Be Bold for God
Four Challenges - #2: Be Bold for God
Preaching combines biblical accuracy with cultural relevance. Much has happened in our country recently. How should believers respond biblically. We’ll get to that but first I want to play a game with you called “Name the missing word!” I will present you a quote, catchy slogan, a Bible verse or funny saying and you must “name the missing word.” Ready to play. Rusty said this to his Dad, Clark Griswold in the classic movie, Christmas Vacation. Thanks Dad, you taught me everything I know about exterior ________________! Name the missing word. ILLUMINATION. I have no idea who said this but it’s funny. If one door closes and another one ___________, your house is haunted and you need to run. Name the missing word. The word is OPENS. I’ve heard this phrase many times. You will never see a hearse pulling a __________ trailer. Name the missing word. U-HAUL. Until today. I always thought you couldn’t take it with you, but apparently, someone thinks they can! Joshua in the Old Testament said this in Joshua 24:15: But as for me and my household, we will _____________ the LORD.” Name the missing word. SERVE! Some people think it’s tacos. Fiesta 24/7😊 One more. A ___________ is a terrible thing to waste! Name the missing word. MIND! In 1972 the United Negro College Fund launched its first major public-service campaign using this slogan.[i] All of us would agree a mind is a terrible thing to waste. May I present another relevant example. PANDEMIC. A pandemic is a terrible thing to waste. HARDSHIP is a terrible thing to waste. Would you help me write my next blog? I entitled it, Lessons Learned during a Pandemic. What has living through a pandemic taught us? Email me your ideas at email@example.com. In the meantime, consider these two lessons.
Lesson #1: Isolation can lead to Innovation. Sometimes loneliness or quarantine or isolation happens and good can result. Have you ever played the game Candy Land? In 1948, retired schoolteacher Eleanor Abbott invented Candy Land in a San Diego hospital. She had been diagnosed with polio. During her convalescence, she was surrounded by children suffering from polio. She wanted to create a game that would entertain them. Make them feel better.[ii] Isolation and hardship pushed Eleanor Abbott to create Candy Land. Dr. Tim Elmore provides a second example. I finished my first book in 2021. Dr. Tim Elmore’s book, The Pandemic Population. In that book, he tells a story about Isaac Newton.[iii] Isaac Newton was a college student during the Great Plague of London in 1665. Cambridge University sent students home, including Newton, to create social distance. During that year away, Newton flourished. They called it “the year of wonders.” Newton continued to work on math problems and what he wrote became the creation of calculus. Outside his window was the famed apple tree. Newton went outside and sat under that tree. While he was sitting there an apple fell and launched his thinking. “The same power of gravity which made the apple fall to the ground was not limited to a certain distance from the earth but must extend much farther. Why not as high as the moon?” Isaac Newton developed his theory on the law of gravity and the laws of motion at home. Dr. Elmore said, “Not bad progress for someone in quarantine.”[iv] Aren’t you thankful Isaac Newton had some spare time? What will you do with yours? Is the coronavirus an interruption or an introduction? Is God stirring something inside of you?
Here’s a second lesson I’ve learned. #2: Life is short. “Between the years 1665 and 1666 one fourth of the population of London would die because of the black plague.”[v] As of Friday, January 8th, the CDC has reported over 360K US deaths due to COVID-19.[vi] Whether you believe the numbers or not, a pandemic is powerful reminder of our own mortality. What do all these people have in common. Dawn Wells, Chadwick Boseman, Alex Trebek, & Ruth Bader Ginsburg. All of them died for one reason or another, but death doesn’t end life.
The Holy Spirit does a miracle through Peter & John in Acts 3. It’s 3PM in the afternoon and a 40+ year old man is being carried into the temple gate. His friends place him in a strategic location. It’s the entrance into the temple courts. Worshippers of God are coming to pray and they will walk right past him and as they do – he begs for money. This lame beggar sees Peter and John and he asks them what he’s asked everyone else. Would you give me some money? Peter answers him in Acts 3:4. If you want, open your Bibles to Acts 3, or read the scriptures directly from the screen. (Read chapter 3: verses 4-10)
What happened to him was miraculous. The Holy Spirit exerted God fueled power through the name of Jesus. Keep this miracle in mind as we turn to Acts 4:1: The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees… The Sadducees were a political, religious group in Jesus’ day. They did not believe in the following. This is Acts 23:8 (NIV2011) 8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.) Here are two ancient denominations. The Sadducees say the resurrection is ridiculous. The Pharisees say the resurrection is a reality. Let’s go back to verse 1. (Read 1&2)
Today is week #2 of a series called “Four Challenges.” Change won’t happen unless you are challenged. Challenge #1: Get near God. Your habits will help you or hinder you from getting close to God. I have no time to think about God because I’m always watching or listening to something on my Smartphone. No, I do have time because I’ve decided that watching TV or playing video games is not nearly as effective as choosing to be near God. Challenge #2: Be bold for God. Bold doesn’t mean obnoxious, rude or prone to violence. People are asking, what happened at the Capitol on January 6? Well, people are tired of perceived corruption. Here are two examples. After the 2016 election, 66 percent of Democrats believed that Russia hacked the election. In 2020, 67 percent of Republicans believe the 2020 election was “rigged.”[vii] People feel justified in their violence when they believe an elected official was elected illegally. Not for believers in Jesus though. Bold means to be honest in our speech and genuine in our actions.[viii] Actions that lead to violence do not lead people to Jesus. Remember, no one is bold for God without the HS. Being bold for God should be driven by two realities. #1: You are completely convinced that Jesus resurrected from the dead. Hundreds of people referenced in the Bible and out of the Bible saw Jesus come back from the dead. Nero’s reign, the Holocaust, the Titanic sinking and Jesus’ resurrection are all historical facts. Here’s a second reality. #2: Life is short. And since life is short followers of Jesus need to be bold for God. There should be a sense of urgency. Why? Because only Jesus Christ can save you. Peter tells us. Here is Acts 4:3. (Read 3-12)
Why would Peter say that? Because Peter saw Jesus die and then he saw Jesus come back from the dead. Don’t put your faith in a mere human. Peter’s stating a fact and offering an invitation. Let Jesus save you. Not everyone believes this.
Representative Emanuel Cleaver, who is an ordained United Methodist Pastor, opened the 117 Congress last Sunday with prayer. I can’t read his entire prayer, but here’s his conclusion. May the Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. May the Lord lift up his light of countenance upon us and give us peace; peace in our families, peace across this land, and dare I ask, oh Lord, peace even in this chamber now and evermore. We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and god known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.[ix] Oh – My – Goodness! First of all, an ordained minister should know that Amen is not a gendered word. Neither is menu or mentor. Amen has a Latin root and means “so be it.” He prayed to Brahma. “Brahma is one of the three major gods of Hinduism, along with Shiva and Vishnu.”[x] A Hindu will die never knowing they did enough. Never knowing their sins are forgiven. What they hope for is enlightenment through reincarnation.[xi] I want assurance. Jesus gives us that assurance😊
This past Friday Night, January 8th, Alex Trebek’s final Jeopardy episode aired on CBS. I love watching Jeopardy. Jeopardy always revealed to me how much I need to learn. Dr. Jim Denison asked this question back in November. Did Alex Trebek go to heaven? “Trebek writes in his autobiography that he was raised Catholic and attended Mass every Sunday. He and his wife sent both of their children to Jesuit schools. When he received an award from a Catholic university in January of 2020, he was undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. Alex Trebek said in his acceptance speech, “If there’s one thing I have discovered in the past year, it is (the) power of prayer. I learned it from the Jesuits when I was a kid, I learned it from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate when I was in boarding school. Am I a believer? Well, I believe we are all part of the Great Soul—what some call God. We are God, and God is us. We are one with our maker. How do I know this? It’s not that I know it. It’s that I feel it. Do I pray to a specific god? Do I anticipate a particular version of the afterlife? No, I do not.”[xii]
Universalism is the belief that everyone goes to heaven when they die, whether they believe in God or not. That’s not what it says in Acts 4.
It’s not for US to decide what Alex Trebek believed. The Judge of all the earth will do right. None of us have inside information on what he believed during his final days. He could have confessed Jesus as Lord just before he died. We don’t know. BUT here’s what the living should know. Only Jesus can save you. Because only Jesus resurrected from the dead never to die again. Buddha didn’t. Neither did Abraham, or Mary, or Brahma. Neither did any King, Pope or Emperor. Only Jesus Christ!
Peter & John can’t stop talking about this new life in Jesus. In Acts 4 – persecution starts. Peter and John are jailed and threatened for speaking about Jesus. In Acts 5, the 12 apostles – subtract Judas and add Matthias are arrested and flogged. In Acts 7, Stephen is stoned to death. You would think that persecution would make these people shut up. But the complete opposite happened. They spoke boldly and the church grew. Look at the prayer they prayed starting at verse 24 in Acts 4. (Read 24-29). Pray this very same prayer. God, give me, your servant, great boldness. Why? Because salvation is found only in Jesus. Our country is struggling. Much of that has to do with the church being timid instead of bold. Let’s pray for that to change right now.
[iii] Dr. Timothy Elmore, The Pandemic Population, 43-44
[iv] Dr. Timothy Elmore, The Pandemic Population, 44
[v] Ibid, 44
[vii] After the Capitol riots: Three questions everyone is asking and a biblical path to empowering purpose - Denison Forum.org
[viii] Logos Bible Software, Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon, Boldness, Acts 4:29