a-fishy-tale

Is Your Faith A Fishy Tale?

a-fishy-tale

Two deacons sat in a row boat fishing early one Sunday morning. The church bell rang and the one deacon said, “Better row to shore. It’s about time for church to begin.”

The second deacon sighed. “I can’t go to church today. My wife isn’t feeling well.”

We come up with a lot of reasons not to go to church, for instance, when we have friends or family visiting from out of town. Our visitors may not be churchgoers, and we don’t want to offend them, but when we go to church we show them our priorities. They may not accept our faith in Jesus, but at least they know what is important to us.

Invite your visitors to go to church with you. It may be exactly what they need. They may not attend with you, but that’s alright. As Christians, we are responsible for living out our faith; unbelievers are not.

Sometimes we feel that our time to visit is so limited that we want to make the most of that time together. An hour or two worshipping with other believers is a sign to your friends about the necessity of Jesus in your own life. Isn’t the importance of Jesus to you something you want your friends to know?

It’s easy to talk about how important Jesus is and how He is the love and center of your life, but when you don’t actually live that way because your friends or family are more important … it belies all the witnessing to them you’ve tried. Your faith becomes something of a fishy tale.

“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus (Matthew 4:19-20).

awake-o-sleeper

Awake! O Sleeper!

awake-o-sleeperI must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work (John 9:4).

Saturday morning, December 31, 2016, police were summoned to an alarm call near my hometown. A silent alarm had been triggered at the Stadium Cinemas in Cornelius, Oregon, and sheriff’s deputies rushed to the scene.

The night before, an unnamed man had fallen asleep during the last showing of the riveting new Star Wars movie: Rogue One. Police found the man who woke up Saturday morning in the empty theater and helped him exit the building.

The Bible says, Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light (Ephesians 5:14).

Like the man in the movie theater, many of God’s people are spiritually asleep, unaware of God’s working all around them. Life in Christ is too exciting to sleep through. Since we’ve escaped the darkness and death of sin, we must wake up from our slumber and be about the Father’s business. Turn away from the wickedness of the former life and serve Jesus.

Are You Not of More Value

of-more-value-than-theyLook at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26).

Years ago I worked for a computer assembly company. Most of my fellow employees respected the fact that I was a pastor and they controlled their language when I was around. One man played it different. He made a habit of saying every nasty comment, filthy word, and ridiculing jibe he could think of when he saw me.

One day on lunch break he noticed that I was eating a hard boiled egg.

You Christians are such hypocrites,” he said in front of everyone. “You’re against aborting babies yet you’ll eat the unborn baby of a chicken.

The guy wasn’t up on his farming or his biology. He was ignorant of the scientific difference between a fertilized and unfertilized chicken egg. He also didn’t know anything about the differences between a chicken and a human. He believed the evolutionary theory that animals and people are equals.

The Bible tells us that God created Man special, in His own likeness and image (Genesis 1:26). Of all the living creatures of earth, only into Man did God breathe and give life (Genesis 2:7). Of all the works of His hand, only for Man did God give His Son as a sacrifice for sin (John 3:16).

God Himself established the value of human life – born and unborn.

The Rock of My Salvation

dsc01260The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let God be exalted, the Rock of my salvation! (2 Samuel 22:47).

The older we grow, the more we look back at where we’ve been instead of forward to new adventures. Our weakened vision is offered as realistic wisdom and we effectively become discouragers of others following God’s path as they walk with Him in grace and by faith.

As David looked back upon his life, he knew God as his defender and help. It’s not that he wasn’t an able warrior or king, but that God was great. He had learned to trust Him in every victory and gave Him all glory.

A man told me that God had never tested him; that man didn’t know God. It’s the tests of life which reveal the genuineness of our faith and glorify God for His faithful and steadfast character. To say God is a rock, is a world of difference from saying that God is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer.

David’s description of God as his rock doesn’t picture a stone or a boulder. The word refers to an entire mountainside; something immovable and unchanging with the winds of time or the moods of men. Jesus is the believer’s Rock and our Hope of eternal salvation. He is the firm foundation upon which we rest when weary, stand in times of uncertainty, and discover shelter in every stormy blast.

Superman

supermanFor we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses … (Hebrews 4:14).

Superman is an American hero. Born on the distant planet of Krypton, he was sent to Earth as a baby to avoid the destruction of his homeworld. The last of his kind, this alien looks and acts like any other human, except that he has the power to fly, possess enormous strength and speed, and has superhuman sight and hearing. He can do what no ordinary human can do.

Most people would deny it, but too often Christians acts as if their pastor is a spiritual Superman. When tragedy or need strikes, he is the one called upon to swoop in and save the day. Many pastors do little to dispel this myth. Like everyone else, we like to be needed.

As opposed to the Roman Catholic Church, one of the hallmarks of Scripture is the emphasis on the priesthood of all believers (First Peter 2:9-10; Revelation 1:6; 5:10). A priest is one who ministers to or serves God. As Christians, we are each priests before God through Jesus Christ our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1). Every believer, through Him, offers spiritual sacrifices and prayers to God. There is no one but Jesus who can stand between a person – even a person in dire need – and God the Father.

Whether it’s in a hospital room or a dining room, God hears the prayer of every believer just as well as He hears the prayer of any pastor (1 John 5:14-15). Jesus is the basis for answered prayer.

If you are in mental anguish or spiritual failure, the Holy Spirit uses the Scriptures as you read them to bring spiritual comfort (Romans 15:4-5). God’s Word is the same whether read by you or a clergyman.

Rather than call on a man in a collar, behind a desk in a church building, or with a divinity degree, call upon Jesus Christ. He is your great High Priest who rules over the household of God from His seat in Heaven (Hebrews 4:14; 10:21). He is forever as close as the mention of His name.

Many but One

Many but One

Different but NecessaryAs long as there are two people left on planet earth, no matter who they are, they’re going to be different.

I’m often told how much my son looks like me. Looking back at photographs of the two of us, there are many similarities. One of my favorite pictures is of a 1-year old Daniel and I sitting on the couch eating pickles: same facial expression, same hairline, same everything … but he’s still very different from me.

We sometimes consider our differences as weaknesses. It’s why we want the same new technology, teens demand the same style of basketball shorts, and we’re shamed into group-think.

But consider your body. Your ear is important. So is each finger, toe, and nerve ending. Even the parts of our bodies that medical science used to say have no valuable function, like the appendix, we now know are vitally important to a healthy life.

Being different is a strength rather than a weakness when we are found in Jesus. Being free to possess and share a different opinion, gift, function, or skill is an advantage when we’re using those differences for the good of the whole. We all need each other. We need the strengths that only others can bring to our own weaknesses.

The body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body … (First Corinthians 12:12).

Jesus brings different people together in His body for His praise, glory, and service.

The Lost and Found

Image result for girl with fatherHome was a place of laughter and love. Memories of Christmases, birthdays dancing with Daddy, summer days swimming in the drainage ditch, and parents so proud of their youngest daughter all seemed as fresh as the morning sunlight.

Unexplained tragedies change the course of life. Why those things happen isn’t for us to know, but they do happen, and soon the little girl was thrust into a life unplanned.

Questions without answers, feelings without an outlet, emptiness without a bottom, brokenness without anyone to bind the pieces together. Kim was lost in the darkness of her own soul.

Mom remarried, but no one could replace the love and admiration of her departed Dad. Kim ran through her teenage years looking for meaning to the past and purpose for tomorrow. Both eluded her.

And God? Where was He? He’d really been the problem all along, she thought. He could have saved her Dad. He could have kept the tragedy for someone else. He could have let her grow up like all the other little girls. She didn’t “hate” Him, but she didn’t understand Him.

Spring days slipped into years and Kim made choices, knowing that God was watching, but she made them anyway. If she wasn’t looking for Him, maybe He’d stop looking for her. But that wasn’t His plan.

One day, for reasons as unexplained as her father’s death, she read in the prophet Isaiah: He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him (Isaiah 53:3). The words parted her heart like the opening of a curtain and Heaven came down and glory filled her soul. Purpose pointed where there had been wandering, peace settled the questions, everything believed became known, and the lost was found.

Jesus is the Lover of her soul.

(Dedicated to my wife Kim, and her forever Valentine: Jesus!)

six-months-to-live

Six Months to Live

six-months-to-liveMy wife and I sat across the desk from the very official looking doctor. He bowed his head and said to me, “I’m sorry Mr Rice, but you have cancer. From the test results … you only have six months to live.”

I looked at my wife, stood to my feet and answered, “Then I’d better get busy. I have a lot to get finished in that time.”

I know this was a dream because I come from a long line of stubborn people who will have plenty of time to see a doctor once we’re dead.

Seriously, none of us knows what tomorrow – or the next six months – holds. The fact that each of us has only a certain allotment of time should not come as a surprise to us, though we struggle to make that allotment of time relevant.

Jesus knew that His earthly life was limited for time. Even as a Child He could say, Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? (Luke 2:49). May you and I have such clarity of purpose!

Flood and Fire

rain

We’re 41 days into the year and here in my little corner of Oregon it’s rained 25 of those days. No one has ever confused us with “sunny California”!

When my mother was a young girl, her pastor preached about the Bible truth of Christ’s future earthly kingdom. She was confused. If Jesus was going to reign for a thousand years, what about God’s promise to never flood the earth again?

God has kept His promise never to again flood the whole earth. That worldwide flood explains how the fossilized remains of sea creatures are found on the tops of the world’s highest mountains. Yet people dismiss the Flood evidence and deny that God will again judge the world.

God says that men will scoff at the idea that Jesus is coming again to judge the world. They forget that God judged the world for its wickedness once before. But this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:5-7).

We Oregonians are used to it raining most days from October through May. We can handle the 2 inches of rain expected today, but few of us have trusted in Jesus Christ and are ready for God’s judgment.

I Really Didn’t Like You

I sat in a small Bible study where the discussion turned to a tearful time of memories about the closing of the church. One of the ladies shared through her sobs her first impression of her pastor when he arrived at the church seven years earlier.

“I didn’t like you. No, I mean I really didn’t like you. You didn’t do what pastors are supposed to do. You weren’t what I was used to in a pastor. You were weak. You were normal. You were just like me.”

After that first Sunday service, Maria called her sister and wondered aloud what to do with the new pastor. She visited a few other churches to figure out what to do with a pastor who readily admitted that he wasn’t perfect, struggled with life like everyone else, and needed Jesus for everything.

A few weeks later she returned to the church with the new pastor. Each week she heard the Scriptures taught verse-by-verse and was told, “isn’t this how God gave us the Bible?” She heard that she was a sinner in desperate need of a Saviour every moment of every day. She learned not to rely on a pastor but to rest in Jesus. She discovered that the power of God was in the gospel of Jesus Christ alone and not her own efforts. After a lifetime of church attendance, she understood the true condition of her sinful soul and the promise of God alone to save her by faith alone in Jesus alone.

Her tears turned to laughter as she described how her life had changed: her words, thinking, politics, loving, giving, and living – everything changed including her opinion of me; I was that pastor!

Christianity is about trusting in Jesus, being fully and solely dependent upon Him.  It’s only in our weakness that we find Him strong and only by a knowledge of our sin through the Bible that we find Him a Saviour. Jesus is where living begins.

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes … for it in the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16, 17).