Perhaps you’ve been to Cape Spear, Newfoundland. There, a simple path leads from a parking lot to a small fence barring your way. This is the end of North America, for beyond it lies the Atlantic Ocean. There is no point of land any farther east than this spot, and for that reason the place is inspiring. For a few moments everybody on the continent is behind you. In fact, you can look directly east and you see nothing but water for 3,000 km; your next port of call would be Galway, Ireland.
The immensity of the ocean is astonishing. One airline has advertised a flight from Saint John’s, NF to Dublin in 4.5 hours, and that’s traveling at 550 mph! For hours you sit looking out that little round window and see nothing but water in all directions. From up there, huge ships look like pieces of floating rice. The average depth of this ocean is almost 11,000 feet – roughly 2 miles. It’s no wonder the remains of shipwrecks are so hard to find. It took over 70 years to locate the Titanic.
Ancient Jewish people were not known as sailors; they made their living off the land. The sea was a fearsome thing, a place into which one could disappear forever. When Jonah wanted to disappear, he chose to flee in a ship. In 700 BC the prophet Micah wrote the following about God: “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). Micah was struck with the capacity of God to forgive. Today, when someone repents and obeys the gospel of Christ, it’s as if their sins were picked up and thrown into the middle of the ocean where they will disappear forever. Praise God for his forgiveness.
– Tim Johnson
In a single verse Luke describes the 30-year upbringing of John the Baptist: “And the child continued to grow, and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel” (Luke 1:80). Nothing is said of the hard work of his parents, Zacharias and Elizabeth. But those of us who are parents know there is a world of work in that verse!
What an unusual child he was. His father had been told of John’s future work as the forerunner of Jesus, and that he would be “great in the sight of the Lord” (v15). Knowing this, how did they take their newborn baby and raise him to become such a great preacher, as God wanted? He must have prayed every day for wisdom, and talked with his son regularly of what God had in mind. They lived in the hill country of Judah (v39), and it was in these deserted areas that John lived. He became a rugged outdoorsman and could exist by foraging. He would need these skills later in life because he would preach to crowds away from towns and cities.
We must admire his parents – both of whom were senior citizens – for their fine work raising John. They challenge us to work hard and sacrifice to raise our own children wisely, teaching them about Jesus Christ and what they can accomplish for God in this world. Our work doesn’t end when they move out on their own; they will need us for advice and encouragement for decades to come.
Years ago a teacher in Europe was asked why he bowed down to his students before class every day. He said one never knows who they will become.
We’ve all been shocked this week to hear about more violence in the world. It is bewildering to try to understand why human beings hurt and kill each other, especially when innocent people are the victims. These things will continue to be debated for a long time to come.
Cruelty, violence and murder have been with man since the days of Cain and Abel. The real reasons for such crimes has also been with man just as long: hatred, jealousy, revenge, and a lack of respect for human life. These are the reasons why God judged and wiped away the human race in Noah’s day. When Noah and his family emerged from the ark, God lectured them about the sin of shedding human blood, “For in the image of God He made man” (Gen.6:6). Human life must be treated with great care and respect. This is a principle many people in our world have forgotten.
You may wonder, “what can I do to make the world less violent?” We’re taught in the New Testament to treat others kindly and to be patient when we’ve been offended. Paul told the Ephesian Christians, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph.4:31-32). Paul also said, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We are to practice, teach and model these principles in a world that far too often favours violence. This is how we change things.
It would be hard to find a lovelier introduction to a letter than Jude 1-2. In it, he described his readers with three phrases that should comfort the most discouraged of souls. Let’s have a look.
First, he said they were the called. He was writing to people Jesus had notified, like a legal summons. One possessing the highest authority in the universe had invited them to be saved and enter His kingdom. Since Jude was undoubtedly the physical brother of Jesus, the thought would have taken on a special significance to his readers. And how are people called? Paul said through the gospel (2 Thess.2:14). There’s our summons.
Second, Jude said they were beloved in God the Father. What a sweet term! We use it only for those close to us, like family members. We depend upon such people, and want to be with them. Out of all the people God could, He says we are His beloved. And how did we manage to fall into that category? Simply by His grace and our faith, not by our accomplishments or goodness. Life goes much better when someone loves us like that.
Third, he said they were kept for Jesus Christ. This time of year we are busy buying gifts to be kept for Christmas day and given to family. God is keeping us for Jesus. This implies protection and care. When Jesus comes on the last day, we will be introduced to Him for all eternity. What a great thought! Never fear you are alone and ignored. God is keeping you for His Son.
Three terms with three perspectives. The first looks back, the second involves the present, and the third looks to the future. God has us covered completely! No wonder Jude was able to say what he did in verse two: “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”
– Tim Johnson
It is hard for us to imagine the minds of those who have recently killed and injured innocent people in Europe. We wonder where they will strike next, and how we can protect ourselves and our country. Their actions have caused fear and disgust in people everywhere.
It’s interesting that the Bible speaks about similar ancient Middle Eastern powers that once terrorized nations all around them. The Assyrians, Babylonians and Syrians were particularly guilty of atrocities. Isaiah spoke against Assyria in Is.10, predicting their destruction in verses 15-19. In chapter 17 he says the powers in Damascus would be destroyed overnight; “Such will be the portion of those who plunder us, and the lot of those who pillage us.” (v14) Judgment on the Babylonians is featured in chapter 21, and by other prophets like Jeremiah and Daniel.
God clearly pointed out that He is in control of the destiny of nations, and He will judge them when their time is up. Nothing escapes Him, and for that reason we do not need to fear. I have no doubt He will judge the current terrorists when He feels the right time has come; He may use other nations to do it. We can trust His wisdom in these complicated matters.
Our work in the world is to “observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually” (Hosea 12:6). Our business is to save the souls of men, and to teach them how to follow Christ. Let’s keep busy with these things and not fear the ravings of violent men and women. God comforted His people in difficult times of the past, and we can rest in His care today.
– Tim Johnson