27 Steps to Walking in God’s Will

where living begins, Pastor, Richard L Rice

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6)

There are 27 words (steps) here. Follow them, and you’ll walk in God’s will.

Put your faith in God, not in your own strength or ability, knowledge or traditions.

Study and know God’s Word, the Bible; it contains His perfect understanding.

Make your every goal and purpose the praise and glory of God.

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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).

A Visa

One of the steps for my travel to Kenya is obtaining a visa. A visa isn’t a plastic credit card. It’s the approval from a government to visit and then leave a country.

To get into the nation of Kenya, an American must have the permission of the Kenyan government. The visa will allows us to stay a certain length of time in Kenya, and later it will become our ticket to leave.

Without a visa you can’t get in. If you lose your visa, you can’t get out!

The Kenya visa application isn’t too bad. It’s all done online, is only about 5 pages of questions, and a fee of $51.

There are countries which have treaties allowing citizens to travel without a visa. American citizens, for example, don’t need a visa to travel to Canada or Mexico. Americans can visit 99 different countries without prior visa approval, but that leaves 97 others where a visa is required in advance.

It’s easy to understand why people are confused about world travel. It’s even easier to understand why people are confused about getting to Heaven. Ask and you’ll get all kinds of answers: everyone goes to Heaven; good people get in free; those who engage in certain religious rituals like water baptism can go; after you die you can work your way there by good deeds and the good deeds of others.

Getting into Heaven, though, isn’t about what you or I or the guy next door thinks, it’s about what the King of Heaven says. Who does He let into His Kingdom? His answer is the only one that matters.

Jesus said it best to the Jewish leader Nicodemus. Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

Each of us is born into this world of humanity. We were born of blood, of the flesh, and of the will of our parents. These things, however, don’t matter to God. His government works differently. It’s about those who were born – not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man – but of the will of God (John 1:13). To those born again of God’s will, He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).

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).

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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Broken Promises

My son and I supported different candidates in the 2016 US presidential election. Daniel’s candidate won and mine lost.

Nearly each week now, we have a conversation that goes something like this:

Daniel, did you see on the news today that your guy broke another of his campaign promises?

Yeah, well, he’s a politician and that’s what politicians do.

But Daniel, didn’t people vote for him because they said he wasn’t a politician and had no reason to lie?

Meh.

Many of us have bought into the idea of putting our hope in a political figure. We’re sure that if we don’t elect so-and-so it will be the end of life as we know it. We place our faith in a man in Washington DC or Nairobi or Harare to make all things right, bring justice, and improve our lives, instead of trusting in the Man from Galilee. Politicians are sinful people like the rest of us. They will always put their own re-election and self-interest ahead of those they are supposed to represent. They will always betray the voters. Always.

Only One put the absolute need of His people first. He proved it by dying for them. Name a political figure who will do that.

Jesus is returning one day to claim His kingdom and bring it to earth. Until then, we eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20). He is the only King who will both save His people and rule in righteousness. He’s never broken a promise; He never will.