Are Truth and Morality Subjective?

Are Truth and Morality Subjective?

One of the things I encounter most often when talking with people is what many apologists would define as “subjective moral reasoning.” In simpler terms, it just means that they believe they determine what is morally right and wrong. From their perspective, they are perfectly capable of discerning truth and morality. However, if truth and morality are nothing more than a matter of opinion, then no person’s actions can be called good or evil. There is no standard of morality by which to judge anything.

The reason many people believe this is because it creates an environment in which no one questions them. If someone, such as myself, happens to question their worldview then he or she is seen as a hateful bigot. Again, not because they are in reality, but because that person claims that they are. Yet, from their worldview all beliefs are supposed to be equally valid, even the ones they disagree with. You can see the glaring hypocrisy here.

Without an objective source of truth and morality, anything goes. Without an objective standard of what is good, one could argue Hitler’s actions are just as “good” as Corrie Ten Boom’s. This is one reasons why I could never be an atheist because my conscious tells me that some things are objectively good and some things are objectively evil. The Bible says in Romans 2:15 that God has written His law (standard of goodness) on our hearts. We know that it is wrong to steal, lie, murder, and cheat. If we call these things good, it is because we are suppressing the truth, not accepting it.

This is why the Gospel is so offensive. It calls all people to repent of their sins. The truth is…we have all sinned against a perfect, holy God and according to God’s Word, are deserving of death. He is our creator and moral law giver. How can we, creatures made from the dust, think we know better than the One who made us? But, the good news is that Jesus died in our place. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness. And to those who call upon His name, He gives us His Spirit who leads us into all truth.

Friends, truth and morality start and end with God. We need Him. We need His Word. And that isn’t subjective.

abortion and the god Molech in the Old Testament

21st Century Molech

“You are not to make any of your children pass through the fire to Molech. Do not profane the name of your God; I am Yahweh.” Leviticus 18:21

There is an interesting command God gives to the Israelites in Leviticus chapter 18. It is sandwiched between other commands concerning prohibited sexual relations and forbidden pagan practices. God specifically calls out Molech, a god of the Canaanite people. According to ancient historians, worshipers of Molech would sacrifice their infants to Molech to ensure prosperity for their future. It is said that the Canaanite people would also get rid of their illegitimate children by way of child sacrifice. I even read somewhere that poor families would sell their infants to those who did not have babies of their own.

It is important to understand what was going on when people worshiped Molech. The Canaanites would heat up a statue of Molech until it was red hot. The statue usually featured a bull-like figure with outstretched arms that slopped down like a slide into a fire pit. The infants literally melted before the eyes of those in attendance. Keep in mind that the child’s parents were among those watching. Yet, they were told not to cry or shed a tear lest they forfeit the blessing that would come as a result of their sacrifice. In fact, the Canaanites would play loud flutes and drums to drown out the sound of the infant’s screams.

Wicked is not strong enough a word to describe what was going on here.

Going back to the command that God gave Israel, we see that He abhors such behavior and practices. Don’t forget that the command was given amidst other commands about  sinful sexual practices. This type of “worship” would be tempting to those who either didn’t want their child or felt this was the way they could take hold of their future.

Make no mistake, Molech is still being worshiped today. He has just taken on a more modern, 21st century look. The drums and flutes have been discarded, but there is still plenty of noise to drown out the cries of the infants. In both situations, the baby is offered up so that the parents might have a “better life.”

God was patient with the Canaanites for 400 years before He sent His righteous judgement. When will His patience run out with us? Oh Lord, have mercy!

praying in the morning

Your Mornings Matter

Brothers and sisters, don’t sleep the day away. Listen, I know how nice it is to sleep in every now and then. Sometimes we need to catch up on our sleep and that’s okay. But just remember that there is a constant war going on beyond your comforter.

I’m talking about a spiritual war between good and evil; truth vs. lies; morality vs. immorality. All you have to do is turn on the news or scroll through your social media feed to see that the future of our world is becoming increasingly more chaotic and unsure. For many, these are beyond frightening times.

For Americans, we are seeing more and more division between coworkers. I’ve noticed more hostility between friends and neighbors. And the nuclear family is disappearing like Spiderman at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. It seems as though all of our relationships are strained.

But there is hope!

The Bible makes it clear that the prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much (James 5:16). Furthermore, things happen when we pray to our Father in heaven that wouldn’t happen unless we prayed. It may be difficult for you to imagine your atheist friend trusting in Jesus. It is difficult for me to wrap my mind around the abolition of abortion in the United States. And honestly, there are some days where fulfilling the Great Commission seems laughable. Why is this? Because in our own strength none of these things will come to pass. We aren’t strong enough. But God is! And that is why we pray. Prayer acknowledges who God is and who we are not.

It is easy to stay in bed and ignore the problems of the day. I have wasted so many opportunities in the past snoozing my alarm when I could have been praying to the only One fully capable of handing all of my problems. Mornings are important because they are usually quiet, and we are unencumbered with things we have to do for that day. Before you get on your phone, get on your knees. Before you call up a friend, call out to God. Christian, you are a soldier for Christ. You are on the front lines now. The only weapons you have are prayer and the Word of God. But they are all you need.

Brothers and sisters, your mornings matter. They matter because God hears the prayers of His children. Do not take prayer for granted or undervalue its worth. Pray all throughout the day, but especially at the start. Your prayer this morning could change the course of the day. It could even lead to a brighter tomorrow.

 

 

Wooden carving of Jesus on the cross

Is Jesus Beautiful to You?

“We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God ( Hebrews 12:2 GWT).”

I am constantly overwhelmed by the beauty of the Lord, especially during times of personal trials. During those difficult times, I begin to focus and meditate on Jesus’ death on the cross. You might say, “how can a naked, bleeding, dying man on a cross be seen as beautiful?” And I’d tell you, “the cross of Jesus is beautiful because I know that it should have been the cross of Jesse (me).”

As horrific and awful as Jesus’ crucifixion was, it is exceedingly more beautiful once you understand what He was accomplishing for us. Jesus was paying our debt, suffering our punishment, and satisfying the wrath of God for our sins. It often renders me speechless because it is so beautiful and undeserved. Nothing will ever surpass this in beauty.

Is Jesus beautiful to you? Do you find His shed blood repulsive or life giving? Do you run from His wounds or are they your hiding place? Jesus endured the cross for you, friend. Fix your eyes upon Him and behold His beauty today. Turn from your sins and turn to Jesus in faith.

Nothing is Wasted on Jesus

The Road the Cross: Nothing is Wasted on Jesus (A Poem)

Nothing is wasted on Jesus

Not a second, not a word, not a dime

If given in faith, He will bless them

And multiply them all in His time

Nothing is wasted on You, Jesus

So I will pour out every drop in my jar

Although the oil is costly

It is worthless compared to what You are

Nothing is wasted on You, Lord

Not even a kiss of utter betrayal

You embraced it with humble submission

Knowing that good would prevail

No, nothing is wasted on Jesus

Not a second, not a word, not a dime

For Jesus is greater than all

Of heaven and earth’s riches combined


Based on Matthew 26:6-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Road to the Cross: Jesus' Authority Questioned

The Road to the Cross: Jesus’ Authority Questioned

“What gives you the right?” Have you ever heard this in an argument before? It’s a question of authority. It means the other party wants to see your credentials. They want to know by what authority are you able to speak and behave in such and such a manner.

Jesus was asked this question by the “chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders (Mark 11:27).” They had just witnessed Jesus “clean house” in the Temple and they were enraged. They wanted to find a way to kill Jesus. Not only did this man from Galilee claim to be the Son of God, now He was threatening business!

The easiest way to prove someone is a fake is to ask for their credentials. If you go to the doctor you will probably see his diplomas hanging up somewhere in his office. If you don’t see the diplomas…well, you may want to consider changing doctors. I don’t know about you, but I like to know that my doctor has earned the right to put “Dr.” before his name.

But, Jesus did not hand over any identification or diplomas to these people when they questioned Him. Instead, he gave them a question of His own. He asked, “John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me (Mark 11:30)!” We know from the following verses that this question created a huge dilemma for the leaders and scholars. If they were to say that John did by the authority of heaven, everyone will ask why they didn’t believe him. If they say it was by some human authority, the people will become very angry. That’s because many people believed John to be a true prophet of God. To save face, they answer Jesus with a “we don’t know.”

Friend, Jesus doesn’t need a business card to prove to you He is God. First, the works of Jesus testify to who He is. Second, the Father spoke from heaven about His Son, Jesus. Third, John the Baptist made clear that Jesus was far more than simply his cousin ( see John 5). People can try to dance around the truth like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. People can even play it safe by saying “we don’t know,” but it won’t change reality. Jesus’ opponents didn’t want the truth; they wanted an excuse to keep things the way that they were.

Maybe you are reading this and you are not a Christian. Please, whatever you do, don’t straddle the fence. Either Jesus is God or He is a liar. Either His authority is from heaven or it is man-made. However, if you are honestly seeking the truth you only arrive at one answer:

Jesus is Lord of all! 

And if you’re still looking for credentials…look no further than the empty tomb. We will talk more about that very soon.

 

 

 

The Road to the Cross: A Cursed Fig Tree

The Road to the Cross: A Cursed Fig Tree

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:12-14


Have you ever had your hopes dashed? Have you ever expected something to be so great, but when it finally came you were utterly disappointed?

A few years ago, I sat down to lunch with my wife and mom at a restaurant that I enjoyed eating at when I was little. I decided to order the fried chicken dinner that day. When the waiter brought it to our table it looked so delicious. I couldn’t wait to dig in! However, once I took a bite I knew something wasn’t right. The chicken tasted of cleaning chemicals—a far cry from buttermilk and spices. Even though my plate looked like the one in the menu, in reality, it was all for show.

When Jesus became hungry on his way to Jerusalem, he thought he would find some sustenance from a fig tree along the way. He saw the leaves on the tree from a distance. That was a good sign; that meant figs! For fig trees, the leaves and fruit come at the same time. A fig tree doesn’t blossom, instead the fruit is the blossom; it is an inverted flower. But, when Jesus came to the tree He saw that there were no figs for Him to eat, and He cursed the tree. Apparently, the leaves were all for show. The next day, the disciples found that the tree had withered (Mark 11:20-21). Truly, no one would ever eat from that tree ever again.

Now, was this story simply about a fig tree? No, I don’t believe so. It believe it is a lesson for us all. For the people of Israel, the fig tree was a physical representation of their spiritual condition. From a distance things looked great! Just the day before, people were cheering and laying down their cloaks. They were claiming things were ready and in order for the Messiah’s coming. But, upon closer inspection, it became abundantly clear that this was not the case. Do you remember what Jesus did later this same day? He drove out the money changers from the temple courts. The temple was supposed to be a “house of prayer.” Jesus said that it was, in fact, a “den of robbers.”

Like this fig tree, we can be “all leaves and no fruit.” We may look like the greatest Christians to ever walk the face of the earth from a distance, but if Jesus came close would he find any fruit? Is our faith genuine and thriving, or is it all for show? Perhaps the better question is: “when will Jesus’ patience run out before He sends His judgement?”

The Road to the Cross: Palm Sunday

The Road to the Cross: Palm Sunday

When you think of a king what comes to mind? I immediately think about someone with the most power, wealth, and authority in the kingdom. I can almost picture the kings of old riding their chariots through the streets with their swords sheathed to their sides. Trumpets are blaring and flags are waving. The people cheer and bow before him as he passes by.

I can almost hear the thunderous sound of the war horses as these kings led their armies into battle. I can picture them fully armored, ready to take on their enemies. You won’t see them crying. If men have to die in order to ensure the king’s victory, then so be it.


Now imagine this:

You are a young Jewish person living in Jerusalem. You’ve heard a rumor that a man from Nazareth raised someone from the dead who had been dead four days. Suddenly, you hear from a distance people you know crying out:

Hosanna (Save)!” 

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

The people are talking about the promised Messiah! They are quoting Psalm 118! Could it be that the anointed one has finally come?

You make your way through the crowd to get a closer look. You see people paving the road with palm branches and their own cloaks. This means victory! Your heart is pounding now! And then you see him…and…you’re confused….

You were expecting to see a great warrior who would be able to take on the Romans. But this man they call Jesus doesn’t look like a king. He looks like any other rabbi in town. He isn’t riding a horse; he’s riding on a donkey. He looks like a man on a business trip, not like a man preparing for battle. He isn’t leading an army, just a rag-tag group of his disciples. And to make matters worse, he’s weeping (Luke 19:41-44)! 


It is true that Jesus did not look like an earthly king. That is because He wasn’t ushering in a kingdom of man; He was ushering in the kingdom of God! He wouldn’t do it with the strength of horses and swords. The Christ would do it by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ focus wasn’t on destroying the works of the Romans. He came to destroy the works of the true enemy of God’s people—the devil.

And though no one asked Him to, Jesus came to save us from our sins. He died for us so that He could be the king of our hearts. Under the rule and reign of our sin, we will surely die. But, if we trust in the Resurrected King then death will have no victory over us!

The people of Jerusalem missed the Savior in their search for salvation. I pray that we would not make the same mistake. As we celebrate Palm Sunday today, praise God that He didn’t give us the messiah that we wanted. Instead, He gave us the Messiah that we needed.

Book Recommendation: Innovation in World Mission by Derek T. Seipp

Book Recommendation: Innovation in World Mission by Derek T. Seipp

Innovation in World Mission: A Framework for Transformational Thinking about the Future of World Mission. By Derek T. Seipp. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2016, 2733 locations, $9.95 Kindle edition.


What does the future of world mission look like?  In Innovation in World Mission, Derek T. Seipp aims to answer this crucial question by examining current global trends. Seipp focuses heavily on a principle he calls “strategic drift”, or the widening gap “between what we actually do and what needs to be done (Kindle location 152).” He argues that the Church has been far more reactive than proactive when it comes to developing new strategies for missions. The book relies heavily on anecdotes from the business world to explain the dangers of not looking forward to the future. While Seipp does develop his thoughts by examining the Scripture, it is obvious that much of his thinking on innovation has been shaped from his experience in the business world.

The book is divided into 8 chapters, with chapter 1 being the most informative and chapter 8 being the most applicative. Throughout the book, however, Seipp instructs the reader to put the book down, think critically, even complete a project before continuing. I think many readers will find this helpful as they try to practice the skill of innovation in their own lives.

Chapter 1 explains the nature of our “changing world” and why innovation has been important since the beginning of time. The Creator God has created us in His image, “and we were called to be creative. When we apply that creativity to work, we simply call it innovation (Kindle location 216).” Seipp believes that a failure to innovate stems from a lack of awareness and will result in an unpreparedness for the future (Kindle location 244). In the business industry, the things that worked yesterday, may not work today. Seipp explains that “world mission is not less immune to these changes (Kindle location 189).” With several real-world examples, chapter 1 serves as a wake-up call for the global and local Church to innovate now.

Chapter 2 deals with the “mega-trends” that are contributing to the various changes we see in the world today and how these trends are affecting the Church and its mission. While only six mega-trends are listed in this chapter (globalization, technology, economic change, deculturation and reculturation, mobility, and environmental change), Seipp explains that the list is not exhaustive (Kindle location 272). I found it telling that he chose to write first and focus heavily on globalization. Globalization is good for global business: it helps stimulate global economies and essentially levels the playing ground for the poor and marginalized who previously had no opportunities (Kindle location 294). Yet, “Globalization is also changing the problems we face. Prostitution rings are now global in nature (Kindle location 320).” Seipp does a good job of explaining both the pros and cons of each trend; or it could be said that he demonstrates how they all come with their blessings and curses.

Chapter 3 also focuses on mega-trends, but specifically those to watch for within Christendom. Seipp spends much of the chapter discussing changes occurring within the confines of missionary sending and the current climate of the American church. Being that I am a 24-year-old American missionary, I felt as though this chapter was written about me. At various times, I would audibly say “that is so true,” or I would immediately share a passage with my wife for her consideration. Regardless of age or profession, readers of this book will find Seipp’s commentary in this chapter to be spot on, if not prophetic. I must also commend him for staying impartial while discussing some of the hot-button issues within the American church (e.g. rise of Pentecostalism and New Calvinism). However, the same cannot be said of the discussion of the shift in the American Church’s understanding of Missio Dei. Seipp seemed troubled by the reality that many young missionaries are bypassing mission agencies and “the wisdom and experience from a long history of mission involvement (Kindle location 791).” Time will tell if his cause for concern is warranted.

Chapter 4 explains the vital role innovation has played throughout Church history. The Apostle Paul is sited as a Gospel innovator, whose courage to “stand up” contributed to the conversion of Roman Empire (Kindle location 833).  Seipp also takes this opportunity to appeal to the Old Testament to support his thesis, most notably 1 Chronicles 12:32. Seipp believes that the men from Issachar’s ability to “understand the times and know what Israel should do” was a prime example of innovative thinking. Seipp will go on to site this passage several more times in the book. I noticed that Seipp stressed heavily that innovation is a trained skill. He also emphasized the need for “an entire organization of transformative leaders (Kindle location 905).” There is tremendous wisdom is discussing these issues with other godly innovators. However, it is difficult to understand how to carry these principles over into the local church whose leadership differs from that of businesses and para-church organizations. Perhaps Ephesians 5:21 is the key to applying these principles in every area of life.

Chapters 5 and 6 are more explanatory than others, but for the benefit of the student of innovation. In Chapter 5, Seipp explains the role of research in decision-making and ultimately seeking God’s will. A company or business that neglects research is susceptible to “creative destruction.” In other words, “the creativity of one company of organization causes the destruction of another (Kindle location 956).” Seipp claims the principle also applies to ministries and non-profits. If the non-profit’s supporters are not engaged by the “story” they will take their money elsewhere; to put it simply: innovate or die (Kindle location 1049).  The rest of chapter deals with s-curves and the importance of capitalizing on the life cycle of a product or idea. I have personally seen s-curves being incorporated in Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) leadership training. In chapter 6, Seipp provides tools (scan hits, impact maps, and plausible scenarios) to help the Church innovate with the future in mind. This chapter is quite technical; it may seem out of place in a mission(s) textbook; however, I think it helps drive Seipp’s point home about looking to the future. It could be said that Innovation in World Mission is timely, ahead of its time, or a mixture of both.

Chapters 7 and 8 brings the book to a close by providing examples of ways to practically implement the information from the rest of the book. Seipp points to organizational leadership for successful innovation in chapter 7. He devotes a lot of time to the value of learning and dialogue within these organizations (Kindle location 1912). I found this chapter to be a little redundant a times, but I can’t deny its truthfulness regarding innovation within missions. Chapter 8 wraps things up nicely by recapping the content from the other chapters. Seipp does an excellent job of encouraging the reader to experiment, but on a small, focused scale at first. He also makes clear that failure is a good thing; it is “an opportunity to grow (Kindle location 2091).” Seipp closes out by looking to the cross. “If God simply drew a line from our past, he would have never sent his Son (Kindle location 2157).” Seipp seems to be saying that the things/ideas/events that change the world come from drawing a line from the future to today.

I would recommend Innovation in World Mission not only to new missionaries, like myself, but to anyone curious about where our world is headed. It is a wonderful resource for the local and global Church to take a step back and look at its current course. If I have any critique it would be for Seipp to have spent more time examining the Scripture. Occasionally, I felt as though he was reading some of his personal biases into the text; yet, nothing he said ever made me feel uncomfortable. Overall, Innovation in World Mission is a quick read that will help train many new innovators to carry out the Great Commission in new and exciting ways.

My God Sings

My God Sings

Often when I am driving in the car by myself I will sing praises to God. When it is just me I don’t have to worry about how loud I am being or feel self-conscious when my voice cracks. Sometimes I’ll sing an old familiar hymn like “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Other times I will sing spontaneous songs of praise. They may not be the most beautiful songs ever written, but they express the cry of my heart in that moment. I love singing unto God. I think it is one of the sweetest privileges we have as believers. It is amazing to think that God not only hears our prayers, He also listens to our music.

He hears each note sung and every chord struck. Like a father watching his child play at his first piano recital, I can picture our Heavenly Father with a big grin and a camcorder in His hand. He loves every second of our songs written for Him. They bring a smile to His face. And He never forgets them; He never tapes over the footage.

Rest assured that God isn’t phased by a wrong notes. He doesn’t cringe when our instruments are a little out of tune. You see, God listens to more than our music; He listens to our hearts. We can play all the right notes, but have the wrong motives. We can have our instruments tuned perfectly, but our hearts not tuned “to sing [His] grace .” We don’t sing to impress God or earn His love. We sing because we love Him. We sing because we are free. We sing because He is worthy of our songs and so much more.

And all the while, He is singing over us. Read the words of Zephaniah 3:17 carefully:

The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.

The Lord of All Creation is so delighted in us, His children, that He sings songs of rejoicing! Even with all of our sin and repeated failures, He still delights in us. Friend, if the god you serve isn’t singing, he isn’t the One True God. A god who isn’t rejoicing over his people is probably a god who shouts only words of condemnation. But the God of the Bible remembers our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12).  I pray that these verses would be a reminder to us all of how much God loves us.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a song coming on…