Tag Archives: marriage

Christians Must Aim Higher with Marriage

Bible-believing, Bible-honoring Christians are alarmed at the rapid deconstruction of marriage in our land, and rightly so. Within one lifetime our culture has rushed headlong into an explosive increase in pre-marital sex, babies born out of wedlock, adultery, abortion, divorce, single-parent homes, and now same-sex relationships.

Many voices who oppose these deadly experiments with family have made their case based on practical matters. Family is vital, they say, because it is the fundamental institution upon which all other institutions in a society are constructed.

One man and one woman committed to one another for life is the design that has been the foundation of communities and countries for thousands of years. Why? Because this model produces the greatest percentage of healthy productive citizens. Children are more secure, capable and productive when raised by their biological parents.

Children who are not raised by their biological parents are at much greater risk for poverty, illness, crime, drug abuse and yet another generation of the same. As a result, broken families put enormous pressure on every important institution in the community.

Schools, churches, businesses and governments all suffer when the family structure suffers. These vital institutions are strengthened when the family is healthy. Healthy families provide a new generation ready to face a world full of challenges and opportunities.

So, healthy families strengthen the community. Broken families hurt the community. This is reason enough that we should protect the traditional model of family, not experiment with it.

These practical insights are accurate and helpful, but they are only part of the marriage story. Marriage and family are much bigger than local communities and societal institutions. Christians aim too low when we pursue these matters alone, important as they are.

Marriage is a spiritual institution that serves God’s kingdom as well as man’s societies. In the Bible we learn that Christian marriage is meant to be a living parable of the love relationship between Christ and his church.

Reflecting God’s love for his people is the high calling for our marriages. We cannot, we dare not, think that simply because we have committed heterosexual marriages we have somehow fulfilled our Lord’s calling in our marriages. We must aim higher.

Wives submit to your husbands as the church submits to Christ. Husbands love your wives as Jesus loves the church, willing to sacrifice everything for her. This is a great mystery. This is our great task.

To reflect God’s love for his people in our daily lives with our spouses is pretty lofty stuff. How do we put hands and feet on such a grand idea?

First, we must know God’s truth about marriage well. Wisdom comes from devotion to God’s word. Support a church family where biblical truth is taught and lived.

Second, we must accept God’s truth about marriage. As Christians, our marriages are not ours alone. Even our relationships with our spouses are part of our walk and witness as followers of Jesus Christ. Confess Jesus as Lord of everything you do.

Finally, we need the power to live in a way that proclaims God’s love for his people. Christian marriage is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. It is beyond our natural abilities. We need more than human effort in order to succeed.

To live up to the high calling of Christian marriage we must have the powerful presence of God’s Spirit in our lives. Salvation is not the end of Christianity. The Christian life is not meant to be one of spiritual stagnation or backsliding, but one of spiritual growth and victory.

Let us aim higher in our marriages. Let us be devoted to the full measure of God’s design for our homes.

Richard Foster, Grace Baptist Church, April 2015
Published in Camden News, May 1, 2015

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Chicken Sandwiches and Other Offenses

Even a chicken sandwich can be offensive in America.

A high school principal in California recently refused to let a local business provide chicken sandwiches to the football team, not because someone was offended, but because someone might be offended.

Nobody complained about the chicken sandwiches, but they were banned from being used to support school sports anyway. Why? The family that owns the chicken restaurant believes in God’s definition of family.

The family in question is the family of Truett Cathey and the restaurant he started is Chick-fil-A, famous for not opening on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, and yet still achieving great financial success.

The owners of Chick-fil-A have no policy against people with alternate lifestyles. They do not refuse to serve them. They don’t make it a habit to say disparaging things about them.

But the fact that they believe in what the Bible teaches about marriage was enough for the school’s principal to refuse their money, money that would have benefitted the students involved with the football team. All this despite the fact that nobody was offended (except perhaps the principal).

Followers of Jesus across our land have become all too familiar with the wave of offensiveness that now seems to attach itself to Biblical Christianity. The cross is offensive. Nativity scenes are offensive. Prayer in Jesus’ name is offensive. “In God We Trust” printed on our money is offensive. And the list goes on and on.

Have we somehow made the Christian message offensive to the world?

When Jesus was teaching a crowd once, they got offended by his message. He taught them that he was the true bread that came down from heaven and that they did not have life in themselves unless they ate his flesh and drank his blood (see John 6:25-66).

Since the crowd was offended, Jesus explained his remarks, making it clear that he was not talking about cannibalism, but about spiritual life. Nevertheless, they walked away, offended. One wonders if they really understood him but refused to accept his message, using “offense” as an excuse more than a reason.

It’s true, some Christians may act offensive at times, but we have not made the Christian message offensive. People were offended when the Lord himself told them the truth. Things have not changed.

Jesus is our model. Despite the offense, he spoke the truth publicly. In the face of opposition, he carefully clarified his remarks to ensure that there was no misunderstanding, but he did so without watering down his message. And he was not discouraged when people walked away offended. He kept on speaking the truth in love.

It is vital that we follow our Lord’s example. We must speak the truth publicly. We must be clear about our message without compromising God’s word. And we must not be discouraged when people reject the gospel.

As Jesus said, “Go! Look, I am sending you all out like lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). He recognizes that we will meet significant opposition, just like he did. But he also promises to send the powerful presence of God’s Holy Spirit with us so that we can achieve the victory, just like he did.

May God’s empowering Presence enable us to always speak the truth in love,

Brother Richard

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Why So Much Confusion About Marriage?

Family has become a free-for-all. In the mad rush to affirm everybody’s right to do whatever they please with their private lives, our society is dismantling the institution that serves as the bedrock and basis for any culture. As family life weakens, other critical institutions in our society suffer. The legal system has to keep up with all the dead-beat dads and domestic violence. The welfare system has to keep up with all the abused and abandoned children. The education system is on life-support in many places because so many kids live such insecure lives that they cannot focus on classroom learning.

Not only is family becoming a do-it-yourself affair, it is becoming a do-it-for-self arrangement. Many people want to redefine family in order to suit their lifestyle, instead of adjusting their lifestyle in order to have a healthy family. If they don’t want to be faithful to their mate then they simply find someone else. If they don’t want to raise their own children then they simply abort or abandon them. If they don’t want to support the children they have left behind then they simply vanish or claim to have no resources. Any culture that lets the sinful and selfish human heart define acceptable family behavior is bound for serious turbulence. When children grow up around broken lives and broken relationships then they are at great risk for simply repeating the pattern of unhealthy family life. The resulting tangled nest of modern families seems to be expanding exponentially.

How did we get into such a twisted and confusing place? If we go back a little more than fifty years into the 1950s, we discover significantly different attitudes about family from what we see today. In retrospect, one indication that changes would soon take place was reflected by some striking research about human sexuality. Compiled by supposed experts, the book claimed that large percentages of the population were engaged in sexual misconduct, more than anyone realized (Kinsey, Pomery, and Martin, 1948). The findings of this pseudo-scientific study were shocking. The writers alleged that vast numbers of people were breaking society’s established sexual boundaries. The implication was that perhaps the boundaries should be moved, or removed.

A generation came of age in the 1960s that apparently took the ideas that were reflected in that report about human sexuality to heart. Many of them concluded that traditional ideas about family, marriage, and sex were hopelessly outdated and perhaps completely obsolete. They insisted on a new approach to sexuality: ‘free love.’ As time went on that shocking research about human sexual behavior in America was exposed to be fraudulent. It turned out that those reports were not very scientific (Reisman and Eichel, 1990). In other words, the so-called experts had lied (or at least been mistaken). But it was too late. ‘Free love’ had been loosed on an unsuspecting society. Or perhaps the facts did not matter to a large number of people who only wanted to justify irresponsible lifestyles.

Unfortunately, ‘free love’ resulted in too many unwanted babies. But experts claimed that an unborn baby was nothing more than a troublesome blob of tissue, a piece of opportunistic tissue that if allowed to grow, would become a major inconvenience, a bothersome liability. Women had the right, they said, to remove useless tissue from their bodies without any intervention based on the moral scruples of some self-righteous, backward, uneducated, religious zealots. In fact, aborting babies became the centerpiece issue for women’s health and a badge of honor for those who prided themselves in taking measures to save the Earth. Without abortion on demand, women would be denied healthcare and doomed to outer darkness and the Earth’s natural resources would be raped and depleted before the next Earth Day could be planned. This new attitude about unborn babies solved the ‘free love’ problem. Unwanted pregnancies were simply terminated—by the tens of millions.

But people discovered that they wanted children, despite the risk to the planet and the inconvenience to their personal lives. As a result, many continued to have babies, but they also continued to engage in irresponsible sex. Lack of sexual commitment, however, destroys families by ripping away an important foundation for a long-term relationship. This instability in family devotion puts children in a precarious situation. ‘Free love’ resulted in an explosion in the number of marriages that ended in divorce. Kids from broken families struggled with deep feelings of insecurity and abandonment. And parents were getting loaded down with dark feelings of personal guilt as they saw what their decisions did to their offspring.

The experts were standing by once again with yet another solution: simply redefine marriage and family—change the definition of what is right and acceptable. If family requires fidelity and lifelong commitment but sexual freedom demands infidelity and short-term relationships, then a new vision of family that allows for more personal freedom must be envisioned and promoted. Culture had to evolve and adapt to the needs (wants) of the people who make up society. What right does some faceless society have to make demands for sacrifice from individuals who have their own ideas about happiness? But what about the harm that would be done to the children living in unstable household environments? Experts could convince everyone that kids are flexible and actually happier when removed from a home where one or both parents are unfulfilled, and the problem is solved, supposedly.

With all this experimentation about how families can be deconstructed and redefined came an ever-increasing openness to other boundary-busting ideas about human sexuality, marriage and family. Gay and lesbian relationships, long understood to be outside the realm of healthy family arrangements, were suddenly provided with an opening to move toward the mainstream in popular culture. With so many people breaking down the boundaries of healthy human sexual relationships, who was left to say that same-sex couples should not take center-stage and redraw the lines even more? If personal sexual satisfaction is so important that we must kill the unborn so that they do not get in the way, then why not let same-sex couples murder a few moral standards?

So we have arrived in a place of utter confusion about marriage and family. Everyone has a right, we are being told, to define marriage as they see fit. Limiting marriage to one man and one woman is denying people their constitutional rights, supposedly. This argument is designed to paint supporters of biblical marriage as cold-blooded and hard-hearted. This is no surprise since proponents of ‘alternative’ forms of family and marriage sometimes claim that traditional families are oppressive to women and children. Raising children, some lament, is nothing more than a punishment. Alternative lifestyles liberate women, so the argument goes. How ironic it is that liberal sexual lifestyles have placed so many women in the tough and demanding position of being single parents!

Meanwhile, the children who have survived abortion since 1973 have been at higher risk to live in a broken home. More children are growing up with only one of their biological parents, or with parents whose commitment to the family is nebulous at best. An unsettling number are being raised by someone other than their parents, like a grandparent or other guardian. Despite all the assurances from experts that children are flexible and able to bounce back, kids often struggle with suffocating anxiety and bitter anger over their sense of abandonment because one or both of their parents apparently had more important things to do than to raise their son or daughter.

So the fight to define (or destroy) family rages on. Who would have imagined that ‘free love’ would result in so many murdered babies, angry youth and dysfunctional families? Where is the love? Where is the freedom? We have no time to stop and answer questions or reflect on the terrible cost of all these alternative moral visions for family life because the changes only seem to be accelerating. Same-sex families are the most recent experiment. Who knows what horrible social destruction may be caused by allowing “gay marriage” to take hold and multiply. When will our society learn that the so-called experts who promote all of these alternatives are leading us deeper into disaster?

The age of ‘free love’ has provided plenty of evidence that children generally do better when they are raised by their biological parents. Unfortunate and heartbreaking is the fact that we had to learn this the hard way, by watching millions of kids grow up without their parents and observing the disappointing results. It is clear that kids need mom and dad, even if the marriage is less than stellar. Despite this hard-won knowledge, we now stand poised to place kids in families where they will be denied mom or dad, or both. Children raised by two dads are denied a mother. Children raised by two moms are denied a father. Vague and emotional assertions about love and affection being the most important thing of all cannot make up for what is missing in a mom or a dad.

Sadly, “gay marriage” is not the last enemy of the family. Waiting in the shadows are those who wish to reduce or abolish the age of consent. Once again, children are at greatest risk, as they always are in these tragic social experiments. And the so-called experts will be ready with quick answers to soothe the consciences of those who step into their trap. Once again, the personal desires of adults will trump the legitimate needs of children.

The experts lied about sexual behavior, they lied about unborn babies, they lied about divorce, and they are lying about “gay marriage.” Any other alternative model will be just as deceitful. Why are these destructive distortions about family met with such eager acceptance by so many people? Because the spiritually rebellious heart wants God to be proven wrong at any cost. The fight for family is not a contest between tradition and progress or conservative and liberal. No, it is a conflict between truth and deception. The current fight to define marriage is only the latest manifestation of an ancient struggle between the holiness of the One Living God and the wickedness of the desperately sinful heart.

Destructive desires call us to satisfy self now, no matter what the cost might be to our marriage or our children. And the world at large echoes and amplifies those selfish desires, calling out, “Give up on God’s way. Serve yourself and be happy now. Forget tomorrow. You deserve it. You need some ‘me time’!” But the one who wanders through life guided only by their own immediate happiness or pleasure will end up with an empty heart and a barren soul. And the society that not only allows but promotes so many broken and sinful models of family is driving quickly toward ruin.

But there is good news. God himself, the Maker of humanity and the inventor of human sexuality, has indeed given us his plan for marriage and family. His plan is for one man and one woman to stay together for life, raise their children, and then enjoy their grandchildren. God’s plan goes against the selfish desires that tempt us to put immediate gratification above all else. And living according to God’s plan is an expression of love for the Lord who has given us our lives. Adopting God’s design for family is an act of faith that is rewarded by God with blessings which far surpass anything we can manufacture from lifestyles that ignore his commands.

Those who trust God’s plan will work hard to save and strengthen their marriages even at great personal effort, risk and sacrifice. Those who trust God’s plan will work to nurture and care for their children no matter what the losses to professional development, financial security, personal excitement, or any other secondary consideration. They will stand in the face of great challenges and terrible disappointments. They will reject the tempting voices of selfishness. They will sometimes sustain deep wounds but refuse to change course. Those who trust God and fight for their family will fill their hearts and households with great rewards. They will have the deep love that only a lifetime marriage can yield. They will see their children stand strong and confident in the face of trials and temptations. They will rejoice over their grandchildren with gladness because of the solid foundation that parents forged for their children’s futures.

Lifetime love grows a physical and spiritual union between husband and wife that soars far above the emotional junkyard of the broken relationships that are currently scattered throughout our land. In an age of increasing confusion about gender roles, gender identity, parenting, raising children, and all things pertaining to family, lifetime love leaves a heritage of faith for children and grandchildren so that they can build their own families with confidence and with victory. When strong families are the rule instead of the exception in a culture, then that culture is on a more sure footing in every conceivable way. After decades of failed experimentation with selfish models of family, our land needs a return to the family model that has God’s endorsement and enjoys God’s blessing. The benefits of protecting marriage are great, so the risk of letting marriage wander further into the spiritual wilderness is also great.

The current threats against marriage are daunting. Our nation’s legal definition of marriage continues to be a fierce battle ground. Bible-believing Christians want to preserve God’s design for marriage: one man and one woman freely and fully committed to one another for life. Radical gay activists are working diligently to undermine and redefine marriage in order to include same-sex couples in the mainstream of family life. Much is at stake in the struggle over how to define marriage. Countless lives will be affected if our country continues to distort and erase the boundaries for legal marriage, both in ways that can be predicted and in ways that cannot yet be imagined. Who could be harmed, and how?

As always, when society loosens the laws that establish healthy limits for marriage and family, children pay the highest price. Single-parent families have taught us the hard way that children generally do much better when they live with both mom and dad. Nevertheless, gay activists insist that two moms or two dads will be just as good. Why should we believe them? Why should we subordinate God’s word to their unfounded and untested opinions? As children grow into adults they desperately need godly models for healthy and responsible sexual behavior, not gender confusion.

Some who oppose same-sex marriage argue that tradition has established heterosexual marriage as the best foundation for society. But traditions are established by people and they can change. Traditions evolve, often to meet the seemingly expedient demands of different groups in a given society or culture. Marriage, however, is bigger than tradition. Marriage is too critical to be left up to the dictates of unpredictable currents in human tradition. Marriage is instituted and designed by God, fixed and unchanging. In addition, marriage and family are much more than building blocks for human society. The Bible presents higher ideals for marriage.

In the Old Testament God used husband and wife as a picture of the relationship between himself and his chosen people Israel. In the New Testament God’s design for marriage is presented as a picture of Christ’s bond with his church, his Bride. More than nurturing children, more than mentoring young people about their God-given sexuality, more than providing the building blocks of culture and society, marriage is about God’s love for his people. Essential spiritual truth is transmitted through God’s design for marriage, and that truth becomes a living reality in marriages where husbands and wives follow God’s design, not out of love for society or as a pragmatic solution to family ills, but out of love and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. Marriage is a spiritual relationship with far-reaching spiritual ramifications for all of us.

These ideas, some say, are ancient and culturally bound. Now that culture has moved on, we are told, the notions of yesteryear must recede into the background and give way for new and progressive ideas. But God has not recalled his design for marriage. It is not defective. It is not obsolete. It is not even a work in progress. Marriage between one man and one woman is a fixed design feature of humanity and it is still God’s plan for family today and all the tomorrows of this age. God is not required to answer to human society or to conform to popular human ideas. God is the author of what is right for culture and he is the source of all truth.

Some would argue that the fundamental spiritual truth that is meant to be communicated through marriage is simply love and commitment. Marriage and family are not about the outward forms, supposedly, but about genuine affection and devotion. Therefore, loving and committed same-sex couples, we are told, fulfill the Bible’s vision for family. If that were true then loving and committed relationships of any kind could eventually be proposed as fulfillment of this Scriptural principle. But such an argument ignores the fact that homosexuality is condemned every time it is mentioned in the Bible. A holy home cannot be constructed on an unholy union. Marriage is about more than tradition and it is about more than love and commitment. God’s design for marriage is cosmic in scope. It is a reflection of God’s plan for the ages.

The question of defining marriage ultimately brings us to an even more fundamental and critical issue. What is the true nature of the Bible? Is it God’s perfect Word to humanity? Or is it a collection of words by imperfect yet inspired people who were searching for divine insight when they put pen to paper? Those who support God’s design for marriage point to the Bible as the premier authority for defining marriage. As a result, gay activists have attacked the church’s understanding of God’s Word. Scriptures that clearly condemn same-sex relationships are said to be irrelevant to our age, archaic and outmoded. But should human desires judge God’s word or should God’s word judge human desires? God’s perfect truth provides the much-needed anchor for any culture when it is tugged by the tides of unholy human passions and blown by the winds of deceptive pop-culture philosophies.

For those of us who have decided to stand on the perfect word of God, we must not be surprised or disheartened when the world rejects God’s design for marriage. Only God’s presence in our lives can give any of us the ability to put his plan before our own agenda. Despite the world’s hostility toward God’s design, we must be committed to the full counsel of God. It is unfair to God’s word and intellectually dishonest to champion some portions of Scripture while remaining silent about others. The Bible not only condemns same-sex marriage, Scripture also condemns all sexual immorality. Any sexual misconduct undermines the spiritual truth that is to be reflected through godly marriage.

The fight is not merely against a radical gay agenda. The fight is for the radical holiness that God has called his people to pursue and promote. The goal should not be to make families more traditional, or pragmatic, or comfortable, but to make families honor the Lord. He who called us is holy, so let us be holy in all that we do, including our marriages. Followers of Jesus Christ cannot simply blame culture for all the confusion about marriage and embrace some vague hope that things will somehow get better. God’s people must know his word, live according to his word, and share his word.

The full counsel of God reminds us that we do not simply speak the truth. We speak the truth in love. Men and women struggling with sexual sin of all types deserve to hear the truth, but they need to hear from someone who genuinely cares. The many angry and bitter voices in the debate over defining marriage easily draw much attention to themselves, but they often drown out their own words by the bitter opposition they inspire. God’s people must be different. Righteous indignation is a legitimate expression, but loving confrontation and encouragement is a vital ingredient. Christians are called to be the true people of hope and change. Salt and light can be uncomfortable but should never be hateful. People may reject the truth, but it should be the content and not the presentation that they find distasteful.

What should Christians do in response to the downward spiral of family? First and foremost, we must live according to God’s word. Despite past mistakes, we must commit ourselves to God’s design for family: one man and one woman committed to each other for a lifetime, committed to raising our children together and enjoying our grandchildren. This includes everyone who is a follower of Jesus Christ. If one has had an affair, lived through a divorce, fallen prey to same-sex encounters, or any other failure, forgiveness and restoration is available through Christ. No matter how many failures litter our past, we can decide that this marriage will be a godly marriage; the rest of our life will honor the Lord. If we are presently single, we can determine to remain pure until we are able to enter a godly marriage, or serve God as a single adult, honoring the marriage bed by remaining celibate.

Second, Christians should pray for God’s Spirit to move in a mighty way in the hearts of people throughout the land. We can plead with our Lord to renew a spirit of love for truth in households and hearts everywhere. And third, as Christians we must open our mouths and speak the word of truth. We cannot be intimidated into silence. Too much is at stake in the fight for family. And we must speak the truth in love. As families falter, hungry hearts will multiply; countless souls will be thirsty, longing for a better way. This is an opportunity to explain and to promote God’s ways to a population that is increasingly ignorant about the unvarnished biblical truth.

In order to live according to God’s design for marriage, couples must have commitment, understanding, and ability. The ability can come only from the empowering Spirit of God. The commitment can come only from the married couples themselves. The understanding comes from learning the truth about God’s design for marriage as he has revealed it in his Word, the Holy Bible. To all who are followers of Jesus, let us devote ourselves to knowing, obeying, and promoting God’s design for marriage and family. The need is great but our God is more than sufficient.

Richard Foster
Camden, AR
September 2013

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God’s Design For Family

A report issued by experts claimed that many people were engaged in sex outside of marriage.  A generation took the ideas in that report to heart and decided that traditional ideas about family, marriage, and sex were outdated.  They insisted on ‘free love.’  Later everyone learned that the reports about sexual behavior were not very scientific.  In other words, the so-called experts had lied.  But it was too late.  ‘Free love’ had arrived.

Unfortunately, ‘free love’ resulted in too many unwanted babies.  But experts claimed that unborn babies were nothing more than troublesome blobs of tissue.  Women had the right, they said, to remove unnecessary tissue from their bodies.  This solved the ‘free love’ problem.  Unwanted pregnancies were simply terminated—by the tens of millions.

But people discovered that they wanted children.  Lack of sexual commitment, however, destroys families.  ‘Free love’ resulted in an explosion in the number of marriages that ended in divorce.  Kids from broken families struggled with deep feelings of insecurity and abandonment.  And parents were getting loaded down with dark feelings of guilt.  The experts were standing by once again with a solution: simply redefine marriage and family—change the definition of what is good and acceptable.

Everyone has a right, we are being told, to define marriage as they see fit.  Limiting marriage to one man and one woman is denying people their constitutional rights, supposedly.  This argument is designed to paint supporters of biblical marriage as oppressors.  This is no surprise since supporters of ‘alternative’ forms of family and marriage often claim that traditional families are oppressive to women and children.

So the battle to define (or destroy) family rages on.  Who would have imagined that ‘free love’ would result in so many murdered babies and dysfunctional families?  Who knows what horrible social destruction would be caused by allowing ‘gay marriage’ to take hold and multiply?  When will our society learn that these so-called experts are leading us deeper into disaster?

Sadly, ‘gay marriage’ is not the last enemy of the family.  Waiting in the shadows are those who wish to reduce or abolish the age of consent.  Once again, children are at greatest risk, as they always are in these horrible social experiments.  And the experts will be ready with quick answers to soothe the consciences of those who step into their trap.

The experts lied about sexual behavior, they lied about unborn babies, they lied about divorce, and they are lying about ‘gay marriage.’  Why are these destructive distortions about family met with such eager acceptance?  Because the rebellious heart wants God to be proven wrong.  The battle for family is not a contest between tradition and progress, it is a conflict between Truth and deception.

What should we do?  First and foremost, live according to God’s Word.  Despite past mistakes, commit yourself to God’s design for family: one man and one woman committed to each other for a lifetime, committed to raising their children together.  Second, pray for God’s Spirit to move in a mighty way, to renew a spirit of love for Truth throughout our land.  And third, make your voice heard.  Do not be intimidated into silence.  Speak the truth in love.

May God’s Holy Spirit save and strengthen our families now,

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

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The Party of the Cosmos

Jesus did not die only to save us from our sins.  He also died to unite God’s people, removing the barriers that separate us from one another (Ephesians 2:14-18).  To be reconciled to God is to be reconciled to God’s people.  Jesus’ death has given us a new and living way into the holy Presence of God and a new and vital relationship with one another.

The Christian life is one of serving and worshiping God together with other believers.  Once saved, we are fellow citizens in God’s Kingdom, so we share a common loyalty and a common mission.  We are fellow members of God’s family, so we share our individual lives.  And we are living parts of God’s Temple, so we share the indwelling Presence of God’s Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Followers of Jesus are like the various parts of a person’s physical body.  The parts are many but the body is one.  The individual parts do not all have the same function.  Each part contributes in a unique way to the health of the body.  Each part needs the body and the body needs every part (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31).

Each follower of Jesus is called and equipped by God to serve the Body of Christ and to be served by the Body of Christ.  Believers are equipped with spiritual gifts, abilities given by God’s Spirit like teaching, leading, or showing mercy.  No single believer has every spiritual gift, which means that every believer is dependent on other believers in order to live a healthy spiritual life.

Many of you know your spiritual gifts.  You know what God has called and equipped you to do in order to serve him in the local church.  Others of you are still seeking.  Please pray and search the Scriptures, especially Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4.  God has given you the ability to do something that will honor him, strengthen the church, and bless you.

In addition to a kingdom, a family, a temple, and a body, the church in the New Testament is also pictured as a bride.  All believers collectively are the radiant Bride of Christ, for whom the Lord is preparing a great feast: the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-8).  Our Lord Jesus is working toward the day when he will present his Bride, the Church, to himself without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-30).

My prayer for each of you is that you will take your place in God’s Kingdom, Family, Temple, and Body, and labor for the day when we will celebrate together with our Lord at the wedding supper of the Lamb.

May the Lord knit us together with the love of Christ and the power of His Spirit,

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

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The True People of Hope and Change

Our nation’s legal definition of marriage continues to be a fierce battle ground.  Bible-believing Christians want to preserve God’s design for marriage: one man and one woman freely and fully committed to one another for life.  Radical gay activists are working hard to undermine and redefine marriage in order to include same-sex couples.  Much is at stake in the struggle over how to define marriage.  Countless lives will be affected if our country distorts the boundaries for legal marriage, both in ways that can be predicted and in ways that cannot yet be imagined.  Who could be harmed, and how?

As always, when society loosens the laws that establish healthy limits for marriage and family, children pay the highest price.  Single-parent families have taught us the hard way that children generally do much better when they live with both mom and dad.  Nevertheless, gay activists insist that two moms or two dads will be just as good.  Why should we believe them?  As children grow into adults they desperately need godly models for healthy and responsible sexual behavior, not gender confusion.

Some who oppose same-sex marriage often argue that tradition has established heterosexual marriage as the best foundation for society.  But traditions are established by people and they can change.  Marriage is more than a tradition.  Marriage is instituted and designed by God.  In addition, marriage and family are not simply building blocks for human society.  The Bible presents much higher ideals for marriage.

In the Old Testament, God used husband and wife as a picture of his relationship with his chosen people Israel.  In the New Testament God’s design for marriage is given as a picture of Christ’s bond with his church, his Bride.  More than nurturing children, more than directing young people about their God-given sexuality, more than providing the building blocks of culture and society, marriage is about God’s love for his people.  Essential spiritual Truth is transmitted through God’s design for marriage.

Some would argue that the fundamental spiritual Truth meant to be communicated through marriage is simply love and commitment.  Therefore, loving and committed same-sex couples, we are told, fulfill the Bible’s commands.  If that were true then loving and committed relationships of any kind would eventually be proposed.  But this argument ignores the fact that homosexuality is condemned every time it is mentioned in Scripture.  Should that matter?

The question of defining marriage ultimately brings us to an even more fundamental and critical issue.  What is the Bible?  Is it God’s perfect Word to humanity?  Or is it a collection of words by imperfect people who were searching for divine insight and inspiration?  Those of us who support God’s design for marriage point to the Bible as the premier authority for defining marriage.  As a result, gay activists have attacked the church’s understanding of God’s Word.  Scriptures that clearly condemn same-sex relationships are said to be irrelevant to our age.  But should human desires judge God’s Word or should God’s Word judge human desires?

For those of us who have decided to stand on the perfect Word of God, we must be committed to the whole counsel of God.  The Bible not only condemns same-sex marriage, Scripture also condemns all sexual immorality.  Any sexual misconduct undermines the spiritual Truth that is to be reflected through godly marriage.  Let us not merely fight against a radical gay agenda.  Let us fight for the radical holiness that God has called us to.  Let us do it not because it is traditional, or pragmatic, or comfortable, but because it honors our Lord.  He who called us is holy, so let us be holy in all that we do.

In addition, the whole counsel of God reminds us that we do not simply speak the Truth.  We speak the Truth in love.  Men and women struggling with sexual sin deserve to hear the Truth but they need to hear from someone who genuinely cares.  The many angry voices in the debate over defining marriage easily draw attention to themselves.  God’s people must be different.  Righteous indignation is a legitimate response, but loving confrontation and encouragement is a vital ingredient.  We are the true people of hope and change.

May the people of God rise up and contend for the faith with the love of Christ,

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

 

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Should Marriage Be Defined By Tradition or Truth?

In the ongoing debate about marriage, conservative voices often use the word “traditional.”  The legal definition of marriage, they say, should be based on tradition.  Is that right?

Cultures tend to evolve and ours is no exception.  In the last few decades attitudes have shifted dramatically about what behaviors should be accepted, and therefore, should be promoted and protected by our legal system.

First, voices began saying that not every sexual relationship should be restricted to marriage.  As this idea gained acceptance immorality and adultery multiplied.  Decades of progressive attitudes about sex have left their mark.  Has sexual immorality become a new American tradition?

Then people began to say that not every baby deserves to live.  As a result our society legalized and accelerated the destruction of what came to be called “fetal tissue.”  After destroying tens of millions of unborn babies, can we say that abortion has become a sad new American tradition?

Next, people decided that not every marriage is worth fighting to save.  The result was an explosion in the number of broken homes.  Higher and higher percentages of marriages ended in divorce.  Another new American tradition?

It also became popular to say that not every child needs both a mom and a dad.  Single-parent homes emerged as a valid choice for family.  With so many children growing up in one-parent households, could we say that single parenting has become an American tradition?

Now our culture wants to say that not every marriage must be between one man and one woman.  A vocal and politically powerful minority is working hard to establish another new American tradition: so-called “gay marriage.”

If the definition of marriage is determined by tradition, then it is doomed to be tossed about by the fickle cultural breezes that constantly swirl in our country.  Traditions come and go, some good and some not.  Marriage is far too important to be left to the shifting winds of culture and tradition.

The Bible reveals God’s original design for marriage.  Early in the account of creation, in Genesis 2, God’s Word says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and join with his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

Note the beginning: For this reason.  For what reason?  Because God made them male and female.  Marriage begins with the unique compatibility between a man and a woman.

Jesus affirmed God’s ancient design for marriage more than a millennium later.  When asked about divorce he quoted Genesis 2, and then he added, “So what God has joined together let no man separate.”  Jesus agreed with God’s original definition of marriage, rejecting the idea that family evolves or that it must bow to popular cultural notions.

Conservative defenders of one-man-one-woman marriage often claim to believe in the authority of the Bible, yet they choose to argue that tradition should define marriage.  Why?  Do they believe that tradition will be more agreeable to a secular culture than the Bible?

Another argument says that traditional marriage is the best foundation for a healthy culture.  This line of reasoning also attempts to persuade culture about godly marriage without mentioning God or the Bible.

One-man-one-woman marriage does offer the best foundation for any culture.  But marriage is more than a strong platform for society.  Marriage is meant to be a visible expression of God’s love for his people.

The risk of rejection is no excuse for softening God’s Truth.  God designed marriage to be one man and one woman totally and freely committed to one another [f]or a lifetime.  Jesus affirmed God’s unchanging design for marriage and added a statement about the permanent nature of the relationship.

So, why not boldly and honestly promote God’s Truth about marriage?  The Bible itself promises that God’s Word is eternal and unchanging: “The grass withers and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever.”

In the debate about marriage the church must decide whether to argue for tradition or for God’s design.  Traditions change but God’s Word stands forever.  Let’s take our stand with the Truth.

– Richard Foster, Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR, May 2012

Printed May 2012;  Camden News;  Camden, AR.

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