With the exception of those who've managed to convince themselves that God is not real or that God does not care, most of us have worried at one time or another if we have not gone so far away from God, sinned so much, or sinned in such a way that God would or has already said to us, "Just go away. You make me sick!"
You may also wonder how far our society can go on flaunting God's instructions but still expect we will be protected from serious harm from those who would love to destroy us. It's easy to get complacent and put our confidence in our military or our health care system or the large oceans to our east and west to protect us. But there are signs that we are not as invulnerable as we may have thought. Ebola has everyone's attention. Some Ebola outbreaks in the past have had up to a 90% fatality rate among those who caught the disease. This week Thomas Eric Duncan, a 42 year old man from Liberia died of the disease, not in Liberia but in a hospital in Dallas with the best medical care in the world available to him. A disastrous outbreak here seems unlikely, but it would be foolish to ignore the possibility.
Then there is the Islamic state threatening and trying to find a way to harm us or at least worry us that they could harm us in our own homes. When I was teenager, parents worried about their kids drinking and driving, doing drugs and being promiscuous. Such rebellions look more manageable in the face of families learning that not only has their child run away, but that they have run away to join the jihad of the Islamic State.
One of the reasons Islamic extremists hate us us by the way is because of our promiscuous and materialistic western culture exported all over the world through TV and Internet. Every week there is new evidence that seems to push further and further away from truth that, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." For instance, last week an article appeared in the New York Times with the title "Pedophilia: A Disorder, Not a Crime," written by Margo Kaplan. Ms. Kaplan believes she is trying to protect children, but her title itself contributes to the increasing insanity around us. I can scarcely imagine what such a headline must sound like to a victim of child abuse.
There's a book in the Old Testament that has many parallels with our time. The book ends with this verse:
Judges 21:25 (ESV) 25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own
Everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, with little or no thought of God. It sounds disturbingly familiar. Judges is a powerful word for our time. That seems unlikely because the events recorded there happened a very long time ago, but they provide a perspective that we will never get reading the New York Times or my home town weekly newspaper, the Tri City News, or anything in between. We tend to focus on what's happening to us right now. We say, "I didn't sleep well last night because I had too much to eat late," or "I got a sunburn because I was out in the sun too long," or "I caught a cold because its going around," or "someone got lung cancer because they smoked cigarettes for 40 years or lived with someone who did." But the book of Judges is like a study that extends for a few hundred years that demonstrates vividly what happens over a few generations where the prevailing value is, "everyone does what is right in his own eyes."
The result isn't pretty. And its not easy to read. Interestingly, it's not so much a challenge to the culture running wildly away from God, but is a warning to God's people who start looking just like the culture around them. Ironically, the force of the book demonstrates the glorious grace of God extended to wildly flawed people like you and me. It answers the question, "how far is too far?" in an unforgettable way. Sunday at Bethany Place we will start digging in to this book. Along the way we will see God use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Huge issues we face every day weave in and out of the stories; issues like pride and humility, compromise, and how to pass the faith on to future generations among others.
Here's the schedule of how we will proceed over the next few weeks.
How Far is Too Far?
- 10/12: Unseen Dangers of Comfort, Judges 1
- 10/19: Staying Sane in the Midst of Insanity, Judges 2
- 10/26: Pride Shattering Help, Judges 3
- 11/2: Insurmountable Obstacles, Judges 4-5
- 11/9: Why am I in the Mess that I'm In, Judges 6
- 11/16: Learning to Trust, Judges 7
- 11/23: Sin, Success & Failure, The strange & fascinating story of Samson Part 1 Judges 13-15
- 11/30: Sin, Success & Failure, The strange & fascinating story of Samson Part 2 Judges 13-15
To my Bethany Place family, I urge you to plan to be here every Sunday or if that is impossible, that you would keep up by watching online when you have to be away. Also, this series provides a perfect opportunity for us to invite people to come to church with us. The issues addressed in this book speak clearly to our time and along the way we will meet some of the most colorful characters in all the bible. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow and look forward to meeting some new folks over the course of these weeks.