A Heart for the Lost

The apostle Paul was a driven man. He said in Romans 1:15 that he was “eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” As far as we know, he had never visited that largest of first century cities, but he wanted to. The place teemed with people from all over the world and it would have been a natural place for the interest of an evangelist. He loved the lost and wanted to save them. This should be a prime motivation for the Lord’s church. Great congregations are always reaching out to the lost.               

Concern for the lost comes from God Himself.  In the book of Hosea God pictured His love for His wayward people like the love Hosea had for his wandering wife. “Therefore, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness, and speak kindly to her” (2:14). He longed to bring His people back home again. He even sent Jonah to preach to the dreaded people of Nineveh. Why? Because he cared for the lost and wanted to move them to repentance before He had to judge them.               

The rulers of Israel were scolded through Ezekiel because “the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost” (34:4). Shepherds must care.

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Jesus kindly spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-45), then spent two more days in her city teaching its residents and creating believers. He could have easily skipped the place on his busy journey up north, but he stopped to save the lost.

The heart of the church needs to be tuned to the lost around us. It’s what Jesus wants to see in us. It’s how the church grows, for if we don’t care for the lost, we fail to reach them with the message of life. Yes, the lost can be frustrating when they refuse our interest in them, but we must continue to seek others. How many did Paul convert? Far less than he spoke to. But he rejoiced that he had managed to save some (1 Cor.9:22).

All of us were once lost, but somebody loved us and brought us to Jesus. Do that for someone else. It’s an obligation of love.

– Tim Johnson

Hindsight

We appreciate leaders with foresight and vision, whether politicians or church leaders. But we forget the value of hindsight. Some want to forget the past because it is painful or embarrassing. Some people think the past has no value at all. But God gave us a memory for good reasons, and it involves hindsight. If we gain some wisdom from the past, it’s going to help us with the future.

The bewildering stories of the Old Testament kings of Israel reveal radical flip-flops of policy and religion from father to son. After all of king Hezekiah’s positive reforms, his son Manasseh took the throne and did the complete opposite, rebuilding the idolatrous shrines his father had destroyed (2 Kings 21). His grandson Josiah took his turn and destroyed the idols and led the country back to God. Manasseh forgot the national blessings of faithfulness and Josiah remembered the past consequences of idolatry.

When Stephen addressed the Jewish council in Acts 7:51-53, he pointed out their failure to remember what happened to their forebearers. “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” The apostle Paul had hindsight, never forgetting the harm he once did to the church and God’s graciousness to forgive him. It taught the world the power of the gospel in a man’s life, that even the worst can be saved.

We need hindsight because our past mistakes teach us what won’t work in the future, and what will. It helps us steer our lives with more wisdom. Humility is maintained when we remember our humble beginnings, granting us compassion for others. Like Paul, remembering the grace of God in saving our ruined souls helps us to never forget our work today – reaching out to the lost. Strive to develop foresight, but know the value of hindsight.

What is it you need to remember? What is it you need to forget?

– Tim Johnson

The Wars of Spring

With snow banished and winter finally subdued, nature seems to be coming alive again. Flowers are shooting up in warms spots, the grass is turning green and buds are swelling on many trees itching to burst into leaves. We look forward to warm days ahead.

But even though spring looks peaceful, nature’s wars are being fought all around us. Early flowers have pushed up through the remaining snow and must tough out cold conditions. Small, hungry animals view these early flowers as a snack to gobble up. Gardeners ask, which ones will survive? Birds are squabbling and fighting for prime sites to build nests; it’s a noisy world in the morning. Skunks and raccoons are busy at night digging holes in people’s lawns looking for bugs to eat. Out in the woods, bear and deer desperately scrounge for anything edible. Nature is a tough environment in the spring until things grow in better.

God promises Christians forgiveness, joy and peace (Phil.4:4-7), but there is war all around us at the same time. The Devil leads attacks on us every day. It is dangerous to be unaware him. Paul warns, “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph.6:10-11). Well-equipped soldiers are ready for conflict. We are to be decked out with all the protection God provides. “Take up the full armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (v13). How is our great opponent trying to conquer over you? How is he picking away at your weak spots? What temptations is he laying in your path?

You have nothing to fear if you prepare yourself every day. “Be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (v18).

Things may look warm and peaceful, but do you have our armor on?

– Tim Johnson

A New Competition

We live in a very competitive world. We try to outdo one another, get ahead of each other, and try to carve out attention for ourselves and our opinions. People are often put down or ignored in the quest to come out on top. Competition can be a healthy thing, but not in relationships.

Paul said, “…and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph.5:21). After living a life of getting his own way, this apostle bowed to the Lord on the Damascus road (Acts 9) and subjected himself to his fellow apostles (Galatians 2). It saved his soul and ushered him into the encouraging fellowship of the church.

Jacob subjected himself to his brother, Esau, after two decades of estrangement and grudges; it restored a difficult family. Joshua subjected himself to Moses and eventually took his place. David subjected himself to the prophet Nathan, repenting of disturbing sins and getting his life back on track. Subjection is not a sign of weakness, it’s humility solving problems.

It has a lot to do with honouring each other. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honour” (Rom.12:10). A footnote says, “outdo one another in showing honour.” This speaks of the care and regard we are to have towards each other. We extend it to each other in the fear of Christ. If Jesus honoured us by giving His life, we ought to honour each other.

Jesus turns competition up-side-down. Instead of competing for prominence, we outdo one another in showing honour.

Who have you honoured today?

– Tim Johnson

Eat or Die

In our cold winter months, we often think nothing is alive outside. While many animals hibernate until spring, tree squirrels are amazingly active all year. They’re interesting little animals that can entertain us by their acrobatics in the trees and along fences.

My research revealed that our black variety in Barrie are actually Eastern Grey Squirrels. Rather than dig a burrow in the ground and hibernate for the winter, they build tree nests, called dreys, and use that as a home base. They roam our neighbourhoods all winter to feed mostly on nuts scattered under the snow, or what remains on trees. They’re out in the worst weather hunting for food, and seem to thrive.

Now what’s my point in all of this? If a simple squirrel must work hard to eat, even on frigid winter days without fail, isn’t it true that we must work hard to feed on the word of God just as regularly? We feel like hibernating in winter too, but we have to get out and be with other Christians at Bible study times regularly. It takes work, inconvenience and determination, but that’s what we have to do to be strong and survive.

Paul told Timothy to be “constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following” (1 Tim.4:6). This is how he was to remain strong as a preacher. Peter urged Christians to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet.3:18). Where does that knowledge come from? By being taught by well prepared teachers, and by your own personal study. We must avail ourselves of both. Even in winter.

Nature knows it must eat or die. Do we?

– Tim Johnson