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Amid Tragedy, Let’s Talk

Chris —  December 18, 2014 — 2 Comments

Avery is on crutches on the left side of this picture.

Mostly, what I’ve said this week is nothing. With the loss of one of the young people in our community not from our church, but as a community, one of our young people – –  more than anything, it’s a time to weep.

John 11:35 gives us the two words we most need, “Jesus wept.” The King cares.

But if I said just two more words, they would be, “Let’s talk.”

Rather than allowing the grief to wash over us until we are distracted in some way – – and the family will never be distracted – – let’s get together and talk. And whether we want to admit it or not, it’s far too easy to move on and address nothing.

Talking about spiritual matters is way easier than you think. The idea of getting together with a pastor sounds dramatic and intimidating. It’s not that bad. We’ll visit for a few moments and then, at the very least, we can decide what the questions are that we need to discuss.

Message me or call me or bang on my door.

Bring someone with you.

Come in a group of 2 or 3.

Ask for my wife to be there.

Or meet with another pastor or another spiritual leader.

We’ll visit for a bit. And then we will talk.

Think of it this way. Sunday, December 21, we’re having a Christmas oriented service. And at some point, pretty early in the service, we will take an offering. And the reason our church has the nerve to take an offering, even at Christmas time, is because we want to be there for our community. And the most tangible way our church is there is through our pastor. Vocational pastors are a gift that God gives to a local church and community. It’s humbling for me – – trust me (1 Peter 5:1-4). But the call on my life is to be a shepherd.

So let’s talk. Or talk to another pastor or leader who knows Christ and the Bible, but let’s do talk.

You might ask, “Do you have the time to talk?” And the answer is, “We’ll figure out the time thing.”

You might ask, “Do you really think we can accomplish much in one talk?” In a way, “yes,” but in another way “no.” Life is a long stretch of road and we need to start talking together. Then again, sometimes it’s not such a long stretch of road, so let’s talk now.

You might ask, “Do you really think you have answers?” Again, the answer is “yes,” but not because I have wisdom of my own, but because God is there, and he is not silent, and he has given us his Word and my call — and the call of all pastors – – is to open it up with you and show you how it speaks powerfully to our grief.

You might say, “Well, I’m just not the spiritual sort” . . . or “My life is already too messed up” . . . or “I’m too private” . . . Listen, those statements are lies. Don’t buy them. Let’s get together and see how there is hope. Truly.


For a sermon on the tears of Christ in the face of tragedy, I highly recommend Tim Keller’s 9/11 sermon in NY. The actual sermon begins at about the 29 minute mark. But the prayers and Scripture readings before the sermon are medicine for our souls as well.

American football judge.By the powers vested in me by . . . I hereby announce that you can start your Bible reading plan on December 16. Consider this post your license to cheat by beginning to read through the Bible now.  If you need a Bible reading schedule, try this one.

For motivation to read through the Bible in 2015, we need go no further than Psalm 19. C.S. Lewis said that he considered Psalm 19 the greatest poem in the psalter. Whether or not we agree with ranking the Psalms, one can see why Lewis was so enamored with Psalm 19. In it (Psalm 19:7-11) we are reminded that God’s Word:

  • “Revives the soul” – Feel dead inside? Read God’s Word.
  • “Makes wise the simple” – Big decisions ahead? Look to Scripture
  • “Gives joy to the heart” – Feeling melancholy with long days? Rinse your minds with the Word of God.
  • “Gives light to the eyes” – At a dark place? Let God’s truth illuminate your path.

Read through Psalm 19 – – or better yet Psalm 119 – – and purpose to read the Bible in the months to come.

But, “Alas,” you say. “I would be hard pressed to keep up with reading through the Bible in 2015.”

This is where I, Chris Brauns, ordained by Spring Creek Church in Pewaukee, WI, can be of great help. I am announcing a special blessing whereby you are allowed to start reading through the Bible as early as December 16. This is your green light to leave the starting blocks before the 2015 gun sounds: cheat.

Personally, I plan to use a schedule published by Faith Baptist Bible College (my wife’s alma mater). However, in celebration of Christians freedom, you are allowed to choose an alternative schedule. Look around on the web.

I haven’t started cheating yet. But will do so soon. If it makes you feel better, print this off and put it in your Bible to officially document that you have permission. The key is to start now. Get a jump on the new year. Take a swing at 2015 before it even makes the climb in Times Square.

St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies

Chris —  December 13, 2014 — 2 Comments

Yesterday, I posted a summary of the doctrine of the trinity in anticipation of tomorrow’s sermon. Here is an alternative way to be reminded that using analogies to understand this doctrine always ends in heresy.

Making Merry About the Trinity

Chris —  December 12, 2014 — Leave a comment

Can you precisely and concisely summarize the doctrine of the Trinity? Do you know which doctrinal errors to avoid?

Sunday we will continue our Making Merry at Christmas series at the Red Brick Church. Our children will be singing  – – which always brings great joy – – but I will also be showing how if we properly understand and meditate on the doctrine of the Trinity it will give way to joy and celebration.

You will have to come to church (or listen online) to the sermon to see how I connect the dots. But it’s always a good thing to review the doctrine of the Trinity and be reminded of its basic parameters. Bernard Ramm is right when he shows how the doctrine of the Trinity is of incredible help.

. . . once a doctrine has been clarified in this manner, it has a wonderful way of explaining Scripture when turned back upon the Scripture. We wonder why we did not see it so clearly before! Yet this is the nature of progress in theology. Only by pushes and pulls, by rushes to one flank and a counter-rush to another flank, does the ‘obvious’ in Scripture become ‘obvious.’” Bernard Ramm, The Witness of the Spirit, 29.

Packer is also helpful in reminding us that the goal of the doctrine of the Trinity is not to give us comprehensive understanding of the Trinity.

“The historic formulation of the Trinity seeks to circumscribe and safeguard this mystery (not explain it; that is beyond us), and it confronts us with perhaps the most difficult thought that the human mind has ever been asked to handle. It is not easy; but it is true.” J.I. Packer, Concise Theology, 40.

The statements in the below table summarize the doctrine of the Trinity. (1) God is 3 persons. (2) Each person is fully God. (3) There is one God. For more, see Justin Taylor’s post, Trinity 101. See also this important post on the Nicene Creed.

Table 1. Summary of the Doctrine of the Trinity: “One What, Three Who’s”

  Biblical Truth Select Scripture References Heresy or Error if Denied
1 God is three persons. F & S: Jn 1:1-2 show distinctions, 1 Jn 2:1. Each must be a person for these to happen. Modalism: One God that goes by 3 different names.
HS: Coordinate relationships (Mt 28:19, Greek grammar, personal activities assigned to HS: teaching (Jn 14:26), speaking (Acts 8:29, 13:2) and other personal activities.
2 Each person is fully God. F: Gn 1:1; Mt 6:9 Arianism: The Son or the Spirit not fully God. Subordinationism: Son not equal to Father even though eternal. Adoptionism: Jesus ordinary until his baptism.
S: Jn 1:1-18; Heb 1:1-4
HS: Ps 139:7-8; Acts 5:3-4
3 There is one God. Deut 6:4; Isa 45:22 Tritheism: three different gods.


Do You Repent of Your Righteousness?

Chris —  December 12, 2014 — 4 Comments

TimKellerI am looking forward to preaching through the Sermon on the Mount in 2015. Currently, I am studying the Beatitudes.

In a recommended sermon on the beatitudes (2/11/90), Tim Keller explains that the difference between a Christian and a moralist is that a Christian mourns over his or her righteousness:

What’s the difference between a Christian and a moralist? Here it is: Moralists and Christians both repent for their sins. A lot of moralists are poor in spirit. A lot of moralistic people, religious people, mourn over their sin, and even are meek. The difference between a moralist and a Christian is moralists and Christians both repent of sins, but a Christian also repents of his righteousness.

That means a moralist says, “I’ve sinned, but look at all the good things I’m doing. Look how often I come to church. Look at how faithful a spouse I am. Look at what a great career I have. Look at this and that, and look at that and this and that.” The Christian says, “No, I even repent of that. I even give up that. I see the only way Jesus Christ can receive me is if I completely rely on what he has done, not on anything I have done.” That’s the difference between a Christian and a moralist.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6.


Remembering Dr. and Mrs. Beals

Chris —  December 2, 2014 — 8 Comments

Screenshot 2014-12-02 19.41.55For those who knew Dr. Paul and Vivian Beals, it is easy to understand why Jesus said that Christians are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Dr. and Mrs. Beals encouraged seminary students and their spouses for decades – – not only by teaching missiology but also through their warm example as a couple.

I learned today that Mrs. Beals is now in the presence of our King. In addition to remembering the Beals, this is again an occasion for me to be thankful for the opportunity I had to study at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.

Mrs. Beals was a lovely lady in every way. She had such a sweet smile. And we always knew that she was a partner in our education.

The Beals were missionaries for twelve years in the Central African Republic but I knew them through Dr. Beals’ role at the seminary.

One memory floats to the surface. Dr. Beals and Dr. Crawford (see my first seminary grade) usually arrived at the seminary early in the morning. They drove identical maroon Dodge-K cars and parked next to each other. I could see the parking lot from married student housing so it was easy to monitor their arrival time. Somehow the maroon K-cars may have been connected to the fact that both the Beals and Crawfords went to a church with vast quantities of purple. But I’m not sure of the connection. For the record, Dr. Turner’s car was/is cooler. He drove a Saab and arrived later. I have no idea what Dr. Hoch drove: something to haul books in. He also arrived later – – generally in a foul mood unless the synagogue was having its annual garage sale when he was giddy about the deals.

I digress. I had Dr. Beals for an early class with only guys in it. There weren’t a lot of sisters in the seminary at that time. As we got to class, Dr. Beals was handing missions handouts generated with an early Apple computer and a dot matrix printer. I need to fact check this, but I think the Beals started using a Mac before Steve Jobs. Anyway, in the midst of distributing the handouts Dr. Beals stopped and said with tears in his eyes, “Men, I need to tell you that my wife got up early today and typed these handouts for me.” He then collected himself and prayed and lectured.

Screenshot 2014-12-02 22.26.05We never learned the details of the back story, but apparently, Dr. Beals had been behind in his preparation so Mrs. Beals got up early to bail him out. I can’t imagine how early. Dr. Beals felt bad about how early she had to get up and it was a matter of honor to tell us about that she had done the work. I have no idea what the handouts were about. I would have to look at my notes to even see what class it was. But Dr. Beals talking so appreciatively about his wife made an impression.

On another occasion, we aspiring pastors had to plan a missions conference. I spent a great deal of time planning the conference paying careful attention to the theology and ministry plan behind each part of the program. Dr. Beals looked it over and pointed out that I had planned multiple meals and that it was not very sensitive to the women in the church. I got the impression that Mrs. Beals had given Dr. Beals some wisdom along the way about expectations for cooking and missions conferences.

The Beals smiled a lot. I remember that.

Such ordinary stories. So goes salt.

I post about the Beals now in the same spirit that Dr. Beals mentioned his wife getting up early. It’s a matter of honor.

Dr. and Mrs. Beals went through many health struggles in their final years and I am thankful that long stretch of road is now over. I can’t wait to see them on the other side. I hope they’ll swing by our family meeting place at the 5th Tree on the right side of the river. If not, I’ll look them up. We’ll all be there together: A People for His Name.


From an earlier post

Dr. Paul Beals of Baptist Mid-Missions and GRTS

Dr. Paul Beals

One of my seminary professors, Dr. Paul Beals, was ushered into the presence of Christ on Tuesday, May 29. (See here). I am eternally thankful for the opportunity I had to study under men like Dr. Beals, Dr. Crawford, and Dr. Hoch, all of whom are now in the presence of Christ. Dr. Beals lived out the admonition of 2 Timothy 2:1-2 to entrust the Gospel to reliable men and women who will do the same.

I have often been asked how Jamie and I made the decision to leave the corporate world and go to seminary. I can never answer that question in a tidy way. It certainly was not that I didn’t enjoy my job and the people with whom I worked. But by the time we left for Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 1990 we were confident in every regard that God was in the decision.

Professors like Dr. Paul Beals quickly removed any remaining questions we might have had about the decision. Dr. and Mrs. Beal received us into the seminary family with open arms. I did not have Dr. Beals for any classes my first semester or two in seminary, but he made sure to meet as many of us as possible. And when I visited Dr. Beals’s church, both Dr. and Mrs. Beals went out of their way to greet Jamie and me. They made us feel at home and Dr. Beals was thrilled that I was from Iowa.

I had Theology of Local Church Missions with Dr. Beals in 1991 and I looked through my class notes this morning. It is amazing to reflect on how much of my approach to missions was shaped by Dr. Beals. His goal was to equip and prepare us to be deeply missions minded whether we were called into missions or served in pastoral ministry. As I pointed out in another post, he taught us that the Bible is a missionary book from cover to cover.

What also struck me as I looked through my material from Theology of Local Missions was all the personal attention Dr. Beals gave to students. Throughout my class material I saw small notes Dr. Beals had written:

“Thanks, Chris, for a thoughtful and thoroughgoing piece of work.”


“Thanks, Chris for following instructions with understanding.”

Of course, it wasn’t all good news. One personal note on a blue book exam read,

“Review this one, Chris, it needs a lot of strengthening.”

I wonder how many notes Dr. Beals wrote to students across the decades.

Dr. Beals stayed amazingly fresh in the classroom. He encouraged us to read books that only recently been published. He interacted with a wide range of books.

Dr. Beals work ethic and understanding of missiology were tremendous. But maybe what I remember the most was his sweet, humble enthusiasm. He would come to class excited to teach us. If Mrs. Beals had typed something for us to use in class, as a matter of honor he would say, “I need to acknowledge that my wife was the one who worked hard on this handout.” Whenever he saw my wife, Jamie, Dr. Beals would go out of his way to be sweet to her and encourage her and other seminary wives.

Dr. Beals was always so proud of his family. While he never would have talked to us about his accomplishments, he enjoyed telling us about his children’s accomplishments. Years later, Tim Beals became my agent. I am nearing the completion of the third book I have written with him as my agent, yet I hardly ever talk to him without thinking about his folks.

Since seminary, I have had the opportunity to be involved in many, many missions projects. By God’s grace, Dr. Beals influenced every single one of them. My heartfelt condolences go out to Mrs. Beals and the entire family. I praise the Lord for the gift of his servent, Dr. Paul Beals.

You can read more about Dr. Beals including what he was most proud of at

Denying the reality of hell may be very attractive to some.  But people who hold this position are likely to become hard, embittered people when they encounter evil.

One of the reasons that the denial of eternal punishment has been attractive in our culture is that we have been relatively protected from violent crime.  Consequently, we don’t feel a great need for justice.  If the worst thing anyone has done to you personally was to accidentally get Roundup on your grass, then you may not feel a great need for justice to be done, even if you are intellectually aware of the Holocaust.

Scripture, on the other hand, interacts with many situations where people have been gravely injured.  As I pointed out in my book Unpacking Forgiveness one of the central ways that Scripture teaches us to avoid bitterness is to rest in the truth that God will see that justice is done.  Hence, Romans 12:17-21 says that we ought not to repay evil for evil, but rather we can rest in the truth that vengeance belongs to God and that he will repay.

Similarly, in Psalm 73, the Psalmist is struggling because many seem to get away with gross sin.  The turning point for the Psalmist takes place when he considers the final destiny of the wicked (Psalm 73:17).

Over and over again in Scripture we see this teaching.  A central strategy for avoiding bitterness is to rest in the truth that God will see that justice is done. In 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 Paul soberly encourages the recipients that God will make sure that justice is repaid to those who persecute them.  Or, in 2 Timothy 4:14 Paul processes an injury done to him by Alexander the coppersmith by trusting that God will pay him pack.  In Revelation 6:10 the martyred cry out asking God how long until he avenges their blood.

When Bonhoeffer was imprisoned by the Nazis, and shortly before he was hung, someone asked him how it was possible to feel love for such evil people.  Bonhoeffer replied,

“. . . it is only when God’s wrath and vengeance are hanging as grim realities over the heads of one’s enemies that something of what it means to love and forgive them can touch our hearts.”

See also:

An article about the murder of Kelsey Grammer’s sister.

What I would say to the parents of a child murdered at Virginia Tech.

Exercises to stop thinking about how you have been wounded.

*Adapted from a post on 3/18/2011.

The song “Days of Elijah” by Robin Mark is a favorite for many churches. But few stop to think about the meaning of its many biblical references and allusions. Below I have given a brief summary of some of the themes.

As you read through specific biblical references, keep the bigger picture of biblical celebration in mind (Nehemiah 12:43). Today in our first sermon in the Making Merry at Christmas series at the Red Brick Church, we noted that when people: (1) Are heavily invested in a situation. (2) They are part of something larger than themselves. (3) They see definite progress being made – – that they will celebrate with great enthusiasm.

When we understand the meaning of the song, “Days of Elijah,” we are encouraged as Christians to celebrate. The song shows us that prophecies about Christ and God’s people have been fulfilled across hundreds of years. The Christ — who was born in Bethlehem is coming again – – this time “riding on the clouds at the trumpet’s sound.” Christians above all other groups of people have a reason to celebrate. (1) We live in a fallen world with the consequences of our sin and the sin of others all about us. (2) But if believe in Christ, we are a part of God’s people (see “What Do Christians Mean When They Reference the Gospel or Good News”). (3) Progress is being made: Christ was born in Bethlehem, went to Calvary, rose victoriously and is coming again.

So watch a group of Marines sing this song with great enthusiasm – – then read through a summary of the biblical references and allusions for the song, “Days of Elijah” by Robin Mark. You can also download a pdf of the summary: Meaning of the Song Days of Elijah.


“Days of Elijah” by Robin Mark[i]

These are the days[ii] of Elijah[iii]
Declaring the word of the Lord, yeah
And these are the days of Your servant,[iv] Moses[v]
Righteousness being restored[vi]

These are the days of great trials
Of famine and darkness and sword[vii]
Still we are the voice in the desert crying
Prepare ye the way of the Lord![viii]

Say, behold[ix] He comes, riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun, at the trumpet’s call
Lift your voice, (it’s) the year of Jubilee[x]
Out of Zion’s hill,[xi] salvation comes[xii]

And these are the days of Ezekiel
The dry bones becoming as flesh[xiii]
And these are the days of Your servant, David[xiv]
Rebuilding the temple of praise[xv]

And these are the days of the harvest
The fields are all white in the world
And we are the laborers that are in Your vineyard[xvi]
Declaring the Word of the Lord[xvii]

There’s no God like Jehovah![xviii]
There’s no God like Jehovah!
There’s no God like Jehovah!
There’s no God like Jehovah![xix]

Meaning of the Song “Days of Elijah”

[i] For more information on the story of this song, see “The Story Behind Days of Elijah” available at

[ii] Day of the LORD- Biblical phrase used to reference the future and final redemptive work of Christ. It is found throughout Scripture. One example is 1 Thessalonians where Paul says that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:1). See also passages like Amos 5:18, Revelation 1:10.

[iii] Elijah – A great ninth century prophet who lived at difficult times and stood against idol worship when the Northern Kingdom was rapidly turning from God. Elijah’s showdown on Mt. Carmel is in 1 Kings 18:16-45. Elijah challenged Israel to decide whom to follow (1 King 18:21) and showed that talking “smack” started long before football (1Kings 18:27).

[iv] Your Servant – In Scripture “your servant” is used as an honorific title with Moses and others. Four references in the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) point to Moses as one who had special access to God (Numbers 12:6-8). On this side of the Cross, we all have such access so that we can rush boldly into the presence of God in our time of need (2 Cor 3:12-18, Hebrews 4:14-16). See The New International Dictionary of Theology, vol 4, page 1191.

[v] Moses – Circa 1500, The great Old Testament leader who led God’s people out of captivity in Egypt and to the Promised Land. Moses received the Law on Mt. Sinai. Saying these are the days of your servant Moses references the certain hope of salvation.

[vi] Righteousness – References being right with God. The restoration of righteousness ultimately means a return to Eden, only better (Revelation 21-22).

[vii] Famines and Darkness and Sword – In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus predicted that before his return there would be days of great trials. Such things are signs of the end of the age. After the Gospel is preached to all people groups, the end will come (Matthew 24:3-13).

[viii] Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord – John the Baptist (Jesus’s cousin) announcement of Christ that was prophesied 700 years earlier by Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3-5, Matthew 3:1-6). John baptized Jesus. Nothing more hopeful could be said than that Isaiah 40 was being fulfilled and that the LORD was coming. Our voices now join John the Baptist’s in proclaiming Christ as King.

[ix] Behold – Biblical word of announcement that appears frequently in the Bible. It is used in conjunction with the announcement of the Gospel (see Luke 2:10).

[x] Year of Jubilee / Jubilee – Beginning on the Day of Atonement every fiftieth year it proclaimed a nationwide release from debt and bondage. The word “jubilee” comes from the Hebrew word for “ram’s horn”) for the sounding of the ram’s horn signaled the Jubilee’s beginning. The New Testament teaches that Jubilee anticipated what Jesus will bring when he rides in on the clouds at the trumpet’s call (Luke 4:16–21, 1 Thess 4:16).

[xi] Zion – The hill on which Jerusalem, the city of David, was built. It was on a hill outside of Jerusalem that Christ was crucified.

[xii] Salvation – What we as individuals and as a world so desperately need. Because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God, we are born under the curse. But God is gracious and just and is providing redemption for His people through His Son for those who believe on Him and receive Him as Lord.

[xiii] Ezekiel was a priest and prophet during Israel’s Babylonian exile beginning in 597 B.C. Ezekiel’s great prophecy of the valley of dry bones coming alive (Ezekiel 37:1-14) predicted the reunification of Israel and the hope of the resurrection.

[xiv] David – The second king of Israel and the ideal Old Testament king. God promised that one from the line of David would reign forever (2 Sam 7:12-13). One thousand years after David, Jesus was born in David’s hometown of Bethlehem (Luke 2:5).

[xv] Temple – The center of Israel’s worship. Jesus was zealous for the protection of the Temple and compared himself to the temple and said that when the temple was destroyed it would be raised up in three days (John 2:13-22).

[xvi] Harvest – Jesus likened the needs of broken people to fields in need of a harvest. He told his disciples to pray for workers who would see the need to help harassed and hopeless people who were like sheep without a shepherd. Likewise, God’s people are sometimes compared to laborers in a vineyard.

[xvii] “Word of the Lord” – God’s Word is his powerful disclosure of Himself. Luther said, “the Word possesses such power wherever seriously considered, heeded, and put into practice, that it never remains barren of fruit. It always awakens new thoughts, new pleasures and devotions, and cleanses the heart and its meditations.”

[xviii] Jehovah / LORD / Yahweh – “Jehovah” references the personal name of God in the Old Testament. It comes from combining the Hebrew consonants for God’s name with the vowels from the word for Lord (Adonai). It is better translated Yahweh and can be understood as the God who is faithful in keeping His covenant. This side of the Cross, think Jesus!

[xix] Repetition in Music and Poetry – Repetition in music and poetry is used to stress the great degree. So in the song, “Days of Elijah,” the repetition of “there’s no God like Jehovah,” reminds us together of the all-surpassing supremacy of Christ.

Watch this one and you’ll “wrestle” better today.

Perhaps, people who are talking past one another can agree that what we need right now are leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King brought together a number of elements that gave real hope. And hope is what we need. Feel free to ignore my analysis. But at the least watch the below video clip. Or, better yet, listen or read the entire speech Dr. King gave the night before he was murdered.  

Like most of our nation, last night and this morning ,my heart has been heavy for the situation in Ferguson, MO. I watched the story for hours.

It is frustrating to see how little real progress is being made. Nearly anything that be can said is inflammatory one way or another. Those interviewed talk past one another over and over again. People on all sides of the issue believe they have the moral high ground and so, they feel no obligation to listen.

But surely most of us can agree that it is a good time to reflect on Dr. King’s leadership. I am very aware that Dr. King was not a perfect leader. Spare us from pointing out his faults in the comments. But he was certainly used in incredible ways to lead forward in the Civil Rights Movement. He was especially effective at giving hope. Notice how he did this in his final speech (full audio here, full text here):

  • Dr. King applied Scripture to the context of his day. Whether or not we agree with all the applications he made, his audience certainly did. When Dr. King talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan and said, the Good Samaritan didn’t ask, “What will happen to me if I help?” He asked, “What will happen to him if I don’t help?” He challenged his audience that they  must stop to help the sanitation workers. He referenced Scripture over and over again.  Indeed, without biblical categories and thought, Dr. King could not have led the Civil Rights Movement and we cannot hope to find our way without the beacon of truth to guide us. 
  • Dr. King connected the story of the Civil Rights Movement to the biblical narrative. As soon as he said, “I have been to the mountaintop,” his audience immediately knew what he meant: (1) You have been in bondage just like the nation of Israel in Egypt. (2) I am a Moses-like leader. (3) The end is in site. We can see the Promised Land. (4) You getting there is more important than me getting there. People are created to be a part of something larger than themselves and their time. Dr. King showed his followers how this was so.
  • Dr. King told the story of the progress of the Civil Rights Movement over and over again. In one of the most powerful segments of his speech, Dr. King reminded his audience that there was a time when African-Americans in Georgia started “standing up straight.” And then he said this:

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.

This paragraph reminded his audience that they were going some place – – that they had been going some place – – that they were through being ridden. One of the reasons that tempers are so high right now is because people on all sides of the issues feel that no progress is being made.

  • Dr. King modeled courage. He knew he might die. He thought it was probable. And he did die. When he told the story of being stabbed in New York, he did so to remind his audience what he had been risking. People have hope when they know that their leaders are willing to die for what they believe.
  • Dr. King saw the local churches and pastors as a direct part of the solution. If we are going to make progress, we need the leadership of our churches to help us do so. In his mountaintop speech, Dr. King challenged the pastors:

And you know what’s beautiful to me is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel. It’s a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must have a kind of fire shut up in his bones. And whenever injustice is around he tell it. Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and saith, “When God speaks who can but prophesy?” Again with Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me,” and he’s anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor.”

And I want to commend the preachers, under the leadership of these noble men: James Lawson, one who has been in this struggle for many years; he’s been to jail for struggling; he’s been kicked out of Vanderbilt University for this struggle, but he’s still going on, fighting for the rights of his people. Reverend Ralph Jackson, Billy Kiles; I could just go right on down the list, but time will not permit. But I want to thank all of them. And I want you to thank them, because so often, preachers aren’t concerned about anything but themselves. And I’m always happy to see a relevant ministry.

It’s all right to talk about “long white robes over yonder,” in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.

  • Dr. King gave very specific instructions about how they would protest. We’re going to march. We won’t be violent. We won’t let dogs, or water hoses, or mace stop us. We will ignore unconstitutional court injunctions. We will be arrested. We will be put in jail. It as the kind of protest that people could support without violating their consciences.

And so, Dr. King gave real hope. By reviewing the story of progress made, by connecting their story to the biblical story, by likening himself to Moses-like leadership, by showing that he was willing to die for this cause, by assuring them that they were on the mountaintop looking over into the Promised Land, Dr. King was saying, “We can get there; we will get there.” This is the sort of hope we need.