White Privilege in My Home

My Dad used to say when he would get upset with someone, “Get a life.” If we were complaining about something he thought was ridiculous, he’d say, “Get a life.” My sisters and I were fighting over something ridiculous, “Get a life.”

I think it is was his version of “Get over it.”

My sisters and I have made fun of my dad often in adulthood for this phrase. Now if my dad is pontificating about some ill he thinks is important, but we find ridiculous we’ll say, “Hey Dad . . . Get a life!” We find it humorous I don’t know if he always does.

In the midst of this time of COVID-19 as I have been isolated with my three sons, I have found my patience strained . . .

How strained? At the end of one day of non-stop back and forth bickering, I yelled out, “Would y’all just ‘get a life!'”

Suddenly I was uttering a phrase that I hated my whole life growing-up.

I have a lot of my Dad in me.

My kids will have a lot of me in them.

Which is why I have made the following commitment:

  • They will never hear me make another racial joke.
  • They will never hear me define a problem because of the color of another person’s skin.
  • They will hear me speak out against bias implicit and explicit.
  • They will hear me repent of my implicit bias.
  • They will see me make friends with individuals of different colors.
  • They will be encouraged to love and even marry any girl no matter her color.
  • They will be reminded that Jesus likely looked less like them and more like others with darker complexion. And so if they love their darker Jesus they better love their darker neighbor.
  • They will see me speak up against injustice.

I believe in protest.

I believe in conversation and debate.

I believe in the vote.

But I don’t have a lot of hope in these changing anything–

Which is why I focus most on changing the next generation, and that change starts in my home. 

Addressing White Privilege in Me

Last week I wrote a blog, on white privilege and a friend of mine that read it asked the great question–how? How do we address the problem of white privilege? And she challenged me to give provide practical steps to the “how.”

So in three parts I want to share some thoughts I’ve had on the “How.”

  • White Privilege in Me
  • White Privilege in My Home (the next generation)
  • White Privilege in the Church

I start by addressing white privilege in me because I agree with the words of Leo Tolstoy,

“Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Leo Tolstoy

I’ve been on a long journey with discovering the deeply rooted prejudices that exist in me and my lack of recognition of the privileges I possess over others due to the color of my skin. As I reflect on that journey, four stories from that I can apply practical application to my life now, and maybe you can as well.

Story One:

When I was a Freshman in High-School I got my first real black friend (I had other people I called friends who were black, but they were more acquaintances or friends of my parents); her name was Danielle. Danielle and I met at a picnic table at Loma Linda Academy. I happened to be at the picnic table because one day early in the 3rd quarter of the school year, I was thrown out of the library study hall. When I went back the next day, the librarian informed me the banning wasn’t a one day deal, it was permanent, but no one told me where else I could go. So without a car or a great desire to walk anywhere–I found myself at a picnic table every day (one could do that in California). One afternoon as I was carving something into the picnic table, a young lady, a young African-American lady, Danielle, came and sat down by me and began to talk. It was odd that Danielle was talking to me, she was a junior–but that wasn’t the odd part. What was odd, I hung-out with a group of people who wore white laces in their Doc Marten’s, and I had a WP written on my trapper keeper; it was a WP I was carving into the picnic table that day Danielle approached me. She saw what I was carving and said, “that is so stupid.” And then she proceeded to continue talking to me . . . not just that day, but every Tuesday and Thursday at that same picnic table. She later told me I was quite a jerk to her when she sat down, but she knew I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was. By the end of that year, I would have counted her as one of my closest friends. And that friendship began to change me. Not the way all friendships change us, but in my philosophical world view, some of the “white pride,” I had adopted in my life. It is hard to not do some self-analysis when there is a person you care about in your life that opposes darkness in your soul.

Practical lesson one: 

Having a friend of color then helped grow me. If I want to continue to grow in this area of life I need to have black friends now.

Story Two: (A shorter story)

A year later I was living in Ohio and even though I now had a black friend, Danielle, had moved to Maryland, and I was growing, I still had blind spots. One of my blind spots was a Confederate flag that hung on the ceiling of my bedroom. One day my friend Gerald, an Asian, walked into my room. He looked up and saw the flag and asked me, “What is that?” I was immediately embarrassed, he then said, “Only racists of have those. Whatever.” That was the end of the discussion, but soon after that the flag came down.

Practical lesson two:

I need friends in my life that will be honest with me and call me on my non-sense as Gerald did.

Story Three:

Jump ahead to my days at the Seminary. I was asked by the chaplains office of Andrews University to oversee the revival of a vespers program called United Vespers that happened once a month. I went to the first United Vespers and it was dead! There were a few white kids there and they were half asleep. Where was everyone else. Over the next several weeks I visited several other gatherings: Mosaic, a great musical celebration made up of a packed house of mainly white preppy kids. Adelante’s Vespers, a smaller gathering of the Hispanic community on campus, warm loving people. I also attended the Asian club’s vespers, great food, great fellowship, also a small gathering. But it was the last vespers on campus I attended that changed my world, BSCF (Black Student Christian Forum), amazing preaching, amazing music, and wall to wall people. And I realized if I could somehow get BSCF and Mosaic to connect we could truly have a united vespers. And so I went to my friend Dilys, a Jamaican student there at the seminary, I shared with her my vision and asked her to help me make the connections (Dilys was friends with everyone on campus). She did and by the grace of God Fusion was born (if you were on campus at Andrews in the early 2000’s to late 2000’s you are familiar with the Fusion vespers). That vespers (which happened once a month) exploded, it got so big the school, with the help of Ron Whitehead, let us move it from the gymnasium to the Howard Performing Arts Center and you had to get there early to get a seat–and it was diverse–all the colors and people’s on campus. I share this longer than necessary story, because through my time at seminary and more specifically my work with Fusion and my friendship with Dilys and her husband Delroy, I got connected to a larger black community than I had ever known before. And as I became a real friend with many of these individuals I would sit and listen to them talk and as I heard them share their stories and their pain, I realized they had experiences, that first I could never relate to, but second that I knew I never would have to relate to, based upon the different colors of our skin. I also was able to ask them sincere questions about the stereotypes I held in my head and they helped me understand how to work through those views.

Practical lesson three: I have to listen to the stories of others. The world is evolving and people’s stories evolve, so I have to keep listening!

Story Four:

I watched in sadness the news in 2016 as I saw the events that brought about the Black Lives Matter movement, and then on July 7, 2016 police officers were ambushed by a man who was angry over police shooting black people and as he stated he wanted to “kill white people.” I watched now horrified on my computer the event unfold. Then the next night just before bed, I went to the Facebook page of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists and I began to read some of the comments on their page related to the Black Lives Matter movement and the things Adventists were posting made me sick and angry. That night I scrapped my sermon, and I wrote a few thoughts, and the next day I went into the pulpit and told our congregation, “we must do better.” I don’t remember what I said or how I said it, but it was intense and mainly off the cuff–something I never do. As I was driving home from church that day I was about to turn onto my road when the Holy Spirit said to me go down to Emmanuel-Brinklow and apologize (Emmanuel-Brinklow is the African-American Adventist church a mile from the Spencerville Adventist Church). This impression from the Lord was as a strong as the day I stood up and accepted Him as my Savior and as strong as the day He called me into ministry. I wanted to resist, but I couldn’t. So I drove down there, black churches go a little longer than our predominantly anglo churches 🙂 So when I walked in the preacher was nearing the end of his sermon, I decided to just wait in the foyer until he was done, at the conclusion as the worship band was playing Pastor Tony walked to the back door to shake hands, I stepped forward to introduce myself and then I said, “I just wanted to come and say sorry for what is happening and I want to be a better neighbor.” Pastor Medley stopped the music he told everyone to sit back down and then he walked me to the front and said you need to share this with everyone, and so choking-up I repeated what I said. After that service some of the stories members shared with me and the way that community embraced me–I went home and I wept, I couldn’t stop crying.

Practical lesson four (actually multiple lessons in this one):

First, I need to open to the Holy Spirit always in matters of how I interact with people of other races. Racial conflict is a result of sin. I ask Jesus to reveal in me the dark spots of my heart concerning impatience, arrogance, and lust–why not my prejudices, my accepted white privilege? Second, own the collective hurt of the black community and say “sorry.” It doesn’t matter if I have perpetrated every wrong, I can still let them know I am sorry for what my people group has done and I should be sorry!

So those are the “how’s” for me of continuing to overcome my biases and my blindness to white privilege:

  • Surround myself with a diversity of friends
  • Have honest friends that will call out my prejudices and blind spots
  • Listen and ask questions willing to change when you hear the answers
  • Be open to the conviction of the Holy Spirit
  • Say sorry

What about you?

How White Privilege Inhibits Christian Perfection

This morning I read these words, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. The context of this text is not referring to the day of worship we keep, or the style of worship we embrace, or the way we dress. In context, it’s talking about each of us growing in our love for our fellow man. We are emulating the perfection of Jesus “only when we love with an ALL embracing love.” (John Stott) My heart is broken because I have seen much less than perfection in three recent events, the killing of #AhmadArbery, the killing of #GeorgeFloyd, and the racist display towards #ChristianCooper. And one cannot ignore the obvious commonality in all three of these events—white people using their privilege to physically harm (in two of these cases) or potentially harm black Americans. 

While this privilege cost two of them their lives, and there is nothing more horrific than that, it was the incident in Central Park that illustrates why the other two events can happen. 

Amy Cooper said to Christian Cooper (no relation), “I’m going to tell them an African-American man is threatening my life.” She, however, did not say these words because she genuinely felt threatened. If she had, why would she approach him and take her eyes off of him to make the phone call? Why was she not screaming like she was in trouble until she was far away from Mr. Cooper and until the police were already on the phone? In my heart, I believe that Ms. Cooper said what she said because she understood something clearly. She understood the same thing that the police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd understood. She understood the same thing that the men chasing down Ahmad Arbery understood, which is; if there is a dispute between people of different skin colors, the individual with the lower levels of melanin is likely going to be believed over those with higher melanin. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong! In other words, and I’m speaking to my white brothers and sisters here, we hold privileges that our black brothers and sisters do not have! 

In addition to her shared understanding with the police officers in Minnesota, and the men who chased Ahmad Arbery in Georgia, Amy Cooper correctly expressed the core problem in modern society. Namely, that “racism is real, and I can use it to my advantage.”

The saddest part about each of these incidents is that any semblance of justice was likely only brought about because there was a camera present. In the case of Arbery, the men who ended his life were finally arrested because a video recording of the incident surfaced more than a month after his killing. In the case of Floyd, we know that when cameras are not present, there has been no justice for victims of similar incidents. If we go back far enough, even when I was a kid, we know that even with cameras present, sometimes justice is not done (remember Rodney King?). Finally, I want you to ponder how the incident with Amy and Christian Cooper (again, no relation) might have turned out if the police HAD shown-up? What if they heard the account of a white woman who said an African-American man was threatening her. Who ends up in handcuffs in that scenario? The frantic, screaming, white woman claiming to be attacked? Or an African-American man standing his ground? 

Folks, we have a problem. It’s called white privilege. And while most of us don’t take advantage of this privilege in egregious ways, many of us remain part of the problem. It’s a problem because we only allow our privilege to confront us when we have horrific, unspeakable video evidence placed before our eyes—which is the reason I’m writing this post—and that, my friends, is not enough! We have not done enough.

Until we acknowledge our racist and prejudiced feelings—even our potential for those feelings—we will not change. Until we acknowledge the existence of white privilege, it cannot change.

“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. 

We begin emulating the perfection of Jesus “…only when we love with an ALL (red, yellow, black, and white) embracing love.” 

Let us begin the process of perfection today by acknowledging there is a problem in our world, in our nation, in our church, in us.

Revisiting Ordination

Warning–this post is not about gender! Sorry to disappoint some of you. This post is about the process or rather the requirements for ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. It is a post that I hope will help us also to explore the question, “What are we ordaining people to?”

Several years ago I wrote a blog post entitled, “The Mess We’ve Made of Ordination.” In that post, I argue that one of the messes surrounding the process of ordination is a lack of consistency in policy across the North American Division in who does and does not get ordained.

I want to affirm the North American Division for attempting to rectify this problem by recently establishing guidelines that they are recommending to all Seventh-day Adventist conferences in North America to consider prior to ordaining any pastor. These guidelines are based upon the seven core qualities discovered in research done by NAD ministerial which they believe are the foundational qualities for an effective pastor. These core qualities are as follows:

  1. Character
  2. Evangelism
  3. Leadership
  4. Worship
  5. Management
  6. Scholarship
  7. Relationship

Here is the problem though, based on these seven core qualities and the descriptions provided by the North American Division, I am not qualified to be ordained. Why? There are two core qualities for which I do not meet the set standard.

Management and Relationship.

Let me start with the management. In the not too distant past I was at lunch with one of the associate pastors on our church staff. We were meeting to discuss the future and to provide feedback for one another on the growth each of us needed.

As we sat there in a crowded Panera, my colleague said to me, “Chad you are a great leader. And I think you could be even better if you let someone else on the team manage.”

I asked her to expound on her thought,

“Well, you are great at casting a vision and empowering us all to serve in our various roles. You do a good job of getting people on board with a plan and helping people to become inspired and find their gifts. But your managerial skills hold you back because you don’t do well in making sure we complete every task, or that we as a team follow through on all our plans or goals. You try, but because it doesn’t come easy for you, it wears you out, and you have to spend more time doing management, which you don’t do well when you should be doing other things related to leadership. You need to let someone else manage.” 

Wow what an insight!

The second core quality that I do not meet the standard is the final quality: relationships. The description of this quality is as follows: “relating well to others regardless of faith, age, ethnicity, personality, or gender.”

I fail in this quality because I do not relate well to individuals regardless of age.

I do not relate well to kids and or youth. Yes I can get by, but the description is “relate well.” I look at those that work with youth and kids and I am amazed. In our church we have a pastor (who works in the Adventist HealthCare system) named Costin and when he talks to the adults they love him, he is a favorite adult Sabbath School teacher, but he is also a favorite of the children to provide the children’s story. If he is an example of relating well, then I do not measure up. Even my own wife agrees I should leave the work with children and the telling of the children stories in the hands of more capable individuals.

Based upon these two analyses of two of the seven core qualities of an effective pastor and the characteristics upon which are the basis for ordination then, I am a.) not an effective pastor and b.) it was ill-advised to ordain me years ago.

I’d become discouraged by these two revelations, but I’ve read the Bible.

And here is what the Bible teaches. First, the word ordination never actually appears in the Greek or the Hebrew (the two primary languages of the original Biblical text). Second, what we have accepted as the process by which we ordain, the laying on of hands, and the structure of leadership: pastor, elder, deacon while assumed by most to be a straightforward Biblical model is not so straightforward. (For more on this topic read the excellent paper, “The Problem of Ordination,” by Darius Jankiewicz).

What the Bible does teach is that people were asked to “fill the hand” (Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8 & 9). That is the translation for the Hebrew word in the Old Testament that some have translated ordain. This term seems to reference the handing over of duties within the temple to certain people called by God. I also read about individuals being “consecrated” and “appointed” to the priesthood (Numbers 3:10) but others were also “consecrated” and “appointed” to other tasks in the temple service (Numbers 3:36). The same word “appointed” or “consecrated” but different roles. I read about the laying on of hands over Joshua in Numbers 27 which in the Hebrew is also referred to as a “commissioning.” (Interesting commissioning actually is in the Bible but not ordaining 🙂 ) And in Exodus 31:6 artists were “appointed” to work on the crafting and care of the temple structure; again the same Hebrew word used to “appoint” or “ordain” the priests.

Deacons in the New Testament were “chosen” and “turned over responsibility to them” through the laying on of hands to care for widows and make sure people had food.

Paul and Barnabas were “set apart” to be missionaries to Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas then “appointed” (Acts 14:23) elders not to be missionaries, but to oversee the churches that had been established. And by the way they were not set apart with the laying on of hands, but the Greek word indicates through a show of hands, in other words, “let us vote” if these persons should lead us.

And Paul sent Titus to Crete, not to establish a church or to oversee a church, but to straighten out a church (Titus 1:5).

The point I am trying to make is that we use many examples in the Bible to support the idea of ordination but each of these examples illustrates a significant point: the ordination of an individual is not limited to specific roles or functions.

So if we as a church are going to say these seven qualities constitute the picture of a qualified ordinand, we must be ready to say, first, most of our pastors that are ordained do not currently qualify and second if we apply these seven core qualities then we are creating a box around the function and expectations of calling to the work of ministry that the Bible never stipulates.

I’ve already illustrated how I don’t fit the model, but let me give another example: one of the pastors on staff at the Spencerville Church, where I also serve, is currently not ordained. He is not ordained for what I would ascertain two primary reasons: first, and foremost he does not possess a theological degree. Second, he does not preach, though some in the conference office has pushed for him to preach on multiple occasions. Under the structure of the core qualities of a pastor his lack of preaching would disqualify him from meeting the core quality of worship: “facilitating an enriching corporate worship experience that brings people into the presence of God.” Now, I would put forth that he does help facilitate this by establishing our online church community which has 100’s of participants each week and even more during the time of COVID-19. But even if he had no role in the actual worship service, would this mean he is less called, less appointed, less qualified to be ordained than I am? Was God wrong in designating the title of consecrated and appointed equally to the priests, the guards of the temple, and the artists of the temple?

Would not our current structure and the structure recommended and endorsed by many conferences stipulate that only the priests in the above set would qualify for the standard of “consecrated” “appointed” or to use our vernacular “ordained.”

I applaud the church for trying to build clarity and consistency around ordination, it is what I was asking for years ago when I wrote the blog post I referenced above.

But years later I realize even when trying to build clarity and consistency we fall short because we are trying to prop up a model, a concept that is not Biblically supported at least not in the way we have framed it.

How would I fix things?

The church could acknowledge what we are doing in regards to the establishment of what we call ordination is not really Biblical, and state directly and honestly, “since we struggle with nuance in the church, we are going to establish a basic one size should fit all model.” If they did this I would probably complain less; I believe every business has a right to say, “this is what we expect of our employees.”

Or a second option, we could go back to the model of Acts 14:3: χειροτονέω.

χειροτονέω: stretch out the hand, for the purpose of giving one’s vote in the assembly.

(Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996, p. 1986.)

χειροτονέω might be a little dangerous for some because it puts power into the hands of the local church people guided by a few leaders.

In the example of lacking the qualifications for ordination I mentioned above, I would guess if we went to the assembly in which this pastor serves and we asked for a show of hands of how many believe he is a pastor called by God and faithfully serving as he has been called in the area he has been called, fulfilling the duties he has been called to, that most the hands would go up and he would be χειροτονέω–appointed by vote–or as we like to call it ordained.

Luckily for us, the pastor I am speaking of took a theology class (he’s getting his masters in pastoral ministry) from Dr. Jankiewicz, in which he came away realizing ordination–as we do it is not Biblical–so he is not stressed about when or even if he is ever ordained.

Me, on the other hand, until one of the above two scenarios, takes place or maybe a better idea comes along, I think I will continue to poke at this bear.

Build Your Library Part 1

So over the last two+ years, I have been pursuing my Doctor of Ministry degree with an emphasis on church revitalization at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Inevitably such a pursuit requires a lot of reading, and because I have a moment of quiet and it is better than Netflix and Chill, I decided to share with you the books I have enjoyed reading for my DMin thus far. There are numerous books I have not appreciated, so I won’t recommend those to you. Now please note most of these are not casual reading books, so unless reading church and theology books are your jam, don’t run out and buy all of these.

Sojourners and Strangers:  The Doctrine of the Church, by Gregg Allison

The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, by Jonathan Leeman

Reclaiming Glory: Revitalizing Dying Churches, by Mark Clifton

Our Iceberg is Melting, by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber

There’s Hope for Your Church, by Gary McIntosh

Repentance:  The First Word of the Gospel, by Richard Owen Roberts

Comeback Churches, by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson

Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, by John Hammett

Can These Bones Live? A Practice Guide to Church Revitalization, by Bill Henard

Prayer: Experiencing the Awe and Intimacy with God, by Timothy Keller

Re:Vision: The Key to Transforming Your Church, by Aubrey Malphurs and Gordon Penfold

On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Call and Work, by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg

We Cannot Be Silent, by Albert Mohler

 Preaching with Bold Assurance: A Solid and Enduring Approach to Engaging Exposition, by Hershael York and Bert Decker

What is the Mission of the Church?, by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert

Breakout Churches, by Thom Rainer

I’ve read some other great books during this time as well, but these are the books from my DMin program I enjoyed thus far.

If you pick one of them up I hope you enjoy them too.

Practice Verbal Distancing from These Terms

As our nation and our world continue to battle Covid-19, maybe battle is the wrong word, as we learn to survive in the world of Covid-19, there are terms that are becoming part of our everyday vocabulary.

Two of those terms are “social distancing” and “new normal.”

I’d like to propose that we practice verbal distancing from both of those terms.

I know that another name for social distancing is physical distancing and that is the term I am trying to use more and more. The reason for this is that why we need to maintain physical space to keep the virus from spreading, we should still seek every opportunity to engage socially.

In the very first book of the Bible and the second chapter we are told very directly,

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone. . .

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 2:18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Genesis 2:18 is most often referenced regarding the topic of marriage; but we can’t limit it to marriage otherwise when Paul instructs people later in the Bible to stay unmarried if they are able in 1st Corinthians 7 he would be counseling against God’s direct feeling. So while Genesis 2:18 fully encompasses the union of a man and a woman in marriage it also encompasses the need for humans to have social interaction with other humans.

For the vast majority of history, one would need to have physical proximity to another person to also have social proximity to them. This would have been the reality in 1918 during the great influenza pandemic. I have heard a lot of comparisons to that horrific pandemic in our world’s history. I think there are many dissimilarities with that pandemic and what we are facing now, but one of the key differences is that this is not 1918, it is 2020 and 2020 has a multitude of ways to socially engage while keeping physical distance.

So I want to encourage all of us to stop speaking of social distancing and instead practice physical distancing while drawing near socially.

I am back on Facebook in a limit format, for this very purpose, so I can draw nearer to our church members and others that may wish to engage in the midst of this crisis.

I am making more phone calls. I spoke to my dad for forty-five minutes on the phone two Sabbath’s ago. I have not talked on the phone to my dad for forty-five minutes at one time in the five years since I moved to Maryland.

We can text. We can FaceTime. We can email. We can send a card through snail mail. Rain, shine, or Covid-19 the United States Post Office still runs strong. This last Sabbath while our family was out on a walk some church members drove by, they pulled their car over and while we stayed on the sidewalk and they in their car we had a 30+ minute Sabbath afternoon conversation. Practice physical distancing but draw near socially to someone every day!

The second phrase the “new normal” I didn’t realize how much I dislike it until today. I was looking at the news and they had a clip of Hoda Kotb breaking down in tears on NBC’s Today Show. She had just interviewed Drew Brees, the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints who was sharing what he was doing to help Louisiana to fight Covid-19. When the interview ended and Hoda tried to speak she couldn’t . . . her voice broke and tears started to come. Savannah Guthrie her co-host who is in another studio, because they are practicing physical distancing (do you like how I didn’t say social distancing? :)) had to step in and read the tease into the next segment of the show. Later when Hoda had collected herself she said one aspect of her losing it, is that she looked around to hug someone, and no one is there, and then she said, “I guess that is part of it too. Our new normal and we’ll just get used to it.” And that is when I realized I don’t like the term “new normal” either.

I understand by actual definition “new normal” is acknowledging that it isn’t normal. But when Hoda said, “I’ll get used to it.” I thought, “NO!” Because we live in a world where “new normals” those things which seem odd because they have never been this way before. Those things which have never been accepted practices of society before and were previously considered odd or out of place are suddenly accepted, and people say, “I guess this is just the new normal.” And then one day they aren’t the “new normal” any longer, they are just “normal.”

Odd — > New Normal — > Normal

And getting comfortable with not having a friend to hug, should never become normal–so let’s not even think of getting used to this, “new normal.” Let’s just keep calling this physical distancing what it is = odd!

Isaiah 55 and Covid-19

I was kicking myself after about 30 minutes had passed and I learned I would be needing a crown on one of my teeth. This past Sabbath before virtual church I had broken a tooth–I’ve known it was cracked since early December and my dentist had been encouraging me to get it fixed . . . but who has the time? So Sabbath morning the tooth broke, and today my doc told me to get into her office for an emergency appointment–which I obeyed . . . because now I do have the time.

But back to why I was kicking myself. I didn’t bring a book. I looked right at three books I’m reading when I was getting ready to leave the house and decided I wouldn’t be that long. One, there aren’t many patients going to the dentist in the season of Covid-19 and two, she’ll probably just throw some temporary fill in the hole and we’ll get to it when all this passes.

But no–things were too close to the nerve and so there I was wishing I had a book.

But since I didn’t I open the Bible app on my phone and I read the following (stay tuned after the text I have some thoughts):

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler, and commander of the peoples. 5 Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.” Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” 

Isaih 55:1-13

After I read that text I wasn’t kicking myself quite as hard, because it started me ruminating.

Here were my thoughts:

Verses 1-2: There is food right now we need that is above and beyond physical food. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” -Matthew 4:4

In this time of Covid-19 while we are worrying about the economy and what we will and won’t have does the Lord have a plan to draw us to return to His Word and His instruction for our lives? Is He calling us to take our eyes off of the world’s economy and place them on the Lord’s economy.

Verses 3-5: Verse 3 begins with an imperative to “listen” and our “listening” to what God is saying will lead us to another level of living. And then there is an expansion on that promise in verses 3b-5.

Verse 6: My heart was touched as I read these words. I thought about the people that will die due to this virus. Maybe someone I know and love. Maybe someone you know and love. I think about the people that will die prior to Jesus returning that have not yet accepted Him as their Savior. This is their time that He may be found. But this is not just about others, this is about the time I have now to seek Jesus more deeply than I have previously. In fact those things that have often sucked-up my time have been removed. The things I would subconsciously and consciously allow to pull me away from Jesus time–an abundance of meetings–I don’t have those right now. Sports–I don’t have those right now. Kids school activities–I don’t have those right now. I have a lot more time–Chad “seek me in this extra time, while I may be found.”

Verse 7: When we truly seek The Lord we will see wicked things in our lives, we will see all kinds of levels of unrighteousness. But when we see those things we don’t need to despair! Jesus through His death on the cross has given us a better option than the wicked ways and the unrighteous thoughts, the option to turn away from the wicked things and live, because “He will freely pardon.”

Verses 8-9: I pondered how is God thinking about Covid-19. It didn’t catch Him off guard like it did the leader of our country and so many others. Is God working in a way through this horrible situation that we cannot even comprehend? In history when there are calamities, crises, and persecution the church grows. But what about when the calamity is forced isolation? The question has been in my mind, “how can a church grow when can’t “go”? I hear God saying to me, “my ways are not your ways.” Maybe God is preparing a people that will come through this Covid-19 time more convicted of the times in which we are living. Ready to put everything else aside and live only for reaching people for Jesus. I don’t know. But I do know God’s ways are not my ways.

Verses 10-11: My favorite verses in the entire passage. Verses 10 and 11 assure me even in this time of isolation, somehow God’s Word is going out and it will not return to Him void. Just in the last couple weeks the grass in our back yard that has lied dormant all winter is letting me know it is ready to be cut, and today as the rain fell I thought, “after the off and on of rain and sun all week our yard is really going to need cutting.” Just like that dormant grass bursts forth. God’s word I know will do that in people’s hearts! That is how His ways, whatever they are will be fulfilled. People open to God’s word, and God’s word doing the work only it can!

Verses 12-13: I had not thought about verse 12 and 13–I don’t think ever before today. But in my heart, there in the dentist chair I thought . . . well let me first say, I don’t mean for this to sound callous. I understand there is a lot of suffering going on in our world right now, and that some will die from Covid-19, maybe even us . . . but as I pondered this verse in the chair while I was waiting for the machine to finish making my new tooth (crown) my heart thought, “could there a people who spiritually come through this virus more joyful? Seeing the good things of God rather than the thorn bush?”

Those are my thoughts. I pray Isaiah 55 leads us in this time of Covid-19.

I believe it was a good thing I chose not to bring a book to the dentist today.  


Lessons from Acts 8 in the Time of Covid-19

As we enter into another week of being the church scattered rather than the church gathered, due to Covid-19,  the first verses of Acts, chapter 8, are ringing in my ears.  Acts chapter 8 for those of you that may not recall tells the story of when the church went from a work primarily focused in Jerusalem, to a church scattered around the then known world. The scattering came about through persecution, Stephen, a leader in the early church, was stoned to death for his faith, and then the Bible states, 

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.[1] (Acts 8:1)

If there was no further explanation after verse one, a reader could deduce this scattering destroyed the church, but then we read verse 4, 

“Now, those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”[2] (Acts 8:4)

When the church could no longer be in one place due to the circumstances of their world, the church began to spread and grow.

Ellen G. White in the book Acts of the Apostles sheds further light on the importance of this occasion, 

The persecution that came upon the church in Jerusalem resulted in giving a great impetus to the work of the gospel. Success had attended the ministry of the word in that place, and there was danger that the disciples would linger there too long, unmindful of the Saviour’s commission to go to all the world. Forgetting that strength to resist evil is best gained by aggressive service, they began to think that they had no work so important as that of shielding the church in Jerusalem from the attacks of the enemy. Instead of educating the new converts to carry the gospel to those who had not heard it, they were in danger of taking a course that would lead all to be satisfied with what had been accomplished. To scatter His representatives abroad, where they could work for others, God permitted persecution to come upon them. Driven from Jerusalem, the believers “went everywhere preaching the word.” (Acts of the Apostles,105)

Notice some critical points in that paragraph:

  • The persecution resulted in a great impetus to share the gospel.
  • The success, the comfort of what was happening in Jerusalem, caused the people to forget Jesus’ commission to “Go.”
  • The people were losing strength by no longer serving Jesus aggressively.
  • God used the trouble of their day to get his people back on mission.

Does any of this sound familiar to your local church context? Maybe even you personally? 

I love the previous paragraph, but it is the following paragraph in Acts of the Apostles that hits me like a club over the head,

Among those to whom the Saviour had given the commission, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19), were many from the humbler walks of life—men and women who had learned to love their Lord and who had determined to follow His example of unselfish service. To these lowly ones, as well as to the disciples who had been with the Saviour during His earthly ministry, had been given a precious trust. They were to carry to the world the glad tidings of salvation through Christ. (Acts of the Apostles, 105).

The above paragraph, along with the last phrase of verse 1, “except the apostles,” tells us one of the reasons why the gospel began to spread the way it did. The “laity” went out to spread the gospel, not the apostles. People that learned to love Jesus and decided to follow Him along with some of the people who followed Jesus while He was still walking the earth, excluding the apostles, went out to share the message. The “members,” as we may call them, did not see it as the role of the “clergy,” as we may call them to establish the ways and means by which to share Jesus in this time of scattering. They just went out and, in unselfish service, carried the love of Jesus to their world.  

And the kingdom of God grew each day. 

Sometimes it takes a crisis to remind us of the role each one of us has played in becoming the “satisfied church of Jerusalem.” Covid-19 has served as just such a reminder to me. It has awakened me to my failures as a member of the “professional clergy.” I have allowed there to be too much priority on programming and “come to us” type of events, which are pointless in this crisis. I have called people to many committees, but not to training. I have inadvertently taught people that attending worship one day of the week is the primary role of their Christian walk, rather than teaching them that the purpose of the gathering is to be refreshed for the sending the other six days of the week. We occupy members’ lives with so much busyness at church (school) that they don’t have time to be ministers in their neighborhoods and to their co-workers.

I pray this crisis has also helped our members to reflect on their role in surrendering their God-given call to ministry over to the paid professionals. That would start to call us to and hold us accountable for training them to go out and do the work of ministry rather than doing the work of ministry for them.

I pray our members when they have an idea of how they can help their neighbors, won’t make that suggestion to the church, but they will just do it. That if they feel a Bible verse can comfort someone in need, they will share it, not ask the pastor to come over and share it. That if someone around them requires prayer, they will pray, not call the pastor to come and pray.

Hundreds, yea, thousands, who have heard the message of salvation are still idlers in the market place, when they might be engaged in some line of active service. To these Christ is saying, “Why stand ye here all the day idle?” and He adds, “Go ye also into the vineyard.” Matthew 20:6, 7. Why is it that many more do not respond to the call? Is it because they think themselves excused in that they do not stand in the pulpit? Let them understand that there is a large work to be done outside the pulpit by thousands of consecrated lay members. Long has God waited for the spirit of service to take possession of the whole church so that everyone shall be working for Him according to his ability. When the members of the church of God do their appointed work in the needy fields at home and abroad, in fulfillment of the gospel commission, the whole world will soon be warned and the Lord Jesus will return to this earth with power and great glory. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14. (Acts of the Apostles, 110)

No one wants to go through a crisis, but a crisis offers opportunities to learn and come out better on the other side. I pray myself as a leader, and our church comes out on the other side better—better workers for Jesus.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 8:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 8:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

January 22, 2020, Genesis 22

There are scriptures and stories I accept by faith, but I do not understand.

This is just such a scripture.

The challenge of the scripture to me is in God’s request. Such a request is more painful than physical pain.

When my oldest son was just two years old, he had to have surgery. The thought of my two year going under anesthesia was immensely painful to my heart.

As they wheeled him away and he cried out for my wife and I, I would have done anything to comfort him.

The request of God in Genesis 22 is that pain I had multiplied to infinity.

I understand that Abraham reasoned God could Isaac back to life (Hebrews 11:19), but I also knew my son would wake-up from anesthesia–but it was still a pain my heart will forever remember.

So again, this is a scripture I accept in faith, but struggle with in my humaneness.

January 21, 2020, Genesis 21

Tim Keller once stated,

the reason people disbelieve in the gospel is not because it promises too little but because it promises too much. If you don’t understand that, you don’t even know what you’re rejecting. To reject the gospel with tears, to say, “I can’t believe in it,” with tears, that has integrity, and that shows you know what you’re rejecting. To reject it with laughter, to scoff at it, “People like that who believe things like that,” that shows ignorance.”

 Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

Sarah and Abraham both laughed at God when He promised them a child. They laughed because they could not understand.

If someone laughs at what your Christian beliefs and convictions do not be offended, pray for them.

Laughter is a sign of ignorance not a sign of true rejection.

So don’t reject those that laugh, teach them, show them, help them to understand.

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