Into the Gale: Twelve Lessons from the Book of Acts – preface

PREFACE

Wind! It affects all of our lives…some of us more than others. But make no mistake. Wind, though invisible, is real. For we see affects of the wind.

Wind can be cataclysmic or catalytic, depending on how it blows and how it is utilized. Sometimes wind is out of control and devastating. Other times, it is pleasant, useful, and welcomed.

Growing up on the west coast of Florida in the Tampa Bay area, I was keenly aware of the wind. I would often go sailing with my father.

Wind is actually essential to sailing, for wind is the power that fills the sails and propels your vessel through the water. In contrast to tennis, where wind is generally antagonistic, in the sailing endeavor, wind is actually catalytic. In fact, a good strong wind, but not too strong, is preferable. However, even in sailing, too much wind is undesirable. And if the wind is blowing high enough, it may actually be dangerous either to raise your sails or even be in the water at all.

It goes without saying, but tropical storm or hurricane conditions are going to preclude a sailing vessel from embarking on the water for an outing. However, there are times when the weather, unpredictable as it sometimes can be, may sneak up on you and wreak unexpected havoc.

I remember it vividly! I was just a boy of around 10 years old and I was with my father – who at the time lived on a sailboat, and several other people on a morning sail on Tampa Bay. To help you understand how volatile Tampa Bay can be, it has on occasion been acclaimed the Lightening Capital of the World. For each year lightening strikes are measured globally – and on certain years Tampa Bay has recorded more bolts than anywhere else on the planet!

On this fateful morning we were sailing on my father’s 39-foot Trimaran – a sailboat with one larger center hull and two outer smaller hulls. This is a very stable boat. Yet on this occasion, it was rocked.

You see, we only had the main sail up on this morning, as the wind was quite brisk. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, there was a loud boom. In a split second, the mast, which holds the main sail in place, was on the deck! Miraculously, not any of the 8 or 9 people on board was hurt. It turns out we hit, or rather, we were hit by what is called in meteorological terms, a white-air squall!

A white-air squall is a sudden and violent windstorm which is not accompanied by the black clouds generally characteristic of a squall. On this morning, while there were some dark clouds in the sky, there was no sign of a squall line heading our way. This white air squall hit us seemingly out of nowhere.

Wind! Mysterious in some ways, yet real and powerful. Depending on the situation and activity, the wind can work for you or against you, as we’ve noted. Sometimes the wind can be beneficial, other times destructive. Catalytic or cataclysmic. Beneficial or detrimental.

In the physical, wind invades many circumstances and affects many situations in life! How we deal with it is important.

In the spiritual, wind is an essential component in the Christian life. Jesus used the motif of wind in describing the Christian life in John 3:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. hat which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8).

In the Hebrew, ‘spirit’ is the word ‘ruach,’ meaning wind. The Holy Spirit is in Hebrew ‘Ruach HaKadosh’ – HaKadosh meaning ‘holy,’ Ruach meaning ‘wind’ or ‘spirit.’

So, in one sense, the literal movement of our Christian life is affected by the impact of the Spirit! And this is exciting, powerful, and in some ways, mysterious. Yes, the impact of the Spirit is evident!

What also is evident is that in the spiritual realm there are also winds that blow with the purpose of opposing our witness as followers of Jesus Christ! Those headwinds be may be identified as opposition, hostility, and persecution.

For our purposes, I’ll wrap up those three words into the word persecution.

What is persecution? Theologian Georffrey Bromily’s definition is excellent: “Persecution is the suffering or pressure, mental, moral, or physical which authorities, individuals, or crowds inflict on others, especially for opinions or beliefs, with a view to their subjection by recantation, silencing, or, as a last resort, execution.” – from Prepare, pg. 16

Pastor and author Paul Nyquist, in his excellent book entitled, Prepare – Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture simply states: “Persecution is the societal marginalization of believers with a view to eliminating their voice and influence.” 

And what is the goal of persecution? To silence our voice and eliminate our influence.

Persecution doesn’t want you and me as God’s people, the Church, to follow the Lord, walk in the light and proclaim the gospel. Persecution doesn’t want us to proclaim that “Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures”  (I Corinthians 15:3-4). And Persecution doesn’t want us to communicate to people that through faith in Christ, we can be forgiven of our sins, be reconciled to God and experience abundant and eternal life the Lord promises to those who trust in Him.

These particular winds of persecution against believers are gaining strength here in the United States. And though this trend is not a sudden trend, it is certainly a current trend that is rising rather quickly. And though not a white-air squall in a spiritual sense, it’s part of an overall storm that’s been building in recent years and decades. In short, it appears to be growing daily in intensity.

In our nation’s history, the church in the United States has undoubtedly been blessed in unique ways, as our nation was built upon Judeo-Christian values. This foundation has provided unique freedoms and privileges for God’s people. You might say the church in America was operating for much of our history in an environment of smooth sailing.

And yet, today, at seemingly blinding speed, many rights, privileges and blessings afforded believers in America are shrinking or are being attacked and challenged.

Many Christians today in America are dismayed by the changing spiritual current blowing across the land. What once was seemingly a tailwind, that aided and abetted the effort of the American Church in fulfilling the Great Commission through much of our nation’s history, has in recent decades become a headwind that is growing stronger.

In light of the increasing opposition, hostility and persecution to believers in America today – to borrow a phrase from Francis Schaeffer – “How then shall we live?” And if we were using a wind analogy – “How then shall we sail into the gale?”

Do we shrink up, give up, or give in to those would want to silence our Christian testimony? Or is there another response to that increasing wind, that for some is ferociously blowing against us?

This book is a simple response to the increasingly windy spiritual headwinds we as the Church in America are facing. Come aboard, and let’s take a ride, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the ‘captain of our salvation’ (Hebrews 2:10).