Tag Archives: choices

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.

March 10 – Protecting What Is Mine

Numbers 35&36

I find it interesting that the last two chapters of Numbers deal with cities of refuge, and what to do with the five daughters of Zelophehad concerning their inheritance. Both subjects have to do with protection. One, the protection of a person who accidentally kills another, from the dead man’s avenger. The other, the protection of the land.

In the first instance, a person was protected from the avenger as long as he stayed inside the city of refuge. One step outside those gates, and the avenger was free to kill the manslayer.

Satan is like that avenger, eager to destroy me if I step away from my Savior’s protection. And every time I neglect time in God’s Word and prayer, when I sin and refuse to repent, when I don’t obey Him by worshiping and serving with a fellowship of believers, when I try to live with one foot in the world, I expose myself to Satan’s arrows.

The second is about protecting the land, the inheritance given by God. I can see that as my own, personal Promised Land of fellowship with God. It seems that relatives of the daughters of Zelophehad were a bit jealous of the possibility that, should the girls marry men from outside  of Joseph’s family, another tribe of Israel would get the rights to the land God had given them. They wanted to make sure what was their’s stayed with them.

Makes me wonder how jealous I am that something or someone could take what God has given me: love, peace, joy, fellowship with Him, holiness. The same things that make me vulnerable to my manslayer, Satan, can steal the blessings that are mine as God’s child.

So God is asking me today to protect what is mine through the blood of His precious Son. I need to control my thoughts, I need to resist temptation, I need to read and meditate on His Word, to pray, to worship Him and praise Him and love Him like He deserves. I need to walk with Him in an intentional way, and to cling to Him as my Protector, my City of Refuge.



March 7 – Don’t Let Up

Numbers 28-30

It sounds, from what I read today, that during the seventh month there was a continual sacrifice burning for ten days. It says the smell of grilling meat and baking bread was a soothing aroma to God. I like it, too.

Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

Giving my heart to the Lord was something that happened once. I asked Jesus to forgive me, and He did. But what I read today concerns a daily choice, a constant decision to offer myself, my body, my mind, my dreams, my desires, to God as a soothing aroma, a spiritual act of worship.

Paul says he dies daily. (I Cor 15:31) And that is what speaks to me from this Old Testament account of continual sacrifices.

I want my life to be a constant source of joy for my Heavenly Father. I want all my choices to soothe Him. And I never want to let the fire of my devotion die out. I want to be like that continual sacrifice burning on the altar. May I never let up.

March 4 – One Victory Isn’t The War

Numbers 21&22

I didn’t realize that there were occasions during their forty year journey to the Promised Land when the Jews lived in cities. (21:25) It must have felt good to sleep in beds, have a roof over their heads, and a place to cook their food, after so long living in tents in the wilderness. I wonder how hard it would have been to pack up again and continue their journey when God moved.

I wonder if some of them just didn’t move with Him. The Israelites had fought and defeated the inhabitants of those cities. What would be the harm in staying?

As I think about that this morning I am reminded of times in my life when I have defeated my enemy, Satan. Times when I’ve overcome a temptation, or repented of and walked away from a sin I’ve been committing. Victory feels great, and my relationship with God is sweet during those times.

But before long, God reveals another sin He wants us to conquer. Another battle to win. He encourages me to take another step on our journey toward His best for me.

If I choose to stay in my present “city” my relationship with Him can remain sweet and comfortable, I guess. But what would I be missing? How much more sweet and precious can my relationship with my Savior be?

I don’t want to be satisfied with winning a battle or two. I want to win the whole war. I want everything God offers in this life and the next.

And that means I move when He moves. No matter how comfortable I might be at the moment, I press on. Because if what I have now is amazing…