Possessing Our Possessions

The words in our title come from Obadiah 17. It was a time of oppression and trouble for Israel. Edom, her most persistent enemy, possessed their land. Therefore, God promised to bring Edom low, and in that day Israel would have their land restored. They would possess their possessions.

Here is an important lesson. It is possible to have possessions we haven’t fully possessed. Matthew Arnold said, “We see all sights from pole to pole. We nod and beck and bustle by and never once possess our souls before we die.”

Men may own but never truly possess in true spiritual and inward enjoyment. One meaning of the word possess in our text is enjoy. I’m sure we’ve all known Christians who don’t seem to take the time to enjoy the faith, to be happy with the church, and to contemplate the great spiritual blessings given to us by a resurrected Savior.

There was a lady once who walked into a book store. She told the clerk she wanted three yards of books with brown bindings to match the décor of her living room. The books became hers but did she really possess them?

A poet once said to his generation, “What you have inherited from your fathers earn over again for yourselves, or it will not be yours.” Our Father has given us a name. “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26).

It’s not enough to just wear the name. We must possess it.

– David and Tim Johnson

A Data Plan That Never Runs Out

This is a time of year when we want to spend time with family, or at least hear from them. Traditionally, the phone lines become too overloaded with calls on Christmas day and you just can’t get through. We have become well equipped with alternate ways to visit with people, such as computer programs (Skype, etc.), and cellphones by which we can text or Facetime. We spend a lot on equipment to allow it: computers, smartphones , and Internet access. According to the Financial Post, the average Canadian family spends $185 a month on communications.

Have you ever considered how remarkable our God is when it comes to our ability to speak to Him? He is the Master of communication. You can pray to him anytime, night or day. Daniel prayed without fail three times a day (Dan.6:10). Peter seems to have followed a similar pattern (Acts 10:9). Paul told the Colossians, “…since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you” (Col.1:9). He also said to the Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess.5:17). God is open to our prayers without cost. You will never receive a bill, and you will never exceed any limit of time with Him.

Somehow, God can handle all this communication. No computers jam up, no extra memory needs to be installed, and no new facilities need to be built. He has always had the ability to listen to the prayers of a limitless number of people – all at the same time! If everyone in the world prayed to Him to Him today, God wouldn’t miss a thing. None of our marvelous technology today can come anywhere close to that kind of ability.

Rather than discourage an overload of voices, God urges us to open up and pray to Him. “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8). God wants to hear from us, and hear regularly.

What a marvelous privilege prayer is.

– Tim Johnson

He’s Permanent

National elections can be very stressful. Last year we voted in a new Prime Minister and his Liberal government, which is a complete changeover from the previous ruling political party. Many people have worried about how well our young head of government will perform, and what changes he will introduce. In the United States, people are still upset and concerned that their president-elect will be up to the job. His unusual ways are making people nervous.

This is the nature of democracy. Leaders are voted in when the previous ones have run out of time, or become unfit to continue. We have the privilege of voting for the people we think are best, but we don’t always get what we want. In my lifetime, there have been 13 different Prime Ministers so far.

If we worry about the suitableness of new leaders every four or five years, what would it be like if our great high priest in heaven changed every few years also? Wouldn’t we worry about his ability to keep us saved?

The writer of the Book of Hebrews discusses this in chapter 7:23-25. He reminds us that a new high priest had to be appointed over the Israelites every time an old one passed away. “They existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing.” Like our modern-day politicians, people never knew what they would get.

But Jesus is different. He will never become incompetent or die. He sits in heaven permanently, which gives us confidence that we will continue to be saved every day. “He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds his Priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

National leaders will come and go. But Jesus will always remain our great High Priest. He can keep us save right to the end. Do not worry.

– Tim Johnson

Are We Ready For What We Ask?

We get what we ask for. People ask for specific things for Christmas and their families usually comply. It would surprise us if we received something greater. At restaurants, we order certain foods and don’t expect anything extra; we get what we ask for. In fact, sometimes we get less because the menu always looks better than the real thing.

But with God it’s different. He doesn’t chop off anything extra to enhance profits, nor is He stingy and tight. He’s pleased to be generous. James said we can ask Him for wisdom and He “gives to all men generously” (James 1:5). There’s no disappointment from God, unless He thinks it’s not in your best interest to get what you’ve asked for. “You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). This aside, you will always experience generosity from God.

In Ephesians 3, Paul prayed for the church, trying to comfort their worries about him being in jail. He described the terrific things God had given Him to do throughout the Gentile world, hinting there are still important things to do even behind bars. God had gone beyond all of Paul’s expectations. Based on this experience, the apostle made the clearest statement in the Bible about God’s generous answers to prayer: “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Eph.3:20-21).

God answers us exceeding abundantly. The original language says something like superabundantly. This is pumped-up and enlarged abundance. How’s that for an answer to your prayers?!

But he doesn’t stop there. The apostle says, “beyond all that we ask or think.” Literally over and above. God can go beyond all that we ask, and grant us so much more – more than we ever thought or dreamed! Paul himself was given a second chance when he was baptized into Christ; he was given an apostleship. It was more than he asked for, or even dreamed possible. The Ephesian church didn’t have it easy, but God gave them great strength to become one of the most influential congregations of the ancient world. God did this for them.

Are you ready for the generosity of God when you pray? The best thing we can ever do for God is to believe Him. Do you believe He can do superabundance? Are you ready for it?

– Tim Johnson

Last Apostle

When John wrote his three short New Testament letters, he was an elderly man. It is highly likely that he was the last living apostle of Jesus Christ. He had contributed the Gospel of John, and the great book of victory, Revelation. The shortest of his letters is 2 John; it only has 13 verses. It would have been one of his final letters. As in the case of the book of Revelation, did he write it in exile on the island of Patmos? We can only speculate.

And what did the last apostle have to say in one of his last letters? He reminded us to love one another (v5), uphold the truth (v2), and refuse deceivers (v7-11). THE TRUTH dominates his thoughts. Everything dear to Christians is built upon it. Even love for one another is related to it; “…whom I love in truth” (v1).

It was a violent time in the Roman world and John writes in a discreet way. Rather than identify the congregation of the church that was to receive his letter, he calls them “the chosen lady and her children” (v1). A fellow congregation is mentioned as “the children of your chosen sister” (v13). It is John’s love for these churches that shines through the ages. He speaks of love four times in the letter. They were people in the Lord “whom I love in truth” (v1).

The challenge for us is not just to walk in truth, but to love the church as John did – and to love it in truth. Love without the truth is just sentiment. God calls us to a higher love for His people.

Our care for the church is not because our building is convenient or some of its members may be relatives. We love it for the sake of the truth, because its people know the truth and walk in it, and because the truth abides in them forever.

The last apostle laid down a challenge for all succeeding generations of Christians – love each other in truth.

– Tim Johnson