All My Hope is In Jesus

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

All My Hope is In Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Father’s Love

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

A Father’s Love

Ephesians 1:4-5 tells us how much God loves us. Paul wrote, Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” He starts out by saying that God loved us in Christ before the world was made. Think about that for a minute. God loved me, and He chose me before the world was made…that’s amazing. But, if you think about it, anyone who has ever wanted to have a family has loved their children before they were born, or even conceived. My oldest son Josh always wanted a big family and he loved those children even before he was married. He is now married and has five sons that he loves more than any children on earth. That’s what a father’s love is like, and that’s the love that God has for us.

This passage goes on to say that He chose us in Christ. Now, I know that this is a subject that has been blown completely out of proportion, but we need to keep this in context, as always. 1 Peter 1:1-2 tells us, 1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” So, we are predestined to be God’s children, through His foreknowledge. God is all-knowing, and He knows the end from the beginning. Through His ability to see the future, through His ability to know who would accept Him and who would not, He chose us. God’s will is that everyone would choose him, as it says in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

So, what did God choose us for? He chose us “to be holy and without fault in his eyes”. As we’ve seen before, Holy means to be set apart. When Peter said in 1 Peter 1:16, “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy’”, he was quoting Leviticus 20:26 which says, “You must be holy because I, the Lord, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own.” God has set us apart to be His very own…wow! 1 Peter 2:9 tells us, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” God has called us out of the darkness to be His very own…again, wow! He says we are “without fault in His eyes.” Why? Because we are covered by the blood of Christ, Colossians 1:22 says, “Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” Isn’t that beautiful? Because of Christ, we stand before God without a single fault.

Paul goes on to say, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ” See that? God decided IN ADVANCE to adopt me! Think about it, this isn’t like adopting an infant. God knew all of our faults, He knew all of our secrets. It takes a lot of love to adopt a baby, but it takes so much more love to adopt a teenager out of the foster system. You know going into it that this child could come with a lot of baggage. They were possibly taken away from their biological parents because of abuse or neglect and may have gone on to experience more abuse and neglect in their foster homes. But God adopted us knowing all of our baggage, knowing all of the bad habits we have picked up along the way. He chose us!

So, what was the price of this adoption? If you have ever adopted a child, you know that there are costs involved, there is always a price. The price that God paid for our adoption was the life of His only begotten Son. So, knowing all of this. Knowing our backgrounds and the baggage we were bringing along with us. Knowing that it would cost Him the life of His only begotten son, why would He do this? Because, “This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” It gave Him great pleasure to adopt us into His family. It didn’t just please Him, it gave Him GREAT pleasure…that’s so humbling!

One of my favorite verses is Zephaniah 3:17, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Don’t ever let anyone tell you that God is up in heaven, oblivious to our troubles. This verse says that He is living among us. It goes on to say that He delights in us with gladness and He will calm all our fears with His love. Then it ends by telling us how much the Father loves us, He sings over us! Just picture it. God holding us in His arms like a loving father holds his newborn baby and singing over us with joy. There is no better picture of a father’s love than that.

Back to The Beginning

Day 289: Sunset from Low Key Hideaway Dock
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Back to The Beginning

We were having Easter dinner with some friends, and one of them asked me to share where my vision came from. So, here goes, the first thing I should explain is where the title of my blog, and subsequent book, come from, and what it means. This blog and book were born out of an experience that my wife and I had, that brought us to the realization that the Church isn’t operating the way it was meant to. The idea of a cathedral made of people is the fact that the building we meet in isn’t the church, the denomination we belong to isn’t the church. We are the Church, we are the Body of Christ, a Royal Priesthood, a chosen generation, and we need to start acting as such. Now, I can’t take credit for the title, it is the title of a song by the group Downhere, listen to it, you’ll see what I mean. This song says exactly what I’m trying to put across on this blog and my book. We are a cathedral made of people…all of us! Not just one denomination, but everyone. If you believe the Bible for what it says if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God…God in the flesh, if you believe that He lived on this earth, died on the cross, and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins, then you are part of that cathedral.

This journey started for me on the 4th of July weekend 2009. Michelle and I were sitting at LAX, watching the fireworks go off all around us as we waited to board a plane bound for a little island community in North West Florida. This was no third world country, this was a quaint little fishing village that my parents had retired to. Dad had passed away in 2002 and mom was there taking care of her father who had a stroke a few years prior.

Two weeks after arriving, Michelle and I were talking and realized that God was telling both of us, individually but at the same time, to plant a church on the island. God had given both of us the same vision, but as always, there were some hurdles to get over. There were four big hurdles:

  1. I had never been a Lead Pastor and, quite frankly, had never wanted to be one.
  2. We had never been part of a church plant from the start, so we didn’t know where to start.
  3. This little town was, by all means, a mission field with a large number of its resident’s being alcoholics and addicts.
  4. With a population of 900 people and 4 existing churches, everyone was telling us we were wasting our time.

Since problem number one was that I had never been a Lead Pastor, and didn’t really want to be, we set out trying to find a pastor. Most of the candidates were just looking for a job, but there were a few great men of God who saw our vision but said that God gave us this vision and the passion, so we needed to follow through with it. After about a years and a half of preparation, we met a Christian couple, Ken and Vanessa, who wanted to start a praise night in homes, and that birthed our church group, The Gathering.

But, this isn’t a blog about The Gathering. This isn’t a blog about starting a church. This is a blog about the Church, with a capital “C”. During that first year of preparation, we prayed about the church gathering that God had called us to start. Since we had never started a church group before, and because there were so many church formats and denominations out there, we started asking God to show us what kind of church He wanted us to start. His answer came almost immediately. God told us, very clearly, to look at the first Church, so that’s just what we did. Spending that first year studying what the first church was like, God began revealing things that were extremely disturbing. Of course, the first Church was not disturbing, but what it has become was. Looking at the Church today and comparing it to the first Church, we saw how short we have fallen. We were no longer one body, we were divided, separated and segregated. We were not fulfilling the Great Commission. You see, the Great Commission tells us to make disciples, we make congregations, we are just filling seats. The Church has become a corporation at best. The Church today has become little more than a Religious Organization split into different denominations with different goals.

In studying the first Church, God revealed several things. One thing was that the first Church didn’t meet in fancy cathedrals, they met in the courtyard of the Hebrew Temple and in homes, and even in the street, Acts 2:44-47 says, 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” I am not trying to say that a church building is bad, what I am saying is that we need to ask ourselves if this building is wise stewardship of God’s money, and is it being used for ministry more than once or twice a week.

The second thing was that they didn’t meet on Sunday, they met daily, as we saw in verse 46 of this passage. This doesn’t mean we should meet for an hour every morning, sing worship songs and listen to the pastor preach. They did life together, they studied the Word together, they prayed together, they ate together…they were a community. Remember, in Matthew 18:20 it says, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Here’s a little food for thought, how many of your local church family do you see outside of the church building? Just sayin’.

The next thing I noticed was that when Luke wrote the book of Acts, he stuck his church bulletin in it. In Acts 2:42 we see their order of service, 42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” So, they studied the Gospel, they fellowshipped and shared meals together, and they prayed. Is that what our church services look like today? Not most of the ones I’ve seen.

The fourth thing, and probably the biggest, was their unity, as we see in the verses above. In fact, the unity of the Church is one of the key themes of the New Testament. If we can’t get this right and be united as the Body of Christ, we will never be effective in this world, Matthew 12:25 says, “Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.” Yes, we may grow our congregation, we may even become a “Mega Church”, and we may bring people to Christ along the way. But if we want to change our world, we must change from within. We have all heard sermons on 2 Chronicles 7:14Then 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.”, but it’s time we take this passage to heart. This verse says, “if my people”, that’s the Church. We are His people, His Body. This verse doesn’t say if a few of my people, or if some of my people, or even if most of my people, what it is saying is The Body of Christ…all of us, must humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our wicked and divisive ways, and yes, the Hebrew word translated as wicked is the word “Ra`” which means; wicked, disagreeable, malignant, and divisive. We must unite as the Body of Christ! Now, before I’m lynched, I’m not talking about throwing out doctrine and uniting, but I am talking about taking a hard look at the doctrines that separate us, and like I said in the beginning, there is only one doctrine that should define us, that is salvation by grace through faith.

A Lamp To My Feet?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

A Lamp To My Feet?

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” I have heard this verse my entire life, but I guess I never gave it a lot of thought until a couple of weeks ago.

Michelle and I go hiking every weekend, in fact, we are currently training to hike the Grand Canyon from rim to rim this summer with a friend of ours. A couple of weeks ago, we took a hike on the Goat Canyon Trestle Trail. We began this trail in Jacumba Hot Springs in Southern California and hiked over seven miles out and back, so it was a total of over fourteen miles. This trail follows abandoned train tracks the whole way, so more than three miles of it are inside tunnels. In fact, two of these tunnels were a half mile long each.

As you can imagine, these tunnels, especially the long ones and the curved ones, can get pretty dark. Also, the ground is extremely uneven, remember, we are hiking on old train tracks, tracks that were originally installed in the 1920s, so we are either hiking across the cross beams or dirt that has been filled in on them over the decades. But, not to worry, we carry our trusty headlamps.

The first of the long tunnels was a half mile long and curved. So, this one was somewhat of a double whammy. On top of that, I assume this one was a little less structurally stable than the others since the inside walls and floor had been sprayed with concrete to keep rocks and such from falling. I don’t believe that spraying the floors with the concrete was intentional, there’s was no need for it, plus it was very uneven and random.

As we had gotten a couple of hundred feet into the cave it became very clear that it wasn’t very clear anymore, so we had to get out our handy-dandy headlamps. I’ve never felt so much like a Boy Scout…I was prepared. So, we both put on our headlamps and continued. It didn’t take me very long to realize the problem with this. You see, I was hiking on an already sprained ankle, and I’m not exactly the most graceful person to begin with.

I have a high-end headlamp so I could see in front of me great. And, since Michelle was hiking in front of me, she could see where she was going with no problem. My problem was that I couldn’t see what the ground in front of me was doing. Now, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but it didn’t take me stumbling more than two or three times to I realized there might be a problem with this. You see, I had a light for my path, but I didn’t have a lamp to my feet. Now, Michelle, who was also wearing a headlamp, had a light for her path, plus my headlamp was a lamp to her feet. Michelle didn’t stumble, but I did…several times.

So, what exactly is this verse saying? It says that the word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. We must be able to see the path before us, but if we don’t have the lamp on our feet, we will stumble. The beautiful thing is that God’s word does both.

First, it provides light for our path. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” God has a plan for your life, a plan for good and not disaster, and His word will light the way. “Lead me in the right path, O Lord, or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow.” Psalm 5:8. God has a plan for us, and He wants us to see the way.

Second, His word is a lamp to our feet. Psalm 119:165 tells us, “Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.” You see, it’s not enough to just read the word, it’s not even enough to just memorize verses, we must love it and love its instructions. Psalm 1 tells us in verse 2 that those who are blessed, “delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.” And, it goes on to say in verse 6, “For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.” If we delight in His law and meditate on it day and night, our path will be clear, in fact, it says that the Lord will watch our paths. We all need to ask ourselves daily whether or not we delight in His word. It is easy to let the distractions of this life keep us from the word, but if we delight in the word of God, if we long for it, we won’t let our busy lives distract us from it.

So, when you find yourself in the dark, don’t just use a flashlight for your feet, or just a headlamp for your path, use both. And, when you find yourself in spiritual darkness, and we all find ourselves in that place occasionally, if you have been delighting in the word and meditating on it, when it seems like the walls are closing in and a cloud of darkness is over your head, you can reflect on those passages you have meditated on. Those passages that you have been delighting in will light your path and show you the way out.

Let God show you His path. 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. He never says that His path will be easy, but He will guide us, “For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.” Psalm 48:14. He also promises us that, “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

The Lord’s Actual Prayer – Part 2

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

The Lord’s Actual Prayer – Part 2

This week we are picking up where we left off last week, looking at what Jesus prayed just before going to the cross. So, we’re back in John 17, but starting at verse 12, which says, “During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.” Jesus says here that He has protected those that the Father gave him by the name He gave Him. Remember, the name that the Father gave Jesus was Immanuel, which means, “God with us.” Then He says He saved them all, “except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.” Peter tells us in Acts 1:20, “Peter continued, ‘This was written in the book of Psalms, where it says, ‘Let his home become desolate, with no one living in it.’ It also says, ‘Let someone else take his position.’” This is referring to Psalm 109:8.

There is a lot of talk about predestination. Many believe that God chooses who will be saved and who will not, but the Bible is extremely clear about this. In 2 Peter 3:9 we read, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” So, God doesn’t choose anyone to not be saved, the choice is ours. And, as far as the question of what the Bible says about predestination, Romans 3:29 tells us where this predestination comes from, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;” So, we are predestined, because God can see the future and He knows in advance who will accept him. It’s still our choice, but God knows all.

Back to John 17, verses 13-14 say, 13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.” Jesus tells the Father, “I have given them your word”. Immediately we think He’s talking about the Bible because that’s the word of God, right? What does John say in the first chapter of his book? John 1:1, “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then He goes on in verse 14 to tell us just who that word is, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” So, when Jesus tells the Father that He gave us His word, what He is saying is that He gave us Himself…that’s truly awesome, isn’t it? It is the greatest gift of all! He goes on to say that the world hates us because we don’t belong to the world. That is still so true to this day. For some reason, in today’s world of “tolerance”, the only group that it’s okay to say bad things about, is Christians. I mentioned a few weeks ago about the ladies on The View referring to Christianity as “mental illness”. That’s not okay! But, Jesus warned us that they would hate us. In fact, Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Notice, he doesn’t say that we might, he says that we WILL suffer persecution.

But, here’s the thing, He says in verses 15-16, 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” You see, leaving the world isn’t the answer. It’s imperative that we stay so that we can bring the world to Christ, but we must remember that we are not part of this world. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” We must be in the world, but we can’t be of the world.

In verse 17 He says, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.” So many times, I have heard Christians say that they can’t be holy, only God is holy, and yet in this verse, Jesus is praying that we will be holy. Here’s the thing, the word holy means “to be set apart”. As Christ followers, we are to be set apart, and that’s what Romans 12:2 is getting at. We must be transformed, we must change the way we think, we must be set apart. In fact, 1 Peter 1:16 says, “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’” Here, Peter is referencing Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, and 20:7. So, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be holy…the truth is, you must be holy! And, how do we accomplish that? As we see in verse 17, by His truth. And, where does that truth come from? As it also says, “teach them your word, which is truth.” We also see this in Psalm 119:160, “The very essence of your words is truth; all your just regulations will stand forever”

Verses 18-19 tell us, 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” He is sending us into the world, and He has made us holy by God’s truth, through His sacrifice.

I love verse 20, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.” This prayer is for me! This prayer is for you! This prayer is as much for us as it was for His disciples back then.

And, what is this prayer? Verse 21 says again, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” There are four more verses to this prayer, but I’m going to end here, you can go study the other four yourself. I want to end on this note because this is so important. I have said over and over throughout my blogs that one of the key themes of the New Testament is that of the unity of believers. Christ’s prayer really drives that home, because, in the twenty-five verses of this prayer, two of them are praying that we would be united. That’s 8% of this prayer. Of all the things He could have prayed for, and all the things He did pray for, He prayed for our unity twice!

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. If we want to impact our world for Christ, we must be united. We must put aside our petty differences and unite around the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The only doctrine that matters is that of salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. PRAY FOR UNITY!

The Lord’s Actual Prayer – Part 1

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

The Lord’s Actual Prayer

Okay, so this one will be a two-part series. We’ll start today and finish it next week. We all grew up memorizing “The Lord’s Prayer”, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” I’m sure that you can finish it. Somewhere along the line, we mislabeled this, because Jesus never prayed this prayer. In fact, He never told us to repeat it in unison or say it every time we gather. The truth is that He never told us to say it at all. That passage we call “The Lord’s Prayer” was nothing more than an outline that He gave us. The disciples had asked Him how to pray, and He said in Matthew 6:9, “Pray like this…”, or in the KJV it says “in this manner…”. So, it was just an outline, He was saying to start out by praising God, then pray for His kingdom to come, and so on.

But, this isn’t a blog on Christ’s outline for prayer, this is a blog on what the Lord actually prayed. With Easter weekend rapidly approaching, I wanted to look at the prayer that Jesus prayed just before He was betrayed and arrested. We find this prayer in John chapter 17. He starts out the prayer, in the first 2 verses by saying, “After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him.’” Notice He says that He has given eternal life to everyone that the Father has given Him. The phrase “have given”, in the Greek language, is a perfect indicative tense, which means that it is an action that was completed in the past but has continuing results, and the indicative mood is an assertion of fact. So, in those two little words, Christ is saying that it is a fact that the Father has given and continues to give Him souls to save. Wow, God is good!

Verse 3 very simply tells us how we can be saved, “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” To know the one true God and Jesus, the Christ. The word He used here translated “to know”, is the Greek word ginosko. This word indicates an intimate knowledge, in fact, it is also used as an idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and woman. You see, just a head knowledge of God will never suffice, let’s face it, the devil has that. He wants us to have an intimate knowledge of Him. He wants us to be consumed by Him. When you are in love, that person is the only thing you think about, and that’s the relationship He requires from us.

In verses 4 and 5 He says, I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.” So, Jesus knows that He is about to complete His work here on earth and that this has brought glory to the Father. But, did you notice what He said in verse 5? “Bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.” If anyone tries to tell you that Jesus never said He was God, you can show them this verse, and there are several others, but that is another blog.

In verses 6-8 He talks about the work that He completed here on earth when He says, “I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.” Jesus came to reveal the Father to the world. We were always God’s, but Christ opened a pathway directly to the Father, through Himself.

In verse 9 Jesus says, “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me because they belong to you.” When He says that His prayer is not for the world, it is not saying that He doesn’t care about the world’s plight, 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” He said this because His focus, at that time, was on His disciples. Not just the twelve, but all of us. I like the way Campbell Morgan put it when he said, “He was praying for the instrument He was creating, through which He would reach the world.”

Christ states in verse 10 that, “All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory.” Again, we are created for His glory, that is our purpose.

Verse 11 is where Jesus really starts praying for us, he says, “Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.” Christ is praying for us because He is leaving us and going to the Father. I can relate to this. In 2009 Michelle and I had to leave Los Angeles and go to Florida to help my mother. This trip was supposed to be for two months, but it soon became apparent that it was going to be more permanent. At this time, although they were still living with us, our sons were adults, Josh was twenty-three and Caleb was nineteen. But, that didn’t stop us from worrying about them and praying for them daily. Those prayers helped them through that time, which is too lengthy of a story to get into now, but God did bring us all back together six years later. We are all in Los Angeles but now they are both married, and we have six grandkids…God is good! But, what did Christ pray over us? He asked the Father to protect us by the power of His name, and why? So that we will be UNITED, as they are.

If you have been reading my blogs for any length of time, you have seen that I talk a lot about the unity of the body of Christ. The reason I talk about it so much is because this is one of the key themes of the New Testament, and sadly, the body is more divided than ever. We are divided into different denominations, and into different groups within those denominations. And, worst of all, largely we are divided over doctrine that was taken out of context, to begin with, and mostly doesn’t matter. What matters is salvation by grace, through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ…that’s it. If we ever want the Church to impact our world again, we must be united! We keep blaming everyone else for the state the world is in, whether it be the media, or Muslims, or liberals, but the fact is that IT IS OUR FAULT! Christ told us that a house divided will fall, and we have fallen. But, there is good news, it’s not too late. 2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us that if believers, that’s all of us, will humble ourselves, and pray if we will seek His face and turn from our wicked and divisive ways, He will hear our prayers, forgive our sin, and heal our land. Let’s come together as the body of Christ.

This is only half of this prayer, there is so much more to see, so I will be finishing it next week. Until then, pray for unity and that God will open our eyes to His will.

Valentine’s Day-What is Love?

The Kiss
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Valentine’s Day-What is Love?

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 5:25-30 says, 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.30 And we are members of his body.” First, notice that the Bible never tells the wife to love her husband. You see, loving others, and putting others first comes naturally to most women, it’s part of that motherly instinct, so God never had to tell them to love their husband. But, us men are a different breed. We tend to be selfish and need a little reminding occasionally.

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

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

The Law

Old Courthouse Museum
Photo by Michelle Pearson

The Law

I’m afraid the Church is confusing many unsaved people, as well as many new Christians, and even many older Christians for that matter. I hear it over and over, they say, “you say the Bible never changes. Then why were the people in the Old Testament saved by keeping the law, but you say that we’re saved by grace through faith now?” I’m sure we’ve all heard this question. But, here’s the problem. They are confused because many of our churches, many well-intentioned pastors, are unknowingly preaching a false doctrine. Please don’t stop reading here and think that I’m one of those guys that think I’ve figured it out and everyone else is wrong. I just want to share what scripture says, and you can make your own decision, but remember to keep everything in context, and don’t try to interpret the Bible.

So, did the law ever save anyone? Romans 8:3 tells us, “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So, God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” The campus pastor at our church, Steve Meharg, would say right now, “don’t you hate how the Bible is so vague?” So, what is the Bible saying here? The first sentence of this verse tells us that the law of Moses was not able to save us. Why? Because of our sinful nature. You see, we can’t be good enough to get to heaven, because of our sinful nature.

Here’s wherein the problem lies. We are sinners! Romans 5:12, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” Again, so unclear, right? When we try to be good enough to get to heaven, we are measuring ourselves up to other people, and we can always find someone who is worse than ourselves. A serial killer can say that he’s not as bad as Jeffery Dahmer because he isn’t a cannibal. But, here’s the catch, God doesn’t measure us up to each other, He measures us up to Himself. Galatians 5:19-21 says, 19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Do you see that…no sin can enter heaven…none! Notice that, along with idolatry and sexual sin, He also adds quarreling and jealousy…any one sin will keep you out of heaven. We also read in Ephesians 2:8-9, God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Again, he says that we are not saved by our works, not now, not ever!

We also know that they weren’t saved by just being born into one of the tribes of Israel, although they tried to make it about that too. Look at the examples of Rahab and Ruth. Rahab was a prostitute and a Canaanite, and Ruth was a Moabite. Not only did Rahab not keep the law of Moses, she wasn’t born an Israelite…that’s a double whammy. And, Ruth was not an Israelite either, she was a Moabite. But, not only did God save them, He went a step further. God did something He didn’t have to do by making Rahab and Ruth part of the lineage of Christ. We see this in the first chapter of Matthew. The first sixteen verses are giving the lineage of Christ, from Abraham to Joseph, and in verse 5 it says, “Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).” There are very few mothers mentioned in this passage, but he names two in this verse alone, Rahab and Ruth. Both of these women are in the lineage of Christ, and neither are Israelites.

So, if the Old Testament believers weren’t saved by keeping the law, and they clearly weren’t saved by being born a Jew, then how exactly were they saved? Yes, it is true that they did have to offer sacrifices every year because the perfect sacrifice had not yet come. But it wasn’t the sacrifice that saved them, it was their faith. Let’s take a minute to look at Hebrews chapter 11, the chapter known as the Believer’s Hall of Faith. I’m not going to print the entire chapter here, but take a minute to read it, even if you have read it many times, then come back.

Did you notice something about it? Let’s take a look at the people mentioned here: verse 4, Able; verse 5, Enoch; verse 7, Noah; verses 8-10, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; verse 11 Sarah; verse 21, Jacob; verse 22, Joseph; verse 23, Moses; verse 31, Rahab; verse 32, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. Everyone mentioned in this passage is from the Old Testament. They were not made righteous by keeping the law, they were made righteous by their life-changing faith! In the middle of all this it says in Hebrews 11:6, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” It is, and always was, IMPOSSIBLE to please God without FAITH!

But, something we must remember because we humans always try to make it about ourselves, is that it’s not our faith that saves us. God saves us when He sees our faith. And, faith doesn’t just mean believing. The Bible tells us in James 2:19, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” So, you see, it’s not just about believing, it’s about trusting and changing. Just before this verse, we see in James 2:14-17, 14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing,16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”

We are now, and always have been saved by God’s grace, through our faith…our life-changing faith. So, let’s stop confusing people and start living by faith.

One More Church – Philadelphia

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

One More Church – Philadelphia

In this letter in Revelation 3:7-13, Christ is writing to the Church in Philadelphia. And, though He isn’t writing to the Church in Philadelphia, PA…He is. These letters weren’t just to the churches they were addressed to, they were written to us all…the Church. As we all know, Philadelphia means “brotherly love” and this Philadelphia was set up as a missionary outpost for Hellenism. Its purpose was to spread the Greek language and culture across Asia. Philadelphia was called “Little Athens” and was a prosperous city known for beautiful buildings, and earthquakes…reminds me of LA.

In this letter, Christ introduces Himself in verse 7 this way, “This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open:” Notice, He first introduces Himself as “the one who is holy and true.” He is holy, which means that He is set apart, but he is also true…He is truth in physical form. After this, when He says, “the one who has the key of David”, He is referring to Isaiah 22:22 where it says, “I will give him the key to the house of David—the highest position in the royal court. When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them.” So, in this passage, Christ is showing that Eliakim, talked about in Isaiah 22 as well as 1 Kings 18 and Isaiah 36, was a prophecy of Christ.

He starts out verse 8 by saying, “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close.” Again, He says he knows all the things they do, but this time He tells them that He has opened a door for them that no one can close. This is one of those things that we have made somewhat cliché. We’ve all seen the mems that say, “If God closes a door, He’ll open a window.” The truth is that if God closes a door, no one can open it. Yes, He always has a purpose for our lives, and He will open another door somewhere else. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to bash Christian mems, or say they are wrong in any way. The problem is when they become cliché and lose their meaning.

He finishes verse 8 by saying, “You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.” This is a beautiful thing. He says that they had little strength. You see, they didn’t trust in their own strength, they just trusted in God. We can all learn from the church at Philadelphia. So often we think we are strong, so we don’t rely on God. We believe we can handle it, so we trust in our own strength. Here’s a news flash, our own strength will always fail us. This church trusted in God’s strength, so they were strong.

In verse 9 He says, “Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.” It appears that this church was being persecuted by the people of the Jewish synagogue. In fact, Jesus calls them “Satan’s synagogue” and says they claim to be Jews, but they are not. Then He reassures the church that these people will one day bow down at their feet and admit that they are the ones that Christ loves.

There are a lot of churches out there that claim the name of Christ but are really Satan’s synagogue, and some of them might surprise you. You see, this synagogue in Revelation was persecuting Christ’s Church because the church at Philadelphia didn’t believe what they believed. They were trying to undermine what this Church was doing because they didn’t believe it was right. But, what did Jesus say? One day, these people would bow down at their feet and admit that this Church is the ones that Christ loves. As I’ve mentioned before, most of the things that divide us are the doctrines that aren’t even scriptural. Believe me, I’ve been on the judging end of this before, until Christ got ahold of me and showed me where I was wrong.

In verses 10-12a, Jesus tells them, 10 “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. 12 All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it.” Again, He is letting them know what will happen if they are victorious. He says that because they have persevered, He will protect them from the great tribulation, and He clarifies that this great tribulation is a test for those who belong to the world, and clearly this church did not. He goes on to ensure us that He is coming soon. I know that many people say, “but, He said this two thousand years ago,” but we must remember that time is not the same to Jesus. 2 Peter 3:8, “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” So, when He says that He is coming soon, what He is really saying is that we need to be ready because it could be today. Matthew 24:36, “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”

After He tells them that He is coming soon, He says to be careful that no one takes away your crown. So, what crown is He talking about? There are five crowns talked about in the Bible that we can receive in Heaven:

  • The Crown of Righteousness 2 Timothy 4:8
  • The Crown of Victory 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
  • The Crown of Life James 1:12; Revelation 2:10
  • The Crown of Glory 1 Peter 5:2-4; Matthew 5:19
  • The Crown of Rejoicing 1 Thessalonians 2:19; Daniel 12:3; Proverbs 11:30

He ends verse 12 by telling them that everyone who is victorious will become pillars in God’s temple, meaning they will become permanent fixtures, they will be secure.

Christ ends this letter, in verse 13, the same way He ended all the other letters, by telling them, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” Again, He wants us to listen to this warning. He wants us to hear it and examine our own lives. We need to look at the Church at Philadelphia as an example. We can’t trust in our own strength, and we must be victorious!

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