A month ago tomorrow, the historic town of Lahaina was largely destroyed by wildfires. The fire was not declared 100 percent contained until last weekend, as officials continue to investigate the causes of the tragedy. Maui is facing a severe economic downturn and inviting tourists to come to the island, though they are urged not to visit the Lahaina area.
Meanwhile, more than twenty-six hundred miles away, a five-year-old in Seattle has been making a difference. Edison Juel learned of the fires and set up a lemonade stand on his busy street. It sold popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, candy, pink and yellow lemonade, and even some of Eddie’s toys. The sign read: “FOOD & STUFF & LEMONADE FOR LAHAINA.” His stand raised more than $17,000.
Eddie’s mother said she was “struck by how his generosity invited others to be generous.” Therein lies a life principle worth considering today.
Is there “zero evidence” for religion?
The New York Times recently published a letter to the editor from a political science professor at Kent State University who claimed that Americans are “becoming less religious because there is zero evidence to support any of the central claims religious institutions make about God and the supernatural.” Ironically, the professor offers zero evidence for his claim that religious institutions have “zero evidence” for their claims.
I can only assume that he can make such an erroneous assertion (see my article “Why Jesus?” for a brief introduction to enormously persuasive historical evidence for Jesus) because he is writing out of his field and has no personal engagement with his subject. What interests me more is the fact that the Times chose to publish his letter, lending it the paper’s national platform.
When I see stories like this, my instinct is to frame them in the context of our ongoing “culture wars” and do battle in kind. When my faith is attacked, I want to fight back. When people act in adversarial ways, I am tempted to see them as adversaries.
However, the biblical vision for cultural engagement is far less militant and far more redemptive than such a conflictual reaction. The Lord counseled his exiled people in Babylon: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lᴏʀᴅ on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).
When you’re called to the stand
I am convinced that the church’s greatest obstacle to influencing our culture is that our culture does not see the church as relevant to its greatest issues. Secular people know what we are against more than they know what we are for. In our defense of biblical morality, we can win arguments and lose souls.
The answer is not merely to try harder to do better.
Consider an analogy I’ve employed before: When you have an opportunity to share your faith or otherwise stand for biblical truth, you can feel as though you’re on trial and the other person is the prosecutor looking for ways to discredit you. In fact, Jesus is on trial; Satan is the prosecutor; the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney; the person you’re engaging is the jury; and you’re simply a witness called to the stand. Your job is to be obedient and leave the results of the trial to God.
Now let’s take this analogy further. I’m no lawyer, but I’ve watched enough courtroom dramas on television to know that the defense attorney typically has a “theory of the case,” an argument she wants to persuade the jury to believe. To this end, she calls you to the stand at the right time to offer testimony that will advance her argument.
Beforehand, she prepares you to answer her questions and to handle cross-examination by the prosecutor. As a result, when you are called to testify, you are ready to do what you can do best to help win the case.
“Love God and do what you will”
In kingdom terms, this analogy means:
One: Identify your kingdom assignment. Know how your gifts, abilities, experiences, education, challenges, and opportunities have formed you to do what only you can do in serving your Lord. Pray and reflect until you can complete the sentence, “My ministry is _______________.”
Two: Submit to the Spirit at the start of each day (Ephesians 5:18). Pray with David: “Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (Psalm 143:8).
Three: Worship Jesus each day. We enter his empowering presence with thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100:4). Take time to read his word, pray, give thanks, and offer your praise.
Four: Pray about the needs you meet. Ask God for his best for hurting people in the news and in your sphere of influence. Make Samuel’s commitment to his nation yours: “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lᴏʀᴅ by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23).
Five: Now do what comes naturally. Trust that the Spirit is guiding and using you as his witness in spiritual trials for eternal souls. St. Augustine advised us: “Love God and do what you will.”
“Rivers that will bless to the uttermost parts of the earth”
Imagine the difference in our culture if every Christian took these steps every day. Now let’s be the difference we wish to see.
Oswald Chambers observed, “A river touches places of which its source knows nothing, and Jesus says if we have received of his fullness, however small the visible measure of our lives, out of us will flow the rivers that will bless to the uttermost parts of the earth.”
Consequently, he advised: “Never allow anything to come between yourself and Jesus Christ, no emotion or experience; nothing must keep you from the one great sovereign Source.”
How close to your Source is your soul today?
NOTE: Did you know that North Texas Giving Day is the single largest day of giving to our ministry? As a Dallas-based nonprofit, we’re able to take part in this unique event that raises millions for hundreds of nonprofits in our area. (And no, you don’t have to live in North Texas to give.) NTX Giving Day is on Sept. 21 this year, but you may schedule your gift now—and know that when you do, you’ll be giving TWICE that amount due to a generous $75,000 matching grant.