Don’t Be Hopelessly Confused!

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Don’t Be Hopelessly Confused!

So, once our pastors start teaching us to study and do the work for ourselves as we discussed in “What’s a Pastor to Do,” and once we start maturing, as we saw in “Let’s be Grownups,” what happens then? Let’s move on to the next 8 verses of this passage. Ephesians 4:17-24 says, 17With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

Notice Paul starts out by saying that he is talking with the Lord’s authority. Paul is always clear when he is speaking from the Lord and when he is just saying what he believes is true. We see an example of this in 1 Corinthians 7:6 where he says it is good to stay single but qualifies it by saying, “I say this as a concession, not as a command.” So, in our passage, Paul is saying this is actually a command from the Lord, he is speaking with the authority of Christ.

The first thing he tells us with Christ’s authority is not to live like the Gentiles do. The word here doesn’t just mean Gentiles as a nation or specifically non-Jewish people, the Greek word used here can be translated as Gentile, but also can mean heathen. So, what he is saying at the beginning of verse 17 is that we can’t keep living like heathens do. He says that they are “hopelessly confused.” The word he uses here is the Greek work, “ματαιότης mataiótēs, mat-ah-yot’-ace” which the Strong’s concordance defines as, “What is devoid of truth and appropriateness, perverseness, depravity.” So, he is saying that they are hopelessly confused, devoid of truth, and depraved…they are living without God and we don’t want to be living like them.

In verse 18 he describes it even further by explaining how their minds are full of darkness and they just wander through life far from the life God can give them. I won’t go into all the detail here, but if you read my book by the same title as this blog, Cathedral Made of People, there is an entire chapter dedicated to the walking dead in the Church. If we are not in Christ, we are not walking in life, but are the walking dead. Paul also says in verse 18 that this is because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against God. Does that last phrase ring a bell? It should, we see this all throughout scripture. Remember when God was leading the Israelites out of Egypt? The Bible tells us that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Then in Deuteronomy chapter 2, we see that God hardened the heart of Sihon, the king of Heshbon. In 2 Chronicles chapter 36 we see where Zedekiah stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against king Nebuchadnezzar. And, this theme carries on throughout the New Testament. When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water in Mark 6 they were astonished because, “for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” Mark 6:52.

This term, hardened hearts, comes from the Greek word πώρωσις pṓrōsis, po’-ro-sis which means hardness or covered with callouses. There was a great worship song written by Keith Green called Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful. I have a recording of the first time he sang this song and when he was introducing it he told about this letter he wrote to God. In the letter, he asked God to remove the callouses from his heart and give his heart baby skin. He said that these callouses didn’t come from anything he was doing, but rather from things he wasn’t doing. You see, when we don’t spend time with God every day, when we don’t pray and study His word every day, our hearts get calloused, they get hardened and we fail to see what He is trying to show us.

Paul goes on in verse 19 of Ephesians chapter 4 to tell us how these heathens had no sense of shame and just lived to please themselves, they only did what felt good to them. Doesn’t that sound a lot like our world today? Nothing has changed in 2000 years, or for that matter since mankind first fell into sin. Then in verse 20, he says, “But that isn’t what you learned about Christ.” So, what did we learn about Christ? Philippians 2:3-8 says, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Christ was truly selfless. He was humble and always put the needs of others ahead of his own needs. Christ didn’t live for His own pleasure, He lived for others.

Paul goes on to tell us to throw off our old sinful nature that is corrupted by our lusts and let the Spirit of God renew our thoughts and attitudes. Remember what Paul told us in Romans 12:1-2, 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

The Bible tells us over and over to be righteous and holy. The word holy means to be set apart, so what that means is that we can’t be conformed to this world. This doesn’t mean we should be so weird the world wants nothing to do with us. How can we win them unless they want what we have? We must be in the world, but we can’t take on the world’s values. Jesus was in the world, He even ate meals with sinners, but He never acted like them. Don’t get me wrong, if you live for Christ you will be persecuted just like He was, but who was it that persecuted Christ, was it the sinners or the religious people? Just a little something to think about.

Let The Walls Come Down

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Let the Walls Come Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 1 Corinthians 1:10, right at the beginning of the letter, Paul pleads with the Church to get along, he says, “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” Do you see that? He says there is to be NO division in the Church!

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

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

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

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

You see, the Bible never says that we are to interpret it. We must start taking the word of God literally, in context, as a whole. The problem is that this approach takes a lot of time and effort and it is easier to believe what other people are telling us. We, that is all Christians, must start doing the work. We must do the hard work as it says in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” The thing is, we should want to. This is the book that God wrote to us, if you love God, you should long to read His book.

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

All My Hope is In Jesus

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

All My Hope is In Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live Free and Love Others

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Live Free and Love Others

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

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

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

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

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

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

How

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How to Love Your Wife

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sitting at The Head Table

Acostas with the Visitors
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Sitting at The Head Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But God…

Rainbow Over Cedar Key
Photo by Michelle Pearson

But God!

I’ve been sitting in a meeting room at a hotel near Disney Land all day doing continuing education for my day job. One of the things the instructor told us is, when speaking with employees, never use the word, “But”. His reasoning is that managers and administrators should be using the old, “compliment sandwich”. We should be opening with things they are doing right, then telling them what they need to correct and close with another compliment. He said that if we use the word, “But”, the employee will forget about the praises and prepare themselves for the correction.

While this is fine as a management style, God doesn’t work on our playing field. Remember, Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” You see, we can’t even fathom what God is thinking, or how He works. God often tells us the horrible state we are in, then negates it with the statement, “But God.”

We see this phrase, “But God”, sixty-four times in the Bible. We see in Genesis 8:1, “But God remembered Noah…” and in Genesis 21:12, “But God told Abraham…”. We see it in Psalm 73:26 where it says, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” In fact, we see this phrase used over and over throughout the Old and New Testaments telling us of times throughout the course of history when God stepped in.

The passage that I would like to focus on today is found in the first few verses of the second chapter of Ephesians. Verses 1 through 3 talks about how we were once dead because of our disobedience and sin. It says we used to live in sin like the rest of the world does, and that we obeyed the devil who is the “commander of the powers in the unseen world.” Don’t forget what we talked about a couple of weeks ago regarding this word, “power”. The word used here is that word, Exousia, which means, “the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises.” So, Satan’s power is just the power that God is allowing him to have, for now, none the less, the world follows him whether they realize it or not. Why is this? It tells us in Ephesians 2:2 because “He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” You see, if a person doesn’t know God, if they haven’t accepted what Jesus did for them on the cross, the Devil is “the spirit at work in their heart.” Remember also that Satan comes to them as an angel of light. He fools them just like he did to Eve in the garden, playing on their pride. Remember what he said to eve? In Genesis 3:5 Satan told Eve, “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” He played on her pride and told her that if she goes against God’s word, she will be like God…that’s how he works.

Paul ends those first three verses by saying in verse 3, “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature, we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.” Doesn’t that sound like the world today? Aren’t they always saying, “Do whatever feels right to you” and “Do whatever makes you happy”? That’s Satan working within them!

And, here comes the “But”. The next two verses say, But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” So, we used to follow the Devil and live for ourselves, “But God is so rich in mercy”. Isn’t that beautiful? Romans 5:10 tells us, “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.” Do you see that? He restored our friendship, while we were His enemies…that’s mercy.

Why does He have this great mercy toward us? Look at the end of verse 4, because “he loved us so much” He loves us, even though we are totally unlovable. He loves us in spite of ourselves. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Zephaniah 3:17, it says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Do you see that? “He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” God sings over us, that’s how much He loves us.

So, God had such great mercy on us because He loved us so much that, even though we were spiritually dead because of our sin, He gave us new life…wow! I heard a pastor once say that God doesn’t give us second chances, He gives us New Beginnings, isn’t that beautiful? That’s what this is a picture of. He doesn’t say that we were dead in our sin, so He gave us a do-over, it says that He gave us a New Life. This isn’t a mulligan, this is wiping the slate clean and starting anew.

And, how did He accomplish this? By raising Christ from the grave! Remember what Paul said just a little earlier, that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is in us. You see, everyone else that people worship died and is still in the grave, but Christ is the only one who overcame the grave. He is the only one who ever defeated death, and that’s because He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last!

I love the parenthetical at the end of this verse, “It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!” That sums it all up, if it wasn’t for the grace of God, we would all be on our way to hell. Many ask how a loving God could ever send anyone to hell, but the truth is, He doesn’t. He made the way so easy that even a child could understand, but remember, Satan plays on our pride and that’s what sends people to hell.

We don’t need to be standing on a street corner shouting, “repent”, we need to be telling everyone we meet about the overwhelming love of God.

One Church, One Body

Sunrise Service 20120408
Photo by Michelle Pearson

One Church, One Body

            Again, with the church unity thing, right? Well, as I have stated before, the unity of the body of Christ is one of the key themes of the New Testament. Paul said in Ephesians 1:22-23, 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”

He said that God has put everything under Christ’s authority…EVERYTHING. If we look back in the last chapter of Matthew, what we refer to as The Great Commission, it says, “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.’” Matthew 28:18. Jesus said it Himself, God gave Him ALL authority in heaven and earth! In fact, we read in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” So, if someone tries to tell you that we are all on different roads to the same place…no we are not! God made salvation so simple that even a child could understand it. My five-year-old grandson recently accepted Jesus as his savior, it’s that simple. God didn’t give us many roads to salvation, He gave us one. In fact, Paul said in Galatians 2:21, “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.” Don’t you see? If there was any other way, why would Jesus have gone through what He did? His death would have been in vain! Again, in Philippians 2:9-12 it says, “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” God elevated Jesus to the place of HIGHEST HONOR! God gave Jesus a name that is above every name…JESUS…EMMANUEL…GOD WITH US! And, yes, I’m still on that old chorus kick. Another chorus I grew up singing in church said:

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 will all pass away,

But there’s something about that name.

There truly is something about that name!

The end of Ephesians 1:22 says, “and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church.” So, why did God elevate Jesus above all things? For the benefit of the Church! And, why did God want to benefit the Church? Because “the Church is His body.”

All throughout the New Testament, we see the Church referred to as the Body of Christ. Paul goes into great detail in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 to explain to us how this means we must be united. We can’t all be mouths, we can’t all be eyes, we are all different parts of one body and must function as one unit. You see, if a body has parts that won’t cooperate with the rest of the body it is said to be diseased. If your hands won’t do what your brain tells them to do, or your feet won’t go where you want, there is something wrong.

But, here’s the thing. If you look closely at 1 Corinthians 12, you will see that those different parts aren’t different denominations or different belief systems. Those different parts are the different gifts of the Holy Spirit. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if we don’t set aside our petty denominational differences and come together as One Body, the Church will just continue in the downward spiral it is in. Do you wonder why the Church is looked down on and trivialized, even laughed at in the world today? It’s because there is a state of disease in the body. The head is telling the feet to go to someone to help, but the feet aren’t responding. The head is telling the hands to reach out and touch someone, but the hands are stuck in the pockets and aren’t doing anything. We must start being the body and listening to the head.

The beautiful thing is, as the body of Christ, we are “made full and complete by Christ.” Colossians 1:18 tells us, “Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.” Okay, we are the body, but Christ is the head. Your body must do what your head tells it to do, again unless there is a state of disease. Christ is the head of the body, the Church, so we must go where He tells us to go and do what He tells us to do.

I love how Ephesians chapter 1 ends, it says that Christ “fills all things everywhere with himself.” Wow, isn’t that beautiful? Everything is filled with Christ. So, if you are In Christ, something we talked about several months ago, you are filled with Christ…with His light. But, we must make sure that we are truly in Christ, and not just in religion. Luke 11:34-36 says, 34 “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. 35 Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. 36 If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”

So, if you are in the true light, there will be no darkness. As it says in verse 35, “Make sure that the light you have is not actually darkness.” Many people who claim the name of Christ and think they are in the light are actually blinded by religion. They think they are following Christ, but they are actually living in darkness. Examine yourself using the Bible as your guide. Take scripture in context and set aside anything that men have taught you. Study the word and ask God to show you the truth. Be the Body!

Our God Is An Awesome God!

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Our God Is an Awesome God!

I know, I’ve been on somewhat of a kick of old worship songs, but this is another one I’ve always loved. Rich Mullens wrote this song back in 1988 and many only know the chorus, but I think the verses say so much. The first verse says,

When He rolls up His sleeves
He ain’t just putting on the ritz
(Our God is an awesome God)
There’s thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fists
(Our God is an awesome God)
And the Lord wasn’t joking when He kicked ’em out of Eden
It wasn’t for no reason that He shed His blood
His return is very close and so you better be believing that
Our God is an awesome God

Then the second verse says,

And when the sky was starless
In the void of the night
(Our God is an awesome God)
He spoke into the darkness
And created the light
(Our God is an awesome God)
Judgment and wrath He poured out on Sodom
Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross
I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten that
Our God is an awesome God

Isn’t that powerful? Our God truly is an awesome God! I want to look at what Paul says about this, and it is picking up where we left off in his prayer last week. Look at Ephesians 1:19-21 where Paul continues his prayer and says, 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. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.”

So, he starts out by saying that he prays that we understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe. Remember that one of the attributes of God is that He is omnipotent, which means, “All Powerful”. For those who have been following me for a while, you might remember a series I did on the names of God that are used in the Bible, and how each of these names describes one of God’s attributes. Many of those names speak of His power, names like; Jehovah Jireh – The Lord is my Provider, Jehovah Rapha – The Lord is my Healer, Jehovah Sabaoth – The Lord of Angel Armies, El Elyon – The Most High God, and one of my favorites, El Shaddai – The Lord is More Than Enough!

Some translations of Ephesians 1:19 say “exceeding greatness”. This is a picture of throwing beyond, going far past what we might expect. Ephesians 3:20 says, “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.” Do you see that? God can work through us weak humans to do infinitely more than we could ask for, or even think possible…Wow! If we look back in John 14:12, when Jesus was telling his disciples that He was going to send them the Holy Spirit, He said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”

The word used here that was translated “power” is the Greek word, Dunamis, which means “inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth”. This is the word that we derive the word dynamite from. It is explosive power and a power that naturally occurs. In contrast, whenever the Bible talks about Satan’s power, it uses the word, Exousia, which means, “the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises.” You see, Satan’s only power is the power that God allows him to have for a season. God’s power, on the other hand, is an explosive power that naturally occurs within Him.

Paul goes on to say in verse 20, “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.” So, the power that is within us, His children, is the same mighty power that He used to raise Christ from the dead, the power that ascended Christ into heaven, and seated Him at the right hand of the Father. That power is in US!

Then he goes on to say that because of this power…the power that we also possess, “he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come” verse 21. Christ is far above all other rulers. The Bible says in Philippians 2:9-11, Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This is the God we serve, and because we serve Him, His power is within us. Acts 4:13, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” So, Peter and John were obviously uneducated men. We’ve all known people like that, as soon as you look at them you know they are uneducated, maybe a little backward. But, have you ever known people like that, who confound you in their boldness and knowledge of scripture? People who have obviously been with Jesus? That’s how we all need to be! It’s not about our wisdom! 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, 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.” Remember, it’s not about you!

We all must ask ourselves, “When the world looks at me, do they see that I’ve been with Jesus?” That must be our goal!

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