I’d like to try and help you think back of when the first time you felt that emotion of confusion. You know, when you got paralyzed, when so many things were coming into your mind, and you just didn’t know what to do.
I prayed this week and thought about the most vivid time I could remember was late elementary school, maybe it was junior high, I’m not sure. But I really was struggling in math and I worked and worked and worked and… remember this? Remember in school?
And the teacher, back then, they would come and they would give your papers to you and she graded them in big red letters, they’re right there.
And had worked and worked and worked, and I got my paper and I thought, “I really nailed it this time. I mean, I really worked hard.” And it was placed on my desk and, you know, you don’t want anybody to see it, especially in mine, D minus.
Have you ever thought for sure, “I’ve really got it down,” and I thought I got either a high A or a low A. You been there? And I know I was old enough that it’s not a good time for a boy to cry in school, that’s how I felt, you know? And then I covered the grade and I just looked, and everything was marked off wrong.
And another student, or my teacher, I can’t remember who it was, because I did all the work and I reworked them, and I still thought I got them right.
And then someone came from the outside with a second set of eyes and said, “Watch very carefully. On all these problems, you have to invert before you multiply.” I was confused because I needed one person to give me one piece of information that would bring perspective to my situation because as I sat, I was convinced I was the dumbest kid in that class. And I was convinced I would never do math again. Little did I know, later in high school it would be one of my favorite subjects.
Now, that’s sort of a light way to start off, isn’t it? I remember another time I was confused because I loved my wife very much and she loved me very much and she was making me crazy, and I was making her crazy, and we were very confused.
And what we needed was another set of eyes. And it was a very humbling thing, during seminary, to go to a marriage counselor and say, “You know what? I don’t know what background she came from or what I came from but I know she loves God, I love God, I love her, she loves me, but we do this all the time.”
And we spent about ninety dollars a session for twelve sessions for a second set of eyes to help us get clear and to remove the barriers.
This week we’re talking about facing the future in times of confusion. And what I want to suggest is you need another set of eyes. You need a wise counselor, you need a mentor, you need a teacher, you need a coach to take the confusion that you have in your life. And whether it’s spiritual or emotional or financial or the world situation or God’s will or a big decision, we’re going to get to a counselor who will help you see, maybe like never before, perspective in your situation.
Notice on the front, I’m going to get ready to go to work so you better get that pencil and pen out so when I go to work, I take this coat off.
As you do that, you’ll notice that the problem with being confused is it immobilizes, it paralyzes, and it demotivates. That’s how I felt in both those situations.
If you have some of those feelings, it might be because you, literally, are confused. And to be confused means that intellectually or emotionally you feel mixed up, things are jumbled together, they’re in a sense of disorder or chaos. And you can’t think in an orderly, coherent way in the midst of complex problems, relationships, or decisions.
Now, what I’ve learned is the cure for confusion is twofold. Whether you go to consultants, or great coaches, or a counselor two things you have to do to eliminate confusion.
Number one, you have to reduce complexity. Right, men? When the Falcons’ quarterback goes down, the first thing the coach does is do what to the playbook? Make it thin because this quarterback doesn’t know all the plays. A few simple plays executed well is the best chance toward success.
When your life is getting confusing, you gotta get your playbook and make it thin. You gotta get all the extraneous things and get, the old business adage, right? K-I-S-S? Keep it simple, stupid. That’s what you gotta do.
The second thing, however, is another acronym that, I don’t know if I made up but I’ll take credit for it. G-B-T-T-B. You won’t find that in the Business Review at Harvard. But you gotta reduce complexity and then you’ve gotta increase clarity. You gotta get clear, “Where am I? What’s the situation? What do I need to do and why?”
And this acronym stands for, “Get back to the basics.” My college coach was a great friend of John Wooden who won the ten national championships and John Wooden started every year the same way, with the greatest athletes. And he would take a white sock into the locker room, bring the UCLA team, take his shoe off, take a white sock, and show them how to put on a white sock. Back to the basics.
Vince Lombardi would take a football and say - what? “Gentlemen, this is a pigskin. This is a football.” And what John Wooden would do, he said, “Look, men, if you put your sock on wrong, down to the little things, it might wrinkle. If it wrinkles, you might get a blister. If you get a blister, you might miss a game, if you miss a game we might lose a game, if we lose one game, we may not win another national championship.” His point was, you go back to the basics.
One of my heroes is Peter Drucker. I’ve read most all of his stuff. The first two questions he asked of any business, regardless of what they’re in or their problems, are “What business are you in and who are your customers?” His point? Get back to the basics.
Now, turn the page if you will, because we’re going to get back to the basics, spiritually. We’re going to get one of the greatest counselors, the best teachers, a better consultant than anyone else. He lived one hundred and twenty years, his name is Moses. And he comes well qualified to give us all the information that we need.
He lived for forty years in the lap of luxury in the greatest wisdom of Egypt. He lived forty years in silence and solitude. Ecclesiastes says, “Great wisdom comes from the house of mourning.” That group that he led was not real cooperative.
And so I figure, just the math in general, he did about 1.2 to 1.8 million funerals in forty years. Do you remember the last time you were in a funeral or you went to the ICU with one of your kids or a close friend? Do you remember how the peripheral stuff didn’t make any difference and you got real clear about life?
Imagine doing about 1.2 million funerals. And what you have in your hand, it’s in your Bible in Psalm 90, and I’ve put the text there. What you have in your hand is the only Psalm written by Moses.
And if we wanted to take the collective wisdom of all that Moses learned in that one hundred and twenty years, I believe he is giving us the CliffsNotes right here about how to live, how to get back to the basics.
And as I’ve studied it, I saw very clearly, there are at least six basics when Moses looks at all of life, in complexity. If Moses were here and we could put him in this chair and, you know, he’s probably pretty old by now, so we’d let him sit down.
And we could do Q & A and give him a microphone. I think Moses would tell us the truth of Psalm 90. And we would say, “Well, what about the down economy? And what about one of my kids that’s having a struggle? And, you know, my marriage, I’m really struggling in that one right now. And, by the way, I am scared to death what’s going to happen in Iraq and what about the war and what about the implications and what about terrorists?”
And I think Moses would say, “You know what? Life can be very complex. You can really get your ball lost in the weeds.” So, let me put my arm around you, let’s step back together, and let me paint the big picture about what life is all about. Let’s get back to the basics.
And when you see the basics, you’ll be able to come out of your confusion and make wise decisions. Are you ready?
Basic number one, comes right out of the first verse of Psalm 90, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or You brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God.”
Basic number one, God is great. We need to remember that. God is great. He’s greater than the United States, He’s greater than military operations, He’s greater than economies. God is great. And you say, “Where do you get that?” Look at the text. “Lord,” the word is “Adonai.” It’s a title for God. It’s His sovereign creatorship, ruler of the universe.
He is this awesome God, like we heard prayed by Don. The corners and recesses of the universe, He is above and beyond, He’s transcendent, He’s great. But notice also, He is immanent. “You are our dwelling place.”
If you have that pen, jot down above that Deuteronomy 33:26 to 29. I can’t develop it but the exact same words used for “dwelling place” here are used when God tells the children of Israel, “I will protect you, I will carry you, I will be your refuge. My loving arms will be around you, and in the midst of all the storms, I will take care of you.”
Moses is saying, after a hundred and twenty years on the planet, after living in the lap of luxury, after seeing all the false gods, after being the instrument that crushed the pagan religions, I want you to know, number one, God is Creator. And number two, He is a close, intimate, loving Father.
And if that’s not enough, it’s not just for now, it’s through all generations. And, “before the mountains,” the word literally, “before the mountains were birthed.” “Before God brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting.” That means all eternity.
He is, the word is, “El.” He is God. That doesn’t mean a lot to us but there was a huge God in the Promised Land that people believed in, Baal. And the Canaanite religion believed that there was a god named El somewhere and the son had a coup or rebellion and he was stronger and deposed El.
And what he’s saying is, “There is only one God,” and he’s calling God by this name and saying to a people, “There is one God, superior to all other gods, because He is creator, sovereign, ruler, holy of the entire universe.”
The very first basic in life is remembering who God is. He’s big. He’s powerful. He’s real. He’s personal.
And what I’m going to give you are six diagnostic questions to help you work through your confusion. Notice, horizontally, across from this section, is this question: Am I rightly related to God? Am I rightly related to God?
If God is great, if He is the center or the infinite reference point of all of life in the universe, here is the question stated another way: Does God hold the same place in your heart, in your life, that He holds in the universe?
If so, everything else will come into order. If the infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, eternal reference point, who has revealed Himself personally, through Christ, is at the center and the vortex of your life, then everything else falls into order and not in confusion. If a person, if money, if a job, if a child, if a future, if anxiety is at the core of your life, then your life will be confused. It’ll be jumbled.
I had a chance to hear a fellow, about a year ago now, maybe two. And he works in a ministry and so he keeps it kind of down low because he works with a lot of people at MIT and in the military.
And he had a chance to be invited by the skipper of one of our big nuclear subs. And he said, “We had dinner right there in the control room and all the controls were covered except one, little area. And the guy let me ask questions about it. He was sharing the story.” And he said, “Do you know that this sub can only stay down ninety days?”
And so the fellow who was sharing this said, “Oh, could you run out of water?” He said, “Oh, no.” “Do you run out of food?” “Oh, we could stay down longer.” Why do you have to resurface after ninety days?” He said, “Because on this sub we have missiles that, if they were off even a fraction of a degree, we shoot them out from this sub, they go out, and with pinpoint accuracy they need to land if we ever needed them, right where we want them to land.
“But after ninety days, underneath the ocean’s surface, what we know is the magnetic forces of the earth begin to affect our equipment. So, we have to surface, put up an antennae, and we lock on to the North Star, and then we lock on to the satellite system, and then we recalibrate all of our equipment based on reality.”
Do you get it? You need to recalibrate? Is God the center point of your heart? Is He your North Star? Does your time and energy and money and decisions all go back and revolve around: God is great, He is personal, He is powerful. Is He your reference point to all of life? If He’s not, if you’re even off a few degrees, confusion.
The second basic Moses is going to pick up is not only God is great, but he’s going to say, “Life is short.” He says, “You turn men back to dust,” quoting Genesis 3. “Return to dust, O sons of Adam,” literally, or “Adam,” men.
And then he gives us three quick pictures of why life is short. He says, “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night,” which was four hours.
“You sweep men away in the sleep of death.” And the word “sweep” there is a picture of a torrential flood that it pours down rain and goes right through a valley and just wipes everything out instantaneously.
“They are like the new grass of the morning: Though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered.” And there are places you can go, I’ve been in Israel, and it’s interesting that it will grow up green in the morning and then these hot winds will come up and by the afternoon, at different seasons, whoo, brown.
But what’s his point? His point, very simply, is the brevity of life. You are mortal. I am mortal. Life is short. God is great; life is short.
If you wanted to put a key word next to number one where, “I’m rightly related to God,” write the word “perspective.” When you understand God is great, you’ll get perspective instead of perplexity. And if you want to put a key word under number two, because here’s the question: Am I prepared to die? Put the word “priority.”
See, what Moses is saying? “I’ve done all these funerals, all these funerals, all these funerals. I have done the deal where I had the money, I had the position, I had the power. I was the king of Egypt! But when I look at it all I understand it all begins with God, He’s great, and then I’m going to live my life, evaluate my relationships, and make my priority decisions based on something that I’m going to remember. Life is short. It’s brief.”
We are all guilty of what? The great “P” of procrastination. “I’m really going to get close to God - later. I’m going to get my priorities in order - later. You know, I’m going to really get serious about those important things - later.”
And what Moses would say, that produces confusion. You better do what you need to do and you better do it now. Could I ask you one of those, kind of, provocative questions? Let’s see, I’ve got right about nine, maybe a minute after. Let’s just pretend that 9:03, next week, exactly at this time, exactly in this room, you knew for sure that your heart would have its last beat. Okay? 9:03 next Sunday morning. Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum…
You’re done. Is there anything you would do differently this week than you did last week? If you knew for sure. You’ve got seven days. Anybody make any phone calls you need to make? Anybody write a will out, you’ve been intending to do that. Anybody think, “Maybe I ought to go ahead and make that call and apologize to so and so.”
If you had seven days to live, would you watch as much TV this coming week as you did last week? See, once you understand life is short, you think differently about how to live. Moses said, “It will bring unbelievable clarity to your life.”
And don’t get the idea, I’m not trying to be morbid. Here’s what I have learned: Until you face death boldly, you will never live life powerfully. Most of us play a game that we’re not going to die. Shhhh. You’re going to die. I’m going to die. And if some of you are thinking, “You know, that made me feel very uncomfortable, I can’t believe that guy talked about my heart stopping in seven days,” I was being generous. I can’t guarantee you seven days.
You drive on the freeways. You may only have seven minutes. You might check the mail, get hit by a milk truck! I don’t know, I could too! I don’t have seven days, I’ve got today. And when I begin to live like God is great and life is short, not only does it give me perspective, but it totally rearranges my priorities.
Now ask yourself: Well, why is life so short? He tells us in the very next section. It’s because sin is serious. Verse 7, “We’re consumed by Your anger and terrified by Your indignation.” Moses writes, “You have set our iniquities before us, and the secret sins in the light of Your presence. All our days pass under Your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. The length of our days is seventy years, or eighty, if we have the strength; yet the span of them is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and then we fly away.”
And we fly away to what? We fly away to judgment. Do you have that pen handy? Are you ready? Do a little Bible study with me. Moses is talking, he’s saying, “The world that we live in is not what God intended. It’s a fallen world, sin entered in,” and he’s saying, “because God is holy, there is going to be judgment.”
That’s why life is short. If sin would have never happened we would live forever, in the Garden, with our Father, with every relationship just in perfect sync.
Circle these words if you want to get an idea of what it’s like to live in a fallen world according to the meekest man on the earth who talked with God face to face. Circle the word “consumed.” Then, “terrified.”
Then skip down to verse, the end of verse 9, “moan.” Then, “sorrow; quickly pass; trouble.” In three quick verses, “Terrified, consumed, moan, quickly pass, sorrow.” Doesn’t sound like everything is going to go smooth here on this earth, does it?
And you want to know why? Put a box around these words, put a box around the word, verse 7, “anger.” Put a box around the word “indignation.” And then finally, in verse 9, put a box around the word “wrath.”
The holiness of God demands that He judge our sin. It is a fallen world, I live in a fallen world. And here’s what you can know for sure: One of the basics is take sin seriously. We go into denial on this. We think God is Santa Claus. We think, “Oh, He’ll understand. And, you know, I’m having a bad day and it isn’t all that serious.” And we take all of our cues from other people.
Moses says, “I tell you what, I’ve done 1.2, 1.8 million funerals. I’ve watched what happened, I was there when Korah thought it wasn’t a big deal. I just read that in my morning devotions this week.
And Korah said, “Hey, Moses! Who do you think you are, man? You think God only speaks through you?” And God says, “Moses, step aside.” He said, “We need to get some things clear.”
And you know the whole story and they light their sensors and Moses lights his and Moses says [to the people], “You think it’s just an attitude problem? God calls it rebellion. You’ll know who God is speaking through: If the ground opens up and swallows all those people and closes back, you’ll know God is speaking through me; and if life goes on as normal, He’s speaking through them.”
And then the cloud comes down and God says, “Separate those people,” they do, and the ground goes, “Tchoooo!” The people go, “Whoooo.” Then the ground goes, “Tchoooo!” And you can almost hear God saying, “Other questions?”
And yet, in the Church of Jesus Christ today: “It’s just a little lie… It’s just a little immorality… It’s just a touch of materialism... It wasn’t a big gossip...” And we do things, almost now without thinking, that break the heart of God, that violate and destroy relationships.
And God, through Moses, is saying, “Part of the confusion that happens, when sin becomes to be habitual in our life, it clouds our minds and clouds our judgment.”
Scripture is clear, “In this life,” Galatians 6, what’s it say? “God will not be mocked; as a man or a woman sows, so shall you reap.”
There are consequences to our behavior that are unrighteous, not only in this world but in the next world. Hebrews 9:27, hope it’s a memory verse, “It is appointed unto a man or a woman once to die, and after this the judgment.”
See, Moses said, “Man, you’d better take sin seriously because He’s a holy God. He’s a loving God, He’s a merciful God, and we’ll get there, but you gotta start with, ‘He’s holy.’”
I had a guy come up to me after a service, and California is a little different. They dress a little different, they act a little bit different, the culture is a little bit different. But what I have learned is people are pretty much the same.
And sometimes we say, “Oh, God, show me. God, show me. I got a big decision,” and with him it was in a relationship with a big job that was coming up. And he said, “I’ve prayed, I’ve prayed, I’ve prayed, I’ve prayed. God won’t speak to me.”
And I’ve learned over the years to very gently and lovingly but without condemnation to probe, to find out if there might be a little barrier between a person and maybe there’s some spiritual earwax that needs to get cleaned out.
And so I said to him, “Well, how is your time in Scriptures? I mean, because, you know, that’s how God speaks to us and how is your time in talking with the Lord?” He said, “You know, I’m really busy and it’s a real happening job, it’s the Silicone Valley, and I’m moving and shaking. I really don’t have time to do a lot of that.”
I said, “Oh.” I said, “Well, tell me a little about any struggles in your life.” And now, one thing that is different about the culture, they tell you things after a service that you’re thinking, “I don’t want to know that much about you.” You know?
And so, this guy turns to me and goes, “Well, I’m having a struggle.” I said, “Well, what’s it in?” He said, “Well, I’m sleeping with my girlfriend. And I know it’s wrong, I know God doesn’t want me to, and I’m trying real hard, and I’m still sleeping with my girlfriend.”
“Well, how long is this going on?” “A couple years.” “Oh. Okay. Now, you want to know God’s will, right?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Okay, let me help you out on this, okay? Let me help you with God’s will,” and they say these things with crowds of people standing around as we talk and they don’t seem to mind and it’s okay.
And so I opened up and I said, “Let me help you find God’s will.” And I opened to I Thessalonians 4 and it says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality.”
“Now, this says right here it’s God’s will right?” He says, “Yeah.” I said, “Are you keeping this part?” He said, “No.” I said, “Do you think God is going to show you His will about an area that is a little bit grey and vague when you aren’t keeping the parts that are absolutely black and white?” He said, “No.”
I said, “Do you understand why, that’s why the Bible is so clear. See, it’s not just that we sin and we all struggle. That’s why Hebrews 3:13 says, ‘Encourage one another day after day, lest anyone of us be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.’”
See, he didn’t wake up one day and say, “You know, I don’t want to hear from God anymore. I think I’ll just move in with my girlfriend.” It started with a little compromise here, and then another compromise here, and then, “Well, you know, it probably isn’t that bad and we really love each other,” another compromise here.
And pretty soon he can’t hear God’s voice. He’s coming to church, playing the game, doing the deal. And he thinks he’s okay.