Posts Tagged: Spiritual Growth

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?

What Will I Do Without Facebook?

I have decided to delete my Facebook account.  Why? Because it is a time vacuum!  I have friends that have Facebook and they check it once a week and that is it, if I was one of those people, that would be great.  Unfortunately I don’t seem to be one of those people, so I am more the kind that checks it once an hour. What brought me to this point.  I am preaching on prayer this Sabbath and I was thinking about the things that I do more than pray…I used to watch more TV than pray…I used to watch more movies than pray…I used to watch more sports than pray…I used to play more golf than pray…all those things have basically been eliminated in my life.  But as I was writing my sermon today…I realized that whenever I took a “mental break” or a “stretch break” I was simultaneously checking Facebook.  Checking Facebook has almost become a default function in my life.  I don’t want anything to be a default programmed function in my life other than Prayer, Studying the Bible, Loving my wife, loving my kids, and doing good to others.

So when I realized all this, the nagging sense that I should take a fast from Facebook kicked into high gear. Then sudden intense resistance!  I began to rationalize all the reasons I should stay on Facebook.  I began trying to convince myself that I could just check it once a day. I wondered, “What will I do without Facebook?” Forgetting I had lived about 30 years without Facebook. But as the resistance grew so too did the determination to leave Facebook behind. I’ve learned that if I am trying to cling to things that are not of the spiritual nature or rationalize existence of those things in my life, then that is a sure sign it is time to say goodbye. So I say goodbye to Facebook today…in just an hour or so to be exact. 

Why am I canceling it completely.  Because I know myself…Nuff said!  🙂 

I may be back someday, of course I took a 40 day fast from MySpace about 4 years ago and never went back to that, so maybe this will be permanent.  Not all my time on Facebook has been a waste, but a lot of it has, so hopefully the time that was wasted will now be utilized for the Kingdom of God!

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Exodus 20:3

“You shall have no other gods before me.” –Exodus 20:3 (Write it down on a 3×5 card)

The first commandment of the 10 is pretty simple, pretty straight forward, and extremely important and profound.  The entire purpose of scripture, the entire purpose of Christianity, the entire purpose of our lives is to give glory to God!  Anytime someone or something gets more glory than the one true God in our lives, that thing or that person becomes our god!  Our minds may automatically jump to bad things, but a god can be and often times is a good things as well: Our jobs, our kids, our spouses, our exercise routine (distance running, at times, unfortunately has been my God), our homes, our golf game.  What do you focus on most?  That is your godDo you need to replace your God with the one true God? 

“You shall have NO OTHER gods before me.” –Exodus 20:3

Memorize Scripture With Me! Exodus 20:1 & 2

Yesterday I set some goals for myself, you can read about it here.  One of them was to memorize 100 scriptures every Adventist should know.  So I want to invite you to memorize with me.  Every few days I will place on my blog our text we are going to memorize.  I also at that time will add a little commentary on the text.  Maybe if you read these in the morning this can be added to your devotional time.  Either way I hope you will join me and check back regularly!  Maybe to help you memorize get a packet of 3 x 5 cards and write the scriptures on them, keep them with you and look at them and recite them throughout the day.

We are going to start today with Exodus 20: 1, 2 and I am going to be using the New International Version:

Verse 1:  And God spoke all these words:

Verse 2: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Personal Commentary:

These two verses are the prelude, the intro into the 10 Commandments that God carved into stone with His own hand.  They are words that are directly from God, they aren’t the interpretation of man, they are not man’s perspective, the Bible tells us that “God spoke all these words.” That to me it seems would make them quite important!  And in verse 2 we see the basis by which the children of Israel were to keep the law. They were to keep the law, because they were delivered by God from slavery.  This text really highlights the basis for all obedience, including why we should continue to obey, because we have been delivered! Not like the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, but from sin, we’ve been delivered from the condemnation of the law by Jesus, therefore we should obey.  I like how God reminds His people that He already delivered them and then asks them to keep the commandments.  Our God’s acts of grace ALWAYS precede our response, our actions!  

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

–Romans 5:8

The act of grace came before our actions of repentance, before our actions of obedience, before our actions of love. But then we are to respond in love which is obedience. 

” “If you love me, keep my commands.”

–John 14:15

If you ever run into someone that tries to discourage your obedience by telling you not to be a “legalist” because it is all about love.  Remind them that love and obedience cannot be separated!  We obey because we love, we love because we are delivered, we are delivered because God loves us!

Memorize this scripture and remember the commandments are a response to a mighty act of GRACE!




My 2011 Goals

So I think I am finally ready to talk about some of my goals for 2011.  ALL of us should set goals!  Why? 

  1. Goals help bring clarity to our lives.
  2. Goals help us to prioritize.  Many of us spend way to much time doing nothing, not because we are lazy, but because we lack direction. 
  3. Goals build confidence.  Even if we don’t achieve our goals, if we honestly work towards them we will find we have done far more than we thought we could and that will build-up our confidence. 
  4. Goals written down are more likely achieved than just hoping we accomplish something!

What to know when you are setting goals:  They should be SMART!

  • S-specific
  • M-measurable
  • A-attainable
  • R-realistic
  • T-time bound (trackable)

So here are some of my goals for 2011:


  • I will memorize the 100 scriptures every Adventist should know by June 1, 2011.  (I got these scriptures from my friends at the ARISE/Lightbearers.
  • I will read through the book “Desire of Ages” as part of my morning worship.
  • I will not miss Visalia Seventh-day Adventist Church’s House of Prayer two weeks in a row.
  • I will meet with my prayer partner weekly.
  • I will make one lost friend and lead them to Jesus in 2011.


  • I will eat supper with my family at least five nights a week.
  • I will be home to put my boys to bed at least three nights out of the work week.
  • I will pray daily with my sons and my wife.
  • I will go on at least two dates a month with my wife.
  • I will plan 1 family vacation.
  • I will plan 1 romantic get away with my wife.
  • I will preach a maximum of 40 Sabbaths in 2011.


  • I will drink 90 ounces of water per day.
  • I will complete p90x (I’ve completed day 1 twice, I started over to have my rest day on the Sabbath) by April 22nd, 2011.
  • I will run a minimum of 3 miles at least 3 times per week.
  • I will run two half-marathons.
  • I will eat vegetables and fruit every day.
  • I will stop using cow’s milk on my cereal in 2011 (I love all my dairy people out there, but I’ve gotta do it, and don’t tell, but I’ll still be eating cheese:))  It is only bought for me now, since Dayton has switched to Almond Milk.


  • I will read at least one work related book a month.
  • I will weekly write this blog!
  • I will work to develop stronger communication skills with my staff and elders, I will have them evaluate me at the end of the year to see if I achieved this goal.
  • I will seek the counsel of my mentors and advisors monthly.
  • I will learn the ARISE curriculum for giving 1 on 1 Bible Studies.
  • I will develop and preach my own evangelistic sermons by April, 2011.
  • I will provide “text” hand-outs for my sermons weekly.
  • I will seek to find a volunteer that I can work with on weekly powerpoint presentations for sermons.
  • I will work with our team to develop a strategy for growth groups/small groups.
  • I will start and teach our membership class at least once a quarter.
  • I will find a small number of folk I can disciple.  Jesus discipled in small intimate relationships.
  • I will train 50 members of our church to be Spiritual mentors of new believers that join our church.

Personal Growth and Development:

  • I will complete levels 1 & 2 of the Spanish Immersion Language training tool.


  • I will golf with my Dad monthly (and hopefully get good again:)).

I pray all of you will think about your year and set some goals, I believe that you will find that you can achieve more than you ever thought possible if you will just set goals, even if you write them down and never look at them again you are stil almost guaranteed to accomplish more than if you had written nothing down.

One final note on goals: Notice above everything starts with “I will” that is simply because that is the easiest way to state something in the positive.  The reality is that “Only God can” & “Only God will”.  You see “I can” on my own accomplish several of the tasks above on my own, but they will be far short of bringing God glory if “I do” instead of “Jesus doing things through me and in me…” And ultimately I don’t want to take away any more from the Glory of God in my life than I already have thus far.  So pray for me as I pray for you!





More Than Words

Seth Godin wrote on his blog the other day,

I have deeds. ”Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offer ed his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” –James 2:17-26

Abraham and Rahab didn’t just give lip service to faith in God, they allowed that faith to turn their world upside down and challenge them in ways they never thought imaginable.  Is your faith all about words?  Or are you allowing that faith to turn your world upside down?  To paraphrase Seth Godin from a church and Christian perspective, “Let us do more than adopt the words of Jesus, let us adopt the change He has for our lives as well!”

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