Thursday, March 26, 2015

Life…a matter of inches

Last week, my dear wife Debby laid her father to rest—Irvin Paul Weaver of Lakeland, Florida. He was 91. Died in his sleep, like we all wish to die. In Christ, he was a devoted man of faith who reflected joy and love to all who knew him.  His smile could light up a room, even in his last, often pain-filled, days.  He and Debby’s mom celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary just last November.

His desire was to go home to his Lord, but he also struggled to leave his dear bride behind, her recent years having been made more complicated by increasing dementia.  He sought constant reassurance that she would be okay.  He had similar thoughts for my wife, his only child.  Debby herself struggles with a degenerative brain disease which has compromised her speech, swallowing and balance, among other things. As Dad’s end drew near, he became increasingly concerned for her 

So he patiently waited for that release.  Still he had a ready smile for everyone who came to visit him, 
and wanted his family and friends to know that he was ready to die.  He had trusted Christ for salvation and was at peace with his Lord.  After 91 years,
he had kept the main thing the main thing. A few years back, our pastor delivered an Easter sermon in which he spoke of life on this earth as being represented by, like, an inch, along an infinite line that stretches as far as the eye can see.  Most of us spend our time, energy and resources on making that little inch of time the most it can be, and we forget to prepare for the infinite amount of time we will spend in eternity.  Dad was prepared.

When the time came, I think he understood the apostle Paul’s frustration when he wrote, “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. I am torn between the two: I desire to be with Christ which is better by far, but it is necessary for you that I remain in the body.” 
(Phil. 1:21ff).  Dad understood his life was not his own.  He had been bought with a price.  His days had been ordained and numbered by his Creator.  And it was his Heavenly Father’s decision as to when that homecoming would take place.

In our last conversation with him on the phone just two days before his death, Dad made sure to tell us how much he loved us, and he even complimented Debby on her speech over the phone. Like many of his generation, he was not known for being the most demonstrative person at expressing his feelings.  But as the end drew near, he seemed to be more attuned to the feelings of those he loved most, and began expressing his love much more directly.

Now that he is “gone,” I—we, too, experience an emotional paradox.  Sadness and joy. 
I used to think Juliet said it best in Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet
“Parting is such sweet sorrow.”  She was merely anticipating a momentary absence from her beloved Romeo.  She fully expected to see him again, and soon.  But then I read the words of John the apostle in Revelations 14, and concluded that his description wins the prize.

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Write: Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from now on: Yes, said the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”

Though perhaps no experience associated with being human frightens us more or is more mysterious than death, John calls those who die in the Lord blessed.  And for obvious reasons.  In death, we are finally at rest.  We cease our striving.  Our struggles are over.  And we are fully in God’s presence—we are with the Lord.  He no longer is experienced where we are (condescension), but rather we experience Him where He is (ascension).

Dad could boldly face death, because the judgment and penalty for his sin had been paid in full by the One he trusted for salvation—His savior Jesus.  This week we were reminded that, for him and all other believers in Christ, suffering, pain, and loss are only temporary—only a part of this life. What endures forever is peace with God, joy in His presence, and sweet reunion with those who loved Him and have gone before us. As we celebrate the life and homecoming of Irvin Weaver, may each of us pray with the Psalmist: Teach us to number our days that we might apply our hearts to wisdom. 
(Ps. 90) After all, this life is about an inch.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      tad

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Let me take a moment to encourage each one of you who reads this, as you enter the home stretch of preparation for Holy Week.  The “90% of Life Is Showing Up” axiom is about as true during this time as anything.  I know your lives are full.  And I know some of your emotional and physical cups might be running a little low (if not approaching empty) right now.  Let me turn you to God’s Word for strength, comfort and inspiration.  You are an amazing team of people called by God to deliver the goods, the good news,
the greatest news in the history of mankind!  In about a month, you will participate in events which can actually alter a person’s destiny as the Holy Spirit is poured out and the word of God is sown into hearts.
Expect to be opposed in this pursuit.  Expect the enemy to try to discourage you,  to cause unrest in your home, to strain relationships with those you love; even to attack your body physically. Why shouldn’t he?  He is miserable and wants all the company he can get.  And you are retelling his worst nightmare for all the world to hear…about the week in history when a stake was driven into the very heart of evil, and every real or perceived enemy of God’s creation was annihilated. But stand firm in those times, remembering that “greater is He that is in you than
he that is in the world.”  Here are some more antidotes for discouragement:

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion,
 “Your God reigns!”  (Is. 52:7)

You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.(Is. 40:9-11)

Do you not know? Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40 – selected verses)

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:7-9)

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. (Psalm 145: 18-19)

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you,
 he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith. . . . And after you have suffered for a little while, 
the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.(1 Peter 5: 7-10)

I love each one of you and so appreciate your tremendous investment of time and energy. You sound amazing and your attitudes towards each other are little acts of worship themselves. You are bringing delight to God.  May you also bring many others to Him through your ministry this Easter!        

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Prime Time

The apex of the Christian calendar is upon us.  As churches all over the globe “ramp up” for Holy Week, culminating in the glorious celebration of the resurrection, the stakes are high.  Once or twice a year—usually Christmas and Easter, we enjoy a heightened curiosity, if nothing else, in the Christian gospel from outsiders.  As irreligious as our culture is becoming, there remains a tradition, at least, of attending church on these two holidays (originally “holy-days”), giving the local congregation a semi-annual opportunity to state its case.

On the plus side, the Church can anticipate a larger than normal “captive” audience—however one might define that term under these circumstances. On the down side, some within the flock have actually grown to resent these “Chreasters” as they are sometimes referred to, indicating a brand of Christianity which assembles only on Christmas and Easter.  This is, of course, the very last thing one would hope for when opening our doors and welcoming anyone who joins us…on any given Sunday. The moment I detect you resent my visit as your houseguest, I make it a point to avoid future engagements.

Additionally, we as worship leaders and artists can feel greater than normal pressure to “produce” a spectacle, to create services which will move and stir people…perhaps to even manipulate the telling of these stories to produce a desired effect.  After all, we only get this one chance to make a lasting impression.  To say we’ve come a long way from how these events originally took place is the grossest of understatements.

No, there were no special effects, no power ballads, no stirring videos or brass ensembles...not on that first Good Friday…not even on the original Easter morning.  In fact, for a culture that is fairly big on “reenacting” these nodal events, we’ve rather strayed from their original elements and from the emotions that they evoked.  Think for a moment of just a few:

When is the last time you experienced even a small dosage of any of these attending or participating in a Good Friday or Easter service? And yet, I believe, Jesus cautioned us at his last meal to not forget…not only these events, but the impact they had on the human experience.  “Do this in remembrance of Me,” He said.  Savor this story.  Live in its profundity.  And under no circumstances, let its retelling devolve into mere entertainment.

Might I propose that as Christian musicians and artists desiring to make an impact this season, we begin by saturating ourselves with the narrative recorded in all four gospels.  Under the banner of “I was there when they crucified my Lord,” let us make time to meditate on those very first days of what today we call Christianity.  Through eyes of faith and the gift of a sanctified imagination, place yourself in the upper room at Christ’s last meal, find a space under the cross on Golgotha’s hill, huddle with friends in yet another upper room on Easter evening, and timidly approach Jesus on the beach as a forgiven disciple, and hear once again Him ask and answer: “Do you love me?  Feed my sheep.”

Musicians, technicians—that’s all we’re really called to do as we fulfill our ministry this upcoming Easter season.  Feed.  Nourish.  Share.  Comfort.  Inspire.  Forget relying on the bells and whistles, the big moments, producing the requisite “wow” factor.  If you wish to “reenact” those first events, allow yourself to be poured out like Jesus, giving of yourself sacrificially, and considering it an honor and privilege to offer even one cup of cold water to a thirsty soul.  Yes, even to a curious “Chreaster.” Remember, for him or her, it’s prime time…perhaps even more so than they know.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Corner of ‘Wholeness’ and Healthy

A popular pharmacy chain invites you to visit them “at the corner of happy and healthy.” Happy and healthy. We seem to be big on these two adjectives today, don’t we?  Nothing wrong with that, per se, but might I propose a loftier pursuit, a more fulfilling intersection, perhaps—the corner of wholeness and healthy? If we want to see a higher quality of life on all levels, I believe our Maker designed us to pursue wholeness first…not happiness.  Then, and only then, can we know what it is to be truly healthy.

One of our ministry’s core values is, in fact, Stay Healthy. But said another way, it is really a call to wholeness.  The two concepts are inseparable.  For some, being healthy might be interpreted as just one more call to getting in shape.  If it’s not Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, it’s LA Fitness or the Y reminding us that fitness (bordering on body worship) is quite in right now, if not downright chic.  Add to that the pressure placed on us by insurance companies to stay (or get) healthy or pay big time, and suddenly we feel motivated.  Their argument seems fairly plausible: if you choose to neglect or abuse your body, you should pay for the consequences.  Unfortunately, though, it rarely stops there.  No man is an island, and no one’s health is his own little problem.  The recent Ebola virus, discoveries of the effects of second hand smoke, fetal alcohol syndrome, or the devastation of AIDS are but a few examples of what society learned long ago:  my health issues can have serious consequences on you.  And so far, we’re just talking about physical health, physical wholeness. 

What about our soul—our mind, that inner part of us that makes up our personality and expresses our uniqueness.  Anyone who has studied family systems knows how positive or negative the effects can be of one’s emotional environment in developing self-esteem, self-discipline, a sense of nurture, or the ability to love and care for others.  The term dysfunctional family grew out of the awareness that God’s design is for individuals, families and communities to function in a proper, healthy way.  To violate certain principles often leads to recycled un-health from generation to generation.

And as followers of Christ, we also recognize the role of our spiritual nature in transforming us to be more like our Maker.  Tending to our spiritual needs, appetites and “muscles” is God’s way of helping us overcome the ravages of sin, bad habits, addictions and abuse, so that rather than hurting those around us, we actually can contribute to our family’s and community’s well-being.

Over 2,000 years ago, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica (chapter 5, verse 23): “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The One who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”  Getting healthy and whole is more than just keeping the body working properly.  It includes pursuing emotional and spiritual “wellness” as well. 

In this one little verse, Paul is packing a lot of truth.  First, be reminded that you are the creative work of God Almighty, the God of peace, who desires to make you complete and set apart from those who do not know Him.  Secondly, make every effort to attend equally to every part of you so that what you offer to God is the whole of you.  And finally, it is ultimately God in you that will accomplish this; your role, your “effort” is simply to cooperate and agree with Him. 

In each area that Paul mentions, spirit, soul (mind/emotion), and body, God has given us ways to recharge those batteries when they are running low.  But we must recognize the signs.  Sometimes we assume our weariness is just from overall stress, when in fact it might be little more than a physical need for more rest or exercise.  Maybe we need to learn to say no to certain things, and ask God’s spirit to direct us if and when to say, “Sorry, I can’t do that.” 

If you find yourself emotionally spent by giving out to others in care and compassion, don’t forget to recharge your emotional batteries with activities which energize you (reading a book, attending the symphony, going to a high school football game, etc.) In other words, don’t forget to have some fun. 

And if you sense you are growing weaker spiritually, take inventory of how much time you are allowing with God in your day.  If that time is becoming less and less frequent, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier and start back with baby steps.  Or be more intentional in carrying on a conversation with him throughout the day—while driving your car, raking your lawn, or walking for exercise.  He certainly will meet you wherever you show up, just do it.

Since no man is an island, it is equally important that you know God designed your pursuit of wholeness and health to be experienced in community—with support, accountability, and encouragement from others. Let me assure you that regardless of where you find yourself, I and the pastoral staff of Hope want to be here for you.  Your gift to us can be to care for yourselves—your bodies, souls and spirits, by the power of God’s spirit.  The inevitable crises will come—we are human and we live in a fallen world.  But maybe, just maybe, we can reduce their frequency and severity by each of us staying healthy. Want to prosper in all you do? Check out the corner of wholeness and healthy.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Shameless filler for an off-week

Since the wife and I were AWOL this weekend for her birthday celebration, I decided to treat you to some insights into what it’s like to work with someone like me… you know, someone with ADD.  Just when you think you’ve got me locked and loaded in a conversation, I see a squirrel, or remember that I left a pot pie in the microwave two days ago…or wonder why SkyMall went bankrupt…they had such cool stuff, you know?  Imagine the struggles I face in the pastoral ministry.  Imagine the challenges my “sheep” are up against.

I began wondering if this malady is easily diagnosed by the person himself, or must we all wait until the inevitable intervention by loved ones, the medical community, or the local cabbie who just wants us to make up our mind?  Where might one find a list of presenting symptoms for ADD, I queried.  And, of course, my friend Fred Google came to the rescue!

You might have ADD if...

•          your wife is in the midst of delivering your first child, and then it hits you...! "Beige! I think we'll paint the ceiling beige!"

•          you call someone on their cell phone but forget who you are calling

•          you're standing in front of the printer at work waiting for something (you can't remember what) to come out, when suddenly you look down at your hand and see a coffee cup in it and remember that you were on your way to the kitchen and you have no idea how you ended up in the printer room.

•           you go to the grocery store to buy [fill in the blank], end up spending $200 on groceries and forget to buy [fill in the blank].

•           you wait and wait to do laundry and when you finally do it, you leave it in the washer and forget all about it. Three days later, you are in your wash room and there's a stench coming from the washer. Then you wash them all over again, only to forget them again.

•           you stop at an intersection and wait for the stop sign to turn green.

•           five minutes after you take your meds you start to have serious doubts about whether you actually took them or not and take more (oops).

•           when you put a large pot of water to boil, you decide you have at least 15 minutes to do some yard work, come back 30 minutes later to discover you turned on the wrong burner and burned all the crusty bits off your cast iron fry pan and the house is full of smoke.

•           you make a great lunch and forget to take it to work.

•           your answering machine message should be "We can't find the phone right now, but leave a message and when we do, we'll return your call."

•           your son's teacher tells you that she believes your son is ADD, and you respond, "No, I don't think so, my whole family is that way."

•           you finally figure out that the reason the car key won't fit in the door is because you're trying to open somebody else's car!

•           you drive to the library with the books on the roof of your car.

•           you rent the same movie 3 times in a month each time thinking you have never seen it before (until you start watching)

•           other people think you're crazy and you think they're boring.

•           you put something in a safe place to have it when you need it and then you forget where the safe place was!

•           you go looking for something you put in a safe place, you realize it is not in that particular safe place, but instead you find something else that you had been looking for!

•           you wonder why the electric bill is so high and then you realize that the oven has been on for a month....

•           you go to the kitchen and stand in front of the open refrigerator for several minutes before you remember that you were there to answer the phone.

•           when you start to make dinner you end up cleaning out the refrigerator.

And, finally, you may just have ADD if…the smoke alarm tells you supper is done.

Now for all of you who suffer with this common illness or live with someone who does, please do not be offended.  Every occupant on the planet struggles with something…and all of us just need a lot of love. Why?  Because it covers a multitude of sins.  So rather than take offense, hear my heart.  I only meant to acknowledge—to my friends and family—that I feel their pain. That is, if I can focus long enough...oh, look—a pill bug just walked across my bookshelf.  That reminds me, did I take my reflux medicine this morning?  *sigh*


Monday, January 26, 2015

The Eyes Have It

Have you ever stopped to think about how important your face is?  Consider its role in communicating to others what you want them to know or how you are feeling?  Imagine, for a moment, that God had made your face to look, instead, like your big toe.  Although that image might seem comical, it illustrates just important our facial features are, and not just for their utilitarian purposes—seeing, smelling, eating, talking, etc.  They also are the mechanism God gives us for connecting with other human beings. And they are some of our best instruments for communicating God’s love to others.

I believe no one facial feature is as powerful in human interaction as the eyes.  Remember, for a moment, the last time you tried to have a meaningful conversation with someone wearing sunglasses and you get the point.  The eyes are so telling.  They have been referred to as the “windows of the soul.”  With them we can show delight, excitement, disgust, disapproval, earnestness, boredom, fear, distrust, amusement, just to name a few. 

Over the holidays, I had opportunity to be in a lot of social settings: parties, shopping malls, family gatherings.  I found myself trying to read people’s thoughts by what their faces were communicating to me.  And I noticed that many people don’t even allow extended eye contact in such settings.  Maybe they feel more vulnerable.  Sometimes a shame-based upbringing can deeply affect one’s confidence.  Perhaps it’s the fear of exposing more negative feelings than they care to admit.  

Whatever the reason, it limits the connection. But conversely, a sincere, engaging smile from a person looking you right in the eyes can be like “a cup of cold water” to a thirsty man.

Going deeper with my thoughts about this, I tried to imagine what God’s face looks like when He looks at me…and particularly the eyes.  The Bible gives us hints from time to time. One of the most beautiful and often quoted Old Testament passages speaks specifically to this. Perhaps you remember it:

The Lord bless you and keep you; 
 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to
 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

I heard these words week after week growing up in the home of a Lutheran pastor.  It was part of our liturgy. One of the benefits of growing up in such a church culture was that some (not all) service components that were repeated week after week had a way of imbedding themselves into my mind, whether consciously or not.  On the negative side, this repetition can cause their impact to be lessened in the short run.  But on the positive side, some of these passages were easily retrievable later in life, even when taken completely out of their original context. 

This particular passage in Numbers (6:24-26) was a blessing spoken by Aaron, a high priest of Israel under Moses’ leadership, and as such would have been received as God’s very own thoughts spoken through a human conduit.  They are a word picture of a God who is inclined toward us, who desires eye contact, and whose face is lifted toward us!

Perhaps some of us imagine a Deity shaking his head in disapproval or disappointment, if not downright disgust when looking at us. Now clearly, if I can imagine the face of God, it is not one expression, all the time.  We are even told in the Bible that it is possible, for instance, to grieve the Spirit of God.  But there is a quantum leap from sadness, on the one hand, and to disgust, on the other.  Yet we often find it hard to imagine a God who is “lifting His countenance upon [us],” even when we fail Him. 

Consider, however, another passage—this one from the New Testament. It involves one of the most monumental acts of failure in the history of Christianity, and by one of Jesus’ very own followers, Simon Peter. Jesus had warned Peter at their last meal before His death of this impending act of denial, reading in Luke 22:31-34:

[Jesus] “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

But as we all know, “Mr. Blowhard” folded like origami during the test.  Fast forward to just after he had denied His Savior for a third time, this one in front of a young servant girl (vs. 61-62):

“And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.”

So just what exactly was the expression on Jesus’ face that caused his friend to go out and weep bitterly? I believe it was the look only Jesus can give.  A look of unconditional love.  The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote in Romans 2 that “God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” Perhaps that kindness was even communicated to Paul in his own conversion on the road to Damascus, when Jesus asked Him, “Saul (later Paul), why do you persecute Me?”

As I reflect on the face of God toward me, and particularly what His eyes have to say to me, two things come to mind. I must first accept His grace and favor if I am ever to be able to forgive myself and move forward in my life.  And secondly, that same countenance, those same eyes want to shine through my face to others whom I will encounter on any given day.  Being able to connect with others in a genuine, loving way begins, I believe, with receiving the smile of God myself, moment by moment.  His Son has taken my guilt and shame, leaving me to stand faultless and shameless before Him.  And I can begin to see others for what they may become.   If you want my vote, I’d say ‘the eyes have it.’


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Confessions from a recovering racist…

I remember it like it was yesterday.  April 4, 1968—a chilly spring evening in Austin, Texas where I was attending a Christian university as a freshman.  It was also the day Martin Luther King, Jr. lost his life.  Lost it for being courageous. Lost it for wanting things to change. Lost it for daring to expose a major flaw in the American dream. 

You see, his dream was different. He actually believed what our forefathers had written almost two centuries before was true.  All are created equal.  All persons—every living, breathing soul.   And at his core, Dr. King knew that the words to an old familiar hymn were also true: 

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world 
Red and yellow, black and white, 
they are precious in His sight 
Jesus loves the little children of the world

To Martin’s enemies, the only problem with his thinking was that Jesus didn’t love them equally. Or maybe they were content to think “We ain’t Jesus.” Whatever their reason, he died that day for the crime of wanting a different reality, a new way of living, an American dream focused more on life and liberty that merely the pursuit of (one’s own) happiness.

And as much as I deplore this fact, do you know what my first reaction was to this man’s death, tucked safely, as I was, in the confines of that small religious institution?  “WHAT A RELIEF. Thank God someone killed that ‘movement’. Now maybe we can get back to some normalcy.”  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I would never applaud someone’s cold-blooded murder, in and of itself.  But if one has do die to allow the rest of us to live in relative peace, then so be it.  I was ignorant. I was a bigot in sheep’s clothing. But I was not alone.

Dr. King himself knew all too well that he was swimming upstream, going against the grain, perhaps fighting a losing battle. Pick your metaphor, but perhaps the most painful resistance came from his brothers in the clergy, some of whom urged him to stop upsetting the apple cart.  Many, perhaps in their own weariness, had adopted a “go along to get along” philosophy long ago.  Five years prior to his death, Martin wrote these words from a Birmingham jail to this very fraternity:

“I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. Since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

“… I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

How profound were his insights, not only for the issues of his day, but for what we, as Americans, face today. Martin Luther King, like all true followers of Christ, sought to be an extremist for love, for justice, and for peace.  His faith, propelled by the saving grace of Christ in his life, would not allow him to stand idly by as others suffered at the hand of the other extremists—those promoting ignorance and hate, separation and conformity. 

Today, we face a similar challenge.  While the presenting issue for Dr. King was the national cancer of racism, his fundamental issue was the tyranny of lovelessness. If King were alive today, I don’t think he would be limiting his marches to matters of race.  True, racism exists in many, if subtler, forms today, but lovelessness also manifests itself in our public discourse on topics ranging from political preferences to individual rights, religion, and community values.  It is exposed in our growing inability to disagree with one another agreeably. And at its ugliest, it has reared its head in the form of Islamic extremism, an ideology which seeks to annihilate every person and belief system counter to its own.

To all of this, I believe Martin would say, rise up, Church!  Rise up, people of God.  Oppose injustice at every level, whether it affects you directly or not.  Don’t let your silence be deafening.  As Edmund Burke once wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing.

My original title for this article was “Confessions of a former racist.”  As I examine my heart each day, reacting to the struggles of people unlike me culturally, ethnically or otherwise, I realize I am still a work in progress.  But what I do know is that I am changing.  Christ is changing me. And today, I don’t see change in itself as a threatening thing.  It’s what we are becoming that really matters.  But it starts with a dream.