Trina and I travelled to Plymouth, Massachusetts in early October and returned with a specific spiritual impression about New England. Our trip was in response to an invitation from Greg & Suzanne Winslow of Hidden Manna Ministries to participate in a multifaceted prayer/ministry event that drew visitors from across the United States. Our two focal points were a celebration of The Christian Heritage brought by the Mayflower Pilgrims around 400 years ago and to pray for Christ’s continued influence on the USA in a number of critical areas. We were very honored to share the stage with so many wonderful Christian Leaders and pray for Education in our country!
The Holy Spirit and the spirit of fear
While preparing for the meeting, I was impressed to pray according to 2 Corinthians 3:17 NASB which says,
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
My experience in Education, from early childhood through graduate school, in both private and public school environments, was one of open communication. Opinions and ideas, from marginal and controversial to generally mainstream, were welcome in classrooms and dialogue settings. There were plenty of animated discussions, but very rarely did anyone feel intimidated to speak on a particular topic or from a certain point of view. The same freedom largely does not exist today because of the prevalence of cancel culture in many educational settings. This phenomenon, publicly cancelling or shaming someone, calls for an individual or group to be ostracised socially, professionally or in some other manner for their perspective or even decision to voice a particular topic.
2 Cor 3:17 talks about more than a vocal opposition to a threat present in the Education system of America, it addresses the problem on a spiritual level. Cancel Culture is a clear fruit of a spirit of fear and we need to be deliberate when considering how to respond to it! Consider 2 Timothy 1:7 NASB to help understand the spiritual nature of fear:
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
In the context of this verse, Timothy is a young apostle that is struggling not to let fear influence him away from the duties, preaching or speaking concerning the truth of The Bible among them, that God had charged Him to accomplish. In his case and in multitudes of other examples up to the present day, the spirit of fear tries to nullify The Truth by not allowing it to be spoken in the first place.
While public education in America isn’t supposed to overtly support any one religion, it is a tragic overreach to ban discussion, either tacitly or through overt legislation, of even their most controversial elements. How else are young people going to learn, be informed and decide for themselves how to approach the multitudes of people and issues that are obviously influenced by religious perspectives?
Being led by The Holy Spirit in response to fear
We had an interesting experience on our trip to Massachusetts that served as a reminder that overcoming the canceling effect of fear extends beyond the arena of education into every aspect of life. While drinking coffee on the front porch of the home we were staying in, myself and a friend started a casual conversation with a local dog walker. Quickly this lady told us that she was a recently retired public school teacher and it was hard not to notice that she had a sweatshirt on with a giant rainbow colored peace symbol! The casual conversation took a shocking turn when this lady, looking hesitantly over her shoulder at the completely empty street, asked if we knew about a controversial political position that she was clearly afraid of others hearing her mention. The relief she felt at being able to speak without judgment or repercussion was palpable. Being patient and willing to listen accomplished just as much as the encouragement we were able to speak in this particular instance.
We met many people on this trip from all over the Northeastern United States that were desperate for encouragement in their faith. After reflecting on this deficit, it is clear that part of the solution is to understand how to practically respond to the fear presently attempting muzzle The Body of Christ in this area of The USA. Consider these steps when engaging a potentially challenging situation or person:
1) The Holy Spirit is synonymous with discipline or restraint. It is challenging when any perspective is intentionally marginalized not to over react by speaking out of anger and frustration. Saying the right thing in the wrong way greatly diminishes the positive effect of any message. Think about Colossians 4:5-6 NASB which says:
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
2) Don’t forget to be bold while you are speaking or acting graciously. I was hesitant to engage the dog walking lady, who came from a place & wore symbols that have become synonymous with the persecution of Christian Perspective. Fear tried to shut us down and this situation served as an excellent reminder that the presence of the Holy Spirit in a Believer’s life and/or the sharing of God’s Word will take care of itself. There are countless accounts of skeptics and even harsh critics who have melted when they truly encountered a word breathed by The Holy Spirit. Think about Jeremiah 23:29 NASB which says,
“Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”
3) Be intentional about allowing The Holy Spirit to be in charge of your daily life. We don’t have to stand on a soap box or even be legally permitted to present the hope that is in Christ.
Galatians 5:22-23 NASB tells us,
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Peace in a person instantly calms the fear and worry in others. The Joy of God always dispels fear and hopelessness. A gentle spirit will always loosen the grip of anger and frustration, etcetera, etcetera. If we will make it a point to defer daily to the Holy Spirit’s leading, people will begin to want what is elusive to anyone who doesn’t know Christ. When we do this, there isn’t a law that can be passed to suppress The Hope He wants to present through us!