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

An Unusual Command

It is interesting that a person who suffered imprisonment, flogging, shipwreck, danger, hunger, thirst, fatigue, and exposure to death should say to Christians, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” (Phil.4:4)

The fact of the matter is that the command to rejoice is given to all God’s children. It is one of the characteristics of the true believer’s life. Those who belong to Jesus are marked with joy. It is one of the Christian trademarks.

However, not once does the scripture tell us to give thanks FOR all circumstances. Rather, we are to rejoice or give thanks IN all circumstances. For instance, we don’t rejoice for death or pain or divorce or cancer. In what way then are we to rejoice?

Our rejoicing is to be “in the Lord.” What does that mean? A glance at the Book of Philippians says we are to rejoice in the work of redemption accomplished on our behalf. Jesus humbled himself and became a servant and was obedient unto death, thereby assuring our salvation.

Paul’s conclusion in the book is that the circumstances of one’s life do not take away the joy that the child of God experiences in Christ Jesus. Come what may, the Christian’s reason to rejoice is not altered. “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.”

– David Johnson

Kept for Jesus Christ

It would be hard to find a lovelier introduction to a letter than Jude 1-2. In it, he described his readers with three phrases that should comfort the most discouraged of souls. Let’s have a look.

First, he said they were the called. He was writing to people Jesus had notified, like a legal summons. One possessing the highest authority in the universe had invited them to be saved and enter His kingdom. Since Jude was undoubtedly the physical brother of Jesus, the thought would have taken on a special significance to his readers. And how are people called? Paul said through the gospel (2 Thess.2:14). There’s our summons.

Second, Jude said they were beloved in God the Father. What a sweet term! We use it only for those close to us, like family members. We depend upon such people, and want to be with them. Out of all the people God could, He says we are His beloved. And how did we manage to fall into that category? Simply by His grace and our faith, not by our accomplishments or goodness. Life goes much better when someone loves us like that.

Third, he said they were kept for Jesus Christ. This time of year we are busy buying gifts to be kept for Christmas day and given to family. God is keeping us for Jesus. This implies protection and care. When Jesus comes on the last day, we will be introduced to Him for all eternity. What a great thought! Never fear you are alone and ignored. God is keeping you for His Son.

Three terms with three perspectives. The first looks back, the second involves the present, and the third looks to the future. God has us covered completely! No wonder Jude was able to say what he did in verse two: “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”

– Tim Johnson

Thankfulness, From Beginning to End

The New Testament is full of thankfulness, from start to finish. Each of Paul’s letters seem to begin with gratefulness for the church he was writing to, and they usually end with his thanks for individuals among them. See Phil.1:3-4 or Col.1:3, among many. Most of these churches had serious problems that threatened their undoing, but along with reproof the apostle found things about them for which he was thankful. And how about us? Perhaps there are things about our congregation that one could grumble about, but are we thankful for the many more things that are positive? Continue reading