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
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