What I Admire About MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

MLKToday I re-read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I was captivated again by the rich imagery that magnifies his message.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. . . .

But Dr. King did not ascend the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to deliver a lament. He had faith for a better future.

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

He was a motivator.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

He was a spiritual leader.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

He was an orator, repeating the refrain “I have a dream” until the hearts of his listeners–even today–catch the beat of this vision.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

 

What do you admire about Martin Luther King Jr.?

Volcanoes and Geysers

GeyserIn the previous post, “Let It Begin with Me,” I mention the disheartening segment in the movie Lawrence of Arabia in which a larger-than-life British officer and his unlikely coalition of Arab sheiks achieve a brilliant military victory but could not successfully rule over the city they had captured. Their weak characters could not sustain their victory.

But not to worry–it doesn’t have to be that way.

Simon Peter is great example of a person whose character became able to sustain–everything. Triumphantly.

When he signed on as a disciple of Christ, his character left something to be desired. He was eager and loyal but impulsive and unreliable.

Jesus saw unusual potential in Simon because He singled him out, along with James and John, for closer mentoring. However, from Day One, Jesus hinted about a change that needed to happen in him, by nicknaming him Cephas. In the Greek-speaking world of the day, that translated to Petros, which means “rock.” It was a promise of what Simon would become.

Centuries earlier, the Lord had appeared to a timid man named Gideon and called him a mighty man of valor. Well, Simon, Jesus’ disciple, might have considered himself a mighty man of valor, but the Master’s nickname told him what else he needed to become—a rock of strength and stability.

And it happened—somewhere between the Last Supper and the Day of Pentecost. At the Last Supper, Peter boldly proclaimed he would defend Jesus to the death. But when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied he even knew Him.

Fast-forward fifty days to the Day of Pentecost. That afternoon, the disciples came out of hiding. Peter stepped forward and announced to all Jerusalem, “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36 NIV).

Who, Peter? The wannabe hero who behaved like a coward? Yes, his unstable character was now rock-steady.

One sign of his new stability was that he was able to focus on others. Jesus had asked him to “feed my sheep.” In 1 Peter and 2 Peter, his letters to the churches, he encourages those fearful of persecution, explains God’s ways to the immature, and even instructs believers to treat the heathen around them with concern and respect.

Was he all mellowed out? No! Read his epistles. Intertwined with the fatherly counsel and instruction are glad passages of power and glory.

The passion that Peter had always possessed continued to break out, wherever he went. But it was no longer the random, destructive erupting of a volcano. Instead, it sprang up, at the right times, like a geyser of life-giving water.

 

 

He Didn’t Let Go

Do you know anyone who no longer believes there is a God because they didn’t receive an answer to a heartfelt prayer? I do. I feel for them. I’ve been confused and hurt myself because I really believed . . . and it didn’t happen. I guess the reason I didn’t stop believing in him was because I did know him personally. I had experienced his presence. I had also received answers to other prayers.

Three boys playing tug-of-warBut I became less confident in praying–for a while. For years, actually. But I have not been satisfied with that. I have seen in the Bible that Jesus loved finding people with outrageous faith. So I have kept the hope alive.

So you can imagine how ENCOURAGING it was to hear my pastor’s remark about Abraham.

First of all, some background: You know, he was 75 years old when he left the old country to travel to the Promised Land. The Lord told him his descendants would inherit the land that is now Israel. Problem was, he had no children. None. His wife was barren, and he was getting up in years.

Abraham is called the father of faith, because he believed God’s “impossible” promises. But his faith was not exactly rock-solid in the beginning. Or middle. He waffled a little on following the Lord’s instructions. And, after waiting 24 years for this son to appear, he asked the Lord, “How can I know this will really happen? Couldn’t my chief servant’s son be my heir?”

At that point, the Lord made a blood covenant with Abraham, showing him how serious his promise was. Abraham was instantly convinced. From then on, he had no problem trusting God completely. . . . His son was born a year later.

This is the remark my pastor made about all this: During those 25 years, Abraham did not let go of his hope in God’s promise. He didn’t say, “I guess I was mistaken.” He didn’t say, “I don’t see this kind of thing happening anywhere. Why did I think it would happen for me?” No, he knew that he had heard from God. It was a precious thing to him, so he kept it alive. That’s why, my pastor continued, his faith was able to grow. To critical mass, if you will. To the point where he could receive God’s amazing promises.

I’m excited about the promises I’m hanging on to. I may not have quite enough faith to receive them yet, but I will. I’m giving my faith a chance to grow.:-)

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise (Hebrews 10:35-36 NKJV).

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galations 6:9 NIV)

MARTIN LUTHER KING’S DAY: Brotherhood

MH900090477Still thinking about Martin Luther King Jr., I remembered my favorite lines from his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, to over 200,000 civil rights supporters:

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

What stuck me this year about this quote was that it’s not just about race relations. It’s not just an inspiring quote to drag out once a year to honor a great man or to stir the crowd at a civil rights rally. It applies to how each of us lives . . . every day.

Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24 NIV).

Until recently, I sometimes found this to be hard. I mean, I’m not a particularly prejudiced person. I have learned that–under the skin–we are all the same in a lot of ways. However, there are times when a person’s outward appearance is pretty hard to overlook!

Recently, I stumbled upon a helpful strategy for relating to annoying, embarrassing people. (I’m sure the Holy Spirit had something to do with it.) I learned to back off momentarily and consider the person’s spirit. Seeing genuine kindness in a toothless, unkempt woman, and enthusiasm in a motor-mouthed man, had a surprising effect on my attitude toward them. I actually started to . . . kind of like them.

And that’s how God sees us, thankfully. He sees our hearts. He sees something good in each of our hearts. When we give our lives to Christ, we are capable of the same love for others.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28 NIV).

Dr. King followed the cadences (and one phrase) from this scripture in the last paragraph of his speech:

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”


Click on these links to read or hear all of Martin Luther King’s world-changing speech.

 

MARTIN LUTHER KING’S DAY: How to Change the World

Martin Luther King Jr.Yesterday my phone informed me that it was Martin Luther King Day. I felt out of the loop–like I should have been attending a service commemorating him or joining a group to pray for racial equality.

Thoughts about Dr. King began piling up in my brain, each bigger and more impressive than the last. One that kept begging for my attention was his unusual style of protest. Nonviolent protest.

What does it mean? It means fighting for what’s right, without using force. Not burning down buildings,  throwing rocks through windows, or spreading vicious rumors.

It’s kind of counter-intuitive. I mean, it doesn’t come naturally to “turn the other cheek” when someone slaps you in the face! . . . Why did Jesus say to do that? Was he unconcerned about injustice? Hardly! But he knew how to defeat it. Yes, really.

Getting even doesn’t solve problems, it just makes them worse. Mahatma Gandhi, the great nonviolent activist of India puts it this way:

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” Wow!

So what does work? The apostle Paul gives the solution:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21 NIV).

Nonviolent protest seems passive. Weak. A meaningless gesture. Well, it’s not. You have to be a big person to channel your anger in the right direction instead of just exploding. Big enough to wait for the right moment to act, even when people are calling you a coward. Big enough to not lose sight of your goal.

You have to be a big person to stand for what’s right and be beaten down but to stand again, and again, until evil crumbles. Until oppressors realize they can’t break you and they can’t get rid of you. Until people have to listen, after all, because you have attracted so much attention.

That’s how Jesus lived. That’s how the apostles lived.  That’s how Mahatma Gandhi lived. That’s how Martin Luther King Jr. They changed their world. They showed us how to change ours.

 

 

ANSWERS TO “Losers Who Became Winners”

Here are the names of the bible losers who became winners:

MARK: The first time I accompanied Paul on a mission trip, I couldn’t handle it and headed back home. For a long time, he didn’t trust me, but later I became one of his trusted assistants. I also wrote one of the accounts of Jesus’ life that appears in the Bible.

RAHAB: When the Israelites crossed the Jordan into Canaan, I protected two of their spies and made a deal with them. Even though I was a prostitute, Israel’s soldiers spared me and my family during the conquest of our city. Because I was awed by their God, I chose to join the Israelites. I married one of their leaders and became an ancestress of King David and Jesus Christ.

PETER: When Jesus was arrested by the religious leaders who opposed him, I let him down. I couldn’t believe it! I had promised to defend him to the death. But after Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to his followers. I and many others became fearless in spreading the good news of salvation and restoration available from Christ.

ABRAHAM: To avoid a famine in Canaan, I took my family to Egypt. While there, I talked my wife into telling people she was my sister. I was afraid that a man would desire her for her beauty and eliminate me. In spite of this incident, God appeared to me several times and chose me to be the father of a new nation of people. He knew I would teach my family to respect him and live according to his ways. In fact, I became known as “the friend of God.”

THOMAS: Several days after Jesus was crucified, all of my fellow disciples claimed Jesus had appeared to them while I was somewhere else! I said I wouldn’t believe it unless I saw him myself and felt the nail holes in his hands. Well, it happened. I saw him too. It was an awesome experience, but he was disappointed in my unbelief. I didn’t doubt him any longer. In fact, within a few years, I traveled to India to invite people of that nation to be his disciples.

What do these examples have to say? Here’s what I see:

  • I can become a winner even if I am now a loser.
  • If I love God and want to follow him, he does not hold my past against me.

If you interviewed these people, what do you think they would say to you?

A Slow Man Who Became Quick

Running man

PANNING FOR GOLD

Digging into Genesis 22

I’m talking about Abraham—who left an advanced culture in Ur of the Chaldees to go Who-Knows-Where because God called him to “leave….”

As amazing as his faith was, he was rather slow, initially, about carrying out all the Lord’s instructions. For example, the Lord had told him to leave his family behind, but he brought his nephew, Lot, with him. That was pretty understandable, when you consider that Abraham had no children (no heirs) and that Lot had been part of his household since Lot’s father had died.

But it did cause problems. After arriving in Lot’s herdsmen quarreled with Abraham’s over water rights—to the point where the two had to part company. Even then, Abraham had to rescue Lot and his household when the city to which they moved was captured in battle.

. . . I was reading along in Genesis a few days ago, and something jumped out at me. In chapter 17, the Lord instructed Abraham to be circumcised—along with all his male descendants—as a sign of their covenant with him. “On that very day” Abraham saw to it that all the males in his household were circumcised.

Then in chapter 22, the Lord tested Abraham by asking him to offer his miracle son (who was born when Abraham was 100 years old) as a sacrifice. “So Abraham rose early in the morning” to comply with this heart-wrenching instruction.

Notice how quickly Abraham now cooperated with the Lord? His slow obedience in the past had cost him. By contrast, obeying the Lord—even when it made no sense to him—had been the gateway to blessing and to his destiny. You know, Abraham didn’t need Lot, after all, to be his heir. When Lot moved on, it opened the way for the Lord to override Sarah’s barrenness and give her and Abraham a son.

In a recent sermon, my pastor, Eric Hansen, said you call tell whether a person is “on fire for God” by noticing how long it takes them to do what they hear God say. So did Abraham become quick to obey out of increased love and loyalty—or had he just learned his lesson? How about both? The more you know God, the more you love him.

Making It Personal

  • Do you know the reason for everything God asks you to do in the Bible?
  • Do you always know why the Lord impresses on your heart to do something?
  • Do you respond with trust and loyalty?
  • Do you have a good story of when you did what God said and you’re really glad you did?

 

On-the-Job Training When You Don’t Have a Job

Okay, so I’m not really talking about a job. I’m talking about your life. Do you feel you don’t really have a life, yet . . .  that there’s a lot more to life than this . . . that you can see a whole lot more in your future, but there is no way to get there from here? Not yet, at least.  What are you doing with the life you do have right now? Biblical characters Joseph and David had an awesome take on that.

Joseph

After dreaming about his great destiny, Joseph was dumped into a pit, sold to merchants bound for Egypt, employed as slave of a government official, and thrown into prison. Each time, he—figuratively—landed on his feet. He was so capable and trustworthy that his master, Potipher, soon put all his business in Joseph’s hands. In prison, likewise, he was placed in charge of all the other prisoners.

David

As a youth, David was secretly anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the next king of Israel. It was not long before he became famous as a giant-killer and military leader. However, mentally-unbalanced King Saul’s jealousy caused David to spend many months as a fugitive. About four hundred distressed, debt-ridden, and discontented men—with family members—joined him. Motivated by David’s courage, integrity, faith, and friendship, this crew became a disciplined, well-trained, and loyal unit.

What if Joseph had sullenly done only what was necessary for Potipher and for his warden? He would not have honed the administrative skills needed for his destined position.

What if David had spent his time in the wilderness sulking and waiting? He would not have developed faith, godly character, leadership skills, and the solid core of followers who were to make up his future government.

 

Making It Personal

  • Is the path to your dream blocked? Behave like a person of destiny, anyway. When you get to where you want to go, you’ll already be trained.
  • Could your current situations be stepping-stones to your destiny?

 

When a Dream Isn’t Just a Dream

One of the amazing things about the story of Jacob (Does He Even Know I Exist?) is that God pointed him in the right direction and gave him heart for the journey . . . with a dream.

Jacob wasn’t the only one who received from God a dream that made all the difference. A young man named Joseph had a dream in which his family all bowed down to him—and he shared the dream with them. You guessed it—his brothers hated him . . . more. They were already jealous of him because he was their father’s favorite.

You probably know the rest of the story: How his brothers sold him to a caravan of merchants headed for Egypt. How Joseph became slave to a high-ranking Egyptian, won his favor, but ended up in prison due to a false accusation. How, in spite of all that, he ended up second to Pharaoh in authority over Egypt—and his father and brothers came from their drought-stricken home to him to buy grain. And, yes—not recognizing who he was—they bowed to him.

As a spoiled young man, Joseph could easily believe a dream that set him above his brothers—and even his parents. As slave and then prisoner in a foreign land, how reasonable was it to believe then? But the dream was no fluke. And the history of his family and the world was changed because he held on to it.

 “Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time . . .
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come . . . (Joel 2:2b-3 NKJV).

 

Making It Personal

  • What is your dream? (If you can’t identify your dream—who is your hero? That says a lot about the identity and destiny God planted in your heart.)
  • Have you thought, “Oh, that couldn’t happen. Not for me.” Why not?
  • Are your negative circumstances any greater than Joseph’s? Is your dream really impossible?
  • Could it be God gave you this dream for more reasons than you know? Are you taking hold of it?