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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.

We are living in The Twilight Zone

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The original Twilight Zone TV series easily ranks as one of my all-time favorite programs. The Twilight Zone has been in constant reruns since the mid-1960s and can be found on Netflix, SYFY, and on classic TV channels.

Through brilliant writing and storytelling, The Twilight Zone’s stories often reflected contemporary fears- nuclear war, communism, alien invasions- and weaved them into weekly stories. The themes of these shows, though produced in the late ’50s and early ’60s can also apply to our current times.

One particular episode, The Monsters are due on Maple Street, can serve as an illustration of how people are dealing with the Coronavirus, especially the responses of protesters, local, state, and federal governments.

The Monsters are due on Maple Street originally aired on March 4, 1960 on CBS. The story begins with a scene of Maple Street, a picturesque view of late 50s/early 60s suburban Americana, not to different from Leave It to Beaver.

*Spoilers ahead*

The tranquility and repose of Maple Street is soon interrupted by a flash of light and a loud noise in the sky. Everyone on the street sees the light and hears the noise. The street loses power, the phone lines go dead, and cars won’t start.

Two of the main characters, Steve and Charlie decide to walk downtown to get answers about the power outage when they are warned by Tommy, one of the neighborhood kids.

“They don’t want you to,” Tommy warns. Tommy also points up at the sky and acknowledges “them.”

Tommy then proceeds to tell the plot of a sci-fi book he read, where the aliens sent people ahead, who look like regular people.

Tommy’s warning is dismissed as him reading too many comic books or watching too many movies. People still claim the light was a meteor. The arguing begins when Les’ car starts and shuts off on its own. The neighbors then try to make Les out to be an alien and question his odd behavior, such as looking up at the stars at night, which Les attributes to insomnia.

As night falls on Maple Street, accusations begin to fly from every direction, and an innocent man, Pete Van Horn is shot and killed by Charlie because Pete was walking in the dark, which Charlie assumed it “was the monster.” Eventually the tension reaches the breaking point and a riot breaks out, as everyone goes after their neighbors and the neighborhood is destroyed.

The camera pans away from Maple Street to a hill outside of town, where there are two human-looking aliens. One alien explains the procedure: “Stop a few of their machines, radios, televisions, and lawnmowers. Throw them into darkness for a few hours. Sit back and watch the pattern…They always pick the most dangerous enemy-themselves.” All the aliens have to do is watch, which is what they do until the board their ship and fly into space.

I find the parallels of The Monsters are due on Maple Street and the political fallout over the Coronavirus in the U.S. to be uncanny. Just as the worst came out of the residents of Maple Street, so too has the worst come out in some Americans,with armed protesters at state capitols and others refusing stay at home orders. The case with the Coronavirus has become fodder for conspiracy theorists, even President Donald Trump, who dismissed the early days of the pandemic as a “hoax” which was simply out to crash the economy. Many of these protesters are looking for an enemy, someone whom they can blame for their troubles, like the people of Maple Street. People are looking out for only their self-interest and not considering the greater good.

I understand people are desperate and their lives have been turned upside down by this virus. I understand people are hurting, but that doesn’t give one the right to bring harm or ill health to others. Making a virus a political issue is the worst thing that could have happened,because political agendas and irrational emotion have replaced reason and scientific facts. Science is being pointed at as an enemy. People have framed this virus as an attack on personal liberty, religious freedom, a new world order, or whatnot. This is not a time to look for a boogeyman, it’s time to bring healing to those who are sick. It’s time to show compassion for those who are less fortunate. Is this a frustrating situation? Yes. Covid-19 has affected the lives of billions of people around the world. It is time for Americans to tune out the partisan rhetoric and lend a hand to your fellow man,woman, and child. If you value your personal liberty, you still have a responsibility to use it in a peaceful manner and not to walk over someone else. Please, bring yourself to a calm and rational place. We don’t need pandemics of paranoia, ignorance, and fear in the midst of a far more serious pandemic.

Greed

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By Michael W. Raley

Greed is a cancer on the human soul,

An ever-growing tumor showing no signs of slowing down.

Greed is a demon, which has possessed humanity,

Creating an ever-widening path of destruction

Of war, corruption,  the enslavement, oppression, and murder

Of family, strangers, friends, and entire groups of people

Whose only wrong deed was being in someone’s perceived way.

And for what? More possessions? More money?

Do you think your blood money will buy you a seat in heaven?

Will your soul ever be satisfied? Will your belly ever be full?

Judas lost his soul over thirty pieces of silver,

How much will it take for you?

Wealth must be mixed with generosity for the betterment of all

And not so each one can build their own kingdom.

Just like the fool who decided to build bigger barns and rest,

So your soul may be required of you this very night.

Who then, will take care of your barns?

You may have gained the world,

But how much did it cost you?

Wash the filth off of your hands

And repent with all your heart!

 

 

Hold The Line

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By Michael W. Raley

The armies of darkness and despair have waged war in my life

For what seems an eternity.

I have paid a heavy price and suffered tremendous loss.

Yet, I remain steadfast in the midst of this battle.

“Hold the line!”

By the grace of God, I have come too far to waive the white flag.

Now is the time to regroup and to strengthen what remains,

For victory is imminent, so judgment will be executed on the darkness and despair.

As long as I have breath, I have hope.

“Hold the line!”

My spirit and my resolve are battle-hardened,

My strategy is coming together,

As I plan to launch an offensive

That will scatter the enemy and break their spirits.

“Hold the line!”