Inspired by Dr. King…

The following is a personal reflection on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the America I hope my sons inherit…

Who of us, with humble hearts, has not been moved by the words of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech?  

Who of us, with humble hearts, has not longed to be a part of a country where freedom — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — is available to all?  

Who of us, with humble hearts, has not enjoyed this freedom and with sincerity, thanked a veteran who secured it?

Who of us, with humble hearts, has not celebrated victories over inequality – the rights to learn, work, and vote without prejudice?

But who of us can say Dr. King’s dream, the dream of every humble heart, has been realized?   

Yes, we can celebrate and be grateful for progress made, but the humble heart can’t settle for progress. 

The humble heart sees places of continued inequality and seeks to bring justice to each person created in the image of God.

  • To the unborn child with no voice, we must give them their day in the sun.
  • To the child with no parent, we must find a forever family.
  • To all children hungry to learn, we must provide quality education.
  • To the poor marginalized by economic systems, we must ensure opportunities.
  • To the unarmed who were killed, we must secure justice.
  • To the foreigner among us, we must protect their humanity.
  • To the elderly who are overlooked, we must honor and respect.

To everyone, not based on creed or color, politics or economics, we can live together in peace, sharing possibility and opportunity — IF we have humble hearts.  

Dr. King said in his Dream speech:  “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.”

mlk-praying

I too refuse to believe our progress toward justice is enough, which gives me hope.  Hope not in our progress or politicians; not in our money or technology.  My hope is in humble-hearted Americans.  And there are many more humble hearts in our nation than you will ever view on social media or hear about in the news.

Every time we see injustice and act; every time we speak up for the voiceless and serve the marginalized, we bring about Dr. King’s dream, the dream of every humble American.  By showing common courtesy to those of differing perspectives, ethnicities and orientations, we make progress toward this dream. When someone in authority ends systemic injustice in society, we make progress toward this dream. When we resist sexist, racist, xenophobic, or homophobic slander, we make progress toward this dream. 

And to those with proud hearts, who think the progress made is enough; who believe superiority trumps kindness and live to serve themselves, we see the nightmare you create. 

Yet the humble won’t fight for their dream the same way the proud does.  We won’t fight like many of our elected officials, Democrats and Republicans alike,  who use people as pawns to increase power.  

Instead, with peaceful endurance and acts of supernatural love, we will work toward justice for all, one person at a time. 

May we, the humble hearted, not be satisfied with progress made, but with God’s help, continue toward the America Dr. King inspired.   

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Comfortable NOT knowing?

If you want to know God and understand the Bible, get used to scratching your head.  You know, that thing you do when your brain just can’t compute something.  So it slows down, maybe overheats, and you touch your scalp to make sure you’re still alive. Many, many times, I read the Bible and consider who God is, and I am left scratching my head in marvel and mystery.  God is infinite and I am finite.  But I am promised that if I seek Him, I will find Him.  And with the Holy Spirit’s help, I can understand and learn more so I can love Him more.   now-78UXbDKl-scratching002jpg-1210-680

But here’s the dilemma.   As someone who seeks to understand God, and has learned more about God, will I ever stop scratching my head?  And, as a pastor and communicator of God’s truth, do I always have to know the answers to every question about God?  Is it possible for me to understand and explain every Bible passage?

My answer is NO.  If you ever get to the point where you stop marveling at God, you are probably arrogant.  If you ever get to the point where you can explain every aspect about God, you are probably ignorant.

As Paul states in Romans 11:33-34  Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” 

So I am growing more comfortable not knowing.  But I am also not settling.  I want to know God more, so I will keep seeking and studying to understand Him.

But in the end, can the Infinite ever be fully understood by the finite?  Moses writes “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” [Deut. 29:29]

With our enlightened, scientific, engineering, rational, right-to-know, facts only minds, is it possible that certain aspects of God and the Bible will remain a mystery?

Is is possible that our loving Creator holds certain things from us to keep us hungry and humble?

Is is possible that He reveals little, bite-sized amounts of Himself to the hungry and the humble to keep us close to Him?

Is it possible, that He wants us to stay humble and hungry so that He can provide and protect us?

Still scratching my head.

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Unwanted: Distant Politicians & Pastors

Like most Americans, I am disheartened by our elected officials in Washington, both Republican and Democrat.  Time and time again these leaders seem to forget what life is like for everyday people.  They have agendas they want to advance but forget the faces of those they represent. They are generals making wartime decisions, without connection to those on the front lines of the battle.  This leaves people hopeless, struggling with stress, wounded by life’s hardship, without leaders who understand and advocate for them.  Any general, that has zero connection with those on the front lines of the battle, squanders their opportunity to lead and harms a great many people.  They may advance an agenda, but they are leading no one, because they have lost sight of names and faces.

Here’s what natural disasters can do.  They remind us that the human spirit is delicate and people are precious.  They remind us that everyone longs for leaders who understand the struggle to simply survive and work tirelessly to find solutions.  They remind us that working together is our only hope of restoration, regardless of our differences.  And while all of us have core beliefs, we are strongest when we love one another, when we serve one another, and when we put others first and ourselves last.  While my heart breaks for those living through the nightmare of natural disasters, I hope they awaken our leaders to what is most important: putting aside differences to lead people gently.

The only thing that disheartens me more than disconnected politicians is disconnected pastors.   Christian leaders are called to be like Jesus.  Our Great Shepherd was always theologically accurate AND always gentle with broken people.  He came from the Father full of grace AND truth.  Jesus knew people were in a battle, making them tender like reeds that break easily OR candles that extinguish quickly [see Matthew 12:20].  But when pastors choose accuracy over gentleness, choose huddling with saints over walking with sinners, they may Biblically accurate, but they are hindering the good news of Jesus Christ.

As a pastor, I must spend time in the storm.  To see and feel and empathize with what is really happening on the front lines.  Then, will theological accuracy and Spirit-led gentleness, I may be able to glorify God by helping people.  Yes, we have core beliefs to uphold, but our beliefs never justify breaking a bruised reed or snuffing out a smoldering wick.

Most people are facing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual storms all the time. Some of these storms are catastrophic.  What we don’t need is distant politicians or pastors.  Instead, we need leaders who won’t compromise the truth to be gentle. Nor will they compromise being gentle to advance the truth.  Instead, leading like Jesus, we can walk with broken people and point them to a Father who loves, convicts, forgives, and restores.

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Hope For Harvey

Like most of America, I have been glued to the Hurricane Harvey storm coverage.  Young and old, rich and poor, from diverse backgrounds, had their worlds turned upside down by water!  I try to imagine the fear these people face:  “Should we leave?” “Where do we go?”  “What will happen to our homes, our lives, our family pictures?”  “When can we return?”  “Will we ever be able to rebuild?”   It’s impossible to see Harvey’s devastation and not be heartbroken.

Like most of America, I want to help.  I want to jump in a boat and search for people who are stranded.  I want to open my home for those who have nothing left.  I want to do…something!

Thank God for those who are doing something!  Watching their selfless service gives me hope that despite all the disunity of America these days, most people will help when they can help.

But for those of us who live far away, who can’t get to Texas now, it would be easy to think “someone else will do it.”  If you live far from Harvey, you can still bring hope.  Here’s 3 suggestions.

Don’t Look Away!  

You have been glued to storm coverage these past few days.  Don’t look away now!  Keep watching because the rain may have stopped, but the pain of this storm will take years to heal.  Keep watching and as you watch, Pray!  Ask God to meet the needs of those nameless faces you see on your screen.  Ask God to empower government officials, first responders, churches, and non-profits to make good decisions and distribute resources wisely.    You may not know anyone in Texas, but God knows each person you see and His ears are attentive to your prayers.  Cry out to Him on behalf of others and He will give those people hope!  And keep watching and praying next week, next month, and next year.

Swipe Your Card

Billions of dollars are needed to help these people.  Many of us will see campaigns to raise money to help those suffering.  We may even “like” a social media post recommending a specific place to donate.  But, we don’t give.  If you feel sorry for people, but do nothing, that’s cheap emotion, not sincere love.  When we see a need, we can’t expect others, including the government, to solve the problem.  We must act.  So find a credible organization and swipe your card!  I would recommend the EFCA Crisis Response Fund [https://go.efca.org/hurricane-harvey-response]  We have many partner churches in the Houston area who will use your funds to directly serve the people of Texas.  You will never regret sacrificing for others!

Listen Before You Help 

There are some people who want to go and help AND should go and help.  But here’s what I have learned.  Helping on our terms makes us feel good, but may not really bring hope.  Help that brings hope is when those outside the crisis listen before they help.   You may think:  “They must need blankets.  I’ll get all of my friends to donate blankets and then bring it to Texas.  That will help! “   So, you do all the hard work to rally all of your friends to donate blankets, drive 6000 blankets to Houston, only to find out that they don’t need blankets; they need sleeping bags! It’s great to serve, but not on your terms.  Wait.  Watch.  Ask questions.  Find a partner organization that is on the ground and listen before you help.  When those outside the disaster do what they are asked, those inside gain more than help. They experience exponential hope.  If you are interested in considering a trip with Faith Church to serve the people of Texas in the coming months, email Michele at manthony@faithchurchlv.com

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Where is God in my success & failure?

I’ve been thinking recently about how arrogant I am.  I find myself taking credit for all the good things in my life.  I am quick to see my gifts, my intelligence, and my work ethic as being the secret to my success.   As I reflected on how “me” centered I am regarding the good things in my life, I decided to turn that thought around the opposite direction. Do I take the same amount of ownership over the failures in my life?  Is it also my gifts, my intelligence, and my work ethic that has landed me in some very difficult and painful places in life?   NOPE!  I blame others for all my failures WHILE taking credit for all my successes.  When I step back from all of this, I see a lot of “my” and “me” in my thinking.

So I have been asking myself the question:  Where is God in all the “my” and “me” of success and failure?  Paul’s answer in Acts 17 is the most clarifying and helpful to me.

He writes:  From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ 

Wait, God put me on this planet, born with these unique skills, these unique passions and this unique story SO THAT I WOULD FIND HIM?

You mean, I have this amount of talent, energy, education, money, time SO THAT I WOULD FIND GOD?

Are you trying to tell me that God knows “me” and “my” so intimately, and He knows “you” and “yours” so personally, that He works through these customized talents, individualized passions, unique locations, and messy stories SO THAT WE MIGHT DISCOVER OUR INFINITELY GREAT AND LOVING CREATOR?

YES!  And AMEN! And Bring it on!  And Bring Him On!

God, I beg you:  Open my eyes to see You in all my success and failures.

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This Thanksgiving, most Americans have a stomach bug

It’s almost Thanksgiving.  But unlike most years, my heart is not full of gratitude, but sadness.  My friends and family, my neighbors and fellow citizens are all on edge.  Everyone is feeling something, but no one is listening to one another.  We are all hyper aware of our own pain or anxiety, our own fears and chaos.  Yet our interactions have us all screaming.  The noise is deafening and the pain is real.  It’s like a stomach bug that goes through a home.  Everyone is throwing up and no one is healthy enough to clean up the vomit.   We are all sick.

Sadly, our media just keeps the sickness alive.  Media outlets have a relentless economic drive to feed our sickness and keep us coming back for more “news.” We become addicted to our brand of “truth,” which only feeds the anxiety and fear.

Sadly, our social media brings this sickness closer to home.  Social media hooks us on thinking we are “gathering” together to “share” our lives, when reality is, social media is making things worse.   We spout off without thinking and say things to our “friends” that are hurtful and hateful. We “unfriend” people because we can’t handle a different perspective.  All of this shows how sick we are and how shallow our relationships are.

If you are filled with anxiety and fear;  if you find yourself lacking peace and patience; if your friends and family say things that make your blood pressure sky rocket, you have the media stomach bug.  Rather than stopping and healing, we keep stuffing our faces with media and social media wondering why we are not getting better.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  We can choose to get well.

I challenge you to turn off the media and social media for the next 14 days.  Turn off your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; your CNN, NBC and FOX News.  Leave your cell phone in your pocket and your TV off.   For 14 days purge yourself of the things that heighten anxiety, fear and hate.

Fasting from media will make you more grateful and more peaceful.  It will allow you to hear the people around you and maybe even hear from God.

Signing off so I can hear and help, not hinder and harm.

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Only one life…

Only One Life  – by  C.T. Studd
Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
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