Monday, February 27, 2017

My Shepherd

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Psalm 23 [ESV]

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

My Light



Monday, February 20, 2017

Power in the Name of Jesus



Reward Will Be Great

Luke 6

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. [emphasis added]


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Brought About by God Himself



IN THE MOST CRUCIAL EVENTS IN REDEMPTIVE HISTORY, God takes considerable pains to ensure that no one can properly conclude that these events have been brought about by human resolve or wit. They have been brought about by God himself – on his timing, according to his plan, by his means, for his glory – yet in interaction with his people. All of this falls out of Exodus 2:11-25.  [emphasis added]

The account is brief. It does not tell us how Moses’ mother managed to instill in him a profound sense of identity with his own people before he was brought up in the royal household. Perhaps he enjoyed ongoing contact with his birth mother; perhaps as a young man he delved into his past, and thoroughly investigated the status and subjugation of his own people. We are introduced to Moses when he has already so identified with the enslaved Israelites that he is prepared to murder a brutal Egyptian slave overlord. When he discovers that the murder he committed has become public knowledge, he must flee for his life.

Yet one cannot help reflecting on the place of this episode in the plotline that leads to Moses’ leadership of the Exodus some decades later. By God’s own judicial action, many Egyptians would then die. So why doesn’t God use Moses now, while he is still a young man, full of zeal and eagerness to serve and emancipate his people?

It simply isn’t God’s way. God wants Moses to learn meekness and humility, to rely on God’s powerful and spectacular intervention, to await God’s timing. He acts in such a way that no one will be able to say that the real hero is Moses, the great visionary. By the time he is eighty, Moses does not want to serve in this way, he is no longer an idealistic, fiery visionary. He is an old man whom God almost cajoles (Ex. 3) and even threatens (Ex. 4:14) into obedience. There is therefore no hero but God, and no glory for anyone other than God.

The chapter ends by recording that “the Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham” (2:23-24). This does not mean that God had forgotten his covenant. We have already seen that God explicitly told Jacob to descend into Egypt and foretold that God would one day bring out the covenantal plan. The same God who sovereignly arranges these matters and solemnly predicts what he will do, chooses to bring about the fulfillment of these promises by personally interacting with his covenantal people in their distress, responding to their cry.

Exodus 2; Luke 5; Job 19; 1 Corinthians 6 is a post from: For the Love of God

Who You Are




Awaken Our Hearts

Matt Merker post:  Jumpstart Your Heart in Worship

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and esteem for Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the other Reformers is freshly in the air. But as much as we continue to esteem their theological legacy, many might find it surprising to learn how different some of their views were compared to the typical evangelical today. 
Calvin on church music is no exception. The Genevan reformer restricted texts sung in church meetings to the Psalms, plus a few other biblical passages, and the Apostles’ Creed. He banned musical instruments from congregational praise, arguing that they were part of the ceremonial law given to Israel. If Calvin walked into an evangelical service today, he might make a beeline for the door, before he even reached the coffee bar, in an attempt to escape the sound of reverb-drenched guitar and pounding drums.
Can modern evangelicals learn anything from this sixteenth-century Frenchman whose views on music seem so extreme in our day? How do our indie rock bands, newly composed hymns, video screens, and lights relate to Calvin’s theology of corporate worship? 
Even if we don’t adopt all his conclusions, Calvin’s theology of singing is a timeless source of instruction for us. As we prepare our hearts to sing God’s praises with his people, here are three of his insights worth special consideration. 

1. Music Can Lead Us Astray

Calvin understood that “our nature inclines toward idolatry” (Institutes, 1.11.3). Each person’s heart is “a perpetual factory of idols” (1.11.7). “Our nature draws and induces us to look for all manner of demented and vicious rejoicing” (“Preface to the Psalter” in Writings on Pastoral Piety, 95). Calvin noticed how music can all too easily lead our minds and hearts toward idolatry. Music, he said, “has a secret and almost incredible power to arouse hearts in one way or another” (“Preface to the Psalter,” 95). 
Calvin’s right. We can become infatuated with the emotional high of singing instead of relishing the splendor of our Savior. We can marvel more at the skills of the musicians than the majesty of our Maker. All too subtly, we can begin to delight more in the praise we offer to God than the praiseworthiness of God. 
Calvin’s war against any hint of idolatry calls us to examine our own hearts. Why do we sing on Sunday morning? What do we hope to “get out” of church? Do I find my joy in Jesus and his gospel, or merely in an emotional experience? We should repent of singing for mere comfort and self-satisfaction, and seek the larger joys which have their source in God alone.

2. Music Can Stir Us for God

Calvin was cautious of idolatry, but he was no killjoy. He opted for a simple congregational musical expression not because he opposed art and beauty, but because he respected the power of music as a God-given force for good. 
Ever aware of the “indolence” and “ingratitude” of our hearts, he knew that we need a “stimulus” to fan the flames of godly affection (Commentary on the Book of Psalms, 33). “Song has great force and vigor to arouse and inflame people’s hearts to invoke and praise God with a more vehement and ardent zeal” (“Preface to the Psalter,” 94).
Such an insight should sound refreshing to our ears. Too often, even if unconsciously, we have operated according to the mantra, “I’m so happy, therefore I’ll praise God!” Calvin would have us respond, “I’ll praise God, so that I can be truly happy in him.”
Brothers and sisters facing persecution, pain, doubt, and depression may not feel like singing when Sunday morning shows up. But Calvin reminds us that God has given us music to stir our affections. Congregational song connects the wires of God’s truth to our depleted hearts and revives us in seasons of coldness. 
I always encourage struggling saints to sing, even if their voice feels faint. Singing in faith is a declaration of truth, but it’s also a plea that the Spirit would make the truth more vivid to our hearts. 

3. God Gave Us Songs to Sing

Calvin not only cherished the emotion-stirring force of music. He was also jealous for his congregation to sing the best lyrical content. For that, he turned to the Bible’s inspired hymnal: the Psalms. The Christian who masters the Psalms, Calvin taught, has mastered “celestial doctrine” (“Preface to the Commentary on the Psalms” in Writings, 56).
Calvin called the Psalter “an anatomy of all the parts of the soul” because it depicts the righteous man addressing God from every possible emotional state (“Preface to the Commentary on the Psalms,” 56). Calvin argued that the Psalms “frame our life to every part of holiness, piety, and righteousness” and “principally teach and train us to bear the cross” (“Preface to the Commentary on the Psalms,” 58). 
Given his high view of the Psalms, it’s no surprise that Calvin leveraged music to make his congregation a Psalms-saturated people. Every song was a mnemonic device that embedded the theology of the Psalms into the hearts of believers. Do songs we’ve memorized give us an equally robust theological foundation? Do our prayers and praises bear the fragrance of the rich theology and emotional tapestry of the Psalms?

Jumpstart Your Joy

Like any good gift from above, music — even church music — can become an idol if we cherish the gift more than the Giver. But the beauty of God’s gifts is that they point us beyond the gifts themselves to God’s glorious mercy and grace for sinners. Our songs should stir our hearts to worship in all seasons of life, just as the Psalms so beautifully express. 
Music on a Sunday morning exists to awaken our hearts out of their weeklong stupor and jumpstart our joy in Jesus. In all the joyful noise rising up from the saints, don’t miss out on the only One who matters. The melodies of our music, the volume of our voices, and the power of our praise mean very little unless our songs crescendo with joy in him.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

His Mercy Flows in Wave after Wave

Luke 1 [MSG]

39-45 Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,
You’re so blessed among women,
    and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
    the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
    greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
    skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
    believed every word would come true!
46-55 And Mary said,
I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Afterthought

Sarah Eekhoff Fylstra post:  Story Behind John Piper's Most Famous Attack on the Prosperity Gospel



John Piper’s most-viewed sermon clip of all time was an afterthought.
In fact, it was an off-the-cuff tangent to an afterthought, unusual for a man whose sermons are well-prepared and meticulously researched.
“I don’t know what you feel about the prosperity gospel—the health, wealth and prosperity gospel—but I’ll tell you what I feel about it,” Piper told a gathering of more than 1,000 college students in November 2005. “Hatred.”
The founder of Desiring God and then-pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church continued:
It is not the gospel, and it’s being exported from this country to Africa and Asia, selling a bill of goods to the poorest of the poor: “Believe this message, and your pigs won’t die and your wife won’t have miscarriages, and you’ll have rings on your fingers and coats on your back.” That’s coming out of America—the people that ought to be giving our money and our time and our lives, instead selling them a bunch of crap called “gospel.”
The sanctuary at Mountain Brook Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was so full “it felt like college students were hanging from the rafters,” recalled David Mathis, who accompanied Piper on the trip.
But “you could hear a pin drop that night,” said Bryan Johnson, who was helping lead the University Christian Fellowship (UCF) campus ministry.
“I’ll tell you what makes Jesus look beautiful,” Piper told them. “It’s when you smash your car, and your little girl goes flying through the windshield, and lands dead on the street . . . and you say through the deepest possible pain, ‘God is enough.’”
The nearly three-minute clip taken from the hour-long sermon was posted to YouTube in 2007; since then, more than 1 million have viewed it, more than any other solo Piper video.
“There was a gospel plea there, and a rawness that really resonated,” said Joel Brooks, who headed UCF at the time. “I’ve never heard Piper say ‘crap’ in a sermon before. Even his illustration about a child going through the windshield is over-the-top in a way that showed Piper was caught in the moment. It was really engaging for college students.” 
The reach has been remarkable, especially for a three-minute segment thrown in on the fly. (Piper himself has “zero recollection” of it.) Its popularity helps illustrate how proponents of Reformed theology and the prosperity gospel have contended with one another as each view has gained followers during the last decade.

Tacked On

Piper’s reason for traveling from his home base in Minneapolis to Birmingham that week was to deliver a Reformation Day lecture at Beeson Divinity School, remembered Mathis, who is now the executive editor for desiringGod.org but was then a volunteer assistant to Piper.  
Speaking at UCF was “tacked on,” a favor to Brooks, who was a student in a four-person missions class at Beeson that Piper occasionally taught.
The sermon wasn’t even new.
“Typically, when John went on the road while he was a full-time pastor, he would take something he’d already done for the church and warm it back up,” Mathis said. “The message John took was something he had prepared for the anniversary of 9/11, which fell on a Sunday that year.”
Titled “Where Is God?,” the message was about grappling with suffering and God’s sovereignty—particularly poignant barely two months after Hurricane Katrina emptied New Orleans, just five hours down the road from Birmingham.
Then, 47 minutes in, Piper went off-script.
“He is very much a preparation guy,” Mathis said. “He rarely does purely extemporaneous speaking. But sometimes the little extemp moments in an otherwise scripted message are some of the most golden things he says.”
Mathis called them a “combination of heat and light,” as Piper’s emotions boil up over the truth he’s been researching and preparing.
In this case, the remarks were also a second favor to Brooks.

Prosperity Gospel

“Out of the blue, we started getting this little bit of prosperity gospel coming in,” Brooks said of his campus ministry, which had rocketed to 1,000 students in the six years since he founded it. “One guy had just become a believer, and he was a gifted in evangelism and started to bring people in with him. But his doctrine got off.”
Brooks didn’t then know how large the sect would grow. Within several years, Matt Pitt would take several hundred students from UCF and start his own ministry called The Basement. High energy and enormously popular, The Basement at one time drew crowds of 7,000 before Pitt was arrested twice in 18 months for impersonating police officers. (Pitt pled guilty the first time, and was acquitted the second with the help of his attorney, who has also represented Creflo Dollar.)
“The crazy part is that right before Piper came, I was going to my office, and standing outside of our student center was a Cree Native American,” Brooks said. “His name was Reggie Rabbit.”
Rabbit, a Canadian in his early 20s, was in town to speak at a mission conference at Briarwood Presbyterian Church. He told Brooks he was highly favored by the Lord.
“Honestly, that ticked me off,” Brooks said. “I said, ‘We’re all highly favored by the Lord.’”
“I have a prophetic word for you,” Rabbit responded.
Still irritated, Brooks shot back, “Lord, if what this man says is not true, let it come on his head as a double curse.”
Looking back, he concedes, “That was rude.”
Undeterred, Rabbit told him that “a serpent is coming, and this serpent is prosperity. It’s coming to Birmingham.”
He was right. In fact, it was already there.
Over dinner at Brooks’s house before the event, Piper explained what he planned to speak on.
“I was like, ‘That’s great, but can you talk about prosperity?’” Brooks said.
It wasn’t a topic Piper had addressed much—if at all—before, Mathis said. Two years later, Piper would ask Mathis to research the topic for a 2008 sermon; since then, Piper’s opposition to the prosperity gospel has become known as one his key contributions to the wider church.
Piper went straight from Brooks’s table to speaking at the church (the music had already started when he arrived), so there was no time to look anything up or to plan the addition.
“It was an unprepared, unresearched, extemporary addition,” Mathis said.
At the time, the afterthought seemed small and fleeting.

YouTube

Not so in the more than 11 years since that night.
“I still meet college students who are very familiar with it,” Brooks said.
Most of them weren’t in the room at Mountain Brook Community Church. Instead, they ran across the sermon jam—a brief sermon clip laid on top of music—that Marc Sikma put on YouTube.
Sikma and Jason Zellmer, affiliated with the Acts 29 church-planting network, had started a church in St. Charles, Missouri, three months before Piper spoke.
In early December, Zellmer wanted to show a short video on the prosperity gospel during his evening sermon. Fans of Piper, the two searched his archived talks.
“We were able to capture those couple of powerful moments in that sermon and put it together, then eventually used it in our worship gathering,” Sikma said. “Then we decided to upload it. We certainly weren’t expecting any traction, but we wanted to share it so our body could go back and look at it again.”
A year or so later, Sikma looked back and was surprised to see how many times it had been viewed. “Between the first and fourth years it was up, it was growing by the tens of thousands of views, sometimes every month,” he said.
Friends started asking Sikma if he’d seen it; once, it was shown at a conference he attended. It’s garnered 1,054,726 views online; in 2012, another version went up that’s been seen more than 200,000 times. For thousands, it was a way to learn about Piper’s theology not through books like Desiring God or messages delivered on the main stage of Passion conferences, but through this short clip about one of the world’s fastest-growing heresies.

Influence

One of those viewers was Spencer Cary. “My first introduction to Piper was as the figurehead of the Calvinist movement,” he said. “I thought he was the worst.”
Cary was introduced to prosperity theology as a freshman at Presbyterian College in South Carolina, and he was horrified by it.
The sermon jam “was the first time I’d heard [Piper] say something that I was completely on board with.”
Those few minutes served as Cary’s first toe-dip into Reformed theology; today, he’s working with Brooks and planting a Reformed Baptist church in Lexington, South Carolina.
Cary remembers Piper’s anger, being horrified at the idea of America exporting prosperity gospel theology, and the vivid picture of the father losing his daughter. “Realizing that the gospel is beautiful in the midst of suffering—that had never been put into words for me before,” he said.
Johnson, now an elder at Brooks’s Redeemer Community Church, keeps the entire message on his phone. So does Brent Fuhrman, a former Mountain Brook Community Church member who listens at least once a quarter. Church planter Aaron Lentz, who first saw the YouTube clip his freshman year in college, has shown it to people dozens of times since.
“I don’t think I’d ever heard the gospel through that lens,” said Lentz, who remembers almost all the phrases in the clip verbatim. “It was a radically different message than I’d been hearing most of my life. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him—not in prosperity, but in the midst of loss.”
The clip’s enormous success points to the pervasiveness of prosperity gospel. Piper’s second most-viewed solo YouTube video is a 10-minute feature on why he “abominates” that theology.
“I don’t necessarily hear people saying, ‘If you believe in Jesus, you’re going to get a BMW or you aren’t going to get sick,’” Lentz said. “It’s more hidden or subtle.”
But even unconsciously, it underpins much of American Christianity, he said. Think #blessed.
“I still watch [the clip] every couple of months as a reminder of the power of the gospel and what God’s doing,” Sikma said. “The message is very poignant to an American culture that finds itself wanting much and giving little.”

To Believe Is To Venture Out

Steven Dilla post:  Risks of Faith

    [Israel said,] “Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.”


Gallantly, ceaselessly, quietly, man must fight for inner liberty to remain independent of the enslavement of the material world.
― Abraham Joshua Heschel
Scripture: Genesis 47.29-30
Reflection: Risks of Faith
“Imagine, challenges Kierkegaard, “a mighty spirit who promised to a certain people his protection, but upon the condition that they should make their appearance at a definite place where it was dangerous to go.” And here, in just a sentence, we have the story that repeats with every father of the faith. And also the story of our own faith. The philosopher continues:
Suppose that these folks waited to make their appearance, and instead went home to their living rooms and talked to one another in enthusiastic terms about how this spirit had promised them his potent protection. No one would be able to harm them. Is not this ridiculous?
So it is with today’s Christianity. Christ taught something perfectly definite by believing; to believe is to venture out as decisively as it is possible, breaking with everything one naturally loves. But to him who believes, assistance against all danger is also promised.
But today we play at believing, play at being Christians. We remain at home in the old grooves of finitude–and then we go and twaddle with one another, or let the preachers twaddle to us, about all the promises that are found in Christ. Is this not ridiculous?
Israel never saw the promised land. John the Baptist was seized by anxiety when Christ did not usher in the Kingdom of God during his lifetime. “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment,” the book of Hebrews records. “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword.”
How we long to experience the fullness of God now. How we overlook the “great cloud of witnesses” who walked in faith before us.
Kierkegaard prays:
Preserve me, Lord, from the deceit of thinking that by being prudent and looking after my own interests I am necessarily using my talents aright. He who takes risks for your sake may appear to lose, but he is accepted by you. He who risks nothing appears to gain by his prudence, but he is rejected by you. But let me not think that by avoiding risk I am better than the other. Grant me to see that this is an illusion, and save me from such a snare.
Prayer: The Request for Presence
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. — Psalm 90:14

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Want to Be Great?

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Every Word of God Proves True

Chris-Ann Manning Forde post:  One Truth to Rescue from Confusion

If you are like me, your walk with the Lord has had seasons of uncertainty. These seasons are akin to catching the flu: the symptoms emerge increasingly until it’s full-blown. Severe disappointments and God’s silence are two areas that are ripe for uncertainty. The enemy will not fail to bombard you with questions and assertions challenging God’s existence, His love and the goodness of His sovereignty.
Uncertainty’s pit is dangerously deep. Once you fall in, it isn’t long before you lose sight of reality and get accustomed to its darkness. Still, God’s rope of truth is ready to yank you out, but you must hold on tightly. The enemy will not let you go without a fight; but he will let go if you persist (James 4:7). As believers, we can always depend on the God of truth to pull us out of obscurity and hold us steady.
Uncertainty in Disappointment
Moments of severe disappointment have always been perfect opportunities for the enemy to create or intensify feelings of uncertainty and doubt. Most times, we are so invested in that thing we hoped for or that person we depended on that the loss causes tremendous grief.  Instead of dealing with our idolatry, we blame God’s sovereignty: He allowed this to happen. The enemy then beckons us to accuse God of neglect and cruelty, which can ultimately push us to mistrust and avoidance of God altogether.
The enemy wants the blinders of lies, pride, deep hurt and a sick heart (Proverbs 13:12) to overwhelm and cripple you. Nevertheless, even in these moments, the God of truth calls us away from unbelief. His challenges us to let Him be true, and everyone else a liar (Romans 3:3-4), reminds us that we cannot escape or hide from Him (Psalm 139:7-10), and that He alone has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).
Uncertainty in God’s Silence
You pray. No answer. God seems silent. Then the enemy whispers, “No answers, huh.”
The enemy tries to use God’s silence or lack of (visible) action to confirm the lack of His existence and goodness. Even when I counter with, “I remember Him. I remember what He’s done for me.” I hear the subtle, “Are you completely sure about that? Maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe you just made it up.
Still, the God of truth calls us away from unbelief. He reminds us that Jesus, the Son of God, who is God, stepped into the history books, biblical and non-biblical to provide a sacrifice for our sin and fickle belief. He reminds us that the Son He promised in Genesis 3 and Isaiah 53, is the One He sent in Matthew 1:18. It was planned intricately (Matthew 1:1-17) and it was fulfilled undeniably. And if God cannot and does not lie, then this logic follows: even if we don’t feel like it, we must consider every action of God as real, every word He says as true, and every promise as certain. 
The Complete Picture
God is not man that he should lie, or a son of man that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it? (Numbers 23:19)
God’s trustworthiness frames the grand puzzle of the Christian life. The permanence of God’s words, the legitimacy of Jesus’ sacrifice and Lordship all fall into question without His trustworthiness, His existence, and the certainty of His promises. This what the enemy wants. Satan wants us to slander God along with him. Satan is the liar (John 8:44) and wants to prevent us from seeing this.
God is not changeable and fickle like us. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). God does not fear man. He does not alter who He is for others. He does not lie or change to prevent rejection. He does not lie for fear of disagreement or disapproval of His decisions. He is not hindered by present circumstances and always accomplishes His will. He does not hide his nature from us. He does not deceive us. For God, the notion of character and being are not separate. His trustworthiness is powerful and constant, just like Him. So in my battles with uncertainty, I clutch the words of Numbers 23:19 tightly and daily, reluctantly and desperately, silently and aloud until He lifts me from the pit.
One Truth to Rescue
Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. (Proverbs 30:5)
My husband and I have two young boys. Right now, our oldest is expanding his vocabulary, repeating many of the words we say. So as much as possible, throughout the week, we sit and recite this verse.
I want my children to know that every promise that God makes will happen; it is never a matter of if, but a matter of when. I want them to know that the gospel is trustworthy before they understand it. I want them to know that if they try to seek absolute truth outside of the gospel, they will fail. God does not lie; He cannot lie. I want this truth to haunt them as non-believers and comfort and encourage them as believers (Hebrews 6:17-18). I want them to know this truth and know it deeply.

God's Good Gift of Ethnic Diversity

David Mathis post: We Need Black History Month 

February is the first full month of the Trump administration, and Black History Month may be as important as it’s ever been. 
At minimum, it’s a needed annual reminder that the citizens of these United States, from their origin down to today, have not lived up to the professed vision of “liberty and justice for all.” Even more, as Christians, it’s a chance to celebrate the creative brilliance of the God who “made from one man every nation of mankind” (Acts 17:26), and the redemptive beauty of his Son who, with his own blood, “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). 
“February is the first full month of the Trump administration, and Black History Month may be as important as ever.”
And in 2017, we welcome Black History Month all the more, when racial tensions nationwide may be at a generational high, in the wake of the Ferguson unrest, viral videos of police brutality, and a racially charged election cycle. Campaign 2016 repeatedly pushed racial buttons, not only for Mexicans and Muslims, but African Americans. And observances such as Black History Month, even though they can’t do all the work on their own, have a role to play in our healing as a nation.
Into our racially charged environment, as we stumble forward to see if we will find any balance as we learn to walk under this president, Black History Month meets a need, and presents an opportunity not just for Americans, but followers of Christ.

Why and How It Started

Carter Woodson (1875–1950), son of former slaves and one of the first scholars to study African-American history, planted the seeds that grew into Negro History Week in February 1926 and then Black History Month fifty years later. Woodson, known today as “the father of black history,” had noticed in his graduate and doctoral studies “that the role of African Americans in American history was either misrepresented or missing altogether from the history books.”
Woodson chose the second week in February, to coincide with the birthdates of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 20). It was President Gerald Ford who first recognized Black History Month in 1976 during the nation’s bicentennial year; every president since has done the same. Ford’s original charter was a call for Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Black History for Christians

In the forty years since, support for naming February “Black History Month” has waxed and waned. It has, at times, been controversial. Morgan Freeman, for instance, registered his opinion on 60 Minutes that it was “ridiculous,” saying, “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.” Other minority groups in America have asked, “When’s our history month?” (Native American Heritage Month is November; Asian Heritage, March 15 to April 15; Hispanic Heritage, September 15 to October 15.) 
As a white Christian in America, I have wrestled with what it means to orient on Black History Month. I remember well my unsympathetic heart as a teenager growing up in the South — not only uninformed, but unrighteous — leading me to roll my eyes and say, “So, when’s White History Month?” Such is not the spirit of Christ, nor is it walking by his Spirit to suspect the worst of non-blacks who rush to join the annual celebration. Nor is it Christian — not in this nation or any other place on the planet — to keep silent with our children about the realities of ethnicity in view of Christ. If we don’t cast a positive vision for our children about the glories of God-designed ethnic diversity, we leave their inherent ethnocentrism to swell and take root.
“No American can ignore that the plight of the African American has been uniquely difficult in this nation.”
Rather, as Christians, we can rehearse the many reasons why we love ethnic diversity. And where the grand, theological, and global theory meets practice is in the particular locality in which God has placed us. God not only “made from one man every nation of mankind,” but he also “determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). For most of us in the United States, the Christian journey to loving all peoples will eventually take on countless shades and textures, but it typically begins very Black and White.
In this country, whites of all stripes, and non-white alike, cannot ignore that the plight of the African American has been uniquely difficult in this nation. This is in no way to minimize the unique pains and terrors of Native Americans or other groups, and even some fellow “whites” who were mistreated because of their distinct origin. But it is to acknowledge that, for generations, the nation in which we live was built on and profited from a wicked system of God-dishonoring human abuse called chattel slavery — and that it is simply inevitable that we continue to deal with the structural effects of such sin and evil. Our fathers ate the sour grapes, and unless we bury our heads in the ground, there is no getting around it that our teeth indeed have been set on edge (Ezekiel 18:2).
Black History Month isn’t simply about ethnic diversity in general, but remembering the horrors of our shared history and celebrating the progress that has been made, in God’s common kindness, and specifically the many successes of black Americans despite such a history. Christians honor this month, at least in part, because it helps us understand the awful plight of a people made in God’s image, many of them fellow believers, and acknowledges God’s goodness at work in remarkable achievements (like the presidency) in and through a people who often have been treated with utter wickedness.

Beauty of Ethnic Diversity

And for Christians, the specific stories of pain and triumph in black history ripen as our roots grow deeper into biblical thought, and into the mind of Christ, and we mature in appreciating the beauty of various ethnicities and ethnic harmony. We rally to the vision of Psalm 96:3–4:
Declare his glory among the nations,  his marvelous works among all the peoples!  For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;  he is to be feared above all gods.
Why do we marvel, in earshot of diverse peoples, about the glory of our God? Because he is great enough not only to have our praise, but theirs as well. “Forgreat is the Lord, and greatly to be praise.” The shared praises of diverse and unified peoples are a tribute to God’s greatness. He is too great not to win worshipers from every tribe and people and nation. When we notice (not neglect), and when we love (not despise), the ethnic diversity God created, we unite our hearts with his mission in the world: to magnify the worth and beauty of his Son in the harmonious praise of diverse peoples.
“A Christian celebration of ethnic diversity is a frontal attack on the dragon of human pride.”
And in exalting the glory of God, we undercut the power of sin. A Christian celebration of ethnic diversity is a frontal attack on the dragon of human pride. No ground at the foot of the cross is raised above another, no slightly higher hill assigned to certain ethnicities. God first levels our pride in the equality of our creation (Acts 17:26), then Christ packs the ground tight in the equality of our redemption (Galatians 3:28). Here is neither black nor white, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, but all are one in Christ. Such specific verses and truths are what lodge in a soul when “the gospel” goes to work on racism. That is my story and song as a South-Carolinian-become-Christian.

For White People Too

If you’re white — or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or all of the above — thank God for his brilliance and breadth in creating diverse peoples. And let’s cast the vision for our children again and again. It is a beautiful thing that God made so many types of divine-image-reflecting humans as the pinnacle of his creation. Black is beautiful, and particularly so with Spirit-opened eyes against the backdrop of horrors in this nation’s history. One month a year is not too long for reminding ourselves of it and celebrating it.
“Black History Month is not ‘for them.’ It’s for all of us.”
Consider President Ford’s original charter: “to seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans.” For starters, watch the two-minute overview video from History Channel. How about black history in the American church? Consider reading about Lemuel Haynes (1753–1833), Daniel Payne (1811–1893), and Francis Grimk√© (1850–1937) in Thabiti Anyabwile’s The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors, or learning from John Piper on the life of Clarence Thomas and on how Martin Luther King, Jr changed his life. (Perhaps dip into Piper’s Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, available free of charge in three digital formats, or listen to his message on “The Sovereignty of God and the Soul Dynamic.”)
Simply put, if you love Jesus Christ, and hate human pride and its rebellion against his kingship, you will want to grow in appreciating God’s good gift of ethnic diversity, and specifically this manifestation of it in our nation. Black History Month is not for them. It’s for all of us.