Faith & Vaccination

Those familiar with this site will know that this is where I share my views and thoughts. At times, strong points are made and firm positions are taken. Then again, at other times, I may ramble a little as I process matters that are not quite as straightforward. This is one such case.

Regardless of how simple or complicated the issues may be, I strive to remain biblical, to the best of my own hermeneutical ability at that point in time. In no way and at no time do I wish to confuse, stumble or mislead anyone.

I am starting with this rather serious-sounding disclaimer because this post is about vaccination. Or more precisely, the place of faith for Christians where Covid-19 vaccines are concerned.

I am not supporting or recommending anything. Hence, there are no links or references to anyone or anything. I am merely making a personal observation. So don’t pick a fight with me here. Also, please do not spam this site with articles for or against vaccination. This is not the place for pro-vaxxers or anti-vaxxers to convince the other group of your stand. If you wish to comment, please do so cordially and politely. In any case, inappropriate comments will not be approved. Remember, once again, it’s more about faith than it is about vaccines. Thank you.

Here goes…

According to experts, the narrative is: Get vaccinated. It’s safe. Let’s label this as Position A.

However, the alternative narrative according to another group of experts is: the vaccines are experimental, not proven, and thus not safe. This will be Position B.

An over-simplification perhaps. But at the end of the day, it does boil down to two groups: those who are willing to be vaccinated; and those who prefer not be vaccinated.

At this point, I must emphasise again that this post is NOT about any particular vaccine. Instead, it is more about the faith of believers and how they respond to the above two broad positions that I find interesting.

For those who have accepted Position A, these have faith. In the authorities, experts and the system. Ultimately, they have faith in God since He is the One who has put these in place. Where spiritual leadership is concerned, pastors and elders have encouraged members to be vaccinated. Whilst not all have done this openly over the pulpit, many have led by example by being vaccinated (and proudly posting on their own personal social media accounts).

For those in Position B, these have faith in God to protect them whatever the outcome. For one, that they will never ever get Covid-19. For another, if they should be infected, that they will recover. And in the worst case scenario, it is still good news because they get to be with the Lord. Similarly, as for Position A, there are spiritual leaders who have opted not to be vaccinated. Or have adopted a wait-and-see approach.

Whether Position A or B, both groups have faith.

More recently, more information, discoveries and warnings have surfaced. Those who have already taken the vaccination are understandably concerned. But what’s the typical Christian response? Faith, of course. Vaxxed but not vexed (sorry, couldn’t resist that). For example, “I believe that even if the vaccine is harmful, God will protect me.” Or “If I pray in Jesus’ name, the negative effects will be reversed.” To these, those in Position B will ask, “If God can protect you from the ill effects of the vaccine, is He not also able to protect you from the virus? Why take the vaccine then?”

Again, both groups have faith.

But which is the correct faith? Or should such a question even be asked? After all, who are we to question a person’s faith, right?

If you have been vaccinated and are generally well, I am thankful for that. Yet, for those who have experienced less than favourable conditions and outcomes – although no one can or is willing to attribute any of these to vaccines – my heart goes out to these too. Sure, the percentage may be negligible but I sure do not relish that I or any of my loved ones be counted amongst those statistics, however small.

Does this mean that one has less faith if one opts not to be vaccinated then? Not necessarily. Does having faith automatically mean that one will never get Covid-19, vaccinated or not? Not at all. Faith, for the vaccinated as well as for the unvaccinated, means that no matter what happens, we are able to give thanks in all situations, continue to trust the Lord and to keep praising Him.

As at the time of this writing, where Singapore is concerned, vaccination is very strongly encouraged but remains voluntary. I am thankful for that and pray that it remains as such – voluntary. This is where decisions can be carefully and prayerfully considered and made according to one’s faith and conscience. This also means that whatever the decision, there should not be any reward or stigma attached. It would be totally inconsistent if the government says it is voluntary yet allow organisations and businesses to set their own rules and requirements, thereby making it mandatory. Yet, since vaccination is very strongly encouraged, a certain pressure to conform is only to be expected. Even so, for now, there is freedom to choose. Who knows what tomorrow holds?

At this point, you may be wondering where I am going with this post. You’re not alone. I am also wondering what I am trying to say, if anything at all. As mentioned, I am merely making an observation about the place of faith in this hot potato topic of vaccination.

Notwithstanding, please permit a small opinion here.

However faith is exercised, especially within the Body of Christ, this issue must not divide us. I am not here to tell anyone to vaccinate or not. At the same time, I will not judge anyone according to his or her vaccination status. Likewise, church communities should not discriminate between the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated. We must also be careful and responsible how we comment about the authorities and policies, whichever position we hold to. It would be totally ironic that we as people who profess and declare radical faith end up being viewed as those who respond as if gripped by irrational fear.

End of my one-cent opinion.

All said, I am thankful for the measures (vaccinations aside) that have kept Singapore’s Covid-19 numbers comparatively low. Admittedly, this has permitted me to ramble and reflect in a certain way. Would I offer the same perspectives if I were in a place where cases have spiralled out of control? Then again, should faith not be consistent wherever or however?

Hmmm… the processing continues 🙂 In the meantime, keep the faith.

Good Friday Reflections: A Thorny Crown

Each year, dictionaries will select a Word of the Year to describe the main trending issue of the year. For 2020, I am predicting that it might well be coronavirus, for obvious reasons.

More accurately, it is the novel coronavirus; or a new strain of a virus whose thorny crown-like spikes earned it the label corona or crown. It was later upgraded to a disease status, Covid-19, the COronaVIrus Disease which originated in 2019.

After the initial finger pointing, there is now a greater call for nations to co-operate. It is becoming clearer that no one nation can fight this battle on her own. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted and disrupted everyone and everything on a global scale.

As noble and needed as this sounds, this is where conspiracy theories abound. Who exactly is WHO (the World Health Organisation) representing? Whose interests are being promoted? Is the new normal going to take us one step closer to the New World Order? Will we see a One World Government established in our lifetime?

In whatever form, the general consensus is that we must stand united against this thorny crown. For humanity to be saved, this coronavirus must die.

Another Thorny Crown

Being Good Friday, I revisited the trial and crucifixion of Jesus through the gospel accounts this morning. This year, what stood out for me was the mocking and ridiculing of Jesus. Whilst this piece of information is not new to me, the identification of the groups of people who mocked Him caught my attention.

Facing the Sanhedrin, Jesus was spat at, beaten, slapped and struck by His own people, the Jews (Matt 26:67). At the trial by Pilate, Jesus was scourged, beaten and mocked by the Roman soldiers, the Gentiles (Matt 27:27-31). As if to cover all bases, Scripture records another mocking where Jesus was treated with utter contempt – by Herod and his men of war (Luke 23:6-12). Herod, as we know from his family line, was a mix of both Jew and Gentile.

To top it all off, adding insult to injury, mocking Jesus’ kingship claim, a crown of thorns was wedged onto His head (Matt 27:29). It seemed that since Jesus was disrupting everyone and everything, He must be decisively dealt with and promptly put away. To restore normalcy, to save humanity, this thorny issue of Jesus must die.

To demonstrate the agreement of this decision on a ‘global’ scale, each and every people group (nation) was represented through the above mocking and rejection accounts – the Jews, the Gentiles, and even those in between. All stood as one against Jesus.

The Real Thorny Issue

In much the same way, we suppose that once humanity works together, we will win the battle against Covid-19 and other similar ills. Through this crisis, a new humanity will emerge – or so we are being told.

To the unsuspecting, this humanistic narrative is not new and has been declared in both obvious and not-as-obvious ways across the decades. The underlying message is simply: We are all the same, regardless of race or religion. It doesn’t matter which god you worship or what you believe. Let’s not fight but unite. At the end of the day, no one can save humanity except humanity itself.

However, the battle is not simply against the coronavirus. Hey, I am all for curbing and eradicating Covid-19, and soon. Yet, even when that happens, it will only be a matter of time before another issue surfaces.

What the world regards as the main issue is only the manifestation of the real thorny issue – sin.

Through this crisis, humanity hopes to come together as one. Even if that should take place, in whatever form, if sin is not dealt with, that unity will still be a sinful one of global proportions (eeks!). And the last time I read the Bible, sin only results in death (Rom 6:23).

The One with the Thorny Crown

The mocking and rejection of Jesus was foretold by the prophet, Isaiah. In describing the Messiah, the coming King and Saviour, he wrote,

“He is despised and rejected by men;
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

Isaiah 53:3

In the next verses, we learn that the Messiah’s rejection was for a specific purpose:

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-6

After the mocking came the crucifixion. On the Cross, Jesus took upon Himself “the iniquity of us all”; yes, all. The suffering and sacrifice of the Messiah (the Christ) were not just for the Jews. These were extended to the Gentiles and everyone else in between. Where the judgment for sin demanded death, Jesus died in place of everyone that whosoever would believe in Him will receive life.

Do not be deceived. Only Jesus can save from the devastation and destruction of sin and bring about a new humanity of eternal significance and promise. Any other attempt will fail. The world may seek to capitalise on the present crown-like virus for all to stand as one. But Christians know that it is only through faith in Jesus that we can all be truly one in Him.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

Conclusion

This Good Friday, though our hearts go out to the many who have suffered and are suffering in and through the Covid-19 pandemic, it is the vicarious suffering and death of Jesus Christ that we must not forget. As much as we are thankful for good government and practical measures in these times, our hope continues to be in God through the salvific work of Jesus upon the Cross.

Sure, read the news and be updated about the Covid-19 situation. But let us not allow this thorny crown-like virus to detract us from Jesus, the One who wore the thorny crown and bore the terrible Cross on our behalf.

Covid-19 Circuit Breaker: Staying Home & Passover Perspectives

Some have likened the stay home directive to that of God’s instructions to the Israelites to stay indoors on the night of the first Passover (Exodus 12). What makes the proposition even more attractive (and prophetic) is that Singapore’s “circuit breaker” measures kicked in on 7 April – yes,  you guessed it – so very close to Passover 2020 which starts sundown of 8 April.

I have absolutely no issue with staying home and staying alive at all. However, I do find it a little bit of a stretch to apply the Passover account to what we are going through at the moment.

I will share some observations and will then end with a perspective which I believe is even more critical than merely avoiding Covid-19 (don’t miss this at the end of this post).

But before that, a little caveat: This post is not meant to stir any deep theological debate so please don’t pick a prophetic fight with me. You are free to believe or claim whatever you want to believe and claim.

Ok. Here goes …

Firstly, the Christian passover is no longer just physical but spiritual. Faith in Jesus, our Passover (1 Cor 5:7), has given us eternal life. I am not advocating being reckless in these critical times – be responsible and stay at home. That said, even if we should be affected physically, we know that death has already passed over us because of who we are and what we have in Christ.

Secondly, the time frame is not consistent. For the Israelites, they had to stay home for only one night. Even if we consider the entire Passover observance, it would be 8-16 April. As at the time of this reflection, Singapore’s circuit breaker measures will be until 4 May – three cycles of Passover? – just kidding.

Thirdly, if the proximity of dates is to be considered, then this only applies to Singapore and not to the rest of the world. As favoured as I believe Singapore is, I don’t think this special Passover privilege is reserved only for us. As with all other spiritual principles, it must be applied universally and consistently.

Fourthly, unlike the first Passover, we are not in a lockdown situation (and we hope and pray that we never get to that). We can still go out and dabao (takeaway) our favourite hawker fare. Just wear a mask and practise social distancing.

By now, I think you get the point. As attractive as the Passover proposition is, the only common factor is that of staying at home – that’s all.

This, however, does not mean that there is nothing we can learn from the Passover account in Exodus 12. I will close with this perspective for your personal prayer and processing:

Notwithstanding these observations, as already briefly alluded to above, I have no issue with the Passover principle when viewed and processed through Jesus, our Passover and Christ, through Whom we have been saved by His blood. This is indeed a glorious promise!

However, to simply stop there would be to totally miss the point of our salvation (or survival through this Covid-19 crisis). If you want to read and claim Exodus 12, then do so in its entirety. To this end, allow me to bring Exodus 12:17 & 41 to your attention:

“So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the last of Egypt. … – it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.”

Exodus 12:17 & 41 (emphasis mine)

Make no mistake. The preservation of lives in Egypt was for the purposes of the kingdom of God in the land, through His own kingdom people, the armies of the LORD. Likewise, in and through this crisis and staying home, there will be a time when God’s people will be raised and released. May we be ready for that.

Let’s pray that the significance of Passover doesn’t only apply to the staying at home to avoid death. Pray for Exodus 12:17 & 41 to be equally significant, if not more.

In this pause, may we not waste the space but be postured rightly that we may consciously prepare for the coming play.

Blessed Pesach!

Covid-19 Disruptions: Two Reminders for the Church

Disruption is not a new concept but Covid-19 has brought it to a totally new level.

In the past two weeks, there have been so many developments. And each day brings with it more change and fresh challenges.

Where ministry is concerned, I experienced it first-hand recently, in a short span of two weeks. My teaching engagement in Cebu was postponed. Next, the AAA Seminar in Kota Kinabalu was called off. Then, two church camps in June which I was scheduled to speak at … yes, cancelled or postponed.

As for our own Awakening Event, AWE2020, following a very strong impression on Sunday morning, we decided to bring it back to Singapore (originally Batam). That evening, the government announced even stricter health and travel advisories. Thankfully, the Lord had already warned and directed us accordingly.

No one is spared. Everyone and everything is being disrupted.

That said, whilst inconvenient and extremely uncertain, we must not forget what the Lord has already said to us, His people. Amidst the various disruptions, it is easy to be caught up with the adjustments and miss a greater significance of what the Lord desires for His church. Allow me to recap the two main points previously shared:

A COLLECTIVE PAUSE Through the Covid-19 situation, God has pressed the pause button. Note that this is not just for China, or for Singapore, but for the entire world. This also means that churches the world over are affected. It’s a collective pause … for the purpose of praying, to seek Him and to reflect. It is a pause-and-pray that we may be ready for the play that comes after the pause button is released. [Read: Pause & Pray: Play]

A CORRECT POSTURE Whilst all eyes are on news and updates of the Covid-19 situation, our focus must be on God. For the people of God, our starting point must be faith and hope in Him (not fear). To this end, we believe that God will see us through this crisis, trusting Him not only to protect but also to provide, no matter how adverse the global economy may be. With a correct posture, we will see that disruptions notwithstanding, the kingdom of God continues to advance; and we must move with Him. [Read: Covid-19: Faith First]

Pondering the above this morning, as well as recent developments and disruptions, the Lord then dropped these two reminders in my heart.

1. Don’t fill up what God has freed up

Don’t waste the space that you have now. This is the best time for an alignment check. Take stock. Especially for those in leadership, there are many decisions to be made. However, look beyond the firefighting and the adjustments. Don’t let these distract you from what is truly important. Stop trying to fill up what God has freed up. Use the space wisely. Get ready for what’s ahead. Check alignment – to discover assignment, or to be even more effective on assignment.

The Lord then reminded me of what I wrote in my book, Alignment Check. I pray that this will speak to many of you:

“Whilst this [framework] may provide a good overview of the Alignment Check, it is unlikely that any alignment would have taken place. It is like sending your car to the workshop, getting a computerised reading of how misaligned the tyres are, driving off immediately, and then wondering why there are still problems with the steering. Recognising misalignment is only the first step. Allowing the Mechanic to help you with the realignment makes all the difference! And for that, the vehicle needs to be still and stationery for a while longer than what most of us may be comfortable with.

Alignment Check, p29, emphasis mine.

With the lockdown in many countries, the roads are empty. Vehicles are all stuck at home, as are people. I say again, this is the best time to check alignment. Don’t waste the space, the additional time, you now have on your hands or at home. Stop trying to fill up what God has allowed to be freed up.

2. Don’t mistake church-onlined for church-aligned

Thank God for technology where services and teachings can be live-streamed. With church services disrupted, we now have even more online options (think Christian Netflix!). Over the past week, I have also been praying about Archippus Awakening’s digital strategy.

That said, is it just about getting everyone to attend services online? I don’t believe so. The prompting of the Lord came strongly this morning: The solution is not church-onlined; but church-aligned.

And where online articles are concerned, please be careful (yes, even this one – *grin*). There is so much information about Covid-19 … way too much! Staying updated is one thing; but to be inundated with an overload is not healthy at all. In case you are not aware, there is a lot of nonsense out there. If you don’t know how to posture and handle these well, you will either be distracted from what God is saying or be paralysed and not move with how God is directing. Once again: The solution is not church-onlined; but church-aligned.

I am not speaking against anyone, any church, or any practice here. Once again, we all agree that technology is a great tool, especially in these times. However, we must also be mindful that it is just a means to an end – that’s all it is. Just as we can attend service after service and not be aligned with Jesus and His kingdom, we can likewise view live-stream after live-stream and remain unchanged. We can be online, and still not align.

Praise God for leaders and teams working overtime to help you stay connected online. At the end of the day, it is not how many viewed the live-stream or clicked LIKE as the message was delivered. Once again, it’s not onlinement that God is after, but alignment. May the Lord grant you wisdom to discern and process what He is saying to you – personally.

Conclusion

I started out recognising the disruptions that the Covid-19 crisis has caused. Yet, through these, let us not miss what God has allowed. What if we changed our perspective from how Covid-19 has disrupted us to how God is disrupting His church?

Clearly, this disruption is an awakening where God is trying to get our attention. Don’t waste the space by trying to fill up what God has freed up. This is the best time for an alignment check. Whilst getting online seems to be the order of the day, getting aligned should be the focus. In Archippian-lingo, “Focus on the aligning. Let God do the assigning.” This then postures you for kingdom assignments, making you ready for when the Lord finally moves from pause to play.

This article was first published on Archippus Awakening‘s website on 20 March 2020.

Covid-19: Faith First

Last night, following WHO’s declaration of a global pandemic, our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong provided an update on the Covid-19 situation. In the concise 11:28″ live broadcast, he reassured Singaporeans by focussing on three aspects: medical, economic & psychological.

Coronavirus: Full text of speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong on the Covid-19 outbreak

This morning, as I spent some time praying and reflecting, I was led to consider these points backwards – psychological, economic, medical.

The natural response is always to see what is happening, consider its impact and then consider the appropriate response. Applying this to the Covid-19 outbreak, medically, we will first look at the facts and figures, study the clusters and see how best to contain the spread. Next, economic impact is ascertained and the appropriate measures rolled out. Finally, to weather this, psychologically, the people must stand together that we may get through this together.

Well and good, naturally. But in the spiritual, from a kingdom perspective, I felt the Lord reminding me that it is often upside-down; hence the prompting to consider it backwards.

Psychological

Firstly, fear cannot be the primary motivator. It has to be faith and hope in God. This is and must be the starting point for the people of God.

Faith and hope in God does not mean that no Christian will ever get infected with the Covid-19 virus, or die from it. It does mean, however, that in any eventuality and whatever the outcome, our faith and hope continues to be in God and God alone.

We do not want to be infected but we are not afraid should we be infected. We do not want to die from such an infection but because of who we are in Christ and the eternal life we already have in and through Him, we are not afraid to die. If we truly believe that God is in control, then we must acknowledge that He is also sovereign over the measure of our days (Psalm 39:4).

Faith allows us to continue with what we have been tasked with that we may be faithful to fulfil our assignments, come what may. Fear, on the other hand, will paralyse and make things even worse than it already is. We will be responsible but we cannot be fearful. May we learn to discern the difference and have the right starting point of faith.

Economic

Once faith and hope are rightly placed in God, the promise of His provision follows. Jesus said it in this way, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Our part is not to worry but to be gainfully employed in the work of His kingdom. God’s part is to look after and provide for His kingdom people.

In a time when businesses are being hit left, right and centre, I know that this can be a cause of concern for many.

This statement by PM Lee caught my attention: “The situation is especially serious for some sectors – hotels, aviation, hospitality, and freelancers in the gig economy. But nobody has been spared. Everyone feels the impact, to different degrees” (emphasis mine). Hey, I thought to myself, that’s me he’s talking about. If churches continue to cancel services, camps and retreats, many of my speaking engagements will be affected … oops.

Well, that is if I depend on the way things have been. What if God is disrupting His people, forcing a shift in their paradigms? Could He be shaking our comfort zones that we will truly and fully trust in Him for provision and not the typical sources of financial support? I’ve always believed that God’s kingdom economy runs counter to that of the world. To see and experience that will require eyes of faith that look to Him and not the facts and figures circulating in the media.

Another statement by PM Lee stood out for me: “We will help our workers keep their jobs, and retrain during their downtime, so that when things return to normal, our workers will be the first out of the gate, and immediately productive” (emphasis mine).

This sounds really familiar. On 15 February, reflecting on a word that the Lord had pressed the pause button through Covid-19, I shared that it was not just a pause-and-pray scenario, but that we are to get ready for the play that comes after. In my #GoViralWithPrayer live broadcast that morning, I said:

“The pause is only a moment, because after the pause is a play. So, it is not just a pause and pray, it will be a pause and play. I believe that this whole situation will pass. God wants us to pause and listen to Him. For those who align or realign, those who are awakened, and we are inclining our ear, leaning in to listen to Him, heeding this word to pause and to pray, assignments will be there. Once this thing moves on, God is looking for men and women – Archippuses – who will be awakened, aligned and assigned.”

Pause and Pray: Pray

To be sure, this is not just a time to look for alternative ways to do church. This is an opportunity for every believer to pause and seek the Lord, to be realigned and retrained “so that when things return to normal, [believers] will be the first out of the gate, and immediately productive” for the work of the kingdom.

Medical

With numerous reports and articles coming from everywhere and anywhere, we need discernment to know which are true and which are not. Even experts and medical practitioners can’t agree on whether to wear masks or not! I am even finding it difficult to keep up with the rate of updates. So how?

Once again, we start with faith and hope in God, not fear. And then, we trust in His provision and leading. Medically, I’d like to suggest that we leave it to the professionals to figure out what they need to do. Unless you have a platform to do something about it, your opinion will remain just that – an opinion, however strong. (Please stop being a Facebook keyboard warrior – it’s not helping.)

In constituting a people for Himself, God required that the children of Israel first acknowledge Him as God, i.e. faith in Him. In that covenantal relationship, God promised to provide for their every need. For their well-being, He laid down communal and societal laws that included basic health and hygiene protocols. Can you see the same order here – psychological, economic, medical?

Whilst I may not fully understand how the virus infects or mutates, I can be socially responsible by practising personal hygiene, washing my hands and not attending functions/meetings if I am unwell. This is not fear but faith working through love, a kingdom value.

Even if religious gatherings are shortened or limited in size, these may inconvenience but should not concern us too much. Kingdom assignments will continue, regardless of size and frequency of church meetings. In fact, this may yield positive outcomes (as some have already experienced) as smaller groups are much better for relationships and authentic interactions. Large meetings, whilst impressive, have a tendency to encourage complacency and apathy, and even provide a false sense of success.

Where mega meetings have become normal for Christians, what if this is the new normal God desires us to embrace – a returning to “the old paths, where the good way is” (Jeremiah 6:16)?

Conclusion

It’s not about just avoiding or surviving Covid-19. For us as the people of God, we must see beyond the natural that we may discern the spiritual significance of the situation. For that, we need faith first.