Here Comes the Virus

If you’re like me, you hear American government officials and experts assure us that there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to Ebola and you wonder if they just don’t want us to panic. It spreads like HIV (and even then for only a few days) and therefore is highly controllable. Most fears are overblown, fear-mongering, especially if Donald Trump says it.

And then you watch the news, hear the doctors talk about it being out of control, and well… c’mon it sure seems like Ebola spreads a bit easier than HIV. Like one comment tweeted to the CDC, I feel like asking:

“We are told it can only spread through contact with bodily fluids-similar to HIV. But seems more contagious than HIV? Why?”

The CDC assured the tweeter that yes Ebola is spread like HIV and you need close contact with bodily fluids, and then only in a certain window of time.  Ok. Granted.

But…ummmm….

That’s not exactly like HIV, which takes more than mere “close contact.”

HIV is NOT spread through touch, tears, sweat, or saliva.  So says WebMD anyway.

Ebola evidently is.

The bodily fluids that do transmit HIV -like blood for instance- “must come into contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into your bloodstream (by a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur.”  So says the government. I added the italics.

The CDC, however, makes no mention of Ebola needing to come into contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue.  To catch Ebola, the CDC says you need only come in “direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person.”  They go on to explain that it spreads in hospitals where people are not wearing “protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves.”

Then when you go to the Canadian Health Department, it gets scary.  They add that people are at risk when, and I quote: “handling the bodies of deceased humans in preparation for funerals, suggesting possible transmission through aerosol droplets.” That explains the need for gloves and “protective equipment.”

Then shockingly, they follow up with, “In the laboratory, infection through small-particle aerosols has been demonstrated in primates, and airborne spread among humans is strongly suspected, although it has not yet been conclusively demonstrated.”

Again I added the italics because I was sitting there going “whaaaat???”

They end by saying poor hygienic conditions can aid the spread of the virus.

Ok, maybe the Canadians are fear-mongering despite the fact they are not named Donald Trump.  I don’t know. I’m not a researcher or any sort of an expert on Ebola or other pathogens.  Neither is it surprising that there is conflicting information about a disease we haven’t fully understood yet.

Nevertheless, it seems a bit obvious that Ebola is spread, and is spreading easier and faster than HIV does. The amount of close contact it takes to spread Ebola is much more casual, which is one reason why doctors don’t have to wear spacesuit-looking gear when taking care of a patient with HIV.

Hopefully, we will get all of these things ironed out, and the US government is not just trying to make us feel better.  Although, between you and me, don’t you just feel like it’s just a matter of time before someone in America gets carried into a hospital and tests positive? I hope not. I’m probably just thinking like this because I’m trying to quit diet soda.

So onto the big question:

Why God? Why did you ever invent anything like HIV or Ebola? Or E Coli for that matter??

If Genesis is correct and God created everything, then one would predict in the beginning everything was “good” like the Bible said.  Since then, however, everything would be breaking down.  The Bible says this started when sin entered the world.  The universe might have been created in perfect balance at one time, but when death and decay became part of the equation, we started to get more and more out of balance.  So a creation point of view would predict viruses or bacteria would get worse over time because they would break down, mutate, or get out of where they were supposed to be.

There’s an article on this you might be interested in, so I won’t go into as much detail, but suffice it to say that many viruses actually serve purposes, or at least didn’t kill us.  One virus was recently discovered that almost every human being has, which scientists theorize is meant to keep the bacteria inside our gut (we need bacteria) in balance.  In fact without bacteria, the world would die. Turns out at least some viruses play a bit of symbiotic role with them and thus… are actually necessary.  The implication is originally, before mutations took their toll, or the environment changed for the worse, that all these things were in balance, living where they were suppose to live, and doing what they were supposed to do.  You have “good”  E coli inside you right now, but there is one strain which lost some DNA somewhere that will make you sick now.  Creation would predict that sort of thing.

Which means that if Genesis is right, then Ebola would be expected to have had some purpose, or some place where it could exist and not harm humans.  For instance, the ocean is full of viruses but sharks and sea life still exist. (However, mutations or changes in that balance could also cause once harmless viruses or bacteria to cause problems. Like with the starfish dying off.)

So why did God create Ebola? I have no idea, but I bet in the beginning it didn’t harm anyone.  I bet  eventually we will discover it played a helpful role somehow. And ironically, if people followed God’s instructions on life, food, etc… We would have avoided many of those viruses. Weird, huh? It’s almost like he knew….

See, HIV didn’t wipe out the primates where it originally lived, and syphilis wasn’t killing sheep right and left either.  Originally, things were in more balance.

Or as the Bible said, it was good.

Since sin entered the world, however, the earth is slowly “wearing out like a garment”. (Psalm 102:25-26 and Isaiah 51:6)

I’m convinced God is letting the ship sink slowly (the earth) so people will look for the lifeboats.

Thinking About Hope when Life is Unfair

A classmate of mine passed away a couple of weeks ago, and he was probably one of the best of guys I’ve known.  Funny.  Humble. He was a walking definition of sincerity.  It’s people like him who make death at 46 years old seem very unfair.  Unfortunately, it’s been a month of unfairness.  Another friend of mine had a classmate pass away, and just tonight, a 17-year old student who has attended our church and made many friends has died in an apparent tragic accident.

This is the point I’m supposed to ask where is God.  If God exists, these things shouldn’t happen so randomly perhaps.  If God exists, there should be some semblance of rhyme and reason involved.  There should be a why.  Otherwise God is either hiding or ignoring us, or he doesn’t exist at all.

Something like that.

To be fair to God, He made something I consider good come out of the death of my classmate.  He gave my classmate real hope.  See, my friend had always been an atheist because when he was young his dad had died.  My classmate couldn’t understand why, and rejected any belief in God as a result. Things changed in him when he faced own death.  And it didn’t change as you might imagine. Continue reading

God Help Us Indeed Mr. Stein

Ben Stein is a guy who’s articles I like to read, especially when it comes to tough issues.  Agree or disagree, Stein is always thoughtful.  Often, Stein sees things everyone else misses, especially the things that are right there in front of us.

He recently did a piece on the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which he kept coming back to the same conclusion:  “God help us.”

Perfect response to Sandy Hook in my opinion.

There are plenty of things to understand as to why God didn’t stop bullets in mid-air at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December 2012, which are the same things to understand in regards to genocide in 1940 by Hitler, or the Turks in 1915, or Khmer Rouge in the 70’s, or the 10 people gunned down in Chicago the other day, et al….

One of the most basic is simply that God commanded mankind not to murder, but people ignore God, then often blame God for letting them ignore him. We haven’t changed much. Instead of recognizing our failure as human beings in an instance like Sandy Hook, another in a long line, we’re looking for someone else to blame like we have since the beginning. See Genesis 3.

But let’s think it through… IF there is a God who commanded us not to murder, as the Scripture says there is, and IF we have also proven incapable of keeping ourselves and our society from killing the most innocent among us, then it would follow that at some point our logical response would be: God help us! Obviously it appears at times like this, our entire society could use some help. And on a deeper level, I wonder if this must be a big part of the reason why God doesn’t put an end to us already, but instead allows us to fail for a time.  Thus, he allows us to suffer the consequences of our own failures, and to arrive at moments like this one when we desperately reach out to him.  Romans 11:32 said as much.   And as He has proven time and again, anyone who reaches out to Him for help-finds grace.

Is it such a crazy idea? When it comes to the national issues, the thorny political questions, even here it has become obvious that we could use God’s wisdom and help.  The status quo is unacceptable.  Christian politicians and leaders, believers in God in general, could fall to their knees and ask for that wisdom and guidance.  We could let God guide us as we rethink our rules and laws, and look for sensible and fair policies that could limit such tragedies.  Or at the very least, God could help us understand and cope, and show us the areas where we could focus our national and local efforts, and do the most good.  Even more importantly, we could be more bold about the existence of God and the importance of becoming a nation that does not ignore Him. This is a debate worth having.

After all, He commanded us not to murder each other, and at the moment, we’re not doing so well.  What happens when we have to answer to Him for the way we have handled ourselves?

Now This is What It’s All About

The body of Christ is often known more for its conflicts than its cooperation.  At least, that seems to be the perception of the world, or maybe it’s just an excuse? (Sometimes I do wonder.)  At any rate, I’ve been a pastor for nearly 16 years, a Christian since I was a kid, and what people are seeing in Joplin, Missouri has actually been the norm in my experience. For example, from our small, rural community -which is a good 3 hour drive from the tornado devastation- a team of 66 workers made up largely from the Christian Church, the Baptist Church, and the local hospital staff, spent a full day cleaning tornado debris with Samaritan’s Purse.  Different churches with differences over a few doctrines, working together because of Christ.  It happens more than you think, and there is probably less hesitation than you imagine.  In fact, churches often jump at a chance to work together on such projects.  I think there is something about enjoying unity and working together where names, titles, and buildings play no part whatsoever.

It’s just the way it’s supposed to be.  The way it WILL be eventually.

Like the Bible says in I Corinthians 13:2… “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing… there are more pressing matters than being able to figure out all the mysteries, or having all the knowledge, or accomplishing great feats of faith.  With God, none of that matters if there isn’t real, lived-out, love.

It’s no accident that when telling 3 parables having to do with the end of the world and a coming judgment, Jesus final story was about love.  In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus describes the nations being divided before Him on judgment day, and the reason for the division was that one side had given water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, and had met the needs of those who were destitute and devastated.  The other group had not. Continue reading

Tornadoes in Joplin, and a Loving God

I have friends in Joplin, Missouri, but I’m one of the lucky ones. My friends survived. Two of them lost their home. Another was at his church on Sunday night, and the church was close to the path of the EF5 twister which ravaged a city of 50,000, but it missed them by a few blocks.  Unfortunately, one friend of mine did lose her grandfather in the storm, and some friends of friends were killed as well.  One died while heroically trying to save someone else.  Stories and memories that will live on with us.

Facebook helped many of us keep tabs on each other and when cell phones occasionally worked, we contacted each other that way, too. It’s not my first experience with feeling close to an EF5. I received my last tetanus shot on the sidewalk in Greensburg, Kansas courtesy of a friendly lady from the Red Cross. I believe Greensburg was the last EF5 to hit before this year although I might be wrong. I’ve read that generally those monsters develop and touch down about once every four years. With four EF5 tornadoes this year alone, we’re definitely above the average. The crazy weather combined with all the other disasters and unrest around the world has people talking about Bible Prophecy, but sometimes the questions are more personal.

Why would God allow a high school senior returning from a graduation ceremony to get sucked out of the sunroof of his SUV where he was riding with his father? Why didn’t God miraculously keep him from being hurt like God kept others safe? Why didn’t God at least let the family find him after it happened?  It took days to discover his body in a pond.  Another 15-month old was found at a morgue.  Many other bodies took weeks to identify and families had to wait those weeks to officially discover a loved one’s fate.  Quite often, the happy miraculous ending we would hope for, didn’t happen.
Continue reading

An Eternity of Torment?

Franklin Graham said it recently during an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, “There IS a hell”  Graham said as he tried to explain how he came to believe in Jesus in answer to O’Donnell’s question on whether or not Graham had given up everything to follow Jesus.  In his round-about answer, Graham warned that people would go to a literal hell if they rejected God.   The idea of hell and/or eternal punishment is a traditional  doctrine of Christianity, one that has fallen out of favor in today’s culture.  In fact, the very thought of it, is an obstacle to many in considering the Christian faith.  For them, hell makes the whole story a bit too unreasonable.  Is it? 

Continue reading

Hope in the Midst of Crisis

Some of the “prophetic” words of Jesus sound eerily similar to the daily news coming from around the world these days, which gives many of us a pause. Yet we shouldn’t pause too long because He also had words of encouragement and a message of hope. In a moment, I’ll get to what Jesus said precisely, but for now, I think it’s worth noting that the entire Christian belief system is built on a hope, an assurance from God, that He will provide during the toughest of times.

Some interpret the Bible, or insist philosophically, that God should rescue us from these tough times in the first place. Isn’t that what a loving God would do? And if He doesn’t, He’s either not loving, or not real. It’s the same argument used by one of thieves crucified next to Jesus. In one moment, that guy was hurling insults at Jesus, and in the next, he was demanding Jesus prove Himself by rescuing them all from death. Continue reading