Do You Have a Dream?

9:49 AMHeather

Every year on MLK day, we sit with our children and watch Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. Our goal is to help them gain a broader perspective, behind our little suburban life here.  

We want our kids to appreciate bold trailblazers like Martin Luther King and to see how his faith was lived out courageously.  We want our kids to understand that while their life experience may not be able to comprehend racial oppression, that doesn't mean it does not exist as a reality for many.  Ultimately, we want them to learn to see men not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

While I would love to say my children are incredibly moved and inspired and completely engaged every year when we watch this speech, they are not.  But I think it's still sinking in.  And I, for one, get goosebumps every time I watch it.  Still.

I'm as inspired by the speech's words as I am by the man who dared to dream.  Who dared to believe.  Who was hard pressed on every side, mistreated, living under threat of death, daily living a reality so far from his dreams...but still, who had a dream.

I'm afraid in our culture, we seriously lack this ability to dream.  Oh, we dream about bigger houses and faster cars and wild success and instant fame.  But dreaming for things and personal gain is so different than dreaming about living a life that leaves a legacy.  A life that changes people's futures.  A life that testifies to the power of an Almighty God.

What is our life teaching to those around us?  If we call ourselves believers in Christ, then do we daily live in a way that speaks to our belief in an All Powerful God equipping us? 

Or are we too oppressed by circumstances to fight against our doubts and fears?  What if Martin Luther King squelched the dream--or even a belief that things could change?  What if he chose to believe in potential change but never dared to express it or share it?  What if he silenced his bold hopes and listened to the death threats or naysayers?  

This morning, these were the thoughts rattling around my brain as I read Acts 20:17-24.  This is the passage where Paul gathers the Ephesian elders and basically reminds them that his life speaks for itself, as he did not hesitate to preach the gospel, to serve with humility, and to declare God's salvation for both Jew and Gentile.  Then, he expresses his intent to head to Jerusalem, despite knowing that "imprisonment and hardships are facing me."

What makes a man so gutsy that he courageously walks into a known danger?

It's a man who knows the truth and believes every single word of it.

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace.
Acts 20:24

It's a man who values obedience over his own gain.  It's a man who has the kind of faith that sees a powerful God accurately.  He lived a life that says God is all that I claim him to be.  God indeed offers power and grace.  God is the difference between our own human capability and pursuing God sized dreams.  Paul's life told the story of God's grace and power rather than resounding a weak, impotent gospel. 

Acts 20:24 calls us to trade in a life bent on amassing wonderful things and fun experiences and ease and comfort for a life focused on bigger purposes, fueled by a belief that God is truly powerful.

My own timid mentality marvels at men like MLK and Paul.  How can men be so bold and undeterred?  From my own thinking, its hard to not put such men on a pedestal.  To consider them super human or a fairy tale, somehow.  That they would have the guts to believe that new and bigger things could actually come through their own faithfulness. 

It's as if they actually believed this passage enough to live it out.

When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned...For I am the Lord your God...Do not be afraid for I am with you...Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:2-3, 5, 18-19

These men lived as if they believed that God could and would do a new thing within them and through them and for them.  They lived as if they believed that God would see them through any hardship or trial.  And that he would use it all to accomplish new things.

They lived as if they knew it was absolutely true that God empowers his people to serve well and to serve humbly.  To give it their all.  To be bold.  To hold nothing back.  To run hard.  To do hard things.  To endure and persevere.  To assess accurately the highest value of obeying God.  To stay strong and stay the course.  

Paul lived as if it is absolute truth that God uses the least likely and the ill equipped to accomplish the most awe inspiring movements of himself.  Here is the truth. God shows himself best when glowing through common clay jars.  God is the reason that his people can face hardships and trials and keep going.

He is the reason we can dream and believe that new things are coming. 

God is the difference between a bitter, angry, vengeful man who persecuted Christians and a courageous, humble, bold and faithful trail blazer who set the world on fire with the beginnings of the first church.

So what excuse do I have?  Can I say the same as these men?  Do I let my life speak for itself as an example of serving with humility and living undeterred by threats of danger?  Do my actions and my life tell of his power to persevere through testing?  

What exactly is holding me back from having a dream and pressing headlong toward it?  Running for the new things and the streams in the wasteland?  Do I resist hesitation from doing anything that would be helpful for the saints and the unbelieving? 

Does my life declare loudly that I actually do believe and live out that God is powerful and faithful?

Here's what I wrote in my journal this morning:  The world is starving for this kind of faith.  We all long to see the power of God through undeterred followers.  We want to see that God is all he claims to be by how his followers live.  We want to see that we can rely on his power and his grace.

We all want to see that he is the difference between our capability and our reality and our current trials and hardships...and a crazy bold dream that becomes a new thing springing up.

I believe that God wants to do a new thing in each of us.  Through each of us.  

Do you not perceive it?  His way in the wilderness?  His streams in your wasteland?  

Life is a series of mundane and tedious and busy and chaos.  That ebbs and flows with suffering and hardship.  

No matter what, God calls us to plant ourselves firmly at his feet.  Like Mary.  To choose the one thing necessary.

To choose to listen to his teaching.  And leave the kitchen duty and distractions...refusing to be anxious and troubled about many things.

Because we've chosen the good portion.  We've chosen to throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus, throwing out all our questions and confusion and sorrows.  Running to him with it all rather than away from him.

He wants us to come off the fence lines and walking the perimeters and following the rules so that we can drink deeply from the well of grace.

Refusing to be consumers of faith and of God.  Refusing to be driven by performance or to be halted by doubts.  He longs for us to allow the cutting away of the old.  He wants us to pray for the impossible walls to crumble and to believe him to do it.

Because he wants us, like the Israelites in the Old Testament, to move from deliverance to freedom.  

God wants us to plant ourselves firmly at his feet in seasons of weeping.  Expressing our problems to him.  Letting him come work in his way to do his new things, trusting his heart for us.  He wants us to cling to him when we grieve deeply.  He wants us to remember that he cries with us.  

He wants us to look to him with expectation for how he can work through our brokenness.  He wants us to believe that he works our brokenness into eternal wholeness.

He wants us to live daily, in such a way, that our life testifies to our belief in his bigger picture.  He wants our lives to shout to the world around us that there is an invitation to an eternal feast and a banquet here and now of grace and love and acceptance.

So that we can walk and jump and praise God.  So that we can not only have dreams but dare to pursue the new things that God might do through our wastelands and wildernesses.  

He wants us to allow ourselves to be pruned and deconstructed and face threats of danger.  So that new things can come.  So that life can be born of death.  

God's very heartbeat for us is to surrender our burdens.  To live out Matthew 11:28-30 and to take his yoke upon us.  To learn the lessons of walking on the unforced rhythms of grace while Jesus handles the burdens.  To live out the forgotten verbs of staying, remaining, sitting, dwelling, abiding and clinging.  Because when we do the hard work of stilling our mind and souls to think on him and believe he is who he claims to be... then new things are unleashed.  Dreams are chased.  God's power is our fuel and lifeline, as we step through our circumstances.

God has a dream for us.  He wants us to dream big.  Of the new things he can do.  That he could use the impossible courage of a black preacher to spark a movement toward changing our culture.  That he could use a former enemy of Christ as the catalyst for Christ's first church.  

What new things can you imagine God bringing about and doing in and through you?  What are your wildest dreams if you really could take God as his word to be all the power and grace that you need?

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21

I pray you grab a piece of paper and a pen.  And go dream with you God.  Ask him to help you live as if you believe him to be all the power you ever need.  Ask him to help you see the new things he is up to in your life.

Blog post #14 in a series:  Sabbath Living: Sitting at the Feet of Jesus. 

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