The following is a talk given at Springdale Community Church June 2014:
I like a room full of men. A gathering of Christian men brings an opportunity for fellowship, tears and growth. We have a common bond as men with victories and losses. And we have our glorious bond as brothers in Christ. Depending on which minute of which day it is, one or the other or both will hold us together.
I have had a few weeks to think and pray about what the Lord would have me share with you today. My words will be a combination of the Lord’s prompting, my current state of mind and emotion, and the current state of mind and emotions of all the people the Lord has had me working with these last few weeks.
And I just remembered this week that tomorrow is:
In one bucket you will get what I know about you, myself, my friends, my son, my father, my grandfathers, my clients, my God and My Lord Jesus.
Plus a dose of Father’s day. Father’s day can be a day of celebration or a day of sorrow or if you are like me a combination of both. It is a time for reflecting on the past, assessing the present and looking to the future. What all that looks like depends on a combination of your age, life experience and Faith.
Wow! It has been an interesting time bringing this one together. My head and my heart have been spinning. Do I speak about men, myself or Father’s day? And at the end of the day I realized the Lord in His gracious and special way brought it all together in one package. Have you ever thought that no one knows more about the relationship between father’s and children than our God?
The story came to me like this:
Jane Smith had just been announced as a new vice president. She received a personal phone call from the CEO. He congratulated her, told her what an honor it was to move up the ladder and reminded her that it was a privilege that few obtained.
Within the week she received two gifts in the mail. The first was from the CEO himself, it was a bottle of expensive wine and a note. The note in the CEO’s unique broad stroke written with a black magic marker boldly said:
The other gift was from the executive that she replaced. The gift was a six pack of beer and a note. The note written in an ordinary script simply said this:
Don’t forget where you came from.
And the words of a Garth Brooks song have been echoing in my head for the last few weeks:
“Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots and ruined your black tie affair.”
The CEO’s gift and note of, “congratulations,” implies, “You have arrived.” It states position and stature.
The other gift and note of, “Don’t forget where you came from,” indicates, “Your original position,” and promotes humility. Is a gift to keep us grounded in who we are deep inside, what our foundational make up is. It is a reason to think and reflect. And it could become a reason to hold you back into a past that is certainly part of you but no longer has to own you.
“Blame it all on my roots” is definitely a reminder of where we come from but it feels more like an excuse to explain away our present day actions.
Either way they are all reminders that we came from somewhere else, somewhere different than where we find ourselves today.
Where do we come from?
Think about it!
My present and my future looks like this: My name is Roy Edward Jackson Jr. I was born in 1958 in Louisville, KY. I have a wife named JoAnna, I have a son named Roy Edward Jackson III, a daughter named Ashley Michelle, a daughter named Taylor Leigh, a granddaughter named Ruby, a granddaughter named Lila and a son-in-law named Brian.
Where I come from looks like this:
My father’s name is Roy Edward Jackson. He was born in 1930 in Louisville, KY.
My grandfather’s name is Roy Jackson. He was born in 1899 in Breckinridge County Kentucky. He was baptized in a creek when he was 13 years old. He was a good man, he was an adulterer, a businessman, and a bootlegger. And he is the one whose love the Lord used to keep me alive. He gave me both freedom and attention. He is the one who taught me to love.
My great grandfather’s name is Julius B Jackson (JB, I like the sound of that). He was born in 1857.
My great, great grandfather’s name is William H Jackson. He was born in 1830.
That, gentlemen is as far back as I can go. I can count back 184 years and name my great, great grandfather. I know is name, I know he was a farmer. I am not sure if he was born in Breckenridge County but I know he eventually moved there because he was married in Breckinridge County in 1852 and out of the marriage came one more piece of my past and my present.
Where do we come from?
Does that past keep us grounded?
Give us an Excuse?
I have lived enough life to know a couple of things about my past and my present. I know enough about me to know a little bit about my ancestors. I am pretty sure some of the ways I think and act are a combination of me and some of them.I am positive I have invented some of my own sins and I am sure I am guilty of repeating some of theirs. I am sure in some ways I have exceeded some of their expectations and in some ways I have re-ceded from their expectations.
I know my fathers before me were men that worked hard and that they probably worked too hard for too long. I know they are men that probably sought love in all the wrong places and yet they all married and stayed married to the woman of their youth and they in their own way learned to love that woman. I know they had children. I know that they loved children, but they did not always have a way to express that love in a way that was or could be understood. I know they thought things and saw things that no man needed to think or see. I know they have had nights when they slept like a baby with the security of the just and righteous or just pure exhaustion and other times they had a restless sleep worrying about the future and their own past. I know that they knew how to hunt, and fish and fight and cuss. I don’t know if they participated, but they surely knew how. I know that they were men that faced temptation and sometimes they resisted and others times they succumbed. I know they were born, they lived and they died. I don’t know if they ever thought or looked far enough ahead to think of the possibility of me coming from them. I don’t know if they knew our Lord Jesus. I don’t know when it is men decide to think of the future or the past or even their present. I know that none of my fathers reached fame or fortune. I know that living was more important than collecting or saving.
I know without a doubt that part of them lives in me today and that I have thoughts and make decisions and act because of some of their thoughts, decisions and actions. It seems that we can never completely remove ourselves from our past, whether it was yesterday or 184 years ago, or 1000 years ago, or tomorrow.
I have to admit there was a time in my life when I would excuse my sins and my actions on my past. But our Lords light as shown deep enough into my soul that I understand and accept, and own my sins. In fact, I pray that all my fathers before me were better men than me. I know too much to want to place it on someone else. I hope for a good blood-line and pray that my life has not polluted it so much that it can’t be cleaned up. If it needs to end. Let it end with me.
Where do we come from?
We first read about dust when we open our Bible to Genesis 2:7 “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.”
Try to imagine that scene. Our God, the God of the beginning and the end, creating the heavens and the earth, coming to the earth he created, getting down on His knees forming a man from the dust and slowly bending down to breathe a breath of life into the dust.
Do you think He hesitated before giving that breath, do you think He looked at the form, the figure, checked it out to make sure He had made it the way He wanted it before he breathed that breath. Do you think the angels were there watching, waiting, and hoping to see what their God was bringing forth from the dirt. We may never know what that scene looked like, but it had to have been a glorious sight to see that dust rise up on two legs, open eyes and mouth. Do you thing the living being spoke in those first minutes? I do. It is the first thing we do when we come into the world. We open our mouths and we cry out loud. We can never understand that cry that comes from a baby’s mouth, but if we could decipher it I think it would be some primeval version of, “I am alive.” Do you think our Lord had to slap him on his rump? Or did that first man with no sin in his life open his eyes and form a smile on his face, look into his creators eyes and say, “Thank You,” and wrap his arms around his creator, his father. And he heard his father say to him, “I love you.” Imagine the very first time the word love was spoken in the entire universe was when the Father of all fathers said I love you to His child. Wow! Was it a sound of thunder or was it a whisper.
The creator of all creation, the king of kings, the Lord of lords the great I am, Love himself, created a creator and He called him man. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them’ (Genesis 1:27)
Gentlemen that is where we come from!
And we read about dust again in Genesis 3:19 “ By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
And that is what we are to never forget!
Out of the dust came great men. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. Smart men, Plato, Socrates, Einstein. Terrible men. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini.
Out of the dust came your Pastors, Jason and Joel. Out of that dust came me and came you. It is our past and it is our future.
I, like you have read those words of scripture. We know about the dust that runs through our veins. We know there are great men and bad men. In fact, as men we know a little bit about a lot of things and I suspect that for most of us the idea of coming from dust is an abstract thought. Knowing it is true and knowing that one glorious act happened so long ago doesn’t really make it relevant to our thinking today. For most of us in this room that may be true.
For me it is a little different. I really came to a face to face with understanding dust when I walked out of the funeral home with my friend Scott in my hand. Yes, you heard me right. I guess he weighed about 5 pounds. That is right, 200 pounds of man reduced to 5 pounds of dust. Up until that moment when I walked out of the funeral home I had a certain peace about what he had had done to himself. I had no understanding of why him, but I had a peace knowing that it could happen to anyone, including him.
Except the moment I walked out into the sun light of that parking lot and I thought about all the people that he had hurt and how much pain they were enduring and I looked down at that 5 pounds of man and realized “dust,” we are just dust? But that dust can be selfish, and destructive, and painful. The peace I had was replaced with anger. Dust did this? Who are we as men to do anything to hurt another person? Who do we think we are? We are dust and we need to remember our place and our creator. Better to lie down in the dust and bury our heads instead of standing tall and proud and inflicting pain on everyone around us.
Men, I realized that we have forgotten where we came from.
It was at that moment in time with my friend in my hands that I received my note and my gift. And it said, “Don’t forget where you came from.” And it was driven on the point of a stake and buried in my heart forever. And now I have just passed it on to you. I have just re-gifted it you.
Can I tell you about one more group of men that I have come into contact with in the last few weeks? Either friends or men that the Lord has sent to me for guidance.
One is remarried after getting a divorce from the woman he was married to for 20 years and trying to figure what his future looks like and is counting how many days that future has.
One is remarried after getting a divorce from the woman that he has been married to for 25 years, retired and starting a new love life and a new business life.
One is a successful business man, loves the Lord and pours into the people around him
One’s wife just told him that when they come back from vacation she is taking the children and moving out
One’s best friend just took his own life.
One is facing another father’s day alone because he is estranged from his children
One goes to a bar every night instead of staying home with his wife
One has a beautiful family and a vacation home in an exotic location
One, in his heart is wanting a divorce
One, is jobless and a step away from being homeless
One is a lifelong Christian and has lived a life seeking the Lord’s wisdom and applying that wisdom to his life and the life of his family.
Two fight with the addiction to pornography
One has a beautiful family, a good job, money in the bank but is unsettled in his heart looking for something more.
One fights with the addiction to alcohol
One is 18 years old and knows it all and has no fear of the future until his future becomes his present.
One lost a prestigious and lucrative job and is still overwhelmed with the suddenness of it. Trying to figure out how it happened and questioning God about the whole situation.
One is 18 years old and knows enough about the past to be fearful of the future.
One sits lives his life behind razor wire and bars. Wondering about his past and his future.
Men, it is what we are. Dust that breathes, walks, talks, fights, hides, cries, laughs and loves.
We are all part of someone’s past. We are all part of where they have come from. And we are all part of someone’s future.
Like it or leave it, we are who we are. We accept it and sit in it or we accept it for what it is and decide to work hard to remove the weeds and cultivate to crops. We get to say with our brother Paul, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ the Lord!
If you would ask my wife what I was like before I came to know the Lord. She would say, “Since coming to know Jesus you care more about others than yourself, before that you were just an ass.” It was my way or the highway.
I have not always been the man that you see before you today. I am not living the life that I expected to live before I was born again and honestly I am not living the life that I thought I would be living after I was born again.
I have lied, cheated, stole, committed adultery in my heart and mind, dishonored my mother and father, made false idols, murdered in my heart and mind, I have coveted my neighbors belongings and I have used the Lord’s name in vain and I have ignored and abused the Sabbath. I think that is all ten and I am not just spouting them off. I was intentional and I did them all. There was even a day in August 2000 that I gave God the finger. I am guilty.
Since coming to the Lord in 2004 I have walked, slept, eaten and lived with the word of God. Absorbing what it has to say about who God is, who I really am in all my nakedness, and who I am in Christ. I am now a slave to my Lord Jesus.
And since that moment in time I have still sinned. All the men that I mentioned above accept two are men that professes to know and love Jesus and yet they still fight with sin in their life and sin in others life.
I thought that after finding Jesus that the Lord was calling me to serve him from my assets, my finances and my business. In 2008 I lost all of that through a combination of stupidity, ignorance, recession and sin. What the Lord allowed me to keep was my ever growing Love and commitment to him, my wife and my children and by the way the man that I mentioned above, that is sitting behind razor wire and bars, is my son. I am waiting for the Lord to return to me what I have lost, including my son. And He will when and where He is ready to return it. He is in charge.
I wait some days patiently and some days impatiently. And I go forth daily with the Lord’s work regardless of my life situation.
For the past four years the Lord has used my life experience and education to work in the lives of his people. He has me guiding, counseling, and disciplining men and woman, children, and families through this life and the difficulties that it comes with. Keeping them alive, sane and with the Lord. In my teaching them I am reminding them that they came from dust and at the same time they were made in the image of God himself. They have been loved, they are loved and they will be loved.
I thought I would be serving the Lord from my wealth, instead I serve him through my poverty. It is now always about him first, you second.
Gentlemen, we all have a past and a future. God calls us to live intentionally. Intentionally for Him and for the people that he has put in our lives. We are to look to him for our guidance and wisdom, and get out of our own head, and our own selfish hearts.
Tomorrow is Father’s Day. It is a day of celebration. It is a day of remembering the past and looking to the future.
I know it is a day of celebrating. I know it is a day for remembering your fathers and your fathers, fathers. But for each of you. I would like you to consider yourself not as one to be honored.
Think of yourself as dust. Dust that God, the great I am breathed life into and that He has blessed you with some time on His earth and surrounded you with His precious gifts.
Don’t forget where you came from!
Don’t forget where our Lord brought you from!
Don’t forget where you were found!
Don’t forget what condition you were in!
Stand up from the dust, open your eyes to the reality of the world and the reality of your situation and position. Open your mouth, spit out the dust and say to your God, your Lord and to the people around you wherever they may be, these words.
Thank You. I love you. How can I serve you?