Change

Around our house, we consider November to be one of the most difficult months of the year. It’s dark, cold and the beginning of winter weather. But the 11th month is also a time of change. Daylight savings time ends, and regular time begins. Baseball season stops, replaced by hockey and basketball. Summer flowers give up the ghost and the snow arrives.

Most of us are uncomfortable with change. We reluctantly face the new when the old was just fine. Change demands action, readjustments and new strategies. We have to be patient with change because, most of the time, it can’t be stopped. We just must accept it. An aging friend suffered a stroke and was forced to move into a nursing home. Having lost much of her independence, she faced living in a small room with someone she didn’t know. She said, “It’s not so bad. You just have to accept it.” What a great attitude about a difficult change in life.

King David lived through many big changes and wrote the book of Psalms to tell us about them. He went from a humble shepherd to a national hero, then became an enemy of the state. Soon he became the king, admired by all, but then despised for his failures. His throne was strong, but he lost it to his son – only to be ushered back to power again. In many Psalms he cries out for God’s steady hand during all the madness.

One of his favourite descriptions of God is the Rock. “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge” (Ps.18:2). In his youth as a shepherd, huge rocks served as protection from storms and wind – a place of refuge. In a wider sense, God Himself served as a refuge during the changes of life.

Change may not be fun. Sometimes it’s good for us. Often, it’s very hard. But the Rock still stands as a refuge for you.

And November? We can handle it.

– Tim Johnson

And His Sleep Left Him

A woman complained on Facebook that her life seemed backwards; she got up in the morning tired and went to bed at night wide awake. Does that sound familiar? How many times have you been robbed of a good night’s sleep because you just can’t shut your mind down?

The Bible tells us that king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a hard time getting some rest. He remained awake at night, and when he did manage to go to sleep his dreams disturbed him. He “had dreams and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him.” (Daniel 2:1) He complained a few years later, “I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.” (Dan.4:4-5)

Lots of things can affect sleep: pain and medical conditions, personal tragedies, or even too much coffee. It seems Nebuchadnezzar’s problem was that he didn’t know God and all the worries of his kingdom weighed on him. He was proud and arrogant. People like that think everything depends on them. No wonder they can’t sleep!

But if you believe in God and His care, sleep is much more peaceful. Half the things we worry about never really happen, and the other half can simply be handed over to God and his wisdom. David – another busy king – said, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8).

Before you lie down at night take time to pray to God and tell Him, “Here, Lord, I hand all my worries over to you for the night.” Then tell your brain that it has no need to think about them. Oh, and make sure you thank God for accepting your worries.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Are you sleeping well?

– Tim Johnson

How am I Going to Handle That?!!

The Bible tells us about two craftsmen named Bezalel and Oholiab, Israelites given the work of creating finely-made furniture and utensils for use in the brand-new Old Testament tabernacle. What an honor to design and build things for the nation’s first structure in which God would meet with His people. If it were me, I’d be worried that my work would not be good enough building such precious items to be used for centuries. But these two men didn’t have to rely totally on their own ingenuity. God “filled them with the Spirit in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship.” (Exodus 31:1-11) Perhaps they had been trained in Egypt as craftsmen, which would be an asset. Nevertheless, they turned to God for help and insight. They succeeded.

Sometimes we are faced with tasks that seem too big for us, and we wonder if we can muster the skills we need to do them well. God may not give you special abilities from the Holy Spirit in the same way He did for these two men, but we can turn to Him for help and wisdom. In this way we can become adequate.

Later in the Bible, the apostle Paul spoke of this in regard to preaching. “And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-5) Some men may earn impressive degrees to hang on their walls, and others may boast of great accomplishments in far-flung places, but they may not really be adequate in service to God. Degrees and experience may help, but real adequacy comes when someone humbly turns to God for help and wisdom. This is the secret of confidence and skill in the kingdom.

Got big things to tackle? Take a lesson from Bezalel and Oholiab.

– Tim Johnson

A Time for Thankfulness

Canada’s yearly day of Thanksgiving is again upon us. Historically the holiday was only formalized in 1957, declared to be celebrated on the second Monday of October. In the 1920’s it was temporarily celebrated in connection with Remembrance Day in November, expressing thankfulness for peace. Its origins go back as far as early European explorers who probed the northern part of our continent, thankful for safety during the risks they took. Later during the American revolution, United Empire Loyalists brought us the customs of pumpkins, squash, and turkey.

Biblically there is no command for Christians to celebrate a religious feast of thanksgiving, so we don’t practice it as a church. But nobody can deny it is a good thing to do privately and as families. It’s interesting to read of the great Jewish feasts of the Old Testament, such as Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Booths (harvest) – all times of national thanksgiving for God’s blessings. These Old Testament practices don’t direct us to do the same in the New Testament age, but they teach us the importance of being thankful.

Paul urged the Colossian Christians to be “overflowing with gratitude.” (Col.2:7). When we sing together we are “singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (3:16). Even prayer is to be offered “with an attitude of thanksgiving.” (4:2). These are things we do every Sunday, every week, and some of them every day. Thankfulness keeps us connected with God’s goodness, and reminds us that everything depends upon Him. Do that this weekend, and every day afterward.

– Tim Johnson

More Desirable Than Gold

CS Lewis, the famous British author and broadcaster of the 1950’s, once called Psalm 19 “the greatest poem in the Psalms and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” In it, David declares that nature reveals only partial answers about God, but His word reveals the rest. He said that God’s judgments in His word “are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold” (v10).

I did a little research about the desirability of gold. The largest owners of gold bullion in the world are governments. This is because gold has traditionally served as a source of security when there are upheavals in the world. In the 1960’s, Canada used to own about 1000 tonnes of the stuff, but has since sold off most of it. The Royal Canadian Mint has created quite an impressive business designing and manufacturing gold coins for the world’s governments. The United States has 8,133 tonnes, worth roughly $300 billion dollars. The top ten gold-owning nations in the world store about $804 billion! Apparently, that’s only about 15% of all the gold ever mined to date, which includes the ring on your finger.

David, being the greatest Old Testament Israelite king, must have owned quite a bit of gold. But he considered the word of God and its wisdom to be more desirable than owning large quantities of it. That’s a marvelous comparison that rings true in our materialistic country. It’s far better to learn God’s word than it is to have a pile of gold! The latter might be impressive, but the former will bless your life and give you great happiness and salvation. David, in verses 7-11, actually gives us eight blessings that the word of God can give us. Have a look, and marvel at what he says.

Oh yes, CS Lewis was right.

– Tim Johnson