“America stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they fight for their freedom and their future.” This statement was posted by former President George W. Bush on his Instagram page along with a video of himself and former President Bill Clinton laying flowers at Saints Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago. Mr. Clinton also tweeted a video of their ceremony and said, “America stands united with the people of Ukraine in their fight for freedom and against oppression.”
In related news, a Ukrainian official accused Russia of bombing 135 hospitals and shelters since the invasion began on February 24. She tweeted, “Inhumanity of Russian troops has no limits” and claimed, “Russia is a war criminal.”
These two stories have this in common: they both presuppose the sanctity of every human life. Former American presidents stand in solidarity with unnamed Ukrainian citizens. Attacks on hospitals and shelters are rightly viewed as attacks on humanity.
Is our moral compass pointed in the wrong direction?
NASA has now confirmed more than five thousand worlds beyond our solar system. However, so far as scientists know, our planet uniquely hosts life created in the image of our Creator (Genesis 1:27). Corporate CEOs can face discouragement amid these “unprecedented times” just like the rest of us.
A new survey reports that 72 percent of Americans say the nation’s moral compass is pointed in the wrong direction, a finding that suggests there is a “right” direction and that we can and should find and follow it. And a Wall Street Journal reporter responded to the fact that “all my millennial friends are rethinking their lives” by choosing to embark on a “reassessment” for the sake of his “mental and spiritual health.” His observation assumes that such health is possible and desirable.
This week, we’ve been discussing proactive ways we can respond to the crises and challenges in the daily news and our daily lives. On Monday, we honored and sought to emulate Christians in Poland who are ministering sacrificially to Ukrainian refugees. Yesterday, we sought to answer our Father’s invitation to deeper intimacy with him that empowers our compassion and our courage.
Today, let’s take another step into the significance of service that touches hurts and transforms hearts. I once heard a pastor state that every Christian needs a personal Acts 1:8 strategy, a plan to use their influence where they live, across their larger region, and around the world.
How can you and I fulfill such a strategy effectively?
Worship leads to sanctification leads to service
In Exodus 31, God told Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship” (vv. 1–3). The text then describes the ways Bezalel would serve in building the tabernacle (vv. 4–5).
He would not labor alone: God “appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach” and has “given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you” (v. 6).
To fulfill this calling, these servants of God are called to a counterintuitive commitment: “And the Lᴏʀᴅ said to Moses, ‘You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, “Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lᴏʀᴅ, sanctify you“‘” (vv. 12–13, my emphases).
Before Bezalel, Oholiab, and their team could begin building the tabernacle, they were called to worship the Lord of the tabernacle. Before I can preach sermons or write articles for God, I must meet with God. When I do, I can share a word not just about him but from him.
When relevance becomes a problem
Here’s our problem: if we do not see God as he truly is, we will not worship and serve him as he truly deserves.
The evangelical church in my lifetime has made a dramatic shift in how we relate to the culture. There was a day when most people went to church (or said they did). Many Americans grew up with a basic understanding of the Christian faith. Churches therefore did not feel the need to appeal to the secular culture in ways that were intentionally accessible to secular people.
As the culture began shifting to a post-Christian culture in the 1960s, many pastors and leaders sought to change their methods of ministry to reach the unreached. Some megachurch buildings came to resemble shopping malls. Hymns led by choirs and organs became choruses led by bands and contemporary instruments. Sermons focused more on practical advice regarding marriage, money, self-esteem, and other felt needs. The goal was to demonstrate cultural relevance in everything we did.
I agree completely that we need to take Christ to the lost. Jesus called us to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19); fishermen go where the fish are to be found and use methods appropriate to the fish they are trying to catch.
However, in an effort to make the church more accessible to the culture, there is the risk of unintentionally diluting the biblical call to “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).
When last were you awed by God?
“Something immeasurably superior to yourself”
In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis noted: “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison—you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God.
“A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
Which way are you looking today?