Home run king Hank Aaron passed away yesterday at the age of 86. The Hall of Fame baseball player is still at or near the top of the all-time list in many offensive categories. He was also an excellent defensive player, winning multiple Golden Glove awards.
Aaron forged his stellar career in the face of extreme racism. As this black man approached the all-time record for home runs held by Babe Ruth, a white man, Aaron received a lot of hate mail that included many death threats. Aaron withstood the pressure and broke the record.
In addition to his baseball skills, Hank Aaron is known for being an excellent human being. He is universally adored by sports fans all over the world. He will be greatly missed.
One of the things I always appreciated about Hank Aaron was the way he always conducted himself with class and dignity. You never saw him flip his bat high in the air after hitting a home run. He didn’t beat his chest, scream and taunt the other team. Rather than call attention to himself with outlandish behavior, he simply trotted around the bases.
Such class and humility is sorely missed today, not only in baseball, but in society at large. Yes, Hank, you will be greatly missed!
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”—Matthew 5:5.
In her recent book, Didn’t See That Coming, Rachel Hollis tries to help her readers face traumatic events that were unforeseen and to begin to put their lives back together after their world has fallen apart. Among her many observations, Hollis states, “I am willing to be the villain in someone else’s story if it means I can be the hero of my own.”
Her comment has important implications for Christians, for at least a couple of reasons.
First, we must always remember that Jesus was a villain to many people. John 1:11 says, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” If anyone should have been expecting the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, it would have been the leaders of the Jews. But they did not accept him. King Herod plotted to kill the young child Jesus. Later, the Jewish leaders plotted to have Jesus arrested and killed. In order for them to be the heroes of their own stories, Jesus had to be made out to be the villain.
Secondly, those who follow Christ can expect the same kind of treatment from those who reject Jesus. 1 Peter 4:4 says, “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.” In order for those people to be the heroes of their own stories, we Christians must necessarily become the villains in their eyes.
Let’s remember who the real hero is—Jesus Christ, the son of God and the savior of the world! And let’s remember that in order to follow him we must risk being deemed villains by the same kind of people who rejected our Lord.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”—Matthew 5:11-12.
Jewish leaders had accused the apostle Paul of wrongdoing, and he was taken into custody. Charges were brought up against him, and Paul had the opportunity to speak in his own defense in front of Governor Felix. Acts 24:25 says, “As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.’”
What was it about this sermon that made Governor Felix afraid? What was so scary about this speech that caused Felix to put a stop to it and dismiss Paul? Why didn’t he want to hear the end of the sermon? Let’s examine the major points of Paul’s sermon and see if we can come up with some reasons.
First, Paul talked about righteousness. Knowing Paul to be consistent in his teaching, he no doubt brought up the fact that no one has any righteousness of their own. Every human being is a sinner who has fallen short of the glory of God. The only righteousness we can claim is that which God conveys upon us through our faith in Jesus.
Secondly, the apostle discussed self-control. This gets into the area of personal responsibility. Since God gives us the right to choose between good and evil, we have a decision to make concerning our righteousness, or our lack thereof. We have it within our control to choose to accept Jesus as our savior and to live our lives for him. Each individual has the power to make the lifestyle decisions that will determine whether or not we are righteous.
Finally, Paul addressed the judgment to come, no doubt referring to the final judgment of all mankind. Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
The latter verse proclaims the good news, the gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. He died to pay for the sins of the world and was resurrected on the third day. He reigns in heaven and will return one day to bring salvation to everyone who is waiting for him in faith.
However, the former verse speaks of bad news! We all have an appointment with death. After that those who have turned down the righteousness that God offered them will face the judgment that they deserve. Those who refuse to accept Christ have nothing to expect but the wrath of God and no one to blame but themselves.
No wonder Felix was afraid! This is a scary proposition for all those who choose to turn down the grace that God offers us through his Son.
Don’t be like Felix! Don’t wait for a more convenient time to believe God and accept Jesus as your savior! Today is the day of salvation! For those who have already accepted Jesus, all fear is gone. We can live in bold confidence that we are forgiven and are accepted by God as his children and welcomed into his kingdom! Let’s not live another single day in fear!
I saw a cute video the other day of some young children who have spent most of their lives living in the world of COVID-19. These toddlers were filmed walking up to anything that looked like a small box. Then they would put their hand, palm up, at the bottom of the box. Then they would walk away rubbing their hands together. They were pretending to be sanitizing their hands! Why should we be surprised to see them do this when we consider the world they have lived in most of their lives? While they don’t understand the full implications, they live in a world where germs are nasty and everyone must take careful precautions.
We need to understand that we live in a world where spiritual sickness abounds, and we need to take the proper precautions to avoid the consequences of sin. The only way to be “sanitized” from our sins is to trust Jesus for the cleansing that only he can provide.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”—John 14:6.
To say that we live in turbulent times is a vast understatement. The year 2020 brought so much upheaval and suffering that most people were glad to see it fade into the pages of history. However, the calendar may have changed, but the problems we face remain the same. I write this about a week-and-a-half after zealots stormed Washington, D.C. and occupied the capitol building. It is less than a week until we will see a new president inaugurated after a brutally contested election, the results of which are still being disputed by many. Our current president has just been impeached—the first president to be impeached twice—just days before his term expires. COVID-19 still rages—the current surge of the virus is not letting up, and the rollout of the vaccine has been painfully slow. Add to this mix the economic problems and the racial turmoil that plague our nation and you have to admit that we are living in troubled times indeed.
Aren’t you glad that the kingdom of Jesus is not of this world? That’s right. You haven’t forgotten that, have you? In John 18:36, Jesus says, “…My kingdom is not of this world…” Many people misunderstood that in Jesus’ day. They wanted to crown him as an earthly king, but he would have no part in that. Jesus and his disciples avoided the politics of the day, choosing instead to focus on the kingdom of God rather than earthly kingdoms. Christians today would do well to learn from their example.
Don’t get me wrong here! I firmly believe that we Christians should be involved in politics. With the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other, we should practice discernment as we choose our representatives on the local, state and national levels. Christians should use their votes to try to put godly men and women in places of influence. It is a very important way that we can be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
However, we must be reminded that Jesus very clearly says that his kingdom is not of this world. We must live in this world, but we are not of this world. Our citizenship is in heaven. We live on a higher plane. While we are constrained to obey earthly authorities (Romans 13:1-7), our ultimate allegiance is to a higher power.
With all of this in mind, we should give careful thought to how we live our lives. Jesus says we should pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10). The Bible says that we should pray for our government leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-3), even the ones we did not vote for! But we also need to be praying for God’s kingdom to advance and for his will to be done. We also need to be living our lives as part of an answer to that prayer—living in such a way as to advance the kingdom and to display the will of God in our actions.
Our challenge is to live as though we take our citizenship in God’s kingdom even more seriously than we take our U.S. citizenship. I recently heard a preacher say, “We Christians ought to live in such a way that the government would consider issuing green cards to us so that we could continue to live in America!”
Be a good citizen of the U.S. Pray for our nation. Work to make this a better country in which to live. But more importantly, be a good citizen of God’s kingdom!
In the Paula Hawkins novel, The Girl on the Train, one of the characters spots some graffiti painted on a concrete building—LIFE IS NOT A PARAGRAPH.
We ought to take to heart the wisdom in that statement. Too often we place too much emphasis on an extremely brief part of our lives in which we suffered a great loss, or made a terrible mistake or committed an awful sin. Life is not a paragraph; it is much more than that. In the course of the story of our life, the bad moments are followed by many good ones.
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” When we read this verse, we usually think about the brevity of life. But might this Scripture also be reminding us of the fact that our lives can have many days? Many days to recover from that setback. Many days to set things straight. Many days to make up for that mistake. Many days to grow stronger, wiser and more mature. Many days to do it right next time.
Thank God that life is not a paragraph!
Notice how Psalm 90 concludes—“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” (vv.15-17).
My wife owns and operates a tax preparation business, specializing in ministers’ taxes. She has clients all over the country and a few overseas. While she works all year round, her busy season is from early February to mid-April.
Every year about this time, Karen has to work hard to get her printer to operate properly. She has come to realize that it works better when it is used on a regular basis. After a period of infrequent use, the printer becomes quite finicky. When she starts to use it on a regular basis, it becomes efficient once again.
I suppose there is a danger of becoming like that printer. If we allow ourselves to experience a season of not being used by the Lord, we might have a hard time getting started back again. I guess we all would be more efficient if we would allow the Lord to use us on a regular basis!
“For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you.”—2 Thessalonians 3:7.
I am not sure we spend enough time thinking about sin, which is strange since it is all around us. We are so accustomed to experiencing other people’s sin–not to mention committing a few of them ourselves—that we are in danger of becoming calloused when it comes to sin and lackadaisical when it comes to pursuing holiness.
Here are some truths about sin that we must never forget.
First, sin is a problem. It’s a problem for everyone since we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible plainly explains that we are all sinners.
Secondly, there is a penalty for sin. No sin will be left unpunished. And the penalty is quite severe, for the wages of sin is death.
Finally—and thankfully—the payment for sin has been made. Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sins of all mankind.
“… We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”—Hebrews 10:10.
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”—1 John 2:2.
The recent development of vaccines to combat COVID-19 has reminded some people of when Dr. Jonas Salk developed the vaccine for polio. As people began to receive the polio vaccine, Salk’s sons got caught up in the excitement. Five-year-old Jonathan Salk gleefully announced to his best friend—“Billy! I’m famous! And so is my father!”
Sometimes we Christians childishly think that we are a big deal when it’s really our Father that’s famous. Let’s make sure we give him the credit that only he deserves!
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”—Matthew 5:16.