And His Sleep Left Him

A woman complained on Facebook that her life seemed backwards; she got up in the morning tired and went to bed at night wide awake. Does that sound familiar? How many times have you been robbed of a good night’s sleep because you just can’t shut your mind down?

The Bible tells us that king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a hard time getting some rest. He remained awake at night, and when he did manage to go to sleep his dreams disturbed him. He “had dreams and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him.” (Daniel 2:1) He complained a few years later, “I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.” (Dan.4:4-5)

Lots of things can affect sleep: pain and medical conditions, personal tragedies, or even too much coffee. It seems Nebuchadnezzar’s problem was that he didn’t know God and all the worries of his kingdom weighed on him. He was proud and arrogant. People like that think everything depends on them. No wonder they can’t sleep!

But if you believe in God and His care, sleep is much more peaceful. Half the things we worry about never really happen, and the other half can simply be handed over to God and his wisdom. David – another busy king – said, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8).

Before you lie down at night take time to pray to God and tell Him, “Here, Lord, I hand all my worries over to you for the night.” Then tell your brain that it has no need to think about them. Oh, and make sure you thank God for accepting your worries.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Are you sleeping well?

– Tim Johnson

Attention Grabbers

Young Rehoboam had lived a privileged life. His father, Solomon, was the richest king in the world at that time. Rehoboam grew up with fun and wealth. Then, upon his father’s death, he was handed the coveted throne. Quickly consulting with wise elders for advice about ruling, he preferred to hear younger, more modern counselors. He chose the wrong advice, and a once-blessed kingdom began to unravel. Rehoboam’s real problem was distraction, causing him to have a hard time hearing wise elders, and even God.

The whole country had a similar problem. Years later, when Jeremiah was sent by God, they couldn’t listen. They were distracted by pleasure, pride, crime, and violence. Jeremiah cried out, “Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them. Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did evil more than their fathers.” (Jer.7:24)

Canadians have become a distracted people, unable to concentrate for long on any one thing. Facebook dings away at us, news feeds on our devices demand our attention, messages draw us in, and radio ads scream information all day long. Even our cars present us with attention-demanding gadgets offering all sorts of data. It’s hard to take it all in, and we skim over everything and move on to the next thing that jumps out at us. Got some time? What can I fill it with?

Don’t you think God wants our concentration sometimes? He wants us to focus on prayer, some reasonable study time, and to do the work of giving people our attention on Sundays and Wednesdays. All good preachers know they are often boring, but they appreciate people who give them concentrated attention when they stand and speak God’s word.

Distraction eventually killed Rehoboam. It caused Israel to become a disappointment to God. It frustrated the prophets. Even though all sorts of modern things demand our time, we can do better. God deserves it, and so do His people. Are you listening?

– 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

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

Thankfulness of the Saint

Ten years ago on Labour Day weekend, the South Edmonton, Alberta, Church of Christ had its first Sunday assembly. After months of planning, and an encouraging send-off by the north-side congregation, all went smoothly. I was their preacher and it was a privilege to give the first sermon there. We carried many supplies into the rented hall, sat on borrowed chairs, used a troublesome PA system, and had Sunday school classes in hallways and corners. But everyone was grateful for what we had. It was a day of great joy and thankfulness.

Christians are to be known as a people full of thankfulness. We’re told in Ephesians 5:20 to be “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” We are to express it to God through Jesus, for it was Jesus who died and rose for us and gave us lives of hope.

There are days when things seem very dark and life has little joy. Stresses can multiply and make us feel like we are carrying an impossible load. Some days seem to be full of things broken, appliances that refuse to work, and unexpected bills that make us throw up our hands in frustration. How can we be grateful “for all things” on days like that?! We can if we remember all the things that aren’t broken and continue to work well. We can be thankful when we think of the promises of God, that He will “never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb.13:5).

Nobody has life perfect. Every single human being alive today (7.4 billion of us) has some troubles. When we see the good things God does for us, we can forego grumbling and “give thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God.”

– Tim Johnson