Who’s Your Spiritual Father?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Who’s Your Spiritual Father?

1 Corinthians 4:14-16

The pastor of the church I grew up in during my high school years was a man named Earnest D. Humphries. Pastor Humphries was tough, he road me harder than anyone else, and many times, I was angry at him for it. He was also the principal of my high school, so I had to deal with him almost every day. He gave me detention for what I saw as harmless pranks; he would call me out for things I would say or do that I shouldn’t. And, those detentions he would assign were hard labor I felt like I was in a chain gang. One time on detention, I had to dig the hole for the new church sign. The hole was thirty inches square and thirty inches deep. I realize most of you don’t think that is very big but try doing it in Miami where, after the first two inches, it’s solid coral rock. I butted heads with Pastor Humphries more times than I can count.

But at the age of sixteen, I was in trouble again. The difference this time was that I realized I had been trusting in religion instead of Jesus. On December 10, 1979, Pastor Humphries led me to the Lord, and my life changed. Don’t get me wrong, I still got into a lot of trouble, but thanks to Pastor Humphries prodding, I grew closer and closer to Christ. My mom told me later that he said he was so hard on me because I reminded him of himself at that age.

The point is that Pastor Humphries was my spiritual father, and even though I would get upset with him, he was a huge impact on my life. If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you have heard me refer to things he taught me. So, I had an earthly father, a spiritual father, and a heavenly father, I am truly blessed.

We are currently close to the end of 1 Corinthians chapter 4, and we have seen many times where Paul has had to discipline the church because of sin among them, as well as their tendency to put different leaders above others. In our passage today, he starts in by saying, “I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children.” 1 Corinthians 4:14. In today’s society, as it was back then, people are easily offended, so it is a good idea to start by reminding them that, in correcting them, we are not trying to shame or embarrass them. This is a lesson I need to learn. I just recently had a somewhat heated debate with a former youth I ministered to, who himself is now a youth pastor. He was online saying things that he had not studied and known nothing about but was making himself out to be an authority on it. I felt a need to correct him but probably could have been a little gentler in it. In the end, he didn’t agree with me, cussed me out, and I ultimately had to block him. Because of where he was coming from, I probably would have never swayed his opinion, but I could have been a little more tactful.

In the next verse, Paul says, “For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you.” 1 Corinthians 4:15. Who is your spiritual father, who led you to Christ, who taught you in the early years of your conversion? This verse is so true. There are several pastors I enjoy listening to and learning from, but they are not my spiritual fathers. Don’t get me wrong; there are several things Pastor Humphries taught that I don’t agree with, but he is still my spiritual father. As I’ve said many times, there is only one doctrine that should divide the Church, the doctrine of salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus the Christ.

Now, here’s where Paul gets extremely controversial. He says, “So I urge you to imitate me.” 1 Corinthians 4:16. Wow! How many of us would dare tell our spiritual children to imitate us? The fact is, they will imitate us whether we like it or not. Pastor Humphries always used to say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people ever open.” People are watching what we do, so we had better be sure we are living right. We will see Paul say this again later in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” And, he repeats it in 1 Thessalonians 1:6. Although Paul was human, he was confident in his walk with Christ that he was willing to tell his spiritual children to imitate him, just like he imitates Christ. That’s what a disciple is, someone who imitates the one they follow, and we are all called to be disciples of Christ. In Ephesians 5:1, he tells us to imitate God, in 1 Thessalonians 2:14, he says that by suffering for Christ, they imitate other believers who suffered for Christ. And, then in Hebrews 6:11-12, we read, 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Here the writer of Hebrews is telling them to imitate those who went before them and, through their faith and patience, inherited the promises.

We all have spiritual fathers or mothers, and they might even be your earthly father or mother. We need to imitate them. We need to follow their examples of faith. We don’t always have to agree with them on everything, but we must remember that they are people God put in our lives to bring us to Him.

 

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What Do You Have to Be Proud Of?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

What Do You Have to Be Proud Of?

1 Corinthians 4:6-7

There are a lot of pastors that I like to listen to, guys like Francis Chan, Mark Driscoll, and Ravi Zacharias, who teach the word and give a lot of insight that I might not have caught on my own. We attended Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, when Francis was the pastor there. I love listening to him and these other pastors, but I have a couple of rules for myself when listening to them. One rule is, if they say anything I don’t agree with or think sounds off, I study it in scripture to make sure I don’t have it wrong and to “test the spirits.” Another rule I have is, no matter how much I like a pastor, I never put them on a pedestal. I think Francis Chan is great and agree with most of what he says, but I always remember he is a man and could fall.

One such incident recently happened with another pastor I like to listen to, not one named above. I won’t call him out, or give too many specifics of the incident, but I was somewhat disappointed in him and probably won’t listen to him anymore. Don’t get me wrong; he didn’t preach heresy or fall into adultery or anything like that; in fact, what he did was probably not noticed by many. He actually did something great; then when some of his church disagreed, he publicly apologized for it. This was much like when Paul called out Peter for eating with the Gentiles until the Jews came along. We see this in Galatians 2:11-13, 11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13 As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.” Paul calls out Peter for hypocrisy, and that’s what this pastor did. If I had a way to contact him, I would confront him for what he did. I don’t have a way, so I hope other Church leaders do.

It’s easy to put some of these pastors on a pedestal. Part of our human nature is to look up to others; we are constantly placing people higher than we should. That’s why the show is called American Idol, not American Singer. We lift people up as idols, and that is never good, not even if they are a man or woman of God. Sadly, some TV pastors place themselves on pedestals, but the day will come when they will have to answer for it.

Paul addressed this with the church at Corinth in this week’s passage. He says, Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another. For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” 1 Corinthians 4:6-7. Here he’s reprimanding the church for putting one of their spiritual leaders above another. He even says that, if they had been paying attention to the scripture he had been teaching them from, they would have never done this.

Look at what he says in verse 7. He starts this verse by asking them just who they think they are; then he reminds them that they don’t have anything that wasn’t given to them from God. James, the half brother of Jesus, put it this way, 16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:16-17. Everything in your life that is good and perfect is a gift from God. So often we get puffed up and proud of our accomplishments but, if it weren’t for the grace of God, we wouldn’t have had the abilities to do those accomplishments. King David paid a high price when he got proud of “his accomplishments” and took a census of the people of Israel. It is easy to fall into pride, if David, the one called a man after God’s own heart, can fall into the sin of pride, I think we all need to be careful.

After reminding them that everything they have is a gift from God, he asked them why they are bragging as if it were something they did. So, they were passing judgment on one leader and lifting up another as if they had something to do with these men’s leadership. You see, even our leaders are a gift from God. Look at Ephesians 4:11, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.” What does this verse say? These are the gifts that Christ gave the Church.

We need to stop judging our spiritual leaders and lifting one over another. These men were put over us as a gift from Christ Himself. Stop and think for a minute. When was the last time you thought of your pastor as a gift? Have you ever? Again, if they are preaching something you don’t think is scriptural, check it out. You may find out that you are wrong. But if you study it in scripture and still think what your pastor is preaching is not biblical, then go to him in private and talk to him about it. Show him what you found in scripture and listen to his insight. If he can’t support his belief with scripture, then maybe it’s time to find another church group. You see, there’s a fine line here. We are to test the spirits, but not to judge our spiritual leaders. If your spiritual leader is teaching something that isn’t scriptural, then he’s of the wrong spirit.

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Our Calling

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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.

God Fights For Us

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

God Fights for Us

1 Corinthians 3:17

When my son Josh was in 7th grade, we were living in a small town in Indiana. One day he was in line at school, I believe they were in the lunch room, the kid behind him was joking around and gave him a shove. When he did, Josh fell into the kid in front of him. Clearly, Josh didn’t hurt the kid, he just bumped into him. This boy turned around and punched Josh in the nose, breaking it. Josh did not provoke it, nor did he retaliate, he just stood there holding his nose.

Well, to make matters worse, after they were both taken to the Principal’s office and had both explained their side of the story, they were both given three days of in-school suspension. When I found out what had happened, as a father, I was furious. I was mad at the kid who hit Josh, but even more angry that the school would punish him for this incident.

Michelle and I marched down to the school and gave that Principal a piece of our collective mind, but he stood his ground. He said that Josh was “rough housing” and was equally to blame. We made it clear that this was not true, that getting shoved isn’t “rough housing,” and that Josh was a victim, not an instigator. None the less, Josh had to serve the three days of in-school suspension and life went on. It was a great example of what I always told the kids as they were growing up. If they would say something wasn’t fare, I’d tell them, life isn’t fare, but we have to deal with it.

The point is that, as parents, Michelle and I were livid and marched right down to that school to defend our son. I’ll be honest, I’ve never wanted to hit a 12-year-old so bad, but I restrained myself…with the help of Michelle.

The Hebrew people of the Old Testament never thought of God as their Father, that’s why it was so strange for the disciples when Jesus gave them the model prayer in Matthew chapter 6. When He told them to Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.” Matthew 6:9. They had never been taught to think of God as their Father.

Later, we see that Paul embraced this thought system when he said, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” Romans 8 15. You see, the Hebrew people looked at God as an angry taskmaster, but He always wanted to be their loving Father. This term, “Abba! Father!” is a term of endearment, it’s like saying, daddy. And, notice that Paul says we were all adopted as sons. Paul wasn’t trying to cut down women here, he was showing us our place with God. You see, back then, the sons got all the inheritance, they figured that the daughters would marry men who got their inheritance. But Paul is telling us that we all, men and women, are adopted as sons. We all get the full inheritance! Isn’t that awesome?

So, in our passage today, 1 Corinthians 3:17, we read, “God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” God, our Father, our Daddy, will destroy anyone who tries to destroy His temple…His sons. That’s how much God loves you and me, He won’t just defend us, He will destroy anyone who tries to hurt us. And, in case you think that God has changed since the Old Testament times, Moses told the Hebrew people in Exodus 14:14, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” God wanted to be their Daddy, but they wouldn’t see Him that way.

Here’s the thing about God, He will never force us to love Him, He will never force us to obey Him. Why do you think He put the two trees in the middle of the garden? It wasn’t to tempt Adam and Eve; it was to give them the choice to love Him. You see, if you don’t give someone the choice, that isn’t love, it’s slavery.

What does John 3:16 say? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Do you see that word? He gave His only BEGOTTEN son. We are His adopted sons, but Jesus was His only begotten Son, and He gave Him for us. That’s how much God loves you and me. He gave the life of His only biological Son so we could be adopted…wow!

I recently had someone tell me that the God of the Old Testament was an angry God, always smiting people. So, I took him to my favorite verse, which happens to be in the Old Testament, Zephaniah 3:17, which says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Look at this verse. God isn’t up in heaven pronouncing judgement on us, He is living among us. The verse goes on to say that He is my Mighty Savior, that He takes Delight in me with Gladness, and that He Calms All my Fears. And, then, as if that isn’t enough, it says that God, the creator of the universe, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, will rejoice over me with joyful songs! When I read this verse, I think of a father holding his baby son in his arms and singing to him. That’s what God wants to do to me, that’s what God wants to do to all of us. Does that sound like an angry God to you? To me it sounds like a loving Father.

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!

Spiritual Babies

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Spiritual Babies

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

 

In my day job, I manage people. I am the General Manager of a retirement community, so we provide housing, transportation, housekeeping, and three meals a day for 115 to 120 residents who currently range in age from 57 to 102. Yes, my residents can be trying at times, but many of them suffer from various forms of dementia and can’t help the way they are. I understand this and see my job as being able to help these people enjoy the final days of their lives. I am honored to have the opportunity to care for them.

So, my problem isn’t with the residents as much as with my employees. I oversee 30 adults, and I use the term loosely, in various aspects of the community. It never ceases to amaze me how juvenile people can be. I recently had an employee sitting in my office crying because the Chef got upset with her. She even admitted that he didn’t raise his voice, but she said, “he made me feel uncomfortable.” You don’t know how hard it was not to tell her that life can be uncomfortable and that she needs to grow up and deal with it like the adult she claims to be, but I didn’t. I was caring and concerned and transferred her to a different job, so she won’t have to work with the Chef anymore.

Some people have to be treated like children, and sadly, our society is creating more and more of those people. This whole political correctness movement coddles people and makes it impossible to correct an employee that is doing wrong. They expect a trophy for participating and think they are doing you a favor by just showing up for work. The problem is, when you can’t correct people, they will never learn and consequently will never grow up.

Paul ran into this same problem with the church at Corinth. He told them at the beginning of chapter 3, 1Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready,for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.

You see, Paul wanted to teach them, to correct them, to see them filled with the Holy Spirit, and to live fruitful and productive lives for Christ. Like he told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” He wanted to talk to them like adults and use the scripture to shape the rest of their lives, but all he could do is give them a bottle and spoon feed them strained peas. Notice what he said in verse 1, “I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people.” The church at Corinth was not spiritually mature; they were spiritual babies. He said he had to feed them milk because they weren’t ready for anything stronger.

Look what Peter said in 1 Peter 2:1-3, 1So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment,now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” Peter is telling these believers scattered all over the east exactly what they need to do. He tells them to get rid of all evil behavior. Don’t be deceitful, don’t be hypocrites, don’t be jealous, and even to stop talking unkindly. Then he tells them to be babies…for a while. He says to crave the milk of the Spirit of God and to grow. Then they can fully experience God’s salvation. He even says to cry out for nourishment.

This is the problem with the church at Corinth. They didn’t CRAVE that spiritual milk. They didn’t CRY OUT for nourishment. They were satisfied with being spoon fed. They would get just enough to stay alive, but never enough to thrive, never enough to grow up.

There are so many people today that are just like that. They don’t want to do the work, so they sit in their pew and let the pastor spoon feed them, then complain if they aren’t “getting fed” at their church. They accept Christ as their savior; then they go about their lives as usual. The only difference is, now they give up an hour of their Sunday morning to go to a building, drop a few dollars into the offering plate, and listen to a man tell them what the Bible says. These people live the rest of their lives as babies. They never grow, they never mature, they stagnate, and sadly, this is the majority of believers today.

If you are one of these people, you need to recognize it and start doing something about it. Stop playing church and start craving that spiritual milk. Spend time with God every day. Read His word daily, all of it! Reading about 3 chapters a day will get you through the whole Bible in a year. Reading it for about an hour a day will get you through it in 3 months. But don’t stop there! Also, take time to study it in the context of the entire Bible. Look at the original language and definitions to the keywords. When you have questions, ask your pastor or another spiritually mature Christian, make them do some digging with you, it will help you both. I love it when people bring me questions about scripture; it makes me dig deeper. Then pray! Pray for your spiritual leaders, pray for your country, pray for each other, and pray for me that God will use me and this little blog to bring the Church back to Him. Then you will start growing and becoming mature in Christ. For more help, check out my first blog series from about a year and a half ago titled, How to Put on All of God’s Armor. If you would rather listen, I also did a podcast on that one. You can also pick up a copy of my book, Cathedral Made of People, on Amazon. But always remember, if you are reading anything that is not scripture, test it against scripture.

Slaves and Masters

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Slaves & Masters

Ephesians 6:5-9

 

Slavery is a touchy subject, so let me start by saying that this verse is not condoning slavery in any way, shape, or form. Paul is simply using something that is common to them as an illustration. And, the truth is that their slavery was not slavery as we know it. In fact, the word used in this verse is the Greek word, δοῦλος doûlos, (doo’-los) which means, “bondservant.” Slaves in that day were basically indentured slaves. They owed someone a debt and had to work for that person until it was paid off. Sometimes, once that “slave” was freed, they chose to stay on with the master because he was fair and kind. At this point, the master would put the slave’s earlobe against the door post and drive a stake through it, identifying them as his doulos, or voluntary servant for life. If you look throughout the New Testament you will see where Paul, Peter, James, and Jude identified themselves as a doulos for Jesus Christ. If you’d like to know more about this term, I wrote about it in one of my earlier blogs titled, Doulos.

So, now that we have the whole master/slave thing out of the way, what exactly is Paul saying here? Like I said earlier, Paul is just using something that they can relate with to get a point across. This “slave/master” relationship can carry over to our “employee/employer” relationship. Unless you are self-employed you have, at some point, complained about your employer, and possibly even if you are self-employed. I wish I wrote full time, but I do have a day job, I manage a retirement community. I started with them about 5 years ago. This is a large company with retirement communities all over the United States and Michelle and I started working there a few years after it had been bought by an investment group. For its first 35 years, it was a family run company, but they sold it when the owner needed to retire, himself. For the first two and a half years we worked there, it was run much like the owner ran it. There were 2 management couples per community who lived on site. Then, about two and a half years ago when the government started raising minimum wages, the company had to recoup those costs, so they went to a 3-manager model, fired one fourth of their community managers, moved us all off-site, and gave the workload that had been done by 4 managers, to 3 managers. Then, they fired half of their Regional Directors and gave some of the work they used to do to us General Managers. I’d like to say that I never had a bad thought, or said a bad word about them, but I’m human. Michelle wasn’t fired but was made Office Manager at a huge reduction in pay and, coupled with the costs of living off-site, we lost one-fourth of our income, literally overnight.

So, yes, I have been guilty of talking poorly about my earthly “master”, but the one thing I did right is I made a concerted effort to keep working for them as unto God. Look at Ephesians 6:5, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” He doesn’t say to obey them if they treat you right, he says to serve them as you would serve Christ. He goes on in verse 6 to say, “Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.” Ouch! So, serve them like you would serve Christ whether they are watching or not. Why? Because Christ is always watching, plus it will show in your work. In today’s world, you not supposed to talk openly about Christ at work, but your boss will know if you are truly living for God and he will be watching. The pastor I grew up under, used to always say that your life may be the only Bible some people ever open. They are watching whether you know it or not.

Verse 7 tells us to, “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Ask yourself, “do I work enthusiastically?” “Does it look to others like I enjoy my job, or that it’s a chore?” In verse 8 he reminds us, “Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.” We will be rewarded if we don’t falter. We need to stay the course and endure to the end. Remember what Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

Paul only gives one verse to the masters, he says, “Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.” Ephesians 6:9. So, for those of us who are Christian bosses, we need to be fair and not threatening. We need to remember that we serve God, not man.

Don’t forget, those of us who are in a management position, we are servants and masters. We need to work for our master the way we would want those under us to work for us. We need to remember that our masters who are riding us for results are being ridden by their masters. So, if our master isn’t a Christian, and doesn’t act like one, we need to serve him as we would Christ that much more. And, if they ever ask you why you serve with such a good attitude, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” 1 Peter 3:15. Remember, you can’t get in trouble for sharing the gospel at work if you are simply answering a question that your boss asks. Just sayin’.

Instructions to Children and Their Fathers

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Instructions to Children and Their Fathers

Ephesians 6:1-4

 

My father was a hard man. He was always a Marine at heart, even though he only served a couple of years in the reserves. He was demanding, loud, overbearing, and was never wrong. My dad loved to argue more than anyone I ever knew. For most of my life, including my adult years, I did not honor my father. I feared him as a child, hated him as an adolescent, and was apathetic toward him as an adult. Then one day I got the news that dad had brain cancer and only had one year to live, he was only 63 years old. I took my family down to see dad several times that year, even though we lived about a thousand miles away. During that last year of his life, I got a chance to get to know my dad. Sad to say, it took the brain tumor’s help, it softened his personality quite a bit. I got to hear about some of the struggles of his youth and some of the events that shaped his personality. In fact, it seemed that his lack of respect for his parents was partly what fueled his personality.

The Bible has a lot to say about relationships. It talks about the relationship between a husband and wife, as we saw last week, it talks about relationships between servants and masters, God and His Church, and many others. Today we are going to look at this relationship between children and their parents, as well as fathers and their children.

Paul starts Ephesians chapter 6 by saying in verse 1, “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.” We often focus on the next verse, but let’s take a minute to look at this one. Why should children obey their parents? Because they belong to Jesus, and it’s just the right thing to do! When you truly belong to Jesus, you will want to do what is right. As Bob Jones Sr. used to say, “Do right until the stars fall.”

After telling us that it’s just the right thing to do, he reminds us that it was the first commandment given with a promise attached. And, he rewrites that promise in verse 3, “If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’” So, God told us from the beginning that, if we honor our parents, we’ll have a good, long life.

Take a minute to look at the 10 Commandments. Honor your father and mother is the fourth commandment. The first three commandments are all about honoring God, then honor your parents comes before don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet your neighbor’s wife, and don’t covet your neighbor’s stuff. Here’s the thing, if we honor God, and honor the parents He put over us, all these other things will fall into place.

In my day job, I employ several young people. Let me start out by saying that Millennials often get a bad rap and I’m just as guilty as anyone else in this, although many of them have earned that reputation. As a whole, they can be very demanding and quite self-centered and disrespectful, but I have to say that this doesn’t apply to all of them. I have a couple of teenage sisters who work for me and are a delight. They are extremely well mannered and very respectful to authority, and elders in general. So, what makes these two young ladies so pleasant, well in my observation I can only see one difference between them and the rest of the young people, their dad was career military, so I’m sure they were raised with some discipline.

Here’s the thing. Many people my age and a little younger were raised by parents who followed the advice of Dr. Spock and others who said that you shouldn’t spank your child, you should reason with them. These kids who were reasoned with by their parents have grown up to reason with their kids, and their kids have become entitled, demanding self-centered brats. These kids don’t honor their parents, they look at them as their friends, their equals, not their authority.

Now, look at verse 4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Notice it doesn’t say for kids to honor their father unless he provokes you to anger, this is a separate thing. I justified my attitude toward my dad for many years by this verse. I said that I didn’t have to honor him because he provoked me to anger, but that is not at all what this is saying, I was taking it out of context to justify what I wanted to do…sound familiar? Paul has told us to honor our parents, now he is warning fathers not to provoke his kids to anger, then he goes on to say to bring them up in Godly discipline and instruction. Disciplining and instructing are not provoking your kids, it’s teaching them to do right. The Bible never says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” it says, “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” Proverbs 13:24. If you love your child, you will discipline them. If your toddler is trying to stick a fork into an electrical outlet, you will smack their hand, so they know not to do that.

Going back to my father, had I done the biblical thing and just honored him throughout my life I would have had a different view of him, and that could have changed his personality. My dad died at 64 years of age when I was only 39 and my boys were 12 and 16. Fortunately, my sons’ relationship with their grandfather was somewhat better. He would play pool with them and he taught them to shoot and use gun safety in his backyard shooting range. But, think how much better my life, as well as the lives of my kids,  could have been if I had just honored my dad.

Honor is not conditional. We are to honor our parents no matter what they do or how they treat us. If you are a Christian father, don’t provoke your kids, just lovingly discipline and instruct them in the ways of the Lord.

Figure Out What Pleases God

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Figure Out What Pleases God

Ephesians 5:10-14

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. As Christ followers, we were created for one purpose and one purpose only, to glorify God! Isaiah 43:7 tells us, “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.” This is why Paul says in Ephesians 5:10, “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.” Because, this is our job, our only job. It’s like working on an assembly line. You have one job and one job only…don’t screw it up. If we are not pleasing God, we are not doing the one thing He has put us on this earth to do!

Paul started out chapter 5 of his letter to the Church at Ephesus by telling us to Imitate God because we are His dear children. He then goes on to implore us to stay away from all types of sin and to live as people of light. Now he is about to tell us what to do with that light. Look at verses 11-14, 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’”

He starts out by telling us to take no part in the evil and dark deeds of this world, but he goes so much further than that. He says, instead of participating in them, we need to expose them. This is a huge problem with our society today. We are all so afraid of offending someone, that we just say nothing. In fact, we would rather stay blind to it, we have that, “ignorance is bliss” mentality. I am currently working on two more books. One is a follow-up to my first one, Cathedral Made of People, titled, One Church, One Body. The second book my wife and I are writing together, it is titled Life as We Knew It. This book accounts Michelle and my awakening to what is going on in the world today and starts exposing some of it. There is so much darkness in our world that we as Christ followers often would rather stay blind to. But, that’s not what God wants, He wants us to expose the darkness.

Look what God told the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 33:7-9, “Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself.” Do you see what God said? If we don’t warn them, and they die in their sin, their blood is on our hands. Believe me, I know, no one wants to expose that darkness of this world, in fact, no one really wants to know about a lot of it, but as Christ followers, it is our duty to know about it and to shine God’s light on it.

You’re probably asking, as I was, how can I expose this darkness? First, if we are going to expose it, we must recognize it. We need to ask God to open our eyes to what is going on around us. Michelle and I had things happen to us all throughout our lives that should have opened our eyes, but it wasn’t until a recent development that we started connecting all the dots.

Once you have started recognizing the darkness you need to stay away from it and start exposing it. Last week we looked at Living as People of Light. If you are a Christ follower, you have that light within you, now it’s your job to let it out for the world to see.

The verses go on to say that the things these people are doing are so wicked that it is a shame to even talk about them. And, trust me, you would not believe the things that go on among our politicians and celebrities…deplorable things. I won’t get into them today, but be watching for my book, I will be exposing a lot of it. Our passage then says, that “But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them.” You can’t help but see things when they are well lit. Have you ever been out at night in a dimly lit place, then passed a mirror and thought, “I look pretty good tonight”? Only to get home and realize your zipper had been down all night. As I get older I notice it more. I need more light to see things better, but it’s true of all of us. That’s why makeup mirrors are lit, so you can really see what you are working with.

Paul ends this section by saying, “This is why it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’” Friends, we need to Wake Up! We can’t keep living with our heads in the sand! We must know what evil is in this world so we can stay away from it, but also so we can expose it. None of us wants to be responsible for people dying in their sin.

I’m not going to tell you that if you start exposing the evil of this world, everything will be fine. Jesus told us, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Do you see that? We will have trials and sorrows on earth! In fact, Matthew 10:22 tells us that every nation will hate us, and we will be persecuted! But, I love how Jesus ended John 16:33, He told us to take heart, why? Because He has overcome the world!

If we start exposing the darkness of this world, we will be persecuted, but that’s okay because we serve the King of kings, the Lord of lords, The Great I AM!

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