Who’s Your Spiritual Father?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Who’s Your Spiritual Father?

1 Corinthians 4:14-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Treated Like the World’s Garbage

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Treated Like the World’s Garbage

1 Corinthians 4:8-13

America today has become a nation of entitlement. This attitude of entitlement has spread like wildfire across our nation. Young people especially have this attitude that they are the smartest and the brightest and should get what they want and be given respect just for showing up. Now, when it comes to young people, this is nothing new. Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” The problem is that now, our 21-year-old people still think like that 14-year-old. Our colleges are perpetuating this phenomenon by telling them they are more educated and smarter than their elders. What does the Bible have to say about this? Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.” Proverbs 20:29 says, “The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.” Over and over the Bible tells us that wisdom comes with age. Of course, in 1 Timothy 4:11, Paul told Timothy, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” But Paul goes on in verse 14 to remind Timothy to remember the prophecies spoken over him by the elders. So, we shouldn’t despise their youth, as long as they are listening to the advice of the elders. Young people have a lot to offer, but they also have a lot to learn.

Paul was dealing with the same problem with the church at Corinth. Not with just the young people, but with the whole church. They thought that, because of their riches, they had arrived. He said in 1 Corinthians 4:8, “You think you already have everything you need. You think you are already rich. You have begun to reign in God’s kingdom without us! I wish you really were reigning already, for then we would be reigning with you.” They were so full of themselves that they thought they were already reigning in God’s kingdom. Doesn’t that sound like some of the TV pastors of today? Paul goes on in verse 9 to say that sometimes it feels like God has put the apostles on display and that they have become spectacles. In verse 10, Paul goes on to say, “Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed”. I have had several online discussions with young people lately, and that is the attitude they seem to have. Because I am dedicated to Christ, and not their religious views, I am a fool. They feel that I am weak, and they are powerful; they are honored, and I am ridiculed because I don’t follow the popular narrative.

In verse 11, Paul talks about them thinking themselves better than him because he had gone hungry, thirsty, not having enough clothes to keep him warm, and being beaten. But what did Paul tell Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12? He said, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Did you catch that? EVERYONE who wants to live a godly life WILL be persecuted! EVERYONE! So, if they weren’t suffering the type of persecution that Paul was, it wasn’t because they were superior to him, it was because they weren’t living godly lives.

In verse 12, Paul says something interesting. In the first part of that verse, he says, “We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living.” We, the apostles, work tirelessly with our hands to earn a living. Okay, it’s time to get controversial again. The command to bring the tithes into the storehouse was to provide for the Levites who weren’t allowed to work outside the church or even own property. There is no command in the New Testament to bring tithes into a storehouse and no mention of a storehouse at all. Instead, the New Testament teaches us to give our tithes and offerings; it actually tells us to give all our increase, to each other. We are to take care of each other. I know of a church that had a benevolence fund of over $200,000, and there were hardworking people in their body who weren’t able to make ends meet, and the church wasn’t helping them. This church has since realized the error in this and has started taking care of each other; in fact, their benevolence fund is very small now.

I realize there are pastors reading this who are gasping right now but study it for yourself and remember I am a pastor too. My church group meets in a park except on those few days it’s too cold to meet outdoors, and then we meet in someone’s home or business. We have found that by meeting in the park, not only do we not spend money on a building, but we can influence a lot more people who would never have darkened the door of a traditional church building. Also, as a pastor, I don’t take a salary from the church. I have my own business that God totally provided for me. I can make my living and at the same time, minister through my business. We don’t take an offering, although we do have a couple of people who God has led to give to our ministry, and that provides for the essentials. I encourage my people to give tithes and offerings, but to each other and those in need in our community.

Paul finishes this passage in the last half of verse 12 through verse 13  by saying that, even though we bless people who curse us, we are patient with people who abuse us, and when evil is spoken against us, we give a gentle answer. Still, they treat us like trash. Remember, Paul is talking about the church. Even though the apostles hold their tongues when the people of the Church are treating them badly, they are still treated like garbage by people who claim the name of Christ.

Each of us has been given spiritual leaders; in fact, Ephesians 4:11 tells us that these men are a gift from God. We need to start treating these leaders who God has put over us as gifts. We need to honor and respect them and learn from them, but at the same time, we are given the charge to test the spirits. If you test what your pastor is saying to scripture and it doesn’t line up, then you need to move on. But if it lines up with the word of God, then stand behind him, honor him and respect him as the spiritual leader God has put over you.

What Do You Have to Be Proud Of?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

What Do You Have to Be Proud Of?

1 Corinthians 4:6-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Us Four and No More

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Us Four and No More

1 Corinthians 4:5

I would not give my church upbringing for anything. I learned so much Bible there, and it is where I gave my life to Christ. It was a loving church, for the most part, but like all churches, it had its problems. My mom always jokingly said that church would be a great place if it weren’t for the people. One glaring problem with the church I grew up in was that it was an “us four and no more” kind of church. They believed that if you weren’t us, meaning their variety of their denomination, you weren’t going to heaven. Sometimes they would even preach entire sermons and even sermon series’ about why other churches were wrong.

When dealing with the subject of other denominations and churches, we must keep in mind what Jesus said. In Matthew 7:3-5, He said, “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” We all get things wrong in scripture; we are human. That’s why I always encourage people to check everything I say against scripture because as I always told my kids, I could be wrong, I was once before. We can’t be so dogmatic about our beliefs that we are condemning others. I keep saying this because it is so important, the only doctrine that should divide us is that of salvation by grace, through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, nothing else!

This is what the church at Corinth was doing, so Paul had to reprimand them one more time. In 1 Corinthians 4:5 Paul said, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” A more literal translation of that first line would be, “Therefore do not go on judging anything before it’s time.” It’s not our job to judge the world. Let’s look back at the first three verses of Matthew, chapter 7, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Matthew 7:1-3. Many religious people would say that they are ready to be judged by the same measure, but are you…really? Are you so confident in your pre-tribulation view over their mid-tribulation view, or your dispensationalism view, or your predestination view that you would be willing to be judged on it?

Notice back in 1 Corinthians 4:5 that it says, “before the time.” There will be a time of judgment, and Christ will be the judge. We need to stop worrying about what others believe and start making sure our lives are straight, we need to get our house in order as the prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1, “In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” We will all die, and after this, the judgment.

What does 1 Corinthians 4:5 go on to say? “but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts.” We keep trying to judge each other, but when Christ judges us, He will bring to light all the things we thought were hidden in the dark, He will even show the motives of our hearts. But here’s the beautiful thing, 1 John 1:9 tells us, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” So, if we confess our sins, He will forgive them, but it doesn’t stop there. Look at Hebrews 8:12, “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” We always say, “forgive and forget,” but there’s a problem with that. We can forgive each other, and we should, but we can’t forget. One of the many beautiful things about God is that when He forgives us, He can forget what we have done, it’s kind of like selective amnesia. He even tells us, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12. If you want to be encouraged today, stop and read all of Psalm 103, what a blessing.

Paul ends our text verse with these words, “and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5. We often focus on the judgment of God, and we should, to some extent, but I love that Paul ended this verse about judgment with this line. We don’t need to praise ourselves; we don’t need to go around tooting our own horns, all our intelligence and insight comes from God, so we are nothing but His tools. My handsaw doesn’t praise itself when it cuts a straight line; it cuts a straight line when I guide it that way, so why do we praise ourselves when we do something great for God? James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” There’s a lot in scripture about humbling ourselves, that’s a blog in itself.

So, this all comes back, as so many things in the New Testament do, to unity. As the body of Christ, we must stop judging each other and start loving each other. 1 John 4:7-8 tells us, Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” If we do not love each other, we don’t know God! That’s a pretty bold statement, but true. Stop judging your brothers and sisters in Christ and start loving them, and then, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35.

Not Seeking Approval

Ahhh ... The Sweet Life of a Gorilla
Photo by Michelle Pearson

I’m Not Seeking Your Approval

1 Corinthians 4:1-4

I enjoy people. I like to talk with people; I like to interact with people. I enjoy just being around other people. I got my first management position when I was only 21 years old, and I wanted to be the best manager I could be. I showed up early for every shift, I stayed on top of the paperwork, and I got to know my employees very well. Now, here’s the thing, in my early days of managing I had a supervisor who told me, if my employees like me, I’m not doing my job. I didn’t agree with that philosophy then, and I don’t to this day but, in the early days, I went too far in the other direction. As I said, I enjoy the company of other people, and quite frankly, I like to be liked. As a result, I had a real problem with my employees taking advantage of me. If their productivity was down, I’d help them catch up; if they didn’t show up for work, I’d pick up the slack. My employees loved me, but it wasn’t long before I was doing most of their work. I even had two employees call off together one beautiful Spring day because “it’s too nice out to come to work today.”

I began to realize that my employees would like working with me and still respect me; it didn’t matter if they liked me as a person. I wasn’t there to be their friend. I began making them toe the line and would write them up if they didn’t. I began treating them the way I would treat my sons. If they did wrong, I would hold them accountable, but if they did right, I would praise them. I just began treating them fairly. As a result, they loved working for me. I would have employees call in sick, and when they realized I was the manager on duty, they would decide to come in because they didn’t want to leave me shorthanded. I was everyone’s favorite manager, even though I had fired more employees than any other manager. What it came down to is that I stopped caring what they thought of me and started caring about helping them do their jobs to the best of their abilities, things ran much more smoothly after that.

This is Paul’s point in the first four verses of 1 Corinthians 4. In verse 1, he tells the church at Corinth to look at Apollos and him as servants of Christ. If you are a pastor, an elder, or a church leader of any kind, you must remember that you are just a servant of Christ who has been put in charge of those people. Far too often, church leaders let their authority go to their head, but if we think of ourselves as a doulos, a bondservant for Christ, we will keep that pride in check.

The first thing Paul tells us about being a leader is that we must be faithful. You see, in trying to make my employees like me, I wasn’t faithful to my company. I was trying to pick up their slack, but one person can’t do everything well. We must be faithful to Christ in our leadership. The writer of Hebrews even told the Church, “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.” Hebrews 13:7. If a leader is not faithful, the Church will have no example to follow. As leaders, we must remember our place. We are here for no other reason than to glorify God. John put it best when he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30.

Paul goes on in verse 3 to say, “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point.” I love this; he says that he doesn’t care what human authority might think of him; he doesn’t even trust his own opinion on matters of Christ. The Psalmist summed this up in Psalm 146:3-10 when he said, Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners.     The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly. The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked. 10 The Lord will reign forever. He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations. Praise the Lord! We are to respect and pray for our human authority but don’t trust in them, their time on this earth, as well as their time in power,  is limited. Instead, put all your trust in the Lord, who created all things.

Paul finishes this thought by saying, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.” 1 Corinthians 4:4. Paul’s conscience is clear, he knows that he is right beyond a shadow of a doubt, but he tells the church at Corinth not to take his word for it. We need to seek the Lord in everything! I say this all the time; I’m glad so many read my blog and listen to my podcast and have read my book, but don’t take my word for it, seek it out yourself. There are many pastors that I love to listen to and read, but I have a responsibility to check everything they say against scripture. God does hold pastors responsible for what they teach, but He also holds us responsible for what we do with it.

Everything Belongs to You

Grand Canyon
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Everything Belongs to You

1 Corinthians 3:21-23

 

There are several pastors to whom I enjoy listening. These are great men of God, and when I listen to them, I almost always walk away with something I had never seen before. But when they point out these things, I always go and study it out against what the Bible says, keeping it in context. I always remember that they are just people and can be wrong. I love learning new things, plus listening to these men helps me stay in the word since I always research what I learned. By the way, I hope everyone reading this blog does the same thing. Don’t ever take what I say as gospel, I am human, and as I always told my sons, I could be wrong, I was once before.

One of these pastors that I highly respect and listen to regularly does something with which I greatly disagree. It’s not any form of heresy, but it does go against scripture, though he clearly doesn’t see it that way. This man of God regularly talks about how he is a Calvinist; he even went as far as to name his son Calvin. Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with highly respecting another human, or even naming your child after that person. Michelle and I named our sons Joshua and Caleb, but to label yourself a Calvinist is the same as saying, “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos.” As we read a few weeks ago, “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?” 1 Corinthians 3:4.

Paul must have thought this to be an important topic as he repeats it at the end of the chapter. He wraps up this part of his letter by saying, 21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.

I love what David Guzik has to say about this, “Let no one glory in men: How prone we are to glory in men! We are more excited about being with the influential and famous of this world than about being with God. We value the gifts and honors of men more than the gifts and honors God gives. How we need to hear, let no one glory in men!” This is so true, so often we take more pride in the humans we follow then in God.

Here’s the thing, because we are in Christ, all things are our servants, even death itself. Nothing but Christ is our master; we are no longer a slave to sin or this world. This verse says that everything belongs to us, we belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to the Father. This is why the Bible talks so much about our freedom in Christ. Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” Then he goes on to say, 13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” Galatians 5:13-15.

So, because we are in Christ, all things are under our feet. Due to this, we have freedom in Christ. But here’s the thing, our freedom in Christ is a freedom to do what pleases Him; it is not a freedom to sin. As we just saw in verses 13-15, we are never to use that freedom to satisfy our lusts, that will make us a slave to sin again and would mean that Christ died in vain. And, through our unity in the body of Christ, we can’t let our freedom become a stumbling block to weaker believers.

Michelle and I are preparing to go back to Cedar Key to do ministry. Cedar Key is the island community we planted a Church in back in 2009 and God is calling us back. Through our freedom in Christ, we could drink alcohol, despite what many legalists say, the Bible never says it is a sin to drink, but we are going there to minister to addicts and alcoholics. If we were to drink in front of them and cause some of the new believers who had been slaves to alcohol to stumble, that would be a sin. With freedom comes responsibility.

But going back to our text, because we have this freedom in Christ, because all things are under our authority through Him, why in the world would we take so much pride in following any man? All things belong to me because I belong to Christ, and he belongs to the Father. Paul summed it up well in Galatians 6:14-16 when he said, 14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.”

Why would we boast in Paul, or Apollos, or Calvin, or Wesley when, in Christ, all things in this life belong to us? Our Father is the King of kings; He is the Lord of lords. He is the Alpha and the Omega. That’s what we should be boasting in!

The Smartest Man in The Room

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

The Smartest Man in The Room

1 Corinthians 3:18-20

My son has a friend; we’ll call him Rick, names have been changed to protect the identity of the annoying. Rick is one of those guys who, due to his insecurities, need to be the smartest man in any room. You know, that person who makes you ask yourself, “why does my son hang around him?” No matter what’s going on, no matter what the topic, Rick knows more than everyone else about that subject. And, he’s the guy that always says inflammatory things to see if he can get a rise out of people. No matter what the subject, he’s going to do his best to try to make you think he knows more than you.

Rick and I recently had a conversation about the Church in America, and every point I made he would come back with, “Well, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” I mentioned that, although Christ and His disciples spent their entire ministry fighting religion, the Church today has become little more than a religious organization. What was his response? “Well, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” I talked about how the Church today has become a corporation, and he came back with that same response. So, I asked him why Jesus ran the money changers out of the temple; he responded that they were making God’s house into a den of thieves…Hello!

We all know Ricks. We all know people who have that insatiable urge to top everyone else. But what does Paul say about this in 1 Corinthians 3:18-20? 18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.” 20 And again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.”

First, he tells us to stop deceiving ourselves. We can all end up in a place where we are deceiving ourselves, can’t we? I know there are times that I think I’m the smartest man in the room, but we need to keep our egos in check and realize that we can always learn from others, even guys like Rick.

This next statement seems to be a little contradictory, but Paul tells us that we may think we are wise by the world’s standards, but to truly become wise, we must first become a fool.

What Paul is saying here is that if you want to be truly wise, you must first renounce the world’s wisdom. You must be willing to look foolish in the world’s eyes; in other words, you must humble yourself to truly become wise. What does James 4:10 say? “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” We must humble ourselves first, then let Christ lift us up. Whenever we try to lift ourselves up, it doesn’t turn out well, even if we think it did.

The Bible talks a lot about humility. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” Matthew 5:5. And, when Jesus was talking about who will be the greatest in His kingdom, He said, “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:4. In fact, in Matthew 23:11-12, Jesus said, 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” So, if you truly want to be great, serve others…the world will never tell you that. But if you don’t humble yourself, He will humble you! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be humbled by God…just sayin’.

Let’s face it, our ultimate example for everything in this world is Jesus, and He gave the ultimate example of humility. Look at Philippians 2:5-11, You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

What does it say in verse 8? In obedience to the father, Jesus not only died for our sins but He, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the creator of everything, humbled Himself and died a criminal’s death. What does Galatians 3:13 say? “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” And, because of His humility, we read in verse 9 that God has given Him a name that is above every other name, and that at the name of Jesus every knee WILL bow and every tongue WILL confess that Jesus Christ IS Lord, and this will glorify the Father. Hallelujah!

So, when you feel that urge to try to sound wise to those around you, take a step back and think of ways you can humble yourself. Think of how you can serve that person. When I’m talking to someone like Rick, I get the urge to put him in his place, and sometimes I try to, but we need just to humble ourselves and, maybe we can learn something.

Our Calling

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Our Calling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Fights For Us

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

God Fights for Us

1 Corinthians 3:17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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