Category Archives: Worship

Four Hundred Years

And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will. (Leviticus 22:29)

November 11, 2020 commemorated the landing of the merchant ship Mayflower at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. She left port at Southampton on September 16, 1620 with 102 Pilgrims and about 30 crew members onboard and arrived in the “Promised Land” about three months later.

Before setting foot on the new land, and because Plymouth was not their intended destination, the Pilgrims convened to establish an agreement for self-governance of the colony. That document, known as the Mayflower Compact, served as a model for the founding documents of our nation. The first sentence of that document, following all the legal formal language, stated the purpose of the colony, i.e., “Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith…”

The small band arrived in the harshest of New England winters. They were unable to build suitable shelters, so they spent the winter onboard the Mayflower. By the time they finally disembarked at the end of March 1621, almost half of their company had died of a contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

Once on land and with the help of some Indians, they planted crops and built houses for themselves. At harvest time (the date is not recorded), they joined together with the Indian tribes that helped them to offer thanksgiving to God for providing for them even through extremely difficult times.

The Pilgrims did not celebrate a particular day of thanksgiving; rather, they made a practice of thanking God daily for His care and provision – a practice we all should follow. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15)

We should offer God our sacrifice of thanksgiving daily, not just on the fourth Thursday of November.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Fear

For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. (Isaiah 41:13)

Dictionary.Com defines “fear”[1] as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” Note, first of all, that fear is an “emotion;” thus it is subject to irrationality. Note also that fear can be stirred up by a sense of “impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.” Fear is rational when the danger is real as in the case of a physical attack. Fear is irrational when the danger is imagined as in the case of less than a 1% chance of catching COVID-19. In either case, the emotion of fear can cause us to react in an irrational manner.

We can prepare ourselves to confront fear rationally by training for a variety of scenarios. We can prepare for a physical attack by taking self-defense classes and practicing, at least mentally, for different situations in which we may come under attack. Our military and police do this on a regular basis so that when they come under threat, they can respond rationally to a fearful situation.

In the case of COVID-19, or any disease that may afflict us, we can prepare ourselves mentally with information, so that we can take proper and sensible precautions. The danger of COVID-19 is real, but it is not a threat to everyone. Ninety-nine percent of the population will not contract the virus. Yet the media bombard us daily with increased percentages of “cases” of COVID – not deaths, only “cases.” When they report a 50% increase in cases, that sounds like a lot, but they never report on what the percentages are based. Does 50% mean half of the entire population or only half of what was previously reported? Such careless reporting serves only to feed the fear in the audience who by and large do not exercise critical thinking when listening to news reports.

And how accurate are the tests anyway? Recently, Elon Musk tested positive and negative for COVID-19.[2] He tested four times. Two tests returned positive results and two tests returned negative results. With inconclusive results, he still has no idea if he really has had the virus.

By the way, has anyone, besides me, noticed that no flu deaths have been reported by the media this year? Yet, “During the 2019-2020 influenza season, CDC estimates that influenza was associated with 38 million illnesses, 18 million medical visits, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths”[3] compared to 34,200 deaths in 2018-2019.[4]  Why do we not hear about flu deaths? Could it be that the flu is less sensational?

As for deaths from COVID-19, only 6% of the deaths associated with the novel coronavirus died solely from the virus, the rest were brought about by other underlying conditions. In an article by “LiveScience” attempting to debunk the social media claim “that ‘only 6%’ of the reported COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are solely attributable to the new coronavirus,” the writer seems to validate the claim. He says,

This claim stems from an Aug. 26 update the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) posted on its website, which provides a detailed breakdown of the accompanying health conditions (known as comorbidities) and contributing causes of death reported in people who have died of the new coronavirus in the United States. The CDC noted that “For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.”

In other words, 6% of people who died when they had COVID-19 didn’t have underlying conditions, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, and didn’t experience any medical complications, such as kidney failure or sepsis. But the other 94% of deaths were still caused by COVID-19, infectious disease experts said. That’s because many chronic, underlying conditions can make diseases that a person might otherwise recover from, such as COVID-19, suddenly deadly.[5] (Emphasis mine)

The fact remains that of those that have died with COVID-19, only 6% died solely of COVID-19. The claim (in bold above) that the other deaths were “caused by COVID-19” is misleading. The deaths were caused by multiple complications including COVID-19.

A Google search on “Current COVID Deaths” reported 245,000 deaths with COVID-19 to death – at 6%, only 1470 from COVID only compared to 22,000 deaths from the flu. The current population of the United States is 328,200,000. Using simple math to calculate the percentage of the population that has died with COVID-19, results in an unimpressive 0.0074649% of the population.

Each one of us has a 0.007% chance of dying with COVID-19, and only 6% of those have a chance of dying from COVID-19 alone.

Why are we living in fear over COVID-19? Why have our churches been restricted from exercising our First Amendment right to assemble and worship as we please? Why have our churches capitulated to unconstitutional mandates rather than adhere to God’s command that we not forsake our assembling together (Hebrews 10:25)? Why do we continue to succumb to the irrational edicts of those who only desire to exercise control over our lives?

I, for one, am tired of wearing masks. I am tired of social distancing. I am tired of going to church in limited numbers. I am tired of singing praises with my face covered and muted. I am tired of restricting the fellowship with my brothers and sisters to the church parking lot – at a social distance, of course. I am tired of all the senseless restrictions imposed by self-appointed demagogues pretending to have our best interest at heart. Stop with the fear-mongering!

I have heard it said that the Bible has 365 admonitions to “fear not”[6] – one for every day of the year. I have not counted them for myself, but they do seem to come up frequently in my reading. The first “fear not” appears in the Book of Genesis. There God tells Abram, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). A shield protects us from incoming blows, and a reward is something we get for doing something right. What did Abram do that was right? “And he believed in the LORD; and [the LORD] counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). In the last book of the Bible, Jesus says to John, “Fear not; I am the first and the last” (Revelation 1:17). The Apostle Paul reminds Timothy, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, why do we allow ourselves to get sucked into the fear over that which we cannot control?

C. S. Lewis once said, “If we are going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb [or the coronavirus], let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint [he wasn’t Baptist!] and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs [or COVID-19]. They may break our bodies (any microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”[7] That sounds like excellent advice to me!

Notes:


[1]  Fear – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/fear?s=t

[2]  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/13/world/does-elon-musk-have-the-coronavirus-after-four-tests-he-still-doesnt-know.html

[3]  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2019-2020.html#:~:text=During%20the%202019%2D2020%20influenza,405%2C000%20hospitalizations%2C%20and%2022%2C000%20deaths.

[4]  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2018-2019.html#:~:text=CDC%20estimates%20that%20the%20burden,from%20influenza%20(Table%201).

[5]  https://www.livescience.com/covid-19-comorbidities.html

[6]  “Fear Not” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/08/16/fear-not/

[7]  Martindale, Wayne & Jerry Root, The Quotable Lewis, (Tydale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1990), p. 606, quoting Present Concerns: Essays by C. S. Lewis, “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948), para. 3, pp. 73-74.

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Reflections on the Washington 2020 Prayer March

Franklin Graham greets a crowd of over 50,000 prayer warriors to initiate the 2020 Prayer March in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Franklin Graham held a Prayer March for our nation in Washington, DC on September 26, 2020. It seems that a lot has gone wrong with our nation. The steady erosion of our moral fiber started its decline decades ago, but in the last 20 years, and more so in this past year, the decline has taken an almost 90-degree plunge. At this point, no hope exists for a reversal of the trend — but God!

My brother, Eli, and I drove from Texas to participate in the prayer march. Early on Wednesday morning, September 23, 2020, I drove from Garland to Tyler to pick up Eli, and from there, we headed eastbound on I-20 to rendezvous with thousands of like-minded prayer warriors. We were on a mission from God to plead for our nation.

I take terrible selfies. If Eli (standing behind me) looks a little more handsome, it’s only because he is five years younger.

The extended weather forecast for Washington, DC on the 26th called for 60% chance of rain. We packed our ponchos determined to pray come rain or shine. With all the civil unrest and rioting across the nation, including DC, I maintained some concern about possible protests, perhaps even violent protests, against our efforts. However, as with 90% of our worries that never take place, not a drop of rain fell, although the sky remained overcast, nor did we see a single protestor. It was as if God put a protective shield around His people.

Waiting for our marching orders

I do not know why I should be surprised; I have experienced this hundreds of times throughout my life. Among the thousands of people there, I did not meet a single stranger. The bond of Christian fellowship was palpable, and the warmth of the Holy Spirit dispersed the slight chill in the air. It seemed to me as if God cupped His hands over the group to keep us safe from any harm. As we congregated at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, someone on a keyboard started playing and singing an old hymn. The congregation immediately joined in on all four stanzas. (I wish I could remember the titles.) Then the song leader started another old hymn and again the entire congregation joined in on all stanzas. After that, the song leader led in a couple of modern worship songs. The volume of singing went down considerably – not everyone knows the new songs — but with the oft-repeated phrases, the volume rose toward the end. The “song service” ended with four stanzas of “Amazing Grace.” The singing stirred my heart! I do not believe the angels in heaven could sound as good.

The Prayer March starting at the Lincoln Memorial and ending at the United States Capitol Building

After the singing, Franklin Graham came to the stand and announced that we had a surprise visitor. Vice President, Mike Pence and his wife Karen came and led the congregation in the opening prayer. Former Congresswoman, Michelle Bachman and Bishop Harry Jackson led in prayer, and when they were done, Rev. Graham asked us all to individually pray out loud. The sound of thousands of voices calling out to God was too incredible to express in human speech. It is awesome to know that God heard each and every prayer. Then our march started.

Praying every step of the way

We prayed every step of the way. From the Lincoln Memorial, we marched and prayed to the World War II Memorial, then to the Washington Monument, the White House, the National Museum of African American History & Culture, the National Archives, and finally to the U.S. Capitol. As we marched and prayed the words of a familiar chorus played over and over again in my head:

LORD, listen to Your children praying.
LORD, send Your Spirit in this place.
LORD, listen to Your children praying.
Send us love, send us power, send us grace.

Praying for our Legislators

We finally arrived at the Capitol Building where we prayed for our lawmakers. I know God wants us to pray. The Bible instructs us to pray for our leaders and those in authority over us. Many that came to pray, including me, asked God to forgive our nation for her sins and to turn our nation back to God. As I prayed, I rehearsed our national sins. In the 60’s we took prayer out of school and banned the Bible from our public education systems. We expelled God from the public square so that now the Democrat Party has stricken God out of their party platform. We have legalized the murder of unborn children and our national heart has hardened so much that even infanticide is acceptable in the process of partial-birth abortions. We have called good evil and evil good so that what used to be considered pedophilia is now acceptable, and we even teach it to our very young children. 

Our nation is sick, and I seriously wonder if God will answer our prayers in the way many of these brave prayer warriors expect. I recall the Prophet Jeremiah praying for his people as they tried God through their idolatry. Jeremiah prayed that God would spare Judah from the certain punishment they deserved. God spoke to Jeremiah and said, “Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins. Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good” (Jeremiah 14:10-11).

Our nation has loved to wander away from God, and “have not refrained their feet.” Could it be that God will refuse to answer our prayers on behalf of our nation? Perhaps, but our mandate is still to pray and so we have and continue to pray. God has His plan and His plan will not fail. Consider that the United States of America is not found in prophecy although some would like it to be. For us, the over 50,000 prayer warriors that showed up to the Prayer March, our true citizenship is in heaven wherein we have our hope. Our hope is in Christ and in His return. His kingdom is a kingdom of eternal peace. Therein lies our hope.

Eli and I were blessed beyond measure to participate with thousands of our brothers and sisters in Christ in a loud call to God on behalf of our nation. We enjoyed warm fellowship with God’s family. I leave you with one final picture of my brother, the Marine.

Along the way we found a young man with his bulldog. The bulldog being the Marine mascot, Eli asked if he could get a picture with the “Devil Dog.” The young man was kind enough to grant his request!

If you would like to watch the entire Prayer March, click on this link: https://prayermarch2020.com/live/

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Stop the Nonsense!

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.  (Hebrews 10:24-25)

When Jesus asked His disciples who people said He was, Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Of Peter’s confession, Jesus answered, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The purpose of gates is to keep out invaders. Therefore, by implication, Jesus portrayed the Church charging the Gates of Hell.

However, that is not the image of the Church we see today. Instead, the Church is fragmented into its individual pieces all cowering in their private shelters fearful of a virus that infects a very low percentage of the population and kills even fewer. The “bread of life” is broken up into crumbs and scattered in hidden places. For now, the Gates of Hell are safe!

I have written on this topic before,[1] [2] so rehashing past articles serves little purpose. However, the Word bears repeating. “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, emphasis mine). “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Churches that have shut their doors, mine included, are operating in the “spirit of fear”[3] regardless of the “reasons” given for their capitulation to unlawful edicts and decrees. It is time for the pastors of these cowering churches to grow a backbone, stand up against these unlawful authorities, and reopen the doors of the churches, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, emphasis mine).

Watch and listen to this preacher, ex-Muslim, and fugitive from Iran. He says it better than I can. You may want to start viewing the YouTube video at minute 32:40.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDpVUCOmXjk

Notes:


[1]  “The Right to Assemble” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/06/14/the-right-to-assemble/

[2]  “Higher Powers” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/07/19/higher-powers/

[3]  “Living in Fear” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/06/28/living-in-fear/

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The Right to Assemble

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

The first of the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States, known as the Bill of Rights, says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (emphasis mine). Arguably, certain groups today are loudly exercising their “freedom of speech” (while prohibiting the speech of opposing views). These same groups, while adopting one part of the Constitution, ignore the part that allows them to “peaceably” assemble. Instead, they riot, vandalize, and destroy private property. These groups gather in large mobs in blatant violation of all “social distancing” recommendations put forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

There is another group that is ignoring the First Amendment by happily, quietly, and carefully adhering to all the dictates put forth from our beneficent government. Because the Government cares deeply about its citizens and because the Government wants to protect its citizens from the deadly Wuhan Bug, it issued strict stay-at-home orders. All mass gatherings were prohibited and gatherings were limited to 10 or less. Restaurants or any business where people come in close contact with one another were shut down. Such draconian measures affected many small businesses and severely damaged the national economy, but it also directly impacted houses of worship. Most churches fell right in step with Government demands without a peep. Oh, there were some outcries, but these drew immediate fire, not only from the media and local authorities but from other churches that readily complied with “the law.”

Please do not get me wrong. In many ways, I sympathize with pastors of these compliant churches. After all, the CDC painted a grim picture of the Wuhan Bug. It was stealthy. It struck out of nowhere. It was deadly. Pastors, who really care about their congregations, fear inviting a deadly, invisible guest into their congregations that could infect and possibly kill some of their members. If the Wuhan threat were as pernicious as represented by the CDC, pastors cautiously refused to take responsibility for infecting their members.

So, Churches across the country closed their doors. Of course, many churches found creative ways to keep “having church.” Live streaming of church services actually increased the number of church attendance, and many thousands have come to the Lord as a result. Bible study groups took advantage of Zoom ™ to conduct interactive Sunday School classes. So, all was not lost.

Churches have quietly complied with Government (local, state, and federal) demands. However, in doing so they have broken two greater laws – the Law of the Land (the Constitution), and the Law of God.

The stay-at-home orders violate the First Amendment in two ways. They prohibit “the free exercise” of religion and “the right of the people to peaceably assemble.” Some will argue that we have not lost “the free exercise” of religion because we continue to exercise our religion virtually through live stream. Perhaps. However, the second part of the amendment ensures that we can “peaceably assemble” and that is very much a part of our “religion” (see our beginning verse above). Unless I missed something in my high school civics studies, the Constitution supersedes all other laws (except the Law of God). Local and state governments cannot (legally) make laws that supplant the Law of the Land, nor can an unelected body like the CDC. So, by compliance with these unlawful laws, the Church is violating the law of the land.

By compliance with these unlawful edicts, the Church has unwittingly broken God’s law by “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). One of the purposes for our assemblies is “to provoke [one another] unto love and to good works” (Hebrews 10:24). That is next to impossible to do “virtually.” That cannot be done over the internet or even in a Zoom meeting for Sunday School. We need each other. “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:14-16). We can best “edify” each other when “the whole body [is] fitly joined together.”

The last phrase of Hebrews 10:25 reminds us that we should assemble “so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Anyone paying attention can see that “day approaching.” And what is the Church doing? Staying at home watching their pastor on a computer monitor!

Things seem to be winding down with the Wuhan scamdemic, but the CDC warns that it may ramp up again in the Fall. So, will the Church go back into hiding again?

Another observation troubles me. It is the lack of faith in God’s provision and protection demonstrated by the Church’s submission to these unlawful directives. If Jesus has directed His Church to not forsake our assembling together, especially as we see the day approaching, will He not honor that and protect us from any harm? Or, is trusting in His provision just something we read in the Bible that is nice to talk about, but not to be taken seriously? Since the shutdown orders went into effect, I’ve heard many sermons encouraging listeners to take courage and not to be fearful, yet, the pews are empty and the preacher is speaking to a cold, unresponsive camera. Where is the courage in that!

Again, I do not mean to criticize pastors. They are doing what they feel is best for their flock. I understand. How about showing true courage and opening the doors to the church with no “social distancing”? How about behaving as if God will protect His people as He has promised? How about standing up against unlawful orders, and courageously affirming that “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)?

I think it’s about time we assert our right to assemble. If anyone is fearful they should stay home. If anyone suspects they might be contagious, they should stay home. Otherwise, let’s have church – real church!

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