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).

*** Follow us on Twitter @RichardRice124

To Kenya with Love

Matthew Ferraro, Pastor, Richard L Rice, where living begins, Kenya

In a few weeks I’ll be making my 4th, and likely last ministry visit to Kenya.

My wife will stay home in Oregon this time for financial reasons. Her varied ministry of singing, giving guitar lessons, teaching women how to crochet and begin their own home businesses, and speaking to groups of women will go unfulfilled unless I suddenly become very talented. I rely on my wife greatly, but I’ll be joined again by my 21-year old friend and son in Christ, Matthew. I’ll keep him busy again this year to the point of exhaustion each night.

Over the past year I’ve been working hard producing materials to be taught in our Bible school, Berean School of Ministry. I’ve completed 10 separate courses for 123 in-depth Bible lessons. These courses cover the Holy Spirit, water baptism, the nature of sin, the Bible, the end times, and much more.

The plan is for me to teach verse-by-verse through the 12 books of the Minor Prophets in the Bible school, preach in churches, encourage young pastors to be faithful students of God’s Word, speak at home meetings, and go anywhere to meet anyone to preach Christ Jesus. My partner in ministry, Pastor Isaac Mathembe, will make certain there is not a wasted moment of our time.

This blog will continue each weekday with new material while I’m away.

I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words to the believers Rome: I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me (Romans 15:30).

Matthew and I will surely appreciate your prayers for us and the beloved people of Kenya. Thank you if you’re able to help finance our trip, provide a scholarship to a Bible school student, or make a gift to needy pastor. Online tax-deductible donations can be made via Paypal at SellwoodChurch@gmail.com, or by check via snail mail to: Sellwood Community Church, 23585 NW Jacobson Rd, #51, Hillsboro, OR 97124.

Click here to watch ministry video highlights from 2016.

A Holy Ghost Crusade

Pastor, Richard L Rice, Kenya, where living begins

You probably know a “Quiet Guy” who goes unnoticed. He sits toward the back of a room and barely makes a sound, deflecting attention to make someone else noticed.

I grew up in a religious tradition that placed an extraordinary emphasis on the Holy Spirit and certain aspects of His work. There was the “Holy Ghost Crusade”, people got “Holy Ghost Goosebumps”, the “dove” was plastered on church walls and banners, every strange idea or thing – real or imagined – was attributed to the “moving of the Spirit.”

People claimed visions and messages from the Lord which were often nothing more than repetitions of Biblical ideas or cockamamie signs of self-worship. We boasted in being “Spirit-filled” rather than simple followers of Christ.

Show me people infatuated with the Holy Spirit and I’ll show you people who have gone astray from Jesus.

Please don’t misunderstand me. The Christian life is impossible without the abiding presence of the Spirit. Redemption becomes a reality in the sinner only by the Spirit’s work. He illuminates the mind to understand and apply the Word of God. He distributes spiritual gifts to the Church as He wills. He is the Third Person of the Godhead and worthy of all honor, praise, worship, and adoration.

However, Jesus said of Him, When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will tell you all things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you  (John 16:13-14).

The Holy Spirit is the “Quiet Guy” of the Trinity. Yes, upon His arrival in the Church He came with the sound of a mighty, rushing wind (Acts 2:2), but all the noise that day declared the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11) in the Person of Jesus. The Spirit of God never takes the attention due the Son. Never.

Jesus is the One before every knee shall bow and every tongue confess (Philippians 2:11). If the spirit points to anything or anyone other than Jesus – including itself – it’s not the “Holy” Spirit doing the pointing.

How Can a Young Man Cleanse His Way?

Where Living Begins Pastor Richard L Rice

How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word (Psalm 119:9).

I’m not as young as I used to be, and I may not be as young as you, but I still think of myself as a young man. The psalmist’s words apply to you at any age, even if you’re a woman, because we all get dirty.

God commanded the Jewish people to wash their bodies frequently. This was illustrated best in tabernacle where one of the primary pieces of furniture was the bronze laver. It was a huge bowl filled with water where the priests were required to stop and wash themselves numerous times per day. The washing symbolized the need for perpetual cleansing from sin.

The psalmist writes of cleansing by the Word of God. How does reading the Bible cleanse the child of God? As you read the Scriptures, you see the perfections of God. You will also have your own imperfections, failures, and unrighteousness made clear.

When you see God’s perfection and your sin in the Scriptures, the Spirit moves you to repentance, which is the changing of your mind about yourself and your actions to comply with what God says. Repentance always leads you to confession, saying the same thing God says about your sins.

In confession rests one of the promises of God for cleansing: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Confession of sin isn’t a step in being saved, it’s a step of the already saved.

Reading the Bible reveals God, shows you your sin, leads to repentance and confession, resulting in cleansing.

If Someone Made It

Edward Losli, Where Living Begins

My grandfather, Edward Losli, wasn’t a sophisticated or highly educated man. He was a simple Oregon farm boy who made the best of everything God gave him.

He believed that “If someone made it, I ought to be able to fix it.” When he enlisted in the US Navy during World War 2, he trained as a diesel engineer and then served as a machinist mate in the Pacific Theater. Throughout the rest of his lifetime, he tinkered successfully with all sorts of engines and machines. He could build anything.

Friend, no matter how perfect your life may seem, it’s broken. If you haven’t yet felt the pains of living in this sinful world, brace yourself because life will soon hit you like a ton of bricks. But know this: God made you and He can fix you. He’s not going to prevent pains and troubles, but He’ll mend your broken heart and strengthen and walk with you through every challenge.

Jesus said, The Spirit of Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19).

A Good Church

The name on the building changed this week from Calvary Bible Church to Paradox Church. It’s more than a name change, the website says the congregation exists for “community, neighborhood, simplicity.” Gone is the work of Christ and the Word of God; the new congregation is about YOU.

What makes a good church? By today’s standard the answer is in what titillates and satisfies you, but here at Where Living Begins, we find our faith and practice in the Word of God.

Let us suggest 6 major characteristics of a good local church.

First, its purpose is the glory of Christ, not the benefit or satisfaction of its members (Ephesians 3:21). The church belongs to Jesus and is about Him. Is He exalted and His death, burial, and resurrection emphasized – not just one Sunday a year but in every service? Instead of Christ, is the Christian, works, or the Holy Spirit the focus? Is salvation through faith alone in Jesus alone preached in every sermon?

Second, the Bible is God’s perfect and all-sufficient means of growing His people  (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Is the Bible the only accepted source of truth, rule of faith, and standard of Christian living? Is the preaching of the Bible the major ministry? Is the Bible preached as God gave it; word for word, sentence by sentence?

Third, the pastor is concerned with equipping the saints to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). Does every member have an opportunity to exercise his spiritual gift or is the pastor and staff expected to do the work of ministry? Is the pastor actively working himself out of a job?

Fourth, it’s a gathering where God’s people worship Him through the teaching of doctrine, prayer, the Lord’s Supper, and spiritual one-anothering (Acts 2:42). Is the church seeking to be attractive and inviting to the unsaved? or does it gather for believers to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24)?

Fifth, evangelism of the unsaved is a primary and individual function (Matthew 28:19-20). Is the congregation committed in prayer and finances to preaching the gospel at home and in foreign lands? Are individual believers regularly encouraged to share their faith with the unsaved?

 

 

 

 

 

Sixth, godly love is evidenced by obedience to Christ’s commands (John 13:34-35; 14:15). Does a love for God come first in the heart of the pastor and the people or are they occupied with each other?

No local assembly is perfect, but if you happen upon the perfect church, don’t stay or you’ll surely ruin it. Read through Revelation 2 and 3 to see what Jesus looks for and rejects in a local congregation. He’s not interested in size, the number of activities or ministries, the style of music, the pastor’s hip attire, the building atmosphere, or the kind of coffee served.