Tuesday, August 31, 2021

"Faith" (vs) Covid

     I had just spent several hours working on a new Bible study. I hadn't slept well the night before, so I was going to take a short nap. Then, I find that there is "another" message. Another of the of the "numerous" texts, e-mails, messages, social media posts regarding Covid (the coronavirus). This one (again) questioning my "faith," saying I was "afraid," and that I was "being prayed for." This following one from the previous day stating essentially the same thing, and telling me just "to get the vaccine if I was so afraid."

     I headed off for my nap, but as soon as I laid down, I knew it wasn't happening. I got up, and decided to write this.

     Let me lead off with this: I have not had the vaccine for Covid. I have my reasons why, and I am not going into all of those here. While I am not adamantly opposed to the vaccine as many of my friends are, I have prayed about it, and I am not feeling led to get the vaccine at this time.

     So, on to the "faith" aspect. Let's start with the "vaccinated."

     Knowing I have not had the vaccine, I have had one person (I am keeping this "gender neutral") after a Bible study that I was teaching find out that I, and others with me were not vaccinated, who handed me back my Bible study and walked away without a word. Another followed by telling me I was "unloving," I should be "ashamed," and said the words "If you get sick, don't expect me to feel sorry for you!" When I explain my concerns about the possible effects of the vaccine, I am told that I lack "faith" because I don't trust God to protect me from those effects. That was the end of that Bible study.

     Christians I know who have had the vaccine truly believe they are obeying God by getting the vaccine. They believe that they are doing the "loving" thing, to protect others, and that if enough people get the vaccine, this will all end. Therefore, they consider those who don't get the vaccine "unloving." That they don't care about the welfare of others. Many believe that we should have "faith" that God gave guidance and wisdom to those who came up with the vaccine. They also believe that we should have "faith" that God will protect us from any side-effects that could come from getting the vaccine, if there are any.

     Then, we have the "anti-vaccinated" crowd. 

     Personally, I see this one a lot more, and unfortunately this is the side that pushes the "faith" aspect more. Get the vaccination, wear a mask, social distance: you don't have "faith" God will protect you. Choose to stay home, and limit your going out in public: you don't have "faith," and you are "being ruled by fear."

     From this side, I ("we," my wife and I) have received more articles than I can count from "anti-vax" people explaining the evils of the vaccination. It is "the mark of the beast," it contains tiny micro-chips, it has something in it that will make you glow, it will kill everyone who gets it in a few years, it is part of a plan to take over the United States, and more.... Many also believe that the effects of Covid are being greatly exaggerated.

     Shortly after this virus first started in 2020, I asked a simple (or so I thought) question for discussion on social media: "If an unsaved person was afraid of Covid, but would come to your church if everyone would wear a mask, would everyone wear one?" This turned into a firestorm, with dozens of responses. I was simply trying to stay neutral. However, one (anti-mask) person that I had been friends with for years, and was at one time in a small group with, got so upset about my suggestion that perhaps we should, that they made the decision to end our friendship right then and there. I haven't heard from them since.

     Of course, the "vaccinated" people blame the spread of Covid on the "un-vaccinated," because if only they would get the shot, this would all stop. And, the "anti-unvaccinated" people believe the "vaccinated" are spreading it because of what is in the shot they took.

     Honestly, I have tried to avoid this subject as much as possible. I don't talk about it on the website, I don't post about it on social media, I don't bring it up in Bible studies (other than to pray for those who have the virus). As I say on the homepage of the website, my purpose is "to witness to those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and disciple those who do, but are seeking help in their daily walk."

     I spend nearly every day seeking to carry out my God-ordained purpose. For better or worse, my purpose is carried out by spending "hours" each day in a chair in front of a computer screen. I write Bible studies, respond to e-mail and social media questions and comments, do maintenance on the website, and more. Given that this is my life, I am not out in public as much as many people have to be, therefore, I have chosen not to take the vaccine.

     When I do go out, I usually take some precautions. I often (not always) wear a mask, I use hand-sanitizer, and I even wear rubber gloves at times (i.e. when pumping gas).

     I have not always done this. In fact, in May of 2021 (about 3 months ago), my wife and I (and my mom) took a week and a half trip out west, and followed that shortly after (in early July) with a trip to Kentucky to see the "Ark Experience" with a number of people from my Bible study group. I don't recall wearing a mask at any time (except on the plane, which was required). I pretty much went about life as "normal."

     HOWEVER, things changed after that. In a short month and a half, I went from knowing only a few people here and there with Covid to "dozens." There has been a bad outbreak in Florida. So many people I know have Covid that I can't even keep track. Three pastors and families, numerous friends, dozens of acquaintances. The church I used to attend closed for 3 weeks because it got so bad. I know 3 people who have died, two who almost died, and many who have recovered, but are still dealing with symptoms. I thank the Lord for answered prayer for those who have recovered.

     But, back to the "faith" thing again, here is a BIG problem for me. The 3 people who died; these 3 were Christians, these 3 were un-vaccinated, these 3 stepped out in "faith" to live life normally. They got Covid, and they died. These "faith" questions come to me: 

Did they lack "faith" because they died? Do you have more "faith" because you haven't gotten Covid, or have more "faith" because you did get Covid, but didn't die?

Were those who got Covid unsure about what to do, and they listened to those who said they would "lack faith," or be afraid" if they didn't step out in "faith," so they did, and died as a result? (I don't know the whole story of those who died.)

Are those of you who are vaccinated going to tell the loved ones of those who died, "If only he/she would have had "faith," in the vaccine that God provided, they might still be alive today? (I actually have seen people do this over and over on social media! It's easy to be brave there.)

     How do you answer these questions? I don't have all the answers, but here are a few things I do know. 

I know that I would not want to question the "faith" of someone who got sick, or died from Covid. 

I know that I would not want to tell the loved ones of someone who just died from Covid that their loved one who died lacked "faith."

I know that I would not to use whatever influence I have to encourage someone to step out in "faith" and get a shot that I have personal concerns about.

On the other hand, I know that I would not want to use whatever influence I have to tell someone that they are "lacking faith," or are "afraid" if they get the shot.

I also know that I do not want to use whatever influence I have to tell someone who has Covid concerns to step out in "faith," and stop being "afraid, and then they get Covid because they listened to ME.

     As a result of this recent outbreak, I (my wife and I) have chosen to take some extra precautions. We have been staying away from crowds. We have limited our "face to face" interactions with those who have been sick, or are around those who have been sick. We have been wearing masks when shopping. We do not look at this as being "afraid," we look at this as being cautious. 

     While many may disagree, I believe words found in (Mt 4:5-7) can apply to this situation. These words were spoken while Jesus was being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Here is what they say:

(Mt 4:5-7)(NKJV) Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, (6) and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone,' " (7) Jesus said to him, "It is written again, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God.' "

     In other words, Satan told Jesus to throw Himself off of the roof of the Temple, and then quoted (twisted) Scripture to say that God would protect Him from harm. This might have been true, but Jesus said that to do so would be "tempting God," or as other versions say "testing God." 

     Applying this to Covid, yes, we can step out in "faith," and dive headfirst (jump off the roof) into places and situations, taking no precautions, and acting like Covid doesn't exist, and God may well protect us when we do. But, in doing so, are we "testing" God? I believe this is possible, and I am choosing not to put God to a "foolish test" in this. When the number of Covid cases decreases, and thereby the risk of catching it, I will re-access what I do. 

     So, very bluntly, summing this up, here is my view on all of this. I am SO sick and tired of people trying to determine the "faith" of another person based upon their own standards of what "faith" should be in a given situation. Instead, why don't we encourage fellow Christians to go to the Lord through prayer and His Word, and let them determine what God is showing them. If they are wrong in what they believe God is saying, God will deal with that. You cannot know, and it isn't "your" place to judge the "faith" of anyone!

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Fall Of Ravi Zacharias

      It has been known for a while now, but I only learned about it yesterday (2-11-21). Perhaps the greatest Christian apologist of our time, Ravi Zacharias, who died on (5-11-20), had been living a double life . I first saw it mentioned on social media. Of course, that made me immediately skeptical, so I looked into it. It led to "hours" of looking into it. It ended with me on his website, reading a long apology from those still working in the ministry he founded. 

    The sin of Mr. Zacharias was "sexual sin." The charge was brought by numerous women. The details are graphic. I am not going into those details. 

     Just like me, when the first charges came, those at the ministry refused to believe them. Mr. Zacharias vehemently denied them. They stood behind him, and defended him. They posted their support of him on the website. They impugned the credibility of the women who had brought the charges. However, after his death, as evidence was mounting, they hired a law firm to investigate. The law firm found overwhelming evidence that the sex charges were true. Those working at the ministry, who had previously defended him have offered a long, and sincere apology to those who brought the charges, repented, and asked for forgiveness. 

     There is much more to this story, but I will leave that at that. So, why am I even mentioning it? Because this news hit me HARD. As I mentioned this on Facebook, and that I was removing quotes of his from my website, I received comments from several friends pointing out that I was "flogging" him for his sin publicly, or that I was perhaps failing to understand his "humanity," and that we must be careful about putting Christian leaders on a pedestal. But, it isn't that....

     I learned long ago not to put pastors or Christian leaders on a pedestal. I have seen too many fall. Nor am I "flogging" Dr. Zacharias publicly. My favorite verse in the Bible is (1 Cor 15:10), "But by the grace of God I am what I am." I truly believe that if not for God's grace, ANY of us could fall. ANY of us could commit ANY sin. To me, one of the most dangerous sentences is, "I would NEVER do that." That is "pride," and "pride goeth before a fall" (Prov 16:18).

     No, my devastation comes from three things that his "secret life of sexual sin" has left behind.

 #1. Of course, the horrible pain he has left for his wife and children to face. The husband and father they knew was not who they thought he was. Their lives will never be the same.

#2. The impact of his sin on the significant ministry he left behind, and how it will affect that going forward.

#3. The destruction of his future legacy.

     There is a quote from David Jeremiah that I heard many years ago, and I have never forgotten it. I am paraphrasing, "I could take everything I have built up over 35 years in my ministry and destroy it all if I went out tomorrow and committed one act of rebellion." Honestly, I believe that is exactly what Mr. Zacharias has done. His defense of the Christian faith was unparalleled in recent times. The truth he spoke, and his Biblical teachings are no less true because of his "secret life of sin," but their impact will never be the same.

     For example, as I was erasing his quotes from my website, here was one of them: 

"It is a mindless philosophy that assumes that one's private beliefs have nothing to do with public office. Does it make sense to entrust those who are immoral in private with the power to determine the nation's moral issues and, indeed, its destiny? One of the most dangerous and terrifying trends in America today is the disregard for character as a central necessity in a leaders credentials. The duplicitous soul of a leader can only make a nation more sophisticated in evil."

     Knowing what I know now, can you guess what I think when I see this quote? And, that is my point. What he said in that quote is "totally" true, but knowing what he was doing when he said it.... It diminishes its impact. Honestly, one word comes to mind, "hypocrite." And, one of the top two reasons why many non-Christians hate Christians is, "So many Christians are hypocrites."

     Going back to the David Jeremiah quote, one of the most terrifying things to me personally is that I have spent 19 years building the JesusAlive ministry, and in "one act of rebellion," I could destroy everything. I could destroy my wife, my children, those I minister to, my credibility, my legacy, forever.... I pray for God's help and strength not to do this: EVER. I set boundaries. I try not to open doors for the enemy. I try to be accountable. 

     "That" is why I am saddened and burdened by the story of Mr. Zacharias. It isn't that he sinned, because we all do; it is that his failure to "turn" from his sin at the first beginnings and repent has forever tarnished his legacy. I am terrified it will happen to me. Lord, please help me!

"Faith" (vs) Covid

     I had just spent several hours working on a new Bible study. I hadn't slept well the night before, so I was going to take a short n...