What’s a Pastor to Do?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

What’s a Pastor to Do?

Have you ever wondered why God gave us Pastors? Well, let’s look at Ephesians 4;11-12 and see what the Bible has to say about them. It says, 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”

So, the first thing this tells us is that Christ Himself gave the Church 4 gifts; Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors. How often do you look at your Pastor as a gift from Jesus? If you don’t, maybe it’s time you start…just a thought. Anyway, let’s take a minute to look at these 4 gifts.

  1. Apostles, these are special ambassadors of God’s work, they provide a foundation for the Church as described in Ephesians 2:20, “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.”
  2. Prophets are also here to provide a foundation for the Church, as we just saw in Ephesians 2:20. The Prophet is defined in the Strong’s Concordance as: “One who, moved by the Spirit of God and hence His organ or spokesman, solemnly declares to men what he has received by inspiration, especially concerning future events, and in particular such as related to the cause and kingdom of God and to human salvation.”
  3. Evangelists are specifically gifted to preach the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
  4. Pastors and teachers (or, pastor-teachers; the ancient Greek clearly describes one office with two descriptive titles). The role of a pastor goes far beyond just teaching, the word literally means shepherd. The shepherd is responsible for the wellbeing of the sheep.

These gifts of the Spirit are given at the discretion of Jesus, working through the Holy Spirit, as we see in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

So, what does this passage say the pastor’s job is? We all know that he is to shepherd the Church, but what is his specific job? Verse 12 gets right down to the brass tacks, it says, “Their responsibility is…” that’s pretty clear, right? So, what is it? “to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” So, the pastor is a trainer for a bodybuilder, the Body of Christ. He makes sure we have the proper equipment, and that we know how to use it. But, even if the bodybuilder has all the best equipment available, and has been taught how to use it, but doesn’t put any work into it, he won’t be effective. Like in the movie Central Intelligence, Kevin Heart’s character asked Dwayne Johnson’s character, “What did you do?” referring to his muscles, and Dwayne’s character said, “I just did one thing…I worked out six hours a day, every day, for the last twenty years straight.” You see, the pastor is not there to do the work for us, he is there to equip us and make sure we are doing the work properly. And, by the way, that work can never end. I once saw an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he was asked if he will ever stop working out. His answer was that if he stopped, it would kill him. He said that he would have to keep working out for the rest of his life. We can never stop doing the work. One of my favorite stories was told by a former pastor of mine, Terry Larimore. He was talking about a visit to his 92-year-old grandfather, who was a retired pastor. He said that when he walked into the room, his grandfather was sitting at the table reading his Bible. He looked at Terry and said, “Come here Terry, let me show you what I learned today.” You see, we can never stop doing the work, we can never stop learning, we can never stop growing.

The next thing it says is, the pastor will keep doing this until we are mature and can measure up to Christ’s standard, and after that, we won’t be swayed by false doctrine. We will be so immersed in the Scripture that nothing or no one will be able to move us. We will be so filled with the Word of God that when those false teachers come, and they will come, we will speak the truth in love, and in every way, we will grow more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body…we will become Christians, Christ-like. I love the way he ends this passage. In verse 16 he says, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Christ, being the head of the body is the glue that holds us together. Then, after we are mature and held together in Christ, we will work together to be healthy and grow and full of love. Did you see that? We are training so that we can work together as one body to become more like Christ. And, notice he is very clear that we all are different parts of the same body. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:17, “If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?” So, we need to celebrate our different Spiritual Gifts and grow together in Christ.

You see, we were not called to be spectators, we were called to be doers of the word, James 1:22, and we were called to be disciples or imitators of Christ, Matthew 28:19. If we all would set aside our preconceived beliefs and what we have been taught by people, and study the Bible, in context as a whole, we wouldn’t need all the different denominations. If we all did this, I genuinely believe we would all believe the same things. Now, of course, we are human, and we will probably have some minor differences, but overall, we will see eye to eye. Overall, we will be united, we will be one body.

How

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How to Love Your Wife

Men are typically self-centered and proud…there, I said it. But, it is true! We naturally think of ourselves first. Have you ever noticed that nowhere in the Bible does it tell women to love their husbands? God didn’t have to tell them that, because loving comes naturally to most women. Men, on the other hand, need to be reminded over and over. We tend to focus on one thing at a time, and it is usually ourselves. That’s why it’s not as common to hear of women neglecting their families for their carrier, but it happens all the time with us men. So, God reminds us several times throughout scripture to love our wives.

I was reading in Ephesians 5:25-33 the other day and wanted to share a few things I learned. This passage says, 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.30 And we are members of his body. 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

As you may have noticed in my previous blogs, I believe it is important to go back and look at the original language to help us keep scripture in context, so let’s analyze this one. Look at verse 27, it says “He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church…” The Greek word translated “present” also means “stand by”, and the word translated as “glorious” also means “gorgeous” and “Honorable”.  Later in this verse, it says that He presents this church without any blemish, which also means “without rebuke, without blame”, and then he uses the same word at the end of the verse where it is translated, “fault”. So, what these first three verses are actually saying is that we husbands should love our wives the way that Christ loves the Church. He loved His Church so much that He gave His life for her, just so He could present and stand by her, as a glorious, gorgeous and honorable Church without a spot, or wrinkle, or any other blemish, in other words, without rebuke or blame. And, instead of looking like that, He made her holy, set apart, and without blame. That’s how we are to love our wives.

In the next three verses, God goes even further by telling husbands to love their wives the way they love their own bodies. You see, God knows how selfish and self-centered we are, so He tells us at the end of verse 28, “For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.” He’s playing on our self-centeredness and pride. And, then He says in verse 29 and 30, “No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.”

In verse 31 he says, “As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’” This is referring to Genesis 2:24 where it says, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a beautiful picture that pastors have used for centuries, but what’s even more beautiful is when you look at it in the Hebrew language. The word translated as “one”, also means, “another”. So, when God says that we will become “one flesh”, He isn’t saying that we will both become the husband, or we will both become the wife, it is saying they will become something new, “another flesh”. When a man and woman come together as husband and wife, they become another flesh, they become something altogether new…isn’t that beautiful. We also see this relationship between Christ and His Church in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

In verse 32 he says, “This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” So, this great mystery of two people becoming something altogether new illustrates what? You guessed it, this illustrates the Unity of the Church…there it is again. I can’t stress how important Church unity is. This topic is seen continually throughout the New Testament. The problem is that the Church today is no longer united, we are divided into different denominations and subgroups. And, what did Jesus say about a house divided? IT WILL FALL! (Matthew 12:22-28)

He ends this passage with verse 33 where he reiterates what he has been saying, “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” There again, notice that even after this long dissertation about men loving their wives, he doesn’t say that women should love their husbands, he says they should respect their husbands, which really puts the onus back on us men because respect must be earned…just sayin’.

So, to answer the question of how men should love their wives, it’s pretty simple. Love her the way Christ loves us, He gave His life to make us holy. Then, love her the way you love yourself. Take care of her, feed her, clothe her, and put her first. If we do this we will be obeying God, and as a double bonus, our wives will respect us. So, to put it simply…Love Her!

Sitting at The Head Table

Acostas with the Visitors
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Sitting at The Head Table

I’m sure we have all been to wedding receptions or banquets. Everyone is sitting around those big round tables with the white tablecloths, often surrounded by six or seven other people you don’t know. If you look up in the front of the room, you see the head table where the wedding party or the honorees are sitting. Those people at the head table always seem to be having the best time. They all usually know each other and let’s face it, this is their day.

Have you ever had the opportunity to sit at that table? If you are married you probably did at least that one time, and maybe at an awards ceremony in high school, but it’s not something that most of us do more than once or twice in our lifetimes. But, the day is coming when we will all get to sit at the head table, the one that really matters.

Look at Ephesians 2:6-7, For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” Do you see that? He raised us from the dead, remember we were dead in our disobedience and sin, then He seated us with Him in the heavenly realms. Wow, that’s better than any head table I’ve ever seen. But, that’s how much God loves us. He doesn’t just forgive us, He doesn’t just raise us from the dead, He brings us to the front of the room and sits us next to Him. In fact, Romans 8:34 says, “Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” Isn’t that awesome? No one can condemn us, because Christ died for us and is pleading our case to the Father.

Now, since God has done all this for us, we are obligated and should desire to live for Him. Colossians 3:1-4 says, 1Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” So, since we have a new life, we need to fix our eyes on heaven. We must die to this life and live for Christ. Frances Chan once used an illustration of a rope. He had a rope that came in from the back of the room, ran up and down the aisles, up onto the stage, and ended in his hand. The tip of the rope that he was holding was painted red. He said that the rope represented eternity and the red tip represented our life here on earth. He then asked why we are so concerned about this little red tip, and not about the rest of the rope. We need to take our eyes off the red tip and fix them on the rest of the rope. Take a look at the video.

The reason we are still on this earth is to be ambassadors. We are ambassadors of our homeland, heaven, to this foreign country we live in, earth. As ambassadors, we must represent our homeland in a positive way. We need to live our lives before the world the way Christ lived His life on earth. The pastor I grew up underused to say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people ever open.” If they know you are a Christian, they will be watching to see if it is real.

Okay, so how did this happen? Why are we raised from the dead with Christ? He tells us very clearly in this passage, the end of verse 6 says, “because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Yep, there’s that unity thing again, are you beginning to see a theme? It’s not my theme, it is one of the key themes of the New Testament. Again, how many different denominations do you see talked about in the New Testament? Just sayin’.

As with everything, there is only one reason that God did all of this, for His glory. Verse 7 says, “So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” Have you ever been sitting in a room full of people, whether it was at church, or a meeting at work or school, and the person speaking uses you as an example in their speech? An example of a good thing, of course. How does that make you feel? Even the shyest person feels pretty good about being pointed out in that way. How much more special will you feel when God uses you as an example to future generations of how His grace and kindness affected your life? To coin a phrase, I could only imagine. Remember, glorifying God is our job, “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.” Isaiah 43:7.

So, the next time you find yourself envying the people at the head table, know that one day you will be at an even better, even bigger, even more, important head table. If you have accepted what Jesus did for you on the cross, if you have confessed your sin to Him and asked Him to be the Lord of your life, you will one day be seated at His right hand. Look at John’s description of the throne room of God in the book of the Revelation and know that one day, you will be there seated with Jesus…wow!

Open The Eyes of My Heart

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Open the Eyes of My Heart

We used to sing a worship song in church that says,

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You

To see You high and lifted up
Shinin’ in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy

This song came from what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:18 when he said, “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.” We’ll get to this verse in a minute, but first I want to look at the verses leading up to this statement.

This is the beginning of his letter to the church at Ephesus, which was a church that he had never met. In verse 15 he talks about their reputation, he tells them what he has heard about them. It says, “Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere.” So, what was their reputation? It was faith and love, he said he heard about their strong faith in the Lord Jesus and that they loved God’s people everywhere. Did you catch that? They loved God’s people…everywhere. They had no prejudiced toward anyone. You would not believe some of the hateful and prejudiced things I have heard coming from the mouths of pastors, even while they are preaching. God loves us all, and if you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your personal savior, you are my brother or sister no matter what color your skin is or what denomination you might belong to.

Paul goes on in verse 16 to say that he has not stopped praying for them. This makes me think about what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 where he said, 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” You see, we are to pray without ceasing, and that’s exactly what he did for this church. Now, of course, that doesn’t mean we should do nothing but pray, but anytime God brings something or someone to our mind, we need to stop and pray.

So, what did Paul pray over them? Did he pray for wealth and prosperity? Did he pray for their health? No, let’s look at what Paul prayed over the church at Ephesus. We find it in verse 17, “asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” The first things he prayed was that they have spiritual wisdom and insight. In today’s world, we think that blessings mean that we will have a lot of money. We think that blessings equal monetary increase, but nowhere in the Bible does it say that, or even elude to it.

The first thing he prayed is that they would have wisdom, and how do we get wisdom? James 1:5 tells us, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” The word in this verse that is translated as “ask” is the Greek word, aiteo {ahee-teh’-o} which doesn’t just mean to ask, it also means to beg, crave, desire, and even require. If God is going to give you wisdom, you must crave it and beg for it, and seek it out. We require food to live, so we always find ways to get food. So, wisdom needs to become our food. He also prays that they will have insight, meaning revelation in the knowledge of God, or true knowledge.

Okay, so he prays that they will have wisdom and insight, or true knowledge, but for what purpose? He says, “so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” So, he prayed that God would help them understand God better! One of the most important things that we as Christ followers must do is to understand God better. Another song we used to sing years ago was called “I Want to Know You”, and the lyrics said:

In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness you are there
In the secret, in the quiet hour
I wait only for you
Cause I want to know you more

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more

I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more

Do you want to know God? Do you crave the knowledge Him? Paul finished this prayer in verse 18 by saying, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” He prayed that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened…he prayed that God would open the eyes of their hearts so they could see Him. This needs to be the prayer of every Christ follower, that God would open the eyes of our heart that we might see Him, that we might know the hope of His calling.

So, what is His calling? 2 Timothy 1:9 tells us, “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.” Do you see that? He called us to live holy and set apart lives. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

My oldest son started a praise band when he was in high school and called it Peculiar Nation, because of this verse. We are expected to be holy or set apart. In Christ we are a royal priesthood, we are both kings and priests. We are a holy…set apart nation. We are God’s own possession.

Stop right now and ask God to open the eyes of your heart so you can see Him in the beauty of His holiness.

Grace…The Final Frontier

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Grace…The Final Frontier

I know, the Star Trek reference might give away my nerdiness, but it seemed fitting. We’ve talked about faith, so now let’s talk about grace. If you’ve spent any time in the Bible you know that salvation comes through our life-changing faith in God, but only by His grace. So, what exactly is grace? Merriam-Webster defined it as, “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification”. In other words, grace is a free gift from God. It is something we can’t earn or achieve on our own.

In Ephesians 1:6-8, Paul said, So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” So, in verse 6 Paul thanks God for the “glorious grace he has poured out on us”. First, he said “glorious grace”. The Greek word for “glorious” is Doxa, which means “a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honor, and glory.” You see, God’s grace always results in His praise, honor, and glory. So, this doxa grace, this glorious grace has been poured out on us, but not on everyone, just on those “who belong to his dear Son”. If you belong to Jesus, you are covered in God’s grace, it has been poured out on you. I love this picture of His grace being poured out on us. Michelle and I like to hike, in fact, we do it every weekend. Many of our hikes lead us to waterfalls, and invariably, we see people standing under the waterfall…that’s the picture of God’s grace being poured out on us, it’s like standing under a waterfall of His grace.

Paul went on in verse 7 of this passage to say that God’s kindness and grace are so rich that He bought our freedom with the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s a high price, in fact, that’s the highest price possible. He bought my freedom with the blood of His only begotten Son! Think about that for a minute. Again, let’s picture that illustration of grace as a free gift. To us, the receivers of the gift, it is totally free. There is nothing we can do to earn it because let’s face it if we had to earn it, it wouldn’t be a gift, would it? But, on the giver’s side, there is always a price, even if it was a homemade gift, it cost that person time and materials. I remember one year for Mother’s Day, my brothers and I pulled together all of mom’s S&H Green Stamps, I know that is dating me somewhat, but we used them to buy her a figurine. Of course, she told us how much she loved it, and it sat in our living room for years to come, but it wasn’t a gift, because she paid for it. With a gift, there is always a price to be paid by the giver, and God paid the ultimate price for our freedom. There are those out there who will tell you that we are all on different roads to the same place, but that is simply not true. The Bible tells us, John 14:6 “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” And, again in Acts 4:12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Redemption only comes through Christ! Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” So, if we could be saved by any other means, then Christ died in vain!

Ephesians 2:6-7 tells us, For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.’’ There it is again, that ever-present theme of unity. Why has God raised us from the dead and seated us in the Heavenly Realms? Because we are united in Christ! Again, as with everything, this is for His glory, He seated us in the heavenly realms so that He could point to us in the future as examples of the “incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us.”

Notice that He didn’t just pour out His grace on us. The verse says, “along with all wisdom and understanding.” There is an old hymn that says, “There shall be showers of blessings”, and while that is true, I don’t think that is an accurate depiction. This verse says, “Poured Out”, there is a deluge of blessings. He has doused us with His kindness, wisdom, and understanding…wow! James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” I learned a lesson on this verse years ago from my youngest son. When he was about thirteen he read this verse and believed it. So, he started praying and asking God for wisdom every day, and Caleb is now one of the wisest men I know. The Bible is true, in fact, it is truth, so we must start believing it, not just say we do.

One of the things I love about this passage is the word kindness. You see, there are thirty-one verses in the Bible that tell us that God gives us wisdom and understanding, but this is the only verse that adds kindness. God has poured out on you and me, grace, wisdom, understanding, and kindness. What a beautiful picture!

What It Means To Be A Child of The King

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

What It Means To Be A Child of The King

There’s a lot of talk in churches and on Christian programming today about all the things that I can do because I am a child of the King. This statement in and of itself isn’t wrong, the problem lies in the intent.

God calls us His children over and over throughout scripture. Romans 8:17 tells us that we are children of God and even joint heirs with Christ, but it doesn’t stop there, read the whole verse, “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” Do you see that? If we are going to share in Christ’s glory, we must also share in His suffering as well. I realize that many are reading this and saying, “wait a minute, I didn’t sign up for this.” But the truth is that if you didn’t sign up for the suffering, you won’t be getting the glory.

You see, the problem with the statement at the beginning is that we tend to put the emphasis on us, rather than on the King. We say, “I am a Child of the king” instead of “I am a child of the King”. Our emphasis is on the child instead of the King.

But what does the Word of God tell us? When people started trying to give glory to John the Baptist, he said 27 “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. 28 You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ 29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:27-30. When people started praising John he redirected the praise to Jesus. He said that Jesus is the bridegroom, I’m just a groomsman. It’s all about Jesus, I’m just here standing with Him. Then he said in verse 30, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” It’s all about Jesus!

Americans today, not just the millennials, have an attitude of entitlement. We think we are owed things, that we deserve certain privileges. We expect to get everything handed to us on a silver platter. Our parents or grandparents were from a generation that was hard working, they were called “The Greatest Generation”. They worked for everything they had. They came through the Great Depression, followed by World War II and rebuilt this country from the ground up. They had a saying, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, and that was their mentality. All that hard work paid off, and their kids and grandkids reaped the benefits. Now, we expect to get paid $15.00 an hour to run a cash register at McDonald’s, but don’t expect us to know how to make change. I have about thirty employees that I manage, and you wouldn’t believe some of the things they expect. The mentality today is that it’s all about ME!

The truth is, we only deserve judgment. Jesus said in Revelation 3:17, “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” That is our generation! We think we have it made, but without Christ, we are nothing. Look at the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:13-20. The first seven verses are talking about all the things he has and how he thinks he has it made, then in verse 20, we read, “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?” Then He ends it in verse 21 by saying, “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” You see, money is not the root of all evil, it’s the love of money, 1 Timothy 6:10.

As Christ followers…as children of the King of kings, we must get our relationship with Him right. We must get our priorities straight. The fact that we are children of the King is none of our doing. God adopted us into His family as we saw last week. Yes, we must accept the free gift of salvation, but it’s nothing we worked for, nothing we earned. That is why we can’t be good enough to get into heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” You see what it’s saying? Salvation is not something you can earn, so you can’t boast about it. Basically, these two verses are saying, It’s Not About You!

We were chosen to be children of the King so that we would glorify the King. Isaiah 43:7 says, “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.” You see, we were created to glorify God, not ourselves. God tells us over and over to humble ourselves. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” If you want to be honored, you must humble yourself, if you want to be a leader, you must become a servant. Jesus himself said it best in Matthew 20:25-28, 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

So, let’s start today by taking the focus off of ourselves and putting it on God. Let’s really be children of the One True King!

A Father’s Love

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

A Father’s Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to The Beginning

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

Back to The Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord’s Actual Prayer – Part 2

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

The Lord’s Actual Prayer – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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