As Black History Month comes to a close, guest contributor, Joan Bennett, Leader of Grace Point’s Ethnic Awareness Team, shares some thoughts with us regarding a biblical response to Black History.
The month of February is designated as Black History Month and is a time when people (Christians and non-Christians) across the country reflect on the many ways in which people of African descent have affected, shaped and influenced our culture and our world. The contributions (small and large) of Africans/Black Americans have been numerous and varied, influencing all our literature, music, entertainment, sciences, medicine, politics, economy and church history. Without a doubt these great accomplishments are to be celebrated, given proper credit and respected.
Black History is woven into the history of our country. Black History is woven into the history of the Church. Black History is biblical history. Black History is all our history.
As Dr. King so famously said, “…all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
After all, God made us all the same. In Genesis 1:27 we read, “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” This truth is foundational. God created all human beings in His image. Gender, skin color and other physical differences do not change that reality.
In God’s eyes, all are equal. Acts 10:34-35 says, “God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right.”
God does not favor one person or group over another. He acknowledges the diversity of His creation, while showing grace equally. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to follow this example. Anything short of this, is a violation and disregard of God’s desire for His diverse creation.
“And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” Acts 17:26
“Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the sun has looked upon me.” Song of Solomon 1:6
And so, this February, Black History Month, let us together reflect, remember, honor the black men and women who have affected, shaped and influenced our culture, our church, and our country.
~ Joan Bennett, Leader of Grace Point’s Ethnic Awareness Team
You are holy, righteous and just, yet compassionate, full of grace and merciful. You’re always active and moving, yet patient, imperceptible and slow to anger. You are sovereign over the movement of stars and planets, yet You know our words before we speak them.
We gather together this morning to speak words to You in worship through prayer.
The world has gone daft around us Father. Wrong has become right. Comfort and security have replaced service and sacrifice. Being right is more important than being truthful. Anger and violence solve our disagreements, rather than patience, understanding and grace.
We ask that You renew in us a right spirit. So that following You would be more important than any agendas, creeds or causes. That laying down our lives for those who hate us would be more important than being right. That knowing You deeply through Your Word, would be important to us than posts, feeds or blogs.
Help us to see that there is a world around us hurtling towards a Christ-less eternity. Stir our hearts to reach them and not stay asleep in the light.
We bring our needs to You Father, remembering that it’s not so that You can be reminded about them, but so that we remember that You have sovereignly allowed them into our lives so You would be glorified.
Our brothers and sisters in Lebanon are undergoing severe trials. COVID is rampant, lockdowns are prevalent, jobs are scarce and basic necessities are in short supply. This is breeding hopelessness, so much so that young people, even in the church, feel there is no other way but to leave the country. Yet in the face of all of these deep needs, our brothers and sisters are asking for provision and wisdom to reach their world for You Jesus. Provide and guide, and use us in that process Father.
Our missionary partners around the world serving You need protection, resources and encouragement. Help us hold them to You in Prayer for all they need.
Father, as a church, we desire to reach our world too, yet we find ourselves in need of financial resources. Move on our hearts Father to be conduits of all the tremendous resources You have provided us so that the lost might be saved.
We come now to hear Your Word to us, delivered through Your servant Dave. We admit that we come to Your Word with our own questions, problems, agendas and conceptions. Help us instead come to Your Word now with softened hearts to clear up any misconceptions we have about You, so that we know You for who You truly are, and not how we want You to be.
We lift up these words to You, Father, and we are only able to because You sent Your one and only Son, the spotless lamb of God that takes away our sin, Jesus, to step into our mess and lay down His life for us while we were still rebellious, so that we could be adopted as Your children and spend eternity with You, our true and only home. Such amazing love. It’s because of this, that we pray. Thank You, Father.
Last Friday we forwarded to our church family an article written by Converge President, Scott Ridout, condemning the violence and riots that occurred at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Since last Friday, several people in our Grace Point family courageously reached out to me to express their concerns that the Converge article could be perceived as partisan, and I am glad that I have had the opportunity to ask these individuals to “help me understand your concerns.” Through these conversations, I heard a primary concern that this article did not represent the balance for which Grace Point is typically known in its communication on current events, and so I offer these thoughts to bring balance to this conversation.
Let me first share with you the two reasons we forwarded the article:
We felt Converge had made an important statement distinguishing our Christian community from those who, while carrying symbols sacred to our faith, attacked the Capitol building and endangered the lives of others. While it is not for me to judge the hearts of these individuals, I do believe it is important to call out their actions as inconsistent with the teachings of Christ. He called us to respect the property and wellbeing of our neighbors – even those with whom we disagree. (This condemnation is equally applicable to the many riots sparked by racial tensions in 2020.) It is important for the unbelieving world to know that believers, in general, and Grace Point, in particular, in no way endorse or identify with those who perpetrate hatred or violence.
We also feel it’s important from time to time to remind our church family that we are part of an association of churches called Converge, which exists to start and strengthen churches worldwide. Forwarding articles from the president helps us stay connected with our larger network, and to understand the perspectives that are shared on a national level.
It was neither my intent nor desire to make a partisan statement with this article. Rather, the motivation was to uphold the name and mission of Christ in the eyes of those who do not yet know Him. Some of you will remember a message we studied last July:
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD.” Joshua 5:13-14 (emphasis added)
Here is one of many cases when God is not interested in taking sides as people divide into “us vs. them,” but is solely focused on making the name of Christ known so that Christ may draw all people to Himself. Grace Point has not been and under my watch will not be a church that promotes political sides. We are to promote the Great Commission of Christ as members of the army of the LORD, fighting together the darkness brought on by our spiritual enemy. The purpose of last week’s article was not to promote a political side, but to promote the purity of the cause of Christ.
Having said that, I understand that last week’s article calls out one political side without calling out the other. Because the article specifically called out our now former president, I would like to balance what was said there by stating that I have serious concerns about several policies our new president has vowed to pursue, and the impact they may have on our religious freedom. As well, I have concerns with the stance of the new administration on several social issues including abortion, which I believe to run counter to my understanding of Scripture.
In all honesty, I feel there is a lot of material to work with in calling both the Democratic and Republican platforms to account from a Scriptural standpoint. I have always made an effort to “offend everyone equally,” so to speak (when it comes to politics at least!) and I apologize that last week’s email was not balanced in that way.
In light of this incident, I commit to two practices going forward:
I will renew my vigilance to present any political views in a balanced manner, as we have done to this point.
When addressing sensitive topics like politics, when there is high potential for offense or misunderstanding, I will make sure that you hear from me or another trusted member of our own Grace Point staff rather than forwarding the thoughts of someone with whom you have little connection. You need to be able to follow up a Grace Point communication by approaching a leader you know and trust with the conversation, “help me understand.”
And there is something I hope YOU will take away from this. In the polarized culture in which we find ourselves, I want to call you to trade a posture of accusation for a posture of teachability. Resist the natural bent to judge the motives of those with whom you disagree, and instead follow the example of those brave individuals who reached out to our leadership this past week with a humble spirit of curiosity in saying, “help me understand.”
I believe strongly in the vision and mission of Converge, and I trust Scott Ridout’s desire to follow Christ and make Him known. We will continue to cultivate our relationship with Converge and share Scott’s thoughts with you again in the future. As well, we will by God’s grace communicate in such way that we do not lose the opportunity to impact our community for the Gospel by taking political stances.
I am grateful for the diversity of Grace Point – ethnically, socially, politically. As we are called by Christ to unity, let us remember that unity is not the same as uniformity. And let us embrace the fact that unity is not easy – sometimes it takes hard work. Let’s continue to do that work together, as we fix our eyes on the Author and Perfector of our faith.
For the glory of Christ, Dave Wolf Lead Pastor
…Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
We praise You, the Creator of the whole universe. There is no one like You! You brought this world into being, and You graciously allowed our nation to be founded so that people could live in freedom and experience prosperity. But we confess that we have made the quest for prosperity and even living in freedom into gods that we worship sometimes even more than we worship You. We are so prone to look to this world for meaning and purpose, to try to find substitutes for Jesus. And these fake saviors lure us into sin, darkness and enslavement. Forgive us, we pray, and wash us clean. Free us to be all that You have called us to in Christ.
Jesus, we are in awe of You, our Savior and Redeemer. You laid down Your power before broken, hateful men and women so that, as Your children, each one of us could live in relationship with You and to be reconciled to one another. It’s in Your name and by the power of Your Spirit that we can experience hope for today and for the future.
Help us to see clearly more of who You are, and calm our anxious hearts. Give us grace to see beyond this moment and to believe that there is nothing to fear in light of Your greatness!
We pray that Grace Point and each of the Bible believing churches in our community would effectively reach out in love to others who we perhaps don’t understand. Help us to build bridges that would lead to life transformation. Help us to give up our hateful speech and prideful devotion to agendas (political and otherwise) in favor of a deeper devotion to You and a stronger love for others who are different, or who dislike us.
Our great God, we ask You to accomplish amazing things in this world through Your willing servants, each of our missionaries, as well as each one of us, graciously taking Your truth into societies that deny the truth and even deny the ability to know truth.
We ask that You would equip Amchit Baptist Church in Lebanon to share Your love despite the pandemic lockdowns. Please give the younger generation leaders a vision for staying and trusting in You. And continue to heal and strengthen Pastor Joseph, that he and his church can be strengthened to show Your love to their community.
Break down walls and open hearts so that Your kingdom may be established in this world more and more for Your honor and glory… we pray in the unparalleled name of our King Jesus —AMEN.
Our country is at a crucial crossroads, politically, socially and spiritually.
Below we have linked to a statement from the president of our church’s association, Converge, calling us as Christ-followers to unity and prayer following the events that took place last week at our nation’s Capitol.
I realize that a variety of political viewpoints are represented across our Grace Point family, and for that I am grateful because it means that we are centered on the true foundation of Christ, and not a political ideology or party. As you read these strong words from Converge president Scott Ridout, I remind you of the calling of the Church to bear the light of Christ in the world, including the responsibility to speak Biblical truth into the events of our day.
If you’ve been around Grace Point for a while, you’ve probably heard about our FOCUS in Lebanon. Lebanon has faced a refugee crisis for the past several years due to war in neighboring countries. The coronavirus lockdowns made this situation even worse. Then in August, a massive explosion devastated the city of Beirut. The impact was so great that every window in Beirut shattered, but with those shattered windows came open doors that had been shut for months because of the lockdowns.
When the FOCUS team learned of the gravity of the situation, we knew that we wanted to give, and we knew Horizons would be a great steward of whatever money we were able to raise. Over the past few months, we have sent over $34,000. This money has gone to the Lebanon Crisis Fund, a fund set up to bring vital humanitarian aid and the Gospel message to those devastated by the explosion and the worsening economic crisis.
Horizons is the perfect ministry to help because, although they are an international organization, they have local staff that live and work in Beirut. They are trusted in the communities as authentic, caring people deeply committed to loving their neighbors and sharing the Gospel while giving practical help to people who are suffering tremendous loss and unimaginable poverty.
Almost immediately after the explosion, Horizons set up three strategic sites around Beirut which served as launch points for teams of staff and volunteers, logistical centers, and drop sites for food and supplies. Several local churches, whose own buildings had been severely damaged, joined Horizons to minister to traumatized people around the blast site. Roughly 65 indigenous partner churches serve with Horizons in Lebanon preparing food, repairing damaged homes, and giving medical care. Horizons volunteers and staff are often able to stay and visit in the newly-repaired homes to pray and read the Bible with people who may be hearing the Gospel for the first time. After seeing how the people from Horizons work with such love and faith to meet their needs, they often cannot wait for their new friends to visit again. Horizons staff reports many examples of people asking for Bibles, church recommendations, and prayer. God is using believers in Beirut to show that He is good, and the FOCUS team is so thrilled that Grace Point gets to participate in this firsthand.
One of our goals from the beginning of the FOCUS process was for Grace Point’s unique resources and gifts to be multiplied, and, although things look very different than we ever imagined, the FOCUS team is so happy to report that God is, in fact, multiplying what we have given.
Money from the Lebanon Crisis fund has also been used to purchase much-needed food (over 88,000 meals) and medicines. Please continue to pray for people who are hurting and for the Horizons volunteers and staff to be refreshed and used in mighty ways by the Lord.
It seems like little has gone according to plan in 2020…at least in our minds. That certainly has been true for Grace Point’s Middle East FOCUS (our 3 to 5-year mission partnership) as well. But we have an amazing God and nothing, not even a pandemic, can thwart His plans! It is such a comfort to know that God is always in control!
A few members of the FOCUS Implementation Team were scheduled to travel to Lebanon this spring for a ministry development trip. The purpose of this trip was to explore the various ministry opportunities that might be a good fit for Grace Point and to identify one or more opportunities for our first Lebanon mission trip this summer. We also were planning on in-depth meetings with Amchit Baptist Church, our potential church partner, to determine how we could come alongside each other in ministry and, hopefully, solidify an official partnership. We were disappointed and, quite honestly, rather discouraged that the COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented us from going on either of these trips.
God had other plans. Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” We knew that we could trust in God’s perfect plan, not letting discouragement win. We knew that we needed to keep the FOCUS moving forward even though it was going to look very different than we had anticipated.
The FOCUS Implementation Team has continued to meet regularly. Relying on God’s leading and direction, we began to explore some important questions. What does an effective Lebanon mission initiative look like when we can’t travel? How do we engage the congregation? How do we stay excited ourselves, not losing our momentum?
In June we held a Taste of Lebanon drive-thru event as a way to introduce Lebanese culture and delicious Lebanese food. A total of 152 meals were ordered from King of Falafel in Newtown, and $3,000 was raised for the ministry at Amchit Baptist Church. The event was quite a success and received very positive feedback. Be on the lookout for our next event!
In July we held our first joint prayer meeting over Zoom with a few members of our team, Dave Wolf and leaders of Amchit Baptist. It was a sweet and powerful time of unity which strengthened the connection between our two churches. We have also been able to deepen our relationship with Amchit through regular communication, sharing prayer requests and becoming more invested in each other’s lives. We were very encouraged to know that they have been attending our online Sunday morning services! That would have been something we never would have imagined, but it has been an exciting part of God’s plan.
In August, we established the Lebanon Relief Fund because of the deepening crisis in Lebanon. Their economy has totally collapsed, prices have skyrocketed, unemployment has soared and those fortunate to keep their jobs have found their salaries cut drastically. In a country known for its hospitality, people are struggling to feed themselves and their families, let alone celebrate and share with others. The pandemic exacerbated this crisis and the recent explosion in Beirut took it to even more desperate levels.
Our ministry partner in Lebanon, Horizons International, has a vibrant and powerful ministry network, as well as a trustworthy reputation. They have been working hard to address the needs of the people, providing humanitarian aid for churches to distribute to those in need (up to 3,000 lunches per day!) In addition, their teams have been spending their days assisting in the clean up after the explosion and taping plastic over some of the millions of blown out windows. God has opened up the door to even more service and outreach opportunities as they share the Gospel with those they are helping.
Also, the owner of King of Falafel (from our Taste of Lebanon event) wanted to raise money for Lebanon relief and asked if she could donate it through Grace Point because she knew we were a trustworthy organization. This connection with our local Middle Eastern community was beyond what we could have planned, but it was part of God’s plan.
In just two short weeks since establishing the Lebanon Relief Fund, thanks to the generosity of the Grace Point family, we have been able to send over $34,000 to assist Horizons in their work, with a portion going to meet the needs of the members of Amchit Baptist Church and their community. If you have already given to the Lebanon Relief fund, thank you! Because the needs are great and on-going, we will continue to receive and forward funds. If you would like to make a contribution, go to: http://giving.gracepointpa.org and select the “Lebanon Relief” fund.
Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that our God is a God “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” He has given us so many examples of this during these past few months, and we know that there are many more to come! We are humbled to be part of God’s plan, serving the people of Lebanon and sharing His love.
Where the Word of Christ dwells, the peace of Christ rules.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. -Colossians 3:15-16
Over the last three weeks, families have been enjoying FOCUS VBS – REFOCUSED with YOU in mind. Each week, families were provided with a gift box with activities, games, lessons and special items to guide them through VBS-at-Home. The gift boxes have served to encourage families in their faith and bring FUN into their homes in a new way.
We’ve heard that this unique approach to VBS has been extremely positive for families to learn together! We are grateful that we could serve our families in different and meaningful ways.
Here are a few things to celebrate and praise God for!
We had about 43 families participating representing about 84 children!
We had 11 of those families were guests of Grace Point or new to our church. We welcome them and hope that VBS-at-Home has been a special first experience for them with us.
Because of your generous donations, we have been able to bless families using half of our usual VBS budget and include more gifts than we could have previously. We praise God for your generosity making this possible. Thank you!
How you can continue to pray for VBS:
Pray that families would continue to be encouraged to have faith-centered conversations in their homes.
Pray that the seeds of faith that were planted would grow and that many kids would come to know and trust Jesus.
Pray that our guests might seek to know more about Grace Point so they can meet Jesus and be encouraged to grow in their faith!