Friday, June 26, 2020

An Open Letter About Racism and the Current Crisis in America

Open Letter Concerning the Current Crisis in America
Dr. Pastor David Holt; June 26, 2020

Our nation is in crisis.  Starting with the coronavirus, moving to the stay-at-home orders (which has had all kinds of psychological effects on people), then with the economy causing many to feel more fearful and uncertain, finally erupting with the horrendous killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and others.  Many blacks have had enough. The pain over years and years and years is surfacing as never before.  And many whites are torn in what to do. They want to take action and speak out against true racism, but because so much gets politicized and connected with unbiblical things, they often feel paralyzed.  

Here are my thoughts in hopes of bringing some understanding and action:
1.     God’s heart is hurting over all of this.  His heart aches for the people who have been killed.  His compassion goes out to the families and friends of these victims.  He is angry at the sin in our nation.  He is sovereign, holy, just, loving, merciful, patient, longsuffering, and faithful, among many other wonderfully complex attributes.  I cannot begin to imagine all that God feels right now.  It is important to try to see current events through the heart and mind of God.  I can just picture Jesus in Matthew 23:37 when He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that murders your prophets! You are the city that stones the very messengers who were sent to deliver you! So many times I have longed to gather a wayward people, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings—but you were too stubborn to let Me.”
2.     God calls us to repentance and faith in His Son Jesus for forgiveness and healing.  The ultimate problem is not a skin problem but a sin problem.  At the root of racism is pride.  The answer to all of this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  More on that later.
3.     Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of these victims and many more that have suffered under racism and injustice.  Everyone who has seen the videos of these killings agrees this is wrong.  In the past, after further information came to light, many whites would say, “That looks really bad, BUT …. I feel for that policeman…. They have a really tough job …. Not sure what I would have done in the spur of the moment in that situation …” and then we just trust the legal system will sort it all out. Sometimes they do (literally as I type this the news just announced 3 indictments in the Arbery case), while many times they don’t.  We learn later that the system did not treat the black person fairly.  And we hope it gets better. But often it doesn’t.  We watch movies like “Just Mercy” and we see how many are unjustly punished and incarcerated for crimes they never committed, because some racist had to find a “black person” to blame it on.  Our eyes are opening, but we have a long ways to go in seeing the full picture.  Most of all, we need the Lord to “bring to light” what has “been hidden in darkness.”
4.     What makes these recent killings so “eye opening” for whites is that there isn’t any more evidence we need to see to show us that these killings have no justification.  This is why you have more whites protesting over racism than any time in history.  And these protests are now international and not just national.  Is God shaking the nations to the reality of the sin of racism?  Could it be that slavery and racism is the “original sin” of America? 
5.     We wonder how many more merciless and unjust killings have taken place that were not recorded on a phone and shown to the world?  We wonder how many other acts of racism have been swept under the rug.  It is likely more deep-rooted than most whites realize.  Help us see what You have always seen, Lord.
6.     Just recently I was enlightened to a terrible lynching in 1946 that occurred just 8 miles from where I live. I have actually deer hunted on the land right next to where this occurred.   What happened on that terrible day in in 1946?  Two couples (one 7-months pregnant) were shot 60 times and lynched by a mob of 15-20 white people.  The husband of the pregnant couple had just been home for 9 months after serving 5 years in WW2!  This is what he gets for serving his country?  After 3 different investigations, no one has ever been arrested for this lynching.  To read the full account of what happened will make your stomach turn, as well as keep you up at night.  I have been to the place where this occurred …. to pray and reflect … and I prayed there yesterday with a group of pastors and intercessors.
7.     Returning to the current situation in our nation, God’s Word supports a person standing up for his God-given rights as Paul did in Acts when he was being denied his “rights” as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28). God’s Word also supports peaceful and non-violent protests to move a nation’s conscience and to work toward the reversal of unjust laws.  What Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did during the Civil Rights Movement is an example that should be followed today.
8.     God’s Word condemns the violence, looting and rebellion against the authority structures that He has set in place (see Romans 13).  One act of evil never justifies another act of evil. 
9.     Many white Christians want to support their black brothers and sisters and declare “Black Lives Matter,” because they do matter.  Black lives do matter. Black lives do deserve fair treatment.  Black lives are created in the image of God.  Black lives deserve the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Black lives deserve the same treatment as white people.  At the same time, many whites struggle being connected the to the BLM movement, because of the political connections that this movement has, of which they cannot endorse.  The founder of this movement has openly professed to being a Marxist.
10.  Many Christians want to support the pain and hurt of blacks, but struggle knowing how to do this when so many protests involve signs that say, “Defund Police”; “Blue Klux Klan,” or the protests links arms with the Gay Pride movement and seeks to make that a civil rights issue also.
11.  One only hurts the cause of blacks when protests turn to looting, vandalism, and the taking over of police stations.  Therefore, many white and black Christians do not know what to do and feel paralyzed.
12.  The idea of “Defunding Police” could result in anarchy.  Police reform is one thing, but defunding police departments is not the proper response.  I was recently in a meeting where our black Police Chief and black Sheriff told our white Mayor, “We are not in favor of defunding the police department because that will only hurt the blacks in this community.”  
13.  Unfortunately, so much that is going on gets connected to a political agenda that makes this even more confusing for Christians.  Some out of compassion lean left (like my dad!) because they want to help the oppressed. Jesus made it a priority to help and heal the poor, oppressed and marginalized. Others support the right, because they feel it better supports what the Bible says about the unborn and issues of sexual morality.
14.  Many evangelical Christians embrace the policies of our President, but disdain his pride, harmful tweets, personal attacks, and lack of unifying leadership.  Once again, this leaves them very paralyzed in what to do right now, and who to support and “get behind.”
15.  The black community today needs a national leader like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was devoted to biblical truths, compassion, boldness and non-violence.  His famous and impassioned “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is worth everyone’s read.  He challenged the passivity of the white church in his day.
16.  Studying the Christian history of America shows how demonic theology in the church is largely to blame for the sin of slavery lasting for so many years.  Had the church, pastors, theologians and others renounced this sin sooner, it may have prevented the Civil War.
17.  So with all this said, what can we do?  What practical suggestions can we consider?
a.     We should condemn racism in all its forms.  It is ungodly, demonic, and oppressive to an entire race of people. It is against everything in the nature of God and His Holy Word. 
b.     We can speak out against racism when we see it, be it from a friend or in society at large.
c.     We can stand against injustice.  Sometimes we need someone to point it out to us, because we often do not see it due to our white privilege.  I know many do not like this term and will resist it, but it simply means that we do have certain privileges and advantages in American by simply being white.  This is not our fault.  We had nothing to do with being born white, any more than my black brother had anything to do with being born black.  God is sovereign over that, and we can both rejoice and embrace the color of our skin.  At the same time, due to many factors (many of which were sinful), whites in American do have many privileges that we need to recognize.  In general, blacks do have more obstacles to overcome in being successful and achieving the “American Dream” that many whites were simply handed.
d.     We can study history so that we understand more fully why racism is one of the original sins of this country.  It is deep rooted and demonic due to slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc.  Many whites will respond, “But I did not own slaves, so don’t hold me responsible for that, and we are now in 2020 and blacks can do whatever they set their mind to do.”  True, you did not own slaves but when you understand how that system has affected the black race, and how much we are still negatively reaping what we have sown through that sin, then you will have more compassion and understanding for where blacks have come from.  There are so many carry-overs from this horrible sin.  We must understand it like we would if one of our family members were Native American and had to try to overcome all the sins we committed against that race years ago.
e.     We can intentionally develop relationships with black people, so that we actually have a friend we can ask in times like this, “What is this like for you?  What are you going through right now? How does all this make you feel?” And when we ask these questions, we need to use our two ears and close our one mouth, in order to listen. We need to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12).  We need to regard the other person as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2). We need to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6).  We need to be slow to speak and quick to listen (Jas. 4). I am preaching to myself as much as to anyone right now.
f.      We can pray.  God’s heart is moved when we pray, confess our sins and repent, so as to help bring healing in our land.  2 Chron. 7:14 is still God’s prescription for national healing:  “If MY people, who are called by MY name, will humble themselves and pray, seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land”.
g.     We can even pray for those who killed George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, that they might “come to their senses” and repent before the families and even the world.  If they did this, it just might serve to bring some healing.
h.     We can reach across political and sociological lines to try to come to some solutions. I don’t know exactly what this would look like, but I am meeting with other pastors and leaders in Athens to work on this. Please pray for this effort.  Recently I was in a room with 8 black pastors, 9 white pastors, our Mayor, our black Police Chief, our black Sheriff, and others. It was a very constructive discussion.
i.      We can look at the progress that is being made. Sure there is a lot of craziness and extremes mixed in, but all is not bleak right now.  Look at what the NASCAR drivers did recently to stand in support of Bubba Wallace.  Look at the support that is being shown to the many good police officers.  Look at how people are praying, and pastors are speaking on this issue.  There is much to be encouraged by.  Progress is being made.  
j.      Ask God, “What would You have me do?”  He speaks to those who are sincere and still enough to listen to His “still, small voice.”
18.  God is still on His throne, and there is always hope when we keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebr. 12).  He can and still does “work all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).  What Satan means for evil, God can work for good (Gen. 50:20).  I know many of you reading this do love God and are called according to His purpose.
19.  Jesus prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” must be our pursuit.  How can we help bring His kingdom to earth in some of the ways it is already true in heaven?  We will not see it fully realized, but we can see it take place a lot more than we currently see.
20.  We can all look forward to the day when Jesus will establish the new heaven and new earth, where there will be no sin, Satan, death, racism, division, pride, abuse, tears, pain, etc.  What a glorious eternity that will be.  Make sure you are saved by trusting in Christ’s shed blood on the cross, so that you will one day experience this.

21.  This is worth repeating and closing with:  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer and solution to all of these problems.  For the cross of Jesus grants forgiveness and healing for any sin.  The Gospel of Jesus calls one to repent, which results in a change of behavior.  The power of the Holy Spirit changes our hearts and enables us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  The Word of God declares that all people, regardless of race, are created in the image of God.  The cross of Jesus breaks down the wall of hostility (Eph. 2), because we are all a part of the human race, and all who are redeemed by the blood are brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 3:1). Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s throne in heaven will be full of people of every tribe, nation, tongue and people (Rev. 5).  I cannot wait for that day, but until God calls me home, I want to do all I can to make a difference for eternity.  How about you?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why the Vegas shooting?

“The Vegas shooting:  Not an excuse but maybe an explanation - Hurt People Hurt People.”

Everyone is asking, “How could someone kill all these people and then kill himself?”  No doubt only God knows.  This question is so complex that even the most trained psychologists may not be able to provide a satisfying answer.  However, I want to offer some possible answers, and once again, God’s Word helps us.

In Mark 5 Jesus encounters a man who is so troubled, demonized, and harmful to self and others that he was living in the tombs, cutting himself, overcome with mental and emotional anguish, and even exhibiting supernatural strength such that he could break free from chains. This oppressed man likely hated himself and others, and would have today been diagnosed with all kinds of mental, social, psychological, and spiritual disorders. Had he gone to a doctor, he would have been put on all kinds of medications, and they might have helped.  But Jesus loved him and did something to him no one else could do.  Jesus sets him free by casting the many demons out of him and into a herd of pigs to be drowned.  A side note: it is good this didn’t happen today or Jesus would have likely been arrested by the animal rights’ people for animal abuse.  Anyway, after this amazing act of love and power by Jesus, the troubled man was set free, clothed and in his right mind.  We see in this story how Jesus did indeed come to set the captives free.  The Good News is that Jesus is more powerful than Satan and still does this today, for those who call upon Him for help and deliverance.

I see a lot of similarities between the demonized man in Mark 4 and the Las Vegas shooter.  I am not even going to mention his name because I am opposed to giving him any more attention.  I offer the following possibilities to the Vegas shooting:
1.     His father was a very sinful and sick man (i.e., bankrobber).  The bible says, “The sins of the forefathers are carried to the 3rd and 4th generation.”
2.     He probably never received much love.  Those who don’t feel love have a hard time giving love. 
3.     He was a loner and thus more susceptible to the lies of the enemy.
4.     He mistreated his girlfriend, and this often has roots in self-hatred.
5.     He was likely very bitter at others and life, and this makes someone want to hurt others.  Hurt people hurt people.  “The wages of sin is death.”
6.     He was looking for life and meaning in all the wrong places:  money, gambling, and sex.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
7.     He likely had a very poor self-image, and at the core hated himself and thus hated others.  Hurt people hurt people.
8.     His mental and emotional pain likely made him want to put that same pain on others.  “They might as well suffer like I am.  I sure can’t stand to see all these thousands of happy people at a concert.  They don’t deserve to be happy while I am in misery.”  Satan will indeed feed people lies like this to lead them to “steal, kill and destroy.”
9.     Therefore, once he decided to end his own life, he figured he might as well take down others with him.  Hurt people hurt people.
10. As sick as this is to all people of sound mind, he may also have wanted to do something that would put his picture before the whole world to somehow validate his worth.  This is why I am personally opposed to the news showing the picture of people who do such things. 
11. John 10:10 says, “Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy.”  Satan is ultimately behind all acts of evil like this.  One thing I am certain of:  this man was clearly demonized at a very severe level, likely at the level of the demonized man in Mark 5.

The good news in the midst of this horrible tragedy is the rest of John 10:10, “But I (Jesus) have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”  The love and power of Jesus can transform not only a person like this, but anyone who is hurting.

I may be off in some of the explanations, but I am not off in the solution.  Whatever is hurting and troubling you today, Jesus wants to help you. He loves you; He created you; He died for you; and He rose again for you.  Turn to Him with whatever pain you have.  He can do for you what no one else or nothing else can do.  He came to set the captives free.  I just wish this man had turned to Jesus. A lot more people would be living today had He done that.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Don't Discuss Politics or Sports at church. Why?

I discourage our congregation from talking about politics or sport’s events at church functions. Why is this?
1.    Our purpose for coming together is to focus on Jesus and what is eternal, and these things are very temporal.
2.    These topics can easily become divisive.
3.    God’s Word says to be “diligent to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3), and I think this approach helps do just that.
4.    Jesus prayed that we would be one in Him (John 17), and that this unity would make a powerful statement to a watching world.  Our unity is in Jesus and not in some political party or loyalty to the same football team.
5.    We are commanded to build up one another in love, not to build up one another based on athletics or politics.
6.    Our country is so divided right now when it comes to politics, and when visitors come to our church, I want them to hear us excited about what God is doing in our lives.  “Fix your eyes on Jesus” (Hebr. 12).
7.    Hopefully we attract all kinds of people:  Republican, Democrat, Independent, Bulldawgs, Gators, Yellow Jackets, etc.  I don’t want people who visit our church to think that Living Hope is more about one of these labels than about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

8.    Particularly with political issues, there are always different perspectives on various issues, and in the limited time we have at church, the discussion will likely not be fruitful.  If people want to get together and discuss such issues outside of church functions, I actually encourage this, as it could be mutually enlightening, especially if they disagree at the outset.  So as you can see, I am not at all saying we should not talk about these things. But I am saying there is a time and a place for such discussions.  And I would suggest a “policy” of sorts that whenever we speak about political issues, we stop and pray for our leaders before going our own way (see 1 Tim. 2:1-4).

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cultural Christianity vs. The "Real Deal"

Pastor David Holt (with input from Dr. Rich Suplita and Jarrett Fletcher)

Recently I saw someone’s Facebook post that said, “Converted to Cultural Christianity in 2011, but truly surrendered my life to Christ in 2014.”  This got me thinking.  There is a big difference in becoming a “Cultural Christian” and a true follower of Jesus. What is the difference?

1.     A cultural Christian logically believes in God and Jesus, but a true follower of Jesus is wholeheartedly trusting in Christ alone for salvation.  “You believe God is one? You do well. The demons also believe and shudder” (James 2:19).
2.     A cultural Christian gives lip service to being a Christian, but a true follower of Jesus repents of his sin and surrenders control of his life to Christ.  “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father” (Mt. 7:21).
3.     A cultural Christian goes to church and agrees with most of what is said, but a true follower of Jesus attends church to worship God in Spirit and in Truth.  “You honor Me with your lips but your heart is far from Me” (Mk. 7:6)
4.     A cultural Christian talks only of trivial things with others, but a true follower of Jesus engages in genuine fellowship with others in the body. “Let us consider how we might spur one another on to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together” (Hebr. 10:24).
5.     A cultural Christian may devote a few activities to God each week, but a true follower of Jesus seeks to live everyday for God.  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lu. 9:23).
6.     A cultural Christian avoids the big sins for fear of embarrassment, but a true follower of Jesus is genuinely seeking to live a holy life in word and deed. “You shall be holy for I am holy” (1 Pe. 1:16).
7.     A cultural Christian enjoys his sin more than God, but a true disciple of Jesus repents of his sin and wants to obey God. “For I have the desire to do what is right” (Rom. 7:18).
8.     A cultural Christian strays from God but does not feel convicted, but if a true disciple strays from God he comes under loving discipline.  “The Lord disciplines those whom He loves …. And if you are without discipline, you are an illegitimate child and not a true son” (Hebr. 12:6-8).
9.     A cultural Christian is religious and does religious activities, but a true follower of Jesus has a real and growing relationship with God.  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Mt. 23:27).
10. A cultural Christian stencils Bible verses on their walls (or Facebook) so that they might impress their church-going friends, but a true disciple hides the Word of God in his heart so that he might not sin against His Savior.  “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11).
11. A cultural Christian seeks God for the things he wants, but a genuine Christian seeks God for the things He wants. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt. 6:33).
12. A cultural Christian focuses only on the attributes of God he likes, but a true Christ-follower worships God for all of His attributes, even the ones he is uncomfortable with.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son … whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already” (Jn. 3:16-18).
13. A cultural Christian prays before meals, or in times of need, but a true disciple seeks God daily in prayer as a necessary aspect of his communion with His Creator. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).
14. A cultural Christian asks, "How can Christianity make my life better?" but a true disciple asks, "How can I die to myself that Christ may live in and through me?"  “That I may know Him, the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death” (Phil. 3:10).
15. A cultural Christian will give a nod of affirmation to the Gospel going forth in socially-acceptable, non-offensive ways, but a true disciple will get behind the Gospel going forth even when it offends the world and personally costs him. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).
16. A cultural Christian will routinely spend hours in front of Netflix, shopping, or watching a sports’ event, but cannot tell you when the last time he spent more than an hour earnestly seeking God in the Word and prayer.  “Faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:26).

This list is by no means exhaustive, but perhaps in it you recognize that you may be a cultural Christian but not have a genuine relationship with Christ.  If that is the case, or if you have any doubt as to your true salvation, take time to allow God to search your heart.  Consider the following questions as you search your heart:
a.     Do you admit that you sin and do things that displease God?
b.     Do you believe in your heart that Jesus died and rose again for your sin?
c.      Are you willing to turn your sin over to God and allow Him to change you from the inside out?
d.     Do you want Jesus to be your Savior and Lord?
e.     Are you willing to pray and invite Him to come into your life and take control of your life?

If you answered “yes” to each of these, here is a suggested prayer to pray:
“Lord God, I admit that I have sinned against you.  I have been living more for me than for You.  I believe that Jesus died and rose again for my sin.  I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9).  I turn from my sin and receive Jesus into my life.  Take control of my life and fill me with your Holy Spirit.  Empower me to live for You.  Thank you for doing this.  Amen.”


If you truly prayed that from your heart, please let me know by emailing me at davidholt08@gmail.com.  The next thing to do is be baptized, as this will seal that commitment you have made.  Let me know if I can help you in any way, or if you have any questions.