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Return to Christ

Breaking news: It’s February 1, 2021 and I’m sitting in a coffee shop!

Just one short year ago sitting in a coffee shop was my daily routine, not an occurrence that warranted a breaking news bulletin. But then the virus that shall not be named came on the scene and the whole world flipped upside down. Ever since, nothing has been normal, not even sitting in a coffee shop.

I never imagined such a thing as a shutdown world. It never occurred to me that an entire planet could lock down all at once. What’s more is I never would have believed that the masses would readily submit to the tyranny of it. But here we are. Eleven months into fourteen days to slow the spread and, still, the vast majority of people are willfully going along with it. In fact, many seem to have totally adapted to their new, masked, sanitized, socially distanced world.

And me?

Well, I’m sitting in a coffee shop with a hand sanitizer bottle on the table (placed there by the establishment, not myself), looking around at a few lonely, empty chairs, wondering if and when sanity will ever return to society? When will people miss the connection, community and compassion of our pre-COVID world enough to stand up and say “no more”? When will people stop buying the lie that we must separate from one another, lock ourselves away and become dehumanized in order to survive? When will my fellow man wake up to the truth that the deadliest, most destructive virus isn’t corona – it’s fear.

Employing the word “lie” when discussing COVID19 is controversial and certainly unpopular but it’s true. The COVID shutdown/lockdown was built on a lie. Actually, it was built on two fundamental lies. Lie one is that death is to be feared and lie two is that self-preservation is an admirable obsession.

Satan wants we the people to buy into these two fundamental lies because, if we do, then it makes every other lie an easier sell. Wear a mask? Sure, because I need to preserve my health. Shut down schools, small businesses and churches? Absolutely, because I’m afraid of the virus. You see how this works? The enemy always corrupts our foundation before he deceives us in the details.

To expose these lies for the destructive falsehoods they are isn’t very hard to do – no PhD or theological degree required. With our Bible opened to the life and legacy of Christ, we can plainly see that the fear of death and obsession with self-preservation are not admirable or virtuous qualities. Rather, they are sinful and faithless.

But don’t take my word for it – take Jesus’.

While speaking to His disciples, Jesus addressed the fear of death by warning them, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) Jesus knew full well that the lives of His disciples would be threatened by both pestilence and persecution and, yet, He commanded them not to fear anything or anyone but God Himself. And the same is true for you and me today. The only healthy, virtuous fear is the reverent fear of God.

The second foundational lie, that the self must be preserved at all costs, was debunked by Jesus’ own selfless, sacrificial life. Instead of sparing Himself (which He could have done – after all, He is God!) or numbing Himself from the pain of crucifixion, Jesus bore every nail with full awareness and consciousness. He didn’t prioritize self-preservation. He prioritized obeying the will of God and fulfilling His Father’s redemptive plan for humanity that saved a wretch like me and like you.

Furthermore, after Jesus rose from the grave, He gave His disciples one last command: go and make more disciples. “Therefore,” He said, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Notice that Jesus didn’t add a clause to this command stating that such commission is put on pause in the case of a worldwide pandemic. Nor did He note that the command is canceled in the case of physical threat to bodily health. No, Jesus gave no exceptions when He called the redeemed to live as broken bread and poured out wine for the glory and honor of the Lord Most High.

These directives given by Jesus Himself are as true today as they were the day He first spoke them. COVID19 has not changed them. No virus can ever void them. What has changed is society’s willful adherence to a lie. What has been voided by many in our nation and world is unwavering obedience to the word of God.

Which brings me back to the string of questions I posed at the beginning of this post and the one response that answers them all: return to Christ.

The empty chairs will be filled when society returns to Christ.

Connection, community and compassion will be restored when the world returns to Christ. 

Fellowship and relationship will thrive again when people return to Christ.

Fearless, God-honoring freedom will reign again when we return to Christ.

The only hope for this nation and world is for we the people to return to Jesus Christ, for He alone has the power to rescue, redeem and restore. Only His radiant light of Life and Truth can illuminate the darkness and expose every lie. Only His chain breaking power can set the the captives free to live in unbridled liberty.

And that is my prayer for this nation and the nations of the world: that they will throw off the chains that so entangle and stop buying the litany of lies that the enemy is selling. Then they will know the truth and the truth shall set them free.

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The Power of Suggestion

I had one mission on my excursion to Lowes: get moving boxes. Although that shopping list was short and should have been easy to remember, I nearly forgot it before I even made it through the automatic glass doors on account of the welders.

Okay, so they weren’t actually welders, but the two face-shield wearing women perusing the flowers outside the front door sure looked prepared to fuse together some metal. I first spotted the duo in question while approaching the main entrance to the store. One woman was inspecting a display of hanging begonias while the other stood a respectable six feet away commenting on the lushness of the flora. Their behavior was bizarrely natural, as if there was nothing odd about dawning full-faced head mounted shields while shopping in an open-air garden area. Meanwhile, I was so dumbstruck by the scene that I nearly forgot why I came to the store in the first place.

Once through the doors and into the home improvement warehouse, I was able to recall my singular sensation shopping list and did procure a plethora of variously sized boxes. But even after leaving the store, I still couldn’t shake the sight of the welding women. And even more than the sight of them, I couldn’t shake what they represented: how dramatically our country has changed in such a short period of time.

Think about it. Five months ago, entering any store wearing a head-mounted face shield would have been considered peculiar. Now it’s considered appropriate attire. Five months ago, these two women in Lowes would have been labeled “strange birds.” Now our society labels them as the “safe shoppers.”

Since the coronavirus craziness has taken over, have you had a moment like I had in Lowes? Have you paused and really considered how this drastic societal shift could have occurred and how it could be that so few are openly questioning it? Have you pondered how it could be that, in less than six months, our culture went from “you’re never fully dressed without a smile” to “you’re never fully dressed without a shield”?

For me, all of those questions (and more) came to a head at the entrance to Lowes. And so did the answer: we human beings are easily influenced by the power of suggestion.

To understand how humans can be so easily influenced we first have to understand that our minds were made to be pliable. God fashioned each one of us with the ability to adapt, learn and grow. This feature of our design is purposeful; not a mistake. It’s part of our free will and it enables us to be molded and shaped into the image of Christ. Our mind’s pliability is an asset and a gift, but, if entrusted into the wrong hands, it can become a liability and a danger.

Have you ever seen a cartoon with an angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other? Well, that’s not just a silly caricature. It’s actually quite a good portrayal of the battle for the mind. On one side we have God who influences our pliable minds with holiness, and, on the other side, we have Satan attempting to influence us with worldliness. With his slithering tongue he whispers slick sounding lies in an effort to drown out the truth. He is constantly bombarding our brains with every possible earthly distraction so that we’ll be deterred from listening to, focusing on and honoring the Lord our God.

When satan is in control of the narrative, his suggestions always produce fruit consistent with his agenda which is to kill, steal and destroy. Whether it’s undermining our peace, tempting us to go astray or crushing us with hopelessness, the result is always the same: Less of God’s goodness; more of the world’s brokenness.

The current state of our nation is a perfect reflection of this principle. For months we have been under the siege of fear-mongering and divisive propaganda which has successfully thrown our society into a state of acute confusion and anxiety. We’ve become a people driven by fear instead of a people guided by faith. There’s no denying that the overarching influencer speaking loudest into our culture is not God, but satan.

That’s the bad news. But there is good news. Great news, actually!

Through the redemptive power of Christ, the same minds that have been molded and shaped to live in a state of fear and division can be remolded and reshaped to live in a state of faith and unity. The very same pliable minds that are currently being held captive by the enemy’s destructive suggestions can be see free of his influence. And it all starts by actively silencing the lies and intentionally seeking the truth.

While speaking to His disciples, Jesus emphasized the unparalleled importance of seeking out, tuning into and being influenced by the truth. In fact, He said that by knowing the truth His followers would set them free from the bondage of sin and lies. (John 8:32) Later, He went on to reveal the source of truth by clearly stating that He, Jesus, is “the way, the truth and life.” (John 14:6)

When applied to our own minds and thought lives, these scriptural facts, although simple, become simply transformational. By actively saying “no” to satan’s suggestions, we disarm him of his destructive influence. Then, as we turn to God and intentionally say “yes” to His voice of Truth, His influence becomes the dominating force in our lives. Through the indwelling of Christ, our minds are renewed so we are able to discern what is the “good, acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). Jesus’ Spirit enlightens our discernment with holy wisdom, making it possible for us to perceive what is true from what is false.

Friends, although the current scene in America is one of masked fear and shielded confusion, this need not be where our story ends. There is hope for our people and a future for our nation that is free of the enemy’s influence. There is a way back to peace, unity and joy. And that way is through the truth and life of Jesus Christ.