MLK and the Quest for Equality

Today is the day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Perhaps no other voice is more closely associated with the American civil rights movement than his.  His voice still resonates through his words long after his life was cut short.  Although he was far from perfect, his legacy and his voice still lives on.

Equality?

How equal are we really?

I have the privilege of teaching low-income, at-risk youth who are pursuing their GED.  For a variety of reasons they were unable to finish high school and this basic education credential is vital.

My classroom is very diverse.  Over the last three years I have had single moms of every race, Hispanic ex-gang members, students for whom English is a second language, African-American young men and women, a refugee from Burma, kids in and out of trouble with the law, and students that make you wonder why they dropped out of high school.

We don’t shy away from the difficult topics that these kids will face in life.  We talk about racial injustice and equality, Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, human trafficking, Boko Haram, Islamic extremists, minimum wage, and anything else you could imagine.

One of my favorite memories was with a young black man who was 17 years old.  We were joking in class one day and speaking about race.  This young man said:

Man, Mr. Barnett, I think you are black on the inside!

Even now, you may be uncomfortable reading this.   But to me, it reminded me that I was doing whatever it took to reach these kids.

This job is my mission field right now.

I am a white male in his mid-thirties who is a bold follower of Jesus Christ.  Yet I am somehow able to identify and be identifiable with all manner of a diverse younger generation.

Unfortunately this isn’t the norm

I look around, especially in the United States, and I don’t see this as the norm.  It seems like things are just as bad as they have always been.  The more we strive for equality the more elusive it seems.  I’m sure Martin Luther King would be disappointed in where we are and recognize that we have so much further to go.

We are all sinners in need of a Savior

When I think about our differences as people, I am reminded of our similarities.

On the inside we are not black or white, Hispanic or Asian, from the eastern hemisphere or the western hemisphere.

We are simply sinners in need of a Savior.  Although God created us to be a beautiful tapestry of skin colors, he sees us primarily in need of his grace and mercy.  He sees beyond our skin color to our soul’s condition.

We are new creations in Christ

When you come to the saving knowledge of Jesus, you become a new creation in Christ.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.

The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

2 Corinthians 5:17

Once we get to the point where we realize that we are new creations in Christ, then we can begin to really celebrate our differences by celebrating our similarities.  We can begin to see the beauty that God has created in this world by making us each unique and rejoicing that where it counts we are the same.

That is our relationship with Christ.

If you have never heard Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, you can listen to it here.

Although, it was birthed out of the civil rights movement and the injustices that people of color faced, at its core was the message of Christianity: that all men and women will only really be truly equal when they recognize what God has done for them and accept the free gift of eternal life by believing in his son, Jesus Christ.

Social justice and equality can never truly be achieved until Christians rise up and live as one body more interested in their similarities than their differences.

 

5 Sure-Fire Ways To Impact Lives For The Kingdom Of God

Soldiers in the Kingdom of GodOne of the underlying themes present in history is the advancement of an ideology and the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms.

This is one of the reasons that the Jewish people were confused when Jesus came as a servant willing to die so that all mankind could live.  They were expecting a conquering King to free them from Roman oppression and to restore the throne of David and the glory of the nation of Israel.

When Jesus came to redeem all sinners so that they might become part of the Kingdom of God it turned conventional wisdom about what a kingdom looked like on its head.

One of the reasons I chose the title “Words For The Kingdom” for this blog is to indicate that you are part of building the Kingdom of God. You are a servant and soldier of King Jesus.

Even though Jesus has not yet come back to establish his rule here on earth, you are no less his servant, and he is no less your King.

He has each you here for a reason.  So what is that reason?

Do Authentic Christians Actually Exist?

“You’re a phony!  I hate phonies.”   Despicable Me 2

Your a phony!

If you haven’t seen it, Despicable Me 2 is worth watching.  The quote comes from the scene above.

Gru, the main character, is bald.  He is on a blind date with Shannon and he is wearing a bad toupee.  In his nervousness, he brushes his forehead which shifts his hair to the side.  Shannon reacts with the statement above and then threatens to rip off the wig and expose Gru for the phony she thinks he is.

I’ve never worn a wig,

but I’m sure I have been less than authentic at times in my life.

Phony is the opposite of authentic.  Phony means false, fake, not real.  Authentic means real and true.  Authenticity produces evidence.  Authentic Christianity produces fruit.

Is Your Life An Adventure?

God asks us what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made.   And then, leaning over to us, He whispers, “Let’s go do that together.”

Bob Goff in Love Does

adventure awaits

Do you believe that you get to live a life of adventure?

Attitude and experiences can be funny things.  If they stink, chances are you will believe everything around you stinks.  Unfortunately we often allow our attitude and our past experiences to dictate what we believe about our future experiences.

I love the quote above by Bob Goff.  If you haven’t yet read Love Does you should. After reading it I am half-tempted to load up my family and drive across the country just to sit down and hang out with him.  It is just the kind of crazy, whimsy-filled adventure that Bob would appreciate.

I like this quote because it reminds me that God created you and I in a very specific and amazing way.  He made my heart break over certain things and he made me love certain things and he made me passionate about certain things.  He made you unique and specific too.  You know what gets you excited and ignites a fire in your bones.

Why would God make us this way?

I think it is because He wants to use us to complete this great and crazy adventure called life.  You see, just because we are Christians, and just because we are called to walk the narrow path and take a stand on things doesn’t mean that our lives can’t be filled with wonder and rapture and adventure.

I believe we are fully alive and most where God wants us to be when we are living the great adventure he planned out for us.  I think the attributes of God are most exhibited in us when we live a life of adventure.

Consider these adventurers:

  • Abraham packed up his family and stepped out to follow God on faith
  • Moses took a ride in a basket on a river, was raised as royalty, then became God’s spokesperson for a fledgling nation
  • Esther saved that nation from destruction by being bold and brave
  • David stepped up and destroyed a giant with a stone, a shout, and faith
  • Nehemiah built the wall up around Jerusalem with his broken heart
  • Jesus turned the world upside down with ideas that were contrary to convention
  • Peter walked on the water, confessed Jesus as the Son of God, denied him three times, then became the rock on which the church was built
  • The disciples devoted the rest of their lives following the adventure that was kindled in them
  • Paul became the greatest missionary after a blinding encounter on the road to Damascus
  • John was exiled to an island where he was given the Revelation of things to come.

Will your name be added to this list?

There is no reason it couldn’t be.  If we kept adding bullet points we could put name after name on it.  Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis, Spurgeon, Moody, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa.

I can name people in my life that have responded to the passion that God put in their hearts and have lived a life of adventure.  I have their names on the list.

I want my name to be on that list as well.

I want your name to be on the list too.

I am trying to live my life in such a way that I do hear the words,  “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I want more than that though.

I don’t mean to be irreverent, but I think sometimes we only focus on the meek Lamb and overlook the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

My Jesus is a Warrior and he is calling me to a life of adventure.

So the question is, are you living a life of Adventure?

If not, what are you waiting for?

Go.  Heaven is watching and waiting.

 

 

Catalyst14, Andy Stanley, And The Importance Of Vision

Andy Stanley Catalyst

I just had the privilege of being able to attend the Catalyst Conference.  Over the past two days I was encouraged, uplifted, and challenged by dynamic speakers.  I have so much to write about to share with you some insights that I believe will help you impact the Kingdom of God.

The picture above is Andy Stanley closing us out and encouraging us to create a vision statement for our lives.  If you have signed up to receive my posts by email, then you have received a free tool to help you identify what the mission is that God has given you and how to identify your spiritual gifts and abilities to live your life according to that vision.

I believe that one of life’s greatest tragedies is the believer who doesn’t know the vision God has placed in his or her heart.

Often this type of believer will be busy, probably within the walls of the church, but not necessarily producing the fruit God has created them to produce.   He or she will get caught up in the business of life, but will not fulfill the mission that God has made them uniquely suited to accomplish.

At the start of the conference, Andy asked the following questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What breaks your heart?

He posed these questions because as leaders he wanted us to begin to identify in our life and ministry the things that we needed to change based on what breaks our heart.

The answers to these questions are the foundation for determining what type of life you will lead and what type of impact you will have on the world.  Each person’s answer is unique.  Andy’s heart was broken because people don’t wake up excited to go to church on Sunday mornings.  His wife Sandra’s heart was broken because there are over 400,000 children in foster care in America.  Your answer will be unique to the heart that God has given you.

At the close of the conference, Andy offered the following:

3 Ways To Make A Change That Sticks

  1. Craft a laser-focused vision statement
  2. Cast it over and over and over and over until everybody knows it
  3. Organize everything you do to that vision statement

I have found that these things are so important in my life.  I know that if I don’t have a vision for my marriage, my wife and I can easily be tossed about by the prevailing winds of life.   I know that if I don’t have a clear vision for my ministry, then I can easily do good things instead of focusing on the great things God has gifted me for.  I know that if I don’t have a clear vision for my kids, then I open them up to worldly influences and influencers.

This is such an important message because it is so easy to get off track.

I think one of the most effective schemes of the devil is to get us distracted from the vision of fulfilling our God-given mission.

Think about this for a moment.  The devil doesn’t have to induce you to sin.  He just has to keep you busy doing the things that don’t matter.   He doesn’t have to destroy your marriage, he just has to keep you from going down the path that God has given you and your spouse.  He doesn’t have to lead your kids down the wrong path, he just has to keep them involved in good things that may not be the best things.  He doesn’t have to make you broke and destitute, he just has to keep you chasing more money in a good job that may not be the job God wants you to serve in.

For these reasons it is so important to determine your vision.

You must know where God is calling you to go if you are to create a clear vision for how to get there.

God has created you and equipped you to complete a mission that is tailor-made for you.  He has given you all the tools that you need.  He is by your side.  He alone knows that if you will simply clarify what it is you are called to do he can do great and might things through you.

You may not see the effects of your work here until you stand before God in eternity, but when you do don’t you want to be sure that you spent your life living out your vision and doing the things that mattered to God.

I know that I do.

If you are unclear about your mission, please sign up for my posts by email and I will send you a tool to help you identify it and begin living it out with vision.