Tag Archives: God

Jesus Goes Viral

Jesus’ popularity with the people came and went.  Once he had a group of more than 5,000 that followed him out into a wilderness region. No building, no music, no food, no port-o-potties, but they stayed with Jesus for days.  He was ‘in.’

Suddenly the crowd was gone and Jesus was back to his small group of 12 disciples.  All it took to turn the people away was for Jesus to teach them the truth. He was ‘out.’

On another occasion excited crowds of thousands of people were singing Jesus’ praises.  It was almost time for the great Passover Feast.  The city of Jerusalem was filled to overflowing with worshipers from all over.

Jesus traveled from Galilee to attend the feast.  He walked the entire way, as he always did.  But once he was near Jerusalem he insisted on riding a donkey into the city.

Jesus wanted to make a point.  He was fulfilling a prophecy spoken by God through Zechariah, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look! your king comes to you meek and riding on a donkey, on the foal of a beast of burden.’”

One day God’s promised Messiah, the Anointed King of Israel who would rule forever, would come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  This was that day and Jesus was the man!

The crowd spread their garments on the road in front of Jesus’ donkey, along with branches cut from nearby trees.  This was their version of the ‘red-carpet treatment.’

They also cried out in praise of Jesus, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  They openly acknowledged him to be God’s chosen ruler, King of Jerusalem, King of Israel.

People in the city were stirred up by the commotion and asked, “Who is this?”  The crowd answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”  So, not only did they recognize him as God’s chosen king, but they also realized that Jesus was God’s chosen spokesman, the prophet.

One thing they missed: Jesus came gently, riding on a beast of burden to show that his mission was one of a servant, the Suffering Servant prophesied by Isaiah.  John the Baptist said it this way, “Behold! the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”

Jesus was king, prophet, and priest.  And not just any priest.  This priest was also the sacrifice.  Days later when Jesus stood before Pilate, he was ready to die.  The crowds were no longer friendly.  “Crucify him!” they cried out.  What happened?

The crowds wanted a king to defeat their current political enemy: Rome.  Romans occupied and ruled their country and Israel wanted liberation.  But Jesus came to bring spiritual freedom and eternal life, not temporary political relief.

To stay popular, Jesus would have to change his mission and do what the crowd wanted.  But Jesus’ mission was greater.  Praise God, Jesus stayed with his God-given mission and did not succumb to the pressure of popularity!

Popularity still calls out today.  Many will do almost anything to please the adoring crowds, to gain more followers, to get more ‘likes.’  But the crowd’s goals are rarely in step with God’s.  The only ‘like’ we really need is the love of God.  The only followers we need to make are disciples of Jesus.

May God’s Spirit keep the eyes of our hearts on the things above,

Brother Richard

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Moses’ Advice for Twenty-First Century Christians

Every follower of Jesus faces three powerful enemies. First, Satan prowls around like a lion looking for those he can devour. Second, the world is filled with sin that entangles and destroys. And third, our own sinful desires draw us away from the Lord.

When the people of Israel were ready to go in and take possession of the Promised Land, their leader Moses knew that they would face these spiritual enemies. So he gave them instructions on living in God’s victory and blessing (see Deuteronomy 6).

Moses said, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all you heart, soul and strength. These commandments that I am giving you today are to be on your hearts.”

The commandments Moses speaks of are primarily the Ten Commandments, but also the many applications of those commandments in their daily lives. These words of God were to be on the hearts of God’s people.

Moses continued speaking about God’s commandments, “Impress them on your children. Speak about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the way, when you lie down and when you get up.”

In addition to having God’s word on their hearts, they were to have God’s word in their homes, obeying it in their daily lives and speaking about it with their children. In this way they would pass God’s word on to the next generation.

Then Moses said about the commandments, “Tie them on your hands as symbols and bind them to your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

The “gate” of an ancient city was the place of official business, much like the courthouses in towns and cities today. Moses is telling the people that private faith is insufficient. They had to take God’s word into their communities, into the public square.

So, in addition to having God’s word on their hearts and in their homes, they were to have God’s word in their communities. Only with the word of God’s truth would God’s people be victorious over their enemies.

The same dynamics are in play now. As God’s people, we face powerful resistance to God’s eternal truth. We need to carry God’s word into the public square, into our communities. This is our only hope for pushing back the darkness that presses in from every side.

Please notice, however, that we will not have God’s word in our communities until we have it in our homes, impressing it on our children. And we will not have God’s word in our homes if we do not have it on our hearts.

Victory in the public square begins in the heart of each and every believer. Every man and woman of faith must diligently read, passionately believe, and faithfully obey the Bible. Without the sure foundation of God’s word, we can build nothing of lasting importance. With it we will overcome!

May God’s empowering Presence inspire and enable us to carry his word into our communities,

Brother Richard

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Prayer For A Nation

God makes a promise about prayer in 2 Chronicles:

. . . and (if) my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I myself will hear from the heavens, forgive their sin, and heal their land. (7:14)

The Lord is speaking to King Solomon. At the dedication of the new temple in Jerusalem Solomon prayed publicly and asked God to always answer the prayers offered at the temple.

Thirteen years later God is finally answering Solomon’s request. That’s a long delay but hearing from God is worth the wait!

To understand God’s answer to Solomon we must move back one verse. God tells Solomon, “When I stop the rain or send locusts to devour the land or if I send a pestilence, and my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray” etc.

God’s promise is about those times when he uses natural disasters to soften hard hearts and bend stiff necks. Extreme weather is now blamed on man-made global warming (or “climate change”). Nevertheless, God is still the master of nature and the Bible clearly says that he sometimes employs nature to get our attention (see Exodus 9).

Of course, every bad storm is not a judgment from God. Jesus used a storm on the Sea of Galilee to demonstrate his divine authority by commanding the wind and the waves to stop. He made no mention of any national sin.

The point is this: When God’s people disobey him and deserve his judgment, God offers a pathway to return to his favor.

First, God’s people must humble themselves. Genuine humility starts with attitude and stirs action. The Israelites often humbled themselves by fasting. Skipping meals was a way to demonstrate that they were contrite.

Next, God’s people must pray. When combined, prayer and fasting are powerful. By fasting and praying God’s people demonstrate their desire to connect with God.

In addition, God’s people must seek his face, that is, his personal presence. Seeking requires time and effort. When God’s people gather for combined prayer and fasting the purpose is to experience God’s powerful, personal presence.

Finally, God’s people must turn from their evil ways. No amount of fasting, praying and seeking will solve the problem if God’s people defiantly persist in disobeying his commands.

To simply turn from evil ways without turning to God would also be short of the goal. The objective is always to enjoy God and his favor.

God promises to hear from heaven despite the chasm between him and his people. God will then forgive their sin and heal their land, both spiritual and physical restoration. He is Lord of the visible and the invisible, of individuals and of nations.

As followers of Jesus we are God’s people now and we share in this wonderful promise about prayer. So let’s humbly seek the Lord in prayer, turning from sin to him. God will hear and restore.

May God always hear from heaven and visit us with his healing presence,

Brother Richard

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Christians are Prone to Wander

The Bible often pictures God’s people as a flock of sheep.  Apparently, God sees some things in common between people of faith and small wooly livestock.  How are believers and sheep alike?

One point of comparison is noted by Peter.  He writes to Christians, “For you were like sheep going astray. . .” (1 Peter 2:25).  Sheep tend to stray from the safety of their shepherd and his flock.  On their own, in the open, sheep face a variety of dangers: predators, cliffs, thieves, and so forth.

Christians also tend to stray away from the safety of the Shepherd, our Lord Jesus, and from his flock, the church.  Like straying sheep, straying Christians face various threats.

The New Testament warns believers about 3 spiritual dangers.  First, the devil is like a roaring lion prowling around looking for someone to devour.  Second, this broken world is full of temptations that can entrap believers and shipwreck their faith.  And third, the ‘flesh’ is an inner threat, sinful desires that pull us back to a destructive lifestyle of disobedience to God.

To the believers who had once strayed Peter goes on to say, “but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”  Of course, the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls is Jesus, the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep.

Safety from the devil, the world, and the flesh is found in close communion with Christ.  And Christ gathers his followers into his church like a shepherd gathers his sheep into his flock.  In the flock, under the watchful eye of the shepherd, the sheep find security from every danger.

And more than protection, the sheep find provision when they are in the flock.  The shepherd leads his flock to green pastures and quiet waters, the necessities and joys of a healthy and enriched life.

Our Shepherd Jesus has come so that his flock may have abundant life.  Following Jesus, we find the provisions necessary for a strong faith.  The Shepherd and Overseer of our souls nurtures us so that we can grow in the grace of God and enjoy his blessings to the fullest extent.

Peter’s warning against straying reminds us that a spiritual downfall often begins in subtle ways.  Wandering away from the Lord is a gradual process that may go unnoticed until disaster strikes.  The wandering believer is rarely alarmed and often in denial about potential dangers.

James writes to Christians, “My brothers, if one among you strays from the truth, then someone should bring him back” (James 5:19).  As God’s people our highest goal is to be like Jesus, which includes seeking and restoring those who wander away.  Doing so is one way that we are his hands and feet.

A wonderful old hymn says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”  Knowing that God’s people are prone to wander, we should faithfully seek out those who do.  And if you or I happen to be the wanderer, we should be gracious when they come looking for us.

May the Good Shepherd always keep us,

Brother Richard

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Coming Home to God’s Truth About Marriage

Jesus was questioned about marriage and divorce by hostile Jewish religious leaders. They hoped to trick him into saying something that would cause him trouble.

Jesus quoted from Genesis, reminding them that God established a design for marriage when he created Adam and Eve. He made them male and female, and for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.

Jesus emphasized the permanent nature of marriage by adding these words: “They are no longer two but one flesh, so what God has joined together let no one separate.” God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman freely and fully committed to each other for life.

The religious leaders thought they had trapped Jesus into contradicting Scripture. They said, “Why, then, did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus corrected them. Moses allowed divorce; he did not command it. And he allowed divorce, Jesus said, because of people’s hard hearts. It was not God’s design or desire. In fact, God sees unwarranted divorce and remarriage as adultery.

But God also knows that hearts sometimes become so hard that broken relationships are the inevitable result. So he makes concessions, but he does not change his design. The goal is still a faithful union between one man and one woman. A divorce in the past need not keep us from succeeding at God’s design for marriage now.

Jesus is saying that some parts of the Bible are weightier, or more fundamental, than other parts. God’s original design for marriage is more fundamental than his allowance for failed marriages. The concession does not cancel the design.

Jesus’ disciples were listening carefully to this discussion. They were surprised by Jesus’ strict view of marriage. Perhaps it would be better not to marry at all, they suggested.

Jesus agreed that some people are called to live single, but not so they can engage in open and temporary physical relationships. God’s call to live single is a call to live celibate, and to devote oneself to God’s kingdom work in a special way.

Jesus’ words are helpful for Christians today. Our culture is rejecting God’s design for marriage. As a result, many people have suffered broken homes and strained relationships.

If we reject everyone who has deviated from God’s design for marriage, then we are raising unnecessary barriers to the life-changing experience of God’s transforming grace. On the other hand, if we follow the world in redefining marriage and sexual morals, then we are misrepresenting God and his truth.

We should model our lives after Jesus. He unapologetically exalts God’s unchanging design for marriage, but he also extends God’s mercy and grace for hearts that were once hard but are now open and willing to come home to God’s truth.

May we be faithful agents of God’s holiness and his grace,

Brother Richard Foster

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Called to Greatness

Vacation Bible School is a great opportunity for fruitful gospel ministry. Thanks to everyone who is preparing for VBS 2018! Please pray for God’s Spirit to move in a mighty way in our hearts and in the hearts of kids and their families.

This year’s Bible verse for Lifeway’s VBS is 2 Peter 1:3: His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (CSB)

The Lord provides everything we need for life. He is our Maker and our Sustainer. His power is our source for life, both physical and spiritual. Nothing is missing from what our Lord provides us.

In addition to life, the Lord’s power is our source for godliness. We are created to do more than simply exist. Our lives are meant to have meaning and purpose. Each of us is called to live a godly and devout life, one that reflects all the goodness of our Maker, a life that is blessed by him.

Peter writes that we have this divine power “through the knowledge of him,” of God. This knowledge is more than information, it is relation. Peter is referring to more than simply being acquainted with God. He is addressing those who belong to God.

Vacation Bible School is a great way to help kids know God. God has revealed himself through his written word, the Holy Bible. In VBS we teach kids Scripture so that they will encounter the Living God through his word.

God has also revealed himself in a special way through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. In VBS we make sure kids know about all that Jesus said and did so that they can have saving faith in Christ now.

God also reveals himself through the lives of his people, you and me. Notice that the knowledge Peter writes about is “of him who called us.” God has called us first to enjoy the blessings of his salvation and also to share his great salvation with others.

As we interact with kids during VBS we are living examples of salvation. We model for them what it means to be the people of God. Our attention to them is an expression of God’s love for them. We are called by our Lord to be his hands and feet, to be his face and voice, and to help kids know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Vacation Bible School is a high calling! God has been pleased to bless VBS in extraordinary ways for many years. Please pray for that blessing to increase.

May God’s Holy Spirit enable us to know God better and to help others know him,

Brother Richard Foster

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Culture Wars and Prayer

Elijah appears suddenly in the pages of the Bible in 1 Kings 17. He is a prophet, a man of God.

Elijah lives at a time of spiritual decline in Israel. God’s people are being led astray to forget the God of the Bible and to adopt a competing worldview.

The champion of this competing worldview is a woman named Jezebel. Jezebel is a Baal worshiper. Baal is an idol. Baal worshipers give this idol credit for controlling the rain, and thus having the power of life.

Jezebel is married to the king of Israel, a man named Ahab. She uses her political position to promote Baal worship. She also abuses her power to intimidate and persecute those who worship and serve the Lord.

Baal worship threatens to extinguish belief in the Living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So God sends Elijah to confront King Ahab with bad news. Rain in Israel will cease. Why? To prove to the people that Baal does not control the rain, God does.

Eventually Elijah faces a showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. This event is one of the most dramatic in all the Bible (see 1 Kings 18). It is a contest to prove who is really God.

The contest was simple. The prophets of Baal would prepare a sacrifice and call on Baal. Elijah would prepare a sacrifice and call on the Lord. The one who answered by fire would be the true God.

The prophets of Baal cried out to the idol but, of course, it failed to answer. Then Elijah cried out to the Lord. In his prayer he called on God to turn the hearts of the people back again, back to the truth, back to the Lord.

Israel was experiencing what some would call a “culture war.” Two competing worldviews were struggling for the hearts of the people: Baal worship versus faithfulness to the God of their forefathers.

We find ourselves in a similar situation today, a time of frustrating spiritual decline. Powerful proponents of secularism are working diligently to erase the God of the Bible from the public square and from the hearts of the citizenry.

Whether we call this struggle a “culture war” or a “spiritual battle,” the stakes are high. Elijah recognized the fundamental issue in his struggle and he expressed it well in his prayer. The basic issue was not the laws of the land or the leaders on the throne. The basic issue was the hearts of the people.

Elijah’s response to the struggle in his time included bold prayer. His prayer called on God to turn the hearts of the people back again. We should follow his example and pray passionately for God to turn the hearts of the people back to the truth, back to the gospel, back to Jesus.

God answered Elijah’s prayer and brought a great victory. But the struggle continued. We can expect the same: great victories and continued struggles. We can be faithful in fighting the good fight, because we know that the ultimate victory belongs to the Lord!

May God’s Spirit inspire and enable us to be faithful,

Brother Richard Foster

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