not with this one. From the looks of it, they weren’t doing anything right. Notice what He says here. The problem He had with them is that they were not hot nor cold. So, in our human thinking, not being cold should be a good thing, right? But what does verse 16 say? “But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” Okay, so because they were lukewarm, or tepid, it says He wants to spit them out of His mouth. Some translations say spew them out, but the Greek word used here is emeo, which means “to vomit, vomit forth, throw up”. So, what God is telling the church at Laodicea is, “you make me want to puke!”

He goes on to say in verse 17, “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” I think we all know this person. They are wealthy, so they are very condescending and think that people without a lot of money are not as wise as them. They think that because they have all this money and have traveled the world, that they have a handle on life. But, the truth is, that these people are often lonely. Don’t get me wrong, they probably have a lot of “friends”, but no one who is loyal and trustworthy. They are empty inside. These people are miserable, they are wretched, they are poor, blind and naked, and they don’t even realize it.

Jesus tells us in verse 18 how to remedy those problems, He says, “So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.” You see, we could have all the money of Bill Gates, but we would still be empty spiritually. The Bible tells us in Mark 8:36-37, 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul?” The answer is, nothing!  Watch this video by Francis Chan that describes our life here on earth as compared to eternity (insert video). Mark 8:38 goes on to say, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” So many people today want to believe that any religion is good when the truth is that NO religion is good. Jesus and His disciples fought against religion constantly, and the New Testament has nothing good to say about religion except in James 1:27 where James tells us what God sees as true religion. This type of person is ashamed of the gospel of Christ, and in the end, Christ will be ashamed of them. But, God always gives the answer to the problem. Verse 18 is telling us that we must come to Him for our gold, gold purified by the fire. This reminds me of when, in John 4, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, that if she drank from His well she would never thirst again. In this verse, Jesus wasn’t talking about a literal well or physical thirst, He was talking about spiritual thirst. And, when He is talking about gold in Revelation 3, He isn’t talking about the precious metal, He is talking about spiritual riches. You see, if we trust in God, we may never be rich, but He will take care of all our needs…He promises, Philippians 4:19. God loves us and wants to take care of us, the problem is that we want to be self-sufficient when we need to rest in Him. God not only tells us to seek His gold, He also tells us to go to him for clothing, He wants us to be clothed in righteousness, Job 29:14, “Everything I did was honest. Righteousness covered me like a robe, and I wore justice like a turban.” He also tells us that He will give us ointment for our eyes so we can see. In Ephesians 1:18 Paul said, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”

But, He doesn’t end there. In verse 19 Jesus lets us know that He corrects us because He loves us. Then, verse 20 is that well-known verse, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” He pleads with us to fix the problem, so we can have the friendship that He wants. In verse 21 He lets us know that if we have victory over our sin, we will sit with Him on His throne. And, of course, He ends it by saying, verse 22, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

We need to have an ear to hear. We need to take heed of what He is saying to these churches and get victory over our sin. We have all become very complacent to sin and need to turn back to our first love.

Two bad Examples

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Two Bad Examples

In the book of the Revelation, in chapters 2 and 3, God talks about seven different churches. For each one He either gives praises or warnings or both. After each one of them, He says, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” Does this sound familiar? It should, because Christ used those same words when He was talking to the crowd about who John the Baptist was, and He used them again at the end of the Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed. In the case of the parable, Christ told the parable and ended it by saying, Matthew 13:9 “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” We learn in Mark’s account of this, that after He said that, He walked away, kind of a drop the mic moment. When His disciples came to Him later and asked Him the meaning of the parable, He explained it to them. You see? The disciples were the ones with an ear to hear. They wanted to understand what he was saying. They wanted a deeper relationship with Christ. All those other people just wanted to hear Him speak. They were either just curious or were following the crowd. Either way, they didn’t want to be changed, they just wanted to be entertained. Our churches today are full of people like that. These people are just filling some religious checklist, but have no desire to be transformed.

So, going back to the churches mentioned in the book of the Revelation, He gives these warnings, as well as what they were doing right, and wants us who have an ear, those of us who want a deeper relationship with Him, to seek out what He was saying. I’m not going to have time to focus on all seven churches, this is a blog after all, not a book. So, I would like to focus on just two of them. Then I encourage you to go back and study the other five if you have an ear to hear.

The first one I would like to take a look at is the first one mentioned in this passage, the church at Ephesus. You can find this one in Revelation 2:1-7. He starts out by praising this church for all the things they are doing right. In verses 2 and 3 He lists those things, 2I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.” So, they were hard working patient people, they didn’t put up with evil people, they study out everything they hear, and they Patiently suffered without quitting. This all sounds pretty good. If we were to look at the church at Ephesus from the outside, we would think they were a pretty good church group.

But, then in verse 4, He tells them that He has something against them. He says, “that you have left your first love.” This is interesting, because judging by those first things, it appears that they truly love God, but the problem He has with them is that they have left their first love. This wasn’t just their love for God, it was their love in general…their love for God, for each other, and for the world. They were complacent. Notice it doesn’t say that they lost their first love, it says they left it. It was a conscious decision. They had walked away from their first love. Charles Spurgeon said this, “A church has no reason for being a church when she has no love within her heart, or when that love grows cold. Lose love, lose all.” God is much more emphatic about love, He says in 1 John 4:7-8, “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” So, if you don’t love others, you don’t truly know God, because God IS Love!

He goes on in verse 5 to say, “Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.” So, He starts out by saying, “Look how far you have fallen.” He wants them to see where they went wrong because until they see that, they will not be able to fix the problem. This is good advice for any church. We need to step back and see if and where we have fallen. I used to manage restaurants. I would regularly remind my employees to stop and look around as they were walking into the store, and look as if it were their first time there. This helps us see what we are missing. When you do something over and over for years, you stop noticing things that would have bugged you in the beginning.

Once we see where we are going wrong, He says to turn back to Him and the things we did in the beginning. Stop and think about what it was like when you first came to Christ. Sadly, this is a normal process with us humans. We grow calloused over time. It happens to us in everything, our marriage, our job, even that new boat or car we had to have. So, we need to regularly step back and think about what it was like in the beginning. We need to return to our first love.

Well, is it that important that we do this? He tells us at the end of verse 5, “or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” I’ve heard pastors say for years now that there is no mention of a country that even resembles America in the book of Revelation. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean we will be wiped out…removed from the lampstand…it means we need to repent. Repenting means that we need to do a one-hundred and eighty-degree turn. We need to do the opposite of what we are doing now. We need to stop chasing religion and focus on a relationship with God.

Okay, so that’s a lot to think about for now, so we’ll talk about the second church next time. Until then, let’s all determine to step back and see what our church looks like. Are we making disciples or just congregations? Are we fostering strong relationships with Christ, or are we playing church? Is glorifying God our main goal, or have we become a religious institution? Just a little food for thought.

Fruit Inspector

"Ooo ... Oooo ... Ooo! Pick Me, Mr. Kotter!"
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Fruit Inspector

The New Testament often refers to Jesus as a vine, us as His branches, and what we do for Him as our fruit. But, one passage, in particular, is often misinterpreted, which is a good example of why we shouldn’t try to interpret the word of God at all. The passage is Matthew 7:16, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” I have heard so many pastors say that we shouldn’t judge others, we should just be “fruit Inspectors”. That, if they are a true believer, their fruit will show. While it is a true statement that our fruit will show if we are a true believer, that is not what this passage is talking about, and we aren’t here to judge anyone else’s salvation.

If we take this passage in context, we see that, in this passage, Christ is giving a lot of instructions. In fact, the first six verses of this passage are telling us not to judge others, Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” In verses 7 – 11 Christ is teaching us about effective prayer, telling us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking…be persistent in your prayers. Verse 12 is what we call “The Golden Rule”, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Verses 13 – 14 are talking about the narrow gate that leads to everlasting life and the broad gate that leads to destruction.

Then we come to verses 15 – 20 where Christ is telling them, verse 15, “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” Then he goes on in verse 16, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” You see, he isn’t saying that we’ll know if they are Christians or not by their fruit, he says we can tell false prophets by their fruit. There’s a big difference. Now, there are several verses that tell us how the world will know we are Christians, John 13:35 says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” I believe this is the message we need to hear. There is so much fighting and feuding among people that claim the name of Christ, but the Bible tells us that the fighting and feuding proves that they are not of God.

Most of the book of 1 John is dedicated to love. He starts talking about it in 1 John 2:7 where he says, “Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before.” Next, he goes on to tell us not to love the world and then tells us how to identify an antichrist. Then he goes right back to love. He talks about living as a child of God, in chapter 3, verse 1 he says, “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” In chapter 3, verse 11 he starts talking about loving each other again, “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” In chapter 4 he takes a minute to tell us how to discern a false prophet, then he goes right back to loving one another. In verses 7 – 8 of chapter 4 he says, 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.” The Greek word used for love in verse 7 is agapao, which means “to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly”. So, he is saying that we need to dearly love each other, is that what your church looks like? Does your local body love each other dearly? I hope so, but if not, we need to pull together to help them get back to their first love, Christ.

But, did you catch what is said in verse 8? Anyone who does not love does not know God! And, why is that? Because God Is Love! We could add that to the names of God, God Is Love. Friends, as I said earlier, we are not here to judge people. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs the parable of the Great Feast. When the master told his servants to go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, he didn’t say to clean them up first, he said to beg them to come! It’s His job to judge their hearts. We must discern false teachers, but our job as Christ followers is to love each other and glorify our Father.

So, what is our fruit as believers? Galatians 5:22 – 23, 22But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” What was the first fruit that Paul lists here? Love!

You see, the point all of this is getting at is that the only one we need to judge is ourselves. In fact, going back to Matthew 7 where Christ is saying not to judge others, He says in verse 2, “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Let’s start inspecting our own fruit. Let’s look at our own lives and ask ourselves; is there love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my life? If I’m being honest with you, and with myself, I fall short in many of these areas. If we all inspect our own fruit and start changing our own lives, then the world will see our lives and glorify our Father in Heaven. Earnest Humphries, the pastor I grew up under, used to say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people ever open.” So, inspect your fruit, and let your light shine!

Simeon & Anna

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Simeon & Anna

When Jesus was eight days old, His parents did what the law told them to do. They took him to the temple to be circumcised. After that, they went to give their purification sacrifice. While they were doing this, a prophet named Simeon came up to them, took their child from them, and began praising God. Put yourself in their shoes. Yes, they knew that He was the Messiah, but for a total stranger to come up to them and take their child and say, Luke 2:29-32 29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” It’s no wonder that verse 33 says, “Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.” Of course, they knew it, but Simeon realized who He was without being told, even though He was just eight days old. But, Simeon didn’t stop there. He went on to bless Mary and Joseph, and then say, in verses 34 and 35, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Okay, so let’s look at what just happened. First, he picks up Jesus and starts praying that God can take him now because he has seen God’s salvation. And, he adds that this salvation is for ALL PEOPLE! This is huge! The Hebrew religion taught that salvation was only for the Jewish people…you had to be born into salvation. This was never God’s plan, He saved Rahab and others who were not Hebrews all through history. But that’s what religion does, it divides. So, Simeon, speaking through the Holy Spirit, said that salvation has come for all people. He then expounds on it when he says, “He is a light to reveal God to the nations”. Some translations say a light to the Gentiles, but the Greek word used here is ethnos, which is where we get our word ethnic. Christ is a light to reveal God to everyone. He then says that Jesus will be the glory of Israel.

So, this is where it says that His parents were amazed at what was being said. Then Simeon blesses Mary and Joseph and it’s great, it’s all good stuff up until now. Then Simeon goes on to say that their child is destined to make many in Israel fall, and many others rise. You see, that was Jesus’ destiny, to make many fall and many rise, and we see this over and over throughout Jesus’ ministry. We see Peter rise from denying Christ, to leading the Church after His resurrection. And, we see Judas fall, even after spending day and night with Christ for three years. We also see most of the Pharisees fall because they are unwilling to let go of their religion and traditions, while we see Nicodemus tell Jesus that he knows He was sent from God. Actually, he doesn’t say he knows, he said we know. Nicodemus was saying that all of the Pharisees knew that Jesus was sent from God, but for most of them, their religion and their place of authority was too important.

Simeon goes on to say that even though Jesus was sent from God, many will oppose Him. He knew the hearts of mankind, and how we seek signs and wonders, but even when we see them, we still don’t believe. I talk a lot about taking scripture literally. Had the Hebrew people taken the Old Testament literally, and not tried to add their own interpretation, they would have seen Jesus as the Christ. All of the scriptures pointed to Him, but they wouldn’t believe.

Simeon says that because so many will oppose Him, the deepest thoughts of their hearts will be revealed. And, then he says directly to Mary, “a sword will pierce your very soul.” You see, Mary had to realize that, yes, giving birth to the Messiah was a huge honor, but it would also be a huge burden. Think about it. Thirty-three years later, Mary had to watch her son be brutally beaten and crucified for crimes he didn’t commit. But, even before that, He was homeless for three years, He was hated by all the religious leaders, He was even hated by her other children. The Holy Spirit used Simeon to remind her of this.

Next up, Anna. Let’s look at her backstory. First, it says she was the daughter of Phanouel. This is the only time that Phanouel is mentioned in the Bible. He isn’t a prominent figure in the Bible, or in history. His name is given here because of its meaning. Her father’s name literally meant, “the face of God”, so Anna was the daughter of the face of God. And, on top of that, she was from the tribe of Aser, which means “blessed”. So, she was the blessed daughter of the face of God…wow. It goes on to say that she was eighty-four years old. It doesn’t say how old she was when she got married, but we know that Jewish tradition was that a girl was usually twelve to fourteen when they got married. So, this tells us that she was probably nineteen to twenty-one when her husband died seven years later. Then it says she lived as a widow, to this point about forty-four years, and never left the temple, but worshiped God day and night. So, it’s safe to say that Anna was pretty dedicated to God.

When Anna heard Simeon, she began praising God, then it says, “She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.” Luke 2:38. After living in the temple for forty years, she knew who these people were. She knew exactly who was diligently looking for the Messiah.

Here’s the thing. The Christmas season is a good time to remind ourselves that we need to be more like Simeon and Anna. First, we need to be like Simeon, we need to listen to the Holy Spirit. John 14:26 tells us, “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” So, the Holy Spirit is teaching us EVERYTHING…we must listen. Second, we need to be like Anna. Once we hear from the Holy Spirit, we must tell

EVERYONE. The world needs God, but they don’t know it. Jesus is as dividing today as He was when He was on earth. So, some people will hate us for what we believe, but that’s okay, we’re not here to please people.

As we go through this last week of 2017 and into 2018, we need to ask ourselves, how can I be more like Simeon and Anna? What is the Holy Spirit trying to say to me? Remember that prayer is a dialog, not a monolog, so when you talk to God, listen to what He is trying to tell you. Then, when you hear from God, go tell everyone. James 1:22 tells us, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” So, when you hear a word from God, act on it! We have all missed so many blessings because we didn’t act on what the Holy Spirit is telling us. Stop missing out on blessings!

Making Hard Times Count

 

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

 

Making Hard Times Count

Has anyone else gone through a hard time in their life? I see those hands, I’m sure we all have. If your hand isn’t up, you’re either under 8 years old, or you’re not being truthful with yourself. I know I’ve had my share of them; financial, physical, emotional, you name it. When I was 8 years old my grandmother committed suicide, when I was in my 30’s my brother committed suicide, my dad died at 64 of brain cancer, when my kids were in high school we lost everything…and I mean everything, and just last May, I lost my only remaining brother to a car accident. But, I know that everyone reading this has been through similar hard times. Check out this video Francis Chan “Balance Beam”.

The question isn’t, “Have we been through hard times?” The real question is what do we do about it and how do we handle it? The first thing we must remember is this, the hard times don’t have to last. Let me give an example; You lose your job. Being without a job is hard, but it doesn’t have to last. If you put all your energy into job hunting, I’m talking about making job hunting your job, you will find a new job, quickly. But if you go home saying woe is me, my life is over, and just sit on your butt for weeks on end, that hard time will last and get worse as bills start to pile up.

Here’s the kicker. Everybody…I mean everybody, whether they are a Christ follower or not, goes through hard times. So, what this means is, if you are not going through hard times now, brace for it, they are coming. The problem is, so many churches out there are teaching that, if you follow Christ, your life will be a bed of roses. Oh yeah? Check out the life of Christ Himself, or His disciples. None of them had easy lives! In fact, Christ told us that we will have hard times, but as Christ followers, we can overcome them. John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” I love that last line, “take heart, because I have overcome the world”. You see, there’s nothing to worry about if we trust in Him. 1 Peter 5:7 “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” He not only cares about you, He sings over you with joy, Zephaniah 3:17 17 “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

I know what you are thinking right now. I didn’t title this, “How to Cope with Hard Times”, I titled it “Making Hard Times Count.” So, how can we make them count? I’m glad you asked.

Matthew 11:28-30 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” For us city folk, a yoke isn’t talking about the yellow an eggs. A yoke is that big wooden thing they put on the necks of oxen or workhorses. A yoke is a burden, they are awkward and heavy and rub you the wrong way. So, what Christ is saying here is, if you are tired and carrying a heavy burden, give it to Him. But, notice He doesn’t say that you won’t have a burden, He just says that His burden is light. Even though we will still have a burden, He will teach us and we will find rest in Him.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” The second point is, when those hard times come, just remember, God’s Got This! He has a plan for your life, and it’s to give you a future and a hope, so we need to look at these hard times as temporary and learn from them. Ask yourself, how does this hard time fit into God’s plan for my life? What is He trying to teach me? And, then…Grow.

Jeremiah 17: 7-8 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” The Bible often compares us to trees planted by a river, and that’s such a great analogy. When we trust in the Lord, we are like a tree planted by a river. What does it mean to trust in the Lord: Psalm 1:1-3 tells us, Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” So, to trust in the Lord, we need to first, think about who we are hanging around with. That doesn’t mean we can’t be friends with non-Christians, Christ Himself was, but who do we look to for advice, who influences us? Secondly, we must delight in God’s word and meditate on it all the time. We all give our time and energy to what, or who, we are passionate about. As Christ followers, we get passionate about God and His word.

Psalms 9:9-10 The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10 Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.” When those hard times come, run to Christ. He alone is our shelter and our refuge, and He does not abandon those who seek Him. Matthew 7:7-8 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Notice it says, “Keep on seeking, and you will find.” We must seek Him with all our heart. Again, we need to be passionate about Him.

Isaiah 41:10 says, Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my  victorious right hand.” That’s it…don’t be afraid, don’t be discouraged. I love that the Bible tells us not to be afraid 365 times, one for every day of the year. I said it before, I’ll say it again, God’s Got This!

So, how can we make hard times count?

  1. Know that God loves you and cares about you.
  2. Remember, God’s Got This!
  3. Trust in the Lord.
  4. Keep on seeking Him.
  5. Make Him your hope and confidence.
  6. Hide under His shelter.
  7. Delight in the Lord.
  8. Know that hard times are temporary.
  9. Let Christ teach you.
  10. Be like a tree planted by His water.
  11. Rest in Him.
  12. Know that God has a plan for your life and He already knows the end of the story.
  13. Know that, when you pray, He is listening.
  14. Be Passionate about Christ.
  15. Grow!

Names of God – Jesus

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Names of God – Jesus

I realize I said that El Shaddai would be the last Name of God that I was going to write about, but I would be remiss in leaving out this name. “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11.

I grew up singing a very simple, yet profound, chorus by Bill Gaither called There’s Something About That Name, it goes:

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

There’s just something about that name

Master, Savior, Jesus

Like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

Let all heaven and earth proclaim

Kings and kingdoms shall all pass away

But there’s something about that name.”

Jesus means “Jehovah the Savior”, and as we learned before, Jehovah means I Am, so the name Jesus actually means, “I Am the Savior”. One of the first things we must realize is that His name isn’t Jesus Christ…Christ isn’t His last name. Jesus is His name, and Christ, meaning Messiah, is his title. Technically, He should be called Jesus, the Christ. The name of Jesus is only used in the New Testament, and yet, it is used 1,477 times, while His title, Christ, is used another 537 times. I don’t want to bore you with numbers, I just want you to realize that His name and title are used over 2,000 times in 27 books, that’s an average of almost 75 times per book.

I urge all of you to read Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ. In this book Lee, a former investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, interviews experts from the fields of science, philosophy, and history about the evidence for Christ. I love this book because it’s full of facts that, first of all, prove that Jesus wasn’t some made up deity, but that He really existed, and secondly it shows Him as the Christ.

But, back to the name. When Mary conceived Him, the angel told Joseph, “And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21. Going back to that first passage I mentioned. Notice that it says that God gave Him a name that was above every name. Okay, I’m going to say this one more time. All religions do NOT lead to the same place. We are not all on different roads to the same God. God gave Jesus a name that was above every other name! His name is above Buddha, His name is above Mohamed, and it goes on to say, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Did you get that? Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord…EVERY…that includes Buddha and Mohamed, and every other false god there ever was will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that will glorify God the Father. Acts 4:12 tells us, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” There is no other name that will save you! Romans 10:9 tells us, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” And, then it goes on to say in verse 13, “for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Salvation only comes through Christ. The world wants us to be all-inclusive, but the truth remains that those other religions will not save your soul.

In today’s society, people keep saying that Christians aren’t tolerant of other religions, but the problem is that they have redefined tolerance. If I tolerate another religion, that means I agree to disagree and go on with my life, it does not mean that I give validity to their belief…that’s lunacy. If I say that all religions are right, then I have just nullified the death of Christ. In fact, Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” So, other religions aside, even if I try to get to heaven by keeping God’s law, I have nullified the death of Christ. Hebrews 10:29 puts it this way, “Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t want to insult and disdain the Holy Spirit. You see, God loves us so much, that He gave His only Son to die on the cross for us. Jesus, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, died in our place, and to give validity to other religions is a great insult. You see, Buddha did not die for me, Mohamed did not die for me, in fact, Mary did not die for me! Jesus, the Christ…the Messiah was the only one worthy to die for me. He was God in the flesh, He came to earth and lived a sinless life, then He died on the cross. He was the perfect sacrifice. But wait, it doesn’t end there. Three days later, He overcame death and the grave. He rose from the dead and was seen by hundreds of people. This is what I’m trying to say, there is only one name given under heaven, by which we MUST be saved…Jesus!

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there’s just something about that name.

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