The Think and Do Book
Quotes from Unlikely Sources that Changed a World
|Every Soul Should Read Them All:|
John is Imprisoned
Again this morning I want to reiterate the person and mission of John the Baptist by going back one chapter from our Gospel reading today. We turn to
Matthew 3:1. IN THOSE days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." 3. For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of Yahweh, make his paths straight."
John was indeed just one voice crying out in a wilderness-world of sin and apathy: he alone calls people to think about what they’ve been doing, change their minds, then do what is right instead of what is merely accepted: to turn from the dark cares, pleasures and responsibilities found in the world toward the bright light of the Savior who was about to make his public appearance. Change is the crux of repentance.
Yahshua heard the word and walked down into the water into which John was baptizing. He waded there with many people who were committing their lives to the Savior whom they didn’t yet know. Yahshua walks in with them and is baptized with them because he wanted to show his solidarity with John’s movement toward righteousness. While in the water, and in sight of all the other people there, John proclaims Yahshua the Savior: it was revealed to him in a vision. Yahshua goes out of the water and is immediately swept away into the desert for forty days of trials. He just disappeared.
After Yahshua left him, John’s ministry didn’t last long. As you may remember, John criticized King Herod, who claimed to be keeping the religious Law, but was publicly breaking it by cohabiting with his brother’s wife. Sin is defined as breaking the law. Herod believed that a ruler’s lack of public morality had no affect on the job he was doing. His approval rating was probably pretty high because he gave people what they wanted. But his morality was lower than low, as he killed those who didn’t agree. He was a moral criminal, and John exposed his sin because he wanted people to see Herod real.
Yahshua Takes Up the Torch
Herod’s wife was incensed that some desert rat Bedouin could get away with publicly deriding her. She manipulated Herod into arresting John and finally having him taken to the chopping block. The Bible takes up the story of Yahshua at this point.
Matthew 4:12. Now when [Yahshua] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee … 17. From that time Yahshua began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Yahshua takes up the ax, so to speak, from his forerunner, John. He proclaims exactly the same message: Repent! His disciples baptize for the remission of sins, like John. Only Yahshua comes on stronger than John: he leaves John’s wilderness and moves out into the cities of Galilee, the hotbeds of insurrection. From there he traverses the entire length and breadth of Israel over a span of three and a half years.
Repentance Not an End in Itself
It seems like great movements of justice and revival gain steam and sweep over great masses of people only as long as the charismatic leadership holds out. After the leader is gone, so are the followers. “Strike the shepherd and the sheep scatter.” Like John, Yahshua preached repentance, and we preach it, just like Yahshua and John. In some places of worship, the congregation gets a dose of guilt every time they meet: just enough guilt to bring repentance and peace -- for another week. Some folks are addicted to a weekly fix of guilty feelings or a weekly trip to a church altar rail.
However, repentance is never to be an end in itself. We can’t repent and then just be done, because that’s not what repentance is about. Repentance is only a first step, a baby step, on the road toward equitable justice, freedom for all and our own spiritual Galilee. The termination point for repentance is the establishment of a new, just world. No less challenging a goal will do. We repent to get beyond repentance, to move toward a great new world tomorrow. And the kind of action that will bring a new world will take a great deal of effort; the repentant must practice repentance and likewise take up the ax of John and the cross of Messiah until we see this thing through to Heaven on Earth. Our time may be short but our proving ground is vast.
Hitler and Niemoller
Adolf Hitler, a latter-day Herod, said, “What luck for rulers that men do not think.” I believe that in Nazi Germany, it wasn’t that men and women didn’t think; it’s that they didn’t do anything about what they thought. Lutherans there by and large with a few exceptions didn’t practice what they preached when put to the ultimate test. They didn’t live what they thought. They got right on board with Hitler not because of his doctrine, but because he had an 92% approval rating. This sad situation of these so-called believers is amply illustrated in the words of Martin Niemoller, who was a Lutheran pastor and supported Hitler early in his regime. Niemoller regretfully explained:
“In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
By the time the Nazis put him away, Niemoller became an outspoken critic of Hitler and his regime. He was sentenced to Dachau concentration camp and narrowly escaped execution before the war ended.
Unlike most, Niemoller repented of his apathy. Apathy is a mortal sin. When it was good and safe, he led the World Council of Churches in confessing the church’s compliance with the tyrant who stole the liberty of an entire continent and the lives of multiplied millions.
I our Sunday School class we’ve been studying the life of Corey Ten Boom, the Christian lady in Holland who opened her home to hide her neighbors that happened to be Jews from the ax of public opinion. Though all the Jews under her care escaped, Corey and her family did not. She was the only member of her extended family who survived to tell the story of The Hiding Place. Remember, this was not a Jewish family – they were Christians.
People of our faith need to think about the injustice and ignorance that is all around us; we need to consider what part we play in it. We need to fess up if we just go along with public opinion because we are commissioned to be agents for the demise of injustice. How can we rightfully protest our own unjust treatment when we haven’t spoken up for the rights of others, though they may be different from us in race, religion or culture?
M. L. King
This week many folks took a day off in remembrance of the sacrificial life of Martin Luther King. Some white folks disdain this holiday because it’s a ‘black thing.’ But I want you to know that King most assuredly embodied the principles of the Christian life in thought and deed, and he, like John the Baptist, was killed by the government for it. Did you know that the entire Christian world outside the United States considers King a martyr of the faith? And he certainly is. Did you know that his statue has been chiseled into the outer granite wall of the great Westminster Abbey in London among the monuments and resting-places of some of the greatest men and women of modern history? Yet sometimes even the mention of Martin Luther King or Medgar Evers in church stirs up negative emotions, sometimes even hatred. But for the born again, this shouldn’t be the case. We white Christian folks should love him and his family and hold him up as an example of true righteousness.
In the spirit of King Day, some of the cable networks have featured shows with Biblical themes. Alex Haley’s Roots was on this week and John Jakes’ North and South was on all day yesterday. Despite the harsh feelings King’s name elicits among some ignorant, bigoted folks, many people who may think good but never do good will get at least a taste of what it means to do good by watching the bitter injustices of slavery remedied in these television shows. Maybe some folks repented this last week because of King Day festivities and television events. I know my heart was touched.
I want everyone to think. I already quoted Hitler and Niemoller. Now I’ll read you a few more quotes from great thinkers and doers. Some of these quotes come out of their evil. But I’d like you to listen then gauge your own reaction to their words. Ask yourself: Do I feel in agreement? Do I feel uncomfortable? Am I affirmed or disgusted? For the sake of this exercise, please keep in mind that I’ll neither agree nor disagree with any of these quotes. I’m just reading them for you to judge.
· Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
· David Duke: “Black people have organizations that fight for black power and Jews look out for each other. But there isn’t anyone except the Klan who will fight for the rights of white people.”
· H.L. Mencken: “One may no more live in the world without picking up the moral prejudices of the world than one will be able to go to hell without perspiring.”
· Booker T. Washington: “You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.”
· James Weldon Johnson: “Injustice always breeds fear … the main difficulty of the race question does not lie so much in the actual condition of the blacks as it does in the mental attitude of the whites.”
· Ralph W. Sockman: “The test of courage comes when we are in the minority; the test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”
· Walter Lippmann: “Whereas each man claims his freedom as a matter of right, the freedom he accords to other men is a matter of toleration.”
· James Baldwin: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in rage almost all of the time.”
· Medgar Evers: “You can kill a man but you can’t kill an idea.”
· Elie Weisel: “The opposite of hate is not love, it is indifference.”
· Abraham Lincoln: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”
· Janet Reno: "A cultist is one who has a strong belief in the Bible and the Second Coming of Messiah: who frequently attends Bible studies; who has a high level of financial giving to a Christian cause … certainly more than one of these would cause us to look at this person as a threat, and his family as being in a risk situation that qualified for government interference."[i]
· The First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for grievances.”
· Lillian Hellman: “Since when do you have to agree with people to defend them from injustice?”
Here’s a quote from the Apostle Paul that puts all our prejudices into the perspective of living as followers of Yahshua:
Galatians 3:26. All of you are the children of Elohim, through faith, in Messiah Yahshua, 27. since every one of you that has been baptised has been clothed in Messiah. 28. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Yahshua. 29. And simply by being Messiah's, you are that progeny of Abraham, the heirs named in the promise.
Let me finish these quotes with a message from Yahweh your G-d as recorded by Zechariah the prophet:
Zechariah 7:9. [I said], `Apply the law fairly, and show faithful love and compassion towards one another. 10. Do not oppress the widow and the orphan, the foreigner and the poor, and do not secretly plan evil against one another.' 11. But they would not listen; they turned a rebellious shoulder; they stopped their ears rather than hear; 12. they made their hearts adamant rather than listen to the teaching and the words that Yahweh Sabaoth had sent, by his spirit, through the prophets in the past … They had turned a land of delights into a desert.' "
Think and Do
“They turned a land of delights into a desert.” Hopefully, some of these words caused a reaction in those of you who are still awake. Sleepers awake! Arise from the dead and his light will shine. Repent! We belong to Yahshua now; we are to be slaves of his plantation; we are to be just like him. He has commissioned us to pick up the work, just as he picked up were John the Baptist left off. It is up to us to turn the desert into a land of delights insofar as we can before he returns.
When we were in grade school in the 50s and 60s, we had a tool for learning known as the Think and Do Book. Young students loved think and do time mainly because of the last part – the do. We were given some subject in the book to think about, then after thinking about it, we completed some exercise to reinforce our thinking, like cutting out pieces from one page and gluing them on the other page, then coloring what we glued. There was always a shortage of glue. Some kids liked to eat it. Young children don’t like to think about things as much as they like to do things. For adults, it’s just the opposite. We don’t mind thinking about something, we think constantly. We like to think about what we’ll accomplish or commit to; we like to think about what’s right and what we should do to be in the right. But it’s the doing that comes hard for us old folks.
However, the process of doing something starts by thinking about something, then thinking about doing something. What is right; what is wrong? What’s Elohimly and unElohimly? What do we think and do that is righteous and what’s demonic? Do I yet hold beliefs that are just plain wrong? Am I devilish at times? Do I hold unElohimly beliefs that are prejudicial? That are unjust? That are intolerable? That are hateful? We want the Holy Spirit to come into our lives and make the changes necessary for us to become that which we should be in Yahweh. Yet shouldn’t we think about what we, in our own strength, can do to be more like him? Shouldn’t we at least renounce our unElohimly beliefs and affirm the tenets of our Savior? Shouldn’t we change in response to our good and Elohimly thoughts? Shouldn’t we step out to do the good we think? Shouldn’t we put shoe leather to our good intentions? Shouldn’t we convert to something better? Of course we should. It’s not enough to ask for and receive forgiveness; one must venture out and act out one’s beliefs. One must gamble with one’s potential in Messiah.
We are going to be a thinking but also a doing kind of people. We love mercy. We do justice. We forgive as we have been forgiven. We renounce evil and expose it at every turn, and we stay on the right path. And we hold forth a vision for all people: that this world may one day be restored to a land of delights. We like to think about how wonderful this would be; but now we have decided to do something about it.