Tag Archives: choice

February 25; Choice: The Two Sided Coin

Leviticus 26-27

I’m so glad God is Who He is. I love the fact He created us with the ability to choose, although it would have been easier if we couldn’t help but obey Him. Sometimes that gift of choice is a curse.

I love the fact that God is never one and done. Look at how many chances God gave the Old Testament Jews. He blessed, they’d disobey, He’d punish, they’d repent, He blessed, they’d disobey, He’d punish, they’d repent, etc., etc., etc.

God is in the business of second chances (and third, and fourth…). Sometimes those chances look like the things described in these last chapters of Leviticus. Sometimes chances look like sudden terror, wasting diseases… Sometimes like famine both spiritually and materially. Sometimes those chances look like plagues and devastation.

But I love the fact that God won’t give up on any of us. Yes, His discipline meant to drop us to our knees might hurt. Yes, we might have to suffer loss before we humble ourselves. Sometimes we choose to disobey and have to pay the consequences our choices require.

But verses 40-45 remind us that there is another side to that coin. God is only as far away as a repentant heart. The choice to confess sin comes with so much blessing!

If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

Here’s the choice: reject God and suffer the consequences. Receive what Jesus died to give you and be blessed.

The choice seems obvious to me.

Jeremiah 32-34; Freedom, Part 2

A couple thousand people gathered at the pier last night to watch the colorful – and loud – fireworks display over the Atlantic Ocean, celebrating our nation’s freedom. Live music, glow sticks, bubbles, laughter, and the aroma of hamburgers on the grill made it a fun evening. We do have a lot to celebrate in this country.

Yesterday as I read God’s Word, I was reminded of the freedom we Christians have in Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin! We have reason to celebrate!

But today as I continued to read in Jeremiah, I am reminded of another freedom that gives us reason to grieve. 34: 17 says:

…So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the Lord – ‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine…

That freedom doesn’t sound very fun. And God wants us to know it really isn’t. God goes on to tell Jeremiah that there are severe consequences to we who have the freedom to choose God, but ignore or disobey Him. He gave us the freedom to choose. He did not give us the freedom to decide on the outcome of our choices.

It’s like, as an adult I have the freedom to smoke if I want to. I do not have the freedom to decide whether or not I get lung cancer. I have the freedom to carry a gun. But if I use it to rob a bank, I don’t have the freedom to decide whether or not I go to jail.

There is always a flip side to freedom. Maybe we are seeing that played out in 2018 America. Freedom without responsibility seems to be destroying us.

Our God-given ability to choose is a precious thing. He wants us to choose Him. But He won’t take away our freedom to make that choice for ourselves. That’s up to us. But know, without a doubt, that choosing to follow God comes with blessing. Choosing to follow anything else comes with devastating consequences God would rather you didn’t experience.

You’re free to do what you want. So is God.

Joshua 22-24; Choose

I wonder how many times Scripture tells us to “choose.” I wonder how often Scripture either explains in words or in examples the blessings associated with choosing God, and the severe consequences for choosing anything else. Never underestimate the importance of your choices.

God’s made His choice. He chose you. He went to the cross for you. He bought your salvation and is willing to shower you with grace.

When the jailer asked Paul what he needed to do to be saved, Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 16) In Joshua 24, the Jewish leader told the Jews to “choose today” who they would serve. Would they choose God, or the idols of their neighbors?

Choose Jesus today, my friend. Admit you are a sinner, and receive the forgiveness He died to give you. But let me remind you, if you say you aren’t quite ready to give your life to the Lord today, you’ve made your choice to reject Him today. Don’t do it.

Accept Jesus. Choose to obey Him. Choose today who you will serve.

Exodus 7-12 Why Isn’t Anyone Mad At Pharaoh?

One of my dad’s favorite movies was “The African Queen.” There is a scene in it where Charlie and Rose, heading down the river in his boat to get away from the Germans, drop anchor near the shore for the night. They aren’t there long when gnats start to swarm around them. Charlie immediately pulls up the anchor and heads toward mid-river to get away from the pesky insects. Rose bats her arms, then tries to cover her head, she pulls a tarp over her but the gnats are relentless. She shivers, and cries, and pleads for Charlie to do something. Eventually, they get far enough away from shore where there are no more gnats.

Rose is embarrassed. She apologizes for going “mad.” But Charlie assures her it’s a natural response to the swarming insects. He tells her whole herds of cattle have been known to drown in an attempt to escape the little buggers.

I can kind of relate. My nephews and their families are visiting me on the island this week. The sprawling live oak trees and hanging moss are charming, but they are also a haven for noseeums, tiny, biting gnats that can drive you mad. We’ve made a couple attempts at playing at the playground, but it doesn’t take long before the gnats drive us home.

So it’s no surprise I think about this as I read about the plagues in these chapters in Exodus. That plague alone would have been enough to get my attention, I think.

There are so many things God would have us know about Him in the account of the plagues that seem to culminate in the devasting deaths of thousands of men and boys. I’ve read these chapters several times over the past couple of days, I’ve pulled out my commentaries, and talked to some people whose insight I appreciate. I’ve prayed, and meditated. And I’d like to share my thoughts.

It’s hard to reconcile a loving God with the seeming murder of innocents. But we can’t look at the last plague without starting at the beginning. I’m going to address the first hard lesson, found in 7:3. God is going to harden Pharaoh’s heart. That just doesn’t seem fair, if it means Pharaoh is a puppet in God’s hand.

But God is not a puppeteer. What he said about Pharaoh is a warning to us. The truth of the matter is, God will harden your heart, too, if you reject Him. That’s how we are created. God woos, and draws, and loves us to Himself. In the account of the plagues we see a God who stops at nothing to get our attention. But He takes rejection very seriously. And with each rejection, He wants us to know we are in danger of becoming used to rejecting Him.

Did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Yes. But He hardened Pharaoh’s heart because Pharaoh rejected Him. And He’d like us to learn from Pharaoh’s example.

Now let’s look at the attempts God made to get Pharaoh to listen to Him. First, He had Moses throw down the staff that turned into a snake. Harmless enough. But impressive. Pharaoh was not impressed. Rejection #1. A corner of a heart hardened.

Next, the Nile turned to a river of blood. Gross. Inconvenient. But again, Pharaoh didn’t budge. Rejection #2. A heart a bit more hardened.

A week goes by, then Moses tells Pharaoh if he doesn’t obey God, frogs will come out of the Nile and fill their houses. Yuck. Rejection #3. But there’s more. After Pharaoh pleaded with Moses to get rid of the frogs, Moses said “Ok, Pharaoh. You pick the time so that you know for certain this is from God.” Pharaoh picked the time. Moses prayed. The frogs left when Pharaoh said. This had to be from God. Rejection #4. It was getting easier to reject God. A harder heart still.

Then came the gnats. I’m sorry, but the story would have ended there if I’d been in Pharaoh’s shoes. I hate those gnats so much! But Pharaoh? Rejection #5, and a heart a bit more hard.

I hope you read these chapters. The plagues continue. Flies, then dead livestock, then boils, hail and fire, locusts. Each plague got a bit more difficult, a bit more severe. And with every plague, God is revealed as powerful, almighty, worthy of worship, and serious about obedience. Pharaoh’s response? Rejections # 6,7,8,9,10,11… And with each rejection a heart that is so hard, it has no trouble rejecting any attempt of God to bring Pharaoh to his knees.

But here is the other thing. It wasn’t just Pharaoh who was ignoring God’s attempts to get him to obey Him. The Egyptian citizens were experiencing the same plagues in their own homes. Why didn’t any of them step up and turn to God? They were not as innocent as some have painted them to be. They would have been saved, according to everything I know about the God of the Bible, had they acknowledged Him as the One True God to be worshiped, if they had obeyed Him instead of rejecting him.

The story of the plagues is actually a story about a patient and, yes, a loving God. God could have wiped out the Egyptians BEFORE Moses ever threw down that staff. He could have given them no warning at all. But God is not, and never has been, willing that anybody perish without Him. And this account tells me He is the God of second chances, and third, and fourth…

It’s easy to shake a fist at God if the only thing we consider is the death of those Egyptians. But why isn’t anyone mad at Pharaoh? Why don’t we shake a fist at him for his arrogance, his repeated denial of God’s supremacy, His rejection of God’s way?

Today, some will tell you a loving God wouldn’t send anyone to hell. But the same God who was that serious about obedience in the book of Exodus is still serious about obedience in 2017. Disobedience equals a death sentence. It’s been that way from the beginning. It’s that way today. And it will be that way tomorrow.

But just like God will provide a way of salvation for Moses and the Jewish believers, He provides a way of salvation for each of us. God HIMSELF, in human form paid the death sentence for each of us. He died so that any who accepts Him on His terms will be saved. Anyone.

Today, and every day, He will try to get your attention. He’ll give you repeated opportunities to accept Him. And He will be faithful to forgive when you ask Him to. If Pharaoh had accepted God, I believe we’d be reading a different account of how the Israelites gained the Promised Land.

Holy God, I pray that we will not allow Satan to stall us on that final plague. Help us to consider the whole picture and see You for Who You are, a patient and loving God who is not willing that any should perish. But also help us recognize that there will come a time when disobedience will be judged. You will be obeyed. Or else. Thank You for Jesus who took on Himself my death penalty for the sins I’ve committed. I pray that all who read this post will know the joy of sins forgiven through the blood of Your Precious Son. Thank you for working in our lives to bring us to the Savior. And thank you for second chances.

December 16 – It’s Not An Easy Road

Ephesians

The Christian life is not a walk in the park. It’s hard. It takes effort. It’s a conscious decision to put on the armor of God, to lay aside our former selves, to serve, to be rooted and grounded in love. It’s a daily, sometimes moment by moment choice.

Read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians today and let your heart soar at the benefits of being adopted into the family of God through the blood of Jesus. Read it and be challenged to make that daily effort to draw near to God who loves you, and wants to pour out His blessings on you.

There are so many wonderful verses in this book. Here are a few that jumped out at me today:

1:7-8a  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.

1:13  In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise

2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

The emphasis above is mine. But as I read these verses I am reminded what blessings are mine because of Jesus. And my heart overflows.

As you read, pay special attention to Paul’s heart recorded in chapter 3:14-21. Here’s a glimpse:

…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

I pray with Paul, that God will give you a spirit of wisdom, and a revelation of who He really is.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of HIs calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. ( Ephesians 1:17-18a)

The Christian life might be difficult. But it is also a road that is strewn with blessings. May you walk in the Light today. And be blessed.

 

October 18 – A Dozen Donuts, Please

John 6

I do not believe Scripture teaches that God “chooses” to save some individuals, and “chooses” others to send to hell. Quite the contrary, in fact. God so loved the world that… WHOEVER believes has everlasting life. God didn’t come into the world to condemn the world but that THE WORLD could be saved through Him.

But then I come across a verse like 6:65, “… For this reason, I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father,” and I picture God on His throne, pointing His scepter and saying, “I’ll take that one, and that one, but not that one,” like some guy picking out a dozen donuts.

Jesus had just talked about His role as The Bread of Life. He went into shocking detail that seemed like He was talking about cannibalism. But, He explained, the words He spoke weren’t about the flesh at all. They were words of spirit and life. He was describing who it is that are granted salvation. It is those who partake of the Bread of Life, who take Jesus in – all of Him.

Some look at this verse through a paper towel tube and see Mary, and Susie, and Bob. I think God would have us see The Way, not individuals. No one can come to Jesus unless it has been granted him from the Father, and in order for anyone to be granted access, that person… any person… must accept Jesus.

Jesus is reminding us there is only one Salvation. And only those who do it God’s way are granted access to the Son. God chose mankind to save. And He has spelled out His plan of salvation in great detail. It’s all about Jesus.

The choice to do it God’s way, or not, is your choice. To choose Jesus is life. To choose rejection of Him is death. It can’t get much plainer than that.

March 26 – God’s Sovereignty

Joshua 12-15

Caleb went to Joshua and reminded him that 45 years earlier, Moses had promised him a certain portion of the Promised Land. Now Joshua was assigning property to the Jews, and Caleb wanted to be sure Joshua gave him the land Moses had promised. So Joshua assigned Caleb that land.

Later, Achsah, Caleb’s daughter, asked her dad for springs of water to go with the land in the Negev he had already given her and her husband. Caleb gave her the springs.

These days, with the election coming, and with such unrest in our country and the world, I often hear it said, “God is Sovereign.” Many people seem to believe that means God will put whoever He wants in the White House, that He is exacting punishment on the world by causing some people to be suicide bombers. Some seem to take the attitude that we might as well sit back and let God do His thing because, after all, He is Sovereign.

But I don’t think that means God is up there playing a game of chess with our lives.

Would Joshua have remembered Moses’ promise to Caleb had Caleb not reminded him? Would Caleb have thought to include springs of water with the land he gave his daughter had she not asked? Would the Israelites have received the Promised Land had they not fought for it?

We won’t know the answers to those questions because Scripture tells us what actually happened. Had the requests not been made or the wars not fought we would be reading a different account.

Yes, God is absolutely, without question, Sovereign. He is the Supreme Ruler. He is the ultimate Power. But God has also chosen to exist in time while we are on earth.

Actually, He’s already at the end of time, too. He’s already returned for His own in the realm of eternity. We just haven’t experienced it yet, trapped in minutes and seconds.

The Bible tells us over and over how important our choices are. Why would our choices make any difference if God was “in control?”

Does God have a will concerning who occupies the White House the next four years? I am certain He knows who will be our next president. It will be the person who gets the most votes, and voting is a choice each of us must make.

I think God’s will is for Christians to fight for our land. He wills that we choose morality, obedience, and that we make our voices heard. I think His will is that we vote and make our position known. I think His will is that we take action and not sit back and assume He’s going to do it all.

If we sit at home and think that, because God is Sovereign, His will will be done with or without us, we are sadly mistaken. There are dozens of examples in the Bible where God wanted to bless His children but could not because of their choices. More than once He “gave them over” to their choices. And those times certainly couldn’t be described as His will for them.

I know that God is in control. I know He knows the end from the beginning. I know that He knows when life on earth will end. He is Sovereign.

But God’s Sovereignty does not let us off the hook. God knows what will happen if Christians stand up for themselves like Caleb and Achsah did, like Israel did when they fought for the land.

But He also knows what will happen if we don’t.

That chapter hasn’t been written yet in the realm of time. Our choices will make the difference. Yes, God knows what we are going to choose. But He wants us to choose Him. That’s His will. Everything else will fall into place, if we choose God.

Dear Sovereign God, it is comforting to know that You are who You say You are. You are all powerful, all knowing, ever present. But You, in your wisdom have given us the ability to make choices. And those choices, according to Your will for Your creation, determine life on this planet. I pray that Your children will choose You, that we will intentionally put on Your armor, that we will purposefully choose to obey You, and that we won’t just sit back and assume You are going to do a great work in spite of us. May we not give up, thinking there is nothing we can do to change the tide. You can and do great things when we choose to be vessels through which You accomplish Your will. May You find us choosing to be faithful.