Having had our first snow of the season, it seems like a sad time for gardeners. All the beautiful flowers they have worked hard to nurture are now wilted and need to be pulled out and sent to the landfill. But the wonder of it all is that within six months, many of those same flowers will emerge from the soil and bloom again. What looks dead now is merely dormant; it’s how nature preserves itself through the winter.
There have been times in history when the church has declined and almost passed away. While the religious groups of the world have thrived through politics and endless catering to men and their desires, the church of the New Testament seemed to disappear.
Jesus often compared the spread of the gospel to the seed sown by the farmer. “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows – how, he himself does not know.” (Mark 4:26-27). Like seeds of specific plants, they can only produce the same plants. Tulips can’t produce roses, nor can mums make dandelions. The seed of the word of God will produce New Testament Christians, who are the church that Christ built. If the church of the Bible seemed to disappear in the past, perhaps it was just dormant for a while, then new life appeared once again.
The power of the gospel is that it can deal with sin and save souls. It’s like a powerful seed that only produces one thing: Christians, who are members of the body of Christ. The seed that made Christians in the first century also makes Christians today, for it pays no attention to the period of time in which it does its work.
Some say the church in Canada is declining. If that is true in some areas, it’s also thriving in others. Let’s not hinder our work by fretting about it. Rather, let’s dedicate ourselves to the truth and share it. Let the seed do its work.
– Tim Johnson
Promises don’t impress us these days. Politicians all over North America seem to be promising all sorts of things. One says they’ll get the deficit under control in a few years, another says they’ll have the economy booming in a few more, and yet another says he will build an impossibly long wall between countries. We’ve witnessed so many failed promises, we are skeptical of new ones.
People getting married promise to love and care for each other for the rest of their lives, yet almost 50% of all marriages fail. What happened to their promises? Sadly, people make them about as often as they break them.
God tells us in Galatians 3:22 that all men are saved through a promise of God. “But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” In verse 29 he said, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” While salvation is by faith, it is described as a “promise” in this chapter because we must have faith when a promise is given. In this case our faith is well founded, for who is more reliable than God? Abraham trusted God to fulfil his promise, and that is what we must do as well.
What does this teach us about our own promises? If we trust God to fulfil His, shouldn’t we have the character to also do what we say we will? In this same book, faithfulness is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit (5:22). We are to be faithful to fulfil promises. People should feel they can trust us. “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.” (Eph.4:25)
Promises, promises. Are you making good on yours?
– Tim Johnson
Ten years ago on Labour Day weekend, the South Edmonton, Alberta, Church of Christ had its first Sunday assembly. After months of planning, and an encouraging send-off by the north-side congregation, all went smoothly. I was their preacher and it was a privilege to give the first sermon there. We carried many supplies into the rented hall, sat on borrowed chairs, used a troublesome PA system, and had Sunday school classes in hallways and corners. But everyone was grateful for what we had. It was a day of great joy and thankfulness.
Christians are to be known as a people full of thankfulness. We’re told in Ephesians 5:20 to be “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” We are to express it to God through Jesus, for it was Jesus who died and rose for us and gave us lives of hope.
There are days when things seem very dark and life has little joy. Stresses can multiply and make us feel like we are carrying an impossible load. Some days seem to be full of things broken, appliances that refuse to work, and unexpected bills that make us throw up our hands in frustration. How can we be grateful “for all things” on days like that?! We can if we remember all the things that aren’t broken and continue to work well. We can be thankful when we think of the promises of God, that He will “never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb.13:5).
Nobody has life perfect. Every single human being alive today (7.4 billion of us) has some troubles. When we see the good things God does for us, we can forego grumbling and “give thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God.”
– Tim Johnson
Real wisdom is misunderstood today. Many think it exists only in the realm of aged people, impossible to have while young. Wisdom is mocked by those who live impulsive lives. Some think it can be attained by education alone.
One is considered wise if he can offer sound financial advice, legal expertise, or even counsel the jobless. It’s as if wisdom is equated with skill alone. But a person skilled in one area is often foolish in another. A respected TV personality, known as a sage, made a mess of his marriage and saw his personal life collapse. As Jesus said, “Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds” (Mt.11:19). Wisdom is more than skill.
How can one really be wise and at the same time deny that God exists? The writer of Proverbs said in his very first chapter, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (v7). True wisdom involves dependence on God.
The Scriptures come down very hard on the wisdom of the world. Paul said, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor.1:20). Therefore, one must consult with God before he can enjoy real wisdom.
James declared, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (1:5). God is pleased to bless anyone with wisdom, and He doesn’t tire of our requests for it. Young king Solomon requested it when God offered to give him what he wished. Instead of asking for greatness, he knew he needed wisdom to rule the kingdom well. God gave it to him, and greatness too.
Develop skills and insights that will help you in life. But each of us needs to get down on our knees and ask God for real wisdom.
If you watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics a week ago, one particular team drew the close attention of the crowds. Of the 206 nations who sent athletes, one of them was a team of displaced people. Its 10 members come from refugee camps scattered across Africa and other areas. Some of them are victims of war, others fleeing poverty and persecution. It’s amazing that in such difficult circumstances each of them have learned to excel in a sport, and now they have been sent to the Olympics.
Can you imagine the good that these disadvantaged young people will receive from such an experience with Olympic athletes for 16 days? They’ll be coached to do their best, find self-respect, learn about people everywhere, and make precious new friends. Who knows what great things they will do in future years as a result?
The church is very much like that. It’s comprised of people from all walks of life, rich and poor, young and old, and from just about every nation on earth. Through Jesus, the church takes lost people and saves them, mentors them, helps them deal with their troubles, encourages them, and equips them for service, helping them to excel. One of the greatest things the church offers is friendships in Christ – the love of good people.
The apostle Paul put it well in Ephesians 2:19-20. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone…”
Whether you feel displaced, or feel very much at home in our community, you have been given membership in a group that God blesses and protects. And it lasts a lifetime, not just 16 days.
– Tim Johnson