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What Does Jesus Say About Virtue Signaling?

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“I voted.” “Stay home, save lives.” “Mask up.” “Get vaccinated.” “I stand with Ukraine.” “I stand for the flag and kneel at the cross.” “Praying for this place that suffered such and such tragedy.” “Hashtag this. Hashtag that.” These are just a few examples of the messages with which we are inundated on Social Media. The term “virtue signaling” is now part of our daily lexicon to describe such actions.

According to Dictionary.com, virtue signaling is defined as:

“The sharing of one’s point of view on a social or political issue, often on social media, in order to garner praise or acknowledgment of one’s righteousness from others who share that point of view, or to passively rebuke those who do not.”1

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with supporting a cause. If you vote, great. If you decide that wearing a mask or getting a vaccine is best for you, then go for it. Praying for our communities and for people around the world is a great starting point. However, we must examine our motives when letting our views known. Are we just jumping on a bandwagon to get likes on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? Are you feeling social peer pressure because you haven’t chimed in on a topic? Do you just want to “raise awareness” without actually putting in any effort to help the cause or situation? Why do you even care what your Facebook friend from three jobs ago thinks about your stance on a vaccine or international affairs?

As The Bible tells us, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NKJV).

Thus, virtue signaling is nothing new, it’s just the name we call in in the 21st Century. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed such behavior regarding giving, prayer, and fasting, which can provide us with insight on how to navigate our lives.

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:1-2, NKJV).

Jesus then raises the standard for us as He explains: “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:3-4, NKJV).

Jesus goes on to explain how we should pray and fast in the same manner (Matthew 6:5-18). Jesus says when you, which means there is an expectation of being charitable, prayerful, and fasting. However, Jesus teaches us not to do things for the approval of people. Public opinion is fickle and the social causes go out of style faster than the latest fashion trends. Don’t chase trends, but follow Jesus. Don’t do it for the likes and follows, do it for the Lord.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17, NKJV).

God bless.

1 https://www.dictionary.com/browse/virtue-signaling Accessed April 24, 2022.

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Of Tyrants, Tyranny, and Freedom in Christ

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Tyranny is one the most destructive forces ever unleashed on the world. Throughout history, Tyrants such as Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, and Vladimir Putin to name a few have sought to murder, oppress, and destroy the lives, spirits, and minds of anyone who oppose their ideologies. These sick and twisted regimes believed they had the right to rule over a free people.

In the 20th Century alone, it has been estimated that 100 million people died at the hands of tyrannical dictators and regimes. At the time I’m posting this, the war between Russia and Ukraine is raging into another week. War crimes have been committed by the Russian army, as thousands of civilians- men, women, and children have been murdered. I watched in horror the clip of a Russian tank running over a car full of Ukrainian people. The Ukrainians in the car posed no threat to the tank- the car was just traveling in the opposite direction of the tank. The car was flattened within seconds; Lives were taken for no reason.

Praise God for the resolve and fight of the Ukrainian people, who are doing their best to fight back against a better equipped army. By some accounts I have read, that worthless pile of garbage Putin has become frustrated with how long the invasion is taking, as he miscalculated the resolve of the Ukrainian people to stand up against their invaders. Freedom is a God-given right to all of humanity, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, NIV).

In the midst of the Russia-Ukraine war, the possibility of a second Cold War is brewing between the United States and Russia, something I remember well growing up during the Reagan Administration. If the madman Putin gets backed into a corner, the threat of nuclear war looms large over humanity. A full scale nuclear war would reap destruction upon the world greater than all of history’s wars combined.

However, we must remember that God is in charge, as the Psalmist wrote, “…But it is God who judges: He brings one down, He exalts another.” (Psalm 75:7, NIV).

We must also remember that Jesus warned us of such events: “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:5-8, KJV).

During these times, we must keep a clear mind and remember to pray. Continue to stand strong in the faith and keep your eyes on Christ. God bless you all.

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Jesus, the Door to Salvation

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Could you imagine life without doors? Our modern life would be even more chaotic if we didn’t have doors. People would come and go into your home or business, jeopardizing your and your family’s safety or even your livelihood. Doors, in one form or another, date back to ancient Mesopotamia. In the Bible, doors also serve as a metaphor for our spiritual lives.

When you think of a door, you think of an entry way or a barrier. If the door is open or unlocked, you can move freely from one room to another. If the door is locked, you either need a key or someone to let you inside.

Jesus taught deep spiritual truths using everyday objects- seeds, candles, and coins to name a few. Jesus also used doors to illustrate spiritual truth.

Doors and Prayer

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father, who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” -Matthew 6:6 (NASB).

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” -Matthew 7:7 (NASB).

Jesus is the only door to God

“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.'” -John 10:7-9 (NASB).

We must open our doors to Jesus

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” – Revelation 3:20 (NASB).

Despite what culture teaches, Jesus is, was, and forever will be the only way to eternal salvation. In these Last Days, we must remain alert at the door, for there are many impostors and false prophets who wish to do us harm. We must stand watch and be alert at the door, waiting for the return of our Lord. God bless you all.

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Arise from the Regret

“…Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”

Ephesians 5:14, KJV.

The older I get, the less stuff I want. Stuff piles up and gets in the way. Stuff has to be maintained, cleaned, and stored when not using it. I don’t need any more stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for what I have in my life. My basic needs- food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and money to pay my bills are met and I know that’s a blessing. I’ve lived through my share of hard times and I appreciate the lessons learned along the way.

However, there is one gift that eludes me- peace of mind. I take my defeats and mistakes very personally, I always have. In my middle age, I live with a nagging regret over my choices. It’s hard to get over failure. I’ve learned from failure, but its ghost continues to haunt me.

Yes, I am a Christian, and I know that God has forgiven me, yet I still live with the pain. It seems that I’ll be walking the road until I cross the bridge to eternity. I just have to accept that failure is part of the process. As the wise Jedi Master Yoda once said, “The greatest teacher failure is.”

I can’t change the past, I can only go forward. That goes for all of us. No matter how badly you and I have jacked it all up, we have daily opportunities to start again. The voice of regret may be speaking to you, but if you keep moving forward, that voice will become a distant muffle. Keep walking.

Arise. What a powerful word. If you read Scripture, especially the King James Version, you will find this great word. Arise is always followed by some action, whether by us or God. I must arise this day and go forth. Arise, my friend and go forward. Arise and walk past the regret, the same, the losses, and the failures. May God bless you.

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Vipers

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By Michael W. Raley

A brood of vipers have taken over the world.

The vipers lie in wait for their next victim,

Ready to inject their deadly venom.

However, these vipers don’t slither around on their bellies:

They walk among us.

Ready to attack at the slightest offense,

One viper’s venomous bite is enough to send you into toxic shock,

But more and more of the vipers will seize the opportunity

To strike and bring you down.

These vipers are never satisfied,

As they are constantly on the hunt for their next victim.

Vipers, like all snakes, cannot be reasoned with

As they are snakes by nature.

It would be best to avoid the viper’s den

And keep yourself out of harm’s way.

However, if you encounter the vipers,

Remove them from your life

And arm yourself with the antivenom

Of peace of mind.

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More Dangerous Doctrines and Pandemics

When the Covid-19 pandemic started in 2020, I shared and discussed a clip from televangelist Kenneth Copeland “blowing the wind of God” on the virus. As biblically unsound and dangerous as the Prosperity Gospel Cult with the likes of Copeland and his ilk are, the pandemic is beginning to show how people are worshipping at the feet of big government.

A cult-like infrastructure has been set in place because of the pandemic. The government knows what’s best for you and your family. Don’t question the official narrative, even if the narrative has changed, because you are spreading misinformation. Force your beliefs on other people, no matter the personal costs to them. And most importantly, do not under any circumstances, question our motives or possible medical side-effects to the vaccine. Sounds like cultish behavior to me.

However, New York Governor Kathy Hochul recently spoke at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, NY and invoked God, Jesus, and the apostles in order to encourage people to spread the word about the vaccines.

I cringe any time a politician invokes the name of God or Jesus because I’m cynical and skeptical of people pandering to get a vote. If Governor Hochul thought she could get votes from a Mosque or Buddhist temple, she’d co-opt their doctrines as well.

I will let the governor’s speech speak for itself. This transcript is from the New York Governor’s site. Here’s the link: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/rush-transcript-governor-hochul-attends-service-christian-cultural-center.

“We are not through this pandemic. I wished we were but I prayed a lot to God during this time and you know what – God did answer our prayers. He made the smartest men and women, the scientists, the doctors, the researchers – he made them come up with a vaccine. That is from God to us and we must say, thank you, God. Thank you.  And I wear my ‘vaccinated’ necklace all the time to say I’m vaccinated. All of you, yes, I know you’re vaccinated, you’re the smart ones, but you know there’s people out there who aren’t listening to God and what God wants. You know who they are.

I need you to be my apostles. I need you to go out and talk about it and say, we owe this to each other. We love each other. Jesus taught us to love one another and how do you show that love but to care about each other enough to say, please get the vaccine because I love you and I want you to live, I want our kids to be safe when they’re in schools, I want to be safe when you go to a doctor’s office or to a hospital and are treated by somebody, you don’t want to get the virus from them. You’re already sick or you wouldn’t be there. We have to solve this, my friends. I need every one of you. I need you to let them know that this is how we can fight this pandemic, come back to normal and then start talking about the real issues that we have to – fighting systemic racial injustice which exists today and if there is a denier I will take you on every day because I’ve seen it, I know it exists and we’re not going to have a blind eye to this ever again any longer under my watch. That is my commitment to you.” [Italics mine].

Here is a link from YouTube with the speech as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXaP76musWM.

During these last days, we must be hyper-vigilant concerning the false doctrine going out into the world. Here we have a politician in a church, encouraging people to follow here and spread her message. Why did no one in the church object? Why was she not shouted down we she told people to “be her apostles?” I’m afraid in our day and age the Church has gone soft and is more than happy to be intermingled with the government.

I’m not telling anyone to get the vaccine or not, that’s your choice. I’m not a Republican or Democrat, I am deeply concerned of politicians standing brazenly in a pulpit, invoking God and telling followers of Jesus Christ to follow her and spread the message of government. These are perilous times. Stay awake.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, KJV).

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Psalm 118: This is the Day

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If you have lived for any length of time, troubles will find you. You don’t have to search out trouble because trouble will find you. Trouble can come in many forms- a health crisis, relationship tension, job stress, financial pressure- sometimes all at once. Life can make you feel like a modern day Job. However, Psalm 118 gives us a biblical GPS on how to navigate difficult times: thanksgiving and praise.

“Give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: because His mercy endureth forever.” (Psalm 118:1, KJV).

The psalmist then encourages Israel, the priesthood, and those who revere the Lord to say God’s mercy endures forever (verses 2-4).

The psalmist recounts his salvation: “I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:5-6, KJV).

God through Jesus Christ saved us from an eternal hell. We were in the distress of our sins, yet God rescued us. If the God who created the universe saved you, forgave you, and gave you eternal salvation, what is there really to fear in this life? If God is on our side, who can stand against us? (Romans 8:31).

Although having a support system of a spouse, family, and friends is of vital importance, people will disappoint us because all of us are fallible. Our confidence should never be fully invested in a person to help us, but in the Lord.

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” (Psalm 118:8-9, KJV).

Verses ten through thirteen detail the wars the writer is facing, but he declares his trust and faith in God.

“The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation. The voice of the rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.”(Psalm 118: 14-16, KJV).

Did you notice the phrase “the right hand of the Lord” appeared three times in that passage? In the ancient world, the right hand of a king or ruler was considered a place of power and authority. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “right hand man,” that is where that phrase originated. No matter the situations we face, all believers are at God’s right hand, as He has given us authority and strength to face and overcome the obstacles we face in life.

“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” (Psalm 118:17, KJV).

Finally, we must remember that every day were given is a blessing from God. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day to praise God. You may still be in a mess, but God is on your side. God is fighting for you. We must take the time to praise God in the midst of our trials.

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, KJV).

So as you go about your day today, praise God. Praise God for your salvation, the air in your lungs, His goodness, His promises, His Word, and everything else you can think of this day. God bless.

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The Goodness of God

“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forebearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”

Romans 2:4, KJV.

God’s goodness can overwhelm the hardest of souls. Once we find ourselves in the grip of God’s unyielding grace, He will never let go of us. No matter our circumstances or the current state of the world, God is there to lead us home. Even if we were to stray from God, He will welcome us back as the father welcomed back the prodigal. God never leaves us or forsakes us, even if we were to turn our backs on Him. God is good all the time.

I accepted Christ in 1999 and it hasn’t been all puppies and kittens. The Christian life is not supposed to be easy, as Paul told Timothy to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” (2 Timothy 2:3, KJV). God is our greatest teacher, a teacher who repeatedly tests His students. Life at times seems to be a pop quiz we’re not prepared to take, but God has the lesson plan in place.

I’ve blogged on this site about life’s ups and downs- my faith struggles, the battles of my physical and mental health, and the dissolution of my marriage to name a few topics. I was for the longest time hardened by these experiences. I was bitter at God and the world. There were times I simply refuse to pray because I thought that God wasn’t listening. I went months when the only time I opened my Bible was in church. My faith was beginning to mutate into a ritual, simply doing something because that’s what I always did. However, deep down, I missed God.

God, the sculptor that He is, began to chisel away at the head and heart of stone. God’s grace overwhelmed me as I received a reminder of His goodness. Even with my failures, my pain, my dysfunction, and my torment, God was still there. God still loves me, as He does any wayward child. In the midst of what I call my “five year stretch,” God was still faithful to me.

After Job went through his trials, God blessed him at the end of it. However, I was too stubborn to realize how God blessed me during the course of my trials. God truly had an answer for every problem I had. I was laid off at the end of 2015, God provided jobs for me to work my way back financially. My health declined, but God placed me with wise doctors and the proper diet and medication to treat me. My marriage ended in divorce, but God has blessed me with a wonderful godly fiancée. I wandered the spiritual desert, but God lead me home.

No matter what we face, we can always count on God being there. We must admit our shortsightedness and our ignorance and allow God to work. If we want to hear from God, we have to stop talking and listen. God speaks volumes in silence. God gave us His holy word to guide us and that is where He does most of the talking. Don’t give up hope. Keep close to God. Everyone in your life may walk away from you, but God will never leave you. God is that friend who sticks closer than a brother, stick with Him. The answer to your problems is not found in the arms of someone, a needle, a bottle, or even a plate- God is the answer. We must realize that He is good and turn our hearts back to Him. God bless you.

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Mark 4: The Parables and the Storm

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Jesus often taught in parables, short, simple stories that illustrated deeper spiritual truths. Jesus’ parables dealt with topics familiar to His audience- seeds, pearls, wayward children, money, among others. The parables of Jesus still hold deep meaning 2,000 years later. Jesus’ parable of the sower as told in Mark chapter four is used to teach us about the mindset of the disciples.

Mark chapter four takes place early in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has chosen His twelve disciples. The crowds were also starting to follow Jesus at this point.

“And He began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto Him a great multitude, so that He entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.” (Mark 4:1, KJV).

Beginning in verse three, Jesus tells the parable of the sower (this parable is also found in Matthew 13:1-5 and Luke 8:4-10). I’ll summarize the parable to discuss one aspect and how it related to the disciples. Jesus taught a sower went out to sow seed and the seed landed by the wayside, stony ground, among thorns, and good ground. The seed by the wayside was eaten by birds, the seed on the stony ground quickly sprang up, but died out just as quickly, the thorns choked out the seed, and the seed on the good ground brought a harvest. However, Jesus did not explain the deeper meaning of the parable to the crowd, simply saying, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:9, KJV).

Jesus was alone with the disciples and they asked Him what the parable of the sower meant. Jesus explained that the sower sowing the word of God (the seed) and the types of ground represented how different people respond to the hearing of the God’s word. Jesus took the time to teach other parables to the disciples.

Let’s take a look at the seed that fell on the stony ground.

“And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time; afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” (Mark 4:16-18, KJV).

Later that same day, Jesus told the disciples to journey to the other side of the sea. While on their journey, a storm came up on the water. We know at least four disciples- Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen by trade and possibly experienced storms on the water, but they did not respond like experienced fishermen. The disciples were acting like the seed sown on the stony ground, as they began to be fearful and lose hope.

The disciples found Jesus asleep during the storm, but they woke Him up.

“Master carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38, KJV).

Just like the seed on the stony ground, the disciples were going through affliction (the storm) and became offended at Jesus. “How can you sleep at a time like this. We’re going to die! Do you even care?” Keep in mind, even in the early days of Jesus’ ministry, the disciples had witnessed miracles and heard the same teachings as the crowds, but the word had yet to fall onto that good soil, where these men would take the Gospel and take Jesus’ teachings far and wide.

Even when we don’t heed God’s words as we should, God is still merciful to us. God loves us and helps us in the midst of the worst of storms.

“And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39,KJV).

Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith, but I believe that this storm was a turning point for the disciples. I believe that some of that seed had found its way from the stony ground onto the good soil, where it reaped a harvest that is still being reaped this very day.

As each of us face our own storms in life, allow God’s word to become deeply rooted in your spirit; so that we may be like Christ, having peaceful rest during the storm. God bless you.

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Last Days Violence

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.”-Genesis 6:11, KJV.

“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” – Matthew 24:37, KJV.

The nationwide spike in violent crime sickens my spirit. The morning headlines are filled with murder, shootings, riots, gang violence, and people brazen enough to loot stores in broad daylight. Major cities all across this country- New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit, Indianapolis, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and many others have become the Wild West, something akin to Dodge City or Tombstone. Criminals are immortalized as saints while the police are defunded and demonized. Spineless prosecutors fail to prosecute criminals, who only get out of jail to commit more crime, sometimes violent acts. And don’t get me started on the opportunistic politicians who spew their toxic venom of division and hatred.

We are living in the Upside Down, with a bit of the Twilight Zone thrown in for good measure. I believe these are the last of the Last Days. Our time parallels the time before the Flood. God is love and God is merciful, but there is also an end to God’s patience. When God pronounced judgment upon Israel and Judah in the Old Testament, it was never an immediate judgment, as God gave the nations time to repent. However, when Israel and Judah refused to repent and continued in their wicked ways, God had to punish them. As our world drifts further from God, we are getting closer to judgment.

“Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”- Isaiah 5:20, KJV.

Violence entered the world the minute Cain took a rock and murdered his brother, Abel. The means and weapons have changed, but the darkness of the human heart has remained the same. Abel’s blood called out to God and today’s bloodshed calls out to God. Our world has become so desensitized to violence, we often read the headlines and don’t give it a second thought. Have we grown so cold to the human condition? Have we allowed righteousness to be snuffed out like a candle? Have we strayed so far from God and His word that evil has filled in the gap? I believe we have and Jesus stated so in Matthew 24:

“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax (grow) cold.” -Matthew 24:10-12, KJV (parenthesis mine).

Jesus’ statement certainly describes our time, but we must not be hopeless. Our Savior and God loves us too much to leave us as orphans who have no comfort (John 14:18). In the midst of His Matthew 24 discourse, Jesus gives us a promise:

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”- Matthew 24:13, KJV.

Brothers and sisters, we must not allow this darkness to overtake our societies or our spirits. We must endure the hardship as soldiers of Christ. We must speak the truth to power; we must shine the light in the darkness. We must say enough is enough to the fearmongering of our elected leaders. During the Covid-19 pandemic, tyrannical local and state governments shut down in-person church services, as churches were not deemed an “essential business.” I don’t recall much push back from the American churches. Think about it: you could have walked into a grocery store, a liquor store, a marijuana dispensary, or taken part in a riot, but you couldn’t go to church in person. I believe this was a sinister plot on part of the global elites and the world governments they run to remove all hope by destroying institutions billions of people hold dear over a virus with a high survival rate.

This attack on our civil liberties must not stand. A wicked and godless government will no longer dictate when and where I can worship my God. Our true liberties were bought and paid for by Jesus Christ. As an American, I also believe in every amendment to our Constitution. We must wake up from our spiritual slumber, out of our zombie-like states, as the times are serious and we need steadfast Christians.

“Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” -Ephesians 5:14, KJV.