Whether it was two days, a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the LORD they camped, and at the command of the LORD they set out. They kept the charge of the LORD, at the command of the LORD by Moses. Deuteronomy 9:22-23
How long, O God, shall I remain where I am? That’s been a question I’ve often asked of God. Maybe that’s one of the questions stirring in your soul and mind as well–how long am I going to be in this season? How long am I going to be in this place (emotionally, spiritually, physically)? How long?
In the Scriptures, that was a common question. Just read through the writings of the psalmists, the prophets, and the book of Job, and you’ll see how relevant Scripture is, and that their reasoning for questioning is no different than yours or mine. It’s interesting, though, that it isn’t often asked in moments and places of comfort and joy, but it’s asked in times of distress; discouragement; longing; suffering; and pain.
For me, I often get stuck in that question, though, and miss out on the truth that even in my longing to not be in the discontent of where I am, God’s presence is still very near; abiding, actually. And that’s not just a good thing, it’s essential for us.
In the story of the Exodus, as the children of Israel left Egypt on their way to what was promised to them by God, the thick cloud of His presence abided with them; even, and especially, in their “how long?” moments. But did you catch what Israel’s response was to God’s abiding presence? “ . . . the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it (the cloud of His presence) lifted they set out.” God’s presence in our how long moments doesn’t just make them bearable; it makes them meaningful; it gives cause to sing even when there seems to be no words or melody. Even now as I write this, there is a bird just outside my window, that is singing at the top of her little lungs, against the backdrop of a thunderstorm rolling in. She’s sitting in a tree that God has graciously provided as shelter for her from the storm. That seems, to me, a very poignant picture of what is looks like to enjoy the abiding presence of God in the midst of life’s rumblings. Truthfully, God’s presence is often more visible when the skies of life are darkest.
The greatest temptation in our “how long?” moments is to run anywhere but where we presently are. Israel had the same response. How long are we supposed to be out here in the desert with no wi-fi access, no Starbucks, no Chick-fil-a, no Netflix? Seriously. Egypt would’ve been the better option at this point! We’ve lost all perspective when we long for captivity more than we do freedom. But that’s exactly what the enemy seeks to do–tempt us to lose perspective. Instead of being content and resting in the consolation of God’s presence with them, among them, and before them, they complained and wanted to run back to Egypt. They wanted pot-pie while captive in Egypt rather than the presence of God, and walking in freedom. It’s a dangerous thing when God’s presence isn’t enough for us.
But that’s just it, isn’t it. We are too often not satisfied with God’s presence because we desire relief more than refining. We long to be comforted by the idols we carve, more than conformed to the image of Christ. In doing so we miss the fullness of God which means we miss what our soul longs for and needs most–the presence of God.
I’ve found myself being no different than the children of Israel, who after remaining too long in a how long wilderness moment, impetuously packs up my discontent, and moves quickly to the next best thing . . . or so I think.
But when we move away God’s presence, and seek to make the journey in this life on our own, it doesn’t end well. Moses knew this well. I know this well, and you probably do, too. Like Moses, I don’t want to go anywhere God’s presence does not go with me. I’ve had too many moments in my life where I have wandered ahead rather than follow the cloud of His presence, and it has left me in desolate places and valleys where death casts its dark shadow.
There is an order to this relationship we have with God. It is a rhythm that works because of who He is and who I am not. He is God, which means He is all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present. He is wholly good, just, loving, merciful, gracious, forgiving, patient . . . words are more limited in describing Him than are His attributes. And yet, somewhere in the day to day I fail to remember this: God’s leading is better than mine. That’s why He is the shepherd and I am a sheep. God knows where the green pastures are, and quiet, cool waters that my depleted soul needs. He knows when the valley of the shadow of death is just ahead, and it’s the necessary path to something greater He has for me. Even in that, He leads me because God knows the dangers that await me; He surrounds me on all sides; His nearness comforts my anxious and fearful soul. Resting and remaining in God’s presence makes perfect sense.
I want to be fully present in His presence. Have you ever really thought about how often we aren’t fully present, not just in God’s presence, but in the presence of others as well? How many times have you been talking with someone and your phone alerts you that you have a text; or an email; or a notification that someone just liked your social media post, and you exit being present with them and enter in to be fully present with your phone? We do it all the time. In order to break that cycle it takes two things: intentionality and elimination. You have to be intentional about being fully present with those you are with in that moment, and you need to eliminate what is distracting you. There is something very significant you communicate when the people you are engaging know you are fully present.
It is no different with God. When we are fully present in His presence, something significant is communicated, not just to God, but most often from Him to us. It’s in His presence, just resting there and not rushing, that we are reminded of who He is and who He says we are: loved, accepted, valued, forgiven, treasured, and there is so much more He has to say.
According to Franklin Graham, Curtis Chang, and a seemingly growing number of “evangelical” leaders, Jesus would want people to take the vaccine. But how do they know that, and where do they get that from Scripture?
In an interview with CBS News (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/evangelical-church-covid-19-pandemic-vaccine-skeptics/?intcid=CNM-00-10abd1h), Franklin Graham, who leads Samaritan’s Purse (an international relief charity), referenced the parable in Luke’s gospel that Jesus told when asked by a lawyer, “Who is my neighbor?” Graham’s attempt to connect the story of the Good Samaritan with Scriptural grounds for encouraging people to take the vaccine is nothing short of eisegesis (imposing a thought, idea, or belief on the text of Scripture so that the meaning is arbitrary). In his own words, Graham said, “Jesus does tell the story of a man that was beaten and robbed and left for dead on the side of a road, and religious leaders walked past him and did not have compassion, they didn’t get involved. But a Samaritan had compassion, and he immediately bandaged — he put oil and wine on his wounds and took him to an inn, and paid to have him cared for. Now the oil and wine were the medicines of that day … The vaccine is, to me, I believe, is saving life, and that’s what Jesus Christ would want us to do, to help save life. It’s just a tool to help save life.”
From his statement, it seems Franklin Graham is saying that Jesus would want us to help save lives, and by getting the vaccine we are helping save lives. But that is not what the text is saying, explicitly or implicitly, for at least two reasons: 1) The Samaritan helped the man on the road because he was beaten up and left for dead. The chances of this man dying, left untended, was highly likely. The Samaritan’s compassion for the badly wounded superseded the cultural racism that existed between Samaritans and Jews. By stopping to help, the Good Samaritan willingly put his life on the line. His compassion compelled him to do something to render aid so that this man could recover.
It is a huge leap to connect this story with Jesus wanting us to help save lives by getting the vaccine. If we’re going to use Scripture in this way, could we not also infer that Jesus would rather us not mask up based on his encounter with the lepers he healed, or Peter’s mother-in-law who had a fever? It’s a valid question if Scripture is subjected to eisegesis.
2) To apply “saving lives” to a vaccine that has not been proven to do so is a reach. Verified data is revealing that the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine isn’t as some experts are leading people to believe. I know of those who have been fully vaccinated and have since gotten Covid-19. Reports of fully vaccinated White House staff contracting Covid after several fully vaccinated Texas Democratic legislators went to Washington D.C have been verified. According to government data, and Reuters, those who have been fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines comprise 75% of Covid-19 infections in Singapore. The Israeli Health Ministry is reporting that 50% of Covid-19 cases in Israel are among those who have been fully vaccinated. In the U.K., Sky News has reported that 60% of hospitalizations due to Covid-19 are those who have been fully vaccinated. According to Johns Hopkins University, 85% of the population of Cyprus are fully vaccinated yet have the highest Covid-19 cases in the world per capita. And I could go on . . . United Arab Emirates, Chile, Uruguay, Mongolia and many others have a high percentage of vaccination, yet have a high number of Covid-19 cases.
I mention these verified statistics from valid sources to say that I’m not so sure that the vaccines are actually easing the suffering as much as some would like to think. And if you were to look at VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System), a government site for providers and doctors to report issues with vaccines, you’d see a surprising number of reported side-effects, injuries, and deaths that have been associated with the Covid-19 vaccines. Although the number of deaths in relation to the number of vaccines that have been administered is relatively low, equally so is the death rate among groups 0-70 years of age due to Covid-19. Interestingly enough, in 1976, Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes” covered the Swine Flu mass vaccination program which was halted after 4,000 reported adverse events. And yet, according to VAERS, there have been 12,314 reports of death after getting the vaccine. That’s not including the thousands of non-death adverse events that have been reported. So why isn’t there more questions being asked as to why there have been this many deaths attributed to the Covid-19 vaccine? So, if these numbers are true, and actually there are studies that are indicating that there is an under-reporting of adverse events, I don’t see this as being life saving necessarily.
I do agree with Graham when he said that oil and wine were medicines of that day–but they certainly weren’t experimental, nor did they alter the DNA within a person’s body. To that point, though, what were the options of those who had diseases and illnesses such as leprosy, fevers, blood issues, etc.,? There weren’t many.
In the story of the woman with the blood issue, the Scriptures tell us that she spent all she had on doctors who couldn’t do anything for her. But when she heard that Jesus was passing through town, she did all she could to get to Him; so much so that she was on the ground straining to just touch the hem of His garment. At the point of touching Jesus’s robe, the Bible says that she was immediately healed. Jesus did what the medicine of the day and others could not do. He healed her and said to her,“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
In Isaiah 38:1-6, the Scriptures tell the story of God extending the life of King Hezekiah: In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, and said, “Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city.
There is something to prayer and asking God for healing. He is not only able, but He is willing. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here: there is a need for doctors and nurses, and the medical community. As a matter of fact, I’m thankful for them; especially one in particular, my mom. She has been an R.N. for over 50 years, and has lovingly ministered to people by using her skills to the glory of God and for the good of others. But she would be the first to tell you that ultimately our trust is in Christ, who is our Great Physician. From my perspective, though, it seems we live in a culture that quickly gives a pill to solve a problem when in fact there may be much more that could be done for our healing. A change of diet (Less fried foods, fat, sugar . . .); a change of lifestyle (get outdoors, more exercise, no smoking, less sedentary); becoming emotionally and mentally healthy; and most importantly, your spiritual health. God has so intricately woven us together that our overall health is affected by our spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Franklin Graham noted that he has seen first-hand the suffering that has come due to Covid-19. Many, I would think, could echo his observation of the effects of Covid. It is a real illness, and unfortunately there are many who have been affected with varying degrees of sickness, as well as death. Personally, I have witnessed friends and family members who have been gravely ill due to the virus, but thankfully have recovered. There are some of you who are reading this, or listening to this podcast, who have had friends and family members die due to Covid-19. I am truly sorry for your loss, and pray that you will find healing and hope in the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit.
However, not to diminish the reality, or suffering, that has come with Covid, I do think it is appropriate, and necessary, to point out that we’ve also seen the suffering of those who have battled cancer and other diseases and illnesses for which there is yet a cure. If nothing else, it should remind us that we live in sin-marred fallen world full of difficulties and trials that manifest, in part, by way of sickness and death. For those who have set their hope in Christ by trusting in His death, burial, and resurrection, sin has been atoned for and death has been defeated. That is glorious hope for today, and for what is yet to come.
Another “evangelical” who has had much to say about the vaccine and has sought to make the case that Christians should take the vaccine is Curtis Chang. He is consulting professor in innovation and organization at Duke Divinity School. He has won an Obama White House award for social innovation as the founder and head of Consulting Within Reach, a firm serving nonprofits and government. He holds a faculty appointment at American University and is also a senior fellow at Fuller Theological Seminary. Interesting fact: Chang’s nonprofit serves Johnson & Johnson, who just happens to manufacture one of the Covid-19 vaccines.
He has produced short videos answering questions regarding Christians and the vaccine and has said, “we do make the case that Christians should indeed take the vaccine, and do so for important biblical reasons.” The underlying theme in his videos is the importance of trust: trust of the vaccine, trust of the “experts” like the FDA, CDC, and others, and our need to trust our government leaders. He readily admits that he hasn’t done the research on the vaccine and come to his own independent conclusion as to why the vaccine is safe. Rather, he makes the point that he’s a seminary professor, not a biologist or immunologist. Chang said, “I trust the vaccine because I trust experts who are tasked with understanding the science for me.” One expert he cites is Dr. Francis Collins, who he claims is a devout evangelical Christian, and who works for the NIH. Hmmm, NIH. Does that sound familiar? That’s the same institution that Dr. Anthony Fauci is over; the organization who helped fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Lab, which now, it is being revealed, was the origin of the lab-created Covid-19. And we’re to trust experts who have knowingly deceived not just Americans, but the world, regarding the origins of the coronavirus?
In his videos, Professor Chang continues to try and make the case that we trust other medical treatment, specifically medicines. What Chang failed to mention is that the drugs to which he is referring have gone through the typical protocol of trials and testing, are relatively safe, come with disclaimers that hold the pharmaceutical companies accountable, are not experimental, nor are they administered under the Emergency Use Authorization as is the Covid-19 vaccine.
Just so we’re clear, the Covid-19 vaccine . . .
• Is an experimental and genetically modified drug, not approved by the FDA.
• Has mRNA which has never been approved to be used for human vaccines.
Back in 2008, some doctors translated what it means for cells to convert DNA into working proteins, a process they described as a “decoding of instructions” for making proteins, involving mRNA transcription. The workhorses of the human cell are encoded protein molecules that help the body metabolize nutrients, meaning life-sustaining chemical reactions that convert food into energy and remove metabolic waste. In other words, encoded protein molecules perform functions that are necessary for all human life, and that is what this vaccine technology is manipulating. With mRNA vaccine technology, the information in your DNA that is transferred to messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules is altered. This manipulation is called transcription, and during this process the mRNA is “read” by its newly mutated genetic code, and its genetic code is the new template for the chain of amino acids that will form a protein. This is where it gets really scary. Scientists are now fully capable of transcribing, translating and mutating genes. Scientists now believe they have enough research to fully profile these transcripts of cells with the complete set of RNA transcripts. This research explains why mRNA vaccines have a tremendous impact on cell functioning, and why so many deadly “side effects” have already been observed, including severe blood clots, excruciating nerve pain, blindness, deafness, and death. (Dr. Richard Fleming, a nuclear cardiologist and physicist)
• Its limited trials were unprecedented for a vaccine. All Covid-19 vaccines currently in use in the US are available under emergency access only. (The situation is similar in Europe, where four covid-19 vaccines have been granted “conditional marketing authorizations,” a fast track mechanism that can be used in emergencies. These can be converted into standard “marketing authorizations” pending positive data after authorization, but this has not yet happened for any covid-19 vaccine being administered.). As hundreds of millions of people around the world get vaccinated, it may seem like word-smithing to highlight the fact that none of the covid-19 vaccines in use are actually “approved.” Through an emergency access mechanism known as Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), the products being rolled out still technically remain “investigational.” https://www.fda.gov/media/143982/download
• Factsheets distributed to vaccines are clear: “There is no FDA approved vaccine to prevent covid-19.” https://www.fda.gov/media/144638/download
This is different than trusting medicines that have been approved by the FDA and, again, proven to be effective and relatively safe.
And this is where Curtis Chang tries to connect this to the Scriptures. Again, it’s no different than what Franklin Graham did with the text he referenced. This is eisegesis, not proper exegesis of the biblical text.
Chang says, “And here is the important biblical principle: that’s a good thing (trusting experts and institutions). God designed us to trust institutions and experts. This was true in the way God designed the society of Israel, to trust kings, prophets, priests, and judges. This was true in the Great Commission of the New Testament, when Jesus entrusted the gospel to His original disciples. The disciples were to be His designated experts. And He expected the world to take in truth by trusting their words. God designed humans to know truth through trust.”
So what Curtis Chang is telling Christians is that we should get the vaccine because we are designed by God to trust institutions and experts, and the Bible said we should trust them. This is a seminary professor’s unbiblical hermeneutic effort to convince Christians that we should take the vaccine.
Here’s the bottom line: there is no clear biblical text that neither explicitly says nor implicitly infers that followers of Jesus should take the vaccine.
• Chang speaks of trust in the vaccine. If those vaccinated trust it to work, then trust that it will protect them from those who choose not to be vaccinated . . . I mean if we’re talking about trust and all.
Each are entitled to their opinion and beliefs. But to use poor hermeneutics in order to convince people, specifically Christians, that Jesus would want us to get the shot is irresponsible and a disregard to a high view of Scripture and biblical truth.
I strongly encourage you to always go back and study the Scriptures rather than just taking someone’s word for it. Two of the greatest travesties taking place within the Church is the lack of knowledge when it comes to the word of God, and a willing acceptance to the bending of Scripture to our feelings and experiences. We must get back to letting Scripture interpret Scripture, and accurately handling the word of truth. Be watchful of those who are wolves in sheep clothing; who subtly lead you down a seemingly comfortable road of compromise, straight into the enemy’s ambush.
• Ask God for wisdom and discernment. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5
2. Ask good questions.
• Who or what am I putting my trust in?
Ultimately our trust is to be in God; that He is sovereign over all creation and all the days ordained for us were set before we were even formed. “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:16
3. Do diligent research.
• What experts will I trust?
If you trust your doctor, and you are convinced that he or she has done the research, then certainly take that into account. Share with him/her what you have learned, as well as your concerns.
4. Seek wise and godly counsel, but always measure it against Scripture.
5. Be respectful and considerate of the choices of others.
So, does Jesus want us to get the vaccine? Scripture isn’t clear one way or the other. But if we measure compassion and love by the standard of whether or not a person gets a shot, we’ve missed what God’s word does say, and who Christ has called us to be as His followers.
I’m not a firefighter, at least not professionally, but what I do know is that when there is a fire that needs to be extinguished it’s best to use water, not gasoline. What I’m observing in our culture is a world on fire that is being doused with gasoline. I’m not talking about a dumpster fire, but a worldwide wildfire that is continuing to increase and intensify as many are asleep and unaware.
I don’t think this is alarmist at all when you look at the vast issues that we’re facing in the U.S., and even around the world. There is unrest over lockdowns, censorship, government overreach, inflation, cancel culture, Marxist ideology, critical race theory and race issues, and a host of others issues.
The world is on fire something needs to change.
How do you live with undaunted courageous faith in a world that is quickly unraveling? What happens when your world is turned upside down and you find yourself in the midst of “Babylon,” a pagan culture that does not worship the one true God? In this message, we look at the Scriptures to see what we can learn from three young men in the book of Daniel, who chose to live out their faith with resolute courage.
Message begins at 34:40 (Click view on Facebook)
What do you do when you feel like everything around you, and in you, is chaos? How do you find calm in the midst of it all? On today’s episode of Crossroads & Culture, we talk about the answer to those questions, and the discover how you can find peace when the storms of life are raging.
In Jesus’s final statement from the cross before He breathed His last breath, He showed us what it looks like to trust God even in life’s darkest moments. Just as Jesus fully trusted God the Father, we too can trust Him with our life.
When Jesus said, “It is finished!” He was making a declaration that points to something much greater than the completion of the brutal agony He experienced on the cross. Everything that needed to be done in order to reconcile us to God was accomplished. It’s because of this that we can find hope in life’s darkest moments.
When Jesus made the statement, “I thirst,” while He was on the cross, He wasn’t just referring to physical thirst. As we see in this episode of Crossroads & Culture, Jesus’s statement fulfilled what was prophesied, as well as revealed His thirst for something much more.
When Jesus was on the cross, did God the Father really forsake Him, or did Jesus just feel as though He had been forsaken? In this episode of Crossroads & Culture, I answer this question, as well as discuss its significance and implications.