The Greatest Heist

In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two men identifying themselves as Boston police officers arrived at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. They said they were responding to a silent alarm that indicated the museum was being robbed. The guard on duty checked the officers’ credentials and let them into the museum.

The two uniformed policemen assembled all the private security officers in the museum, handcuffed them, and locked them in the basement. The police then roamed through the museum, stealing 13 works of art, including a Rembrandt, a Manet, and a few paintings by Degas. The estimated value of the paintings was $500 million dollars!

The next morning, when a new private security detail arrived for duty, 13 empty picture frames were discovered hanging from the museum walls. The theft remains unsolved.

When Jesus gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age (Galatians 2:4), the Bible says that the greatest heist of all time took place. At the very moment Jesus died on the cross, all whom God the Father elected to salvation were delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).

In broad daylight, under the noses of both Heaven and Earth, Rome and Palestine, angel and demon, Jesus rescued us from Satan’s kingdom unto Himself. It wasn’t some sneaky deception carried out by impostors, but an instant deliverance out from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of Heaven by the King of Glory.

Since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (Hebrews 11:28).

For more information on the greatest heist of all time, consult your local Bible and return to this website for additional daily updates.

 

If I had a Million Dollars

winning-a-million-dollarsWhen he was 13, Daniel asked what I’d do if I won the lottery. It wasn’t a difficult question to answer because I’ve never bought a lottery ticket – and never will, but I know what he was asking. He wondered how our lives would change with more money.

The answer was simple: my life wouldn’t change. There would be no new house; I’d stay in my old manufactured home which keeps me dry and warm. No new car; my little Yaris gets me from point A to point B just fine. There might have been a few new toys for Daniel, but the rest would be given away to those whose needs are much greater than my own.

Evangelist John Wesley said, Money never stays with me long; I give it away as fast as I get it lest it burn a hole through my pocket and into my heart. 

For me, giving to God’s work and investing in others is more important than having more for myself. Dr CI Scofield used to remind his students that God won’t judge us based on what percentage we give to Him, but on how much we keep for ourselves.  Americans are a very, very generous people, but we still spend far more on ourselves for lives that are quickly fading into eternity.

A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous  (Psalm 37:16-17).

A Bible Revolution

lutherMartin Luther was faced with a decision to remain quiet or speak out. The religious corruption he witnessed was unbearable. Bishops sold places in Heaven to the highest bidder. The pope promised early release from Purgatory for donations to build his palace. Priests were impregnating nuns and aborting the babies. The pope claimed to be the only authority for Christians.

Luther began by writing a letter to his bishop, explaining 95 Biblical reasons the pope was wrong to sell salvation. Then on October 31, 1517, filled with anger, he stormed to his church and nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the doors which served as the community bulletin board. Soon his complaint reached Rome.

For hundreds of years the pope was considered the final authority in all things Christian. His words were more authoritative than the Bible. Suddenly a Bible teacher in a small German village was questioning the status quo.

At that time, Luther was preaching a Bible-based sermon every 2 1/2 days. He also wrote a booklet on a Bible subject every other day for at least 4 years.

Tensions between the pope and Luther grew. The pope threatened the German emperor to get Luther or else. He even told his aides that if Luther “accidentally” died, it would solve many problems.

In hiding, Luther translated the Bible into German, which had only been in Latin for over a thousand years. He believed the German people should be able to compare what they were being taught in church with what God said in the Bible.

The final 13 years of his life, Luther suffered from vertigo, fainting, tinnitus, cataracts, kidney and bladder stones, arthritis, angina, and deafness, but he kept writing and preaching the Word of God.

On the evening of February 17, 1546, at the age of 56, Luther experienced chest pain and hours later died. Any thought that his death would end his Bible revolution was quickly proven wrong. He had founded a movement stressing the authority of the Scriptures above every man, experience, and idea.

All Scripture is given by inspiration 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).

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.

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).

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).

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).

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).

Predestined

Where Living Begins Pastor Richard L Rice

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).

Many people cringe at the word predestination. I used to! But we can’t reject a word that is used six times in the Bible. The prefix pre- means beforehand, and destination describes the destiny of the predestined one.

What is the destiny that God has predetermined for those He foreknows? To be like Jesus, conformed to His image!

This world is full of characters. Heaven will also be filled with characters, but they will all be characters who’ve been made like Jesus. God’s primary goal isn’t to fill every empty room of Heaven to capacity but to fill His home with people like Himself. To accomplish this, He makes us worthy of Himself and His Heavenly home. For this to happen, He makes us like His own much loved Son.

Restless

Carson City is the capital of Nevada. It’s a beautiful small city with an old-West feel, nestled against the snow-covered Carson Range. Driving into Carson after hours of dead Nevada desert was like entering a paradise.

The friendly and overly-talkative hotel manager walked us from the front desk to our room. I opened the door, wheeled in our luggage and plopped myself headlong onto one of the two beds. I couldn’t bounce up fast enough. The bed cover was wet and smelled of urine!

I wadded up the bed cover, held it at arm’s-length, and with my head turned sideways marched across the parking lot to the front desk. We couldn’t wait to get moved to another room, a clean room, which was given to us free for our stay.

Like that room, life is full of filth in a filthy world. We live in a world that is being destroyed by man’s sins and is condemned under the curse of God. Yes, there is still extreme beauty and much happiness to experience, but as CS Lewis asked, Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. 

Sadly, many people have become used to living in the filth and now think of it as the acceptable standard. For the Christian, the sin, ravages of moral rot, and God’s curse upon this world only makes us restless to be in the perfect presence of Christ in Heaven.

We are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (Philippians 5:6, 8).