“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Let’s begin this Friday article with some good news: a twelve-year-old wood craftsman recently launched a raffle for one of his handmade bowls—etched with a blue and yellow ring, the colors of Ukraine’s flag—to raise money for Ukrainian children. As of last Friday, he had raised more than $109,000 for Save the Children’s Ukraine relief effort.
Some more good news: a city in Tennessee rejected an atheist group’s demand to remove crosses that had been in place since the 1950s. A Pennsylvania school board voted down a parent’s request to launch an After School Satan Club. A United Methodist Church high court rejected an attempt to allow the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals. And churches in Poland continue to generate headlines over their sacrificial support for Ukrainian refugees.
“A shield to those who take refuge in him”
Yesterday we discussed Yuval Levin’s profound article, “How to Curb the Culture War,” noting that God is calling us to be not culture warriors but cultural missionaries. What does this mean in practical terms?
Our first step is to embrace the sovereignty of our King.
As we have seen today, there is always good news in the news. God’s Spirit is alive and at work in our culture. Early Christians lived in a world far more immoral and opposed to their faith than our culture, yet by Acts 17:6 they had “turned the world upside down.” (In fact, our latest book, titled How to Bless God by Blessing Others, looks to those early Christians as a blueprint for how we can respond to our culture today.)
It is always too soon to give up on God.
Your Father has both a geographical and a chronological calling on your life. It is by his providence that you are living where you are and when you are. He would not have commissioned you to this place and time if he could not use you in this place and time.
God’s word to Joshua as he faced the Canaanites is his word to us as we face our anti-Christian culture: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lᴏʀᴅ your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Scripture promises that our Lord is “a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Proverbs 30:5). We are called to “cast your burden on the Lᴏʀᴅ, and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).
What “burden” do you need to give your Father today?
“What boundless love for men!”
I spent the summer of 1979 serving as a missionary in East Malaysia on the island of Borneo. It was a joyous experience in many ways, but persistent loneliness and occasional physical danger were challenging.
However, my pastor gave me a devotional book before I left in which he inscribed these words: “The will of God never leads where the grace of God cannot sustain.” I found his wisdom to be both true and empowering. When I became especially discouraged, I did what countless missionaries have done across twenty centuries: I remembered the grace of God which I had received and was now called to share.
Cyril of Jerusalem was bishop of Jerusalem in the mid-fourth century. In his “Catechetical Lectures,” he comments on Paul’s statement in Romans 6: “We were buried therefore with [Jesus] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (v. 4).
Cyril notes: “It was not we who actually died, were buried, and rose again. We only did these things symbolically, but we have been saved in actual fact. It is Christ who was crucified, who was buried, and who rose again, and all this has been attributed to us. We share in his suffering symbolically and gain salvation in reality.
“What boundless love for men! Christ’s undefiled hands were pierced by the nails; he suffered the pain. I experienced no pain, no anguish, yet by the share that I have in the sufferings he freely grants me salvation.”
What was your last sin he forgave? Your last prayer he answered? Your last need he met?
How will you pay forward the love you have experienced from him?
“Then shall your light rise in the darkness”
Vance Pitman was a megachurch pastor who resigned his position to help plant churches across the western US. He told an interviewer, “Too many church planters show up in cities thinking like pastors of churches rather than as missionaries, thinking about how to engage a city with the gospel. How do you begin to build relational bridges? How do you build opportunities to serve the city and build those relationships that allow for cultivating gospel impact in a city?
“Before I moved to Las Vegas, I didn’t think about my city. I thought about the church that I pastored and if the church that I pastored was doing good then I was doing good. But when God put me in a place like Las Vegas, I began to think about a city and to realize the real kingdom success in that city is not just more people going to church.”
How, then, do we engage our cities with the gospel?
Pitman explains: “It can be as simple as what some would call servant evangelism, where you look for needs in a community that you can meet and you begin to meet those tangible needs, not with an ulterior motive of sharing Christ but with an ultimate motive of sharing Christ. I’m not meeting that need so I can share the gospel with you—I’m meeting that need because God desires that need in our community to be met. But as I meet that need, I look for opportunities to let you know who Jesus is in my life.”
Scripture promises: “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday” (Isaiah 58:10).
How will you serve the “hungry” and the “afflicted” today?
“I don’t love the Vietnamese anymore”
I once heard a veteran missionary to Vietnam describe an especially difficult day. The weather was particularly hot and oppressive and the people he sought to serve were resistant. He came home to discover that thieves had stolen every piece of furniture he owned except his couch, which was too large to fit through the door.
He collapsed on that couch and cried out to God, “I don’t love the Vietnamese anymore. You have to send me somewhere else. I just don’t love these people.” Around 2:00 the next morning, he said, the Lord spoke to him: “You’re not here because you love the Vietnamese. You’re here because I love the Vietnamese.”
That was the reminder he needed to continue in his calling.
Who are your “Vietnamese” today?