In Tense – Part 2
January 25, 2004
Last week I began a message I called “In Tense”. Today I’m continuing that, but for us to understand where we’re going tonight, we need to understand where I went last time so check this out if you would.
[A highlight video of last weekend’s message is played on the side screens]
We reside, we camp out in three locations. The first location is the location I’ll call the inexperienced camp. The inexperienced person sees the line. They see a good decision and they see a bad decision.
There’s another camp that causes all of us to make dumb, “What was I thinking?” decisions; and we’ve been there before. I know I have been in this next camp. It’s called the camp of the indifferent. In this camp, the indifferent, they’re warned. “Hey, if you keep doing this to your spouse, do you realize what’ll happen to your marriage?” They say, “I don’t care.” “Hey, if you keep on treating your kids like this, do you realize what’ll happen to them?” Still they say, “I don’t care.” “Hey, if you realize…” And they say, “I don’t care.” “If you spend your money so recklessly…” And again they say, “I don’t care. I’ve read the warning label. I don’t care. I’m going to do what I want to do.” You’re a fool.
And this third camp is a camp that very few of us reside in, but I’ve got to talk about it because the Bible talks about it. It’s the camp of the indignant. In your Bible, it might say the “mocker” or the “scoffer.” They are the people who jump in their car after church and say, “Yeah, the church is just full of hypocrites, man! All they wants my money! It’s just a show.” Many of them have gone so far away and the line is so invisible that many of them are beyond help. Isn’t that tragic?
And then we can move out of these camps and move to the ultimate camp: the camp of insight. Those who have insight from God can comprehend things that are obscure to the world. That’s the potential that all of us have. If we’re inexperienced, we can leave that camp. If we’re indifferent, we can leave that camp. If we’re indignant, we can leave that camp and discover the great decision making that the Lord has for us.
[The video ends, and Ed speaks live from the stage]
No one strategically plans to make a bad decision. No one plans to mess up. A husband doesn’t look at his wife on the honeymoon and say, “Hey, I’m going to have an affair on you and I’m going to blow this marriage up in about ten years.” No one says that.
Parents don’t cradle their bouncing baby boy and say, “Hey, you know, we’re going to so smother you, we’re going to so live our lives through you that you’ll need counseling for the rest of your life.” No one says that.
No one says, “Hey, I am going to get messed up on all sorts of drugs and alcohol and I’m going to go to rehab after rehab after rehab. I’m just going to mess my life up through substance abuse. That’s what I’m going to do.” No one does that.
No one says, “You know, I’m going to frequent adult websites and topless bars and I’m going to let pornography rule my world. It’ll ruin my family and my life. Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do.” No one does that. It just happens. It just happens.
Well, does it just happen? I’ve talked to a lot of my people in my life who’ve made a lot of different decisions in almost every realm imaginable. And I’ve gotten them to take some of their bad decisions and put them on the table, and we’ve sort of dissected the decisions. Here’s what I’ve discovered about decisions. Decisions are both macro and micro. There are big decisions and there are small decisions.
And if you talk to someone whose life is in the deep weeds because of dumb decision making, they’ll talk to you about a process, a micro-like process that started a chain reaction, a domino effect if you will, that kicked them over the line. So, whenever you talk about decision making, it’s not just an event, it’s a process. There’s a micro process; micro decisions lead to macro implications. And we can make dumb, idiotic, micro decisions that will lead to a macro mess.
When I was in school I took a lot of multiple choice tests and often I would not know the answer and people would always say, “Hey, Ed, the most common answer is ‘B’. When in doubt, circle ‘B.’” I always would circle “B,” circle “B,” circle “B.” I wish decision making was that easy. Don’t you? I mean just circle “B.” That’s it. Circle “B.” I’m not sure. Just circle “B,” circle “B,” circle “B.”
Several weeks ago, Lisa and I were having dinner with some close friends of ours. These friends have been key leaders at Fellowship Church for a long, long time, and the conversation was very interesting. We started talking about decision making and we started talking about our church’s history. We went back to 14 years ago when we began Fellowship Church, and we were saying how some of those decisions that we made years ago, those micro decisions that seemed to be so small, so insignificant then today have had macro implications. Over the last several days, several thousand pastors have been to Fellowship Church from all over the world – a macro implication of some micro decisions that we made in the past. And now we’re talking about these micro decisions that we made a long time ago, and they’re having macro influence on a lot of people’s lives. Micro – macro.
Jesus talked about macro questions. Every time Christ did something he asked himself three questions, and we’ve talked about this. We need to think about this again. He asked, “Is it written? Is it in the Word?” He asked, “Is it about love?” And He asked, “Is it on my Father’s agenda?”
Those are macro questions. But what if I’m involved in a decision that’s not really in the Bible, you know? What if I’m involved in something that is not specifically addressed in Scripture? What do I do? Well, I’m glad you asked.
The Bible says this in Romans Chapter 12:1-2, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” God’s perfect will; his excellent will. And we can test and approve this.
Well, how do we do that? By making great decisions. How do you make great decisions? We’ve go to think right. I’ve said this over and over in this series. I’ve said all of us have made these dumb, “What was I thinking?” decisions. What was I thinking? What was I thinking? What was I thinking? And that’s usually used in a negative context, right? Well, let’s change it a little bit. What should I be thinking? Because if I think right, Romans 12:1-2 right, then I’m going to decide right. As a believer, this line represents good choices and bad choices, morality and immorality, being ethical and being unethical.
Johnny Cash had a song he made popular a long time ago. In fact, I met Johnny Cash and June Cash when I was 21 years old, and I sat on the stage one time when they played this song. It was amazing. [Ed begins to sing] “Because you’re mine, I walk the line.” I was right there by the man in black! It was unbelievable.
We shouldn’t walk the line. As believers, we should not walk this line; this line of compromise; this line of being on the edge and the ledge. We shouldn’t do that. When we do that we’re going to rob ourselves.
God does not want us to walk the line. God wants us to be in line in his will. How do we become in line? We’ve got to be intense. If we’re intense and in line, then we will find out the amazing agenda that God has for us. If we’re not intense and if we’re not in line, we will spend an insane amount of time in the lap pool of regret and remorse saying, “If only… If only… If only…” And a lot of our eyes are blood shot. A lot of our hands are like prunes because we’ve been spending all that time in the lap pool of regret.
Well, we shouldn’t live there. We’ve got to ask ourselves macro questions, but we also have to ask ourselves micro questions. Well, how do we ask micro questions? Through insight? What is insight? I’m glad you asked.
We talked about this last time. Philippians 1:9-10 reads, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge…” What’s knowledge? That’s information. “…and all discernment…” What’s discernment? That’s application. If you have discernment, it means you grasp and comprehend what is obscure. So if we have knowledge and discernment, that’s insight. It says in verse 10, “…that you may approve the things that are excellent…” Not just good, but excellent. God has an excellent plan, an excellent purpose for every life here. “…that you may be sincere…” Isn’t that great? “…and without offense till the day of Christ.”
Well, Ed, that’s fine and dandy. Knowledge and discernment and insight. But what does that mean? What does that look like? Well, here’s what it looks like. Look at the question on the side screens.
[The following question is posted on the side screens as Ed reads it out loud] “In light of my past and considering my present circumstances and looking forward to the future, what is the best thing for me to do?” What is the most knowledgeable, what’s the discerning, what’s the most insightful thing? What choice? What decision should I make to stay in line?
That’s in-tense: past, present and future. Every time we face an issue, every time we face a choice or an option, every time a multiple choice deal comes our way, what do we do? Do we just circle “B?” No. We ask ourselves the question, “Considering my past, thinking about my present day circumstances and thinking about my future goals and aspirations, what is the most knowledgeable and discerning thing for me to do?”
Well, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the past. We all have a past. We’ve all been predisposed to things in our past. And so often our past can set us up to make poor decisions. Our past can set us up to make certain temptations look very, very inviting. I’m vulnerable maybe where you’re not. Maybe you’re vulnerable where I’m not. Here’s how you make a decision based on your past. You say, “The last time I went there I did blank. And doing that really got me sideways. It really took me over the line. So, because of my past, I’m not going there anymore.
Let’s say you are freshly divorced. The ink is not even dry yet. And let’s say you say to yourself, “Hey man, I’m going to date God’s way now. I messed up, but I’m going to do it God’s way.” What does God say? God says that you should date believers. Okay. So you say, “You know what? I’m just recently divorced, but I’m going to dive into the dating scene right now. I’m going to start dating.”
Don’t do it. No! You’re not ready. You’re going to make some dumb, micro decisions that will cause the domino effect that will lead you to a macro mess. Don’t go there. I would strongly suggest to you if you want to do it God’s way, to wait a year until you begin to date. Let God heal you and restore you. Get involved in the Singles Ministry. Get involved and just let God’s word soak into you life, into your spirit. Get healed, and then, after a year, you can think about it. You can contemplate it. But you would say, “Against the back drop of my past, I’m not going to date yet.” It got kind of quiet in here!
How about the present tense? Let’s say an investment comes your way. “Wow! You mean I can invest only “X” amount of dollars, and I can quadruple my money in eight years? Whoa! I’m not sure if I can resist that. Yeah, I’m in debt, and yeah, I’m kind of leveraged out, but I’m not sure I can resist that.”
Don’t go there. No! No! Because of your present day financial situation, don’t do it. It’s not the wise thing to do. It’s not the prudent thing to do. It’s not the knowledgeable thing to do. It’s not the discerning thing to do. Don’t do it. Maybe two years from now you can do it. You can invest in it then, but not now.
Let’s say someone offers you a new position at work. More money! Bling-bling! Ka-ching ka-ching! But, you have to travel. A lot! Three or four days a week you’ll be away from your spouse and away from your kids. I can’t tell you how to live, but against the back drop of your past, your present day circumstances (because marriage and your kids are important) what’s the insightful thing to do? What’s the discerning thing to do? This stuff gets messy doesn’t, it?
How about the future? That’s another micro question – the future. “Well, if I want my marriage to be here on level “X,” what should I do? This decision – yes or no?”
“If I want my kids to be there but I want my career to be over there, how should I make this call? Thinking about my past, my present day circumstances and my future, what’s the best thing for me to do?”
God wants excellence from our lives. He wants things that are great. He wants us to hit on all cylinders when we make decisions. You may be asking, “But Ed, I mean, I understand I’m not supposed to walk the line, but where’s the line, man? Where is it? In line? Yeah, we need to be in line with scripture, in line with the love of the Lord, in line with God’s plan, but where is the line, man? Where’s the line?” Well, let’s, let’s keep on going, because the plot clots.
Well, let’s talk morality for a second. It’s a pretty good place to talk, morality. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have messed up morally. There are certain lines that we can cross morally, and we will pay for crossing those lines for the rest of our lives. That’s just the way it is With moral situations.
I’ll talk about my own life and the pastors here at Fellowship Church. We have guidelines that we’ve set in our lives. The lines we’ve drawn are over here. [Ed points to the “right” side of the line] We don’t walk on the edge or the ledge of moral compromise. We don’t do it.
Case in point: None of the pastors at Fellowship Church will have a meal alone with a member of the opposite sex. With our wives, of course, but not someone else. We will not ride alone in a car with a member of the opposite sex. I don’t counsel alone a member of the opposite sex. For that matter, I don’t counsel. But anyway, we just don’t do that.
Well, think about that for a second. Are those things sins in and of themselves? Is it a sin for me to go to a restaurant with a lady who is not my wife, alone? No, it’s not a sin. Is it a sin for me to have coffee with a woman? No. Is it a sin for me to ride in the car with a woman? No. But it’s stupid. It’s unwise. It’s dumb.
I’ve talked to person after person in the deep weeds morally. Many have lost their marriages and their families. They’re experiencing the extreme consequences of a wheels-off, unwise series of micro decisions that have led to a major macro moral mess. And here’s what they tell people on the other side: “The consequences are extreme so make sure the guidelines are extreme as well.”
Let’s say, for example, I was not a pastor. Let’s just move the modern day pulpit aside. Let’s say I was a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, a coach, or a repairman. I would still do the same thing as a Christ follower. I would still do the same thing. The line would be where it is. I’m not going there. I’m not putting that temptation in front of me. And as a believer, you have to make the call. You make it. I can’t make it for you.
The Bible says this about sexual sin in 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality…”
Now what does the word flee mean? Flee! Run! Get out of town! Head for the hills! That’s what it means.
[The entire verse reads] “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”
“Wait a minute, Ed,” you are asking, “Are you telling me that sexual sin is unique? That sexual sin is different from other sins? Are, are you telling me that?”
No, I’m not. The Bible is. These aren’t my words. The Bible says sexual sin is unique. Why? Well, I just read it to you. “…He who sins sexually sins against his own body.” Sexual sin sticks to us like Velcro. Wait a minute! Are you saying that God’s not forgive sexual sin? Oh, no. Oh, no. Our loving and faithful and forgiving and merciful God forgives sexual sin. We, though, have a hard time forgiving ourselves. There’s nothing like sexual sin. Psychologists and sociologists still don’t understand it. They’re still trying to unpack sex. It’s that powerful. It’s that potent. “Flee,” the Bible says. Sexual sin is sinning against your own body.
Let’s talk to the singles. Let’s say this line represents sexual intercourse. How far should you go, student, junior high student, high school student? I mean, here’s sexual intercourse, are you going to walk on the edge and the ledge as a Christ follower?
Please, do not send me an email for saying sexual intercourse. Because the second best place in the world to hear about sex is here in church. The first place is in the family; second in church. If you have a problem with it, go to another church. We need your seat, okay?! So, because the world talks about sex in a wheels-off, whacky way, I’m going to talk about it in the right way. So let’s just smile and go, “Yeah!”
There’s a lot you can do between, “Hi, my name is…” and “Let’s get it on.” There is a lot between that. So what do you do? Let me ask you a question. How far sexually do you want your future spouse to go with the person he or she is dating right now? [Gasp] I think I’ve answered it. Okay, let’s move on.
Let’s talk about marriage. This is good. Micro, macro, micro, macro. In marriage, you should have a date night regularly with your spouse. Hey, guys, what you used to get her is what you use to keep her. Date nights. Lisa and I have a date night every Thursday, once a week. Double dating went out with the senior prom. I date Lisa every week. Thursday night. That’s the night, man. Yeah! Thursdays! Whoo! Its micro time, you know. Date night; just a little date night. It’s only three or four hours on Thursdays. That’s it. It’s small; itty bitty. But what if I neglected a date night for like, you know, four weeks? Whoa! “Just micro” neglect could turn into a macro mess, couldn’t it?
Don’t you see how it works? Micro and macro? Where am I going to set the line? I need to understand the relationship between the two. These small decisions can compound with interest daily and turn into something big, something major.
Let me talk to singles looking for spouses. Ninety-some-odd percent of singles will get married. That’s good news, isn’t it? Yeah! Yeah! Singles, let me just talk straight up to you, please. You put too much emphasis on looks. That’s the bottom line. I’m not saying that you should not be attracted to the person you’re dating and ultimately the person you marry, but that’s a God thing. We’re attracted. You’ve got to have chemistry. You’ve got to have that “Love is in the air” feeling. I understand that. But we go whack-a-doodle-do over looks. We say, “Whoa, she’s got to look like this. She’s got to have this kind of figure,” Or, “He’s got to look like that.” Looks? Oh, that’s funny.
Proverbs Chapter 31:30 tells us, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting.” How many agree with that? How many are a living testimony of that fact? [Ha, Ha, Ha] Oh, that’s good. [The verse continues[ “…but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
We take looks, something that’s a micro issue, it’s important but it’s micro, and make it a macro thing. Hey man, good looks ain’t gonna make you breakfast in the morning. Good looks ain’t gonna be a good mama. Good looks ain’t gonna say, “I’m sorry.” Good looks? Good looks? That’s it. We say, “She’s got to be hot, man,” or, “He’s got to be hot.” Ah, oh! This next part… I’m going to really get in your face now.
Let’s talk about dress. Hello! Where do fashion and faith meet? Whoo! Man, alive! Do we, as believers… If you’re not a Christ follower, we don’t expect you to dress like a believer until you become a believer, so just tune me out. I’m talking to men, too, but especially women. If you are a Christ follower, women especially, are you going to tell me that you’re going to walk on the edge and the ledge of compromise by the way you dress? You might not look at pornography, but you are committing pornography by the way you’re dressing. Wait a minute.
Now, who were the role models here? Too many women say, “I know what. I’ll dress like Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, or ‘Lil Kim!” And if you’re old, maybe it’s Cher. Come on!
[Ed begins to snort like a pig to introduce the next Bible verse] Wait a minute. [snort, snort] I hear some… [snort, snort] Wait, wait… [snort, snort] Do you hear maybe a couple of hogs or pigs in the house? Proverbs 11:22 says, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” And parents, what kind of decisions are you making by letting your daughters out of the house in the stuff they’re wearing? Whoa! Um, unbelievable!
Let’s talk about money. Oh, that’s a good subject. Money – micro, macro, micro, macro. You know, you spend micro stuff, just micro money; you know, a little money here, a little money there, little money, little money, little money. And what can happen is the micro spending can build into a macro mess and suddenly you’re drowning in the seas of debt. And that big ole creature from the cash lagoon will grab your leg and you’ll yell, “[gurgle] I’m drowning in the seas of debt!” You don’t want to go there. Micro, macro. Micro, macro.
How about the tithes? As believers we’re to tithe. God just says to give a micro amount, just ten percent of what you make. Just ten percent, Sally. Just, just ten percent, Bill. That’s all. Well, we say, “No, God, it’s mine. It’s my money.” Ha, ha, ha, ha. Really? You don’t give God His, God’s never going to bless you. It’s not going to happen for you. I’m not saying that. No, that’s what the Bible says. Malachi, Proverbs, the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – it’s all in there. Just read it. It’s what God says.
How about time? Oh, that’s a good one – the minutes. We can’t get time back. There’s just something about time. You can’t get it back but people say, “Man, you know, I’ve not been to church in three months. So, I’m going to stay for all five services and just soak it in.” No, you can’t do that. “I have to spend time with my kids, man. I’m just going to make up for lost time. You can’t get it back. Micro time in church, micro time with your kids will lead to great macro things.
So what are we saying here? We’re saying simply we’ve got to have insight, knowledge, and discernment. We have got to have wisdom. We need to understand those small, micro choices. We’ve got to understand the past, present, and future. We’ve got to be intense, because when we’re intense, we’ll be in line and then we will live in true joy – the kind of joy that only God can bring.