The Door of Opportunity

God said to Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).

You pray for God’s guidance for a job, a husband, or a new pair of shoes. Beware that an “open door” may not be God’s door but a door of opportunity to sin.

Temptation is the enticement to do evil, to disobey God. Every temptation comes down to a decision: Will I obey God or listen to the voice that offers what my sinful flesh wants?

As Christians, we’re promised that God leads us. If you’ve been born again, you should expect the Spirit of God to lead you (Romans 8:14). The problem is that your sinful flesh also leads you, warring against the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:23). It is only when you walk by the Spirit in submission to the Scriptures that you won’t fulfill the lustful desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

Adam’s son Cain was warned by God that sin was waiting, crouching like a lion ready to pounce. Opportunity wasn’t necessarily God’s will.

One evening King David stood on his housetop and spied Bathsheba bathing. That “open door” was a temptation to sin that caused great suffering for David, Bathsheba, and the whole Jewish nation.

A fall often occurs when we’re faced with sin of presumption or defiance against what we know God has said. Be careful to examine every door by God’s Word – even when you feel peace about it. Feelings of peace are deceptive. Feelings, like doors, open and close, come and go, but God’s Word remains.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple … Keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me (Psalm 19:13).

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Dangerous Beds

Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11).

I confided in my pastor that I was struggling with thoughts of sexual immorality. He chuckled and answered, We all have those thoughts. As long as you don’t act on them it’s okay. That was the end of the conversation.

By my pastor’s reasoning, a man who is a unable to move any part of his body would be sinless. That’s not the testimony of the Word of God.

The sinful mind is enmity [hateful] against God (Romans 8:7). For as he thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7).

Our thoughts can be dangerous beds of sin. I would be unlikely to walk up to another person and plunge a knife into his back. I have no desire to spend my life in a prison cell or face the penalty of death, but I’d consider such a deed in my mind, an act of hateful murder so secret it is known only to myself and to God. In the hidden recesses of my heart I can ponder atrocious and abominable things yet appear to be moral and upstanding, all the while having my mind and conscience defiled (Titus 1:15).

Sin is more than an action. The act is just the final manifestation of what’s already taken place in the mind (Matthew 5:28; James 1:14).

The answer to a sinful mind in the Christian is two-fold. First, we must recognize and repent of our sinful thoughts, confessing these things to the Lord (1 John 1:9). Second, we must refuse to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). The continual renewing of the mind happens in the man of God by the Spirit of God working through the Word of God.

The Power of God at Work

The congregation a the Family of God Celebration Center, Matuu, Kenya.

Sunday morning, July 16th, I arrived in the village of Matuu, Kenya, and sat down in the front row of a tiny church building. As the time neared to begin the service, I looked at the handful of young children mingled with even fewer adults.

I opened my Bible and glanced at the notes I planned to preach from. My heart sank. The sermon based on 7 verses in Judges chapter ten would never work.

The music began, the congregation of less than a dozen stood and began singing, and I bowed my head and tearfully prayed, “Lord, I have nothing to say to these people. I have nothing for them. Unless You speak to them from Your Word, this time will be wasted.” It’s a prayer I’m left to desperately pray every time I stand before any of God’s people, but this time the need seemed even more desperate.

When I was called forward, I repeated my little prayer for the zillionth time, opened my Bible, and began my sermon about a Jewish judge named Jair, and a Saviour named Jesus who shed His blood to save sinners.

After I finished, a man sat down next to me. “Thank you for that sermon,” he tearfully said and began telling me why it was so meaningful to him. He then went on to recount my sermon from the previous year.

Later, another man recounted all four sermons I’ve preached in that church and how God has used them to change his life.

The power of God in Kenya is the same as anywhere else in the world. Neither His work nor power depends upon me. The power of the Gospel isn’t in me or any one of us, but in His Word. My inabilities are meaningless when compared to the Spirit-inspired Scriptures. The transforming power, life-changing influence, and to-the-point relevance have nothing to do with the speaker or the venue, but everything to do with God’s Word.

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).

Praying in the Spirit

“How about a blog?”

I hesitated. “What in the world is a blog and will it hurt?” Next I wondered what I’d write about. Seven years and almost 2,000 blog posts later, I’m still wondering what to write about.

Sometimes prayer leaves us just as confused. We have a lot of needs and issues of our own, then there are friends and family, but how should we pray for these things? What do we say?

Years ago a woman asked an elder in my church for prayer. She had an unbearable pain in her shoulder and asked the man to pray that God would remove the pain.

The man carefully listened, despite being hard of hearing, bowed his head and began to pray something like this … “Father, help this woman find a new job. You know her need. Open doors for her with a good-paying job that she enjoys.”

When the man was done praying, the dumbfounded woman left disappointed that she’d been ignored.

The next week she shared with the congregation that out of nowhere she was offered a better paying job and her shoulder stopped hurting.

I’m so thankful that even when I don’t know how to pray, the Holy Spirit knows the will of God. He always prays exactly for the will of the Father, no matter what comes out of me; it’s only the will of God that is answered by God.

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but he Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

Being Godly

The phrase, Cleanliness is next to godliness, is a familiar in the English-speaking world. Though no one is certain who first coined the saying, everyone should know that it is not found in the Bible … not even close.

Godliness is being like God in character. So how do we know what God’s character is like? We either make guesses or we see what God says about Himself. It is the Bible – inspired or breathed by God’s Spirit – which reveals God to us (2 Timothy 3:16).

In Second Timothy 3:12, we read that godly living won’t win you any brownie points with those around you. In fact, godliness comes at a great cost. All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Why? Because the world hates someone who is holier than thou, to use another common English phrase.

Godly character begins in Christ Jesus. It’s a benefit of being in relationship with God through Jesus. It’s what Jesus called being born again. But godliness is also an outgrowth of knowing truth. As the Apostle Paul wrote, the acknowledgement of the truth which is according to godliness (Titus 1:1). Truth not only sets free, it transforms. When our beliefs prove false or our experience contradicts what God has said, it’s because we’ve turned away from the truth.

Again, Jesus said that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). The more we know God’s Word – understanding and obeying it – the more godly He makes us.

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

A God of Gobbledygook?

We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God (1 Corinthians 2:12).

In 1948, US President Harry Truman accused his opponents of following the motto, If you can’t convince them, confuse them. Some people claim this is God’s modus operandi.

God talks like a man whose mouth is full of marbles and mush in his mind; His Word can be understood in many different ways. For them, He’s a mysterious being of eternal gobbledygook. The Bible is nothing but a fairy-story full of cryptic babble left for the listener to decipher.

Christianity has always posited that God’s desire is to clearly reveal Himself to His creation. He created the universe to point man to Himself (Romans 1:20); however sin deafens man (Romans 1:21).

The Apostle Peter wrote that the Bible came via holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit and is not of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20, 21). A Bible of many different meanings suggests an addle-minded Holy Spirit incapable of rational thought, when the problem is a sinful man with a “private interpretation” who has never undertaken to study the absolute reliability nor documented historicity of the Scriptures.

When we receive the Bible for what it says of itself, that every word has been inspired, directed, and preserved by the Holy Spirit to give His people an unmistakable statement of His will, then it is easy to comprehend. Simply stated: God says what He means.

Scripture is only hard to grasp when we desire to find ways to get around what He’s clearly and specifically said; that’s when it becomes a fairy-tale with a thousand different secret meanings.

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).

Truly, does this sound like God is a con-man, playing a shell game with the way to knowing Him and His will?

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).

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).

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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