The Dying 2 Self Podcast returns for the second season absolutely no asked for! In this episode, I will discuss in great detail my experience with the Optavia Weight Loss Program and introduce the new Youtube Channel. I’ll also reveal what I’ve been up to since the first season.
They Will Know You by Your Love: A Study of John 13:24
As He prepared His disciples for the cross, Jesus instructed them on how to honor God with their lives. In Chapter 13 of John’s Gospel, Jesus commands them to love another, just as I have loved you … [in fact] by this everyone will know you are that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:31-35 31 When he had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.” 33 “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so now I tell you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’” 34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
In Bible study this week, I asked the group to describe how Jesus had demonstrated love to His disciples and there were several responses … but they all boiled down to one thing: Jesus loved His disciples sacrificially. That is, He continually put their needs ahead of His own in humility … even to the point of giving His life on the cross.
And then He tells them in verse 34 to love one another in the same way.
Can you imagine loving your fellow Christians in the same way Jesus loves you? This verse makes me wonder if Jesus is speaking metaphorically. Certainly He doesn’t actually mean we are supposed to give our lives for one another does He?
Jesus repeats this command in John Chapter 15, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12-13). In all honesty, there are not too many people I would willingly, without question, lay down my life for. My wife, kids, or grandkids? I sure hope so. My dogs? Probably. But beyond that I’m not so sure. I’ve often said that this is one of the reasons we need to honor our military, law enforcement, and first responders as they willingly lay down their lives for others. This kind of sacrificial love takes courage … maybe this is why I’m going Jesus is speaking metaphorically in these passages. But then it occurred to me who the immediate audience was for these words. Jesus is speaking to all believers, but He speaking first to His disciples …. and these men He spoke to would all, with the exception of John, sacrifice their lives for their faith in Jesus. Jesus wasn’t just speaking in hyperbole, He was preparing the Apostles for not only His death but also for their own.
I certainly hope and pray I am never asked to lay down my life in brutal manner. But I find it remarkable what Jesus does here. He tells the Apostles, “By this they will know you are mine, but your love for one another”. And in turn, they gave their lives for their faith. Apologist and author Lee Strobel says, “People will not die for their religious beliefs if they know that their religious beliefs are false.” His argument is that the apostles were all in a position to know if they resurrection was true or not and, based on their martyrdom, we know they each one of them expressed their belief in and their love for Jesus in the manner of their deaths. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
The kind of love modeled by Jesus and mimicked by the Apostles is rare. So rare that the Apostle Paul wrote, “6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
This all might leave you wondering …. why would Peter die for the Church? Why would Phillip or Thomas or Paul die for the Church?
Why? Based on our passage, they answer has got to be love. The Apostles gave their life for their love for the Church and for their love of Christ. Jesus said it is by this love that we would know they were His. And their sacrifice points to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. God demonstrates His one love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
As believers, we may not be asked to give our very life, but we will be asked to sacrifice for others. We will be asked to put others needs ahead of our own. We will be asked to give of our time, resources, and talents …. and in a small way, when we show this sacrificial love for others, everyone will know we belong to Jesus. And we point them to the cross.
Glorifying the Father’s Name: A Study of John 12:27-28
The 12th Chapter of John records Jesus saying a prayer that is reminiscent of the prayer He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. A comparison of both passages is as follows:
John 12:27-28 27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.”
In Matthew 26:39 we see Jesus pray, “39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
I compare these two passages, because, in both instances, Jesus is deeply troubled as He looks forward to the cross. In the Garden, He says, let this cup pass from Me and in our passage from John, He is recorded as saying Father, save Me from this hour. In both cases, Jesus becomes emotional at the thought of what He’s about to do on the cross. We must remember that Jesus is 100% man and 100% God and His humanity is revealed in these passages. Is He overwhelmed? Doubtful? Is His faith shaken? I don’t think so. Rather, our text says Jesus is deeply troubled in His very soul.
Have you ever been troubled?
I am confident that if you are reading this right now, there have been times in your life when you have found yourself deeply troubled. You may be troubled by something right now. Jesus can identify with our troubles. When Jesus faced the prospect of the cross we need to understand the magnitude of what He was about to do. Jesus was going to bear the cost of the sins for the whole world. We shouldn’t be surprised that He was deeply troubled. The author of Hebrews wrote that Jesus can sympathize and empathize with us because He understands what we’re facing (Hebrews 4:15). He understands because He faced trouble one hundred fold what we will ever face. And in our passage from John, as in the Garden, Jesus is role modeling how we as believers should face trouble.
Notice how in both passages, Jesus immediately surrenders to the will of the Father. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus says, Not as I will, but as You (the Father) will. And in our passage from John, Jesus says but for this purpose, I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.
In the midst of deep trouble, Jesus is most concerned with His Father’s will and His Father’s glory. Can you say the same?
In sharing His emotions with His disciples, Jesus is teaching them about the cost of commitment to the Father’s will. You see, if we are truly committed to the will of God, eventually we’ll be asked to submit our will to His. Warren Weirsbe says that “In the hour of suffering and surrender, there are only two prayers we can pray, either ‘Father, save me!’ or ‘Father, glorify Thy name!'” Too often, I think we cry out to God to deliver us from our trouble without considering His will. We ask God why He’s allowing unpleasant things to happen to us, but Christ is teaching us that our prayer should be, “Father, through this suffering and through this pain, glorify thyself.”
It should be noted that the Father answered Jesus audibly in verse 28 when “a voice came out of heaven [saying]: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
The Father answered Jesus’ petition out of heaven audibly. The Gospels record three instances of God doing this. The other two were at Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:21-22) and transfiguration (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). The Synoptics record those events, and only John recorded this one. In the first instance, apparently only John the Baptist and Jesus heard the voice. In the second instance, only three disciples and Jesus heard it. And in the third instance, a multitude and Jesus heard it. In all of these cases the purpose of the voice was to authenticate Jesus as God’s Son in a dramatic way, and in all cases the voice had some connection with Jesus’ death. You see, God had already glorified Himself through the Incarnation and through the ministry of Jesus … and He would glorify Himself again, through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.
As Jesus submitted His will to the Father’s and voluntarily sacrificed Himself on the cross, God was glorified. Likewise, He is glorified every time we, as Christians, submit our will to His. When we are able to stand in the midst of turmoil and genuinely pray for God to be glorified and for His will to be done, we are following Christ’s example … and the Father is glorified.
Perhaps this is what James was thinking of when he wrote, “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
Brothers and sisters, the way we face troubles and trials matters. And I hope you’ll think of these passages the next time you find yourself troubled.
Mary of Bethany: A Study of John 12:1-3
In John, Chapter 12 we see a transition from Jesus’ public ministry into the event that encompassed the last few days of His life. In Chapter 11, we see Jesus resurrect Lazarus, and in Chapter 12 Jesus returns to Bethany and attends a meal with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. At this point the reputation if Jesus proceeds Him and even Lazarus has become a celebrity given that he was once dead and is now alive. In last week’s Bible study I noted that Mary of Bethany provides an example that all Christians should follow and in this study I want to take a deeper dive into what I mean by that.
JOHN 12:1-3 1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, the one Jesus had
raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there; Martha was serving them, and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of perfume, pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus’s feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
In this passage we see Mary pour out an exorbitant amount of perfume on Jesus’ feet. In verse 5 of Chapter 12 we see Judas claim they could have sealed the perfume for 300 Denarii which was equivalent to a years worth of wages for the average Jewish male at the time and we also know from the other Gospels that Mary anointed Jesus’ head along with His feet. I want you to notice the emotion that must have been present as this anointing took place.
There must have been so many emotions coursing through Mary as she poured perfume on Jesus’ feet. Her brother had been dead for four days and Jesus brought him back to life. Any one who has lost a loved should be able to imagine the emotional lows Mary experienced when she thought Lazarus was gone forever followed by the unbelievable emotions she must have experienced when Lazarus walked out of the tomb. And all those emotions were spilling out as she anoints Jesus’ feet. Love, gratitude, worship … emotions so intense that she disregards the cultural standards of the day and takes her down in the presence of Jewish men to wipe Jesus’ feet. Mary is emotional that she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her as she does this.
In our culture, we may have a hard time envisioning why Mary is doing this. In verse 7, Jesus gives us a hint as He tells Judas to leave Mary alone because she has saved this perfume for the day of His burial. What we see here is that Jesus connects this anointing with His impending death and burial. It’s unclear that even Mary understood exactly why she was anointing Jesus as she was, but it appears that intuitively she knew that her time with Jesus was running out and that He would soon be dead. And Jesus connects her actions with His death. In verse 8 as He corrects Judas, He says “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have Me.”
Mary is worshiping Jesus in a radical way in the amount of time she has left to do it. And my question isn’t why is Mary worshiping in this manner, but rather, I wonder why everyone else isn’t joining in. Maybe its pride, maybe it’s doubt, maybe they they didn’t fully believe what Jesus had been telling them all along in that He is going to die. But, Mary is making the most of the time she has left.
And I would as you, are you doing the same?
We live in a unique period in the history of the world. That is, the time between Jesus work on the cross and the Rapture. We call this the Church age. It’s an age that is governed by the marching orders Jesus Himself gave is in the Great Commission, “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
I fear, however, that many of us hold back in our obedience and in our worship of Christ. And like Mary, we need to understand that our time in this age is running short. Listen, one of two things is going to happen in the lives of everyone listening to this. Either we’re going to pass away or there is going to come a time when this Church Age comes to an end and Jesus will rapture the Church, the Holy Spirit will be removed and the Tribulation will begin. And when the Church Age ends, it’s going to happen suddenly:
2 Peter 3:8-10, “8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and it’s works will be burned up.
We need to understand that when the Church Age comes to an end, our relationship with Christ will also change. Now, I’m not suggesting at all that this will be a bad thing, but it will be a transition. And the unique opportunity we have in the here and now to witness for Christ and to worship Him within the context of the Church Age will come to an end. And yet many of us are living like don’t believe it’s going to happen. We hold back in our worship, we hold back in our witness, and we hold back in our obedience, and time and time again we choose the culture of the world over the Church.
Understand that your life is particular to you and no one else will have same opportunities to serve Christ in the way you have right now. No one else is going to step into your life and make the choices for you that you should be making right now.
As Mary of Bethany worshiped Jesus with reckless abandon, none of the Apostles joined in. Judas accused her of being crazy and wasteful. He was too busy being judgmental to join her in her worship. But what we learn is that because Mary threw caution to the wind, Jesus was anointed properly before His burial. She fulfilled a role that no one else could fill.
In John, Chapter 19 we see that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapped Christ’s body in linen strips and spices before placing it in the tomb, but they were rushed due to the Day of Preparation. The Sabbath was coming and they only had so much time so they hastily applied the spices and placed the body in a nearby tomb. John 19:42 says, “42 Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there” this verse implies they were in a bit of a hurry due to the Day of Preparation. And as a result, though they applied spices to the body, we don’t read that they anointed Jesus head and feet with perfume as would be customary.
This explains what we read in Mark 16 verses 1-3, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, they *came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
Mary Magdalen, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome after the Sabbath was over went to the tomb to complete the anointing process that Joseph and Nicodemus had to rush through. Why? Because they thought it was important to show Jesus that honor. But the Gospels tell us they never got the opportunity to honor Jesus in this way because He had already risen by the time they got there. But here’s what I find incredible … Jesus was honored and buried properly because Mary of Bethany chose to honor Him and anoint while He was still alive! She made the most out of the time she had with Jesus and served Him in a way that others either chose not to, or didn’t have the opportunity for.
And that’s my question of you right now … are you making the most out of time you have to serve and worship Jesus in the here and now? As I ask you this question, I’m also asking it of myself. Remember, Jesus said He came so we may have an abundant life (John 10:10) and I would argue that Mary of Bethany had an abundant life. My fear is that we would allow fear, doubt, and unbelief to rob us of abundance.
Mini Book Review of “Run the Mile You’re In: Finding God in Every Step” by Ryan Hall
This book by Ryan Hall exists at the intersection or long distance running and faith. Hall, one the greatest American marathon runners ever, explores the role his Christian faith plays in his life and running career. Hall examines his running career from its very beginnings to end. Scripture frequently uses running as a metaphor for the Christian walk (Heb. 12:1, 2 Tim. 4:7, and elsewhere) and Hall’s memoir represents a practical application of that metaphor. Much of what Hall communicates about his relationship with God was learned through the lens of running. It is an excellent read. It is not, however, overly theological or doctrinal, which should allow Christians of different theological ilks to enjoy it.
Undefeated: How I’ve Managed a Winning Streak Against My Arch Rival
When you hear the term “Arch Rival” what comes to mind? The Ohio State University vs. That Team Up North? Celtics vs. Lakers? Sherlock Holmes vs. Professor Moriarty? During my run today I was listening to the always excellent Trail Runner Nation Podcast and the hosts were interviewing authors of the book Trail Running Illustrated: The Art of Running Free. A discussion of the word “race” as it applies to trail running came up and the group discussed that trail runners are often “racing” against themselves. As I pondered this, it occurred to me that I am my own arch rival. Rather, the man I used to be is my worst enemy. The Apostle Paul wrote that our “old man” is crucified with Christ that our body of sin might be destroyed (Romans 6:6) … the problem is that my old man is dying a painfully slow death, kicking and screaming the whole way.
It’s that “old man” that is a lethargic, gluttonous couch potato … and I battle him every single time I go for a run.
But it occurred to me today that I am undefeated against that old man. I began my running and trail running adventures as a means to honor God with an active lifestyle. A few years ago I started off with the Couch to 5k Program and slowly advanced from there. Recently, I finished my fist ultra run by completing the Fuzzy Fandango 50k. Along the way I’ve had some good runs, some great runs, and many, many slow and somewhat arduous runs. I’ve suffered injuries, DNFs, and many aches and pains. But the old man has never, ever beat me.
My revelation today was that no matter how bad, every run I’ve ventured out on since my journey began has been a victory — a victory over the old man who would never set out on a run. The old man didn’t know the beauty of the deep woods or the joy of going for a run with his wife. I’ve heard it said that getting to the starting line is the victory and there is much truth to that. It doesn’t matter how fast I am or how long I run because every run is a victory over the old man sitting on the couch.
I suppose it all comes back to how we define a win. I will never win a trail run in the literal sense, but I’ve come to realize that every trail run is a win.
My First DNF – The Germantown 50k
For the past 12 weeks, I have been training for today. The Germantown 50k Trail Run. Four, torturous loops through the Germantown MetroPark expertly ran by the Ohio River Road Runners Club. Why? Well, I happen to love running — especially trail running. Also, I firmly believe God put this specific distance on my heart, which is odd considering I’m not an especially gifted runner. I’m slow and not built like a runner at all. But running has become an avenue for prayer and contemplation. My best conversations with God tend to happen when I’m alone on a run. So I didn’t argue or complain that God put the 50k (31 miles) on my heart.
I gave Germantown my best. My biggest fear was missing the time cut off after the third loop and not being allowed to start loop four. To qualify, I had to finish the third loop by 2:45 pm. A generous time allotment, but as I mentioned, I’m slow. Out of fear, I ran more and walked less than I had planned on the first two loops. According to plan, Stefanie joined me on loop three to pace me. It was slow going to say the least. I was experiencing severe stomach distress that wasn’t allowing me to take in much nutrition. What nutrition I did take in was a struggle to keep down. Basically, I was a train wreck. Dizziness, cramps, stomach cramps … the works. But I finished the third loop before the cutoff with about 20 minutes to spare. Mission accomplished. The problem? I didn’t have a fourth loop left in me. After loop three, I dropped.
The dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish). I managed to cover 22.83 miles with 2467 feet of elevation. But ultimately, I didn’t finish. Which made me mad at first. Specifically, I was a little mad at God. Why would He put the 50k on my heart only to allow me to DNF? I didn’t understand … and, if I’m being honest, I’m still struggling. But I have realized something in the last few hours.
The God of Victories is also the God of DNFs.
Perhaps there was and is something God wants me to learn amid this DNF. We Christians talk a lot about living the victorious Christian life. But God’s Word is clear, we claim an ultimate victory that was won by Jesus on the cross. In life, however, God often uses failure to grow and mature us. The Apostle Paul understood this. That’s why he wrote, “And we know that for those that love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Paul praised God though victories and imprisonment. Following his example, I will praise God in my DNF.
I have yet to decipher what God is trying to teach me. Perhaps I need to rely more on Him and less on me to finish a 50k. Perhaps, He is simply teaching me to wait on His timing. Whatever the lesson, today wasn’t the day. But I will keep plugging away. As Stefanie has reminded me, I need to focus on what I did achieve today. I did make the cutoff. I did complete 22.83 difficult trail miles (my longest yet) and almost 2500 feet of elevation. And I am praising the God who has blessed me by allowing me to do it.
I guess my first DNF isn’t that bad. It’s back to the drawing board. I’m now on the lookout for a 50k with a little less elevation!
Trail Running is 90% Mental
Some people may make the case that a person must be mental to go running out in the middle of the woods, but that’s not actually what this post is about. Rather, I am simply making an argument that a successful trail run, especially a long trail run, is mostly about mental fortitude and attitude.
Case in point, I am currently training for my first ultra run; a 50k run in the Germantown Metro Park that will consist of four 7.75 mile loops around the park. Last week for my long run, I set out to do two loops in that park. Basically, I wanted to know what I was in store for. I’m not a big fan of surprises come race day. So, I set out and drove the hour and a half to see the park for myself. My first impression was that there were far more hills than I expected. About four miles into my first loop, the elevation started adding up. I instantly got down on myself and the negative talk began. Perhaps you’ve been there. “You can’t do this. You’ll never be able to complete four loops. You’re not a real runner. You have no business trying to do this.”
I hate to admit this, but the negative voice I hear in my head at times is my own. I have a tendency to focus on the negative when it comes to myself. Perhaps it comes from years of fighting obesity, but I am able to quickly forget how far I’ve come. I forget that I am not the man I used to be. I can do it quite easily. Long story short – I did not complete two loops during my first encounter with Germantown. I hit my limit after just one loop.
I walked away feeling defeated, discouraged, and embarrassed.
Today was a different story. I completed two loops in their entirety. Yeah, it was tough. I even got attacked by a swarm of bees at one point. But I overcame the bees and the hills. What had changed in a week? I’m still basically the same runner I was last week. The handful of training runs I competed over the last seven days didn’t make me twice as capable as I was. I’m still not fast or naturally gifted. The one thing that did change, however, was my mental state.
I went into today’s run accepting that it was going to be tough. I began the run in prayer. I asked God to give me strength, to protect myself and my companions from injury, and to protect me from myself. My negative self talk has the potential to cause some damage and I had no desire to go down that road today. I confessed that to God, asked for His forgiveness, and put my trust in Him.
I then spent the entire first loop focusing on staying positive. It helped that my wife stayed positive as well. Despite some aches and pains from a foot surgery she is recovering from, she stayed more or less in a good mood. That helped – a lot. I am convinced that surrounding yourself with positive people is the most basic way to stay positive yourself. Basically, I just tried to enjoy that first loop. I focused on the blessing of being on a trail with my wife and our son. I slammed my Tailwind to stay hydrated and walked the big hills with no apologies – I had bigger fish to fry.
The second loop started after a changed shirt and a PB&J sandwich – calm down, it was was sugar free jelly, natural peanut butter, and low carb wheat bread! Both Stef and Zach opted out of this loop, which left me on my own. The aftershokz went on and my running playlist was engaged. My running music is comprised of loads of positive, upbeat praise and worship music. Casting Crowns, P.O.D., Skillet, and Toby Mac. Before long, I found myself singing out loud; much to the chagrin of the various hikers I passed. I find it impossible to focus on negative things when I’m praising God.
This strategy worked well. The second loop seemed to be flying by. That is until mile 11. As a rounded a corner I saw a dog harness, cell phone, and various articles of clothing strewn about the trail, which is weird, but my brain didn’t even get a chance to process it before I was attacked by a swarm of bees. Before I knew what was happening, I had probably been stung about a dozen times. Eventually, I realized all the stuff on the trail belonged to another runner and his dog who had been attacked as well. The dog had accidentally stumbled into a hive and upset the bees. This was at about the same point the hills began.
Everything post bee attack was tough. Real tough.
My heart rate skyrocketed and I had some breathing issues. Fortunately, the inhaler I carry on my trail runs helped some. The hills were made tougher with the pain of the stings, but I had to take moment and thank God it hadn’t been worse. I also prayed for the dog, because she seemed to take more stings than the rest of us. The bee incident did manage to shorten my planned 19 mile run to just under 15, but on a positive note, I managed to complete two full loops.
The only change was my mindset an my attitude.
God’s Word tells us to to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable … excellent or praiseworthy” Philippians 4:8. I’ve learned the mind is the most powerful weapon a trail runner has. Sure … it would be nice to have the endurance and lungs of Jim Walmsley, but let’s face it, that’s never going to happen. Through dedication and hard work, I may be able to slightly improve my running performance … but nothing will have a more dramatic impact on my running than an improved attitude!
My advice for trail runners, regardless of their skill level?
1. Stay positive! Don’t allow negative thoughts to get a foothold.
2. Focus on those things lovely about being on a trail! There are plenty of people who wish they could enjoy a train run, but for whatever reasons can’t. You are blessed!
3. Begin each run in prayer and praise God frequently throughout your run. You are never alone in the woods!
4. Finally, prepare yourself mentally before the trail gets tough. Spend time in God’s Word and in prayer during the week before your long run. Don’t wait for hills to talk with God … know that the hills are coming, and talk to Him in preparation!
I’m a work in progress, but this lesson is going to stick with me.
Should the COVID Vaccine be Associated With the Mark of the Beast?
Is the COVID vaccine the mark of the beast? Should it be associated with the mark of the beast in any way? I’ve been asked this question enough times that I thought it was time to look at it in light of Scripture. Especially considering some political pundits continue to make the assertion that they are one in the same. I’ve even seen some Preachers equate the two.
Why is the vaccine associated with the mark of the beast? I suppose it is because, on the surface, there seems to be a similarity. The line of reasoning is typically that the mark is supposed to be on, or under, the skin and a person will not be able to buy and sell unless they have received it. The vaccine is administered under the skin and marketplaces were largely shut down due to COVID. Plus, there is a big push by our government for everyone to be vaccinated. The fear some people have arrived at is that by receiving the vaccine, they will be inadvertently taking the mark of the beast.
Is this a valid concern? Quite simply, it is not. Take a look at what we know about the mark of the beast from God’s Word:
Revelation 13:15-18 “15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.”
Most of what we know about the mark of the beast comes from this passage in Revelation. We know that this mark acts as a seal for followers of the Antichrist and the False Prophet. There are two other passages that designate these followers as “worshipers”:
Revelation 14:9 “9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,”
Revelation 14:11 “11 And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”
Expositors differ on the exact nature of the mark and even on the meaning of the number 666, however, one thing is clear, the mark is reserved for those who worship the antichrist.
I’m going to offer three reasons why you do not have to fear “accidentally” receiving the mark of the beast either in the form of a vaccine or by any other means:
1. The mark is reserved for this who worship the beast. We know from God’s Word that He is a just and fair God (Psalm 89:14). Righteousness is simply part of God’s character. He isn’t capable of being unjust. Would a just God allow someone to accidentally accept the mark of the beast? Those who receive the mark are referred as worshipers because they will willfully and consciously worship the antichrist. They won’t have to be tricked into it. I would argue they will receive it with glee. The mark of the beast is a poor imitation of the Holy Spirit which seals believers as belonging to Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14). Just as one can’t accidentally receive the Holy Spirit, you will not accidentally receive the mark of the beast.
2. The mark doesn’t exist yet. I encourage you to check out my post on the Seventy Weeks of Daniel. Currently, we are positioned on the timeline as waiting for the final week of years to begin. This final week is known as The Tribulation and it will be heralded in by the antichrist rising to power through a coalition of ten nations and a peace treaty with Israel (Revelation 17:7, Daniel 9). While Geopolitically speaking, this seems likely to happen sometime soon, it hasn’t happened yet … and the mark won’t happen until all of this has taken place.
3. The Church hasn’t been raptured yet. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 makes it clear the Church will be raptured and spared from The Tribulation. The mark doesn’t come I until after this rapture occurs. While the Church will be raptured, those who remain will have to make a choice; Jesus or the antichrist. Those who choose unwisely will receive the mark of the beast. Those who choose Christ will likely be persecuted and martyred.
To sum this all up, God’s Word, when taken in context, prescribe a timeline of events. A coalition of ten nations will join together under the rule of the antichrist. Peace will be brokered with the nation of Israel. The Church will be raptured and the Tribulation period will be ushered in. Those who will remain will then need to make a choice. Christ or antichrist. Those who choose unwisely will be marked as belonging to the antichrist. A proper understanding of this should alleviate any fears that a person May accidentally take the mark of the beast by receiving a COVID vaccine (or by any other means for that matter).
Believers should have no fear of the mark. Unbelievers should choose Jesus as their Lord and Savior today to alleviate their fears. God will take care of the rest.
The All-Consuming Power of Hate
I’ve long pondered that Twitter is little more than a cesspool of depravity. There seems to be something intrinsic to this particular social media platform that brings out the fringe and extremists on any particular issue. Why is this the case? Perhaps it’s all in the pursuit of adding followers. Perhaps, people are simply bolder on the internet than in person. Whatever the reason, it sometimes gets hard for me to stomach. For example, I recently clicked on a thread started by an atheist account which seemed to be blaming Evangelical Christians on increasing COVID cases due to their reluctance to get vaccinated. I clicked, because I am an Evangelical Christian who is vaccinated and I honestly wondered if Christians are getting vaccinated at a slower rate than the rest of Americans; but what really caught my eye was some of the hateful comments that the post attracted. One presumed atheist commented that the world would be a better place if COVID killed off all the Evangelical Christians. I won’t link to the actual tweet because I don’t want to bring attention to the moron that posted it, but needless to say, the tweet caused me some consternation. Why? It wasn’t because I’m soft or it hurt my feelings. In fact, if anything, I was simply mad. But as I pondered the comment for awhile, I actually found myself feeling bad for someone who could be that consumed with hatred.
So there I was reading that tweet and finding myself geng angry. But God’s Word reminds me to hate the tweet and evil sentiment it communicated, but to love the person that tweeted it. In fact, Jesus Himself said to “Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). So that’s what I found myself doing. I know nothing about that person … but I prayed for them. And I feel like God thought me something in that moment.
Think about this for a bit. How much would you have to hate a person, or group of people, to not only wish them death, but to put it on the internet for all to see. It stunned me that someone could be so callous. It is in this example, however, that I was reminded of the all-consuming power of hate. Everyday Health compares hate to a “… mental venom [that] can pollute your spirit, poison your soul and seep into all of the relationships that surround you.”1 Could there be anything more damaging and unhealthy for your spirit than hate?
God’s Word calls on us to hate evil, hypocrisy, and godlessness; however, it is also very clear that if we hate our brothers and sisters we live in darkness (1 John 2:9). The Bible commands Christians to get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger (Ephesians 4:31). Why? Because it stirs up conflict (Proverbs 10:12). When hate begins to occupy your mind and heart there is always the danger it will consume you.
You can hate something for all the right reasons … and still be consumed by that hatred to the point that it is unhealthy. Reader, when you find yourself feeling hatred toward another person, you are on dangerous ground. Don’t believe me? Notice that God’s Word likens “hate” with “murder” (1 John 3:15).
Hate your political opponents? Hate those who disagree with you? Hate Democrats? Hate Republicans? Do so at your own peril. The Everyday Health article I quoted earlier quotes Siddhartha Buddha as saying, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
Want to live a happy and healthy life? Learn how to let go of your hate. God bless.