A Lot Of Fire
July 7, 2002
We all face DMD’s don’t we? Defining Moment Decisions. They come at us in a rapid fire pace. Choices, decisions, that we constantly make. Now obviously some are pretty bold and it’s obvious that they’re big decisions, like who are we going to marry, what career path will we take? I mean anyone knows these are DMD’s. But so often we face these decisions, these choices and they’re DMD’s, yet we don’t realize that they’re DMD’s. We don’t realize they’re Defining Moment Decisions. We’re clueless about them.
Well, I want to talk to you about what to do when you face a DMD. Because Defining Moment Decisions really play out, really have monstrous implications in all of our lives. Decisions that we make today are pretty much who are we going to be tomorrow. Now I know a lot of you right now are facing these decisions, you might not realize it, but you are. Some of you realize it. You say, “Ed, oh yeah, oh man, you’re talking to me tonight. I’m facing a DMD.” Well if you are, and because you will, listen up.
There was a guy in the Bible who had a very impressive resume. His name was Lot. Now Lot was something else. This guy had some serious cash; he had some serious influence. He had kind of a sad life in a way, because his father died at a very young age. His uncle, though, was Abraham. Abraham was a heavy-hitter. Abraham would be along the same lines as Bill Gates is today. Abraham was a great man of faith, a great man of conviction, a wonderful personality.
Well, God told Abraham one day to move. And Abraham taught Lot a lot about business, and Lot learned a lot and became a multi-trillionaire himself. And both he and Abraham were moving along. He was following Abraham because Abraham was following God and suddenly you have like two Fortune 500 companies moving together. When you have that going on you are going to have some conflict. Not really between Abraham and Lot, but between their employees.
“You know, my cows should graze here.” “No, no, no, your cows should be over there.” So before bringing the lawyers in, they made a choice. They made a pact. They faced a DMD, a Defining Moment Decision. Now, I don’t think Lot really realized it. Lot was kind of clueless. Like sometimes we’re clueless about DMD’s. Abraham knew it, Lot didn’t, and the Bible says they made a choice.
Now amazingly Abraham, the senior of the two, Abraham the leader of the two, Abraham the guy who made more scratch than the other, should have been the one to make the first choice. I mean you would think Abraham would have said, “Lot, chill, I’m making a decision. You just shut up and let me do it. I’m going to talk to God and then I’m going to make my decision.” Abraham didn’t do that. Do you know what Abraham did? Abraham said, “Okay, Lot, you choose first.”
All of us are connected to families in one way or another. All of us are. Isn’t that a great example? Abraham gave Lot first choice. He put family peace over personal gain. What happens? Someone passes away and that someone in your family had a little bit of money, and people start fighting over the money like barracuda. “It’s mine.” “No, it’s mine”. “It’s mine.” “It’s mine.” Ahhh! You have some turmoil going on. It’s a great lesson.
You know what Abraham said? “Lot, you go ahead and choose.” Maybe for some of you, you can say, “Okay. Quit fighting. I’ll put family peace above personal gain.” Wow, that’s convicting to me and to all of us, isn’t it? Well that’s the DMD that occurred in their lives. The Bible says that Lot looked one way and it didn’t look too pretty, kind of like west Texas. Lot looked the other way and said, “Wow, look at that. It looks like Maui or Fiji or somewhere. Abraham, I’m going this way, man.”
So the Bible says that Lot moved toward the cities of Sodom and Gomorra. He moved towards it. Nowhere does Lot say, “Abraham, give me advice.” Nowhere do you see Lot pray. I mean after all Abraham was the man. Lot should have asked him, “Hey Uncle Abe, give me some advice. I mean, I need some, please.” He didn’t do that. He just thought about himself. What made him look good, what made him feel good, what helped his cattle, what he thought helped his family.
I’m sure Lot said, “I can move toward Sodom and Gomorra. Now, I know those cities are ungodly, I know there’s a temptation there, but I can build a wall around my family and Sodom and Gomorra will never get into my family. I can just do it by myself. I’m strong enough to do it. I’m a multi, multi, millionaire and I can just pay for security and everything is cool.”
Let’s pick up with what the Bible says about this story. Genesis 13:11, “So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of Jordan and set out toward the east and the two men parted company.” Look at Verse 12. “Abraham dwelled in the land of Kenyan and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain and,” oh, remember this phrase, “pitched his tent towards Sodom.”
I better stop and ask you a question. What are you moving toward right now? You have a tent and it’s pitched toward something, what is it toward? Is it toward maybe a gray area business deal? You’re saying to yourself, “You know I would not do that, Ed, but I’m moving toward it.” Maybe, is it toward a flirtatious relationship at work? You’re a married man and this lady has caught your eye and you’re saying to yourself, “I would never… I mean come on, I’m a married man.” But you find yourself moving toward that. Maybe you’re a student and you’re saying, “I wouldn’t do drugs or anything.” But you find yourself moving closer and closer towards people who do that. And you say, “I would never do that.” I’m going to tell you something. Whatever you’re moving towards, whatever I’m moving towards, one day we will end up there within the city limits.
Downplay the Upside While Playing Up the Down Side
Here’s the first thing we need to do when we’re making a Defining Moment Decision: Downplay the upside while playing up the down side. Let’s say you’re thinking about getting married. Well, downplay the upside. Downplay it times five. You’re dating her, but think about when you marry her and, times five, downplay the upside while playing up the downside. If you see a downside in this person you’re thinking about marrying, play that and multiply it out times five or ten. Yeah, downplay the upside while playing up the downside.
Now, look at Verse 13, Genesis Chapter 13, because remember Lot said to himself something like this, “The pasture land looks good, the water supply looks good. I mean, I’ll probably go into the cities now and then to buy groceries, because I hear they have a great health foods store and everything. But I would never end up living there.” The Bible says, “Now the men of Sodom were wicked and sinning greatly against the Lord.” They had dove into the abyss of rebellion before God. The city was out of control, wheels off; it was hydroplaning.
Here’s the biblical principle, people don’t like to hear it these days, but here is the biblical principle. These aren’t my words; this is what God says. You’ve got sin, and we all sin. I sin. You sin. I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner, everybody’s a sin, sin, sinner. Okay, we sin, and sin must have a punishment; sin must be paid for. We deserve the judgment of God. I deserve it, Edwin Barry Young, I deserve the judgment of God. I deserve the fires of Hell and so do you. But, by God’s grace, but, by the love of God, he commissioned Christ, and Christ paid the price for my sin. He became sin just so we could have freedom and forgiveness and reconciliation. So we don’t deserve it, it’s something that God did by His grace and, if we receive that, then we are Christ followers. That is Christianity in a nutshell.
Build an Altar
Well let’s go back to this Defining Moment Decision. How do you make a wise choice? I mean, we don’t want to make dumb moves like Lot, do we? How do we make a wise choice? Right quick write this down: Number 1, Build Altars; Number 2, Build Boards. Number 1, Build Altars; Number Two, Build Boards. Read the life of Abraham. Every time Abraham was making a decision, every time he had a DMD or a choice do you know what he would do? Both, he would hit the deck on his knees. He would build an altar.
Here’s what an altar is, an altar in the Bible symbolized communion with God. It commemorated notable encounters with Him. That’s why I encourage all of you to have a place, or maybe even a couple of places around your house or apartment where you pray and where you also keep trophies of God’s grace. It could be a photograph; it could be a picture. I have a little office right up here and on my desk, I’ve had this desk for like twelve years here at Fellowship Church, I have replicas of the nails that were used to crucify Christ. Those nails remind me that, “Ed, you’re a sinner. You don’t deserve anything, man.” They also remind me that my sin and your sin nailed Jesus to the cross. It could be a bracelet, it could be a necklace, it could be a statue, it could be some stones. I remember I took a stone from an area where I prayed years ago before we actually built this building. I could go on and on. It’s a biblical thing. So make sure you hit your knees like Abraham did and pray during, before, and even after you make a Defining Moment Decision.
Build a Board
Number two, Build a Board. At Fellowship Church we have a Board of Directors. And this Board of Directors advises me and the staff. They’ve helped me so much in the legal realm, the financial realm, the construction realm. We could not have made the decisions we’ve made over the last twelve years at Fellowship Church without a great board. Do you have a personal advisory board? The Bible says you should. The Bible says what in Proverbs? This is wisdom, there is genius in a number of counselors, people who love you, people who can speak truth into your life.
I want to tell you about two people right quick. I’ve watched a person over the last several years and I’ve watched this gentleman in the throes of making a DMD, a Defining Moment Decision. I saw this person, though, mess up, and let me tell you how this person messed up. This person had around him some men who loved him, who loved the Lord, who spoke truth into his life. All the sudden, though, I saw this person kind of unplug and disengage for a while. Didn’t see him for a while, didn’t talk to him for a while. One day this person shows back up. “Hey man, guess what? I’ve done ‘blank’.” And everybody was like, “Say what? Why didn’t you talk to me? Why didn’t you talk to me? Did you think about this, that, this, that…” You could see it on his face. Oh, too late, he had already made it.
I know someone right now who is in the middle of a DMD, Defining Moment Decision. He has some great Christian people around him and I’m watching him right now disengage, just kind of unplug. And I’m going to have to talk to this guy. It’s not going to be fun, but I’ve got to. When you start to pull away from people who love you, who want the best for you and you start doing some of this Lone Ranger stuff, “High ho Silver, away” you’re going to get in trouble. You’re going to make a dumb Lot decision. I hate to be so graphic but I’ll just say D-U-M-B, dumb Lot decision. We’ve all made them. Come on, man, let’s just talk here for a second, all right?
Every time I talk about Sodom and Gomorra, though, I have to talk about the judgment of God. It’s not very fun to talk about the judgment of God, because God is a God of grace and love but He is also a God of judgment. God is perfectly fair. And, really, when I talk about the judgment of God, my mind goes back to when I was 11 years old. I don’t know if you realize this, but I am a frustrated drummer. I used to play the drums and I stopped playing when I was 11 years old. I only learned one song and I want play this song for you right now, because it illustrates where I’m going for the rest of the talk. Okay, let’s hear it for the band, all right. I can tell you’re excited. Okay, this song is a deep song; it only has one word. But I’ll play it, along with the band. Whewwwwww, Wipeout!
(Band and Ed begin playing Wipeout.)
Wow, well I appreciate that, but I’ll tell you, I haven’t improved since I was eleven years old. If you could go back in time, I played the same at eleven. I guess I never developed my gift of rhythm. That’s sad too in a way, because God gives all of us gifts and sometimes we don’t develop them. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it, right? So thank you for your support.
Wipeout by the Surfaris. What is the song about? The song is about wiping out, the song is about this guy surfing, or this girl surfing, the wave hits them and bam! They wipe out. How many people here snowboard? Go ahead lift your hand. That’s it? Wakeboard? Mountain bike? Rodeo? Well if you do any of those sports, you’re going to wipe out.
Now, sometimes in life wipeouts are fun, aren’t they? “Yeah, dude. That was sweet, man. I fell down and got skinned up, but it was incredible. Yeah, I did four flips over that ramp and man it was something. Slid down the mountain in Colorado, man.” Sometimes, wipeouts are fun. Other times, they are not so fun. They can maim and even kill.
Sometimes, we can wipe out vocationally. Sometimes, wipeouts are good things. “Okay, I left that job. Thank you, God, that I wiped out that boss and that deal, whew! What a relief.” Other times, wipeouts are not so fun vocationally. You get a pink slip or you get someone who says, “You know what? You are doing a horrible job.” You’re like, “Whoa, that’s not a fun wipeout.” We get wiped out relationally. Sometimes relational wipeouts are great. “I’m going to leave that destructive relationship. Yeah!” Sometimes they’re bad. You get the Dear John letter or the Dear Jill letter. You know, boo-hoo. Wipeouts aren’t always fun. God, that’s right, our loving God, God our sovereign God, God our omniscient God, plays Wipeout.
There are certain times when God plays Wipeout. Certain times He wipes out people who live in continual rebellion before Him. Sometimes He wipes out even nations. He does and it’s not fun to talk about it. But again I’m going to talk about it because God talked about it, and I am commanded to talk about what God talked about. Well, God was getting ready to play Wipeout on the cities of Sodom and Gomorra. I mean He had his sticks in the air ready to go. Just freeze-frame that for a second, okay.
Selfish Decisions Usually Lead to Destruction While Unselfish Decisions Usually Lead to Life
Let’s go to the next little thing we need to know when we make these Defining Moment Decisions. We’re to downplay the upside while playing up the downside, but also we need to do this. Remember, selfish decisions usually lead to destruction while unselfish decisions usually lead to life. Man, that is so true. I like the 2:34 principle. Philippians 2:3-4, this is how you make great decisions. Listen to this. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.”
What did Lot do? I’ve said it before, Lot thought about Lot a lot and he messed up. He made a selfish decision, a very me-istic decision. Every time we make selfish decisions we are going to mess up.
Bad Company Corrupts Good Character More Than Good Character Influences Bad Company
Let’s go to the third thing we need to do when we make a DMD. Here we go. Remember this one. Bad company, that’s right, bad company corrupts good character more than good character influences bad company. Ouch! 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be misled,” Paul said. “Bad company,” that means close continual associations with bad company, “corrupts good character.”
I want to bring out my man, Mike Sky Walker. Mike is the guy that mixes for us, the guy that does a lot of the staging for us. You name it; Mike does it. Let’s give it up for Mike Sky Walker. All right, man, I’m going to help you on this stool right here. I love this illustration. You’ve probably seen it before, but I’ve got to use it again. Mike Walker is a great Christian guy. He lives the life. He’s the real deal. Good character and Mike Walker, they go hand in hand. Well, let’s say for example that I am a bad character. You know, I’m just not that good of an influence on him. Let’s say Mike kind of likes me. He likes this orange shirt or whatever, and we’re just hanging out some. Mike says, “You know, I’ll hang out with Ed a lot. I will continually associate with him and he won’t drag me down. I’ll lift him up.” Mike says. Okay, Mike, now I weigh 185 pounds, just go ahead and lift me up. Mike can’t do it. No, no, no, no, no. Now watch this. See, if I just walk forward holding onto him, I’m not even pulling now, I can pull him down. So, if you have close continual associations with bad company, they’re going to pull you down. “Ed, you down?” Yeah. “You down…?” I don’t care who you are; they will pull you down.
Every time God plays Wipeout, He always provides a way out.
Let’s go back to our story. I didn’t give up on Lot, did you? I didn’t give up on Abraham. Here’s what happened. Lot had just gone off the deep end, and some angels show up and give Abraham a message from God. The message said simply this, “Abraham, God is getting ready to play Wipeout on Sodom and Gomorra. He’s getting ready.” The sticks are in the air; the drum kit is there! And Abraham and God go back and forth and finally they kind of strike this deal where if there are a couple of righteous people in Sodom, God will wait. And here is the great principle. Are you ready for this? Every time God plays Wipeout, He always provides a way out. Say that with me. Every time God play Wipeout, He always provides a way out.
With the Noachian flood, for example, God was going to play Wipeout. But before He wiped out everyone, He provided a way out with Noah and the ark. Remember the wicked city of Nineveh? God was getting ready to play Wipeout, but he tapped the reluctant running prophet on the shoulder, Jonah, and God provided the way out. Think about the world. If we got what we deserve, it would be wiped out. God provided a way out. He sent Jesus Christ as a sin sacrifice. He rose again, and, if we meet Christ and receive him, we have the way out. Every time God plays Wipeout, He provides a way out. Okay. That’s what He’s going to do right here for our boy Lot and his family. He provides a way out.
Let’s look at Genesis 19:1. These angels who hung out with Abraham now cruise into Sodom. The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening and look at our boy. Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. Now what’s our boy thinking? Now, I hope you’ve been paying attention, because if you go back and look at Genesis 13 it says that Lot and his family had moved towards Sodom. Well now check him out, he was sitting in Sodom, and most scholars believe that Lot was the mayor of Sodom. Not only was Lot in Sodom, also Sodom was in Lot. I’m going to ask you again, where is your Sodom? What is your Sodom? Who is your Sodom?
The angels arrive in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. The Bible says he invited the angels to his house. Do you know what the New Testament says? The New Testament says, we entertain angels without even knowing it. A lot of us have.
Well, this is sad what I’m going to tell you right now; it’s really tragic. It just breaks my heart to talk about it, and I know it breaks the heart of God. The reason that Lot invited the angels to his house was because he knew they would be sexually assaulted if they stayed out in the streets too long. The angels came into Lot’s house and they warned him and said, “Lot you know the fire is going to fall here. God’s been patient, He’s been merciful, but the fire is going to fall. You have got to get out. You’ve got to get out.” And the Bible says that Lot heard something outside and he looked out and the men of Sodom had surrounded Lot’s house. They wanted to have relations with the angels. And Lot was so messed up, his mind was so gone, his sin was so spectacular, the Bible says that he offered his virgin daughters to the mob! Is that tragic?
“Oh Ed, that’s just horrible! Man, I cannot imagine a place as perverted and sinful like Sodom and Gomorra.” Oh really? I was on a beach in Florida several weeks ago and I saw this area that was protected, because the sea turtles had dug a hole and put their eggs in the hole. And a friend of mine told me, “Ed if you touch that, they’ll put you in jail. You cannot touch a sea turtle’s eggs.” Yet several miles from this spot you have clinics, and these clinics are killing unborn babies. Now I’m all for protecting wildlife, I love animals and all that. But do that math. We’re going to protect the eggs of an old turtle, yet we are going to kill unborn babies? Then we have Rosie O’Donnell saying that lesbian and homosexual people provide a good family unit for children. Come back on that one. We love the gays. We love the lesbians. We love the adulators. We love the fornicators. But, we do not like the sin.
Four times in the Old Testament, three times in the New Testament, it says homosexuality is a sin before God. It is committing cosmic treason. I want to read something from Dr. Jeffrey Satinover from MIT and Harvard. Here’s what he says about homosexuality, because you’ll hear the gay community say, “You know, it’s just a genetic thing. We were born that way.” Let me read to you what Jeffrey Satinover from MIT and Harvard says. “What the majority of respected scientists now believe is that homosexuality is attributable to a combination of physiological, social, and biological factors.” These researchers, especially Satinover, bring up basketball to illustrate the point of how ludicrous it is to say there is a gay gene. Satinover argues, What if you said there was a basketball gene? You won’t find one, but, if there was one, you’d have some predispositions towards higher muscularity and towards quickness and towards a vertical jump. But just because you have this predisposition does not mean that you are forced to become a basketball player. It’s a choice. Let’s say there was a gay gene, he says. You aren’t forced to engage in a homosexual lifestyle. It’s a choice. Let’s say you are predisposed to chronic headaches from PMS, would that give you a license to engage in socially unacceptable behavior? Can you say, “Well, I just don’t have a choice.”?
You know I have done several series over this issue and I go through reasons why people choose this lifestyle. I talk about the genetic influencer. I talk about the environmental influencer. I talk about the parental influencer. One study that I read several years ago said that 85% of gays say that is was an early childhood experience that led them into the gay lifestyle. There are a lot of people here who need to understand this.
There are a lot of people here who are involved in adultery. A lot of people here are involved in fornication. A lot of people here are involved in homosexuality. And down deep you’re crying out; you’re miserable. You’re not happy, and you know it. The joy is not there. I want to tell you something: God loves you, man. He loves you, woman. You matter to God. And God is saying there is a way out. “Well Ed, is there a way out for me?” Yeah there is. You go on our Web site and we have a list of incredible biblical counselors who would love to talk to you about what you’re involved in. We want you to be fired up to be the kind of person that God wants. Because at Fellowship Church we want to build bridges to everyone, but also we want to stand for truth and draw lines in the sand. So we welcome you, we love you. We love the sinner, but we don’t like the sin in any of our lives.
It’s Easier To Make A Fast Break Than A Slow Motion Move
So I hope you’re tracking now. When you make a Defining Moment Decision, you downplay the upside while playing up the downside. Selfish decisions usually lead to destruction while unselfish decisions usually lead to life. Bad company corrupts good character more than good character influences bad company. All right. The last one and then we’re going home. We are spurring the horse to the barn right now. It’s easier to make a fast break than a slow motion move.
Is that true? Man how many times in my life have I been messing around with stuff I shouldn’t mess around with and I say to myself and I say to God, “God, I’ll just slowly move away from it. I can just do that NFL slow-motion thing.” No you can’t. Make a fast break. A lot of you right now are involved in relationships that are messing you up. A lot of you are involved in businesses that are messing you up. Your associations at your place of work are just messing you up and you’re saying, “Well I don’t want to hurt his feelings.” “What will she think?” “I had just better you know…” Who are you trying to fool? Don’t make a dumb move like Lot did. Make a fast break. Not a slow-motion move, a fast break.
Ruth Graham said this, the wife of Bill Graham, she said, “If God does not rain judgment on America, He will have to apologize to the cities of Sodom and Gomorra.” That’s a stout line isn’t it? Well, the fire was falling. God was raining judgment down. Check out Genesis 19:16. “When he hesitated…” This is Lot now; he hesitated. Don’t make a slow motion move. “When he hesitated…” And the Bible says he warned his future son-in-law, “Future son-in-law, God is going to judge Sodom. Man, get out. Come with me.” And his future son-in-law had this reaction: “Ha, ha, ha. What? Lot, you are some man of God warning me? Come on. Have you been drinking too much?” “When he hesitated, the men grasped,” the angels now they grasped, “his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.”
The closer I get to God, friends, the closer I get to God, the more I am awed by His grace and mercy, and also the more I am awed by His judgment. Do you know what the angels said? “Don’t look back. When the fire falls, do not look. Don’t look back.” Verse 26, “But Lot’s wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt.” A pillar of salt. Don’t look back.
I have actually swum in the Dead Sea. Most archeologists feel that Sodom and Gomorra are actually buried under beneath the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea has so much salt in it you can’t sink. Is that wild? You just float. You can be out 500 yards and just floating. The salt content is so high it can eat away at your skin if you stay in there too long. I have pictures of a bunch of us who went to Israel just floating around. It was a really a weird thing. But the eerie thing about it is you’re kind of floating around, splashing a little bit–don’t get it in your eyes though— and all of the sudden you look on the shore and you’ll see some pillars. Pillars of salt everywhere; they are there to this day.
My father had this look he would give me when I was misbehaving as a kid. I called it the O.L.K.E, the Oh! Look that Killed Ed. Oh! Okay. Well, this right here was a look that killed. Lot’s wife looked back and Bam! became a pillar of salt.
In certain areas God is playing Wipeout. His hands are on the sticks. He’s white knuckling the sticks. They’re getting ready to come down on the drum kits. But every time God plays Wipeout He always provides a way out. For many here you need to say, “God, I want to take your way out, because that is the only way.”