An Army Veteran Turned Pastor On COVID & Vaccine Exemption

I remember many times, as an Army paratrooper, standing in line on some big military aircraft. My parachute would be on my back with my reserve chute firmly tucked near my abdomen. As I would stand in line, waiting to jump, I would breathe in the moment…The adrenaline surging through my body was so electrifying as I meditated on the loud swooshing air rushing through the open side door of the aircraft. As soon as the light turned green and the Jumpmaster said, “Go!”, we would all jump (or fall out gracefully) from the aircraft. What a rush! I miss these types of Army days, but I get close to such an adrenaline rush as I enter the jungle of covid protocols and whether or not one should get the vaccine or not. So, right, wrong, or indifferent, here is my take on COVID and Vaccine Exemption…

First off, I understand that covid is real and possesses a real threat to people, especially the elderly and those with pre-existing negative conditions. My heart aches for those who have (and are now) suffering from this dreadful virus. I also have a huge heart for those who have lost friends and family members from covid. What a relief to know that one day disease, destruction, and death will be no more as King Jesus assumes the throne of His eternal Kingdom. How I long for that day…

Secondly, please understand that I am not an anti-vaxxer. Indeed, I’m an Army Veteran who has been poked and prodded more times than I can remember. In fact, during a recent doctor’s visit, the nurse who was taking my initial vitals exclaimed, “Wow! You must have been in the military because your chart shows that you have had a lot of different vaccines that most people never get.” Indeed, she was (and is) correct. I am not an anti-vaxxer by any stretch of the imagination, either ideologically or experientially.

But thirdly, and hear me when I say this, I am firmly against anyone, and I mean anyone (pastors, doctors, or so-called professionals in other fields) needlessly binding the consciences of people. It especially breaks my heart to hear some of my fellow pastors say things, like, “By invoking the name of Jesus to claim exemption, you are using the Lord’s name in vain and therefore sinning.” Others are saying things that ooze of emotional blackmail, like, “If you don’t get the covid vaccine you are selfish and unloving.” Such talk is the emotional equivalent and reasoning of a teenager who shouts to his parents, “If you don’t get me this item, you don’t love me!” Such statements are certifiably false.

Pastors especially should be very careful to bind the consciences of their people. Indeed, the Scriptures are clear on doubtful things (such as the covid vaccine). Paul in Romans 14:20-23 states clearly, “Do not, for the sake of food [or the covid vaccine], destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean [such as the covid vaccine], but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats [or puts in his body in terms of a vaccine]. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have [in either getting the vaccine or not], keep between yourself and God [i.e., don’t blast your vaccine status to the four winds – keep it private]. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves [like the covid vaccine]. But whoever has doubts [about the covid vaccine] is condemned if he eats [or gets the vaccine], because the eating [or vaccine] is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

Wow. There you have it. The Scriptures are clear. End of discussion. The Bible says, concerning the grey area of getting the covid vaccine or not, that it’s up to you and your conscience, specifically your faith-based conscience. What does that mean? Simply put, the Scriptures state that if you get the vaccine, then praise the Lord, just be sure it is done with faith (or trust or confidence) in God. That is, for those of you who opt to get the vaccine, just make sure that your ultimate trust is in the Lord and not in the vaccine. But if you can’t get the vaccine with full faith (or trust or confidence) in God, then praise the Lord, don’t get the vaccine. Again, “Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves [or disapproves]” (Romans 14:22b). Make sense?

In other words, the starting line, and the bottom line, and finishing line of the Christian life is faith. So, as you contemplate covid and whether or not you should get the vaccine, consider your faith. Does your faith allow you to get it? If so, get it with faith in God. If not, don’t get it with faith in God. It really is that simple.

One final thought, I feel so impassioned by this issue, namely, that no one should bind the conscience of individuals with poor Scriptural interpretation or emotional blackmail, that I am open to helping you (the dear reader of this blog) with writing a religious, faith-based exemption letter or statement for your place of employment. Perhaps you just have a difficult time articulating why you’re opposed to the vaccine. I can help. Indeed, I’ve already helped a couple folks and both individuals had their exemption approved with absolutely no problems. To be clear, I do not argue science or statistics, I argue for exemption purely based upon religious beliefs and faith. Reach out to me at for further guidance and help.

In The Beginning…

In just a couple of weeks, on Sunday, Oct. 3, we will launch a new mini-series entitled, “In The Beginning”. This series will focus our attention on seven unique attributes of God. I can’t wait to dive into this series with all of you!

But why have a sermon series on the attributes of God? Well, simply put, God is amazing. He’s the great God – the eternal God – the incomprehensible God!

Incomprehensible? Yes! So, why study God when He’s beyond our reach to fully understand? Because what has been revealed about Him is amazing and the rest, well, we just stand back in awe…Check out the video below from the “Stranger On The Road To Emmaus” series that explains just how grand our God is…

From the Desk of the Associate: The Spirit of Fear

We live in a day of fear. We all know it. We all experience it. I am not talking about acute fear like when you almost step on a snake, or when you see your toddler fall in a pool, or when you have to slam on your brakes to avoid an accident. All these things are what we call “healthy fear”, and it helps us react quickly and properly to an immediate danger. No, the sort of fear I am talking about is a fear of a potential future that is very unpleasant.

The kind of fear that is permeating the culture around us, and is being pushed by our media and politicians, is basically this kind of fear. There is a virus that has a high likelihood of killing you or someone you love; therefore, you must submit to all sorts of measures that we (the government) could never get you to submit to if you were not terrified. This fear has led people, who would have been completely normal and reasonable just two short years ago and changed them into people who fear to be in public, people who fear their neighbors, and people who fear that their death from the virus is imminent. I expect many of the people who read this article will agree with me that the response of these people has been largely overblown. To be clear, I know that this virus has killed a large number of people, but I also believe that the response and the fear that has been triggered has largely outpaced the actual danger of this pandemic to the average person…

You see, many of you reading this little blog post probably look at the double and triple maskers and scorn and roll your eyes at their level of fear. You can correctly see that these people have succumbed to the message of the mainstream media and politicians. What you cannot see as clearly is the spirit of fear that has snuck its way into your own heart and mind. Many on the right (from which I am writing) see that the left has overblown this pandemic in many ways to push their agenda. What they miss is that they themselves are driven and controlled by a different fear. For instance, I believe that most conservative Christians are influenced by the same fear that drives me…The fear of government overreach, the fear that churches will be persecuted, the fear that Critical Race Theory and the radical sexual agenda will be crammed down on society and on our children, and the fear that our country will be lost. Now from my point of view, all of these fears are completely legitimate. In fact, I myself struggle with thoughts of all of these things, but I think when we look around us and identify all the challenges and dangers that confront us, I think that our fear has blinded us to the response that God would desire from us.

Christian, in these times of fear and doubt, remember, God has not called us to spend our life in comfort and luxury. I think in America we have taken for granted that we have basic human comforts and freedoms that have not been the norm for God’s people for the vast majority of history. So much of the theology in the American church is so weak and shallow because it has not been tested in the fire of persecution. Only in America could the idea be born that “God wants you to have your best life now.” Or that “we are David, and our boss is Goliath and God will give us victory to get that big promotion.” And only in America could it be said that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” means that I can win this football game. By the way, that verse was about Paul being able to withstand suffering through Christ who strengthens him, not winning a football game!

Christian, you have forgotten in these times of fear and doubt that God gave us a spirit “not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Just for context, when Paul wrote this, he was in prison and about to be executed. Over and over again God commands his people not to fear. Is this because he promises that there is never any danger or discomfort? No, it’s because that for the Christian, “all things work together for good.” Bad things work together for good. Persecution works together for good. Covid-19 works together for good. Critical Race Theory works together for good. Cancer works together for good. Why? Because all of these things that the Evil One means for bad, God twists them around and turns them for good. How frustrating it must be for Satan to do all he does only for God to thwart his plans!

Christian, so what should our response be to God’s command not to fear, and his promise to turn all things to good for those who belong to him? Read Deuteronomy 4. Moses was reiterating God’s law and promises to the people before they faced the biggest challenge of their lives. He says this in Deuteronomy 4:9, “Only take care and keep your soul diligently, lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.” We are commanded to take care that we not forget God’s Word or cease to believe it. How do we do that? We keep reading it and studying it with a heart of belief so that we constantly remember to do it. What else should we do? Look at the second part of verse 9, “Make them known to your children and your children’s children…” The world and the Evil One are not neglecting to teach our children and grandchildren. Christian, how can you neglect to actively teach and remind your young people about the commands and the goodness of God? How about instead of wringing your hands and bemoaning the fact that our children are going to face hard times and suffering, we begin to intentionally teach, model, and equip them to live out their faith in the midst of a lost and dying generation. And lastly, how about we get down on our knees and lift these fears to our Father in Heaven who has promised to walk through the floods and the fires with us…

Christian, stop pointing to the people who are controlled by the spirit of fear of this pandemic without realizing that you too are being influenced and controlled (often times) by your own spirit of fear. Start sowing to the Holy Spirit and walking in his power by prayer, and by the Word, and by his Church. I will leave you with this thought from Hebrews 10:23-25 as we face these dark days in our nation, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

To Live & Lead: My Personal Leadership Principles…

Over the years, I’ve exercised leadership in a variety of different settings…I’ve been an Officer in the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program, a Grocery Manager at Winn-Dixie, a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, a Student Officer at Faith Baptist Bible College, and (now, currently) a Lead Pastor here at Prairie Flower Baptist Church…I say all that to say this: For the last 20 years, since the time I was 14 years old, I’ve been fascinated and immersed in pursuing and perfecting (or at least attempting to perfect) the art of leadership.

So much could be said about the art of leadership. Indeed, I believe leadership is more of an art than a science, but that’s a topic for another day. But below are some of the leadership axioms – my personal leadership principles – that I’ve picked up over the years. These are the principles by which I try to live and lead. To be sure, none of these statements are unique with me, but (over the years) they were repeated over and over and over again (by those in leadership over me) to the point that I adopted these principles and made them my very own…Yes, these statements encapsulate my pursuit of excellence for the glory of God…

  1. Don’t Be A Slow Poke: “Move with a purpose.” -Learned In The Civil Air Patrol
  2. Don’t Be Messy Or Disorganized: “Pick it up. Don’t pass it up.” -Learned In The Grocery Store, Winn-Dixie
  3. Don’t Make Changes Quickly: “Slow is smooth. And smooth is fast.” -Learned In The U.S. Army
  4. Don’t Be A Simpleton Or Generalist About Life: “It’s complex. Learn to appreciate nuance.” -Learned In College
  5. Don’t Assume Everyone Knows: “Communicate early and often.” -Learned In Pastoral Ministry
  6. Don’t Be Satisfied With Just Being Ok Or Average: “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” -Learned Over The Years From Excellent Leaders In Business & Ministry

Yes, no one is perfect. Yes, there is always room for grace. Yes, we need to be kind and considerate to those who can’t keep up. But these are good leadership principles to bind yourself to…At least I think so…But what would you add to this list?

A Chicken With Its’ Head Cut Off…

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “So-and-so is running around like a chicken with its’ head cut off.” Kind of a disturbing idiom, but it carries the idea of a person who is haphazard with their schedule, aimless in their organization, or frantically reacting to life instead of proactively planning and responding to life. Does the chicken with no head expression describe you?

I’ve been in leadership long enough to realize that far too many people struggle with scheduling, organization, and general life planning. In fact, I am deeply disturbed at how many Christian leaders struggle with these basic leadership skills. It seems to me that far too many of us are flying by the seat of our pants, overstressing ourselves and frustrating the people around us, when we could carefully and smoothly get our work done.

In fact, let me talk directly to those of you in leadership positions. Maybe you own your own business or lead in a non-profit, let me speak to you very plainly. If you fail to schedule, organize, and plan your business or non-profit, you might find yourself very busy (and reasonably productive) as you constantly react to situations and people, but you will fail to achieve what you originally set out to achieve and your long-term goals won’t get met in good time (if ever)…Make sense?

I first became keenly aware of the importance of proper scheduling, organization, and planning while deployed in Iraq with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). I served as one of their Intel Analysts. Our plan/objective was simple: Kill and capture high value Al-Qaeda targets in Iraq. But here was our constant challenge/chaos: Angry villagers and tribal leaders who wanted clean water…I mean, there were constant riots. “Clean water! Clean water! Clean water!” Now imagine if our operators only focused on the chaos in front of them without ever addressing the underlying chaos enablers (i.e. the terrorists)…No good to dig new wells in these Iraqi villages if they’ll just get poisoned or blown up by insurgents. Gotta stay on task…Gotta stay on mission…Gotta stay on plan/objective…Kill and capture high value Al-Qaeda targets in Iraq and (in time) the clean water will come!

What’s my point? Well, as leaders in your field, you gotta become Masters of Chaos…Controlling the chaos or (inevitably) the chaos will control you. If you allow chaos to control you, then as a leader, you’ll be nothing more than a chicken with no head…And you’re the leader! So if you have no head, guess what happens to the people following you?

Well, what’s the why behind the what of this issue? Here are five of the hidden culprits of improper leadership administration (i.e. scheduling, organization, and planning)…

  • Lack of Passion – You won’t find any motivation to administrate well if you hate what you do. Do you LOVE what you do?
  • Lack of Focus – You won’t administrate well if you have developed poor habits of distracting yourself with entertainment, vices of various kinds, etc. Are you willingly A.D.D.?
  • Lack of Planning – You won’t administrate well if you don’t plan to administrate. Indeed, “Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance” (Army phrase). Can’t administrate something you don’t know needs to be administrated…Write it down…Plan to administrate…Plan to plan!
  • Lack of Discipline – You won’t administrate well if you don’t discipline yourself to keep on keeping on even when the going gets tough. You gotta be CONSISTENT with your administrative system. Get this…Administration is the essential, but unattractive oil of a properly functioning business or organization. You have to discipline yourself to stay on task, on target, and on time. Yeah, it’s boring. Yeah, it’s not fun. But, yeah, “administration won’t make your business, but it can certainly break your business!”
  • Lack of Gratefulness – You won’t administrate well if you aren’t grateful for the limited time you have here on earth. I am utterly convinced that so many people struggle with administrative skills because they lack basic understanding of, and respect for, time…You don’t have much time left on planet earth, and some of you are living (and working) like you have all the time in the world…A healthy understanding of your incredibly short life and a healthy fear of your impending death are strong motivators to get your junk together and administrate well…

And just to be clear, poor administration has nothing to do with a deficit of intellect, vision, or charm…In fact, some of the smartest, most visionary, and charming people I’ve ever met are just plain bad at administration because they lacked either passion, or focus, or planning, or discipline, or gratefulness, or some combination of these hidden culprits…

So, do you struggle with administrating your life and work? Are you just plain bad at scheduling, organization, and planning? Do you allow the chaos of your life and work to control you too much? Here’s two practical tips to be a better person and leader…1) Buy and use a paper planner…“A paper brain never forgets!” And 2) Buy and read the book, Mastering Life by Robert J. Morgan…Excellent book and easy to read!