It’s Not About Us

There appears to be a trend of believer-centric, felt-need themes becoming more common in sermons and song lyrics. Unfortunately, the unintended message is that God’s awesomeness is defined by what He does for us. However, God’s holiness, righteousness, and sovereignty exist whether we acknowledge it or not. The amazing part is that He chose to love us with grace, mercy, and redemption anyway. The following statements are based on Isaiah 44:6-8 and it’s helpful to pause and declare them simply because He is worthy. In the process, our vision gets elevated above the distractions of this world and a reassuring peace anchors our soul.

You are the LORD.

You are the King of Israel.

You are the Redeemer and the LORD of Hosts.

You are the First and the Last and beside you there is no other.

No one can make the proclamations you do.

You appointed the ancient peoples, what is now, and what will be.

You have declared your people to be free of fear.

There is no God beside You, and indeed there is no other Rock!

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Meanwhile…back in reality.

A pundit once described what we call “wokeism” as a mental disorder. At the time, it sounded quite humorous, but with confusion on fundamental truths such as the definitions of male and female, one does wonder about the mental state of our society. While “mental disorder” may be too crass and insensitive to those suffering true mental issues, Paul’s words in Romans chapter 1 remain spot-on. He described a process where people “declared themselves wise while becoming fools” in addition to “trading truth for a lie” (v.22 & v.25). His words echo through time to resonate with current events. It’s mind-boggling to see intelligent, educated people deny what is obvious to so many, yet here we are, witnessing an active market of customers eagerly trading truth for lies. So, given the current cultural reality, what should those of us do who hold to “outdated” beliefs such as “humans are born male and female”?

  • First, we must tenaciously hold onto the truth and refuse to trade it for a lie. Whether it’s gender, or other social issues, the acceptance of an idea doesn’t make it true. Remember, someone in the ancient world for the first time suggested a stone carving was God…it wasn’t (even though the people agreed).
  • Second, we must avoid the trap the prophet Elijah fell into. Although he was a tremendous man of God, Elijah thought he was the only faithful person left in Israel, but God informed him of 7,000 others. Don’t start believing you’re alone or that all hope is lost…it’s not.
  • Third, we must avoid false premise arguments where “red herrings” and “loaded questions” are designed to manipulate, entrap, or deflect from the true issues. The Bible clearly describes the origins of mankind (creation), our problem (fallen nature), and who alone defines morality (God). It’s generally best to start with a true premise and work forward, as opposed to abiding a false premise as the substance of debate.
  • Fourth, we must take a breath and relax. Yes, the cultural climate can cause distress, but reality always pushes through, and the truth of God’s word will ultimately be proven true…if not daily as well.

In the meantime don’t forget, the fruit of the Spirit includes joy, peace, and patience. His joy…His peace…His patience…and that’s reality.

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The Payment that Changed Everything

Jesus on the CrossBy Friday morning after his entry to Jerusalem, the enemies of Jesus had completed their scheme. Following an illegal trial based on bribery and dishonesty, Jesus had been beaten, mocked, scourged, nailed to an ugly structure used for criminals, and left to die. However, their extreme cruelty wasn’t the full measure of “the cup”; it came next.

For three excruciating hours (in total darkness during the middle of the day), Jesus was separated from the Father to endure God’s full fist of wrath on sin…their sin, our sin, the world’s sin. Isaiah 53 says He was crushed, bruised, scorned and despised in our stead. It was a painful transaction because sin costs. When it was over, He drew a final breath and proclaimed:

It is finished!

May we never take sin lightly. May we never forget His grace. May we never fail to thank Him for it. And may we never cease to share it.

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 HCSB

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Satan’s Method is Still Based on This

I hate spider webs. I know they serve a great purpose for catching/reducing flying insects, but after all these years, I still grumble when walking into one. Interestingly, the Devil operates much the same way by building webs across the walking paths of our lives. Like a spider, the method never changes. Even though the anchor points of the web change with the times, the primary component of the webbing continues to be the same thing. What is that one thing you ask? Well, based on scripture, history, and current events, it’s dishonesty. Lies, half-truths, misrepresentations, distortions, false narratives, and denials all still work. For example, Acts chapter 16 describes when Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison, all because of lies meant to juice up the crowd to demand violent punishment. What was their crime? Casting out a demon. For that they were described as trouble-makers and insurrectionist against Rome.

It should come as no surprise then to us if our spiritual enemy uses the same tactics. While it’s true that temptation derails many, dishonesty is the basic DNA and building block. It always promises more than it delivers and costs more than suggested. In the cultural shift we are currently witnessing, dishonesty is the foundation to rewrite history, redefine rights, criminalize certain kinds of speech, crush dissenting views, and to achieve false moral authority. So where does that leave us? Well, based on Acts 16, here are a few thoughts as the dishonesty grows around us:

  • Jesus said lying is Satan’s natural language (John 8:44). We must be wise by walking in the Spirit to discern them and teach our children the same. Like the web of a spider, there is a method to the enemy’s process. Each strand of deceit is connected to another and only the sword of truth effectively cuts through them (the same way Jesus responded in the wilderness).
  • Our reactions to the challenges matter. Instead of anger (which would have been quite natural), Paul and Silas sang praises as the earthquake suddenly broke open the jail. As they praised, many were listening and it set up a moment to speak a message of truth to the jailer and his family who all placed faith in Christ that very night. A general disposition of peace can speak volumes to others and set up divine appointments.
  • “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10). Often, timing is everything. Paul and Silas weren’t fearfully passive, but they challenged their arrest and unjust treatment at the right time. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit they later declared their Roman citizenship which brought their immediate release. Choosing words wisely and waiting for an opportune moment can put us in position for the most kingdom benefit. In their case, it strengthened the new believers in Philippi by highlighting something that could work in their favor…the rule of law. “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might!”
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Resisting the Weaponizing of Words

In boot camp, you learn to carry a “weapon”. It’s not a “gun”, a term referencing large-bore or crew-served arms like a “machine gun” or “main gun”. It also carries the connotation of proficiency related to said weapon. In similar fashion, the progressive side of the culture war has trained its members in the proficient use of words as personal weapons. Words such as racism, racist, offensive, discrimination, intolerant, sexist, etc. have been separated from their roots and weaponized to destroy anyone deemed a threat.

Many words and phrases have been effectively redefined to mean something different than previously understood. For example, free speech once meant the fundamental right to speak one’s mind or propose challenging questions. Today, it means “free” within certain boundaries determined acceptable by progressive orthodoxy. Academic freedom once meant the liberty to publish research that genuinely followed the scientific method and rigor, but now predetermined outcomes define the limits and those who want to stay employed will honor them to the letter.

This new reality was recently illustrated when the president of Brown University sent a letter to “the Brown community” outlining the expectations of all staff and faculty to conform to the “company policy” as described by Dr. Glen Loury (Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2020). According to the WSJ article, Dr. Loury (who is black) considers it “the Black Lives Matter view of the world reflected from the Brown University college president’s office”. He wrote a formal rebuttal that was published in a regional newspaper. He expresses his concerns and feels that many of his peers are simply too afraid to resist or speak up. In a similar fashion, Dr. Hsu of Michigan State University was forced to resign because “he was also accused of supporting psychology research at MSU on the statistics of police shootings that didn’t clearly support claims of racial bias.” (Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2020).

In addition to Brown University and MSU, there are numerous stories of newspaper editors, professors, journalists, teachers, and others being marginalized, demoted, or fired for not “toeing the line”. One of the new fast selling books being used for diversity training in corporate America (according to Gerard Baker of the Wall Street Journal) is White Fragility which teaches that if you’re White, you are racist (revealing a purposed corruption of the word “racist”). Mr. Baker also points out the term “violence” which no longer means “smashing a statue or assaulting a police officer” but refers to the written words of an opinion piece written by a U.S. Senator in the New York Times calling for federal help for overwhelmed police. By the way, an editor was forced out over allowing such violent words to be printed in the NYT.

Then there is the much-publicized Black Lives Matter. A self-proclaimed Marxist organization who according to their own statement seeks to eliminate the nuclear family in black communities. Their redefining of words would have George Orwell feeling like a prophet with his Newspeak language of the Ministry of Truth in “1984”. Not only do they decide who exactly is “black”, but they also decide who “matters” because the phrase doesn’t mean what an elementary English class would understand it to mean. One would think corporate America to be led by those wise enough to discern the difference, but with hundreds of millions of dollars newly committed to BLM after the George Floyd tragedy and positive promotion to their employees and viewers, “wise” must not mean what is used to.

So where does this leave us? Are we to get depressed and throw in the towel? Absolutely not! Those of us who value scripture and personal liberty must be mindful of the misuse of terms, commit to the long haul of resisting the corruption of terms, use terms correctly and teach our children to as well. For example, consider the term “equality”. Paul wrote a beautiful passage about it:

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ.” – Galatians 3:26-28 NKJV

Obviously, Paul was writing in the context of the body of Christ, but the principle of genuine equality is a Christian goal based on equal worth, not vengeful social justice. Or consider the term “gender” which now is being redefined as whatever a person identifies themselves to be. That premise is “hogwash” (a term probably offensive to pigs). We are born as one of two genders…period. To agree to a redefining of the term is to deny God’s created order. He created them “in His own image”, “male and female” and instituted marriage between a man and woman (Genesis 1:27, 2:24).

The bottom line is this, recent tactical success of the strategy will yield more of it. While it still means the obvious, the phrase “buckle up” may be in order. Words we understand to have significant meaning such as right, wrong, love, truth, forgiveness, acceptance, sin, redemption, and many, many more will not be immune. With all that being said, let’s not “grow weary while doing good” but prayerfully be ready:

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God…” – II Corinthians 10:4-5a NKJV

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Why Now is a Golden Moment for Truth

As the cultural dumpster fire rages, much truth is becoming visible in its light. For years the ideological left has been working in the shadows to destroy the historical timbers supporting our way of life. Areas such as academia, journalism, law, politics, entertainment, the arts, and religion have all been strongly influenced or completely overtaken. However, we have been given a golden opportunity because the dismal failure of leftist ideas is on full display in cities ran by those promoting them, and in the hateful, hypocritical rhetoric and actions of young protestors. We may not get a better chance to offer a positive contrast. Here are some examples:

  1. Leftist ideology always favors control, but we value personal liberty:
  • Civil Liberty-the core principle that we are “endowed by our Creator” with rights against those who would abuse power to silence speech and limit freedoms
  • Economic Liberty-the core principle of a system with socio-economic mobility where people can escape poverty and pursue their dreams
  • Religious Liberty-the core principle of “free exercise” of faith and worship that transcends personal belief to protect the public expression of it including the gospel
  1. Leftist ideology favors identity politics, but we value all people as God’s creation:
  • God gifted us with infinitely diverse personalities, skills, physical features, and skin tones and we are to appreciate their benefits, not weaponize them for a political agenda.
  • Unlike those who draw attention to a select few, all people should have a right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness…all lives actually do matter.
  • Instead of everyone having hyphenated labels that segregate, divide, and antagonize, we believe in one unifying title…American.
  1. Leftist ideology blames America for the world’s problems, but we celebrate our nation’s contributions:
  • There were no perfect founding founders or previous leaders, but there is much to celebrate and many people to honor. One looking into the history books (at least those free of post-modern revisionism) will find numerous stories of Americans of all walks of life displaying personal sacrifice, generosity, a can-do attitude, and moral strength.
  • God has blessed us immensely and used us greatly to influence world history. As a country founded on Judeo-Christian principles, we have spent trillions funding global benevolence, shed much blood defending others, offered refuge to millions of immigrants, defended human rights abroad, commissioned missionary work around the world and encouraged global economic development for decades.

The bottom line is this; we have a country, a history, a people, and an ethos (yes ethos) worth teaching and defending. If you agree with that notion, don’t feel as if you’re in the minority because you are not. Isolation, marginalization, and intimidation is a useful tool of the Marxists who would have you feel defeated while remaining silent. Obviously, there are imperfections and continued work to do, but we are a great nation and should take pride in being American.

Here are some ways to do just that:

  • First, familiarize yourself with what your kids are learning, then take time to talk to them, listen to them, share the truth with them, and if necessary, find answers along with them.
  • Second, don’t buy the lie that speaking truth will compromise your Christian testimony. That’s right, a pastor is telling you that it’s Biblical to have a backbone. Loving people doesn’t mean standing silently by while the radical left steals an entire generation. Speak the truth because of
  • Third, discover and tell others about those writing, making videos and working to advance truthful news, education and public policy. There is an amazing, (even heroic) group of young people in the media that are boldly speaking out and they are making a difference.
  • Lastly, don’t lose hope. Paul encouraged the Galatians to “not grow weary while doing good” (Gal. 6:9). Discouragement is a thief. Take courage in standing for good and encourage others to as well!
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Poison or Liberty? A Generational Decision

For weeks, a common tone has been present in the rhetoric and actions of many people claiming to protest injustice. A realization of it came today while viewing a full-page ad placed in the Wall Street Journal accusing all Fortune 500 businesses of systemic racism and this Fourth of July week is a fitting time to share it. Consider this:

Our Founders valued liberty and decided it was worth risking their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to pursue the self-evident principles endowed by our Creator. Their actions and signatures on July 4th, 1776 started the difficult and uncertain journey of The American Revolution. Since then, liberty has been a founding principle of our nation. We have struggled, argued, fought, and worked through the true meanings of the word and are all better for it. The famous notion that people should be judged by the “content of their character” instead of race or creed embodies that principle well, but some find it unacceptable and not enough.

Now there is a different attitude among those who see injustices everywhere. Theirs is the spirit of revenge and more closely related to the French Revolution and Karl Marx than the American cause of liberty. It is a soul-poison with an insatiable appetite to claim wealth not earned and punish all who resist. In contrast, our heritage is one built on creating equal opportunity without the presence of despotism. It’s one where dreams can be pursued, risks can be taken, investments can be made, and the rewards of hard work can be enjoyed. Have there been difficulties along the way? Yes, many. Have we disagreed over details? Yes, often strongly. Have we fought to preserve it? Yes, at great costs. Is it still worth the effort to defend? Yes, it always will be.

The reason is, one of the most precious gifts God gave humanity was the freedom to make choices (including the ultimate choice of placing faith in Christ). There will always be those trying to limit and deny freedom because their desire is to control. This week, may we remember the many who have risked their lives for liberty, treasure it as a sacred gift from God and remain strong against those who seek to destroy it.

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It’s Time to Stop Being Silent and Speak the Truth

With our cities burning and our way of life being threatened, it’s time for those of us who value traditional American principles to speak bold truth in love. I say love, because it is out of love for people and country that I write these words. Our culture is at a philosophical crossroad and the struggle is much larger than political parties, geographic boundaries, or racial lineages. It’s about our future together and what principles will guide us as a people. Of course, those creating so much havoc also claim to be about people and the future, but their actions reveal otherwise. Below are five reasons I believe leftist ideology is destructive and five ways I believe we can make a difference in our personal spheres of influence:

  1. Leftist ideology favors control – whether politically, socially, or academically, as leftist achieve power, the demands for conformity increase under threat of punishment for those who resist (the collective as opposed to individual liberty).
  2. Leftist ideology uses dishonest narratives – through the use of technics such as “framing” and “deconstruction”, the promoters revise history (even as it happens in real time) to create a narrative for the purpose of further an agenda (such as demonizing historical figures, interpreting/reinterpreting events and ignoring certain portions altogether).
  3. Leftist ideology rejects dissent – through various methods of intimidation, dissent to the leftist narrative on things such as climate, race, gender, economics, and history is routinely silenced through classification as “hate speech” or “denial” (as opposed to being welcomed in civil debate).
  4. Leftist ideology undermines the rule of law – under the claims of inequality, laws are often rejected on the grounds of being “unfair” or “racist” which destabilizes communities and suppresses personal advancement while leaving the most vulnerable exposed to those who would take advantage of them.
  5. Leftist ideology weakens our economic system – through the Marxist method of stirring class-envy, capitalism is being recast as fundamentally flawed (as opposed to the truth of it being a system that has elevated more from poverty than any other system in history).

While recognizing the previous five, here are five ways we can make a difference in the lives of those we influence:

  1. Make a difference by valuing people’s God-given right to liberty – be one who values peoples’ opinion and their freedom to conduct their lives as they see fit within a civil society (and say so).
  2. Make a difference by being a person of truth – whether personally, academically, or vocationally, be one who seeks the truth. An essential to arriving at solutions for any challenge or inequity is to do the due-diligence and discover the truth (and say so).
  3. Make a difference by being open to disagreement – having a strong opinion can be a good thing, but we must demonstrate to those around us that we are open to civil debate and philosophical challenge. It is possible to disagree without becoming enemies (and say so).
  4. Make a difference by appreciating the rule of law – we live under a system that will always be imperfect but is designed to promote stability for people to pursue their dreams and not be threatened by other citizens or their government. If there are points of true injustice, then be a promoter of change (and say so).
  5. Make a difference by supporting capitalism – there is no perfect economic system but one that allows people to make their own economic decisions concerning risk, investments, and careers has proven to be successful for the most people. Yes, there is potential for cronyism and inequity in all systems, which means we should demand economic liberty for all people, not just those well-connected or favored (and say so).

Silence may be the path of least resistance but let history record that we rejected it and spoke, wrote, taught, preached, posted, and shared the truth in our time.

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Strength in the Chaos

On an old ballfield back in the early days, some coach for the first time said, “Focus on what you can control and not what you can’t.” Many of us have repeated the same instructions to young players frustrated with people and events around them. It’s also great advice for those of us frustrated with people and events showing up in our newsfeeds and on our televisions. It reminds me of a principle I read about in Chip Ingram’s book, “Good to Great in God’s Eyes” where he suggests:

“Picture a train, if you will. The engine is our thinking, and it pulls the first car of emotions, then the car of behavior, and then the car of consequences. Good thoughts will influence our emotions for good, which in turn will influence our behavior and produce positive consequences. Negative thoughts have the same influence in the opposite direction. What we think will determine the course of our life.” (p.15)

As you can see, behavior and consequences directly follow emotions that are pulled along by the engine of thinking. So how does a believer develop the right thinking and avoid the emotional manipulation of our “advanced” culture? Paul provides an answer in his letter to the Philippian church. Here are three sources of strength for us to remember in the middle of the cultural chaos.

  • First-there is strength in position (Phil. 4:1-5)

In three separate verses Paul references being “in the Lord”. He says we are to stand fast in the Lord (v.1), be of the same mind in the Lord (v.2) and rejoice in the Lord (v.4). The key to right thinking is the cognitive awareness that we are “in the Lord”. The phrase is not placed there for poetic decoration, it is specifically the solid ground to stand on as the foundations of pop-philosophy fracture and crumble.

  • Second-there is strength in communication (Phil. 4:6-7)

Regular conversations with the Lord that are gut-level honest produce a “settled” nature that is not anxious (v.6), a grateful attitude through thanksgiving (v.6), a spirit of peace beyond understanding (v.7) and a guarded mind (v.7).

  • Third-there is strength in meditation (Phil. 4:8-9)

Unlike eastern style mediation, Biblical meditation is specifically spending time in deep thought on the good things of God; things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous, and praiseworthy (v.8). It also develops a disciplined mind by learning (v.9), guides in choosing good role models (v.9) and encourages one to be an influencer for the same things in others (v.9).

So, take a deep breath and remember what the old coach said, “Focus on what you can control and not what you can’t!”

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Word of the Week – Facts

Faith and facts are not mutually exclusive. With our culture drifting further away from civil discourse on issues of the day, we the people of faith, need to also be the people of facts. In other words, much is happening around us as a result of hyperbole, fearmongering, manipulation, intimidation, and peer-pressure. Consider some of these examples:

  • The Amaud Arbery Case – Obviously, it is a tragic situation, but instead of being voices for due-process and innocence-until-proven-guilty (which are historic Judeo-Christian precepts) some church leaders were so eager to appear “woke” that they jumped on the racism bandwagon without knowing many facts.
  • Climate Change – Many in the faith community whole-heartedly agree with those intolerant of any dissension, while helping to further that sentiment in the minds of those they influence. The fact is, there are many reputable scientists who disagree with the theory of man-made global warming.
  • Gender Issues – The fact is that there are two genders, period. People can choose to not believe it, disagree with it, deny it, not like it or be hostile toward God who designed it, but it doesn’t change the facts (which we should be comfortable defending).
  • Tough Spiritual Questions – Admittedly, there are some difficult questions regarding matters of faith, but Christian faith is a reasonable faith, not blind faith. Do we have all the answers? Of course not. However, that is not the same as having no answers. There are volumes of books and many recorded hours of world-class apologists answering tough spiritual questions with love, decency, grace and answers based on facts.
  • Socialism – The institution of socialism is a systematic destruction of personal rights, private property and religious liberty that is always sold with propaganda based on emotional appeal rooted in class-envy and not facts. Capitalism on the other hand, is a system that has helped more people escape poverty than any other and we should not be willing to give it up without a fight.
  • American History – There are those engaged in rewriting and reinterpreting American history to further a narrative that reflects negatively on our founding to support a political agenda. However, the facts are not in their favor and we must be willing to preserve them, teach them and defend them unapologetically.
  • COVID-19 – Naturally, there should be sensitivity for those who have suffered loss or are threatened because of compromised immunity. However, that should not cause us to forego seeking answers based on facts (as far as we can know) by simply accepting media narratives and government leaders without question.

The bottom line is this, throughout history the people of God asked questions. God is not afraid of our questions. That is not to say that He will answer them according to our preconceived ideas or framing (as was the case with Job and was often with Jesus), but it’s healthy to ask questions. We should be people who look for reasons behind what is happening around us as. Facts aren’t a threat to faith, they are a friend.

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Quiet Strength

“Quiet strength” may sound like an oxymoron, but for God’s people it’s a description of great power at work. This past week, our teaching series in Acts included this one-verse summary of the early church in chapter 9 verse 31. Take a look:

“So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers.” (HCSB)

For those of us in Christ, there is much to be said of recognizing, pursuing, and living in the confidence of a quiet strength. Based on verse 31, consider these five benefits:

I. A Quiet Strength is Peaceful

  • There is the peace of Christ on the inside – Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you” (John 14:27a)
  • There is the peace of Christ on the outside – “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:18)

II. A Quiet Strength Builds Others Up

  • Quiet strength recognizes Christ as the one doing the building (I Peter 2:4-5)
  • Quiet strength focuses on building individuals personally (I Thess. 5:11)
  • Quiet strength is done in genuine love person-to-person (I Corinthians 8:1)

III. A Quiet Strength Walks in the Fear of the Lord

  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Prov.9:10)
  • The fear of the Lord is the substance of Godly courage – (consider Moses, Joshua, and Nehemiah who depended on the Lord to empower them for their assignments)

IV. A Quiet Strength Draws Comfort From the Holy Spirit

  • Through His reassuring, steadying presence in our heart
  • Through His guiding of our thoughts – “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

V. A Quiet Strength Influences Others

Never underestimate the power of your influence on:

  • Individuals you engage in daily conversations
  • Family members you do life with through the good and the bad
  • Co-workers you spend a large amount of time around
  • The church fellowship you are an important part of

Remember, the early church was made up of people just like us who were “walking in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit”. May that be us today as well!

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Word of the Week – Hope

Daily news, endless media negativity, and the actions of people can leave one feeling discouraged about the future. Even worse, during these recent weeks, the voices of encouragement have been drowned out by those who profit from fear. So, in these circumstances, is there something solid in the scriptures about a foundation of hope that goes beyond a simple “greeting card wish”? The answer of course is “yes”. Consider this verse that describes the process:

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 NKJV

God is the one who fills us with hope, however, before hope is realized, joy and peace must be present in the heart. They are the foundational stones anchored to belief in Christ. What a person believes to be true, has everything to do with their outlook on tomorrow. When there’s faith in God’s leadership, there’s hope in the days ahead. Even more, through the power of the Holy Spirit, it is an ever-present reality that defies the world around us. If hope eludes you, ask yourself these questions:

  • “Is there joy in my heart?” If not, “Why?” Joy is not the same as happiness, it is a fruit of the Spirit. Happiness has to do with things that happen to us, joy has to do with what happens in
  • “Is there peace in my life?” If not, “Why?” Peace is also a fruit of the Spirit. Jesus is the one who speaks peace to our soul just like He did in the storm. Perhaps there is a need to ask Him to speak peace into your life and address the things or people that rob you of it.

Now may the God of hope fill you…”

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Word of the Week – Liberty

Freedom to make choices wasn’t the idea of political revolutionaries…it was God’s. In the beginning, God made Adam special above all creatures by breathing His own life into him. In addition, He went the extra step to give Adam (and Eve) the liberty to choose obedience or rebellion. which ultimately led to Christ’s coming to redeem us from the sinful choice. With the planting of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, there was risk. For centuries, theologians have debated the finer points of freewill, but the bottom line is, the DNA of humanity includes an inherent need for liberty. Naturally, there are requirements for training, discipline, and a process of maturing, but all along there is a drive to make one’s own choices.

Unfortunately, there have always been many who demand personal liberty while seeking to deny it of others. Our time now is no different. Whether it’s inside sacred circles, academic venues, or political establishments, we must be diligent to identify threats to foundational liberty. In sacred circles it comes as legalism or pressure to compromise long-held beliefs. In academic venues, it comes as demands to conform to history revisionism, political correctness, progressive ideas of genders, and socialistic approaches to economics, justice, and civics. In political establishments, it comes with the ever-encroaching reach of government officials claiming the right to give or deny us ours’ without any sense of accountability themselves.

Liberty is a most precious commodity, and as Americans it once set us apart from the world. Our founders knew it as God-given, self-evident, unalienable rights. May we continue to value it, demand it, teach it, and be willing to take the risk to give it to others.

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Word of the Week – Authority

The supremacy of Christ is not just a theological maxim, it’s empowerment to live in liberty under His authority. After the resurrection, Jesus declared:

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” – Matthew 28:18 NKJV

Consider the depth of that statement. From ancient times, God patiently and methodically worked within His own righteous constraints to perfectly cut each and every tooth in the key to fit the lock of sin that bound humanity. Once complete, He yelled, “It is finished!” and the tumblers in the lock began to turn, the chains loosened, captives were set free, and the King of Kings was declared the victor!

Yes, we live in uncertain times, but the times have always been uncertain. Fear can cripple and cheat us from God-given victory in our lives and the lives of others. There is still much debate about work/social activities in our communities and admittedly there is no silver bullet answer. However, one thing I know, the spirit of fear has been used as a weapon and that is not of God:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” II Timothy 1:7 NKJV

If the God of creation went so far as the cross to secure our deliverance from sin, He is well aware of the daily lives of those He redeemed. Let’s be strong today in the power of His authority and move forward together!

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Fulfilled Words

In the time leading up to the crucifixion, there were Jesus’ last words. On Saturday there was a time of no words. And then on Sunday morning…there were fulfilled words:

He is not here, He has risen just as He said.” – Matt. 28:6 NIV

No power on Earth or of the spiritual realm could stop Jesus from defeating sin and death. The mission was accomplished, and new life had come!

“Death where is your victory? Death where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” – 1 Cor. 15:55-57 HSCB

May your faith be in Him today. He has risen…just as He said!

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No Words

After several days of “last words” to the disciples, there suddenly were no words. Jesus had been buried, the sun came up, and it was another day. The scripture provides very little about that day, but we do know two things. First, the followers observed the sacredness of the Sabbath by resting (Luke 23:56) and second, the chief priests spent the day working to get the tomb sealed by the Romans (Matthew 27:62-66).

Life can often feel like the time between Good Friday and Easter when God was not speaking, and the enemy was scheming. Think about the thoughts and emotions of Jesus’ followers that day. They would have had many unanswered questions while wondering how they could have gotten it so wrong. In short, they were confused, afraid, and without hope…but the next day was coming!

As believers, we too can arrive at a moment in life when there is silence…confusion…fear…and second-guessing. If you ever find yourself there, remember, Jesus didn’t abandon His followers then and He doesn’t now. In the meantime, be encouraged by David’s words, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!” (Psalm 30:5b NKJV) and trust that one day soon it will all make sense.

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The Last Words – “It is Finished!”

By Friday morning, the enemies of Jesus had completed their scheme. After an illegal trial that included bribery and dishonesty, Jesus had been beaten, mocked, scourged, nailed to an ugly structure made for criminals, and left to die. However, their extreme cruelty wasn’t the full measure of “the cup”; what happened next was.

For three excruciating hours (in total darkness during the middle of the day), Jesus was separated from the Father to endure God’s full fist of wrath on sin…their sin, our sin, the world’s sin. Isaiah 53 says He was crushed, bruised, scorned and despised in our stead. It was a painful transaction because sin costs. When it was over, He drew a final breath and proclaimed:

It is finished!”

May we never take sin lightly. May we never forget His grace. May we never fail to thank Him for it. And may we never cease to share it.

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 HCSB

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The Last Words-Abide

May not the inadequacy of much of our spiritual experience be traced back to our habit of skipping through the corridors of the Kingdom like children in the marketplace, chattering about everything but pausing to learn the value of nothing” – A.W. Tozer

During the transition to the Mount of Olives (before Gethsemane), Jesus painted a word-picture to describe the life of faith in Him. He said:

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing. – John 15:4 NKJV

It was a lesson about their connection to Jesus. There would be great power endued them by the Holy Spirit and productive activity, but the key to unlocking it all was to abide. As branches, we are completely dependent on the nutrients provided from the Vine and the Vinedresser (the Father v.1) manages the vineyard for His purposes. There is often an urge to be “doing” something in the Kingdom to prove our worth, but our doing is to abide and let Him produce fruit through us. In the process there will be:

  • Peace – His peace (14:27)
  • Seasonal changes (rhythms of life)
  • Pruning (reduction of excess)
  • Drought (times of stress)
  • Rain (times of refreshment)
  • Soil enhancements (things added)
  • Harvesting (things taken away)

He then reminded them:

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:11 NKJV

Don’t stress over the doing, learn the value of abiding and experience the joy…today.

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The Last Words-Believe

As the noise and excitement of the crowds faded into the night, Jesus looked His inner circle in the eyes and said:

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  – John 14:1 NKJV

They were already disciples. They witnessed the miracles. They saw the healings. They heard the demons scream in retreat. They felt the mist of the calming sea. They knew Jesus; but He asked them to go beyond the excitement of the events and believe…in Him. He knew their faith would be tested in the furnace of fear and disappointment. To prepare them, Jesus declared Himself to be “the way, the truth, and the life” and genuine belief in Him meant:

  • A future home in Heaven
  • A direct connection to the Father
  • An attentive ear to their prayers
  • The affirmation of the Holy Spirit
  • The help of the Holy Spirit
  • The comfort of the Holy Spirit
  • The guidance of the Holy Spirit

And then He encouraged them with these powerful words:

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. – John 14:27 NKJV

Excitement fades, but His peace endures for those who believe…in Him.

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The Last Words-Love

After Judas left the upper room, Jesus turned to the remaining eleven disciples and instructed them about moving forward. First, He spoke of His glorification (which they were yet to understand), then He said:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you… (13:34 NKJV)

Jesus had modeled a different kind of love. His words, actions, choices, reactions, and commitments illustrated a picture of God’s love that we as followers are to demonstrate to one another. It was purposeful and cultivated over time with key markings of being:

  • Selfless
  • Patient
  • Sacrificial
  • Humble
  • Forgiving
  • Kind
  • Truthful
  • Encouraging

And then He declared :

By this, all will know that you are My disciples...” (13:35 NKJV)

Will they know us that way?


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