There are reams and reams of paper used to write books on how Christians to live lives that follow Jesus. Rarely, though, is there anything that as simple as what we actually find in the Bible. Paul gave us three good pieces of advice in 1 Thessalonians that too few of us actually heed.
1. Live Quiet Lives
One could probably write an entire post about this. In today’s world filled with social media, it is easy to live a noisy life clamoring for attention. Few of us are immune to this. Many of us need to take this piece to heart and spend some time that is focused outwardly, putting the spotlight on others. Give others credit and point toward the Lord instead of ourselves.
2. Mind Your Own Business
What would happen if we took this one to heart? Instead of getting involved in every controversy, what if we truly focused on making our own lives better? What would the world look like?
When I was a kid, I worked on farms located around me during the summer. I hauled hay and worked in tobacco. When I turned 16, I went to work in a grocery store and had another part-time job watering plants at my church during a dry summer. Plus, I still had to mow the yard and do chores around the house. God expects us to work. He does not expect us to live entitled lives. One time my dad’s job went on strike. He used that time to work around the place and even thought about finding work to do that would bring in income.
Why should we do these things? What benefit is there to them?
So that we “may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on on one.” These are three keys to living the kind of life that God ordains for us. Instead of looking for some magic bullet, let’s do what God’s word tells us to do.
Most of us are aware at this point that Muhammad Ali passed away a few days ago. There has rarely been as controversial figure in recent history. Whether you loved or hated him for his braggadocio, his conversion to Islam or his refusal to serve in the military during the Vietnam War, it is difficult to recall anyone who was more of a lightning rod for controversy.
I loved Ali as a kid. I didn’t really watch boxing as a young child, but I would see him on Candid Camera and get excited any time he was on. This caused some conflict with my Vietnam serving father. Despite, and perhaps because of, my dad’s strong feelings I continued to like Ali, maybe just to spite him. That’s another story and the subject of another day.
The bottom line is that, for a time, Muhammad Ali was the most famous person on the planet, accomplishing the rare feat of the being the most loved and the most hated man alive. He even fought Superman.
DC Comics published an over-sized comic entitled Superman vs Muhammad Ali. In order to defend Earth against an alien invasion, Superman and Ali fought. Superman temporarily gave up his powers and Ali won the fight. The plot isn’t really all that important. What’s important is that Ali was so famous that he fought Superman. The closest thing most people could compare it to would be Michael Jordan being in Space Jam.
I’ve seen a lot of opinions on Ali since his passing. Some were in tribute. Many vilified. There was no middle ground.
I tweeted that what Ali did in life, ultimately, wasn’t important. What was important was whether he knew Jesus. What would Jesus have said to Ali if He had met him?
I think I know the answer. Or answers. They would have all been variations of the same one.
The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.
It’s the same for me. It’s the same for you. It’s the same for everyone.
Ali may have floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, but if he had followed Jesus, he wouldn’t have felt the sting of death.
It’s easy to make strong, bold statements about someone like Ali. It’s easy to call him a draft dodger or a great humanitarian. But in Christ, there is neither draft dodger, nor humanitarian.
Someone responded to my tweet that Ali was a professed Muslim. This is true. Unfortunately, there will be plenty of professed Baptists dying in the same state as Ali, not knowing Christ. Plenty of whatever brand of Christianity we are part of will do the same.
My plea to you is to not die without knowing Christ today. We who follow Him can do all sorts of things to make this Christianity thing complex. It’s really simple.
The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.
In a few short weeks, I will begin leading my annual services at a local campground. I have been doing this since 2002, so this will make the fifteenth consecutive year that I have been doing this at this particular campground.
I spent about four years preaching and teaching through the gospel of John. Since then I have been weaving my way through Paul’s letters. I knew that I needed to do something different and I am returning to the gospels. This year, and probably for a few summers, I will be making my way through Mark’s gospel.
One of the things that jumps out at you in the first chapter is Jesus’ baptism. Like John, we all probably scratch our heads a bit at Jesus being baptized. After all, if anyone didn’t need to be baptized, it’s Jesus.
That isn’t what stood out to me, though, this time. No, it’s what the Father said to Jesus when He came out of the water. He said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.”
That statement astounds me.
First, it was personal. The Father said that Jesus was His beloved Son. He didn’t just say you are a beloved Son. No, the Father was a proud papa. Think about when you see your own children do something that makes you proud. You can hardly contain yourself. This is that kind of moment for the Father.
Second, the Father was well pleased in Jesus. Often when we tell our children they have pleased us, we tag a but on the end of it. “You did great, but….you could have done better.” None of that with Jesus. The Father is simply please with Him.
Here’s the cool thing. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, the Father has the same reaction when he sees those of us who have trusted Christ for salvation.
We are now joint heirs with Jesus. We are God’s beloved children. He is proud of us because when He looks upon us, we are covered by the blood of Jesus.
The Father is well pleased in us. Just like Jesus. No buts. Just please.
What difference does that make?
We have the same inheritance as the One who died on the cross.
We live the same God pleasing life because of Christ’s sacrifice.
Those two thoughts should directly affect how we live our lives. The heirs of royalty live differently that those who don’t. When you please someone, your actions are different from when you don’t.
Jesus lived a life and died on the cross so that we can have the same benefits that He has with the Father. Let’s start living like who we really already are and not like people who will get there some day.
I’ll start today with that simple question. What is your greatest treasure?
It could be anything. It could be your family. Your spouse. Your children or all family as a whole.
It could be your job. You do great in your career and, above everything else, you pursue it with all of your heart.
Maybe it’s your sports team. You live, breathe and die a particular team. Perhaps it’s whatever sport is in season.
It could be some possession. Anything you own. Your house. Your car.
The thing about it is that all of these are wrong. At least they are if you and I share the same faith.
The Bible is clear that Jesus should be our greatest treasure. He is our pearl of great price. He is the treasure we find in a field and sell everything so we can buy the field.
The problem is that few of us get this right. We fall short of truly making Jesus our treasure.
How do we make this happen? How do we make Jesus our greatest treasure?
We have to spend time with Him. We have to spend to become so intimate with Him that we are enthralled with Him. It’s much like when we first met our spouse. We wanted nothing more than to spend time with them. We thought about them all the time. We might have written love letters to them. We couldn’t wait to talk to them on the phone. We might even give up a meal so we could spend time with them.
Let’s do what we can to pursue Christ in such a way in our lives that He truly is our greatest treasure.
Today is Groundhog Day. Yes, the day that spawned a Bill Murray movie where a man replayed his life over and over countless times.
We will pause and pay attention to a rodent from Pennsylvania. Supposedly he will determine whether or not we have six more weeks of winter. Of course, we have about six more weeks of winter no matter what, so what does old Phil know anyway?
It reminds of the time where Jesus told Pharisees that they knew how to read the skies, yet they didn’t know how to read the signs and know who He was.
We face the same danger. Not in the sense of prophecy or anything like that. The issue is that God has given us all the signs we need to see who He is.
He has given us His word to read and know him there.
He has given us His Son. Jesus said that if we have seen Him we have seen the Father.
He has given us the Church, His Son’s Bride, which we are part of.
He has given us prayer, a means to talk to Him on a regular basis.
He has given us the Holy Spirit, one like His Son, who Has sent to our hearts.
Let’s not be like the folks who will celebrate a rodent’s ability to view its shadow. Let’s not miss the obvious. Let’s pay attention to what God has given us.
I’ve spent the last two or three weeks paying attention to the TV show, The Voice. A girl from East Tennessee made it through to the finals, as well as a young man from Kentucky going to college not far from here.
They finished first and second.
One of the neatest things is that there were several Christmas songs sung this week. Christ’s name was proclaimed whether the show meant for it to happen or not.
One of the things I live about Christmas are the characters that the world doesn’t know about or pay attention to. Simeon and Anna are a couple of examples.
John the Baptist is too.
His job was foretold long before Christ was born. He was to be Elijah, preparing the way for Jesus to come. It resulted in his death, but Jesus said that no one had ever been born greater.
The question that has been gnawing at me is if I’m being enough of a John.
Am I making crooked roads straight?
Am I preparing the way for His return?
I don’t like the answers I find within myself. How about you?
Let’s start with ourselves. Let’s make sure our paths are straight. Let’s prepare ourselves for His second coming.
Those would be the best presents we could give ourselves.
I’ve hesitated writing about the events of the last few days. The world has been shaken up and, let’s be honest, a lot of people are scared. There has been talk of retaliation and retribution. Many, of course, want revenge.
How about you and me? How should we who follow Christ react?
There are a couple of reactions I will mention.
We should not be afraid. After that, we should not be afraid.
It is easy to be afraid these days. The world, and by that I mean the world system, wants us to be afraid. It and the enemy want us to live in fear.
God? The Bible? They instruct to live in just the opposite.
I don’t have an exact count, but there are a lot of “Fear not’s” in the Bible.
The book of Joshua has a bunch of “Be strong and courageous” in it.
We should not be living in fear. We should not be afraid. Jesus has already won the victory. We know how the story ends. We are the last people who should be afraid.
That isn’t easy. I know. I fail at it more often that I wish. I’m not saying I’ve perfected it. I’m just trying to point us in the right direction.
Fear not. Be strong and courageous. The victory is won.
Let’s live like it.