Categories
Responsible Citizens

Re-Opening Churches

This letter was written by Pastor Tim Walker, a pastor acquaintance of mine from Cleveland, Ohio. He wrote this to his congregation and the fellowship of churches he serves. This perspective is valuable for all Christians.

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A lot of people are sending me videos of nationally respected leaders asking “every church to open their doors immediately.” Some members are upset and threatening to go somewhere else, if we don’t open our buildings by Pentecost Sunday.

Trust me; I understand the frustration and probably want to resume corporate worship more than most anyone else in our congregation. BUT…I’m accountable to God for making decisions that are in the best interests of the whole congregation; not just me, or the few most vocal members.

As I’ve been praying about it, I’ve borrowed some suggestions and wisdom from other Pastors, combined them with my own thought process and want to give you a few things to consider.

1. This is one of the most difficult decisions we as Pastors will ever have to make.

The timing of when and how to open our buildings is without a doubt the most grueling decision I’ve ever had to grapple with. There is no instructional manual and none of us have ever led through a global pandemic before. We love our people and have to consider the strongest and the weakest among them. We also have to consider those who are young and healthy as well as those who are older, sickly, or have compromised immunity. We also have to live with the long-term consequences of every decision we make. I’ve labored in prayer ever since this began, seeking God continually for guidance and direction. I’m very confident most others local Pastors have as well. No one wants the local church to succeed more than we do. Please give us the liberty to lead and prayerfully follow us.

2. While I appreciate national church leaders and try to support them and glean from them, they do not have the right or authority to speak on behalf of the local church. They don’t know our people, our circumstances, or the challenges of our situations.

Pastoring a large congregation, or being on national television doesn’t make you an international spokesperson for the Body of Christ. It’s the local pastors who marry, counsel, bury, advise, wipe away the tears, visit the hospitals, pray for, and walk with people through life; not television personalities who don’t know your name or your kids names, and are so insulated if you’re lucky you can get an autograph but won’t ever have their phone number.

I love them, and they create great opportunities for us, but they don’t know our specifics, they don’t have to manage our resources, and don’t have to deal with the repercussions of our decisions. They do not speak for me or most other local Pastors.

3. Don’t compare your church’s decision with that of other churches. Each church is unique in size, layout, staffing, age demographics, and resources. One size doesn’t fit all. What may work brilliantly for one could be disastrous for another. No one knows your church and its members like your Pastors and leaders. Different areas of the country have had different levels or exposure to this virus. What is right for a rural area, may not be right for an urban area. The population density is different, the laws are different, and the rate of exposure is different. Your pastors have to make these decisions considering all of these factors and more. Pray for them, support them, offer to help them, and most of all trust them!

4. Support your church during the transition. While we are waiting for the right timing, please support your Pastors and your local church. It’s estimated that at least 30% of congregations under 100 adults either will not re-open, or will not survive through the end of the year. Don’t allow your church to be a casualty. Your community needs the voice and the ministry of the local church. Don’t allow it to be silenced! The global church will prevail, but the success of the local church depends on OUR faithfulness. Support it with prayer, finances, service, and loyalty. Check on your Pastors and leaders. They are carrying a massive load and every prayer, offering, or word of encouragement matters…it really does!

5. Even if you disagree with their timing for reopening, stand in unity and don’t allow the enemy to bring strife, confusion, or divisiveness. Our nation has increasingly become more polarized over the past 15 years. The media, politics, social media, the internet, pride, and most of all, spiritual distancing…yes, spiritual distancing…(my new term for those who have continued to neglect their walk with God and have instead chosen to live in the flesh), have created massive disunity in the body of Christ. Don’t fall for it! Protect your heart, your relationships, your values and don’t trade gold for brass!

Choose love over hatred…trust over suspicion, grace over judgment. Give your Pastors, leaders, and other believers the benefit of the doubt. They’re not perfect and they’re going to make mistakes. Allow them a safe place to grow and learn as well. They really are trying to do what’s best for you!

6. When your church does re-open live services, please ATTEND, serve, give, connect to a group or a team. Sunday services are not for entertainment purposes…they’re for ministry. Get involved in the ministry of your church.

We will re-open our buildings as soon as we feel services can be held in a safe and secure environment. Until then, let’s plaster social media with the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and let’s remain focused on what’s really important.

Just a few thoughts from a tired, frustrated but determined Pastor.

P. Tim

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Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com

 

 

Categories
Q and A Responsible Citizens

Whether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague

In August of 1527 the plague struck Wittenberg and numerous people fled in fear of their lives. Martin Luther and his wife Katharina, who was pregnant at the time, remained in their beloved city in order to treat the infected. Despite the calls for him to flee Wittenberg with his family, Luther’s mind was set on helping the infected. He inevitably came to the conclusion that it was not inherently wrong for one to so value their life that they did not remain, but only so long as the sick had someone to care for them. (Grayson Gilbert blog, slightly edited)

Luther wrote a letter now entitled, Whether One May Flee from A Deadly Plague. I have published it for your reading and thinking pleasure.

 


 

To the Reverend Doctor Johann Hess, pastor at Breslau, and to his fellow-servants of the gospel of Jesus Christ,

Grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,

Your letter, sent to me at Wittenberg, was received some time ago. You wish to know whether it is proper for a Christian to run away from a deadly plague. I should have answered long ago, but God has for some time disciplined and scourged me so severely that I have been unable to do much reading or writing.

Furthermore, it occurred to me that God, the merciful Father, has endowed you so richly with wisdom and truth in Christ that you yourself should be well qualified to decide this matter or even weightier problems in his Spirit and grace without our assistance.

But now that you keep on writing to me and have, so to speak, humbled yourself in requesting our view on this matter so that, as St. Paul repeatedly teaches, we may always agree with one another and be of one mind (1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 2:2). Therefore we here give you our opinion as far as God grants us to understand and perceive. This we would humbly submit to your judgment and to that of all devout Christians for them, as is proper, to come to their own decision and conclusion. Since the rumor of death is to be heard in these and many other parts also, we have permitted these instructions of ours to be printed because others might also want to make use of them.

To begin with, some people are of the firm opinion that one need not and should not run away from a deadly plague. Rather, since death is God’s punishment, which he sends upon us for our sins, we must submit to God and with a true and firm faith patiently await our punishment. They look upon running away as an outright wrong and as lack of belief in God. Others take the position that one may properly flee, particularly if one holds no public office.

I cannot censure the former for their excellent decision. They uphold a good cause, namely, a strong faith in God, and deserve commendation because they desire every Christian to hold to a strong, firm faith. It takes more than a milk faith to await a death before which most of the saints themselves have been and still are in dread. Who would not acclaim these earnest people to whom death is a little thing? They willingly accept God’s chastisement, doing so without tempting God, as we shall hear later on.

Since it is generally true of Christians that few are strong and many are weak, one simply cannot place the same burden upon everyone. A person who has a strong faith can drink poison and suffer no harm, Mark 16:18, while one who has a weak faith would thereby drink to his death. Peter could walk upon the water because he was strong in faith. When he began to doubt and his faith weakened, he sank and almost drowned. When a strong man travels with a weak man, he must restrain himself so as not to walk at a speed proportionate to his strength lest he set a killing pace for his weak companion. Christ does not want his weak ones to be abandoned, as St. Paul teaches in Romans 15:1 and 1 Corinthians 12:22 . To put it briefly and concisely, running away from death may happen in one of two ways. First, it may happen in disobedience to God’s word and command. For instance, in the case of a man who is imprisoned for the sake of God’s word and who, to escape death, denies and repudiates God’s word. In such a situation everyone has Christ’s plain mandate and command not to flee but rather to suffer death, as he says, “Whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven” and “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” Matthew 10:28, 33.

Those who are engaged in a spiritual ministry such as preachers and pastors must likewise remain steadfast before the peril of death. We have a plain command from Christ, “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep but the hireling sees the wolf coming and flees” (John 10:11). For when people are dying, they most need a spiritual ministry which strengthens and comforts their consciences by word and sacrament and in faith overcomes death. However, where enough preachers are available in one locality and they agree to encourage the other clergy to leave in order not to expose themselves needlessly to danger, I do not consider such conduct sinful because spiritual services are provided for and because they would have been ready and willing to stay if it had been necessary.

We read that St. Athanasius fled from his church that his life might be spared because many others were there to administer his office. Similarly, the brethren in Damascus lowered Paul in a basket over the wall to make it possible for him to escape, Acts 9:25, Acts 19:30, Paul allowed himself to be kept from risking danger in the marketplace because it was not essential for him to do so

Accordingly, all those in public office such as mayors, judges, and the like are under obligation to remain. This, too, is God’s word, which institutes secular authority and commands that town and country be ruled, protected, and preserved, as St. Paul teaches in Romans 13:4, “The governing authorities are God’s ministers for your own good.” To abandon an entire community which one has been called to govern and to leave it without official or government, exposed to all kinds of danger such as fires, murder, riots, and every imaginable disaster is a great sin. It is the kind of disaster the devil would like to instigate wherever there is no law and order. St. Paul says, “Anyone who does not provide for his own family denies the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). On the other hand, if in great weakness they flee but provide capable substitutes to make sure that the community is well governed and protected, as we previously indicated, and if they continually and carefully supervise them [i.e., the substitutes], all that would be proper.

What applies to these two offices (church and state) should also apply to persons who stand in a relationship of service or duty toward one another. A servant should not leave his master nor a maid her mistress except with the knowledge and permission of master or mistress. Again, a master should not desert his servant or a lady her maid unless suitable provision for their care has been made somewhere.

In all these matters it is a divine command that servants and maids should render obedience and by the same token masters and ladies should take care of their servants. Likewise, fathers and mothers are bound by God’s law to serve and help their children, and children their fathers and mothers. Likewise, paid public servants such as city physicians, city clerks and constables, or whatever their titles, should not flee unless they furnish capable substitutes who are acceptable to their employer.

In the case of children who are orphaned,  Guardians or close friends are under obligation either to stay with them or to arrange diligently for other nursing care for their sick friends. Yes, no one should dare leave his neighbor unless there are others who will take care of the sick in their stead and nurse them. In such cases we must respect the word of Christ, “I was sick and you did not visit me …” (Matt. 25:41–46). According to this passage we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.

Where no such emergency exists and where enough people are available for nursing and taking care of the sick, and where, voluntarily or by orders, those who are weak in faith make provision so that there is no need for additional helpers, or where the sick do not want them and have refused their services, I judge that they have an equal choice either to flee or to remain. If someone is sufficiently bold and strong in his faith, let him stay in God’s name; that is certainly no sin. If someone is weak and fearful, let him flee in God’s name as long as he does not neglect his duty toward his neighbor but has made adequate provision for others to provide nursing care. To flee from death and to save one’s life is a natural tendency, implanted by God and not forbid- den unless it be against God and neighbor, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 5:29, “No man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” It is even commanded that every man should as much as possible preserve body and life and not neglect them, as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:21–26 that God has so ordered the members of the body that each one cares and works for the other.

It is not forbidden but rather commanded that by the sweat of our brow we should seek our daily food, clothing, and all we need and avoid destruction and disaster whenever we can, as long as we do so without detracting from our love and duty toward our neighbor. How much more appropriate it is therefore to seek to preserve life and avoid death if this can be done without harm to our neighbor, inasmuch as life is more than food and clothing, as Christ himself says in Matthew 6:25.

If someone is so strong in faith, however, that he can willingly suffer nakedness, hunger, and want without tempting God and not trying to escape, although he could do so, let him continue that way, but let him not condemn those who will not or cannot do the same.

Examples in Holy Scripture abundantly prove that to flee from death is not wrong in itself. Abraham was a great saint but he feared death and escaped it by pretending that his wife, Sarah, was his sister. Because he did so without neglecting or adversely affecting his neighbor, it was not counted as a sin against him. His son, Isaac, did likewise. Jacob also fled from his brother Esau to avoid death at his hands. Likewise, David fled from Saul, and from Absalom. The prophet Uriah escaped from King Jehoiakim and fled into Egypt. The valiant prophet, Elijah, 1 Kings 19:3, had destroyed all the prophets of Baal by his great faith, but afterward, when Queen Jezebel threatened him, he became afraid and fled into the desert. Before that, Moses fled into the land of Midian when the king searched for him in Egypt. Many others have done likewise. All of them fled from death when it was possible and saved their lives, yet without depriving their neighbors of anything but first meeting their obligations toward them.

Yes, you may reply, but these examples do not refer to dying by pestilence but to death under persecution. Answer: Death is death, no matter how it occurs. According to Holy Scripture God sent his four scourges: pestilence, famine, sword, and wild beasts. If it is permissible to flee from one or the other in clear conscience, why not from all four? Our examples demonstrate how the holy fathers escaped from the sword; it is quite evident that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob fled from the other scourge, namely, hunger and death, when they went to Egypt to escape famine, as we are told in Genesis 40–47. Likewise, why should one not run away from wild beasts? I hear people say, “If war or the Turks come, one should not flee from his village or town but stay and await God’s punishment by the sword.” That is quite true; let him who has a strong faith wait for his death, but he should not condemn those who take flight.

By such reasoning, when a house is on fire, no one should run outside or rush to help because such a fire is also a punishment from God. Anyone who falls into deep water dare not save himself by swimming but must surrender to the water as to a divine punishment. Very well, do so if you can but do not tempt God, and allow others to do as much as they are capable of doing. Likewise, if someone breaks a leg, is wounded or bitten, he should not seek medical aid but say, “It is God’s punishment. I shall bear it until it heals by itself.” Freezing weather and winter are also God’s punishment and can cause death. Why run to get inside or near a fire? Be strong and stay outside until it becomes warm again. We should then need no apothecaries or drugs or physicians because all illnesses are punishment from God. Hunger and thirst are also great punishments and torture. Why do you eat and drink instead of letting yourself be punished until hunger and thirst stop of themselves? Ultimately such talk will lead to the point where we abbreviate the Lord’s Prayer and no longer pray, “deliver us from evil, Amen,” since we would have to stop praying to be saved from hell and stop seeking to escape it. It, too, is God’s punishment as is every kind of evil. Where would all this end?

From what has been said we derive this guidance: We must pray against every form of evil and guard against it to the best of our ability in order not to act contrary to God, as was previously explained. If it be God’s will that evil come upon us and destroy us, none of our precautions will help us.

Everybody must take this to heart: first of all, if he feels bound to remain where death rages in order to serve his neighbor, let him commend himself to God and say, “Lord, I am in thy hands; thou hast kept me here; thy will be done. I am thy lowly creature. Thou canst kill me or preserve me in this pestilence in the same way as if I were in fire, water, drought, or any other danger.”

If a man is free, however, and can escape, let him commend himself and say, “Lord God,
I am weak and fearful. Therefore I am running away from evil and am doing what I can to protect myself against it. I am nevertheless in thy hands in this danger as in any other which might overtake me. Thy will be done. My flight alone will not succeed of itself because calamity and harm are everywhere. Moreover, the devil never sleeps. He is a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44) and tries everywhere to instigate murder and misfortune.”

In the same way we must and we owe it to our neighbor to accord him the same treatment in other troubles and perils, also. If his house is on fire, love compels me to run to help him extinguish the flames. If there are enough other people around to put the fire out, I may either go home or remain to help. If he falls into the water or into a pit I dare not turn away but must hurry to help him as best I can. If there are others to do it, I am released. If I see that he is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself by doing so. A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor. He will always reckon with the possibility that doing so will bring some disadvantage and damage, danger and loss.

No neighbor can live alongside another without risk to his safety, property, wife, or child. He must run the risk that fire or some other accident will start in the neighbor’s house and destroy him bodily or deprive him of his goods, wife, children, and all he has. Anyone who does not do that for his neighbor, but forsakes him and leaves him to his misfortune, becomes a murderer in the sight of God, as St. John states in his epistles, “Whoever does not love his brother is a murderer,” and again, “If anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:15, 17). That is also one of the sins which God attributed to the city of Sodom when he speaks through the prophet Ezekiel [16:49], “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” Christ, therefore, will condemn them as murderers on the Last Day when he will say, “I was sick and you did not visit me” [Matt. 25:43]. If that shall be the judgment upon those who have failed to visit the sick and needy or to offer them relief, what will become of those who abandoned them and let them lie there like dogs and pigs? Yes, how will they fare who rob the poor of the little they have and plague them in all kinds of ways? That is what the tyrants do to the poor who accept the gospel. But let that be; they have their condemnation.

It would be well, where there is such an efficient government in cities and states, to maintain municipal homes and hospitals staffed with people to take care of the sick so that patients from private homes can be sent there — as was the intent and purpose of our forefathers with so many pious bequests, hospices, hospitals, and infirmaries so that it should not be necessary for every citizen to maintain a hospital in his own home. That would indeed be a fine, commendable, and Christian arrangement to which everyone should offer generous help and contributions, particularly the government. Where there are no such institutions — and they exist in only a few places — we must give hospital care and be nurses for one another in any extremity or risk the loss of salvation and the grace of God. Thus it is written in God’s word and command, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and in Matthew 7:12, “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”

Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together (as previously indicated) so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another. First, we can be sure that God’s punishment has come upon us, not only to chastise us for our sins but also to test our faith and love — our faith in that we may see and experience how we should act toward God; our love in that we may recognize how we should act toward our neighbor. . . Nevertheless, this is God’s decree and punishment to which we must patiently submit and serve our neighbor, risking our lives in this manner as St. John teaches, “If Christ laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren”  (1 John 3:16).

When anyone is overcome by horror and repugnance in the presence of a sick person he should take courage and strength in the firm assurance that it is the devil who stirs up such abhorrence, fear, and loathing in his heart. He is such a bitter, knavish devil that he not only unceasingly tries to slay and kill, but also takes delight in making us deathly afraid, worried, and apprehensive so that we should regard dying as horrible and have no rest or peace all through our life. And so the devil would excrete us out of this life as he tries to make us despair of God, become unwilling and unprepared to die, and, under the stormy and dark sky of fear and anxiety, make us forget and lose Christ, our light and life, and desert our neighbor in his troubles. We would sin thereby against God and man; that would be the devil’s glory and delight. Because we know that it is the devil’s game to induce such fear and dread, we should in turn minimize it, take such courage as to spite and annoy him, and send those terrors right back to him. And we should arm ourselves with this answer to the devil: “Get away, you devil, with your terrors! Just because you hate it, I’ll spite you by going the more quickly to help my sick neighbor. I’ll pay no attention to you: I’ve got two heavy blows to use against you: the first one is that I know that helping my neighbor is a deed well-pleasing to God and all the angels; by this deed I do God’s will and render true service and obedience to him. All the more so because if you hate it so and are so strongly opposed to it, it must be particularly acceptable to God. I’d do this readily and gladly if I could please only one angel who might look with delight on it. But now that it pleases my Lord Jesus Christ and the whole heavenly host because it is the will and command of God, my Father, then how could any fear of you cause me to spoil such joy in heaven or such delight for my Lord? Or how could I, by flattering you, give you and your devils in hell reason to mock and laugh at me? No, you’ll not have the last word! If Christ shed his blood for me and died for me, why should I not expose myself to some small dangers for his sake and disregard this feeble plague? If you can terrorize, Christ can strengthen me. If you can kill, Christ can give life. If you have poison in your fangs, Christ has far greater medicine. Should not my dear Christ, with his precepts, his kindness, and all his encouragement, be more important in my spirit than you, roguish devil, with your false terrors in my weak flesh? God forbid! Get away, devil. Here is Christ and here am I, his servant in this work. Let Christ prevail! Amen.”

The second blow against the devil is God’s mighty promise by which he encourages those who minister to the needy. He says in Psalm 41:1–3, “Blessed is he who considers the poor. The Lord will deliver him in the day of trouble. The Lord will protect him and keep him alive; the Lord will bless him on earth and not give him up to the will of his enemies. The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed. In his illness he will heal all his infirmities.”

Are not these glorious and mighty promises of God heaped up upon those who minister to the needy? What should terrorize us or frighten us away from such great and divine comfort? The service we can render to the needy is indeed such a small thing in comparison with God’s promises and rewards that St. Paul says to Timothy, “Godliness is of value in every way, and it holds promise both for the present life and for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). Godliness is nothing else but service to God. Service to God is indeed service to our neighbor. It is proved by experience that those who nurse the sick with love, devotion, and sincerity are generally protected. Though they are poisoned, they are not harmed. As the psalm says, “in his illness you heal all his infirmities” (Ps. 41:3), that is, you change his bed of sickness into a bed of health. A person who attends a patient because of greed, or with the expectation of an inheritance or some personal advantage in such services, should not be surprised if eventually he is infected, disfigured, or even dies before he comes into possession of that estate or inheritance.

But whoever serves the sick for the sake of God’s gracious promise, though he may accept a suitable reward to which he is entitled, inasmuch as every laborer is worthy of his hire — whoever does so has the great assurance that he shall in turn be cared for. God himself shall be his attendant and his physician, too. What an attendant he is! What a physician!

Friend, what are all the physicians, apothecaries, and attendants in comparison to God? Should that not encourage one to go and serve a sick person, even though he might have as many contagious boils on him as hairs on his body, and though he might be bent double carrying a hundred plague-ridden bodies! What do all kinds of pestilence or devils mean over against God, who binds and obliges himself to be our attendant and physician? Shame and more shame on you, you out-and-out unbeliever, for despising such great comfort and letting yourself become more frightened by some small boil or some uncertain danger than emboldened by such sure and faithful promises of God! What would it avail you if all physicians and the entire world were at your service, but God were not present? Again, what harm could overtake you if the whole world were to desert you and no physician would remain with you, but God would abide with you with his assurance? Do you not know that you are surrounded as by thousands of angels who watch over you in such a way that you can indeed trample upon the plague, as it is written in Psalm 91:11–13, “He has given his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up lest you dash your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the adder, and trample the young lion and the serpent under foot.”

Therefore, dear friends, let us not become so desperate as to desert our own whom we are duty-bound to help and flee in such a cowardly way from the terror of the devil, or allow him the joy of mocking us and vexing and distressing God and all his angels. For it is certainly true that he who despises such great promises and commands of God and leaves his own people destitute, violates all of God’s laws and is guilty of the murder of his neighbor whom he abandons. I fear that in such a case God’s promise will be reversed and changed into horrible threats and the psalm 41 will then read this way against them: “Accursed is he who does not provide for the needy but escapes and forsakes them. The Lord in turn will not spare him in evil days but will flee from him and desert him, The Lord will not preserve him and keep him alive and will not prosper him on earth but will deliver him into the hands of his enemies. The Lord will not refresh him on his sickbed nor take him from the couch of his illness.” For “the measure you give will be the measure you get” [Matt. 7:2]. Nothing else can come of it. It is terrible to hear this, more terrible to be waiting for this to happen, most terrible to experience it. What else can happen if God withdraws his hand and forsakes us except sheer devilment and every kind of evil? It cannot be otherwise if, against God’s command, one abandons his neighbor. This fate will surely overtake anyone of this sort, unless he sincerely repents.

This I well know, that if it were Christ or his mother who were laid low by illness, everybody would be so solicitous and would gladly become a servant or helper. Everyone would want to be bold and fearless; nobody would flee but everyone would come running. And yet they don’t hear what Christ himself says, “As you did to one of the least, you did it to me” [Matt. 25:40]. When he speaks of the greatest commandment he says, “The other commandment is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself ” (Matt. 22:39). There you hear that the command to love your neighbor is equal to the greatest commandment to love God, and that what you do or fail to do for your neighbor means doing the same to God. If you wish to serve Christ and to wait on him, very well, you have your sick neighbor close at hand. Go to him and serve him, and you will surely find Christ in him, not outwardly but in his word. If you do not wish or care to serve your neighbor you can be sure that if Christ lay there instead you would not do so either and would let him lie there. Those are nothing but illusions on your part which puff you up with vain pride, namely, that you would really serve Christ if he were there in person. Those are nothing but lies; whoever wants to serve Christ in person would surely serve his neighbor as well. This is said as an admonition and encouragement against fear and a disgraceful flight to which the devil would tempt us so that we would disregard God’s command in our dealings with our neighbor and so we would fall into sin on the left hand.

Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. They say that it is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.

If one makes no use of intelligence or medicine when he could do so without detriment to his neighbor, such a person injures his body and must beware lest he become a suicide in God’s eyes. By the same reasoning a person might forego eating and drinking, clothing and shelter, and boldly proclaim his faith that if God wanted to preserve him from starvation and cold, he could do so without food and clothing. Actually that would be suicide. It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.

No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to pro- tect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contam- inated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.

Moreover, . . . if everyone would help ward off contagion as best he can, then the death toll would indeed be moderate. But if some are too panicky and desert their neighbors in their plight, and if some are so foolish as not to take precautions but aggravate the contagion, then the devil has a heyday and many will die. On both counts this is a grievous offense to God and to man — here it is tempting God; there it is bringing man into despair. Then the one who flees, the devil will pursue; the one who stays behind, the devil will hold captive so that no one escapes him.

Some are even worse than that. They keep it secret that they have the disease and go among others in the belief that by contaminating and poisoning others they can rid themselves of the plague and so recover. With this idea they enter streets and homes, trying to saddle children or servants with the disease and thus save themselves. I certainly believe that this is the devil’s doing, who helps turn the wheel of fate to make this happen. I have been told that some are so incredibly vicious that they circulate among people and enter homes because they are sorry that the plague has not reached that far and wish to carry it in, as though it were a prank like putting lice into fur garments or flies into some- one’s living room. I do not know whether I should believe this; if it is true, I do not know whether we Germans are not really devils instead of human beings. It must be admitted that there are some extremely coarse and wicked people. The devil is never idle. My advice is that if any such persons are discovered, the judge should take them by the ear and turn them over to Master Jack, the hangman, as outright and deliberate murderers. What else are such people but assassins in our town? Here and there an assassin will jab a knife through someone and no one can find the culprit. So these folk infect a child here, a woman there, and can never be caught. They go on laughing as though they had accomplished something. Where this is the case, it would be better to live among wild beasts than with such murderers. I do not know how to preach to such killers. They pay no heed. I appeal to the authorities to take charge and turn them over to the help and advice not of physicians, but of Master Jack, the hangman.

If in the Old Testament God himself ordered lepers to be banished from the community and compelled to live outside the city to prevent contamination (Leviticus 13–14), we must do the same with this dangerous pestilence so that anyone who becomes infected will stay away from other persons, or allow himself to be taken away and given speedy help with medicine. Under such circumstances it is our duty to assist such a person and not forsake him in his plight, as I have repeatedly pointed out before. Then the poison is stopped in time, which benefits not only the individual but also the whole community, which might be contaminated if one person is permitted to infect others.

Our plague here in Wittenberg has been caused by nothing but filth. The air, thank God, is still clean and pure, but some few have been contaminated because of the laziness or recklessness of some. So the devil enjoys himself at the terror and flight which he causes among us.

May God thwart him! Amen.

This is what we think and conclude on this subject of fleeing from death by the plague. If you are of a different opinion, may God enlighten you. Amen.

Because this letter will go out in print for people to read, I regard it useful to add some brief instructions on how one should care and provide for the soul in time of death. We have done this orally from the pulpit, and still do so every day in fulfilment of the ministry to which we have been called as pastors. . . 

As we have learned, all of us have the responsibility of warding off this poison to the best of our ability because God has commanded us to care for the body, to protect and nurse it, so that we are not exposed needlessly. In an emergency, however, we must be bold enough to risk our health if that is necessary. Thus, we should be ready for both — to live and to die, according to God’s will. For “none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself,” . . . .

May Christ our Lord and Savior preserve us all in pure faith and fervent love, unspotted and pure until his day. Amen. Pray for me, a poor sinner.

Martin Luther

(Excluded material from this letter was edited by Ted and Gayle Haggard, indicated by an ellipsis. This letter was edited for blog format and potential relevance to the 2020 COVID-19 global pandemic. Highlights are ours.)

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Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com

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Responsible Citizens

Quarantined! Why?

Today, America is closed. In response to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, President Trump has declared a national emergency along with all 50 states for the first time in history. The stock market has plunged, businesses have closed, unemployment has skyrocketed, and record amounts of money have been spent by every level of government in order to help people and businesses survive while scientists work feverishly to develop a vaccine.

Why the dramatic response? Two answers have been given to us:

  1. We don’t want to overwhelm our medical systems. In order to prevent that from happening, we need to “flatten the curve” (the graph of people needing hospitalization at once). In other words, since this virus is highly contagious, most of us have either had it or will get it, but we don’t want that to happen too quickly. But there’s still a lot we don’t know: we don’t know how contagious the virus is, we don’t know its mortality rate, and most importantly we don’t know if people who have recovered can be re-infected. Even more concerning, we don’t know what the mortality rate would be for those who are re-infected, if that is possible. And the list goes on and on.

 So with more questions than answers, the government is doing everything it can to           slow down the number of hospitalizations so everyone who contracts COVID-19 and needs to be hospitalized can be.

  1. Also, we don’t know where COVID-19 came from or what it will do. Add to this, many are alarmed about the government’s response to COVID-19, pointing out the number of people who die from the flu, car accidents, etc., and claiming that the government is overreacting or there is some sinister conspiracy that has taken over the world.

No doubt, there are evil people who will use this crisis to advance their own agendas. But I believe the thing that has our political leaders taking such dramatic actions is the unknown. It almost appears as though they are trying to save the human race. Their response is so spectacular that caution has been thrown to the wind regarding everything else. It’s as though this is so important that it needs to be dealt with at any cost, and once the virus is understood and defeated, then we can fix the things we broke while we were in the learning phase.

Here is my theory:

No one knows, or will publicly verify, where COVID-19 actually developed. Theories are being promoted by scientists, governments, and conspiracy theorists that range from natural mutations to biological warfare. It appears that even what we know is so new that assurance is lacking leaving decision makers having to make subjective judgment calls. If anyone does know, it appears as though they are not willing to produce the evidence for whatever reason, which leads to additional and probably more dramatic guessing.  Today, but maybe not tomorrow, the widely accepted theory in the United States is that the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is mainland China’s first biosafety level 4 laboratory, was working to develop a vaccine when the virus escaped from the lab.

Biosafety level 4 laboratories have the highest level of biosafety precautions because they are used for diagnostic work and research on easily transmitted pathogens that can cause fatal diseases. These laboratories work with agents that could easily be transmitted within the laboratory and cause severe to fatal disease in humans for which there are no available vaccines or treatments. In order to exit the BSL-4 laboratory, personnel must pass through a chemical shower for decontamination, then a room for removing the positive-pressure suit, followed by a thorough shower. Exiting one of these facilities might take as long as three hours. If any worker gets in a hurry with the protocol and cuts corners, they could easily carry a contagious, deadly virus out of the laboratory. Some project that is what happened.  

Regardless of it’s source, this virus is with us now.  But it seems as though our government officials are willing to pay any price to protect as many people as possible, or at least provide competent medical care, until they have time to learn about this virus.

However, with the 24-hour news cycle giving any pundit visibility, and a plethora of voices on social media, the number of people who are convinced they know more than they do is rapidly increasing, and we’re in the early stages of people who don’t know making confident statements and taking risky actions that might endanger themselves and others.

So for me, this is one of the cases where I believe our government knows more than we do and we would all be wise to obey the law. I do not believe this will become the global response to future outbreaks. On every level of society, we are learning a lot right now.

So, we are quarantined right now. Why? Because our leaders are concerned for good reason and they are trying to learn the best response to COVID-19 as quickly as possible. In the next six months, we will learn a great deal. Some of my ideas in this blog will be validated; others will need to be modified as we get more data. Some of the truth learned we will never know because it will be classified. But I believe we will survive, even better than before, because of all we are learning in this process.

In the meantime, let’s be diligent serving God by serving others. Our calling does not change during this quarantine. Our methods might evolve, but our calling doesn’t. Let’s serve.

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Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

 

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Responsible Citizens

Cleansing Hands and Hearts

Print out this prayer and post it above the restroom sink on the mirror with a note saying  that if anyone washes their hands with soap and water for the amount of time it takes to recite this prayer, it will cleans their hands just as if they had used a chemical sanitizer, refresh their hearts, and remind them of the truly important issues in life.

May the Lord Bless you and Keep You!

Pastor Ted

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Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

 

 

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Responsible Citizens

America Is a Good Country

 

President Trump and Senator Sanders have radically different political philosophies about what constitutes a good country. Let’s examine.

The United States is a country because it has a defined territory, a defined citizenry, a government that writes its own laws and policies as well as enforces them, and a system to defend its territory, its citizens, and its way of life. It is a country.

So, what makes a good country? That is the question typically debated during most national elections. And the lines are drawn according to how much candidates believe people should be responsible for themselves, or how much government should be responsible to care for people. In the United States right now, typically the Republican Party wants to give as much responsibility to individuals as is reasonable, while the Democrat Party wants the government to provide more supervision, direction, and goods and services. This debate is healthy and should continue. But in the midst of these deliberations, consider the four criteria I use to determine the quality of a country:

  1. The direction of immigration. Look which direction people are flowing. Are they trying to get into a country or out of a country? Most people care fundamentally about their own welfare and that of their families. Therefore, an easy means of evaluating the quality of a country is simply the flow of immigrants. During the last century, people were willing to risk their lives to escape communist countries, (which typically called themselves Socialist Republics), and countries dominated by religious fundamentalists (typically Islamic) or malevolent dictators. In general, they were seeking political, religious, and economic freedom, and governments that protect individual civil liberties. Right now many immigrants want to get into the United States, Commonwealth countries, and Europe. The direction of immigration gives us a good measurement. On this scale, the United States certainly passes the test as a good country for all races and economic groups.
  2. Religious Freedom. Most people want the freedom to worship, or not worship, without government involvement (except for the protection of that freedom). Most want to be able to worship according to their own conscience, and in order to protect this freedom for all, they should be willing to respect the way others choose to worship. Most countries influenced by Judeo-Christian values protect the freedoms of those of differing faiths to represent their faith, as long as they never use the power of the state to force others to practice their faith. Violence, threats of violence, or restrictions on other freedoms to manipulate whether or not a citizen adheres to certain religious practices are not characteristics of a good country. The protection of religious freedom is the second measure I use. And on this scale, the United States passes the test.
  3. A government by and for the people. Communist and extreme socialist movements emphasize that they promote the protection and well-being of common people, but instead they often result in people being enslaved by their government. So, a government by and for the people allows for common people to elect those they believe will best represent and lead them. And those who are elected are supposed to be public servants, not lords over others. On this scale, the United States passes this test the vast majority of the time. However, we must continually be on guard against those who want unnecessary government control over our lives, our economy, or our goods and services. On this scale, the United States still passes this test, though I am apprehensive about the future.
  4. An economic system that provides the freedom for people to excel or not, and provides maximum goods and services for the most people. To date, a regulated free-market capitalist system makes available the most goods and services at a reasonable price to the most people compared to any other economic system. More people are better off with this economic system than any other system developed to date. Critics of this system accuse it of being inherently unequal, and it is, just as we are all inherently unequal (see my blog, Is Equality a Myth?). This system rewards service and does not reward an unwillingness to serve others. In other words, those who provide more goods and services to others prosper more than those who don’t. And those who competently carry more responsibility prosper much more than those who don’t. Among other responsibilities, our citizen lawmakers promote equal opportunity,  encourage innovation by protecting profits earned by developing new goods and services (copyrights and patents), and protect the rewards earned by those who carry responsibility. On this scale, right now the United States passes this test.

These four ideas are my criteria for a good country. And when any nation embraces these ideas, the Gross National Product flourishes, unemployment rates decline, educational opportunities increase, health services improve, and the general happiness of citizens increases.

So, does America need to change? Not fundamentally.

Does America need a revolution? No—our fundamental ideology is good.

Does America need to go a different direction? No – based on the lessons we’ve learned in the last one-hundred years, we are headed in the right direction.

I never cast my vote based on whether I personally prefer someone or not. Governments are based on political philosophies, so I vote for the person who embraces the political philosophy that has given the most people a better life over the previous 100 years. I think this leads to an obvious choice in our current political climate. 

Once our votes are cast, then each can make choices that will compliment our vote —  we can improve ourselves. We can make choices that will empower us to help ourselves and others instead of making us dependent on others. Most of us can read good blogs (like this one!) and good books that will inform our thinking. We can become more responsible for ourselves and get training which will allow us to serve others. And we can get more involved with a good, life-giving local church so our personal integrity and our understanding of serving others improves. By doing these things, our personal prosperity will have a better chance of strengthening which will provide security for us, our loved ones, and our friends. We Americans already live in a good country, and by doing these things, we can make our world even better.

Just my two cents.

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Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

 

 

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Responsible Citizens

Donald Trump is a D

I missed the first Democrat debate with Michael Bloomberg the other night because I was at the St. James Church Men’s Bible Study. As soon as I got home, I watched the pundits on CNN and FOX comment on the debate. The following morning I awoke to 5-degrees outside and a beautiful blanket of snow on the ground. After reading my Bible and drinking my breakfast shake, I decided to watch the debate on DVR as I exercised on my treadmill. Not surprisingly, I did not think the debate was at all what the pundits described the night before. I thought the candidates all represented themselves better than the pundits described, and, of course, the argument each candidate repeatedly emphasized was their ability to replace President Trump in the upcoming November election.

Later that morning as I was driving to the office listening to the local news, I learned that President Trump was scheduled to speak here in Colorado Springs in our largest public facility later that day, and that people had been lining up outside the facility since the day before. Already that morning the parking lot was filled with people hoping to see President Trump. 

What a great country!

I enjoy the excitement of an election season. I also enjoy people with their various personalities and opinions. I like vibrant discussions and impassioned debates—as long as they don’t resort to violence. I particularly enjoy deciphering people’s personality types through the DISC personality profile system, which helps me understand the behaviors of different individuals and adds some intrigue to public discussion.

Let me explain. Many are familiar with the DISC personality profile system and that all of us are a blend of these personality styles. But since this is a short blog explaining how American personalities, not the Russians, are influencing our current presidential debates, there is not room to explain all the nuances.

Let me summarize. Most of us are either outgoing or reserved, and are either task oriented or people oriented. 

So if someone is predominantly outgoing and task oriented, they are a D, which means they tend to be dominant, direct, demanding, decisive, determined, and a doer. They typically make quick decisions, are results oriented, are direct and straight-forward, confident and competitive. They have a high level of initiative and energy, and don’t like to be bogged down with a lot of details. President Trump is a D. He’s focused on getting the job done. He would be loads of fun on a whitewater rafting trip. He would have us down that river through the most exciting parts with the highest water without hesitation. We would conquer the river with him on board! Ds change things.

If someone is generally outgoing and people oriented, they are an I, which means they are inspiring, influential, interactive, and interested in people. Is tend to be persuasive, gregarious, impulsive and can be the life of the party. Is often think Ds are too serious and uncaring about other people’s feelings. I’s think D’s are harsh. President Clinton is an I. I would enjoy going ATVing with President Clinton. He would be going fast enough to be fun, but not take too many risks. And he would ensure that everyone else was having fun, probably with good stories and lots of snacks at every rest stop. Is keep the world happy.

If someone is more reserved and people oriented, they are an S, which means they are supportive, stable, steady, sweet, prefer the status quo, and sometimes appear to be shy. They are typically dependable, easygoing, and friendly. Their emphasis is cooperation and they tend to be the ones who do repetitive tasks, enjoy established work patterns and routine work. They might say they want change, but are fundamentally uncomfortable with it. They typically think Ds are dangerous and threatening. President Ford was an S. He helped America recover from Watergate. I would enjoy hiking the Colorado Trail with President Ford. He would keep a steady pace and be pleasant as we admire God’s creation together. His consideration of me and the others would keep us from hiking too fast or too slowly, and he would ensure everyone was ok. Ss make the world work.

And finally, if someone is typically more reserved and task oriented, they are a C, which means they are cautious, calculating, competent, conscientious, contemplative, and careful. They are people who like precision and problem solving. They don’t need a lot of people contact for energy. They typically think Ds are reckless, too spontaneous and impulsive. President Obama is a C. I would like to go camping with him because he would make sure we all have all the correct supplies, and that everything is done the way it should be. Cs like it when things are right.

Obviously, since this blog is about President Trump being a D, I briefly described what others often think of Ds. This might help you understand and be able to enjoy our political system a little bit more. Interestingly, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Ds, so it’s perfectly predictable that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would stir powerful emotional reactions. But each of them have different secondary personality strengths. Trump is a DI, which means he can be very entertaining and fun loving, where Hillary is a DC, which explains her extensive policy papers she proposed when she was running for president. Because of that, they are very different in public.

I never vote based on the personality of any particular candidate. Instead, I only vote based on political philosophy. That being said, I do trust our system, so when elections are free and fair, I’ve observed that we tend to have the right person in the right position at the right time.

And even though we have a great variety of competing personalities and political philosophies in our great nation, the Scriptures say that we can pray for those who are in authority over us so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity (1 Timothy 2:2). Whether or not the candidate I vote for wins, I know that it’s my responsibility to pray for them. I respect our system and the president who is in office at the time, I think it’s wise for all of us to faithfully pray for their safety and wisdom.

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Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

 

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Responsible Citizens

Is Equality A Myth?

In our modern world most cultures wrestle continually with the idea of equality.

This is a current concern of mine because socialists and communists have used the equality argument as a ruse for the last 100 years to gain power and ultimately destroy countries. Millions are killed, poverty increases, and dictatorships are established under the banner of empowering the common man, uniting workers, and eliminating income disparity.

But I don’t think equality actually exists or can even be a realistic goal except in four areas:

  1. We all have equal access to God because of what Jesus did for us.
  2. We as Americans strive for equality under the law.
  3. We all die and step into eternity.
  4. We all have 24 hours in a day, no more and no less.

Other than these four areas, we are all different and will each live a unique life. Some of our characteristics will never change. Others will be difficult to change. Some factors in our lives will be determined by influences we can’t control. But for most of us, our lives will primarily consist of our choices and the results of our choices.

These realities point to the importance of parents, churches, schools, our choice of friends, our speech and actions, and the Bible.

On the subject of equality before God, Paul writes in Galatians 3:28, There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. The benefits obtained by Jesus’ death on the cross are equally available to all regardless of nationality, race, gender or social status. Those who study the Bible have no doubt that God’s view of social equality was revealed in the way Jesus confronted racial and gender discrimination.

Consequently, all of us who are Christians have a responsibility to model Christ’s attitude toward others. Jesus said, So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. Although we live in a world where there is inequality, we as Christians must not embrace that inequality, but instead, live our lives in a way that reveals God’s love and confronts unjust inequality.

However, in regard to economics, there are realistic differences. Most of you reading my blog live in free-market, capitalist democracies. The last 100 years have proven that free-market, capitalist democracies provide opportunities for people to improve their lives and the lives of others. They’ve also proven to make the most goods and services available to the highest percentage of people, more so than any other economic or governmental system in the world. In general, in countries like ours, more members of the population are better off than in any other system.

In fact, free market democracies require that we provide either goods or services desired by someone else in order to make a living. It makes sense that those who specialize in making goods or providing services that require greater skill and training will typically earn more than those who provide unskilled labor. And this is where a natural disparity in income justifiably exists.

Brain surgeons make more than people who work in a warehouse, and those who carry responsibility for assets, goods, and services make more than those who simply show up to work for a certain time, perform a task during that time, and go home with no ongoing responsibilities. The greater the service provided to others, and the number of people able to provide that service determines its value to others. And the value others place on our service is how wages are determined.

Everyone’s labor is not of equal value. It’s those we serve who determine the value of the goods we produce, the services we provide, and the responsibilities we carry. In our system, most of us have the freedom to determine what we will do for a living. We should keep in mind, though, that our choice will influence our earning ability, and that others will have the final say regarding our income, based on the value they place on our services or the products we produce. If what we do is valuable to them, they compensate us accordingly.

When we are contemplating education and careers, we need to remember that our training has to have value for others, and if lots of people can do what we choose, the compensation will be less. If fewer people have the skills to do what we do, and there is demand for what we do, our compensation will increase. In a free market system, wages are determined by how much other people want what we produce, how we serve them, and the value of the responsibilities we carry.

The voluntary exchange of goods and services responsibly delivered for money have to benefit both the producer and consumer, which is why coercion and monopolies are illegal. For free markets to work properly at setting wages and prices, producers and consumers, or employees and employers, have to be able to freely assess the value of the goods and services being produced. Values are subjective, and the value of any item is the price the purchaser is willing to pay. If markets are truly free, the greater the value placed upon goods or services, the greater the cost to those who want or need those goods or services, and, as a result, the greater the income to the provider.

Which brings me to prices and profits. If something is very profitable and the market is authentically free, then more people and companies will start to provide those same goods and services so they can earn a portion of those profits. This practice increases the supply, lowers the cost and thus the profits until it reaches an equilibrium of the greatest value at the least cost with adequate supply. This idea is why free market economies generally don’t have shortages or surpluses, and why our free market economies have high quality and value for the price.

That is unless the government gets unnecessarily involved.

Health care is impacted by these forces. Becoming a physician takes a great deal of training and sacrifice. If the rewards are adequate, many young men and women will be incentivized to become doctors because of the potential income and benefits their work will provide for them and their families, as well as for the clients they serve. Free markets will produce the right number and types of doctors, nurses, technicians, and hospitals needed for every community. The market will determine the number of doctors needed to meet the demand and it will compensate and incentivize men and women to make the sacrifices necessary to be highly trained. Over time, an equilibrium will be reached that will ensure the greatest value, at the least cost, with adequate supply.

If, however, the government limits the benefits of such sacrifice, the incentive for young men and women to become doctors is diminished and there will be a shortage. Then the government has two choices: lower the quality of training doctors receive so their sacrifice in training is less, or ration people’s access to medical care.

This formula applies to every occupation, which is why excessive government involvement often does not lead to improvement in society or make people better off – except, that is, government workers, because greater government involvement increases demand for government workers. The solution—limit excessive government involvement other than to provide the necessary regulations for fairness and honesty and let the market work competitively.

This brings me to the last subject: privilege.

As I pointed out in the opening paragraphs of this blog, and most would agree, racial discrimination and gender inequality are sinful and unjust. Every believer should use their influence to try to eliminate these erroneous views in their personal lives and in society at large. It follows then that a skewed perspective on privilege—thinking one person is born better than another—can be sinful and harmful as well. But there is no doubt that well-lived lives lead to benefits that appear to be privilege.

For example, if a child is born into a family in which their biological parents are in a committed, life-long, life-giving relationship, the child has greater odds of developing the skills and commitments necessary to earn a good living. If the parents are involved in a good life-giving church and wisely invest their income, then their child will have greater odds of being healthy spiritually, emotionally, and physically than others. Because this child has more exposure to healthy influences, their opportunities are improved which can strengthen their family for generations. Others who were raised differently might not have the same spiritual, emotional and physical discipline, and life will, in fact, be more difficult for them.

So privilege simply because of race or gender is immoral and needs to be confronted. But privilege that occurs because of wise decisions can be used to strengthen society.

In the United States, we all have great freedom to make wise decisions to grow spiritually and responsibly, but we also have the freedom to fail, bring shame on our families and leave our children with diminished opportunities.

So, is the equality that many politicians talk about a myth? I think so. But it is also a noble ideal. It’s noble to strive for gender and racial equality, and we should never grow weary in the struggle. We’ve made great advancements toward this end, but we must continue in the quest. We as Americans also strive for equality under the law, but in some respects, we’ve not yet achieved it and are still working on it. As human beings, we also have equality in access to God that is provided through his Son, Jesus, but not everyone responds to him.

And before we conclude that privilege is always negative, maybe we could look to the Scriptures and realize that as we grow in obedience to God by his grace, our children are assured that they are blessed, prayed for, and spiritually protected, and this leads to greater opportunities. Certainly, we don’t have to sacrifice toward a marketable skill, read the Scriptures, participate in a good church, or pray for our children. Not doing so, however, might make life a little more difficult for our families.

None of us has the power to change all of society, but all of us do have the power to change ourselves. Having universal equality may be a myth, and it may not even be smart or beneficial, but if we respond wisely to the equality and opportunities we do have, we can all be better off.

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This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

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Responsible Citizens

The Thirteen Folds

On November 20, 2018, my father-in-law, Col. Troy Alcorn, USAF Retired, was honored at his internment service at the Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His son-in-law, Command CMSgt Bobby Smith, USAF Retired, explained the meaning of the 13 folds of the flag-folding ceremony. I had never heard the official meaning of the folds, and thought you might be interested. 

If you’ve attended a funeral honoring a veteran who served our country, perhaps you witnessed the folding of the flag that once covered the casket of a loved one. Each of the 13 folds of the flag holds great significance.

And at the ceremony of retreat, a daily observance at bases during which all personnel pay respect to the flag, “the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle fold and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation’s honored dead. The next morning, it is brought out and, at the ceremony of reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.”

Please think about these respectfully:

  1. The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
  2. The second fold signifies our belief in eternal life.
  3. The third fold is made in honor and tribute of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace.
  4. The fourth fold exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens trusting in God; it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance.
  5. The fifth fold is an acknowledgment to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
  6. The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
  7. The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies.
  8. The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
  9. The ninth fold is an honor to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty, and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
  10. The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first-born.
  11. The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  12. The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
  13. The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”

This might be one of the blogs you would like to print out and keep. Or, maybe you would like to distribute this to your friends and family members. The flag folding ceremony has always been meaningful to me as one who has personally witnessed the struggles others face who do not enjoy our heritage, but after hearing this explanation, the ceremony is even more powerful to me.

Categories
Responsible Citizens

Change Is Inevitable; Improvement Optional

Paul instructed Timothy:

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For,

There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity – the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.

The book of Genesis describes how God created order from chaos, which is exactly what godly people do so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives, marked by godliness and dignity. Others, though, are never satisfied with existing order. They want change. And their goal is simply change for the sake of change, sometimes at any cost. I, too, believe that we should embrace change, but only as a means to create something better. Positive change produces greater peace and order and requires thoughtful people to shape it.

Sometimes human dissatisfaction grows out of injustice, bigotry, lack of opportunity, or repression. In these cases, challenging existing norms is justified, even necessary. Other times dissatisfaction is rooted within ourselves and, because we tend to blame others for our dissatisfaction, we challenge others or the existing norms in a way that creates chaos that actually makes our lives worse.

To illustrate, the American Revolution was rooted in change and led to our constitutional republic which allows for a continual, orderly evolution of government for the good of all. As a result, we’ve experienced over 200 years of orderly transitions of power that have adjusted to changing social norms. The lives of American citizens have steadily improved, and we are better off now than ever before. These changes have provided greater opportunities for improvement for all of us.

The opposite takes place when extremists’ revolutions lead to mass genocide, extreme poverty, starvation, abuse, the denial of civil liberties, and the establishment of dictatorships under the guise of promoting the common good. These types of revolutions use the language of empowering powerless people, but instead create chaos that allows the deceptive and power hungry to gain dictatorial power.

Since change is inevitable, we are all better off if necessary changes are directed by thoughtful people.

Gayle and I have recently watched the first two seasons of the Amazon Prime TV series The Man in the High Tower. So far, it has depicted the situation that might have developed if America hadn’t used the bomb to end World War II, thus allowing Germany time to develop the bomb, destroy Washington, and win the war. In the series, Nazi Germany and Japan divide the United States with the east ruled by a Nazi dictator and the west ruled by a Japanese Emperor.

While watching this series, we read the acclaimed Robert K. Massie biography of Nicholas and Alexandra, the history of the last Czar of Russia and his family who were ultimately assassinated. At that time, many Russians were promoting the idea of changing the government to a republic, while others were demanding more extreme changes. The chaos that ensued during these shifting times created an opportunity for Lenin to form a communist dictatorship that led to more poverty, genocide, and abuse than any single governmental system in the history of the world.

We engaged in reading this historical biography and watching the TV series while we also were experiencing the 2018 mid-term election season. Because of what we were watching and reading, I was keenly aware of how quickly nations can come and go. So I became somewhat concerned for the state of our nation as violent discord and an unusual lack of civility gripped our public discourse.

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I asked some of my friends where they thought the chaos was coming from. Most simply blamed one or the other of the political parties. But several of them pointed me to Saul Alinsky’s book, Rules for Radicals,which I have now read.

Alinsky argues that people must take risks to force change, assuming that change will produce improvement the majority of the time. He claims that he is not a promoter of any particular ideology, but that he wants to encourage radicals to force change for the sake of change. He also encourages radical intervention for any powerless group that wants to take power. But since he wrote his book in 1971, he did not have the benefit of the lessons we’ve learned during the last fifty years from disastrous revolutionary movements that took place in the last century—the failure of Stalinist ideals, the mass genocides, poverty, and abuses that have been attributed to totalitarian regimes.  Yet strikingly, even though his book lacks the wisdom we’ve gained in recent history, the ideas it promotes are being embraced by some in our current political discourse and they are negatively impacting the civility we have earned and enjoyed. As I read it, I was starkly reminded that change happens, but when those who lack wisdom and thoughtfulness direct it, the outcome is disasterous.

In contrast, we can benefit from the wisdom we’ve gained over time. For example, we’re all aging, but we’ve learned we will enjoy higher quality aging if we eat good food, exercise, learn, and engage in social interactions. Children will become adults, but we’ve learned their odds of becoming healthy adults is increased if their parents stay married, they enjoy learning, they are socially involved, and they regularly attend a good life-giving church.

Change is inevitable, so we all must wisely direct change to improve our families, our communities, our workplaces, and our churches. And THIS is exactly why the Bible is so important.

No other book in the history of the world has led to so much opportunity, prosperity, freedom, mutual respect, wholesome family life, and healthy community as the Bible. The Book That Made Your World, How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, by Vishal Mangalwadi,  and the book How Christianity Changed the World,by Alvin J. Schmidt are excellent reads that explain why Western Civilization, built on Judeo-Christian principles looks so different than other civilizations.

The opening Scripture in this blog exhorts us to pray for those in authority. When we pray, read our Bibles, and fellowship with other believers, we have to contemplate time-proven ideas. The purpose of reading books, thinking about trends in history that help or hurt, or discussing ideas in a way that helps everyone gain understanding, is so that we can all improve. Sometimes that might lead to a revolution. Other times it simply inspires us to live wisely.

Many “progressive” ideas do not create progress at all. They are instead a return to failed 20th century theories that proved to be counterproductive. So, since change is inevitable, let’s thoughtfully direct it based on the wisdom we’ve gained, rather than repeat the failed leftist ideas of the past. Instead, let’s learn from the past and thoughtfully direct change so that it will create opportunities for improvement for everyone.

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Categories
Responsible Citizens

Elections and Wisdom in Our Great Country

I like being a middle-aged man. I don’t get as excited about current events as I used to. For example, though some elections go my way and others don’t, I have learned that as long as they are free and fair, the right person ends up in the right place most of the time. And when we elect the wrong person, our constitutional system of checks and balances works just fine. So I’ve participated in every election since I was 18 years old. I vote, but I don’t scream at others in the street.

The same is true with my faith. I know the Bible is the Word of God, Jesus is the Son of God, and that Earth is not Heaven, so events on Earth don’t get me all bothered. Here on the Earth, there are lots of influences that do not reflect God’s best plan for people. But in Heaven, God’s perfect goodness dominates all. Here on Earth, I’ve seen nations come and go. Some have lost their freedom; others have gained it. Some spiral into chaos; others find order and good government. I have a strong political philosophy that protects people’s freedoms and allows them to acquire the goods and services that they need. But I’m not the only one possessing conviction, so sometimes others prevail.

Personally, I’ve had very good days, and very bad days, but in the midst of both, I stay pretty steady. I’m not saying I don’t get mildly emotional sometimes, but I have never been mad at God. I’m secure in God’s forgiveness and love, so I can rest.

Job said to his counselors (whose advice sounded good and would be popular today, but in God’s estimation missed the mark),

Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old. But true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are his.

We witnessed contrasting opinions and motivations play out in the highly politicized Kavanaugh hearings. For those of you who don’t remember, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump to the Supreme Court during the passionate 2018 mid-term election season. From the outset Democrat senators opposed his nomination and Republicans favored it. After the private and public hearings, FBI investigations, validation by the American Bar Association, and the predictable bantering of special interest groups, the judiciary committee was ready to vote pretty much along party lines.

Then, everything exploded when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school drinking party. At the time our nation was already sensitized to sexual abuse by the powerful against vulnerable victims and, no doubt, Americans did not want a sexual abuser on our highest court. I’ll spare you the drama that went on as a result of this accusation, and the bandwagon effect that created other similar accusations. Rather let’s fast forward to today.

Kavanaugh is now on the Supreme Court, and the cameras, hype, and spin associated with Judge Kavanaugh have moved on to newer stories. Those accusers who jumped on the bandwagon have all been discredited, and Dr. Ford has become a millionaire. And it’s been reported that she will write a book, which will probably lead to a book tour.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee released a massive 414-page report revealing their findings. Among them, the report summarizes a statement from a man who believes he may have been involved in an encounter with Dr. Ford around the time of the sexual misconduct incident she attributes to Kavanaugh.

Interestingly, Dr. Ford testified that the assault was hampered because she was wearing a bathing suit under her clothes, and that Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, playfully jumped on top of them and they fell off the bed, stopping the assault.

The man mentioned in the 414-page report, whose name was redacted in the publicly released document, claimed exactly that scenario. The man told the investigators that when he was a 19-year old college student, he had visited Washington over spring break and kissed a girl he believes was Dr. Ford. “He said that the kiss happened in the bedroom of a house which was about a 15-to 20-minute walk from the Van Ness Metro, that Dr. Ford was wearing a swimsuit under her clothing, and that the kissing ended when a friend jumped on them as a joke,” the report said.

Senate Investigators interviewed this man before Dr. Ford testified before the committee, which was before these details were publicly known.

According to the report, this man and Judge Kavanaugh looked very much alike at that time.

The man also reported to investigators that the encounter was consensual.

The point of this blog is not to validate Judge Kavanaugh or the Senate Report. These reports might be mitigated in the future. But the point of this blog is to simply say that we Christians need not be emotionally moved by every trending story. Instead we need to be powerful in prayer, active in responsible participation in our democratic system of government, and, regardless of what happens, trust the Lord.

With that in mind, it might be wise to:

  • Read your Bible every day for perspective,
  • Pray every day, which will give you peace,
  • And attend church at least once a week, which will center your life.

Proverbs 3:7 says,

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.

Let’s do that.