Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Jonathan Edwards and the Lost Art of Dying Well

Members of Ralph Bullard's Family, April 25, 2020
He was only 54 years old when he died.

An epidemic of smallpox had swept through the eastern seaboard. People were dying by the tens of thousands. 1 in 6 people who caught the disease perished.

Doctors began asking people to vaccinate against smallpox.

The vaccination procedure was primitive. A pustule from a sick, infected victim of smallpox would be cut open. The pus would be squeezed out and mixed with a rubbing matter.

The infected matter would be carried by a doctor to a house where healthy people lived. The doctor would make small incisions between the thumbs and index fingers of those who had never been infected with smallpox. The rubbing matter would be placed over the open cuts and wrapped with cloths. If all went well, those vaccinated would endure a mild case of the pox and go on to live healthy lives without fear of catching the full-blown disease.

But the people were too afraid to receive the smallpox vaccination.

The 54-year-old newly elected President of Princeton University wasn't afraid. He trusted God.

Jonathan Edwards was the closest thing to a celebrity that America had in 1758. Serving as a pastor before his appointment at Princeton, Edwards' preaching had become the spark that led America to a Great Awakening.

As a teenager, Jonathan Edwards had written 70 Resolutions for Life. Every New Year's Day,  Edwards personally renewed his pledge to live by his resolutions for life. The ninth one states:
"Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death."
For most Americans today, that resolution sounds morbid. That's because we've lost the art of dying well. Actually, this resolution #9, if applied, would help all of us die as well as Jonathan Edwards did in the prime of his life.

Dr. William Shippen, a Princeton doctor who would later serve as a delegate to the Continental Congress, administered the smallpox vaccination to President Jonathan Edwards. The newspapers reported the event, hoping to encourage other New Jersey citizens to get the treatment themselves.

At first, things went normal. Edwards came down with a mild case of the pox, and he appeared to be on the mend.

But then smallpox spread into his mouth and throat, making swallowing difficult.

Jonathan Edwards knew that he was dying.

He'd moved to Princeton only a few months earlier to serve as President of the school (then known as The College of New Jersey). His wife had not yet made it to Princeton. Jonathan Edwards had co-founded the school with his good friend Aaron Burr, Sr., whose sudden death by fever in the fall of 1757 had precipitated Edwards's appointment. Edwards' daughter, Esther Edwards, had married Mr. Burr, and their son Aaron Burr, Jr. would go on to become Vice-President of the United States. Most Americans only know of Jonathan Edward's grandson, Aaron Burr, Jr., for his killing of Alexander Hamilton in a famous duel, an event made even more memorable by the Broadway musical play Hamilton.

As Jonathan Edwards lay on his death bed, messengers sent for his wife. But Sarah Edwards would not make it to Princeton to see her husband before he died. When Jonathan Edwards realized his wife wouldn't make it, he called for Lucy, his daughter, who'd moved with him to Princeton. He said to her:
"Dear Lucy, it seems to me to be the will of God that I must shortly leave you; therefore give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her, that the uncommon union, which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature, as I trust is spiritual, and therefore will continue forever: and I hope she will be supported under so great a trial, and submit cheerfully to the will of God. And as to my children, you are now like to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father, who will never fail you. And as to my funeral, I would have it be like Mr. Burr’s; and any additional sum of money that might be expected to be laid out that way, I would have it disposed of to charitable uses."
Jonathan Edward's had attended Mr. Burr's funeral the previous fall and was impressed with its simplicity and its charity. There were no ornate decorations, nor an ornate casket or headstone, both customary in Edward's day.  Mr. Burr had instructed all the money that his family would save to go to charitable causes.

As the hour of his death approached, friends and Dr. William Shippen stood near President Edwards and discussed the significant loss coming to the college, to the American colonies, and to the world at large through President Edwards' death. Nobody thought Jonathan Edwards could hear the conversation, but he raised his head up from his bed and spoke clearly to the group:
"Trust in God, and ye need not fear."
At 2:30 pm, the afternoon of March 22, 1758, Jonathan Edwards died of smallpox at the age of 54. Dr. Shippen sent a letter to his widow:
"This afternoon, between two and three o’clock, it pleased God to let him sleep in that dear Lord Jesus, whose kingdom and interest he has been faithfully and painfully serving all his life. And never did any mortal man more fully and clearly evidence the sincerity of all his professions, by one continued, universal, calm, cheerful resignation, and patient submission to the divine will, through every stage of his disease, than he; not so much as one discontented expression, nor the least appearance of murmuring, through the whole."
Sarah Edwards would later write to her daughter these words of comfort and
"My very dear Child, what shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud! …The Lord has done it. He has made me adore His goodness that we had him so long. But my God lives: and He has my heart. Oh, what a legacy my husband and your father has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be."
In our day, when families are panicked over the possible death of loved ones and when individuals are anxious and fearful over their own mortality, it's good for us to reflect on the past lives of God's faithful servants and the art of dying well.

The Death of Ralph Bullard

Ralph Bullard
This last week, one of my earthly heroes died.

He and his family have learned the art of dying well.

Ralph Bullard is my maternal uncle by marriage. He loved American history, the Scriptures, and people. He could talk with you in fantastic detail about the lives of the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, and great Americans like Jonathan Edwards.

Ralph knew the circumstances surrounding Jonathan Edward's death, and more importantly, he knew the One who holds the keys of life and death.

Last week, Ralph's family gathered around him as he lay dying. There were loving words spoken, humble prayers offered, and gentle remembrances given from those who had gathered.

As Ralph took his last breath, his wife Starley, with one hand on his chest, lifted her other hand toward the heavens, and declared in a soft voice:
"Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of His saints." Psalm 116:15
One needs not to fear what God calls precious.

We should anticipate it, even look forward to it. When that moment comes, our death will be turned by God into a powerful resurrection from the dead, and with it, God will grant the gift of immortal life.

To cherish what God calls precious requires us to reacquire the lost art of dying well.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Should a Christian Always Obey the Government?

I have a fairly high profile in the city where I serve as a pastor (Enid, Oklahoma). When you live in the same city for thirty years, people get to know you, and you get to know them.

Mayor George Pankonin and I are friends, as are City Manager Jerald Gilbert and I.  George, Jerald, and U.S. Senator James Lankford, were my guests on a live online broadcast three weeks ago. Enid Councilman David Mason will be my guest next week. Senator Lankford and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt have each come to Enid at my invitation to speak to civic clubs or to the church I serve.

That's why it probably stings a little when I'm vocal against Emergency Orders issued by our state and local government leaders. I've spoken with all of them privately about my feelings, but I sensed (and saw) last Tuesday night at the Enid City Council meeting that our local leaders are being pressured by some to extend the city's Emergency Order.

My opposition to an Emergency Order is not personal; it is based upon principle. Besides the disparity of allowing national chains to remain open while our local small business owners suffer, there are two major issues with government Emergency Orders.
1. The government encroachment into private businesses, ordering them closed without due process, is supremely unconstitutional, especially when there's been no "emergency" in a shortage of hospital ICU capacity (the original reason given for the EO).
2. The thousands of lives being wrecked and destroyed in the effort to save "even one life" from Covid-19 is immoral, for we unintentionally destroy far more lives in the cure than does the disease itself.
But Doesn't Romans 13 Tell Christians to Obey the Government Authorities?  

Some of my Christian friends are asking, "As a Christian, aren't we supposed to obey the government? Isn't that what Romans 13 teaches?"

No. The Scripture nowhere teaches that Christians are to obey leaders. We are called to respect them.

Howard Zinn (1922-2010), a socialist leader in the Civil Rights movement once made this accurate observation:
"Historically, the most terrible things: war, genocide, and slavery, have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience." 
But doesn't Romans 13:1 tell us to obey government authorities? It reads:
"Everyone must submit to the governing authorities."  
Most Christians wrongly think that the word "submit" means "obey."  It doesn't.

Paul escaping the governor of Damascus
The Apostle Paul wrote Romans 13:1.

He had been living in the city of Damascus, Syria. A local governor issued an order for Paul's arrest.

Paul found out about the order to turn himself into governing authorities.

Did Paul obey them? No. He hid in a basket as friends lowered him down from atop the city wall, and Paul escaped (see Acts 9:23-31).

That doesn't sound like obedience to governing authorities, does it?

The Apostle Peter wrote something similar to Paul. "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men" (I Peter 2:13).

Yet Peter, arrested by King Herod for "crimes against the state" and ordered to stand trial, escaped from jail the night prior to the trial. Does that sound like obedience to government authorities?

Are Paul and Peter hypocrites? No, they are not.

The word submit used in Romans 13:1 and I Peter 2:13 does not mean "to obey."  It's the same word used in Ephesians 5:21 when Christians are called to submit to "one another," and in Ephesians 5:22, "wives (submit) to husbands."  Christian men and women, Christian husbands and wives, are to submit to one another like Christians are to submit to governing authorities.

The Greek word translated submit is hupo-tasso.  It literally means to arrange stuff respectfully in an "orderly manner underneath." Submission means I am respectful to those that God places in my life, voluntarily yielding to them when I am persuaded by their arguments.  

Christian husbands must persuade their wives and Christian wives must persuade their husbands. Likewise, governments must persuade their subjects. Submit means that Christians respect those placed in their lives by God for the purpose of social order, but it never means blind obedience. Submission involves a voluntary act of one's will. 

A Christian can submit to authority while disobeying authority. For obedience to occur, a  Christian must be convinced of the propriety, legality, and beneficiality of an action. "To obey" is completely different than "to submit."

Respectful Dissent and the Willingness to Pay the Price Is Submission

A Christian activist may protest a law, ordinance, or Emergency Order through a social media campaign, a sit-in, or outright disobedience.

For a Christian to submit (Romans 13:1) while disobeying government authorities means that the Christian is respectful and civil, but unconvinced of the morality of the action demanded, and is willing to pay the price for the dissent.

The Christian understands authorities may wish to arrest him. The Christian doesn't fear losing friends who don't understand because he's protesting for the betterment of his friends and other people, not himself. The Christian doesn't worry about being shut out from future honors or appointments.  The Christian always speaks kindly of those who disagree.

That's submission. 
Submission is a respectful attitude, an engaged mind, and a willing participation. 
Blind obedience is the opposite of Christian living, whether it be blind obedience at your church, in your home, or participating in your civic duty. 

Blind obedience is, in fact, detrimental to society and harmful personally. Tyranny forces to obedience. Liberty persuades to compliance. 

Government officials are appointed by God to bring about order and we respect them for their role.

But there may come a time in our lives when we. on the basis of principle, may disobey governing authorities.

Let's all be submissive about it when we do. 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

A Baptist Pastor Resisting Government Overreach

Pastor Obadiah Holmes about to be whipped (AD 1651)
The following article is courtesy of the New England Historical Society

It's the story of a Baptist pastor in America who became an enemy of the state. The brutal treatment he received at the hands of a tyrannical government, all in the name of public good, became the impetus for America's "separation of church and state." 

It's a story that not many people know, but many have heard of this Baptist pastor's great-grandson (5x) - President Abraham Lincoln.

In our day of unconstitutional government overreach, I offer up the story of Obadiah Holmes


The Puritan leaders of Massachusetts viewed Obadiah Holmes as a loathsome Baptist, and they ordered him whipped 30 times in public. They probably should have thought twice about doing so.

In Puritan eyes, crimes against their religion were far worse than crimes against property. They punished blasphemy with the whip, the Bilbo, the brand or the ear Hcrop.

But the savage beating of Obadiah Holmes brought international attention to the very ideas the Puritans wanted to suppress.

As he stood at the whipping post, Obadiah Holmes provoked a Puritan magistrate to a debate over his beliefs. Several centuries later, one of his descendants would ride his debating skill to the presidency of the United States.

Obadiah Holmes was baptized March 18, 1610, in Didsbury, England in the county of Lancashire. He had a restless soul, a pugnacious spirit, a hot temper and a tendency to find fault. As a boy, he rebelled against his religious parents. “I minded nothing but folly, and vanity,” he wrote. After his mother died, he blamed himself for her death and changed his ways.
At 21, Obadiah Holmes married Katherine Hyde, and they had nine children. Together they ‘braved the dangers of the sea’ to come to Massachusetts in the Great Puritan Migration. He started a glassmaking business in Salem, but moved to Rehoboth in Plymouth Colony. There he led a small group of Baptists who opposed infant baptism.

A grand jury — included William Bradford, John Alden and Miles Standish — indicted Obadiah Holmes for heresy. So he and his family left Plymouth for Newport, R.I., in 1650.

In Newport he quickly associated with Baptist ministers John Crandall and John Clarke, a prominent advocate of religious freedom.

The Fateful Trip to Lynn

In the summer of 1651, the three men took a mission trip to an elderly Baptist man in the town of Lynn, just north of Boston. While they held a small religious service in the old man’s home, two constables burst in, arrested them and took them to jail in Boston.

A court found the three men guilty of a half-dozen crimes of heresy and fined John Clarke 20 pounds, John Crandall 5 pounds and Obadiah Holmes 30 pounds. Friends of Clarke and Crandall paid the fine. Holmes refused to let them.

On July 31, 1651, a magistrate sentenced Obadiah Holmes to 30 lashes, one for each pound he owed. Holmes proclaimed,“I bless God I am counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus.”

Obadiah Holmes awaited his whipping for five weeks in a Boston jail. Roger Williams heard about his sentence, and he sent a blistering letter to Gov. Endecott for persecuting people for their religious beliefs.

The Whipping

On Sept. 5, 1651, a crowd gathered around the whipping post in Boston to watch the flogging. Obadiah Holmes asked to speak, but Magistrate Encrease Nowell refused. Holmes spoke anyway, saying he was about to shed his blood for what he believed. Nowell said it was no time for debate.
“I am to suffer for … the Word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ,” said Obadiah Holmes.
“No, it is for your error and going about to seduce the people,” Nowell said.
The two men continued to debate as the executioner tore off Holmes’ clothes.

Then the executioner tied him to the whipping post and lashed him 30 times with a three-corded whip.

When the whipping ended, a bleeding, panting Obadiah Holmes said:
 "You have struck me as with roses."
The whipping left his skin so raw and painful he couldn’t lie down, but rested on his knees and elbows for days.

“Those who have seen the scars on Mr. Holmes’ back (which the old man was wont to call the marks of the Lord Jesus), have expressed a wonder that he should live,” wrote Joseph Jenckes, a Rhode Island governor.

After Obadiah Holmes recovered enough to travel, he returned to Newport where family and friends welcomed him four miles outside the town. The next year he took over as pastor of the Newport Church, the second Baptist church in America. He held the position for 30 years until his death.
An Ill Wind

News spread fast and far about the savage whipping and the persecution of the Baptists in Massachusetts. In the end it resulted in more, not less, religious freedom.

If the Puritans intended to intimidate heretics by it, they failed. Two years after the whipping of Obadiah Holmes, Harvard President Henry Dunster wouldn’t have his infant son baptized.

John Clarke turned the persecution of Baptists into an international cause celebre. He went to England and wrote a book called Ill Newes in New England. It included a letter from Obadiah Holmes describing his whipping.

Richard Saltonstall, a prominent Puritan founder of Massachusetts then in London, read the book. He sent a letter to the Puritan pastors in the colony and berated them for ‘tyranny and persecutions in New England.’

President Abraham Lincoln
At the time, the dissenters of Rhode Island felt very much persecuted by Connecticut and Massachusetts. The two colonies wanted to divide Rhode Island and absorb it. Rhode Island needed a royal charter to survive.

Clarke spent a decade in England as an agent for the colony of Rhode Island. When King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, Clarke lobbied him for a charter. Charles had little use for Puritans. They had, after all, beheaded his father.

Clarke drafted the Rhode Island Royal Charter and Charles approved it in July 1663. The charter granted unprecedented religious freedom in Rhode Island and remained in effect for 180 years.

Obadiah Holmes died Oct. 15, 1682, in Newport, R.I.

His great-great-great-great-great-grandson, Abraham Lincoln, was elected the 16th president of the United States.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!" Has Turned Into "Take My Liberty and Keep Me from Dying!"

Photo: Dietmar Rabich (Wikimedia)
Some of my Christian friends think I'm a liberal. They know that I believe in equal rights for men and women in church and society. They also know that I believe two people in a homosexual marriage should have the same rights as all American citizens.

On the other hand, some of my non-Christian friends think that I'm a conservative. They know that I believe peace with God is found through faith in Jesus Christ, that the Bible is God's Word to mankind, and that all events fall under God's sovereign and good plan. Though I hold to these Christian beliefs strongly, I never want them forced on others.

In short, I believe in liberty. Individual liberty; not political conformity.

Our Founding Fathers understood the importance of liberty. They called it a Natural Right. That kind of human right is something that Nature, or Nature's God (per The Declaration of Independence) gives to every human being.

Natural Rights are universal, unalienable, and concurrent. That means, if one is removed, all others are lost.

The three Natural Rights identified by our Founding Fathers are:

We're living in a time when Americans are in danger of losing these Natural Rights. As time goes by, more and more government encroachment and intrusion occurs in our lives, our properties, our businesses, and our churches. We are living in a day when the government has ordered shut private businesses, closed corporate churches, and forced individuals to shelter in their homes - under threat of arrest - over fear of spreading Covid-19.

Americans are afraid of death. And because of that fear, it's hard for most Americans to comprehend that the loss of liberty is worse than death.

But our Founding Fathers understood.

Patrick Henry, just a few months before the start of the Revolutionary War (1776), gave a speech at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. The auditorium was full of pastors from Virginia considering whether they should go home and lead their people to form a militia to fight for freedom from the tyranny of England. King George of England had stolen colonial property, broken contractual promises, and imprisoned colonial pastors, all in the name of "public good."

Patrick Henry had experienced the tyranny of the King of England firsthand. He knew that if the American colonialists didn't do something, their liberty would be lost forever. The loss of individual liberty meant the rise of governmental tyranny. Patrick Henry rose to speak to the pastors.

Time Magazine calls Patrick Henry's speech "one of the top 10 greatest speeches of all time." I've taken Patrick Henry's speech (7 minutes long), updated its language to the 21st century, and turned the issue from war against England to the forcible lockdown of our country during Covid-19.

You may be surprised how it reads. I would encourage every parent to read this to your children. The issues of 1775 are very similar to the issues of 2020.

Liberty is important to me. I have a brick from St. John's Church in my office with Henry's famous phrase written on it: "Give me liberty or give me death." It's a reminder to me that true liberty is both natural and spiritual. It is my obligation to speak on this subject because the protection of Natural Rights is essential to the greatness of America and the good of emotional, spiritual, and mental health. I have highlighted some of Patrick Henry's words which express fully my sentiments during these difficult times.

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death
Patrick Henry

No man thinks more highly than I do of our country, as well as the abilities of the very worthy men and women who compose our various leaders. Americans often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those American citizens who view things differently if I shall speak my sentiments freely and without reserve
This is no time for pretense or ceremony. The question before our nation is one of serious consequences for our future as a country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less as the question of freedom or tyranny; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. A straightforward debate is the only way that we can hope to arrive at truth and to fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, or worse, creating enemies of friends, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country and of an act of disloyalty toward my God, which I revere above all earthly honors, religious positions, or earthly authorities.
It is natural for mankind to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this wise for Americans engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we to be counted in the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which shall bring about our destruction? 
For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it. I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of our nation during the past 40 days to justify the shuttering of businesses and the closing of churches and other entities, locking down private citizens in their homes under threat of legal punishment?
Is it possible that our appeals to Natural Rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness only bring insidious smiles on powerful faces rather than intentional protection of those rights by political action? Are we being betrayed by payments from the government, payments created by debt which shall be a snare to our feet? Suffer yourselves not to be betrayed with cash. Ask yourselves how American citizens have begun to depend on government when a just government is designed to be dependent on its citizens. Are lockdowns and closures of private businesses, violations of our Natural Rights,  really necessary to stop the spread of a disease? Must we sacrifice our liberties?  Let us not deceive ourselves. These actions are implements of subjugation, the last arguments before tyranny. I ask everyone, what are the reasons for these measures except to force us into submission? Is there any other motive? Are there justifiable reasons for the forcible seizure and closure of private property? 
No, there are none. Were we persuaded to close, we would close. But forcible measures  are meant to bind and rivet us upon the chains of tyranny for which opponents of liberty have long been planning. And what do we have to stop them from taking our rights? Shall we try argument? We've been trying to persuade through our arguments. Have we anything new to offer on the subject? Yes. We offer the past. We were told surges would overwhelm our hospitals, millions would die, and the government needed to take away our liberties to prevent death. We gave up our liberties to prevent death. Let us not deceive ourselves any longer. 
We have done everything to avert the storm that is now coming. We have petitioned; we have demonstrated, we have supplicated, we have prostrated ourselves before leaders, and we have implored everyone to remove the shackles that bind our liberties.
Our petitions have been slighted; our demonstrations have produced arrests, and our appeals have been ignored. In vain we have tried to open our country. There is no longer any hope.
If we wish to be free - if we mean to preserve inviolate those rights for which we so long have been contending - and if we mean not to abandon our noble struggle to protect life, liberty, and the freedom to pursue individual happiness, we must not back down under threat of death. I repeat; we must not back down under threat of death. An appeal to the God of Hosts and going back to work is all that is left to us!
They tell us that we are cruel and do not respect life. They tell us we will be unable to cope with so formidable an adversary as one we cannot see. But when shall we be stronger? When shall we leave our homes and return to work? Shall it be next week? Next year? When will it be that they shall determine we shall be safe. Will it be when the authorities are in control of every aspect of our movements, including our homes, our businesses, and our churches? Shall we resist this tyranny by lying on our backs in our beds, hugging the comforts of our blankets with the phantom hope that things will be okay tomorrow, only to arise and see every former freedom now shackled?
No. We are not weak. We are able to cope with a formidable and unseen adversary if we make proper use of the means which the God of nature has given us. We have abilities to protect ourselves; responsibility to protect others; and the wisdom to know how. Millions of people armed in the holy cause of liberty are invincible against any force sent against us. Besides all this, we do not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and it is He who will fight our battles for us. 
The battle before us is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. We have no other option. We must pick up our lives and move forward. We must not retire from life. There can be no retreat into slavery and submission to government tyranny. We know what must be done. Our war against Covid-19 is inevitable and continual. Let it come. We must go on with our lives and fight the battle daily. We will be prepared.
It is in vain to do nothing. The government cries, "Trust us - we will protect you!" But there is no protection except that which we give ourselves. The next round that sweeps from the north this November will bring to our ears the cries of "shelter in place" and "shutter your business." But we can wait no longer. We must get back to work! Why stand idle any longer? 
What is it that we wish? Liberty!
What would they have? Bondage!
Is life is so dear, or peace so sweet, that we must gain both by sacrificing our Natural Rights? Forbid it, Almighty God!
I know not what course others may take; but as for me:
Give me liberty or give me death! 

(End of Speech)


I will continue to lead out in feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and infirm, providing for families in need, and protecting the vulnerable. Even today, we developed plans for community enhancements among our ethnic minorities. We're on our way to feed 300 people tonight, and we're planning on opening a refuge center for women as soon as the Emergency Order is lifted. All of these ministries are non-government funded. We are good neighbors. The gospel of Jesus Christ is important to us. He came to set us free from sin. We aren't afraid of dying. In terms of our country, the loss of liberty is worse than death. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Christ Is the End of the Law To All Who Believe

This blogpost is written for those who are hungry for spiritual guidance during these difficult COVID-19 times, especially for people who aren't in the habit of going to church and may not even call themselves a Christian.  

It's an article about Jesus Christ and how He brings peace to our hearts in terms of an assurance of God's full acceptance of us, even though we have failed miserably in our lives to be the persons that we (or others) expected or desired us to be. 

This blogpost is also a "test." I'll not tell you the reason for the test, but in the coming days, I'll give you the results. 

HERE WE GO (April 20, 2020)

Recently I spent some time with a gambling addict who recently landed on the front page of our local newspaper for confessing to embezzling thousands of dollars from his employer (he's given me permission to tell his story).

A few weeks earlier this man had called me and confessed to his crime.

Having been accused of embezzlement by his employer, this man told me that he faced prison time if the courts convicted him of stealing. His attorney counseled him, "Don't confess. Plead 'not guilty.'" The attorney was hoping to get his client a reduced sentence that would possibly include no prison time.

The man who embezzled then asked me, "What should I do?"

I responded, "Are you guilty?"

He answered "Yes."

I said, "Then go to the police station, turn yourself in, and tell them the truth."

And that's what the man did.

This man's picture and the story of his confession appeared on the front page of our paper the following day.

Very few criminals turn themselves in and confess to a crime. To me, what this man did is evidence that God is at work in his life.

Anyway, back to the original appointment with this gambling addict. He told me he thinks that he understands "why" he gambles, which leads him to steal.

Pay attention to his explanation.
"Throughout my life, I've always had the goal of people liking me. I need people to accept and love me. I purpose to get acceptance from others. But most of the time I feel rejected. I feel lacking as a human being. Whenever I feel like a failure (which is most days), and whenever I feel rejected by people (which is very often), I find myself desiring to gamble. It's finally dawned on me that every time I win at the casino, lights go off, people praise me, and I get the "substitute high" of being good enough and being "approved of" as a human. I feel like a "winner," whereas in life I most often feel like a loser. I'm not giving you an excuse for my gambling addiction; I'm only telling you that because I believe I've put my finger on the source of why I gamble."
I found his words to be full of wisdom. I believe if all of us would take a close look at any and all maladjustments in our lives, we'd find the roots of our problems in misplaced goals and purpose for our lives.

I tell people:
"If you ever think, 'I just don't want other people to think...,' or if you ever say to someone else,  'I just don't want you to feel that...,' then you have a misplaced goal."
Those who are concerned and try to control what other people think or feel are addicts in the making.

By the way, addiction to sugar, religion, beauty, work, and other legal (and good things) can be as harmful to the individual person as addictions to gambling, drugs, illicit sex, and other illegal things are. It should go without saying that the latter things (eg. "illegal things") often bring far greater pain to other persons.

With Wrong Goals and Purpose in Place,  Our Addictions Develop

We all set goals, and we all think about our purpose.

Without goals and purpose, a person becomes aimless. But with wrong goals and purpose, a person becomes addicted.

Now, let's talk about our goals and purpose in terms of God.

What is your purpose in terms of your relationship with God? What are your goals in terms of your relationship with God?

99% of all people would respond to these two questions by saying: 
"My purpose is to be pleasing to God and my goals are to stay out of trouble with Him."
When it comes to "how" this occurs, the answer is usually:
"By trying to always do what He wants."
I propose that any purposeful attempt to please God by your obedience to some sort of standard, be it man-made, church-created, government-mandated, or even Bible-based - is a wrong goal that leads to harmful consequences.

To seek to become pleasing to God by your actions is a misplaced purpose.

A person who has failed to be the person he or she should have been will only become pleasing to God through the "faith in Jesus Christ." That's what the Bible teaches.

Why faith in Jesus Christ? Because Christ "is the end of the law to everyone who believes." As it is written in the book of Romans:
"For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 10:4).
"But wait," you may say, "I read the Bible for myself and it says that God's acceptance, blessings, and favor are on us when we obey His Law!" The first five books of the Bible are called "The Law" or "The Five Books of the Law" (Pentateuch). 

"Listen to this passage from the Law, Wade!"
"If you obey the Lord your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, both the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out…. The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your ground in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give you. The Lord will open for you his rich storehouse, the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all your undertakings." (Deuteronomy 28:2-7; 11–12)
"And Wade, listen to these three paragraphs from the Law":
"However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.
The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.

The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth. Your carcasses will be food for all the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away. The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you." (Detueronomy 28:15-29).
"Wade Burleson, how can you read those passages above and ever suggest to anyone that attempting to please God by a goal of obedience to Law is a misplaced goal or a meaningless purpose in life?"

Good question.

Let the New Testament Scriptures answer that question:

Christ Is the End of the Law
"For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 10:4).
The word translated "end" is the Greek word τέλος which was used by ancient Greek writers to mean goal or purpose.

Most of the anti-Nicene Christian fathers (pre-3rd century AD) translated τέλος as "goal" or "purpose."

What does it mean that Christ "is the goal or purpose of the Law"?

Simply put:
"Jesus Christ is God's the goal and purpose for which God gave us the Law."
The Law's purpose was not given for you to obey and to become "pleasing to God."


In fact, when God introduced the Law, all that did was make you a worse sinner by revealing even more of your sin.
"I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the Law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the Law had not said, 'You shall not covet'" (Romans 7:7).
Any church, religious organization, or lifestyle that emphasizes obedience to Law to be pleasing to God has missed the Gospel.

Christ is the purpose of the Law to everyone who believes.

The Law is about Jesus Christ. 

"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24).
So if you wish to ever be free from addictions in this life (legal or illegal activities to which you're addicted), then get to an understanding that you are pleasing to God by the performance and Person of Jesus the Anointed One (Messiah) on your behalf.

Theologians call what happens to you when you come to faith in Jesus Christ imputed righteousness.

I call it grace, or living life feeling the pleasure of God independent of my performance.
"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:7-11). 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Alfred Murrah Bombing's 25th Remembrance

Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, April 19, 1995
25 years ago this morning, April 19, 1995, I retrieved my luggage from the airport carousel at 8:30 am, having flown on a red-eye flight from Phoenix, Arizona, to Will Rogers International Airport in Oklahoma City.

The night before I had spoken to a group of pastors and leaders in Prescott, Arizona, in preparation for a Franklin Graham Festival that was coming to Prescott later that year.

 For the previous two years, I'd flown all over the country on behalf of the Billy Graham Organization, laying the groundwork for Franklin Graham Festivals in cities around the United States.

After retrieving my luggage, I went to my car in the airport garage and proceeded to driving home to Enid. I was driving on Highway 74, just west of downtown OKC, when I felt my car shake. I thought a gas explosion had occurred in downtown OKC. A few minutes later, Rachelle called me on my car phone (a fairly new invention in 1995) and informed me that the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City had been destroyed by an explosion.

As a chaplain for various police departments over the years, I worked for several days after April 19 at the morgue for victims, temporarily set up at OKC's First United Methodist Church. I would make trips from First Methodist to OKC First Christian Church where the victims' families had gathered for news about their loved ones, making death notifications. At first, we thought there would be survivors. As the hours went by, we realized no medical triages were needed. Only a morgue.

I can't begin to describe the stories I heard those few days, or the people I met, or the inspiration I received from the "Oklahoma Strong" atmosphere that was all around. Though I can't describe it, I will never forget it.

The Oklahoma City Federal Courthouse (and flag)
On the day after the bombing, Governor Keating ordered all flags to be flown at half-mast. Most people don't realize that the Oklahoma City Federal Courthouse is located just across the street, south of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The Federal Courthouse was badly damaged, and so two Federal ATF agents and I made our way into the Courthouse, and climbed to the roof, avoiding debris and kicking open doors when needed, all with the purpose of lowing the flag.

When we finished our mission, we stood on the railing and looked north toward the Murrah Building. The sight was gruesome. As we pondered what had happened, the two ATF agents began telling me about the friends and fellow agents they lost in the bombing. I remember the tears in my eyes as they pointed to the floors where their friends had been killed.

It's hard to believe it's 25 years since Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Building. In 1995, I did not know the Enid attorney who would eventually be appointed by the Federal government to defend Timothy McVeigh.

Since that time, Steven Jones and I have become friends, and he has told me some incredible stories of his time defending McVeigh.  I have the utmost esteem for Steven Jones and have learned to love liberty even more through the principles he cherishes.

In an age when principles are often neglected, Steven Jones continues to believe in some  bedrock principles upon which our country was founded, including "the right to a fair trial," and "innocent until proven guilty." Timothy McVeigh was guilty of a heinous crime, but what makes America great is the protection of our liberties for all citizens, including the Timothy McVeighs of this world.

The tragedy of April 19, 1995, has made  Oklahoma a strong state.

I'm a better man because I've seen firsthand how God can take the vilest and most despicable act of man and turn it for good for an entire community.

God is powerful enough to take our darkest moments and make something great from them (see my friend Berry Tramel's story in today's Oklahoman on the revival of Oklahoma City since 1995).

There's no such thing as a happy anniversary for the Murrah Building bombing.

 But there is such a thing as humble respect and gratitude for what Oklahomans have become because of what happened 25 years ago today.

Saturday, April 18, 2020


Thus says the Lord:

"Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord.

They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places in the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land" (Jer. 17:5-6).

The curse of covid is not a tiny, invisible virus. The curse of covid is misplaced faith. Jeremiah’s generation placed its faith in political alliances and the presence of a mere institution, Solomon’s temple. Both vanished. We might get a clue from them. Where does our ultimate confidence rest? What are you depending on in all honesty?

Do you put your ultimate trust in government? Daily you hear the harangue against the President or the Speaker of the House. It sounds as if millions think the ultimate solution in life is only political. Please pardon an observation. I have known politicians. A few of them are godly. The rest of them are as vain, self-seeking, and pretentious as I am. They do not deserve your ultimate dependence for life itself.

Do you depend finally on institutions? This current crisis will permanently close some institutions. Colleges will disappear. Brands will vanish. Ask Sears, Kodak, or Oldsmobile if that can’t happen. If you put your ultimate trust in any human institution you will be disappointed every time. They change beyond recognition or they vanish.

At the end, do you depend on family? The tragic scenes of dying spouses isolated in critical care and insulated from their beloved has horrified the nation. Most of us thought that at the least someone we love would hold our hand when we die. Beyond that, lawyers in New York City have claimed a 25% increase in divorces filed during the quarantine. Folks who could not stand one another have been locked in a room together and one of them wants out right now. Family can disappear.

Are you prompted to say your friends will always be there? You are to be pitied if that is the case. Some of us can testify that friends of a lifetime can disappear at your hardest moments. People you helped get into high positions forget your existence. Human friendship is not a rock; it can quickly vaporize.

Are you leaning on your own ministry? Those of us who are certain kinds of ministers have watched the scaffold of our ministry collapse in a month. No more trains, hotels, conferences, or seminars. Poof. What seemed inevitable and sturdy is liminal and wobbly. There is a difference in trusting the Lord of the ministry or the ministry of the Lord.

I know. You may be saying to yourself, “Joel sure is in a minor key today.” Not at all. I have read the next verse: “Blessed are those whose trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.” Note, it is not just trust in the Lord but those whose trust is the Lord. In 1834 Edward Mote, a preacher and carpenter, wrote On Christ the Solid Rock. Do recall the unusual words, “I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name”? Mote knew shaky buildings. He warned against putting your weight on a frame that collapses. These covid quarantines have given me, and I pray you, the moment to be certain that every other frame can collapse except the LORD. “My hope is built on nothing less.” Not politicians, institutions, or even ministry itself. Lean on the right frame.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

I'm Doubling Down on COVID-19 Because of Lives

Released April 16, 2020, by Gov. Kevin Stitt (Oklahoma): Missed projections and actual hospitalizations

Last week I posted on Facebook that I believed it was time for our city (Enid, Oklahoma) to begin the transitional process of opening up economically. I said this:
"I respect our city leaders. Their emphasis on increased personal hygiene, being cautious around others, and the encouragement to "think of others" have been marvelous ("Thank You" city leaders!). That said, I believe it's now time to think of those losing their jobs, being furloughed, and missing paychecks to pay rent, to put food on the table, and to take care of bills. I'm requesting our Mayor and Enid's City Council announce Enid is OPEN THE CITY FOR BUSINESS at midnight Thursday, April 30, 2020, so that the Emergency Order is not extended into May."
The response I received by some to what I wrote made me out to be the true Tiger King who actually succeeded in murdering people. I was being blamed for impending deaths.

One person wrote:
"This is absolutely irresponsible. I would hope that a man of God would care more about people than sacrificing their lives for the sake of business. You do also realize that there are such things as asymptomatic carriers who can transmit the virus without showing symptoms? Your attempt at shaming those individuals who are genuinely concerned about this is repugnant.
I never take anything personally, so I took no offense toward those who accused me of being more interested in money than peoples' lives.

However, America's response to COVID-19 is not a "lives vs. economy" issue. It's a "lives vs. lives" issue.
It is entirely possible for more lives to be ruined by our response to COVID-19 than by the disease itself." Wade Burleson
At first, I listened to our government leaders because they were telling us that the "surge of patients" in need of hospitalization would overwhelm our medical system. We would not have enough beds to care for the sick, we were told.

My wife, Dr. Rachelle Burleson, understands public health. We want to be part of a solution to help our nation, not part of the problem. Out of love for our country and our leaders, I totally supported the recommendations of the CDC to shelter in place and isolate.

I obeyed government mandates to isolate and shelter in place, to cancel all corporate worship services for six weeks, and follow the mandates of a government Emergency Order.

Then reality hit.

The number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 was skewed.

Hospitals built to deal with the surge remained "empty," having never seen even one patient. 

The coronavirus death rate much was much lower than previously reported.

Then, certified government epidemiologists in Sweden began saying "we've got it wrong about the lockdown."

Dr. Shiva Avyadurai, Ph.D., M.D., MIT, began telling Americans a different narrative about COVID-19.

Then I began hearing from small business owners from Enid, Oklahoma, members of the church I serve. They were questioning why "big business" and national chains were allowed to remain open, but their small businesses were shuttered by the government.

Then I began hearing from people (other than my wife, Dr. Rachelle Burleson), how hospitals in Oklahoma, including Deaconess in Oklahoma City, and Integris throughout Oklahoma, were laying off people and facing bankruptcy because hospital rooms were empty.

I began to change my mind. There seems to be an agenda that goes beyond public health.

I think some people wish to fundamentally change America.

COVID-19 becomes the means through which people begin to rely on the government than their active work to sustain their families.

I am NOT a conspiracy theorist (with apologies Ed Stetzer).

But when I saw the volatile, hostile response to my recommendation that we begin to "open up Enid, Oklahoma" to small businesses, I realized that the driving force of many is political hubris,  not public health.

Way back in the 1960s', the moment a child got "chickenpox," all the kids ran to the house of their friend so they could "get chickenpox." God has built into your body the greatest biological immunization system in the history of the world. Natural immunity is what protects the population, not Big Pharma vaccinations. If you wish to guarantee a dangerous and deadly spread of COVID-19, then shelter healthy people continuously..
In the history of the world, only the sick and the susceptible have been isolated. 
For the first time ever, the healthy are being isolated.

If it is argued that you must isolate the healthy to prevent people from "catching" the virus, I would argue, along with the leading epidemiologist of Sweden, that we should be doing the very opposite.

Let the healthy go about their lives, taking all recommended personal hygiene precautions, and tell the elderly and those with pre-existing health problems (obesity, lung disease, heart disease, etc...) to shelter and isolate.

Then, when the healthy get COVID-19, many of whom will have mild to no symptoms, we can then donate and give our naturally immunized blood to help heal those who are very sick.

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.” (Leo Tolstoy, 1897).
I don't consider myself a Republican or a Democrat.

COVID-19 has turned me into a libertarian.
Libertarian - def. "an advocate or supporter of a philosophy that advocates only minimal state intervention in the free market and the private lives of citizens."
Our church will not open for our normal schedule on Sundays until June 7, regardless of what the government says. We'll take time in May to transition and do things differently and cautiously (as small businesses should as well).  But the fact we've shut down our economy for COVID-19 is an unwise response to a serious disease. You don't burn down the house to kill a mouse. 

If you wish to know how I've changed over the last six weeks about COVID-19, watch the video below.

This is a "lives vs. lives" issue, and our country is going to destroy MORE lives than COVID-19 the longer we stay shut down.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

COVID-19 Book Recommendation: Radically New

During our "shelter in place" times for this historic 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, many are rekindling their love for books.

May I selfishly recommend Radically New. My wife, Dr. Rachelle Burleson, told me the other day, "Wade, your book Radically New changed my life." When she told me that, I thought she was just being a kind, supportive wife. I thought she believed her husband would be encouraged by her words. In other words, I discounted what she said.

She intuitively saw what I was thinking and said, "Listen, Wade. I'm not just saying that because you're my husband. I read Radically New and it opened up my eyes to the deep riches of God's grace in Christ Jesus in ways I never dreamed. I wish every follower of Jesus could read it."

That got my attention. When Dr. Burleson speaks about something she's learned, her husband listens.

Recently, a professional editor named Brenda Kay Coulter sent me an email saying similar things about Radically New and what the book meant to her. Brenda suggested some changes in formatting to make the E-book more pleasing to the reader's eye.

I took Brenda up on her editorial offer, and today we've released a "new and improved' formatted E-book of Radically New. It's the same content, just more pleasing to the eye.

You may buy the E-book on Amazon for $3.95, or you may "read it for free" if you are a member of the Amazon book club.

If you choose to read the book during COVID-19, please post a review and let me know what you think of it.

I've always scratched my head over the fact that my book Fraudulent Authority has far more reviews than Radically New.

Radically New can change your perspective on life.

All Fraudulent Authority does is change your perspective on your preacher!

I'll take the transformation of my "life" over the correction of my "preacher" any day!

Reviews for Radically New:
Pastor Burleson's book, Radically New should be read by all who claim to be New Covenant believers. We know that we are living in New Covenant times, but our thought patterns betray our Old Covenant understanding of God. The New Covenant is not a better version of the Old Covenant, it is radically different at its core, the person of God. I have a good understanding of the new covenant, but this book has challenged me to put that understanding into practice in my daily life. Some of the chapters were uncomfortable for me to read because they betrayed the fact that my living does not really reflect the way I speak. Do I really trust in Christ's righteousness "alone",or do I fall back into the mud of shame, in the hope that if I feel bad enough about myself, "I" will be able to change my behavior. Pastor Wade points out that this is bondage to something that has no power. And the real shocker is that self effort is not of faith and that of course is sin. Wow! This is an important book for every church member. It is a call to be what we are, forgiven, loved, and at rest. Thank you Pastor for reminding me that the true gospel is Jesus plus nothing! (Tim T)

 From W.T. Standard:
With so many churches coming under fire due to abuse of power by the leaders of churches, this book is very much needed... This book should be mandatory reading for every Protestant church member, including Pastors. The key teaching of this book is that we are to be led of the Holy Spirit. A teaching that is sorely missing in most every church today. We have left out the Third Person of the Trinity. No wonder churches aren't growing, especially in Grace, and church attendance is on a downward spiral. This book will greatly encourage you to KNOW --- God is just waiting for His Church to turn back to the One He gave us to lead us into All Truth if we truly desire a Spiritual Awakening.
 From L.T.
Reassuring, brilliant, transforming, worth many, many re-reads.

Get your "shelter in place' copy today.

Monday, April 06, 2020

It's Never Too Late and You're Never Too Old To ...

Dr. Otto Loewi (d. 1961)
In 1936, Austrian scientist Otto Loewi and his lifelong friend, British scientist Sir Henry Dale, were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work on the chemical transmission of electrical impulses in the human body. 

Otto, a Jew living in Vienna, received a sizable cash prize upon being awarded to Nobel Prize.

You think you have it rough during these COVID-19 days? 

Listen to Dr. Loewi's story.

Less than two years after being awarded the Nobel Prize, on 12 March 1938, Germany invaded Austria. 

Neighbors informed Otto Loewi that afternoon that the Nazis had taken over Austria. Otto, preoccupied with his research, ignored the significance of this news.

At 3:00 am the next morning, a dozen SS troops burst into his home, dragged the Jewish scientist out of his bed, and carted him off to prison,   Anticipating he would murdered by the Nazis, Otto managed to scribble the results of his latest research on to a postcard, 

Addressing the card to a scientific journal (Die Naturwissenshaften), Dr. Loewi persuaded a prison guard to stick in the mail. 

Otto felt indescribable joy that his results would not be lost, and he anticipated death to come soon. 

But two months later Otto Loewi was released from his Nazi jail, and told he could leave the country IF he gave all his assets to the Nazis including his Nobel Prize money. The SS listened as Otto instructed his Swiss bank to transfer the funds to a Nazi-controlled bank. The money became Otto's  ransom for his life. 

Dr. Otto Loewi escaped to England without a penny to his name.

After spending time with Sir Henry Dale in London, Loewi held temporary appointments in Brussels and Oxford, before setting sailing to the United States in 1939.

He came to the United States to hold a research professorship in pharmacology at New York University Medical School. But when he arrived in New York in June 1940, at the age of sixty-seven, all he had in his possession were the clothes on his back, his visa, and his doctor’s certificate. While waiting to see the immigration officer, Otto grew horrified when he discovered the Visa had stamped on it ‘Senility, not able to earn his living’.

Fortunately the officer chose to ignore this questionable handicap, and Loewi was allowed into the United States. 

Otto Loewi was never bitter about the upheaval to his life. 

In fact, he considered that fate had been kind to him. In the United States he was able in the USA he was able to pursue his scientific endeavors during a time when his native Austrian government would have forced him to retire. 

For another twenty-one years (1940-1961), Dr. Otto Loew continued to inspire successive generations of students and spend his summers in ever-animated discussion at the Marine Biological Laboratories at Wood’s Hole.

It's never too late, and your never too old, to begin again. 

(Adapted from The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body by Francis Ashcroft, (pp. 83-84). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition)

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Hamburgers, Toilets, and Past Global Pandemics

A Hamburg, Germany sanitation team (1892)
The West is soft.

We've lost connection with our history, become cavalier about our faith in God, and grown comfortable with our false belief that economical, medical, and social progress steadily moves - without interruption - toward utopian perfection.

A virus that kills between 1% to 2% of those infected has shocked our world.

But COVID-19 shouldn't shock us.

Not if we know our history.

Let me take you back just a little over one hundred years ago.

Hamburg, Germany, August 1892

Hamburg is the picturesque German city from whence we get our word "hamburger."

Hamburg (er)
Just like "wiener" comes from Vienna (the "w" is pronounced with a hard "v" in German) and frankfurter from Frankfurt, we get the name for cooked meat between two pieces of bread from Hamburg.

On  Tuesday, August 16, 1892, it was reported to city officials that two people - that's right, two people - had become critically ill with symptoms of cholera.

Cholera was the COVID-19 of the 1800s.

There were SIX global pandemics of cholera during the 1800s.

Hamburg became ground zero of the FIFTH global pandemic of cholera (1892-1897).

Nobody at the time knew how cholera spread among people. Most thought it was caused by "breathing air" or living in "filthy conditions." Thus, any neighborhood "infected" with cholera was banished by the healthy.

On August 23, 1892, one week after the first two cases of cholera were reported in Hamburg, officials declared a city-wide emergency. Cholera had spread to multiple neighborhoods.

But it was too late.

By August 27, 1892, cholera claimed the lives of 1,000 people per day in Hamburg, Germany.

The death rate was 57.5%. That means that more than half of the people who contracted cholera in Hamburg died.

For perspective,  it is roughly estimated that COVID-19 claims the lives of between 1% and 2% of those infected.

Imagine living during the 1800s when cholera swept the world. There was a 50/50 chance that if you contracted it, you would die.

Death by cholera was gruesome.

The victim had constant, watery diarrhea; nausea and vomiting; and unbearable cramps that led to human dehydration and physical shock, and then death.

The city of Hamburg had been attacked by an epidemic of cholera 14 times during the 19th century (prior to 1892). But this last time, the beginning of the 1892 global pandemic of cholera, was the worst.

From August 16 to November 14, 1892, 8,605 persons died in Hamburg of cholera.  Millions would die around the world before the 5th global pandemic of cholera came to an end.

People fled Hamburg. Business shut down. Churches closed. Streets were filled with the dead and dying.

Seven vessels loaded with residents of Hamburg made their way to the United States, bringing cholera with them.

A few of those Germans made the 1893 Land Run in Oklahoma.

Mark Twain
Mark Twain, the author of Tom Sawyer, visited Hamburg during the cholera epidemic and wrote a The Cholera Epidemic in Hamburg (1892).

Remember, an epidemic is local. A pandemic is global.

Twain's pamphlet about the epidemic in Hamburg is a scathing indictment on social inequality that he saw first-hand as he walked the barren streets. He wrote:
"A physician in Hamburg stated that everyday numbers of poor people are snatched from their homes to the pest houses, and that is the last that is heard of a good many of them."
The rich were treated well by physicians, but the poor were banished to "pest houses" to die.

Why the disparity?

Listen to Twain:
"We have heard rumors that the force of workers at Hamburg was too small to cope with the pestilence; that more help was impossible to get; and we have seen statements that confirm these sorrowful facts; statements which furnished the pitiful spectacle of brave workers dying at their posts from exhaustion; of corpses lying in the halls of the hospitals, waiting there because there was no worker idle; of a wagon going along the street with five sick people in it, and with them four corpses!" 
Sound familiar?

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

A by-product from the discovery of the cause of cholera
The germ theory of bacterial infection had not yet been formulated in Twain's day.

People in the 1800s didn't know that cholera was caught by drinking infected water. Human fecal matter was often deposited in the ground near streams or freshwater wells where people came to drink, and that is how cholera was spread.

Contaminated drinking water was the cause of cholera.

But that would not be discovered until the 1900s. After germ theory became accepted, cities began developments in wastewater treatment centers, especially throughout the United States, Great Britain, and Europe.

When you know your history, you know that humanity is not immune to trouble.

We live in a world often interrupted by social, medical, astral, and personal catastrophes.
"All people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." (Hebrews 9:27)
Or, as I like to say it, "You're never ready to live until you're ready to die."
"But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Corinthians 15:57).
So next time you eat a hamburger or use a toilet, remember that the panic associated with COVID-19 isn't something new to humanity.