Foolish Preaching

3172710386_646d73583e_z
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Foolish Preaching

1 Corinthians 2:13-16

 

I have a friend who is older than me; we’ll call him Ron. I see Ron almost every day at work, and we have great conversations. We talk about the hikes that Michelle and I go on every week, about sports, politics, and the Bible. Ron is not a believer, although he is very religious. He is blinded by his religion as well as his intellect and thinks he knows more than everyone else, including God. He doesn’t believe that the Bible is the word of God; he believes that it’s a book written by theologians throughout history. He believes that the Old Testament is nothing more than a book about the history of the Jewish nation and has no significance. He says the God of the Old Testament was an angry God who was constantly destroying people and says he wants nothing to do with a God like that. I had challenged him to read the Old Testament, all of it, specifically paying attention to those times when God took out His wrath on His people and to look at how many chances, He always gave them first.

The last time Ron said this, I asked him if I could read my favorite verse in the Bible. When he said I could, I took him to Zephaniah 3:17 which says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” I then asked him, does this sound like an angry God to you?

But here’s the thing about Ron. No matter how many times he reads the Bible, or talks to pastors, or tries to reason it out, he will never understand the thoughts of God until he has been indwelled by God’s spirit.

In 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 Paul says, 13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” You see, when we speak by the Spirit, the world cannot understand us. Years ago, I knew two pastors in the same town who both pastored in the same denomination. One of them was a great man of God. He preached from the Word, discipled his people, taught them how to win souls, and ministered all over town. The other stood up every Sunday and read the sermon that had been sent to him that week. When I would speak about spiritual things with that one, he would stand there with a blank look on his face. You could see it went right over his head.

When I tried to speak with Ron or that pastor about spiritual truths, they both saw it as foolishness. As we just read in verse 14, that’s how the world will respond. 1 Corinthians 1:18 also tells us this when it says, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” So, if people see spiritual things as foolish, how can they be saved? Paul goes on to say, just a few verses later, “Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21. People will be saved through our foolish preaching. You see, we can’t save anyone! Throughout my life, I have heard so many pastors saying things like, “I saved 200 people this year.” No, you didn’t! If they were saved at all, it had nothing to do with you. God used your foolish preaching to reach people and bring them to salvation. When we preach, or blog, or do a podcast, or even witness to someone, we need to remember that all we can do is share the gospel and pray that the Holy Spirit does the rest.

Now, that doesn’t mean we say whatever we want and leave it up to the Holy Spirit; we must be prepared. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” And, then again in 2 Timothy 2:15, “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.” You see, the Lord will only bless our foolish preaching if we are prepared. We must study, work hard, and be prepared to give an answer. Look at the end of that last verse where it says, “who correctly explains the word of truth.” We must be ready to explain the word of truth CORRECTLY. The KJV says “rightly dividing,” and the NASB says “accurately explaining.” The only way you can accurately explain the word of truth is to know what it says. Read it, study it, meditate on it, and be ready to explain it. We must put aside everything men taught us and study the word by taking it literally and keeping it in the context of the whole Bible. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to pastors or read commentaries. What I am saying is when you do, test it against scripture, even what I am writing. God doesn’t want any of us to sit back and coast. He expects all of us to do the work.

In my book, Cathedral Made of People, I dedicated an entire chapter to this subject. Read Ephesians 4:11-16. In this passage, Paul says that God has given a gift to the Church in the form of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These people were given to the Church to equip them to build the body. A trainer for a bodybuilder doesn’t do the work for them. The trainer provides the proper equipment and teaches them to use it. In the same way, your pastor isn’t there to do the work for you; he is there to teach you how to use the equipment you have properly. So, let’s get to work and be prepared!

My Book is Here!

Front Cover Small
Available on Amazon

Well, it’s finally here. My book has been published and is available on Amazon in both paperback and electronic versions. My book is the same title as this blog and, although there will be some of the same content, it is different.

This book compares the early church we see in the New Testament to the Church today and looks at where we went wrong as well as what we can do to get back to where we should be. Together we are His house. Cathedral Made of People is a book to the Church and for the Church. Have you ever wondered why the Church today isn’t world changers like the early Church was? When studying to plant my first church, God led me to compare the Church today to the early Church of the New Testament. As I did this, I began to see vast differences that answered many questions for me. The first Church fought against religion, they focused on unity and were world changers, while the Church today is religious, divided, and largely ineffective. It is my goal through this book to awaken the Church to seek to be more like the Church of the New Testament.

Please read it and share it. If you are a pastor, share it with your church, if you are not a pastor, share it with your pastor. This is a message that we all need to hear and changes we all need to work on.

You can buy a copy by clicking on the link above, or contact me and I will ship you a copy. Also, and most important, pray for me and this book that the message will spread across the country and the world.

Am I Worthy?

27434801146_7d9907db69_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Am I Worthy?

This week, I would like to start looking at the 4th chapter of Ephesians. The first thing we need to remember is that Paul didn’t write the book of Ephesians in chapters and verses, it was a letter to the church at Ephesus. So, Paul starts out what we know as chapter 4 verses 1 by saying, “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”

Notice that he starts out by declaring himself a prisoner of the Lord. The Greek word used here is not the same word used by James, Jude, Peter, and Paul in other locations, that we spoke about last September in our 2-part series on the word “doulos”, but this word means the same thing. It is a bondservant, a servant by choice. I won’t go into depth, but you can read the series on my website.

Let’s look at the first word in the verse, “Therefore.” I had a pastor that used to always say, if you see the word “therefore,” you need to find out what it’s there for. If you read last week’s blog, we talked about Paul’s prayer for the Church. He ended that prayer by saying that, as a result of Christ living in us and empowering us, we will be able to do infinitely more than we could ask for or ever dream of. Because of that power, Paul is begging us to live a life worthy of that calling. But what does he mean by this statement?

I see it all the time on Facebook and Instagram, people saying, “you are worthy.” But, what does the Bible say about it? John the Baptizer said, “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Matthew 3:11. So, John, the cousin of Jesus and the forerunner of the Messiah, said that he wasn’t even worthy of being Christ’s servant.

Look at the Roman officer who came to ask Jesus to heal his servant. What did he say? “But the officer said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.’” Matthew 8:8. This was a Roman officer, respected by everyone who had enough faith in Christ that he knew that all Jesus had to do is say the word and his servant would be healed, but he didn’t consider himself worthy.

There are many other instances, such as Peter in John 13:8 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:9. Look at the parable of the great feast, which is a picture of heaven, where the master said, “The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor.” Matthew 22:8. And, Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.”

So, who in the Bible thought they were worthy? Let’s look at Matthew 7:22-23, 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” These are people who think they are worthy of getting into heaven, but Jesus tells them to go away. He says He never knew them. Remember, pride was the original sin. What did the serpent say to Eve? He talked her into eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by telling her that she would be like God. He played on her pride. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Saying that you are worthy is nothing more than pride. We are not worthy of salvation, we are forgiven. Salvation is a gift from God that cost His Son’s life, a gift that we don’t deserve.

So, we are not worthy, but Paul begs us to live a life that is worthy of our calling. And, what is that calling? Let’s look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28. In verses 19-20 it says, 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The Great Commission is to go and make disciples. A disciple is someone who imitates the one they follow. So, our calling is to imitate Jesus. What Paul is saying is to live a life that is as close to Christ as possible. That’s a high calling, but one we must strive for.

Going back to Ephesians 4, Paul tells us how we can live a Christ-like life. Look at verses 2-3, Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” The instructions are pretty simple: be humble, gentle, patient, stay close to the Holy Spirit, and…you guessed it, be united as the body of Christ.

If you wonder why I talk so much about the unity of the Church, it’s because the Bible talks so much about it, and the Church today isn’t doing it. The body of Christ is more divided today than ever. My book, also titled Cathedral Made of People, addresses this as well as other symptoms of the Churches disease. The book is the same title as this blog, but it isn’t the same. It is a compare and contrast between the Church of the New Testament and the Church today. It will be available next month on Amazon and some other electronic sources and my goal is to have it printed by the end of the year. So, as soon as it is out I will let you know where to get it and if you would like to see some ideas of what we can do to heal the Church, buy a copy and share it with your pastors to see what they think.

But, to sum it all up. Since you have that power living in you, pray that God will help you live a life worthy of the calling of Christ.

How Do We Stop Division?

2275941179_8c583b8f46_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

How Do We End the Division?

A few weeks ago, we looked at how the Gentiles were separated from God by religion, then last week, in my blog titled “Let the Walls Come Down”, we talked about ending division in the body of Christ. Okay, so if we are going to end this division, how do we do it? The beauty is that, just like with salvation, Christ has ended it for us and all we need to do is accept what He has done.

Let’s pick up where we left off last week and look at the next two verses. Ephesians 2:15-16 says, 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.”

Paul starts out these two verses by letting us know that the first thing Christ did to stop the division was to end the system of law. You see, the law did nothing but divide the Church. The Bible is clear that the law was never meant to save us, it was meant to show us our need for God. If we try to keep the law, we will just end up sinning. Take a minute to read Romans chapter 7, Paul explains it very well in that chapter. We also read in Romans 8:3, “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” So, the Jewish people of the Old Testament were not saved by the law as some will try to tell you, they were saved by God’s grace, through their faith in the coming Messiah. If you question that, read Hebrews chapter 11, now take a close look at everyone mentioned in that “Hall of Faith”; Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the people of Israel, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel, every one of these people lived before Christ, they all lived during the Old Testament times and were all saved by their faith.

So, Christ ended division, first by ending religion. You see, the religious people of the Old Testament times were the ones who made salvation about keeping the law, just like the religious people today often do. Religion is manmade and always tries to make it about us. But, the truth is, we can’t save ourselves, without the death burial and resurrection of Jesus, we have no hope.

Paul finishes verse 15 by saying that Christ was able to end the division between the two divisive groups, “by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.” He made us all one body. I believe I showed you these verses last week, but they are worth looking at again, Galatians 3:26-29 says, 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” So, what exactly is this saying? It says that once we are in Christ, ALL division is gone. He says there is no more racial division, there is no more sexism, there is no more class envy, and why is that? Because we are all one in Christ!

So, Christ ended religion, He ended racism, sexism, classism…He ended all the isms. The reason we don’t see denominations in the New Testament is that Christ ended them when He died on the cross.

Verse 16 goes on to say that he brought us together as ONE BODY. So, how did He do that? As this verse goes on to say “Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross” Christ’s death on the cross ended denominations, it ended division, it ended religion. Religion and division were hung on the cross with Christ!

Paul ends this passage by saying, “and our hostility toward each other was put to death.” Friends, if you belong to a church group who are hostile toward anyone, you need to leave, it’s that simple. And, it’s time to ask ourselves, “has my hostility towards others been put to death?” If the answer isn’t a resounding YES, even if you had to hesitate for a moment to think about it, then you need to take care of that right now. Lay the burden of hostility, hate, and division at the feet of Jesus. As it says in Psalm 55:22, “Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”

Here’s the thing, it’s not really our doctrines that divide us, it’s our pride. You see, we have developed these doctrines and will fight for them to the death. Many of which were contrived by taking scripture out of context, or even worse, someone came up with an idea and then took scripture out of context to back it up. I’ll say it again, the only doctrine that matters is salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ…absolutely nothing else matters! Paul told the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.” Again, nothing else matters!

Our God Is An Awesome God!

40465944561_4c88183fde_o
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Our God Is an Awesome God!

I know, I’ve been on somewhat of a kick of old worship songs, but this is another one I’ve always loved. Rich Mullens wrote this song back in 1988 and many only know the chorus, but I think the verses say so much. The first verse says,

When He rolls up His sleeves
He ain’t just putting on the ritz
(Our God is an awesome God)
There’s thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fists
(Our God is an awesome God)
And the Lord wasn’t joking when He kicked ’em out of Eden
It wasn’t for no reason that He shed His blood
His return is very close and so you better be believing that
Our God is an awesome God

Then the second verse says,

And when the sky was starless
In the void of the night
(Our God is an awesome God)
He spoke into the darkness
And created the light
(Our God is an awesome God)
Judgment and wrath He poured out on Sodom
Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross
I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten that
Our God is an awesome God

Isn’t that powerful? Our God truly is an awesome God! I want to look at what Paul says about this, and it is picking up where we left off in his prayer last week. Look at Ephesians 1:19-21 where Paul continues his prayer and says, 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.”

So, he starts out by saying that he prays that we understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe. Remember that one of the attributes of God is that He is omnipotent, which means, “All Powerful”. For those who have been following me for a while, you might remember a series I did on the names of God that are used in the Bible, and how each of these names describes one of God’s attributes. Many of those names speak of His power, names like; Jehovah Jireh – The Lord is my Provider, Jehovah Rapha – The Lord is my Healer, Jehovah Sabaoth – The Lord of Angel Armies, El Elyon – The Most High God, and one of my favorites, El Shaddai – The Lord is More Than Enough!

Some translations of Ephesians 1:19 say “exceeding greatness”. This is a picture of throwing beyond, going far past what we might expect. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Do you see that? God can work through us weak humans to do infinitely more than we could ask for, or even think possible…Wow! If we look back in John 14:12, when Jesus was telling his disciples that He was going to send them the Holy Spirit, He said, “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.”

The word used here that was translated “power” is the Greek word, Dunamis, which means “inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth”. This is the word that we derive the word dynamite from. It is explosive power and a power that naturally occurs. In contrast, whenever the Bible talks about Satan’s power, it uses the word, Exousia, which means, “the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises.” You see, Satan’s only power is the power that God allows him to have for a season. God’s power, on the other hand, is an explosive power that naturally occurs within Him.

Paul goes on to say in verse 20, “This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” So, the power that is within us, His children, is the same mighty power that He used to raise Christ from the dead, the power that ascended Christ into heaven, and seated Him at the right hand of the Father. That power is in US!

Then he goes on to say that because of this power…the power that we also possess, “he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come” verse 21. Christ is far above all other rulers. The Bible says in Philippians 2:9-11, Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This is the God we serve, and because we serve Him, His power is within us. Acts 4:13, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” So, Peter and John were obviously uneducated men. We’ve all known people like that, as soon as you look at them you know they are uneducated, maybe a little backward. But, have you ever known people like that, who confound you in their boldness and knowledge of scripture? People who have obviously been with Jesus? That’s how we all need to be! It’s not about our wisdom! 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, 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. 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. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” Remember, it’s not about you!

We all must ask ourselves, “When the world looks at me, do they see that I’ve been with Jesus?” That must be our goal!

What It Means To Be A Child of The King

40324059145_9a6c21a976_o
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

40734730974_b799847538_o
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?

 

40421558832_d4681ddb36_o
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.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑