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
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
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
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
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