What Would You Promise?

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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!

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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/

Don’t change your mind over your popcorn!

Don’t Change Your Mind

Over Your Popcorn!

Warren E. Berkley

___________________________

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“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” 1 Thess. 2:13 (ESV)

            We live in a visually centered culture.  We are watching televisions, computer screens, phone screens and tablet devices several hours daily. And in this media-heavy climate,  the movie industry has discovered new and exciting ways to market their products through services like Netflex, Redbox, cable on-demand services, etc. – all in addition to the traditional theatre venue.

            It has occurred to me, we may need this simple reminder: movies are generally not objective and reliable sources of history, and should not ever be allowed to compete with the authority of the word of God.

            Brokeback Mountain should not change your mind about sexuality; The Da Vinci Code offers nothing of substance against the authenticity of the gospels; Erin Brockovich didn’t cause most of us to stop using public water; Wall Street did little to change the economic system. Remember, while movie makers may have certain designs and agendas to change your mind, let the viewer beware. Movies are generally not objective, reliable sources of history. However entertaining they may be, they should never be allowed to compete with the authority of the word of God.

            It is true, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest may heighten our concern about mental institutions; A Beautiful Mind takes us to a new level of awareness of Schizophrenia, and Rain Man may well spark a better understanding of Autism. The movie Courageous was refreshing to those of us who hold honesty and fidelity in high esteem and take delight when those virtues are exemplified, especially when so many movies celebrate the opposites. But even when movies are thought-provoking, beware of changing your mind over your popcorn!

            Movies are often produced and delivered, to create sympathy for the primary character or set of characters. One of the basic ingredients of a successful movie is, a strong character who is not understood and struggles against odds and adversaries. We get on the side of the protagonist and may feel strong disfavor toward the adversaries. That’s exactly the audience outcome that is within the purpose of the producers. That sympathy we feel must never become the basis for changing our beliefs or practices, particularly when you consider – God has given us his word in written form. And, “when you read,” you understand what you ought to believe and do before God (Eph. 3:4).

Four Attitudes Toward Truth

FOUR ATTITUDES TOWARD TRUTH

(1 Kings 22)

Kevin Kay

John Dryden:  “Truth is the foundation of all knowledge and the cement of all societies.”

Solomon:  “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, Also wisdom and instruction and understanding”  (Pr. 23:23).

Truth is absolutely indispensable to our relationships with both God and man.  Nothing can take its place!  Everything that can be done must be done to secure and safeguard the truth.  The man who would be God’s servant is admonished to:  (1) call upon Jehovah in truth (Psa. 145:18); (2) serve Jehovah in truth (1 Sam. 12:24); (3) walk before Jehovah in truth (Psa. 86:11); and (4) worship Jehovah in truth (Jn. 4:23-24).

Our service to God and our relationship with Him must be founded upon truth, because truth is an inherent characteristic of deity.  Jehovah is a God of truth (Psa. 31:5).  Jesus is the very epitome of truth (Jn. 14:6).  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (Jn. 15:26).  Our service to God and our relationship with Him must be based upon the word of God, because it is the word of truth (Jn. 17:17).  Now, I’ve said all this to emphasize the fact that our attitude toward truth is of supreme importance.  In a letter to Anthony Collins, Esq., John Locke said, “To love truth for truth’s sake is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the seed-plot of all other virtues.”  (Oct. 29, 1703).

There is a true story preserved in 1 Kings 22 that illustrates four different attitudes toward truth.  Four principle characters play their respective roles in this drama:  Ahab, the wicked king of Israel; Jehoshaphat, the good king of Judah; the 400 prophets of Israel; and Micaiah, the son of Imlah.  They each manifest a different attitude toward the truth and provide a mirror to help us look at our own attitude toward truth.  If you are familiar with this story, you know that Ahab wanted to attack Ramoth-Gilead to recover this city of refuge from the Syrians.  He asked Jehoshaphat to become his ally and he agreed.  The 400 prophets of Israel assured Ahab that he would be victorious.  However, when Micaiah was consulted, he prophesied Ahab’s defeat and death.  If you are not familiar with this story, let me encourage you to read it in its entirety (1 Ki. 22:1-40) before proceeding. Continue reading “Four Attitudes Toward Truth”

The Power of the Non-verbal

The Power of the Non-verbal

From My Notes on Ezekiel

Warren E. Berkley

Studying the book of Ezekiel and teaching a survey class through the book a few years ago, many “secondary lessons” have come to my attention. One is the power of the nonverbal.

In addition to visions, allegories, indictments and judgment passages, one method of communication was symbolic actions or enactments. Ezekiel was told to go through certain actions; to act out or dramatize various things in front of the people. These actions, though often accompanied by words, become examples of how powerful the nonverbal is. {See examples in Ezek. 3:22-27; 4:1-3; 4:9-17; 24:15-24].

While nobody today lives in the time of the Jewish exile and nobody today is called to do exactly what the prophet did, there is a “secondary lesson” concerning the power of the nonverbal.

While Christians are charged to speak the truth, we are likewise charged to live out that truth in all our behavior. We communicate not only through words but deeds. People see how we live, in addition to hearing what we say.

Therefore, all our self-examination should take into sober account not only what we speak but what we do. One must accompany the other and both must be in submission to God’s authority. In fact, this is so important – it becomes critical for us to realize that what we say may have little impact, if what we do contradicts it! Some people who have very little Bible knowledge, nevertheless can spot a hypocrite at some distance.

Or as James once said, “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty,” (Jas. 2:12).

Jerusalem’s Shame

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Jerusalem’s Shame

Zeph. 3:1-4

Within the books of prophecy the Bible reader is able to see clearly the problems God had with His people, often called “Jerusalem” (often described with the feminine “she.”)

The word of the Lord came to these men, and they were charged with telling God’s people why they were headed for trouble. Here’s one example:

“Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God. Her officials are roaring lions, her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning. Her prophets are arrogant; they are treacherous men. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.”

This doesn’t read like a “chamber of commerce” publicity blurb does it. Almost as bad as ancient Sodom, you wouldn’t want to live there or move your family in. This is a place where oppression, rebellion and pride lived. Even the religion of this place was corrupt and profane. And the government officials were like roaring, hungry lions who went on the attack in the evenings with such ferocity, there was nothing left the next day. This is why the people were in such trouble, and headed for destruction.

But in the middle of this, look carefully for a single phrase that spells out the core issue: “She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God.” Yes, that was the foundational problem. They had abandoned God. When God is abandoned, the people suffer multiple consequences generated by sin, even before the eternal outcome.

This should cause us to think, how do we draw near to God? Let us assume we want to be closer to Him and live far away from the corruption and sin of ancient Jerusalem. How do we draw near to God?

  • Read His Word
  • Obey Him
  • Join with others who obey Him
  • Pray without ceasing
  • Worship in spirit and truth
  • Use God’s Word to examine and adjust your attitude
  • Be willing to stand corrected by the Word

 “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded,” (Jas. 4:8).

Attitude Crash

From the Preceptor Archives

Had An Attitude Crash?

Warren E. Berkley

Have you ever had an attitude crash? Here’s what I mean. Things build up. You begin the day not feeling well, then everything that happens seems to make you feel worse. You keep doing what you have to do, but there is the ugly mess growing inside you with every additional pressure and stressful event. It may be compared to having a bucket inside you. The bucket can contain only so much junk, then it happens. You have an attitude crash which may express itself in an explosion of vile language, treating someone with conspicuous coldness, violence, indifference to someone trying to get your attention, a rash statement or insult, or just walking away from your present responsibility. This could be called an attitude crash. I don’t believe there are very many people who can claim they’ve never had one. What kind of Bible teaching might be applied to this common problem?

  1. I need to understand at the beginning of every day – the devil wants my attitude to crash. He will attempt to maneuver and seduce me into this, because he knows it will achieve his aim, which is to pull me away from God and into sin. It will help for me to get up everyday knowing I have such an enemy, and watch for his wiles. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” (1 Pet. 5:8,9).
  2. I need to realize that the closer I stay to God, the less likely such a crash will occur. I stay close to my God through prayer, Bible reading and study, meditation and good association with His people. If I worship with the saints on a regular basis, that will help. In that collective worship I need to be sincere, involved and reverent. As I grow in diligence and participation with God and His will, I actively prevent an attitude crash. “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!” (Psa. 119:11).
  3. My great spiritual leader never had an attitude crash! Jesus “committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth … when He was reviled, [He] did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” If I am a Christian, He is “the Shepherd and Overseer of [my] soul,” (see 1 Pet. 2:22-25). It is amazing! Under all the pressure of ridicule, violence, illegal trials, false accusations and then a painful death – He “did not revile in return!” He is our example, our leader and the overseer of our souls.
  4. As I read and study the New Testament, I am warned to monitor my attitude constantly. I am to “be renewed in the spirit of [my] mind, and … put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” I am taught to be angry but “do not sin,” neither “let the sun go down on [my] wrath, nor give place to the devil.” In this same passage: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” And “let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you,” (see Eph. 4:23-32).
  5. I do not have to sin! “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it,” (1 Cor. 10:13).
  6. The love described in 1 Cor. 13:4-7 is another preventive measure I can take. If I suffer long; if I’m kind, not envious and not puffed up, this behavior keeps me from an attitude crash. If I refrain from rude behavior, avoid provocation and think no evil, this helps keep my heart pure and calm. If I have decided not to rejoice in iniquity, but to rejoice in the truth, these are the qualities that keep me from the crash. Watch out! Don’t surrender to an attitude crash.