I still love it.
God and Luck
JoLynn and I enjoy the monthly hot date at Costco. Usually, we pull in on a weekend and the place is packed. Still, I’ll find a nice spot close to the handicapped parking. She says, with jealous disdain, “You’re so lucky.”
I reply, “Yeah, well, I had my devotions.”
Is God like that? Does he reward us for following him and make us park a mile away when we don’t? The believers who are having to leave their homes behind in Ukraine as they run for their lives, is God punishing them for something?
Circumstances are not a sign of godliness, or of sin.
Still, I think we all have a bit of Voodoo in us. We believe God will make us lucky. That’s why the baseball player will cross himself before coming to the plate. Or the crude comedian will kiss the cross around her neck before going on stage. Neither may follow God, but they both want luck. They want a 4-leaf clover God.
Who doesn’t want a bit of luck on their side?
One time I took a small group of sharp High School kids to Monterrey, Mexico to do some outreach and construction projects. We loaded up our old 15 passenger youth van in Lake Charles LA with about a dozen youth and sponsors and headed south. We broke down just this side of the border (this side was good), and after wasting a day trying to fix it ourselves, we left the van in the incapable hands of the mechanics at the local Dodge dealership (incapable was bad). We were able to obtain another van for our final 150 miles of travel in Mexico.
Once in Monterrey one of our students decided to run away. In Monterrey. In Mexico. It was supper time, and I asked, “Where is Phil? Has anyone seen Phil?” PANIC. After hours of searching, he showed back up. I didn’t know whether to hug him or kill him.
Parents can get weird when you don’t return their kids.
And then, after spending a couple of weeks in Mexico, we drove north, picked up our “repaired” van from the dealer, and made it a total of 50 miles before it broke down again. After another two days of “repairs,” a couple of folks from our church in Lake Charles drove the 8 hours to Brownsville, TX, and towed us back.
Did we have all those problems because we didn’t have our devotions? Was God getting us back for some hidden sins?
It’s possible I suppose that God wanted to get our attention. He gave us a few extra days together. We learned how to experience inconvenience as a team and not kill each other. Phil learned that Monterrey is a terrible place to choose to run away from home.
So, did God work these tough times for our good? Certainly. Did we go through them because of some hidden sin? Certainly not. God allows challenging times to happen, and it is up to us to choose to follow Him through those times.
I don’t know of any Bible passage that promises that living right will bring good luck or bad living bad luck. There are some verses that show that living righteously can bring temporal blessings, but these are usually proverbs, saying how things normally work. They aren’t promises saying that if you do X, God must cause Y to happen. In fact, you can find plenty of illustrations that following God is just as likely–if not more so—to bring difficult circumstances rather than good ones in the short run as we follow Him.
Take our passage for church at AnchorPoint this Sunday, the parable of The Rich Man and the Beggar, from Luke 16:13-31. In it, a poor beggar named Lazarus is living in front of a rich guy’s house. It’s a gated community, so Lazarus lays in front of the gate, with dogs licking his running sores. But the rich guy was the pagan, and the beggar was the one who followed God. What’s up with that? Why was the rich guy “blessed” and Lazarus unlucky?
Then both Lazarus and the rich guy die, and the rest of the story you can read on your own, or on our Facebook site.
Jesus told us to “pick up our cross and follow,” not “hop in your Ferrari and stay on my bumper.” Jesus promised to forgive us, guide us, and love us into eternity. Unfortunately, there is nothing in there about lucky lottery numbers.
Or Dodge vans.
I like the way the writer of Psalm 73 wrestled with this issue. It’s like he was stuck in Brownsville with a dozen High School kids and a broken-down van when he wrote it.
Ps 73:13 (NIV2011) “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. 15 If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. 16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply…”
Then he comes to his senses and says “21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. 23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.”
The Psalmist gets it. There is no promise of a lucky life if we follow God. Instead, we follow God because He is always with us, forgiving us, holding our hand, guiding us, and finally taking us into glory. Righteous living does, generally, bring good results, if only temporarily—but the real reward is knowing and enjoying God, starting now, and lasting for eternity.
Lost in Chicago
I got off the “L” in Chicago (short for elevated railway), and said to myself, “self,” I said, “I don’t know where I am, but it looks like the worst slums in America, and I’m pulling a suitcase. This could be a bad day.”
It almost was.
It had been one of those weekends. The year was 1997. We were living in Tucson, but I was taking modular classes at Moody Bible Institute, Chicago. Back then, you couldn’t receive an accredited degree unless there were 40-hours of in-class instruction for each 3-hour semester class. As a result, Moody structured their master’s classes so that you could do pre-class work, fly up and get all your hours in one week, and then go home for your post-class assignments. A very gracious friend and United Pilot supplied me with “friends and family” tickets to complete my degree. There was just one hitch.
The tickets were “standby.”
This meant that I never knew if there would be room on a flight for me (there was no online check-in at that time). I also had to pack everything that I needed for the week, including my books, into my carryon, as I couldn’t check any baggage. It was good Haiti training.
I had a class starting on Monday, so I went to Phoenix after church on Sunday and tried to fly out to Chicago.
Nothing doing. All the flights were full. All day.
At the end of the day, I took a flight to some bigger city in California to try and fly out from there. That worked, but it was a redeye flight to Chicago. I landed around 6am with no sleep, and, trying to save some money, I decided to take the L for the first time in my life instead of calling a Taxi.
Lack of sleep can make for low IQ decision making.
There was no one on the L except for one African American guy the size of a Suburban, and he hadn’t an ounce of fat on him. He just stared at me like, “This is my train boy. Sit if you dare.”
I was tired. I dared.
Now is when my issues started. I knew where I was going, but I had no idea how to get there. The maps on the side of the train showed all kinds of “blue lines,” and “green lines” and places to switch trains to different lines. It was worse than trying to figure out our governor’s Covid color restrictions. By the time I realized I knew nothing about Chicago except that Moody was somewhere close to Lake Michigan, the train had started moving. I was stuck.
I figured the announcements might be of some help.
I figured wrong.
The announcements sounded like someone talking with their mouth full of marshmallows, played back at full distortion, speaking Arabic. By now the train was getting packed with people, but they were city people going to work. They didn’t look like folks you wanted to talk to. Besides, I’m an introvert. So, I did the next most logical thing I could think of.
I stayed on until I could see the lake and things looked kind of familiar and got out the next time the train stopped. It turns out I wasn’t too far away from Moody; I was just several blocks Northwest of the school.
But Northwest of Moody was Cabrini-Green.
If you are unfamiliar with Cabrini-Green, count your blessings. It was a massive high-rise housing project that started in the 1940s. The city put aside the money to build it, but not to maintain it. It became known as “Little Hell.” For decades it was in the media for gangs, drugs, rapes, murders and was called, “one of the most feared places in America.” In 2000, Chicago decided to tear it down, and the last building was demolished in 2011.
But I was there in 1997.
So, I, a skinny white guy, got off the L in the middle of one of the most dangerous projects in America, pulling my suitcase behind me. I was the first one off, and I assumed the only one who got off. That’s when I realized I was lost. I had no idea which way Moody was located. The high-rise apartments all around me made it feel like walking in a canyon. The smell and look of the place made me realize I was in a dangerous place. The streets were silent and empty. All I knew is that I should start walking. Fast. I went down the street and took my first left. And there he was.
The mountain of a man who was on the train when I first got on, was standing about six feet in front of me, like he was waiting for me to turn left and run into him. I never saw him get off the train. He was sitting behind me, so he would have had to have gotten off after me, but he never walked past me.
And yet, here he was.
“You’re lost, aren’t you boy?” he asked.
Gee, how did you know?
“Yes, this is Cabrini-Green?” I asked.
“Yes, we need to get you out of here. Where are you going?”
“Moody Bible,” I answered, “Do you know where it is?”
“Yup, come with me,” he answered. You don’t argue with mountains when they give instructions. He walked me around back to an underground station, didn’t kill me, and instead got me through the ticket thing and told me to get off on the second stop, I think. Anyway, it worked.
This week I’m speaking at Anchorpoint about the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin from Luke 15. Lost people matter to God. And if they matter to God, they should matter to us also.
I’m sure glad this lost, tired suitcase-pulling idiot mattered to someone else. I still wonder how he got past me, or if he was an angel (Heb 13:2). Either way, he was an angel to me.
What Would You Do if God Called You to Haiti?
I was sitting in a Pastor’s meeting when one of the guys suggested, “How about we go around, and each say how God called us to ministry?”
All I could think of was, “Please, no.” That and, “God, please call this meeting to an end.”
I would love to have one of those “Burning Bush” stories of God calling me into ministry. Rahab’s deliverance is dramatic. Paul’s going blind isn’t bad either. My story is more like Jesus’ disciple Thaddaeus.
Who was Thaddaeus?
This Sunday, I hope to give some suggestions on knowing and following God’s call on our lives, even if it is to Rio Rancho. The call of God is how ordinary people become extraordinary.
But today I have a question for you.
What would you do if you thought God was calling you to pick up your “normal” life in the USA to live in Port-au-Prince Haiti? What would it take to move you from our wonderful, magic flush-and-goodbye waste system to one of the largest cities in the world without a central sewage system, a non-system which would also mean moving from safe tap water to “Haitian Happiness” on tap, and from fresh air to yuck? Of course, you would also be moving from city electric to a generator when diesel is available, from A/C to fans when the generator runs, from safety to danger, from English to Creole, from, well, I could go on. What would it take to move you there and bring your family?
A divorce for starters? OK, let’s assume if you’re married that both of you agree. Sorry kids. You think a low IQ would help? Sorry, the quotient doesn’t go that low. It would take a clear call from God to convince most of us to make a move that drastic. But, if it is from God, then it’s worth it, because God’s will is best, all the time.
It may be hard to swallow, but it is always best.
This Sunday at church Byron and Shelley Tlucek, our Haitian missionaries will be here. The plan is to interview them at the end of the service for a few minutes, and after church to let you ask them questions on your heart. This will be a wonderful opportunity to dive into Byron and Shelley’s answer to God’s calling, what they’ve faced and are facing, and how they have overcome the obstacles that appear to be beyond overwhelming to most of us. You should be able to get the YouTube Livestream, or on Facebook Livestream at 10am New Mexico time, or watch the replay after Sunday on our website.
For more on their ministry in Haiti, or to donate, click here.
Needing a Miracle
If you could buy God one gift, what would it be?
I’d get Him a watch.
I want to get God on my time. I want Him to see things like I see them. Am I the only one who has wanted to shout, “God, can’t you see what is happening here? Help out already!” God on our time would be handy, no?
To illustrate, here is what happened to my mother, in France, in the ‘50s.
After WWII my parents went to France as missionaries with my oldest brother and sister. The picture is of my mother and older brother David and sister Janice. The country was still rebuilding from the war, and things were… difficult. My mother remembered two things in the French language. One was she could always quote John 3:16. The other was “Don’t poop in our yard!” Difficult times. While there my folks had two more daughters born in the American Hospital in Paris, but my parents lived in the smaller towns of Dijon, St. Michele sur Orge, and Arc-sur-Tille.
After some years of living in France, my dad developed a severe case of pneumonia. They had dad hanging almost upside-down to help with postural lung drainage. It got so bad that it looked like they were going to have to remove a lung, something the hospitals in France were ill-equipped to do. Their mission board sent plane tickets (they had gone over by ship) to fly the family back to the States so dad could have surgery. Dad was under care at the hospital in Paris, but my mom, brother, and three sisters were in Arc-sur-Tille. All four kids were under eight years old.
Thankfully, no one had thought about me yet.
My mom was stuck with having to pack up all their belongings and close the apartment. She got everything ready to go except for one thing she could not do.
They had no money to get to Paris. As in NO money.
But she packed up anyway, knowing they needed to be ready. It seemed impossible God would leave them without help. How my dad was supposed to get to the airport without help I don’t know. How mom was supposed to live in post-war France without dad I have no clue.
First, the good news. The day before mom was to leave for Paris, she checked the mail. Sure enough, God made sure the money was there. Her sister and brother-in-law, who had promised to support them while there, had, for some reason, not been doing it. Now they took three years of back financial support and sent it by one check. Had they been sending it all along, my parents probably would have spent it on immediate needs. Now it had been saved for them and it arrived at what seemed to be just the right time.
But it wasn’t the right time from my mother’s perspective.
The bad news is that when mom went to cash the check at their local bank, they told her they would have to put a hold on it. The check was from the United States after all. It would take weeks or months to clear, and they had no way of knowing if it was valid. She tried other banks with the same result. I still remember mom telling me how defeated she felt walking back to the packed-up apartment with four kids in tow.
I bet she wanted to give God a watch.
Had that check just come in a month earlier, how different she would have felt. And being human I bet mom was praying, “God, can’t you see what is happening here? Help out already!”
On the way back to the apartment she thought of the American Consulate in Paris. Was this a God idea? Would they back the check? They had no reason to back it, but still, it seemed worth a try. It was closing time at the bank, so she went back as fast as she could. The bank called; the American Consulate was still open. They backed the check, somehow, they got dad through the airport and to the plane in a wheelchair, and my parents and siblings flew home together.
A little side note, my sister Judy, the youngest at the time slept in a hammock in the plane made for infants. It would sway as the plane flew and rock them to sleep. Brilliant! Well, until you hit turbulence anyway. There might be a reason we don’t have them anymore.
And side note number two, when the plane landed in the states and everyone got off, they were spraying around it. I have no idea why. What I do know is that my brother David loudly said, “THEY MUST HAVE KNOWN WE HAVE FLEAS.” Mom was mortified.
Maybe they did know?
Still, I love that mom trusted God enough to pack up with no clear way forward.
1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.”
I’m convinced that peace comes from trusting in the love (God wants what is best for us), wisdom (God knows what is best for us), and power (God can bring about what is best for us) of our giving God.
Life is hard.
God is amazing.
You need these verses
Sometimes I have difficulty getting into the skin of what verses in the Bible are trying to say. So, I go into my fancy Logos Bible program – or jump to Bible Hub or Blueletter Bible on my phone – and took up the word-for-word translation. After some study, and stealing from other translations, I attempt to write my own paraphrase.
Here is my Simplified Cooley Version of 2 Corinthians 4:4-9.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (SCV) The storehouse of God’s power is inside me. I’m fragile but his power is great. That’s why I’m troubled but not crushed, perplexed but not giving up, spiritually terrorized but never abandoned by God, hurled down but unbroken.
Would You Like to Live Off the Grid? Do You Like Kids? HAVE I GOT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU!
Imagine this for a minute…
Imagine having no city water or sewer, but you do have an electric-powered well and a septic tank. You can’t drink the water because it is dangerously polluted, so you use it for bathing and order your drinking water delivered.
You have no dependable city power, but you do have a generator and some solar panels for partial power.
You teach in an old-fashioned one-room school for preschool through grade five. Life is difficult but rewarding.
Then the world goes berserk.
Gangs go to war against each other. They aren’t zombies, but they are evil. It’s no longer safe outside of your walled property. There is no more gas, so you can’t get around by driving with windows up and doors locked. Walking is a sure ticket to being kidnapped or killed. The city is weirdly silent with no traffic, no generators, and businesses boarded up. The water company closes as they can’t make deliveries. Your generator is out of gas, so the dirty well is also dead.
You smell. You are thirsty. You are stuck.
What will you drink? How will you eat? How can any children come to school?
What do you do?
Welcome to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I’ve spent a lot of time there over the last 15 years, but never in circumstances like today. But, if you like living off the grid and like kids, I bet our friends at Maranatha Children’s Home have some openings. If you don’t want to go, can you pray for them?
Here are the most recent requests from our friends at Maranatha Children’s home.
Will you please be praying for us as we look for God’s help to overcome the following challenges?
- Safety for all of our staff, including our US staff in Haiti. As one of our students said…..people with your color of skin are being stolen right now. It seems everybody is at risk of being a target.
- The safe return of the 18 people, including 16 US citizens, 1 Canadian, and 1 Haitian, who were kidnapped last month.
- The gangs will permit the fuel trucks to deliver fuel to the gas stations. Culligan water company has closed, and many of the businesses are only days from closing. They do not have electricity and are unable to obtain fuel to run their generators.
- Our weather will include lots of sunshine. Our solar panels are our main source of power right now, and they don’t provide much power on cloudy days.
- We will be sensitive and obedient to God’s direction as it pertains to our US staff remaining in Haiti.
- Wisdom and safety as we locate food to feed the children at school, the children’s home, and the orphanages.
- We will be able to keep the school open and functioning.
Thanks for your prayers.
You, Me, and Vaccine Mandates
Chances are, if you aren’t being required to be vaccinated for work, you know someone who is. Even if you, like me, have been vaccinated, we should care for those who are being required to do something in violation of their conscience. This is something that is a special concern to me as a pastor. When asked, should I write a “religious exemption?” If so, why? If not, why?
I wrote a blog for AncorPoint Church last week to help answer these questions, called Vaccine Mandates: What You Need to Know About Vaccinations, Religious Exemptions, and My Personal Bias.
I put that blog below, in the hope that it may help some know as believers how to navigate through these difficult times, and maybe even help a pastor or two make wise decisions as well.
Here it is.
I’ve been taking a totally unscientific poll, and AnchorPoint is a real mix of vaccinated and not. About a year ago I had a pastor ask me if AP had people on the extreme (I’ll let you guess which side) side of the COVID debate. I said yes. He said he didn’t want folks like that in his church.
Here’s why. I believe Satan enjoyed Jonah’s utter disdain of the Ninevites, James and John wanting to nuke the Samaritans (Luke 9:51-55), and Peter being too good to eat with the gentiles (Galatians 2:11-21). I don’t want to make Satan smile.
Pick your side. I want you here. Vaccinated or not. In fact, I think having different opinions and still being able to worship together is a sign of health.
Paul put it this way Eph 4:1 I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (NIV2011)
One Lord. One Faith. One Baptism. Many politics.
This is an unprecedented time of opportunity. I believe it could be a direct answer to the prayer of Jesus in John 17. Jn 17:20 “My prayer is not for them [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 …Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (NIV2011)
But now, just as the election and mask disagreements begin to fade, COVID-19 vaccine mandates are increasing. This gets even more complicated due to the legal issues surrounding religious exemptions.
Here is one illustration of the dilemma from WORLD Magazine:
“One Christian with concerns is Whitney Buck, and OB-GYN in Michigan. When her employer mandated the COVID-19 vaccine, she and her husband, Taylor, a physician at the same hospital system, sought a religious exemption. ‘As believers, we trust the leading of the Holy Spirit and decided it was medically not indicated or necessary for us.’ They are young, healthy, and low-risk for morbidity or morality if infected. She said they didn’t want to take on the risk of side effects, no matter how infrequently they are reported. She also said the push for mandates by the media and politicians gives them pause.
Both Whitney and Taylor received an automated email response from their employer denying the exemption. The Bucks are praying about what to do next. ‘I felt from a very young age that the Lord prepared me and equipped me to be a physician,’ she said. ‘I do not want it to be my pride that costs me my vocation.’”
This is a nationwide struggle, as we Christians decide how best to keep our families and community safe and at the same time respect the decisions of others. Reinaldo has been sending me articles from Christianity Today and other sources about religious exemptions for the last six months or so. In this blog, I have stolen from Christianity Today, WORLD Magazine, Carey Nieuwhof, DesiringGod.org (John Piper) and other sources. I’m no attorney, but I thought it was time we gave you some help to start thinking through this issue.
But know this: I believe God is more concerned with your growing relationship with Him, and with others, than He is about your decision about getting vaccinated. If struggling with the decision brings you closer to Him, great! And it is great regardless of your final decision.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but we don’t all have to agree when it comes to “Hearing God.” As always, we start with God’s Word and prayer. Some things are clearly black-and-white. When it comes to committing murder, adultery, gossip, God has told us His will. But there is a lot that God left up to us. In 1 Corinthians 8, some folks felt guilty if they ate meat that could have been sacrificed to idols. Others like Paul had no problem with it. Paul’s answer to the division?
Rather than argue, Paul extended a lot of love and grace. He didn’t try to convince those who felt guilty eating idol meat to eat it. Instead, Paul said if it bothered them, that he wouldn’t eat meat either. He joined them! It wasn’t a sin to eat the meat, but getting them to eat in violation of their conscience, that would be sin.
In other words, everything that is a sin for me may not be a sin for you.
More on “Hearing God” in next week’s blog.
If you are thinking about getting vaccinated, please do so, as Piper says, “with a good conscience and judicious medical warrant.”
If you believe you should not get vaccinated, please do so, as Piper says, “with a good conscience and judicious medical warrant.”
In other words, make your decision from the best medical advice you can get, and from a clear conscience having spent time wrestling with God on the issue.
Before God we are free to get a vaccination and free not to be vaccinated. We fear God, not man. We obey God when man tells us to do what God has forbidden us to do. The mandates of God are supreme. But there are no Biblical mandates about vaccines any more than there is about what movie is OK to watch or what meat is OK to eat. There are principles (think about what is pure and right, honor God, protect life) but no direct commands. God wants us to wrestle with this issue, and with Him.
Not with each other.
Let’s extend one another a lot of love and grace. 1Pe 5:5 (NIV2011) All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Remember: God is more concerned with your growing relationship with Him, and with others, than He is about your decision about getting vaccinated.
As different media outlets swarm around us, all telling us that they know what is right, know this. Your time with God is right. Wrestling with the decision and with your Savior is right. Honoring family is right. Making a biblically informed decision out of love is right—no matter which way you decide. God does not lead each of us to identical behavior (1 Corinthians 8). He leads us each of us to the identical Savior.
2: About Religious Exemptions
You probably know that on Sept. 9 the President signed an order mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for executive branch federal workers. He also announced the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates for the private sector requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to get the vaccine or submit to regular testing.
As of my writing, the OSHA rule has not gone into effect yet, but many employers have already started mandating the vaccine on their own. The question is, “If I don’t want to get the vaccine, can I use the ‘Religious Exemption’ to get out of it?” The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Currently defined, a “religion” is a “sincerely held belief.” As I understand it, this means your “religion” doesn’t have to be about God or the church, but it does have to be a system of beliefs that you can demonstrate you have held even before COVID.
IF you decide not to get the vaccine, and your employer is requiring the vaccine, here are some questions to answer:
- Would getting the vaccine be a violation of a belief system I have sincerely held in my heart for some time? If the answer for you is, “Yes,” I believe you should stand by your convictions unless God leads you to do otherwise. However, your employer may want to determine if you are telling the truth. You may need to demonstrate that this isn’t a new position you have taken for political reasons. A note from a pastor or church should not be required, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be, or that it would not help.
- Example 1: You have not taken any vaccines for a long time and can prove it.
- Example 2: You refuse to take any medications that have used down-line fetal cells in manufacture or development. However, this could get messy, as they have been used in many medications, cosmetics, even spices. Plus, the two mRNA vaccines technically didn’t use down-line fetal cells in manufacture or development, but in post-development testing only. You can read that old blog here.
- Will the courts help me? You will have to roll the dice on this one. In the 20s when vaccines were mandated and objections came up, they were not religious objections but more “my body my choice” objections before that was a saying. The objectors lost; the vaccines won. In the 80s, religious exemptions got more teeth, and the state needed a “compelling state interest” to deny any religious exemption. But, in the 90s a Native American church wanted to use peyote and went to court for a religious exemption. They lost. Now? Well, it doesn’t look good.
The US Supreme Court just ruled on Oct 29, 2021 against a religious exemption to Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. You can read about that here. I wish we had a “Conscientious Objector” option as we have at wartime. My dad was saved at 16, then went into WWII at 18. Before God, he had no idea if he should carry a gun or not. He ended up being a conscientious objector and became a medic instead. Unfortunately, that option isn’t available right now with this issue. Now if you would just elect me dictator…
- Is the “reasonable accommodation” an accommodation I can live with? Unlike government employees (state, local, federal), private employers must give you a reasonable accommodation so that you can avoid taking the vaccine if they determine that you are honest in your religious objection. That could be anything from working at home to mandating regular testing, etc. Employers who refuse to give an accommodation will likely be taken to court. Most of what I have read has suggested that they will lose—that the courts will expect employers to make individual exceptions for each person. But will it be reasonable enough for you to want to keep your job? Only you can answer that one.
- Will my pastor sign my Religious Exemption? If I am asked as a pastor to sign a note stating that taking the vaccine is against a person’s belief system, I would need to know that it is indeed against that person’s belief system. I can’t violate my conscience either. If you don’t believe in taking vaccines, then your life should demonstrate that belief. If you don’t believe in taking medications derived from down-line fetal cells, then your life should demonstrate that belief as well. So those I can sign. But…
If you don’t like the idea of taking the vaccine because you think it was developed too quickly and it may have unknown issues, like that Hummer you purchased in 2002, I can certainly understand that. It makes sense, but it isn’t a religious exemption. I can’t help you. If you think the vaccine is a type of The Mark of the Beast due to it being forced on us, then I can help with what I think is a better understanding of Revelation 13. But, even if you don’t agree with me I doubt your view would qualify as a religious exemption. If you object on political grounds and feel that the government is being too aggressive and you want to push back, I get that. Still, that is a political not a religious reason. I can’t help.
3: About My Bias
Bias #1: My wife JoLynn works at Rust Hospital. As a result, JoLynn has access to more information than I would normally get. This is information I trust. Over 70% of NM has had at least one dose of vaccination, and yet for most of this year, over 90% of the hospital patients with COVID have not been vaccinated. Those numbers are starting to change, so this may not hold. And, yes, I know this is a tiny sample. Yes, I know it is not scientific. But it is also a statistic I know is true.
I also know our hospitals are dangerously full due to a backlog of patients and other illnesses besides COVID. The last I looked right at 300 NM Hospital beds were filled with COVID patients. That number doesn’t sound high until you realize that our ICUs remain at 100% with only 11 beds available as of Oct 18, 2021. We are in what is called a Crisis Standard of Care, which means we need every bed we can get.
So, I get the concern, and I’ve been vaccinated. But, I still believe it is wrong to force someone to do something against their conscience. This new mandate is forcing employers of over 100 people to enforce the mandate, including churches. It’s a bit of a mess. You can follow the legal battle about churches here.
Bias #2 Funeral service: I recently did a funeral service for a previously healthy man in his mid-thirties who died of COVID. He left behind a grieving wife and four children without a father. He was unvaccinated. Yes, I know–vaccinated people die also. But, when the vast majority of hospital COVID patients are unvaccinated, it makes sense that the majority of deaths are of the unvaccinated (98% by one AP account). I know—you may not trust the numbers, and you may be right. And I know—this funeral is just one case, and it emotionally affected me, and it may have clouded my judgment.
That’s fair. Right again.
But I did call this “My Bias.” It’s not scientific. It’s just my story.
I hope we can keep extending each other a lot of love and grace. I love you guys and am thrilled that we don’t have a church that is all white or black, all gentile or Jewish, all republican or democrat, all pro-vaccination or anti-vax. Then again, if I could convince you to all be 70s-music-listening, Jeep-driving, dark-chocolate-eating, Jesus lovers, well, I might go for that.
Hope to see you Sunday, and if you would like to see if I can sign a religious exemption for you, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3 Ways to Attend Church
- In-person inside (please bring a mask) or outside (please bring a chair)
- On Facebook Livestream
- On YouTube Livestream
Haiti TODAY, Oct 27, 2011
Not long after I wrote the blog below this one (What Can YOU Do For Haiti?), Sue, a friend from our ministry in Haiti, wrote me, giving a fascinating “HAITI TODAY” update she said I could share.
I’ll divide her correspondence into two sections. 1) Haiti for me. 2) Haiti for everyone. Her writing, (some of which comes from a friend) will be in italics. My comments are in normal type.
Haiti For Me:
Hey Dan – Things are deteriorating countrywide. I’ll add – my spirit is still calm in the midst of everything, even though it shouldn’t be. Thank you God! Then she wrote some about trying to make life as normal as possible for the orphans in her care. She goes on…
Monday morning my alarm was gunshots at 5:30am and then again at 6:30am. Not my favorite time of day or way to be woken up!!! Also – it’s day 12 for the 17 people who were kidnapped… Please pray for them. I’m also a little wigged out that cell & internet service could go down. Being able to communicate with the outside world helps tremendously! I can’t, and hope I don’t find out, what’s it’s like to be that isolated. Please let everyone know I’m safe and doing well BUT to keep praying it stays that way!!! Also for wisdom for me to know whether I should stay or leave. My passport is in my purse. I can leave with my passport, credit card & phone if I need to.
I know it is easy to think, “Why don’t they just leave?” However our missionaries have been working there for years, some of them since 2005. Could you leave a child you had been raising for three months? Three years? 13 years or more? Their support staff, the kids they have raised, all those they work with–they are family.
Haiti For Everyone:
— Fuel distribution has essentially stopped because the tanker drivers are on strike until they stop getting robbed, kidnapped, or killed trying to do their jobs (a valid request).
— Gas/diesel can only be found sold on the street (with the chance it’s been mixed with something to increase the volume). When you can find any, you can expect to pay around $20 a gallon. Here we don’t understand the need for diesel. Port-au-Prince is the largest city in the world with no running water or sewer. I would say on the average year I have been there, we have had electricity for a few hours a week. On a good year, a couple of hours a day. It takes electricity to run our well. If you have no diesel, then the majority of the time with no generator you also have no water–and no fans, no lights, no fridge or freezer, etc. Of course, you can’t drink even the well water around PaP, but it is nice to wash once in a while.
— Food prices that have been steadily rising for some time took a steep hike this past week since roadblocks/fuel crisis/gang-controlled roads are interrupting distribution.
–– Cell/internet service is becoming unreliable as generator-powered cell towers are shutting down.
— Streets are empty due to no fuel to run cars, buses are charging double in some areas if they are still running, and people spent a good deal of last week setting up roadblocks in protest. Streets are also empty because the entire population doesn’t want to get kidnapped, robbed, or killed either. And there’s not a lot of places to go as schools, stores, businesses, and transportation are most likely going to be closed if you try.
— Strike: This week several worker unions from various sectors announced a strike until security in the country improves, and threats of “Operasyon Peyi Femen”, a threat to close the country down, (literally “Operation Country Closed”) has been made. And if the burning tires, roadblocks, and gunfire that started early this morning are any indication, they are trying to be good on their word.
–Safety: People who have the luxury of having a home are staying close to it today, and taking each day (hour) at a time as this round of trouble plays out.
—Continued support (especially financial) to your people and organizations you love who are living on these front lines are appreciated and needed. (But don’t even think about bringing it in yourself. Your physical presence just increases everyone’s risk.)
Please see the blog below for organizations you can trust to give to, and for ways to pray for Haiti.
Thanks for reading.
What Can YOU Do For Haiti?
Having traveled to Haiti most every year since 2007, several folks have been asking me how they can help. I’m no Haitian expert, but we do have a lot of friends and contacts there. Here’s what I know, followed with some safe ways to help.
The church our mission supports, Maranatha Children’s Ministries in Port-au-Prince continues to run both the school and the children’s home, in spite of the danger. The leaders, Byron and Shelley are currently in the States taking care of Shelley’s dad as he prepares for his transition to heaven. Meanwhile Byron and Shelley are using email and phone calls to stay in touch with the staff there, and Sue one of our dear friends just made it back to PaP.
As Shelley recently wrote, “Things in Haiti are UGLY.”
For over 200 years Haiti has been struggling, but outside of Christian relief efforts, few seemed to notice until the earthquake in 2010 that killed somewhere between 200,000 to over 300,000 people. Previously, the last major earthquake to hit Haiti was in 1842. It’s not like they were living in earthquake proof houses. Then we forgot about Haiti again.
Then this year President Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated leaving a leadership vacuum. (The one who should have taken his place died of Covid. Not even the interim president has a constitutional right to assume power). Then another earthquake came killing over 1900 people. Then came Tropical Storm Matthew.
What’s next? And the great Haitian question, “Why God?”
BYW, when you see disasters and want to help, be careful. I put some links at the end of this blog. You can trust them; you can’t trust everyone. One example: In 2015 the NPR and ProPublica wrote an article, “How the Red Cross Raised half a Billion Dollars for Haiti and Built Six Homes.” The title says it all. According to American journalist Jonathan M. Katz the global response after the earthquake totaled pledges of $16.3 billion US. But of the money raised, little made it to Haiti. Katz was in Haiti when the earthquake hit. He claims only about two percent of the money Canada raised ($657 million) every made it to Haiti. The US wasn’t much better.
When I see all this, I wonder, “Is God about to do great things in Haiti?” The US, the UN, and the global community when riding in to help have often made things worse. Reading the Old Testament, it seems the darkest days often came before God stepped in, when the people were ready to repent and respond. You may think my application of this passage to be incorrect, but I believe that 1 Chronicles 7:14, although written specifically for the people of Israel can also apply to the USA, and to Haiti as well.
2Ch 7:14 (NIV2011) If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. There is a timeless principle here. If we expect the help of God, moral change must precede political change. Maybe one reason that both the Trump and Biden administrations have been reluctant to back into Haiti is that they both realized that politics and power don’t permanently change a culture. Afghanistan is still Afghanistan. Only God can change a heart.
Today, the greatest hope on the Island comes from followers of Christ. Here is one paragraph from a Christianity Today article from just after this last 2021 earthquake
“World Vision noted it was working with the local government and police to protect families from being robbed and looted in the aftermath of the earthquake. While the Christian humanitarian organization had immediate supplies for 6,000 people, it—and other groups such as Operation Blessing and the Seventh-day Adventist’s ADRA International—were in the process of mobilizing staff and supplies to Les Cayes, where the quake originated. Samaritan’s Purse deployed its DC-8 aircraft on Sunday carrying 31 tons of relief while also staging a Level 2 mobile trauma unit. On Tuesday they announced that opened a 36-bed field hospital.”
That’s great news!
And so, Satan fights back.
This recent kidnapping of 17 Christian Aid Missionaries, including five children is unpresented, at least in my memory. According to the Center of Analysis and Research of Human Rights this abduction is one of at least 119 kidnappings recorded in Haiti for the first half of October alone! We forget that it is more dangerous in Haiti for Haitians than Americans. They know that to kidnap a visitor brings unwanted attention. It’s easier to get money by kidnapping a wealthy Haitian. That won’t make the news.
When I first started going in 2007, kidnappings were something you had to be aware of—can I say like car theft in Albuquerque? There have always been parts of the city where you needed to keep your car doors locked when driving. After the 2010 earthquake, things were temporarily better. There were so many international groups in Haiti, you could walk around PaP in daytime relative safety. In recent years, it has become progressively more dangerous. The last couple of visits we needed to stay on the radio to know what parts of the city to avoid when traveling. Burning tires, riots are areas to avoid. We could no longer safely walk around the neighborhood, even in daytime.
Haitians are wonderful people. They are demonstrating to “Free the Americans.” How can we help?
Here Is What You Can Do
- Keep our mission Maranatha Children’s Ministries and our missionaries in prayer. Of course, you can support them financially too. The school and orphanage are only about 20 minutes from the airport, when traffic and riots are clear. OK, it’s about 45 minutes from the airport. In the past it was a fairly safe area for Port-au-Prince.
- Give to and pray for true ministries in Haiti. I have met the leaders of Compassion International in Haiti and gone to a couple of their schools. They are doing amazing work. We have met pilots with MAF at church, living in PaP with their families. But now just traveling to church is dangerous. I have heard that even Route National #2, the main road that connects the southern part of the country to the north is impassable due to gangs. I read last week that the MAF is looking at creating an “air bridge” to get aid to other parts of the country. Another group I am familiar with is Clean Water for Haiti. An attendee at our church who is on their board. It isn’t a Christian organization, but you can trust it. The Mennonites, Nazarenes, World Vision, Operation Blessing, Samaritans Purse (and you thought Christmas Boxes were only for Christmas?) lots of Christians are serving in Haiti. They need our prayers and support. Obviously Christian Aid and Maranatha Children’s Home are great places to give as well. I wouldn’t send money anywhere else assuming it will help. It may never get there.
- Encourage the family members of the hostages. This from the Christian Aid website
Day after day, families of those held hostage face uncertainty. They long for the return of their loved ones. While we are unable to disclose the personal information of family members, we would like to create a channel through which people can bless them.
Following are some ways you may wish to encourage them:
- Words of encouragement and Bible verses to lift them up during this difficult time. “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (I Thessalonians 5:11).
- Written prayers we can share with the families. In this time of distress and tension, they find comfort in prayers written by others. We strongly believe prayers lifted to God’s throne in the name of Jesus are powerful. “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17).
- Personal stories of God’s faithfulness to you in times of great difficulty. This would no doubt be a great encouragement to the families of the hostages.
You may send your messages for the families to email@example.com. Encouraging words and uplifting prayers will be forwarded to the families. It would be of interest to the families to know the state or country of the person writing.
- Pray for… (also from the Christian Aid website)
- Pray for the hostages—for their release, that they could endure faithfully, and that they would display Christlike love. Jesus, when nailed to the cross, said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
- Pray for the kidnappers—that they would experience the love of Jesus and turn to Him. We see that as their ultimate need.
- Pray for government leaders and authorities—as they relate to the case and work toward the release of the hostages. We appreciate the ongoing work and assistance of those knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with kidnapping cases.
Mostly, pray for a moral change in the country that will lead to political change. It’s a belief in Christ alone, fully devoted to Him as Savior and Lord, that saves individuals. And that saves countries.