Celebrating Black History Month

February is Black History Month, and it is likely that this month is needed in 2017 more than any year since. In a time of turmoil and division, it opens up an opportunity for racial divides to be bridged. David Mathis recently wrote,

“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. 
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.”

And,

“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.”

So, what might be some of the ways that a white Christian in America can celebrate and honor this month? One of my favorites is through reading. There are a host of articles that have posted the last couple of weeks by thoughtful folks regarding Black History Month. Here are a few:

We Need Black History Month, by David Mathis

More Than a Month Long, by Trillia Newbell

Black History Month: John Chavis (1763-1838), by Kevin DeYoung

5 Facts About Black History Month, by Joe Carter

Or, you could listen to Bryan Loritts encouraging the necessity of all Christians to cross ethnic lines and invest in others who are different than us. He recently preached the message, Right Color, Wrong Culture: Pursuing Multi-ethnic Cultural Engagement at ERLC’s National Conference, in the hopes of helping us all build relationships that look more like God’s intention for the church.

And certainly, far more effective than reading or listening to something online would be to strike up a conversation with someone different than you, preferably over a cup of coffee or a meal, to begin the path down increased understanding, transformation, and beautiful relationships of multi-ethnic diversity.

I am certain there are many other great ways you could pursue celebrating Black History Month. If you have any you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section below.

I am praying with you and for you, that God would align our hearts with his mission to reach all nations, and call them out of darkness to enter the light of Jesus, and be a part of his beautiful bride, the church.

The Heart of Christ

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.      (Heb 4:15)

[This passage] doth, as it were, take our hands, and lay them upon Christ's breast, and let us feel how his heart beats and his bowels year towards us, even now he is in glory--the very scope of these words being manifestly to encourage believers against all that may discourage them, from the consideration of Christ's heart towards them now in heaven.
....indeed, your very sins move him to pity more than to anger...yea, his pity is increased the more towards you, even as the heart of a father is to a child that hath some loathsome disease...his hatred shall all fall, and that only upon the sin, to free you of it by its ruin and destruction, but his bowels shall be the more drawn out to you; and this as much when you lie under sin as under any other affliction. Therefore fear not, 'What shall separate us from Christ's love?'

(from The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth, by Thomas Goodwin)

You Have Been Freed

How long, Yahweh? Will you forget me forever? 

How long will you hide your face from me? 

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart? 

Look on me and answer, Yahweh my God. 

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death... 

But I trust in your unfailing love; 

my heart rejoices in your salvation. 

I will sing Yahweh's praise, 

for he has been good to me. (Portions of Psalm 13, NIV)

Don't miss what David just said there in the beginning of this prayer. It is so very human of him. Day after day David finds himself wrestling with his own thoughts. They plague him, spinning out of control, tinged with darkness, stained with the auroral flare of anxiety. And his experience reveals the connection between mind and heart, thoughts and emotions. For his daily thoughts plant seeds in his heart that have grown into sorrows so extensive and weighty that he believes Yahweh himself must have forgotten him. Yahweh must not even be watching anymore.

"Don't leave me here, Yahweh. LOOK at me! Please! Restore the twinkle in my eyes, or I shall sleep a slumber from which I will never awake."

It's that bad.

We are familiar with this, are we not? We too feel the effects of a negative thought life that at times spirals out of control. How often have you thought badly about yourself? How often have you constantly spewed negative speech inside the auditorium of your mind, with the sound system maxed out? Or what is the content of the audio loop running between your ears?

The moment after I read this Psalm this morning, I turned my attention to Paul Tripp's tome, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. I found that Tripp spoke similarly to David in his morning meditation, and new understanding dawned on me. 

Preaching the good news to yourself functions similarly to those Bose noise-canceling headphones. You know how those work, yes? My non-expert understanding is that they find the frequency at which sounds are coming toward you, and then match that frequency exactly, which cancels out the external noise you are hearing, so you can listen to what you really want to. 

And that is how good news declarations work - they smack up against your anti-gospel speech, cancel it out, so you can hear what is good and true. So for all of us strugglers who find ourselves easily relating to David, listen up to some Tripp good news audio tracks.

It is an intensely human endeavor. It is the quest we all pursue. We all want to feel good about ourselves. We all want to think that we are okay. It is a fearful and anxious quest from which only grace can free you.
Here's what happens to us all--we seek horizontally for the personal rest that we are to find vertically, and it never works. Looking to others for your inner sense of well-being is pointless. First, you will never be good enough, consistently enough, to get the regular praise of others that you are seeking. You are going to mess up. You're bound to disappoint. You will have a bad day. You'll lose your way. At some point, you'll say or do things that you shouldn't. Add to this the fact that the people around you aren't typically interested in taking on the burden of being your personal messiah. They don't want to live with the responsibility of having your identity in their hands. Looking to people for your inner self-worth never works.
The peace that success gives is unreliable as well. Since you are less than perfect, whatever success you are able to achieve will soon be followed by failure of some kind. Then there is the fact that the buzz of success is short-lived. It isn't long before you're searching for the next success to keep you going. 
That's why the reality that Jesus has become your righteousness is so precious.
His grace has forever freed us from needing to prove our righteousness and worth. So we remind ourselves every day not to search horizontally for what we've already been given vertically. "And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever" (Is. 32:17). That righteousness is found in Jesus alone.

Friend, that is a soundtrack worth listening to — set it on a repeat loop and never turn it off!

But I trust in your unfailing love; 

my heart rejoices in your salvation. 

I will sing Yahweh's praise, 

for he has been good to me!