Fast Food

Sunday morning and Wednesday night meetings can be very rushed affairs if we let them. Work schedules and distance can cause this, but at the best of times we can often hurry through these worship and study periods. Like someone wolfing down fast food in a restaurant rather than investing in healthy food at home, the benefits are meager.

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). How can we apply this to our classes and worship?

His statement implies a deliberate attempt to read and study the Scriptures on your own so you will be prepared for what we do as a group. It is convenient for us to do this for our Sunday morning adult class because we all have a copy of the study book and each lesson is dated. Read it during the week, but don’t just be satisfied with that. Open your own Bible and read the chapters before and after the one to be studied on Sunday. This will give you the background and setting.

On Wednesdays we are at the end of our study of the book of Proverbs. Class members have been reading ahead each week. This has been invaluable to the great discussions we’ve been having. A new subject will be announced soon for our fall and winter quarter. All of us can make an investment in these classes by simply reading ahead and thinking about it.

Worship time is a bit more unpredictable because the sermon topic is not announced earlier in the week. But we can have our Bibles open and our minds engaged in where the lesson is heading. You can follow the flow of scriptures that appear on the screen. Keep distractions down by refusing to fiddle with phone messages and texts. Decide that there are more important things to do for the hour and you can get back to people later. I also know what it’s like to have small children sitting with you, the attention and supervision they need, and the difficulties of trying to learn something for yourself. But for most of us with children, that’s not overwhelming. We can still discipline ourselves to learn and snatch parts of the lesson when you can.

Nourish yourself. Don’t just settle for “fast food.”

– Tim Johnson

Wisdom From God

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.

 

 

 

 

The Refugee Team

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

The Christian’s Rio

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

Spiritual Pests

While visiting family in the south recently, I was re-introduced to the insect pest called chiggers. Almost invisible, these mites are only 1/60th of an inch long and hide in the grass. You don’t know they’ve been on your skin until later when an insatiable itch bothers your arms and legs. It sent me off to the store to buy repellent which I promptly sprayed on every day.

The thing about chiggers is that you don’t even know they’re there. They aren’t noisy like mosquitoes or wasps, and you can’t feel them like an ant or bug. You can sit in a lawn chair in the shade and enjoy family conversations without knowing chiggers are busy setting you up for a miserable time later in the day.

The New Testament warns us about hidden dangers that can hurt us if we’re not prepared or if we become lulled by ways of the world. A recurring phrase in its 27 books is take heed, or beware. In Luke 8:18 Jesus said, “Take heed therefore how you hear.” In the same book he also said, “Beware , and be on your guard against every form of greed” (12:15); “Watch out that the light in you may not be darkness” (11:35); and in 17:3, simply, “Be on your guard” (referring to stumbling blocks).

Being summertime, it’s easy to let things slip, let times of fellowship go, set study and prayer aside, and follow the alluring ways of the world. These can become spiritual pests that will gnaw on your heart and eventually weaken you. Paul said, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor.10:12); and he warned Timothy to “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching” (1 Tim.4:16). The Hebrew writer also warned, “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb.2:1).

Enjoy summer, but guard yourself against spiritual pests.

– Tim Johnson