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!

Live in Harmony, Life’s Not a Solo

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Live in Harmony; Life’s Not a Solo

1 Corinthians 1:10

 

Today, America is more divided than ever before. Each political party keeps saying they want “bipartisanship” but is unwilling to work towards it. The fact is, whether you like what President Trump is doing or not, he is our president, and we must stand behind him. In my lifetime there have been several presidents that I did not agree with, two, in particular, worried me about what would happen to this country in their administration. But the fact is that the Bible tells us in Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” So, as Christ followers, no matter what you think of a president, we must submit to him and pray for him. But the fact is if you are a Christ follower, you should be voting for leaders that follow biblical principles and, whether you like his policies or not, President Trump does stand for biblical principles.

But I digress, this isn’t a blog on politics, it’s a blog about unity. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says a lot in just 41 words, take a look at it, “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.” First, Paul is appealing to the Church, but not on his own authority, in the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. We all need to take this lesson from Paul; he never did anything in his own strength, he did it all in the authority and strength of Christ. Notice also that he doesn’t specify that this is to the church at Corinth, he says, “dear brothers and sisters.” You see, all of Paul’s letters were written to specific churches, but for the Church as a whole, because once that church was finished reading it to their body, they would pass it on to other church gatherings around the region. Eventually every church in the known world would have read it, and of course, some of them were included in the canon of scripture, and we all got to read them.

Paul goes on to say for what he is appealing to us. First, let’s look at that word appeal, exhort, or beseech, depending on your translation. It was translated from the Greek word παρακαλέω parakaléō, (par-ak-al-eh’-o) which the Strong’s Concordance translates as, “to call to one’s side, call for, summon.” So, this is a call to arms, if you will. Paul is summoning all Christ followers to come together and live in harmony with each other. After writing my first book, Cathedral Made of People, I realized how important unity of the Body of Christ is, so I began writing a second book that I am calling, One Church, One Body. In my research, for this second book, I started counting the verses that refer to Church unity and was astounded at my findings. What I realized is that about 10% of the verses in the New Testament talk about Church unity. Notice the capital “C,” Paul is not talking about the unity of your local church body, although sadly we aren’t even very good at getting that right, he isn’t even talking about the unity of one denomination, since there were no denominations at that time. When the Bible talks about Church unity, it is talking about the unity of the entire body…all believers!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should throw out all doctrine and stand around a campfire singing Kum Ba Yah. What I am saying is that there is only one doctrine that should divide us, the doctrine of salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. We need to set aside all our petty doctrinal differences, study the Bible literally and in the context of the whole Bible, which will in itself dispel most of those doctrines, and worship God together in spirit and in truth.

Right after Paul says to live in harmony with each other, he tags it with an exclamation by saying that we are to let NO divisions in the Church! Friends, there is no room for any division in the Body of Christ. If we are to function the way that God intended for us to function, we must drive out ALL division. Remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:15-21, 15 If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? 18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’” Don’t you see? A body can’t function correctly if some parts don’t cooperate, that’s why Paul continues to use this analogy throughout his writings.

So, if we are going to live in harmony and not allow any division in, how can we do this? Look how he finishes this verse, “Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” The Church, the Body of Christ, must be of one mind! We must be united in thought and purpose, and the only way we can do this is, as I just said, lay aside all of these doctrinal differences and worship God in Spirit and in Truth! We will talk more about what this means in the upcoming weeks.

Active Waiting

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Active Waiting
1 Corinthians 1:4-7

In my 30+ years in the business management world, I have had to go to more seminars and watch more training videos than I can count. I have seen Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, and even Robert Schuller. These guys talked about everything from management styles to team building, but one thing that most of them talked about was active listening. I’m sure you’ve all heard someone talk about this. Not listening passively, but really getting in there, commenting about what they are saying, responding with phrases like, “what I hear you saying is…”
Well, Paul starts out his letter to the church at Corinth by telling them to practice active waiting. Right after his usual greeting of grace and peace, Paul says this, “4 I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. 5 Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. 6 This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. 7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:4-7.
Notice in verse 4, he doesn’t just say that he thanks God for them, he says that he always thanks God for them. We need to be thankful for other believers, even if they don’t belong to our denomination, and we need to do this always, not just every now and then. We also need to be specific when we thank God for other believers. Paul says that he thanks God for the gifts that He has given them. Spoiler Alert…Although Paul does genuinely thank God for their spiritual gifts, he will be reprimanding them later in his letter for their misuse of those same gifts, so this is somewhat of a setup.
In verse 5 he talks about how God has enriched their church through Christ Jesus in every way, and he says God did this with their eloquent words and knowledge. So, what Paul is doing here is reminding them that all their eloquent words and knowledge come from Jesus. This is important for all of us to remember, especially those of us who are pastors, or leaders of any kind. Remember what we read in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” And, what does 2 Samuel 22:28 say? “You rescue the humble, but your eyes watch the proud and humiliate them.” Believe me, you don’t want God to humiliate you, so humble yourself before Him. This is just a couple of verses, there are dozens of verses throughout scripture that remind us that God opposes the proud.
In verse 6 Paul reminds them that all these things, their knowledge, eloquence, and spiritual gifts, are just testimonies that what he told them about Christ was true.
Now, look at what he says in verse 7. He tells them that, in Christ, they have every spiritual gift they need to await Christ’s return eagerly. We need to expect the second coming eagerly. Friends, if you haven’t noticed, it won’t belong. So, what does he mean by eagerly wait? The Greek word used here is, ἀπεκδέχομαι apekdéchomai, ap-ek-dekh’-om-ahee, and it means to expect fully. We need to fully expect the second coming of Christ in our lifetime. We need to live every day as if we knew that Jesus was coming back today.
Eagerly Waiting or Fully Expecting isn’t a passive thing. As Christ followers, we must be actively waiting and expecting the second coming. Michelle and I are doing research right now which will be coming out in an upcoming book. We are co-writing this one, and it will be called, Life as We Knew It, One Couple’s Awakening.” What we have been uncovering is a staggering amount of corruption and just pure evil in our world today. It is steeped in U.S. and world politics, in Hollywood, and in the media. Not only that, it is throughout our schools of higher learning, science, and even the general public. It is an evil world we live in, worse than the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all Christ followers must be awakened to it, so we know what we are up against.
We can’t just live our lives with our heads in the sand, we need to wake up and stand together. If you have been reading my blogs, you know that I talk a lot about the importance of unity within the body of Christ. The only way that we can be effective against the evil of this world is if we stand together as one body! We must put aside all our denominational differences. There is only one doctrine that should divide us, and that is salvation by God’s grace and through our life-changing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Literally, nothing else matters! So, it doesn’t matter if you are a Calvinist, an Arminian, or anything else, as long as you are straight on the issue of salvation, you are my brother or sister.
Look at the New Testament. There were no denominations, many churches were making up one body, with Christ as the head. Now, look at 2 Chronicles 7:14, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” I’m sure most of us have read this verse and heard multiple sermons on it. But, look at that word, “wicked.” The Hebrew word that was translated as “wicked” is the word, רַע raʻ, rah, which means; bad, disagreeable, malignant, evil, and divisive. So, this verse is telling us that we believers must be humble, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked and divisive ways, if we want to see God heal our land.
We must join together as one body and actively await the coming of Christ. Let’s pray for a great revival in our land, a great awakening if you will.

Peace, Love, Faithfulness, and Grace

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Peace, Love, Faithfulness, and Grace

Ephesians 6:21-24

 

The next passage in Ephesians chapter 6 is the passage that tells us to put on all of God’s armor. I’m going to skip this one because it was the first passage I blogged on, more than a year and a half ago. If you would like to read it, the blog is titled, All of God’s Armor. Also, in case you don’t have time to go back and read it, I will be launching a new Podcast by the same title, Cathedral Made of People, that should debut in about a week, and The Armor of God will be my first topic.

So, this blog will finish up the book of Ephesians, and I want to look at Paul’s final greeting. In the first 2 verses of his final greeting Paul says, 21 To bring you up to date, Tychicus will give you a full report about what I am doing and how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper in the Lord’s work. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you.” Ephesians 6:21-22. Paul is sending this letter to the church at Ephesus with Tychicus, I call him Tych for short, and his main reason for sending him was to let this church group know how he was doing.

It is important for those of us who claim the name of Christ to keep tabs on each other, especially if it is someone we support. This is one reason I don’t understand Christians who won’t use social media. Yes, there is a lot of bad on social media, and in many ways, it was set up for evil intentions, but let’s take advantage of it. We need to join all the social media platforms and flood them with scripture, encouragement, and inspiration. Let’s take social media for Christ! Especially use memes, their algorithms can’t filter most of them out, they just show up as a picture. But, also use it to keep tabs on each other. Post how you are doing. Tweet when you have had the privilege of leading someone to the Lord. If you speak before a group live stream it, then post the video. Put up prayer requests, answered prayer, and victories. Let your “friends” and “followers” know what and how you are doing, and how they can best support you.

Nine years ago, God told me to write a book, so I did, which is now available on Amazon. While writing it I started realizing how much we need to use these platforms to get the word out. I am now working on 2 other books, I have this blog, I am on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and will be releasing a podcast in the next week or so. I spend all my spare time, and often create spare time, writing and trying to encourage others. So, join me! Sit down at your computer or relax on the couch with your smartphone and start spreading the gospel. Because, if you noticed, Paul didn’t just send Tych to tell them how he was doing, he sent him with a letter to let them know how he was doing and to instruct and encourage them.

Paul starts out verse 23 by saying, “Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters.” So, he starts out by wishing them peace. The word peace is used 362 times in the Bible. One of the names used to describe God in the Old Testament is Jehovah Shalom, which means The Lord is Peace. I did a series of blogs on the names of God over a year ago and you can go back and read this one if you would like, the title of it was, Names of God – Jehovah Shalom. The important thing is that the meaning of this name isn’t The Lord Brings Peace, or The Lord Gives Peace, the name means The Lord IS Peace. True peace only comes from God. Jesus said in John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.” The peace that we receive from Christ cannot be found in the world, it is true peace. God’s peace surpasses all human understanding, in fact, we read in Philippians 4:7, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Do you see that? His peace will guard our hearts and minds. This is what we need. The peace that will protect us.

Guarding our hearts is essential in the Christian life. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” The prophet Malachi tells men twice to guard our hearts to stay loyal to our wives in Malachi 2:15 and Malachi 2:16. And, as we saw in Philippians 4:7, God’s peace will guard our hearts. In fact, in the model prayer that Christ taught His disciples he said to pray, “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:13. When Christ told us to pray “don’t let us yield to temptation,” He was telling us to pray that God will, “guard our hearts.”

The next thing Paul says in the second half of verse 23 is, “and may God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you love with faithfulness.” He says that God the Father and Jesus Christ will give us love with faithfulness. In the same way that God IS Peace, God IS Love. Look at 1 John 4:8 which tells us, “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” God can give us Love because He IS Love! But not just love, he says love with faith. How did he end 1 Corinthians 13? He said, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Paul ends this letter by saying, “May God’s grace be eternally upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 6:24. Do you remember how he began this letter? He said, “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” Ephesians 1:2. Paul began and ended his letter with grace and peace. These are two things that are essential to the Christian life. We need Gods grace and the peace that surpasses all understanding as our foundation, then we will have a firm foundation to build on.

So, I say to you, may the Peace, Love, Faith, and Grace of God be with you this week, and may you serve God with all you have.

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