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What More Does God Want?

When he had lived 75 years, Abraham was called by God to leave behind all that was familiar to him: home, work, culture, and career. The Lord challenged him to move hundreds of miles and to live as a sojourner in a foreign country. Abraham followed God’s leadership.

God promised to make Abraham into a great nation, but he and his wife Sarah had no children. Years passed and the couple entered their senior years, but God insisted that they would have a son. Abraham believed God’s promise.

God commanded Abraham to be circumcised and to circumcise all the males in his household. This was a sign that he believed God’s promises and entrusted his future into God’s hands. Abraham accepted God’s mark of ownership.

Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years, until she was beyond child-bearing years and he was 100. Finally, God’s promise was fulfilled. They had a son and named him Isaac, which means laughter. Sarah laughed with joy. At last, things seemed to be coming together. Abraham celebrated God’s blessing.

Then God challenged Abraham again. The Lord tested him. He commanded Abraham to take his son, whom he loved, and to sacrifice him on a certain mountain. Isaac, who represented the future of God’s promises to Abraham, would be gone.

How many times did Abraham have to prove his faith to God? After all, he had left his home to live as a stranger in a strange land. He had believed God’s promises and adopted the sign of circumcision. And he had waited for a quarter of a century for his son to be born. What more did God want?

The Lord wanted Abraham’s faith to keep growing. No matter how many years he lived in this world, God kept urging Abraham to reach new heights in his walk with the Lord. God wanted him to have a vital and living faith, content but not complacent, confident but not presumptive.

As he had in the past, Abraham obeyed God. And on that mountain, God provided a substitute sacrifice for Isaac. Abraham gave up his son for the Lord’s sake and as a result he got Isaac back, along with an even stronger and more mature faith. Abraham passed the test.

Only our Lord knows what he has in store for us in 2014. Surely we will enjoy many great times of joy and blessing as God continues to fulfill his promises to us. We may face a test along the way. If we do, we can be certain that the Lord will provide.

May God’s Holy Spirit enable us to soar to new heights and discover greater depth in the faith this year,

Brother Richard Foster

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The New Face of Bigotry in America

Fifty years ago a grand march on Washington, D.C. marked one of the high points in the struggle to secure civil rights for racial minority groups in America.  In 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a massive crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  In his inspiring remarks he envisioned a time when all people would be judged by their character instead of their color.

In celebrating the anniversary of that optimistic moment, advocates for gay marriage recently continued their efforts to identify their cause with the moral high ground of racial equality.  Gay sex, so they say, is the same as dark skin.  To be denied the same legal and social benefits that marriage gives to heterosexual couples is the same thing as being forced to sit in the back of the bus, so the reasoning goes.

Linking arms with a movement that has already enjoyed huge success is a shrewd political tactic.  But their comparison between race and sexuality is severely undermined if people can actually choose their sexual orientation.  Everyone knows that race is not a choice.  So the strength of the comparison between race and sexuality is based squarely on the argument that sexuality is not a choice either.  Any evidence that sexuality is a choice poses grave danger to the politics of gay activism.

Another assertion made by gay apologists is that the cultural majority forces some people into accepting gender roles that are a mismatch for their true sexual orientation.  In other words, the power group bullies everyone into conforming to the commonly held notion of acceptable behavior.  Only gays and other gender-related minority groups are ever subjected to this kind of coercion in matters of sex, so it seems.  Social pressure is aimed at them and so they are victims who live in constant fear of openly asserting their orientation.  But is that true?

First, people who publicly announce their gay or lesbian orientation are consistently affirmed and celebrated in the pop-culture of today.  The news media falls all over itself to provide a venue for those who are said to be courageous enough to take such a valiant step and “come out.”  Elected officials and judicial types rush to be first in line to challenge the heterosexual status quo, claiming the coveted status of champion or defender of civil rights.

On the other hand, those who share their faith in Christ often risk ridicule and rejection.  Christians are being told that public expressions of religious faith are unconstitutional.  Any faith that embraces Judeo-Christian sexual values is shouted down and accused of being hate-filled.  So it seems that the gay is urged to come out and the Christian is urged to go in.  Anyone seeking popularity and support in our society is apt to find it quicker by proclaiming dedication to what was recently defined as aberrant sexual behavior than to announce their devotion to God’s Savior Jesus Christ.

Second, the gay movement is quickly becoming a rigid and intolerant political juggernaut.  Gay and lesbian people started with seemingly reasonable appeals to fairness.  A large number of kind-hearted and somewhat morally ambiguous Americans have responded to these appeals by making ill-advised changes to the laws which provide structure and boundaries for human sexuality in our culture.  But as their influence has grown, gay groups have become more insistent that anyone who dares question their assertions be silenced, shamed, and punished.  So a new political power has emerged and is vigorously asserting itself.

Power often corrupts those who wield it, and the greater the power the more dangerous the corruption.  Groups with power over large segments of the population, the legal system, or of the economic system are capable of doing great harm to many people.  Groups with great power often become addicted to power and take harsh action against anyone who might threaten their power.  This sad but common characteristic of humanity is so prevalent that organizations of all shapes and sizes have learned through hard experience to craft leadership structures with carefully devised divisions of power and sufficiently durable avenues of accountability.  But some groups avoid accountability.

Gay activism is a recent player in the game of power politics, but already it shows signs of intolerance and small-mindedness.  Should students in graduate schools be banished from counseling programs simply because they question the new dogma about human sexuality?  Where will the forum for critical thinking be if not in academia?  Should Christian photographers be punished for declining to celebrate unions which go against their core convictions, even when other photographers are available?  Where will people of faith be free to exercise their religious beliefs if not in their daily lives?  Should organizations that believe in the Bible’s definition of marriage be labeled as hate groups for expressing their beliefs in non-violent ways?  Where will the forum for public debate be?

Recently a law was enacted in New Jersey that forbids counselors to help young people who are confused about their sexuality and seeking to avoid a gay or lesbian lifestyle.  If people are born gay or lesbian, then some must also be born “straight” as well.  And if people are sometimes forced by society to act straight when they are actually gay or lesbian, then society, or powerful political groups within society, can just as surely put pressure on people to act gay or lesbian when they are really straight.

The gay movement has been a player in power politics for a relatively short period of time.  Nevertheless, a new group is already emerging that presents a problem for them.  The new group is former gays.  This group is a potential embarrassment to the gay agenda for at least two reasons.  First, they are living proof that at least some people may be able to choose and/or change their sexual orientation and that some people who have experienced the gay and lesbian lifestyle have rejected it.  Second, ex-gays represent a new suppressed group that calls into question the original promise of the gay agenda that they were seeking fairness and equality for everyone.  Does fairness and equality stop with them?

Now that gay activism has started to gain power, we see signs that they are apparently willing to deny people freedom in order to protect their newfound influence.  Maybe we are seeing the new face of bigotry in America.  Is it time to speak truth to power, the power of a bullying gay agenda?  Will ex-gays enjoy the attention of all the civil rights activists?  Will there be marches and speeches and songs for them?  Will journalists give them voice and judges give them protection?  Will Hollywood write sitcoms that present them in a positive light?

None of this should surprise authentic followers of Jesus Christ, but it does.  Why?  Some in the North American Evangelical Church have mistakenly confused popularity with success.  As gays and lesbians gain in popularity and Bible-believing Christians experience ridicule, believers either blame the world or doubt the faith.  There is no reason to blame the world because the world is simply acting as the Bible predicts it always will.  Scripture tells us that the whole world is under the influence of evil (1 John 5:19).  And Jesus warned his followers that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33).

False teachers were a serious threat to the Early Church.  Much of the New Testament was written to combat error and to provide a clear and authoritative statement of faith for followers of Jesus so that they will not remain infants in the faith, “tossed about by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14).  False teachers are troublesome for the community of faith today, too.  Some preachers and teachers are selling the notion that we simply need a winsome approach and the world will love us.  If our smile is white enough and our politics are right enough and our buildings are bright enough then the world will beat a path to our door.  Is that true?

If we start to question God’s Word when the world makes things uncomfortable, then we are in danger of compromising the truth.  We may find ourselves wanting to promote “traditional” marriage instead of “godly” marriage in the hopes that our message will be more palatable to the modern culture.  We may wonder if building relationships with people is smarter than sharing the plan of salvation so that we can avoid conflict and rejection.  We may conclude that hell is an embarrassment and start to peddle a god of unqualified love and acceptance because he is more marketable to today’s progressive mindset.  In short, we are tempted to compromise the one thing that assures us power in this age: God’s unchanging truth.

Jesus boldly and consistently proclaimed God’s word, without compromise.  When he was popular and followed by thousands and when he was threatened by hostile leaders, he still spoke the truth in love.  He calls his followers to do the same.  Jesus compared the word of God to a seed that grows and bears a harvest of eternal life.  Like Jesus, his followers are sent into the world to spread the seed liberally, on good soil and bad.  He promises that we will reap a harvest.  The Bible urges us to share the faith, in season and out of season, that is, when it is convenient and easy, and when it is not.  The world will always resist the gospel and oppose those who proclaim it, but Jesus assures us that we can take heart, because he has overcome the world, no matter who happens to be popular or powerful in the world at any given moment.  How did Jesus overcome this dark, confused, and dangerous world?

Ironically Jesus was illegally arrested, falsely accused, and shamefully executed for being a threat to the established political powers of his day.  But he refused to be made king when the opportunity presented itself (John 6:15), he never engaged in violence against the establishment (Luke 22:52-53), and when falsely accused and arrested, he submitted to the authorities, even though it meant sacrificing himself (John 19:10-11).  Jesus warned his followers against the dangers of political power in this world, urging them to seek greatness in God’s eyes by choosing to serve instead of rule (Matthew 20:25-28).

By keeping himself from the corrupting influence of power in this world, Jesus was freeing himself and his followers to see the true value in every person, despite their status in this age.  Jesus did not see people as members of identity groups that either supported or opposed his political agenda.  He reached out to the marginalized and oppressed, but also to those who were comfortable and influential.  He did not judge people by their position in this world and he did not entice them with the promise of sharing in the fleeting power structures of this age.  Jesus was not looking for political supporters, but for spiritual followers.  Jesus challenges all of us to get our identity not from political or social movements in this world, but from citizenship in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus sacrificed himself so that people of all kinds can be citizens of God’s Kingdom, members of God’s family, and living stones in the Temple of God’s Spirit.

–Richard Foster, Grace Baptist, August 2013


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The world around us is changing before our very eyes. Atheists often bitterly oppose any public expression of faith in Jesus Christ. Gays vehemently attack any organization supporting God’s design for marriage and family. Political and legal pressures are exerted against Bibles in schools, prayers in public, the Ten Commandments in government buildings, historical reminders about the Judeo-Christian roots of our nation, and other practices that reflect Christian truth and values.

More and more it seems as if we are living in Babylon, a place of rebellion against God. Ancient Babylon made its debut early in the Bible as a city where people decided to build a tower that would reach to heaven itself. They wanted to make a great name for themselves, without any regard for God’s agenda. The builders of that tower were so far out of step with God that he disrupted their ability to understand one another, effectively putting a stop to their selfish project (Genesis 11:1-9).

Later in Scripture, Babylon emerged as a world power that attacked and destroyed the city of Jerusalem, the spiritual center for God’s people Israel. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies leveled the holy city and destroyed its great Temple, built by Solomon as the premier place of worship for Israel. Those who survived the brutal attack were carried off to Babylon. They found themselves living in a godless country that did not share their beliefs or values (2 Kings 25). Daniel was one of the young Israelites carried away, never to see his homeland again.

Daniel and his friends were hard-pressed to live according to God’s revealed truth in a land full of idols and idol-worshipers. Nevertheless, he and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, courageously refused to go along with the wicked flow of Babylonian society. Daniel’s friends found themselves facing death in a fiery furnace, but refused to disobey God no matter what the cost (Daniel 3). Daniel himself was thrown into a lion’s den because he insisted on praying to God even though the government had outlawed his prayer (Daniel 6).

Centuries later the Apostle Peter, the fisherman-turned-follower of Jesus, wrote to God’s people during the early days of Christianity. In his letter he referred to the Church as “she who is in Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13). His reference was not to a geographic location on any map of the Middle East. Peter was referring symbolically to the godless Roman culture in which followers of Jesus found themselves. Like ancient Babylon, the first-century Roman Empire was out-of-step with the ways of the Lord and intolerant toward the people of God.

Peter opened his letter by referring to first-century followers of Jesus as strangers in the world, scattered, yet chosen by God (1 Peter 1:1-2). God-fearing disciples of Jesus Christ found it very difficult to live righteous lives in such an unrighteous environment. The prevailing cultural values made their lives difficult and it made them unpopular, at times the recipients of brutal and merciless persecution.

God’s people have often found themselves at odds with the societies and cultures of this unrighteous age. Social groups which are guided by and obedient to the values and truths revealed in the Bible have been few and far in between. Political groups that try to govern by the principles of Christianity eventually resort to compromising their core beliefs and values in order to protect their power and privilege in a world full of persistent sin and rebellion.

Babylon appears not only near the beginning of the Bible, but also toward the end. In the Book of Revelation we read that Babylon will be the dominant religious, political, and economic force in the last days. At the very end of this age Babylon, the ultimate representation of the spiritually corrupt power structures in this fallen world, will be persecuting God’s people and promoting godless practices. In other words, this deadly intense wrestling match between culture and the Church will persist until Jesus’ Second Coming.

What are God’s people to do? Perhaps we should take a cue from Daniel in Babylon. Daniel refused to embrace the sinful lifestyle of the society around him. God chose to give him great political influence for a time and gave Daniel great favor with the Babylonians. As a leader in godless culture, Daniel lived and governed according to his faith. He refused to compromise in order to stay in power. He even risked his life to remain faithful to the Lord. And when political fortunes changed, he accepted a role of diminished influence.

God has not called us to overthrow or redeem Babylon. He will deal with Babylon when the time comes (see Revelation 18). Meanwhile, whether we have political influence or suffer political defeat, our mission is to remain faithful to the Word of God by proclaiming the truth and to remain faithful the ways of God by living in obedience to his commands. A great cloud of witnesses has gone before us. Now is our time to serve; and our labor in the Lord will not be in vain.

May the Lord enable us to be faithful in all circumstances,

Brother Richard

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Building a Firm Foundation in Children

Broken foundations are costly and heartbreaking. No matter how beautiful or impressive a house is, the future can bring only trouble for a structure when its foundation is unsound. It is always better in the long-run to invest the necessary time and effort in getting the foundation sound and true.

This principle holds for growing lives just as surely as it does for constructing buildings. Without the proper spiritual basics a life is doomed to trouble in this life and destruction in eternity. Living without the knowledge of God’s truth is like putting up walls on sand or clay. Great efforts will be necessary to constantly patch and repair damage, and in the end, the walls will fall despite all effort.

The fundamentals of faith should be prayerfully and carefully laid in the life of a person before reaching the teenage years. Once we become adults, we begin building our lives. If we discover that the foundation we received is unsound, then we must decide whether we will start all over and rebuild, or keep trying to make due with what we have.

If we build a life on anything but God’s Truth then the struggles and temptations of this age will eventually find the weaknesses. Stubborn pride, frustration, or despair can easily persuade us not to do the difficult work of starting over from the ground up. Since anything is possible with God, lives can be remade successfully at any time. Better to get it right the first time, however, because we do not know when our life in this world will come to an end.

When we teach our children God’s Truth, then we are giving them the chance to build their lives on the Rock. We cannot save them or force them to be saved, but we can remove as many obstacles as possible. We can make sure that they know about God’s love and about his plan of salvation and blessing.

We advance God’s Kingdom when we labor to build firm spiritual foundations in the lives of children. Such labor is not in vain.

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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What is Your Next Step of Faith?

Noah was commended for being righteous, blameless in his generation, and for walking with God (Genesis 6:9). Walking with God seems to be the climax of the list. Not only did he live an upright life, not only was he a bright spot in a corrupt and wicked generation, but he actually walked with the Living God, a very high compliment in Scripture. But what does it mean to walk with God?

The word walk is used in the Bible for a person’s lifestyle. Some of our newer translations simply use the word live. For instance, Galatians 5:16 is sometimes rendered: Live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). A literal translation is: Walk by the Spirit. By using the picture of walking we get the idea that our spiritual life is going somewhere. So we can ask: What is the next step in following the Lord?

To live a godly life in an ungodly world was only one step in Noah’s spiritual life. God challenged him to take the next step: to build an ark. If Noah was trying to blend in and stay out of sight, he was in for a surprise. You cannot hide a 450-foot-long, 75-foot-wide, 45-foot-high ark. In order to walk with God, Noah had to do something that would make his faith very public, very noticeable.

Building the ark must have taken many years of hard work. Surely Noah got used to the routine. In addition to all the things he did before, he now had to find time for building that massive floating box. But all the things he did before were still there, providing some continuity. Then, when the ark was finally finished, it was time to take another step of faith, the next step in walking with God.

God instructed Noah to enter the ark with his family. Once inside, God himself closed the door. It’s one thing to build the ark, but it is something else to go inside and leave the past behind. Everything changed for Noah when he took his family inside that ark. God unleashed the flood, and with it his judgment on a wicked and rebellious world. Noah’s life would never be the same.

Noah understood that walking with God meant leaving his comfort zone and following the Lord into the unknown. He knew that he could trust God, even though it meant losing what was familiar to him. Trying to stay in the previous stage of faith would have been a disaster for Noah. He was not called to build arks, but to build one ark and to entrust himself and his family to that one ark. He had to find the courage to take the next step.

What is the next step of faith for me? for you? If we are going to walk with God, then we will be called on by God to move forward one step at a time, not to stand still. Occasionally we will face a step that requires great faith on our part because it means leaving familiar things behind and going on to something new and unprecedented.

Perhaps the Lord is calling you to take the next step of faith by doing something new. To stand still would be like Noah refusing to enter the ark, or to leave it when the time came. Obedience will keep your spiritual life healthy and vital. Jesus is calling us to follow him, one step at a time, hand to the plow, not looking back, and fit for service in the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).

May God’s Spirit inspire and enable us to follow Jesus every step of the way,

Brother Richard Foster

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Podcast: You Cannot Hide Real Faith

Podcast: You Cannot Hide Real Faith

What does saving faith move us to do?
Dr. Richard Foster explains through Genesis 6:9-22.

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Noah’s Proclamation

Noah must have been one of the most tenacious and single-minded people who ever walked the face of the earth. He lived at a time when God was all but forgotten; a time when wicked living was standard operating procedure everywhere. But Noah stood strong for what was right even though the whole world was against him. He was willing to speak the truth in a world that did not want to hear. Surely his life would have been easier had he simply kept his mouth shut, but he did not.

And Noah did more than speak the truth; he lived the truth. Noah’s faith was so strong that he not only worked to support his family, he also worked to build an ark according to God’s design and for God’s purpose. He was devoted to doing work that would please God and lead others to faith and deliverance.

So Noah proclaimed righteousness in a world of wickedness and he built an ark for safety in the day of God’s judgment. He did all this despite the apathy of his generation. How did he do it? How did Noah stand for truth and build for God under such difficult conditions?

One reason that Noah had such a strong faith was his conviction that he had received a word from the Lord. He had no app on his iPhone with multiple translations of the Bible and word-search capabilities. He had no TV preachers, Sunday school teachers, or conference speakers, but he knew that God had spoken to him.

And Noah was willing to live his life based on the word which he had received from God. Even though God’s word to Noah meant that he would be going against the strong tide of public opinion, Noah obeyed. Pleasing God was more important to Noah than getting along with everyone else.

Like Noah, we have a word from the Lord. Like Noah, we are called to speak for God and to build for God in a world that is unfriendly to God. And like Noah, we can choose to be silent and get along with the world, or we can decide to speak up and get the approval of our Lord.

Noah went through some tough times, but God was with him. In the end he experienced a great victory. God is calling us to proclaim his truth and to build his kingdom in a rebellious world. Going against the flow is not easy, but our Lord promises to be with us. And he promises that we will share in his ultimate triumph.

May the love of Christ compel us to say and do all that our Lord desires,

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

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Faith: Finding Faith, Growing in Faith and Saving Faith

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (10:17, NIV).  This verse is speaking to all those who are followers of Jesus Christ.  It reminds us of our task and our method.

According to Romans 10:17, our goal is “faith.”  We serve together in order to help people find faith.  And for those who already have faith, we help them to grow in faith.  As we help others, we grow in our own faith, too.  God’s Spirit knits our souls together with him and with one another into a thriving community of faith that serves his Kingdom and enjoys his blessings.

The faith of Romans 10:17 is not just any faith, but faith that comes “through the word of Christ.”  The Bible tells us that some faith is in vain.  Faith in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ is not saving faith.  Other faiths may be comforting faiths, or satisfying faiths, or popular faiths, or even impressive faiths.  But only faith in Christ is saving faith.

Faith comes from “hearing the message.”  We need not worry about finding a message; we have one already.  Jesus sacrificed himself as a sin offering so that all who place their faith in him will be completely forgiven and eternally blessed by God.

Faith comes from “hearing the message.”  The message is the word of Christ.  As followers of Jesus we have the great opportunity and challenge to tell the Good News about Jesus Christ.  We participate in God’s Kingdom work by making sure that every child and every adult possible hears and understands the great message of saving faith through Jesus Christ.

Every local church exists in order to help people find faith and to grow in faith.  As people are saved and strengthened in faith, the Body of Christ is built up.  And as we carry out our God-given mission we bring glory to God the Father who saves us through his Son Christ Jesus.

May the Lord empower us to grow strong in the faith,

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

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