Three Words

I have been reminded recently of how one incident, one interaction, and sometimes, even one word can damage a relationship, hurt a friendship and even change a life. Sometimes things we say without thinking can seem to permanently alter a relationship. Words said in haste, in anger, or just carelessly, can have significant consequences. I have also been reminded that sometimes a word taken out of context or misunderstood can have a similar effect. Words can be powerful.

Thankfully, most words, most interactions, most incidents can be overcome by three words.

I am sorry.

I forgive you.

(I forgive myself.)

I love you.

Three words we often forget to say (or fail to listen to, preferring to focus on the negative).

John reminds us at the start of his gospel how powerful the true Word is:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

***

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5, 14

Everything else in life, every negative interaction, negative feeling, negative word is overcome by three words: Word became flesh. And because of those three words, we know the power and truth of other words:

He Is Risen.

God Is Love.

Jesus Conquered Death.

Three words. Listen to the Word over the roar of negativity that permeates the world and you will hear:

God Loves You.

God Is Merciful.

God With You.

Three words can change everything for the good.

Lord,

Open my eyes, my ears and my heart to your Word. Open my mouth to speak the three words that others need to hear. Heal those who are hurting over misunderstood words or who let words that aren’t from you influence their life.

How long, O Lord, must we cry for help?

It has been awhile since I have taken the time to open the Bible, to sit with the Lord’s word and let it wash over me. Today, I opened the Bible to the Book of Habakkuk, in which the prophet cries out:

How long, O LORD, must I cry for help and you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” and you do not intervene? Why do you let me see iniquity? why do you simply gaze at evil? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and discord. This is why the law is numb and justice never comes, For the wicked surround the just; this is why justice comes forth perverted.

Habakkuk 1:1-4

I am sure many of us have felt the same way many times in our lives. It is hard not to cry out now as we see what is occurring in Ukraine and in our own streets. It is hard not to cry out now when we see politicians and others encouraging the destruction of what God has created — human life in all forms and biologically distinct man and woman.

God’s response is clear. We cannot expect to understand His ways, but He always has a plan for our good:

Look over the nations and see! Be utterly amazed! For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe, were it told.

Habakkuk 1:5

In Habakkuk’s time, the Chaldeans/Babylonians were set to destroy Jerusalem. The prophet surmises that this will occur as punishment because God’s people had turned away. They had forgotten and abandoned His law. (Hmmm… sound familiar?) The people were numb to the law because it was not bringing them immediate reward on earth. The world was not enforcing the law on earth and so they saw no justice or reason to follow.

God reminds them:

Write down the vision; Make it plain upon tablets, so that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is a witness for the appointed time, a testimony to the end; it will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. See, the rash have no integrity; but the just one who is righteous because of faith shall live.

Habakkuk 2:2-4

God calls us to have faith. To be patient. To wait. To not turn away from Him for the passions of the world, for the cancelations of the world, or for the need for immediate gratification. By our faith, we shall live. If we are rash, if we demand what we want (or think we want) and don’t have faith that the Lord will provide what we need, neither we nor our feigned relationship with God will have any integrity. God is not a sugar daddy. He calls us to a real relationship. He calls us to a relationship that will utterly amaze us. That we would not believe even if He told us. He offers us a relationship of love and faith and trust. A relationship in which we listen to and heed His word, for He will be faithful, even when we turn away. But God will not give in to our momentary tantrums when we think things are not going our way. He will not try to appease us with things of this world, because He knows that that will not satisfy us and will not ultimately be for our good. He acts only out of love and for the love of us, even when He knows we may not yet understand or accept it. God is not like the parent who knows that giving in to a screaming child who wants to eat a whole bag of candy will ultimately result in stomach pain, but gives in so the child doesn’t hate the parent at that moment. God knows what will bring us ultimate happiness. And even though we may sometimes give in to our children, when we know we should not, God knows better and will continue to work for our ultimate good, even when we may cry out (or even lash out at Him) in the meantime.

God reminds us:

Woe to him who builds a town with blood, and founds a city on iniquity! Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts that people labor only for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

Habakkuk 2: 12-14

God doesn’t call us to labor in vain. We weary ourselves when we act in the way of the world, instead of in the way of the Lord. As Jesus tells us many years later:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

It is easy to get distracted by the world around us. It is easy to become overcome by the tragedy, turmoil and chaos around us. God makes it easy, when we listen to Him. Wait for it. Wait for Him. He has a plan. Learn from Jesus. Follow Jesus — even when the world says otherwise.

Lord,

I have been distracted by the world around me and my own desires and plans. I have chosen to focus on this world instead of you. Help me to listen to your word. Help me to follow your will, to take up your yoke, rather than the heavy one that the world tries to place upon me. Help me not to be rash, but to have patience and faith in your plan. I know it is for my good, even though I don’t yet understand it.

Fear-demic

I am afraid. I am afraid that the media and our government thrive on fear. They push it and sell it. Any good news on the pandemic is met with a quick reminder of how many deaths have occurred. Fear sells. No one tunes into the media to hear good news, but a pandemic, a wildfire or an ice-storm, brings fear, which results in ratings and viewers. Similarly, no one needs the government when things are good, but fear allows the government to gain power, to step in and control what we do, what we wear, and even what we think. The media and the government thrive on fear because they need us to want them, and to need them. In return they stroke that fire of fear, and the cycle continues. We turn to them in fear and we leave them with more fear.

Contrast that with God. God doesn’t need us, but He wants us. God doesn’t need us, but we do need Him. He doesn’t call us to Him so that he can stir up fear, He calls us to Him, because He loves us and wants to take away our fear. Over and over we are told in the bible: DO NOT FEAR:

Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.”

Isaiah 41:10-13

We have lived the last two years in a pandemic. But more concerning is the fear-demic: a fear-demic that we are allowing to control whether we allow others to see our smile, whether we visit with family and friends, whether we share touch and embraces, whether we live our lives in the manner that God calls us to live. We have closed churches and failed to return when they re-opened. We turn to the media for our Sunday service (if at all) and we stream it alone. We have lost community and connection. We have ignored God and trampled on love, and any signs of it.

Unlike the media and the government, God does not leave us with more fear. No. God offers us peace. And comfort. God offers to carry our burdens. God offers to hold our hand (even in a pandemic) and help us. God encourages us to live in communion, in community with others. If we turn to Him, if we allow Him to be our God (not the media, or a sports hero or a politician), He will strengthen us. And those who are against us (and must therefore also be against God) will be as nothing. How can we fear, if we are with God?

Lord,

I fear not for me, but for this country. I fear for those who do not know you, for those who turn to the media and the government for things that only you can provide. By doing so they build up the power and strength of those entities. I know that you are far stronger. You build up the power and strength of those who turn to you. Rather than taking from us, you give to us. Strengthen us, Oh Lord! Help those who fear, turn to you, so that they can know the peace and joy that you provide.

I know that you are my God. You are the source of my strength. You are my rock and my fortress. You are my sword and my shield. I know that when I am with you, I have nothing to fear. Help me, in those times when I have fallen or turned away, when I am not with you as I should be, to not be swayed by the siren songs of the world. Help me to always return to you when I am lost or afraid.

Be Fruitful

In the very beginning, God said: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.” Genesis 1:28. Recently, a priest proclaimed that this was God’s first commandment: Be fruitful. I realized that I have always focused on the second part (the easy part): “and multiply.” I can do that.

Later, Jesus reminds us of our creation and of our purpose: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” John 15:16.

We are appointed so that we can go and bear fruit. How are we supposed to bear fruit? Jesus tells us:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

John 15:1-8

I think this might mean more than go multiply.

Jesus tells us that we need to bear fruit, and if we do we will continue to bear fruit. And although fruit may certainly be our children, it is so much more than that. We are chosen and appointed that we may go and bear fruit and that our fruit will also abide. Our fruit needs to abide in, remain in Jesus. And while I hope and pray that my child will do this, our fruit is not limited to our biological children.

So how do we do that?

Well, love brings about children.

And love also brings about other fruit. Loving God allows us to bear fruit. Remaining in Jesus, abiding with Him, listening to His word will allow us to bear fruit, and not just a life for this world. But, as the priest proclaimed in a recent mass, “we have the potential to pass on eternal life to others.” That is being fruitful. Loving others, sharing God’s love with others, provides that opportunity. If we stay connected to Jesus, hold on to Him, we will remain in Him and He will remain in us. And our branches can reach out to others who may not have listened to His word, who may not know His love. That is more than creating life for this world. That is fostering life for the next.

Jesus,

Help me to be fruitful. Help me to be an active disciple, who uses the gifts you have given me to multiply your kingdom. I know that without you, I can do nothing. But if I abide in you, if I abide in your love and in your word, I can do all things through you. Prune me so that I may bear fruit and glorify God.

Worship, Follow, Share

Wise. Who doesn’t want to be wise? We look for wisdom on the internet, but rarely find it. At this time of year we hustle and bustle about to celebrate Christmas (often reduced to “holidays”) and neglect the three wise men right in front of us. We think of them only as gift bearers as we hurry about decorating, baking and shopping. This morning I was thinking about the gifts they brought to Jesus, gold, frankincense and myrrh, and then realized the three gifts of wisdom that they provide to us:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Wise Men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.”

***

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then opening their treasures, the offered him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Matthew 2:1-2, 10-12

The wise men found great joy – what we all desire. They did not get trapped in what was going on around them. They did not get trapped in the ways of the world or the wishes of the kings of the day. They searched for God. And they found great joy. If we follow their example, we too will find that joy. They worshipped, followed and shared. Three things that each of us can do, wherever we are.

Worship! The wise men traveled from afar to worship Jesus. We sometimes struggle to find time on Sunday to worship God. They spent months traveling just to worship Him. We forget how important that is — to take time to praise Him, to wonder at his majesty, to sit in His glory. We worship sports heroes, political activists, movie stars — for what purpose? We worship social media likes, vacation spots and monetary wealth — to what end? God created all and is all. He is greater than everything and we (or I ) take that for granted. Imagine spending months journeying for one purpose — to worship Him.

Follow! We know the wise men followed the star. But what they were really following was God. They didn’t turn back, even when the journey was hard. They continued to search until they found Jesus. And then they listened and followed the Lord’s instructions about where to go from there. We follow things on social media, we follow trends and we follow politicians. Do we stop to listen to (and follow) God? His word is ever present in the Bible. His guidance is present in the silence of prayer that we often seek to avoid. Can we listen, open our eyes toward the light that He has set before us, and follow?

Share! Of course the wise men shared their treasure with Jesus. But more than that, the wise men did not keep their journey secret. They did not keep Jesus secret. They reached out to others along the way. And when they had met Jesus, they did not rest — their journey was not over. They went back to their country, presumably to share the joy that they had experienced. The world around us is trying to silence God. The wise men came from a world that did not know God. We need to share. We cannot keep the love and joy that comes from Jesus silent. Not during Christmas. Not ever.

Lord,

I seek wisdom, but more than anything I seek the joy of knowing you and being with you. Help me to journey as the wise men did. Help me to keep going even when the journey is hard or I get distracted. I want to worship you and you alone. I know that no one is greater and nothing is worth more than your love. Help me follow your word, your direction, your way (not my own). Help me to share your love with others so that they too can experience the joy that can only be found in you.

Religious Opposition to Vaccines

There are many who do not believe that anyone can have a religious objection to the COVID-19 vaccine. They call these claims BS. The major religions do not support this belief so how can it be true. They attack those who dare to say otherwise. The days of religious freedom in this country are being called into question. I believe that my relationship with God is personal. I try to work on that relationship every day. Sometimes the church helps me in that endeavor, but ultimately it is my personal relationship with God, my faith in Him and my submission to His will, that is of utmost importance in my life. And to do that, I must trust in Him, nothing else. (Some days I do better at this than others).

Perhaps close to a hundred thousand or more across the country are claiming religious objections to the vaccine. “My body is my temple.” “I am opposed to the use of aborted fetal cells.” “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than trust in man.” Has COVID created a Great Conversion of faith?! I hope so. But, like many, I suspect that some of those touting religious beliefs may not truly have this conviction.

Or maybe this is the spark they need to dive deeper into their faith. I believe that one should not use the Lord’s name in vain. One should not use God as an excuse. BUT I believe that everyday every one of us, whether close to God or not, whether full of faith or full of doubt, has the opportunity to draw closer to God. Perhaps you are afraid of the vaccine. Perhaps you are afraid in general. You are right to turn to the bible. You are right to turn to God. Our bodies are our temples to God. If you espouse these beliefs, even if initially without true belief, I encourage you to dive into them further. Because it truly is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. Although God has given us the intelligence and ability to do many things, no one among us, no scientist, no doctor, no president, is greater than God. If you have fear, if you have doubt, you can take refuge in the Lord… even if you have been absent from Him.

In Corinthians, Paul reminds us that we are called to be holy, to avoid immorality, to protect our bodies from evil because our bodies are temples created by God:

“Everything is lawful for me,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is lawful for me,” but I will not let myself be dominated by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food,” but God will do away with both the one and the other. The body, however, is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take Christ’s members and make them the members of a prostitute? Of course not! [Or] do you not know that anyone who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For “the two,” it says, “will become one flesh.” But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Our bodies are a host to the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are made in God’s image. We can do many things — we have free will — but not everything we can do is right. Our bodies are meant to glorify God. Our bodies are members of Christ. Would you allow Christ’s body, the temple of the Holy Spirit to be defiled with lustful, immoral activity? Would you allow Christ’s body to “benefit” from or take advantage of aborted fetal cells? Would you use your body to indulge in gluttony with food or drugs or alcohol for momentary pleasure? Unfortunately, we may have done all of these. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot do better. That we cannot reassess how we treat God’s temple. That we cannot begin to worship God with our bodies. That we cannot use our bodies to show love rather than lust. That we cannot take better care of God’s temple and prevent harmful substances from entering it. That we cannot reject immorality, greed, lust, gluttony and pride (believing that we know better than God).

I believe in science. But I believe in God more. If we have learned nothing these last two years, it is that we do not know everything. We have been largely powerless against COVID-19. Even the vaccine which the media seems to hail as the savior to the pandemic does not prevent the vaccinated from continuing to spread it. Even highly vaccinated areas are seeing huge spikes in the virus. We need God. We can be prideful and boastful. But we are foolish if we do not turn to God. We are foolish if we rely on man rather than trusting in God. For too many years we have been pushing God out of our lives. The bible is filled with plagues — do we think we are any better? Do we not see the parallels in today’s times. Whether or not you receive the vaccine, we need to turn our hearts, our minds, and our bodies back to God.

In danger I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is with me; I am not afraid; what can mortals do against me? The LORD is with me as my helper; I shall look in triumph on my foes. Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in mortals. Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in princes.

Psalm 118:5-9

I understand the fear surrounding COVID-19. I understand the fear surrounding the vaccine. Fear is found where faith is not. Have faith in God. Trust in the Lord. Nothing is more effective in driving out fear. I believe and pray that religious freedom in this country will continue to be honored. And I hope and pray that those who are claiming it continue to turn to God.

Lord, I pray that all of those who use you to rally against the vaccine, find you. I pray that we as a nation turn back to you. I pray that those who persecute religious objections have open minds to what they cannot see and experience your love.

Another in the Fire

One of my favorite songs at the moment is Hillsong United’s Another in the Fire. Lately, I feel that I am under attack for my beliefs. I feel that I am under fire. My beliefs are being challenged. Indeed, it feels as though Christianity is under attack in this country. The words in Hillsong’s song have been speaking to me:

There’s a grace when the heart is under fire
Another way when the walls are closing in
And when I look at the space between
Where I used to be and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone
There was another in the fire
Standing next to me
There was another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
Of how I’ve been set free

There is a cross that bears the burden
Where another died for me.

Today, I learned the connection between this song and the book of Daniel. In chapter 3, we learn that King Nebuchadnezzar required everyone to bow down and worship a golden statute he had made. He decreed that “Whoever does not fall down and worship shall be instantly cast into a white-hot furnace.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship this false god. And when they were questioned, they responded:

“If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, you should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.”

Daniel 3:17-18

As a result, they were thrown into the fire. The faith and the strength that they showed when truly under fire in inspiring. While in the midst of the fire, these three responded by praising and worshipping God amidst the fire (and — spoiler alert — an angel of the Lord saved them from the flames so that not even the smell of smoke touched them). Their prayer is a powerful one and a good reminder in these days when we are under attack:

“Blessed are you, and praiseworthy, O Lord, the God of our ancestors, and glorious forever is your name. For you are just in all you have done; all your deeds are faultless, all your ways right, and all your judgments proper. You have executed proper judgments in all that you have brought upon us and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our ancestors. By a proper judgment you have done all this because of our sins; For we have sinned and transgressed by departing from you, and we have done every kind of evil. Your commandments we have not heeded or observed, nor have we done as you ordered us for our good. Therefore all you have brought upon us, all you have done to us, you have done by a proper judgment. You have handed us over to our enemies, lawless and hateful rebels; to an unjust king, the worst in all the world. Now we cannot open our mouths; shame and reproach have come upon us, your servants, who revere you. For your name’s sake, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, your beloved, Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one, To whom you promised to multiply their offspring like the stars of heaven, or the sand on the shore of the sea. For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bulls, or tens of thousands of fat lambs, So let our sacrifice be in your presence today and find favor before you; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. And now we follow you with our whole heart, we fear you and we seek your face. Do not put us to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver us in accord with your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord: Let all those be put to shame who inflict evils on your servants; Let them be shamed and powerless, and their strength broken; Let them know that you alone are the Lord God, glorious over the whole world.”

Daniel 3:26-45

As I read this this morning, I saw so many similarities with today. We have departed from God as a country. We have done every kind of evil. We have removed God from almost everything. We attack those who stand against abortion. We worship lust over love. We riot instead of talk. We blame instead of seek to understand. We fear because we have no faith. We attack those whose religious beliefs preclude them from receiving a vaccine. We are called to worship a president, a vaccine, sex, athletes, media personalities…. everything but God. We cannot open our mouths. Those who speak out are ostracized. Shame and reproach come upon us. We have no prince, prophet or leader. Even our church leaders are cowering to political pressure. Our church gatherings have been reduced to zoom. WE ARE UNDER FIRE. God is being closed out of our lives. The fire is as hot and as evil as the fire that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into. We do not have the power. What can we do? Bow down to the false gods around us? NO! “But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received.” For those who trust in the Lord cannot be put to shame. As Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did — we must follow God with our whole heart. God is with us. We have to resist the temptation to bow to all that is around us, all that asks us to turn away from God. As the words in the song say: “There is a grace when our heart is under fire. [There is] another way when the walls are closing in” — our way is to turn and follow God with our whole heart… regardless of what the kings around us say.

Lord, may I be as strong as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. May I not falter and not bow to the gold statutes around me. I know you are with me. I know you alone can set me free. My heart is humble and contrite. I seek your mercy for my failings. You alone are my God. Deliver us in accord with your wonders. Let all those be put to shame who inflict evils on your servants; Let them be shamed and powerless, and their strength broken; Let them know that you alone are the Lord God, glorious over the whole world.

Rest in A World of Unrest

The world is crazy. Do I need to say more? Whether its Afghanistan, COVID-19, Hurricane Ida, and all of the big and small things in between. The world is crazy. Watching the news makes me angry. There is plenty to disagree with. Plenty to get up in arms about. Plenty to fight about. Plenty to be upset about. Plenty to pit me against my brothers and sisters here on earth. It makes me anxious. It makes me afraid. It makes me angry. Because I cannot control what goes on in Afghanistan, I cannot control COVID-19, I cannot control Hurricane Ida, and I cannot control any of the politicians, whether or not I agree with them. I can only control myself….

And I can pray. This weekend the Lord, placed this Psalm on my heart. He has me. In this world of crazy, my God has me. I can rest in Him. He calls each of us to Him. If we allow Him, He has us. We don’t need to worry about the world and the craziness around us. Lord, thank you! This is my prayer.

LORD, my heart is not proud;

nor are my eyes haughty.

I do not busy myself with great matters,

with things too sublime for me.

Rather, I have stilled my soul,

Like a weaned child to its mother,

weaned is my soul.

Israel, hope in the LORD,

now and forever.

Psalm 131

Lord,

In you I find my peace. I rest in you. Help me to be still and focus on you not the chaos around me. The world is full of unrest, because we fail to trust in you. We fail to rest in you. I don’t have to solve the problems and I am proud and conceited to think I could. I just need to be still, rest and trust in you. I pray that others do too.

America, hope in the Lord!

Bring Me My Chariot of Fire

A friend suggested I should watch the movie Chariots of Fire. Although the music from it was the first, and only thing, I have ever learned to play on the piano, I had never seen the underlying film. I watched it this weekend. In the film, two runners, from two different religious backgrounds, make it to the Olympics in 1924. One is fighting prejudice because of his Jewish heritage and one is running to bring glory to God. When he is challenged as to whether he should be doing something more purposeful than running, he responds: “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” But when the Olympic race is on a Sunday, the runner refuses to participate despite the pressure from those around him including the Prince of Wales. Instead he delivers a sermon at church that Sunday in which he quotes from Isaiah:

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

So much to unpack from all of this, including following God’s purpose for us, using God’s gifts to us for His glory, standing up for our beliefs even in the face of prejudice or promises of personal gain, turning to and waiting upon the Lord for our strength and our renewal. But of course I wanted more. I was curious as to where the Chariots of Fire came into play. Chariots of Fire are mentioned twice in the second book of Kings. First a fiery chariot and fiery horses take Elijah up to heaven in 2 Kings 2:11. Then a few chapters later, the King of Aram sends his horses and chariots to take Elisha captive. They arrive by night and encircle the city where Elisha is:

Early the next morning, when the servant of the man of God arose and went out, he saw the force with its horses and chariots surrounding the city. “Alas!” he said to Elisha. “What shall we do, my lord?” Elisha answered, “Do not be afraid. Our side outnumbers theirs.” Then he prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes, that he may see.” And the LORD opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw that the mountainside was filled with fiery chariots and horses around Elisha.

2 Kings 6:15-17

It is easy to grow weary. It is easy to give in to the world around us. It is easy to fear and to allow that fear to consume us. But our side outnumbers theirs. When we are with God, our side always outnumbers theirs. When we are afraid, our eyes are blind to the truth: God is with us. God’s fiery chariots and horses surround us and protect us.

The title of the movie purportedly comes from a poem by William Blake, in which he states:

Bring me my bow of burning gold;

Bring me my arrows of desire;

Bring me my spear; O clouds unfold:

Bring me my Chariots of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem,

In [America’s] green and pleasant land.

Lord,

Open my eyes, that I may see. Help me to turn from worldly promises and gain, for heavenly gain is all I truly seek. I will wait upon you to renew my strength. Help me to mount up with wings like eagles, help me to run and not grow weary. Bring me your Chariots of Fire, that I may see. Arm me with your bow and arrows and spear. Cloak me in your armor, O Lord. Help me to do your will on earth and fulfill the purpose you have planned. I need you Lord. Help me not to fear.

Why I am Not Vaccinated: The Truth

There is a lot of distrust flowing through our country. The government has made it clear that it is fully focused on pushing the vaccine. In its rush and push, the media and government make statements and take actions designed to encourage vaccination that are not always supported by the data, particularly as the new variants occur. Is it safe? Is it effective? How long is it effective? Is it better than natural immunity? Are there long-term effects? I don’t know. And unfortunately because everything is so new and the virus is changing so rapidly, neither does anyone else. We are still learning.

COVID-19 is scary. We have watched the world react with fear. Shutting down businesses. Pushing isolation. And now blaming the unvaccinated for the virus even though studies are beginning to show that the current variant spreads among the vaccinated too. As we have seen in recent years, the media and now government silence and attack anyone who disagrees with their agenda, leading to further distrust, isolation, and dissension.

As the hysteria around the virus spread (quicker than the virus itself), I turned to the only place where I knew I would get the truth. I turned to God. And I turned to the bible. And I continue to turn there now. In Chronicles, God tells us:

If I close heaven so that there is no rain, if I command the locust to devour the land, if I send pestilence among my people, if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:13-14

I don’t know if the vaccine will save us. But I do know that God will, if we turn to Him! Imagine if we pushed this as much as we pushed the vaccine? Imagine if those who have turned away, who are paying homage to other idols, to money, to fame, to technology, to kings and presidents and political parties, imagine if the same media pressure, asked them to return to God. Imagine if we united in His name. The vaccine may work for some, but it also does cause negative effects in others. The vaccine may reduce some risk, but no one thinks its 100% effective, and early studies are skeptical about how effective it will be on new variants. God is 100% effective. There are no negative side effects. There is no variant or mutation that He cannot handle. His truth is overpowering.

I believe that God is calling us to Him. I believe that if we have faith, and we turn back to Him, He will save us. I believe that He calls us not to live in fear, for when we live in fear, we turn away from God. He tells us repeatedly do not be afraid. If we have faith, there is nothing to fear. Fear is a reminder that we need to turn back and restore our faith.

I am not against science. And I am not against the vaccine. But for me personally right now, it is a question of faith. God is calling me to have faith and to turn to Him and Him alone.

God,

You have made us in your image. You have made us with intelligence and creativity. But sometimes we forget about you. We think we are capable of solving problems and forget that we always need your help. Lord, I know that I am not capable of solving the challenges in front of me without you. I am weak, confused and uncertain when I turn from you. I turn to you now. I am humble and ashamed of the times I think that I can do anything, without you. I ask you to protect me, to protect my family and to heal these lands. Please help us to turn back to you. To turn away from politics and division, to turn away from anything that is not of you.

Heal us O Lord that we may be healed. Save us, that we may be saved. For you are our praise.