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U.S. Senate Chaplain: There Is Nothing to Fear

FROM ADVERSITY TO BLESSING
As the Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, Chaplain Barry Black is a spiritual leader to the Senate lawmakers, their families, their staff, and other people who work on the Senate side – about 7,000 total.  He performs traditional pastoral duties, offers one-on-one counseling, and leads weekly Bible studies.  Early in his life Chaplain Black’s enduring, tenacious mother, Pearline, loved God and taught him the same life lessons.  When she got baptized, she was pregnant with him.  God told her she needed to do something for her unborn child.  She kept praying for him throughout his life and kept telling him that God created him for something special.  She worked hard to give him a Christian education and instilled in him early a love for the scriptures.  He was raised in poor, inner-city public housing in Baltimore, Maryland where crime and drugs were rampant.   Chaplain Black’s father was a long distance truck driver and was rarely home.  His mother was the spiritual leader of the home.  When his father was home he drank excessively and rarely spoke.  Later, he spent months in jail for not making court-demanded child support payments.  Chaplain Black says his father felt like a stranger for most of his life.  He and his siblings would pray that their father would stop drinking and become a responsible parent. (Eventually his father did come to the Lord.) 

Despite these challenges, God gave Chaplain Black a love for learning, a gift of memorization, and good public-speaking skills.  He had good relationships with his siblings and good mentors.  He accepted the Lord when he was 10 and can’t remember a time when he didn’t want to preach.  He loved the library and church, reading and worshipping God.  These kept him out of trouble and on the right path.  He continued these disciplines through his academic and military careers.  Chaplain Black is thankful for his problems.  Without problems, he wouldn’t have discovered God’s infinite capacity to make a way when there is no way and to do exceedingly abundantly above all that he could ask or imagine.  

NOTHING TO FEAR
Chaplain Black says we are living in a dangerous world, like sheep among wolves. Events such as “a racially motivated shooting at a church in South Carolina, the rise of Islamic State across the Middle East, the beheading of Egyptian Christians…and the drifting of nations from their spiritual mores” show how the world seems to be spinning out of control. How can believers stay fearless in the face of such troubling situations? Chaplain Black says Jesus gave his disciples seven principles to help them, which include:

Reality Check- In order to stay fearless it is important to see ourselves as we really are. Chaplain Black says, “learn to see yourself as a servant.” Having a servant mentality helps to “focus more on what we can contribute to the world, than what we can take from it.” In addition to having a servant mentality, believers should choose God’s plan of salvation, and also embrace the love of God and endeavor to love others.

Thrive in a Predatory World- Chaplain Black says we should prepare to thrive in several ways. One of the biggest things we can do is pray. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that we should “pray without ceasing.” Many believers wonder whether that’s really possible, but Chaplain Black says we can pray without ceasing by “cultivating a spirit of habitual devotion, keeping our hearts attuned to God’s transcendence and immanence.” “Without ceasing,” means constantly recurring or regular.  Prayer prepares us to thrive.  In addition, Chaplain Black says believers should learn to, “break the devil’s grip,” knowing that the power of God is stronger than the power of evil. Finally we should prepare to pass life’s tests. God sometimes gives us pop quizzes, and we need to be ready.

Be as Innocent as Doves- Finally, to stay fearless, Chaplain Black says we must be as “innocent as doves,” or in other words, avoid the seven deadly sins. Pride, lust, sloth, destructive anger, greed, gluttony, and envy can all demolish  “kings and presidents and ordinary people,” said Black. Pride makes us desire to live without God, and lust tempts us to chase things that can destroy us. Sloth causes us to miss important opportunities, anger can divide us, and greed keeps us preoccupied with meaningless things. Gluttony causes us to value the physical realm over the spiritual, and envy causes us to have hostility and ill will when others succeed.

MINISTERING ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE
Chaplain says he manages to minister on both sides of the aisle by remembering that each person, no matter their political affiliation, is precious to God. “If there was only one person on the planet, God would have died for them,” he said. Remembering this, we should “strive as human beings to fulfill the law of loving our neighbor as ourselves.”

Another thing that should bring unity in the political sphere is remembering there can be validity in two different perspectives. Although each party has different presuppositions about how the government can best serve the people, we are all better served when we listen more than we speak. We could learn from others, and more importantly come up with a compromise that gets things accomplished.

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Guest Info

Credits

Author, latest: Nothing to Fear: Principles and Prayer (Tyndale 2017)

62nd Chaplain of the U.S. Senate since 2003

Commissioned in 1976 as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy

Ended his almost 30 year military career as chief of Navy chaplains – the only African American to serve in that position

Two-star Navy admiral

Other service decorations include Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit Medal, Meritorious Service Medals, and Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals

Alumnus of Oakwood College; Andrews Univ., North Carolina Central Univ., Eastern Baptist Seminary, Salve Univ., and U.S. Int’l Univ.

Has Masters Degrees in divinity, counseling, and management and Doctorates in ministry and psychology

Married to Brenda

Three sons

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