How Good Desires Become Twisted with Religious Politics: An NPE Conversation

Tony Stoltzfus feels it’s time for him to be speaking up as a Christian minister, despite the fact that it could be dangerous for his income. He’s spent most of his ministry life being all things to all men, but I started to feel like if he doesn’t speak up in this time, he’s being complicit with some things that go on in our society – like “the mask wearing thing.”

Tony calls the politics of the church a Twisted Desire and is using his voice to present a better way to think for the church.

Tony Stultzfus is an author of a dozen books that have sold over a quarter of a million copies. one, that, he really loves is heaven’s perspective where he takes people’s story and rewrites them, from heaven’s perspective, which I love that concept. He’s also a coach. That leads a large training school with 11 sites worldwide.

Connection to audio Podcast is below or watch it on video on The NPE YouTube Channel.

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Transcript – Transcribed by Artificial Intelligence

[00:00:00] [00:00:00] Tony Stoltfus: [00:00:00] this guy did a big longterm survey of the effect of anger on people what he found was that anger was fundamentally good in most cases because it gave people the energy to address things. But his other finding was if. If you’re angry at someone around you, you can deal with it. But yeah, if you get angry at, at someone who you have no relationship with, or who’s distant, or at some disembodied ideal, you stay angry and you don’t have any money the way to get that energy out.
[00:00:33] And so what happened was. Advertisers first then in the political world, they took that information and weaponized it . So what’s happened in America. the biggest bias in media is not left and right.
[00:00:47] It’s toward anger and outrage and much of. The programming is designed to make you angry at things that you can’t change so that you will stay [00:01:00] angry
[00:01:01] NPE Open: [00:01:01] for those willing to listen, learn and have eyes to see and ears to hear this is the nonpartisan evangelical podcast. I could stand in the middle of fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters. Okay. Challenging the mindset of right wing Christianity. And encouraging people to have their minds
[00:01:19] renewed and hearts transformed
[00:01:22] what knucklehead mush for brains, evangalical leaders are trying
[00:01:29] to,
[00:01:30]to overthrow Trump.
[00:01:31] That’s a special kind of dumb
[00:01:33] and calling yourself a Christian
[00:01:35] let’s have better conversations
[00:01:37] about the life modeled in the Bible. So we can
[00:01:40] truly tell the world, God is not
[00:01:42] mad at you.
[00:01:45] This is the nonpartisan evangelical at
[00:01:54] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:01:54] All right, everyone. Welcome to the podcast I’m Paul Swearingen, the nonpartisan evangelical, [00:02:00] they call me around here and we’re going to have a great conversation. I hope you are safe. Hope you’re wearing a freaking mask for the love of God when you go out. How hard is that? And, and, and honestly, let me say if you’re, if you’re worried about dying from breathing in your own breath, wearing a mask, talk to a surgeon, who does eight hours of surgery with a mask on talk to the guy that does my yard and wears a mask all day.
[00:02:27] They’re not dropping like flies. I promise you, the mask will not kill you, but not wearing it. Can kill you or kill somebody else right now. So just wear a mask. It’s not that hard. And I was happy to see the president over the weekend, finally wear a mask. And so that was great. Let me introduce our guest and get him into the conversation as well.
[00:02:50] Tony Stoltzfus is an author of a dozen books that have sold over a quarter of a million copies. one,Clip 1 that, he really loves is heaven’s perspective where he [00:03:00] takes people’s story and rewrites them, from heaven’s perspective, which I love that concept. He’s also a coach. That leads a large training school with 11 sites worldwide.
[00:03:11] Although they’re not doing too many in-person conferences right now, but Tony still, still supposed to as our guest. And one more thing I’ll say is Tony has been instrumental in my life and who I am today. And so I give him a whole hearted endorsement and that may be an endorsement Tony, or that may be an indictment depending on, on what the audience is.
[00:03:31] Tony Stoltfus: [00:03:31] Yeah. Well,
[00:03:35] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:03:35] well, thanks for being with us today and, and you and I have known each other for a while. You work out of, out of Redding, we’ve been friends and, and so I’ve just been interested recently. It seems like you’re starting to turn up some conversation that has. W what some people would say a political tenge, but it seems like you’re starting to speak into some of our cultural issues today.
[00:03:58] And so where did, where did that come [00:04:00] from in you and, and, and from you? Yeah.
[00:04:03] Tony Stoltfus: [00:04:03] Well, okay. I’m from Mennonite background. My grandfather left the Amish as a teenager. my Mennonites are. Nonresistant so my father in the Korean war, didn’t want and w service in a hospital after he was drafted. And, but yes, so my heritage, my parents are both educators.
[00:04:29]so my heritage is there. I’ve spent most of my life in conservative evangelical church is, and so there’s, I’ve spent my life. Struggling with this tension between, my heritage and my current situation. But as the, the whole thing with Kobe has come up the explosion of misinformation around it. and the [00:05:00] black lives matter thing.
[00:05:02] Why Speaking UpI reached a point where I have spent most of my life in ministry, being all things to all men, I work with Baptist and I work with Pentecostals, but I started to feel like if I don’t speak up in this time, I’m being complicit with some things that go on in our society. that that I don’t believe in.
[00:05:21] And it’s a risk for someone in ministry like me, because. When you start to speak about controversial issues, people, some people don’t like it. okay. And I’ve steered away from that for most of my life, but you know, like the mask wearing thing, I’m 59, I’m diabetic, I’m high risk individual. So we’re taking this really seriously.
[00:05:45] I’ve been to like the lumberyard, the farms in a grocery store. But, you know, my take on mask wearing is just if you’re around me or in my world and you wear a [00:06:00] mask, I just want to thank you because if I get this, my chance of serious health problems is, and I can could die. This is the riskiest thing in my life right now would be to have a chance encounter with someone who has this.
[00:06:20] And so I’m just thankful for people who wear a mask and your mask, it protects you, but it mostly protects other people from you. This you don’t know. So to me, as a Christian, if I have the opportunity to suffer a minor inconvenience to save somebody’s life, why would I not do that? So.
[00:06:44] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:06:44] What do you see? And you’re a coach.
[00:06:46] And so you have insight into the sort of our personalities and the way we live. And, and what do you see in our culture now that has even, even a mask becoming a political issue. even [00:07:00] racial tension is driving people to their corners. Division in CultureIs there something you can point to in our culture that’s sort of causing the division that we all see, and we’re all kind of talking about.
[00:07:12] Tony Stoltfus: [00:07:12] Well, I think this goes back to an interesting place and a number of, I forget if this was in the sixties or seventies or whenever, but at that point, very little study had been done on anger. And so this guy did a big longterm survey of the effect of anger on people and most people, you know, at that time and.
[00:07:37] Probably since think of anger as something that’s bad, but what he found was that anger was fundamentally good in most cases because it gave people the energy to address things. But his other finding that was very interesting was if. If you’re angry at someone around you, you can deal with it. But yeah, if you get angry at, at someone who you have no [00:08:00] relationship with, or who’s distant, or at some disembodied ideal, you stay angry and you don’t have any money the way to get that energy out.
[00:08:09] And so what happened was. Advertisers first then in the political world, they took that information and weaponized it and said, Oh, people, if I can get them angry at something out there, they will stay angry and stay in my orbit. So what’s happened in America. the biggest bias in media is not left and right.
[00:08:33] It’s toward anger and outrage and much of. The farther you go to either edge of the media spectrum. The programming is designed to make you angry at things that you can’t change so that you will stay angry. And if you look at Facebook right now, there’s 750 or so big advertisers boycotting them and they don’t change well.
[00:09:00] [00:08:59] Why? Well, because their whole business model is based on engagement. And people engage when they’re angry and frustrated and outraged. So Facebook has a financial incentive to keep people upset, to keep the inflammatory content out there because it raises engagement. Another great example of this is political advertising.
[00:09:28] We all bemoan. No. One of the things I hate most about. Election season is one negative ad after another, you know, but the thing is we vote our fears. We don’t no hopes. And so that’s what the research shows. And so politics has weaponized that. So for Christians, the, we have been very naive about. Is that we don’t understand the spirit behind the media that we receive [00:10:00] and somebody may be standing up for something.
[00:10:02] Then we believe in, you know, for abortion for, you know, Christian persecution. But we don’t discern the, the emotional content of what’s behind that. And as someone who works with people’s hearts, And helps them bring their emotions into the don’t mean, you know, Jesus, Christians are so naive about the emotional input to their life and how it makes them angry people.
[00:10:32] That’s where I think a lot of this comes
[00:10:34] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:10:34] from you’re speaking my language now. And I, I, I have a blog on my about how in, in my life, I, I just felt, we might call it, you know, God giving us a message or somebody else might just say something in my conscience started saying, Hey, this listening to rush Limbaugh.
[00:10:57] For two to three hours a day, isn’t [00:11:00] serving me well. And so I, I gave it up, for, for a week and was amazed. I got to tell you, seven days I was stunned at the impact that had on my, on my life and mentality. And so I, I never went back to being a heavy consumer of right wing media. And I think you’re probably right.
[00:11:19] It’s on both sides, but I, you know, I can only talk to my people. And I, I really think this right wing media. And then now it’s really evolved into sort of these conspiracy theory, web presences that have a really outsized influence into our community and the Christian and evangelicals community. And I think you’re right.
[00:11:39] I think it affects how we look at people, how we interact with culture and how we interact with each other. Yeah. So I, I definitely encouraged and I’ve actually done this as a pastor, my 10 years when I was pastoring, I would tell people that really had sort of a dark view of the world. Like, Hey, let’s, let’s give up that media for a bit and see how that [00:12:00] impacts you.
[00:12:00] But, but what, when we start. I I, you, you and I had exchanged email and you were talking about how, if our hope starts to be placed in these things in conspiracies and in politics that we’re going to be disappointed. It’s not going to have the outcome that we want. Tell us more about that.
[00:12:18] Tony Stoltfus: [00:12:18] Okay. So there’s this fundamental principle in scripture.
[00:12:22] What we, the ministry that we do is based on the idea of desire. And it’s not, we’re not using the word the way most people are familiar with it. The idea is you have deep desires, psychological desires for things like security, love, significance, belonging approval, and those desires shape a lot of your behavior.
[00:12:44] So in order to change your behavior, you have to change something with desire. And the beautiful thing about it that I love in ministry is you. You don’t deal with desires, biblically those kinds of [00:13:00] desires by denying them because they were designed to be filled in your relationship with God. So what we do in ministry is show people how to detach their desires from things in this world and reattach them to Jesus in a really practical way.
[00:13:18] So. That’s that’s the whole desire methodology. I have a book on it called the invitation. but it’s, we’re not talking about desire. Like I want a car. Okay. Why do you want a car? What would it give you if you had a car? Well, I could get to work every day. Well, what would it give you if you could get to work?
[00:13:39] Well, then I feel secure. I won’t lose my job. I that’s the desire underneath wanting a car. And Jesus may or may not give you the car, but he’s very interested in giving you security. so the converse of this is there’s this law of [00:14:00] twisted desire that if you attach your desire to a thing or a person or an outcome in this world, it actually works against you to keep you from getting what you really want.
[00:14:11] So for instance, If you’ve been in a small group system, you’ve probably always experienced. All of you have experienced the person who’s super needy, who comes to your small group and they pour out their heart about all the terrible things they’re happening in their life. And, and so you minister to them and then the next week they come back and five more things have happened in woe is me and your whole small group turns into a.
[00:14:36] I’m feeding emotional energy down into this sucking hole. You know what I’ll ask groups. Okay. So is that attractive in that person or does that repel you? And pretty much everybody says it repels them because they’re trying to take something from you. So what happens to us in the world? And [00:15:00] this is in James four, if you want to read it, James four, one to five is when James talks about loving the world.
[00:15:09] He’s talking about having the desire of your heart attached to a thing or an object or a person. And when you do that, it actually works against you to keep you from getting what you really want. So the more Christians put their hope in a political party, president in a representative ever, the more they invest themselves in that worldly outcome, the more it will work again.
[00:15:40] Yeah. That’s their peace and against Christianity. So I think the more we’ve aligned ourselves. With republicanism, the more we’ve lost the culture war, because we’ve put our hope in government to bring in the kingdom of [00:16:00] God. And the kingdom of God does not work that way. You cannot bring in the kingdom of God using the power structures of this world.
[00:16:09] That’s why Jesus said my kingdom is not of this world. If it was my followers would fight. So you can’t bring in the kingdom that way, but we’ve tried to do that. We’ve tried to create a Christian America, but it’s boomeranged against us, particularly with the young. So now all the democratic demographic trends are against that’s our picture of a Christian nation, because we haven’t attached our hope to God.
[00:16:37] We’ve just hatched it to a picture in this world.
[00:16:42] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:16:42] I do have people that, that aren’t Christian and church goers necessarily who followed this podcast, say more about that concept of the kingdom of God. What is, what is the kingdom of God to people here on earth?
[00:16:53] Tony Stoltfus: [00:16:53] Okay.
[00:16:54] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:16:54] Sounds very esoteric and way out there somewhere.
[00:16:58] Tony Stoltfus: [00:16:58] I think.
[00:17:02] [00:17:00] I mean, there are different ways you can speak about the kingdom of God. You can speak in terms of the indwelling spirit and all this, but a simple way to understand it is that it’s the part of life where Jesus is in charge, which. After you die, it either expands to your whole life or collapses to nothing.
[00:17:31] But, for instance, when I suffer, our house burned down a couple of years ago and one of the California forest fires, and that was one of the. I wrote about it on Facebook. And I got more Facebook likes for talking about my suffering I ever had. But, the point there is when I suffer and meet Jesus in it, I’m [00:18:00] taking the sufferings of this world and bringing them into under Jesus’s control.
[00:18:05] So when I suffer in a godly way, the kingdom of God expands in this world. When I give my allegiance to love instead of to hate the kingdom of God expands in this world, when I help other people, people and sacrifice for them, as opposed to putting myself first and living in that way, the, the kingdom of.
[00:18:30] Jesus expanse. So I, is that answering your question?
[00:18:36] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:18:36] Yeah. And I think sort of tangibly, I do think the message of Jesus was this, this idea of our desires. Of a, of a healthy way to have our safety, our, our need, or our desire for safety and value to be met. And that people who are doing that in a really healthy way, from a Christian perspective, in connection with this life modeled by [00:19:00] Jesus, then we’re going to, we’re going to start to value that safety and, and value in others.
[00:19:06] And we’re going, and that’s going to start to flow out of us. If I can say I’m going to be engaged in making sure other people have. Shalom to use a really beautiful spiritual word. They’re going to have this fullness and this fullness of wellbeing in their life. And so to me, the kingdom of God is this concept of, of a healthy way to find our value and safety, and then spreading that to others.
[00:19:30] And some have started to believe that value and safety is going to happen when America is, has a law, banning abortion and a law banning gay marriage. And, and I’m I’m with you. I think that’s. That’s sort of a twisted desire and not necessarily the way we’re actually going to see this, the safety and value happen, where these outgrowths of things that we don’t like, like abortion or something else grow out of it.
[00:19:54] So, anyway, I guess the kingdom of God to me, is just people in very healthy [00:20:00] ways, seeking safety and value and, and, and finding ways to share that with others.
[00:20:05] Tony Stoltfus: [00:20:05] Would it help if I take two minutes and unpack that passage in James in terms of. Do you, do you need the biblical stuff?
[00:20:15] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:20:15] I don’t know that we have to go there too much, but if you think it would be helpful to explain the,
[00:20:20] Tony Stoltfus: [00:20:20] yeah.
[00:20:20] The passage James four is what causes Wars and fighting some of you. Okay. What causes interpersonal conflict and what causes national conflict? It’s your desires, your empathy, Mia in Greek that are at war in your members. And the interesting thing there is the word empathy. Mia is not necessarily a bad word.
[00:20:41] For instance, when Jesus says my desire is that they might be with me where I am to behold the glory you gave me before the foundation of the world. That word for desire yeah. Is at the Familia. And at the time, the last supper, when Jesus says with great desire, I’ve desired to eat this Passover with you.
[00:21:00] [00:21:00] That’s with the Mia, Epic, the Mayo. so desire is not a bad thing. You can do bad things with your desires. and James says, well, you, you don’t have what you desire. So you covet and you kill. And then his solution is fascinating. You don’t have, because you don’t ask, which is one of the most misquoted passages in the Bible.
[00:21:25] What you need to do is put in the nouns from the context. You don’t have your desire because you don’t ask God for your desire and ask him for something in this world. Sorry about that.
[00:21:40] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:21:40] That’s okay. Little phone ringing going on. That’s okay. We can edit it out during this week. Wait until it stops ringing.
[00:21:54] Tony Stoltfus: [00:21:54] Okay.
[00:21:59] I [00:22:00] should have unplugged that. I forgot
[00:22:05] somebody really wants my attention.
[00:22:10] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:22:10] Okay, good.
[00:22:12] Tony Stoltfus: [00:22:12] So, the solution is you don’t ask Jesus for a thing. You don’t ask him for. A Christian culture in our nation. You say, Jesus, what I really want is security. What I really want is to feel safe. Jesus, how am I safe in you right now? And you invite him to speak to your heart, the thing that your heart desires and what you’ll find as you do that is your need for the thing in this world.
[00:22:47] Starts to diminish. So this is a fundamental, this is what the cross is in. A lot of Christian life is I detach my heart from the world and I say, what’s behind that. [00:23:00] Why do I want a house in the country on a mountaintop? It’s this is me because I like to see far, it gives me this expensive. It connects with significance.
[00:23:11] Okay, well, Jesus, how am I significant in you or Jesus? If I never did another thing for you for the rest of my life, how would you still see me as significant? And when you feed on that, it, it lowers your need to grasp something in this world and hang onto it.
[00:23:32] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:23:32] Wow. Yeah. I love that. And I, I think, I think the message of the Bible that men, maybe we miss it a little bit, you know, jesus’ mission statement was I’ve come to make blind eyes, see, and set those in bondage free.
[00:23:48] And when that gets sort of put into a context of either let’s get people to stop sinning. By giving them a set of rules to follow, or as we’re kind of talking about today, [00:24:00] well, we’re going to impose some political power so we can enforce safety. There’s diminishing returns to either of those. It actually doesn’t.
[00:24:11] Doesn’t get the result that we want. But what if we’re actually saying, Hey, let’s, let’s find out. What’s keeping people tied up in ways that caused them to walk into aberrant behavior. Then we can really make a difference. And to me, that is the kingdom advancing on earth.
[00:24:28] Tony Stoltfus: [00:24:28] Yeah,
[00:24:29] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:24:29] sorry. I think we got a good, a good, good solution on that.
[00:24:33] And so part of that I see as the church is trying to that, when I say the church, I mean the big C collection of Christian people in America, where we’re trying to gain safety by garnering political power. And, and that’s not, not going to get us there. And interestingly than in the midst of this, as you and I have been communicating.
[00:24:54] You had a dream and this one, maybe a little bit foreign concept for somebody, but we [00:25:00] do many people. I believe sometimes dreams have sort of a mystery tickle, meaning beyond just this universe. And this was on Easter Sunday. You had a dream that, that very much pertains to the season of history that we’re in and the political infighting and all of that.
[00:25:17] And what do you want to tell us a little bit about that dream that drove you to, to sit down and type it up and send it to people like me?
[00:25:24] Tony Stoltfus: [00:25:24] Well, I’m not much of a, how do I say I’m not the person. Who’s always the spirit, whatever that’s going on. You know,
[00:25:35] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:25:35] you’re not a mystical prophet in a cave somewhere.
[00:25:39]Tony Stoltfus: [00:25:39] but I woke up with this on my mind and it felt very significant and different than other dreams that I’ve had. And it had to do with the, with where our country was going. And for instance, one of the things I felt like God was saying was the season of quarantine is a [00:26:00] blessing for you. It’s going to teach you practically how to give up your own rights for the sake of the community.
[00:26:09] Cause the reason you quarantine is to keep other people from being infected. The reason you wear a mask is to help other people. So God’s people purpose in this God doesn’t cause. I don’t think God sent us a pandemic, but God will certainly make good use of it. but he there’s purpose in this, in the isolation.
[00:26:28] One of them is to say, you need to refocus on living your life for others and not just for yourself. So one of the things that came out in the dream was the more you kick back against these restrictions, the worse it will go for you as a nation. And that was back in April. And if you look at us now in July, that’s pretty much exactly what’s happened is the two countries in the world that have most refused mass wearing have been the U [00:27:00] S and the UK.
[00:27:01] And we’re two of the worst countries for given our resources. We are not doing well. just go online and look at the graphs that compare the U S outbreaks to the rest of the world. And we are. Exceptional. And how poor were you?
[00:27:23] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:27:23] American exceptionalism. We’re number one in COVID cases in the world.
[00:27:28] Tony Stoltfus: [00:27:28] And another aspect of that dream was just the idea that the gift of America is not to be number one, the gift of the gifts that God put in our culture.
[00:27:40] I think one of the biggest ones is hope we. We believe for a better future. We, we believe that you are somebody in your life is valuable and you can be whatever, you know, you aspire to. That’s the, the whole heart of our identity as Americans is that American dream of somebody. And if I [00:28:00] set out to do something, I can do it.
[00:28:02] And so. God does not measure us by how many Olympic metals we win or what the size of our economy is, or any of those things, what God measures us as a nation buys. What did you do with the gift that I gave you? How much are you bringing hope to the world? That every individual matters that everyone can be anything.
[00:28:28] How much are you bringing hope to people? So when I see us do things like buying the entire supply of, I’m not sure how to pronounce the name of that drug REM is
[00:28:43] it’s like, okay, that’s nice. We put America first. What the rest of the world sees is selfishness. and we are not functioning according to what God, the gift that God has given us. He didn’t give us [00:29:00] resources to hoard them. All he, you know, were to be a supply to the world were to be a gift of hope to the world.
[00:29:08] And we, as Christians need to refocus around, instead of living our fears, mostly about us living out of the gift that God gave us culturally to bring hope to the world.
[00:29:23] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:29:23] Oh, it’s so good
[00:29:26] Tony Stoltfus: [00:29:26] to start to evaluate ourselves based on God’s gift, not based on all this other political stuff.
[00:29:36] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:29:36] So good. This is Tony Stoltzfus, who is an author of the book heaven’s perspective and a coach talking about, kind of this search for safety and value and how it’s impacting our politics.
[00:29:48] And so. In what you just said, unpacking that a little bit in this idea of our desire for safety and value is good and that’s a good desire in us. [00:30:00] And, and then we’ll have diminishing returns. If we sort of do that in a restrictive or a way to try to overpower someone to gain that we’re in this place where some are saying, Oh, there are people who hate America, or you, you know, you’re either you hate America or you’re this big America firster.
[00:30:21] Thing that is prevalent in our history. That said America is great because she’s good. And when she ceases to be good, she’ll no longer be great. And so I hear some of what you’re saying, and that is our, our greatness is, is found in our ability to be generous with who we are to the world.
[00:30:40] Tony Stoltfus: [00:30:40] Yeah,
[00:30:41] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:30:41] isn’t that interesting.
[00:30:43] And you had this other concept of a blessing economy that, wanting our economy to be good and, and vibrant isn’t bad, but, but that capitalism needs to be about blessing others. Tell us more about that concept.
[00:30:57] Tony Stoltfus: [00:30:57] Well, most of the, Christians assume that God is a [00:31:00] capitalist, at least Christians. And if you bring up the idea that he’s not people have a total freak out.
[00:31:08] But if you think about it, capitalism is a system to distribute resources among people based on scarcity. And there’s some good things about it, and there’s some bad things about it. It’s a structure of this world that will pass away, but the early church didn’t function based on the assumptions of a capitalist economy.
[00:31:30] For instance, one of our fundamental assumptions as Americans is people get what they deserve economically. If you’re poor, it’s your fault. You didn’t work hard. we don’t think about whether there was systemic racism that impeded you or, you know, our, our political party won, you know, tough luck to you.
[00:31:51] We had more votes and we don’t think about that. Gosh, there’s. There’s one state where I think one in seven [00:32:00] black people are disenfranchised because of the way the criminal justice system targets more blacks than whites. So anyway, there’s all kinds of examples of that, but the fundamental American belief is you get what you deserve.
[00:32:14] So when we get into a situation like this pandemic, what we tend to do is apply that belief and say, okay, We need to protect business. We need to protect, you know, and if you, how do I say if you’re you’re homeless and you’re not working well, then you shouldn’t get any stuff. Or if you’re, if you’re an illegal immigrant, we shouldn’t, you shouldn’t get any funds.
[00:32:41] Or if you’re poor, you should get less because we don’t want to pay you more than you’d get from working. And so our bias is toward our fundamental belief. Which is that people get what they deserve. That’s not what the Bible says.
[00:33:00] [00:32:59] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:32:59] I hear people quote all the time. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.
[00:33:03] Tony Stoltfus: [00:33:03] Yeah.
[00:33:03] The race is not to the Swift. one thing people don’t understand about the Bible, you know, as Americans and it was a revelation to me. Is that in the economy of Palestine in Jesus’s day, 90% of the people were poor. 40% of the people were living below low, a subsistence level. In other words, 40% of the people, the closest analog in our society for them would be the homeless where they’re not sure where the next meal is coming.
[00:33:34] 40% of the population. Wow. Another 25% was just above subsistence level. And the, you know, the last 30% was, you know, they’re pretty comfortable that, that I’m okay. And I can get my next meal, but this is the context that, that the church is in. So when we, as Americans read the Bible, we have a tendency to [00:34:00] read a statement, like let him who will not work.
[00:34:03] Let him not eat. In an American context, as opposed to, in a context where so totally different. But, but to get back to your question, sorry, I got a little far
[00:34:16] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:34:16] it’s good.
[00:34:17] Tony Stoltfus: [00:34:17] It’s good idea of a blessing economy in the new Testament church was they allocated their resources to bless people, not according to who deserve to have more.
[00:34:28] So everybody had property and it was their own to dispose of the, Bible’s very clear about that. You know, Peter says to Anna niacin Safira, Hey, wasn’t this yours couldn’t you do whatever you wanted with it. so it was their own property, but they sold it income producing property and brought it for the disenfranchised one really interesting thing about.
[00:34:54] The new Testament church is Gwen. They, the Greek widows were, [00:35:00] being neglected in the distribution. And so they, said let’s get some deacons to be in charge of the distribution. So that it’s fair. Every one of those deacons has a Greek name. So what they did was they took the disenfranchised population and gave them the power to write the wrong.
[00:35:19] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:35:19] Wow.
[00:35:20] Tony Stoltfus: [00:35:20] So think about applying that in racial affairs in America, people that scares us. And, and that was within the church and not, you know, whatever, but that’s the kind of way that the new Testament church saw societal life. And to see it in terms of America first and. That’s not a biblical posture, so not even close.
[00:35:56] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:35:56] Yeah. And you think about a lot of the parables [00:36:00] of Jesus talked about sort of business prosperity and having success in business, the parables of the miners or talents or those things. But then it has to be put in the context of acts chapter two, that church, they all sold their possessions and gave to each as they had need.
[00:36:18] So that the prosperity was so that. Everybody could be provided for not. So the person that, that worked hard and prospered could be taken care of. And, and isn’t it true, Tony? I mean, the, the religious people of jesus’ day, they had that belief system that where we have resources, because we’re blessed by God where we’re righteous and therefore God is blessing us in that poor person must not be doing what God wants him or her to do.
[00:36:46] And that’s why they’re poor. And it seems that’s a little bit of our belief system today.
[00:36:51] Tony Stoltfus: [00:36:51] And Jesus was pretty clear about that hour of Salaam that fell on those 13 or 17 guys. Was it because they were the worst sinners in Israel? [00:37:00] No. it’s harder for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God than a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
[00:37:06] Jesus was speaking against that cultural belief and saying, no, this is not the way we view things in the kingdom of God. I want to say one thing. Just personally, because it’s easy to talk about this kind of stuff in the abstract and not, I want to see this by way of challenge when, when the code, that thing happened in March and the lockdowns began, a lot of people got laid off.
[00:37:36] And we have a group of people in our organization and our product is in person workshops. You know? So our business just stopped.
[00:37:44] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:37:44] Your business model was put on hold.
[00:37:46] Tony Stoltfus: [00:37:46] Yes, but for me, my income is from book sales, which didn’t stop and I had resources. So we went out and hired several new people. We [00:38:00] decided instead of trusting the government stimulus plan and the government’s loans.
[00:38:04]we were going to have our own stimulus plan. So we hired five people in March and they’re all part time. And some of them were projects, but for me, it was like, I am not going to react to this out of fear. And according to capitalist norms, Oh, you know, the economy’s bad hoard your money, whatever. I’m going to live according to a blessing economy and take my resources for people who can’t work.
[00:38:35] And, and yeah, I have a vested interest it’s people in my organism. But my challenge to you is, are you thinking like an American economically or are you you’re thinking like a Christian, because if you want to think like a Christian giving a generosity is at the heart of what we do. Not accumulating wealth and [00:39:00] our culture highly elevates accumulating wealth.
[00:39:05] That’s not particularly a biblical.
[00:39:10] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:39:10] Wow. So you’re, you’re preaching some tough stuff for people now. And, and so just hear what’s, what’s being said there. And, and I really think, you know, when we have these, these arguing, you know, I know Christians are very opposed to taxation right now. And we, we scream about that a lot.
[00:39:27] And so were the Pharisees and trust me, I hire an accountant every year and he makes sure that I pay the least amount of taxes. That I legally have to pay. And so I want to put that out there, but I think some of these issues would be taken care of if we followed exactly what you’re talking about and that generosity of our capitalism would start to take care of people where there wouldn’t be this need, that we’ve sort of culturally determined governmentally to meet.
[00:39:54] And so I think the two are somewhat intertwined. And if we changed our mindset about that thing, then [00:40:00] we could start to fix these other things a little bit. Well, interesting stuff, Tony, I, I really appreciate that. And so now you started talking about race relations there, and that’s a big one in this, in this season of time, and it’s a difficult one for people in churches.
[00:40:15]you wrote, an article that, that I got to see about a friend of yours that had an encounter with police that, that wasn’t pleasant and, and that spurred you to, to speak out about that. So tell us more about
[00:40:28] Tony Stoltfus: [00:40:28] that. Well, do you want me to give away the ending or
[00:40:34] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:40:34] yes, you are giveaway.
[00:40:37] Tony Stoltfus: [00:40:37] Sure. Basically I wrote a short article that said, okay, I have a friend that went through the kind of thing that.
[00:40:47] You know, the black community is talking about and it changes the way you look at things. When you know someone personally and, and look, I’m white, I’ve lived mostly in rural communities in my [00:41:00] life. There’s not,
[00:41:04] there’s nothing a ton of racial diversity in my local world. There’s a lot more in my international sphere, but, yeah. But basically the story in this story, my friend is, he was arrested by a corrupt official, because they didn’t like. The way he was speaking out about societal issues. he was arrested in the middle of the night by people with clubs and lights and making a show of force.
[00:41:35]they interrogated him all night. There was no lawyer present. There was no due process. He was, it turned out that, that the person who was the witness against him was actually paid for his testimony. Then they brought him before the court. And you know, one of the judges was ready to let him off, but you [00:42:00] know, the, the, how do I say that the powers that be twisted his arm and, you know, My friend, then they start talking about capital punishment and you know, and my friend did absolutely nothing wrong to deserve this.
[00:42:18] Now, the reveal at the end of the story is this, this is Jesus. and increase the fiction. Basically, you, you suffocate you, the. The posture of cruise sufficient puts your lungs, fill with fluid. It puts pressure on you and you get to the place where you can’t breathe. So Jesus died a lot like George flood dead.
[00:42:43] And for us as Christians,
[00:42:49] we have to reckon with the fact that these people are saying I’m being treated like you’re Jesus did was. one of the things that [00:43:00] just greatly saddened me, you know, a decade or so ago was there was this whole torture debate. I think it was during the Bush administration and a poll was taken in more American Christians supported torturing people than the American populace at large.
[00:43:16] Now think about that for a minute. We have a savior who was tortured and yeah, for us. And yet we support torturing other people to protect us. And Jesus already paid that price and we don’t need, we don’t need to mistreat terrorists. We don’t need to take their due process away. We don’t because that’s not our protection.
[00:43:42]so I have not, you know, I’m the exemplar of race relations and, but. I do need to speak what I can and what I can is I know somebody personally [00:44:00] who got treated like this, and he’s a dear friend of mine and I don’t want to see anybody treated that way.
[00:44:09] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:44:09] Oh, I can see the emotion that’s coming from that for you where where’s that, or is that emotion coming from
[00:44:15] Tony Stoltfus: [00:44:15] emotional person,
[00:44:19] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:44:19] but it’s
[00:44:19] Tony Stoltfus: [00:44:19] close to my heart and that’s, you know, it’s easy to live in a white world and never see any of this stuff.
[00:44:29] I mean, it just, you know, people talked about it and I heard it, but it wasn’t real to me. And I think one of the things we can do as Christians is just take Jesus’s story and put it in contemporary language. He had no lawyer, he had no advocate on his behalf. He was unjustly accused. People were bribed to turn him over to the authorities.
[00:44:57] They brought in false witnesses against him. [00:45:00] And. And think about that in terms of what happens in our country. if you’re one statistic I got that really, I saw this, I think it was in the VeggieTales guy, did a video about this, but that if you’re born as a black male baby, you have a one in four chance in your lifetime of going to prison.
[00:45:27] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:45:27] And I was like,
[00:45:27] Tony Stoltfus: [00:45:27] Oh my God. Where did we do that? If you’re white, you have a one in 23 chance. Well, that’s better, but Oh my
[00:45:36] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:45:36] gosh, still high
[00:45:37] Tony Stoltfus: [00:45:37] one in 20 Americans going into jail in their lifetime. Holy crap. Where’s the church there. We got to do something about it. And honestly, I’m not sure what to do. My, my ministry is about emotional health, [00:46:00] but I need to find something.
[00:46:02]maybe we’ll take people getting out of prison and rewrite their stories from having this perspective, or I don’t know what, but I’m going to find something where my unique ability and deposit a gift can touch that in a positive way. Maybe I’ll find a way to do emotional healing with police officers who, who see stuff that no human being should ever see, and have to go home and live with all that.
[00:46:34] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:46:34] Yeah. Oh, well just doing that. What you can in your sphere is a great start and, and even more so just having your heart soft and broken toward it. If that can challenge other church going people or other people in general to, to have their heart broken. I’ve been talking about Hebrews, the book of Hebrews and specifically [00:47:00] Hebrews chapter three in recent days.
[00:47:01] And this idea of don’t let your heart be hardened. As your fathers were in the desert and, and this idea of having hard hearts. And I think this is a moment in history where we have a choice to either let our hearts be softened and feel the pain of brothers and sisters and fellow citizens, fellow Americans around us, or we harden our heart.
[00:47:24] And every time your heart and your heart, it becomes a little bit more difficult to see what’s happening around you. So I love. This comparison of what Jesus suffered, which was the worst imaginable death, and, and, and tying that to the treatment of, of our, our black and Brown friends around us. because I think that’s a powerful message to ask people, to consider, Hey, you know, somebody that’s been treated like this, if you’re a Christian.
[00:47:52] Yeah. The most important person in your life was treated like this. Hmm, it’s interesting. And he [00:48:00] was an oppressed person with the Jewish people under Roman tyranny, but he turned
[00:48:08] Tony Stoltfus: [00:48:08] I’m sorry, the end in a foreign country when he was a baby. It,
[00:48:13]Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:48:13] huh. And yet he turned to the other oppressed people in his culture, the Samaritans who were looked down upon by the Jews.
[00:48:24] And depressed or the adulterous woman who, as you said, she had no other ability to make a living then to give up her body. He looked at those oppressed people and said, though, that’s my job is to sit with those people and fight for them. And so if that’s the guy we’re following, that should be our model.
[00:48:42] Right?
[00:48:42] Tony Stoltfus: [00:48:42] Yeah. So don’t, I mean, my, my admonition would be don’t. Fight to change our whole country. Don’t fight to get social media, to see things a certain way, take your world and your gift and fight in that [00:49:00] spear for the people around you to be blessed, to be treated better, to be honored. don’t, don’t be defensive by what you’re against.
[00:49:10] Be defined by what you’re for.
[00:49:14] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:49:14] No, that’s good. That’s good. I was going to ask you to summarize what this dream and all this stuff means and what you’re calling people to. I think you just, you just did. Yeah. Wow. So that’s really great. You know, what I would love for you to do? I, you know, however you feel comfortable to do this, give a word of encouragement, pray for us for those listening and, just whatever feels best to you.
[00:49:38] What, what, what would you like to do to encourage us as we finish up this conversation?
[00:49:45] Tony Stoltfus: [00:49:45] Well, I think what I’d like to do is, give you some questions to ask Jesus. And what I’ve found. My percentage of my personally, my percentage of answered prayer went up about a thousand percent when I started praying this way, [00:50:00] because I realized it might take away was Jesus’s name much more interested in talking about my relationship with him than about what I’m doing or all this stuff out there.
[00:50:12] So these are questions that you can ask Jesus and. Just listen to your heart. I give people 30 seconds or so to listen when I give them this question, because the first thing that comes to you is usually the best. And it’s really hard when you ask this kind of question to get a wrong answer. So a question would be Jesus.
[00:50:35] How, how are you? You being my security today? Jesus. How are you being my security today? Hmm.
[00:50:44] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:50:44] So people could even pause this podcast right now and ask that question.
[00:50:48] Tony Stoltfus: [00:50:48] The second one is Jesus. If all my hopes for our country turned to ashes, what will you do for me? a third one is [00:51:00] Jesus. how are you giving me peace? The passes, what I understand about what’s happening in the world.
[00:51:17] So, yeah.
[00:51:21] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:51:21] All right. That’s our encouragement today. Take first three questions.
[00:51:26] Tony Stoltfus: [00:51:26] I have a mobile app. That’s free called questions for Jesus. That has a whole bunch of examples of this in it. So feel free and get the app. It takes every passage in Matthew where Jesus speaks to a desire and gives you questions to ask Jesus
[00:51:41] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:51:41] and that’s available on iTunes or Google play.
[00:51:44] Tony Stoltfus: [00:51:44] Yeah.
[00:51:45] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:51:45] Okay. All right. Questions for Jesus. Well, that’s Tony Stoltzfus, author and coach. he has a dozen books out there. One of them is heaven’s perspective, which is a great one. He does coaching around the world and brought a great challenge and [00:52:00] encouragement for us today. And just really love.
[00:52:03] You’re bringing this admonishment though, with this gentle heart. I think it’s pretty easy for people to hear, even, even if it’s a tough thing. So Tony, thanks for sharing that with us today.
[00:52:12] Tony Stoltfus: [00:52:12] You’re welcome.
[00:52:13] Paul Swearengin, NPE Host: [00:52:13] Very good. All right, let me stop this recording.

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