How am I Going to Handle That?!!

The Bible tells us about two craftsmen named Bezalel and Oholiab, Israelites given the work of creating finely-made furniture and utensils for use in the brand-new Old Testament tabernacle. What an honor to design and build things for the nation’s first structure in which God would meet with His people. If it were me, I’d be worried that my work would not be good enough building such precious items to be used for centuries. But these two men didn’t have to rely totally on their own ingenuity. God “filled them with the Spirit in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship.” (Exodus 31:1-11) Perhaps they had been trained in Egypt as craftsmen, which would be an asset. Nevertheless, they turned to God for help and insight. They succeeded.

Sometimes we are faced with tasks that seem too big for us, and we wonder if we can muster the skills we need to do them well. God may not give you special abilities from the Holy Spirit in the same way He did for these two men, but we can turn to Him for help and wisdom. In this way we can become adequate.

Later in the Bible, the apostle Paul spoke of this in regard to preaching. “And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-5) Some men may earn impressive degrees to hang on their walls, and others may boast of great accomplishments in far-flung places, but they may not really be adequate in service to God. Degrees and experience may help, but real adequacy comes when someone humbly turns to God for help and wisdom. This is the secret of confidence and skill in the kingdom.

Got big things to tackle? Take a lesson from Bezalel and Oholiab.

– Tim Johnson

Lights in our Community

Jesus said in Matt.5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” With the dawn of 2017 upon us, what should the people in our community – especially those near our church building – see in us? Here’s a few thoughts.

1. A godly people. In our profane, modern society people should see something better in the Lord’s people. Peter said, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Pet.1:14-15).

2. A kind people. There are needs all around us, and our neighbours should view us as people who are concerned for them. We can’t deal with everybody’s problems, but we can be kind. Paul said, “…Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col.3:12). Will people view us as cold and indifferent, or warm and helpful?

3. An engaging people. If we want the community to be interested in our message, we must be open to them. People have questions and wonder about who we are. Peter, who wrote about the church’s relationship to the world, said, “…always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet.3:15).

4. An enthusiastic people. Many religious groups practice rituals with lukewarm habit. The community needs to see us as people who are happy and enthused about the faith. Few are interested in religion that is sleepy and dreary. “Therefore, gird your minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13).

5. A people of the truth. Some think the church should accept everything and stand for nothing. More respect is given to those who know the truth and stand on it firmly. John wrote to “all who know the truth, for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever” (2 Jn.1-2).

Let’s be determined to let our light shine effectively in 2017.

– 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

That’s Not Fair

“This isn’t right!” she shouted, and with a stomp of her foot she shrieked “That’s not fair!” Had she lost out on a large sum of money, or suffered major inconvenience? No, her hamburger was missing something she had ordered in a fast-food restaurant! Never mind that the undeserving employee was totally embarrassed or that people had to listen to her rant. The most important issue was her food.

In Canada, we are raised to think we should not tolerate any mistake that inconveniences us – whether intended or not. Woe is the person who must quickly sort out the problem to our satisfaction.

When will we learn that it’s impossible for life to always be fair? Why should young children be stricken with serious illness? Why must a billion people in the world have to drink contaminated water? Why must innocent civilians lose their lives in war?

How should Christians react to injustice and unfairness? Let’s first recognize that some battles people fight are motivated by revenge. They feel they’ve been treated unfairly, so somebody must pay. Our Lord warned, “never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God” (Romans 12:19). Let’s not take His place in the matter.

Yet there are battles we should fight to make life easier for the disadvantaged and helpless. Religious people, James says, should “visit orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27), implying we should try to right some wrongs. Yet, some battles are minor in nature and not worth it. We look silly when we make a big scene over a hamburger.

Let’s also remember that our attitude is important. The young lady above would have received what she needed if she had better manners. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). It’s okay stick up for yourself, but do it with respect.

Christians ought to be models of patience and understanding. Quarrelling people in Corinth went so far as to take each other to court! Paul said they were flawed in attitude. “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Cor. 6:7). We shouldn’t always expect perfect treatment from others.

Was it fair that Jesus had to come to earth and give Himself on the cross for us? He didn’t die for his own mistakes, but rather for ours. He treated us with grace and mercy. That’s the Lord we serve, and we must serve Him even when life isn’t fair. As the judge of the whole universe He will right all wrongs on the GREAT DAY. Let’s look forward to that day, and not expect total fairness in this world now.

– 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