Sitting at The Head Table

Acostas with the Visitors
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Sitting at The Head Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But God…

Rainbow Over Cedar Key
Photo by Michelle Pearson

But God!

I’ve been sitting in a meeting room at a hotel near Disney Land all day doing continuing education for my day job. One of the things the instructor told us is, when speaking with employees, never use the word, “But”. His reasoning is that managers and administrators should be using the old, “compliment sandwich”. We should be opening with things they are doing right, then telling them what they need to correct and close with another compliment. He said that if we use the word, “But”, the employee will forget about the praises and prepare themselves for the correction.

While this is fine as a management style, God doesn’t work on our playing field. Remember, Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” You see, we can’t even fathom what God is thinking, or how He works. God often tells us the horrible state we are in, then negates it with the statement, “But God.”

We see this phrase, “But God”, sixty-four times in the Bible. We see in Genesis 8:1, “But God remembered Noah…” and in Genesis 21:12, “But God told Abraham…”. We see it in Psalm 73:26 where it says, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” In fact, we see this phrase used over and over throughout the Old and New Testaments telling us of times throughout the course of history when God stepped in.

The passage that I would like to focus on today is found in the first few verses of the second chapter of Ephesians. Verses 1 through 3 talks about how we were once dead because of our disobedience and sin. It says we used to live in sin like the rest of the world does, and that we obeyed the devil who is the “commander of the powers in the unseen world.” Don’t forget what we talked about a couple of weeks ago regarding this word, “power”. The word used here is that word, Exousia, which means, “the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises.” So, Satan’s power is just the power that God is allowing him to have, for now, none the less, the world follows him whether they realize it or not. Why is this? It tells us in Ephesians 2:2 because “He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” You see, if a person doesn’t know God, if they haven’t accepted what Jesus did for them on the cross, the Devil is “the spirit at work in their heart.” Remember also that Satan comes to them as an angel of light. He fools them just like he did to Eve in the garden, playing on their pride. Remember what he said to eve? In Genesis 3:5 Satan told Eve, “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” He played on her pride and told her that if she goes against God’s word, she will be like God…that’s how he works.

Paul ends those first three verses by saying in verse 3, “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature, we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.” Doesn’t that sound like the world today? Aren’t they always saying, “Do whatever feels right to you” and “Do whatever makes you happy”? That’s Satan working within them!

And, here comes the “But”. The next two verses say, But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” So, we used to follow the Devil and live for ourselves, “But God is so rich in mercy”. Isn’t that beautiful? Romans 5:10 tells us, “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.” Do you see that? He restored our friendship, while we were His enemies…that’s mercy.

Why does He have this great mercy toward us? Look at the end of verse 4, because “he loved us so much” He loves us, even though we are totally unlovable. He loves us in spite of ourselves. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Zephaniah 3:17, it 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.” Do you see that? “He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” God sings over us, that’s how much He loves us.

So, God had such great mercy on us because He loved us so much that, even though we were spiritually dead because of our sin, He gave us new life…wow! I heard a pastor once say that God doesn’t give us second chances, He gives us New Beginnings, isn’t that beautiful? That’s what this is a picture of. He doesn’t say that we were dead in our sin, so He gave us a do-over, it says that He gave us a New Life. This isn’t a mulligan, this is wiping the slate clean and starting anew.

And, how did He accomplish this? By raising Christ from the grave! Remember what Paul said just a little earlier, that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is in us. You see, everyone else that people worship died and is still in the grave, but Christ is the only one who overcame the grave. He is the only one who ever defeated death, and that’s because He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last!

I love the parenthetical at the end of this verse, “It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!” That sums it all up, if it wasn’t for the grace of God, we would all be on our way to hell. Many ask how a loving God could ever send anyone to hell, but the truth is, He doesn’t. He made the way so easy that even a child could understand, but remember, Satan plays on our pride and that’s what sends people to hell.

We don’t need to be standing on a street corner shouting, “repent”, we need to be telling everyone we meet about the overwhelming love of God.

One Church, One Body

Sunrise Service 20120408
Photo by Michelle Pearson

One Church, One Body

            Again, with the church unity thing, right? Well, as I have stated before, the unity of the body of Christ is one of the key themes of the New Testament. Paul said in Ephesians 1:22-23, 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”

He said that God has put everything under Christ’s authority…EVERYTHING. If we look back in the last chapter of Matthew, what we refer to as The Great Commission, it says, “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.’” Matthew 28:18. Jesus said it Himself, God gave Him ALL authority in heaven and earth! In fact, we read in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” So, if someone tries to tell you that we are all on different roads to the same place…no we are not! God made salvation so simple that even a child could understand it. My five-year-old grandson recently accepted Jesus as his savior, it’s that simple. God didn’t give us many roads to salvation, He gave us one. In fact, Paul said in Galatians 2:21, “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” Don’t you see? If there was any other way, why would Jesus have gone through what He did? His death would have been in vain! Again, in Philippians 2:9-12 it says, “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 will 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.” God elevated Jesus to the place of HIGHEST HONOR! God gave Jesus a name that is above every name…JESUS…EMMANUEL…GOD WITH US! And, yes, I’m still on that old chorus kick. Another chorus I grew up singing in church said:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

There’s just something about that name.

Master, Savior, Jesus

Like the fragrance after the rain

 

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

Let all Heaven and earth proclaim.

Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,

But there’s something about that name.

There truly is something about that name!

The end of Ephesians 1:22 says, “and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church.” So, why did God elevate Jesus above all things? For the benefit of the Church! And, why did God want to benefit the Church? Because “the Church is His body.”

All throughout the New Testament, we see the Church referred to as the Body of Christ. Paul goes into great detail in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 to explain to us how this means we must be united. We can’t all be mouths, we can’t all be eyes, we are all different parts of one body and must function as one unit. You see, if a body has parts that won’t cooperate with the rest of the body it is said to be diseased. If your hands won’t do what your brain tells them to do, or your feet won’t go where you want, there is something wrong.

But, here’s the thing. If you look closely at 1 Corinthians 12, you will see that those different parts aren’t different denominations or different belief systems. Those different parts are the different gifts of the Holy Spirit. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if we don’t set aside our petty denominational differences and come together as One Body, the Church will just continue in the downward spiral it is in. Do you wonder why the Church is looked down on and trivialized, even laughed at in the world today? It’s because there is a state of disease in the body. The head is telling the feet to go to someone to help, but the feet aren’t responding. The head is telling the hands to reach out and touch someone, but the hands are stuck in the pockets and aren’t doing anything. We must start being the body and listening to the head.

The beautiful thing is, as the body of Christ, we are “made full and complete by Christ.” Colossians 1:18 tells us, “Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.” Okay, we are the body, but Christ is the head. Your body must do what your head tells it to do, again unless there is a state of disease. Christ is the head of the body, the Church, so we must go where He tells us to go and do what He tells us to do.

I love how Ephesians chapter 1 ends, it says that Christ “fills all things everywhere with himself.” Wow, isn’t that beautiful? Everything is filled with Christ. So, if you are In Christ, something we talked about several months ago, you are filled with Christ…with His light. But, we must make sure that we are truly in Christ, and not just in religion. Luke 11:34-36 says, 34 “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. 35 Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. 36 If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”

So, if you are in the true light, there will be no darkness. As it says in verse 35, “Make sure that the light you have is not actually darkness.” Many people who claim the name of Christ and think they are in the light are actually blinded by religion. They think they are following Christ, but they are actually living in darkness. Examine yourself using the Bible as your guide. Take scripture in context and set aside anything that men have taught you. Study the word and ask God to show you the truth. Be the Body!

Open The Eyes of My Heart

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Open the Eyes of My Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is God’s Mysterious Plan?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

What is God’s Mysterious Plan?

In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, Paul wrote, “God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan.” Ephesians 1:9. So, God has a mysterious will regarding Christ, but He has revealed it to us. Okay, then how is it a mystery, if He has revealed it to us? The definition of the Greek word “musterion”, which we translate “mysterious”, is “generally mysteries, religious secrets, confided only to the initiated and not to ordinary mortals.” It’s a mystery that has only been revealed to the select…His followers. Later in this letter, Paul wrote, “As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me.” Ephesians 3:3. He then went on to say in verse 5 that God did not reveal this to previous generations, He waited until the time was right.

Okay, now that we have that cleared up, what is this will? It is to fulfill His good plan! Okay…so, what is the plan? Look at verse 10, “And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” At the right time! So, what’s the right time? Paul tells us in Galatians 6:9, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” All throughout the Bible, we find verses about God’s timing. We must wait on God! The Psalmist told us in Psalm 27:14, “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Because, remember what God said to Isaiah, 8My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth-, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9. We can’t quantify God in any way. His thoughts are so far above ours that we can’t even fathom them.

So, “At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ.” Everything in heaven and earth will be brought under Christ’s authority. Going back to Ephesians chapter 3, verse 6 says, “And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.” This mysterious plan is that everyone is welcome into God’s family. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are from, as the old children’s song says, “they are precious in His sight.”

The Greek word used here for “at the right time” is “Oikonomia” which means, “The management of a household or of household affairs.” So, what He is saying here is, when God’s house is in order, He will bring everything under Christ’s authority. When will His house be in order? People have tried to guess this for centuries. In the early 80’s there was a book called, 88 Reasons Why Christ Will Come Back in 1988…I guess he was wrong. People said He would come back at Y2K…wrong again! The fact is, as Christ told us in Matthew 24:36, we can’t know, the angels don’t know, even Christ Himself doesn’t know when He will come again. You see, God doesn’t want us to know, because He wants us to always live like it will be today. The Apostle Paul expected Christ to return in his lifetime, and so should we.

But, He doesn’t stop there, check out Ephesians 1:11, “Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” There it is again, why do we receive an inheritance from God? Because we are united with Christ! As I’ve said before, one of the key themes of the New Testament is Unity of the Body of Christ. I’m going to keep bringing this up because the Bible keeps bringing it up. If we don’t tear down the walls that divide us, we will never be effective in this world.

In 1991 the Christian singer Steve Green wrote a song titled, “Let the Walls Come Down”. The lyrics of this song say:

All throughout the spirit realm a fearsome battle rages
The fates of men and nations hang suspended in the fray
Walls designed by Satan in the twilight of the ages
Now stand as great divisions all across the world today

Walls not born of government nor strife amid the nations
But walls within our churches and between denominations
Stones of dry tradition carved in fear and laid in pride
Become a dismal prison to those withering inside.

I love what he says here. These walls within our churches and between denominations are built with stones of dry traditions and they are carved in fear and laid in pride and the Church is the prisoner within these walls. It all comes down to pride, that is what divides the Church. We all think that we are right and everyone else is wrong. Again, the fact is, the only doctrine that matters is that of salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Much of the doctrines that divide the Church were taken out of context from the beginning. Once again, if we are to make a difference in this world, we must be united in Christ…there is no other way. If we are to receive the inheritance from God, we must be united in Christ.

He ends this passage by saying that God has chosen us in advance, as we talked about last week, and that He makes EVERYTHING work out according to His plan. Notice, not according to our plan, but His plan. And, His plan will always bring glory to Him!

Frances Chan said this, “To be honest, I believe part of the desire to ‘know God’s will for my life’ is birthed in fear and results in paralysisWe are scared to make mistakes, so we fret over figuring out God’s will. We forget that we were never promised a twenty-year plan of action; instead, God promises us multiple times in Scripture never to leave us or forsake us.” And the real kicker; “I think dwelling on God’s plan for the future often excuses us from faithful and sacrificial living now. It tends to create a safe zone of sorts, where we can sit around and have ‘spiritual’ conversations about what God ‘might’ have planned for our lives. Thinking, questioning and talking can take the place of letting the Spirit affect our immediate actions in radical ways.” It still hits me like a brick to read this and to realize once again that if I stay close to Jesus, I really can’t make a wrong decision. (WOAH!) Yeah, let that sink in for a moment. You cannot make a wrong decision. Yes, there are good, better and perhaps best decisions. Forgetting about God’s will for my life does not mean that God has no plan and He’s just up there winging it. But what I think it means to me is that God’s will IS simply for me to be close to Him, and if I am close to Him I’ll already be where I am supposed to be,”

Doesn’t that make a lot of sense? Stay close to God and DO. If He needs to redirect us, He will. But if you are doing anything to glorify God, you are in His will.

Grace…The Final Frontier

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Grace…The Final Frontier

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

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

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

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

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

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

What It Means To Be A Child of The King

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

What It Means To Be A Child of The King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Father’s Love

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

A Father’s Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Want Every Spiritual Blessing?

 

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

 

Do You Want Every Spiritual Blessing?

After Paul finished his greeting, he began his letter to the church at Ephesus by saying, in Ephesians 1:3, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.”

He begins his letter by praising God. I think this is something that we, as believers, miss far too often. We need to praise God more…much more! Not just on Sunday morning when we’re singing the worship songs in church or on the freeway when we missed a near accident, but all the time. We need to praise God in our homes, we need to praise God at work, we even need to praise God when we are stuck in traffic. The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” I love how Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it when he said, “We are not sitting here, and groaning, and crying, and fretting, and worrying, and questioning our own salvation. He has blessed us, and therefore we will bless him. If you think little of what God has done for you, you will do very little for him; but if you have a great notion of his great mercy to you, you will be greatly grateful to your gracious God.”

Paul goes on to say that God has blessed us. Christians today, especially those of us in the West, often see blessings as monetary. In fact, you can turn on the television any day and hear a pastor preaching this very message. But, what does Paul say here? He praises God for “every spiritual blessing”. Notice he doesn’t say anything about physical or monetary blessings, he thanks God for every spiritual blessing. Spurgeon also said, “Our thanks are due to God for all temporal blessings; they are more than we deserve. But our thanks ought to go to God in thunders of hallelujahs for spiritual blessings. A new heart is better than a new coat. To feed on Christ is better than to have the best earthly food. To be an heir of God is better than being the heir of the greatest nobleman. To have God for our portion is blessed, infinitely more blessed than to own broad acres of land. God hath blessed us with spiritual blessings. These are the rarest, the richest, the most enduring of all blessings; they are priceless in value.” Don’t you love that? Our thanks ought to go to God in thunders of hallelujahs for spiritual blessings! When was the last time you thanked God for spiritual blessings? For that matter, when was the last time you asked God for spiritual blessings? I noticed this passage years ago, and yet for me, it’s still not often enough. We are so focused on the physical that we often forget the spiritual. Oh, we might remember it in church, or when we read a blog about it, but we need to ask God to remind us of it daily. We need to ask God to open the eyes of our hearts to those spiritual blessings, He would be happy to, I’m sure.

David Guzik said, “If we have no appreciation for spiritual blessing, then we live at the level of animals. Animals live only to eat, sleep, entertain themselves, and to reproduce. We are the only creatures on this earth who are made in the image of God and He has something much higher for us, yet many choose to live at the level of animals. God wants us to know every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united in Christ.” The world keeps trying to tell us that we are just animals, but we know that we are much more than that. We are the only creatures who are made in the image of God. We are the only creatures with a soul, I’m sorry to break this to you, but all dogs don’t go to heaven, they don’t have a soul. We have a purpose, whether you have found your specific purpose or not, we are all here to glorify God!

The verse doesn’t end here though. It goes on to say that we have those spiritual blessings “because we are united with Christ.” I know that I often sound like a broken record, but this subject is just too important not to talk about. This is one of the key themes of the New Testament. Over and over again, the Bible tells us how important it is that we are united, and yet we keep dividing ourselves. In John 17:22-24, when Jesus was praying to the Father just before His crucifixion, He said, “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!” Did you catch what He said there in verse 23? He said, “May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” Christ prayed for our perfect unity so that the world could know that He was sent by the Father and that we are loved. Why doesn’t the world believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Because we have lost His perfect unity!

I’ve said it many times before, but if we don’t set aside our petty differences and unite as the body of Christ, we will never be effective in this world. Again, the only doctrine that matters is that of salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in Christ, that’s it. God wants us to be united in Christ alone. It’s time we stop following men and start following God!

Back to The Beginning

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

Back to The Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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