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
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.
When Jesus first made this statement, the poor must have laughed. What blessing could possible come from poverty? In first century Judea, poverty was common. Jesus also mentioned hungry people, and those who mourn. Loss of life easily happened from manual labour accidents, disease and war. Families were left to face extreme hardships.
Poverty is still with us, even here in Canada. Stats Canada says there are about 3.2 million people living with low incomes, including 634,000 children. That’s roughly 10% of all Canadians. I’m sure poverty was much higher in Jesus’ day.
The Lord didn’t say the answer to poverty was simply to feed people, although He did do plenty of that. In Luke 6:20-21, He said the poor would be blessed because they could have the kingdom of heaven. Likewise the hungry would be satisfied, but not just with food. Sometimes people with great possessions can feel poor in spirit, hungry for deeper things to make life worthwhile, and certainly nobody is exempt from “weeping” over inevitable losses. There is more than one way to be poor.
The poor are blessed when they turn to Jesus and find forgiveness, acceptance, love, depth of spirit, and new lives to live. They gain the ability to laugh again in a hard world; to be satisfied deep inside instead of trying to buy it with money; and feel the solid ground on which to build a better life.
The poor and hungry need our help. But they need the real blessings that can only come from facing poverty of the soul. This is our work as His people.
– Tim Johnson