Was He Killed?

“…killed by the hands of lawless men,” Acts 2:23

by Warren E. Berkley

Those who do not accept the historical fact of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection offer a wide variety of objections. Here’s one I recently discovered while reading the book, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist,” by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek.

Muslims offer the explanation of the empty tomb as followed (Qur’an, Sura 4:157-158): “They killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (cer-tain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not: Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.”

According to the Qur’an, it only appeared that Jesus was crucified. There is no evidence to back this up. And, in fact, all the biblical and historical evidence is against this theory.

And consider, this assertion from the Qur’an comes more than 600 years after the lifetime of Jesus. “How can this be considered a more authoritative source for the life of Jesus than the accounts of the eyewitnesses?” (Geisler, Turek).

The Muslim religion is gaining momentum in the world. Their disbelief in Jesus, however, remains apparent.

Christians continue to place our confidence in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Jesus, the Creator

Jesus, The Creator

by Warren E. Berkley

“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him,” (Colossians 1:16).

It is no wonder that the winds and the waves obeyed Him. Believers hasten to acknowledge His power to heal people with fatal disease or permanent disability. We consider it credible that demons and death fled from His presence at His command. “All things were made by Him!” He is the Creator and Master over all. By Him God “made the worlds,” (Heb. 1:2).

Early in the book of John, this claim is made: “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made”(Jno. 1:3).  Here is a fundamental fact about Christ. God created all things through Him! Not only was Jesus “there” in the beginning, He was active. Paul wrote of this with these words: “There is one God the Father from whom all comes … (&)… one Lord Jesus by whom all exists,” (1 Cor. 8:6; see also Rev. 1:8 & Rev. 3:14).

For emphasis John adds,  “and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Please consider this. If everything that was made was made through Jesus Christ; if it is true that “without Him was not any thing made that was made,” we must conclude, Jesus is not a created being; He was not made … in fact, it was through him that all things were made. John claims this, and then proves it in the chapters that follow.

This is what John wrote. Paul affirmed this, and if we are Christians – this is our faith. It is based on the evidence given by the Holy Spirit in the book of John and throughout the word of God. One man said, “All other things came into being, but the Godhead has enjoyed timeless existence.” (Commentary on John, by Butler; College Press, p.#20.)

When you decide to obey Jesus, you are making the wise choice to live as the Creator intended.

“Christians”

Christians

Henry Ward Beecher: “Let me speak in the language of heaven and call you Christians.”

Albert Barnes: “These divisions should be merged into the holy name Christian.”

Martin Luther: “I pray you leave my name alone. Do not call yourselves Lutherans, but Christians.”

John Wesley: “I wish the name Methodist might never be mentioned again, but lost in eternal oblivion.”

Charles Spurgeon: “I say of the Baptist name, let it perish, but let Christ’s name last forever. I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living.”

Peter, the Apostle: “Yet, if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but glorify God in this name,” (1 Pet. 4:16).

Paul, the Apostle: “Now, this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:12-13).

Luke, the writer of Acts: “…And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch,” (Acts 11:26).

(Pulpit Helps, 7-89)  From Expository Files 4.3; March 199

Sermon Delivery

27072795_10215262436180024_867526507133887801_nWarren E. Berkley

Is Sermon Delivery “No Big Deal” ?

In delivering the most important message ever given, everything about that task matters; nothing can be slighted. The fact that content is primary does not imply that delivery is of no importance. An inordinate emphasis on human eloquence that distracts or dims the message is corrupt (1 Cor. 2:1-5; 2 Cor. 4:5). But how the message is delivered cannot be pushed into some trivial place. If your preacher got up wearing a clown suit, honking a horn on his belt to punctuate his points and breaking into Broadway musical scores for illustrations, you would have something to say about his delivery, right? Delivery is important. Everybody needs to have a good grasp of that, whether in the pew or pulpit.

Preacher! Read your Bible and study. Make sure God said it. Then get up and read what God said, and make sure your listeners understand it. You must press it, apply it and do all of that to the best of your ability. Every preacher, no matter his experience, can do all that better!

Examples –

Adequate volume – if people cannot hear you, how can they understand and respond? This relates to vocalization, articulation, acoustics, sound equipment, proximity to audience, ambient distractions, etc. Does this matter? Is this important?

Order, arrangement, structure – people generally learn in sequence, and sequence is apparent in the text of scripture. Order and structure requires some good thought and planning. Once there is Biblical content, the preacher must carefully plan and order his material for the most effective presentation. “Which thought comes first? Which comes second? Which comes last? The order of preaching ideas is not a small matter in sermon design,” (The Shape Of Preaching, by Denis M. Cahill).

Passion suitable for the message – artificial, theatrical displays of emotion have no place unless you want everybody to be embarrassed. But if the message you are delivering abides in you; if you love the gospel and love the lost – that will come through in your delivery and should not be squelched. Don’t engineer it, but let it happen in every appropriate way in keeping with your personality.

Clarity – have you ever heard someone read from the text of Scripture, then what is said after the reading is unclear, confusing or just wrong? To admit that that situation is possible should lead logically to guard against it. In the study and sermon preparation stage, one task of the preacher is to make certain that what he is planning to say is clear. Remember, this is the most important message ever delivered. Careless speech is to be avoided. We know this: “… if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said?” (1 Cor. 14:9).

Elimination of extraneous material – most of us have heard introductions that we thought would never end. The preacher goes on and on telling stories often connected with people in the audience (way beyond simple acknowledgements), having nothing to do with the subject or text (if such ever emerges). No contribution is made to anyone’s knowledge; no instruction from Scripture – just blathering on. As sermon preparation is underway, cut the fat out. Remove what is unnecessary. Save it for the coffee shop or living room.

Illustrations that connect – crafting an illustration on the fly can defeat the whole purpose of giving clarity to a point and catch the preacher in an awkward moment. The only way to use a good illustration is to think about it and rehearse it in your mind well before you speak it. The illustration must help people get the point. That’s just good delivery!

Challenge to obey – preaching is intended to impress upon the audience the urgency of responding to God. Generally, we do this during the “invitation.” We summarize or wrap-up in such a way as to storm the will, making a plea to the listeners to obey the Lord. Like the other aspects of delivery, this requires forethought. Perhaps we can do this better?

Question for every preacher: can you do any of this better?

Truth Connection:  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Col. 4:2-5

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Maybe You Are Rich

Being Rich In Good Works

Warren E. Berkley

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.  They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,  thus  storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you. – 1 Tim. 6:17-21

Today, when we hear the word “rich,” it may be that our first response is: “that’s certainly not me! I’m not rich.” It all depends upon what standard you apply. If you compare typical working people with average income to millionaires, the average people are not rich. But when you compare our average income citizens to the destitute in Mexico, we are rich. It all depends on what standard you apply.

Our best use of this passage is, to assume we are relatively rich and apply this teaching to our lives (if it turns out, we are not “rich,” still, the application of this teaching certainly does no harm, and enriches our attitude of humility.) All of us should avoid being “haughty,” or arrogant. No one should set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches. All of us should set our trust and hope on God, knowing He “richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”

Each one of us ought to “do good … be rich in good works … generous and ready to share.” No matter what your economic condition is, or whether you are rich in your own eyes or not – everything in verse 18 ought to be taken seriously and applied daily.

Living this way enables us to receive fully from God and store up treasure for ourselves, “as a good foundation for a good future, so that” we “may take hold of that which is truly life.” {Observe, we do not have “true life” by default or imposition or automatically. We must “take hold” of it. We do that through our response to the gospel Paul and Timothy delivered.}

Finally, this urgent word from God, through Paul to Timothy: “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is false called knowledge, for by profession it, some have swerved from the faith.”

Timothy was the recipient of a “deposit,” the gospel of Christ. The entrustment is, that Timothy not only believe and live that gospel, but deliver it, preach it, press it upon all willing to hear.

“Avoid the irreverent babble.” Simple definition: Talk that doesn’t honor God. Timothy is not a public spokesman for just anything that he might hear. He is to be so devoted to the gospel, no human message even competes with it in his mind.

“Contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’,” simply means messages opposing the gospel, marketed as “knowledge.” Timothy’s commitment to just preaching the gospel would be challenged by babble and messages and philosophy that had a popular attraction and elite seal of approval – but was false. “Some” – without the commitment to the truth in heart and life – would swerve from the faith.

Paul’s desire for Timothy is for his heart and life to be so filled by God’s generosity and grace, he would spend his life guarding the deposit, preaching the Word and teaching and urging others to do the same. In this way, Timothy would be “rich in good works.”

Doubtless, You Are THE People

“Let Your Speech Be

Always With Grace”

In reply to his “friends,” Job said:

Doubtless you are the people,

and wisdom will die with you!

But I have a mind as well as you;

I am not inferior to you.

Who does not know all these things?

Job 12:1-3

Job’s pain pressed his friends to come to his side, but not with warmth, care and love. Instead, they went on and on about how he must have done something that was so bad and it brought all this pain into his life.

Job’s frustration boiled over from time to time, causing him to speak frankly with his friends. That’s what we are reading in the above text.

What can we learn?

We should never speak to people in a demeaning manner. Apparently Job’s friends spoke as if they were “the people,” and as if, upon their death, wisdom would die! Further, it seems they spoke down to Job so arrogantly, they implied that Job wasn’t as smart as they were; thus prompting Job to say in his defense, “I have a mind too!”

No matter what we perceive people have done, and no matter how clear we believe we need to be, demeaning speech is never justified.

Fortunately my parents were very careful to teach me this. Through example and with direct admonitions they trained us to avoid demeaning speech. We were not allowed to call people, “stupid” or “idiots.”

It is not helpful! We cannot “win” people, train people and help people while we demean them and berate them. The object of all speech should be, to help, not hurt; to educate, not denigrate.

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one,” (Col. 4:6).

Sometimes we may be justified in thinking about people with this typical response: “You think you are so smart. Not so much. I have a mind too!” Let’s be careful to not provoke such thoughts in those we speak to.

-Warren E. Berkley

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What Would You Promise?

person dropping paper on box
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[ As the rush toward the next political cycle is well underway, I thought about something I wrote several years ago. ] 

What Would You Promise?

Warren E. Berkley

If you were running for President, what would you promise?

Would you promise to pray like Daniel? In a time and place of brutal adversity Daniel exhibited the courage of faith. A central part of that way of life was prayer. He praised God, petitioned God for strength and believed God was listening. When God’s people begin to pray, at that moment God is listening. What a thought, that the God of the universe listens to us.

Would you promise to be faithful to God like Joseph? Like Daniel, Joseph suffered great hardship and temptation but acted on his steadfast purpose to trust and serve God. The Lord was with Joseph and showed him kindness and caused great things to happen through his life.

Would you make the pledge of Isaiah, “here am I, send me?” Isaiah was called by God to deliver His message to a stubborn people. It was a message of both hope and judgment but would be widely rejected by hostile audiences. When God said, “Whom can I send?” Isaiah gave the right answer, “here am I, send me?”

Would you keep the faith like Paul? Paul began a life of faith in Christ when he was baptized (Acts 22:16). He pressed toward the goal and eventually told his young friend: “I have fought the good faith, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

I doubt anyone who is reading this will ever run for President. But God expects us to keep all these promises. You can be a part of great changes!

“I Am Rich!”

THE “I AM RICH!” MENTAL EXERCISE
By Economist Robert Heilbroner

Imagine…

1. Take out all the furniture in your home except for one table and a couple of chairs. For a bed, use blankets or pads.

2. Take away all of your clothing except for your oldest dress or suit, shirt, or blouse. Leave only one pair of shoes.

3. Empty both the pantry and the refrigerator except for a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a few potatoes, some onions, and a dish of dried beans.

4. Dismantle your bathroom, shut off the running water, and remove all the electrical wiring in your house.

5. In fact, take away the house itself and move your family into your storage, garden, or tool shed.

6. Place your new “house” in a Shantytown, with hundreds of others exactly like it.

7. Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and book clubs. This is no great loss because now you have to imagine that none of you can read, anyway.

8. Imagine there is only one radio for your entire Shantytown.

9. Move the nearest hospital or clinic ten miles away and put a midwife in charge instead of a doctor.

10. Throw away your bank books, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies. Leave the family a cash hoard of ten dollars.

11. Give the head of the family a few acres to cultivate, on which he can raise a few hundred dollars of cash crops … one-third of which will go the landlord and at least one-tenth to the money lenders.

12. Take your average life expectancy and lop off twenty-five years. At least.

Now you are living in the same conditions in which well over one billion people on the planet live. How rich we are, indeed! Use that wealth responsibly and with compassion.

First found on [Monday Fodder via Wit and Wisdom]; may not have been archived.

Give Them The Book!

bible book business christian
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Give The Bible To The People

Warren E. Berkley

 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world,” (Jas. 1:27).

When the Bible is read, honestly and consistently, the reader soon discovers this simple fact: There is right religion, and there is wrong religion. And the only way to tell the difference is to use the Bible.

Any other means of discernment fails to achieve objectivity. If you pick the religion you prefer, self is the standard. If you embrace some religious practice due to it’s popularity, man have become your standard. If you “join a church” to please your family, family has become the standard. If you make a choice based on convenience, self has again become your standard.

But when you let the Bible determine what you do, you are on the right course and you are acknowledging God as the standard. There is “pure and undefiled religion.” It is not a religion manufactured by men, but instituted by God and revealed in His Word. What a simple thought – Get your religion from the Bible!

The Bible can be read, understood and followed. The Bible is for everybody. Do you use your Bible?

 Give the Bible to the people, unadulterated, pure, unaltered, unexplained, un-cheapened, and then see it work through the whole nature. It is very difficult indeed for a man or for a boy who knows the Scriptures ever to get away from it. It follows him like the memory of his mother. It haunts him like an old song. It reminds him like the word of an old and revered teacher. It forms a part of the warp and woof of his life.

                                                         -Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924)

Revelation

What Does Revelation

Mean to Us?

Mark Roberts

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants; things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John” (Revelation 1:1).  So begins one of the most fascinating, puzzling, frustrating and edifying books in scripture.  What do all of those signs and symbols mean?  Why is Revelation so hard to understand?  Of what value is such a symbolic book to us?  The answers to these questions are important if the last book in the New Testament is to have any power in our lives.

A friend of mine often says the book of Revelation is about the devil and the Lord getting into a fight, and the Lord wins.  That is indeed a fair summary of the book.  But why then doesn’t it just come out and say that?  Why all the monsters, beasts and blood?  The answer to those kinds of questions is found in understanding apocalyptic literature.  Revelation is particularly difficult for us to understand because we simply don’t read or write apocalyptic today.  Yet apocalyptic was very popular in intertestamental times and on into the first century ad.  Attempting to read Revelation without a basic understanding of its style of writing usually leads to confusion and difficulty.  Allow me to illustrate this point.  Can you imagine trying to explain a Roadrunner-Coyote cartoon to someone who has never seen cartoons?  Think of the questions they would ask: “What do you mean he never catches the Roadrunner?  Why doesn’t he give up?  How can the Coyote still be alive after falling off that cliff or being blown up in that explosion?”  Do you see all the things that go on in a cartoon that we do not question or worry about — because we understand that it is “just a cartoon.”  So it is with apocalyptic literature.  Much goes on in this kind of writing that is peculiar to this style of writing.  Asking the wrong questions or looking for certain kinds of information can lead to just as much confusion as disputing whether any coyote could really set such elaborate traps for a roadrunner!

Let us examine some of the basic elements of apocalyptic literature.  First, apocalyptic majors in visions and signs.  These signs and symbols serve to make the message interesting and exciting.  Saying “Jesus will ultimately triumph so stay faithful” is true and perhaps even helpful.  However, seeing Jesus slaughter His enemies until the earth runs with their blood, then turn and take on the giant dragon that is the devil and overpower him while the disciples of Christ are vindicated and given glory and honor and crowns . . . that is much more interesting, isn’t it?  Second, apocalyptic always presents a dual nature to this world.  Something more is going on than just what we see here on this earth.  What happens here is not the whole story, but actually just the playing out of a spiritual battle in heavenly places. Apocalyptic attempts to pierce the veil and explain events here in light of what is happening there (see Revelation 12:7-10).  Third, apocalyptic writing is big picture writing.  Apocalyptic writers use big, bold brush strokes as they paint a vivid scene of battle, warfare and victory. To over analyze the picture ruins it.  Many brethren seem convinced that there is some hidden code, or meaning, to every claw on every paw in this book.  It just isn’t so.  No one asks why the coyote in the roadrunner cartoons orders every gimmick from ACME, or who ACME is, or where they are, or how they can make all that stuff.  To ask those questions destroys the cartoon. Similarly, to dissect Revelation destroys it.  The beast of chapter 13 represents evil and false prophecy (obviously, see 13:6ff).  But to try and decide what his ten toes mean is folly.  Unless the apocalyptic writer clearly sets forth explicit meaning in details (see 4:5) then let the big pictures stand as they are and speak for themselves.  Finally, apocalyptic is crisis writing.  This kind of writing comes about in times when it is difficult to serve God and remain righteous.  Usually, apocalyptic is written when the faithful are powerless. This is not the literature of King David’s time.  If an enemy threatened Israel he took his mighty army out and defeated them. This was not possible for the Jews trod down under ruthless Syrian rulers in the time before Christ, or the Christians who were persecuted by Jews and Romans during the first century.  Apocalyptic is a response of faith to a crisis of faith.  It asks and answers the question “If there is a good God who controls everything why doesn’t He do something about those who persecute His people?”  The answer in apocalyptic is always the same: He will soon, so don’t give up!

Do you notice that nothing was said of dates and calendars?  Yet the number one misuse of Revelation is to try to use its message to plot out when the worlds will end.  Such is utterly vain and useless.  Apocalyptic was not written to be a date book or prophetic calendar.  In most apocalyptic the time frame of the end and vindication is soon.  The message is always “hang on just a little longer and God will straighten everything out.”  To try to turn that kind of teaching into a timetable by which we can read our newspaper and watch cnn is to fundamentally miss the message and meaning of the book.

What does Revelation mean to us?  Perhaps in some ways its message is lost on a people who have never been persecuted, or known the kind of crises of faith that produce apocalyptic.  But if your heart is troubled by our deteriorating society, if you struggle to maintain fidelity to Jesus, if you know hardship because you wear the name “Christian” then read this book.  Read its vivid scenes and imagery and be inspired: Christ will win so we must, no matter what, remain steadfast.  That is the meaning and value of Christ’s apocalypse we call Revelation.

More on this subject from this writer here:

http://bookstore.floridacollege.edu/product/49490/UNDERSTANDING-APOCALYPTIC-LIT/