Rappin’ With Rick

A New World

This world is not my home,
I’m just a-passing through.
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue.

We’ve sung the hymn, but do we live as if we really believe it? That’s a question that Alistair Begg addresses in a wonderful little book entitled Brave by Faith, and subtitled “God-sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World.” He introduces the book with the above words of the hymn, and then gets right to the point.

“The fact of the matter is that it has always been true that we are strangers in and to this world. It has just been clouded, obscured by the size and influence and legal protection of the church in most of the Western world. But this world is not actually our home. We’re not supposed to be treating this life the way other people treat it, as if this is the be-all and end-all of everything, or as if as Christians we can have a comfortable, respectable, prosperous life here and look forward to even more of those things in eternity.

“Secularism pushes back again and again against what the Bible says about sexual ethics, about salvation, about education, about the role and reach of the state, or about matters of public welfare. Public opinion has turned against Christians.

“Suddenly, as a minority group within an increasingly secularized nation, we are finding out how it feels to be outsiders. And we don’t like it. We’re not used to it. And it’s easy to become bewildered, angry, defensive, or defeated.

“So the question is, what does it look like to live as a Christian in a society that does not like what Christians believe, what we say, and how we live? How are you going to live in this new world?”

Alistair takes us to the book of Daniel to find the answer. And, as we noted on Wednesday nights, Daniel and his friends were cast into a pagan culture, given pagan identities, and educated in pagan schools, but remained faithful by depending on God, and by trusting in His providence.

We can do nothing less today.

God Bless, Rick

Taking Time for Children

If you haven’t read “Communion Through the Eyes of Children” on the inside, please stop here and read it before continuing.

Isn’t that beautiful! The future doesn’t seem so bleak when the children of our church tell what Jesus has done for them, and share their knowledge of His Word. And it certainly makes everything we do for children well worth it.

When they are in the nursery they not only find adults and teens who love them, they also learn of Jesus’ love for them. When they drag home their bags of homework from Sunday School we know those bags contain the truth that will guide them throughout their lives. When they are in Wee Worship and Junior Worship we trust they are developing habits of worship that will be with them for all eternity. When they study God’s Word and discuss topics that have a bearing on their faith and witness we are equipping them for what lies ahead. When they stand in awe of all that has been done to make their time in VBS monumental, we pray their faith is being built on a solid foundation.

I am so glad that our church family includes people of all ages, and that we do try to meet the spiritual needs of all. Far too many churches ignore segments of their church that aren’t thought to be relative to current goals and programs.

When Arvin was here to bring us up to date on the work of Oblong Children’s Christian Home, he told me he has a very hard time getting into churches these days. Many have done away with Sunday School and don’t have time for reports about work with children.

I trust we’ll never get so busy doing “important” things that we won’t have time for children. And I ask you to pray for our up-coming VBS, and for other activities that are being planned for the summer months. We may not be doing much on Sunday nights right now, but we certainly have not forgotten the children.

God Bless, Rick

Revealed in His Creation

“There is none so blind as he who will not see.” As I admitted in my Easter Sunday sermon, I assumed that quote was in the Bible, but it’s not. That’s not, however, to deny the truth of it.

On Sunday mornings we’ve been looking at the blindness of the disciples and those who witnessed the miracles of Jesus. They just did not want to believe what He was telling them, and showing them. They didn’t want to take their eyes off their own perceived needs, and give up their thoughts about the way things ought to be. And they are not the only ones who are blind to the signs God left behind, and continues to manifest.

On Sunday nights we’ve been looking at the evidence in creation that points to a Creator, and the evidence within us that makes it obvious we have a spiritual nature. The Apostle Paul even went so far as to state that the invisible attributes of God, His eternal power, and His divine nature can be clearly seen in creation, and that which is known about God is evident within us. As a result he said we are without excuse for not honoring Him as God, and giving thanks.

When we left the church last Sunday night I commented to Marilyn about the beautiful sunset. She said it was even more beautiful before I came out, and that I had missed a double rainbow. That’s something I hate to miss, because when God set the bow in the heavens He did so remind us, and even Himself, of His promises. Indeed, even in a dark and sin-stained world, beauty and hope break through if we have eyes to see it.

As we move from April showers to May flowers, may we do what Jesus said we ought to do. “Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field…will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?” Open our eyes Lord!

God Bless, Rick

The Role of Music

We only planned on staying for a couple of hours. We ended up staying until they pushed us out the door. We were exploring what we discovered to be the number one attraction in Phoenix, the Musical Instrument Museum.

We were given headphones, and told to begin in the African section. Each display contained examples of the instruments used in that particular country, and the video gave us a taste of what it was like. We ended up spending too much time in Africa, and had to rush through Europe and North American.

The stated mission of the museum is to foster “appreciation of the world’s diverse cultures by showing how we innovate, adapt, and learn from each other to create music—the language of the soul.” And Marilyn and I quickly noted that much of the music did have an integral relationship with the religions of each region. Others have noted that as well.

I recently read that the Taliban, while not formally banning music, has been stopping performances and destroying instruments. Augustine noted that arts and music kindle desire which finds its home in God. Apparently the Taliban is afraid the God that music opens the heart to is not always the god they want worshipped. The question we must ask ourselves is are we letting music open our hearts to God?

God told Job that the morning stars sang together when He laid the foundations of the earth, and in Revelation we learn that the four living creatures and twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb and sang a new song. Psalm 22 prefigures much that happened on the cross of Jesus, and the writer of Hebrews paraphrases verse 22 by saying “In the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise.”

I trust that will be true of us all on Easter Sunday morning.

God Bless, Rick

Tranquility Over Tyranny

Twice, in the past couple of weeks, I stumbled upon a quote from C.S Lewis that I had never read before.

“Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

The first time I read it, it introduced an article on the “nanny state” and mask mandates. The second time it prefaced a chapter in a book that details the relationship between government health agencies and the pharmaceutical industry. I was once again amazed at the relevance of something written years ago to the state of affairs we find ourselves in today.

Whether one would consider the mandates we’ve been under for two years oppressive or not, we have all no doubt found ourselves wondering what the most Christian response might be to all we’ve been told to do.

Paul made it clear in Romans 13:1 that we are to be in subjection to the governing authorities, and Peter told us in I Peter 2:13-17 to submit ourselves to every human institution, even specifying governors. But he also said we are to act as free men, and to not use our freedom as a covering for evil. So what do we do?

We don’t know what’s in the heart of those who issue mandates, but Isaiah did note that in his day there were rulers who were companions of thieves and loved bribes, (Isaiah 1:23) and declared woe to those who enact evil statutes (Isaiah 10:1).

Maybe the best thing we can do is pray for those who are in authority as Paul instructed Timothy to do, and strive to lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (I Timothy 2:1-2)

God Bless, Rick