Jacob’s Wrestling Match

Abraham’s grandson Jacob encountered God in a very unusual manner.  It was nighttime.  Jacob was alone.  Tomorrow he would see his brother Esau for the first time in twenty years.  Esau had wanted to kill Jacob when he left home two decades earlier.  Had Esau changed his mind?

Then it happened.  In a rugged area not far from the Jordan River, some miles north of the Dead Sea, Jacob was attacked.  Suddenly a man began wrestling with him.  And they wrestled all night.

Neither one could seem to gain the upper hand in this nocturnal wrestling match.  So as dawn approached, the man touched Jacob’s hip, which was immediately and permanently disjointed.  After a brief conversation, the mysterious man changed Jacob’s name to Israel and then he was gone.

With whom did Jacob wrestle that night?  Was it Esau?  Was it an angel?  As the sun rose and Jacob went limping away, he realized that he had encountered God face-to-face.  And he lived to tell about it.

This was not Jacob’s first encounter with God.  Twenty years earlier when he left home, God appeared to Jacob in a dream.  In the dream, Jacob saw God high and lifted up, standing over a ladder which reached from heaven to earth.  But now God comes to Jacob as a man, wrestling.  Why?

Jacob could stand in awe when God stayed in heaven overseeing that ladder with angels ascending and descending on it.  He could be amazed and astonished at God, but Jacob could not relate closely to such transcendence.  God-in-flesh, however, was easier for Jacob to understand, to get his hands on, to draw close and relate.

Jacob’s encounter with God was a foreshadowing of Bethlehem.  More than a thousand years after Jacob’s wrestling match, God’s Son Jesus stepped down from the throne in heaven and took on the very nature of a man, God-in-flesh.  In Jesus Christ, God condescended.

But if the man who wrestled Jacob was God-in-flesh, then why could he not instantly overcome Jacob?  Why did he prolong the contest?  Because God did not step down from heaven and wrestle Jacob in order to destroy him.  God came to mold Jacob and to build him up.  God fought Jacob so Jacob could have the victory.

A similar question occurs when Jesus becomes God-in-flesh.  How could he die on the cross at Calvary?  Can God really die?  Yes, Jesus can die and he did, so that we can be saved from sin and have eternal life.  God became like us so that we can become like him.  This is the mystery of God among us.

Jacob had no way of knowing that his wrestling match that night in the dark east of the Jordan River anticipated the momentous day when the Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14).  Jacob’s encounter with God was a hint of Christmas future.

Jacob’s pre-Christmas encounter with God-in-flesh left him a changed man.  Not such a silent night, but it was surely a holy night.  He had a new name and a new walk.  Our encounter with the God-Man Jesus has also changed us forever.  We have a new identity and a new life.  Joy to the world!  The Lord is come.

Praise God that he is with us and for us,

Brother Richard Foster

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Chicken Sandwiches and Other Offenses

Even a chicken sandwich can be offensive in America.

A high school principal in California recently refused to let a local business provide chicken sandwiches to the football team, not because someone was offended, but because someone might be offended.

Nobody complained about the chicken sandwiches, but they were banned from being used to support school sports anyway. Why? The family that owns the chicken restaurant believes in God’s definition of family.

The family in question is the family of Truett Cathey and the restaurant he started is Chick-fil-A, famous for not opening on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, and yet still achieving great financial success.

The owners of Chick-fil-A have no policy against people with alternate lifestyles. They do not refuse to serve them. They don’t make it a habit to say disparaging things about them.

But the fact that they believe in what the Bible teaches about marriage was enough for the school’s principal to refuse their money, money that would have benefitted the students involved with the football team. All this despite the fact that nobody was offended (except perhaps the principal).

Followers of Jesus across our land have become all too familiar with the wave of offensiveness that now seems to attach itself to Biblical Christianity. The cross is offensive. Nativity scenes are offensive. Prayer in Jesus’ name is offensive. “In God We Trust” printed on our money is offensive. And the list goes on and on.

Have we somehow made the Christian message offensive to the world?

When Jesus was teaching a crowd once, they got offended by his message. He taught them that he was the true bread that came down from heaven and that they did not have life in themselves unless they ate his flesh and drank his blood (see John 6:25-66).

Since the crowd was offended, Jesus explained his remarks, making it clear that he was not talking about cannibalism, but about spiritual life. Nevertheless, they walked away, offended. One wonders if they really understood him but refused to accept his message, using “offense” as an excuse more than a reason.

It’s true, some Christians may act offensive at times, but we have not made the Christian message offensive. People were offended when the Lord himself told them the truth. Things have not changed.

Jesus is our model. Despite the offense, he spoke the truth publicly. In the face of opposition, he carefully clarified his remarks to ensure that there was no misunderstanding, but he did so without watering down his message. And he was not discouraged when people walked away offended. He kept on speaking the truth in love.

It is vital that we follow our Lord’s example. We must speak the truth publicly. We must be clear about our message without compromising God’s word. And we must not be discouraged when people reject the gospel.

As Jesus said, “Go! Look, I am sending you all out like lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). He recognizes that we will meet significant opposition, just like he did. But he also promises to send the powerful presence of God’s Holy Spirit with us so that we can achieve the victory, just like he did.

May God’s empowering Presence enable us to always speak the truth in love,

Brother Richard

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Mom’s Bible

The night before my mother passed away I found her Bible. It was a well-worn Bible, not from being mistreated, but from being read. The cover was soft and worn down from being held open for many hours. The pages had long ago lost the stiffness of being new and unused.

As I flipped through the pages of Mom’s Bible, the first piece of paper I came to was a recipe (for baked grits, which I don’t remember ever eating). It had her mother’s name written on it. That recipe was a reminder that Mom loved to cook for and spend time with her family. Her last night in this life was spent at home surrounded by the sounds of her family. That was a blessing.

The next item I came to in her Bible was a bookmark with Psalm 23 printed on it. Then there was another smaller bookmark with a verse reference and a drawing of a little boy smiling. That picture of the little boy reminded me that my mother loved to tell children about Jesus. She spent years working with kids, and others, teaching them about God’s love and truth.

The verse reference on the small bookmark was Psalm 69:30, “I will praise the name of God with song, And shall magnify Him with thanksgiving.” My mother could not hit a musical note with a shotgun. Singing was not her gift, at least not by the standards of this world. But when she worshiped, she sang all those bad notes with all her heart. I suspect that God loved Mom’s singing because it came from a heart of praise.

Mom’s Bible also had many Scriptures highlighted and some hand-written notes. The notes were shaky looking, reminding me that Mom lost the use of her right hand years ago but she taught herself how to write with her left hand. She refused to give up. She went right on making notes about Bible studies and writing in her journals for years, even though her handwriting didn’t look very pretty.

We brought Mom home from the hospital on Friday night. Hospice had already set up a bed in the house. On Saturday morning I got up, came downstairs with Mom’s Bible and sat by her bed. I read to her from the Book of Revelation, descriptions of heaven. I read the 23rd Psalm. I talked to her about some of the notes she had written on the page with the Lord’s Prayer. I prayed for her and told her that I loved her.

My family expected Mom to be with us for at least a few more days, if not a couple of weeks, but soon after I read to her from her Bible, Mom slipped away. She told us earlier that she was ready to see Jesus. I know she was hurting and wanted to rest from the struggle, but she was not talking about Jesus simply as a euphemism for the end of her pain. She was ready to stand in the presence of her Lord. Now she does.

Mom was ready to see Jesus and she helped a lot of other people get ready to see Jesus. Her service in this age is finished. We are still working. We still have the chance to help more people get ready to see Jesus.

May the Spirit of the Living God inspire and enable us to serve him well,

Brother Richard

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Impressing the Faith On Children

When it was time to go in and take the Promised Land, Moses reminded God’s people of how they should live in order to enjoy God’s blessing. He reminded them of the agreement God had made with them, the covenant. He was to be their God and they were to be his people. He would give them his truth and they would live according to that truth.

God’s blessing was designed to last for generations. As a result, each generation of God’s people was responsible to make sure that their children and grandchildren knew about God’s ways. Moses reminded the people that they were to impress God’s words on their children (Deuteronomy 6:7). Moses was not talking to professional teachers but to parents and grandparents. Faith begins at home.

God’s people still have the great responsibility and the wonderful joy of impressing God’s truth on our children. It is pleasing to God and profitable to our kids to make sure that they know God’s Word. When we tell our children about God’s ways, we stir the fires of faith in our own lives, too.

Impressing God’s commands on our children is an ongoing task that must be done in our homes every day and in our church every week. The Christian faith is not merely information, but a way of life. Children must see the faith in the lives of their parents in order to understand and embrace Christianity.

As our culture becomes more hostile toward Bible-believing Christianity, parents who strive to pass on the faith to their children will be harshly criticized. The organizations and institutions in our society will put pressure on Christian parents in order to pull them and their children away from the Bible and from the local church. Schedule conflicts will abound.

In this new environment of aggressive secularism, sadly, many parents will compromise. They will try to balance the recreational, academic, and athletic pursuits of this age with their commitments to Christ and his kingdom work. Their children are watching and they understand the inconsistency of claiming Christ as Lord but setting up idols in his place.

Other families will see the temptations of this godless world for what they really are. They will be ready to make personal sacrifices for the faith, knowing that Jesus calls his followers to deny self, take up a cross, and follow him. These parents will model Christ for their children. They will impress upon their children the Christian faith.

May God’s Spirit empower us to keep the faith alive in our own hearts and in the hearts of our children,

Brother Richard Foster

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A Word From the Heart

“But Christ, honor him as Lord in your hearts, always ready with a defense to everyone asking you for a word concerning the hope in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

Peter wrote these words to Christians who were facing opposition and sometimes deadly hostility for their faith in Jesus Christ. He wrote in order to encourage his fellow believers in their struggle.

In this verse, Peter instructed his readers to do two things. First, he called on his fellow Christians to set apart Jesus as Lord in their hearts. Peter started with the heart, that is, the mind and the will. Why? Because Christians are Christians from the inside out. Until the heart changes, nothing else can. The essence of Christianity is to follow Jesus first, before anything or anyone else.

When Jesus is Lord of a person’s inner being, there will be a sense of hope in that individual which shines through. The hope of true faith cannot be hidden, even in difficult times. And nobody can deprive a true believer of the hope that he or she has in the risen Jesus Christ.

Peter knew that outsiders would notice the hope in Jesus’ followers. They noticed that Christians were blessed with a deep and abiding sense of optimism even in the darkest of times. Peter also knew that curiosity would drive some people to ask believers about their hope, opening up wonderful opportunities for sharing the faith.

So the second part of Peter’s instruction was to be ready with a defense. People may have thought that Christians were foolish for being so hopeful when they faced such opposition and persecution. But Jesus had faced the ultimate persecution, death, and he had experienced the ultimate victory, resurrection. How could his followers lose hope when their Lord had defeated death?

Peter wanted believers to be ready with a personal testimony, a testimony that was rooted in their own personal faith in Jesus Christ. He called it a defense. Believers were on trial in the Roman world and they were required to give a defense for their hope in Jesus.

Christians today are on trial in America. The faith is under fire. Only those who have Jesus set apart as Lord in their hearts will be able to give an effective defense for the hope that Jesus provides. And those who have Jesus set apart as Lord in their hearts will not be able to silence the Spirit of Christ within them. The hope and its defense are both signs of authentic saving faith.

The Bible’s instructions are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago. The world is still in a state of rebellion against the Maker. God’s people are still chosen and empowered to speak the truth in love. A word from the heart is still compelling and powerful. Let’s make Jesus Lord in our hearts and get ready to fight the good fight of the faith.

May our hope in Christ Jesus inspire us to contend for the faith,

Brother Richard Foster

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Fight The Good Fight (Audio)

Click here to start the audio: Fight the Good Fight

Fight with me in prayer! This is an excellent message about fighting in prayer, learning to pray, and the power of prayer. From Ephesians 6:10-13.

Leave a comment and tell us what you thought.

Dr. Richard Foster, Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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Fight With Me!

Fight with me in prayer. That is what the Apostle Paul asked the church in Rome to do (Romans 15:30). It may seem strange to think of prayer as a battle, but the Bible assures us that Christians are caught in a firefight, and without prayer we will fall.

In Ephesians 6 we learn that our enemies in this age are not flesh and blood but spiritual: Satan and his evil troops. Our real battle is not political, economic or cultural. Our battle is spiritual.

In order to stand against the spiritual forces of evil in this age we must be diligent in using all the spiritual equipment which God has provided. Like a well-armed soldier, followers of Jesus can face the enemy with confidence, knowing that victory is assured.

The Apostle Paul was incarcerated and being guarded by a Roman soldier as he wrote about spiritual warfare to the believers in Ephesus. His description of God’s full armor is a great way to think about the spiritual weapons that God has given his people.

The belt of truth enables us to stand against Satan’s lies. The breastplate of righteousness makes us impervious to the accusations made against us by the Devil. Feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace keep us from being frozen by fear of our Enemy.

The shield of faith protects us from the deadly temptations that are fired at us in order to destroy us. The helmet of salvation gives us confidence to pursue heaven in a world that is trying desperately to ignore the danger of hell.

The sword of God’s Spirit is the word of God. The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. No weapon can withstand God’s word.

When Jesus was tempted by Satan he wielded the sword of the Spirit, applying Scripture in order to push the Enemy back in defeat. The Bible gives us great power in our battle against the evil forces in this world.

After instructing his readers to adorn the full armor of God, the apostle directed them to pray with passion and perseverance. The battle is won in prayer. Prayer enables us to stand in the mighty power of God, which is greater than any enemy we might face.

Jesus fought the good fight of faith on the cross at Calvary and displayed astounding power by walking away from his tomb in triumph. But first he prayed with great passion and perseverance in Gethsemane. His sweat was like blood dropping to the ground, yet he prayed on. When his prayer was finished the victory was assured.

Paul finished his instruction in Ephesians 6 by asking for prayer that he would proclaim the gospel with boldness. Despite being chained to a Roman soldier like a common criminal, he realized that his true identity was ambassador for Christ.

We, too, are called to be ambassadors for Christ. Let’s fight together in prayer. Pray for God’s people. No weapon forged against us will prevail.

May we stand strong for Christ in his power and for his glory,

Brother Richard Foster

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