Monthly Archives: August 2012

Serious Prayer

Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus. Jesus spoke his prayer to God the Father just before he was betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Jewish religious leaders.  In a matter of hours he would be crucified, but first he prayed.

Earlier that evening Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples.  He spent time preparing his small group of followers for what was about to happen.  They would soon take over the mission of God’s Kingdom in this world because Jesus was about to return to the Father.  He taught them many things.  He mentioned prayer several times.  It was now time for them to begin praying in his name.

To pray in Jesus’ name is more than just saying “in Jesus’ name” at the end of our prayers.  In part, it means to pray like Jesus prays.  While those eleven disciples listened, Jesus gave them an example of how he prays.  He prayed for himself, then for his close group of believers, and finally for all who would become his followers.

If the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of God’s people, needed to pray for himself, then we certainly need to pray for ourselves as well. Jesus prayed about his mission, his calling.  Like our Lord, we should pray about our calling.  The Lord has a purpose for each of us.  Knowing and following God’s purpose gives us a great sense of confidence.

After praying for himself, Jesus prayed for his close circle of followers, the eleven men who were his disciples.  They started out as the Twelve but Judas had left, making final preparations to betray Jesus.  So Jesus prayed that his close group of eleven followers would be safe from evil and that they would be focused on fulfilling God’s mission in their lives.  He prayed that they would penetrate the darkness of this world without being absorbed by it.

We live in a world full of spiritual darkness.  Compromising with the ways of this world is deadly.  But avoiding all contact with the world is disobedient because Jesus sends his followers into the world to carry on his mission.  Like Jesus, we need to pray for one another that we can be in the world but not of the world, representing our Lord faithfully to the world. Together, with God’s empowering Presence, we will be light in a dark place.

Finally, Jesus prayed for all those who would hear the Word of Truth and believe.  His prayer for all believers focused on unity.  As he looked into the future of his Church, our Lord knew what a struggle his followers would face in order to stay united in worship and service.  Many divisions have fractured Christianity since Jesus’ prayer late that night.  Division weakens God’s people, but unity at the expense of truth is deceptive.

Jesus’ prayer is as relevant today as it was that night almost 2,000 years ago.  Since unity is so vital to Christ’s Church, then we should only allow matters of the utmost importance to separate us from other believers.  When the Truth is at stake, we are not dividing; we are defining the true Church.  We must pray that our church will have the courage to stand strong for the Truth, and the wisdom to recognize when the Truth is really at stake.

Please pray like Jesus.  Pray for yourself that you will be clear about your mission in life.  Pray for fellow Christians whom you know well, that they will be protected from evil and passionate about following Jesus.  Pray for the church that we will be wise and courageous about standing strong for God’s Truth.  And pray that our Lord will continue to teach us to pray.

May the Lord’s light shine clearly through us despite the darkness,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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Abundant Life

Jesus told his disciples, “Just as the Father sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21).  In the same way that God the Father sent his Son Jesus into the world, Jesus has sent his followers.  In other words, Jesus’ followers are carrying on the mission that Jesus started.  In order to understand what Jesus has sent us to do, we must look at what God sent Jesus to do.

Jesus said, “I have come in the Name of my Father” (John 5:43).  Jesus had the authority of God’s Name standing behind his work.  We too, as followers of Jesus, have the Lord’s authority to do what he sent us to do.  With God’s authority we can act confidently, knowing that our mandate comes from on high.

Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but the will of the One having sent me” (John 6:38).  Jesus was an ambassador for God using God’s authority to carry out God’s will.  All followers of Jesus are expected to be ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making his appeal to the world through us (2 Corinthians 5:20). 

“For judgment I did not come into this world, but so that those not seeing may see,”Jesus said (John 9:39).  The Day of Judgment has not arrived.  Today is the day of salvation.  Today is the day to bring sight to the blind, which is a picture of lost people finding salvation.  We need not condemn the world.  It stands condemned already.  Like Jesus, we bring light into a dark place.

“The thief does not come except to kill and to steal and to destroy,” said Jesus, “I have come so that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  Like Jesus, we address a world that is endangered by an Enemy who causes only destruction and death.  As ambassadors for Christ we help people escape eternal destruction and enjoy abundant life.

Jesus also said, “I am Light come into the world so that everyone trusting in me will not remain in darkness” (John 12:46).  When people put their trust in Jesus Christ they cross over from death to life, from darkness to light.  Trusting Jesus is the doorway to abundant life.  We serve the Lord by encouraging people to put their trust in Jesus in order to find eternal salvation. 

When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, accused as a criminal even though he was innocent, threatened with death even though he gave new life to so many, he told the Roman governor his life mission.  “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, that I may testify to the Truth” (John 18:37).  What Jesus did, we do.  Our focus is to testify to the Truth, God’s unchanging Truth revealed in the Bible. 

As a part of your local church, you can participate in our God-authorized and God-empowered missions in a variety of ways. You can learn more about sharing the faith through personal evangelism training.  You can serve where people’s physical needs are met in hopes of sharing God’s Truth with them.  You can join your state or foreign missions and reach out to other communities and other countries with the Truth. 

Through your participation, your support, and your prayers, you enable us to do what Jesus did.  We testify to the unchangingTruth of God to a world that desperately needs a sure foundation for life and for eternity.  Jesus was right.  The thief is busy killing, stealing, and destroying, but we come to tell people about abundant life. 

May the love of Christ compel us to go and tell the Good News,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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Jesus Came, We Go

Jesus’ disciples feared for their lives, hiding from the leaders who had crucified their beloved Master.  Suddenly the Lord Jesus himself was standing in their midst, speaking with them.  They were thrilled to see that he was truly alive.

Jesus showed his disciples the marks left on his body from the nails that had held him on the old rugged cross and the sword that had pierced his side after he gave up his spirit.  The fear caused by his death was shattered by joy at his presence.

“Peace to you all!” Jesus said to them.  The peace he was speaking about, however, was not one of inactivity.  His next words were these: “As the Father has sent me, I also am sending you.”

Jesus promised peace to his followers in the midst of a mission.  They were being sent out by Jesus in the same way that Jesus had been sent out by God the Father.  In what way did God send Jesus?

Jesus came in the Name of the Father (John 5:43).  Now, his followers are sent in the Name of Jesus.  Jesus came not to do his will, but the will of the One who sent him (John 6:38).  The followers of Jesus carry out the will of God instead of living for themselves, building God’s Kingdom instead of their own and seeking God’s honor and praise instead of accolades for themselves.

God the Father sent Jesus into the world not for judgment (John 9:39), but so that people may have abundant life (John 10:10).  As followers of Jesus, we too, are sent not to condemn the world but to announce the true source of abundant life.  And what is that source?

Jesus said, “I am Light come into the world so that everyone trusting in me will not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). The source of abundant life is Jesus, the Light of the world.  By trusting in him millions have found Life and Light.  Billions more still need to hear the message and have the opportunity to choose life.

We go because Jesus came.  Jesus came from heaven to earth but he also reached out to his neighbors.  We go around the world and across the street because we are sent like Jesus was sent.

May we enjoy the peace of Christ as we fulfill the calling of Christ,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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Your Vacation Bible School

Vacation Bible school is always a great time at our church.  The fun and fellowship is made sweeter because we know that our labor has eternal consequences.

A note came to the church recently that tells us how powerful Vacation Bible School really is:

I am writing you to say thank you for the things of God you helped build inside of me years ago.  I am now 43 years old and still think of your Bible School I attended as a child. Recently while getting a devotion together to teach to our Wednesday night group at church, Psalms 100 came to me. I learned this scripture at a Bible School held by your church.  We sang it in a song.  Since then I have known it by heart and have quoted it several times along the way. I’m not sure who the leaders were during that time, but the lessons they taught are still a great memory.

I’m now married to a wonderful Christian man who is the Pastor of the church we attend.  I have three children, and have a good Christian foundation, in which I owe your church much of the credit.  Thank you again for your dedication to teaching children about the love of Jesus Christ.

My prayers be with you,
(name withheld)

Wow!  What an inspirational reminder of how the Lord uses VBS to impress his love and truth on the lives of children.  God works through our efforts to touch the hearts and minds of children in ways that last a lifetime.  It truly is a great honor to serve the Lord through Vacation Bible School.

Our labor in the Lord is not in vain because the Lord we serve knows the beginning from the end and he is able to do the impossible.

May the greatness and the understanding of our Lord shine brightly in your vacation Bible school this year,

Brother Richard Foster
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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Feed My Sheep

More than two years ago I started preaching through the Gospel of John during Sunday morning worship. Now I have finished, and in the concluding chapter of John’s Gospel there is a remarkable conversation between Jesus and Peter.

Jesus had warned his disciples that he would soon be betrayed and that they would all fall away. Peter had bragged that he would never fall away, even if all the others did.  Jesus assured Peter that before morning came he would deny even knowing Jesus, and so he did.

Now that Jesus was risen and appearing to his followers, proving that he was truly alive, Peter was a man torn in two.  On the one hand he was thrilled to see the Lord whom he loved so much.  On the other hand he surely wondered how Jesus could ever forgive him for what he had done.

Jesus made it a point to confront Peter in a loving and decisive manner.  As they ate breakfast together on the shore of Lake Tiberius, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”  Three times Peter told Jesus that he did.  Jesus allowed Peter to erase his three denials with three affirmations of love.

But Jesus did more than forgive Peter for his denials.  Each time Peter said that he loved Jesus, the Lord added a command. Feed my lambs.  Tend my sheep.  Feed my sheep.  Jesus’ sheep are his followers, the people of God; and he is the Good Shepherd.

To feed Jesus’ sheep is to care for Jesus’ followers, the church.  Peter was not just forgiven; he was reinstated to a place of service among Jesus’ followers.  Jesus would soon return to the Father, but Peter’s love for the Lord Jesus would still be evident through his service to the Lord’s church, his people.

Your love for the Lord Jesus is evident in the way that you serve God’s people.  What an honor it is for me to serve alongside you, my church family, as you demonstrate your affection for the Savior through your service in his church.  Like Peter, you have a commission from the Lord to labor in his Name.

As you examine yourselves, please prayerfully consider your place of service at your church.

Like Peter, each of us is called to a place of service among Jesus’ followers.  And like Peter, even our past failures cannot keep us from expressing our love for the Lord by serving him now.

May the Lord inspire and enable us to love one another,

Brother Richard Foster
Grace Baptist Church, Camden AR

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Growing Up

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he addressed them as brothers because they were fellow believers, followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He expressed real affection for them.  Nevertheless, he also conveyed some frustration and disappointment over their lack of spiritual growth.

Paul wrote, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet able.  But now you are still not able”(1 Corinthians 3:2).  Paul was comparing spiritual life with physical life.  He said that the believers in Corinth were infants in Christ.  In other words, they were not growing up spiritually as they should.

Peter encouraged followers of Jesus to crave pure spiritual milk, like newborn babies, so that they could grow up in their salvation (1 Peter 2:2).  Milk is good for babies.  Healthy adults require more than milk.  New believers are satisfied with the basics of faith.  But healthy Christians grow and require an expanded spiritual diet.

The writer of Hebrews also compared spiritual growth with physical growth, noting the necessary change in diet.  He was frustrated with the believers to whom he wrote because they should have been teaching others about God’s truth but they still needed someone to teach them the basics (Hebrews 5:12-14).  Baby Christians, he said, were those who still struggle to distinguish good from evil.

Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus and encouraged them to grow spiritually so that they would no longer be infants, tossed around by false teaching and deception (Ephesians 4:14). He explained that Christ is the measure of spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:13, 15).  The Christian life is a life of being transformed into the likeness of our Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The leaders of the Early Church expected followers of Jesus to grow in faith, building on the basics of salvation and moving ever closer to spiritual maturity, living like Jesus. Spiritual growth requires greater understanding of God’s Word and greater passion for God’s glory.  Growing spiritually requires health and vitality that comes from God’s indwelling Spirit.

Of course, to grow toward maturity in Christ one must first be in Christ.  In other words, to grow spiritually a person must first be saved. New birth is the first step in spiritual growth just as birth is primary in physical growth.  If a newborn fails to grow then everyone agrees that something is wrong.  The same is true of Christians.  When a follower of Christ fails to grow spiritually then something is wrong.

Our task as a church family is to help lost people get saved and to help saved people get strong.  We are in the business of growing spiritually mature Christians.  Paul told the believers in Corinth that there is a message of wisdom for the mature. We want to help as many people as we can to enjoy the message of wisdom that is for the mature.

What a joy it is for me to see brothers and sisters who are spiritually healthy, growing in Christ and being transformed from glory to glory into his image.  But like Paul, I also see those who are struggling to move beyond the basics.  Let us continue to labor together in the Lord’s power and wisdom until we all become mature, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, NIV).

May the Lord bind us together and strengthen us in His great power and wisdom,

Brother Richard Foster

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