There is a new movie, now showing, about the baseball career of Jackie Robinson, who as we all know was the first African-American to break baseball’s color barrier. He had to endure a get deal of racial prejudice when he broke into the majors with the Dodgers. There were unbearable insults and even physical attacks on the field. The film is entitled “42,” the number that Robinson wore. What is given little attention in movie is the personal faith of Jackie Robinson, which gave him the strength and courage to go through his ordeal. It is said that Branch Ricky, the general manger of the Brooklyn Dodgers was looking for a player “with the guts enough not to fight back.”
Both Ricky and Robinson had in common a devout Christian faith. Ricky knew that Robinson’s strong faith would help him face all the injustice he would face. Robinson earlier in his career had be mentored by a Methodist pastor who taught him,”that exploding in anger was not the Christian answer to injustice”. He learned that a life lived in submission to Christ was not weakness but actually heroic. Before he got the the Dodgers, Robinson began to see that the path to justice would come not through anger, hate and violence, but through love and restraint.
Each of us will face injustice and even opposition. How will we react? Our first impulse is to defend ourselves, justify our position, probably get angry, causing the other person to only get upset. Men, it is not easy when relationships aren’t fair. But with the Spirit of Jesus living within, we can cooperate with Jesus who has overcome the world by demonstrating the power of love to change lives. Paul exhorts us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21). We are faced with a choice. By the grace of God we can purpose to act in love and compassion. It will not be accomplished in by having “the guts enough not to fight,” but by yielding to the Spirit of Jesus within us.
Paul reminds us that we have one debt that we owe everyone. That is the debt of love. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8). So when we make the choice to love instead of reacting negatively, we are fulfilling God purpose in our lives. The reminder that we owe others the debt of love helps us practice caring for the other, rather then reacting when our rights are being violated. We are called to love. That is the will of God for us, plain and simple. God gives us the capacity to do so, as we surrender to his will for our life. May God not only give us the “guts” not to fight back, but rather the love to do so.
Some of you may have heard of Kenny Luck. He is the head of a men’s ministry entitled “Every Man Ministries.” At a recent “Ignite” conference he gave this challenge to men. “The world doesn’t need any more men that are simply “affiliated” with God or the Christian faith.” What the world needs are men who are “activated” for Christ. He challenged men to move from the audience in terms of their relationship with God to that of an army. The big difference being in an audience versus being in an army, one is in the fight and one is not.
He quotes Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:35, “Good things come out of the good man because of the good that is stored up in him. Evil things come out of the evil man because of the evil that is stored up in him.” “Faith is seen,” explains Luck, “by what faith does. That is why men of God ignited, catching fire, is important – particularly the younger men – because there is such a crisis around the world when it comes to men. The world is wondering where have all the good men gone?” When Godly men get together there is something that is ignited. Men begin to catch the fire from others. Something is being “caught” in the process
I believe this is an important point. Men who become energized in their walk with God will have an influence on others. It is the old principle of “iron sharpening iron.” Men are “rising up” to take back their communities for God. As Luck observes, “Pain and suffering caused by a broken male culture creates a need and longing for men who bring hope, help, and health to the social darknesses plaguing them.”
Men are being called by God to rise above culture, self and evil with a desire to be more Christ-like. The way Luck puts it, men are being called to, “empower health in every space and in every relationship they can be means of a living and active faith in Christ.” In other words, men are going about their every day lives wanting to bring healthy change, as they attempt to reflect the love of Christ. They are activated.
So the challenge is for us to be activated in our faith. As we relate to other men who are “ignited” for God, we will be motivated to take back our culture for God. We acknowledge that men have brought much darkness into our culture. This we do not deny. But we want to be agents of light. I close with these words for Hebrews 10:24-5, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another..” Look for men who are “activated” and join them on the journey
As I prepare to write this blog, I confess that I feel as though I have little to say. I know it is the season that I am going through. I struggled with being honest as I write, but in the end I felt that my honesty might speak to some man who reading this blog. My recovering from hip surgery has knocked me for a loop. It is not only the time it takes to get back to normal, but I fret about all the work that needs to be done around our place here on the lake. I must confess, that my wife at this time is my pillar. I confess my weakness.
I have been learning to live once again in a simple trust in the goodness and unfailing love of my heavenly Father. I have held on to passages of scripture that talk of trust. Here are two of them. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God whose word I praise – in God I trust and am not afraid (Ps 56:3-4) I literally get afraid at times. It is in those moments that I cling to the Lord in trust. “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go for to you I entrust my life (Ps 143:8). When I get up in the morning I cling to the reality of God’s unfailing love. I have to depend on the Lord to show me the way.
The image of an abyss has been very helpful for me. If I let my mind go to all the fears, worries and uncertainties that I feel in my life, I find myself sinking into an inner abyss that get my focus off the Lord and on to me. That is not good. The focus needs to be the Lord and not Al and his problems. I identify with the words of the Psalmist in Ps 40:1-2 when he says “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit; out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand.” My only solid place is in Jesus.
I can testify that I do find firm place to stand. But I must continually practice focusing on the Lord and trusting him. So if you feel like me at times, being drawn into a abyss that has you focused only on you and your issues, I strongly urge you to take the step of simple child like trust and put your life circumstance into the hands of your heavenly Father. His unfailing love will see you through. That is what I am learning to do in new ways as I go through this season of my journey with Christ. Lord, give me grace and be merciful so that I can learn from this season of my life.
I have been thinking about Jesus’ words to us about not being orphaned. “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” (John 14:18). What does it feel like to be an orphan? We certainly get a visual example of being orphaned when we see all the refugees who are homeless from the wars that rage throughout the world. It is difficult to image a child being orphaned in such a circumstance. Do men ever feel orphaned?
While a man might not be physically orphaned, there are ways that men live their lives in “lonely isolation,” feeling emotionally orphaned. The sense of abandonment can be a very frightening reality that men have difficulty acknowledging. This can happen when a man lives a self-referenced, self-enclosed life. It is a life turned in on self. One can live a very functional, productive life, but be alone on the inside. Why? Because we are meant for relationship. That is, we are to live not just from our heads, but also from our hearts. Men, we need to pay attention to our heart connections.
Jesus was abandoned at the end of his life by all those around him. He was all alone. But listen to his words to us. “You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” (John 16:32) Earlier Jesus said, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone…” (John 8:29). Jesus whole ministry was that of doing his Father’s will. Because of his intimate connection with the Father, he was able to endure total rejection.
In Jesus’ example we find the key to not feeling orphaned. It is in our relationship with our heavenly Father. Men, I want to say with get emphasis, as if I were with you in a one- on-one conversation, that God loves you deeply. He know all your thoughts and attitudes. You can’t hide a thing from him. Ps 139 expresses this so well. David said, for example, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.” (Ps 139:2). He sees you in that dark, lonely corner of your heart. He comes to you in love, wanting you to know that you can stand up and walk with him into the light of his healing presence.
Listen to how David experienced this darkness. “Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Ps 139: 12). Our heavenly Father waits for us to invite him into the darkness of our loneliness. When I feel abandoned and alone, I simply cry out to my heavenly Father to come to me. I open my heart as best I can, and ask for the light of his presence. He comes to me in the person of his Son, who is the light of the world. Through Jesus, I can come to the Father and know that I am safely home.
Throughout the history of the church one of the the approaches to understanding the Song of Songs has been to view the book as a allegory of Jesus and his relationship to the believer and the church. In Chapter 2:1 Jesus is called “lily of the valleys.” As most of you know, Easter Lilies have a special place in the celebration of Easter. I have memories of the altar filled with beautiful Easter Lilies. I found this interesting piece on the history of Easter Lilies in Conversation magazine. I thought I would share it with you men.
“The Easter season coincides with the beginning of spring, a time of renewal and new life. Often called the “white-robed apostles of hope,” lilies are said to have been found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ’s agony, wherever His tears had fallen. Before fully opening, lilies assume a trumpet shape. The shape represents God the Father calling his Son Jesus home, which is a great source of joy for believers in Christ. White lilies represent purity and freedom from sin through Jesus’ death on the Cross.”
Remember Jesus referred to lilies in wanting us to see that our heavenly Father will take care of our every need. “Look the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here, today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” (Luke 12:27-28).
So men, here are two “take-aways” from the Easter Lilies you will all enjoy this Easter Season. First, think of that lily you are looking at as a “trumpet.” It is the reminder that the Father called his Son back home to heaven for our sake. Jesus promised he would not leave us orphaned, because when he went to the Father, the Holy Spirit, the very presence of Jesus would be with us and in us. “I will not leave you as orphans: I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.” (John 14:18).
The second “take-away” is the care our heavenly Father has for each of us. It is personal, intimate and loving. He knows all our needs and will take care of them. Listen to the way the Message puts it. “If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? (Luke 12:28). Jesus reminds us in Luke 12:7, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”