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Jesus Faces Nazareth’s Cancel Culture

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It seems like everyday that I hear of someone or something being “cancelled.” A celebrity or regular person, corporation, an old movie, song, or statute offends someone’s delicate sensibilities and it must be cancelled. The offending person or object must be scrubbed from the internet and the fabric of existence. Careers and lives are ruined and outrage ensues until the rage mob is distracted by the next shiny offending object to come along. And the process starts all over again.

Although the “cancel culture” seems to be a toxic byproduct of Social Media, cancel culture is as old as time itself. Conquering political and unfortunately, religious armies have long attempted to erase the history and culture of their vanquished foes. The changing moral and political landscapes of our world seek to silence all opposition because winner must take all, because it is “our message and only our message will be broadcast to the masses.”

Solomon was spot on in his assessment of the cyclical nature of existence, “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).

So, until Jesus comes back, the attacks and cancellations will remain, only the offended parties will change.

The Lord Jesus faced opposition throughout His earthly ministry, even His crucifixion and death were attempts of the establishment to silence the Lord and His message. Our Lord’s resurrection stands as a triumph and a resounding victory! Hallelujah!

Our world today still attempts to cancel Jesus, attacking His divinity and the exclusivity of believing solely in Him for salvation. Jesus is still upsetting the so-called establishment 2,000 years later. However, Jesus is coming back to set things right once and for all.

How did Jesus handle the rejection or the attempted “cancellation?” I want to look at one particular instance mentioned in all the Gospels.

Jesus’ ministry has been established and He returns to His hometown of Nazareth. I am relaying the story from Luke’s gospel. Jesus teaches in the synagogue out of the book of Isaiah, what we would call Isaiah 61:1-2, which states:

“The Spirit of the Lord God upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath send me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…” (KJV). See also Luke 4:18-19.

Jesus stated that the words of Isaiah were fulfilled that day in the crowds hearing (Luke 4:21).

The crowd became belligerent with Jesus:

“And all there bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth, and they said, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22).

Matthew’s Gospel adds, “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?” (Matthew 13:55-56, KJV).

The people in the synagogue began to attack Jesus’ identity. The crowd wanted to “cancel” His message because they knew Him and His family. In the crowds eye’s this carpenter’s son whom they knew His whole life could not have such deep spiritual revelations, let alone fulfill the words of the prophets.

“But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.”(Mark 6:4, KJV).

The Gospels of Matthew and Mark record that Jesus did not perform many mighty works because of the town’s unbelief. Jesus healed a few people, but not the numbers He did elsewhere. Luke also records how the mob wanted to harm Jesus, but He managed to escape them (Luke 4:28-30).

In our day, a celebrity is often greeted with cheers and applause from their hometown, maybe even a parade, but not Jesus. Here was the Son of God, God in the flesh, performing miracles, teaching deep spiritual truths, healing the sick, and many other deeds the people of Nazareth should have been thrilled to hear about, but they attempted to silence Jesus because of their offense.

Have you ever faced opposition because of your belief in Christ or you took a stand for what is right? Continue in your faith, continue standing up for the truth, because the people of our day do not want to hear the truth, like the people of Nazareth that Jesus came to town. Jesus made no apologies about who He was or His mission and neither should you if you are standing up for Christ and what is right. God bless you.

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Dealing with the Spirit of Heaviness

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We all from time to time get weighed down by the demands of life. You try to balance your spiritual, familial, relational, and professional obligations while seemingly standing on one leg and juggling, life can get a bit stressful. I get it.

Or maybe if your personal life is fine, you find yourself stressed out by the world around you- a global pandemic, lawlessness and violence in the streets, a looming economic downturn, and escalating tensions in the war between Russia and Ukraine that could result in a global conflict. How much more gasoline can we pour on this out of control fire?

I know in times past, I’ve had a tendency to withdraw inwardly when faced with an overwhelming situation or situations. I’ve shut down while going through the motions of life. At times it felt like I lost power and was running on a back-up generator to keep the essential operations going. Ignoring a problem will never solve said problem nor will retreating into drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or anything else. Even though the problems we face may be scary and complicated, we must face them nonetheless.

We are not alone when facing our problems. For Christians, we can rely on the strength of Christ and the Holy Spirit. There are also family, friends, and wise counsel we can seek when it’s too much.

The Bible has a word for when we are weighed down by the stresses of life- heaviness. To be more specific, God’s Word has eleven words for heaviness.

Perhaps the most well known of the heaviness passages is Isaiah 61:3:

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”(KJV).

The Hebrew word for heaviness in Isaiah 61:3 means feebleness or obscurity. In other words, the passage indicates that someone lacks the spiritual, physical, or mental strength to overcome a problem or that someone may not see hope in the darkness, their view is obscured. Luke 4:18-19 tell us that Jesus read the verses above Isaiah 61:3 when He taught in the synagogue in Nazareth.

What are some other symptoms of the spirit of heaviness?

-A spiritual heaviness may bring about physical sickness (Psalm 69:20),

-Heaviness may bring on depression or grief (Psalm 119.28, Proverbs 10:1, 14:13).

-A spirit of heaviness also brings along anxiety (Proverbs 12:25).

-Heaviness may brought on by trials or persecution (1 Peter 1:6).

-However, not all heaviness is bad because there should be times that we come to God and confess our sins, fast, and pray about the burdens we have for the lost and other people. (Ezra 9:5, Romans 9:1-2, James 4:8-10).

In order for us to properly deal with the spirit of heaviness, we must be in right relationship with God. If worshipping and reading the Bible seem like chores during heavy seasons, that is when we must lean in all the more to God. We must also starve ourselves of the lies of the world and feast on God’s truth. We must turn away from the negativity and all worldly things which seek to bring us down. We must withstand the devil’s attacks with the Word of God. Put on your armor and prepare for battle.

“Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; He will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35:3-4, KJV).

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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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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Morning Reflection: Psalm 103:10-12

“He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” -Psalm 103:10-12, KJV.

As the saying goes: The Internet is forever. No one, it seems, is too far from the reach of cancel culture and trolls. Anything that you ever posted, blogged, posted, tweeted, or uploaded is out there for the world to see. Even if you were a teenager or a young child at the time, your Social Media posts can follow you around well into adulthood. People have lost jobs, celebrities have lost fans and fame, and lives can be shattered in an instant.

However, the person or organization digging through the trash of the past fails to offer grace or understanding. “You tweeted this ten years ago!” “You told this insensitive joke.” “In high school you made a remark about these kind of people.” Cancelled. Cancelled. Cancelled.

Have these trolls and fault finders take the time to think that maybe someone has changed their stance on a topic? Maybe their behavior and beliefs have changed in the last decade? Doubtful. Does this snooping around give the fault finders pause to reflect on their actions? Doubly doubtful from what is out there today.

Praise God that He doesn’t throw our past in our face. When we accept God’s amazing grace and accept Christ, our sins are washed away in the blood of Christ. God will never dox you. God has shown you mercy. God has offered you peace and forgiveness. The world may try to dig up who you were, but God never will. As God’s child, you will never be cancelled.

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The Angel Among the Myrtle Trees

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The Old Testament book of Zechariah contains perhaps the most Messianic prophecies among the Minor Prophets (minor in terms of amount written, not importance). The first eight chapters of Zechariah contain visions concerning such topics as the restoration of post-exile Israel, the restoration of the priesthood, and the coming of the Messiah, to name a few. I will attempt to study Zechariah’s vision found in Zechariah 1:8-17.

If we were to place a date on Zechariah’s ministry, he received his call during the reign of Darius (Zechariah 1:1), around November 520 B.C. The first of Zechariah’s eight visions came three months later (Zechariah 1:7).

“I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.” (Zechariah 1:8, KJV).

The color red throughout the Bible represents blood, as in bloodshed, whether through war or Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The Book of Revelation portrays Christ on a white horse, symbolozing purity and victory. Thus, the man on the red horse is a preincarnate Christ, who will conquer sin and the nations, and ultimately bring peace to Israel, as our text later explains.

The myrtle trees are also significant, as the myrtle tree is an evergreen/bush, which gives off a fragrant aroma. The fact that the myrtle trees are in a bottom (valley or hollow), symbolizes beauty and restoration coming out of a low, valley experience (Israel’s seventy year exile to Babylon).

Zechariah then asked for clarification of his vision: “Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will show thee what these be. And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.” (Zechariah 1:9-10, KJV).

This group of men are angels sent by God to patrol the earth. The angel of the Lord who stood among the myrtle trees was the commanding officer so to speak, and gave their report.

“And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.” (Zechariah 1:11, KJV).

The world, or the world’s system is at rest, while Israel seeks to restore their nation to its previous state. The angel of the Lord intercedes for Israel: “Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?”(Zechariah 1:12, KJV).

The term “Lord of hosts” is a military term and always refers to God. The threescore and ten years is 70 years (a score is 20 years), or the length of the Exile. If you look at how the other angels spoke with the angel who stood among the myrtle trees and how that same angel interceded for God’s people, we can state that the angel is the preincarnate Christ, who is praying to God the Father on behalf of His people. (See also Romans 8:34).

“And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.”(Zechariah 1:13, KJV).

Next, the preincarnate Christ gives Zechariah a prophetic message for the people:

“So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.” (Zechariah 1:14-15, KJV).

God used the nations to execute judgment on Israel’s unrepentant sin, but now God will punish the nations, who are at ease and peace in their sins. This I believe is comprable to the world system of today and how the world has grown at ease with sin and wickedness, yet the Lord’s judgment is coming.

God promises the restoration of Jerusalem, the temple, and prosperity: “Therefore thus saith the Lord, I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities though prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 1:16-17, KJV).

No matter the valleys or exiles we face in our own lives, we can take comfort in God’s Word. God will restore us when we repent of our sins. When we turn to the Lord, he will replace the stench of death and sin, with beauty and the fragrant aroma of our salvation.

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But God

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But. A three letter word that means, “Ignore everything I just said.”

“You’re a great guy and all, but I think of you more as a friend.”

“Your resume and qualifications are impressive, but we have decided to go in a different direction.”

“Dinner was great, but it could have used more seasoning.”

We don’t like to hear “but,” because we know rejection or a backhanded compliment is soon to follow. However, there are times when hearing but can be a good thing. The world will judge you by your past, appearance, mistakes, and anything else their crooked, pointy fingers can find, but when we place our faith in Christ, God accepts us as we are. “But God” is a beautiful phrase found in Scripture.

“But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah”

(Psalm 49:15, KJV).

“My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”

(Psalm 73:26,KJV).

“But God raised him [Jesus] from the dead.” (Acts 13:30, KJV).

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, KJV).

“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart thatform of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17, KJV).

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is commonto man: but Godis faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, KJV).

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).” (Ephesians 2:4-5, KJV).

As you go about your days, be blessed and may the Lord keep you.

The Path

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By Michael W. Raley

I thought by now the path would be made clear

And the course would be set.

Yet, I remain aimless and adrift

On a self-made ocean of obscurity.

I have progressed too slowly;

My patience has worn thin.

I have reached a point

Where I don’t see the purpose of this journey,

As my most desired dreams have not been fulfilled.

Time is of the essence;

My window of opportunity closes a little more each day.

Should I stay on the present course?

Shall I embark on the new and unfamiliar path?

Do I just need to settle on the safe path of unassuming mediocrity?

I try to move forward,

Yet I am being dragged down by the baggage of fear and regret.

I am heart sick, yet remain somewhat hopeful.

As long as I have the day,

As long as I have breath,

I cannot accept defeat.

I must rise up and walk.

Another Obstacle

By Michael W. Raley

Another obstacle lies in my path

And there’s no way around it.

There lies before me another battle

I must wage,

Yet, I don’t have the strength to fight.

For all of the fortitude and resolve I must muster,

I might as well be enduring the trials of Hercules.

I am battle hardened,

But my mental, spiritual, and physical reserves are depleted

And I don’t see reinforcements on the horizon.

I pray for a sign and await the arrival of the Deliverer.

Please, please, Savior, do not delay,

For my strength is almost gone.

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I Look Out into the World

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By Michael W. Raley

I look out into the world

And I see the rage,

The violence,

The hatred,

The deception,

The fiery rhetoric,

And my soul is overwhelmed.

I pray and I hope

For a better tomorrow,

Yet I wonder if the time for reasoning,

Accountability, and deep soul searching has past.

For the longest time,

When I looked out into the world, I felt a detachment,

Not realizing maybe I should be the one to change.

When I looked inside of me and my spirit,

I realized much work still needed to be done.

If I focused on changing myself,

The world would change as well.

I can’t change world events,

But I can change myself and my responses,

Thus, changing my perspective

When I look out into the world.