Monthly Archives: March 2015

Death and the Second Coming

The Apostle Paul planted a church in Thessalonica. His enemies were jealous of his success so they drove him out of the city. Paul had planned to stay longer. He was worried that the believers in that new church were not sufficiently established in their faith.

Since he was unable to visit them personally, Paul wrote to the fledgling church in Thessalonica. He was anxious to finish the things lacking in their faith.

One of the issues troubling the believers in Thessalonica was apparently their understanding of Jesus’ Second Coming. They were concerned about Christians who died before Jesus’ return. What happens to them?

“Since we believe that Jesus died and rose,” Paul wrote, “so also God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.”

Notice that Paul speaks of death as sleep. For those who belong to Christ, death has lost its sting. Death for a Christian is like falling asleep on a journey and waking up at home. Jesus died to defeat sin and was raised by God to defeat death. All who trust in him share in these great victories.

Paul goes on to write that the followers of Jesus who are alive when he returns will be reunited with the believers who have died. When Jesus comes again Christians will be privileged to attend the world’s greatest reunion. What an incredibly joyous time that will be!

The Apostle also writes that we will be with the Lord always after he returns. Jesus warned his disciples just before his crucifixion that he was about to leave them. Their consolation would be God’s Holy Spirit, whom God later poured out on his church.

But when Jesus comes again, his followers will never again be separated from him. We will have all eternity to enjoy his visible presence, finally able to cast our crowns at his feet and marvel at that face which shines like the sun in all its glory.

This uplifting section of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian Christians ends with a command: “So encourage one another with these words.” Paul did not want those men and women who were new to the faith to be ignorant, mourning like the rest of world who have no hope.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. For believers, death is like sleep. As believers, we look forward to the greatest reunion ever imagined. And as followers of the Risen Christ, we have a guaranteed place in his presence for all eternity.

This is a great time of year for every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us encourage one another with these great words.

May the power of the Risen Christ carry us forward in the grace of God,

Brother Richard Foster

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Why Do So Many People Love Spock So Much?

Spock died. That is, Leonard Nimoy passed away. Devoted fans of Star Trek sometimes have trouble separating the man from the myth, or the pop-culture icon.

In fact, Nimoy’s autobiography was titled I Am Not Spock. But fans were so unhappy that he subsequently published another book titled I Am Spock.

It’s no surprise that Spock leaves such a big footprint on our generation. He portrayed the character of an intelligent, thoughtful, courageous and sacrificial man. Even his one apparent fault, a lack of emotion, was mitigated by the fact that he chose to live with those who thrive on emotions (After all, he was half-human. . . .).

Spock leaves behind some well-known sayings. “Live long and prosper” (Can you make the Vulcan “V” with your fingers?) “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” or of the one.

That last statement is speaking about sacrifice. A few, or one, should be willing to make great personal sacrifice when necessary in order to benefit the many. And in one of the Star Trek movies, Spock does just that, selflessly giving up his life in order to save his friends.

Then with a great Hollywood twist, Spock is resurrected from the dead. Alive again and reunited with his friends (and able to continue making more movies!).

These themes should be familiar to many of us, not merely because we grew up watching Star Trek, but because we have read our Bibles. That’s right, our Bibles.

The Bible includes the record of the greatest one-for-many sacrifice ever made. In an upper room in Jerusalem during the Passover Feast almost 2,000 years ago Jesus spoke these words: This is my blood of the covenant, poured out for many” (Mark 14:24).

Later that night he surrendered himself to his enemies. They executed him on a Roman Cross. After giving sight to the blind, casting out demons and feeding the hungry, it turns out that his death was his mission. He came to give his life as a ransom for many.

Then they laid Jesus’ broken body in a tomb, thinking that his story was finished. But on the third day that tomb was empty. Death lost its grip on Jesus.

Is Hollywood borrowing material from God?

Now I know that Star Trek presents a utopian view of humanity’s future. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, envisioned a future when human effort has wiped out war, poverty, racism and all the other evils entangling our race now.

More than that, Star Trek finds its setting in a universe where life evolved on many different planets. All of this seems so secular that any comparison with the Bible and Christianity would be absurd.

But then there is Spock. Yes, he is the ultimate scientist. But surprisingly, he has a spiritual side. Maybe Spock is a reminder that science is not enough. Spirit cannot be denied.

The Bible assures us that God is Lord of the heavens and the earth, Maker of the visible and the invisible. He penned the laws that regulate matter and time and energy. He also revealed the truth that governs morals and ethics and worship. He gives the words that bring eternal life.

Why does a fictional character like Spock resonate with such power in our culture? Maybe because he points to more than secular scientific data. He reminds us that we are spiritual beings after all, searching for ultimate truth.

We live in the great age of science, but secular science has not erased our deep yearning for something more, something metaphysical. That something more has been revealed and awaits our discovery. God promises that if we seek him with
all our hearts, we will find him.

Richard Foster, Grace Baptist, March 2015

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Identifying God’s Favor

Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham, was remarkable from his youth. At age 17 he received a word from God in the form of two dreams. Those dreams predicted a great future for Joseph, but they also infuriated his family. As a result, Joseph found himself sold into slavery and dragged away to a foreign country.

Far from home and unfairly enslaved, Joseph was seduced by his earthly master’s wife. A lesser man would have given in to the temptation. After all, it seemed as if nobody cared about Joseph. Why shouldn’t he take advantage of the situation?

Now Joseph had a choice. He could despise the people who treated him unfairly and allow hate to embitter his soul. He could withdraw or become aggressive, trying to hurt the people around him because of the pain he was forced to endure. He could be angry with God and forget about any effort to obey or to serve him.

Or, Joseph could remember the word that he got from God in those dreams. He could believe that God’s word would surely stand, somehow, someday. He could look for signs of God’s favor despite his unfair circumstances. He could choose to continue living in a manner that was pleasing to God and that reflected well on God.

Joseph refused to indulge in sexual immorality. He did so because he knew that adultery would be a sin against God. It is amazing that Joseph would be concerned about God when God seemed to have forgotten about Joseph. Couldn’t God have protected him from being sold as a slave in a foreign land? Wasn’t it God’s fault that he was in this foreign land facing this seductive woman?

In spite of his difficult circumstances, Joseph could see the hand of God working in his life. Yes, his own brothers had turned against him and sold him as a slave, but God made sure that Joseph ended up in a household where he would be treated with respect by his master.

Yes, he was still a slave, but his master noticed that God’s favor rested on Joseph and so Joseph was entrusted with almost the entire household. Even the pagan slave owner could see that Joseph was special.

Unfortunately, Joseph’s trials were not finished with that test of sexual temptation. Even though he did the right thing, Joseph was accused of wrongdoing and found himself in prison. Nevertheless, Joseph did not give in to despair or bitterness.

Joseph chose to believe God’s word and to serve God faithfully. It took years, but the word that he got from God was fulfilled. He was humbled for a time, but God lifted him up.

Like Joseph, we have a word from God that includes great promises. Our Lord promises to walk with us and show us his favor even in the difficult times. And our Savior assures us that a day is coming when we will be lifted up and blessed in amazing ways.

God has promised that if we humble ourselves before him, keeping his word and obeying his commands, then he will lift us up! (see James 4:10). The Apostle Paul put it this way: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18, NIV).

May the God’s Spirit enable us to serve him well until he comes,

Brother Richard Foster

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