Rappin’ With Rick

Friends of God

“We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (II Corinthians 5:20)

As we noted a couple of weeks ago, to be reconciled means to be made friendly again. In other words, God wants to be your friend.

That thought really excited my grand- son Carter. After last week’s sermon he could hardly wait to tell me how much he liked the idea of being God’s friend. I hope it excites you as well.

It’s one thing to note that Abraham was called the friend of God, (James 2:23) and that the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. (Exodus 33:11) It’s another thing to actually hear Jesus say, “You are My friends.” (John 15:14)

Are you a friend of God? Do you talk with Him as friend to friend? Do you think of the One who laid down His life for His friends as your friend?

The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that although Jesus existed in the form of God He emptied Himself to be made in the likeness of men, and that He did so in order to become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus became a man in order to become our Savior. That’s the good news of great joy that the angel shared with the shepherds. But He also became a man so we could relate to God as friend with friend.

While we may not find that message on Christmas cards, it’s an important part of the good news of great joy. God wants to be your friend. And the Prince of Peace not only wants there to be peace on earth, He begs you to be reconciled to God. He begs you to become friends with your Creator. In fact, He became a man, and died, to make that possible.

While I long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord”, I want even more than that. When I get to heaven I want to be welcomed as a friend of God. And that’s my Christmas wish for you as well.

God Bless, Rick

The Ministry of IDES

I want to introduce you to a new mission that will appear on our 2021 Financial Projection.

IDES is a Christian relief organization that was begun in 1973 to enable Christian Churches to partner with mission workers around the world in order to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people in the name of Jesus Christ. The primary goal of IDES is to share the gospel by showing that God loves and cares for those in need, whether it is rebuilding homes after a disaster, providing nutritious food to the hungry, helping develop sustainable solutions for water or food supply problems, or serving the sick and injured. Last year IDES disbursed over 4 million dollars in disaster response aid, hunger relief, community development, medical care, and for Bibles and evangelistic materials.

Over the years IDES stepped in to help Asian Christian Mission meet needs that arose from various disasters, and when funds were available, we sought to help meet such needs directly. Sending funds monthly to IDES, however, will enable us to join with other churches to even more effectively meet needs as they arise.

Upon Jesse’s death the board of ACM decided to bring the mission to a close at the end of 2020, and Jesse’s wife, Ati, will continue working in Thailand through another mission. Supporting IDES will therefore not only enable us to meet needs around the world, but to continue meeting needs that might arise where we have ministered for over 40 years through our beloved Jesse.

God Bless, Rick

What We Need to Hear

I have thoroughly enjoyed using the NASB Daily Reading Bible this year. It’s not available in printed form, so I had to download the Kindle version. I wasn’t sure I would like reading the Bible everyday on an iPad, but I soon discovered the convenience of being able to immediately Google any questions that might come up in my reading. In fact, I like it so much that I’m planning on using it again next year.

The only thing I don’t like about it is that it only shows the day by number and not by date. I’m never really sure I’m on the right day or not. But I really do like the way they have selected the daily readings from the Old and New Testament. In fact, I’m amazed how the readings often relate to each other; something that was very evident the day after the election.

After reading, I did discover that I was a day off schedule, but what I read was very relevant for the day of the election or the day after. It began with the first two chapters of Daniel, where Daniel reveals and interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

After he and his three friends prayed for God to reveal the dream to them, Daniel blessed the God of heaven and said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings.”

The New Testament reading for the day was from I Timothy 2. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity…Therefore I want men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.”

I can’t think of better passages of Scripture to read in the aftermath of the election, and I would encourage us all to acknowledge what Daniel acknowledged, and to pray as Paul directed Timothy to pray. I would also like to encourage everyone to commit to a program of daily Bible reading in the coming year. The Holy Spirit has a way of making sure we read what we need to hear from God.

God Bless, Rick

Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague

“In the summer of 1527, the plague swept through Europe once again. But this time, it fell upon a society deeply divided—“polarized,” we would say—by the events of the Protestant Reformation. On top of all the old fears of death and social breakdown, perceptions of the disease were filtered through new layers of mistrust rooted in religious difference. Both sides gleefully seized on examples of cowardice and other missteps to paint their enemies in the worst possible light.
By August of that year, the first victims of the plague were dying in the city of Wittenberg, where Martin Luther and his colleagues were laboring. Just like many recent governments have done, the Elector John “the Steadfast” ordered a series of dramatic measures to combat the plague, including ordering the faculty of the University of Wittenberg to relocate to another city. Luther refused to leave.
By the time the plague died down in Wittenberg in the fall of that year, Luther was being criticized on both sides. Luther responded in an open letter titled, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.” (villageanglicanchurch.com)

The heart of Luther’s response is as follows:

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

God Bless, Rick

What About Patriotism?

The Apostle Paul told us that our citizenship is in heaven, and we readily acknowledge such. But what about patriotism? Wilfred McClay offers some insight into the place of patriotism in Land of Hope.

“There is a strong tendency in modern American society to treat patriotism as a dangerous sentiment, a passion to be guarded against. But this is a serious misconception. To begin with, we should acknowledge that there is something natural about patriotism, as an expression of love for what is one’s own, gratitude for what one has been given, and reverence for the sources of one’s being. These responses are instinctive; they’re grounded in our natures and the basic facts of our birth. Yet their power is no less for that, and they are denied only at great cost.

“There is (however) a vital tension in the makeup of American patriotism, a tension between its universalizing ideals and its particularizing sentiments, with their emphasis upon memory, history, tradition, culture, and the land. The genius of American patriotism permits both to coexist, and even to be harmonized to a considerable extent, therefore making them both available to be drawn upon in the rich, but mixed, phenomenon of American patriotism. It would be a mistake to insist on one while excluding the other. They both are always in conversation with one another, and they need to be. And that conversation, to be a real and honest one, must include the good, the bad, and the ugly, the way we have failed and fallen short, not merely what is pleasing to our national self-esteem. But by the same token, the great story, the thread that we share, should not be lost in a blizzard of details or a hailstorm of rebukes. This is, and remains, a land of hope, a land to which much of the rest of the world longs to come.”

As we fulfill our duty and privilege as Americans to vote into office those we deem able to best lead us, let’s not be afraid to acknowledge our flaws, nor the desire for America to be what God has enabled her to be for over 200 years.

God Bless, Rick

PS. Last Sunday Caleb Luzio requested that we sing The Star Spangled Banner. Since I was leading, I was keeping my eyes in the hymnal, so much so that when I looked up after the song was finished, only then did I notice that everyone was standing with their hand over their heart. Obviously patriotism is not a problem at CCC.