Us Four and No More

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Us Four and No More

1 Corinthians 4:5

I would not give my church upbringing for anything. I learned so much Bible there, and it is where I gave my life to Christ. It was a loving church, for the most part, but like all churches, it had its problems. My mom always jokingly said that church would be a great place if it weren’t for the people. One glaring problem with the church I grew up in was that it was an “us four and no more” kind of church. They believed that if you weren’t us, meaning their variety of their denomination, you weren’t going to heaven. Sometimes they would even preach entire sermons and even sermon series’ about why other churches were wrong.

When dealing with the subject of other denominations and churches, we must keep in mind what Jesus said. In Matthew 7:3-5, He said, “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” We all get things wrong in scripture; we are human. That’s why I always encourage people to check everything I say against scripture because as I always told my kids, I could be wrong, I was once before. We can’t be so dogmatic about our beliefs that we are condemning others. I keep saying this because it is so important, the only doctrine that should divide us is that of salvation by grace, through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, nothing else!

This is what the church at Corinth was doing, so Paul had to reprimand them one more time. In 1 Corinthians 4:5 Paul said, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” A more literal translation of that first line would be, “Therefore do not go on judging anything before it’s time.” It’s not our job to judge the world. Let’s look back at the first three verses of Matthew, chapter 7, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Matthew 7:1-3. Many religious people would say that they are ready to be judged by the same measure, but are you…really? Are you so confident in your pre-tribulation view over their mid-tribulation view, or your dispensationalism view, or your predestination view that you would be willing to be judged on it?

Notice back in 1 Corinthians 4:5 that it says, “before the time.” There will be a time of judgment, and Christ will be the judge. We need to stop worrying about what others believe and start making sure our lives are straight, we need to get our house in order as the prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1, “In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” We will all die, and after this, the judgment.

What does 1 Corinthians 4:5 go on to say? “but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts.” We keep trying to judge each other, but when Christ judges us, He will bring to light all the things we thought were hidden in the dark, He will even show the motives of our hearts. But here’s the beautiful thing, 1 John 1:9 tells us, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” So, if we confess our sins, He will forgive them, but it doesn’t stop there. Look at Hebrews 8:12, “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” We always say, “forgive and forget,” but there’s a problem with that. We can forgive each other, and we should, but we can’t forget. One of the many beautiful things about God is that when He forgives us, He can forget what we have done, it’s kind of like selective amnesia. He even tells us, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12. If you want to be encouraged today, stop and read all of Psalm 103, what a blessing.

Paul ends our text verse with these words, “and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5. We often focus on the judgment of God, and we should, to some extent, but I love that Paul ended this verse about judgment with this line. We don’t need to praise ourselves; we don’t need to go around tooting our own horns, all our intelligence and insight comes from God, so we are nothing but His tools. My handsaw doesn’t praise itself when it cuts a straight line; it cuts a straight line when I guide it that way, so why do we praise ourselves when we do something great for God? James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” There’s a lot in scripture about humbling ourselves, that’s a blog in itself.

So, this all comes back, as so many things in the New Testament do, to unity. As the body of Christ, we must stop judging each other and start loving each other. 1 John 4:7-8 tells us, 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.” If we do not love each other, we don’t know God! That’s a pretty bold statement, but true. Stop judging your brothers and sisters in Christ and start loving them, and then, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35.

Not Seeking Approval

Ahhh ... The Sweet Life of a Gorilla
Photo by Michelle Pearson

I’m Not Seeking Your Approval

1 Corinthians 4:1-4

I enjoy people. I like to talk with people; I like to interact with people. I enjoy just being around other people. I got my first management position when I was only 21 years old, and I wanted to be the best manager I could be. I showed up early for every shift, I stayed on top of the paperwork, and I got to know my employees very well. Now, here’s the thing, in my early days of managing I had a supervisor who told me, if my employees like me, I’m not doing my job. I didn’t agree with that philosophy then, and I don’t to this day but, in the early days, I went too far in the other direction. As I said, I enjoy the company of other people, and quite frankly, I like to be liked. As a result, I had a real problem with my employees taking advantage of me. If their productivity was down, I’d help them catch up; if they didn’t show up for work, I’d pick up the slack. My employees loved me, but it wasn’t long before I was doing most of their work. I even had two employees call off together one beautiful Spring day because “it’s too nice out to come to work today.”

I began to realize that my employees would like working with me and still respect me; it didn’t matter if they liked me as a person. I wasn’t there to be their friend. I began making them toe the line and would write them up if they didn’t. I began treating them the way I would treat my sons. If they did wrong, I would hold them accountable, but if they did right, I would praise them. I just began treating them fairly. As a result, they loved working for me. I would have employees call in sick, and when they realized I was the manager on duty, they would decide to come in because they didn’t want to leave me shorthanded. I was everyone’s favorite manager, even though I had fired more employees than any other manager. What it came down to is that I stopped caring what they thought of me and started caring about helping them do their jobs to the best of their abilities, things ran much more smoothly after that.

This is Paul’s point in the first four verses of 1 Corinthians 4. In verse 1, he tells the church at Corinth to look at Apollos and him as servants of Christ. If you are a pastor, an elder, or a church leader of any kind, you must remember that you are just a servant of Christ who has been put in charge of those people. Far too often, church leaders let their authority go to their head, but if we think of ourselves as a doulos, a bondservant for Christ, we will keep that pride in check.

The first thing Paul tells us about being a leader is that we must be faithful. You see, in trying to make my employees like me, I wasn’t faithful to my company. I was trying to pick up their slack, but one person can’t do everything well. We must be faithful to Christ in our leadership. The writer of Hebrews even told the Church, “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.” Hebrews 13:7. If a leader is not faithful, the Church will have no example to follow. As leaders, we must remember our place. We are here for no other reason than to glorify God. John put it best when he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30.

Paul goes on in verse 3 to say, “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point.” I love this; he says that he doesn’t care what human authority might think of him; he doesn’t even trust his own opinion on matters of Christ. The Psalmist summed this up in Psalm 146:3-10 when he said, Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners.     The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly. The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked. 10 The Lord will reign forever. He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations. Praise the Lord! We are to respect and pray for our human authority but don’t trust in them, their time on this earth, as well as their time in power,  is limited. Instead, put all your trust in the Lord, who created all things.

Paul finishes this thought by saying, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.” 1 Corinthians 4:4. Paul’s conscience is clear, he knows that he is right beyond a shadow of a doubt, but he tells the church at Corinth not to take his word for it. We need to seek the Lord in everything! I say this all the time; I’m glad so many read my blog and listen to my podcast and have read my book, but don’t take my word for it, seek it out yourself. There are many pastors that I love to listen to and read, but I have a responsibility to check everything they say against scripture. God does hold pastors responsible for what they teach, but He also holds us responsible for what we do with it.

Everything Belongs to You

Grand Canyon
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Everything Belongs to You

1 Corinthians 3:21-23

 

There are several pastors to whom I enjoy listening. These are great men of God, and when I listen to them, I almost always walk away with something I had never seen before. But when they point out these things, I always go and study it out against what the Bible says, keeping it in context. I always remember that they are just people and can be wrong. I love learning new things, plus listening to these men helps me stay in the word since I always research what I learned. By the way, I hope everyone reading this blog does the same thing. Don’t ever take what I say as gospel, I am human, and as I always told my sons, I could be wrong, I was once before.

One of these pastors that I highly respect and listen to regularly does something with which I greatly disagree. It’s not any form of heresy, but it does go against scripture, though he clearly doesn’t see it that way. This man of God regularly talks about how he is a Calvinist; he even went as far as to name his son Calvin. Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with highly respecting another human, or even naming your child after that person. Michelle and I named our sons Joshua and Caleb, but to label yourself a Calvinist is the same as saying, “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos.” As we read a few weeks ago, “When one of you says, ‘I am a follower of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I follow Apollos,’ aren’t you acting just like people of the world?” 1 Corinthians 3:4.

Paul must have thought this to be an important topic as he repeats it at the end of the chapter. He wraps up this part of his letter by saying, 21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.

I love what David Guzik has to say about this, “Let no one glory in men: How prone we are to glory in men! We are more excited about being with the influential and famous of this world than about being with God. We value the gifts and honors of men more than the gifts and honors God gives. How we need to hear, let no one glory in men!” This is so true, so often we take more pride in the humans we follow then in God.

Here’s the thing, because we are in Christ, all things are our servants, even death itself. Nothing but Christ is our master; we are no longer a slave to sin or this world. This verse says that everything belongs to us, we belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to the Father. This is why the Bible talks so much about our freedom in Christ. Paul says in 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.” Then he goes on to say, 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.” Galatians 5:13-15.

So, because we are in Christ, all things are under our feet. Due to this, we have freedom in Christ. But here’s the thing, our freedom in Christ is a freedom to do what pleases Him; it is not a freedom to sin. As we just saw in verses 13-15, we are never to use that freedom to satisfy our lusts, that will make us a slave to sin again and would mean that Christ died in vain. And, through our unity in the body of Christ, we can’t let our freedom become a stumbling block to weaker believers.

Michelle and I are preparing to go back to Cedar Key to do ministry. Cedar Key is the island community we planted a Church in back in 2009 and God is calling us back. Through our freedom in Christ, we could drink alcohol, despite what many legalists say, the Bible never says it is a sin to drink, but we are going there to minister to addicts and alcoholics. If we were to drink in front of them and cause some of the new believers who had been slaves to alcohol to stumble, that would be a sin. With freedom comes responsibility.

But going back to our text, because we have this freedom in Christ, because all things are under our authority through Him, why in the world would we take so much pride in following any man? All things belong to me because I belong to Christ, and he belongs to the Father. Paul summed it up well in Galatians 6:14-16 when he said, 14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.”

Why would we boast in Paul, or Apollos, or Calvin, or Wesley when, in Christ, all things in this life belong to us? Our Father is the King of kings; He is the Lord of lords. He is the Alpha and the Omega. That’s what we should be boasting in!

Our Calling

Thomas Guesthouse
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Our Calling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Temple of God

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

The Temple of God

1 Corinthians 3:15-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tried by Fire

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Tried by Fire

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Makes Us Grow

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

God Makes Us Grow

1 Corinthians 3:4-9

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Can Know!

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We Can Know!

1 Corinthians 2:10-12

 

Growing up, I never really got to know my grandfather. It’s not that he lived far away or anything like that, he just wasn’t around much. There were a few times as a teenager I went to his house and helped him with a yard sale or something like that, but we didn’t just hang out.

Then, when he was 90 years old, my granddad had a massive stroke, but he lived five years after that. My mother took care of him during that time, so we were able to see him on vacations and just sit and talk with him. Then, I was privileged to be able to help mom care for him the last year of his life. During that last five years of his life, I was able to get to know my grandfather for the first time truly. We would get him talking about his childhood and couldn’t believe the stories. He talked about his life growing up in Arizona during the Great Depression. He told us how, when he was 14 years old, his father put him on a train to San Diego, California to live with his older brothers because there was work out there. He told us how, at the age of 16, he hopped a freight and road it to Mobile, Alabama looking for work, and by the way, he said they couldn’t ride inside the freight cars as you see in the movies, you had to ride on top. I did the math, that trip is about 1,935 miles, and those trains ran at about 45 miles per hour, so that was about 43 hours of just riding time, not to mention the time waiting for a connection at train stations, so I’m guessing that trip took him about a week, give or take.

I don’t know if it was that granddad was a great storyteller, or that his early life was so interesting, but I could picture every bit of it in my mind. His stories have inspired me to write a book series for middle schoolers called The Adventures of Malcolm, which is still in the works.

Here’s the thing, we can’t know another person’s thoughts or see the things they see. The best we can do is try to describe our experiences to other people and hope they get it. That’s what I try to do in my writing. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing a fictional story or one of these blogs, I try to convey it so my readers can see it in their mind.

Last week we talked about how we can’t even imagine the things that God has in store for those of us who love Him. You see, we humans can’t see what God sees unless we can see through His eyes. Look at the next 3 verses, 10 But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” 1 Corinthians 2:10-12.

So, we humans can’t even imagine what God has in store for us, but here’s the thing, we have received God’s Spirit, not the worlds. Because of this, we can know the wonderful things that God has given us. We can’t know what He has in store for us, but we can know what He has given us.

Growing up, I was always taught that the minute we are saved, the Holy Spirit indwells us. And, yes, we do receive the Holy Spirit when we truly believe and give our lives to God, but what about the power of the Holy Spirit? Look at Romans 19. In verse 1 Paul asks the believers in Ephesus if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed, and their answer was NO. In the next few verses, they explain that they didn’t know anything about the Holy Spirit and that they had just received the baptism of John. We then read in verse 4, “Paul said, ‘John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.’” So, John called them to repent, but that wasn’t enough. There are a lot of people out there who believe, but that isn’t enough. I was reading this morning in the book of Daniel how King Nebuchadnezzar believed that Daniel’s God was the one true God, then set up a 90-foot idol for the people to worship. You can believe in God, but as we learned in the book of James, faith without works is dead. If you believe, but don’t change and give your life to the will of God, your belief is worthless.

Let’s go on to look at the next 2 verses in Acts chapter 19, As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied.” You see, receiving the Holy Spirit, and receiving the power of the Holy Spirit are two different things. We see this throughout the New Testament, in passages like Acts 8:18, 1 Timothy 4:14, and 2 Timothy 1:6 to name a few.

So, here’s how it breaks down. You can believe in Christ, give your life to Him, live a great life for Him here on earth, then die and go to Heaven. But, if you want to experience the Power of the Holy Spirit, if you want to truly be filled with the Holy Spirit and experience His gifts, you must seek after Him. You must ask a spiritual leader who is filled with the Holy Spirit to lay hands on you and pray over you that you may receive His power. You will then experience the fullness of the gifts that He has for you. Now, this does not mean that you will necessarily speak in tongues, or prophesy, or have the gift of healing. There are many gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in the New Testament, but Paul does encourage us to seek the gift of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14, we’ll talk more about that at a later date.

What it comes down to is this. If you want to know the wonderful things that God has freely given you, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal them to you…He will!

Boast in the Lord

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Boast in The Lord

1 Corinthians 1:30-31

I used to work with a guy named Rob. I think we have all worked with a Rob or two in our lives. You know this guy, completely full of himself, confident that he is the best thing since sliced bread, and sure that the company could never run without him. Almost daily, Rob would bestow upon me the legends of his greatness and the great things he had accomplished for the company. Yes, Rob was a legend in his own mind. I often wondered how Rob was able to accomplish all this greatness since all I ever saw him do was sit at his desk and shop on eBay, but I didn’t dare say anything since he was my direct supervisor and regularly reminded me of that. Well, eight months later, after he had worked for two years with the company, he put in his notice and left. As he was leaving, he told me that he never stays with a company more than two years, I think that’s about how long it takes them to realize that he is full of hot air.

After Rob left, I was promoted into his position as General Manager. Right away I started realizing that all those great things Rob had said he did were actually executed by others, many of them before he even worked there, he just took the credit for them all. There were many things wrong with the physical building that he said couldn’t be corrected. But once our team realized they could do what it took, within reason, and that their opinion was valued, we were able to fix them all as a team.

We all know people like Rob, and we think, how can a person take credit for what others have accomplished, but don’t we, on occasion, do this with God? I would never ask God for the gift of healing because so many men and women who I believe God gave that gift to eventually started making it about themselves. I love something I heard at Bethel Church in Redding, California recently. One of the pastors said, “Healing is not about the anointed man of God, it’s about the anointed God of man.” Because of so many people who have made the spiritual gift of healing about them, many churches have pushed the Holy Spirit out of their gatherings. I grew up in a church like this. The Holy Spirit was talked about in vague terms, but you don’t dare mention His gifts.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, 30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.’” Did you see that? God made Christ wisdom itself for our benefit. So, what exactly does Christ do for us? First, and most importantly, He makes us right with God. You see; the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the only thing that can make us right with God. No matter what anyone tells you, you can not be good enough to be made right with God. The Bible says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12. It doesn’t matter how good you are, or how much money you have given for starving children or aids, you are a sinner just by being born. Look at Psalm 51:5, “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” And, Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” And, Jeremiah 17:9, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

So, we can’t be good enough, but the beautiful thing is that we don’t have to. What does it say in Romans 6:23? “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” So, what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 1:30 is that thanks to Christ, we don’t have to try to get right with God. What else did Christ do for us? He made us PURE, He made us HOLY, and He made us FREE!!! It doesn’t get any better than that! Let’s look at those three words.

Pure: The Greek word in this verse translated as pure is the word, ἁγιασμός hagiasmós, hag-ee-as-mos; which means; purity, holiness, and sanctification. The blood of Christ washes us whiter than snow, look at Isaiah 1:18, “’Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.’”

Holy: the Greek word used here actually means equity, justification, and righteousness. In Christ, we are righteous, we are justified, and we are Holy, set apart. John 17:17 says, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.” The word of Christ makes us holy.

Free: This word is used for a ransom that is paid in full, it also means deliverance and redemption. In Christ, our ransom has been paid in full. We are no longer a slave to sin…we are free! 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Also, in John 8:36 it says, “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” Christ has truly set us free from the bondage of sin, but, as with all freedom, this freedom came with a price, the shed blood of Jesus. Because of this great price we can’t take our freedom lightly, we are indebted to Christ and must live the rest of our lives as such. But we can never use our freedom as an excuse to sin, “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.” 1 Peter 2:16.

Paul ends this chapter by saying, “Therefore, as the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31. Paul drives this point home through this chapter. The entire introduction of his letter comes down to this point, God is God, and we are not! We can’t brag about anything, because everything we have comes from God, through Christ!

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