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.

If you haven’t read my book, Cathedral Made of People, It is available on Amazon. If you would like to purchase a copy, CLICK HERE.

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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Photo by Michelle Pearson

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.

We Can Know!

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We Can Know!

1 Corinthians 2:10-12

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plain Speech

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Plain Speech

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

In June of 1982, at the age of 19, I joined a Christian Musical Drama team. I was not particularly “sold out for Christ” at that time, but I was a Christ follower and loved music. We spent twelve weeks in the summer studying and learning programs. We studied music theory, voice, and drama, but also things like Bible, biblical fasting, prayer, and soul-winning. During summer training, God started tugging on my heart. Then, while we were on the road, traveling all over the country and ministering in churches, schools, malls, and even prisons, I gave into God’s call and started pursuing full-time ministry.

I spent a total of 3 years with this group doing full-time ministry. At the end of year one, I met Michelle, and we were married about 17 months later. We stayed with the group the rest of the year after we were married, then that spring the group disbanded, and we moved on.

For the next couple of years, we served in churches in central Florida as youth and music minister, but the words of the pastor I grew up under kept ringing in my ears. Pastor Humphries always said, “A call to serve is always a call to prepare.” Well, I had been spending all my extra time studying the Word, but felt I needed to go to Bible School. I found a job near a Bible College in Northern Florida, and we moved up there. When we arrived in town, we checked into a hotel with our 1-year old son, Joshua, and I went to the place where I was supposed to start working. When I got there, the manager apologized and said the person I was supposed to replace decided not to quit, so he didn’t have an opening for me. We stayed in town until we ran out of money, then moved to Indiana to stay with Michelle’s parents until I found a job. So, God shut those doors.

I tried several more times over the years to go to school, but God kept closing those doors, so I finally realized He didn’t want me to go to Bible school. My pastor was right, a call to serve is always a call to prepare, but that doesn’t have to involve some lofty diploma. I have been, and still am, preparing my whole life. Michelle and I read through the Bible every 90 days. I’m dyslexic, so I use an app called YouVersion, that reads it to me. We also do in-depth studies and pray over them that God will open our eyes to see what He is saying. Reading it in 90 days helps get the context of the entire Bible so we can study it literally.

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul says, When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.” You see, Paul did have those lofty degrees. He was a Pharisee, but what does he say about that? I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.” Philippians 3:5-9a. So, Paul counts the education he received from men as garbage, refuse, dung! It is like the things you throw to the dogs.

So, why does he think so lowly of his education? Look back at 1 Corinthians 2. He says that he came to them with plane speech because he didn’t want to impress them with his wisdom. Paul consciously decided to forget everything he had ever learned except Jesus Christ and His crucifixion. He came to the Corinthian church weak and trembling, with plane speech. He didn’t want them to look at him and think how great he is; he wanted them to look at him and see Christ. He said he relied on the Holy Spirit, not his own clever speech, and he did this so they would only trust in the power of God. We see pastors every day trying to impress people with their lofty degrees, their doctorates and such. They try to woo them with their clever speech and humor, but Paul said we need to rely only on the Holy Spirit.

I thank God that he kept me out of Bible College because I probably would have relied on my education and my own wisdom rather than on the Holy Spirit. We talked a little about this last week. I am weak, but He is strong. I am poor, but He is rich. I am powerless, but He is omnipotent, He is All-Powerful!

These Bible schools and seminaries teach what men think the Bible is saying instead of teaching men to study the Bible literally and keeping it in the context of the whole Bible. This type of education is where all the division comes from in the Body of Christ. The Baptists say the Pentecostals are wrong and the Pentecostals say the Methodists are wrong. And, why do they say this? Because that’s what men have taught them. I have said it many times before, but it bears repeating; the only doctrine that should divide us is that of Jesus Christ and Him crucified! Literally nothing else matters!

Putting the Strong to Shame

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Putting the Strong to Shame

1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Have you ever watched ants? No, not the movie, the actual insects. I know, that’s a strange question, but have you? We all know they can lift, what is it, like ten times their weight? But have you ever found yourself just sitting there watching them? Michelle and I go hiking every week, and on one of our hikes, after reaching the end of a long out and back trail, we decided to sit down and eat something before we headed back. This hike was more than five miles each way, a total of almost eleven miles. We were at the top of the Ice House Saddleback on Mt. Baldy here in Southern California and while we were sitting there on the ground looking at the spectacular view, some ants caught my eye. There was this seemingly endless line of little red ants walking along this old dead fallen log, no they weren’t carrying the log, but many of them were carrying things that were huge in comparison to their tiny size.

That would be like me carrying a car on my back. Now, I was carrying my backpack that, by this point felt like a car, but we could never do what these little ants did. I just sat there amazed at their strength.

Well, that’s the way that God works in us. He takes the weakest, wimpiest, strangest, oddest humans He can find and uses us in spite of our inabilities. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. Paul starts in verse 26 by reminding us, “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.” Think about the believers you know who are truly sold out for and used by Christ. How many of them were wise, or powerful, or wealthy in the eyes of the world when God called them? Probably not many, right? I could go on all day about people I know like this, but I don’t have to go any further than my mirror. I gave my life to Christ at the tender age of 5. I spent my life studying and memorizing His word. I knew He wanted to use me to minister for Him but had no idea how. I tried on several occasions to go to Bible school, but God shut those doors every time, so I went on to get a degree in biology. Instead of having me spend tens of thousands of dollars getting a piece of paper from some humans saying that I know the Bible the way they see it, God showed me years ago that the Bible cannot be interpreted. You see, the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, verbally inspired word of God, so if we put our errant, fallible interpretation on it, it is no longer perfect. God showed me that we must study His word by taking it literally and keeping if in the context of the entire Bible. The thing about doing this is that it takes a lot of work, but if you love God’s word, then it isn’t work. Michelle and I try to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation every 90 days. Doing this gives a lot of perspective and context for our studies.

There is an app for your smartphone called YouVersion that will read it to you in whatever translation you want, so I try to switch it up every time. Currently, I am reading it in the NASB, the New American Standard translation. The next thing I do is, when studying a passage or topic, I don’t just read that chapter, I start by reading the whole book. Next, I look up keywords in the original language. You don’t have to be a Greek and Hebrew scholar to do this; I use BlueLetterBible. With this app or website, you can go to the original language translations, look at the Strong’s Concordance definition, and read commentaries on it. I will warn though, commentaries can help, but they are what that man thinks it is saying, so always test what they are saying with scripture. For that matter, test what I am saying to scripture.

Paul goes on to say in verse 27, “Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a family I know who most people would write off as being very backward but are truly genius and giants in God’s kingdom. You see, God loves to use those of us who the world sees as common to confound the wise. If you take a look at my twitter page, @tapearsonwriter, you’ll see that my bio says, “A Christ Follower. Author-fiction, non, screenwriter, blogger, & podcaster. Confounding the wise. 1 Cor 1:26-29” I know that I am not wise in the world’s eyes. I don’t have some lofty degree from men, and I am dyslexic but I have a passion for my God and want to see his word proclaimed. I love to study His word and worship Him in spirit and truth, and I believe He uses me because of that, and in spite of myself.

I love what He says in verse 28, “God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.” So, it’s not just the things the world sees as foolish or powerless, He also uses the things that the world counts as nothing, those things they see as useless and detestable, to bring them to nothing.

So, here’s the 100,000-dollar question. Why does God do this? Why does He take someone like me and probably many of you reading this, to confound the wise and powerful of this world? The answer is simple, and Paul tells us in verse 29 where he says, “As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” If I am not wise, but God imparts wisdom on me if I am powerless and God makes me powerful if I am thought of as nothing by this world and God uses me to bring the world to nothing, then how could I ever boast about that.

Take a look at the miracles done by Christ’s disciples in the New Testament. First, these guys weren’t anything special they were fishermen who were thought of as poor by the world, common people, and a tax collector who was despised by the world, and yet God used them to demonstrate His power, and as a result of those demonstrations, many came to Christ. Jesus told us in John 14:12-14, 12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. 13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” Because Christ has given us the Holy Spirit, we can do the same works Jesus did and even greater, but it’s not through our power. Always remember what John the Baptizer said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30.

In Spirit and In Truth

The Setting of the Sun Over Cedar Key
Photo by Michelle Pearson

In Spirit and In Truth

John 4:23-24

 

My whole life, I have heard people talk about this passage. Pastors telling us we need to worship God in spirit and in truth, but what does that mean? How do I worship God in spirit and in truth? I will start by saying that I don’t know if what I came up with is right or not. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I always try to research the verses we’re talking about by taking the Bible literally, while keeping it in the context of the entire Bible. This has been a tough one, but I will tell you what I have found. At the same time, I would welcome your thoughts on the matter, feel free to post them in the comment section.

If we look at John chapter 4, we see that the first 42 verses are telling the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. We have all heard this story our entire lives, but I want to look at a few points in it. First, let’s look at the book of John as a whole. Notice John, Jesus’ best friend, doesn’t waste any time. He starts by proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ, the Word, and was in the beginning with God the Father. Then, John goes right into the ministry of Christ.

In chapter 3 we see that John the Baptizer is baptizing in one town and Jesus is baptizing in another. John’s disciples come to him and ask him about this because everyone is going to Jesus instead of John. Here is where John says, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30.

So, chapter 4 starts by saying that, because the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making more disciples than John the Baptizer, He decided to leave Judea and go to Galilee. But I want to point out verse 4 of John chapter 4, it says, “He had to go through Samaria on the way.” You see, it’s not that Jesus had to pass through Samaria because it was the quickest way to Galilee, it was actually out of the way. Plus, as a Jew, He would have been expected to go around Samaria even if it was on the way. So, what it comes down to is that Jesus needed to see this woman.

In this conversation, the woman asked Jesus in John 4:19-20, 19 ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?’” Let’s look at Jesus’ response to this question. He said in verses 21-24, 21 Jesus replied, ‘Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.’”

Let’s look at this phrase. Jesus said that at that time some worship God in one holy place and others worship Him in another holy place. Then He says that the day is coming, and it’s already here when true worshipers…let’s stop and look at that phrase. He says, true worshipers. The best definition of the Greek word, ἀληθινός alēthinós, (al-ay-thee-nos’) is “that which has not only the name and semblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name” (Tittmann, p. 155). So, He is talking about people whose very nature is worship. These people will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

These people, these true worshipers won’t need a place to go and worship God, they can worship Him in spirit wherever they are. So many churches, even to this day, keep the doors to their buildings open so their parishioners can have a place to come and worship. But why? We don’t need a building to go to and worship God! Look at the Church of the new testament. There is never any mention of a church building. They met in homes, in the street, the church at Philippi met by the river. In Acts chapter 2 it does say that they met in the Temple, but that was the Hebrew temple. Picture this for a minute. The Jewish leaders had just crucified Jesus, days earlier. Then His followers begin holding services in the courtyard of their temple, worshiping the one they just crucified…that took guts! So, them worshiping in the temple was a statement, not a religious act.

If you have never studied the book of John, I would highly recommend it. In fact, if you haven’t, stop now and do it…it’s that important. After studying it you may want to watch Mark Driscoll’s series on it, it’s very good. When you get to chapter 14 you will see that Jesus is telling us that He is the only way to the father, then in the second half of the chapter, He is introducing us to the Holy Spirit. In John 14:17 Jesus said, “He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” Do you see that? The Holy Spirit leads into ALL TRUTH! Then Jesus goes on to say that the world can’t see Him because they aren’t looking for Him.

In the last two verses of chapter 15, John says, 26 “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. 27 And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.” John 15:26-27. Here Jesus calls the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit of Truth.” He then tells us what the Holy Spirit will do in us. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will testify about Him and then we must testify about Him. You see, the Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus to us so that we can testify about Jesus to the world.

What I believe it comes down to is that first of all, we can worship God anywhere, it doesn’t have to be on a mountain or in a church building. We have the Holy Spirit living in us and must worship God in the Spirit. Secondly, we must come to God truthfully, with no pretenses. Worship Him in the council of the Bible; His word is truth (John 17:17). We must allow the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to speak through us in worship (Phil 3:3, Rev 1:10).

So, as you go into your day, ask the Holy Spirit to testify to you about Jesus and then tell others what He told you. Always remember that prayer is a dialog, not a monologue. When you pray, always listen, He’s trying to speak to you.

Peace, Love, Faithfulness, and Grace

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Peace, Love, Faithfulness, and Grace

Ephesians 6:21-24

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Thankful & Trust the Plan

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Give Thanks & Trust the Plan

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I wanted to interrupt our study of Ephesians to talk about giving thanks. Here’s the thing, Thanksgiving is not turkey day. It’s not about the huge Thanksgiving dinner, even though I love a good Thanksgiving dinner…or any dinner for that matter. It’s not about the football, or the gathering of the family, or even the pilgrims. You see, none of these things are bad, I love food, and family time, and even football, not so much in the last couple of years, but Thanksgiving is a day that our government set aside to give thanks to God for what He has done for us. That’s right our government set aside a day to give thanks to God, so don’t let anyone tell you that this country was not created as a Christian Nation. In fact, just a side note…no charge, the first joint session of the U.S. government consisted of a five-minute speech by George Washington at the Federalist Hall in New York City, followed by all of them walking two blocks to the St. Paul’s Chapel where they prayed for their new country for the remainder of the night. Also, did you know that the first Bibles printed in this country, were printed by Congress to be used in our public schools? Just a little food for thought.

So, what does the Bible say about giving thanks? First, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Did you see that? It says to give thanks in all circumstances. So often we let our circumstances dictate our attitude, but God tells us to give thanks, no matter what is going on around you. Okay, how is this possible? How can we be thankful in every circumstance? Look at Hebrews 12:26-28, 26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” 27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed so that only unshakable things will remain. 28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our, God is a devouring fire.” See what it says? “Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable”. No matter what happens on this earth, our Kingdom is unshakable! We can always be thankful because we abide in an unshakeable Kingdom. There’s an old song called, His Word Will Stand, and the lyrics say:

His Word will stand
His Word will stand
Though stars should fall
And mountains turn to sand
Though no man believes Him
Still, God will be true
His promise is sure
His love will endure
And forever His Word will stand.

God’s word will stand…always, even if no one believes it, He is unshakable, and His Kingdom is unshakable. This verse goes on to say that, since we have this unshakable Kingdom, we must be thankful and please God by worshiping Him with holy fear and awe. We throw around the word awesome a lot, but only God is truly awesome…only God is worthy of our awe. So, when we worship God and give thanks, we please Him, and that should be our ultimate goal in life. Let’s face it, pleasing God is why we are here, that’s why He created us.

Colossians 3:15 tells us, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” This passage is telling us how to live a new life in Christ. It tells us that, as different parts of one body…there’s that unity thing again, we must live in peace, and always give thanks…ALWAYS! The next few verses go on to tell us to let Christ’s message fill our lives. What is the message of Christ? The gospel, the good news. Notice it doesn’t say to read about the message of Christ, or to listen to a pastor preach about the message of Christ, it says we must let it fill our liver, verse 16, “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” This verse goes on to say that we need to teach and counsel each other, as one body, and sing praises to God with thankful hearts. Then he ends this thought with verse 17 which says, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” So, if you are a follower of Christ, you are an ambassador, whether you know it or not. You represent your Lord to this world, so give thanks!

We can’t allow the things going on around us to dictate our feelings. Remember, no matter what is going on, God has a plan. 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.’” Most of us know this verse, but have you ever read on? Look at the next 2 verses. Jeremiah 29:12-13 say, “12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” Don’t just trust in His plan but seek him wholeheartedly! What does Matthew 7:7-8 say? “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Yes, be thankful because God’s got this, but what good is God’s plan if we don’t know what it is? God is not going to force you to do His plan, He wants us to seek after Him and keep on seeking. He wants you to desire to know His plan for your life more than anything. So, to live a happy life, be thankful and seek God’s plan!

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