Allen Jackson - It's Time For A Revolution - Part 1
I wanted to spend a session or two talking to you about some generational life lessons; lessons, to be candid, I learned from my family system, or at least the ones I'm willing to share. You know, there is no perfect family. The only ones that you think are better than yours are the ones you don't have enough information on 'cause life is a struggle, and life's not easy, and relationships are challenging. And you look at someone and you think, "That one's just perfect". No, no, you're just standing too far away. Nevertheless, at this point in my journey there are some things that I can say they weren't just ideas that were handed to me, there are lessons that have been incorporated into my own journey and the journey of my brothers.
And I've seen the fruit of them and I thought it was worth at least acknowledging them in public, and I pray they will bring to you some hope and encouragement. The two people without any question that have had the most profound impact upon my spiritual life and spiritual development have been my parents, and I've had the privilege of being exposed to some wonderful Christian leaders and studying in some remarkable institutions. And I'm grateful for all of those things, but from this vantage point I can tell you that the faith of my parents has had more impact on my spiritual journey than any other people on the planet. But our spiritual journey started not because of church. We went to church every week. It was a rule in our household.
My dad had this notion that you should go to church. Hungover, go to church. It just didn't matter your condition. Church was where good people went, and he was determined we were going to be good people. I tried. I pushed all the boundaries. I cried. I feigned sickness. Nothing worked. You had to go to church. And you needed to sit very still and look very straight ahead, and deviation from that would cause repercussions. And since we weren't Christians, you didn't want the repercussions. There were, like, no boundaries. So we went to church, but we weren't Christians. And when I was 7, my mom gave birth to my youngest brother. I have two brothers. And while she was in the hospital, the doctors told her, made a diagnosis that she had cancer, and their prognosis was she had 6 months to live.
Now, as I said, we were church, my parents were the youth leaders in the church we attended, but we weren't Christians. And the doctors wanted to do some rather dramatic surgery because of all the hormonal changes that come when you give birth, but she just had a C-section and so they decided to wait a week. And my parents flew to Mayo Clinic where there's pretty drastic stuff ahead, and my mother prayed a prayer. You know, this was in the mid-60s and Time Magazine said God is dead. It was on the cover of Time Magazine. And the only way that kind of influence makes it into the culture is because the church has lost its vitality. Okay? Don't be angry at the media. The reason you see those expressions of ungodliness is the church's vitality is so diminished. We're in another one of those seasons now.
Time Magazine said God is dead, and the pastor came to visit my mother in the hospital before they left to go to Mayo Clinic, and he didn't believe in heaven or hell. You know, being a professional Christian doesn't mean you're a believer in Jesus. A lot of confusion amongst people. So on the plane I'm told she prayed a little prayer that before she died she might know the truth so she could tell her sons whatever that truth was. Be Jewish. Be Baptist. Be Catholic. She thought she could leave that to us as a heritage. When they checked in to the hospital and they did several days of examinations, and the doctor came in the room late one night and he said, "Mrs. Jackson, I don't have a good explanation. We have all the tests from the University of Missouri medical facility. They'd been examined. They had diagnosis and lab reports and X-rays, but all those tumors and masses, all that stuff that you see, were seem to be present we can't find it. Go home and raise your babies".
I was 7 at the time. It's been well over 30 years. Well over and my mom's still here, and... But that's not really the whole story. She asked to know the truth, and all at that point she knew was that she seemed to not be going to die from a disease at that point. Our family moved to South Florida a few weeks after that. My dad completed his national boards and he wanted to be an equine practitioner. He wanted to treat horses. So we moved to South Florida, and he went to work on the thoroughbred tracks. And my mother was washing dishes and she heard a voice, she said, through the ceiling, which was very unusual, and said, "You asked to know the truth before you died". And she said, "Yes, I did". And the voice said, "I'm the way, the true, and the life".
She didn't know where that was. She had an idea it might be in the Bible, so she went and got a Bible and she looked it up. I put the verse in your notes today just in case it was news to some of you. It's John 14:6. "Jesus said, 'I'm the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" The Lord answered her prayer that day. He introduced her to the truth. You know, I love to learn. I'm a fan of education. I believe, I just like to learn, but the truth you all want to be introduced to is the person of Jesus. There's a lot of confusion in our culture these days about truth. We're told that there is no objective truth any longer, that all truth is subjective, which means it's your truth and it can only be understood from the vantage point in which you stand.
And there are some things that can be uniquely understood from your life experience, I concede that, but all truth is not subjective. There is objective truth, truth which is true beyond my personal experience. It's true whether I'm conscious of the experience or not. It's transcendent. It's not dependent upon my life experience, or the region on the planet in which I live, or my sex, or my race, or my economic status, or my educational platforms, or the lack thereof. There is truth which is objective. It's universal, it's knowable, and it transcends governments. It's why we need a healthy church to hold those with authority over us accountable to the objective truth of God. We desperately need a healthy church.
Well, the Lord answered that first part of my mother's prayer and she and my father became Christians. Sunday school teacher was an airline pilot, and they accepted the Lord in his home one Sunday after church. Temperature in our home changed so much. My parents were good pagans. A lot of energy. A lot of emotion. And when they became Christ followers, the temperature in our home went down so much I walked in the kitchen one day and said, "What's happened to you"? And they told me they'd asked Jesus to live in their hearts, and I took the opportunity. I knelt in the kitchen floor at 4811 Jackson Street in Hollywood, Florida and became a Christ follower. I was baptized in the Atlantic Ocean in Fort Lauderdale. My spiritual formation didn't take place inside a church building, at least not those first steps; and I came to understand something, that God is bigger than our architecture or that are forms of worship. The Lord had to teach me to value church, but he has and it's changed my life as well. The rest of that story is what God did for my mother. He healed her.
Now, theologically this is awkward. He healed her when we were pagans. She didn't even ask that. She just asked to know the truth. She didn't have an expectation of healing. We didn't know people who had healing stories. So if you ask me today, I will tell you that our God is a healer. Amen. I'm often asked if I believe in miracles or medicine, do I believe in doctors; and my answer is always the same. Yes. Absolutely. If you're going to the doctor, you better pray. I mean, I'm grateful for doctors. They spend years of their lives sacrificing and learning and focusing their efforts and their energies, while we're doing other things, so that they can help people. Don't be angry at them or jealous of them because they're in a season in life when they're blessed because of it. They made a sacrifice.
On the other hand, they're limited. Medicine is limited. They practice medicine. That means they don't know. They know what kind of worked last week and they hope it's going to work again today, and they're still practicing in the same way we're practicing our faith. It's not a perfect thing, science is a method. It's not a thing. We don't worship science. It's arrogant. We worship God. We're grateful for science, but miracles and healings are a testimony in the Scripture. They're a sign to unbelievers. A church without the supernatural is an impotent church. The new birth conversion is the greatest miracle that will ever touch your life. It's incredibly inconsistent to say you believe in being born again or saved or converted and then say God no longer does miracles. That's the greatest miracle that will ever touch your human existence. You change eternal destinations because of the supernatural power of God.
Psalm 103 and verse 2 says, "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases". Our God is a healer, and I've prayed for people and I didn't see the outcomes I would have preferred. I've done memorial services for dear friends of mine who in my opinion left way too early, and I've talked to God about it in some rather heated ways. I've had to come to the conclusion that there is a God and it's not me. Aren't you relieved? But you should come to a similar conclusion there's a God and it isn't you, but that doesn't mean I will stop asking or stop inviting because God's imaginations are greater than mine.
When the leprous man approached Jesus and said, "Lord, I know that if you're willing you could make me whole," hear what Jesus said. He said, "I am willing". And my Bible says God is no respecter of persons. Establish in your heart God wants his best for your life. Don't spend your life in comparative analysis. You don't know all the details about everybody else's business. Establish it in your heart for your existence. I had my cheek crushed. Just before I graduated from college, I had reoriented my whole professional life to begin a path I thought to serve the Lord and I was expecting God to bring such good things to me 'cause I thought I was making some sacrifices. I was young and stupid, and I requisitioned a tray from the college cafeteria without permission. I took it back. But it had snowed and I was sliding down a hill and I met a knee of a friend and it crushed half my face.
And I went to the hospital and the doctor said, "We need to do surgery". Immediately he suspected there was some pressure on some nerves and he wanted to alleviate it or it would have some long-term damage, and I said, "No. The Lord will heal me". Checked myself out of the hospital over the objections of the doctor, called my parents, I was living in another state, and said, "I've had an accident". The smaller the words I used, the bigger the accident just, if you're ever listening. And they flew into town and we spent the weekend in a hotel with me telling them my expectations of God and what he should do, and somewhere through the conversations and their patience with me I came to understand that it wasn't my business to dictate to God how he would bring healing to me.
I knew what I wanted him to do, and on Monday I called that doctor back with a great deal more humility and said, "If I were to check in to the hospital, would you be willing to put me on the surgery list"? And he said he would, and he said he had no idea whether the feeling would come back at all. If it would come back, it might take weeks or months. He just didn't know. The surgery went with the simplest possible invasion that was needed, and before I went back for the checkup to have the couple of stitches removed the feeling was back in my face. And I knew God had brought healing to me, he just used a very talented, well-trained person to facilitate it. And I got another lesson; that we don't dictate to God how and when we follow him, but it doesn't cause me to back off or yield one iota on the reality of their conviction that our God is a healer. He's a miracle worker. Folks, we're not going to outthink evil. We're not going to outwork it or out-organize it. God's not impressed with our organizational prowess.
There's a couple more generational lessons I would like to share with you. They have become a very important part of my own spiritual journey, but I know they didn't begin with me. And then the next one, I'm just going to label an open house. A couple of years after we came to faith in southern Florida, my parents reached the conclusion that they didn't want to raise three sons in that South Florida urban environment. Wasn't bothering me a bit. We were about 10 minutes from the beach. Our neighbors all had pools in their backyard. I was good to go. I did not feel the threat of paganism at all.
I remember my father saying something about he wanted to teach us how to work. If I had known what that it would have meant, I would have called 911. But they loaded us in the car and packed a U-Haul trailer and brought us to Murfreesboro. I'm pretty sure we passed a sign just after we came over Monteagle that said the end of the earth because when I arrived here and checked it out I knew that's where they had brought us. The beach was not 10 minutes away, and the pools here had cows that drank from them. They called them ponds. And I knew that I was in a different place. We had a new faith and we were in a new community, and that was the late '60s and small towns around Middle Tennessee were different than they are today.
We didn't have the kind of migration of people that we see these days. And they were pretty skeptical communities if you were new, skeptical of new faces and new people. And my father was starting a veterinary practice and he started it out of our home, which I'm sure you couldn't do today. My bedroom was the drug room. It explains a lot, doesn't it? He would do surgery on a dog on the kitchen table. We thought that was normal. We thought everybody live like that. We didn't tell a lot of our friends. You'd get some odd responses. But in that new community we went to the local church, and my parents opened their home for a Bible study and every Thursday night people would come. And they didn't take a vote. They didn't ask my brothers and I if we thought that was a good idea.
Our home was not palatial so it was a bit of an intrusion on all of us. We were confined to some limited spaces and we had people we didn't know come into the house, and Bible studies weren't like the ones we train folks to do now. They weren't little 60-minute events. No, no. They would go till the wee hours of the morning. And our home, it looked like the Island of Misfit Toys. It was the people who didn't fit into the more normal expressions of faith in our community. They would read their Bibles and talk about faith and pray for one another, and as that emerged our parents began to invite us into those.
I remember one time it was the holiday season and my brothers had a classmate who had a brain tumor and we knew the family because we had taken care of their animals, and I remember my parents said, we were going to invite the young man over to spend some time with us one afternoon, and they got my brothers and I together and began to coach us. They said, "Listen, the goal isn't to celebrate the holiday, the goal is to help him to come to a profession of faith. So we're going to tell him our story about what God's done in our family and how he's healed us". I would say that we were probably tolerant of that, but we were a little uncomfortable with that. We knew how to play. We liked to have a good time. We had things we would have rather done. We probably didn't get up that morning and go, "Could we share our faith with a classmate"?
Because the community was small enough and they knew we were about half crazy, and we weren't overly anxious. My brothers and I would have completely closed the loop on that conviction. But nevertheless the young man came, spent the afternoon with us, accepted the Lord, went to heaven sometime after that. And it wasn't a unique event, it became kind of a part of the rhythm. We would tell our neighbors about Jesus. I remember our neighbors one time the economy shifted and the interest rates moved several points and was in the newspaper that our neighbors were going to lose everything, and my parents said, "We're going to pray". So we went knocked on their door and said, "Well, we came to pray". And through a series of things the economic devastation that seemed imminent was turned around. But it was an open house.
People would knock on our door and say, you know, "We're facing a serious diagnosis. Will you pray for us"? No church. No imagination of church. My father was a veterinarian and we ran a small business. We all had to help. We cleaned cages and stalls and answered phones and did all those things, but our home was open to people. And then every Thursday night, I mean every Thursday night. There was none of this 4 weeks and take a break. There was no seasonal burst. Every Thursday night. And they didn't ask us if we wanted to take care of children, they just brought children. I think it was abuse now that I reflect on it for a few minutes, but it put something in my heart. And they would bring home international guests. I don't know where they met these people.
You know, you go to the grocery store and you come back with a puppy. They'd come back with people from someplace else on the planet, and they'd move in with us. They'd stay for a few days or more and they'd say, "Oh, no, we want you to cook the food you like at home". And our house would begin to smell like something else. And then my brothers and I we'd be rearranged. You know, "You sleep on the sofa," or, "You sleep here". It was just an open house, not every day. I didn't understand there was anything really about that directly related to the reality of their conversion, but as I grew up and became older I realized it was all about their faith. I really didn't understand it at the time and I grumbled and complained, and I knew that our routines and patterns were a bit different from some other families.
I'm telling you the story because I'm going to ask you to consider your own routines and how they're distinctive from the secular people that you spend time with because if there's really no distinction I want to ask you what it is you think makes you a Christ follower. The recitation of a prayer, a dip in a pool? You see, I believe it's the fruit of our lives. And I'm not suggesting there's only one kind of fruit or you have to do it in just one way, but I do want to invite you away from the notion that you can say a prayer and sit in church occasionally and then live anywhere you want to live and imagine you're a Christ follower. I believe that deception is what has led us to such an anemic expression of Christianity and has caused us to be salt light.
Romans chapter 12 and verse 11, this is Paul's conclusion to the letter in Rome, the most powerful church beyond Jerusalem at that time, certainly the church in the most powerful city. "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn". Sounds a little bit like the Beatitudes wrapped up into the practical expressions of this expanding Jesus's story that is beginning to shake the foundations of Roman paganism. "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited".
I smack in the middle that is practice hospitality. Did you know you could change exponentially the fruitfulness of your spiritual life by simply beginning to practice hospitality? You have to practice it. It's not easy. It's not convenient. And I'm not talking about gathering the people that you like to hang out with. That's not hospitality, that's hanging out with your friends. Hospitality is when you welcome people with an agenda. I don't mean manipulatively. I'm not asking you to be conniving, but hospitality is opening your life, making room for people.
You will learn to appreciate people in new ways; people who have life stories that are different from yours, people who come with perspectives that would be a bit new to you. And you give them an opportunity to experience a biblical worldview as you see it. Hebrews 13, "Don't forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it". I don't want to miss any angelic opportunities. Do you believe that? Do you believe you can entertain an angel and they wouldn't show you their ID card? I do. I assure you angels are amongst us. It's biblical. "Well, pastor, I don't know if I believe that". I know. It's why I read it to you.
Father, I thank you that you have called us out of the dark into the kingdom of your light, that you have washed us and cleansed us and justified us. Forgive us for our attitude of complacency. Father, we've been willing to sit in a space at a specific time and imagine that we were interacting with the creator of all things. Forgive us for our indifference. Ignite a passion within us to know a living God that we might yield our days to you beginning with each morning. In Jesus's name, amen.