Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Powerful Excerpts from MLK Biography

From Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Stephen B. Oates

Sage advice from his father:
“Every way I turn people are congratulating me for you,” Daddy wrote King in December [1954?].  “You see young man you are becoming very popular.  As I told you you must be much in prayer.  Persons like yourself are the ones the devil turns all of his forces loose to destroy.”  (57)

Clarifying his philosophy and approach:
It is not passive nonresistance to evil, it is active nonviolent resistance to evil....  Freedom is never given to anybody.  For the oppressor has you in domination because he plans to keep you there.  He never voluntarily gives it up.  And that is where the strong resistance comes.  We’ve got to keep on keepin’ on, in order to gain freedom.  It is not done voluntarily.  It is done through the pressure that comes about from people who are oppressed....  Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood.  (78-79)

Advice from colleague Bayard Rustin:
Martin, I don’t see how you can make the challenge you are making here without a very real possibility of your being murdered, and I wonder if you have made your peace with that.  I have the feeling the Lord has laid his hands on you, and that is a dangerous, dangerous thing.  (95)

Evidence of the nobility of his aims:
Our use of passive resistance in Montgomery is not based on resistance to get rights for ourselves, but to achieve friendship with the men who are denying us our rights, and change them through friendship and a bond of Christian understanding before God.  (116)

Evidence of his noble motivations:
I do not know what lies ahead of us.  There may be beatings, jailings, and tear gas.  But I would rather die on the highways of Alabama than make a butchery of my conscience.  There is nothing more tragic in all this world than to know right and not do it.  I cannot stand in the midst of all these glaring evils and not take a stand.  (351)

People asked him: “Since violence is the new cry, isn’t there a danger that you will lose touch with the people in the ghetto and be out of step with the times if you don’t change your views on nonviolence?”  King told them, “I refuse to determine what is right by taking a Gallup poll of trends of the time.”  A true leader “is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”  “If every Negro in the United States turns to violence, I will choose to be that one lone voice preaching that this is the wrong way.”  (421)

When his parents first learned of his assassination:
Daddy and Momma King heard the news [of MLK’s death] over the radio, and they sat there, unable to say anything, weeping silently together.  “Suddenly, in a few seconds of radio time, it was all over,” Daddy King remembered.  “My first son, whose birth had brought me such joy that I jumped up in the hall outside the room where he was born and touched the ceiling—the child, the scholar, the preacher … all of it was gone.”  (493)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

If God Would Answer This Prayer

"Pentecostal Power," by Charles H. Gabriel, is a great prayer.

Consider verse 1, a prayer that the power that was manifested at Pentecost would be manifest again today through us:

Lord, as of old, at Pentecost,
Thou didst Thy pow’r display—
With cleansing, purifying flame,
Descend on us today.
I resonate with verse 3 in particular, every line my earnest prayer:
All self consume, all sin destroy!
With earnest zeal endue
Each waiting heart to work for Thee;
O Lord, our faith renew!

The refrain opens the throttle on our prayers, the last line reflecting the twin goals of our petitions:
Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!
Thy floodgates of blessing, on us throw open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!
That sinners be converted and Thy Name glorified!

Sing this as a congregation, sing this in your prayer closet, pray it in your prayer closet.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Heard Hank "The Bible Man" H. deal with Rahab's lie last night on his radio program, and this afternoon I heard Robert Jeffress deal with the 9th commandment in a radio sermon, during which he addressed Rahab's lie.

Two different opinions.  Jeffress says Rahab lied, and it was wrong; in Hebrews 11, she was not commended for her lie; she was commended for her faith.  Hank says Rahab was not guilty for the untruth she told because it was right and good for her to do so in order to comply with a higher-level good, that of preserving life (the spies).

I remember one of my college professors saying that, in extreme situations, failing to tell the truth to those who don't deserve the truth is not morally wrong.  An example would be someone demanding to know where your wife and children were in order to do them harm, or Nazis banging at the door demanding to know if you are housing Jews.  Others, however, would argue that you should always tell the truth when you answer, trusting in the sovereignty of God to protect others (the spies, your wife and children, the hidden Jews).

Andrew heard both of these radio guys along with me and asked which I agreed with.  I told him that when push comes to shove, I don't think I would tell anyone where he was.

Friday, February 17, 2012

MLK: A Remarkable Life

I recently read Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Stephen B. Oates.  My goal was to correct my ignorance of this man.  Let the Trumpet Sound certainly helped.  Here's what I learned (in addition to what I've already blogged here and here.)

Though he moved slower than what he would have liked, King liked JFK and thought him genuinely interested in promoting civil rights.  He felt much the same way about Sen. Robert Kennedy later.  When LBJ moved on civil rights issues, at one point King and other black civil rights leaders considered him the greatest president of all time, including Lincoln.  King's opinion drastically changed, however, with LBJ's (immoral) persistence in the Vietnam War.  King was strongly opposed to the Vietnam War and became the most famous/influential person to speak out against it, which brought a significant rift between him and LBJ.  When LBJ finally announced that he would not seek a second term in office, many felt it was due to King's influential opposition to LBJ's prosecution of Vietnam.

Once he settled on nonviolent passive resistance as his strategy, he never deviated from that.  He thought it was the best way and the right away to gain equal rights for blacks.  Among other things, black nonviolence seen side-by-side with white violence revealed in startling form the moral bankruptcy of white superiority.  When civil rights seemed at a standstill in the late 60s, other groups and organizations began talking about black power, and some of his associates abandoned the nonviolent approach, but he never did.  When noticeable violence erupted at the end of a march he led in TN, he immediately abandoned the march.  Nor would he have anything to do with reverse racism.  His goals were always equal rights for blacks and reconciliation between blacks and whites.

His initial work was in the South, but as he became a nationally-known leader, he began to deal with the prejudice in the North that manifested itself in terms of economic hardships for blacks, like low wages, substandard housing projects and ghettos, and discriminatory real estate practices.  He often found ready allies in labor unions.  Then his attention also turned toward the Vietnam War, and he fought against that as well.

Quite startling to me was his moral failure.  About half way through the book I learn that this pastor and moral leader on more than one occasion had trysts with women who were not his wife.  He was separated from his family much of the time, and he fell prey to the sins of the flesh.  He felt guilty over these sins, and he tried to overcome them.  I do not know how successful he was.  The bio I read was spare in details.  There were times when he thought he ought to hang up his spurs, so to speak, because of his failure in this area, but then he always felt the right thing to do was to continue on in the work he believed God had called him to, despite his moral failures.

I come away from this book with a deep appreciation for Martin Luther King.  I live in an America far different from the one King challenged, and I believe that such is the case because King did challenge it, and successfully so.  He was a man with a clear vision of what he wanted to see happen, an incredible wisdom which he implemented to accomplish his vision, and the belief that God had called him to this mission and that the Lord had his hand on his life.  He recognized his power and influence, but he was nonetheless marked by humility and battled self-doubts.  I appreciate the fact that he not only recognized that his moral failures were in fact sin (and that's a huge step there), but that he also grieved and mourned over those failures.  His life bears a remarkable resume for one who died before he turned 40.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Christians Should Be Thinkers

In my personal Bible study lately I have been thinking about 2 Cor 10:4-5:

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh
but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God,
and take every thought captive to obey Christ.  (ESV)

Monday I revelled in these supernatural weapons that we mortals wield (such as prayer and faith), and I thought about the (seemingly impenetrable) strongholds that can be levelled by these weapons (such as bitterness, ruined marriages, and sinful habits). 

Yesterday as I moved into verse 5 I saw that it specifies one of the strongholds: anti-God ideas, or anti-God philosophies, or anti-God thinking.  This verse touches, then, on the doctrine of the Christian mind and the importance of right thinking.

Right thinking is neglected by many Christians, it seems to me.  There's an emphasis on experience and feeling, but not so much on thinking.  Theology is something theologians do, and even many pastors these days aren't considered theologians.  No, that's the dry stuff that academics engage in in seminaries which are located in other cities.  "And Pastor, please don't dwell too long on theology in your sermons; we need practical help right now to deal with our problems.  I don't care about doctrine; just tell me what I need to do."  Youth pastors deal with "hot button" issues in order to be relevant, with the result being that the culture and the times influence the teaching schedule instead of the main themes of God's Word doing so.

But if we do not think, if we do not engage in meditating on the truths of Scripture, we will not destroy the anti-God ideas talked about in 2 Cor 10:5.  Instead, we will succumb to them.  If we do not renew our minds through sustained, thoughtful interaction with the Scriptures (study and meditation), then we will not be transformed; rather, we will continue to be conformed to the pattern of this world.  (See Rom 12:2 for the logic of that last statement.)

Preachers are urged to "Apply, apply, apply."  We're told that sermons should contain clear and specific application, especially in this day and age which stresses utilitarianism and practicality and "How does it help me?"  I agree that application must be present in sermons, and obviously so.  It must be clear, and it must be specific, and it must be helpful.  But what many people narrow application down to is, "What must I do?"  However, many times application should take the form, "What must I think?" or "What must I believe?"  To be sure, Scripture has a lot to say about what we should do and what we shouldn't do, but it also has a lot to say about what we should think and what we shouldn't think.

Hebrews is not the most popular book in the NT.  It's not as strong as other books in the "What must I do?" category.  But what function does Hebrews perform?  It paints for us a wonderful picture of the greatness, the majesty, the supremacy of Jesus Christ.  It helps to elevate our thoughts about Christ.  It corrects our human  tendency to think less of God and of Christ than what is actually true; Hebrews (as well as the rest of the Bible) works to elevate our thinking about Christ.  And that is tremendously practical.  If I don't have an elevated view of Christ, I'm not near as likely to take my problems and issues to him.  But if I believe all about Christ that Hebrews encourages me to believe, then I will approach the throne of grace with confidence to receive mercy and find grace to help me in my time of need (Heb 4:16).  I will live more and more in the wisdom and the power of the Spirit.  I will more and more trust in the Lord with all of my heart and lean not on my own understanding.

When it comes to the area of sex, a couple of authors note that the most important sex organ is the brain.  How we think about sex is tremendously practical and relevant, because how we think about it will determine in large part how we handle it and practice it.  When a person used to the world's way of sex becomes a Christian, much of the battle for purity, if it is to be won, is waged in the mind.  Win the battle in the mind, and the body will fall into step.

Much of sanctification (in all areas of life) is a mind game.  Rom 8 highlights this.  "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot" (8:5-7 ESV, emphasis added).

Much of life is a matter of the mind.  What we think and believe will impact our living--our choices, our allegiances, our attitudes.  Studying and meditating on the Scriptures is a must for spiritual maturity and holy living.  And reading good theology won't hurt, either.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Love the Lord Your God with All Your Mind

Modern Christianity, it seems, underestimates the importance of the mind and thinking when it comes to being holy and living godly lives.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones tried to rectify this in his London ministry.  His biographer writes:

"… his call to Christians was to think aright about God.  That must come first.  Not even prayer is to be put before it …  His concern was that his hearers should not simply derive comfort from passages of Scripture but that they should think theologically."

Lloyd-Jones once preached:

“We stand fast in this faith by reminding ourselves of it constantly, by reading and thinking about it,  by meditating concerning it.  This is something for which I would plead at the present time.  We must return to a consideration of the terms of the faith….  I plead, in other words, for a revival of the study of theology …  It is not enough to cultivate the devotional life.  It is essential to ‘stand fast in the faith’ when we are assailed by doubt.  And it is essential as against feelings.” 

--Iain H. Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981, 30