Author Archives: Dr. Randy Johnson

Lesson Seventeen • Devotion #2: Anxious about the Church

I saw an article recently entitled, “The Top 5 Things People Worry About And How To Solve Them.” In the article, Sean Clarke describes the list as work, money, health, what others think, and the past. The first three sounded common, but I was intrigued by the last two answers. The list is pretty self-centered without any reference to caring about others.

In 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, Paul lists a number of items that would cause just about everyone some worry, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” Paul had a reason for concern. He was constantly on the edge of death. He never knew what the storyline would be for the next chapter of his life. 

However, verse 28 is where he caught my attention, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” Paul’s problem was not about physical harm; it was his concern for the church. Paul experienced “anxiety” over the church. Was it possible for him to be too concerned about his people, the church?

Instead of an article about the top five things people worry about, how about writing out your top five prayer requests. Family, health, work, and finances might head up the list, but where do the church and your fellow brothers and sisters fit in your prayer time. Are you concerned about the church? Does the “anxiety” take you to your knees in prayer?

It has been said, “Worry is like a good rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” In Philippians 4:6, Paul starts the verse by saying, “Do not be anxious about anything.”Paul tells us not to be anxious, but he speaks of his own “anxiety” in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. The key is the last half of the verse, “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

The key to handling worry and anxiety is to give it to God. We will have concerns of all sorts and hopefully one of those is the church. Therefore, it should drive us to prayer. Please pray for the church. Pray for the elders to follow God so close it is easy to lead the flock. Pray for your brothers and sisters, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).

Pray for each other to grow in love, wisdom, and the ways of God. 

Lesson Sixteen • Devotion #5: KISS

I remember reading a golf article that gave some hints on how to distract your opponent. I was never a fan of this. One of them was to warn your opponent of any dangers. It sounds nice, but it is a mind game. I know as a coach that the last statement I want to leave with one of my athletes is a positive thought. Therefore, getting an opponent to think negative “gets in their head.” Warn them of water on the left and they will often hit the ball into the water or go way right. In their mind, they are saying, “Don’t pull it. Don’t go left. Don’t go in the water.” All they are thinking about is going left and they probably will.

We tend to complicate things. In sports, we take our eye off the ball, we overthink a situation, or we get too focused on the non-essentials. In farming, while plowing a field, you need to keep looking forward. Even in life, doing onto others as you would want to be done to you is pretty basic. It reminds me of the acronym KISS- Keep It Simple Stupid (I was not allowed to use the word “stupid” as a kid).

In 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Paul’s concern is that the believers are complicating the Gospel. He says, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” The serpent was able to get Eve sidetracked by changing God’s words ever so slightly. She missed the big picture and became consumed with a tree that should have been a no-brainer. Likewise, the believers were listening to false prophets who were adding to the Gospel. They were feeling like the death of Jesus was not enough.

I have watched believers today get so consumed with the Holy Spirit (gifts and blessings), that they miss what Jesus did and offers. They like the idea of what they can get from the Holy Spirit, instead of what they can do for the Lord. It becomes about them, just as it did with Eve and Adam. 

We need to fix our eyes on Jesus.

Paul already told them the message in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The Gospel, which is the work of Jesus Christ, is of first importance. Stick to the facts. Do not complicate things. Keep it, simple sister. Keep it simple son. Keep it, simple students. Keep it, simple seniors. Keep it, simple saints.

Lesson Fifteen • Devotion #3: Think

One of my favorite phrases is, “Think about what you are thinking about.” What consumes your mind? We can check our credit card statement or checkbook to see where we are spending our money, but do we take the time to evaluate what is passing through our ears and pulling up a chair? 

In 2 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul challenges the believers in reminding them that the battle is spiritual and the “high ground” is the mind. Verses 3-6 record, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”

I enjoy how Paul describes how they would “destroy arguments” and “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” This can definitely be a devotion to the importance of apologetics (defending the faith), but there can be more. 

Negativity, inferiority, anger, hate, envy, fear, self-centeredness, sadness, and loneliness can break us down emotionally, physically, and even spiritually. We need to “take every thought captive” and listen to God’s Word.

Romans 12:2 commands, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The more you think about what you are thinking about, you will see trends and “destroy arguments” before they establish residence in your inner being.

Philippians 4:8 reminds us that what we think about is a choice. Paul says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” In Colossians 3:2, he adds, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

Finally, in Romans 8:5-6, Paul says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Life and peace sound better than death.

Think about what you are thinking about!

Lesson Fourteen • Devotion #3: Ready or Not

As I was reading 2 Corinthians 9, one word stepped out to me in verses 1-5, “Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.” The word “ready” is used five times in this paragraph.

I started thinking about the game Hide-n-Seek. How many parents are guilty of sending their children to hide, yelling “Ready or not, here I come,” and then sitting down for a brief moment of solitude? It is fun to watch the child who tends to have a hard time finding the perfect hiding spot and is never ready.

However, something more powerful showed up on the same day as I was working through this passage. I received a letter from Daniel. His opening paragraph said, “I am hoping this finds everyone living well and healthy. These are some very trying times we are living in right now. Please stay ready to meet Christ. He will be returning to get us soon. I look forward to that glorious day.” 

This letter was not from a relative or a Pastor friend. It was from an inmate who wanted to encourage the HIM prison team. I am thrilled with the reminder.

Paul reminds us to be ready in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

Matthew 24:44 adds, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Luke 12:40 echoes Matthew, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Jesus is saying, “Ready or not, here I come!” Be ready with no regrets.

Lesson Thirteen • Devotion #4: Favor

Tim Tebow (Christian professional athlete) has said, “I pray to start my day and finish it in prayer. I’m just thankful for everything, all the blessings in my life, trying to stay that way. I think that’s the best way to start your day and finish your day. It keeps everything in perspective.” Having a proper perspective on life is crucial. Seeing things the way God does is the goal.

I remember being taught a lesson on perspective from a fellow teacher named Clare. We were chaperoning a school trip and were on a subway in Rome. I remember hearing him say, “Hey, hey, my passport.” I remember getting to him through all the commotion and realizing someone was trying to pick-pocket him. We knew we had to be careful since we were warned by the tour guide. He still had his hand on his passport as the person scampered away. Your passport is your lifeline in another country, so I was ready to take the person down. Instead, we just stayed together and rallied up the troops.

That night Clare and I talked about the situation. I was still a little upset for him. However, he surprised me. He said, “I am glad I am the one who was almost pick-pocketed rather than being in a situation where I feel I need to do the crime.” His perspective was godly and encouraged me.

When it comes to finances and giving, Paul challenges our perspective in 2 Corinthians chapter 8. In verses 3 and 4, he describes the churches of Macedonia, “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints.” They begged to have the opportunity to give. Would you be disappointed if the offering was not taken at a church gathering?

The word “favor” is an interesting choice. Merriam-Webster gives several definitions including the friendly regard shown toward another, gracious kindness, and a special privilege or right. My immediate thought was that the favor was done for those who received the money. However, the real perspective is that the one who is allowed to give is the one being blessed. It is a privilege to be in a position where you can help someone. My friend, Clare, would be generous and say something like, “I would rather have resources and be obligated to help someone else rather than be the one in need.”

“There are several things to be learned 

about money from Scripture, 

and the concepts of generosity 

and giving are in there.” 

Dave Ramsey

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