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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Conversation with Barry Black

John Bradshaw - Conversation with Barry Black


John Bradshaw - Conversation with Barry Black
TOPICS: Conversations

John Bradshaw: Dr. Black, thank you so much for taking your time. I appreciate you joining me.

Dr. Barry Black: I'm delighted to be with you, Pastor.

John Bradshaw: Hey, so let's start in the beginning for you. And you can, you can decide where the beginning is. Take me back to...well, how did your life unfold? And I'm looking to, I'm looking to find a path to the Senate chaplaincy, sir.

Dr. Barry Black: Well, the path started, uh, I won't give you the date because that's classified.

John Bradshaw: Oh, sure.

Dr. Barry Black: But, uh, I was in my mother's womb, and my mother was in an, an inner city tenement when someone placed a handbill in her mailbox. The title of the sermon, an evangelistic sermon, "The Day Money Will Be Thrown in the Streets of Baltimore, Maryland, and No One Will Stop to Pick It Up". My mother, uh, who had migrated to Baltimore, the daughter of a South Carolina sharecropper, a fourth-grade education, said, "I'm going to the meeting. I will not stay for the entire meeting. I only need two questions answered: When will the money be thrown, and where will it be thrown? Once I have that information, I'm out of there". Well, it was a 12-week meeting. She was drawn into the Adventist message, and as she was baptized, she asked for the Holy Spirit to place a special anointing on her unborn child. And that, I believe, was the beginning of my journey.

John Bradshaw: So tell me something about your, your upbringing. What were the circumstances of, of your upbringing in Baltimore?

Dr. Barry Black: Well, I was very blessed because I had a cocoon, uh, as did my, eventually, seven siblings, and that cocoon was Christian education. We were walking distance from the school on Madison Avenue and Whitelock Street in Baltimore, Maryland, and from the church on Madison Avenue and Robert Street in Baltimore, Maryland. And that was kind of our safety, uh, uh, zone. And so, uh, although my mother was a domestic, made $6 a day, uh, but our church had a program where, uh, each child was expected to matriculate at the Christian schools, and if the parents did not have the money, they had an education fund to subsidize the effort. And so we matriculated, uh, through church school, and, of course, every time the church door opened, early morning prayer service, Sabbath school, uh, divine worship, and then we had something called MV, Missionary Volunteer, and, and people pulled out their sack lunches, and it was an all-day affair. And, and we went from church school to church, church school to church. There was one dear lady, uh, Sister Albertha Brown, who, um, sort of adopted me, and after school I would go to her home, and that enabled me to study. Uh, she was essentially at least middle-class, owned her own home, and I studied with her children. And what a blessed, blessed difference that made in my life, too. So we were literally a village, uh, that, uh, again, provided that, uh, that safety to develop.

John Bradshaw: You mentioned your mother. How about your father?

Dr. Barry Black: My father, heh, was, uh, nomadic. We were told he was a long-distance truck driver, so he was gone most of the time, and he was in and out. He was very quiet. Um, and, uh, because he wasn't around very much, particularly during my adolescence, I became very angry. I had a very abbreviated prodigal son experience, ran back to the church very, very quickly. Uh, but, uh, stopped praying for my father. I guess, in the eleventh grade, I went away to a boarding academy called Pine Forge Academy, wonderful, wonderful school, snd just stopped praying for my father. And then went off to Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, still not praying for him. Eventually decided to pursue the ministry, but still not praying for him. And one day I came home, and the members of the church saw me; they knew I was studying for the ministry; they asked me to preach. I preached. I made an invitation to discipleship, uh, at the end of my message. Had no idea that my father was even in the audience. And who should respond...

John Bradshaw: No.

Dr. Barry Black: ...along with others, to that invitation to discipleship, but my father, uh, who died as a member of the Adventist Church. And I'll see him again. He's got some explaining when we get to heaven, but I'll see him again. Uh, so he was not around, uh, as often as I would have liked to have, but then again, you know, he was a Korea, uh, war veteran, and there were all kinds of factors that forced him to be away from home. It was much easier for my mother as a domestic to get work than he.

John Bradshaw: We hear about the challenges confronting young people, young African-Americans particularly, growing up in the inner city. Somehow you ended up right side up. Not everybody ends up right side up, and, and no matter your race or even your town, life throws a lot of challenges at you, but you came from the inner city. How did you wind up studying in the ministry? Where did that come from, and when and how you, did you discover your calling?

Dr. Barry Black: I think that I always, uh, desired to be a preacher. I really think I was called from my mother's womb. I, I, I never desired to be anything else, and yet, like Jonah, I ran from the calling because all of the preachers I knew, uh, were, let's just say, economically deprived. And I had had enough of poverty, and I was absolutely determined that that was not going to, to be my life. And so I ran from it, and I used to tell God, "I, I'm not going to be a poor preacher". And I remember, uh, a fall week of prayer. We used to have spring week of prayers and fall week of prayers at the academy that I went to. And walking out under the stars after Dr. Calvin Rock, amazing preacher, had delivered a series of sermons, Our God Is Able...which he later, uh, published, had published as a book... and I looked up at the stars. And in the inner city you don't see the stars like you do in the country.

John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Barry Black: And I stood before the majesty and infinitude of the universe. And I was suddenly aware of how frail I was, uh, how weak I was, how I was like a Lilliputian before Gulliver. And, I, I knew I had no explanation for where I'd come from or where I was going, except what I had learned in Scripture, uh, prompted by my mother providing a monetary incentive, five cents a verse, and I'd memorize an awful lot of Scripture. And I, I think that was the formal recognition, that even if it means poverty, I cannot run from this thing anymore. And so I was a "reluctant convert," as C.S. Lewis says, but Francis Thompson's "hound of heaven" caught me.

John Bradshaw: Tell me about your experience at Oakwood. How did that, how did that form you or mold you? How did that in a, in some special way set you up and prepare you for what was to follow?

Dr. Barry Black: Oakwood was an amazing place. It was in the early '60s. Alabama had not yet begun to implement Brown v. the Board of Education, so it was still segregated. And, um, to be on a campus where the president, the dean of men looked like me, where the teachers had a passion. I mean, you, you were almost tutored rather than taught. Where they knew your strong areas and your weak areas, where they warned you regarding the environment that you were about to enter, where you, as they, may not be celebrated but tolerated. And where they raised the bar for excellence. Uh, in my Greek class, my Greek teacher saw that I was not taking notes, you know. I, I thought that my retentive memory... I didn't need to take notes. And he pulled me aside, and he said, "Barry," he said... he, he's still alive; he's like 102 now... he says, "If I don't see you taking notes, a C is as high as you're going to get. I don't care what you get".

John Bradshaw: Well.

Dr. Barry Black: I mean, now, who can do that? In that kind of environment you, you could do that. The best preachers came through. Um, so you heard amazing messages. I remember D.J. Williams: "We are moving toward daybreak," uh, from the text "Watchmen, What of the Night"?

John Bradshaw: Mmm.

Dr. Barry Black: You know, one of the most powerful preachers I've ever heard, a guy named H.L. Cleveland. They all had initials. Nobody knew the name.

John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Barry Black: "A Beautiful Gate but a Lame Man". I mean, he came and he started an exhaustive study of this text... it's coming out of Acts chapter 3, "reveals no account in either sacred or secular writing for the knowledge anywhere of the existence of a gate known as Beautiful. Scholars all agree that the gate was the gate Nicanor. Josephus writes, 'This gate was of Corinthian bronze and far exceeded in splendor even those gates that were plated with gold and silver.'"

John Bradshaw: This was how many years ago? No, no, no, don't tell me. This was, this was, this was back when you were studying...

Dr. Barry Black: In 1960.

John Bradshaw: ...in the '60s.

Dr. Barry Black: "So magnificent was this spectacle of grace and charm and so lovely did it shine, that when all of the gates of the city were removed, because they were architecturally obsolete, this gate, the gate Nicanor, remained. Visitors and tourists came from miles around to admire this spectacle of grace and charm. It was indeed a work of art". That was his setup for "A Beautiful Gate but a Lame Man". I mean, we were listening to homiletical excellence. C.D. Brooks: "I Find No Fault in Him". Charles Bradford: "If You Don't Use It, You Lose It". These magnificent... and you were exposed to that.

John Bradshaw: It's very clear that, that a major part of shaping you for your life in ministry was preaching.

Dr. Barry Black: Oh yeah.

John Bradshaw: You were in a position where you experienced a powerful, uh, ascendant preaching of a generation or so ago. How does that compare to what we hear today, very generally speaking?

Dr. Barry Black: Well, I think, you know, John 12 says, "If I be lifted up, [I'll] draw all [people] unto me". Uh, and the missing link is the lack of a Christo-centric, a Christ-centered focus, a passion for, for Christ. Um, and you see it from time to time, but not like, um, not like I used to, to hear it, uh, growing up. You know, the old school preaching, where the preacher would go 45 minutes, sometimes an hour, and you still didn't want it to end.

John Bradshaw: What would you say to, uh, a young Barry Black, maybe not even a young Barry Black, but a young man today living in some inner city who may, may or may not understand the opportunities that are before him? How would you encourage our young people today, uh, as they look forward in life, looking for the direction to go?

Dr. Barry Black: Well, I would tell that young man or woman, uh, God has a plan for your life that is more than you can ask or imagine. And it would astound you if you only knew what He wants to do in your life. Trust the dream. Trust the process. You may be like Joseph, with dreams of pre-eminence, and you don't even know where those dreams are coming from. Trust the process. It may take being thrown into a pit and being sold into Egypt and having to deal with Mrs. Potiphar and then a delay of 24 months. Trust the dream. And then I would probably tell them about when I was 8 years of age, my mother bringing home a record. It was the only record anyone ever gave her. And I played the record until I'd memorized the narration, and it was a narration by Peter Marshall, the 57th chaplain of the United States Senate. And I had no idea as I was memorizing, "The mornin' sun had been up for some hours over the city of David. Pilgrims and visitors were pouring in through the gates, mingling with merchants from villages roundabout," that God had a plan for my life, that I would be a successor to Peter Marshall. It's more than you can ask or imagine. And He says in Jeremiah 29:11, I want to bring you to "an expected end". That's what I would tell that young person.

John Bradshaw: Dr. Black, now, you came up, you came through a very, uh, fascinating time in our nation's history. You mentioned going to Oakwood, and there were "teachers who looked like me". They spoke of their experience in preparation for what you would experience. How did you deal with the racism that I'm going to assume you undoubtedly encountered?

Dr. Barry Black: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: And how did you, how did you...refuse to allow that to get you off track? Tell me how that, how you worked that through. How'd you process that?

Dr. Barry Black: It was the power of, of, of memorized Scripture. You know, David said in the 119th Psalm, "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I will not sin against you". Um, I had memorized when I was 10 years old 1 Peter 1:18 and 19...we're redeemed not "with corruptible," see, "things, [such] as silver and gold... but with the precious blood" of, of Jesus Christ, "a lamb without blemish". And in my little 10-year-old mind, I was able to do the deductive reasoning that the value of an object is based upon the price someone is willing to pay. And I sat there and marinated in that text. What? God coming to die for me? Really? I'm that special? And it was like imprinting. Um, it was, I, I didn't have to flip a switch. It just happened that it, I had a sense of self-worth and the knowledge of the price that had been paid for me, so that no one and nothing, uh, nothing could make me feel inferior anymore. You can call me any name you want or whatever. It did not...I've been blood-bought. I've been blood-purchased by...a Savior, uh, who, He was God incarnate. And so that...was my fuel and continues to be my fuel, no matter what happens, this, this sense of I am a child of the Most High God.

John Bradshaw: It seems as though race issues are never going to go away.

Dr. Barry Black: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: We, we wish they will, but this side of heaven we're still going to have to deal with, with that. What do you say to somebody, no matter their race, who's wrestling with, okay, two things: one, hatred in their heart, prejudice in their heart for someone else who's different? What do you say also to the person who's wrestling with the racism that they have to encounter or endure?

Dr. Barry Black: Yeah. If he or she is a person of faith, I would give them, uh, give him or her 2 Peter 3:18... "But grow in...grace and in [a] knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". And I'd give them 2 Peter 1:5 about adding to your faith, you know, virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, you know, kindness, love, all of those things. And it would remind them that it's a, it's a work in progress. Um, and Peter, you know, God had to work with him. He still had some...

John Bradshaw: Yes, he did.

Dr. Barry Black: ...racial issues and things like that.

John Bradshaw: That whole vision of Acts chapter 10...

Dr. Barry Black: Yeah, exactly.

John Bradshaw: ...was God's way of reaching the heart of a bigot.

Dr. Barry Black: Exactly, exactly. And so, and, and yet God was using him, okay? So be patient; God is not through with, with us yet. And I would also remind them that God's church, His, His "ekklesia," His "called-out" ones, that it's not an odd gallery of finished saints. It's a hospital, you know, and we're in triage here, you know. And so when we, when we cry out with Paul, uh, Philippians 3:10, that I, "That I [might] know Him... the power of His resurrection, ...the fellowship of His suffering". I'm feeling you, Lord, with, with all of these challenges, all of this pushback, and I'm, I'm reveling in the fact that, yes, I've experienced racial pushback, but no nails in my hands yet, you know. Hebrews 12:4, "You have not yet resisted unto blood in your struggle against sin". So, that's what I would tell them.

John Bradshaw: Your journey into chaplaincy, did you know early that you would, that you would, you would be drawn to chaplaincy, or did that come later, and how did that come to you?

Dr. Barry Black: It came very late. Um, I had no idea that that was where God wanted me to go. I left seminary; I pastored eight churches at one time. Okay, so I was like a conference president.

John Bradshaw: Yes, yes.

Dr. Barry Black: And I was preaching three times a Sabbath... and three different sermons because I didn't want my bride to have to deal with the same sermons. And, uh, I was in, uh, Durham, North Carolina, and two African-American Adventists would commute from Norfolk, Virginia, to Durham, North Carolina, to hear me preach. And I said, "Why don't you guys just, you know, stay up there, or go to one of the chapels"? And they said, "We have never seen an African-American Navy chaplain". And so that planted the seeds, I think, in the soil of my spirit for, wow, maybe that is an option that I should consider one day. Um, I also had been given by God a passion to work with young people. And the military provided that opportunity, so in time those two things came together, the know...the, the knowledge that there was a need, a passion to work with young people, and I found myself...also there's something called the National Service Organization in the General Conference at the time... it's now ACM, Adventist Chaplains Ministry... and they were recruiting young, um, Seventh-day Adventist ordained ministers to go into the military to help. So this was the perfect storm. It was beautiful, and I, I went in only, uh, intending, John, to be there for three years. That's what I was signing up for. But...I knew within 48 hours I had found where God wanted me to be. And I stayed for 27 years, and it was a protracted honeymoon; it really was, you know. Uh, I felt guilty for getting paid. But, uh, God had permitted me to arrive at a desired destination. It was wonderful.

John Bradshaw: When you become a chaplain in the military, what sort of awareness is there of, of the career path? Is, is the thought generally, well, you know, this is what I'm going to do, and I'll stay about where I am, or where do you start looking? I don't know, you, you don't have to be an ambitious person to do that, but you do look a couple of steps ahead. What's the path that the typical chaplain sees ahead of him or her?

Dr. Barry Black: Well, uh, when you enter the military, you're aware of the fact that there are junior officers and senior officers. And the senior officers get to supervise and to give orders to the junior officers. But you have to reach, uh, what would be a, a Navy commander or a lieutenant colonel in the Army or the Air Force to be a senior officer. So that's kind of the, uh, the aspiration of a young, young person coming in. It would be like in the pastoral ministry saying, one day I hope to pastor the largest church in the conference, or one day I hope to be, uh, the AY leader of the conference, or something like that. So there is that, that kind of, of hierarchal awareness. However, I was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. So when I was in chaplain school, they told us, "Okay, tomorrow we're going to have inspection, so you have to go to the uniform shop and get your uniform". So I went to the uniform shop, and I saw these pretty hats with gold on them. And so I, I thought, now, that is really impressive. I will impress them at the inspection with this. So, I tried to purchase the hat. The lady at the, um, cash register said, "Are you sure you want that"? "Yes, ma'am, yes, ma'am". And so I should have known when I went to the inspection the following day, I was the only one standing there with that impressive hat on, of the group that, uh... and others were laughing, and obviously I had gotten the hat of a senior officer when I was as junior as you can get. So from that day, it was not about position; it was not about, um, uh, leadership. It was I want some gold on my, on my cap. If they told me a lieutenant had gold, that would have been as far as I went. Now, I have some; I can wear one of those pretty, uh, hats. We call them "scrambled eggs," I later learned. Little did I know, however, that God's plan was to give me an omelet, not just a few scrambled eggs there.

John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Dr. Barry Black: And so, uh, I did not even have...sense enough to want to aspire to any kind of great positional authority, uh, you know, rank. I was just loving the ministry with the young people.

John Bradshaw: Let me ask this. So... background in the inner city, uh, you, you came up the hard way, the honest way. You worked hard, you obviously did well in school, and that set you up to go on further. Did you...maybe you weren't, and maybe your mind wasn't even there, but were you the sort of young man who would have said to himself, "I could be the chaplain of the Senate one day". Would you have, would you have dared dream, "I could be the" whatever, the, the lead...I'm sorry...

Dr. Barry Black: Chief of chaplains for the Navy.

John Bradshaw: Exactly what I was going to say. Is that the sort of thing you would dare...

Dr. Barry Black: No, no.

John Bradshaw: ...to dream about?

Dr. Barry Black: Well...there had never been an African-American chaplain of the Senate, and there's still only been one. The current. There's only been one, um, active-duty admiral, um, African-American admiral in the Navy chaplain corps. And...

John Bradshaw: That's you.

Dr. Barry Black: Yeah, 1997 was when I applied. So...it's difficult to dream about something you've never seen happen. I mean, why would it? It, it hasn't happened in centuries, so why would it happen, and why would I, you know, be selected? However, by the time I had, uh, become a two-star admiral, I, I was able to connect the dots, and when I was invited to interview for the job of chaplain of the Senate, my mind went back to that little tenement and an 8-year-old boy playing a record repeatedly. And I said, "Ah-ha, so that's what this was about". And, needless to say, there was plenty of competition and thorough vetting, but I had already guessed, ah, okay, so this is what You're up to. And when the, when the God factor was in it, Matthew 19:26, "Nothing is impossible for Him". So, by that time I believed that nothing was impossible, and, uh, nothing is impossible.

John Bradshaw: Dr. Black, I hope this isn't too basic a question. What does the chaplain of the U.S. Senate do?

Dr. Barry Black: Um, a New Zealander could not ask a non-basic question, John. But, um, I, I think the pa... you are a pastor to a 7,000-member congregation. It's not just the 100 senators and the members of their families, but those who work in the upper chamber on Capitol Hill, the, the Senate. And so there are Bible studies, awful lot of counseling, marriages to officiate at. You are their pastor away from home. They are away from Alaska, away from Hawaii, away from Wyoming, away from Arizona, and you are their pastor. You're, you know, I was at the bedside of lawmakers when they died, you know, with them when they breathed their last. You know, then delivering the eulogy at the National Cathedral or wherever the funeral was... So you, you, you provide that, Bible studies, spiritual mentoring classes. Um, and then you are an intercessor, you know. Tennyson said, "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of". You, you provide them with a blanket of intercession. And James 5 says, "The effectual, fervent prayers of [the] righteous... avail much". So, you've got teams of people interceding on behalf of our nation, because they realize...Proverbs 14:34... "Righteousness exalts". Sin degrades. So, it's, you're a pastor to a very significant congregation, and there are many saints in Caesar's household.

John Bradshaw: If you're interviewing, maybe to get a job as a, as a pastor in a local congregation, or if you're working, oh, I don't know...an ordinary job, and you're called in for an interview, a man or a woman can figure out how to impress in that interview. Now, I'm not suggesting that you went into your interview to be the chaplain of the Senate trying to impress anybody, but how do you prepare for an interview like that?

Dr. Barry Black: Well, I, I think it would be like asking, how did Daniel and his three friends prepare to be questioned and interviewed by Nebuchadnezzar in, at the end of Daniel chapter 1. Verse 17 of Daniel 1 says God equipped them, gave them, you know, the ability to understand languages and literature, gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams. It was not about their preparation; it was about their giftedness. And so, you know, verse 20 of Daniel 1 says in all manner of wisdom and knowledge, Nebuchadnezzar finds them 10 times better than all of the other students in the program. The Holy Spirit is, is not given to the hyperbolic... 10 times better.

John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Barry Black: Because of verse 17... they had equipped themselves. They were equipped by God to do that work. So I think that that was a part of it. Uh, my memory helped. Uh, on one occasion I was asked, uh, what do, uh, you believe? And I recited the Apostles' Creed. I did not even know that I knew the Apostles' Creed. I'd never even recited the Apostles' Creed before, but when I was a chaplain at the Naval Academy for three years, the congregation recited the Apostles' Creed every Sunday. In that interview, for the first time, I heard myself: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, conceived with the Holy Ghost, born of..." I had never done that before. But the same memory that had memorized Peter Marshall, that was the equipment; that was what I needed. You can't plan it. You don't know what the questions are going to be. You don't know how to respond to the questions. But the Holy Spirit, who lives in us, He navigates through that stuff.

John Bradshaw: In that interview, when you were thinking about that interview, did you really have an appreciation for what you were getting yourself in for? Or was arriving in your position as chaplain of the Senate a revelation unto itself?

Dr. Barry Black: I, I didn't know enough about the legislative branch of government. I certainly did my due diligence. I certainly did, uh, quite a bit of study. Uh, but, there's so many things that you cannot predict about the political process. When President George W. Bush was elected president of the United States, he did not know that 9/11 was coming. I mean, no matter what kind of sophisticated plan, now how, how are you going to deal with that new, new wrinkle? So, no, it...and that's, to some extent, what makes the job so exciting. You never get bored. Uh, there's always incoming. And, uh, to watch how God, time and time again, um, is working for the good of those who love Him, that's so affirming, and it strengthens your faith, as time goes by, so that the challenges make you stronger. Each victory will help you some other to win.

John Bradshaw: You mentioned there are saints in Caesar's household. Do you think people would be surprised by that? What do you see in the lives of individuals that you work with, people at the sharp end of, of this nation? What do you see that might surprise some people who perhaps don't realize that there are men and women of great faith, uh, tasked with leading this nation?

Dr. Barry Black: Well, I think many people would be surprised to know that there are ordained ministers who are senators. Many would be surprised to know that there are senators who conduct their own Bible studies. Many would be surprised to know that there are senators who come regularly to my Bible study, one who has only missed one in a, in, in 15 years. Uh, many would be surprised to know that there's a senator who's led many African heads of state to Jesus Christ. Um, ah, many would be surprised to know that there are senators who bring up the spiritual in nearly any conversation that you have with them. It's just mother's milk to them. They cannot talk for very long without bringing up ethical, moral, and spiritual dimensions. And there are people who would be very surprised to know that there are senators who have a spirituality far greater than the 62nd chaplain of the United States Senate, and who intimidate me to some extent with their faith, with their love for Christ, and with their purity.

John Bradshaw: I wonder if you have a unique perspective, or a unique position, that enables you to see what I could never see, how God is at work, how God is at work through the machinery of the United States. I don't mean to overstate that at all. Are there any times that you say... I imagine there are...are there times that you say, "Wow, that was God moving; I just saw God do something"? I don't know whether it's on the Senate floor or in a, in some type of debate, or in the life of a, of a government official. Do you have those moments where you say, "Look at how God is positively affecting this country"?

Dr. Barry Black: It's a, it's a daily occurrence. Um, you know, you lay hands on someone because he or she is ill or injured, and you feel, feel impressed, and the next day they're well. Or the next day they're uninjured. Um, you, um, are faced with fiscal cliff crises and government shutdowns, those kinds of challenges, where there's a stalemate. And there seems to be no way out, but people are praying, and you are praying. And all of a sudden, a way is made out of no way. Um, you see strange bedfellows coming, coming together and, and, and agreeing on something at just the right time. Uh, you see lawmakers joining hands on a weekly basis as they pray together, you know, 20, 25, 30, both sides of the aisle, and you are, you're, you're there with, you know, you've got a hand on both sides as well, thinking, wow. And this is not the chaplain praying; these are senators praying. And you can tell when someone prays whether or not he's on speaking terms with the Transcendent, she's on speaking terms. You, you know when someone is comfortable in the conversation, and when they ease into the prayer like they're putting on slippers as they're sitting in their favorite easy chair. You say, okay, this is someone who has made contact and makes contact continuously with the Transcendent.

John Bradshaw: You have a burden for the spiritual well-being of those that you minister to. You just mentioned government shutdown, for example. Now, that's a governmental process, and so it sounds to me like there are times in government processes that you are stretched out before God praying for this or for that. So has your position... it, it's a spiritual role... but are there times that you feel a special burden for the direction of the country? Are there times that you say, "Lord, we're involved in this," and so it goes beyond your care for the people and, and really your own personal care or your spiritual care for the process? Do you have those moments?

Dr. Barry Black: Yes, you do. You, you are often involved in spiritual warfare, you know. Daniel talks about, you know, needing word, needing insight. When he finally gets it, it seems tardy, you know... "from the day you began to afflict your soul," you know, "I was dispatched. But I ran into some trouble".

John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Barry Black: There are...you know, Ephesians 6:12 says, there, you know, we wrestle against principalities and powers, rulers of the darkness, the spiritual wickedness in high places. That's, this is spiritual warfare going on, because there are cosmic issues at stake, I believe. And I feel it. I feel it, and yet there is this feeling that we've already won. You know, you're on the winning team, you know. Yeah, you've got to play it out, you know, but somehow, you know, they've got to say the game is over, but it's already over. Our King has won, okay? And we are more than conquerors. Uh, and so there has been exhilaration; there's an adrenalin rush in the rough and tumble of it. But you never forget, "This is my Father's world. O let me ne'er forget, although the wrong seems oft so strong, God is ruler yet". And that gives you an equanimity of temperament and a confidence.

John Bradshaw: Okay, now, I want you to give us some advice here. You, you advise, you counsel with, uh, really the most powerful leaders on the planet. So we're coming to you now. Some advice or counsel or principles for spiritual well-being.

Dr. Barry Black: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: How should a person look after herself or himself spiritually so that she or he can be spiritually well?

Dr. Barry Black: Well, John 17:17 says, "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth". It's got to involve the Word of God. Um, our Lord said to His disciples, "Could you not watch with me one hour"? I had a book published in 2018, "Make Your Voice Heard in Heaven," and I have a chapter on praying the Scriptures because I have found praying the Scriptures to just be one of the most amazing things to help me spiritually. Our Lord was praying the Scriptures from the cross, okay? First and last word, praying the Scriptures. And, um, when, you'll get an acquired taste for it, you know. You will, you will esteem His Word as more important than your necessary food.

John Bradshaw: Job.

Dr. Barry Black: So...an hour a day, a continuous hour, you know. "Wow, that's a long time". Really? How much television do you watch?

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Dr. Barry Black: You know. Um, and it's, you start looking forward to it, you know. That will do so much. Sermons flow out of that, you know. Books come out of the overflow of that, because when you vet something before your Savior, the dross is detected quite quickly, you know, and falls off. Um, so that's what I would do. I, I would...the simple plan would be... I, I'd start them out with training wheels, say, 15 minutes, and when something stops you, talk to God about it. But steep yourself in the Word. Romans 10:17 says, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". So you are going to increase your faith. That's the only thing that the Bible says, without it, it's impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6. And I think you're going to find yourself experiencing a growth and a spiritual maturity that you would not have otherwise.

John Bradshaw: Very clearly not only Christian education, but education has been important to you. You seemed to have studied and studied and studied. But I'm not, cor... if I'm not mistaken, three masters, two doctorates, is that correct?

Dr. Barry Black: That's right.

John Bradshaw: Yeah. But you have stuck with education. You've seen to it that you've been well educated. So I'm not going to ask if you, if you see value in education. You do, but talk to me for a minute about the value of, of the church school and of Christian education. Of course, it's not cheap. It's not easy to come by. Sometimes it's not even easily accessible. How important do you believe it is, and what sort of priority should it be?

Dr. Barry Black: Well, I often say, "Christian education doesn't cost...it pays". And I really believe that. Um, you know, I've, I've been blessed because of my positions and people sending me to different schools. I've studied at Harvard, Princeton, uh, a number of secular schools. But my most challenging academic experiences were actually, were actually at Christians schools, you know, where, I mean, it was...Andrews was no picnic. You know, it was these European professors, you know, and, I mean, Raoul Dederen, I mean, Lauren Dell, I mean, these guys, I mean, it, uh, Dr. Running in Greek, you know, and I was studying Romans, you know. So, you know, it was very special. Um, but this, you know, symmetrical development of the physical, mental, spiritual, and social powers is just so marvelous. It really is, you know. Luke 2:52, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, ...in favor with God". Those are those four areas right there. I just wouldn't trade it. It's a...you can be, you know, uh, mentally over-developed and still not wise. You've got to have the package. Our Lord said, "Do you want to be made whole"? You know. And I don't know where I would be, or my siblings, quite frankly, without a Christian education. I really...and I used to wonder, why does my mother make this kind of sacrifice? To, I mean, she had two of us in a Christian college and two of us in a Christian academy simultaneously. I mean, this is ridiculous. I mean, it, the cost of Christian education was more than the annual income. She was still a domestic, $6 a day, you know. Um, and you can't see a parent who has that kind of passion for anything...and demonstrates it by what she's doing... and I said, this must be really, really important, and it, and, and it really is. And she was inoculating us against the pathology of our environment and preparing us, as one of my favorite writers would put it, "for a joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of a wider service in the world to come".

John Bradshaw: So we're looking into the future now. Not asking you to read tea leaves, but as you look at the Bible, what's going to be important for God's people moving forward in terms of their spiritual preparation? We're looking forward to heaven, clearly, the return of Jesus. Any, any ad...any advice? Any counsel? Any pastoral advice that you'd give to believers who were looking forward? It's a troubled world in which we live. Um, civility seems to be disappearing. The national discourse is, is, is perhaps even more troubled than it's ever been. How do we keep ourselves and how do we focus moving forward?

Dr. Barry Black: my basic guidance would be, don't major in minors, and don't minor in majors. And by that I mean that we have to focus on what is truly important now. Our blessed Lord said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all [the other] things [will] be added [unto] you". And we learn what that is in the Our Father: "Thy kingdom come". What does that mean, the, the couplet? "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". It's, am I in Your will? And Romans 8:28 gives us what we ought to... in everything God is working "for the good of those who love Him". So if I focus on that love relationship, I mean, you know, enjoying Him, enjoying His presence, enjoying His guidance. And, oh my, it's, it's, eternal life has already begun for us then, I mean. I think that's what our Lord is talking about in John 11 when He says to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. [Those] who believe in me ...[will] never die". You know, eternal life has already started for us. Never die. We'll never experience the second death. This other thing is a nap. "Our friend Lazarus is asleep". And so, focusing on loving Him, and it's, I think, captured so beautifully, Pastor, in, uh, in that hymn, "I Come to the Garden Alone". I mean, that describes how we can live and what the focus... "While the dew is still on the rose". For "He walks with me, and He talks with me. He tells me I'm His own". He knows me by name. "And the joy we share as we tarry..." Who, what else matters, you know? And, you know, you, you, you have to worship. So, you know, I talk about people in the sports who worship in secular "cathedrals," you know, and they, they are obvious, far more exuberant than we who often...

John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm. Amen.

Dr. Barry Black: But, but there's a, there's a song in "My Fair Lady," "On the Street Where You Live," you know, where this guy is singing to Eliza Doolittle. You know, "Though I've often walked down this street before, the pavement's always seemed to stay beneath my feet before. All at once am I several stories high, as long as I'm on the street where you live". Don't even, didn't even have to see you. Now, like Peter says, who, "Who having not seen, you love". So God is excited about our faith.

John Bradshaw: Yes.

Dr. Barry Black: You know, even after everything, You still love Him, you know. You still believe in Him. You still obey Him, okay? But, the older I get, the longer I love Him, the more palpable, the more tangible is the experience. I mean, you feel Him. You do, you know. And, you know, I don't like to scare people, but, but, it's much greater than most of us even imagine. How He communicates with us. How He guides us around traps and pitfalls. I mean, it's an amazing journey. I wouldn't trade anything for that. And I haven't always had that. I mean, I was a preacher, I mean, preaching, and did not have this experiential relationship of the Holy Spirit living in me.

John Bradshaw: You've mentioned a couple of times the opportunity you've had to make history. How important do you think it is that you have made history? What message does that send?

Dr. Barry Black: I often think of the Bible verse, "Many who are now first will be last, and many who are now last will be first". And we've miscalculated so many times in the past about, you know, who should be honored, you know. We're like Haman when the king says, "I've got to honor this guy". You know, who else could it possibly be but moi? You know. And, and so I don't take that, that, you know. Aristotle in his "Nicomachean Ethics," he talks about why fame really, uh, doesn't excite us as much as we sometimes think if we pursue it. And he says, "Because we know who we really are". You know, even if we're being celebrated, we know the real deal. And more importantly, 1 Samuel 16:7, human beings look "on the outward appearance". But the Lord God "looks at the heart". And that verse refers to the fact David did not even have a connection with his father and siblings that would make them think he was the stuff of which kings were made, you know. The, the prophet had to... "Are these all your boys"? Okay? And so, you know, a teenager shoveling sheep dung is the one who is the man... the, not the kid...but the "man after God's own heart". So, I, I just love what God has done. I love what my Savior has done. And I often tell Him... things happen... I say, "Now You're showing off. This, this is unnecessary. You've done... If You never bless me again, You've already blessed me more than I deserve, but now You're showing off". And He loves to do that. He, as we love to give gifts that surprise and, and exhilarate, He loves and He continues to do that. The greatest thing, John, the best...is yet to be.

John Bradshaw: Chaplain Black, God bless you.

Dr. Barry Black: God bless you.

John Bradshaw: Look forward to seeing you again next time.

Dr. Barry Black: Thank you.

John Bradshaw: Thanks so much.
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