Choices

...now browsing by tag

 
 

April 10

Wednesday, April 10th, 2024

Have you ever had a sense of satisfaction when watching a movie or reading a book and the antagonist “gets what is coming to them”? That’s all well and good in a movie or a book; not so in real life. IMHO whenever we have a sense of satisfaction or that feeling of “Good. They got what they deserved” a small part of what little good is in us dies.

But there are times, even in the Bible, where we see this scenario played out. But as we will soon see it wasn’t by man’s doing, but God’s. Remember this principle as you consider the following story: “Vengeance is mine. I will repay says the Lord.”

In the Old Testament book of Esther a character named Haman hates Mordecai because Mordecai would not bow down and worship the ground Haman walked on. Literally. Haman eventually saw his chance to “get” Mordecai by getting the king (Xerxes) to put into law the extinction of the Jews on such-and-such a day. Haman even went so far as to erect gallows strictly made for Mordecai’s demise and display. Through a series of events -which actually go back to when Mordecai saved the king’s life by reporting a conspiracy but which had never been revealed or rewarded-Haman’s plot was exposed. Ultimately, Haman and his family were hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai’s demise.

We would say, “Turn about is fair play” or “He got what was coming to him.” But notice: Mordecai didn’t seek it. Mordecai didn’t go after Haman. No. He did his thing; God did His. (Please read the book of Esther for the complete story).

God is the creator and sustainer of all things and is in absolute complete control. Haman’s wickedness would not and did not escape God’s purview. God’s timing was and still is perfect. We would do well to leave all things in His hands and His control. Even, and especially, the “getting even” part.

April 3

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024

I have said on a number of occasions that “you cannot take people where you yourself have not been.”

Part of the vision of the church I pastor is Pursuing Jesus Passionately. We cannot lead or teach people to pursue Jesus if we ourselves are not doing so.

We recently visited the Grand Canyon. It is an amazing display of God’s creative genius. As we stood safely behind walls of stone taking pictures, we could see paths where people could hike to see more. I know there was more to see than I was able to see. So much more. And the best way to see that was with a guide who knew his/her way around. One who knew the trails. One who knew what to look for. A newbie is not what I would have wanted.

When Ezra came in the second wave of people returning to Jerusalem after having been in exile in Babylon, he was dismayed to see that the people had not fostered a love for God and His Temple. They had neglected the Scriptures and their influence in their lives. Enter Ezra, the priest. He saw it as his mission to lead (guide) them to the Scriptures, to call them back to the source. He knew that it was the Word of God that changed lives. What will turn this country around will not be a political party or candidate, legislation to change this or that; outlawing certain practices’; or legislating morality. If hearts are not changed, then we will just find another way to disobey God.

No. Ezra knew: change the heart with the Word of God and you change society. That’s good advice for the country. But it is especially good advice for the church. Study the Word, put it into practice, teach it to others, then the church changes. You can’t demand or legislate change. Only God’s Word can have a permanent impact.

April 2

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

Someone has famously said, “The seven last words of the church are ‘We’ve never done it that way before.'” That, of course, was not a compliment. It was, in fact, another way of saying that a church will die or have zero influence if it does what it has always done; is what it has always been; and sticks to what once was.

Sadly, it is true. Many churches (and organizations) are tied to to their past. Their glory days are long gone but “Doggone it, we’ve always done it this way and we will continue doing it this way.” Let’s start playing TAPS or maybe, just maybe, it started long time ago?

When I first started in ministry it was at the end of my sophomore year in college. I preached on Sundays at a little country church in a little town in KY (No need to mention where). I honestly don’t know if that little church is still in existence. But they used to have 2 week revivals. 2 weeks! In June! Every night! Now, I’m not sure if they still do that…I would hope not. I confess I had no clue what a revival was all about or even what it was, let alone pastor a church that had one 2 weeks long.  I see it now as a meeting for the already saved to get together, listen to a sermon they have heard multiple times before, and walk away feeling good they were there. Yeah…that’s cynical. I’m sorry I’m a tad bit jaded.

There is a church in the town where I pastor that has a “Gospel Meeting” i.e. their brand name for “Revival.” For a whole week (I think twice a year), they have meetings each night. I don’t see too many cars in the parking lot. If I did, I wonder how many are unsaved folks? Could it be the time is past?

Whether a church, a company, a local business, or even a local service organization, death comes knocking if there is a failure to change. I’m not talking about the mission or core values. We have enough of that nonsense already. No…I’m talking about the approach.  It’s time we stop living in the past or try to relive our glory days by “doing what we have always done” and start making the necessary changes to influence the culture. If not, the culture will influence us. 

I heard it put this way one time: Methods change; the message doesn’t. That’s it in a nutshell.

April 1

Monday, April 1st, 2024

Today is generally known as “Joker’s Day.”  It is the day we “approve” of jokes played on other people. The more outrageous the better. April Fools Day is known as a day of nonsense, tricks, jokes, and a general “I-got-you” day. Ironic then that it follows the day after we celebrated the greatest day in history (and no, it is not the day the White House declared it to be).  Psalm 14:1 says, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” (NLT) The book of Proverbs is filled with references to fools. But let’s move away from that topic to one which is much more positive.

Yesterday was Resurrection Sunday. We had a super fine day as we joined together in one service at another venue. Even then we ran out of chairs. What a great problem to have! 🙂 During my sermon I asked the question: “What if the resurrection never did happen?” Well, the Apostle Paul gives 4 ramifications of that from I Corinthians:

  • Our faith is useless.  (Verse 17a). The Greek word for useless means “futile, empty, of no value.”
  • We are still in our sins. (Verse 17b). Succinctly put: if Jesus is still in the tomb, His death cannot save us. He is no different than any other religious teacher.
  • We have no hope of a future. (Verse 18).  Without the resurrection a bright future is an empty promise.
  • We should be pitied more than anyone. (Verse 19). All we do in this life is for nothing if all we have is this life.

But let’s turn those thoughts around and show what a difference the resurrection makes:

  • Instead of our faith being useless, we can say our faith has meaning.  Something we believe in is true.
  • Instead of still being in our sins, we can say we have forgiveness. The resurrection makes sin forgiven a reality.
  • Instead of having no hope for the future, we can know we will see our loved ones who died in Christ.  Can there be anything more lonely or lost than no hope, of just being worm food?
  • Instead of being pitied more than anyone, we can be certain of our own future.  Knowing we have something to live for, to look forward to changed everything.

You may have heard something like this yesterday from your own pastor. But today is Monday, the day we begin to put it all to the test. Live today in the light of His resurrection.

March 20

Wednesday, March 20th, 2024

Have you ever played the “what if?” game? You know how it works. You might make a statement and say, “What if I hadn’t…?” Or you might look back on something you have done, slapped your forehead and said, “I could have had a V-8.” Just kidding. 🙂 You might, however, say, “What if I had or had not done…?”

As an athlete (in my younger, former days) there have been times I was tempted to quit, to give up. to say the pain to continue was too great. I now look back and see that extra practice effort; that extra game effort; that push to get that rebound was worth it. I would have missed out on the prize-whatever it was. What if I had quit a tad bit earlier?

There’s an interesting story in the OT which has always captured my fancy. You can find it in 2 Kings 5. It’s the story of Naaman, the leprous, Gentile, military leader. He had a little Jewish girl as a servant who recommended he go see the prophet Elisha to be healed of his leprosy. Long story short: Naaman gets a letter from his king requesting safe passage for Naaman and an audience with Elisha. Elisha sends his servant to tell Naaman to wash 7 times in the Jordan River. He protests because the Jordan is muddy and, he thinks, inferior to the rivers in his home land. His soldiers basically tell him, “What could it hurt to do what the prophet says?” So he does. Seven times and he comes up clean! No more leprosy!!

Here is your list of “what ifs?”

  • What if he had refused to dip in the Jordan?
  • What if he had stopped at #6 out of frustration or disbelief?
  • What if he had thought this was effort in futility?
  • What if he had blown off the servant girl’s suggestion? You know…kids don’t know squat.

We are often hamstrung by the “what ifs” in our life, missing out on blessings God wants to give us by being paralyzed by the “what ifs.” So we short-change ourselves.

Take it from Naaman. The what ifs can be crippling. Break through them and see what God has on the other side.

March 13

Wednesday, March 13th, 2024

We have several sayings directed at people who act rashly:

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

“Think before you speak.”  Or a variant of that is “Think before you act.”

Sadly, we are a people of inflamed passions. I’m not speaking of the sexual, although that certainly can be included. I’m actually referring to our emotional state. How often have you seen (or been guilty yourself) of acting or reacting before you have thought out the consequences? You blow someone’s doors off and the collateral damage is huge. I once confronted someone who had a habit of blowing up at people-telling them off in a sense-and then acting like nothing happened. I asked her, “Why do you do that?” “Do what?” “You blow up at people, tell them off, then act as though nothing is wrong, as though all is forgiven and over.” “I tell them so they will know how I feel, then it’s over.” I said, “So is a tornado or hurricane. It unleashes its fury and then moves on, but look at the damage it leaves in its wake.”  I let her think about that for a moment, then left. I’m not sure she ever learned the lesson!

Proverbs 13:16 says, “Wise people think before they act; fools don’t-and even brag about their foolishness.” (NLT)

Don’t be a fool. Think before you speak. Think before you act. Don’t be known as “one of those people.” You know…the kind of person others want to avoid.

March 12

Tuesday, March 12th, 2024

Forgiving ourselves is one of the hardest hurdles we have to need to get over.

When it comes to forgiving others, I have often shared that the failure to forgive others; the desire to hold a grudge; the unwillingness to move on; holding onto hard feelings or even feelings of hate, makes me a slave to that person. They own me. They control me.

But what about that which I consider possibly even harder-the ability or willingness to forgive ourselves? I have seen way too many people able to forgive others, but then wreck their own lives because they can’t or won’t forgive themselves. Big or little sin (usually a whopper) just will not let go. It’s like an albatross around the neck, choking the life out of us.

David’s psalm-known as Psalm 51-deals with this straight on. His adulterous affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah, to cover it up, is exposed by the prophet Nathan (full story in 2 Samuel 11). David is convicted of his sin and his guilt is palpable. One can feel his anguish as he lays it all out. “Have mercy. Wash me clean. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Forgive me for shedding blood.” One can not read those words and not sense David’s pain and agony over his sin. But one can also see David is moving on. He wasn’t going to allow his sin to define him, to hold him down.

Neither should I. Neither should you. There is nothing you or I have done, there is no sin you or I have committed, that is beyond the reach of God’s grace. Confess it. Repent of it. Now…walk away in freedom being sure of God’s limitless grace.

March 4

Monday, March 4th, 2024

Not all who have the title “Leader” is a leader; not all who carry the title “Follower” is a follower.

There are times a Leader is actually a follower; there are times a Follower is actually the leader.

I once heard someone say, “The one who says he is leading but has no one following is only taking a walk.”

Saul had been appointed and anointed as the first king of Israel. Given Saul’s personality and disposition, it was doomed from the get-go. He was found hiding at the start. But two incidents in his life stand out. In I Samuel 12 Saul is to wait for Samuel to arrive to offer a burnt offering but Saul got inpatient and decided to do it himself. Not smart. Rebuke #1. In a separate incident in I Samuel 15, Saul was to totally destroy the Amalekites, but instead spared the best of the animals (sheep, goats, calves, etc), as well as Agag, the king. While returning home Saul met Samuel and when questioned tried to wrangle out of his disobedience by lying and then throwing his own people under the bus. When Samuel rebuked him (#2) and turned to walk away, Saul grabbed his cloak and ripped it. Judgment was coming.

But perhaps one of the most telling incidents of Saul’s lack of leadership is found in I Samuel 14. The other two events I just mentioned sandwich this one. The Philistines outnumber the Israelite army by a lot. Saul quakes in fear of indecision. Meanwhile, his son, Jonathan, is seen with his armor-bearer taking down the enemy. Jonathan’s words in verse 6 virtually say, “Let’s do this! Perhaps God will fight for us.” In verse 7 his armor-bearer says, “I got your back.” God does intervene is ways that Jonathan’s faith in God is vindicated.

Here’s the sad part: it is only after seeing his son (the supposed follower) take the place of leadership, that Saul (the supposed “leader”) goes to battle. Saul is following, not leading; Jonathan is leading, not following.

Leadership is not easy; it is not always the path of least resistance; it is not always popular or glamorous, but leadership is seen in action, attitude, and attention. Being a follower is not always easy; it is not always the path of least resistance; nor is it popular or glamorous.

Whatever state God has placed you in, be there. Be ready to fulfill your mission.

February 19

Monday, February 19th, 2024

“Like father like son.”

“Well…that fruit didn’t far too far from the tree.”

Those are both statements we use when speaking about how much like a father his son is. It could be his actions. It could be the way he thinks. It could be the way he reacts to situations. It could be the way he speaks. It could be his demeanor or even how he treats others.

And here’s the thing: sometimes its a compliment and sometimes it’s a putdown.

In the Old Testament, there is a father and son whose stories are different. The son’s fruit was nothing like his dad’s. If the dad was a peach tree, the son’s fruit was an apple. Strange, I know, but let me explain.

Saul was chosen to be the king and Jonathan was his son. Saul blew it…big time. Not once but twice actually. In I Samuel 13-14 we find the first instance. The Philistines were a thorn in the side of the Israelites. Samuel promised victory but Saul needed to wait 7 days for Samuel to show up and offer a sacrifice. The people of Israel were getting antsy and when Samuel didn’t show up Saul offered the sacrifice himself. That was a no-no. Just as Saul was done offering the sacrifice, Samuel arrived and reamed him out and told him he lost his kingdom (I Sam. 13:14).

Meanwhile, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were doing something phenomenal. They were freeclimbing a cliff to go against the Philistines with Jonathan’s words echoing into the valley: “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or a few.” (14:6).

Jonathan was aware he was next in line to rule the kingdom after Saul’s death. But he also knew David was God’s choice and was to be the next king. Jonathan gladly gave up his “right” and ambition for God’s plan with David.

A great story! And what proof that sometimes fruit falling far from the tree is a good thing.

For another story of Saul’s disobedience and foolishness check out I Samuel 15.  (All Scripture from the New Living Translation).

#ToughChallenges

Friday, February 16th, 2024

There are two ways to coach someone. You can coach down. Or you can coach up. I’m guessing you are probably wondering what in the world I am talking about.  Real briefly: coaching up is a positive way to coach.  Look for signs of improvement. Look for signs of progress. To get to this week’s Scripture I would say read Colossians 3:1-4. To wrap up from last week:

  • We need to set our minds and hearts on things above. (v.1)
  • We need to reshape our perspective. (v.2)
  • We need to redefine our purpose. (verses 3-4).

Sadly, there is also a need to “coach down.” Let me explain. Coaching down in this instance means to “put to death” certain things. Verses 5-11 is a list of things Paul says we are to put to death. Here they are:

  • We are to put to death our sinful passions. (5-7)
  • We are to put to death our sinful practices. (8-10)
  • We must put to death our sinful pride. (11)

This Sunday’s message is Part 1 of Tough Challenges are Given. Pastor Ryan will be preaching Part 2 while Jo and I are gone. If you have a chance to visit, we would love to have you. If you are unable to join us in person, please check out our live stream. We meet at 9:00 and 10:45.

For another perspective on this sermon, please check out my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin. You can link to it here.