Hurried Lives

Hurried lives
One of the scientists who figured prominently in our national space program had four trays on his desk. Executives usually have two trays, one marked “In” and one marked “Out.” On this administrator’s desk, however, were four, labeled “Frantic,” “Urgent,” “Pressing,” and “Overdue.”Most of us are living hurried lives. The thing that breaks down our stamina is not so much external stress, but internal pressures and spiritual emptiness. When we possess the inner peace that comes through Christ, our physical health can improve, our general outlook is more positive, and our relationships with others can be deeper and more fulfilling.
—Author Unknown

Lewis, B. (1988). And Then Some …. Christianity Magazine, 5(8), 8.

Worry? Who Me?

Worry? Who Me?

We are familiar with what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount: “do not worry,” (Matt. 6:25-34), in some versions, “do not be anxious.” Add to this, we know what Paul wrote in Philippians: “Do not be anxious about anything,” (Phil. 4:6). In both passages the instruction is, in essence, instead of worry, trust in God (with all that biblical trust includes).

Got it? Maybe not. Here’s what we may try to do, to walk away from this. We look at those words, “anxiety” and “worry,” and we defensively claim that’s not what we are doing. We craft self-serving definitions to ease back from the guilt.

Worry? Who Me? No, that’s not what I do. I reflect on legitimate concerns; I plan; I have foresight; I’m just trying to look ahead and … contingency plotting … yes, that’s it. That’s what I do. But worry? No, not me.

Come on folks. We know we are guilty, but rather than admit it, we define our way out of penitent confessions. Our definitions and labels serve to comfort us. But that’s dangerous. It takes us away from application.

Instead of all the semantics and self-serving definitions, why not just do what Jesus and Paul said: “…in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God,” (Phil. 4:6), and “seek first the kingdom of God,” (Matt. 6:33).

-Warren E. Berkley

God Exhaled

“All Scripture Is Breathed Out By God”

2 Tim. 3:16

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16,17)

It may at first sound crude, but I want us to consider that God doesn’t have bad breath! Everything that comes from the mind of God; everything God caused to be written for our learning is good, perfect and necessary. “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” (Jas. 1:17). Once we become convinced of the perfection of God and the perfect love of God, we entertain no doubt that all that He has given for us to read, study, believe and do is for our present and eternal good. God breathed out, God exhaled from His perfect mind and will. The result is Scripture.

This means there is no other book or writing that compares with Scripture. There may be books, articles and sermons that help us focus on Scripture and motivate us to apply it. There may be people who teach us and direct our thoughts into the text of Scripture. But there is no other book, no other person, no other presentation that is equal to the power and truth of what God caused to be written for us.

This means if we think we have discovered something to do as “the Lord’s work,” but there is nothing in Scripture to lead to that, it isn’t worthy of our energy or attention. It is through the use of Scripture that we are “complete, equipped for every good work.” Man cannot just harvest some bright idea or project out of his mind, call it “the Lord’s work” and recruit followers, thinking it is all approved by God – when there is nothing God has ever said that authorizes or leads to that activity.

This means our spiritual nourishment comes from what God has revealed, that provides the full benefit we need – for teaching, for reproof, for correction and training in righteousness. All my spiritual needs can be met when I rely only on Scripture. God breathed out and the result was exactly what we need.

This means I must read and study Scripture, then put the instruction into my mind and life, consistently and without long dry spells of neglect. How many of us have started reading Scripture, perhaps at the first of the year, but dropped it in March or April? How many of us have seasons of zeal and prayer and deep interests in Scripture, then let that season pass, distracted by the world? If we believe what Paul wrote in this passage, that belief must express itself in our habits, our thoughts, our priorities, our relationships and our growth as disciples of Christ.

Gratitude – Not New

Recent Evidence Shows?

Warren E. Berkley

Several years ago scientists (especially in the behavior field) formed a research team. The simple question to be studied was – What can be done for people who are depressed? Not severe depression that has some physiological cause. Just people who visit a therapist and they present symptoms of depression; functional but depressed.

So, this team set about the task of finding a non-pharmaceutical treatment (apparently not funded by the pharmaceutical companies). They did their research, accounted for all the data, poured over case studies and conducted interviews. Finally, the findings were published.

HEADLINES: NEW RESEARCH!

Published by the University of California at Berkeley (no relation to author), here is a quotation from their findings: “Recent evidence suggests that a promising approach is to complement psychological counseling with additional activities that are not too taxing for clients, but yield high results. In our own research, we have zeroed in on one such activity: THE PRACTICE OF GRATITUDE.”

It is remarkable – and it happens all the time – that some who are held in high esteem in the academic world find something God has said from the beginning and God’s people have always practiced; and when they sign their collective names to it, it becomes “new research.”

The document went on to say, “…many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1 Thess. 5:18). Let’s keep doing what we know moves us further into the light of Christ and away from the darkness of this world. Count your many blessings. Name them one by one.

Source: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

DO YOUR BEST

Do Your Best (2 Tim. 2:15)

  1. To read and understand what the Bible message is. “…understand what the will of the Lord is,” (Eph. 5:17).
  2. To respond to that message with personal obedience. “…Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you,” (Lk. 6:46). “Be doers of the word,” (Jas. 1:22).
  3. To respond just as described in the New Testament. “…practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you,” (Phil. 4:7). “…Do everything in the name of the Lord,” (Col. 3:17).
  4. To worship God, as He has directed. “…worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth,” (Jno. 4:23,24).
  5. To honor – with your participation – what the New Testament says about being with and working with other Christians in your area. “…joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love,” (Eph. 4:16). “…not neglecting to meet together…,” (Heb. 10:26).
  6. To share the gospel with your friends and family. The first Christians “did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus,” (Acts 5:42).
  7. To expose sin and offer the remedy. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them,” (Eph. 5:11).
  8. To be engaged from the heart with your family. “Husbands, love your wives… Let the wife see that she respects her husband … Children, obey your parents … Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” (Eph. 5:25-6:4)
  9. To love your neighbor. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mark 12:31).
  10. To be nourished with the Word of God in such a consistent way, you never stop growing spiritually. “…long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation,” (1 Pet. 2:1).

Old Testament Sacrifice

The Benefits of Old Testament Sacrifice

By Phil Roberts

WE KNOW THAT the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament did not really take away sin. But what did they do?

The Law of Moses provided the Israelites with a temporary solution to the problem of sin. God had a solution to the problem of sin which He announced to Abraham, saying, “In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” But the fulfillment of this promise would take time, and a lot of preparation was needed. So God gave the children of Israel the Law of Moses as a temporary solution. As such, animal sacrifices provided the following blessings for the children of Israel:

1. Provisional forgiveness of sin. The writer of Hebrews teaches us that the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). But Moses told the Israelites that their sins were forgiven when they offered their animal sacrifices (Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31). So which is true? Did they receive forgiveness of sins when they offered their animal sacrifices or not?

I find it helpful to answer this question by a comparison to the modern custom of writing checks. If I sell a used car to my neighbor and he writes me out a check, have I been paid? Most of us would surely say yes to this question. But we all know that we won’t really be paid until a few days later when that check goes through the bank. Yet we still say that we have been paid when we get the check; we feel like we are paid, and we are happy about it.

Our neighbor might even tell us as he writes out the check,” Now don’t try to cash this until after Friday when I deposit my paycheck.” And yet, if we trust our neighbor, we still say that we have been paid and we feel like we have been paid, even though we know that technically we haven’t. We can say that subjectively we have been paid, even though we know objectively that we have not. And, interestingly enough, it all depends on how much faith we have in the person who wrote the check.

This illustrates, in a crude sort of way I admit, what happened when God “forgave” the sins of the Israelites. Objectively, legally, no real forgiveness could take place until the price for sin was actually paid by the death of Jesus on the cross—until the payment price was actually deposited “in the bank.” But subjectively, their sins were “as good as forgiven.” A promise of forgiveness from God, who cannot lie, is just as good as forgiveness itself, but only if you fully trust in God.

2. Awareness of the horror of sin. The Old Testament sacrifices provided, however, far more than just a sense of forgiveness. Those sacrifices also provided instruction that God’s people vitally needed if they were ever going to appreciate and understand the real solution when its time came.

Specifically, they needed an understanding of the horror of sin. An Israelite would take his goat of sin offering to a priest and, while he was holding his hand on the head of the animal, the priest would slay it (Leviticus 4:15, 24, 29). The offerer could literally feel the death of the animal—perhaps one his children had played with as it grew up (1 Samuel 12:3)—as it collapsed from beneath the touch of his hand. He could see the blood and feel its warmth as it spilled out on the ground. It was not a pretty picture. It was the picture of the horror of his sin—a picture that could not easily be forgotten. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The ancient Israelite worshipper might not have understood how God would eventually provide His own Son as the sacrifice for sin, but he certainly knew the awful, death-dealing power of sin—and that was a blessing. It was a much needed “remembrance of sins year by year” (Hebrews 10:4).

Indeed, we would be blessed to have a greater appreciation of the horror of our own sins. Try this during the Lord’s Supper this week: Close your eyes and imagine your hand on the head of Jesus as He dies for your sin (Isaiah 53:5–7).

3. Awareness of the need for a greater sacrifice. Finally, one of the most powerful paradoxes of the Old Testament, displaying the manifold wisdom of God, is the fact that animal sacrifices could provide the Israelites with an assurance of God’s forgiveness and, at the same time, could be teaching them of the need for a still greater sacrifice.

Micah asks directly, “Wherewith shall I come before Jehovah, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old?” (Micah 6:6). Micah, David (Psalm 51:16–17), and many other Israelites, I am sure, came to see that a greater sacrifice was needed—a sacrifice of obedience to the will of God—to do justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8; see also Psalm 51:17). They came to see a need for greater obedience on their part and, in the light of their continuing failures, the need for the sacrifice of the perfect obedience of Jesus (Hebrews 10:5–10; Philippians 2:8).

Via Christianity Magazine, December 1991, Vol 8, No. 12.

Who Speaks For God Today?

Who Speaks For God Today?

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Heb. 1:1-4)

The writer affirms that in the past – back in the age when the Hebrew race was formed into a nation, and during their existence as a theocracy – back then, God spoke. He spoke at various times. He spoke to the prophets, “at sundry times and in divers manners.” Through Moses, God spoke; the writer acknowledges that. He affirms that GOD HATH SPOKEN. But he says, now, “in these last days,” God speaks by or THROUGH HIS SON. What does this mean?

It means when Christ came; when He spoke during His earthly ministry, He was speaking the word of God. It means when we listen to, when we read and study what Jesus said, that’s the word of God. This means, that which Jesus revealed through His apostles, written in the epistles – that’s THE WORD OF GOD FOR TODAY.

There was divine revelation in previous ages; in old times God spoke unto the fathers in the prophets and “by divers portions and in divers manners.” But God finally spoke through his Son!

I should listen to Jesus Christ because He alone is God’s authorized spokesman for today. In regard to the New Testament let’s understand what this means. Men designated by Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit wrote God’s revelation. Jesus speaks to us today, through the New Testament. By His Son, God addresses us, in these days.

You know – the only question here is, are we listening and responding?

Knowing what I am not

Knowing What I Am Not
Warren E. Berkley


Frequent reading of 1, 2 Timothy and Titus should be a regular exercise for every preacher. The study will remind us, not only of our scriptural function, but will imply what we are not. Since it is typical and historical for people to enforce unrealistic expectations on preachers, perhaps this kind of approach will ring true.

I am not a theologian, but I can tell people what the Bible says and show them the text. This is my function, to “preach the word,” (2 Tim. 4:2). It may serve some secondary purpose but learning human theology and religion will not necessarily enable or enrich you in the work of gospel preaching. Read the Bible and preach it. Rely on the Word, and let your preaching simply be a time to read it to the people and talk to them about the urgency of obedience. Open the Bible and show people Who they are dealing with and press each one to consider what their state will be at the judgment.

I am not a financial planner, but I can teach people what the Bible says about money, stewardship and priorities. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows,” (1 Tim. 6:10). For a Christian, financial planning should begin with what the Bible says about earthly things and their associated ambitions. Preachers generally are not trained in financial planning, but they must communicate the values such planning should be grounded in.

I am not a prophet, but I can show people the prophecies of the Bible and their fulfillment. God “cannot lie,” and the promises He made “before time began” came to pass (Titus 1:2). Timothy’s mother and grandmother used those promises, prophecies and teachings to make Timothy “wise for salvation,” (2 Tim. 3:15).

I am not a marriage counselor, but I can guide people to the passages in the Bible that provide good counsel. As a gospel preacher, I must take people to the words of the Lord in Matt. 5:32 and 19:9 and urge all to “hold fast the pattern of sound words,” and “shun profane and vain babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness,” (2 Tim. 1:13; 2:16). I can use the Word of God to call attention to God’s intentions for marriage and use His Word to give instruction in the love, commitment and attitudes that result in pleasant longevity. Training and experience in marriage counseling may help, but ultimately – the basis of all such work will be the truth of God’s Word.

I am not a professional negotiator, but I can tell people what the Bible says about God’s laws of conflict resolution. In all my teaching and preaching, I must give emphasis to the attitudes and behaviors that constitute the “mind of Christ,” (Phil. 2:1-11). I must practice and teach what Paul wrote: “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will give them repentance to the acknowledgement of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will,” (2 Tim. 2:23-26). I must be committed to speaking “evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men,” (Titus 3:2). Preachers may find it cumbersome and counter-productive to get right in the middle of some conflict. But you can sit the parties down and simply read Matt. 18:15-20, or other passages that apply; then pray for all involved. We must remind disputing parties of the Biblical laws of evidence (1 Tim. 5:19-21).

I am not a fund raiser, but I can tell people what the Bible says about giving. I can remind my hearers to “be ready for every good work,” (Titus 3:1). I can read and teach all the passages that pertain to giving and show the good result (Phil. 4:18). {In my opinion, the elders should be the ones who state the case to the church for the maintenance of the budget. Let preachers give expositions of New Testament teaching, but don’t force them to be fund raisers.}

I am not just a paid, angry fighter – to yell, fuss and fight all the time, but I am charged to “fight the good fight … charge some that they teach no other doctrine … withdraw myself from those who do not consent to sound doctrine … and reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition,” (see 1 Tim. 6:12; 1 Tim. 1:3; 1 Tim. 6:5; Titus 3:10).

A gospel preacher is not a professional visitor, paid administrator, social director, official representative of the church, pastor, worship coordinator, records manager or head over the elders. He is a Christian using his time to preach the Word. He must give attention to “reading, to exhortation, to doctrine,” (1 Tim. 4:13), and take heed to himself and to the doctrine. Paul said, “continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you,” (1 Tim. 4:16).

Press On

Pressing On

Phil. 3:12-15

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

Paul wrote this under challenging circumstances, to people who were suffering like him (Phil. 1:9). Not only was there no justification or comfort offered for growing cold, backing off or drifting into despair. The call was to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called” His people. To “press on” requires at least four components.

1. ENERGY – Being a Christian requires moral and spiritual energy, freely supplied by Christ to His people (Phil. 4:13). There is work to do that requires strenuous exertion to grow, to apply discipline, to serve others, to advance the gospel. It is “abounding in the work of the Lord,” (1 Cor. 15:58) and it means you break a sweat and do the hard things.

2. MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION – Sometimes energy is expended, but in the wrong direction. The Pharisees were very busy people. I can’t imagine all the work of measuring 10% of everything in the spice cabinet; making certain everyone is notified of your benevolent gifts; pushing your peers out of the way to get to the best seat at the banquet; devouring the houses of widows and swallowing camels. They broke a sweat. But it was energy applied in the wrong direction. Pressing on means applying energy in the direction given by the Lord, “toward the goal to win the prize.”

3. CONSISTENCY. If we think we can press on one day, back off for a week, take a vacation from the Lord’s work, then return and press on a little more – NO! New Testament Christianity is daily, hourly, moment by moment commitment. It is not just that we are baptized and then attend services along with occasional surges of zeal. The Lord wants our hearts, permanently and wholly.

4. RIGHTEOUS AMNESIA. While there are some things we must remember. Forgetting can be a virtue and a part of pressing on. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” (Eph. 4:26). Jesus said to agree with your adversary quickly (Matt. 5:25). In the context of things we ought not to carry over multiple sunsets, Paul said “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” and right after that he said “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 3:14).

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