Tag Archives: Jesus

Oops! Another Reminder Of Life’s Frailty

On Saturday morning, June 11, I decided to trim a holly in front of our house. It had gotten too tall. I wanted to shorten it significantly so it would be easier to trim in the future.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I engaged in an ill-conceived strategy to reach the top of the holly that included non-sanctioned supporting equipment. (OSHA would have been appalled!) Suffice it to say that it included a bucket turned upside-down and other sundry items.

The instant I fell, I knew that this would not be my finest hour. Every breath was a struggle. A trip to the emergency room let me know that I cracked/broke (is there a difference?) four ribs and two vertebrae. My movements over the next couple of weeks were curtailed, to say the least.

Thanks to all who went to the emergency room, brought meals, did shopping, gave rides, filled in at the church, checked on us, and most of all, prayed for God’s mercy and healing. Church family made a difficult time so much easier.

I’m sorry for taking an unnecessary and foolish risk, but I’m grateful for the grace and mercy of God, demonstrated through the love and concern of brothers and sisters in Christ. Oh, and I’m so grateful to God that he made our bodies so that they heal!

Accidents and illnesses are reminders of how fragile life is. Things can change in an instant. The world says, “Your days are numbered!” That’s certainly true, but it sounds so negative. In fact, it sounds a bit like a threat.

The Bible, on the other hand, says, “Teach us to number our days aright” (Psalm 90:12, NIV). This is no threat. It is good advice. It is wisdom from God’s word.

We know that God has blessed us with a certain number of days in this world. He urges us to be aware of how precious time is and to be fruitful in spending it. This includes healthy balances of work and rest, productivity and pleasure, family and friends, worship and service, being in the church and being in the world (but not of the world), staying home and getting out, and so forth.

Jesus told his disciples, “We must do the works of the One who sent me while it is day; night comes when nobody is able to work” (John 9:4). The word “day” in Jesus’ saying signifies the time of opportunity. “Night” symbolizes the time when opportunities are past.

Jesus said that we must do the works of the One who sent him, that is, the works of God. The Lord holds out opportunities to each of us to participate in his great kingdom work in this age. These are opportunities to number our days aright, to use our time in a fruitful manner.

Every day that we can get up and go is a gift from God. He is inviting us to be fruitful and to enjoy a harvest from the work he gives us to do. Know your calling and pursue it with wisdom and passion.

May the Lord enable us to go and do, for him and for his glory,

Brother Richard

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God Saved Us To Do Good Things

The Bible verse for Vacation Bible School this year is Ephesians 2:10: For we are his (God’s) workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we might walk in them.

The “we” in this verse refers to Christians, followers of Jesus. Immediately before this verse, we read about how to become Christians: For by grace you are saved, by faith; and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God, not by works so nobody can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Christians are saved by grace, not by works. Grace is the wonderful gift of salvation offered by God. He sent his Son Jesus to give himself as an atoning sacrifice, to die for our sins. He did this so that we can be forgiven.

Since God offers us salvation as a gift, we are not required to earn it by doing good works or by being good people. Jesus earned our salvation for us. This is good news. We would be incapable of earning a place in heaven. Why? Because only one who is perfect deserves heaven and nobody is perfect except Jesus himself.

God’s gracious gift of salvation comes to us through faith. Faith is the step of trust we take to believe God’s promise about Jesus and to ask him to forgive our disobedience. Faith includes a commitment to be a follower of Jesus, confessing Jesus as Lord. The result is God’s priceless gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

So, what about all those verses in the Bible that talk about obeying God and doing good deeds? After God’s grace saves us by faith, God’s plan lays out a path for us to follow which includes good works. It is vital for us to note that Ephesians 2:8-9 comes before Ephesians 2:10. We don’t work to get saved. We get saved to work.

Verse 10 starts by saying that we are God’s workmanship. It’s his work that saved us. He sent Jesus to die for our sins. That’s why it then says we are created in Christ Jesus. Jesus is our Savior, the one who died so that we can be a new creation. God also sent his Spirit to speak to our hearts and to transform us into the image of Christ.

Now we see in verse 10 that we are saved to do good works. God wants us to avoid spending eternity in hell, but his salvation is more than a rescue from eternal punishment. God’s salvation enables us to do good things that he prepared beforehand. Since he prepared these works, we know he will be pleased by them.

God prepared us for the works and the works for us. To be saved by faith in Jesus and to do the good deeds God prepared for us is to experience the fullness of a life well-lived. Since God prepared these works for us to do, we know that they will be meaningful, eternally meaningful.

The last part of verse 10 says that we are to walk in them (“them” being the good works). The Bible describes our daily lives as a ‘walk.’ We ‘walk’ through this world step by step, day by day, decision by decision. Our ‘walk,’ our daily life, has a direction and a destination.

The works prepared by God for us to do become a pathway that leads to a full and fulfilling life. By walking in the pathway laid out for us by God, we enjoy rich experiences of his presence, power, and blessing along the way. And we know that he is our great destination, to stand in his presence, to see him face-to-face, and to worship him with abundant joy!

What marvelous things God has revealed to us in his word! How abundant the blessings that God stands ready to pour into our lives!

May God always bless us with good deeds to walk in,

Brother Richard

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The Great Signpost To The Other Side Of Death

Skepticism has reduced Christianity to an empty shell for some people. One writer described the unbelieving ‘liberal’ version of Christianity in words like these: A God without wrath brings people without sin into a kingdom without judgment by a Jesus without a cross.

Just one problem: A tomb without a body means a Savior with great power and a life after death. Jesus’ resurrection is a striking reminder that the Bible promises more to our existence than what we see in this world or what we experience in this age.

The Bible assures us that everyone is appointed to die once then to face judgment (see Hebrews 9:27). Many in our skeptical world want to believe that God’s final judgment is a myth, yet people have a surprisingly strong desire for justice.

Justice requires judgment. The ultimate justice requires the ultimate judgment. And the ultimate judgment requires the ultimate Judge: God himself.

Is this world our only chance for justice? If so, we are apparently doomed to tragic disappointment. Justice now is certainly worthy of our best efforts, but it is also important enough for us to be realistic and admit that this broken world always falls short of justice for all peoples, justice in all things, and justice at all times.

Jesus’ preaching and teaching ministry placed much emphasis on the final judgment. Of the 39 or so parables of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, 18 of them focus on final judgment. About half. Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins, 5 foolish and 5 wise, is about final judgment. It points out that some will be ready, but not all.

The separation of the sheep from the goats is about the final judgment. It points out that judgment will be focused on how we acted in this life, especially with regard to Jesus’ brothers and sisters, the church.

His parable about the wedding celebration is about the final judgment. One who came in without the proper garment was cast out into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, eternal condemnation.

The parable of the talents is about final judgment. The Lord tells each of his servants, “Well done my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a little. Take charge of much!” Words that every follower of Jesus should long to hear.

God is able to make perfect judgments. He uses the perfect standard: his own personal holiness. He is not corrupted. Nobody can bribe him because everything is already his. Nobody can force him to act. He has all power. Nobody can deceive God. He knows all the truth.

The final judgment will not be an inquiry to determine the facts. There will be no depositions or investigations. The facts will be fully known. One of the challenges of justice and judgment in this world is that we don’t know all the facts, especially the secrets of the people involved. Sometimes the guilty go free. Sometimes the innocent are condemned.

On God’s judgment day, even the secrets will be revealed. In fact, all the secrets will be revealed. My secrets and yours. Once we know all the facts, even the secrets, we will know that God’s judgments are right, just, and true.

If we are concerned that God is too harsh (or too lenient), we needn’t be. We can trust him to do what is right. We can be certain now that when judgment day comes and all things are finally revealed, God’s judgments will be vindicated.

Judgment day will also reveal God’s grace and mercy. Once we know the full story of evil, we will appreciate the full value of God’s grace. What we know about God’s grace is truly great now, but it is nothing compared to what our understanding will be then. For all eternity, believers will praise God for his marvelous grace, astounded by his love, inspired to worship and enjoy him and his blessings.

The resurrection of Jesus is the great historical marker of God’s justice and mercy. According to his justice, God provided judgment for sin through faith in Christ Jesus. According to his mercy, he offers forgiveness and eternal life through trust in Jesus Christ. The choice is ours. Trust God and his ways, or trust ourselves and follow our own ways, hoping that the Bible gets it wrong.

The resurrection of Jesus is a clear signpost that more awaits us on the other side of physical death. A day of weeping and gnashing of teeth for some. A day of rejoicing and celebration for others. Choose life. Follow Jesus.

May the resurrected and exalted Jesus Christ be Lord of your life both now and forever,

Brother Richard

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Praay With All Kinds Of Praayer

The Bible urges us to pray with all kinds of prayers (Ephesians 6:18). What are the kinds of prayer we should be using? A careful search of Scripture reveals at least five general categories of prayer:

Praise God. Praise God for who he is. He is holy. He is all-powerful. He is infinite and unchanging. He is faithful and righteous. God is love!

Praise God for what he does. He creates. He is the Maker of all things. God spoke into existence the heavens and the earth. The Lord made the earth rich in beauty and resources for our benefit.

God made us. He is the giver of all life. He gives us life. We praise him for our lives and for the provisions he makes to meet our daily physical needs. We are blessed by his abundance.

God saved us. He saved us from sin and condemnation. He sent Jesus to die for our sins and raised him up to be our Lord and our Shepherd. God sent his Spirit to dwell in our hearts and to transform us into the image of Christ, empowering us to live holy lives and enjoy God’s blessings to the fullest.

Praise and worship are an inspiring part of prayer.

Repent of Sins. If we deny that we are sinners, we make God out to be a liar. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just. He will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Our goal is to experience victory over sin, but when we stumble and fall, we have an Advocate at the throne of our Father: Jesus Christ the Righteous one. He gave himself as our atoning sacrifice. He was raised up and exalted to God’s right hand in majesty. Now he always intercedes for us.

Confession and repentance are necessary for approaching God in prayer.

Ask Favors from God. Ask and it will be given to us. Seek and we will find. Knock and it will be opened to us. For everyone who asks receives. The one who seeks finds. To the one knocking it will be opened.

God is our loving Father, Abba, who knows how to give good gifts to his sons and daughters. God desires to give his greatest gift of all: himself. Will he not give the Holy Spirit to those who are asking?

We can approach God’s throne of grace and mercy with confidence, believing that he will always do what is best.

Petitions and intercessions are heard and answered by God.

Ask Questions and make complaints. We can ask God our questions. In doing so, we must remember two things. First, never forget all the answers he has already provided. We should not let a mystery overshadow the many important revelations God has given us.

Second, we must trust God to know what we need to know. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may obey him.

In addition to our questions, the Lord will also hear our complaints. Obeying God in a world filled with rebellion and disobedience can be challenging, frustrating, and sometimes depressing. God knows our hearts already. We can pour out our most intimate thoughts and emotions to him.

Questions and complaints are welcomed by God in prayer.

Yield to God. We spend much time in prayer asking God to help us with our needs, to forgive us for our sins, to answer our questions, and to listen to our complaints. We can also bring something to give him: our commitments.

We can promise God to worship him and to walk in his ways, to obey him and to serve him. The Lord makes commitments and promises to us. We can make commitments and promises to him, agreeing in prayer to honor him in our hearts and in our households, through our worship and while we work.

Covenants and commitments can be made with the Lord both publicly and privately, both by individuals and by groups.

The various categories of prayer are not like the major parts of a car. A car needs an engine, a transmission, a body and suspension, an interior with seats and all the necessary controls for operating it on the street. If any of these things are missing, the car could be dangerous, or not function at all.

The different types of prayer are more like assorted colors of paint on the artist’s palette. The colors serve the painter. One picture may be dark with gray, black, and red. Another painting is bright with vivid yellow, green, and white. Our circumstances and mood will determine which types of prayer we use on any given day. Different prayers will use different categories, serving the one who has come to speak with the Lord.

We should be comfortable with all types of prayer. When the mood is right or the circumstance appropriate, we should be capable of praising, confessing, asking, or yielding. If we learn to use all the categories of prayer, we will enjoy a deeper and more satisfying dialogue with our Maker and Savior.

Bowing on our knees or standing with hands raised, joining together with other believers or alone in our prayer closet, speaking out loud or silently in our hearts, in public or in private, in sorrow and in joy, in the morning and in the evening, in the Lord’s house and in the world, we pray without ceasing. We pray believing. We pray in the Spirit with all types of prayer!

May God inspire us to commune often with him in prayer,

Brother Richard

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Enrich Your Prayer

“Lord, teach us to pray!” The question came from one of Jesus’ disciples. Not that they knew nothing at all about prayer. But they had been listening to Jesus pray. His prayers inspired them. They wanted more from prayer.

Jesus could have told his disciples that they had no need to learn about prayer. He could have told them that their prayers were good enough. But he did not.

Jesus could have told his disciples that they were unable to improve their prayers. He could have said that his proficiency at prayer was beyond them, that it would be futile for them to aspire to praying like him. But he did not.

Jesus apparently believed that his disciples could do better at prayer. So he instructed them. He taught them a model prayer that we often refer to as The Lord’s Prayer.

Many Christians have memorized the Lord’s Prayer and they recite it individually as a personal expression of communion with God. Believers also recite the Lord’s Prayer together in public worship settings. Using a common prayer enables a congregation to join their hearts in unison as they approach God’s throne of grace and mercy.

Others are uncomfortable with the idea of reciting a prayer from memory. Using someone else’s words can feel artificial and contrived. They prefer prayer that is impromptu, prayer that expresses their thoughts and feelings in their own words.

Did Jesus expect his followers to memorize and recite his prayer? Matthew and Luke each recorded Jesus’ prayer (in Matthew 6 and Luke 11). The two versions are very similar but not identical. This indicates that Jesus expected his disciples to use the prayer as a template.

For instance, the Lord’s Prayer, which should probably be called the Model Prayer, can be divided into two main sections: (1) focus on God’s kingdom and (2) focus on our needs. This basic pattern can give some organization and direction to the content of our prayers. The basic pattern can be useful but need not confine or limit our expressions of thoughts and feelings when we talk to God.

The content of our prayers can come from at least three sources. First, we can use great prayers recorded in the Bible as templates or models without reciting them word-for-word. The patterns found in these prayers can give shape and direction to our prayers, providing frameworks for new content that is personalized to our circumstances and concerns.

Second, we can memorize and recite existing prayers. Doing so is a great way for Christians to share the experience of prayer and to learn from the prayers of other believers.

Third, we can pray without reciting existing prayers and without following any established pattern or outline. Freestyle prayer is certainly a valid approach to prayer. Many of the prayers in the Psalms are apparently impromptu (which is ironic since they are written!).

Finally, we can use hybrid prayers that combine recitation of memorized prayers, patterns modeled by prayers in the Bible, and freestyle prayer that depends on the words of the one praying. By employing all three approaches in combination, the possibilities are endless.

Jesus’ disciples were ready and willing to learn from the Lord about how to improve their prayers. As a result, they learned from the Master about how to talk to God.

We, too, can get better at praying. Like Jesus’ first disciples, we can be inspired by the prayers of our Lord which we read in the Bible.  His prayers create a desire within us to improve our ability to communicate openly and effectively with God.

Prayer is fundamental to our spiritual life. Prayer is our lifeline to the Lord. As we learn from our Savior how to get better at communing with God, we grow stronger spiritually both as individual followers of Jesus and as a church family.

Enrich your prayer.

May God inspire us and enable us to enjoy his presence to the fullest,

Brother Richard

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Christmas and Time: Numbering Our Days

Are we losing our eternal perspective?

Current events have certainly challenged our perspectives and viewpoints on many things. How can we get our bearings and find our way forward with any confidence?

In Psalm 90, Moses begins his worship by acknowledging God’s eternal nature. “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by” (Psalm 90:2, 4, NIV).

In contrast to the Lord’s eternal nature, Moses notes our brief existence in this world. “You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning—though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered” (Psalm 90:5-6).

Then, Moses appeals to the Lord: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). What does he mean by the words number our days aright?

Moses is asking the Lord for more than the ability to count the number of days which we have already lived, or to estimate the number of days that we may expect to live before passing away. His thoughts are on quality more than quantity. How will we spend the days God gives us? What will they be worth?

The New Testament also speaks about our days in this life. In Ephesians 5 we are instructed to “redeem the time,” which means to make the most of our days. How do we do that? Why should we do that?

The goal, according to Moses’ statement in Psalm 90:12, is that we may gain a heart of wisdom. The Bible tells us that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. In other words, we cannot gain wisdom without first acknowledging and respecting our Maker and Redeemer, Almighty God.

True wisdom is more than knowing things or gaining information. True wisdom is knowing how to live according to God’s will, knowing how to live to please God. A life that pleases God is a life that bears fruit for eternity. A life that pleases God is a life that enjoys the fulness of God’s blessings.

Christmas is an opportune time to focus our attention on eternal realities. Christmas reminds us that God himself stepped into history, joining us in this world of limits and choices. In a mere thirty-three years, Jesus lived the most momentous human life in all human history.

Through his life and teaching, Jesus revealed more about God and his ways than Moses or anyone else before or since. Jesus modeled a life that made the most of his days. Jesus taught us how to make the most of our days. Jesus calls us to come and follow him, to discover and experience God’s will for our lives.

As we gather for Christmas, we can step aside from the business of daily life and refocus on the eternal matters of life. We can slow down, allowing God’s Spirit to give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to embrace an eternal perspective on the days our Lord gives us.

May God’s Holy Spirit teach us to number our days aright and gain wisdom,

Brother Richard

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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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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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