Prophecy and Prediction

Since man’s days are determined, the number of his months is with You; You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass. Look away from him that he may rest, till like a hired man he finishes his day (Job 14:5-6).

God isn’t like a fortune-teller sitting with a crystal ball outside a circus tent. He doesn’t look across history to see what’s ahead so He can tell us what He sees. Prophecy isn’t God predicting something. God doesn’t predict, He proclaims. He doesn’t fortune-tell, He forth-tells. He knows what tomorrow holds because He predestined it to happen before time began.

This is a blessed truth to the Christian. It reminds us that nothing is a surprise to God. He’s not in Heaven wringing His hands in worry over tomorrow’s stock market, your health, or someone’s political agenda. Instead, everything is moving exactly according to His eternal plan. We can rest easy in His sovereignty today and tomorrow.

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).

On Sunday Morning

JFK

Nearly a decade before I was born, President John Kennedy said in his Inaugural Address: My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

In America, this attitude has become a platitude. Kennedy’s words are long forgotten as people routinely fight each other to get more rather than to consider what they may freely contribute.

Sadly, this same mentality pervades the church set. We ask: What can I get by going to church? What will God, or the church, or the pastor, or the musicians, or the people there give to me today?

People attend church for the social experience. They seek a smiling face, friendship or a handout. They want heart-stirring music, an emotional charge, or a platform for income equality and gender-fluid politics. Others make it a cover of godliness to hide a lust for material possessions or a place to lurk after vulnerable, hurting people.

The Bible portrays the Church as a spiritual organism in a material world. It pictures the Son of God coming to Earth to reveal the Father and be the redemption for man’s sin. Christ’s mission wasn’t social engineering or political revolution, but ending sin and death. Jesus is eternal life rather than health or wealth here and now.

Few ever arrive Sunday morning and ask, “What will God receive from me here today?

The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him (Habakkuk 2:20).

 

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).

More Boring than a Wheel

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day (Exodus 20:9, 10, 11).

A CBS News story reported in May that Jews and Christians made up the idea of the 7-day week as a form of time slavery. The “week is man-made, arbitrary, a substance not found in nature.”

Instead of time being a continual revolving cycle of renewal, “Judeo-Christians decided that time was actually linear, beginning at creation and moving toward end times. This idea stuck—and it’s way more boring than a wheel.” To improve the conquest of time, the author of the report said we must elevate the weekend, which she claims was invented by socialist-minded politicians.

If you think that socialism is compatible with Christianity, here’s more proof you’re wrong.

God has a different idea about time than communists. The Bible says that He created the idea of a 7-day week when He created the heavens and the earth in six days and then rested on the seventh. It’s not man-made, it is inherent in His creation.

Instead of conquering time, we must be living circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).

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).

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).

Plain and Simple

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3).

The Jewish nation wandered in the Sinai Peninsula 40 years. In all that time they never located an organic farm or one-stop grocery anywhere around. Instead, God fed them with manna. Manna looked like a little grayish-white seed. Every morning when the dew lifted, the ground was covered with manna, as fine as a frost (Exodus 16:14; Numbers 11:7). This bread from Heaven could even be cooked in many different ways (Exodus 16:4; Numbers 11:8).

Manna was plain and simple. Most of us would get tired of eating the same old thing every day, but the food God provided was more than sufficient to fully nourish the body of every single Israelite for 40 years! It was truly miraculous and meant to teach the people that God’s Word, plain and simple as it is, was enough to give them life and keep the alive.

Today, many people yearn and wander looking for a fresh, relevant word or new revelation from the Lord. They are convinced that the same old Bible isn’t enough for their modern needs. Yet the Bible says of itself:

All Scripture is given by inspiration [or the breath] of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

God sustained Israel on manna for 40 years. Christian, God sustains your every spiritual need through the plain and simple Bible. There’s no spiritual nourishment elsewhere; anything you find elsewhere will only give you an upset tummy in the end!

A Good Church

The name on the building changed this week from Calvary Bible Church to Paradox Church. It’s more than a name change, the website says the congregation exists for “community, neighborhood, simplicity.” Gone is the work of Christ and the Word of God; the new congregation is about YOU.

What makes a good church? By today’s standard the answer is in what titillates and satisfies you, but here at Where Living Begins, we find our faith and practice in the Word of God.

Let us suggest 6 major characteristics of a good local church.

First, its purpose is the glory of Christ, not the benefit or satisfaction of its members (Ephesians 3:21). The church belongs to Jesus and is about Him. Is He exalted and His death, burial, and resurrection emphasized – not just one Sunday a year but in every service? Instead of Christ, is the Christian, works, or the Holy Spirit the focus? Is salvation through faith alone in Jesus alone preached in every sermon?

Second, the Bible is God’s perfect and all-sufficient means of growing His people  (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Is the Bible the only accepted source of truth, rule of faith, and standard of Christian living? Is the preaching of the Bible the major ministry? Is the Bible preached as God gave it; word for word, sentence by sentence?

Third, the pastor is concerned with equipping the saints to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). Does every member have an opportunity to exercise his spiritual gift or is the pastor and staff expected to do the work of ministry? Is the pastor actively working himself out of a job?

Fourth, it’s a gathering where God’s people worship Him through the teaching of doctrine, prayer, the Lord’s Supper, and spiritual one-anothering (Acts 2:42). Is the church seeking to be attractive and inviting to the unsaved? or does it gather for believers to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24)?

Fifth, evangelism of the unsaved is a primary and individual function (Matthew 28:19-20). Is the congregation committed in prayer and finances to preaching the gospel at home and in foreign lands? Are individual believers regularly encouraged to share their faith with the unsaved?

 

 

 

 

 

Sixth, godly love is evidenced by obedience to Christ’s commands (John 13:34-35; 14:15). Does a love for God come first in the heart of the pastor and the people or are they occupied with each other?

No local assembly is perfect, but if you happen upon the perfect church, don’t stay or you’ll surely ruin it. Read through Revelation 2 and 3 to see what Jesus looks for and rejects in a local congregation. He’s not interested in size, the number of activities or ministries, the style of music, the pastor’s hip attire, the building atmosphere, or the kind of coffee served.