We will return to this…
“But to what shall I compare this generation?” inquired our Lord Jesus Christ about His current generations faithlessness (Matt 11.16). The incarnate Lord stood before them and rather than embrace Him, they mocked Him and defamed His lifestyle, calling him a “glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Matt 11.19). Before Jesus came the last prophet of the Old Covenant era—John the Baptist—was sent to prepare the way (Mal 3.1). He did not do any of the things the Lord did being a dedicated Nazarite, but to him they said, “He has a demon” (Matt 11.18).
All in all the people failed to discern the times they were living in. They did not know the proper way to act for they, like previous generations of unbeliever’s, did not have faith in God. This was one of the texts that kept rolling around in my mind as I drove to the eye doctor to pick up my youngest daughter’s new glasses.
Handling Pressure and the Conflict that Ensues
To say I was a bit agitated would be a bit of an understatement. I prefer just living life unbothered by the concerns of others. I try to keep my head down and avoid conflict. I am supposing that this is a normal trait among most people. Those who know me personally would, I’d imagine, disagree. They’d say that I have a tendency of being a bit of a bull in a china shop. Meaning, rather than avoid conflict I go in all horns and snorts, crashing into anything that gets in my way. Admittedly, this may be how it appears on the outside looking in, but the truth is I would prefer a much more peaceful life if it were offered to me.
You see, I have a bit of a problem. When I see conflict, though I would like to ignore it, I feel a burden to confront it. Growing up I hated peer pressure. In fact if a person or a group applied pressure to me I had (have?) a reputation for digging in my heels like a stubborn mule. I’d rather receive the blows of others (either physical or verbal) than to succumb to the whims of everybody else. Don’t get me wrong I did some stupid things when I was a teenager and a young adult, but I didn’t do them because others tried to influence me. I did them because I wanted to.
I was 13…
There is one story in particular that stands out in my mind anytime I begin talking about the pressure we face from the people in our lives. I had just moved to a new town during my 7th grade year. Being a new kid, I tried to avoid trouble like the plague. Naturally I’m an introvert, and so I tend to keep to myself. Well, I tried to…let me say that. It was after lunch one day that the confrontation took place.
After eating your lunch, if it wasn’t raining, you were instructed to go outside for about a 30 minute recess. Not sure how much this holds true today, but back in my day (as my kids like to mockingly point out) that’s how it was. Anyway, I was minding my own business just looking around at my new environment, hating my life, when three guys came up to me forming a half circle.
We were standing by a chain-link fence and the leader of the pack offered me a skoal bandit (a tiny packet of snuff). This kind gesture was in fact a test. If I did as the leader “requested,” I’d be accepted. But, if I failed to do so my life would be forfeit. Or rather, my peaceful day would be ruined.
Well, truth be told, it was already ruined. Why these guys couldn’t leave me alone I haven’t the foggiest? But there I was being pressed to do something I’d never done, nor had any inclination to do. I knew what the likely response would be if I declined the offer, but decline their offer I did anyway. Two of the guys snickered amongst themselves, but their leader…he feigned being offended. Unfortunately for me, the aforementioned fence was to my back…so, I was trapped.
The guy who was addressing me, his name, I later learned was Paul. He had a reputation for being a bit of a troublemaker. He was a couple of years older. He’d spent some time in juvie and he liked to fight. He wasn’t small for his age, which is precisely how I felt at that moment.
I don’t remember his exact words, but it was some sort of violent act he was going to perform on me if I didn’t comply. Straight out of the scene from the infamous Christmas Story movie, I realized I was Ralphie. Again, I declined the offer. Again, came the threat. By this time his two goons were starting to get a little excited. At that moment, I felt my world begin to stall. Everything came to a crashing halt. All else vanished from focus even though I felt as it there were a thousand eyes focused upon me.
It would have been so easy to just give in and put the stupid packet of minced tobacco into my mouth. Just take it, and place the little thing behind your lower lip and it would all be over with, Kristafal!
NOPE! No way, I’d rather fight and lose than give in.
As my heart hammered within my chest, echoing in my ears, I stood on my convictions and once again declined the offer of the teenage thugs who wanted to pummel me. By the grace of God I survived that encounter. And it was His grace (undeservingly so) that sustained me for the next couple of years, before I moved to another state, another town, another school where my fortitude would be tested again and again.
At the Eye Doctor
Before I told the tale of my 7th grade encounter, I mentioned that I was picking up my daughter’s new glasses. I had taken her and my youngest son to the optometrist the week before. Ohio, like many states, has mask orders that have been declared by divine fiat…er um “executive order” by the governor. A process that has circumvented the state’s legislature in order to illegally enforce whatsoever those in power decide is best for all of us.
As a result people are being driven and herded by fear. Fear of the virus, fear of the state, fear of being sued and fear of looking bad in the public eye. Businesses in an effort to stay open have bowed the knee to whatsoever those in power have decided what is best for moving forward. And so, you can add fear of losing one’s source of income into the multitude of fears currently driving an alarming number of citizens in this nation.
In order to see the eye doctor, you need to make an appointment. On the day of your appointment you need to walk up to the door and ring the bell. They lock the door after every patient comes in or goes out of the office.
***(On a side note: I’m not sure how this isn’t a violation of the local fire codes. I’m pretty sure that all public or private businesses are not supposed to be able to lock in their customers, for if a fire did start they’d be putting their lives at risk. But hey, what do I know? I’m just one of those science denying fools that refuses to wear a mask everywhere he goes).1
To enter the Dr.’s office you are supposed to wear a mask. Well…my kids and I did not have a mask. When I was asked “why?” I responded that we had health related issues. (This is a known exception in our state, but now they have tried to come up with a way around it.) The receptionist asked, “Where is your exemption slip from your doctor?” I said, “Don’t need one, because we are healthy…that is our health issue that prevents us from wearing a mask. We are not sick.”
Knowing me she laughed and called me “Bad.” Then she went behind her desk and got three masks out of a box. They looked like napkins with rubber bands attached to them. She then said, “Kris, you have to wear the masks. These are really thin, so they are easy to breathe through.” I said, “I can’t.” She asked, “Can you give me a reason?” I said, “I have several, but I’ll give you one. My religious convictions prevent me from doing so.” (She knows I’m a Christian pastor as does the doctor).
She came over to where me and my kids were sitting and said a little more quietly, “I don’t think he’ll see you if you don’t have masks. I understand what you are saying, but I don’t know….” “Would you like me to talk to Dr. Heiby? I can,” I inquired. She told me she would do so.
When she returned, she notified me that the doctor would be fine with no masks, but unfortunately one of his techs refused. She said the tech had just recovered from the flu and didn’t want to chance getting sick again. So I said, “Alright. The kids can wear them on their chin, but I will not be wearing one. I don’t have an appointment, but they need to be seen.” As the tech was handing my boy the mask, she dropped it on the floor. She told him, “You can pick that up and use it.” I commented with a little mirth, “Yes, that will work wonderfully now.”
Back to the Beginning
So, I tell this story as a bit of context to why I was thinking about Jesus’ comments to His generation for their lack of faith. Yesterday, I received a phone call from the eye doctor that the glasses for my daughter were in. After scheduling the time to go in and pick them up, the eyeglasses tech said “make sure you bring your mask.” She said this even though I had made it clear to everyone in the office that I do not (nor will I) wear a mask. She was doing it to make a point. And, it irritated me, though I was polite when I got off the phone.
Visiting Numbers 13-14…
The lady’s comments got my thoughts churning. And as I mused my mind naturally turned to God’s Word. There is a passage that I think speaks perfectly of our current cultural climate; particularly, in light of the mask hysteria that has gripped the hearts of so many.
“The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them. Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night.”(Numb 13.32-14.1)
God had promised the Israelite’s great wealth. He was giving to them a land that was rich in blessing; a land flowing with milk and honey (cf. Exod 3.8, 17; 13.5). All they had to do was march in and take it. They were not alone, for God promised to fight for them. Could not He who delivered them from slavery and bondage in Egypt not give to them what He promised? Could not He who destroyed the mighty armies of Pharaoh, made water come from a rock and bread fall from the skies, could not He have delivered to them the blessings that He promised? Is not the Lord greater than all the troubles we might face in this life? Is He not God and therefore the sovereign over all creation?
But the people of that day trembled in fear. Their leaders stirred this fear up within their hearts and the people worked themselves into a frenzy. Do you know what they were afraid of? The “what-ifs?” of life. They had seen and heard from God, but they could not reason beyond their circumstances. Peer pressure is a powerful tool, and the ten unfaithful leaders who caused the people to rebel against the Lord of Life used that tool to their advantage.
What is most telling of this historical narrative is how the people refused to listen to reason. Rather than being moved by realistic appeals in the form of God’s promises (cf. Psa 12.6) and various evidences from God’s mighty works at the hands of Moses, Aaron, Caleb and Joshua. Rather than allow the testimony of truth have a positive effect on them giving them courage, the people were driven to hate.
“…all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.”(Numb 14.10)
Had God not intervened on behalf of His faithful servants (aforementioned), they would have been slaughtered. God stood in the gap for the faithful, but in so doing He was also removing His merciful grace from those who were driven by reckless fear.
Everyone of us at some time in our life will experience fear. We will be afraid of something. But it is what we do in light of that fear that shows our true character. Are we people of strong courage or are we something else.
Currently, politicians, media pundits, and your neighbor’s are promising that if you just listen to them then all will be well with you. You will be “safe” and your needs will be met. But is that how godly men and women are called to act? Are we not instructed to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things will be added unto you” (Matt 6.33)? God is the one who protects our lives. It is He who is called the great refuge of our souls, not just later but now! (Psa 5.11; 11.1-7). Stop trusting in the might of men, and start trusting in the might of the Lord (cf. Jer 17.5). Stop being driven by the fear of the “What-ifs?” of life. Instead realize that it is God who controls all aspects of life…all…including your health.
1The “science denying” comment is tongue-in-cheek. I don’t deny science. Its a conceptual tool, not a living, breathing thing. Science is as useful as the person using it. There are two piles of data in light of the efficacy of mask wearing. One set is forbidden by the current social media and corporate media elites. That data is being suppressed and villianized; censorship is currently occurring in our nation…but that is another matter, for another day.