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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What Do You Have to Be Proud Of?

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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.

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.

Our Calling

Thomas Guesthouse
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Our Calling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Temple of God

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

The Temple of God

1 Corinthians 3:15-16

It’s interesting that this verse came up now, right after the burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In fact, it would have been posted last week, but I did the Easter blog instead. It never ceases to amaze me how many times things like this happen. When I right these blogs I do it expositional, going straight through a book of the Bible, so when the blogs line up with current events, I know God is doing something.

Now, I’m going to do my best to not be too controversial here. It is a shame to lose such an architectural masterpiece, especially since it is almost nine-hundred years old, but the Notre Dame Cathedral is not now, nor has it ever been, the house of God. That’s not just a statement about the Catholic church, our God does not live in buildings! Look at what Paul said in Acts 17:24, “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples.” You see, these buildings, these cathedrals, are nothing more than exhibitions of what man can do. They are not the house of God and, quite frankly, were not built for the glory of God.

I’ve had people tell me that God commanded the Hebrew people to build a beautiful, ornate temple. That is true, but He had them do that because that temple is where the Holy Spirit lived, the Jewish temple of the Old Testament was the house of God, but your church building today is not. In fact, I challenge you to do a study of the New Testament and find where the Christian Church had a temple or building, it isn’t there.

Look at the crucifixion. Matthew 27:50-51 says, 50 Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart.” That curtain mentioned in these verses was the veil that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple. That veil was eighty feet tall and as thick as your hand is wide, and it ripped from top to bottom. Why did it rip? Because the Holy Spirit was moving out, He was moving into us, His church. From that point on we didn’t need a building to house God, He was housed in us, that’s why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” These buildings are not for God, they are for the men who built them and paid for them. They are just more religion.

In this week’s passage Paul said, 16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. So, not only is your body the temple of the Holy Spirit, but all of us together make up the temple of God, that is why I named my book, Cathedral Made of People. We are His temple, not some of us, not just a certain denomination, but everyone who believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ is part of that body. If we as the Church are ever going to be effective in this world, we must set aside our denominational differences and come together as one body with Christ as our head. Again, I am not suggestion ecumenicalism, I am saying that everyone who believes in salvation by lifechanging faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone is part of that Body. If you believe in a works-based salvation, or salvation by any other means, you are not part of that body, “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6. But if you do believe, it doesn’t matter what denomination you are part of, you are my brother or sister, part of the Body of Christ.

Verse 17 of this week’s passage says that “God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple.” God’s love for His Church is unfailing! He will defend us when others come up against us, Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” See that? He won’t have His angel armies fight for us, He himself will fight for us! So keep calm and trust God!

The end of verse 17 says, “For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” God says that we are His holy temple, we are set apart for Him. That is a beautiful picture of God’s love. Our God, the God who created the universe and everything in it loves us so much that He will personally fight for us. That’s what a father does! God protects us because we are His holy temple, we are adopted into His family, we are His children.

Let’s work together to tear down the walls of denominational division. Steve Green wrote a song in the 90s called, Let the Walls Come Down. Take a minute, go on YouTube, and listen to the lyrics of that song. This is the only way that His Church will ever be effective in this world. I recently did a study of what the Bible has to say about unity of the Church. I found that the topic of unity is talked about in about ten percent of the verses in the New Testament, that’s significant! Of all the topics in the New Testament, ten percent are about the unity of His Church.

God Makes Us Grow

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

God Makes Us Grow

1 Corinthians 3:4-9

 

Michelle and I live in a 3rd-floor apartment about 20 miles east of Los Angeles. About six months ago, we were at a farmer’s market, and she saw a stand that sells succulents. She talked about how she wanted a succulent garden, so we bought six or seven of them and put them on our balcony.

For a couple of months, I was pretty faithful to go out there about once a week and water them. The problem was, to get to the balcony, I had to open the blinds, take the stick out of the top of the sliding glass door, take the other stick out of the bottom of it, unlock the door, open the door and screen, then go out and water the plants, if I remembered what I was doing by that point. Once I got them watered, I had to do all that in reverse. So, needless to say, I didn’t stay faithful to it for long.

Last week, Michelle opened the blinds and noticed all those succulents that had not been watered in about three or four months and then decided to go out there and water them herself. Yesterday I looked at them again, and they were green and perked up. That’s the beauty of succulents; they are really hard to kill.

Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:4-9 which says, When one of you says, ‘I am a follower of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I follow Apollos,’ aren’t you acting just like people of the world? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.”

So, those baby Christians were arguing about who they followed. But do you see what Paul said? Paul might plant, and Apollos might water, but it is only God who can make the plants grow. You see, Michelle didn’t make those plants grow, she just watered them, God made them grow.

I think we all do this at some point in our lives; it’s human nature. We see some Pastor or Evangelist and place them on a pedestal. Sadly, that is what has happened to most of the body of Christ today, only instead of Paul and Apollos, we say “I am of Calvin” or “I am of Wesley.” We need to realize that it is the same thing that the church at Corinth was doing. We are as much spiritual babies as they were. Calvin may plant, and Wesley may water, but only God can give the increase. We get so caught up in listening to what men have told us that we don’t do the work of studying it for ourselves.

The problem is that the pastors today think it is their job to spoon feed us, but we can’t blame them, that’s the only option we give them. As we talked about last week, we leave a church because “we weren’t being fed there.” Here’s a news flash, it’s not your pastors’ job to feed you! We also talked last week about needing to take some time to desire the sincere milk of the word of God. If we do that, we will grow up and learn how to feed ourselves. We can’t be satisfied with being fed for the rest of our lives, we must work towards feeding ourselves, and that’s your pastor’s job, to get you to that point.

So, if we grow up and learn to feed ourselves, we won’t find ourselves following the teaching of men, we will follow the teaching of God. We will learn to do the work of studying the Bible in the context of the whole Bible. We will study the original language; we will read and study the entire Bible; we will look at the history of what was going on at that time. Again, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t listen to the preaching of men, but we must do the work of checking what they say against the truth of scripture. We must study it even further than they taught us. We must “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15.

What it all comes down to is that we need to choose who we will follow. Joshua posed this question way back in the early part of the Old Testament, when he said, 14 “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15.

If you put anything or anyone above God, that thing or person is an idol. If you say, “I am of Calvin” or “I am of Wesley,” you are making those men an idol, whether you realize it or not. So, stop now and ask yourself, “Who am I going to serve?” Am I going to serve Calvin? Am I going to serve Wesley? Or, am I going to serve God? As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord!

We Can Know!

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We Can Know!

1 Corinthians 2:10-12

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boast in the Lord

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Boast in The Lord

1 Corinthians 1:30-31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putting the Strong to Shame

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Putting the Strong to Shame

1 Corinthians 1:26-29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Is The Wise Man?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Where Is the Wise Man?

1 Corinthians 1:20-25

Last weekend Michelle and I took a very quick trip up to Redding, California. We drove over 8 hours each way to visit Bethel Church and were truly blessed there, that will be for a future blog. But God didn’t stop there; He also blessed us by a couple we met. Amore and Terry had also driven to Redding to visit this church, but they live a little closer to it, in Fulsome. Michelle and I arrived at the church early Saturday morning. It was cold and raining, but we made our way into the building and were sitting in the foyer when this couple came in. We immediately hit it off and in minutes were in deep conversation about the love of God and what He has done in our lives. It was amazing how, even though we were so different in some ways, our lives paralleled each other in a multitude of other ways. God truly brought us together with this couple.

After we were finished with that amazing service, again, for another time, Amore asked if we would like to go to lunch with them. It didn’t matter that we had just met them, or that we had another 8+ hour drive ahead of us, we quickly agreed as we didn’t want this time of fellowship to end. So, the four of us went to a small restaurant just a few miles from the church and sat for 3 hours talking, sharing stories, and praising God. Amore had us on the edge of our seats talking about the things God has done for them in their lives. But here’s the thing, like us they are not wealthy, but they are blessed. They don’t have a lot of physical possessions, but they have a close relationship with God. Also, like us, they have never been to seminary or Bible college, and yet we were amazed at the wisdom that poured out this man. Amore didn’t go to Bible college; he went straight to God. You see, it isn’t about the world’s wisdom, or the college you went to, or what you have learned from men about the Bible, it’s about God’s wisdom and what He reveals to you from His word and your daily fellowship with Him. I remember one time while watching the TV program, Restaurant Impossible; I heard the host, Robert Irvine, talk about how he never went to culinary school, he just learned under some great chefs. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s not about the school you learned from; it’s about how much time you spent at the feet of the Master. It’s like something they said at Bethel, “It’s not about the anointed man of God, it’s about the anointed God of man.”

Today I would like to look at 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 where it says, 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

The first thing Paul does here is he asks some questions. He asks where the wise men, scribes, and great debaters are. Next, he says, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” That’s how it is. We think we are so wise with our big words and fancy educations, but it’s all foolishness to God. We try to impress people with all of our knowledge, but it doesn’t mean anything to God.

He goes on to say how, through the world’s wisdom, it didn’t come to know Him. That is so true! The world’s wisdom tries to explain away God. The world’s wisdom has come up with nonsense like evolution, and even though it is nothing more than a theory, they teach it in our schools as if it is a fact and mock you if you believe otherwise. My degree is in biology, so when someone tries to tell me that they believe evolution because it is scientific, I love to ask them to quote the laws that govern science. The first rule is that, if something is to be considered scientific, it must be observable and repeatable. So, by the rules of science, evolution is not scientific at all, it is nothing more than a faith based belief system.

Paul goes on to say that, because the world doesn’t find God through their wisdom, He is pleased, it actually says He is “well-pleased,” to save us through the foolishness of preaching. He says that when we preach Christ crucified, it is a stumbling block to the Jews because they don’t believe that He is the Messiah, and it is foolishness to the Greeks because they seek worldly wisdom. Let’s face it, there is nothing scientific about faith, but that’s the point, isn’t it?

And, here’s where it gets really beautiful, it says that for those of us who are the called of God, no matter what our background is, Christ is the Power of God and the Wisdom of God! Wow, that is so true! If we have Christ, we have the Power of God, and we have the Wisdom of Christ. What more do we need? We don’t need human power or human wisdom; we simply need Christ!

I love how Paul wraps up this part of his letter. He says in verse 25, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” You see, God’s foolishness is wiser than the wisest man, and His strength is stronger than the strongest man.

So, when you start thinking of yourself a little higher than you should, picture yourself up against Christ, then step back and take a look at yourself. If that doesn’t make you feel tiny, nothing will.

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