Hidden Treasure

I like watching Antiques Roadshow. One episode stands out in my mind, when an old lady brought in a small, fragile-looking table. The appraiser looked it over and became very excited because the table was worth a half-million dollars! Turns out it was genuine Chippendale, the queen of all furniture. It was a great moment for antique lovers.

There’s a moment like that in the Bible. Jesus spoke of a man who found a treasure buried in a field (Matt.13:44). In those days there were no banks, and people hid their wealth in places where thieves couldn’t find it. The man was thrilled to discover this long-lost buried treasure. But he had a problem: it wasn’t his field and the owner would have all the rights to the treasure. So, the man sold everything he had and bought the field, securing the treasure. Obviously, the treasure was of much greater worth than all his possessions.

Jesus explained that the kingdom of heaven is like this man who found the treasure. When somebody looks into the Bible and understands what the kingdom is, and goes out and finds it, he has discovered a treasure. I’ve met people who discovered it by simply encountering the church, not really intending to search for spiritual treasure. People with good hearts are often thrilled to find it – and do everything possible to become part of it. It’s like selling all you have to gain something wonderful.

The New Testament tells us about another man who found the treasure of the kingdom of heaven. His name was Paul. Later, he wrote a letter to some fellow believers and declared, about the Savior, “Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Like Paul, have you found the treasure yet? And if you have, do you consider it to be of more value than all you have?

– Tim

Love Kindness

What sort of people should we be in a world full of conflict, poverty and hardship? In a peaceful land, such as our own, perhaps we are a little insulated from such things. However, we do have the poor among us, and many people struggle with illness and unemployment.

As an answer to our question, there’s a great description in Micah 6:8 of what God wants to see in His people. “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” The statement follows an indictment of the paltry efforts of Israel to approach God. They thought He would be happy with them if they offered a great number of animal sacrifices and expensive oils (v6-7). But without the right character and attitudes, this would fail. The world cries out for justice and kindness; so does God.

What about us? We are rightly concerned about proper worship, and obedience to the New Testament directions of what we should be as His church. But like Israel of old, this would amount to little if we neglect humility, kindness and justice.

Look at the way he phrases these things. “Do justice,” not just appreciate it. “Love kindness” (mercy), implying a great interest in being kind to others. “Walk humbly with your God,” which eliminates arrogance and a failure to notice the struggles of other people. God wants us to be obedient to Him, but He also wants us to develop the right character.

The church can’t solve everybody’s problems, nor can we tackle all the world’s hardships. But we can be just, kind and humble. Didn’t Jesus say the same? “But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion and not sacrifice.” (Matt.9:13)

What kindness do you plan to do for someone else today?

– Tim Johnson

Lights in our Community

Jesus said in Matt.5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” With the dawn of 2017 upon us, what should the people in our community – especially those near our church building – see in us? Here’s a few thoughts.

1. A godly people. In our profane, modern society people should see something better in the Lord’s people. Peter said, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Pet.1:14-15).

2. A kind people. There are needs all around us, and our neighbours should view us as people who are concerned for them. We can’t deal with everybody’s problems, but we can be kind. Paul said, “…Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col.3:12). Will people view us as cold and indifferent, or warm and helpful?

3. An engaging people. If we want the community to be interested in our message, we must be open to them. People have questions and wonder about who we are. Peter, who wrote about the church’s relationship to the world, said, “…always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet.3:15).

4. An enthusiastic people. Many religious groups practice rituals with lukewarm habit. The community needs to see us as people who are happy and enthused about the faith. Few are interested in religion that is sleepy and dreary. “Therefore, gird your minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13).

5. A people of the truth. Some think the church should accept everything and stand for nothing. More respect is given to those who know the truth and stand on it firmly. John wrote to “all who know the truth, for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever” (2 Jn.1-2).

Let’s be determined to let our light shine effectively in 2017.

– Tim Johnson

The Seed of the Word

Having had our first snow of the season, it seems like a sad time for gardeners. All the beautiful flowers they have worked hard to nurture are now wilted and need to be pulled out and sent to the landfill. But the wonder of it all is that within six months, many of those same flowers will emerge from the soil and bloom again. What looks dead now is merely dormant; it’s how nature preserves itself through the winter.

There have been times in history when the church has declined and almost passed away. While the religious groups of the world have thrived through politics and endless catering to men and their desires, the church of the New Testament seemed to disappear.

Jesus often compared the spread of the gospel to the seed sown by the farmer. “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows – how, he himself does not know.” (Mark 4:26-27). Like seeds of specific plants, they can only produce the same plants. Tulips can’t produce roses, nor can mums make dandelions. The seed of the word of God will produce New Testament Christians, who are the church that Christ built. If the church of the Bible seemed to disappear in the past, perhaps it was just dormant for a while, then new life appeared once again.

The power of the gospel is that it can deal with sin and save souls. It’s like a powerful seed that only produces one thing: Christians, who are members of the body of Christ. The seed that made Christians in the first century also makes Christians today, for it pays no attention to the period of time in which it does its work.

Some say the church in Canada is declining. If that is true in some areas, it’s also thriving in others. Let’s not hinder our work by fretting about it. Rather, let’s dedicate ourselves to the truth and share it. Let the seed do its work.

– 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