The Great $5 Giveaway

So I’m at Ryan’s baseball practice, thus this is being typed out on the iPhone.

Yesterday was an awesome day at Compass, because we handed out $5 bills to everyone in attendance. Hey, when was the last time you went to church and they actually gave YOU money!

But what we said was, the money is yours, but it’s not yours to keep; it’s yours to give. Find someone, preferably a stranger, and bless them by buying their coffee, lunch, or some other random act of grace.

Why would our church give out what amounts to several thousand dollars of its money to be given to total strangers?

Because we are called to represent God, and God, at his core, is generous.

I heard one story of a woman in our church who pulled next to another car in a drive-thru where the driver got irritated with her. Apparently they arrived at the same time to the line and she got in first. So she bought him lunch with her $5 (and probably a little more!). Apparently when the guy found out he started waving to her and smiling. How awesome is that?

There are other stories on the Compass Church Goodyear Facebook page, so go check that out.

I quoted yesterday E.G. Berkower, who said, “The essence I theology is grace; the essence of ethics is gratitude.” I added: the essence of mission is generosity.

Why? Because we are never more like God than when we are generous.

But in an attempt to bother some people, I ran Berkower’s quote through the lens of atheism. It goes like this:

“The essence of atheism is nothing; the essence of atheist ethics is cynicism; and the essence of atheistic mission is scarcity.” What I should have said, however, was that the essence of atheistic mission is self.

This to me is as clear and as rational as it gets. If I were an atheist I would have no moral obligation to be generous. In fact, it would be stupid to be anything but completely self-driven.

I only bring this up because it is all the more reason why Christians must, in this current economy and culture, be committed to generosity.

There is a kingdom coming, and breaking through right now. The kingdom of God is ruled by a generous God with limitless resources.

So, if you were at Compass this past Sunday, what are you going to do with your $5? Let the Spirit lead you as you look for someone to bless, and then tell us your experience. Post it on the Facebook page or email us at stories@compasschurch.info.

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Election Reflections

Hey Everybody –

Well, it’s finally over. There are a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head, as I’m sure there are with you too. I’ve tried to weed out all my emotions (which is hard to do!!) and give you my reaction to the outcome of the election. I’ll start with what I believe is the bad news, and then give you what I think is the good news.

First, anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a doomsdayer. I have been and will continue to always be optimistic about everything, even irrationally so! However, it would be a little naïve to ignore the fact that the outcome of this election presents increasing challenges, especially in the area of religious liberty as our country lurches more to the left. This post from Ed Stetzer, a hero in our church planting circles, illustrates it well. However, here are several things that deeply concern me:

  1. The legalization of same-sex marriage. We know that President Obama supports same-sex marriage  and with his reelection the path to further legalization of it becomes that much easier. Also, for the first time, several states approved legislation allowing same-sex marriage at the ballot box, not merely in the courtroom. At this rate it’s only a matter of time before other states will adopt similar laws, which will have all kinds of unforeseen consequences. One of them is in the area of clergy, you know, guys like me. Could I be sued for discrimination if I refuse to perform a same-sex wedding? What if I speak out against it on a Sunday morning in church? Will that be considered “hate speech” as it was accused of being so in Canada? After Tuesday, for the first time I can honestly see us going down that road, maybe not right away, but we’re getting closer.

    What about our men and women in uniform? One high-ranking military chaplain I spoke with less than two weeks ago told me he and other chaplains are concerned they will soon be forced to perform same-sex weddings. If that happens, he says, then you can expect to see a great exodus of Christian chaplains from the military, as they will not violate their consciences. So elections have consequences.

  2. The implementation of the new health care law will present another set of challenges that have already hit both Christian and Catholic organizations. My alma mater, Biola University, is suing the federal government because the law will force them to provide abortion-inducing drugs. The Catholic Church is suing the federal governmentbecause they will be compelled to provide birth control, something they are theologically opposed to doing.

    The point? Once again, we see the long arm of the federal government regulation infringing on religious liberties. This is an inarguable fact. What will that mean for churches? Could we be in a position where we are forced to pay for medical procedures and drugs that violate our convictions? We don’t know yet, because so much is unknown about this law. But, elections have consequences.

  3. New economic realities. While I’m not a CEO, I have sat at the helm of two non-profit organizations over the past ten years and have carried the burden of the bottom line. I say a little “thank you” to God (and sometimes breathe a sigh of relief!) at each payroll because I know our employees are able to make ends meet and build a life that is rewarding and fulfilling for themselves and their families. That is a beautiful thing.

    The vast majority of business owners out there are trying to simply succeed and have enough to continue doing what they love. But when it’s all on your shoulders you learn pretty quickly that a dollar is a dollar, and the less of it you have the fewer people you can hire, the less you can advertise, and the less generous you’re able to be. Money doesn’t fall out of the sky, not even in churches! That’s why I’m concerned about reports of pretty significant tax hikes coming down the pike that I see will prevent businesses from expanding, and I fear many people will remain unemployed. My heart aches for you if you’re in that spot, and I would hope that these new economic realities do not continue to contribute to your hardship.

So that’s the doom and gloom part. Here’s the good part:

  1. Christians have an amazing opportunity to display the beauty of Jesus and living in the Kingdom. I don’t think anybody woke up yesterday on either side and said, “I want what’s WORSE for the country!” Most of us want justice, peace, and love. We just have different ideas of getting there.

    Take the folks who voted to legalize pot.  I don’t get that, but I bet those people said, “Well, I just want to get the peaceful feeling of the good weed without worrying about the cops.” Okay.

    But our peace is better! Our peace is found in the Kingdom of God, where he rules over our anxieties, our conflicts, our anger, and our stress! The bottom line is, the Kingdom of God is more beautiful than pot!! And if they’re both going to be legal, then my job is to try to stay out of your second-hand smoke, but get near enough to show you a greater beauty!

    This kind of thing is going to have to translate into every domain of life. The reason I keep using the word “beauty” is because that’s what the kingdom brings. Everything God touches, he makes beautiful. He restores and brings out the best in it.  Sin, on the other hand, brings ugliness. Atheism celebrates nothingness. Secularism is bland and boring, because it has no message and can’t offend anyone. You take a Christmas display out of a government building, what do you replace it with? Nothing! You yank the Ten Commandments off the wall at a school, what do you replace them with? Nothing! It’s not the exchange of one type of beauty for another – it’s the exchange of beauty for nothing.

    So here we are, in a culture that desperately needs to see real expressions of the beauty of the Kingdom. If you always wanted to know what it is like to be a missionary, well, congratulations… you are!

  2. The local church is the hope of the world! I went to bed Tuesday night so grateful that I’m a part of the Capital “C” Church. The thing is, politics can’t produce inner transformation – only Jesus can do that! And when inner transformation occurs, life by life, family by family, street by street, then the society lifts. I mean, who wouldn’t want to govern a people who do their work “unto the Lord,” who “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and who “seek the peace and prosperity” of the land they are in? What politician has ever even thought of slashing a law enforcement budget because (sorry, my police friends) we just don’t need as many officers out there – there’s hardly any crime, because people are being ruled by Christ.

    Listen, if you want to make a difference for the better (and I believe we all do, no matter what side we’re on) you should be so PUMPED you are a part of a church that really wants to help people become more like Jesus. What better vehicle could you be involved with for true cultural transformation?

  3. If there was ever a time to be a disciple, not merely a Christian, it is now! There is a difference. A Christian is anyone who identifies with the Christian faith, goes to church once in a while, and may even have a fish on their bumper. But a disciple is a follower, an apprentice, a student. They live in the shadow of God constantly. They are always asking themselves, “How would Jesus live my life if he were the one living it?”

    This might be a great time for you to decide to stop merely identifying yourself as a Christian and truly begin to be radically committed to following Jesus. As the world gets darker, you will only shine brighter.

So for those who are disappointed, keep your chin up! I think our best days are ahead of us, I really do! Don’t forget to pray for our President, that God blesses him with wisdom and the ability to make the best decisions for our country. Don’t give up on our country, and now, more than ever, let’s love our city!!

Sunday Reflections

Today was awesome at both Compass campuses. At Goodyear the worship team did a killer rendition of “As the Deer” – which to be honest I was pretty skeptical about at first. But they rocked it up and even threw in a U2 blend which was a nice complement to the song.

We talked about the “Send” portion of Life360 and our text was Jeremiah 29:4-7:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” 

In the story of the Israelites we can find our story. You are where you are because that is where God sent you. In an age of mobility where you can recreate yourself in any locale across America in a matter of weeks if you’ve got the will, its hard to believe that God actually sends anyone to stay anymore.

But we’re here in the West Valley to seek the welfare of our city. That means working for the peace, wholeness, health, prosperity, forgiveness, and love of this town. By the way, for those of you who were wondering where I got the shirt, you can find it here.

I had a woman come up to me and say that she and her husband have been debating whether or not to have another baby, and my sermon today sealed the deal: they’re gonna go for it. So she sent him a text during church to say the decision’s been made. I told her to say, “You’re welcome” to him for me! You see, the Bible always says that kids are good – they bring new life and they bring old lives together. Therefore we should never be afraid of bringing more of them into the world.

That is the subject of another issue altogether. God’s first command to humans was to be fruitful and multiply, and yet we’ve come up with 1,000 reasons to be afraid of parenthood and of “filling the earth.” As to the fears of overpopulation, all you’ve got to do is take a flight from Phoenix to anywhere and you’ll see plainly that we’re not going to run out of space anytime soon. But for those who don’t trust their eyes or their common sense, there is a wonderful book by Ben Wattenberg called Fewer that will scare you to death. Basically our population is on target to level off and by the end of the century start to drop, dramatically. That might be welcome news for our ecologically-minded misanthropic friends out there, but its terrible for anyone who is interested in a tax, customer, or employment base. It’s hard to be a teacher when there’s no one to teach. It’s hard to be an orthodontist when there’s no one who needs braces. But hey, the earth would be great if it weren’t for the people, right?

But I digress. Another woman came up to me and said she was wondering whether or not she should move from the East Coast to Arizona after my heartfelt appeal to STAY exactly where you are and don’t “go” anywhere. I explained that for her we’d make an exception, and that she needs to move out here and help us create “zones of justice, peace, and love,” as Hirsch and Frost describe it, right here in our great West Valley.

All of this of course points to the kingdom of God, which Jesus says we should seek first. Several books about mission and the kingdom that have impacted me greatly I was able to reference today. The first is called The Faith of Leap by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, and the second is called The Mission of God by Christopher Wright. The key quote from The Faith of Leap:

“A key issue for any group willing to embrace the risk and adventure of mission is to dare to believe that they have been sent to stay home. That is, that home might be the very best place for them to serve and that the missionary call to “Go” might still apply, but it is a going deeper, not a going away. It is being sent in to every arena, domain, and context of life, not simply geographical moves. Sentness is an identity thing.”

The key quote from The Mission of God:

“It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world but that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission – God’s mission.”

There’s a lot to be said for staying in one place and letting the long term results of your labor take root for the glory of God. There’s nothing wrong with moving around (I’ve done it plenty), but I’m in a phase of life where I feel God challenging me to stay and see what he can accomplish through me, my family, and our church over time. Anyone can say they’re going to change the world – it’s a lot harder to think about changing your street. But that’s where the imagination comes in, because there are specific needs and opportunities that God might just be calling us to address.

For me, I want to draw the lines in tight for a while, focus on the place that God has called me, and see how the kingdom might flow out of me through love, mercy, justice, and peace shown to my city.

Tonight I’m headed downtown to a friend’s church to sit on a Q&A panel. Here are some of the questions I was told to prepare for:

  1. Are there venial and mortal sins?
  2. If the Mars landrover “curiosity” discovers evidence that life once inhabited that planet– does it argue against the Christian worldview that life on Earth is  unique and special?
  3. How do we as Christians believe in a Bible that has so many discrepancies?
  4. Will our pets be in heaven?
  5. God is the creator of ALL things–so why does he create things like satan, fear, anxiety?
  6. Why has the Church had a problem with women in leadership roles?
  7. In Romans what does Paul mean when he says that Pharoah was created for wrath?
  8. If the discovery of the Higgs-Bosen particle is accurate, then does that demonstrate that we no longer need to appeal to God to explain the universe?
  9. Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?

How fun will that be?

Thoughts From Pastor Tim – Week of August 12-18

Note: The following is a copy of the weekly email that hits the inboxes of everyone who attends Compass Church and who don’t mind reading my bunkum.

The theme of this “thoughts” installment is: Deadlines – A love-hate relationship. After lots of thinking, typing, rethinking and retyping, today I hit the “send” button on the first draft of our “Reach 101” class that will kick off our Life360 initiative. Life360 is our Spiritual Development Pathway – our intentional effort of making disciples (you know, turning atheists into missionaries, agnostics into apologists, and skeptics into martyrs!).

Well, I can tell you this: without the deadline it wouldn’t be done… some other priority would have gotten in the way. I’ll admit, there were times that I thought, “This is an artificial deadline… arbitrarily set by our staff. Who cares? What are they going to do, fire me?”

But we all know it’s so-called “little things” that matter. In fact, it really comes down to credibility, which, as these guys put it, can be defined as: DWYSYD – Do What You Say You Will Do.

Credibility is a powerful trait – I like to think of it as integrity in action. When you do what you say you will do, you bring peace to the soul of everyone you encounter. How’s that? Well, because they know that at the end of the day you’re going to show up. You’re not gonna flake, you’re won’t bail, be late, make excuses, “forget,” or do anything else but exactly what you promised, for better or worse. That brings substance to your word and stability to your life and the lives of those who depend on you.

In Proverbs we’re told, “A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain.” (Prov. 25:14). Our word is a gift promised, and we should be careful before offering it.

So this is where deadlines come in and where morality can tend to get fuzzy – at least for me. You see, in a real sense, credibility is service to those in our lives, and in an indirect way it is love. It’s fighting our own laziness, distraction, and complacency so that someone else can enjoy the benefit of our word, rather than experience the disappointment of us not living up to it.

In saying this I run the risk of sounding self-congratulatory. After all, the whole idea came up because I met a deadline and I made no bones about reminding everyone that I am awesome. But the truth is, sadly, I think I surprised myself; and the feeling of satisfaction that I got from not only being done but, really, honoring my word, was enough to make me want to write about it.

So who’s counting on you this week? Is there an opportunity to surprise them (as I may have undoubtedly surprised some of our staff today) by delivering, exactly the way you said you would? Can punctuality and follow-through be free gifts to those who are relying on you.

So you’ll be at Compass this Sunday, right? Good. I believe you.

Blessings,

Pastor Tim

A Little Back-to-School Kick in the Rear

It’s that time of year again for millions of children nationwide: the dreaded “school” night, followed by waking up late, chasing the bus, downing mystery meat in the cafeteria, and plowing through homework.

So if you’re a kid, a parent, or just a plain old adult, now would be a fine time to kick in a little motivation! Thus, a few pearls to inspire you to git-r-done:

1) No more excuses! I like Proverbs 22:13 – “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!'” We can always find reasons to avoid doing what we should. This guy is saying, “Hey, I don’t want to go out, I could get killed by a lion!” But lions need to be tamed. What is the “lion” that’s keeping you inside? What is your excuse? It could be fear, laziness, pride, lack of money, time, or just a little imagination. We’ve got too many things to keep us distracted “inside” all day long… get rid of those excuses and go out and make it happen!

2) Don’t “take it easy.” When I was in a residency at Dallas Theological Seminary, working on my doctorate, I roomed with a guy named Ed Choy. Ed and I hit it off right away, which meant we were already making fun of each other just hours after meeting. One morning I was facing an entire day in the library doing nothing but research. While leaving the dorm, I said, “Take it easy, Ed.” He responded with, “Okay, work hard Tim.”

I had never heard a reply like that before. I mean, honestly, when has “work hard” been acceptable way of saying goodbye?  But Ed’s reasoning was pretty good: “Everyone always says ‘take it easy,’ as if that’s some great value. Why should I encourage you to be a slacker?”

Made sense to me. So don’t take it easy today! Bust your hide, seize every moment, attack that to-do list until you become an unstoppable force of kinetic energy!!

3) If you’re overwhelmed, you’re likely on the verge of something great. Most things worth doing, in my experience, usually follow a pattern:

  1. Initial Excitement
  2. Progress
  3. Frustration
  4. Standstill
  5. Total overwhelm-ment (is that a word?)
  6. Breakthrough
  7. Completion

Here’s what I’ve learned: Steps 1-4 take about 20% of my energy, while steps 5-7 take the remaining 80%! The fact is, its easy to start something; it’s the finishing that’ll kill ya. Seth Godin refers to it as “shipping.” At some point you’ve got to have that project done so its ready to ship (turn in, present, sell, hang on the wall, etc.). The secret is that just when you think you’re never going to make it, that’s when you’re right at the verge of breakthrough. Unfortunately, that’s also the stage that requires the most concentration, willpower, and perseverance. If you can hang in there when its all about to hit the fan, that’s when the tide is likely to turn and you’re closer than you think to victory.

4) Discipline not desire determines destiny. Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I must credit my friend Ed once again for introducing me to this aphorism. Your aspirations are meaningless without action; they’ve gotta move to the present tense. I recently heard novelist Brad Thor interviewed on the Hugh Hewitt radio program. When Hugh asked him how he became such a prolific author, he mentioned that on his honeymoon his new bride challenged him to spend two hours a day writing his first novel. So here’s the question: Is your dream in your calendar? Have you scheduled an appointment with what you know you should be doing?

5) Set short-term goals. I learned this from Bill Hybels in his book, Axiom. He calls it “Six by Six Execution.” Basically, he sets six goals to be accomplished over a six week period. Setting yearly goals is great, but let’s be honest, where is the urgency? Six weeks forces you to get moving now. It might be hard to get something significant done in two weeks, but six weeks can really get the imagination going.

This also allows us to put the pedal to the metal for a while and then recuperate. If I can be a dissenting voice, by the way, sometimes living life in “balance” doesn’t get anything done. You gotta get a little nutty and extreme once in a while in order to make a breakthrough.

There you have it. All of this is based, of course, on the notion that as beings created in the image of God we have tremendous capacity that far exceeds our ability to catch up on whatever we DVR’d over the last few weeks. So tap into all that God’s made you and run like a mad (wo)man until you’re out of breath, and see what happens along the way!

What Came First, the Chicken or Chick-Fil-A?

I normally wouldn’t have gone to Chick-Fil-A today. Nothing against them, just don’t do a lot of fries and sweet tea. But if you’re gonna provoke a dishonest assault against freedom of expression and free enterprise, then it’s time for me to get some nuggets.

As a pastor, I haven’t campaigned against gay marriage. Instead, I have bit my tongue in an attempt to prove wrong all those who say that Christians hate homosexuals and discriminate against them. What I have said from the platform, repeatedly, is that our church is open to everybody regardless of who or what they claim to be. I happen to know for a fact that there are gays and lesbians who attend our church, and I have always treated them with love and respect, just like everyone else.

But then one day you realize that silence just isn’t going to work. The proponents of same-sex marriage are not merely content to express their opinions, but are rabidly and radically committed to extinguishing yours. Well, that’s not going to happen.

So let’s ask, what did Dan Cathy actually say? Did he say, “I hate homosexuals?” Did he say, “Homosexuals aren’t welcome at Chick-Fil-A?” Did he say, “I am absolutely against the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for same-sex couples?”

Nope. Here’s the article, from the Baptist Press. Read it for yourself. The quote that got him in trouble? Here you go: “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Wow. What a hateful guy. But what also got him in trouble was a statement he apparently made on the radio, according to an L.A. Times article: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.” It was that statement which prompted the article’s author to label his  to an “outburst,” and later, “retrograde social prejudice.”

An outburst? Retrograde social prejudice? You see, I’ve learned something from having children: when you have no real argument, you inject emotion, throw around accusations, and manipulate language. My kids know how to take what I say and concoct incendiary conclusions to otherwise very lucid, normal statements. The strategy is this: when you can’t fight fair, raise the temperature and twist the truth.

That is how the supporters of same-sex marriage argue, much like my children. Here’s an example: I say, “I support traditional marriage.” They reply, “You hate homosexuals.” But I don’t hate homosexuals. Come to think of it, how dare you accuse me of such a thing. Who are you to judge my character without any knowledge of my heart or my behavior?

I say, “Marriage should be between one man and one woman.” You say, “You’re an angry, narrow-minded, backward, bigot because you don’t see it my way.” That’s the same type of hysterical reaction my 8-year old has when she’s out of rational arguments and just flat-out mad.

Take another example from The Huffington Post. The author accuses Chick-Fil-A of giving $5 million to, among other things, a “certified hate group.” A what? Who “certified” them as such? What criteria was used to “certify” their “hateful” status? Are we supposed to just accept the judgement of some unknown group upon another? But this counts as fair game for journalism.

So if we’re gonna have a fight, let’s have a fair fight. I have reasons why I believe marriage should always be recognized as one man and one woman. Here they are:

1) For the record, the traditional definition of marriage is not discriminatory against anyone. For example, neither heterosexuals nor homosexuals can marry a person of the same sex, or two people, an animal, or a close relative. As a homosexual, you have no more or less rights than a heterosexual.

2) If you alter the definition of marriage, you destroy the concept completely. If it is not between a man and a woman, then its between anyone and anyone. This is because the very logic for altering it to include homosexuals can be used to include any other arrangement. Thus, it becomes nothing and it means nothing. That is an undesirable outcome for society.

3) To alter the definition of marriage creates a horrible scenario for children. Every child should have a father and a mother. Two of me would be bad news for my kids, and quite frankly so would two of my wife. Men and women bring separate elements to the table. If you deny that then we’ve lost the ability to communicate. It is as obvious as the air we breathe. Two men or two women is not the same as a man and a woman when it comes to parenting. The counterpoint, then, is: But what about all the divorces, abusive and absent parents, and single parent households? Isn’t it better to have two healthy, loving people in the home, regardless of their gender? 

Of course there are deep problems in the execution of the traditional family model. People do selfish and evil things as parents which affect their children in a variety of ways. But problems existing in the execution of the ideal does not mean the ideal should be altered to be made more inclusive. If children don’t grow up with a mother and a father, they have missed something very important, regardless of the situation. The traditional definition of marriage affirms this ideal.

4) Then there is the theological argument. Among other things, one reason the Bible says that a man should marry a woman is because both of them bear the image of God in a unique way. When two people come together in marriage, the design is that they would each complement one another in a way that provides the complete picture of God’s masculine and feminine qualities, and do so as “one flesh.” When this works as it should, there is unspeakable beauty in it that cannot be replicated any other way. You may agree with that, you may not. But to call the position “hateful” is disingenuous and, once again, adding invective to a lucid and logical argument.

It’s not hard to be “for traditional marriage” and treat the homosexual with dignity, respect, and understanding. However, what’s good for society does not always fit the desires of the individual.

For many of the proponents of same-sex marriage, especially those who brought about what may be the best day in Chick-fil-A history, there is no real attempt to win the argument, because the argument can’t be won. They can only ultimately win the battle by name-calling, intimidating, and vilifying in an attempt to silence anyone and everyone who disagrees.

It’s easy to remain neutral and say, “There are problems on both sides.” It’s hard to take a position and say, “No, I think we can see clearly on this one.” Most people don’t have the time to voice their objection to the unjust threats to freedom of speech and free enterprise lobbed at Dan Cathy. But they gotta eat, which is why the lines are out the door at every Chick-fil-A around.

Sunday Preview: Don’t Be Talkin’ Smack!

Yep, that’s the title of tomorrow’s message on the 9th commandment. If you aren’t in the Phoenix Metro area to attend either our Goodyear or Surprise campuses, you can watch it live here at 9:00 and 10:30 PST.

The 9th commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Basically, we’re talking about everything from flat-out lying to your neighbor to the casual act of verbally throwing them under the bus to cover your booty.

Have you ever wondered why its so incredibly easy to let lies roll off your lips without even thinking? Well, the answer is simple: liars run in your family. In fact, they run in my family too, starting from the very first one.

The book of Genesis tells us that when God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they were given a choice: live as they’d been created to live, as recipients of every gift of God that can a human being can handle, or declare their independence from him and strike out on their own, claiming the earth and their lives as their own.

This choice was manifested in a tree that stood in the middle of the garden. As long as they did not eat from the tree, then their lives would be filled with living constantly under the blessing of God, in perfect relationship with him, each other, and the rest of creation. In the Garden there was no such thing as insecurity, manipulation, fear, or isolation. It was rather a place of perfect freedom, the highest possible pinnacle of human life. But to eat from the tree was to signify a conscious decision to tell God to hit the road – we humans will take it from here.

Well, you can probably guess what happened next. Eve ate the fruit first, being tempted to do so by the serpent. Then she gave some to her husband, who the Bible says “was with her” (Gen. 3:6).

Immediately their eyes are opened and they realize they are naked. Their innocence is taken from them and, ashamed, all they can do is run and hide. God comes looking for them in the same way a parent, who knows exactly where their children are hiding, looks for them. “Where are you?” he calls out.

Adam admits that he’s naked. God responds by asking, “Who told you were naked?” In other words, the Garden has always been a “clothing optional place” why are you so self-conscoius about it all of a sudden? Then he asks the critical question, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (v. 11)

Here is where art of spin is originated: notice Adam doesn’t answer the question, he diverts the focus off of himself and his own culpability, a classic spinmeister tactic: “The woman you put here with me, she gave me some, and I ate.” (v. 12)

Ha! He only includes himself after he’s passed the buck to his wife and blamed God for creating her in the first place. He’s basically saying, “You know, none of this would have happened if you hadn’t put her here!”

For a moment it seems like it worked: God shifts his attention to Eve and basically asks, “Well?” She then proceeds to blame the serpent: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (v. 13).

Wow. Humanity’s first achievement after declaring their independence from God is to spin the truth to avoid blame and throw each other under the bus. Nice.

All of this should be very telling, however. We don’t “bear false witness” against our neighbor because we have nothing better to do. We bear false witness (i.e., spin the truth, hide the evidence, leave out critical details, blame someone else) for no other reason than to save our own skin. That’s it. Whatever it takes to come out smelling like a rose to the rest of the world, elevating ourselves above our fellow man and yes, even God!

But hiding the truth is serious business, as we’ll dive into more in Sunday’s message. God himself is described as truth in numerous passages in the Bible (e.g., Deut. 32:4; Psalm 31:5). Jesus also refers to himself as “the truth” in John 14:6. Therefore any attempt on our part to alter or hide the truth is a direct attack against God. In fact, to lie even in the slightest is to actually do Satan’s work, as Jesus calls Satan the “father of lies.” (John 8:44).

This comes in all forms: little white lies, slander, and gossip. It’s interesting that the Greek word for “gossip” is ψιθυρισμός, transliterated “psithurismos.” Read that out loud: it actually sounds like gossip being whispered in someone’s ear, doesn’t it?

It takes a tremendous amount of resolve, however, to become someone who speaks the truth. Maybe that’s why Proverbs 24:26 says that an honest answer is like a “kiss on the lips.” – a little unexpected and a little wonderful at the same time!

But to actually own something, to actually admit that it was your fault, and no one else’s, is to introduce a level of clarity and courage into the world that is rarely seen. Dr. Mark Roberts, in his book Dare To Be True, illustrates this well. He tells the story of a man who arrived late to a business meeting. Rather than doing the usual and blaming the traffic, he said basically, “Please forgive me for being late. I did not allow enough time to get here.”

Apparently the response in the room was palpable. While the others excused his tardiness, this “honest answer” paved the way for more honest dialogue in the meeting, as others felt the courage to express their thoughts honestly and truthfully. Apparently, another man then walked in even later to the meeting, blaming the traffic, which gave them all a good laugh.

If you want to hear more, come on out to Compass Church tomorrow or tune in to the live stream if you’re out of town. If you can’t make either of those, then the video should be posted by Tuesday right here.