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 seems that our heavy rains have receded and summer weather has finally arrived. We are cooped up for much of the winter and spring, but now we can go places unhindered. For Christians, we’re not simply anxious to get on the road and enjoy a vacation. We are also on the lookout for opportunities to strengthen the kingdom and encourage our brothers and sisters. Summer brings unique opportunities.
We’re told in Gal.6:10, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” What kind of opportunities do we have right now? How can we do good to the household of faith?
For one thing, it’s easier to have people over this time of year. Some of the best memories I have with the brethren are barbeques in the back yard and picnics in the park. The Moncton church used to have several summer picnics in a city park. We’d bring portable barbeques to cook on, badminton rackets and baseball gloves, and played with the kids on the playground equipment. It was a great time, and an opportunity for Christians to invite non-Christian relatives. Short of a huge church picnic, you can have somebody over – maybe a Christian family that doesn’t get to do very many special things.
Camp Omagh is gearing up for another season. Several people from Barrie are planning to serve as counselors. The camp has asked our congregation to send homemade cookies for the kids. They’ve also invited us to attend their yearly outdoor sing-song on July 31st – always an uplifting event.
The Collingwood church is having another sing-song on Sunday evening, August 7th. You can get there in less than an hour and the fellowship is great.
Summer sometimes presents us with temptations. A good way to fight them is to spend time with your brethren. In Ephesians 5:15-16 we read, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Summer gives us special opportunities to make the most of your time.
How will you encourage the brethren in the good old summertime?
– 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
Every day we hear news that the price of oil is lower and the Canadian dollar is weaker. It affects those who travel outside of the country, those who send money abroad, and the price of imports.
Overall the low dollar/oil tends to drain the life and strength out of our fragile economy. We’ll hurt for a while, but history tells us that the situation will eventually be corrected. It’s going to take strategy, hard work and patience.
Our spiritual lives can similarly be affected. Some things build us up, and others drain us of life and vitality. The latter could be called “the low oil and dollar disorder.” The Bible urges us to take steps to make sure nothing is missing spiritually. To simplify, there are four parts: prayer, study, fellowship, and service. Prayer keeps us dependent on God (James 5:16). Study grants us knowledge to stay on track (2 Tim.2:15). Fellowship keeps us loving our brethren (Heb.10:24). And service integrates our talents with that of others and creates a strong body (1 Pet.4:10-11). These can enliven and reinforce us, or the lack of them can drain us of strength – just like a weak dollar and low oil does to the economy.
Are you attending every assembly possible, or conjuring up excuses not to? Are you cheerfully serving the church in some way, or naively assuming others will do it all? Are you carving out some time to pray and study, or let it be swallowed up in a busy lifestyle?
We may feel powerless to help our struggling economy, but all of us can take steps to stay strong spiritually: strategy, hard work and patience. Don’t let the low oil/low dollar disorder prevail.
– Tim Johnson
A newspaper article warned about buying meat in large quantities. It reminded consumers that there is a considerable shrinkage in cutting and packaging meat. A person who buys a hundred pound side of beef will not have a hundred pounds when he gets it home and in the freezer.
This leads us to think about the shrinkage in worship. The usual service is about one hour long, but few worship for a full hour. Some arrive late, so that time must be deleted. Those who come on time are distracted by late arrivals and various interruptions. It may take a little time to decide where to sit. And a few feel they must leave before the final prayer. All that must be deducted.
Then there is the time to look around to see who is there and who is not. Time may also be taken to chuckle at a misprint in the bulletin. Some feel they must text on their phones. We must also deduct the time when our minds wander during the sermon, the prayers and communion. We might be surprised to discover how little time we spend in actual worship to God.
A holy man described worship in this way: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
Worship means, “to feel in the heart.” It renews the spirit as sleep renews the body. We should try hard to take advantage of the time.
– Adapted from an article by David Johnson