Last Apostle

When John wrote his three short New Testament letters, he was an elderly man. It is highly likely that he was the last living apostle of Jesus Christ. He had contributed the Gospel of John, and the great book of victory, Revelation. The shortest of his letters is 2 John; it only has 13 verses. It would have been one of his final letters. As in the case of the book of Revelation, did he write it in exile on the island of Patmos? We can only speculate.

And what did the last apostle have to say in one of his last letters? He reminded us to love one another (v5), uphold the truth (v2), and refuse deceivers (v7-11). THE TRUTH dominates his thoughts. Everything dear to Christians is built upon it. Even love for one another is related to it; “…whom I love in truth” (v1).

It was a violent time in the Roman world and John writes in a discreet way. Rather than identify the congregation of the church that was to receive his letter, he calls them “the chosen lady and her children” (v1). A fellow congregation is mentioned as “the children of your chosen sister” (v13). It is John’s love for these churches that shines through the ages. He speaks of love four times in the letter. They were people in the Lord “whom I love in truth” (v1).

The challenge for us is not just to walk in truth, but to love the church as John did – and to love it in truth. Love without the truth is just sentiment. God calls us to a higher love for His people.

Our care for the church is not because our building is convenient or some of its members may be relatives. We love it for the sake of the truth, because its people know the truth and walk in it, and because the truth abides in them forever.

The last apostle laid down a challenge for all succeeding generations of Christians – love each other in truth.

– Tim Johnson

Just One Can at Skydome

All of us are well aware of the Blue Jays fan who threw a beer can on the baseball field in the middle of play during the seventh inning on Tuesday night. It outraged everyone because it almost hit the Baltimore Oriole’s outfielder who was busy catching a fly ball. The police were quick to enter the stands to find the culprit, but were unsuccessful. The entire Orioles baseball team was upset, and the fielders felt threatened. This dangerous can-toss has been condemned in Canadian newspapers and by hosts of news people on television and radio. They used words like “embarrassing,” “inappropriate,” and “reprehensible.” Needless to say, the entire city of Baltimore is upset, and people all across the United States feel disgusted with Toronto baseball fans.

Now let’s think about the unfairness of this. There were 50,000 fans at the game, and the actions of just one of them has spoiled the reputation of everyone present. Sure it’s unfair, but that’s the way the human mind works.

Let’s apply this to our actions as members of the Lord’s church. We’re told in 2 Cor.5:20 that we are “ambassadors for Christ.” We are faithful spokesmen for our sovereign, and our actions can enhance what we’ve been called to do, or dishonor it. What comes out of our mouths can be godly and pure, or disrespectful and foul. We can not only spoil our own reputation, but that of the entire church in the eyes of the community. It’s vital that we live and talk in a way that gives the world the best impression of the name “Christian.” Jesus deserves our best; let’s strive to give it to Him. Never be guilty of tossing a big mistake into the reputation of Christ’s church.

– Tim Johnson

Promises, Promises

Promises don’t impress us these days. Politicians all over North America seem to be promising all sorts of things. One says they’ll get the deficit under control in a few years, another says they’ll have the economy booming in a few more, and yet another says he will build an impossibly long wall between countries. We’ve witnessed so many failed promises, we are skeptical of new ones.

People getting married promise to love and care for each other for the rest of their lives, yet almost 50% of all marriages fail. What happened to their promises? Sadly, people make them about as often as they break them.

God tells us in Galatians 3:22 that all men are saved through a promise of God. “But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” In verse 29 he said, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” While salvation is by faith, it is described as a “promise” in this chapter because we must have faith when a promise is given. In this case our faith is well founded, for who is more reliable than God? Abraham trusted God to fulfil his promise, and that is what we must do as well.

What does this teach us about our own promises? If we trust God to fulfil His, shouldn’t we have the character to also do what we say we will? In this same book, faithfulness is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit (5:22). We are to be faithful to fulfil promises. People should feel they can trust us. “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.” (Eph.4:25)

Promises, promises. Are you making good on yours?

– Tim Johnson

The Sea of Glass

Frightful things have confronted the world recently, highlighted by the violence in France and Belgium. Terrorism has people afraid of what might happen next.

After all the violence that accompanied the exodus of Israel from Egypt, God reassured Moses that there is peace. One day he called 74 people up into Mt. Sinai, including Moses. There they saw an appearance of God that was marvellous. See Exodus 24:9-10. “Under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.” The ancients were used to a world of rocks, dust and mud. A sapphire pavement would have been spectacular.

There’s a similar description in Rev.4:6, where John spoke of God in heaven. There he saw “a sea of glass like crystal” surrounding the throne. Later, in Rev.15:2, victorious martyrs stood “on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.”

What can we learn from such a splendid description? In the book of Revelation the enemy of the church arises out of “the sea” (13:1). Later, the great harlot – representing Rome – sits on her own throne “above the waters.” John explained, “the waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.” (v15) In the world there is turmoil, like the crashing, swirling sea. Nations and rulers often stir things up and there is unrest and violence. But with God there is only peace and calm, like a sea of glass. He is in control, even when the world seems more like a raging sea.

We have to live in a world that is constantly in turmoil, and often frightful. But we can have a connection with heaven where all is calm. In Jesus Christ we can have peace – come what may. Next time you feel fear, picture yourself standing before God’s throne surrounded by a sea of glass.

– Tim Johnson

People in the Way

A large crowd pushed its way through Jericho one day with Jesus in the middle. Leaders out front felt important as they shooed people out of the way, and hangers-on protected their positions close to the Lord. It would have been easy for Jesus to go with the noisy flow and get to his destination in good time. But He made the crowd stop.

A beggar on the side of the road was calling out for him. This was Bartimaeus, a poverty-stricken blind man. Despite efforts by the crowd to silence him, he cried out all the more – “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Lk.18:38) He was not a nuisance to Jesus. He spoke with him and, moved with compassion, touched his eyes and restored his sight. Only then would He allow the crowd to move on.

We’re living in a world that likes to act like that single-minded, pushy crowd. It’s as if we have our lives set on speed-control and we’re reluctant to back off. When others get in the way we don’t like it. Horns blare and people must scurry out of the way. It’s a selfish, arrogant way to handle things.

Jesus shows us a better way. I’m sure he was in a hurry at times, but he didn’t mind stopping for those who needed a hand. Don’t we want to be treated like that? Nothing is more important than a person. Jesus thought so. He was courteous to friends and foes alike. People felt his kindness and appreciated the fact he was interested in their lives. All we have to do is look around us at the many needs and hardships of people. You can’t solve everything, but you can care. “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…” (Col.3:12). Bartimaeus isn’t far away.

– Tim Johnson