Category Archives: Religion

Spiritual But Not Religious?

Some people say they are spiritual, but not religious. That resonates well in a culture that views the word “religion” as something negative. They always note the failures of churches but rarely notice the successes.

Others say they are spiritual, but not affiliated. That works for people who don’t want to participate in efforts requiring cooperation. They have apparently concluded that commitment and devotion to groups is too much trouble. Any kind of membership is best avoided, supposedly.

Religion and affiliation imply organization, institution, policies, and politics. These things come into play when groups of people work together toward a common goal.

It’s true, working with a group can be challenging. Sometimes group efforts generate disagreements and conflicts. Then the negative aspects of politics surface. Power struggles and ideological divisions can be maddening. The results can be frustrating, causing more harm than good.

Why can’t we avoid the risk of organizations and institutions and simply pursue our individual personal spiritual lives on our own terms, at our own speed, to enrich ourselves? What does the Bible say?

When reaching out to believers in Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote:

Just as we have many members in our one body, and all the members do not have the same function, in the same way we are many members in the one body of Christ, and all the members belong to one another. (Romans 12:4-5)

The various parts of the human body need one another to function and grow. In the same way, followers of Jesus need one another to serve God and grow spiritually.

God has distributed different spiritual gifts to each believer. These special skills are vital for the health of the group, the church. No individual believer has all the spiritual gifts that he or she needs to serve God well and to grow toward maturity in Christ. Every believer needs other believers to succeed at being spiritual.

The community aspect of Christian life is also emphasized in Ephesians 2. There, we read about something that I like to call the KOG, FOG, TOG.

KOG stands for the kingdom of God. Every believer is a citizen in God’s kingdom. Citizens need one another. Without patriotic cooperation, a nation is weak, ineffective, and vulnerable to its enemies. Working together, citizens are strong, secure, and productive.

FOG stands for the family of God. Every believer is a brother or sister in God’s family. Families may squabble at times, but they love one another and care for one another. God is our Father in heaven. His amazing love binds us together, enabling us to share our joys and sorrows.

TOG stands for the temple of God. Scripture tells us that believers are living stones in God’s temple, the place where he dwells through the presence of his Spirit. Only when they are carefully joined together do stones become a beautiful cathedral or sanctuary for meeting God and standing in his presence.

Each Christian is sealed with the presence of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart. The presence of God in each believer draws Christians together into community. If someone has no desire for fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, it is a danger sign that the Holy Spirit may be absent from that person.

These pictures of the Christian life all speak of unity in diversity. One body with different parts. One kingdom with different citizens. One family with different members. One temple with different stones.

More than unity in diversity, these depictions of the Christian church speak of mutuality. Believers have a mutual relationship with one another. The New Testament assures us that every believer is endowed by God’s Spirit with spiritual gifts. Every believer has an important contribution to make to the church, the body of Christ.

Group efforts can be challenging, but they are often extremely rewarding. If any group is worthy of our effort, it is the church.

I love Jesus. Jesus loves the church. So, I love the church.

Jesus doesn’t love the church because she earned his love or because she deserves his love. Jesus loves the church by the grace of God. We, too, should love the church by the grace of God.

May the Lord our God bind us together in Christian love,

Brother Richard Foster

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Following Jesus Is More Than Personal

Jesus said to Peter, “Come, follow me!” This was a very personal decision for the fisherman. Peter had to decide if he was willing to leave his established life and trust Jesus with his future. Peter took ‘the plunge.’ He became a disciple of Jesus. He soon developed a very close personal relationship with the carpenter-turned-preacher from Nazareth.

Jesus still urges us today, “Come, follow me!” He is currently in heaven at the right hand of God, but God’s Holy Spirit, also known in the Bible as the Spirit of Christ, speaks to our hearts now just as clearly and forcefully as Jesus spoke to Peter almost two thousand years ago.

Like Peter, we must decide if we can trust Jesus enough to leave our current way of life behind and trust him with our future and our eternity. When we do, we find an enriching and empowering personal relationship with Christ through the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit in our hearts.

But Peter learned that he was getting more than just a personal relationship with Jesus.

Peter also learned that following Jesus was a group project. He and Jesus did not leave the crowds behind and have a best-friends-forever bond, keeping everyone else at ‘arm’s length.’ Following Jesus meant being close to the others who were following Jesus, like James, John, Andrew, Matthew, and many more.

In one of his most important sayings in the New Testament, Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18). Students of God’s word dispute the exact meaning of this statement but clearly Peter was being included in Jesus’ Church in some vital way. By following Jesus, Peter became an essential part of Jesus’ Church.

Like Peter, we become an important part of Jesus’ Church when we become followers of Jesus. Jesus is the ‘head,’ and his Church is the ‘body.’ It is impossible to be connected to the ‘head,’ without being part of the ‘body,’ which is composed of other believers. This fact does not cancel our personal relationship with Jesus, it enhances it.

Peter was a Jew, but his decision to follow Jesus required him to rethink his perspective on his Jewish roots in some profound ways. In a vision from heaven, God himself insisted that Peter kill and eat food that was prohibited by the Old Testament dietary laws (see Acts 10). The vision forced Peter to redefine his understanding of being a Jew.

By accepting Jesus’ claim to be the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promises and prophecies, Peter found himself out-of-step with most of the Jewish community in the first century. Peter and other Jewish Christians were shunned and persecuted for accepting Jesus as the ultimate fruit of the Jewish root and tree.

We, too, may find ourselves shunned (canceled?) by our culture when we decide to follow Jesus. But there is more.

Those of us who are Gentile believers also have a new relationship with the patriarchs, promises, and prophecies of the Old Testament. The Bible tells us that we were once separate and without hope, but through faith in Jesus we have been brought near (Ephesians 2), grafted in (Romans 11), and made a part of God’s people. In Christ, we also trace our spiritual roots back to Abraham (Galatians 3).

As followers of Jesus, we are now citizens of his kingdom, members of his family, and living stones in his temple, the Church. We are essential parts of the body of Christ. Together with all other believers, Jew or Gentile, we are the Bride of Christ.

We enjoy a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus. We have a family relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ’s Church. We share the same ancient roots through our common forefathers in faith, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We have the same promises from God of a place in his victorious eternal kingdom.

As we follow our Lord Jesus, let us always seek to know him better, to fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord often, and to understand and appreciate fully our rich Old Testament heritage.

May our Lord give us eyes to see and a heart to respond to him and his truth in all things,

Brother Richard Foster

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Pray for the Peace of Israel and the Blessing of America

We celebrated 245 years as an independent nation this July 4.

Sadly, it has become controversial to express gratitude for the blessings of our country. Marxists are using Critical Race Theory to cast the United States as an evil oppressor nation that is racist to its core and undeserving of any honor or success.

Without a doubt, racists should repent. They denigrate people made in God’s image and provide fuel for the fires of destruction now being kindled by the Marxists. On the other hand, those who assert that all white people are racists should also repent. They are falsely accusing millions of people and sowing hateful and dangerous divisions.

Fortunately, many citizens of our nation can still see both the successes and the failures of our nation. We know that our mistakes as a country do not cancel our mission to protect and promote liberty. We are willing to acknowledge our nation’s sometimes tragic errors, but we also insist that our successes be celebrated.

We still believe in the high ideals that define our greatest aspirations, ideals that should guide us in the future: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, a reasonable expectation of privacy, fair treatment from our legal system.

We believe that all people are created equal, not the same, that we are created by God, that our fundamental rights are God-given and not government-given. Our government is not the source of our rights, but it should be the protector of our rights.

We also carry a sense of loyalty toward other freedom-loving nations in our world, like Israel. We believe that the State of Israel has a right to exist and a right to defend herself from the violent attacks and hostile plots of her surrounding neighbor states.

Followers of Jesus have an even deeper connection with Israel. God chose Abraham to be the ancestor not only of the Jews, but of Jesus Christ our Savior. The Bible tells us that God promised to make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and to give them the land of Israel.

After rebelling against the Roman Empire in the first century, Jews were expelled from the Promised Land and scattered to the four corners of the civilized world. This did not take God by surprise. The promises in his written word were unequivocal. He would gather his chosen people from the nations and return them to their homeland.

Decades passed and Jews remained scattered to the nations. Centuries came and went, and Jews lived only in Gentile lands. Almost two millennia passed and still God’s promise to return Abraham’s descendants to the land of Israel was yet to be fulfilled.

Many students of Scripture concluded that God’s promise to gather the people of Israel and reestablish them in the Promised Land could not be taken literally. They interpreted God’s promise as merely a figurative expression. After all, a literal fulfillment would be impossible. It would take a miracle.

Then, in the early decades of the twentieth century, Jews began returning to the Beautiful Land. They went by the tens of thousands, leaving behind their homes and businesses and all that they had built in Gentile nations for countless generations. They went not to visit the land of Israel but to make their lives and their futures there.

In 1948, world leaders officially recognized the State of Israel, the homeland for God’s chosen people, the fulfillment of God’s ancient promise, a miracle!

Five nations surrounding the fledgling State of Israel, all much larger and more powerful, immediately joined together and attacked in an all-out effort to destroy Israel. In a stunning turn of events, Israel prevailed.

Ugly hatred against the Jewish state burned relentlessly. In 1967, the enemies of Israel made ready to attack again. In a war that lasted only six days, God gave Israel victory. Moreover, the modern state more than doubled in size! A third time, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the enemies of God’s people tried to push Israel into the sea. A third time God gave Israel the victory.

As it is, many people today hate Israel. Like all nations, the people of Israel have made mistakes. But we can see through the failures of people and recognize the hand of God at work. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Closer to home, many now hate America. But we can recognize the failures of our nation without forgetting the blessings of God on the U.S.A. We pray for the favor of Almighty God on our nation!

May God bless the United States of America,

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God Is Still At Work

Vacation Bible School is back! Hallelujah!

The Bible verse for VBS this year is Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (CSB).

This is part of a letter written by the Apostle Paul to Christians in Philippi during the first century. The apostle expresses confidence that “he who started a good work” will finish it. Who started the good work and what was the good work?

God is the one who had started a good work in the lives of the Christians in Philippi. When they put their faith in Jesus, God’s Spirit began working in them. Paul was confident that God would finish his work in the Philippian believers.

When we put our faith in Jesus, God begins a work in us. The Bible promises that God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives, enabling us to enjoy God’s presence and serve him in ways that go far beyond our natural desires and abilities. God’s work in us is a process. Right now, we are unfinished. But what God starts, he completes!

What was the work that God started in the Philippian Christians? Students of this text take the statement to mean one of two things. Either God was working to complete their personal spiritual growth, or he was working to complete their participation with Paul in spreading the gospel. Which one was the Apostle Paul thinking about when he wrote these words?

In verse 5, Paul mentions the partnership that the Philippian believers had with him in spreading the gospel. Perhaps he was thinking about that great work when he penned verse 6, expressing optimism that God would bring his gospel work to completion through the Philippian church.

God always invites his people to be partners with him in spreading the good news about Jesus. The Bible promises that the gospel will be proclaimed in the whole world before Jesus returns. Vacation Bible School is one way that we spread the word about Jesus.

Many Bible students believe that the work God started in the Philippian believers was their personal spiritual growth as followers of Jesus. God’s Spirit was transforming them into the image of Christ Jesus, empowering them to walk in God’s ways and to contribute to God’s kingdom.

When we put our faith in Jesus for salvation, God’s Spirit begins working in us to transform us from the inside out so that we will be more like Jesus. We have God’s presence and power available to empower and inspire us so that we can live in a way that is pleasing to God and so that we can represent him well in a dark and dying world.

Paul wrote that God would carry his work on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. The day of Christ Jesus is a reference to the very end of this age when Jesus will return for those who belong to him. The Bible says that when Jesus appears, those of us who belong to him will be like him. God’s work in us will be completed!

When we see God at work, we can be confident that good things will result. Please pray that God will be at work in us and in our Vacation Bible School to start good work that he will carry on to completion!

May our Lord inspire and empower us to serve him well,

Brother Richard Foster

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Is Christianity ‘Woke’?

To be ‘woke’ is to be aware of the social and racial injustices in our society. To be ‘woke’ also implies that one will support certain activist movements in their efforts to bring about positive changes to the institutions, organizations and traditions that are apparently guilty of perpetuating systemic injustice, even if that means replacing the system from top to bottom.

Jesus had a clear message about social activism. He described his followers as those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, invite strangers in, give clothes to the naked, attend to the sick and visit those in prison (Matthew 25:34-36).

Jesus practiced what he preached. He demonstrated compassion for people in need. He healed the sick. He fed the five thousand. Jesus made people’s lives better.

But Jesus also told his disciples that the poor will always be with us (John 12:8). Poverty will never be eradicated in this age, according to the Lord. Isn’t that a bit pessimistic? Perhaps, but he spoke those words nearly two thousand years ago and the poor are still among us.

Social activists have been promising for generations that they will erase poverty and hardship. They have all the answers, so they say. Yet, by their own admission, things are worse. After all their efforts to bring about positive social change, they still condemn our society as if zero progress has been made. Aren’t they condemning their own efforts?

Back to Jesus. How do we reconcile his concern for the poor on the one hand, and his pessimistic outlook on the other hand? His prediction about perpetual poverty is not an excuse for inaction. Jesus acted. Yet Jesus knows that our world is broken because of rebellion against God. Social injustice and human need are only part of the sad results.

Jesus was not paralyzed by his realism. He knew that godly love inspires us to help those in need, despite the thorny conditions of society. According to Jesus, we don’t have to wait for radical institutional change to do something positive in the lives of those who have needs.

After Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand, a group decided to make him king, by force if necessary. Jesus declined. He withdrew from them (John 6:15). Why? Think of the people he could’ve helped as king! He could have enacted some real positive social change in the broken institutions and governments of his day!

Instead of seeking political power to make positive social change through the mechanisms of government, Jesus helped people in person, one-on-one, face-to-face. Jesus ‘rolled up his shirtsleeves’ and ‘got his hands dirty’ doing the vital work of helping real people with real problems. He didn’t use up his time and resources blaming the leaders by protesting in the streets.

Jesus knew that political power and institutional change do not always result in real help for those who have real needs. The struggle for power is endless, both to acquire it and to protect it. Today’s emancipator frequently becomes tomorrow’s oppressor. Even the best leaders often create programs and policies that are abused by their successors, or they simply become ineffective due to constantly evolving circumstances.

Jesus focused his time and effort not on acquiring political influence, but on helping people.

The help Jesus offered was not limited to physical needs. Jesus knew that people also have spiritual needs. We are spiritual beings with longings for the invisible and eternal realities.

Jesus healed those who have physical ailments, but he also brought healing for spiritual illness. He brought freedom not just from the chains of oppression and slavery in this fading world, but he brought freedom for eternity in the presence of Almighty God.

Social activists often reduce the human experience to a struggle between classes in ‘the here and now.’ Various groups fight for limited power and resources. Someone must make sure things are equal. They nominate themselves. Helping people with eternal issues is not part of their program.

Jesus was spiritually awake. He recognized the inherent weaknesses in human governments and social systems. He also realized the need to save and strengthen the spirit in addition to the body. He acted.

Like Jesus, Christians must be awake to both the physical and spiritual needs of people. In addition, believers must be aware of the limits that keep worldly organizations from solving our deepest problems. As Christ’s disciples, we can bless people now and bear fruit for eternity.

Our success does not depend on gaining and maintaining political power or influence. Our success depends on our faithfulness to the mission Jesus has given us, a mission that he promises to empower by the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. Let’s be awake and act like Jesus.

May our Lord fill us with both compassion and discernment, awareness and action,

Brother Richard Foster

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What Is Jesus Doing Now?

Christians focus special attention on Jesus’ resurrection every Easter, and rightly so. Easter marks the anniversary of the Sunday that Jesus began the day in his tomb, having been laid there on Friday after dying on a Roman cross. Jesus started that Sunday in his tomb, but he did not finish it there.

Early that glorious Sunday morning, Jesus left his tomb, never to return. God raised him up! He is alive forever! Jesus’ resurrection proves that God can and will exercise power even over death. Death itself must submit to God’s astonishing supremacy.

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead would be impressive if it were an isolated event, unconnected to any other happenings. The fact that Jesus was dead and buried, yet he walked away from his tomb alive is worth celebrating by itself. But there is much more.

Jesus’ resurrection is of greatest importance because of its connections to certain events before and after. Jesus’ resurrection is connected to his crucifixion. He died as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Jesus is not a random guy defeating death. He is the promised Savior, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Jesus’ resurrection is also important for what happened next. After forty days of meeting with his disciples, giving them proof of his bodily resurrection, and teaching them about God’s kingdom, Jesus then returned to God the Father in heaven. He was exalted to the right hand of God, the ultimate position of highest honor and cosmic authority.

Jesus had promised his disciples that once he returned to heaven, he would send the Spirit of truth who goes out from God the Father, the Holy Spirit. Once Jesus was raised up from the dead and raised up to the right hand of God, the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost to indwell and empower all of Jesus’ followers.

Jesus was able to fulfill his promise to send God’s Spirit because he was resurrected and exalted to the right hand of God. Now, every believer has God’s Spirit living inside, transforming us into the image of Christ, empowering us to serve God’s kingdom, and blessing us with the very presence of God in our lives.

Now that he is exalted to the right hand of God, Jesus is the Advocate for all who are disciples of Jesus Christ. We have a representative in heaven who mediates for us. He is our eternal assurance that all our sin will be forgiven. Our sin will never threaten our place in heaven with God. We need not worry that God will suddenly stop granting us forgiveness. Why? Because Jesus is alive and exalted forever, serving as our Advocate night and day.

Jesus also intercedes for us. More than assuring our forgiveness, he appeals to God on our behalf. We should not misunderstand this word “intercede.” It is not meant to imply that Jesus must coerce or convince God to bless us and show us his great favor. Instead, we should think of the word intercede as a collaboration between Jesus and God.

Finally, because Jesus is resurrected and exalted, we can look forward with confidence to his Second Coming. Jesus promised to return for those who belong to him. He will come and take us to be with him in God’s presence forever.

We rejoice that Jesus is raised up from the dead and lifted up to the right hand of God!

May the resurrected and exalted Jesus Christ be Lord of all,

Brother Richard

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Thanks to God for a Great Local Church Family

Dear Church Family,

Thank you, Church, for your many expressions of love and concern for Karen and me during a difficult time. You are a blessing!

On Friday, February 12, Karen and I were in the Camden ER. She was being admitted for a minor procedure related to her paralysis. They tested her for COVID. We did not learn until Sunday afternoon that she was positive.

Karen had the procedure Monday and was released. I brought her home and she is recovering. Her symptoms from COVID have been very mild, praise the Lord!

Meanwhile, on Sunday February 14, I woke up with a fever. I was tested for COVID Tuesday the 16th and subsequently informed that I, too, was positive. Unfortunately, my symptoms have not been as minor.

Our circumstances have tempted us to despair at times, but we have been encouraged by God’s presence and by you.

The meals and supplies you bring are a big help for us. The contacts you make give us a sense of connection that is valuable beyond measure. Each time I have cried out to God for help, one of you has appeared. You are angels from the Lord for us.

At times like these, the words of the Psalmist resonate in my soul:

To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah
I lie down and sleep; I awake again, because the LORD sustains me. (Psalm 3:4-5, NIV)

We look forward to worshiping, serving, and fellowshipping with you again soon.

May God keep us together and enable us to grow and to serve him faithfully,

Brother Richard

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Why Bother with Church During COVID?

With the risk, uncertainty, and aggravation we face from COVID, why bother trying to have church meetings? Valid question! And there are good reasons.

In the book of Acts, we read about the earliest days of the Church. Chapter 2 says that every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts (2:46).

From the earliest days of Christianity, followers of Jesus have gathered regularly. After almost two thousand years of Christianity, we can see that no matter what culture, nation, ethnicity, geographic location, political affiliation, believers have met regularly. Why?

As we read about the Early Church in the book of Acts, we see that they met together for five reasons. These five purposes have remained the focus of local churches for many generations.

First, Christians meet together to worship. Worship is singing and saying things that honor God. We worship God because we love him, and because he loved us first.

The premier act of Christian worship is the Lord’s Supper. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in the upper room with his disciples just hours before he went to the cross. Since that night, Christians have gathered regularly and shared the bread and cup as reminders of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for our sin, and as an act of worship.

The second purpose for Christians meeting together is discipleship. Discipleship is learning to be more like Jesus. Jesus’ instruction for all believers is to make disciples, teaching them to keep (obey)all that he commanded. Discipleship is more than gaining knowledge. It is applying truth. The goal of discipleship is transformation, lives transformed into the image of Christ.

Living a godly life in an ungodly world is filled with difficulties. We need encouragement and accountability from one another to succeed. So, we meet together regularly. Small groups like Sunday school are ideal for discipleship.

Third, Christians meet together for witnessing. Jesus’ instruction for all believers to make disciples starts with baptizing them. Baptism marks conversion. Conversions come from witnessing, telling others about Jesus, what he has done for us and what he will do for them. We meet to learn how to witness and to organize our witnessing activities.

We also witness to the community by gathering regularly for worship, fellowship and discipleship. When people see us faithfully meeting together, they know that we take our Christianity seriously.

Fourth, churches meet to do ministry. We help others in the name of Jesus. We show God’s love in practical ways. Jesus spoke to his disciples about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, checking on the sick, and visiting those in prison.

Finally, the fifth reason Christians meet together regularly is for fellowship. Those who have saving faith in Jesus share a common spiritual family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We share our lives with one another, which requires us to spend time together in person.

Jesus promised that his Church will survive even the gates of Hades. Since the beginning, churches have endured many intense hardships and persecutions. Be encouraged. Jesus’ Church will survive COVID.

May God keep us together and enable us to grow and to serve,

Brother Richard

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Is Christianity So Simple We Are Missing It?

Naaman got a surprise.

Naaman was a great man. He was the commander of the military in Aram. But Naaman had leprosy, a dreaded skin disease in the ancient world.

His surprise started with a young Jewish girl. She was taken captive in the battles between Aram and Israel and brought into Naaman’s home to serve his wife.

The girl told Naaman’s wife that a prophet in Israel had the power to heal Naaman. Her testimony convinced the great military leader to take a large sum of money and go seek a meeting with this prophet.

Naaman went and found the prophet in Israel. His name was Elisha. Naaman expected the prophet to come out and say an impressive prayer, calling on the power of heaven to heal his body, making mysterious motions with his hands, and so forth.

Instead of putting on a ‘show,’ the Prophet Elisha merely sent the great military man a simple message. Naaman was to go and wash himself seven times in the Jordan River. This would bring the healing that he desired.

The great Naaman was offended by the Prophet Elisha’s message. The prophet’s advice was too simple. The military man turned to leave in a huff.

Fortunately for Naaman, he had some smart servants. They asked, “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?” Why not do the simple thing he asks?

Naaman saw the wisdom in their advice. He went and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the prophet had instructed. When he did, his flesh was restored. He was healed!

By requiring such a simple act of obedience from Naaman, Elisha focused attention on God’s miraculous power for healing the great military man. God got the credit, not Naaman, not even Elisha.

We live in a nation that is seen by all the world as great and powerful, but our land is afflicted with a deadly spiritual illness. Darkness is closing in. The light of truth is resisted and rejected.

We have heard that there is a God in heaven who can heal our country, heal the people and the communities and the families. He can bring truth and love and wholeness despite the terrible conditions we see all around.

We have gone and met with God, asking him to display his healing power in our land. But his prescription sounds too simple.

If God asked us to start a political party or a social movement and take back the White House, the Congress, the Courts, we would have understood. If God asked us to organize and be active to protect the textbooks in our schools and restore the definition of marriage in our states, we would have understood.

The list of things that need attention is so long! It is overwhelming to consider. Where should we start? What is our priority? What has the Lord asked us to do?

Our Prophet, Priest, and King Jesus has instructed us to open our mouths and be a witness about him and his great salvation. The last words Jesus said to his disciples before returning to the Father in heaven: You will be my witnesses!

It sounds too simple. Tell people about Jesus? How can that make things better?

Instead of trying to convince my readers that the Lord knows what he is doing, I will simply make a suggestion: Let’s try it God’s way.

May God give us the heart to share Jesus,

Brother Richard

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Cancel Christmas 2020?

Are you looking forward to Christmas this year? Every year has its challenges. This year is no exception!

Mary had great expectations for her life as the time for the first Christmas drew nearer. She was a young bride-to-be with her whole life ahead of her. Then things changed. She was pregnant before the wedding and it was not her fiancé’s child.

Things got complicated. Joseph was devastated. He planned to cancel the wedding and their marriage. Their life together that Mary had dreamed about would apparently be cancelled.

But Mary knew that her baby was God’s handiwork. She decided to get away for a while. She went and visited her relative, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was carrying her first child, a son who would grow up to be John the Baptist. Her pregnancy was also a miracle. The two women enjoyed a wonderful time of rejoicing together about God’s work. Despite any difficulties, they were confident about God’s plan for their lives.

Mary worshiped. Her words sound like a chapter from the book of Psalms. They are recorded in Luke’s Gospel (1:46-55). Mary’s hymn of praise begins with a personal cry of rejoicing: “My soul magnifies the Lord! My spirit exults in God my Savior!”

Next, she gives a reason for her worship of God: “Because he looked upon the humble state of his servant. For look! from now on all generations will call me blessed! Because he did great things for me, the Mighty One!”

Mary was surprised that God chose her to be the mother of Jesus. She saw Jesus as a tremendous blessing for which she was totally unworthy. Do we? We can learn from Mary’s humility. Her humble attitude fueled a great appreciation for God’s gift of Jesus.

In Mary’s worship, she remembered the promises God made to his chosen people. “He has helped Israel, his servant, remembering to be merciful, just as he said to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Mary saw Jesus as proof that God fulfills his promises. When Mary visited Elizabeth, Jesus’ work of salvation was still in the future, but it was in the near future. The fact that Jesus would soon appear was enough to inspire Mary. Her heart was full of trust in the Lord who chose her to carry this baby.

Despite the unexpected changes and intimidating challenges, Mary rejoiced as the time for the first Christmas drew near. She knew that God was doing marvelous things that were far bigger than her personal struggles. No hardship could erase her joy.

Despite the unexpected changes and challenges of 2020, we can rejoice at the birth of Jesus. Unlike Mary, we can look back over nearly two thousand years of history and see the unmistakable evidence that Christmas changes the world.

God is always advancing his wonderful plan for our eternal blessing in the unfolding details of human history, whether those details are good or not-so-good. We can always rejoice at Christmas!

May God’s Spirit fill us with joy and peace this Christmas,

Brother Richard

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