Choices

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August 3

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

It shouldn’t come as a surprise when we come to the conclusion that how we see things is determined by our perspective. Take, for example, the passage from Psalm 139:7-12. (Please take a moment to read it).

Now, the way it is taken is determined by your perspective.

For example: “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!” (v.7)

That could be a good thing or it could be a bad thing. Right?

If a person is living in sin or simply running from God, that verse is a bad thing. It tells that person that he can never run so far or so fast that he will be beyond God’s vision.

If a person is a Christ-follower and trying to live their life in surrender to Him, it is a good thing. Anywhere that person goes, anything he/she does, He is there with them.

That same principle can applied to all the verses.

  • If you are His what promises!
  • If you are a runner, what distressing verses!

God has uniquely made each of us. He cares about His creation. The words of Psalm 139:7-12 should stand as a comfort to me of His steadfast love.

“Father, may I never lose sight of You, Your concern for me, or Your watchful eye on me.”

July 30

Friday, July 30th, 2021

I have a friend who always closed his correspondence with “Eyes to the Sky.” I was reminded of that this morning as I read about eternity.

We are all temporary. I know there have been those who said they were going to live a long, long time.  Years ago, when I was reading a very popular, monthly “wellness” magazine/booklet, the founder said he was going to live past 100, maybe forever. He died shortly thereafter. Only superheroes can get away with saying, “I am invincible.” But then again, they are comic book characters-the figment of someone’s imagination- and yes, they can do just about anything! One of those is defy death.

Humans-real life people-not so much. Our end will come. Eternity awaits. I realize the fervor of billboards, commercials, and road signs, but I question the value of them. Our society is cynical with many dead to the claims of Jesus. I saw one the other day: heavenorhell.com. Seriously? Unless I miss it, a “none” or purveyor of another religion will cynically NOT tune in, unless it is to laugh, criticize, or counteract the claim. A local church owns some prime real estate on the road coming into town and road signs have appeared (I think about 10 of them) which say about one or two words. The subject? Eternity.

Like I said, I’m not knocking the fervor or intent. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”  (NASB2020)  That whole chapter of 2 Peter is about the Lord’s delay and return. He has placed eternity in our hearts.

I long for Jesus to return or to call me home. I’m fine with either. I know where I’m going to spend eternity. Eternity will come for all of us-even the “fitness nut”-who thinks he or she will cheat death or go on forever or live a very long and prosperous life. No one knows. And then, we will face eternity. Where-heaven or hell- will be determined by whether you know Jesus as your Savior.  I’m hoping you do.

“Father, help me to live with my eyes to the sky and beyond. When I go is in Your hands. So is where, but I took care of that many years ago.”

July 29

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

If I may borrow a thought from Paul David Tripp this morning: “Too many followers of Christ have schizophrenia” (schizo from here on). He calls it “evangelical schizo.” The following is my attempt to explain it, apply it and challenge with it (in my own words).

Schizo, according to medical journals is “a long term and seasonal mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. It may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning.” We might also see them as multiple personalities.

All that psychobabble aside, it is easy to see how this applies to many follower of Jesus-not mentally-but spiritually. One glaring example is how we see and say life is forever, there is something better, yet we live as if this earth-this life- is all there is. We talk about eternity, but we live as if this earth is all there is.

Paul once wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil.1:21). He goes on to write: “I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.” (Phil.1:23-24 NLT)

Paul’s struggle was not like ours is.  He didn’t want to stay here to fulfill his own wishes and desires and wants. He wanted to stay here for the folks. His unfinished business was not material; it was spiritual.

There is nothing wrong with desiring to go to heaven. There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay here. The schizo happens when we take our eyes off our heavenly prize and live as if life on earth is all that matters.

“Father, cure me of any schizo I may exhibit. While I’m here, use me and keep me focused on my greater prize.”

June 28

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

I’m always skeptical when I hear someone say, “Jesus told me (fill in the blank)” or “God told me to do (ditto).” That is especially true when what they say Jesus or God told them to do is so far off base, so whacked, that I want to say, “No way! God would never ask you to do something so vile, so repulsive, so stupid, so hurtful to others.”

I’m not speaking of those-like the Muslims from 9/11- who say, “God (Allah) told them to hijack a plane and fly it into two towers and kill thousands.” There is a place for them alright, but it’s not with any vestal virgins.

I’m also not speaking of those who take an Uzi and open fire on a crowd of innocent people. Or the one who kidnaps another and tortures them to death.

No…that’s not God.  But we must also realize God does speak into our lives-through a still, small voice we hear in our heart/mind. He “speaks” to us through His Word, through circumstances, and other people. It is that latter one I want to focus on for a few moments.

What do you hear from others? Is it a voice of shame? A voice of condemnation? A voice of “you can’t do this or that”? A voice of “you’re nothing”? A voice telling you that you are worthless? A voice of insecurity?

If so, it is high time to change that tune, to change that voice speaking into your ear or your life.  I like what Bob Goff wrote:

We need to give the microphone to those who speak hope and joy into the world.” (p.250)

I would also add “those who speak hope and joy into your life.” We need to stop letting negative voices carry the megaphone. We need to listen to the voice of Jesus, not the dissenters or naysayers.

“Father, tune my ears to hear your voice.”

July 27

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

For the past couple of years I have often thought that if I was to ever start a church (which I have no desire to do), I would call it “Second Chance Church.” I know. Even as I write that it sounds a bit cheesy. Corny. But please hear me out.

Having been a pastor for close to 50 years, I have seen many broken lives. Train wrecks. Twisted beyond recognition. Mangled. Messed up. Even hopeless (as in giving up). I will even admit to being close to that feeling a time or two myself.

Getting broadsided in my car- as I was recently- does not carry the same picture of a car wrecked so badly it is unrecognizable and the “jaws of life” have to be used. There are some people whose lives are dented, smashed into, even put on the shelf temporarily. Then there are those whose lives are truly a disaster. Addiction. Poor choices. Loose morals. Alone. Destitute.

No matter which…we all need second chances (in some cases third, fourth and fifth). One of the biggest roadblocks to that second chance is shame. I want to be able to help people get past shame. I want them to realize there are always second chances. Shame doesn’t have to hang around and keep us where we are; God wants to take us “onward and upward” (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ words in the Chronicles of Narnia).

Second Chance Church. Sounds like a great name. But even without that name, that is exactly what a church should be about.

“Father, my life is a testimony to second chances. May I be your church here on earth offering that to others in Your Name.”

July 26

Monday, July 26th, 2021

I’ve often heard, and have said it as well, that a person needs to be careful who they surround themselves with. I don’t know how many times I heard my parents (especially my mom) and my pastor say, “Choose your friends wisely. They will often make or break you.” I have heard it as a leader. “Choose wisely those you surround yourself with. Your success or lack of it will often be determined by your close friends.”

So I was pretty picky when it came to who I hung around with. No one who drank or smoked was in my close circle of friends. That severely limited my friends to be honest. I did have friends who liked the same music I did. I also had friends who didn’t go to church. But even they were limited.

Come to think of it: I didn’t have many friends at all. I didn’t party. I didn’t drink so I could barf and waste my money. My friends in school were more like acquaintances, pals I walked with between classes and saw on the bus. Basketball was part of the reason for that as well. Not being a great student and trying to play sports at the same time limited my exposure to others outside of school. But if the truth be known, I took seriously the words I heard.

Words like my mom’s. Words like my pastor’s.

Words like I Cor. 15:33- “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (ESV)

Words like Pr.13:20- “One who walks with wise people will be wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” (NASB2020)

As the king told Indy after he chose the chalice that looked least kingly: “You have chosen wisely.” I want my life to be one of wise choices…in all areas. It just may start with who I gather around me.

“Father, Your words of wisdom are not to be dismissed lightly. You had a reason for telling us to choose wisely. May I continue to make wise choices in the people I hang around with.”

 

July 23

Friday, July 23rd, 2021

I won’t lie. I like noise.

Most of the time.

I love music. Certain genres, that is. I almost always have music on. Working out. Ear buds in. Cutting grass. Ear buds in. Driving somewhere. Spotify playlist on.

There are times I want/need silence though. When I’m having my Encounter Time, I may have a song running through my head but I want it quiet. When I’m studying, unless it’s classical with absolutely NO singers. When I’m riding my bike. NO ear buds. That is way too dangerous since I need to hear oncoming traffic behind me. I also notice I can’t multi-task. Turn off the TV or the music if you want to have a serious discussion with me. I’m too distracted. My daughter, Tami, wore a t-shirt yesterday that had two words on it: Be Still. Was that for me?

Consider this then: if I can’t hear people with all the noise going on in my life, how can I possibly hear God’s still small voice? It’s like a whisper in my soul. But if all I hear is noise, how can I hear Him?

I think that is one of the reasons I like it quiet in the mornings. I want to hear. That makes me wonder how much or if I am missing something when the music is playing. Matt Redman once wrote: “When the music fades/And all is stripped away/And I simply come…”

Am I missing out? Do I need to turn off and tune in? Makes me wonder.

“Father, I already know I will have a ‘noisy’ weekend. Help me to be open to changes You might want me to make. Help me to hear Your still, small voice.”

July 19

Monday, July 19th, 2021

I confess: I’ve never really been a fan of musicals.  My ideas have changed over time though. The first one I went to that I can remember was “Oklahoma!” Sadly, I wasn’t wise enough to keep my comments and opinions to myself and offended some people.  But over time I have changed. I realized it when we went to see The Greatest Showman featuring Hugh Jackman, Zac Effron, and others. The theater manager told me I will have trouble not wanting to move my feet and get up a dance. She didn’t know me very well. I was stubborn enough to do neither (I definitely would not get up and dance. Making a fool of myself is not in my playbook).  The second and third time I watched it -consecutive nights no less- I allowed myself the freedom to enjoy the movie…although I still didn’t dance. 🙂

One of the most moving parts was the song “From Now On” which comes after P.T. (played by Jackman) realized how he had hurt his family and friends by his actions. It still amazes me how he was able to sing while running and not be out of breath. 🙂  Anyway, the song celebrates the joy of coming home.

Luke 15, the story of the loving father and his wandering son, is a story of coming home. The cross is a story of an invitation to come home. Jesus dying on the cross because of His love for us and hatred of our sin, is a story of forgiveness and coming home.

It is actually an open invitation for all to come home. Perhaps you know someone who needs to know they can come home. Jesus is waiting for them. Maybe that person is you. Come home. The WELCOME mat is laid out.

July 7

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

As my girls were growing up, I/we tried to be good parents. The nature of our personalities and the way we were raised made for an interesting mix. I tended to be more forceful; Jo more docile. I tended to be the one who used physical discipline (God gave a place on the human anatomy for that); Jo not so much. I tended to draw a line; Jo tended to fudge the line from time to time.  All in all though the girls knew we were on the same page as to why they were being disciplined.  There was no pitting us against each other.

We were (and still are) well-meaning parents. We are great grandparents since we can have all the fun and then turn him back over after we have spoiled him. 🙂  (Although living 4-5 hours away sort of short-circuited our opportunities to do that). Anyway, back to earth. Well-meaning parents,-no matter who you are-tend to think the way to mold a child, i.e. shape, control, and regulate behavior is to legislate. We do it by threats, manipulation, and even guilt.

But the truth is that no matter how often we use those different means, behavior cannot be legislated. No matter how much we say, “Don’t do this or that” sin enters the picture. Because we are sinners, sin is a matter of the heart.

Martin Luther King, Jr said that he “longs for the day when people will be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content and intent of the heart.” He was onto something. Not in the area of race (which he was referring to), but in the area of our behavior.

Until hearts are changed, lives won’t be changed.  Until my heart is changed, my life and behavior will not be changed.

I am grateful for God’s change in my life. I just want Him to keep transforming my heart day by day.

“Father, as Romans 12 says may I be ‘transformed by the renewing of my mind.’ May transformation be more than an outward show; may it be in inward heart change.”

July 2

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Bob Goff tells the story of Walt Disney (WD) which I suspect many of us have heard:

Before WD dreamed up Disneyland, he was fired from his job at a newspaper in Kansas City because his editor said he “lacked imagination.” Can you believe it? Whenever I’m at Tom Sawyer Island (note: his personal retreat), I think about what would’ve happened if WD had dug in his heels at the newspaper instead. The world would have never met Mickey Mouse. Failure forced WD to pursue his passion.  (p.224)

He went on to say elsewhere:

Our habits shape our days, and our days make up our lives. Without much thought, we can settle into routines that keep us stagnant for decades. (p.224)

While Mr. Goff went in one direction, I want to go in another. I want to talk about failure. It is something most, if not all of us, hate to discuss or consider. None of us go into a venture, no matter what it is, thinking we are going to fail at this. If so, it is wise not to even get started.

I recently read some quotes attributed to the late coach, Vince Lombardi:

“If you accept losing, you can’t win.”

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

There are more but these ought to suffice in making my point. Failure happens. But there is a big difference between thinking you are going to fail from right out-of-the-box and failing because you tried.  WD failed at his newspaper job, but did not allow it to curtail his dreams. There are many (and I know some) who are glad he didn’t give up.

Perhaps another quote by Mr. Lombardi will be a good ending:

It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men.  It starts in ours.

“Father, help me to believe in Your dreams for me.  Help me not to cower in fear over seemingly overwhelming odds.”

Bob Goff’s quote from Live in Grace-Walking in Love.