The Answer to Hate and Racism

Looting. Murder. Rioting. Stealing. Theft. Destruction. Anger. Burning. Violence. Fear-mongering. Hatred. Racism. Disregard for the rule of law. Race-war. Rage. Tearing down statues. Injustice. Inflammatory name-calling. Lawlessness.

These are all summed up in one foul word: S I N.

Whatever else you may want to call it – these are all acts and attitudes of evil men whose hearts are filled with the darkness of sin. Sin perpetuating more sin and then used as an excuse for even greater sin.

Don’t be mistaken. Don’t be detoured from what the Bible says. The answer is not found in tearing down monuments to the past, making laws restricting free speech or free assembly, violent attacks, or in shaming certain beliefs and political movements. Don’t look to laws or protests or penalties for answers to hate and racism. These same tools can be used to silence your beliefs … even your Christian beliefs.

As Christians, we are convinced that the answer to the evil in the heart is in the transformation of the human heart through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Light has coming into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light, lest His deeds should be exposed (John 3:19-20).

A Father of the Fatherless

Richard and Moses at Family of God Celebration Center, Mutalia, Kenya

Sunday was no different than usual. Moses is always one of the first to run to me when I arrive in the church in Mutalia.

I always make a careful effort to preach in a way so that everyone present – including the children – can understand the gospel message. When I finished my sermon, I was immediately rushed by the children, many of whom I’ve watched grow up these past four years. These children love me and I dearly love them. Half of this congregation consists of young children.

After a few minutes of hugs and fist-bumps, Moses, pulled me down and whispered in my ear, May I speak to you in private? His eyes were serious.

We walked to a secluded spot outside and I knelt in the dirt so this 9-year old boy and I could talk eye-to-eye. Will you take me back to America to live with you? I’ve asked my Mother and she says it is okay. What message shall I return to her?

A few hours later I met Moses’ humble and quiet mother. She and her two children live in the only place they can afford, a small room not bigger than the typical American’s bathroom. There they cook, eat, wash, play, sleep, do school work, and carry on the lives of a family.

I know my wife wouldn’t have minded had I arrived at the airport in Portland with Moses and another thousand children like him, but it was impossible. I’m thankful however, that God has given Moses and his little sister a godly mother who loves them, and that He watches over them when I cannot.

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation (Psalm 68:5).

The Greatest Heist

In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two men identifying themselves as Boston police officers arrived at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. They said they were responding to a silent alarm that indicated the museum was being robbed. The guard on duty checked the officers’ credentials and let them into the museum.

The two uniformed policemen assembled all the private security officers in the museum, handcuffed them, and locked them in the basement. The police then roamed through the museum, stealing 13 works of art, including a Rembrandt, a Manet, and a few paintings by Degas. The estimated value of the paintings was $500 million dollars!

The next morning, when a new private security detail arrived for duty, 13 empty picture frames were discovered hanging from the museum walls. The theft remains unsolved.

When Jesus gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age (Galatians 2:4), the Bible says that the greatest heist of all time took place. At the very moment Jesus died on the cross, all whom God the Father elected to salvation were delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).

In broad daylight, under the noses of both Heaven and Earth, Rome and Palestine, angel and demon, Jesus rescued us from Satan’s kingdom unto Himself. It wasn’t some sneaky deception carried out by impostors, but an instant deliverance out from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of Heaven by the King of Glory.

Since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (Hebrews 11:28).

For more information on the greatest heist of all time, consult your local Bible and return to this website for additional daily updates.

 

The Day I Wet My Pants

blushing boy

I was a shy boy and it was my third school that year. Mrs Rogers was a kindly old lady with orange-red hair and glasses who taught the second grade.

Each day, when we finished eating our lunches, we had to pass through Mrs Rogers’ inspection. Before dismissing us for recess, she’d shake our paper milk cartons to make sure we hadn’t tried to hide our peas or some other icky vegetable.

That fateful day I finished lunch and stood in the line at Mrs Roger’s desk. I got to her desk, she looked over my tray, shook my milk carton and then asked me, “Richard, do you need to use the restroom?” This shy 7-year old kid nodded his head but it was too late. Standing there holding my lunch tray, with a line of kids behind me, I wet my pants.

My only buddy, Leroy, was standing behind me and asked Mrs Rogers what the liquid all over the floor was. This discreet and wonderful teacher said simply, “Richard spilled something,” and walked me to the school office so I could call home for a clean pair of pants.

Mrs Rogers could have scolded the new kid in front of my classmates. She could have said something to Leroy so I wouldn’t have wanted to return the next day. She might have done something to belittle me. Instead, she kindly protected me and my dignity.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11).

Saved by Love

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

The preacher’s message was brimmed with sentimentality as he talked about his visit to a dog shelter. As he and his little girl peered into each kennel, they were overcome by the number of dogs waiting to either be adopted or euthanized. His daughter petted and called to each animal one-by-one. Crying, she begged her father to be allowed to take them all home. Just as tearfully the pastor explained that it was only possible to save one of her furry friends.

As he reached the conclusion of his sermon, there was nary a dry eye in the congregation. Reaching the height of hopey-changey theology, he quoted John 3:16. He reminded us of how his love for his daughter and compassion for the dogs moved him. He could only save one dog, but God’s love reached down out of Heaven to save everyone present.

Asking for every head to be bowed, he invited all those who wanted to know God’s love to raise their hand. Several raised their hands, and after repeating a prayer, the congregation applauded these new Christians.

But the Bible doesn’t say that God saves anyone by His love. John 3:16 says that God so loved that He sent His Son. His love sent Jesus; His love doesn’t save.

The salvation offered by God in Jesus has only ever been realized in one way: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

John 3:16 describes God’s motivation for sending His Son; it was the death of Jesus as your Substitute that saves.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17).

God Was Lonely

god-was-lonelyGod was lonely, so He created man. He needed someone to love, and to be loved in return. At least that’s what I grew up thinking. The Bible tells a different story.

The Bible doesn’t say that Adam was lonely in the Garden of Eden, just alone (Genesis 2:18, 20) in that there was not yet another creature among all of the animals comparable with Adam. On the 6th day, God also created Eve so humanity could fulfill God’s command to be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:28).

Likewise, the Bible doesn’t say that God felt all alone and created man to fill His purposeless days and soothe His empty nights.

In His prayer the night He was arrested by the Jewish mob, Jesus prayed,

You have sent Me, and have loved them [the disciples] as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world (John 17:23, 24).

God is love and before the Earth was formed or Adam walked in the Garden, the Father loved His Son (1 John 4:8). Perfect love existed in eternity!

We weren’t created as a balm for a very needy God with an empty heart. The truth is, we have done everything but love Him, yet He has still made us the recipients of His great love. Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God (1 John 3:1).

Jesus Still Loves the Little Children

mr rogers

They brought infants to Jesus that He might touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:15-16).

A little boy sat on the floor with the tv on, waiting for his friend. The friend arrived, took off his sweater and shiny shoes and replaced them with another sweater and tennis shoes. “You are special” and “It’s you I like” he sang, the words simple, genuine, and true.

We fed the fish, received a speedy delivery, walked to the bakery, met kings and owls and took trolley rides, then sat for a little talk together. He knew the words to calm fears, drown silence, fill loneliness, and cover with grace and understanding.

After smiles, waves, and his friend leaving, the boy knew that tomorrow would be another “snappy new day.” Mr Rogers was a 25-minute friend reflecting the best American society had to offer.

Today I recall the boy of my childhood from the vantage point of time and realize how much the world has changed. Being a child is much more difficult. The world is more dangerous, life more complicated, reality harsher, society far brasher. The innocence and simplicity of my childhood has vanished.

One thing hasn’t changed: Jesus still welcomes and loves the little children.

The Church is not a Democracy

where living begins

Jesus said, I will build My Church (Matthew 16:18)

The local news headline said it all: “Catholics Rally to Accept Same-Sex Marriage.” A group of Roman Catholics met to demand the Vatican change its view on homosexuality and allow same-sex marriage.

More and more Americans – including those sitting in a pew on Sunday morning – believe that God’s Word is old fashioned. They argue that God needs to catch up with our enlightened views. What we think today must become the Christianity of tomorrow. Christianity is a democracy that must bend (or break) to the will of the progressive majority, not to the will of God.

Sadly, poll after poll shows that Americans are both ignorant of the Bible and don’t care what it says anyway.

But truth is not defined by people. It comes from the God who declares Himself to be truth (John 14:6). The Church of Jesus Christ is not a democracy, it is a Theocracy. It was created by God the Father, is being built and ruled by Jesus Christ, is empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and is governed by the written Word of God. Truth doesn’t come by taking a vote; it came from God to man through the Bible. We cannot change God’s truth; when we do, it ceases to be truth … and becomes a lie.

Protest and petition till the cows come home, but when people who claim to be Christians oppose the clear teaching of the Bible, it is open rebellion against the God who breathed it.

Jesus prayed, Sanctify them by Your truth, Your Word is truth (John 17:17).

A Father’s Photo

Where Living Begins, pastor, Richard L RiceIt was early and I struggled to get out of bed. I rolled over and smiled, looking at the pictures of Daniel as a small boy. He was, and is, my joy.

Among the pictures is one after Daniel gummed his first licorice stick; his face red and sticky. Another shows an overjoyed Daniel in the bath with a washcloth and a rubber duck on his head. Every photo is of a significant event, person, or place in his early life. There are none of him misbehaving or getting punished.

I wondered to myself, If God had a photo album of me, what kinds of pictures would He keep? What kinds of stories would He tell as angels and saints of old looked at the collection?

Just as earthly fathers take a special pride and joy in their children, our heavenly Father finds joy in us. He doesn’t memorialize our mistakes, but cherishes our growth and significant moments . . . moments that bring Him joy, and maybe even make Him smile.

Child of God, remember that your Father cherishes you, forgives your sins, and rejoices over all those He’s saved.

The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you in His love, He will rejoice over you with singing  (Zephaniah 3:17).

Happy 18th Birthday, Daniel!

My Meaney Mom

Where Living Begins, pastor, Richard L Rice

My mother set rules for me and my siblings as we were growing up. Chew with your mouth closed. Close the door after you. Don’t leave the lights on when you leave the room. Don’t hit your sister.

I remember sneaking some powered hot Chinese mustard home from a restaurant. I liberally applied it to the tongues of the other kids in the house and was promptly sent to my bedroom to think about what I’d done.

Well, I’ll have you know that I thought about it long and hard! I thought about how angry I was and how unfair my mother was to me. Who did she think she was spoiling my fun?

Now that I’m a grown-up, I know that my mother was shaping my morality and showing her love. She didn’t have rules because she was a meaney, but because I could get out of line and harm either myself or others. She didn’t want to raise a spoiled brat bent on enjoying life at the expense of others.

God’s rules are always rather simple: Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Do not murder. Do not take the Lord’s name in vain, and so forth. Not one of these is a burden meant to ruin our fun but to protect us and those around us. They are actually a revelation of God’s love for us as His children.

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).