Berry Bunch on WordPress

If you are familiar with the wonderful work of the Berry Bunch family, then you may already be aware of the brand-new website which launched on 1st February.

What you may not be aware of, is that things did not quite go according to plan… The Berry bunch, WordPress blog did not transfer over as expected, and unfortunately lost all of its subscribers!

This is a real shame! If you were a previous follower of the Berry bunch, then you can find the new look WordPress blog here:

https://berrybunchfamily.wordpress.com/

If you were not a previous subscriber, then I strongly encourage you to become one today! Andy, Jo and the boys share a variety of materials designed to encourage you and your family in your walk with God.

There is much I could say about this wonderful family and their tremendous ministry, and there are few who truly follow Jesus, as faithfully as this family. I can honestly say they are an inspiration to me!

As well as the blog, you can find all of the materials on the brand-new website here:

https://www.berrybunch.org/

And do head over to Amazon to check out one of Andy‘s awesome books!

Have a great day!

This Sunday at Church: Pray for those who recently got married in your Church

Marriage is never easy, and couples starting out their journey together require much prayer. Are there couples in your church you could pray for today?

This Sunday at Church I want to encourage you to do the following: Pray for those who recently got married in your Church. Someone in our Tuesday …

This Sunday at Church: Pray for those who recently got married in your Church

Paul & Titus (Titus 1:4-5)

I am writing to Titus, my true son in the faith that we share.

May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace.

5 I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you.

Titus 1:4-5 NLT

Over a series of recent posts, I talked through some of the details of the first three verses in Paul’s letter to Titus. These next two verses give us a summary of precisely who Paul is writing to.

Paul states clearly that he is writing to Titus. Who is Titus exactly? Well, a person of this name is mentioned several times throughout the New Testament including in Galatians and 2 Corinthians. Some speculate that Titus may be another, more informal name for Timothy, and I wonder if the various references to Titus are all in fact the same person. Ultimately, we could discuss such points at length and although interesting, does not detract from the content of the letter itself.

Paul describes Titus, whomever he may be, as his true son in the faith. Not every son has to be biologically linked to us, and indeed, some of our closest family may be people who do not share the same bloodline. What unites Paul and Titus is their shared faith. They both follow Christ, and are children of God.

2 Corinthians 2 says:

But I had no peace of mind because my dear brother Titus hadn’t yet arrived with a report from you. So I said good-bye and went on to Macedonia to find him.

2 Corinthians 2:13 NLT

Here, if it is the same Titus, he is described as a dear brother rather than a true son. Some may point to some weak contradiction here, asking if he is brother or son? But this is a fruitless argument. Like Paul, we are united to our Christian brothers and  sisters through our connection to Jesus. It matters not whether we describe them as parents, siblings or children, we are family.

The latter half of verse four gives one of Paul’s familiar greetings. He asks the Lord to bless his reader – Titus and by extension, us – with grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Christ. Again, it is all too easy to skim over these familiar words, but do let them sink in. We rejoice in God’s grace towards us, and no amount of money can purchase peace. If you do nothing else today, spend some time thinking about these two terms and meditating on their meaning.

May God the Father and Christ #Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace. Titus1:4b #Bible

Verse five tells us what Titus was doing on Crete, which is a Greek island if you are not aware. Paul and Titus clearly worked there for the Gospel, planting churches and making disciples. When Paul moved on to continue his missionary journeys, he left Titus behind to complete the work” and to “appoint elders in every town.”

I do not know if you have ever been involved in setting up a church? It is no easy task, and there is much to do and much help required from God and people. Paul’s role and calling, as we saw from the earlier part of this letter, was to proclaim faith to those God has chosen. While part of that call involved teaching, it is clear that Paul was not a pastor, and so not intended to stay with one single fellowship of believers. Titus remained behind to finish this work of setting up the churches of Crete, and a big part of this involved appointing elders.

A church building

In the verses that follow, we will look to understand what an elder is, and what qualifications or requirements there are for potential elders of the church.

Before I close, let us not forget that we all have a different calling. Paul was called to move on, and Titus to stay. Neither is superior to the other, they are just different. If I preach and write, I am no better than someone who plants a church, runs the church administration or even cleans the building. There is one body, but this body is made up of different parts. We need each other. Do not disdain your own calling – embrace it. If God is calling you to do x, y or z, then do it faithfully. Do not waste your time wishing you were the pastor, worship leader or anything else. Give your life to your calling, follow God and glorify Him in the way He has instructed you.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of #Christ. 1Cor12:12 #Bible #Jesus

Are you called to be an elder? Or is God asking you to pray for your eldership or leadership team instead? Whatever God is asking of you, do it with all of your heart.

Humility & Baptism (Luke 3:15-22)

As always, it was an immense privilege to be able to share with God’s people at my church this weekend. I share below a recording of the message which I hope you enjoy.

A dove

Here is the text from Luke 3 for your reference:

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with[a] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:15-22 NIV

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire Luke3:16 #NIV #Bible

This Sunday at Church: Pray for churches you know looking for a Pastor

Another great suggestion to share with you this Sunday, and I really do encourage you to pray for any churches you know that do not have a pastor at the moment.

This Sunday at Church I want to encourage you to do the following: Pray for churches you know looking for a Pastor. In 2021 I was guest speaking at a…

This Sunday at Church: Pray for churches you know looking for a Pastor

God Does Not Lie (Titus 1:2-3)

This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. 2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. 3 And now at just the right time he has revealed this message, which we announce to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him.

Titus 1:1-3 NLT

Had I planned out my blog posts a little better, I probably would have concluded my thoughts on verse two of Titus 1 yesterday. But here we are…

In yesterday’s post – Confidence – we thought about the fact that teaching the truth of God will give His people confidence in their eternal destiny. Resting fully in Christ’s work at the cross, we have assurance that our entry into heaven is not reliant on our performance. The blood of Jesus cleanses us, and by placing our trust in Him, we have eternal confidence. That is not to say our performance does not matter of course, and I reminded us that we ought to live godly lives because it is right, and because it is would Jesus would do.

A further reason to have confidence is found in the latter half of verse two. We have assurance because God has promised it.

God does not lie. That’s just plain, good theology. Everything God says will come to pass, and anything He has promised will be done. His promises are based on His Word and His character. If God does not lie, then you can bank on his Word.

If #God does not lie, then you can bank on – trust in – His Word, which is the #Bible

God is not a man that He  should lie. Too few of us, myself included at times, are flippant with our words. We say things we do not mean, or say things in haste or anger that we later do not follow through on. How often do we as parents threaten our children with some punishment or restriction that we later do not do. When this happens, our children learn that our words are of little value. We all say things in the heat of the moment that we do not really mean, but not God. God has never uttered a single word He did not fully mean or commit to.

The particular promise that Paul refers to in this letter, is the promise of eternal life. When did God promise this? Before the world began… Again, this speaks of God’s sovereignty. He is outside of time, knowing the end from the beginning, and can make a promise of this kind.

If God promised it before the world began, then He did so before you were born. He did it prior to you doing anything good or bad. Before you said your first word, or conceived your first thought, God had already made the decree. This reminds us that the promise of God is not reliant upon us. Before the foundation of the world, God chose you. And He will not change His mind. That gives us confidence!

The Revealed Message

A phone sending a text message?

We conclude this section of the letter with verse three, which in many respects summarises what we have already covered over the last few posts.

God, as I say above, knows the end from the beginning. Being Sovereign, He knows the precise moment to do something. Now, at just the right time, God has revealed the message to His chosen people. What message? The message of faith which Paul is proclaiming.

Paul does not proclaim it because he feels like it, or it is his hobby. Instead, he does so because it is the command of God. I put this out there to you too, and ask – what has God commanded you to do? And, are you doing it?

We have covered a lot of ground in a few short verses, but all of them centre around this revealed message – that is, the proclamation of faith and the teaching of the truth of God. The result of this proclamation and teaching is eternal life, and the confidence of its knowledge. That is the basis upon which Paul is an apostle. He establishes this as the springboard for what he intends to say in this letter. The contents of this epistle is where we go next, and I hope that you find it encouraging and uplifting.

Have a blessed day!

Confidence (Titus 1:2)

This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. 2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. 3 And now at just the right time he has revealed this message, which we announce to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him.

Titus 1:1-3 NLT
Large gates, standing open

Having spent a few posts on verse one of this wonderful letter, we now push on to verses two and three. I’ll list the first few posts at the bottom so you can catch up if you have missed any of them.

Paul has been sent to teach the truth about God, and this should lead to people living godly lives. I pointed out that if the teaching we give does not do this, we must review and consider whether we are teaching the truth or full counsel of God’s Word. Likewise, you as a hearer of such teaching, must consider if it is leading you to live a more godly life. We can all cite examples of people who claim to be Christian, and who have sat under so called Christian teaching for years, and yet are as a mean as a snake! Church leaders who stray from the Bible into popular or political sermonettes frequently fall into sin. None of us are perfect, and we will all make mistakes – no question. But the general trend of our Christian lives should be a steady journey into Christ’s likeness.

The general trend of our #Christian lives should be a steady journey into Christ’s likeness. #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

Transforming us into Christ’s likeness, and thus helping us live godly lives is not all that this truth achieves. It also gives us confidence that we have eternal life. Eternal life is not something we will achieve when we get to heaven, and indeed, if we do not have it before we leave this earth, it will be too late. Sin separates us from God, and covers us with guilt and shame. On our own, we have no glimmer of hope to reach the perfection of heaven. We must have a Saviour. Jesus paid the penalty for sin and death, and by accepting what He has done, and letting Him act as our substitute, we get into heaven on His merits and not our own.

If you are being taught a performance-based Gospel, which is no Gospel at all, what that means is you must do x, y and z to get into heaven. This is “the Law.” It means you must fulfil all of its obligations to enter the pearly gates. No one is good enough to do that. Far from giving confidence, it hangs over us like a black cloud and leaves us constantly feeling we are not good enough. And we are not, that’s the point!

Let’s say there were only three laws; x, y and z. For your entire life, you keep x and y perfectly. But on at least one occasion, you broke the z law. Can you get into heaven? Not without paying the penalty for breaking that law. All your life you would worry about that. Your confidence would be shattered.

The true Gospel is not about what you have or haven’t done. It is about what Jesus has achieved!

The true #Gospel is not about what you have or haven’t done. It is about what #Jesus has achieved!

I have confidence in getting into heaven not because I’ve kept all the laws, but because I know Jesus has. I can rely on Him to be my entry pass, as I can’t pay the price for the ticket myself. If it is not about what I have or haven’t done, then there is nothing I can do to change it. When I was a sinner (in nature), no amount of good deeds would get me into heaven. Likewise, now I am saved (in nature), no amount of sin can separate me from God.

The question that immediately springs up is- does that mean we can live however we like, indulging in sin and God will just have to forgive us and let us into heaven? No! It’s an obvious question, but it is based on an incorrect premise!

If we encounter Jesus, and understand all that HE has done for us, then that should not result in us wanting to sin. Instead, it will all the more encourage us to live godly lives. We have no confidence in the flesh, that is in ourselves to get us into heaven, but have full confidence in Jesus. As a result, we want to live to please Him. Grace is a safety net that catches us when we fall, it is not a licence to sin.

Before we know Christ, we sin because it is in our nature to do so. We are led by the flesh, and that wants what it wants. Once we encounter Jesus and put Him in charge of our lives, we are given a new nature. It is no longer in our nature to sin, although the habit of sinfulness still exists meaning we still do things wrong at times. We no longer live a godly life to earn our way into heaven, as that is futile. Instead, we live a godly life because it is our new nature to do so, and because it is the right response to a God who has done so much for us.

If you have no confidence in your eternity, it may be because you are trying to earn your salvation. It is like going to a banquet which is already paid for, and insisting on paying your share of the bill yourself. Instead, stop trying to pay and start enjoying the blessing of Christ. Do good things absolutely, but not to get into heaven, but instead because it is right and what Christ would do.

I do not say this as someone who has it all figured out. I still have something of a works mentality” meaning that I still strive to be “good enough” for God. This is wrong, as I, in and of myself, can never be good enough. Rather than trying to add to Christ’s work with my own pitiful attempts, I should just rest in what He has achieved. Any good that I do in this life is all because He has shown me what good is, and enables me to do it. God gets all of the glory.

How is your confidence? Are you trying to earn your way into God’s good books? Do you need to let go of your own efforts and place yourself fully in Jesus’ hands? You will not regret it!

Other posts in this series:

This Sunday at Church: Praying for your Church’s Outreach Effort

I often share from this wonderful series on a Sunday. Today’s post is particularly powerful so I really do encourage you to give it a read.

This Sunday at Church I want to encourage you to do the following: Praying for your church outreach effort.  It might mean someone’s eternity with …

This Sunday at Church: Praying for your Church’s Outreach Effort

Teach the Truth (Titus 1:1)

This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. 2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. 3 And now at just the right time he has revealed this message, which we announce to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him.

Titus 1:1-3 NLT
A teacher in a classroom

Let’s see if we can complete verse one today… to catch up on previous posts, have a look at – A Slave of God and Sent One.

We have seen that Paul introduces himself as both a slave of God and an apostle, who has been sent to proclaim faith to the chosen people of God. His mission goes beyond proclamation however, and also involves teaching.

This letter is from Paul, a slave of #God and an apostle of #Jesus #Christ. I have been sent to proclaim #faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. Titus 1:1 NLT #Bible

Part of Paul’s ministry was to teach people the truth about God, and to show them how to live godly lives. If we teach in any form, then this should be our ambition also.

Teaching the truth should be obvious, and yet we see countless examples of those who would teach something else entirely. Teaching falsehood can happen for a number of reasons, and not all of them malicious. Some teach out of ignorance, other pass on falsities they themselves have heard, and still others teach what they think will most benefit themselves.

I have no doubt that I have taught an untruth in my time… not through the means of personal gain, but instead because I misunderstood something in God’s Word and passed it along. Here and now, let me sincerely apologise for this, and please know that I endeavour to teach the full truth of God, and not my own version of it.

We who teach must live to higher standards, as James advises us, but must also be lifelong learners. No one reads the Bible once and has it all down and understood. It can take years of study to just get to the point of asking the right questions, and there are no shortcuts.

If you teach, take it seriously. A teacher must also always be a student of the Bible.

If you teach, take it seriously. A teacher must also always be a student of the Bible.

What do we teach? We teach the way to live godly lives. This is key. If our teaching does not inspire our audience to want to, and succeed in, living a holy life, then we need to consider our approach carefully. Our teaching may get applause, it may attract criticism, or it may lead to genuine repentance and the fruit of a changed life. Above all else, our teaching should draw people to God and it should instruct them on replacing sinful ways with godly behaviour.

What does godly behaviour look like? How do we spot a godly life over an ungodly one? Again, Paul helps us here with many of the points he will make in this letter. He will go on to tell us what our lives should look like, and things we should avoid. This is in the context of appointing deacons/elders in the church, but as I said before, even if we desire no such role or ministry, we can still strive for the  same standards.

That brings us to the end of verse one, and I hope you do not think I’m going too slowly here. These are important words which set up the entirety of the letter, and I do not want you to miss even one bit of it. Having said that, perhaps we’ll try to get through both verses two and three next time!

Thanks for reading.

Sent One (Titus 1:1)

This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. 2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. 3 And now at just the right time he has revealed this message, which we announce to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him.

Titus 1:1-3 NLT
A sign sending you the right way

In yesterday’s post – A Slave of God – we thought about Paul’s opening words in the letter of Titus. Today we continue on that same line.

Paul identifies himself not only as a slave of God, but also as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What is an apostle? There are a few different definitions actually, and the one most commonly used is to describe the group who first took the Christian message into the world. These were mainly the disciples of Christ, and of course, Paul himself. Many of them had seen the Risen Lord.

One definition I once heard is that apostle means “Sent One.” I like that, and it has always stuck with me. Hence the name of today’s post I suppose!

If Paul is indeed a “sent one,” then what has he been sent to do? The NLT translation makes it abundantly clear. He has been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen.

In many respects, all who minister in God’s Word are called to do this. Whether you write a blog, pastor a church or teach a small group, you are proclaiming faith to God’s people. A proclamation is a public announcement of some kind, and in this case, an announcement of the Good News of Jesus.

Sometimes when I sit and write a blog post, it is not easy. I read the Scripture, think about what God might want me to say and often tie myself in knots. Proclaiming faith is not complicated however, and nor should it be. It is not something that only top theologians can do, nor do you need a doctorate or ordination. I’m not against such things I hasten to add, but let us not disqualify ourselves from stating the simple truth of the Gospel to the world that desperately needs it.

If “apostle” means “sent one,” then where is God sending you? #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

I cannot gloss over the little note that Paul adds. He is proclaiming faith to those God has chosen. This touches on the theology of sovereignty, and makes us ask if it is God’s choice, does that remove our own freedom? You often hear people talk of “free will,” but you will not find that phrase in the Bible itself. While there are choices we can make, we must ask ourselves what really drives them. Without straying into philosophy here, what makes you decide to choose option A over B? If you lived a different life, experienced different things or happened to be born in another part of the world, would you still choose A over B? Hard to say…

The point is, when we are trapped in sin, we cannot choose God. As fallen and sinful creatures, there is nothing in us that wants anything of God. In order for us to be saved, He must choose us. Indeed, God did so before the foundation of the world. If we follow Christ, then we are the elect, and God has adopted us into His family. We can claim no credit for this, but instead rejoice in the truth that God did it all for us.

Is God sending you to proclaim faith to His people? That may not mean you boarding a plane and travelling to some far off land, as God’s chosen people might be just around the corner. If God sends you, then proclaim faith in your words and deeds. Do not say the words and fail to live the life.

Proclaim faith with your words and deeds. Do not preach the words and fail to live the life #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

Still more to come on Titus 1:1 another day! God bless you

A Slave of God (Titus 1:1)

This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. 2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. 3 And now at just the right time he has revealed this message, which we announce to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him.

Titus 1:1-3 NLT
Chains

Over the last couple of months, I have been thinking about the letter of Titus, and primarily focussing on the first chapter.

This letter is one of the pastoral epistles, and is written by Paul to a man named Titus. I need give you little more introduction than that, as I think the text itself is largely self-explanatory.

Paul, as is his custom, gives his name and then a brief description of himself. The first thing he says is “a slave of God.” It is all too easy to just skim over these words and move into the “meat” of the letter, yet we often miss important things if we do so.

This word “slave” is often translated as “servant” as it is more acceptable to our modern ears. Slavery, historically, was a dreadful thing and people treated as commodities in most cases. Paul is a servant indeed, but I wonder how he would feel about swapping out the word “slave” for “servant?” I suspect Paul might prefer the former. I would wager that Paul would be a glad slave of God.

If I had to be a slave, then I would gladly be the slave of our gracious God.

If I had to be a slave, then I would gladly be the slave of our gracious God. #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

As a slave, we live entirely to please our master. We surrender everything that we have, our freedoms, our privileges, our belongings, and all that we are, to the one in charge over us. To be enslaved to a sinful human master is terrifying and dreadful, but when we come under the Lordship of the unendingly good God of the Bible, there is little distinction between slavery and servanthood.

What price can be put on a human life? Slaves are purchased for but a few coins, as no amount of money can equate to the cost of a person’s freedom. God had indeed purchased us, but not in earthly currency, but in the shed blood of His Own Son – Jesus Christ.

God is without sin, and therefore neither under its curse nor liable for its penalty. He is perfect and holy. We cannot begin to fathom this, in our limited human state, tainted by sins effects. His purity exceeds ours by unimaginable degrees. I say all of this to remind us that if God is indeed that holy, then we cannot comprehend the cost of giving up His Son on our behalf. The price He paid for us is beyond reasonable, and is only explained by the magnitude of His love.

When we look at it like this, surrendering our lives to Him seems absolutely nothing in comparison. It makes me a willing slave, if that is not a contradiction.

What do slaves of God actually do? Earthly slaves prepare meals, clean house or clothes, and run errands for their master. Slaves to God are not required cook or clean, not for their Master at least, so what do they actually do?

This letter, at least in part, will help us answer that question. Paul gives instructions about what an elder or deacon should be like, and even if we are not called to such an office, we can still conduct ourselves in like manner.

Slaves of God put their Master’s needs ahead of their own #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

In conclusion, slaves of God put their Master’s  needs and wants ahead of their own. Slaves do not gossip when their Master wants them to encourage. Slaves do not steal pens from work or surf the web all day, but instead work hard to please their Master and use their pay to give to the work of the Gospel. Slaves do not watch things they shouldn’t on TV, nor should they give in to the temptation of temper, bad language, pride or selfishness. Instead, they serve the Lord with gladness, devoting themselves to prayer and Bible study, and living a life distinctly different to the rest of the world.

Do we do this perfectly? I certainly do not! And I’m humbled by my own words. If you do, then let me know your secret…

Still, we strive on, pressing towards holiness in the strength of God, and we rely on Jesus to change us one day at a time into His likeness.

Slaves have no choice, and for the Christian truly transformed by encountering Jesus, they have little choice either. We cannot comprehend the depths of the Good News without surrendering all we have and are to our wonderful Father.

More on Titus in the days to come, and hopefully we’ll get to the end of verse one! Have a blessed day!

This Sunday at Church: Pray for your church’s future guest speakers

This Sunday at Church I want to encourage you to do the following: Pray for your church’s future guest speakers. Last few years it seems its been …

This Sunday at Church: Pray for your church’s future guest speakers