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”

LDS Friend, Please Watch This…

Through the years, I have been privileged to develop some really good friendships with Utahns who also belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Recently, I watched the video shared at the bottom of this post, and I could not help but think of every one of you.  I want to make a simple request: would you watch this young man’s testimony?

By his testimony, Micah Wilder found the truth when he read the Bible as a child.  What does it mean to “read the Bible like a child?”  Instead of looking at it for confirmation of what you have always believed, read it as if it is your Father writing to you, telling you what He wants you to know about Himself, and what He has done for you.

Since coming to Utah more than 20 years ago, it has been our longing prayer that more of our fellow Utahns would come to know the peace and rest promised in Scripture, that you would be free from the pressure-cooker of performance-based religion and be able to rest completely in Jesus Christ.  This young man found something.  That is clear from what he says.  He found something that he wasn’t looking for and didn’t want.  He wasn’t searching, he wasn’t troubled, he wasn’t hiding any dark secrets or living a double life.  He lived out his religion with a great deal of zeal, but as he says, it was not according to knowledge.  His message is worth considering.  As your friend, I hope you will consider it.

Gregory – Gospel Answers to Ultimate Questions

This is a letter I sent a couple of years ago in response to an email inquiry through our church’s website. I have changed the name of the person I was responding to. I did not hear back from this person, and do not know whether their questions were for research or for their own sake. But as this is a gospel message, I thought I would share it. 

Gregory,

I received your list of questions, and I am glad to give an answer. Thank you for including me in your search. Since I don’t know you, I can only assume that you are searching for the truth by investigating the answers of different churches. If so, I understand why you would feel a little confused about the different answers you have heard. I certainly do not want to add to that confusion.

Can we know the truth? Some scientists (ironically) claim that there is no absolute truth – and they are quite absolute about that. They insist that we cannot know the truth, and are troubled by those who claim to know it. I sometimes wonder if those who insist that the truth cannot be known have ever considered the self-contradiction in that claim. If the truth cannot be known, is that the truth? And if so, how can we know that?

Continue reading “Gregory – Gospel Answers to Ultimate Questions”

Word of Truth Conference Report, 2017

This year’s Word of Truth Conference was a tremendous week of teaching, preaching, and companionship.  Pastor Kent Brandenburg hosts the conference every year at his church.  He places a premium on God’s Word and insists that the preaching at this conference be expository.  As a result, his conference is not your standard fair of emotionally overwrought sermons sprinkled with a dusting of Scripture.  Pastor Brandenburg always challenges me to think in terms of Scripture, and to bring my own doctrine and practice in line with God’s Word.  The Conference and the fellowship at the conference were a special blessing, but three things in particular blessed me this year.

The Church

Bethel Baptist Church of El Sobrante is a wonderful, Christ-honoring church.  The church really loves God’s Word.  The people demonstrate their love for Christ and each other many times over.  The conversations center on the Word, and long after the service ends, the people gather and enjoy what they heard together.  The conversations often branch out into discussions and applications beyond the sermon itself.  It is always a refreshment and delight to be part of this conference, and the joy of the church is contagious.

Apart from the conference, my son and I dropped in at the church on a random Wednesday night, and we found the same thing to be true then.  This is a church that loves the Word, loves the Savior, and loves each other.

The Lessons

This year, Pastor James Bronsveld taught two powerful lessons on Biblical repentance.  I urge you to listen to these lessons as they go beyond the normal presentation.  In the first discussion, Pastor Bronsveld explained repentance in terms of the second Psalm, “Why do the heathen rage.”  He defined repentance as a change of mind from rage against God to sorrow for my rage against God.  In the second discussion, Pastor Bronsveld answered a claim made in this article by Dr. Rick Flanders (here) about repentance in the Old Testament.  Notice especially this claim, made by Dr. Flanders:

Most Old Testament references to men repenting speak of revival, not salvation, and cannot be used properly to illustrate salvation repentance.

Pastor Bronsveld did an excellent job explaining the difference between the old covenant and the new, and then he showed that Old Testament repentance is still repentance.  The clincher came in the book of Jonah and the repentance of Ninevah.  I won’t steal his thunder.  You really need to watch these sessions.

The second lesson on repentance in the OT is available as well.

Pastor Brandenburg also taught a great lesson on the sinner’s prayer.  Actually, he kept promising all week that he was going to “do” the sinner’s prayer.  But he never did.  I was disappointed, because I wanted to see him do it…

Joking aside, he gave an unforgettable illustration of the problem for those who reject the sinner’s prayer altogether.  He stood at the front with his back to the audience, and he said, “God wants me to turn; I need to turn,” and then he started to turn and said, “Oh, but that’s a work.” You will need to watch the video to get a full appreciation – since you weren’t there.  Unfortunately, I can’t seem to locate the video.  Hopefully it will be up soon.  You can monitor the YouTube channel here.  Faith and repentance are the gift of God, and so the “sinner’s prayer,” when it is prayed, is a part of that gift.  When we trust the Lord, we cry out to Him and we come to Him.

Pastor Dave Sutton also taught an excellent message on the Deity of Christ and the necessity of that doctrine to the Gospel.

 

The Fellowship

I am always sharpened by discussions with Pastors Brandenburg and Sutton, and this year I had the joy of meeting two other faithful preachers: James Bronsveld and Chris Teale.  Pastor Bronsveld, who I discussed earlier, pastors in Toronto, Canada.  Pastor Teale is planting a church in Carson City, Nevada, sent out from Mid-Coast Baptist Church in Brunswick, Maine, Pastor Bobby Mitchell.  Pastor Teale is an excellent and straightforward preacher, and he preached two tremendous messages on preaching the gospel.  Both his messages are available on YouTube.

You will be challenged to make the gospel the focus rather than your powers of speech or illustration.  Pastor Teale knows what he is talking about – he has gone to a place where few have gone to preach the gospel, and he is seeing slow but steady progress.  His sermons are amazingly short – I say that because he says so much in them.  I lack his gift of brevity.

Overall, we had a wonderful time together in the Word, “breaking bread” at the various meals provided by the church, and sharpening each other.  I am grateful for the opportunity to attend, and I want to encourage all who read to consider taking a few days in early November next year to be a part of this conference.