2020 Deacons' Corners
The History of the Black Church (February)
Out of all racial groups in America, 75% of African Americans say that religion is very important in their lives, according to the Pew Research Center (2014). Nearly 80% of African Americans identify as Christians, which is higher than European and Latino Americans. More than 50% of African Americans associate themselves with predominantly black Protestant churches like Providence, and 83% of Black people say they believe in God with “absolute certainty.”
Over 50% of African Americans report reading the Holy Scriptures at least once per week outside of religious services, and we engage in prayer and Bible study groups more than another racial group. These are just some of the recent and compelling statistics related to the importance of faith to African Americans.
Our history is woven throughout the fabric of this country; however, during Black History month, we focus on it more intentionally. It is important to remember, no matter how much turmoil we see and awful news we hear, that we are still people of great faith. We have trusted Him to “...direct our paths” (Proverbs 3:6) and have been “...strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). We are sure that “whatever is born of God overcomes the world…” (1 John 5:4). We will continue to “lift every voice and sing ‘till Earth and heaven ring…” because we know WE are born of God and WE are His chosen people.
Learning From Jesus (March)
According to the first three gospels of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days and nights to test His faith. It’s important to recognize that Jesus’ ministry didn’t stop after He was baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist. No, Jesus’ ministry continued while He was in the wilderness.
Through this experience, Jesus taught us three important things. First, He taught us that no one is above temptation. “Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down’” (Matthew 4: 5-6 NIV). This was one of several ways that Satan tempted Jesus. If Jesus can be tempted by Satan, so can we. This means that we have to actively choose God’s way every day.
Second, His wilderness experience taught us the importance of prayer. Mark 14: 32 states, “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray’” (NIV). Jesus knew that he was under persecution, and He knew that being in continual communication with His father was the only intervention that could ease His spirit. Oh, how wonderful it is to know that God is there to ease our spirits.
Lastly, Jesus’ time in the desert taught us that God’s will must be done. Jesus prays to His Father several times leading up to His death, according to Luke. “‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (22:42-44 NIV). Despite his anguish, we still know that Jesus suffered a terrible death so that we might live.
Lent started on Wednesday, February 26, 2020. Hopefully, you have already meditated on your sacrifice. If you haven’t committed to a sacrifice, do it today. What can you sacrifice to achieve a closer relationship with God? We already know what He sacrificed for us...His only begotten Son.
Thank God For Jesus (April)
For many Christians, Lent is a time of reflection. We reflect on the last days of Jesus’ life and celebrate the mercy-filled sacrifice that He made so that we might be saved. Jesus was sent by God for one reason--to save us from ourselves. If it were left up to us, we would never see God. Our wickedness is unworthy of God’s Holy presence.
Only Jesus stands in between God and us, filtering out our sinfulness so that God can see our hearts in the purest form. Jude says it best, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy…” (1:24-25 ESV).
Isn’t it awesome to know that Jesus is there filling in the gap? He was there way back on Calvary hanging between two thieves. It’s a relief to know that Jesus will continue to “fill in the gap” until He returns. “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44 ESV).
As we celebrate Easter, consider re-reading the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The beauty of the Holy Scriptures is that each time we read them, we get something different from the text because our eyes, heart, and mind are different. As God works through us and develops us spiritually, the same readings can take on new meanings for our lives and our spiritual walk.
In the days leading up to and following Easter, remember to thank God daily through prayer. Thank Him for loving us enough to send a perfect example of obedience, self-control, grace, mercy, and charity. Thank Him for loving us enough to sacrifice His Son for people who continually fail. Thank Jesus for being obedient to His Father so that we might live.
Victory in Jesus, my Savior forever...