With several people in our congregation who like to run for exercise, let me tell you about Ed Whitlock. This runner is now 85 years old and lives in Milton, ON. He was born in England and began to run while in school. He broke many records competing in university, but gave it up when he moved to Canada. At 41 years old he started again. At 48, he ran a marathon in 2½ hours, then at age 72 he became the oldest person in the world to run it in less than 3 hours – a record he still holds. He didn’t stop there. At 81, he broke the world’s record for the half-marathon for a man his age. What possesses a man to run like that when most people in their 80’s just like to get out and take a nice walk? It has to do with the desire to excel.

Now, I don’t recommend that the seniors among start running races. But let’s think about the need to excel in our run towards heaven. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Heb.12:1). Jesus wants us to live our lives in a way that radiates excellence and endurance. It doesn’t matter if you are 25 or 85, all of us can excel at living for Jesus.

If a man like Ed Whitlock can break records at an advanced age, surely we can excel in godliness, kindness, love and patience in life too. Run with endurance.

– Tim Johnson

Man’s Greatness and God’s Mercy

David was Israel’s greatest king – a man after God’s own heart. He was a prototype of the Messiah, Jesus the Son of God.

In what lay David’s greatness? He was a giant killer, a bold warrior. He united Israel’s twelve tribes and ushered in the nation’s finest age. His greatness, however, lay neither in his military might nor his statesmanship.

David was also a sinner. He enticed Bathsheba, committed adultery with her, then tried to conceal his sin by murdering her husband. But when confronted by God’s prophet he openly acknowledged and confessed his sin. Psalm 51

Therein lay his greatness. Not that he sinned, but that he confessed it and sought the mercy of God. He said, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love…blot out my transgressions…Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from sin. His greatness lay in his humility and admission of his weakness and dependence upon God.

While many things in people’s lives can contribute to greatness, no person is truly great who conceals his sins and refuses to acknowledge his need for divine mercy. David is an example of this need. Someone has said, “Jesus cleanses only sin, not excuses.”

– David Johnson (adapted from an article)

We Are Free

John looked out over the Agean Sea from the high hills of Patmos, as he no doubt often did, and saw islands tantalizingly close. One wonders how difficult it must have been for the apostle in exile. He speaks of his temporary island in Revelation 1:9. Used to a busy life, it must have been suffocating to be confined to this lonely place surrounded by endless water. He longed to be with his brethren.

In his book he speaks of Jesus Christ “who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood” (1:9). For a prisoner, the word “released” is all-important. John looked forward to the day when he would be released and free again. What made his exile tolerable was the fact he had been released from his sins. No matter his surroundings, he was free.

“Released” in Greek is very close to the word “washed,” which is the way the King James Version translates it. Here we have our cherished phrase, “washed in His blood.” Freedom from sin is the result, so our modern versions translate it “released” or “freed.” His blood washes away our sins and grants us freedom. The tense of the verb “released” indicates a one-time action in the past that still affects us today. John is reminding us that Jesus did all that was needed to free us from sin when he gave His blood on the cross. It reaches down through the centuries and frees us today.

I find it remarkable that John felt free even while confined. Paul expressed similar thoughts in 2 Tim.2:9, “I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.” Freedom from sin’s penalty and practice grants us a tremendous new life inside, even if life seems outwardly shackled in some way. We are free indeed!

– Tim Johnson

Pilate’s Problem

Pilate was quite frustrated with Jesus.  In John 18:34-38, Jesus offered no defense when the Jews demanded He be crucified.  Pilate was used to raving anarchists and snarling murderers before him, but Jesus was gentle and showed no hint of hate or outrage.  What startled Pilate even more was Jesus’ statement, “If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”  Jesus would not fight or hate.

Jesus lived what he taught.  He had instructed His followers to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Lk 6:27-28).  In Pilate’s mean world, he had never seen godly behaviour.  History claims it changed the man forever. Continue reading

The Good Thing About Snow

Snowy sceneAfter two weeks of green grass and bare sidewalks, snow blew back into Barrie Thursday morning. My next-door neighbour shouted, “I hate this!” Despite all the grumbling and complaining from those who shovel it and drive through it, let me point out something good about snow.

Isaiah said to his fellow citizens, “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow” (Is.1:18). Their nation was horribly corrupt and soon to be invaded and judged. But God would forgive them if they would only repent. Sin-stained hearts could be white as snow.

The colour of snow is certainly dazzling. When the sun shines on it we want to protect our eyes. Skiers wear sun block and heavily-tinted goggles. A dull world suddenly gleams. The browns and grays of late fall suddenly turn to bright white. Snow also has the ability to cover up the ugliest messes. The worst-looking yard in your neighbourhood suddenly looks fresh and clean after a decent snowfall. All that junk seems to disappear.

God knew what He was doing when he used the imagery of snow to describe His ability to forgive a sinful life and create something brand new all over again. All the decaying rot of a sin-infested life can be forgotten, as if buried under bright snow. Everything is transformed. God does that for us through Jesus Christ.

The next time you have to deal with great drifts of snow, remember that it’s a picture of what God has done for you. “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.”

– Tim Johnson