Monday, May 31, 2021

memorial day 2021

Okay, so this is the third time I've started a post for today. There are so many thoughts and emotions flying around in my head, but I can't seem to get them to hold still long enough to name them, let alone to get them nailed down on paper.

On one hand, I'm as excited as everyone else about the "unofficial" start to summer. I'm looking forward to an extra long weekend, sunshine, family, and grilling out. We've got ribs ready for the smoker and all the goodies to go with them. We spent Saturday and Sunday with family and are doing the same thing today.

On the other hand, I'm having a really hard time with Memorial Day this year. It's been 17 years without Michael, so logically things shouldn't be so hard. 17 years is a long time--I should be used to it by now. This year, though, I've just been a bit off all week.

I always miss my brother. Most of the time it's not a dramatic thing, just little things that I wish I could talk to him about. Conan reminds me of him, and I wish his Uncle Michael was here to help him figure out what it means to be a warrior poet--someone bigger and stronger than most but with his "teelings" just as big. There's not a lot I wouldn't give to have him here with us to chow down on ribs today. I would love to watch him with all his nieces and nephews.

This year, I think my feelings are all stirred up by the chaos that has come to our country. The evils that so many American patriots fought on foreign soils have come to our own land, brought in by people who have claimed the benefits of living and thriving in our great country while decrying everything it stands for. I can't help but think that the people pushing the Marxist agenda are tarnishing the memory of every man and woman who fought and died for our country.

This country was founded to honor God. It was founded to be different, a light in a dark world. For almost 250 years it has stood as a beacon of hope and freedom, the land of opportunity to which so many people flocked for the chance to follow the American dream. It has been a land where hard work pays off, where anyone can take advantage of the rights and freedoms granted to each of us by our Creator.

They are freedoms that have been paid for over and over again by the lifeblood of so many. Now, though, that high price seems to have been forgotten and those freedoms and rights are disappearing.

Today, remember the price paid to ensure your freedoms. Take a stand and don't let those freedoms be taken away. So many before us paid the price--now it's our turn to make sure those rights and freedoms are preserved for future generations of Americans.





Friday, May 14, 2021

weighing the risks

I'm not an "anti-vaxer"--you know, just to get that out there. I'm a science nerd. Growing up I loved TLC because they showed surgeries; I loved watching science documentaries and shows like Nova; my bachelor's degree is in physics with a minor in biology; I studied medical physics in grad school before adding in education. I am thankful for the knowledge and wisdom God granted those who developed vaccines and am incredible thankful that we have them in place to ward off what used to be common childhood diseases like mumps and measles. I'm thankful the polio vaccine has resulted in so much less heartbreak.

But...

If you know me, you probably knew that was coming.

There is a huge governmental push for everyone to receive a Covid vaccine. Now that push has extended down to 12-year olds and to be honest with you, that thought terrifies me.

As of May 12th, the CDC shows a provisional count of 2,139 deaths attributed to Covid for those under 17 (1). That's a third the number of deaths in the same age group from pneumonia. While the death of any child is a horrible tragedy, we need to put that into perspective.  For that data set, that's 0.4% of the total deaths for the same age group. In fact, of the 3,190,353 cases reported in the CDC's data tracker (2) data for kids up to age 17, there have been 492 reported deaths. That's a case fatality rate of 0.015%. There is research showing that children aren't "super spreaders" of the virus (4,5), which was the initial reason given for shutting down schools around the world. If you look at the data, kids simply aren't any more at risk from this coronavirus strain than they are from any other typical childhood bug.

Why, then, are we being pushed to get our kids vaccinated?

My concern with this vaccine is two-fold. The biggest red flag to me is the fact that this is a new type of vaccine that hasn't ever been used in humans, and therefore we have no way to know the long-term effects. In the US, we've fast-tracked a vaccine before. Roughly 45 million Americans were vaccinated against swine flu in 1976... a vaccine that didn't go through the typical testing and approval process because it was deemed an emergency (6). That vaccine was later scientifically proven to be linked to a higher risk of developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare and debilitating neurological disorder. I'm not saying there will be serious fall-out from these vaccines. Although, a look at the VAERS data suggests that there are significant issues that need to be looked at more closely...especially since the critique of VAERS in the past has always been under-reporting.

Photo from Wendy Bell Radio
 

The testing process for vaccines was put in place for a reason. It takes time to figure out the true effect any new medication has on our bodies. These shots quite simply haven't been around long enough to give us a true understanding of the effect they will have long-term. (3) I'm not saying they are unsafe; there's not enough data out there to support that conclusion, either. I'm saying that an untested and unproven vaccine isn't something that needs to be pushed for a disease with over a 98% survival rate. If you leave out the "over 85" category, the case survival rate (from the CDC's published data) goes up to just under 99%(1). Besides that, we don't know a whole lot about the true efficacy of these shots. Sure, we've all heard the "95%" numbers. What we aren't seeing, though, is something called the Absolute Risk Reduction.

Absolute Risk Reduction basically tells you, with all things considered, how much your risk is decreased when you choose a specific treatment (7). This number is a much bigger deal when you're deciding whether or not to get a specific treatment. In fact, the FDA says, "Provide absolute risks, not just relative risks. Patients are unduly influenced when risk information is presented using a relative risk approach; this can result in suboptimal decisions. Thus, an absolute risk format should be used." (8)

So what is the Absolute Risk Reduction for these shots that are being pushed? That has been calculated for Pfizer BNT162b2 and Moderna mRNA-1273 (8):

Pfizer ARR = 0.7%
Moderna ARR = 1.1%

That means that when you take all factors into consideration, the Moderna shot is more effective yet only reduces your overall risk of getting Covid by 1.1%

There are too many immunologists and virologists warning against the possible dangerous effects of these shots for me to blindly follow something being pushed by politicians and celebrities and take a shot that only reduces my chances of getting an overwhelmingly survivable virus by 1.1%. If you look at kids, that Absolute Risk Reduction would be even lower.

That leads me to my second, more controversial reason. Why in the world is this shot being pushed so hard?

So here's where some people will start calling me a conspiracy theorist, and some will start saying things like, "I thought she was smarter than that." But there simply isn't data to support the worldwide push that has been made and is being made for these shots. We have been told to get an unproven shot for a disease with an incredibly high survival rate. Never mind the fact that these are the vaccines we were told not to trust when they were being developed under the leadership of President Trump's administration (10). When we didn't all jump in line and do what we were told, the tactics changed. The government made commercials and pulled in big celebrities to convince us. When that didn't work, they started with the bribes. Companies have been encouraged to give freebies to people who show their vaccination card. The state of Ohio decided to give away five $1,000,000 prizes to adults... and then threw in 5 full-ride college scholarships for teens. We've had the promise of our freedom hung over our heads--we're being told when and where we can go and the conditions we have to meet in order to do so. The President of the United States has now issued an ultimatum to U.S. citizens: "The rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do. The choice is yours.”

This is not right. This is not American. This is a leap towards a totalitarian government, one that will dictate every aspect of our lives if we let it. This is, to put it quite simply, a power grab. It is a group of elitist "experts" telling the little man what to do while they live their lives in their ivory towers as if the rules don't apply to them. And they haven't--not since the start of this mess over a year ago when we were told that we needed to shut everything down for 2 weeks to flatten the curve. Those very same people who were condemning those of us who chose not to wear a mask at all times? They weren't wearing them unless the cameras were rolling (9). Now, if I choose not to receive what is in every sense of the term an experimental vaccine, I'm called just about every name in the book.

1984 Quotes By George Orwell 

Here's where the confusion comes in for some people. I'm not getting this shot. I don't think there is enough data to back up the need. I don't think taking something when there is not even a hint of what the long-term effects might be is a good idea. I don't want my kids to get this shot. I don't feel it is right to bet their futures on something so untested when they have a minuscule risk of getting sick. Honestly, because of our jobs and exposure to people who have tested positive at some point or another, I imagine my family has dealt with this virus already without even realizing it.

I also think each individual has the right to make that decision on their own. If you have done your research, weighed the risks and benefits, and decided to get the shot, that is your right. I'm not going to stop you. That doesn't change the fact that I'm worried about my friends and family who have chosen the shot. If you ask me, I'll give you my thoughts and opinions. I will present the evidence I've come across, the concerns from doctors (11, 12) I will not, however, try to force you into a decision. That's the great thing about being an American. Well at least, it always has been. If we let Big Government take over and start making our decisions for us, we'll lose the right to self-determination for good.

If America becomes a totalitarian, socialist state, there won't be anywhere else to turn.

 ****

(1) https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Provisional-COVID-19-Death-Counts-by-Sex-Age-and-S/9bhg-hcku/data

(2) https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#demographics 

(3) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-020-00789-5#Sec10

(4) https://adc.bmj.com/content/105/7/618

(5) https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2021/02/11/Study-Children-less-likely-to-catch-spread-COVID-19/9871613068455/

(6) https://www.history.com/news/swine-flu-rush-vaccine-election-year-1976

(7) https://www.tldrpharmacy.com/content/absolute-risk-reduction

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7996517/

 (9) https://www.breitbart.com/clips/2020/10/07/fncs-carlson-on-democrat-mask-hypocrisy-this-isnt-science-this-is-medieval-superstition/

 (10) https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/harrris-vaccine-i-would-not-trust-donald-trump-n1239422

 (11) https://scivisionpub.com/pdfs/covid19-rna-based-vaccines-and-the-risk-of-prion-disease-1503.pdf

(12) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-risks-of-rushing-a-covid-19-vaccine/

 


Thursday, April 15, 2021

thankful

 

I'm thankful that home for my family is down a rough dirt road that doesn't get a lot of traffic. I know there are people who would never dream of living out in the middle of nowhere, but when I see the craziness of this world I can see the blessing of being surrounded by fields, trees, hills, and animals.


I'm glad that my kids play in the dirt and feed livestock and haul rocks and build fence.

No photo description available.

Don't get me wrong--they spend way too much time in front of screens, too. But they wander in the woods and splash through mud puddles and climb trees and catch snakes.

 
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To some extent, they are shielded from the horrors of this world. Our family is tucked away, hidden in the beauty of the hills. We can step outside and hear the water rushing over the rocks in the spring when rain is common.

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We can pick honeysuckle, rose petals, persimmons, chicory, wild onions, sassafras, blackberries, and chamomile.

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We listen to the bullfrogs, coyotes, and owls at night. We can gaze up at the night sky and try to count the stars or look out over the field and try to count the lightning bugs. We collect eggs each morning while counting the days until the goose hatches her brood.

No photo description available. 

 I'm thankful for a place where time seems to move just a little bit slower, even though at the same time it feels like there's never enough hours in the day. And I'm most thankful for the people I share it with.

May be an image of 4 people, child, people standing and text

 

 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Equality or equity?

 "Equity, not equality" has become a bit of a war-cry lately. You see it and hear it everywhere--in researching for this post, I even found somebody relating it to the story in 1 Kings when King Solomon was faced with a decision between two women who were each claiming the same baby to be hers.

I bet you don't have to think too long before you know what conclusion they reached, because right now all we hear is how things should be equitable, not equal.

I've got to admit, it sounds good. I mean, how wonderful would it be if we could ensure that everyone's life turns out spectacularly? That each individual is successful--you know, happy, healthy, and wealthy? It would bring about that elusive utopia, right? We would all happily get along and love each other and everything would be all hunky-dory.

The problem is, in a fallen world a utopia simply isn't possible--and that's exactly what the current definition of "equity" would require. Granted, the way equity is being used today really doesn't fit with what it has always meant, but that's an Orwellian 1984-ish thing that has been happening a lot lately... so I'll use equity the way people are using the idea now. In that sense of the word, King Solomon only had one choice that would have truly been equitable--he should have gone ahead and split the baby in two. After all, that would have ensured that both women got the same outcome, right?

The United States wasn't--and shouldn't have been--founded on equity. The foundation on which our great country was built is summed up in one simple sentence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

We are equal because our Creator made us that way. Since the Creator made us to be equal and granted us certain rights, the government doesn't have the authority to try to regulate either. The U.S. government doesn't "grant" us our rights and doesn't determine our "worth" as citizens--those things come only from God. So the question then becomes, what is the Creator's sense of equality? Here's a great place to start: "For there is no partiality with God." (Romans 2:11)

And we'll go from there to this:

"Still the Eternal remains and will reign forever;
    He has taken His place on His throne for judgment.
So He will judge the world rightly.

    He shall execute that judgment equally on all people."
(Psalm 9:7-8)

The word that is translated as "equally" by The Voice is translated as "equity" in the NIV. The Hebrew word is "meyshar," which means "evenness" or "straightness." And perhaps most importantly in this situation, it's talking about how God judges. Since that's the case, let's go back to Romans 2 and look at the verses that come before verse 11:

"But because your heart is obstinate and shameless, you’re storing up wrath that will count against you. On the day of His choosing, God’s wrath and judgment will be unleashed to make things right. As it goes, everyone will receive what his actions in life have cultivated. Whoever has labored diligently and patiently to do what is right—seeking glory, honor, and immortality—God will grant him endless joy in life eternal. But selfish individuals who make trouble, resist the truth, or sell out to wickedness will meet a very different fatethey will find fury and indignation as the fruit of living in the wrongSuffering and pain await everyone whose life is marked by evil living (first for the Jew, and next for the non-Jew). But if you do what is right, you will receive glory, admiration, and peace (again, first for the Jew, then for the non-Jew). God has no favorites." (Romans 2:5-11)

When Paul wrote of God being impartial, he was talking about impartiality in judgment. He said that God holds everyone to the same standards, regardless of background. That's a whole different thing than people are talking about when they say "equity" today. In today's society, we're constantly being told that we should make sure everyone has the same outcome regardless of background. The problem with that? Outcomes are--and should be--based on merit.

Think back to school and those group projects that teachers were so fond of having you do. I'm sure there was at least once that someone in your group didn't pull their own weight and everybody else had to pick up the slack. At the end of it all, when all 4 of you got the A that only 3 of you worked for, didn't it rub you the wrong way? You knew deep down in your core that only 3 of you deserved that grade; there was something inherently wrong with the person who didn't do the work getting an A on the project.

Uh oh, that makes me guilty of believing in another offensive idea: meritocracy. It's become a dirty word in most circles, with many people even coming out to say that the idea goes against Christianity. Why, then, did Paul tell the Thessalonians, "This is exactly why, while with you, we commanded you: 'Anyone not willing to work shouldn’t get to eat!' You see, we are hearing that some folks in the community are out of step with our teaching; they are idle, not working, but really busy doing nothing—and yet still expect to be fed! If this is you or someone else in the community, we insist and urge you in the Lord Jesus the Anointed that you go to work quietly, earn your keep, put food on your own table, and supply your own necessities."(2 Thessalonians 3:10-12) The Scriptures are filled with the concept of people getting what they deserve. In fact, it's at the root of our need for salvation.

A just, righteous God who judges fairly--or equitably, to use the popular word--must by the very definition of those words give each of us what we deserve. And that's something that's made very plain as well: "The payoff for a life of sin is death," going back to Romans (6:23). What the Voice translates as "payoff" is something more commonly translated as "wages," but in either case the meaning is the same. We sin, and the righteous justice of a perfect God requires that we receive death as what we deserve for those sins. If we weren't deserving of death for our sins, we would have no need of a Savior. As it stands, we need someone to step in for us, to be the intercessor between us and the Judge. And because of the righteousness of the Judge, that Savior has to be perfect--which excludes any earthly form of government from the role.

So why is equality of opportunity so much more essential than equity of outcome, especially in society? That boils down to the fallen nature of people. If left to our own devices, most of us would much rather be lazy than productive. Most of us would much rather have things given to us than to have to work for them. That's the whole reason socialism doesn't work. The only way you can assure equity of outcome is if you take from the group that works and give it to the group that doesn't work.

That doesn't mean that we are excused from taking care of those who honestly can't take care of themselves--that's a task that has been given to God's people since the very beginning, and sadly it's something we've fallen woefully short on for almost as long. God has admonished His people for centuries for not taking care of the helpless. That, though, falls in line with equality, not equity.

Equality says we are all given the same chance to work; equity says we all get the same reward, even if we choose not to work. Equality says all people are treated the same under the law; equity says some groups get special treatment solely as a result of being part of that group... thereby legalizing--and often demanding--discrimination. When you give a certain group special favor, that's the very definition of partiality. And remember this verse?
"For there is no partiality with God."

 


scales - Wiktionary

 


Friday, April 2, 2021

Does the resurrection matter?

Easter is coming.

Those words have come to mean a lot of different things. In recent years, they've mostly just come to mean that people will get together to let kids hunt for eggs stuffed with candy. Many will step through the doors of a church building, the only other time besides Christmas that they get dressed up and make an appearance, usually with a big family dinner afterward. It means pictures with chicks, bunnies, and tulips to send to the relatives--a celebration of spring more than anything else.

I read an editorial the other day that talked about how the "true" meaning of Easter was reawakening and "spiritual and moral transformation." Then today I saw a comment on social media about how Jesus was just a man, but a man who died believing it would save the souls of the entire world, so that made him a man worth following and emulating. So is that the case? Is this weekend about simply the death of a good man who thought he was dying for the world, a man with some sort of mental disorder that made him truly think he would be brought back to life? Is it a time for us to think about the ways we need to transform our lives, the ways we need to "reawaken"? Do we really have to believe that Jesus physically, actually, completely died, or can we go along with the idea that it can all be taken as figurative language, because the example Jesus set for us is what matters?

"And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.
Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God,
because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ,
whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise.
For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.
And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!
Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable."
1 Corinthians 15:14-19

Paul didn't mince words. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then our faith is something to be pitied. If the resurrection was just some sort of farce, then He wasn't the Messiah promised to Israel. If Jesus stayed in the tomb, then nothing else He did mattered because it meant He was just some sort of lunatic who really shouldn't be emulated. If we worship a Savior who died on a cross and then stayed dead, then our faith is worthless.

On the other hand, a Savior who had the power to step down off of the cross but chose to hang there, mocked and ridiculed, suffocating unless He held himself up by the spikes driven through His feet--that Savior who was then dead and buried, but raised to eternal life and a glorified body?

A Savior who sacrificed Himself for the very people who crucified Him, who prayed for them and used His final breath to point them toward the One True God?

A Savior who promised that He was preparing a place for all those who believe, who wants to spend eternity with us?

A Savior who walked out of the tomb is a Savior worth following.

Children's Sermons Today: Christ is Risen!


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Don Lemon's god?

"I respect people's right to believe in whatever they want to believe in their God. But if you believe something that hurts another person, or does not give someone the same rights or freedoms, not necessarily under the Constitution because this is under God, I think that this is wrong, and I think that the Catholic Church and many other churches really need to re-examine themselves and their teachings. Because that is not what God is about. God is not about hindering people or even judging people."~Don Lemon

These words were spoken close to two weeks ago, and I've been struggling with what to say in response for a while now. Not because I think Don Lemon will ever read my words, but because this is an idea that has become more and more prevalent--sometimes even from the pulpit.

We were talking last week at church that it seems like people look to extremes when they try to picture God. They either see God as this horrible, vindictive tyrant ready to throw lightning bolts at anyone who has too much fun... or, as Don Lemon seems to do, they see God as a jovial, rosy-cheeked grandfather type who lets all the "little ones" get away with everything, no matter what.

As Pop pointed out, Satan loves getting us to think in extremes. Because if you start seeing God at either end of that spectrum, you aren't going to see Him as He really is. And if you don't have a true picture of who He is, it becomes really easy to think you don't actually have any use for His laws or His love... or Him.

It is absolutely true that God is love. I think John 3:16&17, the verses that so many people learned before any other, is profound theologically because it points out just how much God loves us:

"For God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten
Son,

that whoever believes in Him
should not perish but have everlasting life.
For God did not send His Son into the world
to condemn the world,
but that the world through Him might be saved."

The God who created us, the God who spoke time into existence, loved us so much that He sent His only Son as a sacrifice, His death paying the price for our sins and in exchange giving us life if we simply believe in Him. Jesus came to save us, not to condemn us.

Too often, though, we stop there. When Jesus was speaking with Nicodemus, that wasn't the end of the conversation:

“He who believes in Him is not condemned;
but he who does not believe is condemned already,
because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

And this is the condemnation,
that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light,
because their deeds were evil.
For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light,
lest his deeds should be exposed.

But he who does the truth comes to the light,
that his deeds may be clearly seen,
that they have been
done in God.”

 While it is true that in Christ there is no condemnation, there is a caveat: we have to believe in Him. We have to, as the writer of Hebrews said, "believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) We have to believe that we are sinners who are totally unworthy when left to our own devices, but the One True God loves us enough to save us from the sins that wreck our lives.

The flip side of that is, those who do not choose to believe are already condemned. It's not a matter of God "sending people to Hell," but rather a matter of people choosing their commitment to their old ways instead of changing their lives to fit God's way. In either case, we've been promised that we will all stand before the throne and be judged by God one day, and that His day of judgement is something to be feared.

I know when I've done something wrong. To be honest, I usually know in the moment when I'm doing something wrong, though I often choose to keep doing whatever it is that I know I shouldn't be doing. And as long as nobody finds out about it I'm good, right? That's how we tend to think, anyway. Like Jesus said, when we are doing things we shouldn't be doing we love the darkness--because that way our deeds can stay a secret. As long as there isn't light to expose our actions, we can convince ourselves that they aren't really all that bad.

The idea of coming to the light should be terrifying then. At least, that's what human logic says. It tells us that if the writer of Romans was right and all of us "have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (3:23), if all of us have been doing bad things in the darkness, we should be afraid of having all those things exposed.

An amazing thing happens when we come to the Light, though. John told us,

"His breath filled all things
    with a living, breathing light—
A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,

    blazes through murky bottoms.
It cannot and will not be quenched."
(John 1:4-5, Voice)

You see, we don't have to be afraid of our deeds being exposed when we step into the light because we have been given the awesome opportunity to know the Light.

"Because There is one God and one Mediator between God and us—
the man Jesus, God’s Anointed,
Who gave His life as a ransom for all so that we might have freedom."
(1 Timothy 2:5)


 I have to say, Don Lemon's god is not my God. The Eternal God, the One who spoke the universe into existence and created light out of darkness--He says He is a jealous God.

"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth,
there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
but a certain fearful expectation of judgment,
and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy

on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose,
will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot,
counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing,
and insulted the Spirit of grace?
For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord.
And again, 'The Lord will judge His people.'
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
(Hebrews 10:26-31)

The Eternal God demands perfection from His people. At the same time, though, He created us and knows we are nothing more than dust. In His great and unfailing love for His creation, He sacrificed His Son--the Light that came into the world He created--so that when we stepped into that light, He would see nothing of our past and dark deeds.

We will all face judgement, a day when every thought, word, and deed will be exposed, and we will all be declared guilty. What happens next, though, depends fully on whether or not each one of us chose to walk away from the darkness into eternal life in the Light.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

even in abandonment

 While I know I can't speak for everyone, but I think it's pretty safe to say that there will come a point in every Christian's life when they feel abandoned by God. That may be shocking to say--after all, we all know all the promises that tell us that God is always with us, that He will never leave us. Even when you are absolutely convinced of the validity of the promises of God, though, there can be times when those promises don't feel true.

Being disappointed with God or feeling abandoned by Him is something that it seems the Christian community hushes up and sweeps under the carpet as if it is some dirty secret that shouldn't be mentioned. If we feel like we are distant from God, we must somehow have lost our faith. Or at the very least, in "church talk" (or maybe just "Southern Baptist talk", I don't know) we're back-slidden.

We ignore those feeling in ourselves--push them down and try to suppress the slightest twinge. When others say something, we talk big about how we know God will work everything out and how we can "just trust Him".

Here's the thing, though. We actually have the ultimate guide to how to deal with feeling abandoned. It isn't a sin--if it was, Jesus wasn't sinless. Because as He was hanging on the cross, Jesus felt abandoned.

Kind of a big deal breaker, right?

It isn't wrong to feel like God has abandoned you. It isn't a sin to feel like you're alone in the hard times.

So now that we have that out of the way, let's look at what we can learn about dealing with that feeling from our Savior who dealt with it as well.

1. It's okay to cry out and ask God why.
I'm sure you're familiar with Jesus's words: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" Which means, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Too often, we're told we can't question God. Why is that? Is He too weak or insecure to handle it? Will He second guess what He's got planned if we dare to ask Him why?

God already knows your thoughts, so trying to keep your feelings quiet, not voicing the questions screaming relentlessly in your head, doesn't do anything but hurt you. He knows what you're thinking, so it's not going to surprise Him to hear it. He's not going to be caught off guard and He's not going to strike you down. God knows our humanity limits our perceptions, so He knows that we can't see the big picture. We can't step outside of time and space to look ahead and see just why it is we go through all the crazy things we go through in this life. We can't know all the ways He's working behind the scenes. We can't have all the answers all the time.

At the same time, He knows that we crave those answers. We were created as caretakers and seekers of truth, but most importantly we were created to live in communion with Him. When sin entered the picture and we could no longer walk with Him in the cool of the Garden of Eden, He knew our hearts would break time and time again over the separation we feel. He doesn't expect us to keep all of those feelings bottled up and somehow "secret" from Him. In fact, it's incredibly foolish of us to think we can. Otherwise the Psalmist was wrong when he wrote,

"You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;

    you perceive my thoughts from afar."
(Psalm 139:1-2)

 2. Even then, point to God.
Jesus's words on the cross, while powerful enough when taken on their own, are much more powerful when you look at where they came from. Those words that show His anguish--the words of a Son who feels abandoned by His Father--are a direct quote from Psalm 22:

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

    by night, but I find no rest."
(verses 1&2)

 The really incredible verse that follows this, though, is why I think Jesus chose His words as He hung there. He knew how important His words would be to His followers, His friends who were left to face a world they couldn't imagine was real. He knew that once they--we--had time to process His words, spoken in the depths of excruciating pain that most of us can never imagine, once there was time and opportunity to search out just why those words seemed so familiar, the impact would grow. As it is translated in the Complete Jewish Bible, verse 3 says:

"Nevertheless, you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Isra’el"

 Even in the depths of agony, Jesus pointed to the Eternal God of Israel. He spoke of the God who is holy, despite the circumstances in our lives. As He is in everything else, Jesus is the One we should strive to emulate when we are overwhelmed by the things of this world that break us down. No matter our feelings, we know God's promises are true. We know His word is true, even when (especially when?) it tells us that our heart is deceitful above all else. So in those times when our hearts are crying out that God has left us, we can still turn to His promises and know that He is holy. In those times, in the darkest moments, we can still point to Him.



 


Thursday, February 4, 2021

what then shall we do?

 There is no doubt that the world is going crazy. People seem to have collectively lost their ever-lovin' minds and are running toward a future that is full of broken hearts, shattered dreams, and days of darkness that we can't even imagine. Those who see the direction the world is headed are called bigots and conspiracy nuts and enemies of the state.

And honestly? We should take that as a blessing.

Jesus was despised by the world. Isaiah wrote,
 

"Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground.
He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—
    he had no physical beauty to attract our attention.
So he was despised and forsaken by men,

    this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend.
As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way;
    he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him."
~Isaiah 53:2-3

If we are truly His followers the world should despise us, too. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have lived this truth for generations, but most in the United States haven't ever truly tasted the meaning of Jesus's words: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10) We've lived in peace and comfort, which has overwhelmingly led to complacency. As a result, we are fearful of the future that so many of us see coming so quickly. We are afraid of the cliff we see everyone running toward.

As so many before us, we ask Jesus, "What then shall we do?"

1. Rest in the knowledge that God isn't surprised by what's ahead of us.

"Remember the old days. For I am God; there is no other.
        I am God; there are no other gods like Me.
From the beginning I declare how things will end;

        from times long past, I tell what is yet to be, saying:
    'My intentions will come to pass.
        I will make things happen as I determine they should.'”
~Isaiah 46:9-10

Look at that again-- He alone is God. He knew how things would end before they even began, and He determines how things happen.

All this mess and chaos that somehow has caught us off guard? He's not surprised by any of it. And here's the kicker that we seem to forget--His will is still happening. The stuff we're seeing in the world around us didn't throw off his plans or make Him have to rethink things.

2. "Always be ready to offer a defense, humbly and respectfully, when someone asks why you live in hope." (1 Peter 3:15)

In this time of confusion, people are searching for hope. We're told in Ecclesiastes that God put eternity in our hearts, but without Him that sense of eternity is disquieting. It's that sense of eternity that has people searching and striving, but He's the only One that can satisfy that longing. When people see us, they should see that we are different--that we aren't searching for a way to be filled. They should see that we have a "peace that passes all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), that we aren't filled with stress and anxiety about the future. It should be so obvious to them that something's different that they ask why. And when they ask, we have to be able to give an answer. We have to be able to tell them that we know God is in control and that He is able to keep us through anything and everything that comes our way.

I have to be honest, I don't live that way. I tend to dwell in a place of stress and anxiety instead of resting in the unexplainable peace of God. Instead of relying on Him to give me what I need for today, I work and plan and stress over trying to make sure I have everything I need for the future. Oh, I'm ready to give an answer (I'm good at answers), but I don't live in such a way that people want to know what makes me different.

3. Remember that we aren't promised ease and comfort.

Sometimes we seem to cling to the idea that once we have made the decision to follow Christ, life will turn into smooth sailing. I can't count how many times I've heard people say, "Just love Jesus; He wants to make you happy." The thing is, we aren't promised happiness. In fact, we're promised exactly the opposite: In John 16 Jesus told His disciples that in this world they would have tribulation. What was translated as "tribulation" is the Greek "thlipsis," which more literally means a pressure that constricts or constricts. Jesus wasn't telling His followers that things would be easy. Instead, He told them that they would face times that would put them in a tight spot, times of pressure and friction.

As He so often does, though, He followed the warning up with a promise: "you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order." (John 16:33, Voice)

4. Take refuge in God.

I'm glad that Jesus has overcome the world, don't get me wrong. Without that promise, the others wouldn't do a whole lot of good. What I'm most thankful for, though, is the promise that we aren't left to fend for ourselves. Yes, we will face hard times. For those of in the United States, I think we're tumbling towards a time when we will get a taste of what our brothers and sisters around the world have experienced for a long time. Here's the thing, though--God could have given us salvation and the promise of eternal life, then stepped back and told us we were on our own to get through this life. But that's not the way He chooses to operate. Instead, He makes us these promises:

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  ~Joshua 1:9

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." ~Matthew 28:20b

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." ~Isaiah 41:10

And like David wrote after God saved him from Saul, may we always say, 

"I love You, Eternal One, source of my power. The Eternal is my rock, my fortress, and my salvation; He is my True God, the stronghold in which I hide, my strong shield, the horn that calls forth help, and my tall-walled tower." ~Psalm 18:1-2


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

"Ascendant" Christianity?

Recently, the New York Times published an article singing the praises of President Biden's Catholicism, saying that he is "perhaps the most religiously observant commander in chief in half a century." The mention how his life has been "steeped in Christian rituals and practices" and talk about how his Catholicism directs his life and his policies. They cheer about how his faith doesn't focus on all the divisive aspects of Christianity like abortion and sexuality, but instead focuses on climate change and racial equity. They hold him up as a bastion of what truly tolerant, liberal Christianity should look like--someone who doesn't do the bidding of the horrible Conservative Christians who have been in power for way too long. Like so many are so quick to do, they praised liberal Christianity for being quick to unite in love and quick to ignore all those "hateful" aspects of the Bible that point out sin. One of the things the writer of the article seemed most proud of was that "There is a sense of moral synergy on the left, among not only progressive Christians but also humanists, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and the spectrum of faith traditions."

Just as a reminder, when Justice Amy Coney Barrett was facing her confirmation hearing for the Federal Circuit Court in 2017, Senator Feinstein told her, "“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that people have fought for years in this country." The same people who are praising Biden's Catholic faith were attacking Barrett for hers.

The argument, however, is that Biden's religion is different. They say he embraces a new version of Christianity, "a Christian moral vision that makes room for a pluralistic society." To a follower of Christ, nothing should tell you to run away quicker than someone talking about changing theology. That, however, is exactly what is being lauded in this article.

The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), but it doesn't change. Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." As followers of Christ, we don't change His teachings in order to make them fit with society today. In fact, Christians who find themselves in agreement with the world should take the time to truly examine their beliefs. James 4:4 puts it pretty bluntly: "Don’t you know that making friends with this corrupt world order is open aggression toward God? So anyone who aligns with this bogus world system is declaring war against the one true God." A true follower of Christ isn't going to fit in with the world. Jesus Himself said, "If you find that the world despises you, remember that before it despised you, it first despised Me. If you were a product of the world order, then it would love you. But you are not a product of the world because I have taken you out of it, and it despises you for that very reason." (John 15:18-19)

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Too often, people confuse religion and faith. Christian religion is one thing. It is full of rituals and observances. It is on display in mega churches who fill their buildings with laser shows and giant productions. It is posted all over social media with things like #blessed and people using the name of Jesus to promote social justice. It is made evident in the "name it and claim it" mentality that turns God into some kind of cosmic genie there to fulfill wishes.

 


It's that kind of religion that I believe God had in mind when He told Israel,
"I hate—I totally reject—your religious ceremonies
        and have nothing to do with your solemn gatherings.
You can offer Me whole burnt offerings and grain offerings,

        but I will not accept them.
    You can sacrifice your finest, fattest young animals as a peace offering,
        but I will not even look up.
And stop making that music for Me—it’s just noise.

        I will not listen to the melodies you play on the harp." (Amos 5:21-23)

God obviously isn't a big fan of religion. He isn't fooled by the pomp and circumstance. He doesn't revel in the lights and get fooled by fancy words. He doesn't care how "devout" we appear to the world. In fact, when Jesus walked the earth His harshest words were reserved for those considered by society to be the most devout--the Pharisees and Sadducees.

 In the eyes of God, it doesn't matter how devoted I am to a belief if that belief is false. And God's word is very clear on what is considered a false belief: anything that goes against the gospel of the perfect Son of God made flesh, then sacrificed on the cross for our sins and raised again to give us eternal life if we believe He is the only way, truth, and life. No matter who is preaching it or where they are preaching from, anything that says differently is false.

Christianity doesn't leave room for other beliefs. By very definition, it can't--as followers of Christ we are called to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them what Jesus taught, and showing them how to follow His commands (Matthew 28:18-20). Our faith isn't one of concessions and caveats, solely a "moral vision that makes room for a pluralistic society." If I truly believe that Jesus meant it when He said He was the only way to the Father, the only truth, the only source of life, then it makes me incredibly unloving to tell people it's okay if they don't believe in Him.

How horrible would it be to know the only way out of a burning building, but sit back and tell people that they can go whichever direction they want? How much worse is it, then, to know the only way to eternal life, yet let people believe whatever they want?

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/23/us/biden-catholic-christian.html
  2. https://vancouversun.com/news/staff-blogs/liberal-christianity-ten-things-worth-knowing-about-this-third-way/
  3. https://www.gotquestions.org/liberal-Christian-theology.html
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Christianity

Thursday, January 21, 2021

defend the faith

I've been a bit quiet here lately. I think that's partly because I don't much enjoy being a voice of doom and gloom, and partly because to be quite honest, in the current political climate I'm afraid of the possible consequences of being outspoken.

"Political" probably isn't the right word, though. The issues we are facing right now aren't political, but spiritual. And it's for that reason and that reason alone that I have to put aside my fears and pray that God will give me the words I need, just like Jesus promised His disciples when He sent them out into the world.

We read from Jude at church on Sunday, and I've been pulled back to it over and over again since then. So much of what Jude wrote then is so fitting for today. He wrote to all those called by God the Father, starting by saying that he wanted to write to them about the amazing salvation they all shared. He doesn't say it, but I think that means he was wanting to focus on the beautiful aspects of salvation. It's kind of like what I would like to write about here--the amazing, unfathomable richness of God's love and mercy for us, His unending grace poured out over us, and our undeserved adoption into His kingdom.

Instead, like Jude, I feel like I instead need to share a warning. We are in a time when we are going to be called to be defenders of the faith. In Jude's words:

"I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. [...] But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction." v. 4 & 10

That is the case in American churches today. We have people who stand behind the pulpit and say that sin isn't an issue, that God just wants us to have "health, wealth, and happiness" and that we don't actually have to live according to His commands. They preach a gospel that includes all the happy parts like eternal life and forgiveness but leaves out the hard parts-- like repentance and correction and hating sin.

While it is true that God will forgive all our sins, the forgiveness of sins requires repentance. That doesn't mean just saying I'm sorry. Biblical repentance means turning away from the sin, not living in the middle of it and saying, "Oh well, God will forgive me so it doesn't really matter what I do."

As followers of Christ, we are so often told that we shouldn't be so judgmental. There's a sign I drive by that says, "Love everybody. I'll straighten them out later. ~Jesus" We are reminded time and time again that Jesus didn't stone the woman caught in adultery. That story--which conveniently leaves out the fact that Jesus told the woman to "go and sin no more"--is used to tell us that we shouldn't tell anyone that anything they are doing is wrong. If we are truly loving, we're told, then we should stop telling people that they are living in sin. We shouldn't judge people--we should just accept them for who they are.

There's a little bit of truth in that. That's the tricky thing Satan does--he puts enough truth in his lies to make them seem believable. It's true that there isn't any sin that should exclude someone from coming to Christ. As His followers, there shouldn't be some group of people we think aren't worthy of the good news that Christ died to take the punishment of their sins.

Once someone has become a follower of Christ, however, they are called to something different, something higher. We are called to be constantly becoming more like Christ, which means turning away from anything sinful. As fellow travelers on the narrow road, we are also called to hold each other to that higher standard. In Jude's words, 

"Keep being kind to those who waver in this faithPursue those who are singed by the flames of God’s wrath, and bring them safely to Him. Show mercy to others with fear, despising every garment soiled by the weakness of human flesh." (v. 22-23) 

Or as his brother James said, "Brothers and sisters, if someone you know loses his way and rebels against God, pursue him in love and bring him back to the truth." (James 5:19)

Or as Paul wrote to the Galatians: "My spiritual brothers and sisters, if one of our faithful has fallen into a trap and is snared by sin, don’t stand idle and watch his demise. Gently restore him, being careful not to step into your own snare. Shoulder each other’s burdens, and then you will live as the law of the Anointed teaches us. Don’t take this opportunity to think you are better than those who slip because you aren’t; then you become the fool and deceive even yourself. Examine your own works so that if you are proud, it will be because of your own accomplishments and not someone else’s. Each person has his or her own burden to bear and story to write." (Galatians 6:1-5)

We are often reminded that we shouldn't expect those who are not followers of Christ to operate according to God's standards. As such, when they are lost in sin we shouldn't be surprised. All of that changes, however, once someone comes to Christ. Then we are supposed to reach out to our brothers and sisters and help pull them up out of the trap of sin, keeping in mind that we may need them to do the same for us one day. We are to speak the truth in love, not "love" people so much that we hide the truth from them. Because the real truth is, if you let someone continue to do something that is hurting them, you don't truly love them.

As a nation, especially as one that once claimed to be Christian, we have bought into that lie. We have decided that God's word is hopelessly outdated, so we need to take it on ourselves to figure out what He actually meant. We do that by convincing ourselves that the Scriptures are nothing more than a collection of writing by fallible men, so that means they are open to interpretation.

God in His ultimate wisdom, though, knew our hearts from the beginning. He knew we would be tempted to pick and choose which verses to follow based on the idea that we live in a "different time" (though when I read the Bible, I really don't think our time is all that different...) and therefore need to examine His words through the lens of our current understanding. That's why we have verses like the ones found in Paul's letter to Timothy:

"But as for the wicked and the imposters, they will keep leading and following each other further and further away from the truth. So surely you ought to stick to what you know is certain. All you have learned comes from people you know and trust because since childhood you have known the holy Scriptures, which enable you to be wise and lead to salvation through faith in Jesus the Anointed. All of Scripture is God-breathed; in its inspired voice, we hear useful teaching, rebuke, correction, instruction, and training for a life that is right so that God’s people may be up to the task ahead and have all they need to accomplish every good work." (2 Timothy 13-17)

So test everything you're hearing, whether it's from a friend, parent, spouse, or pastor. Anything that goes against the word of God is wrong, no matter who is saying it. 

memorial day 2021

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