Tag Archives: choices

Scripture Fulfilled (Luke 23, John 18-19)

Many times in the Gospels, the writers say something like, “this was done so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” The question is, does this mean God manipulated circumstances in order to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy, or did God give the Old Testament prophets a glimpse at what would happen in the future as the result of choices people would make, and He wants us to make that connection to prove He is Almighty God?

Is it fore-knowledge or causation we see here?

I think the beauty of this idea of Scripture being fulfilled is in the fact that God sees the end from the beginning. And because He exists outside of time, He is able to say what will happen before it happens, because He has already seen it happen.

He didn’t need to cause something to happen because some Old Testament prophet predicted it hundreds of years earlier. The prophet predicted it because it happened. Remember, God sees life on planet Earth in the past. What we do tomorrow is already in the books.

But that doesn’t mean He is not present today, or that we need not pray or obey Him because the end is already known by Him. It means God sees what happened as a result of our prayers, and what happened as a result of our lack of prayer. He sees what happened as a result of our obedience today, tomorrow, next month, next year. And He sees what happened as a result of our disobedience.

We still have a responsibility to Him. He sees the future, but we certainly cannot! Your story is still being written one minute at a time in this life. And the choices you make during those minutes determine the ending He already sees.

Choosing God (Luke 15)

Our God-given ability to choose is a funny thing. For most of us, it’s hard to marry human choice with the Sovereignty of God. And today, I’m not even going to try.

But there is something about our ability to make decisions for ourselves that has me looking at our Sovereign God with adoration as I read the three parables in chapter 15. Hear me out.

We make choices every day that effect our relationship with God; a thought we choose to entertain rather than putting aside, a little white lie we tell to cover ourselves, listening to gossip or being the gossip even when we disguise it as concern or by asking for prayer, an unforgiving heart, whether to speak up for the truth or stay silent. Many seemingly meaningless decisions we make every day impact our relationship with a Holy God.

It’s not just the “big” choice of choosing God or rejecting Him outright, although that is certainly a huge part of it. We make choices all the time and none of them are insignificant.

The three parables we read today has me thinking. One lamb among hundreds, or one coin among 10 doesn’t seem that big of a deal. But look at how the keepers of those things reacted when something so small was lost. They dropped everything and actively pursued that which was lost.

Look at the father in the parable of the prodigal son. That dad had been searching the horizon for his son. Scripture doesn’t say but, considering what we see in the other two parables, I have to believe that lost boy’s father searched the horizon every day the boy was gone, ready and eager to welcome him home.

Have you ever watched a baby take his first wobbly steps? Very often one parent will stand behind the child, bent over, both hands on either side of that precious one, ready and eager to catch him when he falls. The baby moves to the left, the parent moves with him. He moves to the right and teeters, the parent adjusts her hands to provide that extra safety.

I’ve seen a parent scoop up his child in his arms, with pride and excitement, when his wobbly baby falls to the ground after taking a few steps. I’ve watched the joy and love given and received between parent and child when that happens. That’s the picture that came to me today as I considered our Heavenly Father and the independence He has given us.

God wants us to grow to maturity, to step out, to make decisions for our good and His glory. And, because He has allowed us to do so (or not) He stands at the ready to catch us, to find us when we get lost. He is there to scoop us up into His arms, to rejoice with the angels when we come back to Him.

I think I love Him more today than I did yesterday as I get another glimpse of how much He loves me. My Heavenly Daddy has my back, has His arms stretched out to catch me when I fall. And I do fall.

I don’t always make choices that honor Him. The prodigal son certainly didn’t make choices that honored His dad, either. But the boy made a choice. The dad let him go. But that dad never gave up and was there to welcome the lost boy once again into His embrace, when the boy chose to come home.

I praise God for His unending love that is expressed to me in many ways I don’t even consider half the time. I am that lost lamb, that silver coin, that parodical son. The choices I make to step away from Him are never met with indifference. God remains right here, working behind the scene, steadying me, looking out for me, and rejoicing when I choose to fall into His arms in surrender and faith.

I have the ability to choose God with all that entails: forgiveness, eternity, blessings, and obedience, surrender, humility. I have the ability to choose to reject or ignore Him with all that entails: pride, unforgiveness, missing out on the blessings, judgment.

But in either case, while we have breath, God is going to pursue us, to look for us to come to Him, to do everything possible including die for us, to give us every opportunity to be found by Him, and rejoice when we choose Him.

I choose God. I pray you choose Him, too.

In Reverence for God (Nehemiah 1-5)

While leading the Jews to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, Nehemiah found out the nobles and officials had been overcharging the people in taxes, and charging high interest rates on loans people needed in order to pay those taxes and also to buy food for their families during the famine. When Nehemiah confronted them they didn’t even try to defend themselves. They knew they were guilty.

Nehemiah asked them an important question: “Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” (5:9) Shouldn’t misrepresenting God to non-believers cause you to fear Him?

The guilty nobles and officials promised to reimburse the people they had cheated.

Nehemiah pointed out that former governors had placed a heavy burden on the people with high taxes, and demands for luxurious living for themselves. The people remembered how hard life had been under their rule. And as Nehemiah was using himself as an example of how to treat people fairly, he said in verse 15:

Out of reverence for God I did not act like that.

I feel God asking me this morning if I’d dare set myself up as an example of how to treat people. And if not, why not?

Shouldn’t I walk in the fear of God? Shouldn’t I live my life out of reverence for God? If I really did that, I would have no reason NOT to tell people to imitate me.

Nehemiah reminds me unsaved people are watching me. I believe non-believers judge Christians by the choices I make. I believe their opinion of God is influenced by how I represent Him.

This morning as I sit here and think about this passage, I am considering what living with reverence for God looks like here in 2020. I think it involves both love for God and fear of Him. It involves service and worship, kindness and obedience, honesty and purity and courage and humility and surrender. It means standing out in a crowd, and standing up for Truth.

I want to live my life out of reverence for God, and I want Him to get the glory. I want to live my life out of reverence for God, because anything else is not what He deserves.

Love (Ruth 1-4)

The book of Ruth is about love. I imagine many of you had Ruth’s declaration of love for her mother-in-law Naomi read at your wedding. It’s a beautiful passage. But if we read the book of Ruth merely as a love story, I believe we miss some important lessons God wants us to see. The first is this:

Love is more than words. If you look at Ruth you see a woman whose love made the choice to leave her family and follow Naomi and Naomi’s God. Ruth left everything familiar to her, and willingly went to live in a country that very well could have considered her an enemy. But her love for Naomi was stronger than any ties she had to her former life, and she showed her love – not just with those beautiful words – but by choosing Naomi over anything else.

Love is self-sacrificing. You never see Ruth demand her rights. She never acted like Naomi owed her something for the “sacrifices” Ruth made for her mother-in-law. Instead, when Naomi told her to do something, Ruth obeyed every detail without complaining or without thought for her own comfort. She went and worked a step below a servant because she and Naomi needed food. To me she is an example of someone who emptied herself of herself, which is totally opposite of today’s philosophy of life and love.

Love is courageous. When Ruth went to Boaz at night, she put her reputation, the possibility of rejection, and her very life on the line. She knew she was doing the right thing for herself and Naomi, but doing the right thing came with risks. Ruth had the courage to go to Boaz because of love.

I think you could read Ruth’s beautiful declaration of love all day everyday, but the words themselves are meaningless unless that love is lived.

Let me just say that if you are thinking about getting married, I pray you love and are loved like what we see in the book of Ruth. This kind of love is more than words or feelings. The question is not, does he (she) make me happy. The question is, am I loved in the details of life, in the hard times as well as the good. Is my welfare more important than a video game or a shopping spree? And, even more important I think, do I love that person like that, too.

If you can’t answer “yes” to those questions – run! Marriage is hard enough without the added complication of a love that isn’t genuine, active, self-sacrificing, and courageous.

But let me ask us all this question. Do you (do I) love God with this kind of love? Do I show Him I love Him, or am I satisfied with saying the words to Him when I pray? Do I love others like He told me to? Do I obey Him without question? Do I choose Him above anyone and anything else? Is my love for God self-sacrificing and courageous?

I think that’s what God would have us take from the book of Ruth. Love is not a feeling so much as it is a lifestyle, a choice to live love. I want to love God like that. He deserves that kind of love.

Broken Promises (Leviticus 26-27)

Most of us have reneged on a promise or broken a vow at some time in our lives. We get caught up in the moment and make a rash declaration we are unable to fulfill. These days, when a promise is not kept we often hear the words, “My bad,” as though that negates the promise. We expect everyone to just move past it.

But what if the promise is made to God? In a desperate attempt to bargain with God, we might pray “If You… then I will…,” or “If You… I promise I will never…” Oh we absolutely mean it at the time we say those words. But life happens, and so often our promise is forgotten.

Does God forget? What does God do with those promises and vows we break? Leviticus suggests there is a price to pay if we can’t fulfill the promises we make to God.

Now I know we live after the cross, that we are under grace, that God forgives our sin when we ask Him. I know there is nothing we can “do” to earn God’s favor, or to make up for something we did or did not do. But does that make breaking a promise to God a moot point?

Leviticus has me considering the broken promises I’ve made to God. When I recognize them as sin and confess them to God, I know He forgives. But I wonder if that act of forgiveness changes me. Does the fact that my God extends grace to me make me more aware of my choices, does it encourage me to choose my words and my actions so as not to repeat the sin of breaking my promises to Him in the future? Do my broken promises to God break my heart?

The Jews were to buy back the vow they could not keep, plus add a fifth of the value to the purchase price. It reminds me if – when – I break a vow, God expects me to do better next time. With His help, I can.

May I be aware that my words are heard by God, that when I make a promise to Him He does not take it lightly, and may I keep the promises I make to Him because He loves me and keeps His promises to me.

It’s the least I can do. And personally, I don’t want to be satisfied with doing the least I can, in response to His marvelous grace.

Acts 5-8; What Would People Think?

Some time ago, I read an opinion drawn from some kind of research that said men tend to dress for comfort, while women dress to impress other women. Some people have been known to go into debt in order to appear successful to family, friends, and coworkers. I wonder how many decisions I make every day based on what I think others will think about me.

Ananias and Sapphire made the decision to cook the books a bit so it looked to everybody else that they gave the church the entire amount they received from the sale of some land. I guess they wanted people to look at them as exceptionally generous or something.

Simon was a successful magician, and had somewhat of a following. (Something like our modern day equivalent to 1,000 followers on Twitter.) But when Peter and John laid hands on believers who then received the Holy Spirt, Simon wanted that ability in his arsenal, too. He even offered to pay the apostles if they’d share their trick with him. Don’t kid yourself. Simon wasn’t interested in being used by God to share Christ. He was more concerned about what his followers would think if he couldn’t keep up with the apostles.

The Pharisees and Sadducees never stopped being protective of their reputations. We see them throw the apostles in prison when the apostles were leading people to Jesus through teaching and miracles. Any convert to Christianity was one less person who looked up to the Jewish leaders.

But Peter and the other apostles stood firm. They certainly didn’t care that the Sadducees and Pharisees wanted them to stop speaking for Jesus. In fact, they didn’t care at all what the Sadducees and Pharisees thought of them:

We must obey God rather than men! (5:29)

And there’s the point. If you clean up your language around certain people, and let it fly around others you might have a problem. If you laugh at certain jokes, or watch certain shows, or go certain places around some people but not others, you might have a problem.

I don’t believe the Bible teaches we shouldn’t care at all what people think. I care that people see Jesus when they look at me. I care that my decisions reflect my relationship with my Savior. But not because I want to appear like a good person. I want to always be used by God to draw someone to Him, not me.

And sometimes that means going against what others think. For me, it means passing on that alcoholic beverage. It means never using God’s name as an exclamation mark. It means walking away from gossip, or not responding to every stupid thing someone posts online. It means caring enough about what God thinks of me that I don’t hesitate to love the person who is unloving, that I’m not ashamed to reach out to someone others think is too far gone. It means understanding that my audience is not just the person sitting next to me. God Himself is listening and watching me every second of every day.

I believe Scripture teaches that if I am above all concerned with God’s opinion of me, He will take care of what others think about me. And if they don’t like my stand for God’s truth, I want to still stand firm. Because I have to obey God rather than people.

What would other people think if I lived a consistent life, obedient to God? I’m reminded they hated Jesus. They just might hate me, too. But I am also reminded that many were drawn to Jesus as well. My prayer is that when people look at my life, they will think that having Jesus in their lives just might be so much better than what they have without Him.

 

September 23 – Why Today?

Esther 1-5

Have you ever felt you’d been at the right place at the right time? If you’d waited you’d have missed a great opportunity? If you’d not gone you’d have missed a blessing?

Reading Esther today has me wondering about “such a time as this.” The question I’m asking myself is how much did God’s role play in what happened to Esther, and how important was Esther’s role in it all?

I believe both were necessary. God opened doors. Esther walked through them. She didn’t have to. She could have refused.

Mordecai himself explains that if Esther had kept her nationality secret, if she refused to go to the king on behalf of the Jews, we would be reading about deliverance of the Jews from another source. (4:14). It’s because of Esther’s obedience that her story is included in God’s Word.

It’s not because God orchestrated the matter, that Esther had no choice but to deliver the Jews. She had a choice. She chose to fast and pray, to ask her uncle to do the same, then she chose to walk through the door God had opened for her.

God has a plan He’d like you to be a part of. He’ll open doors. He’ll nudge you. He’ll put a burden on your heart. But if you want to be in on His plan, you’ve got to make that choice to obey. Otherwise, someone else may get the blessing – and you’ll be on the outside, regretfully looking in.

You are where you are today as a result of God’s leading, and your obedience or disobedience. Can He use you today? You bet. Will He open doors? He opens doors all the time. Will you walk through them?

That depends on the choices you make today. God knows what you’ll choose. I pray you’ll choose obedience.

Why today? Because God has given you today, for such a time as this, to glorify Him.

Let’s make it happen.

 

 

July 18 – Worthless, Delightful Plants

Isaiah 13-17

I was reading about God’s prophecy concerning Damascus. That great city was set for destruction.

For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the rock of your refuge. (17:10a)

But it’s what follows that verse that got my attention this morning:

Therefore you plant delightful plants and set them with vine slips of a strange god. In the day you plant it you carefully fence it in, and in the morning you bring your seed to blossom; but the harvest will be a heap in a day of sickliness and incurable pain. (17:10b-11)

I think about what is being preached from far too many pulpits. God is love. Love wins. God wants you to be healthy and rich. Don’t judge. Come to God on your terms. Everyone goes to heaven. Sin is relative.

Delightful plants! Feel good sermons. Love! Love! Love!

Delightful – and deadly. May God help us examine that which we plant by our words, our choices, our very lives. I can’t imagine anyone purposefully planting a garden of weeds. Let’s not do that in our lives, either.

June 19 – We All Worship

Ecclesiastes 1-6

Years ago I worked with a man who was very dedicated to his job as high school band director. He spent many after-school hours in his office, working on halftime shows, giving private lessons, repairing instruments. The man could do it all. And he did it well.

He had three children who never spent much time with their dad, until they were in the high school band themselves. I remember the junior high band director, also a father of three, talking to our co-worker and encouraging him to go home and play with his kids. I don’t think he ever did.

Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that jobs and wealth and success and education and partying and things are all worthless in the end. A chasing after wind.

In Sunday School today we were talking about serving two masters. It’s impossible to give 100% to more than one. One of the ladies said we, as beings created to worship God, end up worshiping SOMETHING even if we reject Him. Some worship careers, or family, or self, or wealth, or even education. Ask Solomon what he thinks about any and all of the substitutes he tried.

Today is Father’s Day. And may I say thank you to those of you incredible men who love God, love their wives, and who love their children. Thank you for the time you spend with them, for the hugs and giggles. Thank you for the discipline and the direction you give to the ones God has given you. I pray that they are learning what their Heavenly Father is like by living in your home.

Here’s something you probably already know. When you die, your money stays here. Your car, your job title, your bank account, your toys stay here for others to use, abuse, ignore, or sell. When you die, you relinquish control, even if you think you have an airtight will.

The only things that you will take with you into eternity are the souls of those with whom you have shared Jesus. And I can’t think of a more important soul than that child who calls you Daddy (or Mommy, ladies. Same is true for us) Are your children ready to meet their Creator because of the influence you’ve had on them? Are they living for the Lord because they see that living for the Lord works for you?

What are your priorities? Is it that job, or more money, more prestige? Or is it obeying God and worshiping Him according to Scripture? Your children are watching you worship every day.

What is it they see you worshiping?

April 28 – All Glory To God

Psalms 81, 88, 92-93

I was watching an NBA game the other night, and one of the players was being interviewed after helping his team with the win. He answered the question asked him, but before he did he said, “First I want to say thank you, Jesus. All glory to God.”

Now I don’t remember the player’s name, and know nothing about him personally. I pray his relationship with God is as real as it sounds. I have no reason to believe otherwise.

Then, reading these psalms today and remembering what this young basketball player had said, got me to thinking about how important it is to praise God, to recognize His hand in the events of life, and to purposefully acknowledge Him with a grateful heart.

God, through the psalmist, says that if we listened to Him, and walked in His ways, He would “feed us with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock (He) would satisfy (us).” (81:16)

And if we obey Him and are blessed by Him, people will want to be associated with us. In other words, we would be the cool people, the ones everyone else wants to be like.

God wants us to make Him an integral part of every day, a Presence in all we do or say. He really wants to hang out with us.

I want to praise God because He deserves to be praised. And especially when good things happen to me, I want to always give the glory back to God.

It’s what He deserves.