A New Competition

We live in a very competitive world. We try to outdo one another, get ahead of each other, and try to carve out attention for ourselves and our opinions. People are often put down or ignored in the quest to come out on top. Competition can be a healthy thing, but not in relationships.

Paul said, “…and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph.5:21). After living a life of getting his own way, this apostle bowed to the Lord on the Damascus road (Acts 9) and subjected himself to his fellow apostles (Galatians 2). It saved his soul and ushered him into the encouraging fellowship of the church.

Jacob subjected himself to his brother, Esau, after two decades of estrangement and grudges; it restored a difficult family. Joshua subjected himself to Moses and eventually took his place. David subjected himself to the prophet Nathan, repenting of disturbing sins and getting his life back on track. Subjection is not a sign of weakness, it’s humility solving problems.

It has a lot to do with honouring each other. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honour” (Rom.12:10). A footnote says, “outdo one another in showing honour.” This speaks of the care and regard we are to have towards each other. We extend it to each other in the fear of Christ. If Jesus honoured us by giving His life, we ought to honour each other.

Jesus turns competition up-side-down. Instead of competing for prominence, we outdo one another in showing honour.

Who have you honoured today?

– Tim Johnson

The Greatest Show on Earth

Some say Jesus was tried and executed on the cross about this time of year, and there is some evidence this may be true. Tradition also implies that roughly three years before, Jesus began His ministry in Galilee about this time of year. No one really knows for sure.

Mark records the stunning way Jesus burst upon the scene in Galilee. The first three chapters of his book do not describe a gradual increase of His influence. Once His miracles started, great crowds of people from all over the area rushed to see what He was doing and to hear His remarkable teachings. They crammed the streets and lanes of Capernaum around the house where He was staying. “And the whole city had gathered at the door” (1:33). When He left for a few hours of prayer, people tried to find Him. “Everyone is looking for you” (1:37). The crowds became so large, the cities couldn’t contain them. “…Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere” (1:45).

Skeptics point out that popular figures throughout history have also created similar crowds, which does not prove they were reliable or truthful. Who’s to say Jesus was not just fooling gullible fans? Consider the following:

  • His miracles came in great varieties.
  • No one was beyond His help.
  • Everyone was welcome to watch what He did, over and over.
  • Most were done in broad daylight, and many at night.
  • Critics were unable to derail Him.
  • Everything He did was free.

Jesus wasn’t just performing a show to entertain the crowds. He was a principled teacher; all was based on truth. “All the multitude were coming to Him, and He was teaching them” (2:13). His main concern was the salvation of people everywhere. “Let us go somewhere else…in order that I man preach there also; for that is what I came out for” (1:38). He was “moved with compassion” (1:41).

Jesus was not a popular showman and fraud. He was the divine Son of God, the truth itself. His miracles proved it. Let Mark convince you. “We have never seen anything like this” (2:12).

Listen to Him, and follow.

– Tim Johnson

The Marvel of Grace

Often, before a meal-time prayer, we hear someone announce, “Let us say grace.” I’m not sure when such prayers began to be called grace, but it is a commonly-accepted practice today. In prayer we ask for God to give us His grace, so the prayer itself likely adopted the name. But there’s more to grace than human prayers.

God’s nature is that of grace. He is a gracious God. He is a grace-giving God. God is love. His grace brings salvation to all men and women of the world, hoping they will consider it.

Grace is a wonderful word. It means the free, unmerited favor of God. Grace is free but not cheap. It is the costliest gift ever offered.

Grace cost the Son of God his life. He, the friend of sinners, came into the world to make an infinite sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Potentially, His grace extends from the first human being to the last one that will ever live.

Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He was born to be crucified. He suffered our death that we might receive His life. He bore our sins that we might become righteous. He became poor that we might have His riches.

D.L. Moody said about the grace of God, “Grace isn’t a little prayer that you chant before receiving a meal. It is a way to live. The law tells me how crooked I am. Grace comes along and straightens me out.”

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18

– Tim and David Johnson

Day of Reckoning

We’ve all been shocked and surprised by the downfall of many politicians and people in the entertainment industry due to poor morals, bullying, or bad behavior prompted by alcohol. Their victims have been harmed physically and emotionally, and many of them have courageously said, “enough!” For many offenders, the courts will pass judgment.

Some people may cynically point out that for every person caught many more escape justice. While this is unfortunately true, there is a day coming when every guilty person will be dealt with. No one will escape. Even criminals who have carefully left a cold trail that no one has yet been able to follow to apprehend them will face justice.

The Bible calls it the day of judgment. God assures us that “He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). That man, of course, is Jesus Christ. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Here’s what we know about it:

· It will happen at the end of the world.

· No human calendar reveals the date.

· It will completely surprise people.

· All judgments will be righteous and fair.

· All judgments will be final.

While all men should be aware of the Day of Judgment and let it temper their behavior, God has provided a way to be delivered from its fury. We are to “wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Have you taken steps to ensure you will do well when that day comes?

– Tim Johnson

The Grinch

One of the most amusing characters this time of year is the Grinch, who despises Christmas and has a generally negative personality. People like him have been around for a long time.

Such a man was encountered by Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13 when they took the gospel to Cyprus and the household of the Roman Governor. In his employ was a magician named, ironically, Bar-Jesus (meaning the son of someone named Jesus), aka Elymas. When Paul tried to teach the gospel to the governor, Elymas kicked up an awful fuss and tried to “turn the proconsul away from the faith” (v8). He was a first-class Grinch. Paul said to him, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?” (v9) That’s quite an indictment against this troublesome man.

How many times have people tried to turn others away from the good news of Jesus Christ? Or made crooked the straight ways of the Lord? We often see modern-day versions of Elymas, who do all they can to discourage others.

Sometimes we can have a Grinch-attitude by criticizing good things that may simply be new, different, inconvenient, or something that threatens the status-quo. I’m not talking about matters that are rebellious or un-Biblical, which are rightly rejected. But good and righteous things are sometimes criticized just because we don’t like to consider change.

The New Testament urges us to be positive, kind, open to that which is good, Biblical and helpful. “Encourage one another day after day” (Heb.3:13). “Encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thess.5:11). Faith has an open attitude to God and the brethren. “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col.3:12).

Let’s make sure the Grinch is just a fairy-tale, not a reality within us.

– Tim Johnson