Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Lately I have been reading articles by a few Evangelicals who are deeply committed to racial justice.  As I agree and sympathize with much, I do find myself in reaction to some of the things they have said. These ideas, and others like them, spring up from time to time, although often in new phrases and provocative rhetoric.   Some of what they have said is not new, they are echoes of various lines of thinking that have been part of conversations that have been present as long as I have been involved in the struggle for justice and reconciliation. 

   Ah, you will see I mentioned a word that is part of what is at stake in the conversation, and that is the word “reconciliation.”  The phrase “racial reconciliation” is a term that has been at times threatening, revolutionary, and welcoming to people who have been convicted about the racial and ethnic alienation that has been present in our society since the idea of race was constructed to help both Arabs and Europeans feel justified in their exploitation of various nations, namely those nations and ethnicities of color.

   This term is also slammed, shunned, and discarded by some as being either misunderstood or misused, and thereby not radical enough in the quest for justice. Some have postulated there can be no reconciliation since we were never unified to begin with, and though this sounds like it might make sense, the idea discards Adam and Eve and Noah as a unified human race, Babel as the dividing of the nations, and the calling of Abraham as a Jew to divide the world into Jews (circumcised) and Gentiles (uncircumcised).  I take that criticism as a cheap rhetorical trick with no logical foundation.  It also seems to accept the postulation of race as a biological reality and not a constructed one.

     Some don’t like the word “racial” since it was a socially constructed idea to explain “color” in various human beings and to assign them a lower status by white people.  No less a person than John Perkins has recently spoken powerfully against this word since it creates differentiation between people groups, and God is no respecter of persons.  He thinks that our continued use of it perpetuates the differentiation in a negative way.  Nevertheless we all pretty much admit to such realities as “racism” and doing away with the term is not going to do away with racists anytime soon.

    Then there is the criticism of the entire phrase as one seen to be preferred by white people because they see it as an individualized process or event and fail (or refuse) to see systemic injustice in the broader society.  One of the writers I read wants only to speak of “white supremacy,” and feels that is where the onus belongs, on the white community. I certainly sympathize with the need to see justice as a larger issue than simply our personal bias and prejudice.

    White Supremacy is a term that is searching for some consensus.  It seemed to have a historical context in the teachings of the slave justifiers (even among Muslim scholars prior to the Western slave trade) the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, and going back to Nazi Germany’s view of the “Superior Race.”   The attempt to dump the guilt of such association  on all white people due to their being in the numerical majority, having inherent white privilege as a cultural majority in a racialized nation, and or being clueless as to what systemic injustice does to people is problematic at best, and frankly, racist at worst.

   Let me be clear, as our former president used to say.  I think white supremacists are dangerous, and the belief in white supremacy is the essential building block of intentional white privilege.  In short systemic decisions to deprive people of color of their rights while seeking to maintain those of whites is due to an evil and deceived thinking that being white is superior and something to be maintained by economic, political, and social means.   The use of violence to achieve and maintain racial advantage has often followed soon after, but not all those who agree with this racist ideology or who passively and/or ignorantly go along and enjoy its benefits are people who would engage in violence. 

  I also believe that racists can be converted and changed, and that the white population that is carried along in the stream of white privilege has a conscience that can be stimulated by truth and justice. This is one of the  historic realities of the power of the Civil Rights movement in our nation, and no matter the mockery by some of the Christian Church the fact is that some of those Christians were touched and awakened to help bring about legal and substantive change in our society.  It did not happen without them.  

   Political ideologues, in their rhetorical world, are adept at polarizing issues, leaving no middle ground, and thereby marginalizing people who are still learning and still becoming conscious of issues.  In their eyes you are either as radical as they are, or you are the enemy.  Taking and using such political device and rhetoric may sound and read as prophetic, but the question remains as to whether or not it is genuinely Christian?  Some of it frankly is bitter, a bit mean, and seems to take delight in making people feel miserable.

   Some of the rhetoric is no better, and serves no other purpose, than name calling.  I suspect some of it is an attempt to feel powerful, a sort of triumphalism, through the use of language. Rhetorical “one ups-man-ship” might make one feel better but I don’t think it convinces anybody but one’s allies.  Instead of seeking peace, which is a Christian duty, command, and practice, it alienates.  I believe one of the worse things we can do is to use language (no matter how lyrical or artistic) that is confused, opaque, and that causes more misunderstanding and less healing.

   One of the realities we live in is that of a demographic white majority in the United States, and lately we are seeing in the white population (both here and in Europe) a strong reaction against and resistance to any changing of that reality through immigration.  White cultural reality is very strong in Evangelicalism, and those minorities which are present in a white Evangelical world are forced to encounter “white normativity.” Whether or not white people in majority or whole admit to the presence of other cultural realities in the United States I think "white normativity" is going to be a cultural reality for a long time to come.  

   Some minority individuals decide that self-segregation is what they would rather pursue for their own cultural comfort, healing, and safety.  They seek an escape from the cultural fatigue and aggravation which seems to be fairly consistent in the education and training of “one more white person,” who has only now realized and admitted there are other cultural realities.  If it is not self-segregation it sometimes seems to be an emotional self-alienation with a lot of complaining.  

    There is a corresponding majority culture reaction by which racial issues are simply shut down, walked away from, or mocked and ridiculed if a white person feels racially aggravated. Too often white people seem to react to racial issues, or even some racial event on the news, as if every mention, achievement, or expressed anger of black folks was taking something away from them.  When that resistance to engaging in a healthy understanding and realization of racism gives up to listening, learning, and hoping then the turn begins; the turn to reconciliation and justice.

   The price to pay for real “reconciliation” is high for each of us in our own ethnic and cultural groups and we pay it in different ways.  I believe minorities pay a higher price but it is arrogance to assume others are paying nothing (though they may not being paying the full price yet), it is disingenuous and dangerous to assume it will cost any of us little.  There is both an illegitimate and a legitimate price to be paid. The illegitimate price of self-hatred and complete assimilation into the “other” while discarding our own culture and ethnic identity pays negative dividends in self, family, and community.  There is only one thing worthy of paying the legitimate price of reconciliation (which is a long exposure to misunderstanding, insult, attacks of various kinds, and sacrifice in relationships,) and that is the pursuit of being the answer to the prayer of Jesus; that we might be one.

     The argument for expanding the term White Supremacy to include the entire white population (and thus take the onus off of specific political and violent groups) as responsible for systemic injustice seems to negate the idea of personal repentance, and personal relational healing, and declare it to be inconsequential as long as injustice continues. In an attempt to thwart individual evasion of institutional racism it makes the personal repentance of racism meaningless.  We agree that change must be pursued in "loosening the chains of injustice and untying the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke," as Isaiah says in chapter 58:6 Change has to begin somewhere, and more pointedly in "someone." From such individuals justice begins to arise, and it must if the repentance and change is real.

     To take the term White Supremacy and make it universal rather than specific to hate groups is to deprive all of us of the vigilance needed to monitor their incipient violence and to be prepared to resist it.  White supremacists must love this universal application and definitive inflation.

   I would like to be one of the few voices lifted up to defend the word “reconciliation.”  Not only do I like it, want to practice it, and have paid some measure of a price to pursue it, but my bottom line is that I think it is Biblical.  It is a word far greater than race, full of grace and mercy, includes all the Gentiles in the Body of Christ (thus including in its central idea inter-Gentile union), and the Jews, and is one of the soteriological effects of the death of Jesus on the cross.

    Reconciliation is not a word to despise for the reason that being personally reconciled (to God or people) does not automatically end systemic injustice, but rather a word that is to be preached!  It is our future hope that Jesus will reconcile all things to himself.  In short, it is a process which God commissioned, a message and a ministry we should all be caught up in and which will not be fulfilled in our lifetimes.  

    To reject reconciliation, and yes, racial reconciliation, and substitute it with permanent guilt until there is complete systemic change, is defeatist, despairing, unrealistic, and ultimately creates more division.  I think it is better to spell out, and preach out, the price of real and Biblical reconciliation; the cost of sacrificially enslaving ourselves to other groups to win them, the cost of suffering with and for them in a true “becoming” with them.

    One phrase that comes up is “white fragility” in the context of conversations about race and injustice. I think I understand the historic dynamic but unfortunately this is a universal human problem, and not simply one that can be assigned to one people group.  It is difficult, as a representative of a particular racial, ethnic, or cultural group, to constantly hear the pathology present in one’s own people group carped on by another ethnic group.  Racial conversations are frequently difficult and sometimes feel threatening; the use of blaming and provocative language in the guise of the pursuit of justice (without giving hope) I believe will be self-defeating.

     I have seen this reaction in various groups when the issues of public health and social concerns and "pathologies"are listed by race or ethnicity.  Invariably the argument is made to stop blaming those listed as representative of the statistics (from our ethnic group, or our ethnic group a whole) and attack something else; the system, society, and history that has helped to create those problems.  I’m just wondering if you can feel my love if I keep telling you how bad your people are?

      Can any of our identified racial groups own any of (their) our peculiar or popular sins? It is no doubt difficult. Will our identified racial groups continue to resist group labeling as insulting and demoralizing?  I have a suspicion that they will, therefore such labeling should be used tenderly, strategically, tactfully, and even lovingly in trying to bring about change.  Every cultural group has particular sins that should bring shame to them, and certainly the white majority in this country has earned much of the shame and guilt that generally they don’t like to hear about or embrace. 

     Guilt, by itself, is an insufficient motivator and is quite often the edge of the blade on which people will either divide into denial, anger, and resentment on one side and admission, confession, and a search for restoration on the other. The preaching of the Gospel always contains the bad news of sinful reality, but it is not a Gospel at all if it doesn’t have “good news.”  

     The Gospel, the real Gospel of Christ, is not true to itself if all it does is stick people with guilt and leaves it there.  This is not a way of saying that we shouldn't preach against societal or national sins,  it is a way of saying that with repentance there is forgiveness, there is grace, there is, (watch it, here it comes…) reconciliation.  I see that word as one which has a milestone beginning but continues as a process, both personally, socially, institutionally, and ecclesiastically.

   It is progress when any community faces its reality head on, and in humility and courage seeks to change its culture toward righteousness, both personal and social, in its behavior. As the Scripture says in Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a disgrace to any people.”  Does any of this humility and courage happen without change in individuals?  I would submit that it cannot. Does it suddenly happen generally, culturally, systemically, politically?   While some despise the individual aspect of Christian faith as insufficient for corporate change it is nevertheless a historic (societies and nations have changed) and realistic part of the whole, it just has to be preached (consistently) as a beginning and not an end in itself.


Friday, August 25, 2017


  Did anything ever really happen in history that all of us could agree on?  Is there anything that has happened at which we could all say, “that was evil, that was bad, and that should never have happened?”  Is everything up for interpretation?   If we agree certain events did happen do we have the right to define and interpret it only from our ideological position?  Do only the victors have the right, and the authority, to write history?  Do the losers have the authority to rewrite it?   Does the majority have the right in their privilege to assess, define, and articulate for everyone, or just themselves, or not even themselves if it offends the minority?

    Is anything really true?   How long are we allowed to keep words and phrases before someone tells us we can’t use them anymore, that they have become offensive and that the way they are used has taken on new meaning and we are no longer allowed to use them?  I confess that sometimes I am a bit confused by the independent and self-authorizing claim to redefinition. I am thrown into asking, “who the hell made you Noah Webster?”

    We have certain philosophical and political dynamics which put us into a veritable sea of a tidal lexicon.  Post modernism has sought to empower people (groups) by allowing them to control their own narrative.  This sounds democratic and just, until of course one realizes that controlling one’s own narrative is no guarantee of honesty, accuracy, or the absence of self-deception. 

   Political ideologues have realized that allowing the simple acknowledgment of historical tragedy forces people into owning shame.  To accept guilt allows the other party power and leverage, especially relating to social issues arising from that guilt.  Therefore it is politically expedient to deny certain parts of history, or to deny the ownership of the guilt of it, and in essence to rewrite it by not allowing it to be discussed in any open and engaging manner but only as vituperative demagoguery.

   All the abuses of fallacious arguments are evident in political discourse today, and much of it centers on race.  The issue of race and the history of race and racism in our country is a subject of much pain, anger, and guilt, or a tortured reactive denial.  The election of President Obama heightened the discourse, and racial feelings were often disguised and concealed behind political sentiments, although not as well hidden as some supposed.  Some political demagogues sought to silence any protest or complaint about racism as simple hucksterism.  Much of the populace became immune to any racial sensitivity, tolerance, or desire for understanding let alone reconciliation.  Certain politicians saw the issue of race as their Achilles’ heel and became hard hearted and steel faced about the subject, building a Teflon heart and a non-stick conscience, and their followers repeat the mantras of denial.

   Where is the great moral center of the country that was shaken by the actions of civil rights heroes and disgusted by civil rights villains, such as Bull Conner, George Wallace, the KKK, and those who bombed Sunday Schools?  That moral center allowed us to make national progress but the prominent political discourse of today is toward extremism and polarization, with an attendant deafness to anything said by the other side.  If people are not deaf they have become deft at redirection, where the deflection of criticism is simply by way of assigning the critic to the camp of some other political party or political person’s worst previous political act or opinion or indiscretion.  It seems to fail the comprehension of some that one could be opposed to certain policies of Trump and not have to be, at the same time, an advocate for the policies of a Clinton or Obama.

   This is not new of course, such radical division helped to create the Civil War, and that conflict continues to simmer in a rather consistent fight to revise its causes and see its main participants as heroes. Certainly it was about land and States Rights, but more accurately and primarily about a State’s right to not only allow slavery but to encourage its spread.  Certainly many of the men that fought for the South thought they were fighting against the tyranny of a Federal government and for “freedom,” while in actuality propping up those governments intent on continuing the chattel enslavement of others.

     Such incongruity is part of the American dilemma.  The Confederacy is full of tragic heroes who were fighting on the wrong side.  No veneration of their personal faith or gentility can wash their hands clean of the blood of their victims, either that of the slaves or of the nation’s soldiers committed to preserving the Union whose majority voted against the wishes of the slave owners. 

    As one pursues the dialogue about race and racial history one sees the ebb and flow of vocabulary, redefinition of terms, and the attempt as it were to create new realities.  There is a white majority, a dominating white culture, in America.  As with all dominant cultures in any society or nation it has privilege.  Some of it is intentional and intentionally protected by various individuals and groups, some of it is a de-facto reality that the majority assumes, accepts, and avoids confronting.  I don't believe cultural majorities can erase all privilege or normality, it comes with being a majority.

     However, when one peels back, as it were, the onion of history it is simply jaw dropping amazing how many economic, land and real estate, and political decisions in our local, state, and national past have been made on the basis of race and for the protection of white privilege.  Some of the benefactors of privilege are oblivious to it as a social reality and become offended, in a very American individualistic kind of way, to think that they are privileged at all. 

     What complicates the European-American experience is the historical social construct of race to create and perpetuate “white privilege.”  If I am not inherently superior to you it is hard to justify my taking your land, and taking you to another land against your will, and making you work for me in perpetuity – which means not only do I own you but I own your future and the generations that will come from you. Such arrogant beliefs of inherent superiority make people bestial. 

    How does the minority, the descendants of former slaves, speak about these things?  How can these things be spoken about and with members of the majority culture?   White dominance at one time forced a black man to hold down his head and his eyes and his only allowed response was a “yessa masa.”  Is the dialogue now only bitterness, is it hate, is it insult, is it condemnation?  If we were not Christians this might be an unsurprising historical outcome.

   Is the discussion in our current era only about white intransigence, ignorance, and the mockery of inept attempts for reconciliation?   Is reconciliation despised both as a process and a goal?  Is freedom become by definition a new segregation with a certain triumphalism and assumed moral superiority, but this time on the part of, and driven by, ethnic minorities?

    So the dictionary changes where (supposedly) racism can only be exercised or practiced by a majority person or institution that holds power, but cannot and will not be owned by a person of color, since by definition of being a minority they cannot actually hold power.   The dictionary changes whereby “racial reconciliation” is a white goal and is now considered a fiction since there was no “conciliation” in the first place.  The dictionary changes where any sociological reflection on minority neighborhoods or demographics that delves into pathologies of such communities is off limits as it produces shame and seems to deny the person-hood of those who live there.  So, the word "thug" cannot be used because it (supposedly) replaces the “n” word.  The dictionary changes as cross-cultural or multi-ethnic cannot be defined as such if a white person is in charge in any meaningful way.

    These are all current examples of problems within racial discussions, and some of it frankly is wrong, arbitrary, illogical, and fueled by an incipient racial agenda rather than a Christian one.  The only way to peace is through truth and love.  Redefining terms as a way of feeling powerful through provocation doesn’t always get us to peace.  Every time I use the word black or white to assign problems, patterns, or pathologies to a certain group it is incumbent on me to be careful and precise about my explanation.

     But not only that, because I am a follower of Jesus, because I am trying to be a peacemaker (which I believe one must be if they are to be faithful to Christ) then I must also be loving, because it is through loving each other that men know that we are His disciples.  This means I must be fair, and kind, and gentle, and seeking always to speak the truth in love.  If I am faithful to Jesus I must be humble, longsuffering, preferring others in honor, and intentionally seeking to be at peace with them.

   Can I not be angry at injustice and sin?  Not only can we, we must be, and this is part of telling the truth.   Yet, the way I tell the truth says much about my intention.  What is my agenda?   Where is the commitment to peacemaking?   Will I achieve it by humiliating or destroying you? Whether one wishes to use the term racial reconciliation or not, reconciliation is a message and ministry from God and through God’s people; peacekeeping is the way to blessing.

    As a believer I am intentionally stuck with a commitment and a submission to the Word of God, the final arbitrator of what is actually true, and right, and good.
James 3:17-18 says, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness."

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


   This last weekend I, along with my wife, gave my daughter away in marriage.  Actually it was entirely at my daughter’s request and I wouldn’t have done it otherwise.  My wife and I have prayed for her since she was born that the Lord would provide the man for her to marry or at least make her content with His will, whatever God wanted.  I confess I thought she would get married, it was obvious she wanted to be married, and there were times I worried too much about it and had to decide to trust God about His decision for her.  In God’s providence so it has come about.   I am thankful.

    Several people have asked me over this last week, “How do you feel?”   Some wondered if it would be hard for me to stand up there and give the short homily the couple requested, or would I cry as I walked her down the aisle?  There was so much curiosity about (or noisiness into) my emotional state; though it did force me to reflect on what my emotions actually were and was I indeed showing them or not?

    I began to wonder if I should feel guilty for not feeling something tangible or identifiable about the whole event.  It took me a bit to remember something about myself, and that is that I am a person who often doesn’t know how to feel about things, or isn’t exactly sure how he is feeling at especially significant moments.  I have had this problem with grief in losing people I love, or the birth of my children, or even acknowledging or coming to grips with my fears.  When my kids were born women were all over the room gushing and asking how I felt and my reaction was that I had just met this person and didn’t even really know them yet.  

   I kind of feel that way about my son-in-law.  He seems like a great guy, I know nothing bad about him, and my daughter evidently likes him.  I don’t know him real well as of yet, and I am hoping to come to love him and have deep and positive feelings about him.  I don’t know if I would be over the moon about anybody driving off with my daughter, but I am happy he will be paying her bills in the future.  Not exuberant, just satisfied and relieved.

    Now, about my daughter, and I only have one of them, along with three sons.  She is the youngest of our family and the last one to be married.  If you were to ask if she was spoiled I would say, “I certainly hope so since we tried so hard.”  She occupies a singular space in our family, an intense interest and friend of my wife (and most of the women of her family), the one most to be protected and for whom to be provided.

   Yet, we found out early we could not do it, not adequately and not completely.  God took that away from me as her father when I stood helpless watching her go into a seizure.  All my man strength, all my education, all my readiness to do violence to an enemy, whatever money or connections I had meant nothing to what her own brain was doing to her.  The seizures would never stop until we got her to the emergency room so they could treat her.  As she began to grow up it affected her learning and so it would erase all her reading ability.  Her dyslexia meant our local Christian school could not help her.

    Helplessness in the face of something attacking your child forces you into an emotional displacement; is my emotion anger, is it guilt, is it shame, is it sorrow?  I was certainly terrified. I had a sister with a brain lesion and I couldn’t help her either.  My daughter was beautiful, almost as if in fulfillment of a prophecy as we named her after one of the three most beautiful women in the world, one of the daughters of Job.  So all of us in our family became even more protective of her, knowing where she was at all times, and who she might be with, and thinking of her needs.

   Before our eyes God showed us that the good results in her life would not be our fault, not to our glory, nor due to our efforts.   Doctors and medicine helped, good schools, teachers, and her own mother’s home schooling all helped, but it was the Lord’s mercy and grace that healed her and made her well.

     It was grace that gave her grit so that she worked hard, really hard, and pushed herself so that she now approaches finishing her Master’s degree.  It was grace that made her smart, and grace that made her kind, caring for others, delighting in children, concerned for and about the needs of others, intolerant of injustice and racial bigotry, and full of appreciation for things true and beautiful.  Her graciousness to intellectually interact with me is one of the great benefits to me in knowing her as an adult.

  So, I don’t know how to feel about it all.  I think you can tell at least one thing, I am immensely proud and pleased with her.  I count her as a profound friend, and someone who grew into that relationship with me.  Since the time, it seems long ago when I realized that I could not protect her, I had to turn her over to the Lord.  I had to consciously trust Him with my daughter’s life.  That means I don’t feel that I have lost her, but I do feel a pretty consistent amazement that God keeps giving her life, and blessings, and His faithfulness to watch over her.  With all that, I feel pretty good.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Practical Suggestions for Redemptive Ethnic Unity

In light of the recent incident in Charlottesville I wanted to follow up on a friend’s request for a few suggestions concerning the pursuit of redemptive ethnic unity. I define redemptive ethnic unity as the tangible unity God’s people are called to experience and enjoy in the local church. This isn’t exhaustive as each point could be developed further. Hopefully, it will provide a good starting point for those who wish to pursue the authentic unity of God’s people.
1. Begin by asking yourself the following question: Does the church I serve need people from various ethnic groups to demonstrate a biblical, relevant witness to my community, my fellow church members and our children?
2. Remember this is a gospel issue since it's God's express will to bring people from different ethnic groups into one multi-ethnic worshiping community called the church. (Gen. 12:3; 18:18-19; Ps. 72:8-11; Isa. 2:1-5; Jer. 3:15-17; John 10:16; Ch. 17; Acts 2; Eph. 2:11-3:21; Rev. 7)
3. Pray about these things consistently. Through prayer God does some miraculous things in the human heart.
4. Cultivate the practice of thinking redemptively instead of ideologically. For example, redemptive thinking leads us to consider our responsibility to pursue unity across ethnic lines. Ideological thinking can lead to complacency with the status quo. Redemptive thinking emphasizes biblical virtues like sacrifice, love, humility, kindness and compassion. Ideological thinking stresses American virtues like individual rights, fairness, merit and tolerance.
5. Pray about working toward more ethnic unity within your local church. It can do little good and seem hypocritical for us to say that 'all we need is the gospel' if the gospel's power can't begin to reflect God's will in this area within our churches.
6. Read some insightful books on the topic such as Free at Last? By Dr. Carl Ellis, Aliens in the Promised Land: Why Minority Leadership is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions. Edited by Dr. Anthony Bradley, Divided by Faith by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith, Heal Us Emmanuel, (Edited by Rev. Doug Serven) One New Man by Dr. Jarvis Williams and Winning the Race to Unity: Is Racial Reconciliation Working? Clarence E. Shuler. 
7. Listen to podcasts like Pass the Mic and Truth's Table to gain some solid, biblical insight into these issues.
8. Consider attending the LDR conference. LDR is a yearly gathering on Labor Day weekend that focuses on biblically based redemptive ethnic unity and social justice.
9. Be sure to have actual face to face, and not just Facebook conversations with minorities who tend to have a different view from most people in your church or circle of friends about this.
10. Consider coordinating a church effort to establish a relationship with church of a different ethnicity. You can begin with joint worship services and then move to joint men's, women's and youth retreats. One of the goals is to build genuine relationships with a group of God's people. These relationships will enable you to talk about your lives, our common faith, along with some of the ways we differ in our approach to race.
11. Learn the history of conservative evangelicals on race relations from the late 19th into the late 20th century. It will help to place our current challenges into context. You can begin with books like God's Long Summer (Charles Marsh) and For a Continuing Church (Dr. Sean Michael Lucas).
12. Related to that is the importance of learning about African-American history during this period. The following is a sample of where you can begin: Rev. Dr. King's Letter from A Birmingham Jail, The Souls of Black Folk by Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and the video documentary series Eyes on the Prize. Eyes on the Prize followed the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 through 1965.
13. Check out our art. A people's art is a window into their souls. Read poetry, listen to music, attend theater productions and movies. The following is a very short list to get started. The characters in these stories examine African-Americans as they struggle with issues of dignity, identity and what it means to be human in America. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Fences by August Wilson, Crash, Boyz In the Hood, Precious, Twelve Years a Slave, 42, Selma, and Ragtime (musical).
 14. Finally, remember that redemptive ethnic unity matters to the living God. As such we can trust in Him to do the impossible in this area. Take some time to carefully read Eph. 2:11-4:6. See what the passage teaches about our unity across ethnic lines and then reflect on Paul’s exclamation of praise concerning God’s power to bring it to pass for His own glory. Finally, note how God has determined to receive this glory from His multi-ethnic worshiping community called the church and His Son throughout eternity.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Joyfully in Christ, 
Pastor Lance

Monday, August 7, 2017


Raging unbelief, but I’m not talking about atheists.  I’m not referring to skeptics, agnostics, or any unbeliever who struggles to have or understand faith.  I’m speaking about myself.  I’m classified as a believer, as a Christian, Reformed, orthodox, and conservative in my theological confession.  Yet, it seems God has decided to face me with my raging unbelief.  It is raging because it deprives me of all the things I say I believe and happens almost before I know it.
   Most of us know what temptation feels like.  As a male human being I know what it feels like to be tempted to lust.  Actually, quite often in my life I just bypassed the temptation and fell into sin.  I know I must have been tempted but it seemed I just sinned blithely and quickly without putting up any kind of a fight.  I am reminded of the young man described in Proverbs 7:22, “All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.”  Did you notice the, “all at once,” line? 

   The sin I am dealing with lately is not lust, though it is just as bad.  I am tempted not to believe God, and I can fall “all at once.”  I did not recognize my sin as unbelief right away.  I was not conscious of saying in my heart or mind, “I don’t believe you God, I don’t trust you!”  I don’t think I would ever say that directly to God.  It would just shock me to say that.  I think though that is indeed what I have done.

    I didn’t have the opportunity to be raised by my father.  He left my family when I was young.  That made me very curious about him.  Later in life I did get to know him, at least to some degree.  I also was able to get some insight into his life from his siblings and relatives.  I wanted to know what strengths he had, and what weaknesses.  I wondered how I was like him, if at all.  Is there any disposition in my personality that comes from my genetics, any proneness to certain behavior?

    I am not saying here that my dad was all bad.  I am still thankful for his eventual reconciliation with me and the welcome he gave to my wife and children.  However, I found out that my dad took offense at anything he felt was a slight or an insult.  He would cut off relationships and not look back.  Once his pride was hurt he tended to avoid any exposure to getting hurt again.  To others in the family it was almost irrational.  They put up with a lot of his nonsense, but he wouldn’t put up with even honest and well-meaning rebuke or criticism. 

   One of the constant reminders in the book of Proverbs is to listen to rebuke, and those who won’t be corrected are “stupid.”  Proverbs 12:1, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”  Whenever I read such verses I pray that the Lord will help me listen, that I would not resist or run away from correction or rebuke.  Evidently I am still sometimes, often times, stupid, and I need to keep praying.

    Whenever I feel disrespected, dismissed, or “dissed” I tend to withdraw inside myself.  I don’t like it and I have, too many times in the past, covered myself with self-pity, anger, and bitterness.  My ego and pride can be bruised so quickly, and there have been times when I just went into a dark cloud for days over it.  I was too proud to admit it was all about my pride.

   Why should anyone’s insults, or even a totally unintended slight, bother me so much?  I have to admit, (and this is hard because I tend to avoid any kind of psycho-babble description of myself), that very deep in my soul, way down deep in the view I have of myself, I feel worthless.  My inner belief is that I am innately and essentially not good enough, I will never measure up to those who are truly worthy of honor, and I have a desperate craving to be esteemed. Now, I have hardly ever articulated those thoughts about my inner beliefs.  I think I am too arrogant to go there, and I don’t like that description of myself.  It just makes me sound so pathetic.

   I can find no other explanation as to why I get so bent out of shape so quickly over feelings of disrespect.  Maybe I think if I was worth something my dad would not have left me, maybe I have a short man’s need to over-compensate, maybe I feel the shame of my sinful failures (and I deserve that shame), maybe I am frustrated in my ambitions and feel like a failure compared to the achievements of others?  These are all embarrassing but possible emotions and motives.

   Today was one of those days when a phrase jumped into my mind as I prayed for God to straighten out my thinking.  That phrase was, “raging unbelief.”  I tell other people they need to keep reading Romans 8, and here I am acting like none of it is true.  It can happen so quickly, by a phrase or a word, and the Devil pours on the hurt, the sensitivity, and I run as fast as I can away from the truth of God’s Word, and I know if left to myself, I would run right out of and on my family and friends.

    Would I, could I, risk so many relationships, to simply bathe in my own hurt?  I know I could, and I know I would, except that my anchor holds.  It is not me holding onto Jesus but Him holding onto me.

   What have I stopped believing?  To give up and abandon all the wonderful things I believe about God and what he says about how he feels and declares as to my relationship with him is raging unbelief.  I believe my sins are forgiven and that he bore all my shame.  I cannot be blackmailed by any of the truth of my history because it hangs on the cross and is buried in the tomb.  I believe he gave me power to become a son of God because I believed in his name.  I believe I am beloved and a son, and He is my father.  I believe I am a friend of God.  I believe I am an heir, and a joint heir with Christ.  I believe that I sit with Christ in heavenly places and that all creation groans waiting for the sons of God to be revealed, and I believe that is talking about me and my future vindication.

   I do believe Romans 8, and so should every true believer, and most of all when we are tempted to disbelieve because of the worthlessness we feel deep inside.  “What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosenIt is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”  Romans 8:31-34

   In the end it doesn’t matter what I believe about myself, someone greater has changed my essential identity and definition, and He calls me to believe that. In the end it doesn’t matter what the Devil says, or enemies, or even friends or family.  It is all about what He has said, and keeps saying.  I’m feeling better.