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

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

When it’s Time to Fly

This week will see significant changes in many families. Children will start new grades in school, university students will leave home and settle into dorms, and graduates will look hard for jobs that may take them to new places. Parents, who know full well the difficulties of the world, long for the days when their children were safe at home. But would that be the best for them now?

When Jacob left home, he learned that the world was not there to serve him. His selfish ways brought him much hardship. He couldn’t even have his way with his choice in a wife. He learned quickly to become disciplined, skilled, and to trust in God, not just himself or his family connections. Gen.27-33.

Joseph was torn from his family as a teenager and thrust into the cruel world of slavery in a foreign country. What hurt most was that his own brothers were at fault. But despite difficult employers, hard labour, and time in jail, he learned to use his wits and trust God’s overall plan. Would he have become the trusted second-in-command over all of Egypt if he had remained at home? Gen.37-41.

David showed great courage as a young man, but only reached his stride when king Saul drafted him into the army. There he made new friends (Jonathan), fought and won personal battles, learned to survive, and eventually became a powerful leader, eventually replacing Saul. His parents trained him, but his independence matured him.

I suspect that even Jesus gained great confidence at 12 years old from his experience with the Jewish teachers in the temple, alone (Luke 2:45-49). His famous statement to his fretting parents teaches us all: “Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Good homes guide young people as they find their footing for their upcoming independent lives. But eventually we must let our children grow to adults and fly from the nest. Having done your work, they will thrive. Their faith will guide them.

– Tim Johnson

Robots and the Human Brain

Recently a hotel in Japan opened up with robots for its staff. Guest still have to register using an in-house computer, but the check-in robot lady talks to people about when breakfast will be served, and other details. A cart-like robot takes suitcases up to rooms, and a coat-room robot stores people’s garments. The hotel is a novelty, but its owners are genuinely trying to save money by not having to hire human staff. While the whole concept is amazing, the abilities of robots still don’t match what a human being can do.

Here are seven facts about the human brain as designed by God:

1. No one knows for sure, but the latest estimate is that our brains contain roughly 86 billion brain cells.

2. More than 100,000 chemical reactions take place in your brain every second.

3. Brain information moves anywhere between 1 mph and an impressive 268 miles per hour. This is faster than Formula 1 race cars which top out at 240 mph.

4. The brain produces as many as 12,000 to 50,000 thoughts per day, depending on how deep a thinker a person is.

5. Babies have big heads to hold rapidly growing brains. A 2-year-old’s brain is 80% of adult size.

6. Your brain’s storage capacity is considered virtually unlimited. It doesn’t get “used up” like memory in your computer.

7. Best of all, a human brain is free. One comes with each baby at birth.

While man has been able to invent some amazing robots, they depend on a costly army of designers, maintenance people, parts, and programmers. The human brain speaks eloquently of the greatness of God.

David expressed it very well in Psalm 139:14, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.”

– Tim Johnson

To Search and Know

A new computer has introduced me to the world of cloud computing. It used to be that you had to store all your files on your physical computer, or at least backed up by some sort of gizmo you could buy. But now you can send all your files over the Internet to vast storage places operated by different companies that reserve some space for you. You can add to it any time you like, and later search for what you need to finish projects. It’s like sending information into a hovering cloud in the sky that guards it, only releasing it when you give it permission. Much of the knowledge of the world is now stored in virtual clouds. It’s amazing and very convenient.

The ability of God to know everything about us is also amazing. He doesn’t have to retrieve files from a cloud to check up on us, nor does he need special permission to find ways to help us when we need it. God is omniscient, possessing a full array of knowledge about all things at all times.

David expressed this in Psalm 139. “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it.”

David’s words are not meant to frighten us. He is merely praising God for who He is and how He cares for us. “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them” (v17).

– Tim Johnson