I despise bullying in all forms, and we saw the worst of it recently with the death of George Floyd. Unfortunately, we are also witnessing a coordinated effort to bully people into submission to a political philosophy. It’s nothing new and history is full of it. It came through many methods over the centuries; military might, political power, educational indoctrination, and religious institutions. The bottom line is when people are forced to apologize for things they didn’t do or for having opinions that are simply unwelcomed, you have evidence that freedom of speech has been replaced with a demand for adherence or silence. Does our country have flaws? Of course, we do. Is there room for improvement? Yes, there is. Is there a need for justice to be equally applied? Absolutely. However, a diversity of ideas is now unwelcomed in political circles, university campuses, and social media platforms that all claim that very thing as a high virtue. Even in spiritual circles there is a strong undercurrent demanding leaders to prove their validity by agreement with a certain narrative. An objective look at scripture reveals a different approach, one that looks at all people without labels, loves them as humans, righteously defends the weak and pursues civil discourse.
Sadly, this current situation will not be going away anytime soon (regardless of what changes result) because bullies are rarely satisfied. In the meantime, may we have the courage to personally adhere to the truth of scripture, support policies that are Biblical, resist that ones that are not, and avoid the ever-shifting winds of the culture.
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.
“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!
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…”
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.
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!
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!