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“O Jerusalem, O Jerusalem, …..how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Luke 13:34

“A certain man was preparing a banquet, at the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come for everything is now ready’. But they all alike began to make excuses….” Luke 14: 16-18

“Martha, Martha”, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her”. Luke 10:41,42

I HAD NO CHOICE!!!!  That is a phrase that seems to gain more and more traction in today’s world.  There are several reasons for it.  One of the reasons revolves around the two edge sword that is science and scientific discoveries.  Now understand this, having lost two parents and several other relatives to cancer in the past, the fact that the Lord has allowed medical science to progress in that my wife is now cancer free for many years is a true blessing to behold.  We are constantly finding out new and wonderful things about the creation that is a human being and the wonderful processes at work within us.  Yet at the same time, those discoveries can be misconstrued and taken out of a greater; mental, physical and spiritual context allowing for certain behaviors and/or human challenges to be dismissed as “I was born this way”.  Yes it appears to be true that genes are foundational physiological building blocks that definitely impact biological processes.  Though now, we often seem to rush to find a genetic reason for something including do I eat too much, drink too much, can’t control my anger and so many more.  And if some genetic connection can be found, then the answer is all too often; then I’m not responsible because I’m not responsible for my genetic makeup.  The genes made me do it.

However, there are more than just genetic aspects of the “I had no choice” rationale. In the socioeconomic realm, we so often see this reason use to excuse either committing or being a victim of egregious behavior.  To get, keep, get promoted in my job, I was required to endure the actions of or perhaps I was forced to commit certain actions of (fill in the blank with some horrific action or behavior). In today’s society, it is one thing when a child understandably claims that they were powerless to thwart or escape the actions of an adult who was responsible for them.  However, it is different for a fully functional adult to make the same claim as often as we do.

Then there are the process reasons for not making a decision like:  No one ever asked me or I didn’t have a chance to make an input or the every popular, Everyone else was doing it so i was forced to go along.

Jesus, during His ministry is constantly talking about first making and then the ramifications of making certain decisions.  Jesus talks about the decision to enter through the narrow door that leads to salvation versus the wide door that leads to destruction.  He cries out in sorrow as He laments how often He has tried to gather His chosen people together, to protect and guide them, like a hen does for her chicks, but it was not the wind or some outside force that drove the chicks, the people from Jesus; it was their own decision not to be led by Him.  Jesus tells a story that is analogous to great feast in the Kingdom of Heaven when He tells of the man who was throwing a great banquet and first invited all His friends and those He truly felt worthy to attend.  The day of banquet came and imagine the anticipation the man had to see his banquet hall filled with appreciative, joy filled guests.  Then the decisions started happening.  We don’t know why the invited guests started making excuses: “Nope got to go see some land”, “Unh, unh, I got to go see my new ox”, “OOOO bad timing, I just got married; sorry can’t make it”.  However, one by one, all the invited guests decided not to come and made excuses as to why.  The consequences of those decisions?  The chosen invitees were never going to be let in or be invited again.

Jesus Christ knows how the world can skew our conceptions and distort our reality to cause us to make unwise decisions.  Jesus Christ, the true Son of God had come to the house of Martha and Mary; and He was not alone.  Scripture tells us that at least the disciples were with Him and perhaps more.  The world of that day (as well as today) required certain behaviors from the host; something to eat and drink and the inevitable cleaning that comes after that.  Jesus was speaking, again the Son of God was speaking and scripture tells us that Mary is sitting listening.  Martha is diligently trying to fulfill the requirements of a hostess but without the help of her sister and Martha is upset.  Perhaps in Martha’s eyes, Mary had chosen to be lazy.  Jesus, patiently, gracefully and softly corrects Martha and her perception.  The Son of God doesn’t visit your house every day, and when He takes the time to speak, listening to Him, focusing on Him is the correct decision to make; regardless of how the world would think otherwise.

So again, Dear Sisters and Brothers, it is clear that our Heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom has given us the ability to choose.  Perhaps in some ways had it been our decision we would have left off that capability from our creation in that it allowed us to decide to partake of the fruit that led to our initial fallen nature and all the wars and evils we have partaken in since then.  Yet having choice allows us to have faith, allows us to choose love, mercy and forgiveness.  Jesus Christ is calling upon us to choose.  Although even in that call, Jesus Christ is not leaving us to our own meager devices in attempting to choose the righteous path.  For Jesus Christ has articulated His Father’s plan that They would grant the Holy Spirit come and instruct and lead us to the decisions that will lead us to redemption and salvation.  However, we do not dare cede these careful decisions to the world and its ways.  We dare not try to excuse ourselves from deciding because we feel forced to go a different path.

Thus as Joshua proclaimed let us also decide; as for me and my house, we will serve the lord.  Let us be wise as Mary to sit at the feet of the Lord.  Let us not decide to refuse the invitation of our Heavenly Father to attend His eternal banquet feast.  Let us come to the protecting wing of Jesus Christ allowing ourselves to be gathered in to Him, living lives of glory, honor and praise in and to the name of our Father in Heaven.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we freely proclaim that You have given us the faculties and the responsibilities to make choices.  Yet we also humbly confess that too often we turn from the resources that You provide and rely on our own means that lead to poor and disastrous decisions.  Hear us and forgive us when we call out to You when we stray that You, in Your loving mercy, would gather us back together in You.  Pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us to guide us in the way, making the decisions that will align us to Your Most Perfect Will and bring everlasting Glory to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“But the Lord said to Samuel: ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him”  1Samuel 16:7

“So the last will be first and the first last”  Matthew 20:16

Practically all of us have been there.  The quintessential example is the playground or school recess sporting game.  There is a group around and normally two people, captains of some sort, get to pick who is on their teams.  And the agony for those to be chosen begins. Though sometimes the situation may not be so immediate but still very personal.  You may be waiting for the phone call that says you got the job or the new position.  The email that says yes I want to meet with you.  It is that basic of human desires; to be wanted for something; to not be the left over, someone has to take him or her person.

Yet, especially in the story of the anointing of David by Samuel, there is also a story that sometimes gets overlooked.  The story of the chooser and how he (and we) make our decisions.  Because by the very nature of the process; there are more choosies than there are choosers.  With that angst that those waiting to be chosen go through, the assumption is that the ones doing the choosing have the easy, stress free part of the process.  After all they’ve already been picked haven’t they?

So why is Samuel at first so reluctant to go see Jesse, the family from which the new king would be chosen.  Well he feared for his life for one thing.  You see, Samuel had chosen before, at least from the human perspective.  God had told Samuel that he would meet Saul and would anoint him as the first king of the Israelite people.  Samuel did as God commanded but because Saul strayed from God’s instruction through Samuel, Saul’s reign did not turn out so good.  And Samuel now believed if Saul found out that he was going to find a new king, that Saul would have him killed.  Secondly, Saul did not turn out to be a successful choice.  Now Samuel was at it again.  He was finding it difficult to put his heart into this second search for a king having experienced the failure of the first choice.

Samuel acquiesces to God’s command and goes to see Jesse, whom God has revealed has a son who will be the next king.  Saul was described as the handsomest man in all of Israel and also significantly taller than any other man.  So using that as starting point, it was natural that when Samuel was introduced to Jesse’s first son, Eliab, who was tall and very handsome, that Samuel again thought: “this must be the one.”  Yet God in effect tells Samuel:  “been there, done that and it didn’t work”.  For God tells Samuel to not trust his eyes to determine who should be chosen.  God wants this king to be successful.  For that success to happen, it will not be based on the external, what the eye can see; but on the internal, what the heart can feel.  Left to his own wisdom, his own measurements upon which to make his choice; Samuel would have chosen wrongly. Thank God for His intervention.

Fast forward to today.  You and I make choices about people all the time.  It may not be about who will be a king but, nevertheless, they can have amazing and/or devastating consequences.   Some choices are momentous:  Who am I going to date or marry? Who am I going to hire or promote?  Some seem more trivial:  Who am I going to eat lunch with? Whose phone call do I return first or at all.  Yet again understand, all of these decisions have consequences.  In the bestselling book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, he describes how we, often unconsciously as well as almost instantaneously, make snap decisions using things like a person’s height  and overall attractiveness; their ethnicity, color of their hair, the pitch of their voice; all outward characteristics that tell us little or nothing about their heart within.  One of the saddest aspects to this is we tend to use characteristics which the person has little to no control over versus things like their character; their capacity to love; internal things which will make the greatest difference.

I am most certain I would have chosen Eliab.  Also, I doubt I would have chosen the same path as the landowner in Jesus’ parable as told to us in Matthew.  Who promises all the same reward although some seem to have been with Him longer than others.  So when I am the chooser, what am I to do?  To be the fairest, the wisest, the chooser with the greatest chance of success; I must do as Samuel did; and listen to God.  Ergo first, I must go to God in prayer.  I/we must ask God to help us to overcome our worldly processes of choosing and ask for His perfect guidance, understanding that He has a plan in play in our choices.  I/we must think beyond how easy our choice will make things for us versus how much overall good will our choice outcome be to those who are chosen.  We must put aside our beliefs in our own wisdom; our own ability to play God and turn to the one who is the One True God to lead us.  It is then and only then will we find the confidence to say this one and not that one; yes to you but no to you and know that we are doing this in the love and trust of the One whose choices are always perfect.  The One who chose His Only Begotten Son, to come to our earthly existence and to give His life for our transgressions.  The One who has chosen Mercy and Forgiveness over Judgement and Separation.  I’m fairly certain, I would not have chosen so wisely.  Thank God that He did and does.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, thank You for choosing us.  We know, Dear Father, that we are also faced with making choices about others each day.  Give us the wisdom, Everlasting Father, to turn to You first for Your counsel and Your wisdom.  Through the Holy Spirit, give us Your Eyes to see as You do, into the heart and not primarily the physical.  Grant that we would make our decisions in concert with Your Plan and Your Will, not relying on ourselves.  That the choices that we make would be a testimony to our love, worship and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Amen

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