I’ve been pondering lately the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven”. The Light that we shine through the good things we do is to result in the glorification of the Father. In illustration of this, I’d heard someone suggest recently that we do best to shine more similarly to a street light than a crystal chandelier. Both give light, but it’s the barely noticed street light that makes all the difference in making clear the way, while an ornate chandelier can “steal the show”, so to speak. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone exclaim “What a glorious street light!” though I myself have had plenty of occasions to be taken aback by an ornate chandelier!
The light that we shine is to shine “in such a way that they may see”. I was reminded of this facet of the spiritual light we shine a few evenings ago as we watched the loveliness of delicate fireflies flitting about along the grassy shores of Twin Lakes in Defuniak Springs. I’d been waiting 3 years to stumble across them, and was delighted, though their little show only lasted perhaps 20 minutes. When it comes to shining soul-saving truths, I thank heaven for the congregations that shine a spiritual light not on rare occasions for 20 minutes, but rather “in such a way that they may see”. These congregations shine a light more similar to the intense beam of a lighthouse that can be seen for miles and miles away, consistently proclaiming the goodness of God not only locally, but worldwide, and thus do much good for souls both within and without the universal body of Christ that are so far away ㅡ many of which they may never meet, much less personally benefit for having served them.
This quality is what I appreciated most among the church family at the Adoue church of Christ in Alvin, Texas. Like a lighthouse, one can see how far their good influence extends on several fronts: how they’ve financially supported Mark Mayberry’s eight very spiritually fruitful trips to shine the gospel’s light in the Philippines, as well as Mark’s personal willingness since January of 2017, to take on the arduous task of editing Truth Magazine, described on that website as “a 40-page monthly magazine designed to teach the word of God, to inform brethren regarding the Lord’s work in various parts of the country, and to strengthen and encourage Christians. The magazine is a healthy balance of articles to strengthen the family, study the biblical text, warn of dangers threatening the church both without and within, and encourage saints to keep the faith.” (https://www.truthmagazine.com/about-us)
Someone else at Adoue Street that shines like a lighthouse, is my sister Karen Henry. Years before I’d even thought of writing the book you are now reading, while she was reading the first edition of my first book Your Fresh Start, Karen took the time to kindly text me photographs of several things in the book that needed correction. I was so thankful for this input and for the precision God had put in this dear sister, that when I began considering who my dream editor would be for 100 churches, it was most certainly Karen. What a relief it was when she said, “Yes!” to working alongside me in this labor of love.
I also found what the congregation was studying the Sunday morning of our visit, indicative of their conscientiousness in making as big a difference as they can in the world, for they were readying themselves to take a stand for the absolute truths as presented in God's word by supplementing their Bible study with a workbook entitled Christians In A Secular Age by Mike Willis. Written on a college level, this detailed, highly footnoted book prepares Christians to effectively engage in conversations on the most relevant topics such as atheism, the absence of truth, pluralism, and tolerance and explains how these erroneous worldviews are affecting morality, the education of our children, and the destabilization of our families, and more. In preparation for writing this entry, and to have the workbook as a resource in the future, I ordered a copy of the book, and as a 60-year-old can bear witness to the historical influence of humanist ethics described here:
“The new morality has had its corrosive effect in society. For a time, society seemed to be no worse from the teachings of situation ethics and humanist ethics. But the seed that was sown had not yet born its fruit. We are sixty years into the influence of humanist ethics. We can begin to see what kind of crop it has produced. Consider the following:
- Homosexuality led to the AIDS epidemic
- Sexual promiscuity leads to single-parent homes and abortion
- No-fault divorce has led to fatherless homes
- Fatherless homes have given rise to violent crime and a larger prison population
- American greed nearly brought down the economy through selling unsecured investments
- Drug crimes have made inner cities extremely violent
- Episodes of violence (Oklahoma City bombing, school shootings, etc.)”
Even as I was in the middle of writing this entry about this congregation’s good example of how we as Christians can prepare to respond to the secular world, circumstances caused this entry to unexpectedly take a very personal turn. The unthinkable happened yet again, and it happened as a result of the godless humanist ethics worldview just described.
It was my 61st birthday and I’d encircled myself with 9 sisters in Christ: a young preacher’s wife, a traveling teacher, an admirable bestie with a servant's heart, a loved college professor, a spunky fellow nomad, a sisterlike friend my own mother had mothered since the ’70s, a new friend who’d lovingly helped us integrate into our congregation, a new convert who had just immigrated from England, and the friend down the street I’ve known since childhood who prays over me when I weep.
Beautiful music was playing in the background as we feasted by the pool at sunset on all the delicious appetizers everyone had brought. We were enjoying asking one another fascinating questions when this question came up: “When was the last time you cried?” After most in our circle had answered, the professor from the local college started tearing up over what she had wept over earlier in the day: “I cried just this morning when I heard the news,” she said, “especially since it was a woman this time that did it. How could … a woman…?” Most of us were shocked, having not learned about the horrifying school shooting in Nashville. This harsh reality hit us so hard that several of us couldn’t help but weep aloud over the tragedy. Everything stopped for a few moments as we carried that heavy grief together before the throne of God tearfully asking Him to receive the souls of those sweet children into paradise, and for the swift removal of the godlessness that would cause such hatred toward innocent life, for national repentance, and a return to the love of absolute truth that would have prevented this atrocity. We prayed that those families in mourning would run to their Heavenly Father for comfort and healing and even salvation --- for only in Him can be found purpose, hope, contentment, security, health, well-being, clarity, and everything else that is good in this world. I can’t remember everything that was prayed for, but in the end, we wiped our faces, took a deep breath, gathered ourselves, and continued soaking in one another’s good company and discussing the remainder of our conversation questions.
The next evening as I was journaling, I did something I almost never do: I googled the news story to learn more of the details and discovered that I share not only the same name but the same age as one of the victims of the shooting: Cindy Peak/age 61. With this relatively rare maiden name of Peak, I was stunned and at a loss of what, if anything, I was supposed to do with the irony of it all. My daughter Ashley texted her response: “Shadows. Arrows. Coincidences. Ironies. Things that are meant to grasp our attention without causing us to go to the right or the left in our understanding.” I appreciated her wisdom which helped me live alongside this confusing and unsettling reality. Then after three days, it hit me. I could do what these “lighthouse” types do, in Alvin, Texas. I could find a way to reach out to the family of this precious, fellow human being, Cindy Peak, and share the compassion of Jesus by letting the family know that a diverse circle of women they’ve never met cared so deeply for their loss that we collectively wept and earnestly prayed for them (Romans 12:15; Colossians 4:2-6). Being a Christian in a secular world will surely involve the full-time job of guarding ones heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23), training up our children in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6), keeping oneself unspotted by the world (James 1:27), being “ready to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15), and speaking those truths in love (Ephesians 4:15), but what I was also reminded of during the overlapping of my writing about my visit with the Adoue congregation with the tragic events of March 27th, 2023, is that being a Christian in this secular age also involves doing what we can to heal broken hearts, and like Christ, be available to help people clean up the fallout of a cultural mess we did not make.
I’d like to close with a few more encouraging thoughts from the book this wonderful congregation was studying together, for it reminds us of the reality that a happy ending is most certainly coming: “Our beloved country has no unique relationship with God that makes it exceptional. It is just like all other nations. America will be blessed or cursed depending upon its righteousness or unrighteousness (Jer. 18:6-10). My generation has lived through a transition from a broadly based Christian value system to a predominantly secular value system that is destroying the family, devaluing life, and debasing our culture. The secular value system that has replaced Christianity in America will be what is studied. Regardless of what becomes of our nation, Christians know that the victory has already been secured through the resurrection of Christ [Mike Wilson, Christians in a Secular Age, page 9-10] …Ultimately the victory belongs to the Lord. Regardless of the temporal circumstances of the period in which we live, we know that the victory belongs to Christ.”[page 6]
Adoue Street church of Christ
605 East Adoue Street, Alvin, TX 77511