Posts Tagged ‘choices’

Choose Wisely

May 31, 2017

Many of us are  familiar with the verses from Joshua which tell us to “Choose you this day whom you will serve…”  Before Joshua, Moses offered this same choice to the children of Israel.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

I.  Life and Death

A.  Choose

In order for us to be able to choose, we must have the ability to choose.  It is one of the most important aspects of who we are as human beings.  The idea that we do have the ability to choose for ourselves whom we will serve is critical to my understanding of who we are, and also the nature of God.

Proverbs 9:10

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Our belief in God is only the first step, but it is an indispensable step in our growth as the people of God.

B.  Love

We are to love God.  We should desire to know Him more.  We get to know Him by spending time in the Word, in prayer and in fellowship with other  believers.  Our love for God should be our first love, the most important thing in our world.

C.  Obey:  I John 5:3

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

If we believe in God and love God then we will want to keep His commandments.  We will be able to do this, not in our own strength, but in the strength that comes from the Holy Spirit.

II.  Spirit and Flesh

A.  Cling

We are spiritual creatures living in a house of flesh.  We need to develop our relationship with the Spirit of God even as we walk upon this earth.  We cling to God by taking the time to pray, worship and read the Word.  How we spend our time is an important choice that we make every day.  We must choose to cling to God even while the things of this world demand our attention.

B.  Dwell

As we develop our life in Christ, God will guide us in the affairs of this life.  It is not a matter of being so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good, rather it is heavenly directed to work in the world.

Our choice to serve God is the most important choice that we will make, affecting every part of our lives in this life and the next.

 

These are the sermon notes from 5/28/17.  All quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible.  Any ads that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

Responding to a Threat

October 19, 2016

Have you ever been threatened?  Or perhaps, you feel threatened by what you see on the horizon.  The message today is for you.

I.  Threat:  Isaiah 37:10-11

 “Thus you shall speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, “Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 11 Look! You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by utterly destroying them; and shall you be delivered?

A.  Judah was threatened with conquest by the Assyrians.  The Assyrians were a powerful nation that had already conquered many nations.  They had given Judah the option of either surrendering and being deported or resisting and being destroyed.  They had been successful so far, and from the physical evaluation Judah had no chance at all.  The Assyrians did not believe that God would be able to do anything to stop them.

B.  Most of us are not in threat of physical danger.  There are, however, different types of threats.  The response of Hezekiah to this physical threat is a response that will work with any type of threat.

II.  Response:  Isaiah 37:14-20

And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15 Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, saying: 16 “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 18 Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. 20 Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord, You alone.”

A.  Pray:  Hezekiah’s  response was to bring it to God.  Our first response also should be to turn to God.  He is not our last resort, but our first choice.  God, here is our problem.  What should we do?

B.  Trust:  Hezekiah trusted in God.  So can we.  If God is for us, who can be against us?  (Romans 8:31)

C.  Listen:  In the case of Hezekiah, God took care of the problem as we shall see shortly.  For us, it is important to ask God to guide us.  If we ask God for guidance He will direct our steps.

D.  Act:  Don’t bother asking for directions if you are not going to follow them.  It would be better not to ask, than to ask and then disobey.  Throughout the history of Israel, individuals had occasionally been been given unusual directions.  Trust and obedience are rewarded.

III.  Deliverance:  Isaiah 37:33-37

“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria:

‘He shall not come into this city,
Nor shoot an arrow there,
Nor come before it with shield,
Nor build a siege mound against it.
34 By the way that he came,
By the same shall he return;
And he shall not come into this city,’
Says the Lord.
35 ‘For I will defend this city, to save it
For My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’”

36 Then the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. 37 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh.

God is able to deliver us.

Whatever we face, whatever our problem may be, nothing is too big for God.

Sometimes, we do need to remember that God is working from an eternal perspective.  From our point of view, we do not always see things working out for us.  We can trust that God knows what He is doing and that in the end, everything will work out for good.  (Romans 8:28)

These are the sermon notes from 10/16/16.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

Time Matters

May 14, 2015

The last time that I remember being bored was the winter of 1982-83 in Beirut, Lebanon.  I was serving in the Marine Corps and was a part of the multinational peacekeeping force.  A part of my duties was to stand twelve hours of guard duty every other day.  Six hours on, six hours off, repeat.  Standing guard for twelve hours on the perimeter of an airport where you normally did not see anyone was conducive to boredom.

That was a long time ago.

Now, I have far more things to do than I have time or energy to do.  Since I have so much to do I find it helpful to make a daily list.  This list is kept on my computer and updated each work day.

The first thing on my list is the Today category.  In this category I list those things that are scheduled for that day, or that really should be done that day.  The minimum goal is to have those things completed each day.

The second category is Daily.  This category lists those things that I would like to do on a daily basis.  These are good, routine things that I try to make a part of each day.  This list includes things like make list, take vitamins, read the paper, do some other reading, pick up around the house, do some weeding, and so forth.  I really want to get these things done each day, but sometimes it doesn’t happen.

The third category is Should Do.  This list contains a list of things that I should do, that are waiting to be done.  Once the first two parts of my list have been completed, if I have any time or energy left, then I turn my attention to this list.  On a good day, I will get numerous things scratched off this list.

The fourth category is Call/Contact.  I place peoples names on this part of the list that I need to call or visit.

The final category is Could Do.  This part of the list is all of those things that I would like to do if I can find the time.  Sadly, if an item is on this part of the list, it is not forgotten, but it may never get done.  It’s only real hope is that someday I may feel the desire to bump it up into the Should Do category.

The nice thing about the list is that it helps me to stay organized.  I can get the things done that I need to get done.  I can have a sense of accomplishment as things are scratched off the list.  If I am having a day that is overwhelming, or that I am just not very with it, I simply go to the next thing on the list, do it, and check it off.  My wife can provide input to help me in prioritizing my day so that important things are not left out.  It works well for me.

Some people do not like lists.  They feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume, or they feel that everything must be done.

I can assure you.  Everything on my list will not be done today…or this week….or possibly ever.

I can live with that.

It is merely a tool by which I organize my time.  So if you want me to do something, I will write it down,  get it on my list, and it will get done…eventually.

The Acceptable, the Good and the Perfect

May 7, 2015

I am a percussionist.  I have played percussion instruments in performance groups and in worship teams for over thirty-five years.   As a percussionist, I have a fairly large collection of instruments.  I have a vibraphone, marimba, orchestra bells, timpani, congas, bongos, tempo blocks, cowbells, tambourines, a guiro, afuche, claves, various types of shakers, and more.

I played drums and percussion in school.  There was music.  I played what was written.  When I was first asked to play in church, I asked if there was music.  The director laughed, told me no, and that he would teach me to improvise.

Now I hardly ever use written music.

One of the challenges that  a percussionist faces is determining what instrument is going to be the best choice for a particular song, or part of a song.  Personally, I pray that I will be inspired by God’s Spirit to best be in tune with the worship that is taking place.  Paul speaks of singing in the Spirit, my goal is to play in the Spirit.

Last night during the worship service, as I was selecting which instrument to play, it occurred to me that it was a good illustration of our life choices.  In the same way that I have many instruments from which I can choose to play, I also have many ways in which I can spend my time.  In fact, I have far more things that I could do, than I could possibly have time or energy to do.

I could play many instruments and sound decent, but there is only one instrument that would be best.  It is the same in life, the challenge is to select the best thing to do with our time at any given moment.

I am still working on that.

Romans 12: 1-2

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

In playing my instruments, I want to be the best that I can be.  In life, my desire is to be in the perfect will of God, not just the good, or the merely acceptable, but the perfect.  I am glad that God accepts me in my imperfection, but I want to be the best that I can be in my service to God, not just as a musician, but in all areas of my life.

I hope that is true for you as well.

Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress. I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them.

How to Survive an Encounter With Police

March 5, 2015

The headlines of our local paper yesterday chided the Ferguson police for racial bias.

A homeless man was shot in Los Angeles.  The public is outraged.

Perhaps we should look at the other side of the issue.  How should we behave in an encounter with police?

Michael Brown assaulted the police officer.  The bruises and scrapes are clear in the photos.

The police claim that the homeless man was grabbing for the gun of one of the officers.  After the incident, an officer’s gun(one who did not shoot) was half-cocked, with a bullet partially ejected.  It is cited as evidence of the struggle for the gun.

In addition to questioning police action, we should focus on our action.  We should not punch police officers.  We should not try to take their guns.  In all of the articles that I saw after the Ferguson incident, I only saw one comment made about how the public should act in an encounter with police.  It was an African-American police chief who said that the advice that he gave his own children was simple.

Cooperate with the police and move slowly. 

In the last year three men who have died at the hands of police have made national news.  The focus has always been on the action of the police.  The fact is; the police have a dangerous job.  In our area, a while back, a deputy sheriff was shot in the face and killed while serving an arrest warrant.  In the months since these three men have died at the hands of police, I wonder how many law enforcement officers have died?  Their deaths do not often make the national news.  Their job is to protect and to serve, but they must also protect themselves.  We do not often see the footage of police officers being killed in the line of duty, but I am certain that they are used in training police officers.  They want to be able to go home at the end of their shift and they want to be able to live with themselves.  I am certain that the vast majority of officers are not looking for an excuse to kill someone.

Cooperate with the police and move slowly.

It could save your life.

 

From Fear to Love

February 26, 2015

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  Proverbs 9:10

I have this verse on a poster on the wall in my office at the college.  As a philosophy instructor I consider it to be particularly appropriate since philosophy is made up of two Greek words that together mean ‘the love of wisdom’.  I consider faith in God to be the starting point of my philosophy of life.  Traditionally,when discussing this verse, I emphasize the need to believe in, be in awe of, and to have respect for, the person of God, resulting in obedience to His commands.

The other day I was in a Chi Alpha meeting at the college where I teach.  Chi Alpha is a student club for Christian growth and outreach.  At our campus, it primarily is a weekly meeting for prayer and Bible study.  It is open to all students, faculty, staff, and guests.  One of our regular guests is a retired gentleman who comes to the college library to read.  At this particular meeting one of the students brought up the question of the fear of the Lord.  We discussed it for a while and had agreed upon basically the definition that is stated above.

As we were concluding our discussion, the retired gentleman offered a different perspective.  He pointed out that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  He commented that we start with that attitude, and grow in our love for God.  I have been periodically reflecting on that thought for the last two days.  I John 4:18 says ”  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. ”  We still believe in, are in awe of, and have respect for God, but it is to be rooted in love, not fear.

One of my concerns is that people will over-emphasis the love of God to the point that they presume upon his mercy.  I have had people tell me that they know that what they are doing is wrong, but that God will forgive them.  That line of thinking is very dangerous.  We are not to “continue in sin that grace might abound.” (Romans 6:1)

However, as I thought about it, I was reminded of I John 5:3 “ For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. ” A healthy maturation of faith will be an increase in love resulting in obedience.  If we truly love God, we will live in obedience to His commandments.

Our obedience to God may begin out of fear, but it is matured in love.

Minimum Wage

February 19, 2015

People like to suggest that raising the minimum wage is in response to inflation.  I would suggest that raising the minimum wage causes inflation.

If a gallon of milk cost one dollar ten years ago, and today a gallon of milk costs four dollars we recognize that the gallon of milk has not changed.  Rather, we look at it as inflation and consider it to be a bad thing.

When minimum wage changes, the product itself, a basic hour of low-skill work hasn’t changed.  The cost has been inflated.

Another way of looking at it is to say that what two dollars used to purchase, now requires seven dollars to purchase.  The thing being purchased hasn’t changed.  The value of the dollar, what the dollar will buy, has changed.

When we increase the minimum wage, we devalue the dollar.

I am not an economist and I am not going to go back over the last fifty years and see the precise changes in minimum wage and the effect on the economy.  I have, however, been living through the last fifty years, and in my observation, raising the minimum wage causes economic turmoil.

The minimum wage is meant to be a starting point for employment.  As workers develop skills and demonstrate a solid work ethic, they may be rewarded with higher paying jobs.  New workers entering the job market take their place and the process moves onward.

When the minimum wage is raised it has an affect on what other employees are paid as well.  People often view their pay in relationship to the minimum wage so to keep employees, wages across the board need to go up.  Higher wages means higher operating costs.  These costs are passed on to the consumer, resulting in inflation.

Currently, people who make minimum wage may be eligible for a variety of assistance programs from the government.  These include food stamps, rent assistance, utilities assistance and other programs.  These programs help people to live a better life while making minimum wage. Perhaps we could add an option of financial training.  We should help to teach people how to live on their income, rather than beyond their income.

People should look to better themselves by finding better jobs, not by trying to force employers to pay more for an hour of basic labor.

Raising the minimum wage is a bad idea.

Choose Life

December 1, 2014

Life is all about choices.  I am a firm believer in human free will.  We do have the power to choose to make the right choices in our life.

I.  Choose Life:  Deuteronomy 30:19-20

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

The most important choice that we will face in our lives is whether or not we will believe in and serve the Lord.  Choosing to serve God will result in a better life now, and the promise of a eternal life with God in heaven.  If we are choosing to serve God, then we should also love and obey Him.  We do not serve God out of a grudging obedience but a joyous acceptance of His will for our lives.

II.  By Faith:  Romans 4:1-3

 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

Our relationship with God is not something that we earn by doing works of righteousness.  It is a simple matter of faith, of believing in God and in Jesus Christ.  We believe God  and the promises that He has given us in His Word.

III.  Be Strong:  Deuteronomy 31:6

 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

As we face the struggles of this life, we do not need to be afraid.  Our strength and courage comes from the knowledge that God is with us.  If God is with us, then there is nothing to fear.

IV.  Love Poured Out Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God.  By the grace of God, we are able to face trouble, knowing that God is with us.  As we continue to serve God, we see the faithfulness of God.  The more we see of God’s faithfulness, the easier it is to endure the tests and trials of this life.  As we mature in Christ we are more easily able to maintain the hope that is within us.  Through it all, the love of God is poured out into our hearts.  The love of God brings life, joy and a peace that passes understanding.

For those who choose to place their faith in God, God will give them life.

These are the sermon notes from 11/2/14.  Any advertisements are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them.

 

Learn to Do Good

April 3, 2014

God is not pleased with the appearance of righteousness, an outward religious facade that has no effect on our lives.  God calls us to follow Him with our whole heart, and all of our lives.

Isaiah 1:16-20

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

I.  Call to Repentance:  (verses 16-17)

I very much appreciate the simplicity of the call “Cease to do evil, learn to do good.”.  We must first learn to identify what is good and what is evil.  God uses His Word and His Spirit to lead us to that truth.  Once we are able to identify good and evil, we must make the choice to cease doing evil, and do what it good.  This is not always easy, and it is a lifelong process.

We are to seek justice.  Sometimes, some in the evangelical church have had a critical attitude towards social justice.  The concern comes from what they perceive to be an abandonment of the “true” gospel by the churches that focus on the “social” gospel.  It does not have to be one or the other.  We can preach for the salvation of the  souls of humanity, while also working to make our physical life here on earth more just.

We are to rebuke the oppressor and defend the weak.  This requires wisdom, courage and strength.  God is able to help us with all of those attributes, if we will allow Him to work through us.

II.  Forgiveness:  (verse 18)

We recognize that we all have sinned.  We have fallen short of what God would have us to be.  We need His forgiveness.  The good news is that God is willing to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  We do not have to earn forgiveness, it is offered to us freely through Jesus Christ.

III.  Consequences (verses 19-20)

Our actions have consequences.  If we are rebellious and choose to remain in our sinful ways, then we can expect destruction.  Bad things will continue to happen to us.  It is one of the ways that God uses to try to correct us.  If we are willing to repent, and learn to be obedient, we can expect God to bless us.

This does not mean that the life of the sinner will be only destruction, and the life of the obedient will be only blessings.  Our lives are a mixed bag of blessings and tests.  It does mean that believer should be able to have a sense of the blessing of God on their life, while the unbeliever should have a sense of coming judgement.

God continues to call out to us.  Repent!  Believe the gospel!  Cease to do evil!  Learn to do good!

These are the sermon notes from 3/30/14.  Any advertisement that may appear is placed there by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any financial support from them.

Jack-of-all-Trades

March 8, 2012

My father was a very handy man.  He enjoyed working on things and constantly had some sort of project underway.  I would frequently help him work on a whole variety of things.  I was a first-class gopher.  Go-for this, go-for that.  Hand me this, hand me that.  You get the idea.  Anyway, my father would refer to himself as a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none.  The idea being: that he dabbled, and was proficient in, a lot of areas, but did not consider himself a “master” of any of them.

As I matured, my skill-set turned out very differently from my father’s.  Oh, I know how to use a hammer, or a wrench, and I can manage some things around the house or garage, but my skills are nothing like those of my father.

I am a minister, and a teacher.  Currently, I am the pastor of a church, teach at a community college, lead a campus ministry,  am enrolled in graduate school, maintain a blog, teach ministry classes, mentor a young minister,  exercise regularly, help around the house, and try to have a life.

Perhaps I did learn something from my father.

I am not specialized, but generalized.

The problem with doing so many things is that you cannot devote as much time to any of them as you would if you were doing fewer things.  There is only so much time after all.  So the question becomes; do you continue to spread yourself around, doing what you can do, or do you reduce your commitments, and focus on doing fewer things, better?

That is a question that each one must answer for themselves.