Tag Archives: Jesus

Is It Time to Give Up?

Jesus denounced the cities where most of his miracles were done. He said that it would be worse for them on the Day of Judgment than for notoriously wicked cities like Sodom.

Why is Jesus being so judgmental? Why is he condemning large groups of people? Not because they persecuted Jesus. They didn’t (that would come later). Not because they opposed Jesus or rebuked him. In fact, they were indifferent.

Jesus is denouncing these cities because they did not repent. Repentance is a change from disobeying God to serving God. It is turning away from a life of sin and turning to a life of obeying God. They declined.

Jesus gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, cleansed lepers, gave hearing to the deaf, raised the dead and preached the good news to the poor. The crowds were amazed at his miracles. But Jesus did not perform miracles in order to amaze or entertain or even to satisfy their curiosity.

Jesus’ miracles were meant to convince people that they should take his message seriously. They should turn from sin and turn to him for forgiveness. Cities full of people in Galilee saw his power and went home unfazed. So Jesus pronounces them doomed.

This is a sobering text (Matthew 11:20-24). It shows a side of Jesus that many wish to ignore or deny. True, Jesus is a friend of sinners. But he is their friend because he tells them the truth about heaven and hell. Instead of approving of their sin, he offers salvation from sin.

The cities in Galilee were given a great gift. They were eyewitness to the healing power of God. They heard the powerful preaching and teaching of Jesus with their own ears. But they failed to act.

The Bible tells us that when God gives more, he expects more. This was solemn news for the towns in Galilee. It is also solemn news for United States of America.

What other country in modern times has been more blessed by God? We have enjoyed religious freedom from shore to shore, Christian churches in every town, and Bibles on every shelf.

What will happen to a country that has been so privileged and yet turns its back on God?

Like Jesus in Galilee, Christians in the U.S.A. often meet with indifference when sharing the message of God’s kingdom. Meanwhile, the spiritual decline in our land is discouraging. It would be easy to give up our efforts to reach a culture that seems so determined to self-destruct.

But we must take our cue from Jesus. After denouncing the cities that ignored his message he did two things. First, he praised God. Jesus thanked the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth, for his work in the world and his work in his own life.

No matter how difficult things may get, we must never stop worshiping the Lord, our Maker and Savior. He is our source of strength and inspiration.

The second thing that Jesus did was to continue extending an invitation to those who might hear and respond. “Come to me all who are weary and burdened,” he said, “and I will give you rest.”

Like Jesus, we must be faithful in offering the good news about God’s amazing grace. God’s word promises us that if we do not give up, at the proper time we will reap a harvest!

Let us faithfully speak the truth in love,

Brother Richard Foster

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Can Jesus Get A Witness?

Jesus encountered a man who was demon-possessed. The man was so dangerous that people quit trying to help him. They avoided him. But Jesus set the man free.

The man is so grateful to Jesus and so impressed with his power that he wants to go with Jesus. But at this point Jesus does something a bit surprising.

Jesus does not allow the man to come with him like his other disciples are doing. Instead, Jesus instructs the man to go home and tell how much God has done for him.

The man does what Jesus asks. He goes and tells all over town how much Jesus has done for him (Luke 8:39).

This account shows that our Lord does not always send his followers to faraway places in order to tell others about him. Jesus wants us to reach out to people across the street as well as around the world. We cannot all travel to far-away places but we can all speak to our friends and neighbors.

This episode illustrates another very important point. Jesus sends the formerly demon-possessed man out with no training. He does not teach him a gospel presentation or provide him with pamphlets. How will the man know what to say?

Jesus gives the man a very simple instruction. He directs the man to tell others how much God has done for him. In other words, just give a personal testimony.

A personal testimony about how God has worked in someone’s life is compelling. The Apostle Paul was a great teacher and preacher of the gospel, yet he often used his personal testimony as a tool for reaching out to others.

Any believer can construct a short, simple and effective personal testimony. Think about something that God has changed in your life. Practice telling others about the “before” and “after” of what God has done.

Your testimony may use this form: “I used to. . . . But now I. . . .” Perhaps you used to have no desire for church, but now you love the fellowship with other believers and the joy of worshiping and serving the Lord.

Maybe you used to be confused by the Bible but now God’s Spirit is enabling you to understand and apply Scripture in life-changing ways.

The formerly demon-possessed man sure had something remarkable to tell! Our story may not be as dramatic as his, but it is just as important. Jesus has liberated every believer from sin’s eternal punishment.

After telling about the change in your life, make a clear statement giving God the credit. All of this may take just a minute or two.

Finally, after sharing a personal testimony, extend some sort of invitation. Invite your listener to church. Or, ask if you can pray for him. Maybe you are attending a Bible study and you can invite him to join you.

In some cases, you may even sense that he is ready to be saved. If you are comfortable doing so, lead him in a sinner’s prayer. If not, urge him to meet with your pastor or Sunday school teacher or other leader in the church.

Go tell how much God has done in your life. Amazing things will happen!

Brother Richard Foster

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What To Do With All These People?

What do you see when you look at the crowds of people in the world? Jesus sees men and women who are harassed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

Too many people lack solid spiritual leadership in their lives. Like sheep among wolves they wander helplessly in a world full of danger and deception. Many fall prey to false beliefs and false hopes which lead them astray, often to disastrous results.

Jesus is moved by a deep sense of compassion when he sees the multitudes, knowing that they are in need of a shepherd. They need spiritual guidance from someone who is caring and competent.

When Jesus looks at the crowds in this world he also sees a great harvest, souls ready to be cultivated for eternal life. But he warns that workers are lacking (Matthew 9:37).

Harvest is a time filled with joy, especially in a year when fields have produced a bountiful yield. But that time of celebration can end in sadness if the fruit of the field is not harvested in a timely manner. Without workers the crops will fall to the ground and rot.

Jesus assures us that souls are ripe for a spiritual harvest. The time is now. Tomorrow may be too late. The joy of harvesting lost souls for eternal life is grand. The loss of waiting too long is tragic.

Jesus is God. He can do the impossible. He can send his angels to bring in the harvest. He is the Good Shepherd. He can find and save the lost sheep. He can guide and bless the flock.

But Jesus does something that may seem terribly risky to us. He calls on his followers to join in the task of harvesting souls, finding and caring for those who are lost. In fact, he entrusts the job to them . . . to us.

How can we possibly carry out this difficult job of harvesting precious souls? The task is ponderous. The barriers to success are overwhelming. We are unqualified and weak. Where can we find the power and wisdom necessary for such awesome work?

Jesus urges us first to pray. Pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will send workers into his harvest, Jesus tells us (Matthew 9:38). Prayer is our lifeline to God’s throne of grace and mercy. Here we find the vision and the vigor to act with confidence and to succeed.

Be advised, however, that as we pray it may turn out that we are the workers we are praying for! Prayer puts us in touch with the heart of the Lord, a compassionate heart that sees the crowds and steps forward to teach, preach and heal. God calls us to share his heart and to be his hands.

Pray for the Lord to send workers into his harvest, Jesus says. Many generations of believers have answered this call and share in the joy of the harvest. Let’s be faithful in our generation and join them in the task and in the triumph.

May the God’s Spirit inspire us to share in his great harvest,

Brother Richard Foster

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Defective Discipleship

Jesus was about to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But two men delayed his departure. Each one came and offered to follow Jesus (See Matthew 8:18-22.).

The first man was a scribe, a group usually hostile to Jesus. He referred to Jesus as “Teacher,” and promised to follow him anywhere. Impressive! Surely Jesus will encourage a man who is taking such a big step of faith, right?

Surprisingly, Jesus questions this man’s devotion. He warns the scribe to count the cost. As a preacher on the move, Jesus has no place to lay his head. Is this man really willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to be Jesus’ disciple?

This scribe is a teacher of the law, a religious leader, a man invested in the established way of thinking about God. But Jesus challenges many of the ideas of the religious leaders. He knows that this scribe’s religion is actually a barrier to discipleship.

Do we have established ideas about religion and discipleship that are out of step with Jesus?

Next, a man addresses Jesus as “Lord” and asks if he can go and bury his father before following Jesus. Now this man seems to have a better understanding of Jesus’ real identity, calling him “Lord” instead of “Teacher.” And he seems to be taking the commitment seriously, recognizing that discipleship may mean separation from his family, at least for a time.

Sounds as if the second man is making a perfectly reasonable offer. Surely Jesus will encourage him!

Jesus tells this man to come and follow now and let the dead bury their own dead. Wow! Isn’t that harsh? Does Jesus not care about the man’s family? It’s not that Jesus lacks compassion for the man’s family. But nothing is more important than God’s call.

The second man is using his family obligation as an excuse to delay following Jesus. By using his family as an excuse not to follow Jesus now, the man is making his family an idol.

Do we use good things in our lives, like family, as excuses to avoid following Jesus passionately?

So Jesus sees something lacking in both of these men. The scribe is a religious man but ironically his religion may be keeping him from understanding that Jesus deserves complete devotion. The second man loves his family, but he is trying to use something good (family) to avoid doing what is best (discipleship).

Jesus finally gets into the boat and crosses the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-34). His disciples follow. Little do they know what awaits them! On the water they witness Jesus rebuking a terrifying storm and bringing a great calm. As a result, they ask themselves what sort of man this is, that even the winds and the sea obey him.

Once on the eastern shore, they encounter a couple of frightening demon-possessed men, so dangerous that nobody risked passing by that way. Jesus, however, boldly commands the demons to leave. They do, in a rather dramatic fashion that strikes fear in the hearts of the local folks, prompting them to beg Jesus to leave their region.

And Jesus moves on. But those two men who stay behind miss the greatest opportunity of their lives. They remain on the shore where it is ‘safe.’ The ones who are willing to follow Jesus out onto the waters have some unsettling moments. But they also see the power of God firsthand.

May the Lord give us hearts that will follow Jesus without hesitation,

Brother Richard

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Christians And The American Dream: A Radical Choice

In his book, Radical, David Platt asks if the American dream is compatible with Christian discipleship. Can we be faithful to Jesus and pursue success by this world’s standards?

What is the American dream? Does it mean that we do whatever we must in order to get bigger houses and bank accounts, fancier cars and clothes, richer meals and vacations? If so, then how does Jesus and his agenda fit into such a life?

Jesus challenges his followers to make radical sacrifices, even to the point of risking one’s life in this age. He urges us to do whatever it takes in order to join him in his kingdom agenda.

The Lord’s agenda is clear and concise: “Go make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).”

To be a disciple of Jesus we must make disciples for Jesus.

According to Jesus, the first step in making disciples is to go. We reach out to others with the good news about Jesus. We don’t just sit and wait for them to come to us.

Jesus tells us to make disciples of “all the nations.” Our outreach for making disciples is not limited by distance, race, nationality, politics, gender, or any of the other lines drawn by people to define and divide. We should go across the street and around the world to make disciples.

Jesus says that making disciples includes two things: baptizing and teaching.

Our first goal in reaching out is to bring people to a point of faith in Christ so that they will receive Christian baptism. We tell others about Jesus so that they will be saved and then profess their saving faith publicly through believer’s baptism.

Once people become disciples, we also help them be disciples.

Making disciples includes teaching them to obey all that Jesus commands. This is a life-long journey, the same journey that we are experiencing as disciples of Jesus.

So, we want to see lost people saved and saved people stronger.

Making disciples takes time, and so does the American dream. In his book, David Platt questions whether it is possible to succeed at both pursuits. Jesus puts it this way, “Nobody is able to serve two masters, for he will hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24).”

Platt also points out the terrible loss that occurs when Jesus’ followers opt for the American dream and do not make disciples. Hundreds of millions of people around the world will be lost, suffering in hell forever.

So the cost of not making disciples is high, too high. On the other hand, the reward for making disciples is beyond measure. All the houses, money, clothes, food and vacations in this life will be forgotten, but those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever.

Treasure on earth can be destroyed and stolen. Treasure in heaven will never be destroyed or stolen. And as Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be (Matthew 6:21).”

May the Lord give us hearts that store up treasure in heaven,
Brother Richard

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Will Jesus Vote for Trump or Hillary?

Wow! What a campaign! I cannot remember a run for the White House anything like this one . . . not in my lifetime (50+ years).

I wonder what the Lord thinks. Is Jesus leaning toward Hillary or Trump?

What is Jesus’ voting record? He had several political choices in his day. He lived in a country (Israel) that was oppressed by foreigners (Romans). One response was to use violent force against the enemy (Zealots). Jesus does not endorse violence.

Another response was to collaborate with the foreign rulers: go along to get along (Sadducees). Jesus does not compromise.

Others tried to work for change by using the system (Pharisees). They did not persuade Jesus to do things their way.

At least one group got ‘fed up’ and withdrew from the whole mess (Essenes). They went out and lived in the desert. Jesus did not join them.

Revolution? No. Compromise? No. Reform? No. Dropping out? No.

And Jesus had great prospects. The people are so impressed when he miraculously feeds at least 5,000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish – they are willing to support him for king (see John 6); what an incredible opportunity! Think of all the positive changes that Jesus could make as king.

Unbelievable. Jesus turns them down. He walks away and refuses to accept their support in a bid for power.

Does Jesus even care? Doesn’t he know that the only thing that evil needs in order to win is for good people to do nothing?

Jesus cares. And his rejection of the ‘mainstream’ political movements does not mean that he is inactive. Jesus is crystal clear about his mission. It’s not about revolution, reform, collaboration, withdrawal, or even responsible political leadership. He came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

By sticking to his mission, Jesus was made to look like an abject failure. His political enemies had apparently won the day. The religious and political powers collaborated to have him destroyed . . . publicly . . . shamefully . . . executed as a criminal.

Hopefully anyone foolish enough to believe in Jesus would be intimidated into silence.

But Jesus’ followers were not silent. Despite the fact that they had no political power or opportunity or prospects, they boldly spoke the gospel truth. They were risking personal destruction, why?

They knew something that changed everything. Jesus does not use the tactics of his political enemies because he fights to win a much bigger prize. Jesus fights the “good fight” for eternal victory.

Jesus’ followers risked it all for the Lord because Jesus did more than vanquish his political enemies. Jesus conquered death. Jesus paid the penalty for sin. Jesus opened the doorway to God’s greatest blessings.

Jesus’ enemies are footnotes in history. In fact, in the 2 millennia since Jesus was born in Bethlehem many great nations, powerful leaders, and influential movements have come . . . and gone.

The next president of the U.S.A will have the ability to make things better or worse for a lot of people. So we should prayerfully and carefully consider our vote.

But let’s not despair. The next president of the U.S.A. will come and go. He or she will not be our Savior (or the Anti-Christ!).

Jesus is here to stay. He need not run for office. He is King of kings and Lord of lords permanently. And Jesus still does things his own way and he always has the victory, no matter how things may look at the moment.

We need not change Jesus’ methods or goals. The Lord’s power is unstoppable and his victory is inevitable. Be encouraged! Be faithful!

Richard Foster, Grace Baptist Church
Camden News, October 22, 2016

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The Beginning of Prayer

When did people start to pray?

In Genesis 4:26 we read that people began to call on the name of the LORD (Yahweh) in the days of Adam and Eve’s grandchildren, specifically a grandson named Enosh. People spoke with God before Enosh was born, but conversations with God prior to Enosh were initiated by God: God spoke to Adam in Genesis 3, God spoke to Cain in Genesis 4. In prayer, a man or woman initiates communication with God by calling upon him.

Eve makes a statement in Genesis 4:25 about the blessing of having a son to replace Abel, who was murdered by his brother Cain. But she speaks of God in the third person (“he”). Prayer addresses God directly, in second person (“you”).

It seems natural to think that Adam or Eve or their son Seth (Enosh’s dad) prayed before their grandson Enosh and his generation were born. If they did, the Bible does not tell us. Instead, the Bible emphasizes Enosh and his generation. Enosh’s uncles, Cain and Abel, worshiped God in Genesis 4, but whatever Cain did was unacceptable to God and whatever Abel did died with him when he was murdered by his brother.

So we have no direct Scriptural evidence for prayer before Genesis 4:26. But in Genesis 4:26 we learn that Enosh and his generation began calling on the name of Yahweh at that time. In Genesis 4:26 something new begins.

“Calling on the name” is surely a reference to prayer. Enosh and his generation may have also sacrificed to God, as did Cain and Abel, but that is not mentioned. The emphasis is on prayer.

Many generations after Enosh, Jesus visited the Temple in Jerusalem. He was outraged by the distractions which the religious leaders had introduced in order to make financial transactions in God’s house. In an unexpected expression of righteous indignation, Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers and drives out the animals with a makeshift whip. He accuses them of turning God’s house into a den of thieves.

Then Jesus makes a fascinating assertion. He insists that his Father’s house is to be a house of prayer. Think of all the activities which Jesus could legitimately mention: praise, sacrifice, teaching, preaching, giving, fellowship, healing, but the only thing he mentions is prayer. Why?

Prayer is at the heart of biblical faith. The soul of spirituality in Scripture is the communion of God with the saints, his people. Humanity is created to know God and to enjoy him and his blessings.

After Adam and Eve sinned and broke the close relationship between humanity and God there was something vital missing in every person, something crying out for completion. Prayer is the heart’s cry for the One who is absent until forgiveness and restoration is affected and a new connection is made with the Maker.

In the larger context of Genesis 4-5 this verse at the end of chapter 4 highlights the contrast between the line of Seth (which includes Enosh) and the line of Cain (who killed his brother, Abel).

Cain’s descendants go to work developing the bountiful natural resources provided by God in order to build an impressive civilization. (I am especially fascinated with Jubal, the first to make and play musical instruments, or perhaps the first to develop music significantly enough to be considered the ‘father’ of all musicians.)

The creative use of nature is in no way sinful in itself. God filled this world with resources and he blessed humanity with the curiosity, creativity, intelligence and energy to discover and develop, to fashion and create. But the line of Cain in early Genesis is distinguished in this instance mostly by an omission, and what is lacking in Cain’s descendants is any effort to call upon the name of the Lord.

Seth’s line, on the other hand, has a desire to seek communion with God through prayer. And so, early in human history the division between believer and unbeliever surfaces (a continuation of the break between Cain and Abel). This is a division which will be seen in Noah vs. the antediluvian world, in Abraham vs. the Canaanites, Israel vs. the nations, the remnant of Israel vs. unfaithful Israel, and finally in the Jewish-Gentile church vs. those who reject Christ.

From Enosh to Jesus to now, the great feature that distinguishes the people of God is prayer, not just haphazard flirtations with prayer, but a heart that is hungry for the presence of God and refuses to give up seeking the Lord until he is found.

Unbelievers pray, but they are not known for their prayer.

God’s people should be seen by the world as a people of prayer.

Brother Richard

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