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

Jesus the Faithful Witness

The Book of Revelation gives us many names for Jesus Christ, all of them designed to teach us something about Him. In the first chapter He’s called “the faithful witness” (v4), and repeated in 3:14. A witness, in a legal setting, is someone who confirms the truth of something they have seen. In the New Testament, a witness is someone involved in preaching what he has seen and knows. The apostles were witnesses of the resurrected Jesus, and as Peter explained in Acts 10:41-42, they were ordered to preach and testify this truth. This was often difficult because apostolic preachers regularly faced violence, opposition, and threats of imprisonment and death if they continued to preach as witnesses. Therefore Jesus urged them to be faithful in their important work as witnesses, despite the dangers. Continue reading