While speaking in Newark, Ohio recently, the brother who led our thoughts at the Lord’s Table on Sunday morning made some points that have stuck with me. He talked about the need for us, while observing the Lord’s Supper, to “shut out the noise.” In an increasingly “noisy” world, this is an important bit of advice.
The most obvious noise comes from our digital devices and their incessant barrage. The mass of “things to know” and “things to do” is beyond comprehension. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Just life itself, whether digital or not, is complicated. No aspect of it is simple these days. And the cumulative effect of the whole thing is that our minds are rarely free from the demands placed upon us by information, activities, and relationships. To repeat, it’s a very “noisy” world that we live in.
There is no changing the way the world is, of course. The clock can’t be turned back, and it is foolish to try. So what are we to do?
One thing we can do, as the brother indicated at the Lord’s Table, is consciously “shut out the noise” when we need to. We can deliberately reject every thought except the one we wish to be thinking about, focusing our complete (and restful) attention on that single truth or principle. I don’t say this is easy, but I say it can be done. At least it can be learned. Even if our minds are not used to being disciplined, we can start training them today. Little by little, we can acquire the ability to meditate on just one thing — and really let that one thing sink in.
Learning to “shut out the noise” takes practice and training, especially if we’ve not been making any effort to do this lately. As with any skill, we learn it gradually, starting small and then learning to take bigger steps. The growth is not immediate; it is incremental. If we can quiet our minds today for only a few seconds, the day will come — if we keep working at it — when we can do it for a few seconds longer.
But here is my point: we won’t be able to “shut out the noise” at special times (like the Lord’s Supper) if we haven’t been practicing the discipline at other times. So I recommend having a “quiet time” each day, if nothing else just for the “training” effect of it. It’s an old idea, but it’s valuable.
Granted, there is nothing specifically “Christian” about this. Buddhists and Hindus have long known the value of “mindfulness” and “meditation.” Nobody owns the exclusive rights to this discipline; it is the common property of the human race. But if it has been a tool that people in general have found helpful in their various pursuits, how much more valuable would it be for a Christian to use in pursuit of the highest of all goals. If tools take their character from those who use them and from the use to which they are put, the practice of “shutting out the noise” can be an honorable tool when used to bring us quietly before God’s throne for a few moments of rest and reflection each day.
Gary Henry – WordPoints.com
Last year, I came home from a preaching trip and ran into my apartment manager on the sidewalk as I was unloading my car. “Good to have you back,” she said. “I guess you’ve been out motivating the tribe?” She winked as she said that. Secular-minded and dubious about the whole idea of religion, she was saying something like this: “Gary, you’re not likely to convince anybody in the public that your message is true, so you’ve found a way to make a living just ‘motivating the tribe’ — preaching to those who already agree with you.”
This person was a friend, and her good-natured tease was not meant to offend. But it hit home. Sadly, many of us who “preach” spend little time doing anything that resembles evangelism. In a culture where it is increasingly hard to find unbelievers who will listen, it is tempting to throw up our hands and quit. What worries me, however, is that our conscience is not even bothering us much anymore. We’re comfortable being the congregation’s “minister.” The gig we aspire to would be a nice mix of pulpiteer/pastor/program director.
Unfortunately, our problem is exacerbated by the narrow partisanship in the world today, a world where people no longer talk to anybody except their tribe. In the “news” and “social media”, we no longer feel any need to interact with people who don’t agree with us. We may say nasty things about them behind their back, but we see no need to communicate with — much less persuade — them. They simply don’t count. If they don’t agree with us, they can be ignored.
In this kind of environment, our own tribe seems a very safe circle to stay inside of. It’s easy to settle for nothing more than intramural (“inside the walls”) activities. But I believe we must resist this temptation. (1) We need to keep trying to find people to study the gospel with. (2) We need to learn some “languages” different than our own (and not just linguistically but culturally). (3) We need to improve our listening skills, being genuinely willing to learn as well as to teach. (4) We need to persevere and be patient. (5) We need to preach the word of God “even if it isn’t the popular thing to do” (2 Timothy 4:2 CEV).
Evangelism must remain a high priority with us. No matter how difficult it is, we must keep trying to communicate with those around us. We must get out of our comfort zones. The Lord is not going to be pleased if we simply give up, retreat to the safety of our church buildings, and settle into a routine of doing nothing more than “motivating the tribe.” The tribe certainly needs to be motivated, and that is a part of our work, but the Lord expects us to do more than encourage one another. The world around us is like a building that is burning to the ground. Do we not care enough to try to rescue some of those who are dying? If the roles were reversed, what would we want them to do?
Gary Henry – WordPoints.com
Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? (Amos 3:3)
Unity is very important in a relationship. In the marriage relationship a husband and wife are to be one flesh (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-6). Can you imagine your body working without unity among its parts? It is described as an “intricate unity” in Job 10:8. Can you imagine deity without unity? We are told to “keep the unity of the Spirit” (Eph 4:3). There is one God, one Lord, one Spirit, one body, one hope, one faith, and one baptism (Eph 4:4-6). The religious world is divided. We are not agreed. There are many bodies, many faiths, and many baptisms in the divided religious world. Paul pleaded that we all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you (1 Cor 1:10). Is Christ divided (1 Cor 1:13)? If God dwells in us, and Christ dwells in us, and the Spirit dwells in us, are they telling us different things (Rom 8:9-11)? Let the word of Christ dwell in you (Col 3:16). Speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet 4:11). That is how unity is achieved. In my prayers for the church I ask God for peace, unity, and growth. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps 133:1).
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Rev 22:18-19).
Man cannot add to or take away from God’s words and please Him. Moses said it this way, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, not take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you (Deut 4:2). Jeroboam changed God’s words regarding where to worship, who were to be priests, and the month of the feast. He sinned and led Israel away from God. We must carefully follow God’s word (1 Tim 4:6; 2 Tim 3:10). We must speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet 4:11).
Many Things are True in Two Senses
In Bible classes, it is common to hear people speak out in defense of two separate, but equally true, positions. For instance, I heard a brother recently emphasize our need to see eternal life as a present possession (1 John 5:13), and another brother responded that we have the hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2). Both of these are true; they simply present life in Christ from two different perspectives.
When we read the Scriptures, it becomes clear that some passages talk about the “already” part of life in Christ and others talk about the “not yet.” These passages are not in conflict. Both are needed, and if we quit thinking about either of these perspectives, our faith becomes unbalanced and ineffective. Consider three examples.
Salvation. The Christian’s salvation is a present reality. “By grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). But we are also in the process of being saved. Peter wrote, “You believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8,9).
Kingdom of God. God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13), but we have not yet gained “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). So the Scriptures speak of God’s kingdom as both a present reality and also a future hope.
Holiness. In Christ, we are “saints” or “holy ones,” and we are “holy brothers” (Hebrews 3:1). Together, the Lord’s people constitute a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). But holiness is also a goal. Paul urges us to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Each of these points should remind us that our salvation in Christ is both an accomplished fact and also a growth process. Generally speaking, the present aspect of our salvation provides a “sedative,” and the future aspect serves as a “stimulant.” When we’re discouraged, we need to hear that our salvation has been accomplished by Christ so that we can rest securely in His grace. But when we’re lackadaisical, we need to hear that it is only the penitent and the diligent who are going to finish the race. Every Christian needs both truths. This morning we may need a “sedative,” but by this afternoon we’ll very likely need a “stimulant.”
The multi-dimensioned nature of truth is one reason we need to study all of the Bible. It is only by exposing our minds to every page of the Scriptures that we can avoid over-emphasizing one part of the truth at the expense of others. And mark it well: the more you think one perspective is “what we really need to hear right now,” the more you probably need to pay attention to the remainder of the Scriptures. The parts you don’t like to hear are often the parts you need the most.
Gary Henry – WordPoints.com
Therefore, since you have been raised with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.…
“How To Be Transformed” – Short posts sharing inspirational scriptures on motivating the Christian to make daily progress putting on the mind of Christ