Tag Archives: Jesus

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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Cancel Christmas 2020?

Are you looking forward to Christmas this year? Every year has its challenges. This year is no exception!

Mary had great expectations for her life as the time for the first Christmas drew nearer. She was a young bride-to-be with her whole life ahead of her. Then things changed. She was pregnant before the wedding and it was not her fiancé’s child.

Things got complicated. Joseph was devastated. He planned to cancel the wedding and their marriage. Their life together that Mary had dreamed about would apparently be cancelled.

But Mary knew that her baby was God’s handiwork. She decided to get away for a while. She went and visited her relative, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was carrying her first child, a son who would grow up to be John the Baptist. Her pregnancy was also a miracle. The two women enjoyed a wonderful time of rejoicing together about God’s work. Despite any difficulties, they were confident about God’s plan for their lives.

Mary worshiped. Her words sound like a chapter from the book of Psalms. They are recorded in Luke’s Gospel (1:46-55). Mary’s hymn of praise begins with a personal cry of rejoicing: “My soul magnifies the Lord! My spirit exults in God my Savior!”

Next, she gives a reason for her worship of God: “Because he looked upon the humble state of his servant. For look! from now on all generations will call me blessed! Because he did great things for me, the Mighty One!”

Mary was surprised that God chose her to be the mother of Jesus. She saw Jesus as a tremendous blessing for which she was totally unworthy. Do we? We can learn from Mary’s humility. Her humble attitude fueled a great appreciation for God’s gift of Jesus.

In Mary’s worship, she remembered the promises God made to his chosen people. “He has helped Israel, his servant, remembering to be merciful, just as he said to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Mary saw Jesus as proof that God fulfills his promises. When Mary visited Elizabeth, Jesus’ work of salvation was still in the future, but it was in the near future. The fact that Jesus would soon appear was enough to inspire Mary. Her heart was full of trust in the Lord who chose her to carry this baby.

Despite the unexpected changes and intimidating challenges, Mary rejoiced as the time for the first Christmas drew near. She knew that God was doing marvelous things that were far bigger than her personal struggles. No hardship could erase her joy.

Despite the unexpected changes and challenges of 2020, we can rejoice at the birth of Jesus. Unlike Mary, we can look back over nearly two thousand years of history and see the unmistakable evidence that Christmas changes the world.

God is always advancing his wonderful plan for our eternal blessing in the unfolding details of human history, whether those details are good or not-so-good. We can always rejoice at Christmas!

May God’s Spirit fill us with joy and peace this Christmas,

Brother Richard

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Responding To The Riots And Protests

How should Christians respond to the disturbing and violent protests and riots in the streets of our cities?

As God’s people, we always begin with prayer. In this case, we have plenty to pray for. People are getting hurt, sometimes killed. We must pray for God’s healing to those who are injured and for God’s comfort to those who have lost loved ones.

We should also pray for a stop to the violence, that God’s Spirit will intervene and bring peace to our troubled nation. We can ask God to change people’s hearts because he has the power to do so.

We should ask God to give us understanding, which leads us to our second response. We must discern. In other words, we must make sound judgments. The issues are political, moral, and spiritual. They require choices. Ours should be godly choices.

Discernment begins with information. We should be informed. This requires listening, reading, and thinking. More than merely considering the various human perspectives, we must understand God’s perspective on the issues. This comes from prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with mature believers.

When these hot-button subjects come up in our daily lives, we must use our discernment. First, we discern when to speak and when to be silent. Sometimes we say too much, other times we are too silent. God’s Spirit helps us to achieve the right balance.

In addition to knowing about the issues, we should know the people we interact with. Our conversation should reflect the circumstance. Speaking to an aggressive partisan whose heart and mind are closed requires a different approach from speaking to a confused seeker who is honestly searching for answers.

When we speak, we speak the truth in love. God’s truth is more powerful than our opinions. When we speak in accordance with God’s word, we are on solid ground and our words will have a ring of spiritual authority. All else is fleeting.

Truth can be spoken with anger and hatred. We must speak the truth in love. Biblical love is more than emotion. In the moment, we may not feel positive emotions toward the other person(s), but we can act in love by seasoning our speech with grace.

Finally, our goal in speaking must ultimately be to win the soul, not the argument. Political conflicts tend to have a great sense of urgency because they effect our lives now. But we must also remember the eternal context.

It is possible to win political arguments and battles that are here today and gone tomorrow, and yet lose souls for eternity. At times, we may even lose the political struggle yet win souls. Which will we prioritize?

God’s word reminds us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. People are the objects of God’s redemption, people of all political persuasions! Jesus died on the cross for people, not politics.

Yes, Jesus will reign with truth and righteousness as King of kings and Lord of lords in his eternal kingdom. Every political foe will be defeated. We get impatient for that great victory. So did Jesus’ disciples. They asked him, “When?!” He told them not to worry about the when, but to get busy with the what. The what is winning souls for Christ.

We are ambassadors for Christ. We represent him. Our response to the things in this world, including the riots and protests, reflects on our Lord. We speak for Jesus. Let’s do it well!

May God’s Holy Spirit give us the words to speak,

Brother Richard

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Is Jesus’ Cross Worth Very Much?

Mr. Patel of California made sure that Adrian Mercado got a special memorial.

Adrian is not a family member of Mr. Patel’s or even a friend or an acquaintance. They were complete strangers. Why should he care if Adrian is honored?

Mr. Patel had a serious problem. His kidneys were failing. He was on dialysis and his health was declining rapidly. His only hope was to get a kidney transplant, but 22,000 other people were on the waiting lists in California for transplants. Time was running out.

Then Adrian Mercado, age 33, died. Adrian was an organ donor. Adrian’s kidney went to Mr. Patel, literally giving him new life.

Mr. Patel now has a great appreciation for Adrian and his gift because he knows how desperate his own situation was. Because he knows how dire and dangerous his circumstances really were, Mr. Patel places a huge price tag on what Adrian did for him.

Mr. Patel’s deep personal understanding of how serious his problem really was gives him an abounding appreciation for the precious solution, especially considering the great cost to Adrian.

Jesus voluntarily went to a Roman cross and gave his life as an atoning sacrifice, tortured and beaten, bleeding and dying. He endured not only the physical pain, but also the humiliation and shame of his enemies mocking and taunting him publicly. Moreover, he paid the price for sin, bearing that heavy burden on behalf of God’s people.

If we do not believe that sin and death are great threats to ourselves, then Jesus’ sacrifice is not only meaningless, it is utter foolishness. Why sacrifice himself in such an awful way for no good reason?

The Bible assures us that sin is a terrible problem with eternal consequences, and Jesus’ sacrifice is a powerful solution more than equal to the challenge. In the book of Romans (5:20) we read that where sin increases, God’s grace increases even more. God’s grace is greater than our sin.

But if our sin is miniscule, then God’s grace seems tiny. As sin is redefined and trivialized by our culture, Jesus’ sacrifice is apparently robbed of its eternal value. The result is not only apathy toward the church and the gospel, but open hostility.

When we realize, however, what a terrible threat sin and death are, then we begin to appreciate Jesus and his crucifixion. He became a curse to remove the curse from us. The more we appreciate our great need, the more we appreciate God’s great grace in Christ Jesus.

Our appreciation for God’s grace is measured by our devotion to Jesus Christ and his gospel. We know that his sacrifice is precious beyond measure. We want to honor him through our worship of God and service to his kingdom.

We don’t worship and serve the Lord because it endears us to society or because it makes us feel good about ourselves. We worship and serve the Lord because his great grace in our lives moves us to honor him to the fullest degree.

May God always inspire and empower us to bring glory to his Name,

Brother Richard

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Was Jesus Too Late?

The Bible tells us that God sent Jesus to die for the ungodly at just the right time (Romans 5:6). What does it mean, at just the right time?

God could have sent Jesus earlier. In fact, why not send Jesus earlier? Why allow all those generations of rebellion, violence, and destruction? Perhaps we could have avoided much of the heartache in human history if God had sent Jesus sooner.

Imagine God sending Jesus to die on a cross for Adam and Eve just after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden for their disobedience. They needed Jesus’ atoning sacrifice to make them right with God. Why wait?

But Adam and Eve had no basis for appreciating Jesus’ sacrifice. If they had walked out of the Garden of Eden and seen Jesus nailed to a cross, bleeding and dying, it would have been a bizarre sight devoid of any meaning for them.

So God waited for the right time. He waited for many generations. During that time, God was preparing humanity for the great act of salvation that only Jesus could accomplish. What preparations did God make?

God began by speaking promises to Abraham about future blessings for all peoples through his descendant. For hundreds of years after that, God sent prophets who gradually added details about Abraham’s descendant who would one day come and bring salvation for all God’s people.

God gave Abraham’s descendants, Israel, the law through Moses at Mt. Sinai. God’s law taught the people about holiness and sin. The law included the sacrificial system, showing his people that sin requires a blood sacrifice to bring forgiveness and restoration to God.

The people of Israel sacrificed the Passover lamb for generations. Then Jesus came, the final and perfect Passover lamb. They had generations of experience to help them think about Jesus’ atoning sacrifice at Calvary. They were prepared by God to understand and accept his substitutionary death.

So, if waiting has important benefits, why not wait longer? In fact, why not wait until the end of this age? Think of the great multitude who could attend and watch Jesus defeat sin, the devil, and death by his atoning sacrifice on the cross. Video of the event would go viral!

But there would be no church age. We would not experience the power of Pentecost. We would miss that thrilling moment when God fulfilled his Old Testament promise by pouring out his Holy Spirit on the church, and subsequently on each believer.

God’s people would miss the chance to experience the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to be victorious against all enemies. We would not have the joy of sharing in God’s great harvest by proclaiming his gospel to the nations.

There would be no New Testament, God’s word which was given to us after Jesus’ death and resurrection. We would never know the joy of reading and studying the Gospels and the letters to the churches.

The generations that lived before Jesus looked forward to God’s salvation. Now we look back on Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. We live in a sweet spot in history. We enjoy the benefit of all the prophecies looking forward to Jesus and all the writing, reflection, and illumination that have accrued since Jesus died and rose again.

God’s way is perfect after all. God’s timing, as always, is right. Jesus died for the ungodly at just the right time!

May God’s Holy Spirit fill our hearts with joy when we consider his great plan for our salvation,

Brother Richard

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No Righteousness, No Justice

Social justice is a hot topic in today’s current events. Angry groups are in the streets demanding changes to our society’s public institutions and policies. They threaten violence and instability until their demands are satisfied.

Social justice has been an important subject in the Bible for many generations. God denounced social injustice through his prophets in the Old Testament. Amos is a good example. He lived at a time of relative prosperity in Israel. Despite their economic and political blessings, the people of God oppressed the poor and ignored the Lord. Their courts were corrupted. Their economy was rigged. Their worship was idolatrous.

“Let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream,” Amos wrote (5:24, NIV). Through his prophet, the Lord insisted that the nation change course and live up to their calling, live up to his standards of justice and righteousness.

Notice the words “justice” and “righteousness.” Amos and the other prophets consistently presented more than a one-sided equation when promoting solutions to social injustices. Social justice cannot hang in midair. It requires a sure footing. Social justice requires spiritual righteousness. In order to be right with one another, we must be right with God.

The Bible includes a powerful expression of social justice that is still repeated today: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But when God gave his law to his people through his servant Moses, he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18, NIV). Those last four words are vital.

Loving one’s neighbor is not merely an abstract legal or social principle. It’s not just a good idea. It is God’s word. It carries the ultimate authority. Disobedience to God’s word comes with dire results, not just in society, but in eternity.

Jesus drew a close connection between these two important dynamics in human life. He insisted that we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and we must love our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37-39).

Don’t miss the addition of the word “love.” Secular appeals for justice aim no higher than tolerance and equality. Spiritual maturity includes tolerance but does more than simply endure those who are different.

Jesus commands his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. God’s grace challenges us to go beyond what people deserve and to bless when blessings are unearned.

Godly solutions to injustice recognize the vital connection between the spiritual and physical realities of humanity. To be right with one another, we must be right with God.

Godly solutions to injustice go beyond tolerance and equality. We must find ways to reflect the grace of God. We must find ways to express the love of God. While aiming at God’s love and grace, we will be much more likely to hit justice.

Brother Richard Foster

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Our Master, Calling and Mission

With the opening words of his letter to Christians in Rome, the great missionary apostle identified himself to his readers. First, his Roman name: Paul.

Earlier in the book of Acts Paul is called Saul, his Hebrew name. When sharing his personal testimony, Paul always referred to himself as Saul. Otherwise, he used the name Paul. This gives the impression that his name changed when he was converted to Christianity, a dramatic transformation that took place while he was on the road to Damascus.

Paul was transformed from being a deadly enemy of the church to being a follower of Christ and a passionate preacher of the gospel. The change was so complete, that a different personal name would seem appropriate.

The next word in his letter to the Roman church is doulos. Some English Bibles translate this word as “slave,” others as “servant,” still others as “bondservant.” The word “slave” carries harsh negative connotations in English. On the other hand, “servant” is probably not strong enough to describe the relationship Paul had in mind.

Paul was not shy about using the word doulos, “slave,” because of the next name in his introduction. He was a “slave” of a very special Master: Christ Jesus, his Savior. In other places, Paul insisted that Jesus set him free, but he gladly considered himself to be obligated to wait on his Lord like a slave waits on his master.

Next Paul described himself as “called.” To live with a sense of calling and purpose is truly a great blessing. To be called is to have a clear awareness of direction and meaning in life that brings great confidence in facing life’s various circumstances.

As a slave of Christ Jesus, Paul’s calling came from Jesus. After his resurrection Jesus told his disciples that all authority in heaven and earth is given to him. To be called by Jesus is to have a purpose in life that comes from the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Next, Paul listed the word “apostle.” The word was used for ambassadors, delegates, and messengers. Paul’s calling in life was to be sent by Jesus as his representative.

Paul further described the word “apostle” by adding that he was set apart to the gospel of God. So he was called to go and represent the gospel, or good news, of God. He represented God and his good news by proclaiming the gospel to the nations. This was his life’s mission.

After noting his master, calling, and mission, the apostle proceeded to define the gospel of God. The gospel he was called to represent was the grace of God offered to all the nations through faith in God’s resurrected Son Jesus Christ.

What a great blessing it was for the Apostle Paul to have such a clear sense of his identity and purpose in this world! Paul knew where he stood in the context of both time and eternity, in the eyes of God and the eyes of people.

The beginning of a new year tends to be a marker in our lives. It seems like a fresh start. What better time to clarify our identity and purpose? Who are we in God’s eyes and in the eyes of others? What has our Lord called us to accomplish in this world?

Let’s reaffirm our identity in Christ and our calling from the Lord as we prepare to make the most of every opportunity in 2020. Let’s honor our Lord by fulfilling our calling and completing our mission!

May God’s Spirit inspire us to know and to fulfill our call from our Lord Christ Jesus,

Brother Richard Foster

 

 

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