Today’s Blog Shout Out is in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Praise God for the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. He believed in what most thought impossible because He was grounded by a faith that he served the Creator of all things possible.
Celebrate Martin Luther King Junior Day at home! Try these FREE printable activities to do with your kids.
The blog I am posting is actualling and incredible sermon by Matt Chandler about MLK Jr and the God in whom he took refuge during the civil rights movement.
Here is a glimpse at Matt Chandler’s sermon paying tribute to this great man and His great God:
Under The Faucet
If you have your Bibles, grab them. Psalms, chapter 27…
Late in high school, I had a teacher who turned me on to the Civil Rights Movement. I always was kind of a fan of history. He kind of turned me on to the Civil Rights Movement. That really grew in college. I was a Leadership minor, and really the things that got accomplished in that 15-year window and continue to be accomplished because of that 15- or 20-year window is remarkable.
As I began to study the Civil Rights Movement, there was a singular letter that Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in April of 1963. It’s a very well-known letter (if you follow history and if you’re familiar with this movement) called “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” That letter haunted me, and I’ll explain why it haunted me after I read you a portion of the letter. Just to set the framework for where this letter was written, Martin Luther King Jr. had come into Birmingham, and they had staged a series of sit-ins, marches, and sanctions against the economy of Birmingham for the oppression of African Americans in Birmingham and was imprisoned in that process.
The local white clergymen had accused King of lacking patience and that he should trust them to push this ball of civil rights forward. If you haven’t read this, you need to Google it. You’ll find it easily. At the beginning of the letter, he said he usually does not respond to critics because if he responded to all his critics, he would do nothing other than respond to his critics. He said but in this case since they were brothers, he was going to respond to him. So this is a part of that letter.
“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at a whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your 20 million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your 6-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a 5-year-old son who is asking, ‘Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?’; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day and day out by nagging signs reading ‘white’ and ‘colored’; when your first name becomes ‘Nigger,’ your middle name becomes ‘boy’ (however old you are) and your last name becomes ‘John’; and your wife and mother are never given the respected title ‘Mrs.’; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness,’ then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools…” So this letter was written in 1963. Schools are still segregated. In 1954, the Supreme Court deemed it was illegal to segregate schools. So King’s point is, “Yeah, we’re breaking some laws while we press that certain laws take place.” He sees that’s paradoxical, so he is trying to explain it here.
“…at first glance, it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break some laws.” One may well ask, ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.'”
Now let me tell you why this haunted me. First of all, this is not the distant past. Are you tracking with that? This is not 200 years ago. This is ’63. A lot of people in these services were alive in ’63, and not “alive” like a baby in Mama’s arms alive. Here’s what haunts me about the reality of the African American in 1963. I thought this. I knew I was coming out of this. I was ready to preach this message, and earlier this week, my 3-year-old daughter, Norah, pulled out this bench that sits at the end of our bed. She set it in the middle of our bedroom, and she climbed up on it.
Now there was some music going in the background while Lauren and I were getting dressed. She was still in her pjs. She pretended she was on the balance beam from the Olympics. She twisted around and twirled. I was giving her commentary. “Norah Chandler from the United States of America. Oh, look at this, ladies and gentlemen. Here comes the twist and the dismount. She stuck it!” Lauren and I applauded, and we scored her right. She got about a 6.2 or something like that. We scored it, and we all celebrated it.
All three of my children are a delight to me, so I just want to speak very frankly and honestly. You turn a dog loose on any of my children, I will physically murder you. Do you understand what I’m saying? I mean, you can laugh all you want, but I would punch you and choke you and try to rip out your… I would physically try to destroy you. You might be a big ol’ boy. I’ll take my chances. I’m wiry, but I know the soft spots. You might be all yoked up, MMA fighter. I’ll punch you in the throat. I don’t care how bad you are. You’re going to go to the ground, and I’m going to take the boots to you.
Here’s my thought. Here’s what was haunting to me. How did they do this week in, week out, month in, month out, century in, century out with nothing on the horizon? The Supreme Court of the United States of America said in 1954, “This stops.” Nearly a decade later, nothing had changed. How did they do it? How did, week in and week out, they walk under this oppression without going violent? The thing to keep in mind is if you watch the Civil Rights Movement under King, it doesn’t go violent. Now things get goofy after King, but if you watch King and you watch King as he leads, it never goes violent.
So I’ve always wondered, How did they do it? Now I know the big answer: God. I know the big answer, but I want to know how they did it because there has to be some special dispensation of grace, because I’m telling you…what I said earlier is the honest truth. I know I’d go to jail. I know I’d make the news. I know I’m going to lose my job. There’s not going to be like, “Well, he was just in murdering the guy. Let’s let him preach.” That’s not going to happen. I know all it would cost me. I know my other children would not get to visit Daddy except through glass, and I would still murder you. How did they do it?
About four or five months ago, we had Dr. Rick Rigsby come speak to our staff. Dr. Rick Rigsby was a long-time professor at Texas A&M University. In the end, I cornered Dr. Rigsby, because I needed to know the answer to this question because it really has haunted me all these years. I’ve never been able to figure out how they endured. He said, “There were multiple pieces, but let me give you the main one.”
What he pointed to as the main refuge, that thing that sustained the obedience of African Americans in the 60s during the Civil Rights Movement was how they approached God and how they worshiped with one another. I don’t know if you’ve been a part of an African American church service. The way they do it is call and response. Do you understand what that means? That means in that service, there are no spectators but God, and everybody has come to play. There is interaction at every level of worship. It’s not guys on stage and people in the crowd. It’s we’re all here to get after the Lord. It’s going to go long, and it’s going to go good.
Man, I don’t know if you’ve been there, but in June, I was invited to speak at the E.K. Bailey Expository Preaching Conference. It was me and a thousand African American pastors. Only white dude in the room. I started preaching and they started… It threw me off. I mean, everybody was shouting out. It threw me off because I’m used to you. Here’s what you do. I’m like, “What’s that word? What does that say?” You mumble. Right? I had a guy pacing in the back going, “That’s right. Come on!”
Anglos don’t do that. Anglos have had bred into them, have been trained, “You are here to perform for me. I am not a participant in this. I am a spectator,” because we have not borne the crushing weight of desperate need. So tell me about that, Pastor. Not a “joining in with” but rather… So Rigsby said they would come in. That’s where the four-hour service is. If you get white people talking about black church, and you’re like, “I’m going to check out this church.” They’re like, “Pack a lunch, bro. Pack your lunch! I’m just sayin’! They’re going to sing for like two hours. They’re going to preach for an hour-and-forty-five minutes. They’re going to sing for two hours. You better bring a sandwich or a cracker or something, man. You’re going to die.”
That’s not how Anglos do it, is it? Most Anglos are like, Hey, listen. You better be starting to wrap it up now, Pastor Chandler. Right? So this call and response culture was they pressed hard into the presence of God. Here’s what’s spectacular, if you think about it. In that four-hour gathering, nothing got solved. So they’re walking into that service past signs that read, “Colored,” “Whites only,” past restaurants they are not allowed to go into, out of impoverished neighborhoods with impoverished schools into a worship center. In that four hours…listen to me…nothing changed.
They walked right out, and those signs were still there, right back to their impoverished housing, right back to the broken system. Nothing changed, but in those four hours, they met with the living God, and upon meeting with the living God, he was enough to sustain them and to make all of that go away for just a bit. What happened as Rigsby began to unpack that this was the fuel for their obedience, some other Scriptures started to jump out to me. Let’s go to Psalms 27. We’re going to pick it up in verse 4. King David has nothing in common with an African American in the 60s. Nothing. Hence the title King David. I want you to watch what King David prays to God. Psalms 27. We’re going to pick it up in verse 4.
“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Now let’s stop. We’re going to read more of this, but I want to stop. I, at times, can feel stressed. Now I feel as though I have very busy, albeit good, life. I pastor this church. I’m president of the Acts 29 church planting network, 450 churches on six continents (and growing), writing books, teaching outside of here. I’m a very busy man. I can get stressed out. Anybody else can feel a bit overwhelmed and stressed out? Yeah, okay.
But you and I aren’t kings. You and I might be businessmen and salesmen, and we might have busy lives, but no one is managing a kingdom. If it is, it’s your tiny, little, sad kingdom. You feel like you have a kingdom, you have a little ghetto kingdom, all right? You’re not sovereign of your own state. You can’t declare people get murdered. You can’t declare people can be executed. You can’t declare this is the tax rate, can you? If you can, please call me. You can’t do those things.
King David can.
So David has massively complex issues both as a statesman and as a husband and father, but did you hear his prayer? Do you see that those problems are on his radar, but he is not asking for the solution to any of those problems? He is saying, “One thing have I asked…that will I seek after.” “What I need, I need to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
When David says he wants to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, he is not saying, I really like just to hang out in church. You know what I’ll do? Let’s escape. Let’s forget crazy family. Let’s forget the stresses of work. Let’s just 24/7 church-service it. That’s not what he is saying. The Bible is clear the glory of God and the presence of God cannot be held by the temple. It can’t. Even at the erection of the temple, the Bible is clear that the glory of God is way too big for the temple and that it overflows out of the temple.
So God is present in two different ways. God is present in his omnipresence. What that means is God is everywhere, always in his fullness. Do you understand all those components? He is everywhere, always in his fullness. So right now, God is here just like he is on Pluto, just like he is in the farthest reaches of the universe. There’s not like a little piece of him here and a little piece of him there. He is always everywhere in his fullness. That’s called omnipresence.
There’s a second kind of presence the Bible often speaks of, and that’s what theologians would call special presence or manifest presence. That’s when God reveals his presence in such a way that his glory is made visible. It is felt in our hearts. Upon his arrival, what is truly important is visible, and what is not important no longer seems important. Are you tracking with that? So God shows up. He shows up in a spectacular, visible way. He moves hearts. Our hearts are softened. Maybe tears come. Maybe we fall to our knees. We feel small. He seems big, and that brings about joy.
That’s manifest presence. That’s special presence. When David says, “What I’m after is to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,” he is not talking about omnipresence. He is talking about special presence. When he says, “That I may gaze upon your beauty,” he is talking about seeing and savoring God in such a way that he becomes supreme in David’s affections. He is talking about manifest presence, not omnipresence, because when we experience manifest presence, look at what David says happens.
This is verse 5. “For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble.” Okay, I love that the Bible never pretends the day of trouble isn’t coming. Did you notice he didn’t say, “You don’t need a shelter because he’ll stop the storm”? No, he doesn’t say that. A storm is coming. He is going to protect you in the storm. You shouldn’t be surprised when storms come. The Bible never says they’re not coming. In fact, the Bible almost goes over the top going, “They’re coming! They’re coming!” What God has promised us is not that he would save us from the storm but that he would protect us in the storm.
Then look at this next line. “He will conceal me under the cover of his tent.” The tent in the Old Testament almost always is referring to the Tent of Meeting. That’s how they would hear somebody talking about a tent, specifically in relationship to God. So the Tent of Meeting is where God would meet with Moses. When God was in the tent, it’s not an omnipresence, because he is always in the tent. An omnipresence. But when God’s presence would fall on the Tent of Meeting, Moses would go in there. Smoke would cover the tent, just as a way of going, “Hey, man. You’re not ready for this. Don’t come in or you’ll get killed. Don’t come into this tent right now. I’m talking with my boy Moses. Stay away.”
His special presence would fall. The Tent of Meeting is the idea of a heavy, thick manifest presence of God. The promise is in the day of storm, we will not only be protected, but God will draw us into his tent, which is why the manifest presence of God is such a spectacular thing…There is a tremendous amount of loss and grief among our people because we live in a fallen world.
One of the things I’ve been able to pick out over my nearly decade with you now is that in that room, God shows up in such a way that he grants peace that passes understanding. It’s not that everything is okay. If you think back to that opening illustration of the Civil Rights, it’s not that everything is okay. It’s just that in that moment, God is so near that all of that melts away and you get what you need. You have him. Then he says next, if you’ll look at that next line, not only will he pull us into his tent, but he will lift us high upon a rock.
The psalmist, in particular David, loves to talk about his feet being set upon rock. Three years ago, I was still… I can’t believe we’re almost three years out. Lauren and I sat across the table with my neurosurgeon, and he said, “Best-case scenario here is probably two to three years. You have two to three years, so you need to start to figure out how to head on home to be with the Lord. Here’s your timeline: probably two to three years on average. That’s your bell curve.”
That afternoon in his office, man, the bottom just dropped out from underneath both Lauren and me. Man, I couldn’t, for all I tried to muster, even talk. We just cried a lot and hugged a lot. I was having to dial my phone and give it to Brian Miller, chairman of the elders here, who is now one of our lead pastors, and he was talking to my friends and telling other loved ones, “This is what they’ve just been told,” because I simply didn’t have it in me. We were already getting pinged a lot by people asking what we had heard, so we were rolling out information through him.
I just couldn’t get my bearings. I mean, everything and nothing simultaneously was going through my head.How do I prepare my kids for this? You don’t die pretty of brain cancer. How do I prepare them for what they’re about to see? How do I lead well and finish well with the church? Am I ever going to feel strong again ever? Am I ever going to have energy again? Am I about to get pounded the last two years of my life with poison and radiation? Is this how this ends for me? All this and nothing is flying through my head simultaneously, and I couldn’t get my footing. I felt like I was sinking in sand.
Then later that night, the tears ran out. I don’t know if you’ve had that experience yet where there are no more tears to come out of you. You need a Gatorade or something. I mean, you’re done. In the middle of that dark night of the soul, we began to remember some things. Some texts began to be stirred up in my heart. God began to pull me into the Tent of Meeting, began to shelter me from the storm, began to shelter Lauren from the storm. Then we began to remember, He is not God; God is God. He’s guessing; he knows. He’s doing mathematics, and he created numbers. He’s prophesying in part; he knows in full.
Although God has chosen not to stop this, and he could have, that means he is at work in ways I don’t understand, and I need to simply trust him. We began to grow in confidence. It’s not in my doctors, although I love my doctors. Not in confidence in my ability to fight cancer. You don’t fight cancer. Cancer will kick the crap out of you. You can talk all day. It will light you up. Anybody who has gone through it, you simply survive a day at a time. All that bravado, “Live strong!” Live strong while you’re throwing up on your bathroom floor? I don’t think so. You put that swoosh on you all you want. It will kick the trash out of you.
I didn’t have confidence in me, in my will. I just thought there was a God who was able, and I was trusting him to be willing. A day at a time I believed he was going to give me all the strength I needed for that day. I believe he loves my kids more than I do. He loves my wife more than I love my wife. He can be trusted. “I’m yours. Wring me out how you want, but I believe you’re able and you’re willing to heal me completely. I’m going to walk in that until you reveal something else.”
I began to get my feet back on the rock. That’s what happens in manifest presence, special presence. God makes himself known in a real and tangible way. He brings about peace. He shelters, and then he gets your feet out of the muck and the mire, and he gets it up on the rock. It doesn’t make the problems go away. It doesn’t mean the difficulty goes away. It means he is enough, even in the difficulties. Then look where he goes next.
“And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me…” So my head will be lifted up. If you are defeated, the posture of defeat is head down, but what he is saying is, “Get your heads up.” The psalmist does this line: “Get your eyes up. Lift up your heads. Get your heads up.” Why? “Because he and his presence have vanquished, have conquered, your enemies.” Now I need you to hear this. No matter who you are, you only have two enemies. There are only two…
You have two enemies. Are you ready? Here they are. Here are your two enemies: Satan and demonic forces and you. That’s it. Those are the only enemies you have. Even Stacey (sorry, if you’re Stacey) fits into one of those two categories: your enemies are either demonic in nature or flesh-oriented. They are your iniquities, your bents, your sinfulness. I preach my guts out to you that no one has lied to you, betrayed you, and deceived you more than you have. No one. No one! You are your greatest enemy.
Now here’s why we get our heads up: because when the manifest presence of God shows up, when that special presence shows up, both of those completely lose their power.
When God’s spirit and God’s presence really reveal themselves, you don’t think you’re awesome at all, but you know who is, and that’s a delight! That’s why he is going, “Get your head up! Get your head up! Desire this. Want this. Seek this. Get your head up! Your enemies will be triumphed.” Then look at the net result. “…and I will offer in his tent [in that presence] sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.” So the only right, good response to the manifest presence of God is fervent, passionate worship of his name and his renown. We’ll talk more about that momentarily.
What we find in David’s life is when he can’t get there he gets really frustrated. “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for you, O God.” “I thirst for you. I’m hungry. When I can meet with God?” That’s that angst of wanting to get into the manifest presence and not being able to get there. In fact, the Bible says us to seek this presence. Psalms 105, verse 4, says, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” So you and I are to seek after the manifest presence of God…
Although we cannot control the manifest presence of God, what we learn from Scripture is that there are things that attract the manifest presence of God, and there are things that repel the manifest presence of God…
Click HERE to read the full script from Matt Chandler’s sermon “Under the Faucet”