Systemic Racial Injustice and the Gospel

Our nation is suffering right now. That much is clear. I recognize that in some situations offering an opinion or response does little more than fan a flame of divisiveness, and silence may be helpful. However, I also realize that some situations demand and need a response.  I am reminded that God responded to our need and “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

I have no desire to “take sides” on the issues here because I do not believe “sides” are clearly recognized by everyone. In fact, our tendency is to argue over an issue at length only to discover that we are on the same side only defined differently! As a Pastor, however, I feel I must call my brothers and sisters in Christ to the Gospel which unifies us. I cannot hope to call the entire nation to unify around the Gospel of Jesus because most have rejected it, but I can and will call believers in Jesus of every skin tone to embrace the central message of the Bible we all claim to follow.

Is there systemic racial injustice in America? Since the time that man sinned in Adam and Eve, we have always struggled with pride. Cain killed Abel because of jealousy and envy. Abel had “favor” while Cain did not. It was not “fair” in his thinking, so he settled the score by committing the first murder.  Distorted views of “justice” continued till eventually God sent the global flood and began again with Noah and his family.  After Noah emerged from the Ark, God established human government to enforce justice among humans. Man continued his downward spiral into hatred and pride until God intervened again at Babel. The concept of “races” began at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) when God created the languages of men, thus separating them into family groups which would segregate different gene pools and over time formulate different skin tones etc.

Around 2,000 years later with the introduction of the Mosaic Law, Hebrews were given by God more revelation concerning true justice. That Law has been a foundation for many governments since then including our own in America. However, divine law cannot be enforced by corrupt and sinful man to produce true justice. The Law is good, but it only reveals sin (Romans 3:20). It cannot and will not produce righteousness. 

This brings us to the Gospel of Jesus. Why did Jesus come? Why did He die on the cross?

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  (Romans 3:20-26 NKJV)

Yes, Jesus died for our sins because we are not capable of true justice on our own. Indeed ALL HAVE SINNED. The reality is that we are all on the same side… we are all sinners in need of forgiveness! Justice was served by God the Father on His innocent Son Jesus in order that the justice which you and I deserve would be satisfied. This “justice” only applies to those who trust in Jesus!

What about our government now? What about our police? What about the practical problems in our society today?

Human governments controlled by sinful men have continued to attempt to “settle the score” just as Cain did, and enforce justice in society; but sadly the best that man can devise is still corrupt at its heart. So long as sinful men break the laws of the land and so long as sinful men attempt to enforce the laws of the land, there will be injustice. No matter how good the law, sinful man will always twist it to his advantage. Yes, there is injustice in America. Yes, it is systemic. That is the nature of corrupt human beings. 

So what is the cure? The Gospel of Jesus is at the heart of every solution to every problem every society will ever face. The only true hope for America is not in new attempts at justice, but in a fundamental transformation of her citizens through the power of the Gospel of Jesus. When God’s Holy Spirit enters a man because he is “born again” (John 3), and when he yields to that Holy Spirit, only then will change come to hearts. 

Can our government be fixed? Not by us. In fact, there is coming a day when Jesus will return and set right all injustice and enforce righteousness in perfection. Society will only experience true justice when Jesus sits on the throne. 

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.
(Isaiah 11:1-5)

In the Love of Christ,
Pastor Joel Henderson

It’s time to go to church… sort of.

After our board meeting Tuesday night we were all agreed: we need to get back to church, and the time is here to begin that process. It won’t be “normal,” but we are moving toward that reality. Our Governor has declared that our county will be moved to the “yellow” phase of the reopening plan this Friday. That means that the stay-at-home order will be lifted, although social distancing will still be in place. Group gatherings will also be permitted, however they are to be limited to 25 people. So what does all this mean for Trinity Gospel Church? 

We will be opening the church building this Sunday (May 10) for the morning worship service at 9:30. Sunday School classes will be postponed until a later date. Before the COVID-19 restrictions we were averaging about 50-60 people on Sunday morning. That is double the permitted group size so some accommodations must be made. We offer three possibilities:
Option 1
We understand that some people are not ready to return yet due to various health issues and increased vulnerability. This is expected and understood. Please do not feel pressured to come on Sunday if you are uncomfortable. For this reason the Sunday morning service will be video recorded and posted online at 11:00 am (as we have done for the last several weeks). If you desire to remain home and watch online we encourage you to do this for now. 

Option 2
A second option is to gather a small group of around 10 (or fewer) people in a home for a “watch-party.”  Cody Hoover has opened his home in Warrensville for this purpose, and there may be others who wish to do the same. For coordinating purposes, if you desire to join or host a Sunday morning “watch-party” at 11:00 am please contact pastor Joel or reply to this email. 

Option 3
You may wish to come to the church building for the early service at 9:30. For those who choose this option, masks must be worn (although for singing and worship they may be removed).  We will endeavor to maintain the requested 6 ft distance and refrain from physical contact. If there are more than 25 people who attend, we will ask some to worship in the lower level while listening to the live broadcast from the auditorium. We realize this is not ideal, but we also understand that this is only temporary.

We feel that these options provide a way for us to begin re-opening while respecting the requests of our government authorities. In time, we trust these restrictions will be lifted, and we will once again be permitted to worship together in the same building. Until that time we will follow this pattern Sunday mornings unless we think it wise to make adjustments. 

Our other services will be open as well. Sunday evening at 6:00 and the RU addictions program on Fridays at 7:00. We do not anticipate our attendance being over 25 for these services, but will continue to monitor and make adjustments as necessary. Social distancing guidleines will also be followed at these services. We will continue to video record all services and post them online as well. Look for them on our website, YouTube, or Facebook. Our midweek small groups will continue to meet in homes as before. Please contact your small group leader for specific information regarding your group. If you are not yet part of a group and would like to join one, let us know today!

These are strange times, but our God is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever!

See you soon.
Pastor Joel Henderson

Conspiracy and COVID-19.

Something’s not right here. 

Everyone seems to have this perspective. Our world is scrambling to make sense of this pandemic and the global response to it. Christians are no different. We all want to know what is going on, and we notice when things don’t seem to make sense. One example here in PA occurred when the “Corona-virus fatality count” was actually lowered by over 200! Why would the state report deaths that actually did not occur? This and many other reports cause the critical thinker to raise an eyebrow. 

Social networks are a breeding ground for “conspiracy theories,” and this pandemic is an unlimited supply of fuel that makes them grow. Don’t get me wrong,  I’m not claiming to know more than anyone else; but when Christians add in a limited understanding of already obscure (although not impossible to discern) Bible prophecy passages, we get some pretty interesting ideas floating around. Society seems to be hyped on emotion, but seriously lacking in factual (and Biblical) knowledge and understanding. Christians are not immune to this either.

So what do we do with all this information and these coincidental connections? How do we respond to Bill Gates, 5G networks, Globalism, the World Health Organization, The mark of the Beast, Chinese cover-ups, bloated stimulus packages, immunization certificates/passports, media exaggeration, Hydroxychloroquine kick-backs, political elections, and government overreach? (Did I miss any?)

Well… how do Christians always deal with our circumstances? We look to the Bible for guidance. We yield to the Spirit for our responses. We trust our Father in His sovereignty for our peace. We cling to our Savior for our ultimate protection. 

There have always been plots and conspiracies for control and domination. Remember the people of Genesis 11 at the Tower of Babel? “Let us make us a name…” they said. Remember Lucifer in Isaiah 14? “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.” He planned a rebellion in heaven! Remember how Judas Iscariot “went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them” (Luke 22:4)? As long as there is fallen man, and as long as the Devil is free to roam the earth, there will be conspiracies. Are there conspiracies at play in this pandemic now? Yes…without a doubt! I believe there are multiple conspiracies at play.

But here’s the good news that Peter understood. While preaching on the Day of Pentecost he said of Jesus, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” (Acts 2:23-24)  You see, even though the enemies of Jesus plotted to kill him (and seemed successful in their conspiracy) they were actually working the plan determined by God Himself! They thought they were in control; but in seeking their own desires, they fulfilled the eternal purpose of God! 

This pandemic is the same.

The Bible says in Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.”  No matter the plot that man conceives God is and always will be the ultimate director. His plan will be fulfilled through the individual “plots” of man. Are we all just puppets? some might ask. The fact that we can “conspire” our own plans answers that question with a resounding “NO!” God allows man the ability to make his own choices, but only among the options He allows. God directs mans steps as the King of the Universe who is sovereign over all. 

So what is God’s plan in this pandemic? While He has revealed some of that plan through the prophetic passages in the Bible, only He knows how He works all these details toward that end. One thing is sure…

All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;
He does according to His will in the army of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, “What have You done?”
(Daniel 4:35 NKJV)

To that I say… AMEN!

Pastor Joel Henderson