What Standard, It’s All Relative Isn’t It?

I was advising a friend on Facebook when another friend commented that morality is subjective. It highlights a problem in our society. People don’t believe in objective standards. Truth is relative. Morality is gray and you make your own up. It’s actually not a new thought.

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” Judges 17: 6 and Judge 21: 25

The book of Judges is a very dark book. Those with any character were rife with faults and still stood head and shoulders over those around them. Gideon was a coward, Samson was devious and loved the hookers, and one guy from the priest class gave his concubine to be gang raped to death to save his own neck. Before that, his host tried to give them his virgin daughter to save themselves.

It’s illogical to think truth is relative. “There is no truth” is defeated by asking if that’s a true statement. Yes, and they defeated their point. No, and their point has no basis. I don’t know and we have a conversation.

As for morality? We argue daily about the value of life. To even have a grey area, there has to be black and white. There actually is an objective standard.

  1. We cannot say anything is bad without something good to compare it to.
  2. J. Warner Wallace said add ‘for the fun of it’ to cut right through the gray area. “I ran them off the road for the fun of it.”
  3. Jonathon Morrow from Think Christianly said ask this simple question: “Are you really saying that there is no moral difference between Mother Theresa and Adolf Hitler?” in the context of the conversation I linked to.

Relativism is intellectually lazy. Yes, we are taking in tons of information. We still have to make a decision though, not just deciding ‘it’s all true.’ Critical thinking is required or else we risk becoming so open minded our brains fall out or we believe nothing, which leads to close-mindedness.

Relativistic morality makes it impossible to legitimately stand for anything. There would be no justice. MLK Jr. would be just another guy with an opinion. Why should the majority change for the minority in that case?

Here is the acid test for people actually believing in an objective standard. Try to take all their rights and property, or tell them to do something they disagree with. Eventually you’ll find that things aren’t so gray for them after all.

Thoughts?

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Workaholic or Worship; the Danger of Multitasking Christianity

alex-gregory-i-am-not-a-workaholic-i-just-work-to-relax-new-yorker-cartoon-1Ever look at what you do with your time? What is your purpose with that time? Do you get so busy that you forget the reason of it all or are in danger of doing that? I worry that I walk the line on that one.

My free time is steeped in Bible study on topics, studying apologetics, theology, serving in various ministries, lessons, and these posts. Since January, I’ve gained friends, enjoying down time with them. Almost every day, I spend quiet time in the Gospels, finding it most relaxing when I hand-copy passages. I do not, however, spend time just talking to God alone, without interruptions; it is generally just constant chatter throughout the day. I would say there should be a balance except not quite.

Workaholic or worship? Trying to live a good life or focus on the good and it spills out naturally. Jesus says, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” From the Message translation of Matthew 11:28.

Then in Luke 10: 38-42 he taught what to prioritize to Mary and Martha:walter#2, 1/3/70, 12:35 PM,  8C, 7704x10771 (838+606), 150%, paintings,  1/10 s, R72.3, G61.8, B75.5

Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

Part of this I got while reading the Philosophy of Jesus. This block of text jumped out to me on pages 125-126:

“Paradoxically, we don’t do enough good because we do too much good. That means two things: first, we are Marthas, worrying about many things, instead of Marys, simply loving “Jesus only.” And second, we try to do it ourselves, asking God for “help,” instead of realizing Step One of any Twelve-Step program, that we can’t do it ourselves. Jesus has to do it. Our resources are tiny, His are unlimited.

A saint is a soldier who has burnt all his bridges behind him and sees “Jesus only” ahead of him.

That does not mean passivity any more than it means Martha-like activism. Giving yourself up to God is the least passive thing you can possibly do. It was that dynamo of activity, St. Paul, who said “I live, nevertheless not I, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) It was another dynamo, John the Baptist, who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)”

I do not want to be considered a “saint”. I just want to live for something more and good. I spent years building monuments to myself, proclaiming how smart I was, and learning the hard way that I have no real control. In a discussion with my wife’s grandmother, she struggled to find a nice way to describe it, so I said “full of myself?” “We’ll go with that.” She replied.

CS LewisbadmanFrom there, I would try to make myself good, and I couldn’t consistently pull that off. August 10 was my rebirthday, the day I stopped using my own effort a year ago. I find when I don’t try to do anything more than ‘love God, love people,’ I supernaturally do well. It feels effortless; my tone and mannerisms change when I interact with others. Just reflecting the loving-kindness – tender kindness motivated by or expressing affection — that I was shown. Be it reassuring a friend, encouraging a new employee at work who showed me something new, quietly helping an elderly relative to her car while speaking of spiritual things; things that are not my strengths. Those lie in studying and writing, not expressing love, kindness, and gentleness; those come from walking in the Spirit.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5: 13-14

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5: 16-18

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23

Less doing for and more loving.

I Have No Idea If I’m Doing This Right

I do not see why people jockey to be a leader, making their sole ambition, even taking tests online to see if they are a leader or not. The acid test of leadership is if anyone is following you without being paid for it or for the perks. I manage a team within the church that picks up paper and coffee cups in the sanctuary and wipes the counters in the bathrooms after services to prepare for the guests coming next.

I try to be a leader, and have been working on how to be better at it by learning from my mistakes. The team started with me and Casey cleaning after the three Sunday morning services. We grew by another person, and I could rotate who had the trash detail so everyone could get a break from it. 

Later, we gained another team member on a different service. That enabled me to rotate days off so people can rest a little. The sanctuary team has two people except for Sunday nights where I work alone. Our newest team member is the one who challenges me.

I sat down in the stairwell between services one morning with this thought in mind: what is servant-leadership? I think it may be a continuum. First, you have to serve, and serve well enough you set a standard. You hope that this inspires people to see what is going on and join with you. Then you get beside them and help them get to a level where they do not need you anymore.

What example can I look at? To put a spin on the old phrase “What Would Jesus Do”, I wonder, What Did Jesus Do? He modeled his instruction, living it every day he set the example. Nothing was beneath him, from hours of teaching without rest, interacting with everyone, touching lepers—which made him ritually unclean by Jewish law—to heal them, and even washing the disciples nasty feet at the last supper to set this example for them.

I still do not have much of an idea of what I am doing as far as leading; all I can figure is continue being an example. I still want the team to grow as people and in numbers so they can do more in other areas. Porscha, Casey, and I are in multiple ministries in different areas and that helps us grow. We all have to start somewhere, just as I started with the cleaning team and now that is just a part of it all.

It might be time to read a book or two about it…I have a couple in mind.

Human Kintsugi; You’re Not Broken Forever

Whenever we break a coffee cup, it generally ends up in the garbage, unless it is just the handle that breaks off. That gets super-glued back on. Broken things are unusable, right? In Japan, there is a process of fixing broken pottery that has been raised into an art form. It is called kintsugi. They fix it by filling the broken places with a gold lacquer, in a sense embracing the brokenness.Tea_bowl_fixed_in_the_Kintsugi_method

Earnest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong in the broken places.” Except even strong, broken people have a hard time holding the pieces together. Eventually Hemingway committed suicide. No matter the level of inner strength, it’s finite. He did accomplish writing timeless books even with his limited vocabulary.

I had to face my own brokenness the first two weeks of July, starting with the holiday weekend. Neighborhood kids blew up some fireworks next door and it startled me. I made a mental note to find a way to drown out the noise in case they trigger a flashback. A picture on TimeHop had already triggered one earlier; I did not want another one. Later there was a big bang, except I wasn’t in our little house; I was taken back to the bathroom two years earlier listening to screams. I teared up as I dug out my earbuds, cranked up my music, and later putting on muffs because I could still hear the fireworks in the background.

A week later, we were back at the old place, cleaning out a shed and getting the last of our things. It was the longest I had been there in months, and I usually do all I can to avoid anything that reminds me of the accident. Five hours into it and I’m tense, anxious, the atmosphere felt heavy; it reminded me of the days immediately after. Then the flashback, I freaked out and left, racing home where I sat for two hours calming myself down. This is a problem bigger than me…

I made an appointment with my doctor to verify what I suspected, post-traumatic stress disorder. I looked into it about a year and a half ago and thought I had avoided it. ‘It didn’t break me, just almost broke me’, I had told myself. The doctor said short of a psychologist or psychiatrist doing a DSM-IV to empirically confirm it, it looks like I do have PTSD. I’ve been in psychotherapy, counseling, grief counseling, and learned how the Stoics sucked it up and moved on, yet I still have the cracks and hold myself together.

Except in kintsugi, the pottery is not fixing itself. There is an artisan who is taking the broken and making it beautiful. Nick Vujicic was born without any limbs yet he is an evangelist and motivational speaker. The former lead singer of Flyleaf, Lacey Sturm, planned to commit suicide one day when her grandmother took her to church—not knowing her intent—where she met a guy. One of my friends is in Celebrate Recovery; he is being led to be a public speaker and apologist, because he met a guy. This guy is an artisan; his work is seen in many broken people.

In 2nd Corinthians 4: 5-18 Paul tells what is going on:

“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe, and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Yeah, we’re all broken in one way or another, our weakness is apparent, and through that weakness God can work. We can identify with other people in the same spot, give advice that comes from experience, and more importantly listen to them with understanding. We can build a bridge and walk with them to introduce them to the reason for the hope that we have, Jesus Christ.

Humanity: The Common Denominator

Listening to a visiting missionary one evening, I heard something that stuck out to me about human nature. He was showing videos of some of the countries he had gone into and in one, we saw where Buddhists had destroyed one of the churches. A little later, we saw where in another country there were some other Buddhists who regularly cooked a meal for the kids at another church. People from the same group, who were doing two different things with different intentions.

Weeks ago, an individual walked into a black church, visited, and was welcomed by them until he left. Then later, he returned and killed nine of them. Pictures soon surfaced of him holding the battle flag of the armies of North Virginia and Tennessee during the Civil War, popularly known as the rebel flag. Now it appears that an element in society is trying to scrub anything to do with the flag or the Confederacy off the map.

The thing is, it is a symbol that has different meanings to different people. To go after it is seen as an attack on their identity, like when someone goes after your political party, or sports team that you align yourself with. It is not flown in battle anymore; now it is a symbol of heritage that was co-opted by racists. Like the Buddhists, I mentioned earlier, one group was committing vandalism; the other was working with a different religion in peace to care for children. By which group is the whole to be judged?

The problem is not symbols or what identity we choose for ourselves; the problem is we as humans. Case in point, Bill Cosby had the reputation for being a wholesome actor – recently he admitted to drugging women. It is individual people that are the problem, despite what we want to label ourselves.

It is as old as humanity, The need for a moral code to guide is as old as humanity; the need of it actually reveals the darkness in our hearts. Jesus pointed it out in Matthew 5: 17-28, we have the capacity and desires to do wrong. As a man makes a life-long commitment to a woman in marriage, that he will forsake all others, yet acting out a sex scene in his mind about the woman next door proved that the desire to break that commitment is there. Someone cuts you off in traffic and wanting nothing more than to choke them for it shows the desire to hurt another person. Take a two-year-old throwing a tantrum, hitting and biting their parents, then replace them with an adult doing the same thing; the difference is the ability to hurt while both have the same intent.

That nature in us is called the sin nature in the Bible. The best analogy I have seen for it is comparing it to cancer. The sin nature is inherent in the same way cancer cells are our own cells turned against us. The first ends in eternal suffering and the second to physical suffering. We go see a doctor about both of them.

A book I was reading-the name escapes me-had a chapter on how Jesus operated. He approached everyone as if they were sick and he had the cure, forgiveness. It was not a prescription to keep these 10 commandments to be cured any more than a strict diet change destroying the cancer cells. He puts the cancer of sin into remission until it’s cut out, and out of gratitude people started to change their lives.

It is summed up like this in Luke 5: 31-32:

“Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

What is wrong with the world?

We are. We are all sick. The Good News is the doctor is in, and he is accepting patients free of charge. It is as simple as admitting he is Lord, believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead, and you will be saved. Your trust, aka faith in your heart that he paid for your sins in your place, is what justifies you, to paraphrase Romans 10: 9-10. He did it for me. You can read Year of the Prodigal to see the before and after of my case.

Go see the doctor.

What’s Discipleship Mean?

A few weeks back, I read a book titled Pagan Christianity where the authors explained where certain church traditions came from. The part that stayed with me was the explanation of how the New Testament letters are ordered. John, Paul, and Peter – who wrote multiple letters – placed longest to shortest instead of a chronological order. The authors challenged the readers to study Acts and the letters in the same order as it happened and reading the letters straight through like you would a letter. I went online to find a reading plan to fit the bill so I could do just that. Found this plan on Bible Study Tools. I have to admit, the scriptures came alive as I watched Christianity spread.

Then I thought, “why not do the same with the Gospels?” It could be the closest way to learn from Jesus like the Twelve Disciples did. I was already studying from Luke since it is arguably the most comprehensive of the Gospels. Thinking for a moment, I asked myself what could be more comprehensive than all of them in order of events. I would just be an unnamed disciple learning from Jesus. I had written posts about applying scripture to daily life, instead of just enjoying the warm and fuzzy parts. Then I came across this post on Cold Case Christianity; I will highlight a few parts in it:

“What precisely is discipleship and why is it so important? Is it simply a matter of making converts? No, it’s much more. The process of making disciples is often misunderstood and neglected in the Church today, and as a result, we are in danger of losing our identity as Christians. Christian discipleship is critical to Christian survival.

Even secular dictionaries recognize discipleship as something more than simply creating “members” or “converts”. Dictionary.com describes a disciple as “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another.” Webster’s online dictionary defines a disciple as “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.” At least one aspect of discipleship involves learning the doctrines of a particular system or teacher. This intellectual aspect of being a disciple is affirmed in the Bible. The Greek word used for “disciple” in the New Testament is “mathētḗs” and its root, “math-“, means the “mental effort needed to think something through“. Disciples are “learners”, “scholars” and followers of Christ who “learn the doctrines of Scripture and the lifestyle they require”. There is an important connection between doctrine and behavior. It’s not enough to simply follow Jesus’ moral teaching related to behavior, true disciples must understand the doctrines of Christianity. What does our worldview teach, theologically or philosophically? How are we to make a defense (1 Peter 3:15), hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with this teaching (Titus 1:9), recognize a heresy when we see one (Titus 3:10), and guard the treasure which has been entrusted to us (2 Timothy 1:14)? Becoming a disciple means becoming a learner.”

“Many young Christians walk away from the Church in their college years after sitting in University classes taught by outspoken atheists. Who, once again, leaves the Church at the highest rate? Undiscipled young Christians. Discipleship produces Christ-followers who look more and more like Jesus. That’s a good, important goal. But beyond this, discipleship, protects believers from error and heresy. When we know the truth well enough to defend it in our own mind, we’ll actually defend it in our own mind when presented with a lie. True discipleship celebrates the role of the mind in the Christian life and prepares Christian disciples to live the Christian life, even as they are defending the Christian truth. That’s why Christian discipleship is critical to Christian survival.”

I feel drawn to the seekers and those with spiritual apathy, and want to be a good example to them. To do that, I have to learn and the best way to do that is from the beginning, reading and studying in context. I will be mining the Gospels for all they are worth with the W.H.A.T method with an additional question from the book Think Christianly; “How did Jesus do what he did?” Along with the tool of Scripture Engagement from Bible Gateway. Then I can pass it on as I live it.

Looking Through God’s Eyes

The next time you are out in public, look at the people around you, preferably without staring like a creeper. That gets awkward quick. What do you see? Truly, what do you see about them, in them? The guy in ratty clothes standing on a street corner with a sign, the girl sitting alone at a table, the guy constantly twitching while he shops for groceries or the weird dude that wants to help but is hard to communicate with? What about the guy with money to burn, the woman wearing the latest fashions, or whoever the top news story is about now?

We had a missionary from Africa, John Easter, who came and spoke about “God’s View and My Lens.” I expected to hear stories, not to be furiously typing notes as he spoke. He spoke of how everyone has value because they are made in the image of God. It is the attributes that set us apart from other creatures. We are rational, with a will to choose, and we can see it in our inventions, writing, enjoying art, and thinking. Our conscience is a shadow of the higher morality; we see it when we are disgusted by evil, praise what is good, and feel guilty. Socially, we are designed to get together and love with the kind of love that does not expect anything, just loving you for who you are.

That gives everyone their intrinsic value, despite origin and background. Everyone is unique, as I wrote in Walking, Talking Miracles we are made. Because the Creator crafts us individually and lovingly because He values us, so we should also value people.

We all have the capacity to respond to the good news of Jesus from a meaningful witness. John 3:16 sums it up very well, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” There are not any exceptions in this verse; everyone is free to say yes and no one should keep you from it.

You have value, there are no insignificant people, everyone wants to matter, and we want our lives to mean something. I just finished a series on purpose outlining how we all have meaning. Most Saturdays I serve the poor and homeless, though most of the time I do not engage in conversation. Then one Saturday, I was handing out flyers at the door and had to engage-this opened my eyes to more of their value, capacity for redemption, and significance. I saw individuals I help because it is needed; my heart does not burn with the compassion my wife’s does, and I just see a need and do it. I am getting my eyes opened as I process this; it was all about me for so long it is a bar that will take a while to reach.

I learned that the quiet custodian who picks up the trash and cares for the place is a bigger bookworm than I am. We had common ground to work off, and the next time I see him, I can ask if he has read any good books lately. Another who comes in is consistently negative; he is a lesson in patience for a few, yet he has value even though he may not see it yet. One other is called “Preacher”, a bundle of joyous energy that infects everyone who has value. One particular person I have a soft spot for is a deaf man who comes; I can identify with the loneliness of the deaf culture. We look for him so we can engage him. Imagine if no one around you knew your language and you could not hear theirs; wouldn’t you be more isolated than ever since it is hard to communicate your needs, thoughts, or desires? He is also valuable.

John closed after speaking on significance. I summed it up with an equation in my notes; however, I think there is a better way to break it down.

  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” means everyone has value.
  • “that whoever believes in Him” means everyone can choose.
  • “shall not perish, but have eternal life” means that we are significant because God wants us with Him in eternity.

No matter a person’s background, God wants them because they mean something to Him. We can introduce others to Him. How can we not when the Creator sees worth in them? We just need to fix our lenses.

If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior and you are reading this, think about what he did means to you. Then take John 3:16 look at someone and say, “For God so loved (insert their name) that he gave his one and only Son, that (if their name) believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” In doing so, you take on God’s view of people. I know I need to; it is why I took so many notes.

If you are not a Christian, I would like you to say it a little differently.

“For God so loved me that he gave his one and only Son, that if I believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

You have value, significance, and can choose to believe. Romans 10:9-10 lays it out, declare with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and trust in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you will be saved. It is with your heart that you’re justified before God. Then you will be a new person; the past does not have a hold on you anymore.

Will you make that decision?

Thinking Things Through

I have discovered a bit of a protective streak when it comes to seekers searching for the truth or help and the younger Christians who have not really had the reasons they believe tested. I have not been directly challenged in mine; however, I do see stuff that makes me investigate further. Most of the time, the tactic that Paul instructed Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 2:23-26 and not get involved in pointlessness. However, if I see a misrepresentation as an obstacle, then I will step in as a case-maker.

To do that, we have to know the case along with the reasons we trust that it is sound. When we have the big picture, then we can recognize anything that twists it. Then if we engage, we are able to put it into context. When a quote is posted, I will ask questions to help me define the terms and to see if it is logical; it also makes the one answering learn how well they understand it. It also serves to keep me from making an assumption, instead keeping a dialogue going so I do not give an opinion, dropping the mic and exiting stage right. Finally, some are such blatant misconceptions I have to speak up. One comment I saw was, ‘they wouldn’t let me into Heaven even if I wanted to go.’ Sarcasm or despair, I was not sure, but every soul matters to God.

We have to know our stuff; Christians have the stereotype of anti-intellectualism as evidenced by a comment on a meme. The meme said ‘I killed my voice of reason, the sucker had to go…’ and a commenter finished it with, ‘said the born-again Christian.’ I smiled at the generalization. He is not completely wrong. Though it is not a Christian or religious thing, it is a people thing. Throughout history, big ideas and their representatives have done good and bad in the name of _______.”

The comment had me wondering how many people have thought through their worldviews-the big picture-with a harmony of all their beliefs about the world. Have they sat down to answer four questions: where did we come from, why are we here, what is wrong with the world, and how can we fix it? The answers become part of our map of reality that plays a part in our decision-making.

Going deeper, have we done the math to see how our opinions look in application? Have we accounted for the uniqueness of individuals and human freedom? What ethical system of thought will govern our decision-making? Is it Utilitarianism, Deontology, Virtue Ethics, Objectivism, or Judeo-Christian? How will we interpret the evidence – with abductive reasoning, or presuppositional? How do the rules of logic account for this?

I think being unreasonable is human nature. Not many of us are as rational as we would like to be. With the overload of information we get from everywhere around us, we could do with a new habit. Find a quiet place to work through it before we are carried away without reason.