I leaned how to swim when I was in elementary school. Buses would pull up and load several classes and off we’d go to a hotel swimming pool for the morning. A loud instructor would teach us how to keep afloat by kicking our feet and using our arms. Eventually we got the hang of it and swam across the pool. We learned not to be afraid of water. Swimming skills have stuck with me throughout life. With water all around us in Canada, it’s good to know how to swim. I tried to pass these skills along to my sons, all of whom can swim, and they seem to be acquainting my grandchildren with water safety too.

As we go through life it’s not unlike swimming. Sometimes the water is smooth and it’s easy to move through it. But other times it gets rough and dangerous. God warns us in the scriptures that sin and temptation lurks everywhere, trying to pull us down. We must learn how to deal with it, how to keep from drowning. Mary Baker’s 1974 hymn says it well, “Torrents of sin and of anguish sweep o’er my sinking soul! And I perish, I perish, dear Master; O hasten and take control.” Sink or swim?

The Hebrew writer recommended fellowship, encouragement and attention given to the word of God as a defense. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called today, lest anyone of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb.4:13) Learning the habit of regular fellowship at meeting times is much like learning to swim – it can save your life if you keep it up. We must learn to look forward to the classes and assemblies provided for us and treat them with respect and reverence. They train us for the rough times that inevitably come into our lives.

Like teaching our children to swim, we need to teach them the skills of spiritual survival too. Learning the habits of fellowship and teaching is something we instil in them. When you keep it up yourself, you also show them how to do it. It can stay with them for life. They won’t be afraid when things get rocky. They will have learned how to depend on God.

How are your swimming skills? Are you passing them on?

– Tim Johnson

Spiritual Pests

While visiting family in the south recently, I was re-introduced to the insect pest called chiggers. Almost invisible, these mites are only 1/60th of an inch long and hide in the grass. You don’t know they’ve been on your skin until later when an insatiable itch bothers your arms and legs. It sent me off to the store to buy repellent which I promptly sprayed on every day.

The thing about chiggers is that you don’t even know they’re there. They aren’t noisy like mosquitoes or wasps, and you can’t feel them like an ant or bug. You can sit in a lawn chair in the shade and enjoy family conversations without knowing chiggers are busy setting you up for a miserable time later in the day.

The New Testament warns us about hidden dangers that can hurt us if we’re not prepared or if we become lulled by ways of the world. A recurring phrase in its 27 books is take heed, or beware. In Luke 8:18 Jesus said, “Take heed therefore how you hear.” In the same book he also said, “Beware , and be on your guard against every form of greed” (12:15); “Watch out that the light in you may not be darkness” (11:35); and in 17:3, simply, “Be on your guard” (referring to stumbling blocks).

Being summertime, it’s easy to let things slip, let times of fellowship go, set study and prayer aside, and follow the alluring ways of the world. These can become spiritual pests that will gnaw on your heart and eventually weaken you. Paul said, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor.10:12); and he warned Timothy to “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching” (1 Tim.4:16). The Hebrew writer also warned, “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb.2:1).

Enjoy summer, but guard yourself against spiritual pests.

– Tim Johnson

The Low Oil, Low Dollar Disorder

Every day we hear news that the price of oil is lower and the Canadian dollar is weaker. It affects those who travel outside of the country, those who send money abroad, and the price of imports.

Overall the low dollar/oil tends to drain the life and strength out of our fragile economy. We’ll hurt for a while, but history tells us that the situation will eventually be corrected. It’s going to take strategy, hard work and patience.

Our spiritual lives can similarly be affected. Some things build us up, and others drain us of life and vitality. The latter could be called “the low oil and dollar disorder.” The Bible urges us to take steps to make sure nothing is missing spiritually. To simplify, there are four parts: prayer, study, fellowship, and service. Prayer keeps us dependent on God (James 5:16). Study grants us knowledge to stay on track (2 Tim.2:15). Fellowship keeps us loving our brethren (Heb.10:24). And service integrates our talents with that of others and creates a strong body (1 Pet.4:10-11). These can enliven and reinforce us, or the lack of them can drain us of strength – just like a weak dollar and low oil does to the economy.

Are you attending every assembly possible, or conjuring up excuses not to? Are you cheerfully serving the church in some way, or naively assuming others will do it all? Are you carving out some time to pray and study, or let it be swallowed up in a busy lifestyle?

We may feel powerless to help our struggling economy, but all of us can take steps to stay strong spiritually: strategy, hard work and patience. Don’t let the low oil/low dollar disorder prevail.

– Tim Johnson

A Taste of What’s to Come

Over the last two weekends we’ve enjoyed some lovely special events. Last week was Young Adult Weekend, with 30-40 energetic guests among us, and a special speaker (Jay Manimtim). There was close fellowship, challenging lessons, enthusiastic singing, and good food. This weekend we witnessed the wedding of two Christians who are very dear to us. Their two families came together with good wishes for the marriage of their children. Many of their friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord were present to make it a special day. And this morning we are very happy to have Shawn Redding preach the sermon. Shawn and Donna, of course, are loved by the entire congregation. Continue reading