Sparking Gratitude

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…mothers who sit in the back seat, to tend to the child in the car seat while dad drives.

…fathers who give the wives relief with housework when she has had a hard day. And maybe on other days too?

…children who willingly do their own laundry.

…drivers who motion others to get into a packed lane of traffic.

…neighbors who get to know you, help you and receive help.

…friends who respond promptly to email.

…doctors who surprise you with a call to see how you are doing.

…preachers who greet people as they enter the building.

…insurance agents who know you by name and do more than just collect premiums.

…people who send hand-written notes.

…news organizations who own their mistakes.

…children who honor their parents in their old age.

…mail carriers who bring the package to the door and ring the door bell, waiting for you to come to the door.

…funeral directors who can be pleasant and serious at the same time.

…mechanics who explain all the options when giving estimates.

…check-out clerks who make eye-contact and greet you.

…audience members who still listen when preachers go a little overtime.

…veterans who don’t boast but are delighted to accept gratitude.

…school teachers who patiently teach the fundamentals.

…bible class teachers who do far more than just occupy a room.

…people who follow this blog!

These are things I love. Make your list. It will spark gratitude.

Don’t Do It

It’s Foolish, So Don’t Do It!

Titus 3:8-11

Warren E. Berkley

 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.  But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.  As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. -Titus 3:8-11

As a child growing up in a small town neighborhood, there were common parental admonitions children heard. One was, “don’t play in the street, you’ll get hurt.” Much of these shouted orders had, at their essence, “It’s Foolish. Don’t Do It.” Parents were hoping we would learn – not just the specifics being shouted – but that care must be applied and vigilance used, to avoid foolhardy ventures into danger.

In similar fashion, the apostle Paul sought to warn Timothy and Titus of foolhardy endeavors. He hopes these young preachers will not waste their time, ruin their influence, hurt others and provoke God’s wrath by getting involved in fights which contain no spiritual value. (Some fights are necessary and valuable: see 2 Tim. 4:7).

The positive is: devote yourself to good works, and lead others into good endeavors. “These things are excellent and profitable for people.”

“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”

There was a common pastime among the Jewish rabbis. They would take up some matter of the law, often a fine detail, and argue over the interpretation of that detail at extraordinary length. Yet, from this lengthy and often heated debate, no value was realized. There was no good, practical outcome.

Once this controversy was initiated, it would inevitably spin off into other questions and branch off into unrelated matters. Those engaged in the uproar enjoyed the uproar more than any possible spiritual substance. They just liked to fuss.

It remains a pastime and hobby of certain men today. They love to take sides, press their points to absurdity, accuse their opponents of all manner of previous wrong-doing, construct a chain of fellowship and perpetuate constantly shifting networks of team members. They love controversy, but without spiritual substance. They just like to fuss.

Paul said to Timothy and Titus – essentially what parents used to say in the old neighborhoods: “Don’t play around in the street. You’ll get hurt.”

“As far a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”

Three strikes and you are out! If someone sets out to tear up a church, that can’t be tolerated. People with this purpose are “warped and sinful,” and “self-condemned.” Throw them out (not violently), by making it known they are not one of the faithful and not welcomed, so long as they “play in the street.”

From the Archives of Expository Files

How is your serve?

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Servant is obviously from the verb “to serve.” Our word serve is ramified through Old English, serven, through Old French, servir, and from Latin, servire, which is in turn from servus, a slave. The word is used in almost every area of life: sports (a tennis “serve”); law (to “serve” a writ or summons); war (we say he “served” in the military); politics (a public “servant”) and economics (goods and “services”). In the Greek it is usually the word diakoneo, from which we get the word “deacon.” A form of the Greek word is often translated “minister” but never with a capital M. Service is what Christianity is all about. He who does not serve does not love. He who does not serve is not the disciple of Jesus. And he who does it with a capital M serves only himself.

Bowman, D. (1997). That’s Life. In Christianity Magazine: January 1997, Volume 14, Number 1 (23). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.

Buying Time

The “Time Department” on Amazon?

 

For many Americans, needs and wants take us to Amazon.com. Household items, books, music, tools, toys, car parts, office supplies, gift cards, phones, computers; and I saw the other day, you can order an American Standard Bathtub on Amazon (water not included).

 

What if Amazon had a “Time Department?” You could order two more hours at the end of a day. Or, a day could be added to your weekend. How about adding years to your life?

 

Perhaps, like one author,  you will become creative with this idea? “If you could buy time, I would sell it. Yesterday would be expensive, and tomorrow would be cheap.” (Jarod Kintz, The Days of Yay Are Here! Wake Me When They’re Over.)

 

This is really sounding good, but it is only a dream; just an illustration; a thought provoker.

 

Yet, within a specific biblical statement, you can buy time. It is not a monetary transaction or purchase. It is all about good use, discipline, the maintenance of godly intention with your calendar.

 

The concept is connected to God’s grace. God gives, we receive and use. If we are servants of Christ, our purpose is to use all that we receive from God as good stewards. As we use time as good stewards of God, in that sense, we are redeeming the time.

 

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time,” (Col. 4:5, ESV). New King James: “…redeeming the time.”

 

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Receive Then Walk

Col. 2:6,7

 

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

 

This seemingly neutral word, “therefore,” can become an important key to good Bible reading and study. I heard someone once say, “when you see the word ‘therefore’ in the Bible, stop and observe what it is there for!” That’s more than just a play on words.

The term is a connection word, connecting what it introduces with previous context. A series of arguments or affirmations are made – then a conclusion is stated.

In this case, Paul has stated [in verses 1-5 of this chapter: (1) Christians need to encourage one another, (2) be knit together in love, (3) seek the full assurance of knowledge, (4) recognize that in Christ there is the fullness of wisdom and knowledge, (5) do not be deluded with plausible arguments, and (6) maintain the firmness of your faith.

So, what does this mean in personal, practical terms? THEREFORE – just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so WALK IN HIM.

The Bible here speaks of receiving Christ Jesus the Lord. It is appropriate for us today to speak of receiving Christ Jesus the Lord. In fact, we should be inclined to teach people from the Bible, to do what the Bible says that constitutes receiving Christ Jesus the Lord. It should never become just a phrase we use that has no specific definition. It means exactly what the Bible says it means.

The book of Acts enlightens us. When a sinner understands his/her guilt (Example: Acts 2:23), believes in Christ (Acts 2:36, 8:37), repent and submits to baptism (Acts 2:38), that person has received Jesus Christ the Lord – not just to be forgiven and taken out of sin to God; but to live with Him as the Lord of daily life.

Receiving Jesus Christ as Lord means – you leave sin and start obeying Him. Then à Walk in Him. “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” Read again what Paul wrote in the first five verses of the chapter. If those things are true, those who have received Jesus Christ as their Lord should get up every day and walk in Him.

This walk – this way of thinking and living – will bring divine strength into your life. You will discover – as you walk in Him – that you are “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thankgiving.”

_____________________________

From the Baker New Testament Commentary Series

6, 7. In close connection with the preceding sentence Paul continues: As therefore you accepted Christ Jesus the Lord, (so) in him continue to live. The chiastic or criss-cross structure of this sentence—with the verbs accepted and continue to live respectively at beginning and end; and the references to Christ, namely, Christ Jesus the Lord and in him, in the center (note forward position of “in him”)—shows that all the emphasis falls on the necessity of clinging to Christ Jesus the Lord (cf. Eph. 3:11; Phil. 2:11), as the all-sufficient One, as the Lord whose commandments should be obeyed and whose word should be trusted. The meaning is, “Colossians, do not be misled. Let your life (your “walk” or conduct) continue to be in harmony with the fact that you have accepted Christ Jesus the Lord as your tradition. You embraced him with a living faith, just as you were taught to do” (see verse 7; cf. Eph. 4:20). The word accepted is here used in its technical sense: received as transmitted (cf. 1 Cor. 11:23; 15:1, 3; Gal. 1:9, 12; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 2:13; 4:1; 2 Thess. 3:6), the line of transmission having been from God to Paul (both directly and indirectly), to Epaphras, to the Colossians.[1]

[1] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 6: Exposition of Colossians and Philemon. New Testament Commentary (107). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

The Non-verbal

The Power of the Non-verbal

Warren E. Berkley

 

Studying the book of Ezekiel and teaching a survey class through the book a few years ago, many “secondary lessons” came 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 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).

Blood or Behavior

The Priority of Behavior Over Blood 

John 8:37-47

John chapter eight is packed with action. The action documented had a violent conclusion. The last verse in the chapter says, “Then they took up stones to throw at Him…” What happened? What was said that prompted wicked men to such violence?

The Jews who opposed Jesus suffered with a carnal predisposition to justify themselves by claims of their blood connection with Abraham. When, for example, the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John’s baptism, John called for them to repent, warning them not to rely on their bloodline (Matt. 3:9). Paul gave instruction directed to this fleshly propensity when he wrote: “…he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God,” (Rom. 2:28,29; see also Phil. 3:1-11).

This was a massive stumbling block for many Jews, justifying themselves, excusing themselves and denying the need to be saved, based on claims of kinship with Abraham.

The issue was (as expressed by Jesus), their attitude and behavior was obviously unlike the character of their claimed father, Abraham.

Jesus said to them: “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.” (Jno. 8:37). They were descendants of Abraham by blood, but not by behavior! Jesus spoke divine truth to these fleshly descendants of Abraham, and gave evidence of His deity and integrity. Yet, they believed Him not and their answer was: “Abraham is our father,” (Jno. 8:39).

Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham,” (Jno. 8:39). They were Abraham’s children by blood, but not behavior. This tells us a very simple thing: Blood is never an excuse for misbehavior. Unbelief and sin cannot be defended by claims of blood, genealogy or family origin. If a paraphrase be permitted, Jesus is saying: I know who you are; I want to talk about what you are doing, your behavior. You are seeking to kill me, because My Word has no place in you!

“But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this!” These Jews were plotting the downfall and death of mankind’s greatest Benefactor. The Messiah who came to save them was now in the sights of their malicious intent. They had the blood of Abraham, but not his heart.
The privilege of good heritage can be repudiated and lost by our ill-advised moral choices. It doesn’t matter how good the people were we came from, if we fail to respond to God’s Word and pursue godly character! Who we are is known by what we do, not the genealogy we claim! The good work of God’s Word, the influence of Abraham and the person and work of Christ was all obstructed and resisted by the carnal, party spirit and sinful willfulness of these men who sought to kill Christ. Their choices predominated over their heritage.

Next, Jesus said to them: You are doing the deeds of your father, but your father (as evidenced by behavior) is not Abraham; he is the devil!

They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father-God.

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:39-47)

What an act of courage, for Jesus to speak to his enemies with such boldness. He told them they were corrupt, because though their blood was Abraham’s, their character was the devil’s!

Our conduct says more about who we are related to than our blood! The genuine test is – what do we think and do. Paternity is shown by practice. And “He who is of God hears God’s words!”
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 10.10; October, 2003

Warnings About Money

Thanks to Dee Bowman

The Book of Proverbs has more warnings about money than all the others combined. It warns that:

  • Money cannot buy peace. “Better is little with fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith,” (15:16).
  • Money cannot buy moral sense. “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right,” (16:8).
  • Money cannot buy a home. “Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife,” (17:1).
  • Money cannot buy true security. “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as a high wall in his own conceit [imagination, NASV]” (18:11).
  • Money cannot buy an honorable character. “Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich” (28:6).
  • Money cannot deliver from death. “Riches profit not in the day of wrath; but righteousness delivered from death,” (11:4).

 Bowman, D. (1989). Front Lines: Money! Money! Money!. In Christianity Magazine: July 1989, Volume 6, Number 7 (2). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.

Don’t Relax Yet!

Don’t Relax Yet

Warren E. Berkley

 

During World War II, the Royal Air Force psychologists observed that pilots made the most errors as they flew their planes in for a landing on returning to their base from hazardous raids. The cause, said the analysts, was an “almost irresistible human tendency to relax,” after going through some difficulty.

 

Noah – after the flood – planted a vineyard and “became drunk,” (see Gen. 9:20,21). Elijah – after the victory of Mt. Carmel – was afraid and ran for his life; he found a place under a tree and prayed that he might die (1 Kngs. 19:3-5). David was a mighty military hero, but relaxed one night (2 Sam. 11). His sin brought him to a low, depressed state where he said, “my bones wasted away,” (Psa. 32:3).

 

Have you overcome some challenge or just come out of a storm? Don’t relax yet. Keep your guard up.

 

Source: p.611, Nelson’s Complete Book

of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes