Sunday – November 22, 2020 Thanksgiving Psalm 33 “Developing a Thankful Heart”

Sunday – November 22, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 22, 2020

Psalm 33:20-22
Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You.

If I were to ask, “Would you like to develop a thankful, worshiping heart?” I would guess that all of us would say yes. We recognize it’s right to be thankful to God for His blessings. After all, we even have a national holiday once a year to give thanks. As Christians, we realize that it is right thank God in everything (1 Thess. 5:18). But before we jump on the bandwagon, we need to realize that genuine thankfulness is inextricably bound up with trust. We will never truly thank God until we first truly trust Him. We will not be grateful to God for all that we have until we first recognize that we’re dependent on Him for all that we have.

By nature, we’re not trusting creatures. We’re creatures of necessity. We trust God when we’re forced to trust Him because our problems go beyond our abilities. The rest of the time, we get along just fine by ourselves. If we can solve the problem by ourselves, we don’t resort to prayer and trusting God, because we don’t need to trust Him. But it’s only when we come to the end of ourselves and cast ourselves in total dependence on the Lord that we begin to experience genuine praise and thanksgiving.

The fact is our human tendency, even as redeemed people, is to perfect our methods and then to trust in them. We live in a day that is awash in methods and techniques for how to live the Christian life or how to have a happy family or how to build a successful church. Of course, many of these methods are helpful because they are based on Scripture. But the ever-present danger is that we plug in the methods and trust in them to work, instead of using the methods while we trust in God to work. The psalmist is saying that God does not work through man’s strength or schemes, because then man gets the glory.

The psalms, which emphasize praise and thanksgiving, also emphasize trust. The Hebrew word for “trust” occurs more frequently in the Psalms than in any other place (50 out of 181 times). Again, it’s not that methods are wrong, but rather that trusting in methods is wrong. Thankfulness and worship are bound up with trusting in the Lord. When you have no human means of escape and you cry out to God as your only hope and He delivers you, your heart overflows in thankfulness and praise to Him.

Sunday – October 18, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 24:1-27 “The Preacher and the Politician”

Sunday – October 18, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 18, 2020

Acts 24:5-8
We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”

If this world were made up of basically good people, a man of integrity would be well loved and have no enemies. But since this world is made up of people who love darkness rather than light, and since a life of integrity exposes their evil deeds, the world will often slander the man of integrity. We are naïve if we think that if we live with integrity, we will be protected from false accusations and slanderous attempts to bring us down. Living with integrity will not shield us from slander.

In our passage, Tertullus presents his shaky case against Paul. Tertullus’ strategy was to hope that, based on the Jews’ testimony, Felix would act in his usual insensitive manner and have Paul executed. Tertullus flatly lies when he states that the Jews arrested Paul in the act of trying to desecrate the temple (24:6). The fact was, the Jews mobbed Paul with the intent to kill him, but the Roman commander intervened to save his life. But in spite of such blatant falsehood, all of the Jews joined his attack, asserting that the charges against Paul were true (24:9).

In Paul’s defense, he points out that his accusers should have been present (24:19), Paul was raising a point of Roman law, which imposed heavy penalties on accusers who abandoned their charges. Without the appearance of his accusers should have meant the withdrawal of a charge. Paul concludes by pointing out that the only supposed misdeed that any of his accusers had against him was his statement of being on trial before them because of his belief in the resurrection of the dead. Paul answered his accusers by speaking the truth.

We have no guarantee that everything will go well with us when we walk uprightly before God. Joseph acted with godly integrity when he resisted the seductive moves of Potiphar’s wife, and it landed him in prison for several years. But the Lord was with him there, and it’s better to have the Lord with you in prison than to have sinful pleasure without the Lord. It’s better to be in custody with a clear conscience, as Paul was, than to have power and money, but be alienated from God, as Felix was. However difficult your circumstances here, you will sleep well knowing that you will dwell in heaven with God throughout eternity.

Sunday – July 5, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 15:1-35 “The Gospel Defined and Defended”

Sunday – July 5, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 5, 2020

Acts 15:16-18
After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ that have been known for ages.

We find ourselves at a time in history where fighting for what is right is the cause of the moment.  We appreciate people of conviction who are passionate, but recently that has blown up to whoever is the loudest is right. People who are so strong on their convictions, even about minor issues, that no one can get along with them. If you don’t agree with them on every minor point, you are sacrificed to the cause as a heretic, racist or even worse things.

Spiritual maturity requires discernment, so that we stand firm when it comes to essential truth; but, on matters not essential to the faith, where godly men may differ, we elevate love over our rights. There are times when unity is wrong, namely when it compromises the essentials of the gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But, also, there are times when concession is right. Concession is right when it does not compromise essential truth and it is done out of love to avoid offending others.

We see both sides of this important principle in Acts 15, which reports the conclusions of the Jerusalem Council. The main issue at stake was, must a person be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses to be saved. Peter powerfully showed that we all, Jew and Gentile alike, are saved in one way only: by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, through faith in Him (15:9, 11).  Paul and Barnabas did not set aside this crucial truth in the name of love and unity. Rather, they had great dissension and debate (15:2) with those who taught the necessity of works being added to faith for salvation.

In 2018 we went to see the treasures from the tomb of King Tutankhamen of Egypt here in Los Angeles. It is interesting that Ali Hassan, the curator of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, discovered that some of the jewels in the tomb were not genuine, but were only colored glass. When he was asked how this could go undetected for so many years, Mr. Hassan answered, “We were blinded by the gold. One just assumes that real gold and real gems go hand-in-hand. This is a case where they don’t”. Satan mixes truth and error to deceive Christians. He gets us to compromise and unite over doctrines where we should not budge an inch. And, he gets us to fight and divide over issues where we need to concede our rights out of love. We need God’s wisdom and discernment to know essential truth where we must never concede, and to know areas where it is right to concede out of love so as not to offend others.

Sunday – May 17, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 11:20-33 “One Step Back to Move Forward” Pt 2

Sunday – May 17, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 17, 2020

Acts 11:22-24
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Most people in the world would say, “The way to get into heaven is to be a good person.” Again, the definition of “good” in the minds of those who say this is so vague and broad that almost everyone qualifies. If you’ve ever done a good deed for someone, even if it was to earn your Boy Scout badge, you’re in! But the Bible teaches that no amount of human goodness can qualify a person for heaven, because God is absolutely good and He cannot and will not allow even a single sin into His perfect heaven. Thus the apostle Paul builds his argument that “there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Rom. 3:12), because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

In light of this, when the Bible calls a man “a good man,” we should sit up and take notice. Although it is speaking relatively, not perfectly, here is a man whose life we should study and learn from. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke says that Barnabas “was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). The description starts on the surface and works inward. He was a good man—how so? He was full of the Holy Spirit. How so? By being a man of faith. By studying Barnabas’ life, we will look at what a good person is, namely, a person who loves God and others (the two great commandments).

When we first meet Barnabas, he is selling his property to lay the proceeds at the apostles’ feet to meet the needs of the early church in Jerusalem (4:36-37). Years later, the apostle Paul referred to Barnabas as one, like him, who labored with his own hands to support himself in the ministry of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:6). Barnabas’ generosity toward those in need took precedence over his thinking about his own future. Later, when the famine threatened not only Judea, but also Antioch, the church in Antioch gave to help the needy saints in Judea. Although the text does not say, I’m sure that Barnabas contributed to that gift, and he gave his time to deliver it to Jerusalem. The church could trust him with the money, because he was a generous man, free from greed and obedient to God.

Having considered Barnabas, can it be said of you, as it is said of Barnabas, that you are a good man or woman, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith? Is your love for God vital and growing? Is your love for people becoming more tender and compassionate? Do you seek to help others grow in their faith? Do you ask God to use you to reach the lost for Christ? Are you aware daily of your need to depend on the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit of goodness in your life? When you do stumble, do you turn from it and go on with the Lord? That is how you can become a truly good person before God.

Sunday – May 10, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 11:20-33 “One Step Back to Move Forward” Pt 1

Sunday – May 10, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 10, 2020

Acts 11:20-22

But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

Pastors today flock to seminars that tell them how to market the church in today’s world. They learn how to make the church user-friendly for outsiders. They are taught how to shorten the sermon and make it non-threatening to the unchurched, while using drama and multi-media to get the message across. And, the methods “work”! Some of the largest evangelical churches in America use these methods and teach them to thousands of pastors who see dramatic results. Here in Acts we see an example of impressive church growth. From a small group of persecuted refugees, the church in Antioch saw large numbers of people come to Christ.

The founding and prospering of the church at Antioch was arguably one of the most significant events in the history of Western civilization. It led to the distinctiveness of the Christian church apart from the Jewish synagogue, in that it blended together in one body both Jews and Gentiles. It was here that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians. From Antioch, the church launched the first mission to Europe. This was because this church knew the principle of the body, that God has gifted every member and each one is expected to exercise his or her gift in ministry.

Even when Barnabas and Saul later rose to positions of leadership through their teaching ministry, this church did not depend on them in order to function and grow. They could send both of them off on a relief mission to Jerusalem and keep operating. Later, when the Holy Spirit set apart Barnabas and Saul for the first missionary journey, the church could send them out and keep right on rolling.  If the spreading of the gospel or the functioning of the church depends on the labors of full-time missionaries or pastors, ministry will be severely limited. But if every person who has trusted in Christ as Savior and Lord feels the obligation of serving Him and of telling others the good news about Him, the gospel will spread and the church will be built up. Every Christian should sense their responsibility to serve Christ and bear witness of Him.

Antioch is set before us as an example of how a church should minister. It was a church founded by simple believers who knew that God has called every Christian to serve Him. Employing the principles that this church followed will not necessarily result in numerical growth, since God does not always grant numerical growth along with His blessing. And, we would be mistaken to conclude that God is blessing every growing church. But we would certainly hinder God’s blessing if we knowingly violated the principles embodied in this church. If we want the hand of the Lord to be with us, then we would do well to study and follow the example of this church at Antioch.

Sunday – May 3, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 11:1-19 “Calling Peter on the Carpet”

Sunday – May 3, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 3, 2020

Acts 11:1-4
Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

We all get into mental ruts from time to time and often need a whack on the side of the head to jar us into new and better ways of thinking. Also, we all bring a lot of wrong-thinking baggage with us into the Christian life. If we are to grow into being more like Jesus, every now and then God has to take a 2×4 and gently whack us on the side of the head to help us change our thinking.

We’ve seen how the Lord whacked Peter in preparation for his going to the house of the Gentile centurion, Cornelius. No Jew would think of going into a Gentile home, much less eating with Gentiles, for fear of contracting ceremonial defilement. The Lord Jesus had clearly told the apostles to go into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature. But in their centuries-old Jewish way of thinking, the disciples thought that Jesus meant for them to go and preach to Jews who were scattered all over the world. But the thought of preaching the gospel to pagan Gentiles and of those Gentiles coming to salvation without first becoming religious Jews was simply unthinkable.

By nature, we all bring wrong theological views into our Christian experience. Charles Spurgeon once said that we’re all by nature born Armenians, so at first we think that we came to the Lord ourselves. Only later we learn from God’s Word that He first sought us. Part of the process of sanctification is God’s transforming our minds (Rom. 12:2) as we begin to assimilate the truths of His Word. Peter had seen this remarkable response, as a whole house full of Gentiles had believed in Christ and were saved. But rather than rejoicing over what God had done, these saints were grumbling about the matter of Peter’s eating with Gentiles!

But before we try to remove the splinter in their eye, let’s deal with the log in our own eye! We often do the same thing. We elevate certain traditions or ways of doing things above the salvation of the lost. We are all for seeing young people getting saved, but they had better make sure that they not delay in looking and acting like those who have been in the church for 50 years! If any of our cultural baggage (including spiritual culture) is getting in the way of our commitment to reaching people from different cultures with the gospel, then drop baggage! Our main focus should be the salvation of lost people to the glory of God. If you see someone come into church who is not “your kind of person” and you don’t go out of your way to make that person feel welcome, your heart is in the wrong place!

Easter Sunday – April 12, 2020 Luke 24:13-35 “Hope for Troubled Hearts”

Sunday – April 12, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 12, 2020

Luke 24:17-18
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

If you have lived for very long at all, you have been disappointed by God. I am not implying in any way that God was somehow at fault. He is perfect in all His dealings with us. But because of our limited understanding and perspective, we felt as if God let us down. It may have been through the untimely death of a parent, a child, a mate, or another loved one. Maybe it was through a painful divorce that took place in spite of your fervent prayers against it. Perhaps you lost your job and were gradually worn down as every door slammed shut in your face. Maybe it’s a personal matter that you have prayed about for years, but God has not answered. Whether major or minor, we all have had times when we were disappointed by God.

That is exactly where two weary travelers were at as they trudged along the dirt road from Jerusalem to Emmaus on that first Resurrection Sunday. Jesus tragically had been crucified and His disciples were confused and shocked. It seemed like a colossal triumph for the Jewish religious leaders and a sad defeat for this great man in whom they had put their hopes. As these two travelers walked along talking about these things, a stranger caught up with them. He was really not a stranger–He was the risen Lord Jesus–but the text states that “their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him” (24:16). The passive voice of the verb suggests that God had closed their eyes from recognizing Jesus. There were some lessons about trusting in the written Word of God which these men needed to learn before their eyes were opened to recognize the living Word who was present with them.

As these men and Jesus approached their village, we read that Jesus acted as though He would keep going farther (24:28), but these men urged Him to stay with them, and He did. It was only then that their eyes were opened to see that it was the risen Lord at their table. Even though you may not see clearly, and the Lord must open your eyes to the truth–you cannot do it yourself–perhaps your heart, like the hearts of these men, has been burning in you even as I’ve been speaking. It is the Lord, though you did not recognize Him at first. He wants you to entreat Him to come into your life, to stay with you. When you entreat Jesus to come into your heart as Lord and Savior, He will open your eyes to see who He really is.

If you have been disappointed by God, it is not because God has failed. The solution is to know and believe in the risen Savior. Pour out your troubles to Him. Get into your Bible and learn more of Him. Entreat Him to abide with you. “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” (Rom. 15:13).

Sunday – March 29, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 9:1-31 “Better Call Saul”

Sunday – March 29, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 29, 2020

Acts 9:17-18
Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here — has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

There is a lot of confusion these days about what it means to be born again. Today many “born-again” Christians are united by emotions and experiences, not by shared doctrines or moral beliefs. One-third of America’s population identify themselves as born-again Christians, yet half of professing Christians say that religions other than Christianity are “equally good and true.” One-third believe in reincarnation and astrology and nearly half support abortion. We all need to be clear about what constitutes true conversion.

There are many more marks of conversion than I can begin to list here, but in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus we find a number of marks of someone who has truly been born again.  Before a man becomes a saint, he must first see himself as a sinner. This is why the Lord asks, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (9:4) While some may be deeply convicted of sin before conversion, to show them their great need, others may experience it more in depth in the years that follow. But there is no such thing as a truly born-again person who lacks a growing sense of his own sinfulness. The closer we walk in the light, the more that light reveals the dirtiness of our sinful hearts.

Second, someone who is born again recognizes the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Saul asks, “Who are You, Lord?” He got an immediate answer: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul instantly realized that Jesus was alive from the dead, as all of His followers had been asserting. He also recognized, to his horror at first, that Jesus was not only alive, but also exalted to the throne of God the Father. It followed that Jesus’ death on the cross, rather than discrediting him as a false prophet, fulfilled prophecy. His resurrection confirmed Him as being Israel’s Messiah and Lord of all the earth. Everyone who is truly converted recognizes the exalted authority of Jesus Christ and seeks to live in obedience to Him.

True conversion also leads to fellowship with other believers. It is interesting how believers are referred to in this story. They are members of “the Way” (a description of Christians found only in Acts), showing the fact that Christ is the only way to God. They are called disciples (9:1, 10), which means followers or learners of Jesus. They are saints (9:13), or holy ones, which refers to our being set apart from the world to God. They are “those who call upon Your name” (9:14), showing our dependence on God in prayer. And, they are brothers (9:17). But best of all, Jesus tells Saul, “You have been persecuting Me!” By persecuting the church, Saul was persecuting Jesus Himself, the Head of His body, the church. An organic and indissoluble union exists between Christ and His people. When someone harms us, he is harming our Lord. Truly converted people love the fellowship of the saints, because we are members of one another and of our exalted Head.

Sunday – February 9, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 5:12-42 “The Great Escape”

Sunday – February 9, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 9, 2020

Acts 5:19-20
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”

The early church in the Book of Acts experienced the Lord’s power through the many miracles performed by the apostles, and through powerful witness and the resulting powerful conversions of the Jewish population of Jerusalem. Jesus had told the apostles that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them to be His witnesses and Peter testified to the Sanhedrin that it was the Holy Spirit in them that was the source of their power (5:32).

Many say that if the church would only repent of her sins and have faith in God, then we would again see miracles on a par with these recorded in the Book of Acts. But I believe such thinking not to be in line with biblical teaching. It was not every church member who was performing these miracles, but rather the apostles and a few other leading men in the church. The purpose for God granting these miracles was to confirm the gospel message and to authenticate these men as God’s messengers in these early days of the church.

While God obviously still does mighty miracles in our day if He so chooses, to argue that it is His will to do them as a common occurrence is to ignore the overall teaching of God’s Word. Many fail to note that while the apostles performed many great miracles, and the angel miraculously delivered them from prison, the angel did not spare them from being flogged. (There is a bit of humor here: since the Sadducees did not believe in angels, the Lord sent one to deliver the apostles!) God did not deliver James (12:2) or Paul from prison (Acts 24:27) or spare them and most of the other apostles from martyrdom. Paul did not heal Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20) or tell Timothy to claim healing by faith for his frequent stomach problems (1 Tim. 5:23).

On the one hand, we should never limit God’s power by our unbelief or by our rationalistic theology. We should pray in faith, knowing that all things are possible with God. Yet on the other hand, we should submit to the fact that it is not always His will to deliver us from illness, persecution, or death. Above all, we should be people who are “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:11-12). I would point out that you don’t need steadfastness and patience if God miraculously delivers you! We see God’s mighty power in our text, not only in the miracles of healing, but also in the disciples rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.

Sunday – January 26, 2020 Book of Acts – 3:1-26 “A Lame Excuse For Preaching the Gospel”

Sunday – January 26, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 26, 2020

Acts 4:1-3
As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Most of us don’t know much firsthand about persecution for the sake of Christ. The threat of someone rejecting us or thinking that we’re weird is enough to make cowards of us when it comes to witnessing. We don’t know what the council said by way of threats, but if Peter and John continued to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they would pay a severe price. But rather than saying, “Yes sir, we’ll be more restrained in the future,” they said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (4:19).

There are two common misconceptions that we need to keep in mind regarding opposition or persecution for our faith. The first is that if we’re faithful to the Lord, He will protect us from persecution. I’ve heard many Christians say something like, “I don’t understand what’s happening. I was faithful to the Lord, but I’m being attacked by my co-workers or friends. Why isn’t the Lord protecting me?” The Old Testament prophets were bold and faithful witnesses, but many of them were persecuted and killed. John the Baptist, the twelve, the apostle Paul, and the Lord Jesus Himself all were faithful witnesses who suffered much because of their faithfulness to God. Paul promised, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

The second misconception is that persecution comes mainly from those outside the church. We expect the world to oppose the name of Jesus, but for some reason, we are surprised when those who profess to be Christians that attack us. But it was the religious establishment that opposed the prophets. The religious leaders opposed and crucified our Lord. Here the religious rulers lead the opposition against the apostles. The Sadducees were mainly wealthy priests who wanted to protect the status quo in order to preserve their wealth and influence over Jewish affairs. The chief priest and the high priests were all Sadducees, along with the captain of the temple guard.

As then, so it has been down through church history. Opposition to those who preach the gospel and who uphold God’s Word often comes from the religious establishment, whose power and privileges are threatened. In countries where the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church are strong, they are the source of most opposition to the gospel. In our country, theological liberals, who deny the resurrection, are often our main opponents. But, Spirit-filled witnesses are bold to obey God rather than the religious establishment, even if it means persecution. If we want to be confident witnesses, we must daily be filled with God’s Spirit.