Wednesday, April 8, 2015

On Measles, Mumps, and Data Bumps

I’m a numbers guy. I like to see numbers tell a story and reveal trends. This is probably why I thoroughly enjoy working out of Microsoft Excel for eight hours a day tracking numbers and creating graphs to tell stories about historical levels and current levels of financial execution. While I love numbers, I would be remiss to not look deeper and see that I ultimately care about details when it comes to data and text. This is probably why I enjoy getting into the weeds of word studies when I read the Bible and try to understand the true meaning behind the Greek and Hebrew words that are translated into our English language, but that is more of an aside. Today, I am mainly interested in helping all of us understand some of the nuances of statistics that are presented on, well . . . just about anything. I think this will be particularly helpful, though, for those of us who have been racking our brains over discerning true and false information on the internet related to vaccinations.

My intent is not to necessarily make a case for or against vaccinations (even though I do possess a general opinion), rather to equip us with some critical thinking skills that will come in handy when reading presented data.

I think parents are smart to know more about what they're doing, particularly what they’re allowing to be injected into their children. No matter the current side of the debate, as long as a parent’s intent is to keep their child alive and healthy, then everyone is at least pursuing the same agenda. There’s a grain of unity after all. If the assumption is that every parent is only seeking to provide their children with the best possible chance of a healthy life, then it is indeed helpful and necessary to understand whether or not Decision A provides the best chance for a healthy life, over and against Decision B.

From a biblical perspective, parents are tasked with raising godly children and doing the basic job of nurturing our children to be as healthy as possible. The Apostle Paul said that there is indeed value in bodily training—being healthy—though godliness should always be the first aim of the Christian who loves God (1 Tim 4:8). He even told Timothy to drink some wine with his water in order to avoid his frequent stomach ailments (1 Tim 5:23). Furthermore, we know that physicians were acknowledged in Jesus’ day as having a purpose to help people be healthy, rather than sick (Mk 2:17). Luke, who wrote the Gospel of Luke as well as the book of Acts, was a beloved physician himself (Col 4:14), so spoken of by the Apostle Paul.

What’s the point? I think it helps to see that seeing a doctor in and of itself does not nullify one’s faith in God unless someone—in their heart of hearts—really doesn’t trust God. We make decisions all of the time that will increase our safety and we take preventative measures to avoid medical problems in the future. The Bible teaches the general principle of planning for the future in regards to food (Prov 6:6) and finances (Prov 13:22), so health would certainly not be out of place if we are to be good stewards with everything we have been given by God.

With that said, no one can make a biblical case against all medical procedures and all medicines. One may have to draw the line somewhere for matters of personal conscience and others should respect that, but no hands-down argument exists for boycotting medicine and physicians altogether.

So then, how do we handle the vast amount of data going around about vaccinations? Well . . . as I said, I am a numbers guy and not a scientist (though I love science), nor a medical professional (though I used to be a Pharmacy Technician and appreciate the science behind the medicine), so I will just stick to what I know best—data!

Here’s what I want to do . . . I simply want to offer a note of caution in regards to how to interpret cold, hard facts. The more I have read financial charts and graphs on all kinds of official documents and having created plenty of my own, I have learned that you can take valid and legitimate information and still display it in a way that seems to prove a point that the data never intended.

I once read an incredibly fascinating and insightful book called "The Wastrels of Defense" by Winslow Wheeler, a staffer on Capitol Hill for about 30 years, who testified to this very thing. Congressmen will many times do legitimate data pulls from the Library of Congress or the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), for instance, and then tweak the x-axis and y-axis just right while highlighting a particular point of a historical trend—not revealing the larger story that the graph fits into—to make the point they wish to make, which looks seemingly obvious due to their visual presentation. Not only that, but when you’re dealing with financial information it gets even trickier since one graph may show inflation, while another does not, so are you really comparing apples to apples? I digress.

Let me give you an example. Below is a graph that depicts the amount of bad apples that Ben’s Bakery has received from his distributor over the years using real, verifiable evidence:




Thankfully, Ben has an insurance policy on such atrocities. In order to show his insurance provider just how bad it is, he created a graph of his own with the same real, verifiable evidence:

 


Upon further consideration, the insurance company asked a third party to review Ben’s Bakery’s bad apple distribution. The results were indicated in the graph below:




Unfortunately for Ben, the insurance company did not feel that his business had suffered unusual loss, so they denied his claim. In fact, if history repeated itself, Ben may be in for another healthy decrease in bad apples just like he experienced after his 2009 bump.

Now let’s look at some cold, hard facts that one website offered in their case against the Measles’ Vaccination. Again, I am simply coming at this from a numbers standpoint only because it is a great example of how verifiable data can be used on both sides of an argument, thus demanding critical thinking and the ability to ask the right questions.


If you just looked at the link you can see that the case is stated clearly: Zero people have died from the Measles in the last 10 years according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), while 108 people have died from the Measles’ Vaccine in the last 10 years, according to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). I did the same search and it is a legitimate search result, which can be found here.

Open and shut case?

A quick search about the Measles at the CDC website will tell you that 1–2 people out of 1,000 will die from the Measles and that most people who get Measles are unvaccinated.

Here’s a key question: How many people were vaccinated, say, 12 years ago when this article started tracking?

According to the CDC, the National Immunization Survey (NIS) reports about 93% of children aged 19–35 months had received at least one does of the MMR vaccination in 2003. This report can be found here in Table 1.

To understand rates and percentages, we need to understand the denominator, i.e. what was the total US population of 19–35 month old babies in 2003? This is a more difficult number to ascertain and this is where finding real statistics becomes tricky and even allows people some room to fudge the data.

Case in point, when you search the United States Census Bureau for the total US population by age in 2003, the youngest age bracket is 4 years old and younger—that is 48 months old and younger. This information can be found hereOur age bracket in question (19–35 months old) only makes up about 33% of the youngest population bracket. How do you determine that?

When you subtract 19 from 35 you get a range of 16 months. You then have to divide 16 months into 48 months (lowest US population bracket span) and you end up with 33%.

Assuming all things are equal (a perfect world, no doubt) then you can then use the 33% and apply it to the total population number in the lowest bracket to get a number of children who are between the ages of 19 and 35 months. The US census tells us on the same page that there are 19.8 million children who are 4 years (48 months) and younger. 33% of 19.8 million is 6.6 million.

This means that 6.6 million children in the United States were between the ages of 19 and 35 months in 2003.

So then, if about 93% of these children received their MMR immunization shot in 2003, then that would be 6.1 million children, thus leaving roughly 462,000 children who are not vaccinated with the MMR.

Now let’s see how many kids received their MMR in 2013 when this article first surfaced. This will help us understand the trend for those 10 years that the article wrote about.

The NIH reports that the percentage decreased slightly to 91.9% of a coverage rate, found hereNot much changed, but what was the US population of these children in 2013? According to the census bureau and applying our same math using 33%, there was a population of 6.6 million children between the ages of 19–35 months. Again, not much changed. That information can be found here.

So then, if about 91.9% of these children received their MMR immunization shot in 2013, then that would be 6 million children, thus leaving roughly 532,000 children who are not vaccinated with the MMR.

Important note: Trends over a decade like this are important to consider because as these children grow up they are still vaccinated against the MMR that they received as a baby. While we may be focusing on the younger age bracket as a fixed point in time, it is only because of the fact that the MMR is administered at that age. Overall, we can safely assume that as these generations get older and maintain a vaccination rate of 92-93%, then the entire population would have a coverage rate at that level—albeit given enough time.

Since we have done some leg work in seeing that the vaccination rate has stayed consistent, then let’s apply this rate to the entire United States population—from 2003 to 2013. The article implied that there is a problem with the Measles vaccine because it has killed 108 people over a ten year period.

The total United States population in 2003 was 285.9 million people. As of 2013 it was 316.1 million people. This averages to 301 million people.

92% of 301 million gives us 276.9 million—the estimated amount of all MMR vaccinated people in the US.

According to the article (citing VAERS), 108 people have died because of the MMR vaccine.

The percentage of MMR-vaccinated people then who have died from the vaccine is a simple mathematical equation that gives you a rate of:

0.000039%

I don’t know about you, but I’m comfortable with that.

Now then, consider the other side. First of all, were there really zero deaths due to Measles in that 10 year period?

The CDC reports 2 in 2009 and 2 more in 2010.

The interesting thing is that the article almost makes Measles sound like it has no real, inherent danger for anything like death at all, yet globally, 145,700 people died from Measles in 2013 alone according to the World Health Organization (WHO)Granted, that is also a very small percentage, but apparently the article is, in fact, very interested in small percentages.

Additionally, let’s not forget that death is not the only thing one can experience with Measles. According to a CDC Infographic:

- 1 in 4 people become hospitalized

- 1 in 1,000 people develop encephalitis (brain swelling), which could lead to permanent brain damage

Okay, so let’s consider again that 4 unvaccinated people have died from Measles out of our unvaccinated population of 24 million (difference between 301 and 277 million). This gives us a death rate of:

0.000017%

So, as far as deaths go, it appears that non-vaccinated people had a lower death rate right? One problem. On the VAERS website that recorded the vaccine-related deaths, it has a caveat that almost flushes all attempts of factual analysis down the toilet:

“When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established. Reports of all possible associations between vaccines and adverse events (possible side effects) are filed in VAERS. Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.”

Even if VAERS could positively identify that all 108 deaths were directly tied to the MMR vaccine, then we are still left to wonder if all of the commotion regarding the pros and cons of taking or not taking the vaccine is worth arguing over when we are dealing with competitive mortality rates like 0.000039% and 0.000017%? This compares with, say, being killed by lightning—a 0.000011% chance, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The number one killer in the US—besides the devastating reality of abortion—is heart disease, coming in at just over 600,000 deaths per year—a death rate of 0.2% of our population average of 301 million.

But again, is death the only thing that the vaccine protects someone from? One must not forget all of the other potential side-effects that could have mingling effects in someone’s life. Considering that VAERS is not a cold-hard fact as it states itself, the weight of evidence seems to indicate that there is no reasonable evidence to reject a vaccine like the MMR based on negative outcomes alone. If anything, there is a better chance of adverse impact in an unvaccinated person.

Finally, if there are other personal reasons for avoiding vaccines, then let’s be careful to not place political and selfish principles over our children’s health. I say this only because I hear arguments made that there are people at the top who are manipulating the costs and schedules for vaccines to make a lot of money.

So what?

Personally, I am totally fine with an elite few making billions of dollars because they sell something that keeps my family alive. In fact, thanks. Arguing from this point of view reeks of the selfish entitlement mindset that permeated those who decided to #OccupyWallStreet because they were the 99% who didn’t make as much as the 1%. The sooner we can get over that and take the Apostle Paul’s stance to be content in all circumstances—whether in plenty or in want (Phil 4:11–12)—the better we will be and the more we will honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s not make this somehow-controversial issue bigger than it is. Let’s not be conspiracy theorists about everything that goes on at a corporate and governmental level. Let’s be diligent, discerning, and wise. If (some) vaccines are still against one’s comfort zone due to ingredients, or source of ingredients, etc. then those are things to address one at a time, but as far as the basic arguments for the safety one way or another . . . in this case, the vaccine has the upper hand as far as I can tell.

By the way, I’m willing to rethink my whole approach if my assumptions and/or data were not accurately presented. I don’t want to be right just to be right, but I do want to know the right information so I can make the right decisions that pertain to my family’s health. That’s what we all want, right?

Hopefully this shined some light on how information is presented on the internet and how many different aspects can quickly change the outcome of the data being presented.

Ultimately, as Christians, make sure you still respect the person who you are speaking with, even if you are trying to persuade them one way or another. Don’t hold one another in derision based on something like this. Remember that no matter what, God is sovereign over your time of death and he has also given people medical skill in order to care for our bodies while we’re here on the earth. Use your resources while simultaneously trusting God’s providence.

In His Sovereign Grip,

Ben

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Do We Deny God By Our Entertainment Choices?


The characteristics of Christian men and women are ones that should be unmistakable in this fallen world. Over and over again, the Bible tells us that while we are certainly in the fallen world, we are absolutely not of it (Jn 15:19; 17:15–16). The separation indicated in these passages alone is clear—one speaks of proximity, the other of assimilation.

We are salt, which is inherently different from that which is being salted (Matt 5:13).

We are light, which is inherently different from that which is being illuminated (Matt 5:14).

Paul wrote to Titus, “We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (3:3–6) (emphasis mine).

Speaking of this new life to the Ephesian Church, the Apostle then exhorts them to do what would be most expectant of someone who is now regenerated by the Spirit of God and different from the former days of being entertained by sin:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children . . . sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor foolish talk, nor crude joking, which are out of place . . . at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord . . . it is shameful even to speak of the things that [the sons of disobedience] do in secret” (5:1–12).

This has immediate implications on the decisions we make regarding entertainment. When it comes to sin, Christians are still under the authority of Jesus Christ and must do everything with His glory in mind, as if He were there with us, because guess what?—He is. We must “try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” in all things, but some things we know are off-limits from the start—sin.

Is it any small matter that God flooded the whole earth because of violence? God Himself spoke to Noah, saying, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them from the earth” (Gen 6:13). Yet, how many Christians will tell you that their favorite movie is Gladiator, or Braveheart, or Saving Private Ryan—all of which are rated R? Why do we throw our God-given time away to play fantasy games that kill people? Trying to justify anything like this as being educational or motivational is a stretch that God will not honor.

Is it any small matter that God destroyed whole cities for sexual immorality? God Himself spoke to Abraham about destroying Sodom and Gomorrah because “their sin is very grave” (Gen 18:20). The angels that stayed with Lot in Sodom warned of the “punishment of the city” that was coming the next day (Gen 19:15). Yet, how many Christians never missed a show of Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, or The New Normal?

Is it any small matter that God killed Ananias and Sapphira on the spot for lying? When they lied about their financial situation in Acts 5, God killed them in front of the whole church. Their ultimate sin was they had “not lied to man but to God” (v. 4). Every sin is ultimately a direct offense against God—something David rightfully understood after his sin with Bathsheba, saying, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam 12:13).

Why then do we purposely watch movies and television shows, read books and articles, listen to radio shows and podcasts, that promote, glorify, normalize, and love these things? If we do, Christian friends, then we are denying the very God that we claim to be children of. We are belittling the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are reviling the Word of God.

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 Jn 1:6).

Do not be entertained by the sins for which Christ died.

God is the same today as He was yesterday and will be the same forever more—His hatred of sin has not waned (Heb 13:8). Remember that when God killed Ananias and Sapphira in the church, this was a New Testament event. We tend to think that the God of the OT is markedly different than the God of the NT. No, friends. While we may think we are experiencing less of God’s wrath in general in the world, it is not because His justice is slipping; rather the riches of His grace and mercy are being magnified.

In Romans 2, Paul says that God’s wrath rightly falls on the reprobate, but when it seems to be delayed we ought not to presume on His kindness in His delaying of judgment as He is really allowing more time for repentance (2:2–5).

Similarly, Peter says that the Lord is not slow in His judgment on sin or in the fulfillment of His promises to the saint; rather He is “patient . . . not wishing that any should perish” (2 Pet 3:9).

Therefore, if God is the same then and now, can we imagine that He would have found it acceptable for the Hebrew people to watch shows that were laced with sex, violence, lying, drugs, alcohol, cursing, taking God’s name in vain, and all other forms of sin? If they were making the right sacrifices and offering the right offerings and taking the right days off of work, then they were good to go, right? God wasn’t too concerned with anything else?

Let’s allow the following OT passages to sink into our hearts for a moment as we realize that even then, God wanted the hearts of the people to be holy, pure, and obedient to His law, loving Him and hating sin—before they sacrificed a thing:

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats . . . bring no more vain offerings . . . your appointed feasts my soul hates . . . when you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen” (Isaiah 1:11–15).

What were they to do?

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good” (1:16–17).

The prophet Amos gave the same message from God:

“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen” (21–23).

 
Today, likewise, simply attending church, or even serving in the church, does not count for anything if we are not truly rendering our hearts to Him. If He is our Lord and Master, then we live for Him and according to His standard. We do not have the right or the ability to justify our habits that are satiated by the observation of sin. A Christian, in actuality, is one who really is submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ—not someone who simply makes the claim in order to sin on purpose, thinking their sin is always excused.

Peter says, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Pet 2:16).
 
Let's also be clear to church leaders: there is no such thing as sanctifying something sinful by preaching or teaching in a way that follows a show in order to pull some self-contrived spiritual parallels out of it. If anything, this just gives Satan a foothold in the church because it forces people to consider the original source in order to understand the parallel. It also makes the object of attention the secular media and not the Word of God. This is an abomination that should not be done in our pulpits or in our homes.

When a movie, show, or book comes out that includes sin, then Christians are obligated to shun it. Paul told the Romans to be “innocent of evil” (16:19) and exhorted the Ephesians to not let there be even a hint of sexual immorality among them, or even on their lips (5:3).

“Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” (2 Tim 3:1–5) (emphasis mine).

We are to be lovers of God and not lovers of pleasure, or ourselves—our own evil desires that produce temptations and sin. Those who really love God will keep His commandments (Jn 14:15) and His commandments are not burdensome (1 Jn 5:3).

Those who are called to be sanctified, holy, set apart, and pure before our holy God cannot, then, simultaneously be entertained by things that are unholy, irreverent, impure and sinful. We must choose what type of person we will be. Will we love God, truly? Or will we pretend that we are Christians who are saved by God when we do not live for God?

“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1–2).

How we respond to God and respond to the temptations of sin will speak to whether or not we are really Christians, for only someone who is filled with the Spirit of God will act in a way that honors God. “As you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12–13) (emphasis mine).

Friends, put a stake in the ground. If what you are watching is the acting out of something that is sinful in the eyes of God, then it is sinful for us to be watching that act. If we love God more than the world then our entertainment venues will be severely limited. If we are to be contentious about this then we have no practice.

As the Apostle Paul said, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (Tit 1:15–16) (emphasis mine).

Since we have been called out of darkness and into His marvelous light, let us not partake in any way of the deeds that are associated with darkness; rather:

 “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

In His Sovereign Grip,

Ben

Friday, December 12, 2014

Does the Old Testament Make the Bible Irrelevant?

It is an unfortunate joy for some people to bring up the lifestyles of the Hebrews in the Ancient Near East and attribute them with ridiculous ways of life and thought, while decrying God as unjust, harsh, and—now—irrelevant. The most common quips are sarcastically spoken of in regards to the dealing of sin.

For instance, Exodus 21:17 says that “anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” Someone would say, “Well then, how should my sister die because I heard her curse my mom?” Similarly, Leviticus 20:10 says that anyone who commits adultery should be put to death. “That’s ridiculous. That would then wipe out quite a few of my own friends and family if that were still true,” one might think with skepticism.

On and on it goes. Granted, there are many verses that list sin after sin after sin and many of the consequences are that the sinners are to simply be put to death. The modern reader of the Bible looks at this in light of his current circumstances within a nation or maybe even a church where the death penalty is not upheld for sins like adultery and juvenile disobedience, which may tempt us to think that the Bible really is outlandish, outdated, and irrelevant, when in reality, the Bible is as consistent as it has always been.

People can be quick to judge the Bible as out of date and entirely ridiculous upon reading the first few books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch (five books) also known as the Torah—the Law of Moses. What they usually fail to see is the consistent abhorrence that God has with sin from the very beginning of Genesis even to the end of Revelation. Though the present day sees less swift judgment of sin in our understanding of “swift”, does this mean God has in fact changed, or that the Bible is theologically antiquated?

Upon a careful consideration of the sacrificial laws that were integrated into the Israelite culture by God Himself, the modern reader would quickly realize that the reality of sin was always something that had to be dealt with.

For instance, if a common person in the Israelite community committed a sin unintentionally, he or she would have to bring a female goat or lamb without blemish to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, or the Tabernacle, as a sin offering.

“He shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill the sin offering in the place of burnt offering . . . and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven” (Lev 4:29–31).

There was a prescription for the atonement of sin that required the shedding of blood. God established these regulations in order for the people to see the seriousness of their sin and to keep them holy.

It is important to realize the theological implications of sin and holiness and the shadow of these sacrifices that preempted Christ’s own sacrifice for us as the substitutionary atonement for our own sin. He was the unblemished Lamb of God for us! While God established the way of atonement for sin, it was the obedience of the people to flesh out the sacrificial system that God recognized. One could not simply go through the motions of sacrifice while hating and despising God, or by remaining unrepentant.

Isaiah prophesied, “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats” (1:11).

Even the prophet Samuel said earlier, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22).

The writer of Hebrews helps us understand the Old Testament sacrificial law in light of the death and resurrection of Christ when he says quite pointedly that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:4). He explains in the previous chapter that the Old Testament system consisted of “copies of the heavenly things” (9:23) and that “if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ” (9:13–14).

God has always hated sin and has always had a way of dealing with it. Some crimes were indeed called to be dealt with by way of capital punishment including some of the following: killing someone (Ex 21:12), striking your mother or father (21:15), kidnapping (21:16), adultery (Lev 20:10), incest (20:11–12), homosexuality (20:13), bestiality (20:15–16), divination (20:27), and blasphemy (24:16).

God is rightly exercising his justice on rebellion and blatant sin when He decides to kill the sinner. As people within the New Testament age, we remember the oft quoted verse: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23), yet sometimes fail to grasp the full implication of that.

Is it any wonder that the Apostle Paul reiterated to the Romans that the sins of the world are evident in acts of maliciousness, disobedient children, murder, envy, and the like (1:28–32) and then goes on to ask, “Do you suppose, O man . . . that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed” (2:3–5).

Let’s not forget the example that God made out of Ananias and Saphira when they lied to God about their financial donation. He killed them on the spot, in front of the whole church (Acts 5). This was not an Old Testament event.

Make no mistake friends, the expectation of God still stands. His justice has not slipped. His common grace and mercy is being given to all who aren’t killed the moment they sin. It is—as Paul put it—His kindness, forbearance, and patience that is meant to lead us to repentance. He gives some of us more time than others, but He will still execute justice on the whole earth nonetheless—either judgment with mercy, or judgment without—depending on whether or not we have been justified by God through our faith in Jesus Christ.

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ cleanses the sinner of their sin and takes away the penalty of the sin—eternal death in Hell. The Gospel (good news) is only appreciated when the bad news is understood. Christ’s death covered even the previous sins of those Old Testament saints who had faith in God—evident in their repentant and obedient lives (Rom 3:25).

While the speedy and seemingly harsh reality of the Old Testament history in its dealing with sin is something that may seem inconsistent today—it is not because God has become indifferent to sin, rather He is extending more and more opportunity for those who do not yet believe, to confess their sin to God and call upon the Name of the Lord for forgiveness (Rom 10:13).

God’s sovereign nature is simultaneously just and merciful. Praise God for that!

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).

Friends, the Bible is not now irrelevant just because God is patient with us and has sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to act as both the High Priest and sacrifice once and for all. This very event of the virgin-born Christ fulfilled numerous prophecies from over the centuries for the sake of taking away the sins of the world. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law and made a way for us to be reconciled to God, in spite of what we deserved.

Don’t presume on His patience. Rather, in repentance, believe and call upon the Name of the Lord in faith and you will be saved.

We are encouraged by God’s patience for the sake of evangelism and we are encouraged by God’s patience for the sake of justice. As the Apostle Peter put it:

“Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3:8–9).

In His Sovereign Grip,

Ben