The Moral Relativism Problem!

Doing What’s Best In Your Own Eyes!

The deadliest accident in aviation history occurred on March 27, 1977, when 2 Boeing 747 passenger jets collided on the runway of Tenerife North Airport on Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. There were 583 total fatalities. The crash left behind many unanswered questions. It was a foggy day; and, the pilots, of the 2 planes, could not see each other. But, for some inexplicable reason, one of the pilots began his takeoff without clearance from the control tower. The other plane was in the way & he was unable to avoid it; so, 583 people died! Every pilot is taught one very basic lesson at the beginning of their training— in an air traffic control zone, you NEVER do what seems best in your own eyes! You always do what the control tower tells you to do.

-Acting On Your Own Can Be Disastrous!

The reason is simple & obvious— the controller knows things you can’t possible know or see. They have more accurate information & a better perspective to guide the plane safely to its destination. Acting on your own can be disastrous! While that seems like an obvious principle for aviation, it ought to be an equally obvious principle for living out your life. Our Creator God ought to be our control tower! Unfortunately, we live in dark times. Our country & the world appear to be stuck in a dark moral vacuum where no one seems to believe that there are moral absolutes of right and wrong anymore. People are committed to a philosophy of “moral relativism”; which, simply means everyone does that which is right in their own eyes. 

-Losing Your Spiritual Compass!

The Old Testament book of Judges offers us a vivid picture of what happens when a society does what’s right in their own eyes & it reads like the daily paper or nightly news in our own country.  Judges unpacks the story of a spiritually deteriorating nation; and, provides us an example of what our own lives will become if we fall away from God’s Word & lose our spiritual compass. Look at how the book begins:  “The people worshiped the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime and during the lifetimes of the elders who outlived Joshua… after them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel. The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. They worshiped the Baals and abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers… they went after other gods from the surrounding peoples and bowed down to them. They infuriated the Lord” Judges 2:7-14.

-The Beginnings Of Apostasy!

For Israel, the apostasy began slowly as it always does! Sin always seems harmless when we’re just looking at something that’s enticing; but, the look leads to partaking; and, then a commitment to hiding the sin! To wearing a mask & pretending we’re not guilty! Sin’s most effective strategy against us is to gradually introduce small compromises, sinking us into moral collapse. I had a Bible College professor who used to say, “You don’t just wake up one day & say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna kill somebody today!’ You don’t just wake up one day & say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna sleep with someone I’m not married to.’” Sin takes over gradually. A small compromise here & a bit more there! Before Achan coveted & stole he began to calculate the possibility of how he could get away with it (Joshua 7). The compromise began in his heart; and, it was gradual. He failed to take those 1st thoughts captive & denounce them; and, because he didn’t control them, they eventually controlled him! Let the sin take control & then you begin to justify it! That’s the sin talking!

Leadership Principles!

-Preparing Joshua To Lead!

In my last post, I introduced you to the Old Testament ministry team of Moses and Joshua. We talked about how Moses invested himself in training Joshua to succeed him in leading the nation of Israel into the land God had promised them. Today, I plan to share a few leadership principles that Moses passed on to Joshua— some intentionally, some not! Each of these prepared Joshua to lead; and, I hope that in each principle, you’ll also find that it applies directly & personally to you.

-Don’t Mess With God!

From Moses, Joshua learned that God will not tolerate the rebellion of men against Himself. In Exodus 17, Joshua observed how the Amalekites attacked Israel. Their attack was a rebellion against God’s right to rule over all of HIS worlds! As Creator, God had the right to remove the Amalekites from the land they occupied because of their rebellion; and, give it to other people. The principle Joshua learned? Don’t mess with God! There’s another leadership principle that Joshua learned, from Moses, in this very same battle against the Amalekites. He learned that God is the power behind the leader and the sword!

-The Power Behind The Leader!

As Israel’s General, Joshua led Israel on the battlefield; while Moses, Israel’s preeminent earthly leader, intervened spiritually at the top of a hill.  As long as he kept his hands raised toward heaven— symbolizing Israel’s dependence on God— Israel prevailed in the battle. But, when his hands dropped the Amalekites would gain ground. Interestingly, after Israel defeated Amalek the Lord told Moses to, “…write this down for a memorial in the book as a reminder & RECITE IT TO JOSHUA” Exodus 17:14.  Do you see the significance? It was God who delivered Israel! He was the power! It wasn’t General Joshua or Moses! It was God who fought for Israel; and, Moses needed to rehearse that with Joshua!

-God Delivers Victory!

Can we apply that to our church faith community? I’m pretty sure we can! Did Israel have to fight? Yes! Did Joshua have to lead bravely & courageously? Yes! But, when it was all over, God was the One who delivered the victory! If we desire to see God work in our city; if we want to see people disciples & our church grow, we have to put in the work & effort! But, it only happens when God does it! Like Moses, with hands lifted toward heaven, we have to pray & seek God’s help even as we do our part & work! But, there was another principle that Moses clearly wanted Joshua to learn.

-Seeking God’s Glory!

In Exodus 24, when Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai to meet with God, it says, “So Moses arose with his assistant (or APPRENTICE) Joshua and went up the mountain of God” where v.17 says they saw, “…the appearance of the LORD’S GLORY.” And, in his training with Moses, before the Lord’s Glory, he came to understand that God’s Glory must always be sought rather than one’s own personal accomplishments. As church leaders, God’s Glory must always be our passion; not, personal accolades or attention. Joshua learned another valuable leadership principle (Exodus 32) from Moses as they came down from Mt Sinai, carrying God’s 10 Commandments. As they came into the camp; and, observed Israel’s idolatrous activity worshipping a golden calf, Joshua watched Moses’ righteous indignation toward their sin! He learned the principle that God blesses leaders who love what He loves & hate what He hates! Godly leaders hate sin!

 

Beware Of Yourself!

-Evil Appears As A Friend!

Philip Yancey is a popular Christian author who used “Chinese Opera”— in his book, A Skeptic’s Guide To Faith— to help illustrate a point.  “In Chinese opera,” Yancey points out, “Heroes wear a certain color of face paint with a few simple strokes, while villains wear a different palette in complex patterns. In real life,” he continues, “unlike Chinese opera, we cannot always tell the heroes & the villains by the color of paint on their faces. More often, evil appears as a friend with a smell like perfume.” In real life, he said, it’s not always easy to tell who the hero is and who the villain is.

-Heroes & Villains!

When we read through the book of Numbers, in the Old Testament, we’re introduced to Korah, who rebelled against Moses until God opened up the earth and it swallowed up he & his followers! We also read how Moses struck the rock, to produce water in the desert when God had commanded him to speak to the rock; and, how Israel failed to fully trust that God would go before them, into a battle & the consequences of their disobedience. We also read about the Prophet Balaam’s talking donkey; or, more accurately how God used Balaam’s donkey to speak to him because he wasn’t listening to God. In each of these instances, there was a hero & a villain; and, the text of Scripture is pretty forthright about who was who!

-Blindly Believing We’re Right!

Today, I’d like to encourage you to look at each one of these stories through a little different lens. I want you to look at them through the eyes of the villain! Here’s why! Because each of us has more in common with the antagonist, in the story, than we really want to admit. I don’t believe that any of them started out being the scoundrel! But, they deceived themselves! And, just like each of them, we have the ability to deceive ourselves! We can blindly believe that we’re in the right; and, everyone else, in our story, is in the wrong!

-Worthless Religion!

Let me tell you why self-deception is such a critical subject for us to talk about— because God has included multiple Scriptures to warn us about deceiving ourselves! In other words, it’s something we sinful humans are prone to do! We are prone to deceive ourselves about a lot of things; but, we’re especially inclined to deceive ourselves spiritually! In Luke 6:46, Jesus asked those, who were listening to Him, “Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, and do not do what I tell you?” And, James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” In other words, you can deceive your heart about your faith!

-Not Everyone Who Calls Him Lord!

Jesus also said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me” Matthew 7:21-23. Let me paraphrase Jesus’ words— the person you are most easily deceived by is yourself! Beware of yourself! That’s what Jesus is really saying there, isn’t it? Self-deception is so serious that you can think you’re a believer & a follower, of Jesus when you aren’t; and, by the very definition of “self-deception,” you wouldn’t know it because you’ve deceived yourself into thinking you’re saved! But, the truth will one day be revealed!

Stop Your Whining!

-Complaining Spreads Like Cancer!

If you’ve ever been part of a team, you know how deadly whining & complaining can be to team morale. Complaining spreads like cancer in an athletic locker room & it creates a losing culture! Whining has the power to kill an entire company! It’s devastating! Personally, I do everything I can to avoid too much contact with whiners & complainers because I don’t want to catch what they’ve got!

-You Can Catch A Bad Attitude!

I remember playing sports with guys who complained about practice or whined about the coach, “This stinks, man! Playing basketball is the dumbest decision I ever made.” In my mind, I’m thinking, “Adios amigo! I need to get away from you! Because, If I keep listening to you, you might persuade me to start agreeing with you; and, I’ll end up with a sucky attitude just like you.” The Old Testament book of Numbers reveals how a complaining attitude dispersed throughout the Israelite camp like a disease. Too many people listened to the whiners & just listening weakened their ability to resist; and, they slowly became whiners also! And, God became angry with them. And, for good reason!

-Blind To God’s Goodness!

He had delivered them from their slavery and bondage to Egypt! He had agreed to dwell with them & lead them on their journey! He protected them when Pharaoh pursued them with his army! He stopped up the Red Sea so they could cross over safely! He fed them manna & they complained about that! In a desert, with no water, He provided water for them from a rock! Their complaints had blinded them to God’s generous love for them. Complaining poisons the heart with a spirit of ingratitude & it acts like a plague! We read how it spread among the Israelites & that should be a lesson to us because it can happen in a local church community too!

-God Knows Best!

We tend to complain whenever someone— usually in a position of leadership— makes a decision or sets a policy that we don’t like or we disagree with! And, we think we know better! Like Israel, we tend to think our way is the right way! Listen! God wants us to believe that HE KNOWS what He’s talking about! That HE KNOWS what’s best for us! Always! What God tells us is always true! It’s always for our good! And, He wants us to trust Him, regardless of what our friends & others around us are whining about! This is a big problem for us! Our greatest struggle in life is to trust God instead of our own reasoning! That struggle started in the Garden of Eden with Adam & Eve’s failure to follow God’s instruction! Things haven’t improved since, either!

-A Renewing Of The Mind!

As followers of Christ, our only hope, for overcoming this way of thinking, is a transformation by God’s indwelling Spirit! “Therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” Romans 12:1-2.  Listen, if you tend to be a whiner or a complainer; or, think your way is always best, the book of Proverbs contains a verse you need to memorize: “There is a way which SEEMS right to a man, and its end is the way of death” Prov 14:12. If your way is contrary to the teaching, in God’s Word, it will always end badly for you! If you’re one of God’s children, He will spank you for it!

 

Where Does God Live?

-Here’s The Sunday School Answer!

So, where does God live? If you go with the Sunday School answer, it’s “heaven” right? But, it’s actually a bit more complicated than you might think! We sometimes speak about the “tension” in Scripture, where it seems like there might be a contradiction! Or, it seems like it communicates that two opposites can both be true! The Psalmist puts it like this:  “The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven” Psalm 11:4.  The Prophet Isaiah prayed:  “Look down from heaven and see from Your holy and glorious habitation” Isaiah 63:15.  And, Psalm 103:19 says, “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His Sovereignty rules over all.”  So, YES, the Scripture teaches that God lives in heaven, doesn’t it?

-Heaven Cannot Contain Him!

But, at the same time, what do we do with King Solomon’s inspired words in 1 Kings 8:27?  “But will God indeed live on earth? Even heaven, the highest heaven, cannot contain You, much less this temple I have built.” The wisest man, who ever lived, said that heaven cannot contain God! So, heaven isn’t big enough for God to live! He’s BIGGER than heaven! And, he says that the temple he built was also too SMALL for Him; and, yet God is said to dwell in something much smaller than the temple! He dwells inside us:  “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16  The Apostle Paul wrote the Church of Ephesus; and, told them that they were, as a local church, “…being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” Ephesians 2:22. It almost seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it? So, what’s the answer?

-God Is Omnipresent!

The answer is that God is OMNIPRESENT! That means He is “All Present”; or, present everywhere at once! King David asked, “Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.  If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, even there Your hand will lead me; Your right hand will hold on to me.  If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night”— even the darkness is not dark to You. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to You” Psalm 139: 7-12.  Where can I go, where you’re not present, he asks? If I go to heaven…you’re THERE! If I go to hell…you’re THERE! If I move out east; or, out west, you’re THERE! Even if I hide, in the dark, you’re THERE! And, it’s not dark to You, God! Even more amazing? His Omnipresence is more than spatial! He created space & TIME!

-That Hurts My Brain!

That means God is Omnipresent in TIME also; because He’s outside of it! So, from our viewpoint, He is PRESENT in the PAST, PRESENT & the FUTURE all at the same time! Ouch! That hurts my brain to think about it! That’s certainly better & more interesting than any SciFi movie! Now, here’s the significance, of that, in regard to our salvation. For all eternity, God has determined to assemble a people with whom to dwell! From the beginning of Genesis, God has revealed to us the truth of His Gospel; that, He wants us to know the “good news” that He Himself is making a way to restore our relationship, with Him, that our sin had destroyed! Jesus’ atoning work on the cross was God’s final answer! So, one day, in eternity, “God’s dwelling will be with humanity, and He will live with them” Rev 21:3.  He will be Omnipresent with us! Amen!

 

Can God Trust You With Pain?

-What An Odd Question!

That probably seems like an odd question because it makes it sound like “pain” is a good thing, doesn’t it? A good thing that you could be “trusted” with? We might ask if you could be trusted with your best friend’s car; but, not “pain”! The question may also seem confusing because it suggests that pain is something that comes from God & everything inside us wants to rebel at the notion that pain & suffering might be choreographed into our lives by God! That can’t be true, can it?

-We Are So “Coddled”!

Most Christians, here in the west, have been coddled! I have & so have most of you! We suffer very little for our beliefs. Several months ago, I went, with a couple of our men, to visit a faith-based community center in another city. It was a Friday; and, Friday is typically my day off. But, I had had a number of interruptions, that week; and, I didn’t get my work done. So, I was whining that I’d have to go into the office for 2-3 more hours, when I got back, to finish up my work! And, the Lord convicted me! As we pulled into the church parking lot, I apologized for complaining about my “suffering.”

-Real Suffering Looks Like This!

The Holy Spirit had pressed in on me & planted the thought that there were probably brothers & sisters, in Christ, in other parts of the world, who had died for their faith that day. Still, others had endured harsh treatment, for their faith; and, I was whining about working an extra 2-3 hours.  We’ve bought into the lie that coming to Jesus is like playing a Country Western song backward— we get our dog back, our truck back; and, our girlfriend back! Funny! But, that’s not what Jesus said. He said that if the world hated Him, it would hate us! That if they persecuted Him, they would persecute us! That if we followed him, we’d have to give up our life! We have to deny ourselves & count the cost!

-More Like Jesus!

You see, the Father intends to use all the “junk”, in this sin-cursed world, to make us more like Jesus— who was, in fact, a SUFFERING Savior, right? Someone said, that, we tend to “…read the Bible, not with a desperate hunger for evidence of God’s triumph in pain; but, with a view to improving our private pleasure.” Clearly, Bible characters, like Moses & Joseph, were not overly concerned with improving their private pleasure! On the contrary, they endured great difficulty on their way to spiritual success; and, it was because of the great difficulties, in part, that they experienced spiritual success. For Moses, Scripture says “…he CHOSE to SUFFER…” rather than enjoy sin’s pleasures (Heb 11:25).

-He Chose To Suffer!

It says he CHOSE to suffer! As the adopted son, of Pharoah’s daughter, he had a choice— short-lived pleasures; or, suffering! Which would you choose? Be honest! Most of us would choose short-lived pleasures, wouldn’t we? Long-lived pleasures, even better! But, Moses CHOSE to suffer! I never choose to suffer! But, I will tell you that when suffering has been my lot, that I grew more deeply, in my faith & my walk with God & others, than I ever did enjoying the short-lived pleasures of this life! I’m not suggesting that we live our lives with a death wish! Rather, we learn to submit to whatever course God directs our lives; and, by faith believe His intentions are good! We need to learn that during this difficult time in human history! Amen?

 

The Proof Of Your Faith!

-As You Wish!

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Princess Bride.  It’s a romantic comedy; and, if you haven’t seen it, you need to! It’s a classic! It begins in the home of Buttercup, who’s dressed in the drab brown clothes of a peasant girl; but, orders everyone around as if she were royalty. Another peasant, named Wesley, is a laborer on Buttercup’s farm; and, the narrator—Peter Falk, he of Columbo fame—says that Buttercup’s greatest pleasure, in life, came from tormenting Wesley. She calls him “farm boy” & orders him to do all kinds of menial, boring jobs. But, regardless how menial the task, Wesley always responds the same way— ”As you wish!” While she’s incredibly condescending toward Wesley, he never refuses her demands; and, his attitude is always kind & willing. One day, she has an epiphany; and, the narrator says:  “That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying, ‘As you wish’ what he really meant was ‘I love you.’”

-Communicating Love!

I love that line because it fits so well into a Biblical conversation about service. It’s Buttercup’s realization that Westley was communicating his love for her, through his service to her, that holds such a remarkable spiritual parallel to something the Spirit of God inspired James to write:  “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself” James 2:14-17.

-The Invisibility Of Faith!

By its very nature, faith is invisible! You can’t see it! I can tell you that I have faith; but, I can’t show it to you.  James says, however, that faith can be seen through good works or acts of service & ministry.  He uses this imaginary person who claims to have faith; though, it can’t be seen. But, James disagrees:  “Yes, you can!” he argues, “You can see faith! You see faith when a believer offers to serve someone who lacks food; or, the necessities of life.” And, then, he uses the example of Abraham in the verses that follow. You can see Abraham’s faith, in his obedience to God, when he offered Isaac, his son, on an altar, James argues.

-Works Cooperate With Faith!

Abraham’s works were cooperating, with his faith, so that His faith actually became visible through his works. He offers Rahab, as another example, in his text.  In essence, James shows us that saving faith always produces acts of service that evidence it’s genuineness.  That’s why it must be a core ministry value, for every community of faith, to serve widows & orphans & others who are marginalized by their neediness. God’s word tells us that’s really the only way people can SEE our faith! Our faith is seen in the way that we love people! That means that any “faith” that fails to serve is, at best, questionable! James asks, “What good is it my brothers if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” It’s no good!