What Do You Have to Be Proud Of?

3680790112_5a90560c77_z
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.

Our Calling

Thomas Guesthouse
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Our Calling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Fights For Us

3587836824_613165cdc1_z
Photo by Michelle Pearson

God Fights for Us

1 Corinthians 3:17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Makes Us Grow

14527551556_98108aecd8_z
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

3509564798_6befc80fe0_z
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.

Plain Speech

3198231776_b30643a780_z
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!

Boast in the Lord

38654982750_538db279ae_z
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Boast in The Lord

1 Corinthians 1:30-31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live in Harmony, Life’s Not a Solo

3077323593_fde8fb8106_m
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Live in Harmony; Life’s Not a Solo

1 Corinthians 1:10

 

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

But I digress, this isn’t a blog on politics, it’s a blog about unity. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says a lot in just 41 words, take a look at it, “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” First, Paul is appealing to the Church, but not on his own authority, in the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. We all need to take this lesson from Paul; he never did anything in his own strength, he did it all in the authority and strength of Christ. Notice also that he doesn’t specify that this is to the church at Corinth, he says, “dear brothers and sisters.” You see, all of Paul’s letters were written to specific churches, but for the Church as a whole, because once that church was finished reading it to their body, they would pass it on to other church gatherings around the region. Eventually every church in the known world would have read it, and of course, some of them were included in the canon of scripture, and we all got to read them.

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

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

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

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

You Are Blessed Because You Believed

2825321771_4eaa499177_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

You Are Blessed Because You Believed

Luke 1:26-45

 

For many, the Christmas season is a truly blessed time, it’s my favorite time of the year. We get to be with family, see our children or grandchildren and watch them open their presents. But sadly, the Christmas season is not a blessed time for everyone. This time of year has the highest incidence of suicide. I believe that everyone, in their core, want’s to be blessed. We all know people, and maybe we are that person, who will say to someone as they are leaving, “have a blessed day.” The Bible tells us that Mary was blessed, but why was she blessed.

In the first couple of chapters of Luke we read the story of the birth of Jesus. This time of year, we often focus on chapter 2, but for this let’s look at chapter 1 for a minute. The first 4 verses are Luke introducing himself and telling why and how he wrote this book, then he gets right into the story. But he doesn’t start with Mary, instead he starts with Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin.

Now, Zachariah and Elizabeth were quite old. They had been praying for a son for years, but Liz was said to be barren. Zach was a priest of the order of Abijah and we read in verse 6 that they were both righteous in God’s eyes. Zach was chosen by casting lots to burn incense in the sanctuary. You see, there is no coincidence with God, He even controls where the dice will fall. While in the sanctuary, an angel appears to Zach. The angel tells him that God has heard his prayers and that his wife was pregnant. The angel even tells him that it is a boy, they didn’t even have an ultrasound first, and that he was to name the boy John. Now, look at what the angel tells Zach about his son in verses 14-17, 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God.17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

So, this angel tells him that his wife is pregnant in her old age, that it will be a boy and then all these other details about his life, and what is Zach’s response? “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Luke 1:18. So, what does the angel say next? “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” Luke 1:19.

Let’s take a look at what just happened. The angel Gabriel came to Zach and let him know that he was about to receive what he had been praying about for years, and Zach didn’t believe him. So, this means that, although Zach had been praying for a son for years, he didn’t really believed that God would do it. Don’t we all do that sometimes? We ask God to provide something, all the while in the back of our minds, not believing He will do it.

We’ve all probably heard this story many times. Gabe made Zach a mute until John was born because of his disbelief.  So, now let’s look at how Mary handled the same event in her own life.

Six months later that same angel, Gabriel, appears to Mary and says, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Luke 1:27. This confused and disturbed Mary, but Gabe said to her the same thing he said to Zach, “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” and once he calms her down a little bit he says, “for you have found favor with God!31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Luke 1:30-33.

Notice what happens next. Mary questions this but doesn’t doubt its possibilities. So, Zach doesn’t believe that his wife can get pregnant when she is old, even though he would have undoubtedly known the story of Abraham and Sarah, While Mary believes that she can conceive, even though she is a virgin. She says, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” So, because she asks an intelligent question, without doubting, he answers her by saying, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.” Luke 1:35-37. And, this is how Mary responds, “Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’ And then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38.

Next, Mary immediately goes to visit Liz. It says that she went to Judea a few days later and this is where we see the unborn John the Baptizer leaping in his mother’s womb when they come together. Think about this, Mary had just conceived Jesus a few days earlier and John recognizes Him.

But I love what Liz says in verses 44-45, 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” She said that Mary was blessed because she believed the Lord would do what He said he would do. Here’s the thing, God wants to bless us, but He won’t do it if we don’t have faith. He wants to see that we believe first, then He will bless us to overflowing. Have a blessed week.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑