Rappin’ With Rick

Why Society Has No Hope

The Apostle Paul summarized the gospel message by which we are saved by stating that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (I Corinthians 15:1-4)

On Easter Sunday morning millions around the world will celebrate the fact that Jesus saved us from our sins, but sadly the societal benefit of what He did by going to the cross and rising from the tomb has been lost in identity politics.

You probably didn’t see that coming. But neither did I.

Matt and I were sitting in a lecture on “The Heresy of Identity Politics” at the Touchstone Conference last October when Easter and politics unexpectedly came together for me.

Joshua Miller had been explaining how in identity politics the traditional division between liberal and conservative has been replaced by transgressors and those who are innocent. And while liberals and conservatives can often work together for the good of society through cooperation and compromise, there can be no discourse between transgressors and those who insist they are at least innocent, if not actually victims of current or even historical transgressions.

At the conference I picked up Joshua’s book, American Awakening, and came to a better understanding of identity politics, and, more importantly, the only solution. The bottom line is that we have totally abandoned a biblical understanding of human nature, and are looking for a scapegoat to blame for all the ills of our society.

Until we recognize that none of us are innocent, and that we are all sinners, the dividing line will remain. And until we come to understand that the price has been paid for our sin, and forgiveness for everything is possible through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, there is no hope for a much needed American awakening.

God Bless, Rick

Sympathy or Empathy?

What’s the difference between sympathy and empathy, and which is better? I recently read an article that insisted that sympathy was better, but my research indicates that empathy is held in higher regard by most today.

Sympathy is a much older term, and comes from words that mean “together” and “suffer” or “feel”. Empathy is more recent, coming from psychology, and is a combination of words for “in” and “feeling”. Sympathy acknowledges someone’s pain, and empathy identifies with it.

At first glance it would appear that empathy is better because it goes deeper, but going deeper has some drawbacks. It’s possible to so identify with someone’s pain that you get emotionally overwhelmed by it, and there’s a tendency to refuse to even consider the cause of someone’s pain for fear of being too judgmental.

I know it may sound strange, but pain is often a gift of God. Without pain we don’t know anything is wrong, and if we don’t know something is wrong we can’t fix it. If there’s no fixing what’s causing the pain, the pain is obviously no longer a gift, and it does become a curse. But if there is a cure, the pain is truly a gift.

So what does that have to do with sympathy and empathy? Sympathy allows you to remain far enough removed from someone’s pain to be able to look for a cause, and hopefully help them address it. Empathy refuses to judge, and in an attempt to totally embrace someone’s pain you often end up embracing their sin, and that keeps them from seeking the cure.

The Apostle Paul tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. But in the same passage he tells us to not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:15-21)

Perhaps the best road for us to travel is the path of compassion. Compassion is an emotional response that causes us to take action to relieve someone’s pain. Jesus was often moved by compassion, and it led Him to do whatever needed to be done.

May we care enough to do what needs to be done, even if it doesn’t feel like we’re being empathetic, or even sympathetic.

God Bless, Rick

Why Baptize?

Why was Evalise baptized? The most obvious reason is that she is being raised by faithful Christian parents, attends a Bible-believing church, and has a basic understanding of what Jesus did for her, and why. Perhaps a better question is why should anyone be baptized, and how.

Many would admit that baptism is a good thing, and that every believer should do it. They may not think it’s essential for salvation, but do think it’s a good way to demonstrate your faith. And they seldom think the way you are baptized is all that important. Obviously I disagree.

After being confronted with their sin, and asking what they should do about it, the hearers of the first gospel sermon were told to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. (Acts 2:38) After being blinded on the road to Damascus, Saul was told to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins. (Acts 22:16) And after Philip was sent by an angel to tell an Ethiopian about Jesus, he was baptized along the road in a pool of water. When they came out of the water, he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts8:39)

The bottom line reason for baptism is found in Peter’s first letter. After making it clear that Christ died for everyone’s sin, he focused on the flood and how Noah’s family was brought safely through the water. How they were the only people on earth to obey God and get on the ark built according to God’s instructions.

He also noted that Jesus went to those who had been disobedient in Noah’s day. What He declared to them we’re not told, but I assume it dealt with their refusal to believe what Noah had told them, and their refusal to get on the boat God designed.

I guess it’s possible that when they saw what Noah was building, they thought they ought to make a boat of their own. If they did, it didn’t float. I’ll let you make the connection between that supposition and alternate forms of baptism.

Peter did make it clear that baptism has nothing to do with physical cleansing, but is an appeal to God for a good conscience. And he explicitly stated that baptism saves us. That’s why we do it, and why we do it as instructed.

God Bless, Rick

Living Life Backward

There is little doubt that we will still live in a strange new world as we enter 2023. Trying to understand that world, however, proved to be more difficult than we thought.

We did our best on Sunday nights to explore how the thinking of philosophers laid the foundation for the strange gender confusion we are currently experiencing, and we affirmed a biblical understanding of who we are and why God made us the way He did. I do have to admit, however, that we stopped mid-stream.

We covered the historical thinking, but decided to simply summarize how that thinking has gone main-stream today, and encouraged the class to read the second half of the book on their own. Hopefully those who are doing so will be even better equipped to answer the questions that are bound to find their way into our homes.

Having confessed that we stopped mid- stream, and acknowledged what has gone main-stream, I feel a need to swim up- stream and admit that sometimes you can’t even lead a horse to water, let alone make it drink.

Back in October I reviewed Living Life Backward by David Gibson in detail. I was convinced everyone would benefit greatly from reading it. But since no one asked for a copy, I’m going to try once again to lead you to it. In fact, I’m going to actually help you drink it in. Yes, Living Life Backward will be our Sunday evening adult study for the new year.

If you don’t want your resolutions for the new year to end up in vain, this study of Ecclesiastes will get you started in the right direction. Instead of setting your sights on a future that is unsure, and a path through life that is guaranteed to end with you crying out “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity”, you’ll learn how to live a successful life by living it backward.

Unlike our previous study, this book is an easy read. You could wade in by yourself without danger of drowning, but if we swim through it together we’ll make some good waves and really stir things up.

Dive in with me at 6:30 on the 8th, and you’ll be glad you did.

God Bless, Rick

Faithful Stewardship

As the elders reviewed the past year, and looked forward to the new, one thing really stood out. Your excellent stewardship!

It has long been our desire to give around 25% of our tithes and offerings to missions, and when we project our financial needs for a year we set the giving to missions accordingly. But even after adding support for Zach’s internship with Encounter mid-year it became obvious that your giving would far exceed our expectations, and that to keep the percentage around 25% we should give an additional $10,000 to missions. And, as God always does, He made it clear to us that there were a couple of mission needs that we could meet.

After Jesse Yangmi’s death it was announced that Asian Christian Mission would be disbanded. But Ati, his widow, continued ministering to the people of Thailand, and the mission was reorganized. When we then learned of her desire to take water filtration systems to 15 villages in 2021, we sent $5,000 to make it possible.

We then began supporting Ati on a monthly basis in 2022, and have been excited to be a part of what she is doing. In her summer newsletter she shared how, among many other things, she had sent four teachers from village churches to a program to train Sunday School teachers, and hoped to send 50 high school and university students to an intensive 5-day training program to equip them to share their faith with their non-Christian friends next April. The cost for the training, housing, food, and transportation will be $8,000. Due to your faithful stewardship, we have already sent a check to make this possible.

On the local front we just learned that the campus ministry at UIS and LLCC was in need of additional funds to meet their budget for the current fiscal year. We have therefore sent them an additional $2,000 to help meet their ministry needs for students here at home.

With all the dire financial news we hear about today, and even experience, I can’t express the gratitude I feel for the way you continue to support our church and the ministries that God sends our way.

God Bless, Rick