Ownership

We have very little say in what kind of neighbours we get, and how they treat their properties. Some are proud of their homes and work hard to keep everything in good repair. Others seem to think it doesn’t matter that their gutters are broken and the fence is falling down. If you own a home you have the right to decide what you do with it, how it looks, and what goes on there. One person may turn their place into a party house with loud music and drinking, while another may have three dogs that tear up the yard. It’s your property and you have the right to decide what character of place it will be. You can keep your vehicles in a nice garage or, as one neighbour of mine does, jam the driveway and lawn with trucks and cars. It’s up to you.

God tells us in the Bible that we are His possession. “He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession…” (Titus 2:14). Christians gladly give their lives to Him because we are grateful Jesus died and rose again to save us from our sins. Along with His ownership, the Lord has the right to expect a certain kind of behaviour in our lives. We are His house, and He directs our ways. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

The Lord gives us tremendous freedom in Christ. We can make our own minds up about our lives. But we don’t have the freedom to live ungodly lives now. “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal.5:13).

Respect God’s ownership. Is your life like the house with the gutters and fence falling apart, or is it becoming a house that is in good repair?

– Tim Johnson

Fake Medicine

I once met an elderly preacher who supported himself by selling home-made medicines. He wandered the forests and picked plants he believed could help people, and then ground them up and made liquefied products. But their effectiveness was called into question. He gave people false hope for physical problems. The same thing happens when people think parts of the Bible are not inspired, yet insist God’s word can save us. It’s like trusting in medicine you have decided is fake.

For example, in the late 1700’s, German scholars taught that since Isaiah prophesied events that would take place over huge amounts of time, he couldn’t have written all 66 chapters of his book. They decided the first 39 chapters are his, but others wrote the rest much later. Some claim the book was completed by up to four people, and that half the book is just history recorded by men.

But if half of Isaiah is not inspired, how can we trust the rest of the Bible? And if it can’t be trusted, how can these same scholars teach us that its message can save us? They have turned God’s word into fake medicine.

Jesus and His apostles thought differently. All of them quoted from the book of Isaiah and never gave a hint that there was any more than one writer. For instance, Jesus quoted from Is.6:9-10, 42:1 and 61:1-2 (see Matthew 13:14, 12:17, and Luke 4:17 respectively) – the first, middle, and last sections of the book. Jesus said he was quoting “the prophet Isaiah.” He meant just one. Further, the apostles quoted from many sections of Isaiah in their inspired books. Just look in a Bible concordance under “Isaiah” and see how many times he is quoted. All of them simply state “Isaiah said,” or “the prophet Isaiah,” etc.

These New Testament quotes indirectly tell us that there was only one Isaiah, and all 66 chapters of his book inspired by God. This is what Jesus believed, and He knew what He was talking about. There’s no legitimate reason for us to believe otherwise.

The book of Isaiah, like the rest of the Bible, is the real thing. It’s completely trustworthy, powerful, and can cure the sicknesses of the soul. Don’t settle for something that doubting men water-down and render useless – like fake medicine.

Have you taken God’s medicine today?

– Tim

The Daily Car Wash

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

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

And the News Is….

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