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

Fast Food

Sunday morning and Wednesday night meetings can be very rushed affairs if we let them. Work schedules and distance can cause this, but at the best of times we can often hurry through these worship and study periods. Like someone wolfing down fast food in a restaurant rather than investing in healthy food at home, the benefits are meager.

Paul told Timothy to be “constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following” (1 Tim.4:6). How can we apply this to our classes and worship?

His statement implies a deliberate attempt to read and study the Scriptures on your own so you will be prepared for what we do as a group. It is convenient for us to do this for our Sunday morning adult class because we all have a copy of the study book and each lesson is dated. Read it during the week, but don’t just be satisfied with that. Open your own Bible and read the chapters before and after the one to be studied on Sunday. This will give you the background and setting.

On Wednesdays we are at the end of our study of the book of Proverbs. Class members have been reading ahead each week. This has been invaluable to the great discussions we’ve been having. A new subject will be announced soon for our fall and winter quarter. All of us can make an investment in these classes by simply reading ahead and thinking about it.

Worship time is a bit more unpredictable because the sermon topic is not announced earlier in the week. But we can have our Bibles open and our minds engaged in where the lesson is heading. You can follow the flow of scriptures that appear on the screen. Keep distractions down by refusing to fiddle with phone messages and texts. Decide that there are more important things to do for the hour and you can get back to people later. I also know what it’s like to have small children sitting with you, the attention and supervision they need, and the difficulties of trying to learn something for yourself. But for most of us with children, that’s not overwhelming. We can still discipline ourselves to learn and snatch parts of the lesson when you can.

Nourish yourself. Don’t just settle for “fast food.”

– 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

A Leaky Roof

Have you ever had one of those months when the house plumbing needs repairs, the wash machine breaks down, the furnace fails to start, and the car decides it doesn’t want to be left out of the break down game? With all that going on, you wonder if you should open up your eyes the next morning lest something else is broken!

We spend a huge amount of money each year to maintain the things we own. The Financial Post reported last year that Canadians spent $68 billion renovating their homes. A third of us spent on average about $15,000 in 2013 on home renovations, according to the CIBC bank. Another source said we spend on average $289 every time we take our cars in for servicing.

We hate to spend that kind of money just to maintain things, but if we don’t we soon find that our possessions deteriorate quickly. The classic example is the leaky roof that doesn’t get fixed. Water soon drips down through ceilings and walls, causing an awful mess in the rest of the house.

Some people neglect their spiritual lives just like they do a leaky roof. It takes work to stay strong in the Lord. We can hardly expect much good to come our way when we invest little time in prayer, or rarely pick up our Bibles outside of church meeting time. How can we encourage others when we only spend time with our brethren once or twice a month? Low maintenance means weak souls.

Peter said, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” (2 Pet.1:10)

Plug up the leaks and enjoy a strong spiritual life.

– Tim Johnson

The Low Oil, Low Dollar Disorder

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