Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV),”This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
Life is full of choices, too many options if you ask me. Most restaurant menus are as long as the Declaration of Independence. My daughter changes her mind at least a half a dozen times when we go out to eat. Usually, my husband and I order the same thing over and over. Cable TV boasts 150 channels (don’t even get me started on that one!). More time is spent flipping through the guide than ever watching. Walk into any clothing store and it will make your mind spin with the options, colors, styles, and stylishly clothed manikins. Why do we want so many choices and options? Because we think that is a proof of our freedom.
But what is freedom, really? Is it being able to do whatever we want, whenever we want, to whomever we want? Don’t those same choices sometimes bring baggage and bondage? We want more, so we have to work harder, or charge higher to get what we want. Then once we get it all, aren’t we bound to take care of it, use it, wear it, show it all off. What we choose or don’t choose is important. How many times have you wanted to toss that remote instead of flip for something good to watch, or how many times have you decided to stay home for dinner because you couldn’t make up your mind where to go? We all want to be in control, have our say, be our own boss, but to do that we have to grasp onto something. The choice is the rope that the world (ultimately the devil) throws our way, or the rope that Christ offers us.
Let’s take a look at the firs rope. All those empty promises, all those lies, that we “need” something else, that we would “be happier if…” that rope does one of two things, and sometimes both. It either wraps around us like a sticky web and constrains us from our true purpose, it binds us up like a spider binds her meal up for later, or it wraps us up into a cocoon of apathy. One that tells us that “I’m good, it’s all good, me and mine are fine.” It’s like you’ve been lulled to sleep. It may feel all cozy and comfy, but it is still a web! It isn’t the cocoon of a caterpillar, it’s the “I’ll eat you later” silk prison spun by a hungry spider. Don’t be fooled.
The second rope, the one offered by Jesus, is nothing less than a life line. It’s a way out of the mess, it is the safety rope of a mountain climber. Where the other rope is a sticky web that confines, and constrains us, Jesus rope is one that gives us security, comfort, and allows us to reach out. Think of those mountain climbers, securely attached to the safety rope, they take risks knowing that they won’t fall and crash to their deaths. Or think of the drowning person who sees that lifeline thrown their way, its rescue. This rope compels us to move on, to climb higher, and to take risks.
This is the Big Choice! Which rope will you grab hold of? You will grab one; not grabbing a rope isn’t one of the options to choose from.
I choose real freedom. Freedom to soar, to fly high. Just like that zip line that takes you quickly to the destination all the while keeping you above the cares and snares of the world. I want the safety line that brings true security, not the false security of hanging around waiting for something ugly to suck out my insides.
What about you?
The world has issues with who God really is and to be perfectly honest so do a lot a Christians. Sometimes I have to be reminded. We look at the Old Testament and see a God who wiped out whole nations, every man, woman, child, and even their animals. Then we turn to the New Testament and read that “God is Love.”
Is He a lion or a lamb? Is He Master and Ruler, or Servant of all? Is He a vengeful God, or forgiving Savior? Is He so Pure and Holy that He can’t bear to be around sin, or did He pour out His blood to get rid of our sin? The answer to all of these paradoxes is YES! Does it make sense? No, but the wonderful thing about God is that He doesn’t have to make sense. He is God after all. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.
So how do we reconcile the God that sent the flood, and Jesus who died for our sins?
Let me first explain one thing you need to know about God. He is Love. No matter what He does, even wiping the human race off the face of the planet, minus the eight He saved, was motivated out of love. Think about this for a minute…what if He would have allowed the human race to continue? There was only one person that God said was righteous. Yes, his whole family was saved, but we don’t know if that was because the shared Noah’s obedience to God, or if it was just God’s mercy and love for Noah. How long do you think it would have taken for there to not be a single faithful follower? God, in His love for His creation, took action while there was still one. Think of Sodom. God would have allowed it to remain if there would have been even five faithful! Evil is like a cancer, it is caused by Satan, and then accepted and propagates in the flesh of men. You can’t cut out part of cancer, you can’t leave just a small cancer cell, you have to do radical surgery and cut it out. That’s what God’s cleansing did.
Through His love and patience, a remnant always remained. Noah and his family, Lot and his daughters, the poor and week who were left in Israel after the enemy took everyone of import captive (after killing thousands). Always, He honored His promise to the founding fathers. For David’s sake, He always made sure to leave an heir. When His own chosen people demanded a king, and the majority of those kings led His people into idol worshipping, even sacrificing their own children, God’s hand, as a loving parent, was forced to discipline His children. Talk about tough love. Don’t ever think it didn’t grieve Him. He lamented over the loss of those He loved. We think we have to make hard choices.
God is the same. Who He was in the Old Testament is still who He is now. He lives outside of time. There is no yesterday for Him. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are all right now for God. The only difference is that we, who live in time, are in a different state. We live under grace, not under law. Jesus’ shed blood gives us the choice of eternity of Heaven or hell. Just as each new king had the choice to follow after God, or to lead the people in rebellion. We live in the Church age, aren’t you glad, but soon, just as in the Old Testament, God will not spare the world any longer. He will gather up those that are His, and once again, the God who is Just and Holy will deal with evil in this world, once and for all. There will be no more mercy and grace, no “one more chance.”
Isaiah 26:21 (NIV), “See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer.”
Revelation 19:11-21 (ESV), “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.”
Time is winding up like a scroll. Soon and very soon, you will see Jesus coming in the clouds and the Holy Spirit will usher us out of here (if you follow Jesus). Will you be like James and John and ask God to call down fire on the rebellious? Or will you be like Abraham who reasoned with God for Sodom, or like Moses and Aaron who pled for the rebellious group they led, or maybe you will be like Amos who lamented over the loss of the house of Jacob and begged God?
Amos 7:1-6 (NIV), “This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts after the king’s share had been harvested and just as the late crops were coming up. When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, “Sovereign Lord, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!” So the Lord relented. “This will not happen,” the Lord said. This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: The Sovereign Lord was calling for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land. Then I cried out, “Sovereign Lord, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!” So the Lord relented. “This will not happen either,” the Sovereign Lord said.”
Do I want Jesus to come back soon? You betcha’! However, I also want to reach as many as possible before that great and terrible day. The finality of “the end” should motivate us! There will be no more grace, no mercy, no more chances for those who have refused Him. Those that are His will spend eternity with Him in the light of His love. Those who are not His will spend eternity in the dark, no God, no love, no light, and no hope. No because God is cruel, but because they chose.
He is Love, He is Just, He is a strong Daddy who takes care of His children. He knows what’s best for each and every person and every decision He makes is for the best!
Can you help them find their way to Him?
Reading over what I have written, I can’t help but notice some re-occurring themes. God loves us, we have a God given purpose, there is a real enemy trying to stop us, and it’s all about choices. We have to choose how we are living our lives, choose to accept what God has for us, what Jesus has done for us, and where the Holy Spirit is leading us. It’s all a choice. God has given us free will, and then in His perfect plan, we line up our will with His.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (KJV), “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
Joshua 24:15 (NIV), “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
God doesn’t curse us. Our Senior Pastor puts it this way, (I am paraphrasing), “Every choice we make plants a seed. When we plant a good seed we get exactly what that seed packet shows in the picture of the mature plant. If we plant bad see, we get that as well.” So let’s say you have a package of corn seed, the picture outside shows a juicy cob of yellow corn. That shows you what you will get, the outcome of the choice of planting that seed. If you chose to plant poison oak, (thank God you can’t buy those seeds!), you would expect to get what is on the outside of that package. When we plant the bad, God holds up that package and say, “this is what you planted.” The good news is that in His mercy and Grace, we can pray for crop damage. Living that way isn’t acceptable though. Paul says His grace doesn’t give us a license to sin.
What do you want in your garden?
I choose to plant good seeds, seeds that will come to fruition and glorify the Father, seeds that will bless, nourish, and benefit others. We plant, God waters, and His light nourishes. The harvest will be huge!
I Peter 1:13-21 (ESV), “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”
I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. I never really had too much of a problem in that area, except with a few specific people who had inflicted a load of hurt in my life. But I learned the hard way that un-forgiveness is like a cancer it spreads, or like a poison, affecting the other “good” relationships in my life. My problem was that I didn’t fully understand forgiveness. I, like most people, thought of it as an emotion or a feeling. I had the idea that someone had to say they were sorry and repent for their actions before I could ever forgive. I thought if I forgave the behavior before they apologized, it would give them permission to continue, or validate their behavior. Thank God, I did learn, mostly through His word and good Christian counsel, that forgiveness is a CHOICE. Basically, I had been REFUSING to forgive! Satan uses this to give us a “victim mentality” once we have that, we start keeping track of every wrong, perceived or real. We start rehearsing every incident mentally and verbally. Soon all we can do is spout that poison out to anyone who will listen, and it works it’s destruction.
Looking at God and His forgiveness of me helped me to forgive. I had been forgiven much. Then thinking of Jesus on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” if Jesus could say of the men who purposely hammered those nails, or the Sanhedrin who purposely condemned him to death, or of me, who willfully sinned, sending him to the cross, BEFORE any of us had repented, then I couldn’t justify my withholding my forgiveness. My un-forgiveness turned also into bitterness, and that resulted in mental and physical problems. God can and did heal me, but what he healed was only symptoms, the real problem was my heart. When I asked God to help me get rid of the root, it was un-forgiveness, and self-pity, two equally destructive things. I got some repentance, and other’s have never admitted wronging me. I was able to CHOOSE to forgive all, and the amazing thing is after a while, my emotions caught up with that choice! Now I hardly ever think about it and I can even be around those people with no ill will. My other relationships improved, and I was able to open my heart up bigger to God and those around me. How can we give God our whole heart if it is full of cancer! He gave me the strength to do it! Un-forgiveness is an ugly thing. It will destroy your marriage, your family, your church and even your health, if you let it. Choose to forgive today!
Wisdom of forgiveness~
Matt 6:14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. NIV
Matt 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.NIV
Luke 6:37 “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.NIV
2 Cor 2:1010 If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven — if there was anything to forgive — I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, NIV
Col 3:12-14 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. NIV
“When I become bitter or unforgiving toward others, I’m assuming that the sins of others are more serious than my sins against God. The cross transforms my perspective. Through the cross I realize that no sin committed against me will ever be as serious as the innumerable sins I’ve committed against God. When we understand how much God has forgiven us, it’s not difficult to forgive others. Because we are the most forgiven people in the world, we should be the most forgiving people in the world”. C.J. Mahaney
“Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me”. Author Unknown
“You are nothing better than deceitful hypocrites if you harbor in your minds a single unforgiving thought. There are some sins which may be in the heart, and yet you may be saved. But you cannot be saved unless you are forgiving. If we do not choose to forgive, we choose to be damned”. C.H. Spurgeon
“Un-forgiveness is the poison we drink, hoping others will die”. Author Unknown