May 27, 2019
Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
Our pastor has challenged us since the first of the year to live a questionable life. Those of you who hear that for the first time might be taken back a bit. What do you mean live a questionable life? Does that mean skate at the edge of evil? Does that mean throw out everything we’ve learned and live like we want? Does that mean to make the Christians or others around us question our faith?
No. To live a questionable life in the context of our pastor’s messages, he challenges us to live like Jesus. Live a life that causes people to stop and question why we do the things we do. Why do we go out of our way to be kind to those who defame our character? Why do we smile and give warm greetings to those who ridiculous us and only want to do us harm? Why do we not live with the same standards of vengeance and revenge and selfish motivation that the rest of the world lives by?
Live a life that causes people to stop and question the goodness of our life. Live in such a way that others see the love of God extended to the unlovable. Live in a way that brings questions about why we live a life of love. Live a questionable life. Sounds like a good challenge, right?
There are a couple of verses in Psalms 67 that remind us why we should live like that. The Psalmist writes: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.”
That “Selah” in the middle is an important interlude in those verses. Scholars have attached various meanings to the word including instructions to musicians accompanying the playing of the psalms, but most, including those scholars, agree that selah asks us to stop and listen. Pause and contemplate what you just heard. Think about what was just said because it impacts the words you are about to hear. That is so poignant in these two lines of verse from the psalms.
Let God be gracious to us and bless us and make our way a good one for a single purpose. So that those around us sharing this planet we call earth will know your saving power. How we live should reflect the gracious blessings God gives us. We who have experienced his saving power should reflect the light of his face in ours. We should live such outpouring lives of love to others that others know that it can only be by the power of God we are able to live that way.
I heard a great order from the Roman emperor Jullian when he was trying to oust the Christians from his kingdom. He said these atheists were winning over too many people by their kindness. Just as a side note, they were known as atheists because they believed in only one God. These followers of one God didn’t believe in a pantheon of gods as his empire did. In fact, many believed the emperor himself a god. So these Christians, followers of the Way, were certainly far afield in their beliefs. To thwart their progress, he ordered his officials to be kind to the populace. Well, that lasted about as long as it took him to say it. Why? Because the followers of the way didn’t need an order to love people. They did it from the inside out, not the outside in. Their hearts were made pure by the presence of the Holy Spirit in them. Jullian’s officials had no chance of winning against such odds.
Questionable lives? Absolutely. In their day, the early church fed and clothed the poor, the sick, the outcasts. They took care of the widows whose only recourse in life was prostitution if they couldn’t find another husband quickly. Women had no place in that society. The Christians took it upon themselves to take care of those who could not take care of themselves. Love won out. People asked why. Believers told them about the freedom they received in Jesus. Forgiveness from sin. Freedom to live truth instead of lies.
The Romans couldn’t provide it. The Greeks couldn’t mimic it. The only ones with a corner on the market giving hope and peace and genuine love were these uneducated men and women following this guy that had been crucified at the hands of his own people and the Roman government. It didn’t make any sense and yet here were the facts in front of them. Love wins. Forgiveness wins. Truth wins. Peace wins. Hope wins.
That was then. But what should we do now? Well, live a questionable life. People still know genuine love when they see it. People still recognize authentic care and concern when it happens. People still know the difference between an act and the real thing. When confronted by real love for each other, Jesus says the world will know we are different, that we follow him, that there is something strange and unusual, and good about us. Questionable lives.
That’s how Jesus lived everyday. Talking with women of questionable character but bringing them peace, not punishment. Questionable actions on his part. Telling men to pick up their beds and walk away on mended legs on the sabbath, doing work, questionable activity. Telling us politics don’t matter. Give to the pagan dictator his due. Governments, even bad ones, are allowed to stand because there are some things that only governments can do to bring order into the lives of large populations. Without them, even bad ones, chaos would reign. Hard to believe Jesus wasn’t a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent. He was a man living under the rule of a Roman dictator doing his best to share the good news that there is a greater kingdom for us to concern ourselves. God’s kingdom is here.
So how do we relate that kind of living into today’s culture? For one thing, we need to stop bashing each other on the Internet about everything. Talk about unsocial media! I see some of the most unChristlike behavior coming from people who call themselves Christians when they get behind the barrier of their keyboard and screen. Remember Jesus wasn’t into politics. The only thing he ever said about politics was to give the required support to whatever government is providing the current rule over the country where you live. Well, that’s a lot different than the blasts that come from both sides of the political aisle today, isn’t it.
Jesus helped the beggars, the prostitutes, the widows, the outcasts. Jesus went into the places no one else would go. Mother Theresa would be our modern day example. A nun who poured her life into the lives of others with no regard for her own. I encourage you to read the story of her life, particularly the years before she made all the headlines. Read why she became so widely known in the first place. It was her quiet sacrifice to those who could not fend for themselves. And she did it over and over and over, never expecting anything. She did it because she loved God and loved people.
Jesus didn’t care about the color of skin or the nationality of the receiver. We get so hung up on my rights and my poverty and my lack and my… We can all complain if we really look hard enough. But our complaining about our personal plight doesn’t do much for us. While we’ve been harping about how unfair life is, China has quietly taken over the largest number of billionaires in the world by about 50% according to a recent CEOWorld Report. With 819 billionaires in China, the United States came in a distant second with 579. There are 36 million millionaires in the world today. And that group of the 1% of the wealthiest people in the world hold half of the world’s wealth.
Does that make you angry? The deep question I have is why? It really is only money and money cannot make you happy. I expect if you could truly find a scale of life contentment and happiness, the lower 50% of the world’s population would rank higher than the upper 50%. That might sound crazy to most people in this country and in most societies where money is the driving factor in life. But when Jesus came, he turned the world upside down.
Jesus didn’t strive to be poor. He didn’t purposely strike out to abandon all material possessions. I don’t think he did. I think he provided for his mother and made sure she was taken care of after his earthly father died. In his day, age 30 was when a man was thought to have reached the age of maturity and could share wisdom as a teacher and leader. But I think he started on his journey away from Nazareth at the age of 30 partly because he worked to set aside enough to make sure Mary was taken care of after he was gone. He wanted to make sure she was not part of the troop of widows and orphans that turned to thievery or selling their bodies in order to survive.
No, Jesus didn’t think about money the same way we do. He knew we needed funds to do certain things because we live in this corrupt world, but he also knew that relationships are far more valuable than money. He knew that our intimacy with God is much more precious than any treasure here. Think about how ridiculous we are about some of that treasure. Diamonds are just pretty rocks thrown out of volcanoes from the past. Gold is a pretty metal that we wear around our necks or fingers. We’ve learned in the last half century to use them in different ways because of their physical properties, but that’s only been in the last 50 to 100 years we’ve made those discoveries. For millennia before that, it was just pretty stuff. Sometimes, we’re just crazy! But because of our selfishness, we think, “If I give it to you, then I won’t have it.” And therein lies the problem - our selfishness.
We hear about the disparities, the violence, the unfair things that happen in the world around us and it stirs our emotions. We sometimes become victims to those unfair practices and bite our tongues and recite WWJD, WWJD, WWJD. What would Jesus do? A nice mantra a few years ago reminding us that Jesus said, “Do unto others what you would have them do to you.”
But I think we get that wrong. Jesus didn’t think vengeance. He didn’t think about the cruelty of the world against him. Jesus loved. What would Jesus do? He would reach out his hand and help the one who beat him, pick up the club and put it back in the back of the pick up. What would Jesus do? He would encourage the billionaire to continue to be the very best entrepreneur he possibly could because it might mean he would build another building where one of those people begging bread could find a job sweeping the floor or taking out the trash at minimum wage instead of going to bed hungry. And he would talk to the beggar with the same loving spirit as he talked to the billionaire. In fact, if the billionaire met him at Starbucks, he’d probably have a couple of those down-and-outers at the table to introduce them to his friend.
“Do unto others, what you would want them to do to you,” he said. That doesn’t mean refrain from punching them in the nose when someone has hurt you. Although, it does include that. I think Jesus is saying to us, “Would you like someone to sit down and listen to you over a cup of coffee? Then don’t ask, go find someone that looks like they need someone to just listen and take them for a cup of coffee and listen. No advice. No, “I told you so.” No, demeaning or shocking looks. Just listen. It’s surprising how many people actually know the answer to their problems, they just need to tell themselves out loud and then follow their own advice. And once you’ve listened, then let the Holy Spirit guide you. Let him give you the words you need to say or the actions you need to take. Do what you want someone else to do for you. It’s the Nike commercial. They only took the second half, though. Just do it, but for someone else.
You want people to know you follow Jesus? What is a questionable life? Living out loud the love of God into the lives of the people around you. So go and be Jesus to those who need to see him in the world today.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.