Security and Care

People everywhere are working hard to build security. Young families long to own a home. School graduates search for good jobs. Broken homes scramble to find their footing again. The poor try to make ends meet. Even the rich worry about the future.

Notice what Jesus said one day when he described his followers as sheep: “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:29)

Security is more than owning a house or money in your pocket. Too many non-material things can knock our lives down – like illness, cruelty, loneliness, lack of opportunities, and plain bad luck. God wants to give us a type of security that can withstand even these.

In our scripture about the sheep, two great things stand out. The first is that God gave His sheep to Jesus. After saving people from their sins and failures, He hands them over to His Son for safekeeping and care. It’s like the owner of the flock arranging the best care possible. Not just anybody will do; God wants the best shepherd for his sheep, and we get that in Jesus.

The second thing we can draw from our verse is that God Himself protects us from those who would “snatch them out of His hand.” Shepherds go to battle for their sheep when any danger arises. We have the best security possible in life because God does that for us. Of course, we have responsibilities too if this is going to work (verse 27): “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

All of us want security in life and to experience the care we need to thrive. Are you looking for it in the right place?

– Tim Johnson

Summer Fun

It seems that our heavy rains have receded and summer weather has finally arrived. We are cooped up for much of the winter and spring, but now we can go places unhindered. For Christians, we’re not simply anxious to get on the road and enjoy a vacation. We are also on the lookout for opportunities to strengthen the kingdom and encourage our brothers and sisters. Summer brings unique opportunities.

We’re told in Gal.6:10, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” What kind of opportunities do we have right now? How can we do good to the household of faith?

For one thing, it’s easier to have people over this time of year. Some of the best memories I have with the brethren are barbeques in the back yard and picnics in the park. The Moncton church used to have several summer picnics in a city park. We’d bring portable barbeques to cook on, badminton rackets and baseball gloves, and played with the kids on the playground equipment. It was a great time, and an opportunity for Christians to invite non-Christian relatives. Short of a huge church picnic, you can have somebody over – maybe a Christian family that doesn’t get to do very many special things.

Camp Omagh is gearing up for another season. Several people from Barrie are planning to serve as counselors. The camp has asked our congregation to send homemade cookies for the kids. They’ve also invited us to attend their yearly outdoor sing-song on July 31st – always an uplifting event.

The Collingwood church is having another sing-song on Sunday evening, August 7th. You can get there in less than an hour and the fellowship is great.

Summer sometimes presents us with temptations. A good way to fight them is to spend time with your brethren. In Ephesians 5:15-16 we read, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Summer gives us special opportunities to make the most of your time.

How will you encourage the brethren in the good old summertime?

 

– Tim Johnson

Attention Grabbers

Young Rehoboam had lived a privileged life. His father, Solomon, was the richest king in the world at that time. Rehoboam grew up with fun and wealth. Then, upon his father’s death, he was handed the coveted throne. Quickly consulting with wise elders for advice about ruling, he preferred to hear younger, more modern counselors. He chose the wrong advice, and a once-blessed kingdom began to unravel. Rehoboam’s real problem was distraction, causing him to have a hard time hearing wise elders, and even God.

The whole country had a similar problem. Years later, when Jeremiah was sent by God, they couldn’t listen. They were distracted by pleasure, pride, crime, and violence. Jeremiah cried out, “Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them. Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did evil more than their fathers.” (Jer.7:24)

Canadians have become a distracted people, unable to concentrate for long on any one thing. Facebook dings away at us, news feeds on our devices demand our attention, messages draw us in, and radio ads scream information all day long. Even our cars present us with attention-demanding gadgets offering all sorts of data. It’s hard to take it all in, and we skim over everything and move on to the next thing that jumps out at us. Got some time? What can I fill it with?

Don’t you think God wants our concentration sometimes? He wants us to focus on prayer, some reasonable study time, and to do the work of giving people our attention on Sundays and Wednesdays. All good preachers know they are often boring, but they appreciate people who give them concentrated attention when they stand and speak God’s word.

Distraction eventually killed Rehoboam. It caused Israel to become a disappointment to God. It frustrated the prophets. Even though all sorts of modern things demand our time, we can do better. God deserves it, and so do His people. Are you listening?

– Tim Johnson

Unappreciated?

A discouraged church secretary once said, “I’ve had enough of this; nobody notices all my hard work!” What one of us can’t sympathize with her? Hard work often goes unappreciated, and people are convinced they should stop doing it.

In one of the apostle Paul’s great passages about the judgment, he said we must be patient in the way we serve God. “To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” (Rom.2:7) While we are saved by the sacrifice of Jesus, no man can enter heaven without a life of service, seeking to please God by his way of life. And that service must be “persistent” (NIV), done with “perseverance” (NASV), also described as “patient continuance in doing good” (NKJV).

We are easily discouraged. Some think their efforts should be praised by all, but are often ignored by all. Others encounter criticism for a job done well, or callous suggestions it could be done better another way. Many simply grow weary, feeling unacknowledged. Most congregations have children’s teachers who do their work every Sunday without notice; elders who grapple patiently with difficult situations with little praise; and maintenance people who selflessly pick up after everyone goes home. Few notice them.

Who are we trying to impress? Are we seeking honour from those around us? Are we being “selfishly ambitious” (v8) in what we do? Is human glory the thing we seek? Must we plaster our good works on Facebook? The apostle tells us God is pleased with people who seek the glory and honour from HIM, when He judges us on the last day. To be motivated by this allows us to work patiently, not expecting attention or praise, for we know that will come later.

When nobody seems to notice your patient good works, God notices. When no one seems to care for your sacrifices, God cares. When you’re worn out by service and everyone else seems to have a good night’s sleep, God sees your persistence. Serve to please Him, and the glory He will give you later.

And thank somebody today for the thankless things they do.

– Tim Johnson

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Galatians 6:10 says, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.” Writers have said many practical things about human behaviour. The following are a few of them:

If we wait until we feel like doing something – spending time with family, cleaning the garage, visiting a friend in the hospital (or calling your parent on Mother’s Day – Tim) – chances are we will wait a long time.

It is helpful that to learn to act ourselves into a better way of feeling, rather than to feel ourselves into a better way of acting. In other words, we have to act better than we feel.

The point is, we shouldn’t wait until we feel like doing something good. Those who don’t feel like it do most of the good in the world. Said one writer, “Be sure that behaviour will ultimately change our feelings.”

We should not waste time bothering whether or not we love our neighbour – act as if we do. As soon as we do this, we will find one of the greatest secrets: When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him or her.

– David Johnson, with revisions from Tim