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).

 

Bible Preaching

where living beginsAnd 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 hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:27, 32).

I visited a local church where the sermon was about the godly use of money. At the end, the pastor asked the congregation to bow their heads and close their eyes, and then said, “… and if you want what we’ve been talking about today, raise you hand.” They were asked to repeat a prayer and each person was then counted as a new convert.

I sat amazed. “If you want what we’ve been talking about today.” What had the pastor talked about? Getting money, spending money, and saving money. Who doesn’t want those things? I can understand people wanting to use their money in a better fashion, but the sermon was about the listener and not about who Jesus is or what He has done.

This weekend many of you will sit in a church service. The pastor will use a Bible verse or more as the basis of the sermon. It may be the story about Peter walking on the water and how you can make faith-based decisions. Maybe it will be a message about Joshua marching around the city of Jericho and how you can persevere through difficulties by patience or praising the Lord. Even John 3:16 becomes a talk about what you can do, instead of what God through Christ has done.

Bible preaching centers on Christ Jesus. He and His works are the focus and heart of Scripture, not you the listener. Biblical preaching glorifies Jesus, the Creator and Saviour, rather than you, the creature and sinner.

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).

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).

*** 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.

A Holy Ghost Crusade

Pastor, Richard L Rice, Kenya, where living begins

You probably know a “Quiet Guy” who goes unnoticed. He sits toward the back of a room and barely makes a sound, deflecting attention to make someone else noticed.

I grew up in a religious tradition that placed an extraordinary emphasis on the Holy Spirit and certain aspects of His work. There was the “Holy Ghost Crusade”, people got “Holy Ghost Goosebumps”, the “dove” was plastered on church walls and banners, every strange idea or thing – real or imagined – was attributed to the “moving of the Spirit.”

People claimed visions and messages from the Lord which were often nothing more than repetitions of Biblical ideas or cockamamie signs of self-worship. We boasted in being “Spirit-filled” rather than simple followers of Christ.

Show me people infatuated with the Holy Spirit and I’ll show you people who have gone astray from Jesus.

Please don’t misunderstand me. The Christian life is impossible without the abiding presence of the Spirit. Redemption becomes a reality in the sinner only by the Spirit’s work. He illuminates the mind to understand and apply the Word of God. He distributes spiritual gifts to the Church as He wills. He is the Third Person of the Godhead and worthy of all honor, praise, worship, and adoration.

However, Jesus said of Him, When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will tell you all things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you  (John 16:13-14).

The Holy Spirit is the “Quiet Guy” of the Trinity. Yes, upon His arrival in the Church He came with the sound of a mighty, rushing wind (Acts 2:2), but all the noise that day declared the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11) in the Person of Jesus. The Spirit of God never takes the attention due the Son. Never.

Jesus is the One before every knee shall bow and every tongue confess (Philippians 2:11). If the spirit points to anything or anyone other than Jesus – including itself – it’s not the “Holy” Spirit doing the pointing.

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.