I was standing in the bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror, frantically putting on a bit of makeup before I had to dash out the door. As I glanced at my phone to check how many minutes I had left before I had to leave, I was startled by the sting of something that came flying through the air, striking my eyebrow. It was a styrofoam “bullet” from a nerf gun and my husband was the one who fired the shot from the living room. I cried out in pain, a bit dramatically, and shared my angry thoughts with him as he chuckled on the couch. I was running late and flustered, he was not helping the situation. Within a few moments my 14-year-old son popped out of nowhere with his own nerf gun pointed at my husband. “Nobody shoots my Mama and gets away with it!” he cried as he shot a blue and orange missile right at my husband’s head. We all laughed. It was all in fun, but there was some seriousness lying beneath the surface. My son was coming to my defense, his mother whom he loves and honors. He heard my cry; he heard my disdain and he was there to stand for me. As I reflected upon those few moments, driving to work, I couldn’t help but think of my Heavenly Father and how I respond to those that seek to attack and mock Him. He doesn’t need me to defend Him, my efforts to do so are as futile as coming against a grown man with a nerf gun. I must stand for Him because just as my child is mine, I am His and “nobody takes shots at my God and will get away with it.”
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 1Samuel 17:45
All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give all of you into our hands. 1Samuel 17:47
We so often marvel at David’s courage to stand against the mighty Philistine, Goliath, a giant and a mighty warrior. At the time David was just a teenage boy who had only come to the battle front to deliver provisions to his brothers. We sing songs with our children about his valiance as he stood against the monstrous man who was there along with his army to destroy the Israelites. We admire David’s faith and confidence in God’s omnipotence. We applaud as the pagan army is defeated, and Israel led by King Saul is proclaimed victorious, but when we look back at this example given to us in the Word, do we miss something? Yes, David acted with courage when he chose to confront Goliath, but did he do it to defend his people or did he do it to defend his God? David questioned, “Why does he think he can speak against the army of the Living God?”. In 1Samuel 13:14, God refers to David as a man after His own heart. When he stood that day so long ago it wasn’t as a soldier of a human led military. It was as a child of God, a child that wasn’t going to allow anyone to deride his Creator.
According to Sharon Devlin, “The purpose of a ritual is to change the mind of the human being. It’s sacred drama in which you are the audience as well as the participant and the purpose of it is to activate parts of the mind that are not activated by everyday activity.”[i] Rituals drive home ideas through repetition, higher rituals transform reality to facilitate change starting with the mental landscape. As these rituals are practiced a new language is formed and the participants adapt to the new mindset that is the desired result of the ritual. [ii]
I believe many Christians would openly speak out against partaking in any type of ritual that does not honor God, yet so many have placed themselves in submission to the ritual that has been under way over the past year. Masking, social distancing, lockdowns, all of these things have been components of a mass ritual that has resulted in new language and a new mindset. “The New Normal”, “Anti-maskers”, “Social distancing”, “The Great Reset”, all of these phrases have become a part of everyday life in America and across the world. Many who have read the story of David and prayed for the same resilience if ever faced with persecution have faltered willingly in fear of a virus, blindly submitting to the scientists and politicians. They have aligned themselves with the same spirit that fueled Goliath and the Philistine armies. The world’s powers are standing and mocking the Living God, commanding His children to live according to their standards and partake in their ritualistic ceremonies. They are commanding us to deny the Truth that has been given to us by His Word and to deny His statutes. So many are complying with this and seem to be unaware they are even doing so. They are not only complying they are chastening those that are aware and are taking a stand.
Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church in Edmonton, Canada has been imprisoned. He has been charged with noncompliance of the Covid mandates set forth by the governing authorities. Pastor Coates refused to follow the order to have his congregation meet at 15% capacity, masked and maintaining a 6-foot distance between families. He has maintained that his allegiance is to God and not man, that God is His authority and that He has made him shepherd over a flock that he must continue to minister to. Pastor Coates stated that he could not only allow some to come join in fellowship while others were forced to stay home. He also stated that we should not be required to cover our faces to appease man, and that it hinders our ability to worship with one another. Grace Life Church did recommend that if any member was ill that they stay home, and they also created an area surrounded by plexi-glass for those that were fearful of exposure. Anyone who chose to wear a mask was welcome to do so, but it was not enforced.
Royal Canadian Police visited the church twice in February and threatened to arrest the Pastor if he did not start following the mandates. He finally turned himself in accompanied by his lawyer, James Kitchen. Mr. Kitchen stated at Pastor Coates’ bail hearing, “His first obedience is to his Lord, the government’s forcing Pastor Coates into a position where he has to choose between disobeying God and obeying government, or obeying God and disobeying government.”[iii]
The Pastor was given an opportunity to sign a document stating that he would comply with the government health mandates but he declined to sign, therefore he has been ordered to solitary confinement until the time of his trial in early May. His is afforded to leave his cell twice a day for 15 minutes to take a shower, take a walk or call his family. Mrs. Coates is understandably saddened but at the same time she supports her husband’s decision, unfortunately many Christians do not and have verbally attacked him for maintaining his stance. In an interview with Allie Stuckey, she shared her sorrow at the number of people that have come out to say he is only doing this for attention and that it is not necessary. They believe he should just obey the government; they believe that this imprisonment shouldn’t be labeled as persecution, because he was never told not to preach the Gospel.[iv]
Where does persecution begin and at what point are we called as God’s people to take a stand? Should we partake in the ritual that is being played out worldwide, staying under the radar, not making any waves. Should we allow ourselves to become vulnerable as the powers that be seek to transform our reality. We need to be sober minded as God’s Word instructs us to be, but instead many are jumping into the pot of water and setting ourselves up for a slow boil, just as the unsuspecting frog in the pot. All of the strength we possess on our own may be as futile as a nerf gun loaded with Styrofoam bullets, but we must be as David, a man after God’s own heart and say “How dare you question the one True Living God.” We must stand together as the church and not be divided, not because we want to exalt each other, but because we choose to exalt God.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. Hebrews 3:12-14
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you are also in the body. Hebrews 13: 3
[i] choicesmhc.com/sccc/ritual.htm Ritual in Myth and Experience