Tag Archives: Christianity

What Does Spiritual Maturity Really Look Like?

Moses started out by telling God, “No.” He did not want to go. He wanted nothing to do with helping the Hebrew people break free from their cruel bondage under the oppressive rule of Pharaoh in Egypt. But God has a way of persuading people.

In Egypt, circumstances reinforced Moses’ first instinct about this mission. Not only did Pharaoh oppose him, but the very people that he went to save wanted nothing to do with him. His plea for Pharaoh to let the people go made their lives even more difficult. Moses complained to God but he did not quit his mission.

As events unfolded, Moses began to trust God more and more. Eventually he saw the Lord rescue the Hebrew people with astonishing miracles. God’s deliverance took time and required patience from Moses and the Hebrew people, but his methods left no doubt about his power and authority.

Once they were out of Egypt, the people began to test Moses’ patience, perhaps even more than Pharaoh’s stubborn behavior had. They complained about the lack of food and water. They even talked about going back to Egypt. . . .

Then the people sinned against God by making an idol and worshiping it, at the very place where they agreed to worship the Lord only! The anger of God was stirred and he threatened to do away with the people and start over with Moses.

Moses now demonstrates striking spiritual maturity and insight. Instead of stepping aside and allowing God to destroy the people, Moses intercedes. He offers to have his own name blotted out from God’s Book of Life as a substitute sacrifice for them. Very Christ-like behavior! Of course, only Jesus can do such a thing, but Moses’ action displays amazing spiritual growth since his refusal to obey God’s call at the burning bush.

The Hebrew people, however, are slow in their spiritual development. They continue to gripe, grumble and complain. Then, in a breath-taking act of disobedience, they refuse to go up and take the Promised Land, which prompts God to condemn an entire generation to nomadic wandering in the desert. The next generation will enjoy the fruits of the Promised Land.

Now, after 40 years, the time has come for that next generation to answer God’s call, to carry out his plan, and to enjoy his blessing: a land flowing with milk and honey. Moses is now 120 years old. He gives his farewell address to the Hebrews, the people he has devoted his life to serving.

In his last message (the Book of Deuteronomy), Moses seems to have a bone to pick with the people. He says to them, “because of you,” the Lord was angry and refused to allow him entrance into the land.

He is referring to one of the many times during the years in the desert when the people grumbled against Moses and against God. On this occasion it was because water was scarce. Moses prayed and the Lord instructed him to speak to the rock. God would provide.

But this time Moses could no longer contain his frustration with the people. He scolded them harshly and then struck the rock with his staff in anger not once, but twice. As a result of disobeying the Lord’s instructions, God would deny Moses entrance into the Promised Land.

Now, in his farewell address, Moses tells the people that he pleaded with God to let him enter the Promised Land. But God refused to listen, telling him to stop asking. Moses would die east of the Jordan.

As Moses recounts this episode in his farewell address, his disappointment is evident. He blames the Hebrew people for his failure, not once, but three times (Deuteronomy 1:37; 3:26; 4:21).

His resentment is understandable. Moses’ life has been devoted to leading God’s people into the Promised Land. How many times in their wilderness wanderings when the people grew weary and wanted to give up did Moses inspire them to carry on by reminding them about the land flowing with milk and honey that awaited them in the future? And now, at the climax of his life’s work, he is being refused the opportunity to experience the blessed land which they had waited for all their lives.

Moses may complain, but he does not give in to the temptation to walk away and give up on the people. He does not say, “If I can’t go in, then I don’t care what happens to these people!” He does not stomp away and sulk.

Instead, Moses recognizes God’s authority in the matter and works to prepare the people for the next step in God’s plan. He gives his farewell address, readying the people for their lives in the Promised Land. And he encourages their new leader: Joshua.

At first blush, Moses’ struggle with resentment and bitterness indicates that he may not be as spiritually mature as he appears. If he were really mature, would he even be struggling with such ugly emotions?

On further reflection, however, we should take note that Moses’ continued commitment to God’s plan and God’s people reveals a remarkable level of spiritual maturity. Moses is somehow able to act right when he feels wrong!

The world says, “Follow your heart.” But doing only what we feel like doing, only when we feel like doing it is a great definition of adolescence, not maturity. God’s word reminds us that our hearts are deceitful. People often do what they know is wrong or even dangerous. Why? Because they want to.

We need a more dependable source of guidance. Moses followed God’s direction in his life, even when it was painful and disappointing. He valued God’s judgment above his own. When his own heart was not in harmony with God’s, Moses chose to trust God’s heart.

The Lord gave Moses a consolation. From the height of Mt. Pisgah on the east side of the Jordan River, God showed his faithful servant the blessed land which his people were about to inherit. Was Moses given a vision that surpasses what natural eyes can perceive?

That short time with the Lord on the summit of the mountain, viewing the prize, was precious for Moses. It was worth far more to him than many days or years of bowing to his disappointment and walking away in defiance to God’s word.

Moses’ experience with the Lord on Mt. Pisgah has become a powerful symbol in Christian thought. In fact, the entire Exodus has been used by believers for generations to give expression to the Christian experience.

Egypt symbolizes our former life in bondage to sin. Crossing the Red Sea is a powerful picture of salvation through faith. The wilderness wanderings often epitomize our struggles to obey God in a world full of temptations. The Jordan represents death and the Promised Land is heaven.

In this theologically rich vision of the Christian life, Mt. Pisgah occupies an inspiring place in the minds of Jesus’ followers. It has come to picture a vision of heaven enjoyed by the faithful when they draw close to physical death, an encouraging foretaste of glory provided by the gracious hand of a loving Father.

This beautiful idea appears in hymns. “Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer; May I thy consolation share, Till from Mt. Pisgah’s lofty height, I view my home and take my flight.” What a view! And what a flight!

Moses really was a man of great spiritual maturity. He knew that whatever God withholds is worth nothing compared to what God grants. Better to be in fellowship with the Lord on Mt. Pisgah than to be in defiance of him in the Jordan valley. What God shows us is always better than what we can see for ourselves.

May God’s Spirit transform us into the image of Christ from grace to grace and glory to glory,

Richard Foster

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Kids Ask Why And So Should We

Kids love to ask why. Why is the sky blue? Why does the snow melt? Why do I have to go to bed now? Why can’t we have pizza for breakfast?

We answer these questions to the best of our ability, knowing that their curiosity is good because it stimulates learning. But their questions can test our knowledge and our patience!

Sometimes the only answer we can give to kids’ questions is this: “Because I say so!” In these cases, the answer comes not from evidence but from authority, our authority. . . .

Even as adults, we still need the “Why?” question. It can drive us to discover answers and solutions that would otherwise remain hidden.

One question we should ask is this: Why do we believe that some things are right and others are wrong? In other words, what is the basis for our moral standards?

They tell me that I must stop for a red traffic signal. Why? We organize traffic laws in order to avoid accidents. I want to travel without death or injury and so I obey those laws and I hope others will too. In addition, running red lights can cost me expensive interaction with the legal system (a combination of reasoning and authority).

So some actions, like our driving habits, are defined to be right or wrong not because they are inherently good or evil, but because they are practical. They protect life and property. Other actions, however, are of a different sort. They appeal to a higher standard of good and evil.

What about giving to the poor? We all agree that helping the poor is the right thing to do. We also believe that it is right for the wealthy to contribute more in order to relieve the hardships of poverty.

But why? Why should I give away things that belong to me? It seems impractical. What if my family and I need it? What if I want it? Why should I give it to someone else, someone I don’t even know?

Why should I spend time cooperating with others (government) in order to make wealthy people give away more of what they have (taxes) in order to help the poor (welfare)? Why should I care what others do?

For generations we have answered these questions by appealing to the Bible. God’s word tells us that people are created in God’s image, so every human life is of inestimable value. Therefore, I help others, even though it costs me personally.

The Bible tells us that we are expected to be good stewards of our resources, which includes helping those who cannot help themselves. The Bible condemns selfishness. I must be willing to share.

In addition, the Bible tells us that God commands us to help the poor. So we help the poor, because people are precious and because God tells us to do so. I want to please God, so I obey his commands.

But a new voice in culture is trying to convince us that we can be good without God and his commands. We can still help the poor and hold the rich responsible without any appeal to spiritual truth or special revelation, so they say.

According to these secular voices, we can love our neighbor without a word from God. All we need is a scientific worldview. Nature will show us the way.

But will this pass the “Why?” question? Let’s see: No God means no Creator. No Creator means that we are a fortuitous cosmic accident, a happenstance. As such, we are not accountable to anyone but nature (whoever that is!).

Now the godless ‘natural’ version of reality is clear. In order to grow smarter and stronger we have evolved by ruthlessly taking hold of every possible advantage. The strongest, smartest and fastest get the natural resources they need to survive and thrive and everyone else . . . well, everyone else does not deserve to survive.

The weak and slow ones cannot be favored because they will use resources that should go to the stronger and smarter. The weak and slow should not reproduce because they will impede or even permanently derail the evolution of the race, according to the God-free version of reality.

The stronger and smarter ones survive and propagate the race. Each generation gets a little better because the weak are weeded out, so the ‘natural’ scientific view says.

At this point the secular crowd must interrupt and say that being kind to the poor will somehow make us stronger and better, so it is right to help the poor and weak even if you only appeal to natural forces. They must convince us that a more compassionate humanity is a stronger humanity.

But is that true? Why? How? How does it propagate the race and help humanity to grow stronger if we keep the weak ones alive?

Nature is heartless with the weak. In the animal kingdom the weak are food for others. Now we are told by secularists that people should go against nature and act as if nature is wrong. Why? The Bible has the answer, the only answer. Because the natural world is broken as a result of sin and God made people superior to animals; he made us in his image.

The love ethic that is advanced by the Bible generally and by Christianity especially is built upon the firm foundation of God’s revealed word. The love ethic is not a free-floating ethical notion.

We help the poor because we believe that human lives are valuable and worthy of dignity. We believe this about human lives because the Bible tells us that people are created in the image of God and that God loves his creation; he loves people so we should love people.

We believe that God is the creator and sustainer and that he holds successful people responsible for how they use the wealth which he has enabled them to gain. We expect the rich to give because God says they should do so.

Secular humanists wish to retain this kindness toward the poor and this responsibility for the rich but they want to remove the foundation of trust in God as Maker, Sustainer, Judge and Savior. We can help the poor and exhort the rich without believing in God, we are told. But will this house of love stand on a foundation of natural selection? If God is not Maker, Sustainer, Judge and Savior, then who is?

Darwinian evolution is no foundation for loving our neighbor. God’s word is. More than that, Jesus and his personal sacrifice at Calvary, a sacrifice made for the sins of a world that is hostile to him, this is more than a foundation for an ethic of love. Jesus is the ultimate inspiration for sacrificial love.

Sometimes we discover what is right from an authority, from someone who has the right to tell us, “Because I say so!” Sacrificial love is so out-of-step with the heartless forces of nature that we must either abandon such an ethic or build it on another foundation, a higher authority. That higher authority is the Living God, who sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we can be saved from this broken world.

If we ignore God then we abandon the ethic of love and compassion. Instead of trying to ignore our Maker, we should abandon atheism and embrace Christian love.

Richard Foster

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Tell Your Story!

You have story to tell! As a follower of the Lord Jesus, you have become a permanent part of Jesus’ story. And Jesus’ story will always be a vital part of your life story.

Your story includes the great change that Jesus has made in your life when you were saved. More than that, your story includes the changes that God’s Spirit is making in your life now as he grows you toward spiritual maturity.

In a sense, your story and mine each begins when Jesus willingly gave his life as a sacrifice so that we can be forgiven. Jesus’ sacrifice almost 2,000 years ago opened a door to God’s blessing that we walked through when we confessed Christ as Lord.

Jesus’ story did not end with his death. God raised him up from the grave, alive again and alive forever. More than that, Jesus ascended to heaven and poured out his Spirit on his followers, on us.

God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, dwells in the hearts of all believers, empowering us to worship and serve the Maker of heaven and earth. God’s Spirit is changing us from glory to glory into the image of Christ.

So, Jesus died for your sin, rose up to be your Savior and Lord, and he is working in your life now to do wonderful things that will continue into eternity.

All believers have much in common. We have the same Savior and we were all saved by our faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. But we are still unique.

The circumstances of each person’s salvation experience vary and so each of us has a unique experience. In addition, the details of what God is doing on a daily basis in each believer’s life are unique.

So your story affirms the great truths of Christianity, truth about Jesus Christ and his work of salvation. But your story also reveals a very personal account of how Christ’s salvation is unfolding in history.

Somebody needs to hear your story. They need to hear the ancient and unchanging truth about Jesus and his offer of salvation. They also need to see and hear a living example of how Jesus saves now.

When we open our spiritual eyes, we begin to see the opportunities that God places in our path to testify about his goodness. Someone nearby is reaching a point in life where he is ready to listen.

We need to be ready to speak, to testify about Jesus and his work in our lives. Sharing Christ with others is a sign that God’s Spirit is active in our lives. It is one way that we grow stronger in our faith.

Telling others about Jesus is an important part of discipleship. Remember, discipleship is not merely learning God’s word. True discipleship is doing what God’s word says.

Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). We bear witness to the world of what the Lord has done and is doing in our lives. As we do this, others are saved. What a great honor!

May the Spirit of God inspire us to proclaim his goodness among the nations,

Brother Richard Foster

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Can We Talk Religion?

Can we have an honest discussion about religion? No. Not if those who speak the truth are indiscriminately labeled as bigots.

To discuss religion in the U.S. is to discuss Christianity and Islam. To discuss Islam is to discuss the problem of radicalization. But honest discourse is shouted down by predictable accusations of “hate speech.”

But to point out that Islam has a problem with violence is not hatred for all Muslims. To deny that Islam has a problem with violence is to ignore the facts and to stick one’s head in the quicksand of political correctness.

It is time to stop showing graphs that compare radical Islamic murder in the U.S. with other murder, but begin the count on the day after 9/11! The agenda of such cherry-picking of the stats is plain for all to see: to rewrite history in order to exonerate Islam.

Why the strained effort to elevate Islam and to denigrate Christianity (i.e., defining Christianity by the acts of 1,000-year-dead crusaders)? It’s the new definition of Equality.

The New Equality is not simply advocating for fair treatment between the races, between men and women, between the rich and poor, or between different creeds and religions. The New Equality is systematically dismantling established ideas of what is morally right and wrong.

The New Equality claims to be acting out of heartfelt sympathy for the exploited and the underdog. But the real goal is to establish a new foundation for defining right and wrong.

The long-time foundation for right and wrong is God. Different cultures and religions have diverse views about God, but still he is the authority, the basis for beliefs, values, laws, governments and societies.

But God and religion are no longer valid in the world of the New Equality. Things are simple with this new perspective. Erase all differences. Remove all pride of accomplishment or confidence in righteousness and you eradicate all hatred and violence, right? Soon everyone will be well-fed and satisfied, right? Wrong.

In the New Equality, nobody can claim to be right. All religions must accept absolute sameness. If a certain group claims to be right or to know the truth, then they are accusing someone else of being wrong, and that might hurt someone’s feelings.

Feelings are now more important than truth. Or, put another way, feelings have become truth. Not so long ago we were told, “If it feels good, do it!” Now we are faced with another step back: “If it feels good, it must be right!”

All this moral confusion is a result of denying humanity’s ability to know the truth. In an increasingly secular culture, we are asked to believe that nobody can really know ultimate truth, and so it is impolitic to make such a claim.

And yet certain claims stubbornly refuse to exit the stage of history. The words of Jesus still ring out: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life – nobody comes to the Father but by me.” “I am the Light of the world – whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Think of all the kingdoms, movements and philosophies that have come and gone in the past 2,000 years. But Jesus’ words continue to speak truth and hope to hearts around the world.

Just before he slipped away into the pages of history, Pilate asked a famous question, “What is truth?” When he uttered those words he was literally looking truth in the face, but he turned and walked away and washed his hands of Jesus.

The New Equality perpetuates the attitude of Pilate, insisting that truth is illusory. Deciding beforehand that we cannot find the truth really limits the discussion.

An honest dialogue admits to the possibility of real answers, of one position being right and another being wrong. Can we talk religion?

May God’s Spirit open your heart to his truth,

Richard Foster

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Who Speaks for Christianity?

Listening to chatter in the media one gets the message loud and clear that ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and a host of other violent Muslim organizations do not represent the true teachings of Islam.

On the other hand, Christianity is represented by crusaders who have been dead and buried for a thousand years, or a rogue demented shooter who attacks a Planned Parenthood outlet, so we are told.

Can we find a more objective and accurate measure for “true Islam” and “true Christianity”? Yes, we can. Jesus and Muhammad.

Muhammad was a raider who used the sword to advance his agenda. He killed and beheaded some 700 Jewish men in one episode, taking their wives and daughters as the spoils of war. He taught his followers to kill the infidel, or at least subject them to second-class status.

Jesus was a teacher who insisted that his followers put away their swords, even though his own life was at stake. He taught his followers to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them. He left this example for his followers: he gave his own life so that unbelievers can be saved.

To be a radical Muslim is to spill the blood of those who disagree with you. To be a radical Christian is to seal your testimony with your own blood, sacrificially giving your life so that others might live, in order to persuade many to be saved.

Peaceful Muslims are actually reflecting the life and values of Jesus more than those of Muhammad, at least with respect to violence. Murderous Christians are actually reflecting the life and values of Muhammad more than those of Jesus, at least when it comes to wielding the sword.

Jesus surprised his followers with his definition of greatness: “Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. And whoever wants to be first among you will serve all.”

Jesus got down on his knees and washed his disciples’ feet. He got up on his cross and died for his disciples’ salvation. He stood up and walked away from his tomb to be his disciples’ Lord.

Jesus speaks for Christianity.

May the Spirit of Christ speak to your heart,

Richard Foster

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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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