The wife of a friend of mine really loves Christmas. The Christmas tree goes up immediately after Halloween and stays up until late February. That’s a full one-third of the year! I like a nice Christmas tree too, but a month is enough for me.
Some people live a Christmas tree kind of life. They insist on extravagance, excess, lots of glitter and show, missing out on nothing. It’s an attempt to have the perfect life. Hardship and sacrifice don’t exist for them, for it doesn’t fit their lifestyle. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with some luxuries and comfort, but is that the point of living? Is that what Jesus died to give people?
We can learn from the mistakes of ancient Israel in Amos 4:1-3, where the wives of powerful men prodded their husbands for cash to spend on endless luxuries. They stooped to cruelty and extortion to get it. Amos warned that their spoiled and lustful ways would soon come to an end.
Is a life really worth living if it never experiences hardship, or doesn’t have to fight hard for good purposes, or is rarely kind to others? Something valuable is missing if we always insist on putting ourselves first, and always own the best.
Paul warned Timothy, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim.2:3-4). Soldiers have everyday lives too, but they’re not to become so entangled by it that they become ineffective. In this text, I don’t think Paul was simply trying to get Timothy to work hard. Suffering hardship wisely infuses life with wisdom and value. This is just as true for preachers as it is for anybody else. Life is not for selfish indulgence; sacrifice and service must play its part too.
Enjoy your Christmas tree, but don’t insist on a Christmas tree kind of life.
– Tim Johnson
It was 5:00 am in the cold November woods of northeast France where officials gathered in a rail car to sign the papers that ended WW1. Word immediately went out by telegram that all fighting would stop at 11:00 am. A final shot was fired from the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris at that exact moment, and peace finally reigned in Europe. The following year, after much negotiating, the more famous Treaty of Versailles was signed. The spot where the Nov.11th papers were signed has been preserved. The rail car was taken to Germany in WW2, but it was destroyed as the war came to a close. Pieces of it were kept, and a replacement placed back on that spot in the forest.
The war has often been called the bloodiest in history. About 23 million soldiers were killed and another 18 million were wounded. Canada lost 61,000 soldiers, and 172,000 came home wounded. These are mind-boggling figures. It’s no wonder that Armistice Day was proclaimed across the British Empire in 1919, originally observed on the first Monday of the Nov.11th week, combined with Thanksgiving in Canada. In 1928, the Canadian government declared Nov.11th at 11:00 am to be Remembrance Day, observed yearly. We remember all those who lost their lives, and what it took to bring peace.
God brought us peace at another cold, lonely spot in 33 ad. The sacrifice was so powerful, it never has to be offered again. “He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). It was the day peace was arranged between God and man. It has the potential to save every human being alive, if they would only turn to Him in obedient faith. Pens and treaties can be powerful, but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is decisive. No one knows the actual spot where the cross stood. Some claim pieces of it exist, but there is no proof. Unlike the monuments that help us remember war’s casualties, we have only the Word of God to tell us what He did to save us. In a way, it is more fitting and powerful.
And today, as every Sunday, we remember.
– Tim Johnson
A discouraged church secretary once said, “I’ve had enough of this; nobody notices all my hard work!” What one of us can’t sympathize with her? Hard work often goes unappreciated, and people are convinced they should stop doing it.
In one of the apostle Paul’s great passages about the judgment, he said we must be patient in the way we serve God. “To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” (Rom.2:7) While we are saved by the sacrifice of Jesus, no man can enter heaven without a life of service, seeking to please God by his way of life. And that service must be “persistent” (NIV), done with “perseverance” (NASV), also described as “patient continuance in doing good” (NKJV).
We are easily discouraged. Some think their efforts should be praised by all, but are often ignored by all. Others encounter criticism for a job done well, or callous suggestions it could be done better another way. Many simply grow weary, feeling unacknowledged. Most congregations have children’s teachers who do their work every Sunday without notice; elders who grapple patiently with difficult situations with little praise; and maintenance people who selflessly pick up after everyone goes home. Few notice them.
Who are we trying to impress? Are we seeking honour from those around us? Are we being “selfishly ambitious” (v8) in what we do? Is human glory the thing we seek? Must we plaster our good works on Facebook? The apostle tells us God is pleased with people who seek the glory and honour from HIM, when He judges us on the last day. To be motivated by this allows us to work patiently, not expecting attention or praise, for we know that will come later.
When nobody seems to notice your patient good works, God notices. When no one seems to care for your sacrifices, God cares. When you’re worn out by service and everyone else seems to have a good night’s sleep, God sees your persistence. Serve to please Him, and the glory He will give you later.
And thank somebody today for the thankless things they do.
– Tim Johnson
We welcome our guests today. We’re so pleased to have David Knutson as our speaker. He is a friend to our congregation, and we hope you also feel at home.
Friendship is a precious thing. It’s rare in life to have close friends for any great length of time. But in Christ it is different.
At the end of John’s third letter he said, “The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.” (3 John 14). Why did John put it this way? Why didn’t he call these Christians brethren, or saints, as others did? He was trying to make an important point: we need to look after each other, especially if your are a brother or sister in Christ. Life is worthwhile when we have caring friends. The apostle is also saying that Jesus considered his chosen men to be his friends, not just followers. “I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15). He felt close to them and was willing to share eternal secrets with them. He treated them special. Continue reading
One morning in September 2008 Thomas Vander Woude, a retired airline pilot who now kept a farm in Northern Virginia, was working his 26 acres with his 20 year old handicapped son Joseph by his side. When they had separated to do other chores, Joseph walked on a damaged septic tank cover and broke through, falling into the almost full 8 foot deep tank. Seeing the accident from a distance, Vander Woude rushed over to assist his youngest son. Unable to pull him from the tank, he lowered himself into the sewage and treaded beside him to help keep Josephs’ head above the waste, but he was still sinking. Vander Woude then made the decision to dive under the sewage and raise his Down syndrome afflicted son up on his shoulders to free him from drowning. When rescuers finally arrived they pulled Joseph out, injured but alive. His father Thomas though was dead, suffocated under the waste. Continue reading