Tag Archives: truth

Retreat From The Faith or Contend For It?

Some good friends invited me to attend a conference in Orlando, Florida in September. I agreed and went. I’m glad I did.

The conference was a meeting of the American Association of Christian Counselors. Many if not most of the attendees at the conference were licensed professionals with advanced degrees and real-life experience in helping people.

These counselors believe the science of psychology and psychiatry can be useful in guiding people to healing. They have taken the time and made the effort to acquire advanced skills so they can be effective in assisting those who have experienced traumas in life or who struggle with other personal battles.

But there is more. Note the name of this group: American Association of Christian Counselors. They believe that God’s word is the ultimate measure of truth; and they believe that God’s grace in Christ Jesus is the ultimate healing for humanity. While they value scientific understanding and insights, they measure all conclusions by God’s revealed truth in the Bible.

At the conference, the leaders of these Christian Counselors sounded a note of warning. Hostile forces in the academic and professional world of counseling are threatening to silence the voice of Christianity in psychology, psychiatry, mental health, and related disciplines. How? They are threatening to deny accreditation and certification to anyone with biblical convictions, especially about marriage and human sexuality.

Years ago, I noticed that academic institutions were coercing Christians into renouncing the truth revealed in God’s word. In some instances, they were told to change their beliefs or change their profession. They were denied the opportunity to follow their calling, to counsel people in need. Their degrees and certifications were being held hostage.

Unfortunately, attempts to silence Christianity in counseling are only part of the story. Our culture is changing its mind about religious freedom and freedom of speech in general. Any dissent from the dominant political doctrine is now being painted as hateful, violent, and worthy of being cancelled, that is, silenced.

Jude was a Christian. He was also a half-brother of Jesus. He wrote the short letter in our New Testament which bears his name. His message to his original readers was short and simple: Contend for the faith that was once-for-all entrusted to the saints!

Notice he writes the faith. He is calling on God’s people to do more than defend their personal beliefs, more than a generic ‘faith.’ The Christian faith is revealed in the Old and New Testaments. It is God’s revelation that the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ is his Son and our Savior. For this truth, we contend.

Why must we contend for the faith? Because the faith is under fire. False teachers from inside the church, hostile unbelievers from outside the church, forces that are committed to erasing God from public policy and discourse are active on all sides.

How do we contend for the faith? First, we must learn the faith. How can we contend for the faith if we don’t know what it is? The faith is not a matter of personal opinion, general consensus, or clever fabrication. The faith is a revelation from God recorded in the Bible.

Second, we must live the faith. Christianity is not merely a mindset; it is a lifestyle. Knowing about Jesus is insufficient. The faith tells us that we can know Jesus personally and walk with him daily through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts.

Third, we must proclaim the faith. Jesus has given us a mandate to make disciples of all peoples. Living the faith means sharing the faith. Someone told us about Jesus. Now we must tell others.

Once we know the faith, apply the faith, and share the faith, we will be faced with hostility from the enemies of the faith. These encounters require us to defend the faith. Defense of Christianity must not be surly or harsh, but it must be confident and unwavering. We speak the truth in love.

Jude calls this defense of the faith contending for the faith. Those of us who recoil at conflict may think we can simply remain silent. But each of us will eventually be forced to choose. Christianity is personal but it is not private.

Will we retreat or will we contend for the faith?

May God’s Holy Spirit give us the inspiration and the victory,

Brother Richard

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Tested by God

Psalm 139 ends with these words: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts; see if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Someone has said that the unexamined life is hardly worth living.  King David, the writer of Psalm 139, would agree.  My dad used to say, “Think about what you’re doing!”

The psalmist is calling for more than just personal reflection or self-examination.  His example challenges us to invite the Lord to give us his evaluation of our lives.  Of course, God already knows even our best-kept secrets, but the prayer in Psalm 139 invites God to share his assessment with each of us.

God shows us our weaknesses by testing us.  Asking God to test us may seem like a crazy idea.  Who wants to be tested by God?  His tests can be awfully intimidating.  Surely it would be better if we asked God for his affirmation and encouragement, right?

It is good to experience God’s encouragement.  But God’s desire is to build us up and enable us to reach our full potential.  And even the most positive ‘coach’ must sometimes point out weaknesses.  Personal shortcomings can be easier to ignore than to address.

The point of this godly exam is to find and remove any “offensive way.”  Is there any action or attitude in my life that is offensive to God?  If so, it will be a stumbling block to me.  My ability to follow God’s lead will be hindered.

The ultimate goal of this testing process is to be led by God on the everlasting way.  The Bible sometimes pictures life in this age as a journey.  If we wish to arrive at the right destination then we must travel the correct route.  The notion that all roads lead home is a deception.

Jesus warns his followers to take the narrow path that leads to life.  There is a wide road that leads to destruction and it is well-travelled.  On the other hand, only a few find the narrow path.  And once on the narrow path, we stray easily.

The everlasting way is considered to be old fashioned and outdated by the godless culture in which we live.  God’s ways are old, indeed, they are ancient.  But they are not obsolete.  God’s ways are eternal, unchanging, and dependable.  They are right.

The ways of this world are considered by many to be progressive, evolving toward a better day for all humanity.  In reality, however, the immorality that is being passed off as progressive is regressive, a death march back to Sodom and Gomorrah.

The everlasting way of God leads us on pathways of truth, holiness, righteousness, love, forgiveness, joy and peace.  God’s way leads to eternal life, to heaven.

With God’s powerful presence in our lives we can overcome anything that tempts us to wander from the everlasting path.  In fact, only God’s power can keep us on the right path.  We cannot make it on our own.

May the God of our salvation always keep our feet on the path of life,

 
Brother Richard Foster

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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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Impressing the Faith On Children

When it was time to go in and take the Promised Land, Moses reminded God’s people of how they should live in order to enjoy God’s blessing. He reminded them of the agreement God had made with them, the covenant. He was to be their God and they were to be his people. He would give them his truth and they would live according to that truth.

God’s blessing was designed to last for generations. As a result, each generation of God’s people was responsible to make sure that their children and grandchildren knew about God’s ways. Moses reminded the people that they were to impress God’s words on their children (Deuteronomy 6:7). Moses was not talking to professional teachers but to parents and grandparents. Faith begins at home.

God’s people still have the great responsibility and the wonderful joy of impressing God’s truth on our children. It is pleasing to God and profitable to our kids to make sure that they know God’s Word. When we tell our children about God’s ways, we stir the fires of faith in our own lives, too.

Impressing God’s commands on our children is an ongoing task that must be done in our homes every day and in our church every week. The Christian faith is not merely information, but a way of life. Children must see the faith in the lives of their parents in order to understand and embrace Christianity.

As our culture becomes more hostile toward Bible-believing Christianity, parents who strive to pass on the faith to their children will be harshly criticized. The organizations and institutions in our society will put pressure on Christian parents in order to pull them and their children away from the Bible and from the local church. Schedule conflicts will abound.

In this new environment of aggressive secularism, sadly, many parents will compromise. They will try to balance the recreational, academic, and athletic pursuits of this age with their commitments to Christ and his kingdom work. Their children are watching and they understand the inconsistency of claiming Christ as Lord but setting up idols in his place.

Other families will see the temptations of this godless world for what they really are. They will be ready to make personal sacrifices for the faith, knowing that Jesus calls his followers to deny self, take up a cross, and follow him. These parents will model Christ for their children. They will impress upon their children the Christian faith.

May God’s Spirit empower us to keep the faith alive in our own hearts and in the hearts of our children,

Brother Richard Foster

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Words Worthy of Our Complete Confidence

The words of the Lord are flawless. King David rejoiced over this great truth as he led God’s people in worship some 3,000 years ago (Psalm 12). Nevertheless, he was deeply concerned because his generation was full of empty talk, smooth talk, and double talk. Arrogant men were confident in their own words, their own ideas. They rejected God’s authority.

This old world hasn’t changed much. If David could spend a few days with us in the 21st century he would certainly be surprised by the cars, computers, cell phones, space stations, and other advances in technology. But he would soon realize that humanity is still fighting over the same vital question: Who is Lord? Where can we find the words of Truth?

Like David’s generation, our world is full of empty talk, smooth talk, and double talk. And like David’s generation, those who put their confidence in man’s talk are determined to silence the voice of God. But God spoke in David’s day and he continues to speak now. God will never be silenced. Jesus promised that his words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35).

When God speaks, his words are like precious metal refined to perfection. The Lord’s promises are of the utmost value because God is faithful and he will fulfill every promise he makes. David found confidence in God’s words, despite the foolish talk all around him. We can find confidence in God’s perfect words, too, no matter how dark and deceptive the talk gets in our generation.

God’s perfect Word does more than give us confidence; God’s promises give us a sure footing in life. As he finished his teaching one day, Jesus assured his followers that anyone who builds their life on his words, on his promises, is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rains came down, the waters came up, and the winds came through, but the house stood firm because it was built on the rock (Matthew 7:24-27).

Our confidence is well-placed in the perfect Word of God and our foundation is sure because it is none other than the Living Word of God: Jesus Christ. As a result, we can joyously affirm and celebrate God’s Word in our public worship and we can learn and apply God’s Word in our daily lives, seeing his promises fulfilled now.

Let’s thank the Lord for the power of his Word and let’s continue our commitment to the Lord’s Truth as we prepare our hearts to serve the Lord who has spoken to us. What great things will God do today?

Thank you for your faithfulness, and may God’s Word always be a lamp unto your feet,

Brother Richard

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