Last Apostle

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

The Seed of the Word

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

Promises, Promises

Promises don’t impress us these days. Politicians all over North America seem to be promising all sorts of things. One says they’ll get the deficit under control in a few years, another says they’ll have the economy booming in a few more, and yet another says he will build an impossibly long wall between countries. We’ve witnessed so many failed promises, we are skeptical of new ones.

People getting married promise to love and care for each other for the rest of their lives, yet almost 50% of all marriages fail. What happened to their promises? Sadly, people make them about as often as they break them.

God tells us in Galatians 3:22 that all men are saved through a promise of God. “But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” In verse 29 he said, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” While salvation is by faith, it is described as a “promise” in this chapter because we must have faith when a promise is given. In this case our faith is well founded, for who is more reliable than God? Abraham trusted God to fulfil his promise, and that is what we must do as well.

What does this teach us about our own promises? If we trust God to fulfil His, shouldn’t we have the character to also do what we say we will? In this same book, faithfulness is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit (5:22). We are to be faithful to fulfil promises. People should feel they can trust us. “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.” (Eph.4:25)

Promises, promises. Are you making good on yours?

– Tim Johnson

When it’s Time to Fly

This week will see significant changes in many families. Children will start new grades in school, university students will leave home and settle into dorms, and graduates will look hard for jobs that may take them to new places. Parents, who know full well the difficulties of the world, long for the days when their children were safe at home. But would that be the best for them now?

When Jacob left home, he learned that the world was not there to serve him. His selfish ways brought him much hardship. He couldn’t even have his way with his choice in a wife. He learned quickly to become disciplined, skilled, and to trust in God, not just himself or his family connections. Gen.27-33.

Joseph was torn from his family as a teenager and thrust into the cruel world of slavery in a foreign country. What hurt most was that his own brothers were at fault. But despite difficult employers, hard labour, and time in jail, he learned to use his wits and trust God’s overall plan. Would he have become the trusted second-in-command over all of Egypt if he had remained at home? Gen.37-41.

David showed great courage as a young man, but only reached his stride when king Saul drafted him into the army. There he made new friends (Jonathan), fought and won personal battles, learned to survive, and eventually became a powerful leader, eventually replacing Saul. His parents trained him, but his independence matured him.

I suspect that even Jesus gained great confidence at 12 years old from his experience with the Jewish teachers in the temple, alone (Luke 2:45-49). His famous statement to his fretting parents teaches us all: “Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Good homes guide young people as they find their footing for their upcoming independent lives. But eventually we must let our children grow to adults and fly from the nest. Having done your work, they will thrive. Their faith will guide them.

– Tim Johnson

Thankfulness of the Saint

Ten years ago on Labour Day weekend, the South Edmonton, Alberta, Church of Christ had its first Sunday assembly. After months of planning, and an encouraging send-off by the north-side congregation, all went smoothly. I was their preacher and it was a privilege to give the first sermon there. We carried many supplies into the rented hall, sat on borrowed chairs, used a troublesome PA system, and had Sunday school classes in hallways and corners. But everyone was grateful for what we had. It was a day of great joy and thankfulness.

Christians are to be known as a people full of thankfulness. We’re told in Ephesians 5:20 to be “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” We are to express it to God through Jesus, for it was Jesus who died and rose for us and gave us lives of hope.

There are days when things seem very dark and life has little joy. Stresses can multiply and make us feel like we are carrying an impossible load. Some days seem to be full of things broken, appliances that refuse to work, and unexpected bills that make us throw up our hands in frustration. How can we be grateful “for all things” on days like that?! We can if we remember all the things that aren’t broken and continue to work well. We can be thankful when we think of the promises of God, that He will “never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb.13:5).

Nobody has life perfect. Every single human being alive today (7.4 billion of us) has some troubles. When we see the good things God does for us, we can forego grumbling and “give thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God.”

– Tim Johnson