Things So Precious

Dr Willard Aldrich

It was the first day of Bible college and my new friend and I compared classes. “Oh, you want to get out of this one,” David said. “Both my brother and sister had him and you’ll be bored to death. Take the class by Dr So-and-Such. He’s so cool.”

The Registrar’s Office assured my worst nightmare: all the other classes for the Study of Salvation were full and I was stuck with Dr Willard Aldrich.

Dr Willard co-founded the school in 1936. He was old and old-school, so soft-spoken that from the center of the room I couldn’t hear him speak. His lecture notes hadn’t been updated since Tyrannosaurs walked the earth.

I’d arrive for class as early before 8 as possible for a seat in the much sought after back of the room. All went well until I was late and the only seats left in the room were in the front row. I was the only student in the front row.

He opened the notebook he’d been reading his lectures from for the previous 50 years and began reading so quietly I strained to hear him over the racket of a pin dropped on the carpet. B – O – R – I – N – G!!! To add to the insult, we could hear the laughter from Professor Hipster’s class next door.

I counted the “dots” in the ceiling panels overhead as Dr Aldrich droned on about the theology of Substitutionary Atonement. Then I saw that the old man had tears rolling down his cheeks. His quiet voice was because he was crying. The things he was teaching were so precious to him that he could barely speak of them! Jesus died in his place. A sinner, redeemed eternally at the cost of the life of the eternal Son of God. The Precious for the wicked. The Perfect for the flawed and ruined. The Saviour for the sinful.

Dr Aldrich became my favorite professor and I took every class he taught. A man whose heart was still touched after so many years by the mind-numbing truth of salvation was a man I needed to know.

When the death of Jesus no longer moves our heart, we need to repent and return to the place where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away. 

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).


# 25 of 30 – The Working of the Word

This is # 25 of 30 ways that God’s Word, the Bible, works in the lives of His people.

God’s Word leads the believer into thankful worship and gratitude. Let the Word of Christ dwell in your richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Colossians 3:16).

I Am the Lord who Heals You

I am the Lord who heals you (Exodus 15:26).

I grew up in a religious movement that used these words from the Bible as evidence that God still performs physical healings today and we should expect Him to do so. What they never did was read the whole statement.

And there the Lord tested them, and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:25-27).

If you follow the story of Exodus, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and three days later faced the need for drinking water. They complained to Moses, but Moses prayed to the Lord who supernaturally provided for them.

There He tested them, and said …. if you as a nation obey everything I’m going to command you, I won’t bring the plagues of judgment on you like I did on the Egyptians. If the Jewish people were stubborn and rebellious like the Egyptians were, God would treat them exactly like He treated the Egyptians with diseases and plagues. God was no respecter of persons.

What did God promise to heal the nation of Israel from? His judgments upon them for sinning! Keep reading and you’ll learn that all but two of the Israelite adults who fled Egypt died wandering in the wilderness (Num 26:64-65; Heb 3:16-19)! It’s a story of Israel’s failure to trust and obey God. They failed God’s very first test!

God’s declaration of being Israel’s healer was a national promise, not an individual promise. While He was Israel’s national healer, His promise was founded on complete and total obedience to the Law of Moses He was going to give them. His healing wasn’t for the toothache, the broken bone, or gout, but from His judgment when they disobeyed.

God has lovingly gifted the world with doctors and given our bodies a natural healing process. So can the Christian today pray for God’s healing in his physical body? Of course! And you should! God answers our prayers, but always according to His will (Mt 26:39, 42; Lk 22:42; 1 Jn 5:14-15). If He chooses to heal in answer to prayer, it is only according to His grace.


In Remembrance Of Me

Pastor Phil was a tall, broad-shouldered man who liked to laugh. One Sunday night I asked him why, if God saved people by grace, he said people needed to work up their faith and repeat a prayer to be saved. To me, this seemed illogical, like self-works to earn salvation.

In his typical good-humored way, Pastor Phil smiled and laughed. He put his finger to his lips, thought a moment, then said, “That’s a good question.” That ended the conversation.

My pastor always talked about being saved by grace, but then he added a bit more of our own efforts.

The Lord’s Supper is a pictorial reminder of God’s saving grace. When Communion is served, the words of Jesus are repeated: This do in remembrance of Me (1 Corinthians 11:25). These words are a gentle reminder that salvation isn’t in remembrance of Richard plus Jesus. It’s not in honor of anything we’ve done or brought to add to Christ’s own work.

Salvation is, and has ever only been, by God’s grace through faith in Jesus alone. There’s not one stitch of us involved except that we receive the finished product of redemption. Even the faith to believe in Jesus is a gift of God’s grace.

Communion is a frequent reminder Jesus left with us that salvation is all about Him. It is by His grace that we have eternal life, the forgiveness of sins, and the hope of Heaven. We partake of the bread and the cup in remembrance of Him: what He began, what He did, and what He finished.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).


We Do Not Lose Heart

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Paul knew the difference between his outward body and his inward man.

The outward man is the physical person we see each time we take a selfie or look in the mirror. It’s the person we watch brush his teeth, feed with three healthy meals, and who lays his head on the pillow at night. This is the “man” who generally gets all the attention despite that the Bible teaching that this man is perishing because of sin. It’s just like us to try and uphold what is terminally failing to the point of death.

Because of sin, the physical person we know is headed back to our initial starting point: And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 2:7; 3:19). There’s  nothing we can do to slow or stop that downward slide caused by sin.

On the other hand, those who are brought into the New Covenant of grace through the blood of Jesus aren’t discouraged by our frailty. Instead, we do not lose heart. Yes, the outward man is perishing, but the inward man is being renewed day by day!

Every trial and tribulation adds another wrinkle or achy join outwardly, but serves only to build inner strength because we learn to humbly, hopefully, and prayerfully depend on Jesus more and more.

My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me … For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).


Mean Ol’ Sin Dogs

What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of trangressions (Galatians 3:19).

Growing up, we had a neighbor with a big, mean dog. The dog was kept on a heavy chain staked in the middle of the yard. It would wander around and around, as it wore a circular pathway in the grass at the limit the chain allowed. Looking at that worn pathway, we knew exactly how far that mean ol’ dog could get before the chain snapped it back.

Sometimes for fun, and to prove our bravery and speed, we’d approach the sleeping dog with a stick. When in range, we’d tap the dog with the stick and then run away as fast as we could.

That mean ol’ dog did exactly what was in its heart: growl, bark, and then chase the stupid boy who’d entered its domain. Neither the stick nor the boy made the dog act like a dog, we both merely revealed the dog’s nature.

The Bible says that God gave the Law of Moses – including those famous Ten Commandments – because of transgressions, or better, to reveal what’s really in your heart deep down. The Law pokes at us and what do we do? We obey our sinful nature and disobey God. We act like mean ol’ sin dogs. The Law reveals what’s already in us … S – I – N.

What every mean old dog needs is a new nature. We need God to change our hearts so that rather than love sin, we despise it and desire to please God. He does this by giving the sinner a new nature (saves us) through faith in Jesus.

What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions. … Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24).


Direct Access

Wyoming State Treasurer Mark Gordon

As the days of summer 2017 waned, my wife and I made a spur-of-the-moment and quick 2,500 mile drive from our home in Oregon to Cheyenne, Wyoming, without question our favorite city on the face of the earth.

Our day and a half in Cheyenne was spent riding horses, buffalo, and jackalope. We visited the Train Depot Museum, and the Nelson Museum of the West where I played the hymn To God be the Glory on an old square piano once played by Old West saloon keepers and more recently by Liberace and Elton John.

One of the highlights was our speedy trip to the State Capital Building. We not only walked freely into the Capital Building, but directly into the Governor’s office. I announced, We’re Richard and Kim Rice from Oregon, and we’d like to see the governor. It was already nearing 5 o’clock and he was gone for the day, but the State Treasurer, Mark Gordon, set aside his business to spend 30 minutes graciously talking with us about the state budget, the MouseTrap game, and his favorite cowboy boots just like we were old friends.

It is a gift to live in a nation where freedom is more than a meaningless political buzzword. We have direct access to our leaders – men like Mark Gordon who lead states we don’t even live in!

The Bible says that we can come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

You and I have direct access to God the Father through Jesus, the Way and the Door to Heaven (John 10:9; 14:6). Because Jesus died on our behalf and today ministers as our great High Priest, we don’t need an advance appointment to come to the Father (Hebrews 4:14). We don’t stand outside the pearly gates knocking, crossing our fingers and hoping really hard that someone lets us in. The Father not only permits us to enter through the sacrifice Jesus made, but He welcomes us, saves us, and floods us with grace in our time of need.


The Chief of Sinners

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to  believe on Him for everlasting life (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Pastors fear to preach the message of sin. They fear to preach even more so to their own congregations, that they – even after they are born again – are sinners. They cringe at the idea, but such an understanding is not only the beginning of the gospel, but the continuation of the gospel, because without sin there is no need for a Saviour.

Child of God, do you not still need the Saviour? Have you moved beyond and become independent of the cross? Do you recoil at the suggestion that you are a still a sinner in desperate need of the Saviour? Do you suppose you’ve reached an apex of spiritual superiority and are a perfected saint who doesn’t sin, aren’t a sinner, and your life is filled only with occasional mistakes because you’re a king’s kid?

Written near the end of his earthly life, the Apostle Paul called himself at that time the chief of sinners. He knew he needed that fresh and daily reminder that his sins were forgiven by the redemption in Christ’s blood. He relied upon the continuing firm assurance that his spiritual life was only each day by the grace through faith supplied by Jesus Christ. He rejoiced in hearing the same gospel he was preaching to the lost, that the death of Jesus is forever of eternal value, meaning, and power for every sinner called by God.

The chief of sinners kept continually at the cross so that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him.

A Christian never outgrows the cross! It is where living begins!


No Other Name but Jesus

As many as received Him, to them God 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 God (John 1:12-13).

As you read through the Old Testament and even the Gospel accounts, you discover that both true and false religion existed side-by-side in Israel. The Jews went through the sacrificial motions without a heart of faith in God. They feared breaking the traditions of their culture more than trusting in God’s provision (Matthew 15:8).

God’s condemnation of Israel was common of all religious people. The Jews would draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men (Isaiah 29:13). Jesus used this same verse to condemn the outwardly religious people of His day (Mark 7:6-7).

The people of Israel trusted in the works of their own efforts by following traditions and rituals. They believed that because of their physical ancestry they lived in God’s favor. Through will-power, they were good enough to be in a right relationship with God. Their faith was in their self-effort rather than what God had done. They were good, God-honoring people who tried their level best, but were void of faith in God. Instead of following God’s Way described in Scripture, they killed Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

No one has ever been – or can be – saved any other way than by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone. He is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). There is no other name under Heaven, given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).


A More Excellent Sacrifice

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks to us today (Hebrews 11:4).

Like parents today, Adam and Eve shared everything they knew with their children. Certainly they re-told the story of God’s creation, the beauties of the Garden of Eden, their fellowship with God, their act of rebellion against Him, the consequences of their sin, and God’s provision of forgiveness through the sacrifice of an innocent substitute. Surely Cain and Abel knew from their parents that approaching God was possible by only one means.

We learn in Genesis 4:2-7 that Cain offered a sacrifice to God from the ground, something he planted, labored over, and cultivated with his own effort. He went through the motions of a ritual, bringing his self-produced offering to the Lord, full of his own work, absent of any faith in God’s provision alone.

Abel, however, brought the blood sacrifice of an innocent animal, his faith leaping across the centuries to touch the cross, the only sacrifice God would accept. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering (Genesis 4:4).

Cain trusted in himself; Abel trusted in God. Cain’s sacrifice was bloodless; Abel’s was the life of an innocent substitute. Cain gave of his own labor; Abel, by faith, accepted the death of another in his place. Angry that God did not respect Cain and his offering, Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:5, 8).

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).