Relativism

 

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This is a term that has garnered a lot of use lately.  The term relativism is a world view that has a premise, at its foundation, that there is no absolute truth.  It assumes that a truth, knowledge or morality exists in relation to culture or historical context.

“Relativism, roughly put, is the view that truth and falsity, right and wrong, standards of reasoning, and procedures of justification are products of differing conventions and frameworks of assessment and that their authority is confined to the context giving rise to them.” This quote comes from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Put another way, if it feels good, it must be OK.  Unfortunately, that belief can lead one into some pretty dark places.

One of the attributes of the millennials – our next generation – is their view of relativism.  I have described it as an Asian outlook on life. Asians don’t often look at decisions from a value base, but look at them from a relative basis.  A decision is determined by some secondary issue such as who might be adversely affected or impacted negatively. In the Asian culture, it is called “save face”.  The decision is not based on any moral truth, which is secondary.

Given a choice between telling the truth or helping another “save face” or embarrassment, the Asian values will often fudge on truth in order not to embarrass another co-worker or someone superior to them.

As a result, their decisions often don’t reflect truth as a basic core value. If a decision will cause harm to someone – in their culture, they call this loss of face – then they will act accordingly, even if the result is dishonest.

I saw this first hand when I represented Japanese clients.  Decisions were made which made no sense to me. My Japanese clients had made investments in U.S. real estate that had turned sour, but instead of admitting it was a mistake, they would pour more money into it and keep them on life support so that no one would have to admit it was a mistake.

The reason for the decision was not obvious to me initially.  Then I realized that the original decision to make the investment was made by some manager higher in the company, and any admission that it was a bad decision would cause him to lose face. Ergo, they ignored exiting the investment, and instead kept it going to postpone what should have been an obvious solution.

The next generation, many of whom have not grown up with any Christian involvement or in a Christian environment, often make decisions or choices in the Asian way.  Since they don’t have any moral absolutes, choices about sexuality, religion or what is right and wrong is something they must figure out by themselves.

I have tried to come up with an example of how difficult this is. One analogy that I came up with was a sports analogy:  what it would look like if you played a sport without any rules. In this analogy, rules are the same as truths.  Take soccer, for example.  There would be nothing stopping you from eliminating any out-of-bounds.

Body contact with an opposing player might be justified if it helped you to gain an advantage without penalty.  Tackling the goal keeper so you could score a goal would be acceptable because you believe that winning is the most important thing so anything you do to win is acceptable.

Or, if you were unhappy with the size of the opponent’s goal, you would enlarge their goal to make it easier for you to score. Or, if you don’t think you can win with the normal 11 players, you could have 13 players if that gives you an advantage. I think you get the idea.  It could or would be chaotic.

But that’s the slippery slope that the next generation is walking on.  They really need guidance in this area. I am dismayed at the lack of the influence of the father on the next generation.  He is either absent physically, or in many cases mentally. In the latter case, they are “too busy” to be involved in their child’s life, preferring to let the schools or others do their job.

As I reflect over the past 50 years, I can see the effect of relativism which has replaced Christian morality and truth over time.  Look at our social conventions.  Marriage in the biblical context was intended to be forever.

Now, the relative view is that if your marriage is not working, it’s OK to abandon it and get a divorce. No matter that the divorce may adversely impact your children.

The important thing is that your personal life is better so if you are unhappy, divorce becomes a solution to your problem. Lest you think this is just for non-believers, the Christian divorce rate is almost identical to divorces for secular people.

Someone close to me several years ago was heading down the road to a divorce. She rationalized it (again a matter of relativism).  She said she knew that divorce was limited biblically, but she said, “those rules are for other people, not me.”

Floyd Green, a close friend of mine used to say: “If it comes to changing your lifestyle, or changing your biblical values, most people opt for the latter because “those rules didn’t take into account my personal situation.” Again, it’s all relative.

Sexuality went down this road, starting in the 1960’s.  It became OK to have sex outside of marriage because it didn’t seem to harm anyone and was fun. Which led to abortion. If you should happen to get pregnant, the solution was to get an abortion to eliminate that “inconvenience.”

No matter that it was a baby’s life that got sacrificed.  Your ability to make a “choice” for your body trumped the baby’s life. If you think about it, the slogan “Pro Choice” says it all.

As parents and mentors, our role is not done unless we have equipped and educated the next generation about the importance of the biblical view in their life.  Our challenge is that the culture has now taken hold so thoroughly that it is an uphill climb.

We must articulate that God’s way of life is the best course for our mentees. The church can help, too.  Our church is now doing a series entitled “Love, Sex and Marriage.”  I suspect that a series like this some 50 years ago would have been considered unnecessary.  Not anymore.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation has grown up in cultures that has sold them lies based on relativism. You need to probe their worldviews on a number of topics to be sure they have firm grounding. Many of their values may have been influenced by a culture steeped in relativism.

FURTHER STUDY:  Relativism: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/relativism/

WORSHIP: Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “We Fall Down

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

The Veil

lily

 

At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. Matthew 27:51,52    

This is Passion week. The time between Palm Sunday and Easter. All around the world, Christians are remembering the events from two thousand years ago. One of the things that struck me this year as I listened to the Passion story was the above passage. We often skip over it in the total context of Jesus trials, crucifixion and his resurrection.

I have often thought about the veil being torn form the top to the bottom at the moment of Jesus death on the cross. The veil was approximately 60 feet high. From Jewish tradition, it was about 4 inches wide and, according to Exodus, consisted of blue, purple and scarlet material including linen.

The veil in the temple being torn is a big deal.  It should not go unnoticed.  It happened. It is a historical fact.  It’s significance and importance should not be ignored. The veil in the temple was not just a simple cloth that separated the inner Temple – the holy of holies.

The holy of holies was the room which was initially to house the ark of the covenant which contained the tablets of the covenant. This was where God resided to the nation Israel until its destruction by the Romans in AD 70, as predicted by Jesus.

Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies, and then, only once a year on Yom Kippur, which was the Jewish Day of Atonement. All others were forbidden to enter, and the veil kept all other people out.  The Jews only had indirect access to God through the high priest.

This is a historical fact, yet most point to the empty tomb as the demonstration of the deity of Jesus. What surprises me is that the Disciples lost it after Jesus died. For three days, they were in disarray, having forgotten Jesus’ promise to return.  They somehow ignored what happened in the Temple other than their belief that Jesus was dead.

They forgot He said he would return three days later. They ignored the tearing of the veil which was in the temple close by Golgotha. They had obvious problems with their short-term memory, although the older I get, the more sympathetic I am to faulty memory.

Not only was the veil torn, but it was torn from the top to the bottom. If it had been torn from the bottom up, one could argue that it was torn by human hands.  But it was torn from the top down, which demonstrates that it was not torn by human intervention.

The earth quaked and the rocks were split.  Seems to me that it is kind of hard to miss all of this, but somehow, the Disciples missed it.  They thought Jesus was dead. Period. Until John saw the empty tomb three days later, they lost their faith. John had a eureka moment when he visited the empty tomb. Jesus was alive after all.

We’re like the Disciples at times, including our memories. We forget the temple veil was torn. We forget that the physical separation of us from God was removed once and for all.  We don’t have to wait for one day a year to approach God.  We have 24/7 access. The Old Covenant has passed, and the New Covenant of access to God through Jesus emerged.

Our challenge is to remember that Jesus death and resurrection was surrounded by historical events that often get overlooked. We are often like the Disciples who were so focused on the crucifixion that they lose sight of Jesus predictions from obvious evidence. Jesus died for us but was resurrected.  He is Alive!

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Be sure your mentee understands the historical facts surrounding the events of Passion week.  The tearing of the veil is a historical fact, and symbolizes our ability to know God directly.

FURTHER STUDY:  The significance of the torn veil: https://www.gotquestions.org/temple-veil-torn.html

WORSHIP: Listen to Travis Cottrell sing “In Christ Alone/On Solid Rock

 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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Miracles

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 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, Acts 19:11

 One of the topics that always seems to escape a lot of attention is miracles. Not just the ones that Jesus and Paul performed throughout their ministry, but miracles in the here and now. Things that have happened without any logical or rational explanation. I know people are often unwilling to ascribe some experience as a being a “miracle”.

Jesus healed the sick, the lame, and restored sight to the blind. He walked on water, changed water into wine and raised Lazarus from the dead. But when we are asked about our faith, we revert to theological analysis. We often point to the resurrection – the empty tomb – as evidence of Jesus deity, leaving all of his miracles in the dust.

In our world, we often think of remarkable experiences in terms of luck, although I have distanced myself from the word “luck” because it has the same root word from which we get “Lucifer”.    I guess I’ve always associated “luck” with the dark side ever since.

I have two stories to tell.  Both are personal, so I can say, without contradiction, that I didn’t get these from someone who told them, who got it from someone who told them. These are first person experiences.

One happened this week. I was finishing a 30-mile bike ride out in the country, and was hit from behind by a car doing 35 miles per hour. Now, that is an invitation to trauma, even for someone who is not 72.  All I can remember is the noise and impact and then lying in the road taking inventory of my body. Most things appeared to be working.

A volunteer fireman, who witnessed the accident, helped me up and over to the side of the road where I sat until the ambulance came. I felt a little woozy on my feet, so they took me to the Emergency Room where they observed me, took x-rays and a CAT scan to be sure that I wasn’t bleeding internally.

The EMS told me that he was amazed I wasn’t hurt more.  In his experience of cars striking persons on bikes, they don’t end well for the bike rider. He said the last collision was between a biker and a golf cart, and the biker ended up being airlifted to Chapel Hill with head injuries that required specialty treatment at a trauma center.

The ER doctor told me that anyone who is 72 and is hit by a car doing 35 must have something wrong with them, and he was committed to finding it.  All tests were negative. No broken bones, no internal bleeding.

After 5 hours, they released me and I walked out of the ER with nothing more than a couple of abrasions (one on my right knee that a Band-Aid could cover, and one on my left elbow).  Admittedly, I was a little sore from where the car struck me.

The other story occurred about 6 years ago when I had just been diagnosed with Prostate cancer.  I was attending a ministry dinner for the MentorLink board members and their spouses which precedes our board meetings the next day. I revealed my recent diagnosis, and the gathering put me in a wing chair to lay hands on me and pray.

Included in the group praying for me was Diana Green, a board member’s wife. She arrived at the dinner with a black ace bandage on her elbow.  She explained that she had damaged her funny bone in her elbow which she described as not very funny, and in fact, very painful. She couldn’t even hold a dinner plate with it, and her husband, Floyd, had to help her through the buffet line.

Wonderful prayers for healing and encouragement ensued.  When it was over, and everyone said “Amen”, Diana stood up, wiggled her hurt arm a couple of times, took of the bandage and exclaimed that it her elbow didn’t hurt anymore. She never had a problem with it again.

What do these two stories have in common?  Well, the latter one is the power of healing demonstrated through prayer. For the record, my treatment for prostate cancer went well, but it was not as remarkable as Diana’s healing.  I’ve known her for 35 years, and can attest that she isn’t one to make something like that up.

As for my accident, all I can say is that God protected me in a remarkable way. Put another way, He’s not done with me yet. Driving home from the ER, Sis said she had a premonition that I had an accident, and wasn’t sure whether she would be planning my funeral on the next day. The accident shook her to the core.

That puts the accident in perspective:  being able to walk out of the hospital with not much more than a couple of bruises and small abrasions is hard to explain after being hit by a car doing 35 mph.

Why am I writing about these two incidents? Well, for one thing, we often don’t share stories about our miracles, which is part of our testimony.  When someone comes up to you and is skeptical about your faith, we often think about saying something that is biblical that will keep them open to the gospel.

We quickly forget the miracles which happen to us and all around us.  Miracles demonstrate God’s power and intervention in our lives.  Why do I believe in God?  Well, for one thing, I know when God’s hand is on me.  Yesterday was one of those times when I was protected.  You don’t have to be a bible scholar to tell what God has done for you.

Our challenge is to remember the miracles in your life. Be sure to share them with others as a testimony of God’s goodness which is so undeserved. That’s what grace is all about.  One thing that has struck me is that God’s grace is there in every circumstance, even a bicycle accident.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Share miracles in your lives with your mentees. It will be an encouragement to know that God is real and that He is in the miracle business today.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “Your Grace is Enough”:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

One Another

                                           footwashing

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  John 13:14-16

Years ago, I noticed a number of passages in the Bible which referred to things that we should do in relationship with others.  I started marking passages in the margin of my bible with “o/a” which signified “one another”.

The passages mostly come from the New Testament where we are given guidance on how we are to live out our faith in community with others.  The first four books of the New Testament emphasize our vertical relationship with God through Jesus.

The rest of the New Testament has a greater focus on the horizontal – how we live with each other, our family, friends and community.  It makes an interesting study.

Here’s a partial list that I developed – both verses and content. I came up with over 30 of them.  There may be more.

  1. Love one another.  John 13:34-35, Galatians 5:14
  2. Wash one another’s feet.  John 13:14
  3. Encourage one another.  Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25, 1 Thess. 5:11 and 4:18
  4. Pray for one another. James 5:16
  5. Build up one another.  Romans 14:19, 1 Thess. 5:11
  6. Serve one another.  Galatians 5:13
  7. Teach and admonish one another.  Colossians 3:16
  8. Confess your sins to one another.  James 5:16
  9. Don’t judge one another.  Romans 14:13
  10. Carry one another’s burdens.  Galatians 5:13
  11. Submit to one another.  Ephesians 5:21
  12. Forgive one another.  Colossians 4:13, Colossians 3:13
  13. Comfort one another.  2 Corinthians 6:12
  14. Do not provoke one another. Galatians 5:26
  15. Be kind to one another.  1 Thessalonians 5:15. 2 Corinthians 6:12
  16. Be kind and compassionate with one another. Ephesians 4:32
  17. Bear with and forgive one another. Colossians 3:13
  18. Spur one another on to love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10:24
  19. Do not slander one another. James 4:11
  20. Offer hospitality to one another. 1 Peter 4:9

This list of “one-anothers” is very practical. It amplifies how loving one another looks like.  If you do all the things on this list to others, you have learned to love them in very practical ways.

But it’s a long list of “to do’s”.  Jesus simplified the list with an overarching set of priorities. He made it simple for us.  We are to first love God and then we should love one another.  Simple.  Straight forward.

To Jesus, you love one another by serving them.  In John 13:12-17, Jesus gives this remarkable statement:  “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Love serves.  Love does.  It results in an action of serving others in a variety of ways. That’s how we “one another” – “one another”.  We serve them.

So, how do you best serve others?  That’s going to be different for every one of us.  It depends on your gifts, your talents, your passions – how you are hard-wired, as it were.

God made each of us is different (my wife is glad of that). One of the roles of a mentor is to help the mentee to find his purpose in life – what God intended for that individual.

It takes time and patience for some of us to figure it out, but the mentor can aid the discussion by providing a sounding board and asking questions.  It is not a science – it is more like art.

It takes time for the mentor to help the mentee figure out his strengths/weaknesses and his gifts and talents, and then help guide them towards figuring out the vision for their life. (Note: it is not the vision of the mentee, not the mentor,  that is important.).

The challenge is, and has been for two millennia, to learn to love and serve one another. One role of serving that has dropped through the cracks of our culture in the past century is the role of mentor in others’ lives.   It’s a way that you can serve the next generation.

If you have some gray hair, you need to realize that the next generation around you are looking for your input, but you may not have noticed.  Take time today to invest in someone else’s life – to wash their feet, as it were, by your spending time with them and helping them become all that God wants them to be. That would be a good way to serve “one another”.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can serve the next generation by coming alongside them.  It’s not hard and certainly not complicated. It’s what Jesus did, and you can do it too.

WORSHIP:   Listen to The Power of Your Name where the lyric goes “I will give with the life that I have been given, and go beyond religion to see the world be changed by the power of your name

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.