Where to put yourself

By Herb Berkley

We live in a world where people make life mostly about themselves. This is selfish and makes the world a hostile environment. The best, and most righteous, way to put yourself first is to put yourself last and put God first in all things.

The hostility of life might not completely vanish but from God’s perspective, through Christ, we will become something infinitely greater than the number one.

New International Version

Mathew 22:37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

Men Needed

Written by the late Jim Everett

Men Needed

There are times when informative lessons are not needed – like the old farmer said when approached by the young agricultural graduate who wanted to sell him a book on how to farm better – “I already know more about farming than I use, so don’t need your book.” Frequently lessons have been presented that have addressed with great clarity and thoroughness (at least I think so) what the Bible teaches about the man’s responsibilities as a husband, as a father, and in the congregation as a leader. How many times have you heard Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Timothy 3-ff; or 1 Peter 5:1-5 expounded? Sometimes, we admit, “Yes, I know what I should be doing” – and then go our separate ways, neglecting leadership responsibilities.

We don’t need lords, masters, kings or bosses. Nor do we need men who want to lead from secluded offices and only see members at the assembly. We need fathers in our homes who don’t shout directions from their recliners but who take an active part in the training of their children. Being a Godly father is not the result of the power of procreation but of a conscientious man who understands, loves and does the best to train his children (Cf. Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4) – the right kind of provider is not just someone who earns money to dole out to the wife and children.

We need men who are compassionate, insightful, and personally involved in relationships with God’s people. They must take the initiative and be good examples of what they teach. And, in order to do that they must establish spiritual values over prosperity, recreation, entertainment, and even education.

Men must want to lead. A reluctant leader is no leader at all. However, wanting to lead is not prompted by being a “control freak” but, rather, because one is aware of God-given responsibility. Literally, Paul says of one who would be qualified to lead in the congregation – “If a man aspires to oversight, he desires a good work…” (1 Timothy 3:1). Whether in the home or in the congregation, men must understand the accountability for not accepting responsibility (Matthew 25:14-29). But, when you accept the leadership, be prepared to accept the flak and criticism that go with it. Complainers and gossips want leadership for the wrong reasons. Can you imagine what kind of a mess Israel would have been in if Korah had led? A word to the wise is sufficient — if you are inclined to complain and murmur, try to imagine what it would be like if you were the object of your own criticism. Would things really be better, if you were leading?

If a husband doesn’t lead in the marriage, it forces the wife to take the lead – that comes with a price for the man and the woman. If a father won’t take the lead in the family, it forces the mother to shoulder extra work and reflects on the father in the eyes of the children. If men don’t take the lead in the congregation, it either goes without direction or women take the lead – confusion, strife, division or spiritual death is most often the consequence. In every instance, it is to the shame and disgrace of the man!

We need young men who are preparing to be good husbands, fathers, preachers and elders. Without early preparation the future looks dim for God’s people. Please, God, give us men who will act like men. – Jim R. Everett

You Know The Truth

You Know The Truth (1 Jno. 2:18-23)

“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrist have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 Jno. 2:18-23).

A.W. Tozer once wrote: “…there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.”

It did not take centuries for men to form and advocate error about the Father and the Son. At this place in his first epistle John begins to address this vital issue. When the truth about God and Jesus is distorted and proclaimed, those “who know the truth” are compelled to respond.

In John’s time there were “many” who did not believe the truth about the Father and the Son. It wasn’t that they hadn’t learned yet. They were in denial of the Father and the Son, yet apparently were among Christians – then “went out.”

It is also critical to observe in this passage, John doesn’t speak of antichrist as a singular historical figure who would some day have a role to play in the end of the world. He said, “so now many antichrists have come.” There is a tendency in modern times for people to reach into this passage and lock into “antichrist” and project into the present or future. That’s not a fair use of the term. The take-away for us is, as Tozer implied: guard against error about the Father and the Son.

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Don’t Do It!

Do Not Love The World (1 Jno. 2:15-17)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” -1 Jno. 2:15-17

There was a time in my life when I thought “worldliness” was just about a few listed behaviors I was warned to avoid: Drinking, Immorality, Immodesty, Etc. My early teachers were right to warn me against these behaviors. I think they also warned me about worldliness in more general terms, I just didn’t listen well to that part. I get it now.

“The world” in the above passage is not limited to a few listed sins. It is our present existence here that can become our priority, the main thing, our obsession with only passing or occasional attention to relationship with God through Christ, now in eternally. 

John warns about this in terms of a romance that is illegitimate, going nowhere and those in such an attachment do not have the love of the Father in them.

In addition, “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Joel Beeke: “The goal of worldly people is to move forward rather than upward, to live horizontally rather than vertically. They seek after outward prosperity rather than holiness. They burst with selfish desires . . . If they do not deny God, they ignore and forget Him, or else they use Him only for their selfish ends…”

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Let Kids Decide?

Dr. Leonard Sax: “Here’s my diagnosis. Over the past three decades, there has been a massive transfer of authority from parents to kids. Along with that transfer of authority has come a change in the valuation of kids’ opinions and preferences. In many families, what kids think and what kids like and what kids want now matters as much, or more, than what their parents think and like and want. “Let kids decide” has become a mantra of good parenting.”
Sax, Leonard. The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups (Kindle Locations 151-152). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

A week from Thursday

[Sourced Below]

I read a story in the L. A. Times a long time ago. A guy goes to the house where he grew up and knocks on the door. Because he hadn’t been there for 20 years, he finds himself getting sentimental. He asks the owners if he can walk through the house, and they let him. While in the attic, he finds an old jacket of his. He puts it on, reaches into the pocket, and pulls out a stub. It’s a receipt from a shoe repair shop. He realizes he had taken a pair of shoes there twenty years ago, and in the midst of the move, he had never picked them up. On a whim he decides to go to the shoe repair shop. Just to be funny, he takes the receipt out and hands it to the guy behind the desk, saying, “Are my shoes ready?” The guy goes back to the workroom for a minute, comes back to the counter, and says, “Come back a week from Thursday.”

That’s the mind of the sluggard; they’re always saying, “A week from Thursday.”

John Ortberg, in his sermon “Intercepting Entropy,” PreachingToday Audio, Issue #295

Reckless and Hopeless

From Pressing On Magazine, March 2021

The Recklessness And Hopelessness

of Trying To Write The Future

{An article has recently circulated through social media, sourced as either “unknown author” or “from The Firm Foundation in a church bulletin dated Sept. 25, 1983.” It begins “It is sometime in the future.” Believing in authentic sourcing and the value of context, here is the piece that is circulating, follow by my observations, as requested by the Editor of Pressing On.}

Reprinted from Firm Foundation in a church bulletin dated September 25, 1983:

“It is sometime in the future. It could be as much as fifty years from now, or it could be less than ten. You are huddled with a small group in a ramshackle building, and it is very cold. There are no stoves in the building, so everyone is wearing heavy coats. There are no lights either and the day is cloudy enough that the dim, gray light barely illuminates the room. You are present at a worship service of the future.

“Earlier, you had all sung a few hymns very softly so that no one outside could hear. Several prayers had been uttered and you had partaken of communion consisting of homemade bread served out of a kitchen dish and sour grape juice in a coffee cup. You had gathered one by one so that no one would suspect that a worship service was beginning and inform the authorities because, you see, religion is against the law…

“All too soon, the services are over and you sit there dreading the remaining hectic week as you wait your turn to leave. While you wait, you think back over the years to your childhood. You can remember when everyone came to assemblies together — unafraid. You can remember when there were church buildings with real pews, lights and air-conditioning and heat. You can even remember when everyone sang and prayed and preached as they wanted to. You can especially recall that part of the prayer where someone would say, “We thank thee Father that we live in this free country where we can gather together for worship without fear of molestation.” Oh, how those words come ringing back!

“How did it happen? Well, it happened a long time ago when this country was still free. People began to take for granted their prosperity and freedom. Morals began to decline. Modesty disappeared. Nobody every really protested! People began losing their interest in spiritual matters. They lost their concern for the souls of the lost. And then, they lost concern for their own souls. They quit attending services — and then they quit altogether. The whole nation seemed to be going crazy. People were doing just exactly what they wanted to, no matter how evil or sinful. There were riots. A mob even burned the church building.

“Then one day it happened. No bombs fell, and no shots were fired. Early one morning, soldiers in strange uniforms simply marched into your town. The church had been swept along with the tide of the times. Christians had failed to make a stand. Religion had first become a joke, and then it was gone…”

My Observations

Imagine that I decide to apply my “wisdom” to the task of making a list of every possible calamity and oppression that could befall me and other Christians in the future. I don’t know with certainty that any of this will happen. I just have these concerns that lead to this bleak forecast and I think other Christians are not as alert and active as they should be.

I know I’m not a prophet in the authentic biblical sense. But I want to write with a prophetic flare. So I read trends, go with that thing “history repeats itself” and see if I can find an Orwellian font; then hammer the keyboard. I need to use some hyperbole. This list has to be breathtaking and must arrest the readers attention.

After making this list of future days of reckoning and catastrophe, I’ve almost given myself a stroke, it is so bad. I speak of “sometime in the future” with such dim, grey color I’ve alarmed myself. Real pews, lights, air conditioning and heating is gone (the essentials?). Choices are severely limited by tyrants. Almost everybody has quit doing what is right. I’ve painted a picture I just know will shock people.

I write that “No bombs fell and no shots were fired.” But a brood of evildoers slowly worked against righteousness, many just quit attending services and then quit altogether. The church was swept along with the tide of the times and “it was gone.” Because Christians had failed to make a stand.

I don’t quote scripture to rally people to the point of attack. I say nothing of God’s grace and providence. I write a hopeless Armageddon-like narrative of what I think might happen someday. Then I share this melancholic piece like it is breaking news.

What have I done for you? Have I encouraged you to deeper discipleship? Have I kindled your interests in serious Bible reading and study? Have I ignited your drive to take the gospel to the lost? Have you been edified by this tirade? Have I brought into question that the Kingdom of God is everlasting (Dan. 2:44)? And, will I share this with my kids, grandkids and great grandkids, telling them that things are just going to get worse?

I know people are hurting. I know a wave of more intense persecution could happen. I know people don’t know what to do. But does God really want us to pour gasoline on the fires of fear and suspicion?

The Lord’s church has survived Jewish oppression, Roman persecution, the apostasy of Catholicism, the dark ages, the sexual revolution and our own many internal conflicts. If we are headed for anything like exile, could we say this about our God? “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand,” (Isa. 41:10).

There are good families, preachers, elders, deacons and writers who speak up, press on and embrace the joy of being children of God, without compromise or conformity to the world. There are churches resisting the “tide of the times” and a host of senior saints who joyfully encourage the next generation. There are parents who refuse to give their children and grandchildren a doomsday clock. And marvelous young people who come out of the waters of baptism ready to live the gospel and share the gospel with unselfish devotion and hope.

Let’s be steadfast and unmovable without taking up some feigned prophetic mantle.

Truth Connection:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35-39, ESV)

-Warren E. Berkley, re-printed with permission from Pressing On Magazine,

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Old, New and True

Old, New & True … (1 Jno. 2:7-11)

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him[b] there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Love in one sense was not new (see Deut. 6:5). The newness of the commandment lies in how Christ magnified what it means by His life (Jno. 13:34). The new commandment “is true in Him and in you.”

What a joy for John’s readers that as they followed Christ, darkness was passing away and true light was shining to them and truth them. This is walking in the light (see 1:9). This life has no room for hating our brothers. Animosity falls in the category of darkness, not light. But whoever abides in the light (same as walking in the light in 1:9), reduces the threat of stumbling.

John wants to be clear, however, that “whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” I had better pause here and do a comprehensive self-examination to make certain hate isn’t blinding me.

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Don’t sin, but if you do …

Don’t Sin, But If You Do …

(1 Jno. 2:1-6)

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.  And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.- 1 Jno. 2:1-6

I must adhere to the purpose of not committing sin. But if I do, there is no cause for anguish, provided I confess my sin (as John instructed in the previous chapter). Jesus, by His “propitiation for our sins” is the place where I am assured of God’s mercy. This advocacy is not automatic, continual, or unconditional. This remedy is continuously available but is applied to the sinner through the sinner’s response.

Observe phrases here which further identify what it means to walk in the light(1:7):“keep His commandments,” and “walk in the same way in which He walked.” These expressions communicate to us what our purpose ought to be. We should get up every day with the intention to not sin, to keep His commandments and follow Christ. Should we fail, we have an Advocate, who – by His atoning death – relieves us of the guilt and consequence of sin, when we “confess our sins,” (1:9).

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God’s light and our walk, 1 Jno. 1:5-10

God’s Light – Our Walk (1 Jno. 1:5-10)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. – 1 Jno. 1:5-10

I believe it has always been so that those who profess to enjoy a relationship with God, who is light, must walk in His light. How we live must be authentically and practically connected to who God is. Under the law of Moses, a sacrificial system was in place for the very reason that there was ongoing failure to walk in the light to the full measure of the law’s requirement. Under the gospel, “the blood of Jesus,” God’s Son, “cleanses us from all sin.”

But we must identify that little pronoun “us.” The context supplies the antecedent. Those who are cleansed by His blood have stepped into the light, and as they walk in the light and fail, they confess their sins, knowing God is faithful to forgive them.

This word “fellowship” here has reference to one’s relationship with God. While those who are related to God through Christ may enjoy harmony with one another, that harmony or unity is based on their fellowship with God.

One more thing. John doesn’t want anyone to be deceived, thinking they can claim fellowship with God while living in sin. This truth brought out my John prompted me to tweet this thought the other day.

“Real relationship with God is more than knowledge, emotion, association and claim. It is sincere reverence for Him with trust in Christ that is demonstrated daily by how we live.”

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