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

The Grinch

One of the most amusing characters this time of year is the Grinch, who despises Christmas and has a generally negative personality. People like him have been around for a long time.

Such a man was encountered by Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13 when they took the gospel to Cyprus and the household of the Roman Governor. In his employ was a magician named, ironically, Bar-Jesus (meaning the son of someone named Jesus), aka Elymas. When Paul tried to teach the gospel to the governor, Elymas kicked up an awful fuss and tried to “turn the proconsul away from the faith” (v8). He was a first-class Grinch. Paul said to him, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?” (v9) That’s quite an indictment against this troublesome man.

How many times have people tried to turn others away from the good news of Jesus Christ? Or made crooked the straight ways of the Lord? We often see modern-day versions of Elymas, who do all they can to discourage others.

Sometimes we can have a Grinch-attitude by criticizing good things that may simply be new, different, inconvenient, or something that threatens the status-quo. I’m not talking about matters that are rebellious or un-Biblical, which are rightly rejected. But good and righteous things are sometimes criticized just because we don’t like to consider change.

The New Testament urges us to be positive, kind, open to that which is good, Biblical and helpful. “Encourage one another day after day” (Heb.3:13). “Encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thess.5:11). Faith has an open attitude to God and the brethren. “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col.3:12).

Let’s make sure the Grinch is just a fairy-tale, not a reality within us.

– Tim Johnson

Unfathomable Riches

The apostle Paul was ever aware of how unworthy he was to preach the gospel. In Ephesians 3:8 he said, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.”

His was a world in which half of all people scraped along to make ends meet, and the other half strove for power and great wealth. Some would say things haven’t changed very much today. At one time, Paul was an accomplished Jewish Pharisee, respected for his strength and zeal and his opposition to the early church. He would not have been unfamiliar with wealth and power. But all that changed when he met Jesus.

In Paul’s estimation, he went from greatness to the very least of all saints. His pride of power and place no longer existed. He now lived to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. But God gave him the valuable and ironic role of preaching to the Gentiles, no longer the Jews.

But it was the substance of what he taught them that was so stunning: “the unfathomable riches of Christ.” They are riches that are so deep and complex that no man can ever wear them out or fully learn them all. They were mysteries that had been “hidden in God for ages,” but now revealed. Paul was given the work of preaching such marvels about Christ to people who had never heard them before.

Most of us live basic lives without much wealth to enjoy or power to wield. We wonder if society has passed us by. But Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3:8 that we have been given unfathomable riches that open up to us more and more every day, and will be fully revealed in the next life. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom.8:18).

Like Paul, we are certainly unworthy of such profound things.

– Tim Johnson

Hidden Treasure

I like watching Antiques Roadshow. One episode stands out in my mind, when an old lady brought in a small, fragile-looking table. The appraiser looked it over and became very excited because the table was worth a half-million dollars! Turns out it was genuine Chippendale, the queen of all furniture. It was a great moment for antique lovers.

There’s a moment like that in the Bible. Jesus spoke of a man who found a treasure buried in a field (Matt.13:44). In those days there were no banks, and people hid their wealth in places where thieves couldn’t find it. The man was thrilled to discover this long-lost buried treasure. But he had a problem: it wasn’t his field and the owner would have all the rights to the treasure. So, the man sold everything he had and bought the field, securing the treasure. Obviously, the treasure was of much greater worth than all his possessions.

Jesus explained that the kingdom of heaven is like this man who found the treasure. When somebody looks into the Bible and understands what the kingdom is, and goes out and finds it, he has discovered a treasure. I’ve met people who discovered it by simply encountering the church, not really intending to search for spiritual treasure. People with good hearts are often thrilled to find it – and do everything possible to become part of it. It’s like selling all you have to gain something wonderful.

The New Testament tells us about another man who found the treasure of the kingdom of heaven. His name was Paul. Later, he wrote a letter to some fellow believers and declared, about the Savior, “Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Like Paul, have you found the treasure yet? And if you have, do you consider it to be of more value than all you have?

– Tim

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