These are my conclusions and opinions based upon my experiences and my relationship with God, that being said, as believers we are all free to disagree. So take this with the level of importance you deem correct and ignore the parts you disagree with.
There is a common misconception that is taught in many Churches today, especially some of the Mega churches, and that is that if we ask Jesus Christ will protect us physically, financially and in our health. Jesus is not a genie; we can’t just expect to ask for and receive all the finer things in life. While if it be God’s will, yes, he will protect these things, but if it isn’t necessary to further the kingdom he may not.
See God’s true concern is the heart of man. God seeks the salvation of our hearts, not our wallets. Too many in Western culture believe God wants us to be healthy, wealthy, and comfortable. No time in history, nor in no book of the Word of God is it written that God cares about our wallets or our comforts.
Actually, he spells it out that if you believe and follow him you will have trouble. We are called to suffer for Christ, we are to carry our cross daily, which means we are to step out in such a way we must be prepared for persecution and maybe martyrdom at any time. Most Christians outside the Western cultures understand this. Christians in Afghanistan, Somalia, China, Iran and many other expect to die for their faith.
From Open Doors:
A woman in India watches as her sister is dragged off by Hindu nationalists. She doesn’t know if her sister is alive or dead.
A man in a North Korean prison camp is shaken awake after being beaten unconscious; the beatings begin again.
A woman in Nigeria runs for her life. She has escaped from Boko Haram, who kidnapped her. She is now pregnant, and when she returns home, her community will reject her and her baby.
A group of children are laughing and talking as they come down to their church’s sanctuary after eating together. Instantly, many of them are killed by a bomb blast. It’s Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.
These people don’t live in the same region, or even on the same continent. But they share an important characteristic: They are all Christians, and they suffer because of their faith.
From Sudan to Russia, from Nigeria to North Korea, from Colombia to India, followers of Christianity are targeted for their faith. They are attacked; they are discriminated against at work and at school; they risk sexual violence, torture, arrest and much more.
In just the last year*, there have been:
• Over 340 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination
• 4,761 Christians killed for their faith
• 4,488 churches and other Christian buildings attacked
• 4,277 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced, or imprisoned
These numbers are heart-breaking. And yet, they do not tell the whole story. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” That joy is what we see when we hear and work with Christians all over the world who suffer because they serve Jesus. God cares for His people, and He will never leave or forsake them.
Boiling The Frogs
Now, I know what many of you are thinking. These things can never happen here in the United States. Really? Let’s examine that just a little bit. Do we live in A United States of America anymore? No, we do not. It is glaringly obvious that we live in a Divided States of America. The ideals, morality, opinions, and ideas are vastly different across our Nation. The morality, self-identification, and motivations of those on the West Coast does not align with Middle America, the priorities, goals and inspiration of New York and Washington DC does not align with those of the Deep South and Texas. The lifestyle, view of independence, and faith views of Minnesota, Chicago and Michigan is not the same as that of Utah, Oklahoma, Missouri, Florida, or Arkansas. Just how different are the societal norms of Alaska’s and Hawaii? If we are so vastly different socially, morally, in our faith, in our families, ideas of education and view of the role of Government, what is holding us together?
An idea, a memory, a wish, or desire for a promise?
Has the promise been broken?
The truth is we are many Nations that share a common border, and a Central Government that only represents a very few. No longer does the elected Federal Government represent the will of the masses, it represents the very few, the elite, the corporations, the special interests, but not the people. So, why do the people put up with this, why would any people allow their “elected”, or “hired” Government to act against their best interests?
Ow we’re Turning that temperature up a little at a time.
There are actually several reasons for this. 1. The American culture has trained everyone to become debt slaves. We sold our independence for “stuff”, we have collectively truly traded our birth rite for a bowl of soup. 2. We have relinquished our responsibilities to a bureaucratic body, in the education of our children, we have hired others to baby sit and raise our children, we have bought electronic devices to entertain and play with our children. As these children have grown to adulthood, they absolutely nothing in common with their parents, their morality, ideas, and beliefs. No, they have the morality, ideas and beliefs of their teachers, the media they watched and listened to and the games they played. 3. A majority of adults have been sucked into a continuous stream of entertainment, from the NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA, World Cup Soccer or NFL, or binging Netflix, HULU, or any number of entertainment TV. A high percentage of people have smart phones with at least 1 game on it, from Angry Birds, Tetris, Candy Crush, Solitaire or Pokémon. Our society is not living life we are entertained life, living for comfort. We do nothing about the things we disagree with because we are too busy being entertained to try to stop it. It would get us out of our comfort zone, it would take actual effort. 4. Our entertainment has developed a deep-rooted lethargy, we have become so atrophied that the effort it would take to mobilize, to take a stand and fight back would take more effort than we can muster. 5. We have been tamed and shamed into becoming Politically Correct, to be docile and subservient, individualism and our personal rights are viewed as selfish, standing up and speaking out comes at a high price. In our cancel culture you will be shamed at a minimum, and financially, socially, or legally destroyed at worst. Just ask Nicki Minaj, who has now been canceled on social media, shamed by politicians, and threatened by the media.
Why do I tell you this? Because it is important to know where we are and how we have been trained to be asleep and ineffective to stop what is happening. We all have some form of normalcy bias, and the truth is what we perceive as normal is not normal. Americans have lived in a fantasy land their whole lives that does not exist anywhere else in the world and is based upon layers of illusion and delusion. This life of abundance, expansive freedoms, potential for unimaginable prosperity, the best health care in the history of the planet, and every imaginable luxury, food and entertainment has never been experienced by any other nation in earth’s history past or present. The delusion that this will always be or that things will get back to normal is called “normalcy bias”.
That water’s getting warmer!
So, what is normalcy bias? Normalcy Bias is a mindset that society and our lives of luxury and excess have trained into us that can place us in grave danger when we’re faced with something traumatic. Simply put, it causes our brains to insist that all is okay. Everything will return to normal. For most of us who have never faced true peril, Normalcy Bias tells us that nothing bad will ever happen.
This normalcy bias causes many people to not adequately prepare for natural disasters, market crashes, and calamities caused by human error. “This is America!” some people insist when I tell them about the possibility of a deeper Depression or hyperinflation. Incredibly, the most obvious warning signs are completely ignored. About 70% of people reportedly display normalcy bias during a disaster.
This phenomenon explains why so many Jews continued living in Germany, even after they were forced to wear identifying yellow stars and discriminatory laws were passed against Jewish people. Life had been so good for so long that, surely, things would get better. Jews who could have easily afforded to move out of the country stayed and perished.
Oncoming hurricanes and similar disasters elicit similar reactions. We simply expect life to go on as it always has, and our brains are wired to accept that and nothing else. A driver attempts to cross a flooded river. Thousands of New Orleans residents faced with Hurricane Katrina refuse to leave the city, and city officials don’t even make an attempt to evacuate them. One survivor from 9/11 tells of going blind as she saw dozens of human bodies hitting the ground outside the Twin Towers.
Just a little more heat! That water is really hot now!
We have traded in normal for a new normal time and again, as long as it’s just slightly different than the “old normal”, and seems right for all, this is known as “Shifting Baseline Syndrome”.
Simply put, Shifting Baseline Syndrome is a gradual change in the accepted norms for the condition of the natural environment due to a lack of experience, memory and/or knowledge of its past condition’. In this sense, what we consider to be a healthy environment now, past generations would consider to be degraded, and what we judge to be degraded now, the next generation will consider to be healthy or ‘normal’.
We have allowed an outside entity to determine what is normal, what we should accept, 25 or 30 years ago If you had told me that American citizens would meekly line up to walk through powerful x-ray machines that would strip them naked before low-level TSA employees, I would have said, “Never!” If you had told me that, as an option, they would stand with arms raised while their crotches and breasts were groped and would allow their preschoolers and wheelchair bound grandmothers to be similarly molested, I would have laughed. Yet, that is exactly what happened, and not only do Americans meekly put up with this but they defend it, it is what is seen as normal.
If you would have told me that Americans, the descendants of people that forged a new Nation, crossed raging rivers, traversed mountains on horseback, crossed deserts on foot and tamed a wild barely habitable continent would allow themselves to be locked in their homes, separated by 6 ft distancing, plexiglass dividers and face masks. I would never have believed that American parents would allow people to forcibly put masks on their children and keep forcing it on their toddlers when they remove it all while screaming in terror.
Now, many of us are willing to put an experimental drug still in the testing phase in our bodies in the hope to stave off an illness that has a 99.997% survivability rate. And admittedly will not keep you from getting the illness but might keep you from getting as sick as you might get if you’re unvaccinated. A drug that has proven horrible side effects in some people, and deadly to others is being accepted, defended, and promoted by a large percentage of society. And I would never have believed we would throw all known logic about our immune systems and medication out the window for a mandatory compliance of vaccination. The idea that with studies proving that natural immunity of those that have recovered is 27 time more effective than the vaccine and we are completely ignoring this science and continuing to demand that everyone get vaccinated is insanity. We have never required people to get the chickenpox vaccine after recovering from the chickenpox. These examples of a shift in “normalcy” that develop into new biases or a hope to return to the old normal if we just do X, is warily reminiscent of what the Jews and Christians experienced in pre-WWII Germany.
The water is nearing the boiling point and most of the frogs are oblivious.
“Life will get back to normal.” So what do we do?
GET OUT OF THE POT!
Where is all of this discussion leading? Back to our hearts. See it is us allowing our hearts to be attached to things of the world that put us in danger. We are called to be set apart, not look like the world, but to visibly be different. 365 times in God’s Word we are told not to fear, we are commanded to be strong and courageous, to stand and be more than Victors.
Those that have their hearts rooted in The Word act differently, they do not suffer normalcy bias nearly as much, yes everyone will likely suffer some amount of normalcy bias at some point. But if we are so consumed with what the world offers that we can not see the lies, corruption, deceit and evil around us, let alone do anything about it, then we have strayed from God and into the World too much.
If only we would commit our hearts completely to God and His ways and desires, He would protect us from the confusions and lies that surround us. That does not mean that we would be rich, healthy, un-persecuted or even not killed. No, what it means is we would not suffer the internal strife the influences of the world that corrupts our hearts, the mental and emotional battles that tear us up inside, that torments us that creates anxiety, fear, and depression, that lead us to destructive habits, desires, and acts.
This physical shell is not as important to God that it is to us, our heart (soul) is what matters, it is that part of us that will live on after this vessel is destroyed, that enduring spirit that will either go on to live with God or be forever separated from him. See, we all die, every one of our bodies will cease to function it will wither and rot eventually returning to the earth that God made us from. The question is simply this, when that happens what will be the destiny of your Spirit, that part of you that connects to God and others, that part of you that matters most.
God does not want a single human to choose Hell. What makes Hell so awful? One it was created for Satan and his demons. Secondly because people don’t realize that hell is the absence of God. The reason why there’s no air in hell it’s because God is a breath of life. There is no peace in hell because God is the prince of peace. There is no comfort in hell because God is the comforter. There is no love in hell because God is love. Hell is darkness because God is the light. What people don’t realize is on earth they get to experience a lot of the good qualities of God, while here they of course get to experience bad things on earth as well. If they do not choose God on earth, they do not get to experience his goodness in eternity. Often we as Christians hear and talk about the magnitude with how much greater Heaven will be compared to earth, but rarely the magnitude with which Hell will be worse than earth. Hell is total separation from God. So if you like the beautiful things on earth you should choose God because that’s who God is. God doesn’t send people to hell. He wishes none should perish. But we are already headed there if we do not have Jesus. God made a way to keep us from going there, we just have to accept and choose that free gift. Choose Jesus.
God’s greatest desire is for us to choose to be with him to choose life, fellowship and abundance over death, the alternate is to choose death, meaning isolation and torment. Choosing to turn your back on God condemns you to an eternity of isolation a life of torment and regret, a separation of anything good. Jesus died for each and every one of us, all of our sins, past, present and future.
That being said, Jesus doesn’t desire to just be Fire insurance, he wants to have a living relationship with each of us, a real relationship just like a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, parent, sibling a real relationship. In any relationship we have we don’t accept a gift and then ignore them, no we talk to them, we listen to them, and our relationship grows and develops over time. If a relationship is exactly the same a year, ten years or more that it was on day one, that isn’t a real relationship, it’s an acquaintance. This I think is the question for so many that claim to be Christians, do you have a relationship with Jesus or are you just acquaintances?
See the Church building you may go to on Sunday is not intended to be a clubhouse. Being a Christian is not being in a club, though many treat as such. Again, being a Christian, following the Way, is about your heart, it’s about a relationship with God, not your Church buddies. Don’t get me wrong believes will have incredible relationships with other believers, but it all starts with their God relationship first. See we cannot have a healthy and successful relationship with any other human being without a healthy relationship with God first. It is God that changes our attitude from what am I going to gain, to what can I give. So no, our Church buildings aren’t clubs, we’re not cooler because we attend one building over another, when the Church starts understanding this, then it will start being blessed the way God wants to bless her. It’s time to stop playing church and be the Church, we need to, and God wants us to be a United body, working on concert with His will.
So many people I talk to have concerns about not hearing from God or not feeling his presence, and I ask them (what is your relationship like?). If you have a minimalist relationship with Jesus, you SHOULD expect minimalist benefits and minimalist changes in you, at the same time the closer your relationship gets with Jesus the more benefits from that relationship you will experience, you will see noticeable changes in your attitudes, desires as well as your level of inner peace (removing the impacts of the world). So, if you are not receiving what you desire from your relationship, then like any relationship work on it, talk to God, tell him what you desire from your relationship and then listen to him (maybe read the Bible more).
Ok, so now have established the importance and power of a relationship with Jesus Christ, let’s talk about what happens when a group of people with a true relationship with Christ can do together. Christ calls us to be “The Church”, so what does this mean?
All Christians define themselves with reference to Jesus Christ. We are people who believe in Jesus, who are followers of Jesus, who are baptized into Christ. According to the New Testament, the Church is instituted by Jesus Christ; it exists for his sake and by his authority.
The word of God defines the Church in terms of its relationship to Jesus Christ and specifically defines that relationship as an intimate bond of love. This relationship bond consists of those people who are loved by Jesus Christ and who love Jesus Christ in return.
The Church as the Bride of Christ. In the Gospels, Jesus identifies Himself as "the Bridegroom" (Mark 2:19) and in Ephesians, Paul interprets marital relations as "a great mystery" that can be applied to Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:31-33). Likewise, in Revelation, the Church is identified as the bride of Christ (Rev. 22:1; 22:17).
The mission of the Church according to this image seems to be simply to love Jesus. And The Bible gives an explanation of what that looks like: Jesus says, "Those who love me keep my commandments" (John 14:21). Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me?" Peter says, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you," and Jesus responds, "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17).
The point, perhaps, is that "feeding sheep" and "keeping commandments" are all strategic directions that flow from a primary mission statement. The fundamental, basic mission of the bride of Christ (or Church) is to love the Bridegroom, in doing so one will naturally feed his sheep, will rescue the lost, and protect those in need, all of these “acts” are and outcome of that love.
Now many people confuse the church building with the church, but the building is not “the church.” It’s the people who meet there to worship God, get spiritual nourishment, pray, praise God, celebrate communion, and share their lives that are The Church. Let’s be clear you can be a member of a church and not a member of “The Church”.
For the church to be church, it has to have communal expression. It is to be a fellowship of the Spirit in Christ. It is important for the church not to acquiesce to the individualistic spirit of our time. This formation of faith communities in which people can experience ‘community’ with Jesus Christ as head of the church are important.
As “The Church” being the body of Christ, each have different, yet vital functions. We are called to be the light of the world, and the salt of the earth we bring the image of Jesus into the world. Paul reminds us of an important truth: “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
Acts 2 describes the fellowship of the early believers: “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” They met every day and ate together “with glad and sincere hearts.” They encouraged each other and shared what they had with those in need.
Jesus only used the word “church” twice in the gospels. The first time was in response to Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus as his Savior, the Messiah. Peter boldly declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16.
Jesus responds: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…” v18. The word Jesus used for church refers to those who are “called out.”
Peter’s statement of faith is one all Christians give, and it is what binds us together. Therefore, as a member of Christ’s body of believers, we too are “called out” as His people. We are Christ’s church.
The church has always consisted of those who are “called out.” We are people working together, using our gifts to serve others and live out God’s grace and love.
Now more than ever, we need each other, we need to be “The Church” fear, anxiety, isolation, and loneliness can weigh us down. But we can still “be the church.” We can show the love, respect, forgiveness, and servant heart of Jesus in so many ways.
Pay special attention to those who live alone or are elderly. Make a covenant with your neighbors, friends, and family. Make plans to eat together, garden together, can food, organize shopping trips, serve meals, and pray together. Offer to pick up something at the store for someone if you’re planning to go out. The smallest things can make a big difference!
These times can cause anyone to be stressed and maybe a bit irritable. That can lead to some sharp words and grumpy spirits. Instead of adding to the stress, take a breath, and instantly forgive. Respond kindly. Apologize freely. Be the Peace Maker that Jesus says identifies one of his followers.
We show the love of Jesus when we love and serve others. Keep your eyes and ears open in your everyday life to those who need his love. When we do this, we are taking the “church” out of the building and bringing it to life in our homes, neighborhoods, communities, and beyond. While we are living in troubled times, we have unprecedented avenues to reach far and wide to be “The Church”.
God’s Spirit is not limited to the church but is promised to the church to enable it to be built up and engage in God’s mission. Mission and church are meant to go together and not be at odds with each other.
The start and mission of the church can be dated from Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit in power on the disciples. The Spirit empowered the disciples to witness to Jesus (Acts 1:8).
This church that Jesus built was never meant to be on defense, we are not and have never been meat to sit in a building on Sunday and listen to a sermon and go home to live a life like we do not belong to the body of Christ. Walking in this world and not cursing, smiling at everyone and being peaceful, saying bless you and I’ll pray for you is NOT our mission. Jesus said he gave us the keys, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against us, that means we are commissioned to attack the gates of Hell. We are not weak, we are not merely defenders of the gospel, we are warriors that are commanded to attack Hell with everything we have. We are not to accept the evil of this world and meekly how upon our way and turn the other cheek, no we are to push back against the evil of our day, we are to take it captive and break its hold on our families, neighbors, cities, states, and nation. We are supposed to protect and defend our birthright we are to attack and defeat the evil that would steal it and enslave us all.
So, are you a member of a Church or are You The Church? Are you attacking the gates of Hell? If not, when will you start? If you don’t know how ask your Pastor. There is absolutely a war going on all around us, both in the physical world and the spiritual. Jesus expects us to attack the gates of Hell, not sit peacefully and quietly and wait for his arrival.
I hope this helps, I love my relationship with Jesus, and I desire for everyone to know the love and peace he brings me. And I love you, which is why I do this show. I remember the before and how lonely, scared, and desperate I felt. I don’t wish that for anyone. Please don’t wait, if you don’t have a real relationship and you are just acquaintances with Jesus, change that today. He is waiting with open arms, and he gives the BEST hugs.