I once knew a senior citizen who said he lived to have a clean car. Sure enough, he was up every morning and out the door to wash and wax it until it gleamed. That car would sparkle even on cloudy days. How silly, we say. Yet if there was anything positive about it, we could say it gave a senior motivation to get moving every day. But surely we can think of something greater than the vanity of a nice-looking car. Nothing injects life with more energy than when we have a purpose that is bigger than we are; an overall reason to live; a great goal that defines what we are trying to do in our all-too-short lives.
When we look into the New Testament we see the early church engaged in expansion, pushing the borders of the Kingdom into new places, smashing right through racial barriers, and dreaming to get into new areas. They endured prejudice, persecution, exhaustion, and stress. What drove them to take the gospel into the whole inhabited world in one generation (Col.1:23)?
The answer lies in the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. They realized that God Himself was behind this new enterprise of faith. Jesus gave his earliest followers their marching orders, recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved, but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mk.16:15-16). Obeying this purpose produced the greatest strides in evangelism that the world has ever seen.
How about us today? Is our purpose simply to make as much money as possible? Should your ultimate future achievement be ownership of a great big house in a nice neighbourhood? Is your goal just to travel and enjoy warm weather somewhere? If we’re just trying to please ourselves, we’re not much different than that man who had to do the daily car wash. When we live for great things Jesus gave us, life gains a driving force that moves us to take on exciting challenges and satisfying works for others.
Are you serving the Master, or just washing the car?
– Tim Johnson
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
Almost daily the networks report threats and disasters. We hear of global warming, frightening scenarios, disastrous politics, and new taxes. Getting up to news like that, one is tempted to stay in bed!
Wouldn’t it be nice if the daily news people reported that God is still in control? Daniel had to tell the arrogant king Nebuchadnezzar this in Daniel 2:28, “However, there is a God in heaven…” Jesus reminded a demanding Pilate in John 19:11, “You would have no authority over Me unless it had been given you from above.” God rules all and has given that authority to Jesus. The world feels threatened at times, but God is the One who keeps things going.
It is of Jesus that the apostle wrote, “And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col.1:17). The latter means “to maintain the universe in continuous stability and productiveness” (Vincent). The Hebrew writer put it this way, “He upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb.1:3). Jesus is something like “the bond of the universe” (Philo). He keeps it functioning, guides it and uses it for His purposes.
With a being like Jesus in control, why do we need to fear? While nature is unpredictable, disasters have often been stopped in the past, sometimes by scientific breakthroughs, other times by efficient government action – but always by God’s rule.
We should pay attention to what’s happening in the world and do all we can to help our fellow man (Gal.6:10). But let’s rest in the fact that God rules.
– Tim Johnson
A photographer decided to travel the world and find the oldest living people, recording their wisdom in a book. He interviewed about 50 “supercentenarians,” people 110 years old or more. While he certainly found some wise people – such as a 110-year old Tibetan who earned a university degree at 106, has all his teeth, and has never seen a doctor in his life – many others have been a disappointment.
One would think that the extremely old would have learned some profound things, but great age does not guarantee great wisdom. Genesis 4-5 briefly records the lives of the world’s longest living people, few of which were wise or godly. By Noah’s day, when men still lived at least 300 years, man was so selfish and untrustworthy God said, “I am sorry that I have made them” (Gen. 6:7)
I’ve met many people who’ve lived longer than most, but they made such a mess of their lives they ended up miserable, vengeful, and alone. But it’s a treat to know elderly Christians who’ve spent their days serving Jesus, and then ended their lives with sweet attitudes. What makes some people very wise and happy, yet others become foolish and pitiful?
To put it simply, the godliest people among us have literally given their lives away. They decided early in life to obey the gospel of Christ and spent decades serving Him. They have a sense that their lives could end at any time, and they want to serve as best they can for as long as they have. Didn’t James tell us this in Jas. 4:14? Instead of striving for the longest life possible, which can be rather selfish, it’s better to make the best of the time we do have.
Setting healthy goals is a wise strategy for life. What excellent and noble goals do you have to make this year the best possible? Why not decide to encourage people; be more thankful; urge people to consider Jesus Christ; tell the elders they’re doing a good job; be a giver, even if you don’t have much; pray daily for the church; maybe even prepare for leadership?
You don’t have to be extremely old to be wise. God can help you start right now.
– Tim Johnson
As Israel was hauled off into captivity by the iron-grip of Nebuchadnezzar in 606 BC, they wondered what had happened to God’s promises of protection. They settled into this foreign land where people spoke a language they didn’t understand, and worshiped gods Israel knew nothing about. What happened to all God had said over the years about His faithfulness to them?
Before the first wave of people had even left for Babylon, God revealed through Jeremiah that their stay would last 70 years (see Jer.25:11). Sometime close to the end of the captivity, Daniel reminded them of Jeremiah’s record of God’s promise about the 70 years. Somehow, in all their grumbling, the people had forgotten what the Lord had clearly said.
But the Lord hadn’t forgotten. Ezra recorded that when the 70th year came, the new king Cyrus was providentially motivated by God to write an official decree releasing all Israelites who wanted to return to Jerusalem. It’s all laid out in Ezra 1:1-4. Once that 70th year arrived, it was like an alarm clock going off – it was time to go home! What’s even more interesting is that 250 years before, Isaiah predicted that the liberator’s name would be “Cyrus” (see Isaiah 44:28). Can you imagine that? Two centuries before he lived, God clearly recorded what his actual name would be!
The entire saga of Israel’s trials and release from Babylon demonstrates the iron-clad promises of God. He always fulfils what He says He’s going to do. We live in a world that constantly breaks its promises, but that should never weaken our trust in a God who never breaks His.
We are saved by God’s promise (Gal.3:29), and protected by a promise (1 Peter 1:5). If God fulfilled His promises in such a dramatic way to Israel, you can count on Him doing the same for you.
– Tim Johnson