It’s summer Olympics time again and all eyes are on Rio de Janeiro. Despite Brazil’s struggles to complete their Olympic facilities, the games have begun. It is amazing how disciplined each of our Canadian athletes are. They’ve trained for years and made many sacrifices. We wish them the best.
The New Testament writers used ancient athletic games to teach us about self-discipline and dedication. Perhaps the apostle Paul’s most well-known scripture about it is 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. He tells us to “run in such a way that you may win.” Not emphasizing competition, he is urging us to go through life as if running a race depended on our excellence. We aren’t to be sloppy or negligent about our responsibilities, attitudes or impressions we give to people. He is teaching us to be careful with others and never cause them to stumble because of poor attitudes or selfishness that we may display. “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.”
Paul reminds us that victorious athletes receive a prize, such as a medal and some fame (the ancients awarded wreaths); but we are aiming for an imperishable reward. It makes sense, then, to run the race seriously and to make our lives count. The apostle said that he would “buffet my body and make it my slave.” He mastered his body’s desires and never let them control what he did. It is a picture of a Christian who intended to excel for Jesus Christ.
This week, when you watch the Olympic athletes compete, think of your own life. Are you running well? How can you improve so that you will win?
– Tim Johnson
At 120 years old, Moses announced to the Israelite nation that his time had come. In Deut.34:1, God instructed him to ascend Mount Nebo where he would die. What a solemn walk that would have been for this great old prophet.
When he reached the top, God allowed him a look at all of the promised land. Mount Nebo is 2680 feet above sea level and stands just east of the Jordan valley, just across from Jericho. What a terrific place to preview the land. He would have seen the deep Jordan valley at his feet, and the high hills of the future Judea, where Jerusalem stood. God displayed the southern parts of the land at the bottom of the Dead Sea, and the northern limits in the distance. This would have been the pinnacle of Moses’ life, for he had never seen the promised land. For the previous 40 years he had led the people in its direction. The place had only existed in his imagination. This brief view would have fulfilled a dream.
As you know, Moses was not allowed to enter the land. The closest he would get was the view at the top of Mount Nebo. Then, after a good, long look, he passed away. God buried him in a nearby valley, but his final resting place is concealed.
God had actually done Moses a favour by letting him skip living in the new land. History records it became a place of tremendous strife and hardship. Instead, God took him into the heavenly realms. The rest of the people soon entered the land, but they would eventually destroy it.
Our position is something like that of Moses. We travel far in life and the way is difficult. We’re told about our reward in heaven, but we can only see it through the word of God and by faith. However unlikely it seems, the time is coming when we will enter it. Live by faith so that you will.
– Tim Johnson
With several people in our congregation who like to run for exercise, let me tell you about Ed Whitlock. This runner is now 85 years old and lives in Milton, ON. He was born in England and began to run while in school. He broke many records competing in university, but gave it up when he moved to Canada. At 41 years old he started again. At 48, he ran a marathon in 2½ hours, then at age 72 he became the oldest person in the world to run it in less than 3 hours – a record he still holds. He didn’t stop there. At 81, he broke the world’s record for the half-marathon for a man his age. What possesses a man to run like that when most people in their 80’s just like to get out and take a nice walk? It has to do with the desire to excel.
Now, I don’t recommend that the seniors among start running races. But let’s think about the need to excel in our run towards heaven. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Heb.12:1). Jesus wants us to live our lives in a way that radiates excellence and endurance. It doesn’t matter if you are 25 or 85, all of us can excel at living for Jesus.
If a man like Ed Whitlock can break records at an advanced age, surely we can excel in godliness, kindness, love and patience in life too. Run with endurance.
– Tim Johnson
For thousands of years men have spent huge amounts of time and money building cathedrals, shrines and monuments to God. Notre Dame in Paris took 185 years to construct, a building that has stood complete for over 600 years. And what is the motivation for such expensive structures? Often it is to capture the attention of God.
After Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, returning captives wanted to build an even grander structure to somehow secure God’s blessings. They were disappointed when the replacement seemed so small (Haggai 2:3). Through prophesy, God stated in Isaiah 66:1-2 that they had it all wrong. “Thus says the Lord, ‘Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,’ declares the Lord. ‘But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”’
Man doesn’t have to build a world monument to get God’s attention. The Lord will listen to people who have humility before Him, who willingly admit their shame and regret for their failures, and who believe His word with all their heart.
This should comfort us, for it is something we can all do. But it should also caution us, to make sure our hearts are healthy. Are you just building monuments with your life, or are you offering God your heart? It’s an important question to ask yourself on this first Sunday of 2016.
This week the world once again witnessed the twisted combination of religion and hatred. Innocent lives were lost and many others felt threatened. The immediate reaction of the world was defiance.
Jesus warned us that we would sometimes be hated. “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the son of Man.” (Lk.6:22) Hatred isn’t always violent; it can manifest itself by insults and giving people the cold shoulder. Nobody likes to be hated; we all want people to like us. But we can’t control what other people do. Sometimes hatred happens because people lump us together in their minds with abusive religions that have hurt them, or maybe people are simply afraid of what they don’t understand. Whatever the reasons, we need to expect that people will occasionally hate us. Continue reading