Beyond our Yesterdays

Years ago I performed a memorial service for a man whom nobody liked, even his own family. At many funerals, people are given a chance to share thoughts about the deceased, but I feared it would end up being 5 minutes of very awkward silence. I was surprised so many people had something kind to say about a very disliked man.

It’s a shame we have to wait until someone dies before we lay aside the anger, bitterness, and disagreements to find the person’s good qualities. It’s sad death is usually the one event that makes us recognize how much we’re all alike.

When you look at a family member, co-worker, or friend, do you immediately recall her flaws and failures or do you see someone an awful lot like yourself? The specifics may be different, but really she’s the same as you are. We’ve each said and thought and done things we should never have said, thought, and done. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

One of the great things about the God of the Bible is that when we come to Him in faith and accept His gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, He does more than forgive our sins, He forgets them completely. It’s not that He strains to think of something good about us to improve our self-image; rather, He moves beyond our yesterdays for His own sake.

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins (Isaiah 43:25).

The Blood of Bulls and Goats

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

In many ways, the Old Testament is like the “storybook” of the New Testament. The Old Testament reveals in pictures the truths of the New Testament.

Blood, for example, is a symbol of life in the Scriptures (Leviticus 17:14). God prescribed for the Jews a long-list of sins for which the blood sacrifice of an animal was required. Yet despite all those sacrifices under the Old Covenant, animal blood never forgave a single sin. Those Jewish sacrifices were given to point Israel to the need for a better, a Perfect Sacrifice which the Father would make by His Son.

Redemption has always depended upon the Lamb provided by God rather than a lamb provided by the sinner. Only the blood of Jesus removes sin and sin’s stain.

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place, once of all, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 10:4; 9:12).

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).

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).

Follow us on Twitter @RichardRice124.

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.

Dr Seuss with Bedhead

where living begins, pastor, Richard L Rice

Look at me!
Look at me!
Look at me NOW!
It is fun to have fun
But you have
to know how.” Dr Seuss

When my wife and I married, I often greeted her each morning with a silly song or rhyme of some sort. Think of me as Dr Seuss with bedhead. A few days of my rhymes and she informed me, “I don’t like rhymes in the morning.” I understood and began telling her a rhyme before bed. She doesn’t like those either.

I learned that my penchant for silliness isn’t always appreciated or appropriate. However, I didn’t learn anything about Kim as a person. I learned what displeased her, but not who she was or what she enjoyed.

A popular myth is that we get to know God by “worshiping” Him, and by worship the mythologizer incorrectly means singing songs. So ask yourself, how well do you get to know someone by singing to him? You might discover that he thinks your voice is annoying, but you don’t really learn who he is. To know him, you listen to him.

This seems a crazy question, but how do you get to know the God of the Bible? Not by singing but by reading His words, the Bible.

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, Jesus expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us.” (Luke 24:27, 32).

Ambassadors for Christ

Pastor, Richard L Rice, Where Living Begins

My first day in Kenya I wore shorts into the village of Kangundo. When we returned home I noted to my host that I was the only one wearing shorts and asked if it was appropriate in the culture. I’ll never forget Isaac’s reply that everyone could tell I was an American by how I dressed and that they would overlook my offense.

Without thinking about it, I was a representative of my country. I began wondering what I was saying about myself and America to the Kenyan people. Representing America brought responsibilities.

As Christians, the Bible calls us ambassadors for Christ.

To be a Christian is to represent Christ. When we are saved, we become living witnesses of His love and truth and light. Jesus could have used a billion and one different ways to witness about Himself, but He chose to use redeemed men and women. He appointed us to speak and live Him before mankind.

No ambassador makes his own message. He represents his president or king and speaks only the word given to him. In the same way we must be careful that the word we pass along is that which God breathed-out in the pages of Scripture; whether it suits our fancy or not.

When we take the name of Christian, we live for Christ Jesus. We represent His will, honor His priorities, guard His reputation, and submit to His desires.

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 5:20).

Only Jesus

Kenya, Where Living Begins, Pastor, Richard L Rice
My wife and a few of the wonderful people at the Family of God Celebration Centre in Matuu village, Kenya.

Our arrival in the small Kenyan village on Sunday morning was big news. Not only had three mzungus (the Swahili word for a white​ person) come to Matuu, one of them was Pastor Richard returned from America.

I met Albanas on my first visit to Matuu in 2014. A year earlier he had professed faith in Christ and joined the church. There was a mighty turn about in his behavior, but it was short-lived. He returned to alcohol and all manner of ungodly living. He was an apostate, a false Christian.

On Sunday morning, Albanas heard I was in the village and he hurried to see me. With tears and deep emotion, over and over again he cried and pleaded, “Pastor Richard from America, save me. I need you to save me.

All I could answer was, “Albanas, only Jesus can save you. Turn to Him.

My plea fell upon deaf ears and a sinful, stone-cold heart. After a few minutes, I asked two men to chaperone me from the building and a broken man who would not let go of me.

Most people expect too much from a pastor, even one from America. They expect him to do far more than any human being can do. While a godly pastor cares, he rejects the deceit of idolatry by refusing to do for anyone what only Jesus can do. The pastor isn’t Jesus.