The Message of the Cross

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Nothing in the history of the world has ever divided people as much as the cross of Christ. The cross separates the saint from the sinner, the saved from the unsaved. To the saved man the cross is the power of God, to the unsaved man it is foolishness. And God has chosen the message of the cross found throughout the Scriptures to proclaim salvation to sinners.

What is the message of the cross? Simply that sin separates the sinner from a holy God; but God has undertaken the forgiveness of sins through the death of Jesus in the place of sinners. Every sinner whose trust is placed in Christ alone to free them from the death-knell of sin will be saved.

The cross was rejected by the Jews as foolishness, who insisted that their ancestry, self-works, rituals, and traditions were enough to make them right with God.

Greeks demanded explanations based in science and reason. To them, a crucified Christ wasn’t a winner and His death wasn’t an evidence of triumph.

The message of the cross is foolishness to the world, but it is the full and tangible expression of God’s power to one who is being saved.

The Lord of the Flies

lord of the fliesWilliam Golding’s book, The Lord of the Flies, is the story of a group of well-monied, well-bred, and well-socialized boys who become stranded on an island during a war. Left to themselves, they very quickly descend into evil and their sin natures take full control over every aspect of life. The boys inflict every evil imaginable upon each other. Without an outside, redeeming influence, they become wicked savages.

The Bible reminds us who have trusted in Christ alone for salvation: Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day of Christ’s return approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).

No one can live the life of faith alone. Christians need other Christians, just as the finger needs the hand if it is to function and live (First Corinthians 12:14-27). God has attached each one of His people to another for support and strength; but when we are separated from the body into which He joins us, we become weak, discouraged, and even lifeless. It’s not that we lose our salvation and revert to spiritual savagery, but we lose the encouragement, growth, and life which Jesus provides to us through His body (Ephesians 4:15-16).

As the Christian husband nourishes and cherishes his believing wife in her faith and life (Ephesians 5:29), so Christians do to one another through our Head, Jesus.

** Please keep us in prayer while we minister in Kenya. Thanks!

My 5-Year Plan

Pastor, Richard L Rice, where living begins

A newly installed first-time pastor asked me, “What’s your 5-year plan?” The first thought in my mind was: “He sounds like a communist”, but then I realized this greenhorn wasn’t even alive when there was a Soviet Empire, so I tempered my response. “I plan to be serving the Lord wherever He has me.” He wasn’t amused.

There is nothing wrong with planning. It can be wise, but it can also be folly. We plan, create unrealistic expectations, and then fall into despair or crazed anger when those expectations don’t materialize as we imagined. Our plans can be so narrow and strict that we leave no room for the spontaneous or the unexpected. This is true in government planning, ministry, or daily life.

I have a general idea of what I need to accomplish today. Other than that, I’m open to whatever God does or brings. A 2-hour drive for an ice cream cone on Saturday? A long text conversation with my sister? Staying home and caring for my sick wife? All are acceptable. Life in God’s kingdom is about the journey. It’s along the journey that He builds our strength, stretches our faith, tests our integrity, and expands our horizons. None of these happen in the destination.

God does His most awesome work in us outside of our plans.

There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel – that will stand (Proverbs 19:21).

What About Sin?

what-about-sinAnd you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

Everyone has a belief about their own sin. There are three possibilities:

(1) sin doesn’t exist and you are spiritually well.  If sin doesn’t exist and you are spiritually well, there is no need for repentance, forgiveness, salvation, or a Saviour. If there is a God, your status with Him is a-okay.

(2) sin is only a mistake and you are only spiritually weak or sick. Your situation isn’t hopeless. You just need to use your will-power, exercise faith, make better choices, and work harder to be good.

(3) sin means you are spiritually dead. Dead people have no free-will and dead people can’t choose to be saved. As a spiritually dead person, you are fully unable to do anything to make yourself spiritually alive. Salvation is wholly a work of God by grace.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: 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 1:12-13).

So, what do you say about sin?

** Please keep us in prayer while we minister in Kenya. Thanks!

Be Ye Perfect

be-ye-perfectI remember as a child watching another child at the 1976 Olympics. The world and I watched as 14-year old Nadia Comaneci finished her routine on the gymnastic uneven bars, her dismount bringing wild cheers from the crowd.

Since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, no one ever expected a perfect gymnastic routine. Score boards were built to only go as high as 9.9. Nadia became the first athlete to receive a perfect score of 10 from the international judges.

Spiritually, only God sets the standard of perfection. He alone judges whether His standard is ever met. The standard goes like this: Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48), yet the reality is that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, meeting God’s standard became impossible … until Jesus. When He was born, the world encountered the first and only perfect Person. He lived a perfect life socially, morally, religiously, and spiritually. He kept every standard of man and God, never sinning and never falling short of the glory of God (Hebrews 4:15).

He gave His perfect life on the cross as the Substitute for sinful man. All who trust in Him receive His perfect righteousness applied to their lives. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

You can’t ever be perfect, but you can respond to God’s gift of salvation. The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

Our Refuge

our-refugeWhen Israel conquered the land of Canaan, six special cities were chosen as cities of refuge (Joshua 20:1-9). Each city was spaced throughout the land so that it could be reached within a day.

A city of refuge was a place where anyone who accidentally killed another person could flee and be safe from vengeance by the family of the deceased. As long as the guilty man remained within the city of refuge, the city elders were obligated to protect him at all cost until a fair investigation and trial could be held.

If after investigation, the fugitive was found guilty of premeditated murder, he was executed; if innocent, he was given a place to live within the city where he would be protected from the avenger. When the sitting high priest died, the fugitive was free to return to his home.

The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We each are guilty and deserving of the just wrath of God. However, the Father has appointed Jesus as the Saviour of mankind (Acts 4:12). Every sinner who comes to Him by faith will be saved and Jesus will by no means cast out (John 6:37). The guilty who have fled for refuge (Hebrews 6:18) in Christ are saved.

Christians don’t deny our guilt of sin. Instead, we throw ourselves upon the mercy of the Judge. We run to Jesus, our city of refuge, who took our sins upon Himself so that we might be declared righteous before God (Romans 4:24-26).

** Please keep us in prayer while we minister in Kenya. Thanks!

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.

** Follow us on Twitter @RichardRice124

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.