The Disillusionment of the Soul

By Michael W. Raley

The disillusionment of the soul

Occurs over time,

Like how water erodes rock.

The weight of the water will wear

Grooves into the rock

Until a canyon is formed.

So it is with our souls,

The hurts, lies, and disappointments

Will weigh heavily on us

Until the young idealist

Is replaced by the old cynic.

Deep down, the cynic hopes for

Better days ahead,

Yet remains realistic.

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.

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Struggling to Pray

By Michael W. Raley

It’s hard to admit to myself and even harder to say,

But I find myself these days

Struggling to pray.

Even during the darkest of my darkest days,

I’ve ran out of things to say.

As in the Scriptures, I want the Lord to answer my call,

But I feel as if I’m talking to a wall.

Silence, deafening silence is all I hear,

Painful day after day, depressing year after year.

Aren’t relationships supposed to be a two way street?

However, relationships are difficult if one party refuses to speak.

My spiritual eyes have grown weary,

While my spiritual outlook has grown dire and dreary

Waiting for an answer, any response from on high.

In my brokenness all I can do is groan and sigh.

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If People were like Dogs

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By Michael W. Raley

If people were loyal like dogs,

The world would be a much better place.

Spouses wouldn’t leave just because times were difficult,

Nor would friendships end over petty disagreements.

There would always be a loving, non-judgmental face

To welcome you home and say you matter to me.

If people were as loving as dogs,

A kind, listening ear would see us through the dark days;

A soft cuddle or nuzzle would help mend a broken heart,

Saving us from depression and despair.

If people saw from a dog’s perspective,

There would be no division in our world,

For we would see only people who needed love.

If people were as unselfish as dogs,

We be kind to each other

And truly understand

What it means to love

Another being greater than you could ever love yourself.

Review- American Gospel: Christ Alone

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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.

The Wearied Spirit

By Michael W. Raley

My spirit is weary and my faith has faltered

As the darkness once again envelopes me.

It seems the world around me is burning

And I’m unable to extinguish it.

The difficult times never end,

I only make adjustments with what I have on hand,

Hoping tomorrow things will be better.

I’ve spent my life working, yet don’t seem to get ahead.

I’ve overcome past difficulties,

Yet newer and tougher obstacles are always on the horizon.

I seek to do better, but to no avail.

I repent and  pray, but all I hear is thunderous silence.

All I know is that I have come too far

For things to remain this way.

 

 

 

 

Psalms of Gratitude

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I know currently there are millions of people who are hurting due to the current pandemic and I want to give you some encouragement. I’ve been a Christian for over twenty years and I’m still learning this lesson I’m about to share. I at times get so caught up in the negative news cycles and focused on my problems, that I forget to show thankfulness to God. God has provided us with salvation in Christ and His mercies are new each day we rise, yet I find myself complaining about my circumstances.

I read about thankfulness in the Psalms and it was a reminder of God’s goodness. The Psalms were not always written in the best of circumstances. Many of the Psalms were written during times of war, sickness, depression, betrayal, God’s silence, and a host of other emotions. I believe the Psalms reflect the ups and downs of everyday life. However, something striking about the Psalms are how the writers would express hope and praise during their darkest times. The writers praised God and showed gratitude in the midst of trials. I want to share a handful of verses to remind us to realign our hearts and spirits during this difficult time.

“I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” (Psalm 7:17, NASB).

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.” (Psalm 28:7, NASB).

“Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosened my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Psalm 30:10-12,NASB).

“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises! Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken at dawn. I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations.” (Psalm 57:7-9, NASB).

“But I am afflicted and in pain; May Your salvation, O God, set me securely on high. I will praise the name of God with song And magnify Him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:29-30, NASB).

“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever.” (Psalm 86:11-12, NASB).

“O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving. Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” (Psalm 95:1-3, NASB).

These seven verses are just a sample of the richness of the Psalms and their songs of praise. What if we were to simply take one time a day to praise God for everything He’s done for us? What if we were to make a devotional out of praise Scriptures? Do you believe joy would come back into our lives? If we kept a heart of praise towards God, I believe that our spirits would search for the light,even in the midst of the scariest darkness. God bless you.