How One Man Found Healing On the Race Issue, Part 1

If you read through my recent series on healing our racial hurt, you know that I think we should take the time to listen to give our black brothers a hearing on these things. It is always good to hear someone else relate their experiences and perspectives, even more so when their experience differs from yours.

As I worked through these issues on my own, I relied heavily on the help I received from a handful of black friends. One of those friends is Melvin Price, a member of our church and a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Melvin and I discussed the issue at length, and he added significantly to my perspective while I was preaching and writing about racial hurt. After one particular discussion, I thought that we should sit down and record our conversation so that others might benefit from it.

I apologize for the quality (or lack thereof) of this video. I recorded it on my phone. Visually, it is a nightmare, but you should be able to hear what we are saying. I divided the discussion into two parts, both about the same length (probably an hour and ten minutes altogether). I will post the second discussion in a few days.

May you all be blessed in the Lord!

The first part of a discussion on race between Melvin Price and myself

Our Family’s COVID-Trip

As you may know, our family had a 3-week Staycation with COVID-19.  Many have said that we were the first they knew who caught this virus – we probably won’t be the last.  We received many phone calls, texts, and well-wishes during our quarantine, and many were just plain curious about our experience.  Since COVID is all the rage these days (other than some persistent rioting), I thought I would offer our perspective of this virus for your entertainment and enlightenment.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus is more than just a virus.  It is a political football.  That complicates the issue and the way people view it.  We have more than just a virus: we’re dealing with the fear caused by the virus, the panic inspired by the news media, and the anger and frustration of so many.  Facebook is a magnifying glass for these things.  Facebook is no place for the faint-of-heart, what with all the extreme opinions spouted there.  As for myself, I have found the coronavirus rage very unhelpful.  I think many would like to look at Facebook without being subjected to the daily badgering and rage-flash.  COVID would be so much easier to deal with through good-sense measures if people didn’t feel the added pressure caused by adamant memes on Facebook.

This virus hits everyone differently.  Continue reading “Our Family’s COVID-Trip”

Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 3

Now that our racial hostilities have come to a fast boil – some might argue a volcanic eruption – I believe it is time we admit that our approach to the issue has been ineffective.  I would describe my approach to racial tension throughout much of my life in terms of ignorance and apathy.  I didn’t know, and I really didn’t care.

A little more than 20 years ago, God used a visiting evangelist to expose the racism in my own heart.  It came through a discussion we were having after a chapel service in our Academy.  I was an assistant pastor at the time.  My evangelist friend had just preached a message to our teens about courtship and marriage.  Our pastor had one objection, and he addressed it after the students were dismissed.  His objection? “You didn’t say anything about interracial dating.”

Before I relate our evangelist’s answer, I should remind you that a traveling evangelist depends for his livelihood on the relationships he has with pastors and churches.  It would be easy enough for an evangelist to be a little bit craven out of fear of losing meetings.  Our evangelist friend was not.  His answer stunned me, like an open-handed slap to my face.  He did not hesitate: “I don’t have a problem with interracial dating or marriage.” He explained: “You can’t tell me that a black girl and a white boy who grow up in the same church and live a few miles apart shouldn’t marry because of the color of their skin.  They were raised in the same environment, they have the same cultural experiences, there can be no Scriptural reason to forbid it.”

I interjected. “God separated the races at the tower of Babel.  Interracial marriage blurs the lines between those races.” He looked at me and shook his head: first, nothing in the Bible commands that we maintain “racial integrity” through marriage standards.  The idea that “God set the bounds of their habitations” came from Bob Jones, and (as my evangelist friend said it), “everyone knows that the old man was a racist.” Second, nobody could give a Scriptural breakdown of what constituted a different race, or which races were forbidden to marry one another.  He pointed out that some pastors say there are three races, some say there are more – some as many as seventeen.

I respected this man for his answer, but at the time, I strongly disagreed with him.  Since then, God has changed my heart.  First, my friend was right – God has not put a restriction on marriages based on skin color.  When Aaron and Miriam criticized Moses for his Ethiopian wife, God gave no credence to their criticism at all, though He did punish Aaron and Miriam for opposing Moses’ leadership.  Second, God reversed Babel on the day of Pentecost, when the gospel was heard in the heart languages of – you guessed it – seventeen nationalities (Acts 2:8-11).  Third, God has made of one blood all nations of men (Acts 17:26).  And while it is true (as Bob Jones argued) that God has determined the bounds of their habitation, He has never restricted a nation to that boundary.  Fourth, and I think most importantly, God has made us all of one blood.  There can be no Scriptural grounds for forbidding marriage between blacks and whites.

In the twenty years Continue reading “Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 3”

Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 2

On July 4th, at least two NBA players – Chris Paul and Donovan Mitchell – posted a meme on their social media accounts.  The meme said, “Free-ish, since 1865.” Predictably, many white fans were outraged by this sentiment.  After all, these men are NBA stars, millionaires. Hasn’t America been exceptionally good to them?  When have their rights been deprived?

But they have a point.  The road to freedom has been especially rocky for black people in our nation.  As I highlighted in the first part of this series, even after slavery, America treated blacks as sub-human, an inferior race and culture.  We degraded them, despitefully used them, and persecuted them.  Though I was never personally involved in the segregation that characterized the first half of the 20th century – and neither were my parents or grandparents – I can assure you that my attitudes as a teenager would undoubtedly have supported such a thing.  Had I lived in the days of segregation, I believe I would have been a fan of it.

Out of the 150 years since the Civil War Continue reading “Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 2”

Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 1

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18)

Now that all the woke realtors have stopped using “master bedroom” and JPMorgan-Chase has dropped terms like “master” and “slave” from their internal tech code, I think we can all feel much better about our new and enlightened sensitivities.  After all, I don’t want my computer to be in a slave relationship to me.  I want my computer to master me like everyone else.  I’m not going back to Master Muffler until they get woke either.  Give me a better name, like Novice Muffler or Beginner Muffler.

Race relations is serious business, of course, and every Christian should be concerned about it.  Those Christians have it right who find the solution for our racial hostilities in the gospel.  But we should also recognize that many barriers have formed over time that make it hard for some in our society to hear the gospel preached.  Every Christian should work doubly hard to see those barriers removed so that the gospel can bring forth abundant fruit.

Even before a rogue cop murdered George Floyd, Continue reading “Healing Our Racial Hurt, Part 1”

The Turning of the Tide

The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. (Psalm 126:3)

This past Sunday marked the end of a rollercoaster week for us, and I would like to take a few moments to praise the Lord for His goodness to us.

Like every other pastor in America, I have spent many sleepless nights over the past two months.  We have been navigating uncharted waters, and it has seemed to me that every week has required a fresh decision about what we should be doing.

Before I tell our story, let me just say how much I respect my fellow pastors.  I have known that God has filled His pulpits with men of conviction and quality, but this crisis has made it even more clear to me that we have some truly outstanding pastors around our county.  Many decisions have had to be made, and the opinions and positions that have been taken seem to cover every extreme of the compass.  Yet, in discussions with dozens of pastors, I have observed one certain truth – that every one of them has acted on what they believed to be right and have sought to bring God the honor that He deserves.  I count myself blessed to serve as a contemporary with these men.

Our church decided early on that we should follow the health guidelines that were issued by our state.  Though our Governor has been great in the fact that he has not used a heavy hand to control us, yet we believed that we should exercise caution in this thing.  We added services in order to accommodate our people and give them the opportunity to be part of a service every week, and the majority of the church has had to suffer through online services for nearly two months now.

Continue reading “The Turning of the Tide”

Pray Without Ceasing

In I Thessalonians 5:16-22, the sometimes wordy Apostle Paul strings together a list of very clipped, concise instructions for the people of God: Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks… and so forth. I don’t intend to deal with the passage here, but just to urge Christians to be praying during this time. I hope I can encourage faithful prayer for two particular things.
First, pray for our elected leaders, especially the Governor of your state. Pray for your county officials as well – your county commissioners, your county sheriff, your local health department, and so forth.  These men and women are especially burdened right now with decisions that go beyond the norm.  I cannot imagine the pressure they feel and the responsibility they carry. No doubt some of our nation’s Governors have handled this coronavirus pandemic better than others. I appreciate the way Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert has dealt with this so far, especially as he has avoided some of the heavy-handed tactics other Governors have used. No doubt any one of our nation’s Governors can be criticized for one thing or another. But I wouldn’t trade places with any of them. I am glad that I am not in their shoes. I cannot imagine the weight of responsibility they must feel at this time.
In our dealings with elected leaders, I hope we will all remember that they are in many ways a lot like us. They second guess themselves, they have doubts and fears and misgivings, and, apart from a few exceptions, they want to do what is good and right and best for the people. Most of what we know of politicians come from 10-second clips on the news. Personally, I wouldn’t want my life to be judged by a 10-second sound-bite.  I have had the privilege of getting to know quite a few politicians and elected leaders in our area.  I can’t speak for every politician in the country, but it seems to me that our local politicians get into this business so they can better our community.  They would be the first to tell you that they don’t always get it right.  They get frustrated like the rest of us.  They wish they had a crystal ball to foresee the future so they could make the perfect decision.  They feel our outrage and our disappointment with them very deeply and personally.
I am not asking you to stop holding them accountable.  We should be watching what our elected leaders do.  I am not asking you to give them a pass when they make the wrong decision.  I am not asking you to leave them alone or to avoid any sort of confrontation.  Most of them value the feedback they get from citizens, even if they disagree with it or decide to go a different direction.
people holding mask over a sculpture

I am asking you to pray for our elected leaders.  Pray that principle will determine their decisions and that their policies will align faithfully with God’s Word and our Constitutional principles.  Pray that they will guide their affairs with discretion.  Pray that they will make wise decisions that will allow us to lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness.  Pray that God will uphold them and sustain them at this time.

In all this turmoil, it would be worth its weight in gold for your elected leaders to hear a word of encouragement from you.  They could retire early if all the criticisms they receive were turned to coin.  A word of encouragement goes a long way for them.

Ricky Hatch is our Weber County Clerk/Auditor, and one of the top Clerk/Auditors in the nation – no exaggeration.  He is a rock-solid conservative, devoted to the Constitution, and a great friend.  Ricky put together this little spin on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood (click the link to watch it) to give some guidance to those who work with Legislators.  He offers some great advice.  You can accomplish much by shaking your fist and glowering, no doubt.  You will at least gain a reputation.  But if you can respect your elected officials and try to work with them, you will find them much easier to deal with.

Second, pray for your pastor.  I have had countless conversations with pastors over the past few weeks.  In every one of those conversations, I hear a common thread.  A pastor’s first concern is for the spiritual health and well-being of his people; a close second is for the spiritual needs of his community.  Right now, a pastor’s ability to serve his people and his area has been limited.  He feels like a hobbled racehorse running the derby.  He navigates uncharted waters right now — the turbulence doesn’t make navigation any simpler.
Every pastor I know is deeply concerned about making the right decision in this situation.  Pastors are very aware of the impression they are giving in whatever decision they make.  Some will say that they are cowing or caving in.  Some will say that they don’t care about the people of their community.  Some will charge them with recklessness.  Some will accuse them of cowardice.  They want to glorify God and please Him.  They desperately want to shepherd their people through these trying times.
Please, pray for your pastor.  Every pastor in America has been faced with a gut-wrenching decision over the past few weeks.  In a time of crisis, a faithful shepherd wants to gather his sheep around him so he can support and protect them.  Yet, our current situation has made that very difficult. 
Yesterday, I was told of a pastor who, to protect his flock from COVID-19, announced that they would be moving to online services.  No sooner had he finished making the announcement than a family in the church met him at the front to say that they were resigning their membership immediately because of his decision. 
Believer, I hope you will uphold your pastor in prayer.  You might not like his decision, but do your best to support him in it.  Understand what he is faced with right now.  The people of God never need spiritual guidance more than in times like these.  But because of the nature of this pandemic, Pastors find themselves hindered, prevented from giving the personal care and spiritual guidance Christians need.  I hope you will take some time to think through what this must be like for your pastor.
We should all be praying fervently during this time.  There is a great reunion day coming when those churches who have had to limit their services will be able to gather again in full strength.  I imagine that day will be a little like that “Great Gettin’ Up Mornin’.”  What a day that will be!  We should all pray for it fervently. 
Until then, every Christian should pray that God will accomplish His purpose in all of this, that we will surrender to Him and seek Him, that this disease will not claim too many lives, that unbelievers will come to repentance and that our nation will seek the Lord.  We should all be upholding each other in prayer.  Remember the sick and elderly in your church family, especially.  And again, please pray that our reunion day will not be long delayed.
We can rejoice at this time because God’s will is being done.  We are in God’s hands!  Praise the Lord!

A Worship Style Primer, Part 3

This is the third and final installment in a brief series outlining a few basic guidelines for worship style. In this series, I am countering the idea that worship style is mere preference, as promoted by Josh Teis and Robert Bakss.  If you have not yet read the first two articles on this subject, you really ought to before reading this article.  The two previous articles are available here and here.  In this article, I will lay out some practical considerations.  Please note, this article does not give a detailed list of Scriptural standards for worship.  The goal here is to give general principles.  In the future, I hope to address more specific answers to the contemporary style of worship now embraced by a growing number of Independent Baptists who hope to move others away from reverence in worship.

A “cowboy church” has a bull-riding arena in the middle of the “sanctuary.”  Another church hosts a “fight club” to reach people for Jesus.

Based on what Josh Teis argues, I wonder Continue reading “A Worship Style Primer, Part 3”

Gothpel Style

Contemporary Independent Baptists like Josh Teis and Robert Bakss insist that style is a matter of preference, that God says nothing about style. You prefer traditional hymns; we prefer contemporary. You prefer a suit and tie; we prefer casual. You want the lights bright; we like them dim. You use a pulpit; we prefer an open stage. Potayto; potahto.

But not so fast. These men make some major leaps based on assumption.  They do not attempt to prove their major premise.  They beg the question; they assume what they should prove; they rely on “special pleading” to make their case.

Their major premise, that style is merely a matter of preference, exposes a serious worldview flaw.  It does not faithfully represent Scripture. Ultimately, their principle of musical style undermines the worship being offered to a holy God. In response, I offer three points to consider.

First, Style is not Neutral

The idea that style is neutral, that style choices are merely preference choices, reveals a deep worldview flaw that cannot be ignored. To argue that style is a matter of preference is to say that there are areas in this world over which God makes no claim, over which Jesus Christ is not Lord. If in fact, the Lordship of Jesus Christ does not extend to our style choices, then anything goes. Why not host a Pajama Sunday?  After all, how else will we reach late-night WalMart shoppers?  Better yet, Continue reading “Gothpel Style”

Gone Contemporary

Recently, several pastors reached out to me about a conference in the Northeast where both Southern Gospel and Contemporary Christian music were a major part of the program.  As a result of their call, I began to look into the use of contemporary music among Independent Baptists.  For quite a few years now, a segment of Independent Baptist pastors and churches have been “modifying” contemporary worship music, attempting to use the music without the characteristic soft rock beats and rhythms.  Over the past few years, some have thrown off their inhibitions, so that we now have a group of men who do not conceal their whole-hearted embrace of contemporary worship music.   They don’t water it down.  They don’t deny it or downplay it.  They have in fact launched a campaign to correct what they see as the “unscriptural” view of worship held by so many stodgy Independent Baptists.

Though I find their position appalling, Continue reading “Gone Contemporary”