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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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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.

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2020: The Year I Returned to My Roots

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Christmas is now in the rearview mirror and a new year is fast approaching. A new year always brings optimism and hope as we reflect on the difficulties of the previous year. 2020 was definitely a runaway dumpster fire inside of a nitroglycerin plant.

I know 2020 was a year of tremendous loss for so many people and I am by no means making light of anyone’s pain. 2020 was difficult for me as well. I tested positive for Coronavirus. Praise the Lord I had a very mild case, with my only symptoms being a sinus headache and a cough. The symptoms lasted for three days, but I kept testing positive for two months. To say that I grew frustrated would be a major understatement. However, I was thankful that I was paid by my employer during my time off and my family brought groceries when I was unable to get to the store.

2020 was an eye-opening year for me, especially in terms of my faith. No matter your opinion on the lockdowns, I found it very disheartening that churches all across the United States so easily surrendered their First Amendment right to assemble and worship God. My own church did this as well. Churches were closed or at reduced capacity, yet people were allowed to gather in large groups and burn down cities all across the country, including my hometown. You can riot, but you can’t worship Jesus? Anyone else have a problem with that?

I know that the technology exists to watch church online anywhere in the world. I have no problem with individuals deciding not to attend in-person services, or even churches making that decision for themselves. My problem is with the government interfering into the affairs of churches. Religious freedom was infringed upon and not one strong objection was raised. History shows us that once governments begin to encroach upon liberties, the citizens never get their liberties restored. It’s time that we wake up realize that we are in a fight. The fight is only going to get tougher from here.

2020 has served as the year I went back to my spiritual roots- the strong church and the uncompromised teaching of the Word of God. It is time for the Church to go back to being the Church. So many churches focus on a 3-5 week sermon series, each message with 3-5 points, yet will not make one mention of the blood of Jesus Christ, hell, sin, or the need for salvation. The times are too perilous for us to be playing games. In the coming new year, I am strengthening my roots and reaffirming my foundation in Christ without compromise. I urge you, brothers and sisters to do the same.

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:6-8, KJV).

May the Lord bless you and keep you. Be blessed.

Never Allow Love to Leave

By Michael W. Raley

Never allow love to leave your heart-

No matter who hurt you,

No matter what is happening in the world,

No matter if hatred surrounds you,

Allow yourself to love and allow others to love you.

God is love and love is our connection to God.

Love connects us as a common humanity,

Which knows no bounds and trancends

The barriers erected by society,

Which divide us and provide the tinder box

For the fires of hatred and rage.

As we begin a new day,

Let us reset our hearts

To love God, ourselves, and each other.

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Profiles in Biblical Leadership: King Asa

In a seemingly ever-growing politically fractured world, strong leadership is needed now more than ever. With the U.S Presidential election just months away, I thought it would be important to study the good kings of Judah as mentioned in the Old Testament. There are eight good kings of Judah mentioned- Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah (aka Uzziah), Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah. However, all of the kings of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) did wicked in the sight of God. The first king of Judah we will examine will be Asa.

Background

-Asa reigned from 910-869 AD.

-Son of the king Abijam,who did evil in God’s sight.

-Asa’s story is found in 1 Kings 15:8-24 and 2 Chronicles 14-16.

What Asa did right

– Asa did right in the sight of God (1 Kings 15:11).

-Asa removed the temple prostitutes and removed the idols his father made (1 Kings 15:12).

-Asa removed his mother, Maacah, from her position as queen mother because of idols she constructed. (1 Kings 15:13 and 2 Chronicles 15:16).

-Asa removed some of the high places (places where idols were worshiped) and the incense altars (2 Chronicles 14:5).

-Asa fortified Judah, and the nation experienced peace and prosperity

(2 Chronicles 14:6-7).

-Asa sought the Lord and won a military victory against the Ethiopians

(2 Chronicles 14:8-15).

-Asa heeded the words of the prophet Azariah and made a covenant with all of Judah to seek God with all their hearts (2 Chronicles 15:1-15).

What Asa did wrong

-Asa did not remove all of the high places (1 Kings 15:14; 2 Chronicles 15:17).

-Asa made an alliance with Benhadad, the King of Aram, without seeking the Lord. ( 1 Kings 15:16-22; 2 Chronicles 16:1-6).

-Asa rejected the rebuke of Hanani the seer and threw him into prison.

(2 Chronicles 16:7-10).

-Later in his reign, Asa suffered from a foot disease and did not seek the Lord, but the physicians. (2 Chronicles 16:12).

*Bonus fact

-Asa is a descendant of Jesus and is mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy (Matthew 1:7).

Though there are no perfect human kings, queens, or presidents, I believe the stories preserved in God’s Word can provide us with strong leadership principles. Be blessed.

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Choose Life, Choose Christ

By Michael W. Raley

What if we could extend God’s grace to those around us?

What if we could embody love in a time of anger and hate?

In a time of hedonistic pleasure,

The call for a return to virtue goes almost unheeded.

People choose to live by their own truths

Instead of the universal truths of God.

There are those who call out their own virtue

Without understanding the true nature of justice, righteousness, and love,

Bringing shame and humiliation to anyone who may disagree.

Brothers and sisters, this ought not be so.

Though we may have different skin tones and languages,

We bleed the same red blood.

However, the time has come for us

To stop shedding the innocent blood,

To stop the hate, the violence, the ridicule

And the mob mentality.

For our Lord is calling us to a time with Him,

A quiet time of prayer and reflection.

Perhaps it is a time of listening to the Lord

From His holy hill, allowing Him to transform us

Into who we should be,

Not what the world wants us to be.

The Lord is calling us to a spiritual paradox-

We must separate ourselves from the darkness

While being a light in that same darkness.

Choose this day whom you will serve-

The day or the night?

The darkness or the light?

Death or life?

Virtue or sin?

Choose Christ and choose freedom.

2 Thessalonians and the Lawless Times

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The United States is experiencing a time of lawlessness, the extent of which I have not witnessed in my lifetime. The politicizing of the Coronavirus, protests for social justice, and the rioters who have taken advantage of said protests have created a tinderbox of lawlessness.

In major cities all across the country, mayors have ordered police departments to stand down as these cities have been burned and destroyed, which give them the appearance of a war zone. There are increasing calls to defund police departments and there is certainly no respect for the government or the president. I’m not going to inject my personal politics into this discussion, but I want to use this unruly time to draw a biblical parallel.

In the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he takes the time to clarify the End Times timeline. From the text, it appears that someone either inside or outside the Church of Thessalonica has spread the message that Jesus’ return (the day of the Lord) has already past. This news, of course, has upset many members of the church. However, Paul takes the time to reassure the believers of the sequence of events.

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, NASB).

Imagine the feeling that you missed Jesus’ return or you missed the rapture. The Thessalonian Church members must have felt devastated and hopeless. Paul goes on:

“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.  Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-6, NASB).

First we will see people fall away from Church teaching and people will began to live their lives as they see fit (1 Timothy 4:1-2 and 2 Timothy 3:1-7; 4:2-4). We can definitely draw a parallel to our times and Paul’s teaching to the Thessalonians.

Out of this chaos, a leader is going to rise, who of course will be the Antichrist. An interesting side note, the term anarchist means “without a ruler,” thus someone who doesn’t want to live by the rules, especially God’s rules. So under the guise of this false freedom, the Antichrist will demand worship. Paul’s reminder of his previous teaching is also a reminder for us to turn back to God’s teachings.

The current state of the world is nothing new, as there has always been rebellion against authority and God. The seeds of this rebellion go far beyond current headlines.

“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.  Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,  and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.  For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false,  in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-12, NASB).

What then, should be the Christian response to the current state of affairs? I believe we should hold onto the teachings of Christ. I believe we must exercise great discernment before we jump on any political bandwagon. In the age of the Internet and Social Media,movements go viral and gain steam before anyone really takes the time to learn about said movement. I also believe Christians need to look after our brothers and sisters during this time. These uncertain times have created a time of social and physical isolation, as many could not attend church services in person. I believe this is a time for the Church to find ways to draw closer to God and each other.

Paul concludes this section with encouraging words:

“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.  It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:12-17, NASB).

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

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Where is Reason?

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I’ve often wondered happened to reason, rationality, and common sense in American society?

As I write this post, the United States is experiencing a surge in new Covid-19 cases. (I have tested positive multiple times, yet remain asymptomatic). The U.S. response to the Covid-19 has been irrational and erratic at best. The politicized mainstream media (including conservative and liberal pundits) waffled between “We’re all going to die” and “This is a hoax to influence the election.” During the discussions of the pandemic, the middle ground has gone the way of the dinosaur.

People have protested state stay at home orders and people have viewed masks mandates as an attack on personal freedom. There are cities which are threatening to penalize non-mask wearers with fines and or jail time. Many major companies, including Walmart and Starbucks are now requiring customers to wear masks or they will not be allowed inside the store.

It’s human nature to defy authority. People still smoke despite the health warnings and proven links to cancer. There are people who still don’t wear seat belts; motorcycle riders refuse to wear helmets; drivers speed and underage college students will find ways to get alcohol. However, I believe the United States is going through a time of lawlessness, where the rights of the individual are being trampled on by the government and society.

There have been protests and societal upheaval coupled with a war on science, which has become politicized as well. Calm and rational voices are drowned out by mob rule. People are criticized equally for taking a side and not taking a side. The voice of the crowds on both sides aren’t listening to each other. Intellectual society has gone from John Stuart Mill’s “Marketplace of ideas” to “I only want to hear my opinion coming out of your mouth.”

What’s a rational person to do? I believe the important thing to do is to continue practicing reason,rationality, and common sense. Do not follow the crowd because you might get lost. Be a voice for those who don’t have a voice, but don’t act on emotion alone. I believe the reason for the vitriol in our political discourse is because people now argue from a place of emotion and see disagreement as a personal attack on them. During these times we must also practice emotional maturity. Try to find a solution to a problem without attacking someone else.

Along with practicing reason and emotional maturity, recognize the value of every person- even if they disagree with you. It doesn’t matter if someone is a Christian or an atheist, straight or gay, white or black, or any other way society tries to divide us- we can find common ground and respect each other. It’s still possible to agree to disagree. Don’t let petty political bickering destroy relationships with family and friends. Also, if you spew venom and hostility at someone, how do you ever expect them to see your side of the issue?

I believe the time has come to throw off the shackles of division and seek peace and healing. As the Bible states:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:12-18, NIV).

On a personal note,I have started a podcast, called Life in Progress. You can find it at https://anchor.fm/michael-raley. You can also find it on Google Podcast, Breaker, Pocket Casts, Radio Public and Spotify.

Be blessed.

Review- American Gospel: Christ Alone

Image copyright of Netflix

I was scrolling through the “Recently Added” section of Netflix when I came across the 2018 documentary American Gospel: Christ Alone. Directed and written by Brandon Kimber, American Gospel provides an in-depth look at the heretical teaching known as the Prosperity Gospel.

I have to say that Kimber’s research and passion for the project comes across in the documentary. The first thirty or so minutes of American Gospel relies on interviews with theologians, pastors, authors, apologists, and church historians to lay a firm foundation for the presentation of the true Gospel. The case presented is solid doctrine and a great reminder for all Christians to study the Word of God for themselves.

Once the foundation is set, American Gospel presents an examination the false doctrine of the prosperity message and its prominent teachers such as Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Todd White, Bill Johnson, and Joel Osteen to name a few. The documentary traces the roots of the prosperity message back to Kenneth Hagin, who in fact plagiarized from the works of E.W. Kenyon. As a lawyer would systematically breakdown an argument in court, strong biblical teaching and the experts refute the doctrine and merits of the prosperity message until it is revealed to be the heresy and deception that it is.

American Gospel is not simply an academic or theological debate, but also provides personal stories from people whose lives were affected negatively by the prosperity teachers. One of these people is Costi Hinn, the nephew of Benny Hinn who has renounced the false teachings and is now warning believers about the prosperity message. I related with the heartbreaking stories of the everyday people who fell in with this dangerous message. As a young believer, I lacked discernment and was part of a word-faith type of church for a number of years, which taught that God always heals, God wants to bless, and placed the onus on our works and not the finished work of Christ.

No matter if you are a new believer or one who has been in church for decades, I highly encourage you to watch American Gospel: Christ Alone. I rate it five stars out of five stars. The documentary is available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.