Sealed with the Holy Spirit

Not too long ago, letters and documents were sealed with wax or clay in which was placed an imprint. The “seal” secured the document and identified its owner.

When a person hears the gospel and believes it, the Father seals the believer with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22-23). The Spirit is the symbol that we belong to God in Christ, and our salvation is fully and eternally protected until the redemption of the purchased possession (Ephesians 1:14). The Spirit in the believer is God’s guarantee to keep us saved and to present us as a glorious and holy bride to His Son (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27). The Spirit ensures that the Church will be a godly and virtuous bride to be given in marriage to Christ Jesus at His return.

The word guarantee is the Greek word arrhabon, meaning down-payment. It’s the modern Greek word used for an engagement ring, which is a down payment or promise that a marriage will take place. The down-payment God has given us is the indwelling Holy Spirit Himself (Romans 8:9, 16) guaranteeing that every promise Jesus has made to His Church will be fulfilled in Heaven.

In Christ you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).

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).

Greater Works

Lake County, Oregon, USA
Lake County, Oregon

He who believes in Me the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:12-13)

Think of the works of Jesus and what comes to mind? He walked on water, cast out demons, knew the thoughts of others, multiplied food, preached the gospel of the Kingdom, healed the deaf, gave sight to the blind, caused the lame to walk, cured the diseased, raised the dead, forgave sin, and gave eternal life. That’s quite a list of works!

Jesus claimed that each of His works was actually a revelation of the character of the Father (John 10:25; 14:10).

On the night of His betrayal and arrest, Jesus told the 11 disciples that they would do His works and greater works because He was going back to Heaven. What are “greater works”?

Some people believe that the “greater works” means miracles of greater power. To these people I like to ask, “What is more powerful than the works Jesus did 2,000 years ago? What could be greater than raising the dead, forgiving sins, giving eternal life, and feeding tens of thousand with few sardines and bites of bread? If you have greater power than Jesus, you are greater than God!”

Jesus could not, and did not, mean more powerful without diminishing His deity to you the creature!

The gospel record shows that Jesus never traveled more than 150 miles from His birthplace. Both His message and works were limited to a tiny sliver of ground known as Israel, about the size of Lake County in my home state of Oregon, only 8,019 square miles. Yet within only  a decade of His death, the apostles took the Gospel of salvation into Africa, Asia, and Europe. They multiplied His works throughout the known world and salvation changed the course of human history.

Each of His works, Jesus said, were done to glorify the Father through Him. “Greater works” doesn’t mean that we can do something more powerful than the en-fleshed God could do, that’s heresy! It means that Christians would spread the Evangel around the world (Matthew 28:18-20).

Flying to Kenya

where living begins, pastor, Richard L Rice, Kimberly Rice, Matthew Ferraro, Kenya

When I make my journey to Kenya in a few weeks, and then home again, I’ll have to fly on 7 different planes and pass through 9 airports. The travel time will be a total of over 68 hours. Total distance by air is 22,990 miles at a cost of 9 cents per mile.

The Bible says that to be absent from the body means being present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

For the one whose trust is in Christ Jesus alone, upon death our:

  • Flight time to Heaven is instantaneous;
  • Distance traveled is immeasurable;
  • Cost to us, nothing; cost to God, the death of His Son;
  • Time waiting in airports is nil.

And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Vomitroucious

where living begins, pastor, Richard L Rice

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth (Revelation 3:15-16).

These were the words of Jesus to the church people in the Turkish city of Laodicea. The city had no fresh water source. Water was either brought a long distance from the mountains or came from nearby hot springs. Either way, when the water reached the city, it was neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm and unappetizing.

Notice the Jesus did not hail the hot and condemn the cold. Growing up in church, I was taught that God wanted us to be “hot” for Him; meaning excited, loud, and “on fire.” That instruction both ignored and twisted Jesus’ actual words to the Laodiceans, whom He wanted to be either cold or hot.

On a cold day, who doesn’t want a hot cup of tea or chocolate to warm the bones? On a hot day, everyone thirsts for a long, tall glass of iced lemonade or Coke. There is never a time someone desires a room-temperature cup of stale water.

The Laodiceans were lukewarm, undesirable to Christ for any reason. They were religious, but were not refreshing to His taste. They thought they had everything necessary, except they’d kept Him out (Revelation 3:17, 20). They didn’t need Jesus because they had everything money could buy.

It’s this kind of self-made independence that is repulsive to the taste of Jesus. He called these people to recognize their attitude as sin and turn to Him. He reminded the apostles that without Me you can do nothing (John 15:5). Those who don’t depend only and perpetually upon Him, He finds vomitrocious.

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Our Responsibility

Our responsibility as followers of Jesus is not to fix this broken world. Never once has God called His people to march for justice, redistribute wealth, end cruelty to animals, solve the world hunger problem, or save the oceans. Not once has He commanded the Church to polish the brass on this sinking ship called Earth.

Instead, He commissioned us to preach the Gospel of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).

He saved you to proclaim His message of reconciliation – not racial reconciliation – but the reconciliation of sinners to a holy God.

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

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We Want Miracles!

where living begins, pastor, Richard L Rice

Oh Pastor! If we had miracles in our church, it would be full. Why don’t we have miracles? What we need is miracles!

This was Jenny’s comment each time the church doors opened. She was fully convinced that miracles were the key to salvation. It can’t be denied that people are attracted to miracles, even faked ones, but our concern shouldn’t be what catches a person’s interest but what God says.

What is a miracle? A miracle is when God does something that could never occur naturally. Finding your keys after prayer isn’t a miracle; keep looking long and hard enough and you’ll usually locate them. Feeding 5,000 hungry men, plus women and children, with a few pieces of bread and fish qualifies as a miracle. Resurrecting a body dead and buried 4 days is a miracle!

About 3,500 years ago, God told Moses that He would send ten plagues upon the Egyptians to reveal His sovereignty, power, and glory (Exodus 7:1-7; 9:16, 29-30). As the plagues rolled through the land, the Egyptians admitted that Israel’s God was responsible. However, the miracles didn’t turn Egyptians to Israel’s God in worship, instead they became more stubbornly rebellious toward Him (Exodus 14:3-9).

The death of every firstborn Egyptian male got the nation’s attention and Pharaoh set the Israelites free from slavery, but not even this miraculous judgment of God caused a revival. Instead, Pharaoh and his army pursued Israel to kill them all.

Miracles don’t change a person’s heart toward God; miracles harden the sinful heart further against God. If the Biblical answer isn’t miracle-working, what does God use to bring about salvation from sin in the sinner? The Holy Spirit uses the preaching of the Bible as the means to give saving faith.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

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How to Know God

knowing-godYou search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39).

Most people think of the Bible as either a rule book or a story book, when in fact it is a divine Book revealing God in the Person of Jesus Christ.

It didn’t take long before people, including the Jewish leaders, took notice of Jesus. By night, one of them, a Pharisee named Nicodemus approached Jesus to find out who He really was.

There’s no record of the conversation until Nicodemus said, Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him (John 3:2).

In the two simple words we know, Nicodemus revealed how the Jewish leaders were gaining spiritual knowledge and discerning truth. Everything they knew about God and how He worked was by personal experience and observation.

What did the Jewish leaders know? First, they’d observed that Jesus was a miracle-worker; second, they believed that the miracles proved that Jesus had been sent by God; and third, the concluded that because of the miracles, the Jewish rulers should listen to Jesus.

Was personal experience and observance the way to discern truth and gain spiritual knowledge? Jesus didn’t think so. He said that their method for knowledge and truth was wrong. Instead, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Seeing God’s ways requires a new birth, a spiritual transformation, not seeing miracles.

Nicodemus was honest enough to admit that he didn’t know everything he should have known and that he was thinking in material, physical terms and not spiritual terms. How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? (John 3:4).

Spiritual knowledge and truth begins by knowing God, and knowing God requires what Jesus called a re-birth. There is no other way. The only foundation for knowing God is to know the Bible, for the Bible is the testimony of Jesus.

To Kenya with Love

Matthew Ferraro, Pastor, Richard L Rice, where living begins, Kenya

In a few weeks I’ll be making my 4th, and likely last ministry visit to Kenya.

My wife will stay home in Oregon this time for financial reasons. Her varied ministry of singing, giving guitar lessons, teaching women how to crochet and begin their own home businesses, and speaking to groups of women will go unfulfilled unless I suddenly become very talented. I rely on my wife greatly, but I’ll be joined again by my 21-year old friend and son in Christ, Matthew. I’ll keep him busy again this year to the point of exhaustion each night.

Over the past year I’ve been working hard producing materials to be taught in our Bible school, Berean School of Ministry. I’ve completed 10 separate courses for 123 in-depth Bible lessons. These courses cover the Holy Spirit, water baptism, the nature of sin, the Bible, the end times, and much more.

The plan is for me to teach verse-by-verse through the 12 books of the Minor Prophets in the Bible school, preach in churches, encourage young pastors to be faithful students of God’s Word, speak at home meetings, and go anywhere to meet anyone to preach Christ Jesus. My partner in ministry, Pastor Isaac Mathembe, will make certain there is not a wasted moment of our time.

This blog will continue each weekday with new material while I’m away.

I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words to the believers Rome: I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me (Romans 15:30).

Matthew and I will surely appreciate your prayers for us and the beloved people of Kenya. Thank you if you’re able to help finance our trip, provide a scholarship to a Bible school student, or make a gift to needy pastor. Online tax-deductible donations can be made via Paypal at SellwoodChurch@gmail.com, or by check via snail mail to: Sellwood Community Church, 23585 NW Jacobson Rd, #51, Hillsboro, OR 97124.

Click here to watch ministry video highlights from 2016.

Amazing Hands

When did you last consider your hands? Muscles, tendons, ligaments all working together pulling bones and stretching skin. The skin folds in just the right places and ways. Your fingerprints are unique among everyone in the world. Your nail is placed perfectly at the tip of your fingers.

Take a moment to look.

I remember holding and staring at the teensy hands of my son after he was born.  Your hand is a miracle of God’s plan!

The Bible has a lot to say about God’s hands too. Job said of God, Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity (Job 10:8).

In Psalm 18:35, David sang about his on-going conflict with a former friend who was hunting him. Your right hand has held me up.

My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me (Psalm 31:15). What a strong affirmation that God is in control of your life.

Proverbs 21:1 reads, The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. His hand even moves the hearts and decisions of politicians.

He has amazing hands!

God’s hand is personally involved in every aspect of your life; but we often forget that. At one time or another, we’ve all thought, “God has forgotten me. He’s walked away. He’s forsaken me.”  In those times when we feel abandoned by Him, look at your hands and remember His hands.

Now, aren’t hands wonderful?!