Strength to Love–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! As we pause this week to ponder Dr. King’s contribution to the cause of justice and equality in our nation and world, I want to suggest a resource that I think you will love. Dr. King’s book, Strength to Love, is one of the best books I have read in years.

It is a compilation of some of his most dynamic sermons, carefully edited and arranged into book form, and it is powerfully compelling. In this book, Dr. King is  intellectual, philosophical, and biblical, and his insights are eerily prophetic for our times. In the introduction, his wife, Coretta Scott King, wrote, “If there is one book Martin Luther King, Jr. has written that people consistently tell me has changed their lives, it is Strength to Love.” Those words certainly proved true for me too. This book is definitely in the top ten list of the best books I have read this past decade. I have inserted a link here so you can peruse it on Amazon.

But regardless of whether you care about reading this book or not, let’s remember our three best friends this week: faith, love, and hope. As Dr. King did in his day and context, let’s live lives of intentional faith, let’s model love, and let’s never stop speaking God’s hope to our world.

God bless you!

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A ‘storied’ people

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.” (Psalm 107:2)

In your readings through the Old and New Testaments, do you ever marvel at the constant, even redundant, telling of Israel’s story? Doesn’t it seem like the biblical writers are always rehearsing Israel’s formation, bondage, rescue, decline, and promised renewal?

It is sort of like shampoo instructions on an endless loop: wash, rinse, repeat.

Why is that? Why is the rehearsal of a story–a history–so important? And do you think it might be equally important for us?

There is power in story, in remembering where we have been and where God has brought us. Although it might get tedious to constantly be reminded how God parted a Red Sea for Israel on their way out of Egypt, that story never loses its potency. It is a constant, real-time reminder that God can still split chaos and lead us safely through to the other side.

We are a ‘storied’ people. We have a history and a life with God. And when we remember what God did back then, it can bolster our confidence for today. Remembering yesterday’s rescues, prepares us for glorious victories in tomorrow’s looming battles.

The old hymn, Blessed Assurance, declares, “This is my story, this is my song…” and it is powerful. We have a story to tell, a song to sing. We are a storied people, and perhaps we should follow Scripture’s lead and spend more time remembering it. It will bolster our courage and vivify our souls when we do.

Let’s do it this week as we pause for our Thanksgiving celebrations; let’s let our expressions of thanks become a re-telling of stories that become predictors of better futures.

Fear of bad news versus actual bad news

You have no doubt heard Mark Twain’s oft repeated quote: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

There is profound truth inside Mr. Twain’s witty remark, and when you and I reach our own old age, we will undoubtedly say the same thing: we will have worried about countless things that never actually happened.

The Scriptures speak to this dynamic in Psalm 112:7. It says that the righteous “will have no fear of bad news.” I love that! It doesn’t say they won’t experience bad news (we all know that everyone does); it says that they won’t fear it—they won’t worry, fret, and live out their anxieties in advance.

Yes, you and I will experience bad news in life, but we don’t need to be afraid of it in advance. First of all, if the bad news strikes, God will still be with us. And second, most of it probably won’t strike anyway.

God has delivered us…and He will deliver us again.” (2 Corinthians 1:10)

I’m not done yet (are you?)

Have you ever had an overly efficient server at a restaurant try to take away your plate before you were finished eating? Have you ever gotten into such a great conversation that you neglected to eat, and then had to tell your server, “Sorry, I’m not done yet”?

It is not uncommon in the life of faith to reach a moment when you are tempted to quit and you have to declare, “I’m not done yet”. Life can be so mysterious, perplexing, and painful that sometimes we can be tempted to lose heart and give up on our vision and our ideals. Even Jesus’ closest followers had moments like this.

Once when people were losing heart, getting offended, and bailing out on the faith, Jesus turned to Peter and the gang and said, “What about you? Will you also go away?”

Peter’s words still echo through history, instilling strength into sinking hearts. He said, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”[1]

Let’s follow Peter’s lead and let’s declare with him and the other apostles, “Jesus, we’re not done yet! We’re not jumping ship! We haven’t exhausted all of the life that you promised to give. You are the Holy One of God and our journey with you is just getting started!”

Statements like that invite courage back into the human soul. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Courage is an inner resolution to go forward in spite of obstacles and frightening situations…courage breeds creative self-affirmation…courage faces fear and thereby masters it…we must constantly build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”[2]

Are we done yet? Not by a long shot!

 

[1] John 6:68-69

[2] Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1963), 119.