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

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

What We Have Seen and Heard

Last week it was reported in the news that Mark Lewisohn, a British author, is writing a 3-volume set of books about the Beatles. This was met with great interest by Beatles fans because Mr. Lewishon is a trusted friend of the remaining members of the band. He said that most books about them are not well written, and he wants to write something more definitive and exact. What I found interesting are his thoughts about accuracy in writing such a set of books. “I think it’s an important book to write. I think it’s important that it’s done now whilst the paperwork is still around and whilst the witnesses to the history are still alive to tell it.”

The writers of the New Testament also took pains to be accurate and to consult with living witnesses of the things Jesus said and did. Luke explained his own methods in Luke 1:1-4. “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order…” Luke did careful research, consulted with living witnesses who knew their memories were important, and to write it out accurately.

In addition, the 12 apostles were all official witnesses of the resurrected Christ, and they had unique memories that contributed to the writing of the New Testament. John spoke of “what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life” (1 John 1:1). Witnesses are vital to accurate authorship, and the inspired writers of the Bible consulted with many of them while they were still alive.

If people recognize the value of living witnesses to a historic band like the Beatles, we should feel even greater confidence about the carefully-written accounts of Jesus Christ.

– Tim Johnson