I voted this morning with a sour taste in my mouth as the months of negative campaign ads had convinced me none of the candidates were the statesmen that this country needs. I’m not saying none of the candidates were right for this country, just all of them were so busy telling me what a rotten person their opponent was that they didn’t convince me they were any better. It is so easy to say “the other side started it” or “my preferred candidate wasn’t as mean as yours”, but the truth is that somehow we have come to accept bullying as appropriate in the political realm even while demanding something be done to stop it everywhere else. I pray that somehow “we the people” would say, “Enough!!” I pray that we would find ways to voice our beliefs and opinions without being mean to one another. I pray that we would look to why people feel strongly about the issues they do rather than attacking them for feeling differently than we do. I pray that God’s love would fill us with His grace to such an extent that we would find attacks against anyone to be completely and utterly unacceptable!
My mp3 recorder malfunctioned so no audio today, but here is the outline and highlights from the November 4, 2018 sermon, “WISE Choices”, that I shared at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.
Text: Matthew 7:21-29
Here are the main points from the sermon:
Jesus taught that many will say to Him, “Lord, Lord”, yet get a response of “Depart from me, I never knew you.” His explanation for such an interaction reveals the importance of not just hearing the Word of God, but actually putting it into practice. Every time we encounter the truth of God’s Word, we must choose what we will do with it. It is my prayer that each of those times result in our making WISE choices.
A WISE choice is a . . .
Willing Choice: Psalm 119:108
God’s desire is that we are both willing and eager to do everything He has commanded. Acting like we are forced to put the things of God into practice will do us no more good than it does for our witness for Christ. When our choice to honor God in everything is a willing choice, then others will be able to see the joy we have through living an obedient life.
If you have to be forced, coerced, or tricked into it, it is probably not a wise choice.
Intelligent Choice: Acts 13:7
Faith in God is not blind faith. In fact, it is our faith that allows us to see the unseen as if it were seen. Just because someone says something is from God doesn’t mean that it really is. We must use the mind that God gave us in order to make intelligent choices that keep us in a life that honors God and helps those around us see a God that can be trusted. Very few people want to follow someone who doesn’t know what they are doing and when we choose to understand and know God to the best of our ability, we find that we have much more than a “just because” answer to the questions people ask.
If you have to ignore clear teaching of scripture, it is definitely not a wise choice.
Sacrificial Choice: Hebrews 13:15-16
By nature, sacrifice is difficult otherwise we wouldn’t call it sacrifice. When we seek to do God’s will, more often than not we find we are called upon to make a sacrificial choice. This should not come as a big surprise since the life of Jesus on earth can be best characterized as sacrificial. Honoring God with our choices will mean that we look out for the needs of others even above our own. Jesus said that unless we are willing to give up everything, we cannot be His disciple — it doesn’t get more sacrificial than that when it comes to the choices we ought to be making.
If it only looks out for your good and not the good of others, it is likely not a wise choice.
Eternal Choice: Galatians 6:8
One of the reasons that we can make choices that are willing, intelligent, and even sacrificial is because we make them with an eternal perspective in mind. The seeds we sow today will determine the harvest we experience later. A huge part of that eternal harvest is not just about us making it to heaven, but it is also about the seeds we plant in the lives of others so that God can bring about the harvest in their life at just the right time. When we apply an eternal perspective filter to the decisions we must make each day, it ought to change not only what we choose to do but also the how and why of what we choose.
If it only satisfies a temporary desire with no view toward how it will influence you and others for eternity, it most certainly is not a wise choice.
When life seems uncertain and each path looks dark. You should probably quit driving and put it in park. As you sit on the roadside, wondering which way to go. It’s a very good time to ask the One who does know.
For darkness can’t stay in the presence of light. And finding direction is easier with sight. Much time is oft wasted when we won’t stop to ask. For help from the One who created our task.
“Be still and know”, is what He does say. But that’s hard to do when I’m driving my way. So I shut down the engine fueled by selfish desire. And I look for direction from the One who’s much higher.
And each time I seek Him, I find he is there. As He leads me beside Him, and shows me His care. It’s not always easy, but He’s given His Word. And the voice that speaks from it, is the sweetest I’ve heard.
And just like a lamb, to its own master’s voice. I hear from my Shepherd and I have to rejoice. I’m no longer lost, for I have been found. As I live in His presence, where His light does abound!
As one who has been known to drive in the dark for long periods of time as I’ve looked for a destination, I suppose this poem is for me. But I also suspect God put it in my mind for someone else also . . . perhaps you. I think sometimes we have so closely associated movement with progress that we begin to believe that moving in any direction, even the wrong direction, is better than sitting still. I have literally added hours to my journey at times simply because I didn’t stop in the darkness and find out exactly where I was in relation to where I needed to be. While that can be a waste of time and fuel when it happens on the physical roads of life, it can be even more costly when it takes place on the spiritual path we are on. I pray that you and I would learn to “be still and know that [He is] God.” When life brings indecision and darkness, put it in park for a while and look to the One that is the Light of the World!
I received a package this morning and it made me think of a similar package from many years ago.
While this may not seem that remarkable, for me it was a journey back in time to the first clothes that I bought for myself some forty years ago. Last week I went to the store to buy some new work jeans as my current ones were starting to wear thin in a few places in a way that was becoming more and more noticeable as the outdoor temperature keeps dropping. What I discovered was that the work jeans display at the store had shrunk considerably and they no longer carried the style and size that I wanted (needed). After checking another store with no luck, I went online and found what I wanted so I ordered them and today I have new work jeans to wear.
While there is a lot of talk in many circles about online shopping causing the demise of so many “brick and mortar” stores, today’s package reminded me of a time when the “brick and mortar” stores were much smaller and many of the goods we have come to expect stores to stock were purchased for delivery from a store’s catalog . . . at least that’s the way it was in the rural America I grew up in. In fact, to a young boy on a farm, there was little that brought as much excitement into life like a certain mail delivery could each year. A delivery that brought a catalog, but not just any catalog, “The Catalog”!
This catalog each year was the beginning of many dreams and more than a few disappointments. It was also from a catalog like this that I filled out an order form and sent in a check in order to have the first clothing I had ever purchased on my own delivered to the mailbox at the end of our drive. It wasn’t anything fancy, just some pants and shirts, but it was something different from the homemade and hand-me-down clothes that most of my wardrobe consisted of at the time.
And so today brings me full circle, almost. While the print catalogs have nearly disappeared, an online catalog did for me what the catalogs of years gone by had done — brought me the goods I needed that a local store didn’t stock. Technology has brought changes, but in some ways; the more things change, the more they remain the same.
It seems a moment ago, or perhaps maybe two. We stood face to face and we each said, “I do”. And the journey began as we stood hand in hand. With no real idea of all God had planned.
Through the ups and the downs, the happy and sad. We kept moving forward with all that we had. Yet, through days that felt slow and years that seemed fast. All of a sudden, thirty-seven years have passed.
So, Happy Anniversary to my beautiful bride! Life’s so much better with you by my side. And whether walking a trail or some peaceful shore. Here’s to the moments of thirty-seven more!
While some said we were too young and it wouldn’t last, today my wife and I celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary! As I reflect on that accomplishment, I have to say it was God who carried us this far together and it is only He who can successfully carry us into the future. And while I don’t know if either of us have another 37 years of life on this earth, we can always count on our walks continuing on a more beautiful shore once our time here is done!
We woke up that morning in the usual way. With usual plans for our usual day. Our minds were quite filled with the usual things. As we were prepared for what a usual day brings.
For some, change was instant with life gone in a flash. Yet others were changed as toward the rubble they dashed. Some called their loved ones, as they would soon die. Others were gone with no chance for good-bye.
Some ran away, but there was no place to hide. Some ran toward trouble to help those inside. Some rushed the men who intended such harm. And found their life over on a Pennsylvania farm.
And through all the horror on an unusual day. The nation did mourn and gathered to pray. We prayed for each other, we prayed for those lost. We prayed for the families who paid the great cost.
Yet time has a way of changing our view. When the heartache and loss are no longer new. The prayers that we prayed on those nights long ago. Are no longer intense for those we don’t know.
And slowly, but surely, I think we’ve arrived. To a usual day with our usual drive. And our usual mindset that looks far ahead. With no thought of preparing for when we are dead.
So, I ask for a moment on this usual day. You stop and remember, and take time to pray. Pray for the families of those who were lost. Pray for the helpers who still pay the cost.
Pray for your own life and ask God today. If you were to meet Him, just what would He say. Pray for your neighbor, wherever they may be. And live with compassion so that Jesus they see!
I think the events of September 11, 2001 are etched in the minds of many of us to such an extent that we couldn’t forget if we wanted to. Yet, most of us woke up that morning with virtually no thoughts of anything but a “usual” day. The horrors of 911 should not be the only thing unforgettable. The heroes and helpers of 911 should be unforgettable. The national leaders gathering to mourn and pray should be unforgettable. The gatherings of people seeking God for help and asking for His forgiveness and protection should be unforgettable. Yet outside of the anniversary date of 911, how many of us go about our “usual” days forgetting how quickly “usual” can turn into “unusual”. I pray that you and I would not just remember the events of 911, but that we would always remember to turn to God in the midst of everything!