Caught Between Two Worlds, Racial Healing

Are Statues Really Our Biggest Problem in America?

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It is the final weeks of summer in 2017, and the racial tensions have flared up anew.  This time in Charlottesville, Virginia where nineteen people are injured and hospitalized, and one has died: 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Here is how one journalist describes what led up the tragedy, “This spring Charlottesville’s ultra-liberal city council voted to remove an equestrian statue of General Robert E. Lee that’s been standing in a park in downtown Charlottesville since 1924 and to change the park’s name from Lee Park to Emancipation Park.”[1]  Historian Arthur Herman

Rolling Stones reports the events this way, “’Just a few blocks from Emancipation Park, where the white supremacist rally had been scheduled, the marchers appear nonviolent but raucous, chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and holding signs like, “Nazi carpetbaggers go home.’”

“This town has grown from its sometimes great but often difficult history and is marching toward an inclusive future,” DMB writes of “hometown.”

Moments later, the crowd hears a loud, sharp thud. People start screaming and running north, up 3rd and 4th streets to Main Street, a seven-block pedestrian-only stretch of restaurants, shops, and bars. On a typical summer Saturday, this historic Virginia city would be teeming with families and tourists, but today it is filled with police officers in riot gear, who form grim lines to block pedestrians’ access to various points along the mall.’”[2]

As enticing as it is to plunge in and demand that we tear down all offensive statues and mistakenly believe that will start to heal our land.  I want you to think deeper than what is only at best a surface and band-aid solution.  Something lies beneath the surface that no matter how we try and bury it keeps resurrecting itself.

The Issue with Statues.

The psalmists give us an unambiguous warning about the nature of images.

 

Their idols are silver and gold, 

 

the work of human hands. 

 

They have mouths, but do not speak; 

 

eyes, but do not see. 

 

They have ears, but do not hear; 

 

noses, but do not smell. 

 

They have hands, but do not feel; 

 

feet, but do not walk; 

 

and they do not make a sound in their throat. 

 

Those who make them become like them; 

 

so do all who trust in them.  (Ps 115:4–8)

Here I will risk people reigning down fury on me.  Because people will fire back that, “We are not worshipping these statues.”  Before you attack this point, we should identify and define idolatry.  Idolatry is any “Man-made images or representations worshiped as deities; any natural or manufactured objects worshiped as a deity; anything receiving worship other than the one true God.” – Carl E. DeVries. We tend to think of idols as tiny god-like figures that we bow down to and offer our worship and praise. However, it is any object that we place above the one true God.  In the time of Isaiah, the prophet, he described idols made in human form (Is 40:19, 20; 44:9–17).

The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. Isaiah 44:13

I lay all this out to ask us to take a step back and examine the passion we are putting into this debate.  It is not about the statues, nor about the history, we are trying to preserve.  The deeper under the surface issue is what Satan is doing to our democracy.

As the racial tensions escalate, it is fitting for us to address the heart of the conflict.  Who is the enemy we are fighting?  On the surface, it appears that we are fighting against people who have an issue people of different skin color or nationality.   But are we fighting people with radical beliefs and an ideology that is outside of mainstream America?  You would not believe how many people I have had to unfriend on Facebook because of the toxic political posts.  The solution to healing racial divisions is not as simple as spending more time in authentic, vulnerable, and transparent conversations?  The solution to acknowledge and realize we are in the middle of spiritual warfare.  We are fighting Satan and his minions for the soul of America. We are not blacks people, white people, Hispanics, and Latino people, nor Asians people, first.  No, first we are humans, created by the same Almighty God and labeled by that same God, as good when we were created.  Unfortunately, sin has distorted that once perfect creation, but sin changed it for all humanity equally. The enemy who lurks in the darkness who have you believe somehow that your sinful life is not as bad as your neighbors.

 

Read the words of Paul in Romans 3, “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: 

 

“None is righteous, no, not one; 

 

no one understands; 

 

no one seeks for God. 

 

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; 

 

no one does good, 

 

not even one.” 

 

“Their throat is an open grave; 

 

they use their tongues to deceive.” 

 

“The venom of asps is under their lips.” 

 

“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 

 

“Their feet are swift to shed blood; 

 

in their paths are ruin and misery, 

 

and the way of peace they have not known.” 

 

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:9–18

As the young people might say so don’t get this twisted, we all stand before God the same way.  We appear before Him broken, flawed, sinners, all in need of forgiveness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  As much as share the same fallen condition, we also share the same redemption.  To fight what is ripping our country apart point to the real enemy, Satan.  Call him out in public, in your churches, on your social media pages, in print don’t let his devious actions go about unrecognized because that is where he has the greatest influence.  We have the weapons to win this fight in our country; the power is found in God’s Word and putting on the full armor of God.

[1] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/08/17/charlottesville-never-had-to-happen-how-craven-local-politicians-led-our-nation-into-tragedy.html

[2] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/charlottesville-white-supremacist-rally-erupts-in-violence-w497446

Other posts on race.

https://revheadpin.org/2017/03/23/racial-healing-where-do-we-go-from-here/

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Caught Between Two Worlds, Racial Healing

Is There Life for Black America After President Obama?

White House.

 

On November 4, 2008, the 56th quadrennial United States presidential election was held. A changing of the guard was taking place. Republican President George W. Bush’s policies faced a stunning defeat and America was connecting with the campaign slogan of the junior Democratic Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.  America seemed invigorated with the idea of “Hope and Change.” Both presidential election campaign candidates ran on a platform of change and reform of the Washington establishment. Few could predict the emerging economic collapse that would provide an October surprise in what seemed up until that point to be a very tight election.

Democrat Barack Obama would take advantage of that moment and go on to defeat Republican John McCain. The election would come down to nine key swing states.  Those nine that had voted for George W. Bush changed allegiance in the 2008 election. In the end, the vote count was a sweeping landslide victory for Obama who received 365 electoral votes, to John McCain’s 173.  With that, the country would be forever changed, or would it?

For black American’s we finally had our champion.  I remember seeing older black Americans in tears.  Those blacks who remembered the injustice of the Civil Rights movement, the attacks of the dogs on innocent citizens, the arrest of law-abiding citizens who dared to speak out, and the unfair laws, saw in the election of 2008 the dawning of a new day.  I hear people shouting, “It is our time.”  Lots of hope was placed on the shoulders of this young junior Senator from Illinois.  He became a Messiah figure to some, a Santa Claus to others, but the hope of the entire black community fell on his shoulders.  That is a lot of weight for one man to carry.  How could he possibly live up to all those expectations?  I say that to lay out the point of this post.  Now that President Obama is no longer in office what happens to black Americans now?  There are three crucial questions to address as I see the future: 1) Do we return to business as usual? The pre-Obama years. Or 2) What progress have we made? Is it enough progress that there is no turning back? And 3) Where do we go from here?

1)    Do we return to business as usual?

Maybe it is just me but it appears rightly, or wrongly all the news lately has shifted.  We are not talking about the problems of race in America nearly as much today as we did during President Obama’s tenure.  Now I am not saying that is a bad thing, but did we suddenly solve all the problems plaguing our urban areas?  Have the shootings magically stopped or do those things no longer fit our narrative?   Have the poor suddenly found jobs and our young people trapped in dangerous situations all moved to the burbs? I think Jesus would remind us that probably is not the case.  In Matthew 26:11 when people were complaining about a sinful woman anointing Jesus feet with expensive perfume, Jesus replied about the seemly excessively wasteful gesture, “For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.”  That would give us some indication that the problems have not miraculously been solved.  Chances are things have just drifted back to where they were before.  People are still suffering, but now there is no one to raise awareness to the problems.  So, the message is “suffer in silence, please.  I have don’t have time to deal with it.  We have bigger fish to fry.”

2)    What progress have we made?

This is the statistical section of the article.  I will try not to go too crazy.

In the areas of education, employment:

  • Eighty Percent (80%) of African Americans over age 25 have high school diplomas. The average number of African Americans that have at least a bachelor’s degree increased two percentage points to 19% since the year 2000. This, however, is still ten percentage points lower than the national average.
  • Although African Americans have an unemployment rate almost double that of the overall population, the black workforce is just as diverse. Because the federal government was one of the first to integrate, African Americans have been over-represented in that sector.
  • More than 20% of the black working population over 16 years old are employees of the federal, state, or local government which is just over five percentage points higher than the national average. On the other end, a much smaller percentage of African Americans are self-employed (3.6%) than the national average of 6.2%.
  • Black women have made the greatest strides recently. In 2011 33% of employed black women had jobs in management or professional occupations compared to 23% of working black men. As a matter of fact, 64% of working African American women hold “white collar” occupations compared to 50% of African American men. Thirty-six percent of working black men hold “blue collar” occupations compared to 8% of black women.
  • Median Income “is the amount which divides the income distribution into two equal groups, ½ having income above median and ½ having income below the median.” The real median household income for all households in 2009 was $49,777; the Black median household income is $29,328 as of 2010. As of 2009, it was $32,584.
  • *All statistics used above are from the US Census Bureau 2008 – 2011 American Community Survey

Just a bit of hard data to show that while in some areas things have gotten better we are by no means living in a utopian time for black (or any other middle-class Americans to be perfectly honest).

3)    Where do we go from here?

In my humble opinion, we need to continue to work together for solutions to society’s problems.  Jesus has a chilling reminder to Christians about our responsibilities in Matthew 25:34-40, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you visited me, I was in prison, and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”  Our mission does not just have pity on those in need but to get our hands dirty and our hearts broken when we see the need and to act.  We are called to care.  It is not the job of one President nor the government to care for those in need; it is our Christian duty and privilege.  We get the honor to make a difference.

Caught Between Two Worlds

Racial Healing: Where Do We Go From Here?

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The Bible Study I wrote on healing race will result in two very different possible outcomes.  One option will be to open frank, raw, heartfelt conversations that will begin to bring about healing and restoration.  That is my prayer by the way.  If you know my heart, I did not write this study to become a spokesperson for a race, nor for fame and fortune.  I am an introvert by nature.   What is happening already from the small sample of congregations engaged in utilizing this tool with God’s people is an honest inquiry, “Ok, since you opened this issue, how will your Bible Study magically solve it?”  My gut reaction is, “My goal was never to become a race expert.  My goal was to start the conversation.  Nothing will ever improve if we cannot, or refuse to have honest and authentic interactions with those who do not look and think like us.”  And this is true not just in the areas of race relations, but true when it comes to political views, issues of sexual preference, immigration tension.  We cannot and will not understand the other side if we refuse to engage in relationship building.  I am not arrogant enough to believe I can solve the race issue plaguing America. I just want to get people talking.  I want to challenge false stereotypes and break down walls of prejudice on both sides.

The danger with only beginning the discussion is that it doesn’t advance this broken relationship. The only way to make progress beyond just a having a good conversation is to turn the matter over to the master of healing broken relationships, Jesus our Lord and Savior.

That may sound Pollyanna, but if this God could find a path to restore a fallen and disconnected humanity, surely, he can rebuild the black-white, Republican-Democrat, and whatever other divides need to be healed.  As I started down this road, one section of scripture screamed at my soul; it is from Ecclesiastes 3.  Over the course of the next two weeks, I will unpack a pathway to reconciliation.  Below is the foundation for this reconciliation.

For everything, there is a season,

a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal.

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate.

A time for war and a time for peace.

I will take one crucial phase for us to chew on this week: “a time to heal.”  What I have covered so far in this series are some of the effects that the pain of race sins of the past have left in its wake.  It has created; distrust, anger, guilt, shame and brokenness just to name a few.  I am sure if you sat down to think about it you could develop a more exhaustive list.  The question of this century is how do we heal this?

Steps in the Healing Process

  1. Know the “truth.”

A relationship that has been severely damaged, incorrect or based on partial information serves as a detriment to getting beyond the hurt.   Race in America is driven by erroneous perceptions about each other. To begin to heal, we need to see the past accurately.   The reality of the current landscape can change.  But it is a process to work through. It’s the beginning part of the healing process.  We need to acknowledge the current struggles. Face the painful realities. And shed light on what needs to be fixed so we can begin to deal with the current pain.

  1.   The regaining of trust takes both sides working together.

When it comes to conflict, our natural inclination is to get defensive.  Being transparent is hard.  For this nation to move forward, we all must be willing to make progress beyond the typical ways of operation.  There must be a sincere effort to work out the issues, or the walls will never come down. The angrier we are, the less we can hear what the offended person must say.  The longer we ignore this deep hurt in our society the worse relationships will get.

  1.    It takes time.

The divide did not happen overnight, and it can’t be solved quickly.  The process will take time.  Think of it in these terms; it is like a marriage where one member cheats on the other.  You don’t just get back to business as usual.  You need to see repentance, a change of attitude.  You need to take small steps forward.  You look for little windows of progress, and along the way, there will be setbacks.  But if the relationship is worth saving you don’t give up.  The real question in all this: “Is the racial divide worth repairing?”  If we as a nation don’t think so, then all is lost even before we begin.

Here is the link to purchase the Bible Study. I pray it will be a blessing.
https://www.cph.org/p-31186-one-nation-under-god-healing-racial-divides-in-america-downloadable.aspx?_hsenc=p2ANqtz–4pCH1YTtIWrvsc-jNn3DYZtK-wEnh4acDrAgDwLbZ-kfqSL5z9koDTCAa3U2S6Wn18ahaaDg4zRNxSHq3c9GvV4O9dQ&_hsmi=2&utm_campaign=Healing%20Racial%20Division&utm_content=51187451&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

Caught Between Two Worlds

Fearfully Made

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Growing up black in America comes with a healthy dose of fear.

Looking back I don’t know exactly at what age the veil of innocence was lifted, and I became aware that I was different from other people around me. The most vivid memory was when I was in the Third Grade.

We were playing this paper fortune telling game. In the game, you would pick a series of numbers and then letters. Once that was complete, the paper fortune-teller would reveal your true love. What the heck, I was game. Let fate decide who my heart was swooning after. It landed on a young lady named Cindy. She was quite a looker. Fate had done a pretty decent job. Cindy was a very sweet little blonde cutie. So I asked Cindy to be my girl, and she agreed. Fate had picked correctly. I was on cloud nine. I could not wait to get home and share the news with mom. When I did my mother, she seemed less than, pleased. As a matter of fact looking back on it the color sort of went out of her cheeks. She did not say much. I thought she would be as happy as I was, but that was not the case.

Maybe mom just did understand what a monumental event it was to have your first girlfriend. I knew my dad would understand? So when dad came home, I repeated this story and again, he seemed more excited. Then mom calls him into a closed door meeting to discuss this situation. When he comes out from this executive session, his spirit looked downcast. What could Mom have said to change his mood so quickly? He came out knelt down and looked me straight in the eye and man to man he said, “Son, are you trying to get us killed?” I didn’t get it. I didn’t know that some girls were off limits. My heart was shaken, but Cindy was unique enough that I was willing to buck the system. When she came back to school the next day her parents also had a similar response. Our young romance was short-lived. I discovered that day that color does matter. It was a hard lesson, a painful awakening. My innocent little world was shocked to the very core. It was the beginning of many lessons I would learn.

This event took place in the early seventies. Now some of you might be thinking; this should not have been an issue. On July 2, 1964, the Civil Right Amendment was passed. That landmark piece of legislation granted these new provisions. It outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended unfair practices in voter registration requirements. Racial segregation in schools, at the workplace that served the general public. So why was this a problem? I was just trying to advance race relations. It was too soon I guess; the law does not change hearts I suppose. That event opened my eyes that day. The veil of innocence ripped off my eyes.

To be honest, at some point in our lives, the mask comes off of all of our eyes. For some races, that unveiling accompanies some stronger realities. Once that veil comes off, I started to notice how many of my people live their lives daily in fear. Fear is a strange emotion to have to fight on a daily basis.

I have included a link to an article on 10 Things Black people fear. Here is the opening of that section:

“When black people wake up and begin the day, we have a broad range of issues we have to think about before leaving our homes. Will a police officer kill us today? Or, will some George Zimmerman vigilante see us as a threat in our neighborhoods and kill us? We brace ourselves for those white colleagues who are pissed Barack Obama won both elections and took out their racist rage on us. When we drive our cars, we have to wonder if we’ll be pulled over because our cars look too expensive for a black person to be driving. If we’re poor and sick, we wonder if we’ll be able to be treated for our illness. We have a lot on our minds, and sometimes it’s overwhelming.”

My eyes became open to the reality that people don’t see me as I see myself, a hard working honest man, who like everyone else wants the best for my family. I have learned what it feels like to live every day of my life with a healthy dose of fear. I would encourage you to read the article by Terrell Star. You may want to argue with his points or his stats or just dismiss all this as ridiculous.

Let me share with you a typical experience I have when I walk into a department store. When I walk into a department store, I get a lot of attention. The sales people are too attentive to my needs. They come over every few minutes and ask if I need help. They are never more than an arm’s length away just in case I have a need. If it appears as though I am struggling to decide on a sale they are Johnnie-on-the-spot to offer help. Just to make sure my I can get in and out of their store before they are the ones who have to close. Coincidence? I think not. My wife, who is of German descent never noticed this until we went shopping together. I said to her, “You go over there, and watch this” What I just described happens time and time again. Is it any wonder, black people are fearful? People just assume we are up to no good. They are waiting to catch us doing something.

Imagine living every day with that burden, that lack of trust, that degree of suspension. It is enough to make anyone crazy. Every day I discovered life for me on this plant were going to twice as hard as my white counterpart the dance began. I know I have to work twice as hard. In my vocation, I serve in one of 35 districts in my tribe. Those districts oversee 6,105 member congregations around the United States. I am the only African American pastor serving full-time on one of the 35 district staffs. This position while a huge blessing also comes at a huge price. It places a tremendous burden on me daily to prove I deserve it. I have to perform at twice the level of my counterparts to prove I am worthy of that position. That I did not receive it, nor I am keeping it based on the color of my skin. I live in daily with the fear of losing my job and having to try and find employment again. There are few opportunities to serve my tribe, for a person of color. My family spent the last 13 years in cramped housing in some of the toughest urban areas. I served many congregations that were five deaths away from closing their doors. I did so without complaint and gave them everything I had. But my family lived in fear of the crime around us, the influences around us. In fear that there was a higher probability, that one of my teenage sons would not come home one night. That kind of fear makes you unhealthy.

When everywhere you go people follow you, suspect you, are afraid of you, it wears on you. I remember going to a church in my tribe one Sunday. I have been to this church many times during the week, but never on a Sunday. So I knew my way around. I got up to go the bathroom, and two older white elders followed me out the door and asked me, “Do you need help?” My sarcastic response was, “No, I got this. I have done it many times before.” I would love to claim this was the exception but it happens to black people so often we are just used to it. But is that the way is should be? Should we live in a country afraid of the fact that our lives, families lives could destroy in the blink of an eye?

One traffic stop gone wrong. One case of mistaken identity. One wrong turn in the wrong neighborhood. One job loss. We live life always on the edge, always in fear. It makes people jumpy. Nervous people look dangerous, dangerous looking black people get hurt. This culture that we live in daily can be difficult to navigate if you are black.

Until we as a united society can create an atmosphere of trust and safety, we will have an entire race of people living in constant fear. We can change that. We can make this country a welcoming place for all Americans, but it takes us coming together as a people. Not to point blame or ignoring the realities, but we need to get together, to work together, to problem-solve together. We are so much stronger together that living in fear of each other. God made us all fearfully yet wonderfully made. Can’t we celebrate that fact that God made all the little children of the world? Red, yellow, black and white, they are indeed beauty in HIS site. Because God made all the children, He sees no difference. We need to look at each other through God’s eyes. Then and only then can we not see color!

Someone asked me so how do we fix this? So, this series has now been turned into a Bible Study has been released.

Here is the link:
https://www.cph.org/p-31186-one-nation-under-god-healing-racial-divides-in-america-downloadable.aspx?_hsenc=p2ANqtz–4pCH1YTtIWrvsc-jNn3DYZtK-wEnh4acDrAgDwLbZ-kfqSL5z9koDTCAa3U2S6Wn18ahaaDg4zRNxSHq3c9GvV4O9dQ&_hsmi=2&utm_campaign=Healing%20Racial%20Division&utm_content=51187451&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

Other posts in this series can be found on the blog under the category of Caught Between Two Worlds:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/12/how-guilt-feeds-racial-divison/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/06/07/diversity-in-the-church/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/05/dealing-with-race-in-america/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/06/21/how-to-see-beyond-color/

Resources used for this post.

http://www.futurehealth.org/articles/The-Psychology-of-Fear-by-Saberi-Roy-100903-820.html
http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/10-things-black-people-fear-white-people-dont-or-dont-nearly-much

 

 

Caught Between Two Worlds

Great, Now Even Computers are Bias

MIT grad student Joy Buolamwini was working with facial recognition software when she noticed a problem: the software didn’t recognize her face — because the people who coded the algorithm hadn’t taught it to identify a broad range of skin tones and facial structures. Now she’s on a mission to fight bias in machine learning, a phenomenon she calls the “coded gaze.” It’s an eye-opening talk about the need for accountability in coding … as algorithms take over more and more aspects of our lives.

Caught Between Two Worlds, Racial Healing

Names Have Consequences

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In the ancient world, names had greater meaning. Your name could define your divine purpose. It could define how you would be a blessing to the world or fulfill a generational punishment. For example, Ishmael which means, “God (El) has hearkened,” suggests that “a child so named was regarded as the fulfillment of a divine promise.”

Eldest son of Abraham by his concubine Hagar; born when Abraham was eighty-sixed years of age (Genesis 16:15-16), God promised Abraham that His blessing should be upon Ishmael, who, He foretold, would beget twelve princes and would become a great nation (Genesis 17:18, 20). Ishmael was circumcised at the age of thirteen (Gen 17:23-26). When Sarah saw Ishmael mocking her son Isaac, his brother, younger by fourteen years, she insisted that Abraham cast out Ishmael and his slave-mother. Abraham reluctantly yielded, having provided them with bread and a bottle of water. Ishmael was about to die of thirst when an angel showed his mother a well, repeating to her at the same time that Ishmael would become a great nation. Ishmael dwelt in the wilderness, apparently, of Beer-sheba, where he became a skillful archer; later he settled in the wilderness of Paran, where his mother took him a wife from Egypt (Gen. 21:8-21) [1]

He fathered the nomadic Arab nations. He was named to be a child of the promise. However, his life did not turn out the way he and his mother thought, but he did birth a great nation. Ishmael did his part to help fulfill God’s promise to prosper him. He realized the importance of family and had 12 sons. Their warrior tribes eventually inhabited most of the countries in the Middle East.

Then there is Joshua. Joshua began his life as an Egyptian slave. He lived under cruel Egyptian taskmasters but did not let that define who he was. Joshua rose to be the leader of Israel. He was faithful and obedient to God. Moses gave Hosea son of Nun a new name that would redefine his calling from God. He would be called Joshua (Yeshua in Hebrew) means “the Lord is Salvation.” This name indicated that he would serve as a “type,” or picture, of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

My favorite name is Emmanuel, (God with us). How fitting a name for Jesus Christ. When the disciples asked about the Father in John 14, I love Jesus’ response. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” John 14:6-10

Jesus’ name not only described who He was but also why He came. He came to be a perfect replacement for humankind and to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin.

Today names still matter. They still have the power to define, empower or demoralize whole groups of people. For example, the word, “black” is described on Wikipedia as, “the darkest color resulting from the absence or complete absorption of light. In the Roman Empire, it became the color of mourning, and over the centuries it was frequently associated with death, evil, witches and magic. According to surveys in Europe and North America, it is the color most commonly associated with mourning, the end, secrets, magic, force, violence, evil and elegance.” Now just stop and think about this for a moment. We used that word to define an entire race of people. “Black Americans” are often feared and associated with force, violence, and evil. Did you ever stop to think that possibility we are projecting the name and its characteristics onto an entire race of people?

Now take the word “white” using the same source, Wikipedia describes “white” as, “a color without hue. White is one of the most common colors in nature. The color of sunlight, snow, milk, chalk, limestone and other common materials. In many cultures, white signifies purity, innocence, and light and is the symbolic opposite of black, or darkness. According to the surveys in Europe and the United States, it is the color most often associated with perfection, the good, honesty, cleanliness, the beginning, the new, neutrality, and exactitude.”

Do you notice the contrast? One is dangerous, evil and violent while the other name points to purity and all things good. If we allow ourselves and our races to be defined by these labels you can see what happens when we live up to those definitions. One side is good the other is evil, so this racial division only grows wider.

Our names personally given to us, get lost when we are defined by our race, or gender or sexual preference. For us to get beyond the stereotypes, we must ditch these social identities. There are no black or white people. There are Sarahs, Thomases, Shamika and Jamaals. We are not the names nor the character traits associated with the titles, “black” and “white.” We were not all created the same. We are as unique and different as the snowflakes, clouds in the sky and the blades of grass. Each of us comes from diverse backgrounds and varied experiences. We are individuals, created by the hands of God, the master artist. For us to shatter the tensions of race, we must see each person as an individual, not a group. Names have consequences and so do perceptions.

My author page is up and running. You can click on it and get a free sample of lesson one. Check it out. The Bible study will be released on March 21st my father’s birthday. Wow, now that is a God-thing. Here is a new endorsement. “The study is dangerous and risky. It will demand open and honest conversation. . . . The study will likely make a predominately white-Missouri synod feel discomfort as we talk about prejudice, discrimination, hatred, diversity, and divisions. So be it.”
—Rev. Bart Day, Executive Director of National Mission for the LCMS
http://books.cph.org/healing-racial-divides-in-america

[1] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8251-ishmael

Caught Between Two Worlds

The Real Enemy Feeding Race In America And How To Defeat Him

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Tonto and the Lone Ranger were riding through a canyon together when all of a sudden both sides were filled with Indian warriors on horses, dressed for battle. The Lone Ranger turned to Tonto and asked, “What are we going to do?” Tonto replied, “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”- In Search of Unity, Edward Dobson, pp. 20-27

A funny illustration but there is some scary truth contained here. The attitude of I am with you until trouble comes is destructive for race relations.  What is causing the division?

As the discussion about race relations in America continues, it is timely today to address the heart of the disconnect.  Who is the enemy we are fighting?  Is the person who has a different skin color the person you are in conflict with?  Is this issue simply needing to spend more time in conversation?  Those are all just symptoms of a much larger problem.  The more significant problem is something no one wants to talk about.  It is an enemy no one wants to acknowledge exists.  That enemy lurks in the darkness.  He operates in stealth mode.  The Bible describes him this way.

 “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” [1] 1 Peter 5:8

 Among the significant number of books authored by C. S. Lewis is the highly provocative The Screwtape Letters. In it, the profound Englishman had the devil brief his nephew, Wormwood, on the subtleties and techniques of tempting people. The goal, he counsels, is not wickedness but indifference. Satan cautions his nephew to keep the prospect, the patient, comfortable at all costs. If he should become concerned about anything of importance, encourage him to think about his luncheon plans; not to worry, it could induce indigestion. And then this definitive job description: “I, the devil, will always see to it that there are bad people. Your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with people who do not care.” [2]

 Take a step back from the emotional ties you have to this issue of race and look at the bigger picture.  Make sure you are asking the right question. Who benefits most from this problem getting ramped up and intensifying?  America isn’t winning.  The communities that are under attack are not winning.  The police who are on edge, where every decision they make is facing scrutiny, are not winning.  And white America that often wants to help solve the problem but is afraid to speak out for fear of being called a racist is not winning.  So all those groups seeking solutions, searching for a path forward, are lost in the midst of this tension.  Maybe, just perhaps, there is a spiritual reason behind all this. As in The Screwtape Letters, we have been duped…tricked into compliance.

Satan has been whispering in all our ears there is nothing to see here.  Go about the business of living your life.  Ignore the poor, the government will handle that problem.  Forget the sins of the past, people should just move on, that was hundreds of years ago.  Besides, we have enough worries of our own to deal with.  Who has time to concern ourselves with the weakness of others?  As the divide grew, we were ignorant to problems.  It has taken riots, and police shootings to reveal the truth.  But now Satan has played another trick on us.  He has us looking for the wrong enemy.  It is not my brother or sister of another race, gender or creed.  It is you, the Father of Lies.  You are the real enemy. You, Satan, are the one who is driving all this.  The face of that race issue is Satan.

Notice the advice the Apostle Paul gives us about this warfare:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” [3] Eph 6:12

We can’t win this battle with human resources and human weapons.  Look around you.  This is spiritual warfare at its highest levels.  Paul does not leave us with a plan to win this war.  He says you need to be properly outfitted for battle.  In that same section of Scripture, he instructs us on our weapons of war.  It is not what the world is using.  It is not more protest.  It is not more civil unrest.  Lord knows we don’t need more speeches.  Or more laws to be passed so they can be ignored.

What we need Paul says is to:

“…take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” [4] Eph 6:13-18

The good news for us is that we have all we need to win this battle.  We need to be aware of who is the enemy, and the tools required to defeat him.

This series of post has been turned into a Bible Study that will be released on March 21, 2017.  Here is the link:
http://blog.cph.org/around-the-house/first-look-one-nation-under-god-healing-racial-divides-in-america/?hsCtaTracking=11b10a06-6cd0-4514-a33b-84b3bebd2880%7C5a7c15c3-742a-4db4-b690-148450c41f49

Other posts in this series can be found on the blog under the category of Caught Between Two Worlds:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/19/fearfully-made
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/12/how-guilt-feeds-racial-divison/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/06/07/diversity-in-the-church/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/05/dealing-with-race-in-america/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/06/21/how-to-see-beyond-color/

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Pe 5:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 158). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Eph 6:10–12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Eph 6:13–18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Caught Between Two Worlds

One Nation Under God Bible Study

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As a part of the publication process with Concordia Publishing House any work needs to under go a doctrinal review process. The process is designed to make sure the materials that are produced are true to the Word of God and free from anything that may lead people away from the truth of God’s word. I am honored to say that my study has passed that last hurdle in the production process and is on track to be release on March 4, 2017. Here is what the person who did the doctrinal review had to say about the Bible study:

“Thank you for your excellent work on this important issue! I want to personally encourage you by sharing that while this is a topic I address frequently in my ministry, I’ve been motivated by the Holy Spirit through this study to step up my intentionality of providing opportunities for the sheep under my care to experience crossing racial/ethnic divides. Thank you for being his agent in that endeavor!”

I would encourage all my readers to use this study to begin a positive Biblical approach to addressing the racial tension in America. Below is a link to the interview I did with Concordia to help people understand the heart with which it was written. Thank you all for the prayers during this process. I felt encouraged by those prayers. Now we get to see where God takes this.

https://www.cph.org/p-31186-one-nation-under-god-healing-racial-divides-in-america-downloadable.aspx?_hsenc=p2ANqtz–4pCH1YTtIWrvsc-jNn3DYZtK-wEnh4acDrAgDwLbZ-kfqSL5z9koDTCAa3U2S6Wn18ahaaDg4zRNxSHq3c9GvV4O9dQ&_hsmi=2&utm_campaign=Healing%20Racial%20Division&utm_content=51187451&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter