Interference and Choices

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This week I was listening—or trying to listen—to one of my favorites, the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. Evidently, however, the power lines nearby created enough interference that another station began to override what I wanted to hear. It was so annoying that I turned it off.

Life can be like that. The mundane so often pre-empts the sublime. The mediocre, if we let it, prevails over the excellent.

While there wasn’t much I could do about the radio interference, what can we do to keep our focus on what matters most?

Life: a series of choices

Once we make up our minds to obey Christ, then we must subject even our thinking to His Lordship. “Finally then, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

This implies that whatever is not true, honorable, right, pure, etc. is off-limits for us.

God made our wonderful minds. The greatest commandment, Jesus said, is to love the Lord with all our heart/soul/mind” (Matthew 22:37).

So what will we choose?

Since so much of what we think about is affected for good or bad by what we see and hear, then how will this affect our choices regarding entertainment, computer use, reading, friendships, etc.?

It is both naïve and foolish to think we can watch and listen to garbage and not be affected by it (1 Corinthians 10:12; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17).

“Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).

How Satan works to persuade us that good and evil are the opposite of what God says (Genesis 3:1-6; Isaiah 5:20).

Satan is the ultimate source of interference. With God, the signal is clear.

Hallelujah!

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Angels: Who Are They?

Powerful beings

Probably more is said and sung about angels in the month of December than any other time of year. Numerous books have been written about these celestial beings. Each book must be judged on its own merits and carefully compared with the Scriptures.

In spite of how Clarence the angel is depicted in the popular classic It’s a Wonderful Life, angels are not the spirits of the dead striving to “earn their wings.”

We know the names of only two angels in the Bible: Gabriel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:8-38) and the archangel Michael (Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7).

But of course the Bible speaks of countless unnamed angels, including the passage which refers to the number of angels around God’s throne as “myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11).

“Bless the LORD, you His angels, mighty in strength who perform His word, obeying the voice of His word!” (Psalm 103:20-21).

In the Bible angels delivered messages from God—in fact, the word angel means messenger. They also powerfully wage war against the forces of evil, and they serve God’s people.

“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).

But not divine

But the same chapter makes it very clear: Jesus the Son of God is far superior to angels. It is sinful to worship angels (Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9).

While angelology can be a profitable study, we must never lose our focus on the One whom the angels serve.

Angels have a highly important place, but it was Jesus whom “God highly exalted . . . and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Spared from Death

Connections

Two incidents, one from the Old Testament and one from the New, point in the same direction.

The first occurred when God instructed Israel to take the blood of a lamb and put it on their doorposts.

“The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13).

Many centuries later John the apostle described what he witnessed at the cross. “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe” (John 19:34-35).

God witnessed the blood of a lamb on the door. John witnessed the blood of “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Comparisons and contrasts

The blood of the Passover lamb spared the Israelites from physical death. We are spared a doom far worse than the death if we apply the blood of “Christ our Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

The first blood pointed to the second. The lesser was a sign of the greater.

In homes without the blood, there was death. In hearts without the blood of Christ, there is spiritual death.

For Israel, applying the blood was an act of faith and obedience. We too exercise faith and obedience when the blood of Christ cleanses us in baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12-13).

God made a way for Israel to be spared that awful night when death came calling.

God has made a way for us to be spared on the awesome Day when His wrath is poured out on the disobedient.

It’s the blood that makes the difference.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Beginning

The day the New Covenant message was first proclaimed

Acts chapter 2 is undoubtedly one of the great mountain peaks of Scripture. What occurs in Acts 2 would have never been possible if everything had depended on human ability alone.

Peter says, “Men of Israel, listen to these words . . .” (v. 22). The words he then speaks were not his own. They are Christ’s words, imparted by the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26; 16:12-13; 17:8, 18, 20).

As F. F. Bruce has written, “The apostolic teaching was authoritative because it was the teaching of the Lord communicated through the apostles. In due course this apostolic teaching took written shape in the New Testament scriptures” (Commentary on the Book of Acts, 79).

The day true grace was offered

Convicted by Peter’s words, the people cry out, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Imagine if Peter had replied, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing you can do. God will never forgive you for killing His Son. There’s no hope for you. You are eternally doomed!”

Instead Peter said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (vv. 37-38).

Now that’s good news! So it is possible to be reconciled to God.

The day the church was born

“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (v. 41).

The next verse tells us, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

The apostles’ teaching (which was really the Lord’s teaching through the apostles) served as their common standard. The first church all believed and practiced the same thing. There was but one church—denominations had not yet come into being.

Here then is basis for true unity today, a unity based on divinely revealed truth, rather than on human traditions.

Years later, Peter referred to this remarkable day as “the beginning” (Acts 11:15).

If we believe what they believed, and if we do what they did, then we will be what they were—disciples of Jesus Christ, members of His one body.

Nothing more, nothing less.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Future: How to Prepare

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The perspective of age

I’ve been a senior three times in my life: a high school senior, a senior in college, and now in the senior stage of life.

A congregation provided visitors with a card that requested the usual contact information, and also a place to indicate the visitors’ age categories: child, Jr. High, Sr. High, 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50+.

Many of us are in that 50+ slot—and have been for quite some time. How should we feel about it?

First, aren’t we grateful that God has allowed us to live this long? So many obituaries I see in the paper are for those who were far younger than I.

Second, don’t we feel an increasing sense of the preciousness of the time remaining? It’s true that the 50+ category may last longer than any of the other age brackets, but we don’t know that it will.

“As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

“. . . you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

Soon it is gone, wrote the Psalmist. Just a vapor, says James.

We speak of longevity, but never shortevity. Perhaps we should.

And third, doesn’t it make good sense to make diligent preparation NOW for what lies beyond? “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

The two stages

The future can be divided into two parts:

Future: Part I is whatever time remains for us in this world.

Future: Part II is eternity.

When we die, Part II begins. Part I is temporary. Part II is forever.

Part II is dependent on Part I. How we spend the first part determines how we spend the second (Romans 2:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:10). We have a choice.

Satan seeks to distract us with the “worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). God calls us to raise our sights and make wise choices (Colossians 3:1-2).

“The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

What does it mean to do God’s will?

It means trusting and obeying the Son He sent to be our Savior (John 8:24; 11:25-26; Hebrews 5:8-9).

It means turning from doing our own will to doing His (Acts 17:30-31).

It means being united with Christ in baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galatians 3:27).

It means remaining faithful to the end (Hebrews 3:6. 14; 10:35-39; 12:1-3).

“. . . so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2).

“. . . the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Two Thomases

Last Tuesday evening I heard C. L. Thomas speak. Thomas is an apologist—someone who provides a reasoned defense for faith.

His topic was “What is Significant about the Christian Worldview?”

It was obvious he had done his homework. He gave compelling reasons why the worldview espoused by Christians best fits reality.

His presentation was anything but a dry recitation of evidence. He was obviously passionate about his message, and it clearly resonated with his audience of mostly university students.

Convinced by the evidence

I’m reminded of another Thomas, the apostle who was absent the evening Jesus appeared to His disciples after rising from the dead.

Later, when the other ten apostles told Thomas they had seen Jesus alive, he refused to believe it.

One week later Jesus appeared once again, and this time Thomas was present.

When Jesus invited him to touch the scars in his hands and side, Thomas could only exclaim, “My Lord and my God!”

He, along with the other apostles, became lifelong apologists for the risen Christ. They all were threatened by the authorities for preaching the resurrected Christ. They were imprisoned, they were beaten, and many of them paid for their testimony with their blood.

The evidence still stands

Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).

No, we didn’t see what they saw, but because of their powerful eyewitness testimony, recorded in Scripture, we can believe exactly what they did—“that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing . . . have life in His name” (John 20: 30-31).

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Thoughts from a Railroad Crossing

Fulfilling Our Purpose

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Years ago I was waiting at a railroad crossing on Wellington Street in Greenville. How long the train was I couldn’t tell, but it would go east for a while, then west. Back and forth. Back and forth. Over and over. Over and over.

Finally three Kansas City Southern locomotives came into view. They were pushing the train, and it looked like my wait was about to end.

Nope. They stopped, then back and forth some more. I strongly suspect a switchman somewhere was making up a train. I could have turned around anytime I wanted but decided to stay awhile and observe. (It’s a good thing I did, because it provided the thoughts for this post!)

From where I sat all I could see were a few cars at a time. If I could have had a bird’s-eye view of the entire string of cars, it would be clearer…

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