A Christmas Tree Kind of Life

The wife of a friend of mine really loves Christmas. The Christmas tree goes up immediately after Halloween and stays up until late February. That’s a full one-third of the year! I like a nice Christmas tree too, but a month is enough for me.

Some people live a Christmas tree kind of life. They insist on extravagance, excess, lots of glitter and show, missing out on nothing. It’s an attempt to have the perfect life. Hardship and sacrifice don’t exist for them, for it doesn’t fit their lifestyle. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with some luxuries and comfort, but is that the point of living? Is that what Jesus died to give people?

We can learn from the mistakes of ancient Israel in Amos 4:1-3, where the wives of powerful men prodded their husbands for cash to spend on endless luxuries. They stooped to cruelty and extortion to get it. Amos warned that their spoiled and lustful ways would soon come to an end.

Is a life really worth living if it never experiences hardship, or doesn’t have to fight hard for good purposes, or is rarely kind to others? Something valuable is missing if we always insist on putting ourselves first, and always own the best.

Paul warned Timothy, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim.2:3-4). Soldiers have everyday lives too, but they’re not to become so entangled by it that they become ineffective. In this text, I don’t think Paul was simply trying to get Timothy to work hard. Suffering hardship wisely infuses life with wisdom and value. This is just as true for preachers as it is for anybody else. Life is not for selfish indulgence; sacrifice and service must play its part too.

Enjoy your Christmas tree, but don’t insist on a Christmas tree kind of life.

– Tim Johnson

Life is an Echo

The bat flies and hunts with what is called bat radar, more properly called “echolocation.” The radar signals it sends out bounce back. Jesus recorded this same idea in another way 2,000 years ago – the same principle.

Jesus said, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt.7:2). The same principle is reflected in Galatians 6:7, “A man reaps what he sows.” In Ecclesiastes 11:1, we see the principle again: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.”

Chance is not king in our world. We live on an ordered planet. God at the very beginning laid down the principle of radar in our lives. What we do comes back to us. The destroyer shall be destroyed. He who hurts others will be hurt. Etc.

Remember Jacob of old. He deceived his father and was later himself deceived. His son, Joseph, lived honourably and became ruler of Egypt.

This principle works not only in our personal lives, but also in whole congregations. Each of us should be determined not to disturb the unity of the Spirit over likes and dislikes, opinions and preferences, matters of judgment or expediency. If we sow discord, division we will get.

Remember the bat and his radar.

– David Johnson (with some extras from Tim)

Hidden Treasure

I like watching Antiques Roadshow. One episode stands out in my mind, when an old lady brought in a small, fragile-looking table. The appraiser looked it over and became very excited because the table was worth a half-million dollars! Turns out it was genuine Chippendale, the queen of all furniture. It was a great moment for antique lovers.

There’s a moment like that in the Bible. Jesus spoke of a man who found a treasure buried in a field (Matt.13:44). In those days there were no banks, and people hid their wealth in places where thieves couldn’t find it. The man was thrilled to discover this long-lost buried treasure. But he had a problem: it wasn’t his field and the owner would have all the rights to the treasure. So, the man sold everything he had and bought the field, securing the treasure. Obviously, the treasure was of much greater worth than all his possessions.

Jesus explained that the kingdom of heaven is like this man who found the treasure. When somebody looks into the Bible and understands what the kingdom is, and goes out and finds it, he has discovered a treasure. I’ve met people who discovered it by simply encountering the church, not really intending to search for spiritual treasure. People with good hearts are often thrilled to find it – and do everything possible to become part of it. It’s like selling all you have to gain something wonderful.

The New Testament tells us about another man who found the treasure of the kingdom of heaven. His name was Paul. Later, he wrote a letter to some fellow believers and declared, about the Savior, “Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Like Paul, have you found the treasure yet? And if you have, do you consider it to be of more value than all you have?

– Tim

The Day Peace Was Signed

It was 5:00 am in the cold November woods of northeast France where officials gathered in a rail car to sign the papers that ended WW1. Word immediately went out by telegram that all fighting would stop at 11:00 am. A final shot was fired from the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris at that exact moment, and peace finally reigned in Europe. The following year, after much negotiating, the more famous Treaty of Versailles was signed. The spot where the Nov.11th papers were signed has been preserved. The rail car was taken to Germany in WW2, but it was destroyed as the war came to a close. Pieces of it were kept, and a replacement placed back on that spot in the forest.

The war has often been called the bloodiest in history. About 23 million soldiers were killed and another 18 million were wounded. Canada lost 61,000 soldiers, and 172,000 came home wounded. These are mind-boggling figures. It’s no wonder that Armistice Day was proclaimed across the British Empire in 1919, originally observed on the first Monday of the Nov.11th week, combined with Thanksgiving in Canada. In 1928, the Canadian government declared Nov.11th at 11:00 am to be Remembrance Day, observed yearly. We remember all those who lost their lives, and what it took to bring peace.

God brought us peace at another cold, lonely spot in 33 ad. The sacrifice was so powerful, it never has to be offered again. “He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). It was the day peace was arranged between God and man. It has the potential to save every human being alive, if they would only turn to Him in obedient faith. Pens and treaties can be powerful, but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is decisive. No one knows the actual spot where the cross stood. Some claim pieces of it exist, but there is no proof. Unlike the monuments that help us remember war’s casualties, we have only the Word of God to tell us what He did to save us. In a way, it is more fitting and powerful.

And today, as every Sunday, we remember.

– Tim Johnson

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