Showing posts with label Choices. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Choices. Show all posts

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Finding Freedom in Jesus

 Christ has come to set us free! 

Galatians 5:1 (CSB)
For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Freedom is what we all desire, and it is, at least for Americans, a right for all people. We want to see people live in freedom rather than in oppression. 

God, too, desires that we be free! God’s desire for our freedom is seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

The news that Jesus brings freedom to our lives is Good News.

We desire freedom, and God desires that we be free. So what is the problem?

The problem is our definition of freedom and God’s definition of freedom aren’t the same. 

Too often, we see freedom as the ability to decide how we want to live. 

To be free from the expectations of authorities, families, and other social restraints. 

To have the financial freedom to go and do what we want to do. 

For us freedom is defined by having complete control of our lives.

According to the Bible, God’s definition is different. In fact, the writers of the New Testament, who experienced the freedom Jesus gives, described themselves in an interesting way. 

In Romans, the Apostle Paul writes, "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…" (Romans 1:1, CSB).

James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote, "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." (James 1:1, CSB). 

And the Apostle Peter wrote, "Simeon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:1; CSB).

In each of these cases, we would understand the type of servant Paul, James, and Peter called  themselves to be a slave.

It is obvious that these men did not equate autonomous control of their lives to the freedom found in Jesus. They believed they were free, but that freedom led them to surrender to the authority of  King Jesus. 

In our thinking, being under the authority of someone else is not freedom. But these men, who said they were slaves of King Jesus, lived with a greater freedom than what we can understand.

Now I have this question to ask you: Is your life better or more complicated since you have been in control of making the choices on how to live? 

In this country and in this period of time, we have had great freedom to choose the direction of our lives. 

We have the freedom to choose our careers, the freedom to choose our spouses, the freedom to choose friends and other relationships, the freedom to do what we want with the money we make, and the freedom to believe what seems true to us.

Even with all this freedom, many of us feel trapped and enslaved. 

We feel trapped in a job that we hate. We feel trapped in a marriage that we no longer want. We feel enslaved by the expectations and whims of our friends. We feel enslaved to the massive amount of debt that we have accumulated. We feel trapped and enslaved by the empty promises of humanistic philosophies. 

When we are free to decide how we want to live, we often end up being trapped and enslaved by the choices we made.

Thankfully Jesus brings freedom to us trapped in prisons made up of our own decisions. He offers a life free from the curse and condemnation of the Law. He offers a life free from the addictions of sin. He offers a life free to live in the spontaneity of love for God and people. 

Jesus’s freedom allows us to be free to use our money to help people in need, to be free to use our blessings to be a blessing to our neighbors, to be free to hope in the midst of hopelessness, and to be free to give our lives away to God and His Kingdom.

Are you living a free life  or are you enslaved to your addictions? 

Are you living free life or are you enslaved to the expectations of other people? 

The only way to truly experience freedom is to give your life to Jesus. He guides us out of the chains of bad choices and the enslavement to addictions and into his Kingdom of freedom.

The path towards freedom that Jesus offers is the path of surrendering your life to him. Freedom is found in stepping off the throne of your life and making Jesus King in your place.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Ordinary Moments

Have you ever felt like your life is slipping away?

I know that I have. Rather than accomplishing my dreams life seems to be swallowed up with the daily responsibilities that are required for pastoring and having a family. These are good things, but my dreams often need to be put on a back burner because of them.

In Seizing Your Divine Moment, Erwin McManus, a pastor and author, wrote, "This may sound too simple, but the abundant life that Jesus promises is ushered in through the choices we make in the ordinary moments of life."

This statement emphasizes the power of our choices and how they can shape our lives in profound ways.

When we think of "abundant life," we often envision a life filled with wealth, success, and happiness. However, the Bible offers a different perspective.

In John 10:10, Jesus says, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." This abundant life is not defined by material possessions or external circumstances, but by a deep and meaningful relationship with God. A relationship that is defined by trusting in and acting on God’s promises.

So, how do our choices influence this abundant life?

McManus suggests that it's the small, seemingly insignificant choices we make in the ordinary moments of life that ultimately shape our spiritual formation as we seek live as Jesus lived. These choices include how we respond to difficult situations, how we treat others, and how we prioritize our time and resources.

For example, if we consistently choose to respond with kindness and forgiveness instead of anger and bitterness, we cultivate a heart that reflects the character of God. If we prioritize our relationship with God through prayer and Bible study, we develop a deeper understanding of His love and purpose for our lives.

It's easy to overlook the impact of these everyday choices, but over time, they add up and shape the trajectory of our lives. As the saying goes, "little by little, a little becomes a lot."

Of course, making the right choices is not always easy. We are imperfect people who make mistakes and face different obstacles along the way. However, the good news is that we do not have to rely solely on our own strength and willpower. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Christian community we belong to, we have access to the wisdom, guidance, and strength we need to make choices that align with God's will.

The abundant life that Jesus promises is not something that is achieved through external circumstances or possessions. Rather, it's a life that is rooted in a deep and meaningful relationship with God, and it's ushered in through the choices we make in the ordinary moments of life. As we make choices that reflect God's character and prioritize our relationship with Him, we can experience the fullness of life that He has promised us.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Bible is not an Answer Book

 I love the Bible. 

In fact, I believe that people who follow Jesus should be readers and students of the Bible. In the Bible we discover God, His character, and His will. 

Without the Bible we would not be able to follow Jesus or be the people God created us to be.

Last year I lead Bethlehem Church through The Story to give us a good overview of what the Bible is about. One of the things I constantly talked about through that series is that the Bible is gift from God. In all the 30 sermons I preached, I said, “We need to read, study, meditate on, and pray the Bible to be good stewards of the gift God has given to us.”

Even though I have a high view of Scripture, I also understand that it has limitations.

As modern readers of the Bible, we often approach it as if it has the answer to all of life’s questions. That is a primary reason why we  read and study the Bible: to have all the right answers.

Instead of viewing the Bible as an answer book, we need to see the Bible  as a tool to help create a worldview. It may not provide the answers to all the questions asked in our culture, but it does provide a framework that helps us create a Christian worldview.

I have been pondering how we use the Bible the past few days for a couple of reasons.

1. BibleProject has a podcast series that looks at ancient cosmology. One of the key points in the series is looking at how the Biblical account of creation is in dialogue and debate with the other ancient creation myths. 

Many Western Christians, for the past 120 years or so, have used the Bible to provide facts and answers about the beginning of the universe. The problem is that the Bible was not written to answer modern scientific questions. It was written to give God’s people a particular view of the world and to combat the pagan religious views of their neighbors.

Therefore, we shouldn’t expect the Bible to give us definitive answers about the how and when of creation, but we should expect it to give us an understanding about who God is and why He created the world.

2. Preston Sprinkle wrote:

If someone experiences and congruent between their biological sex and their gender, which one determines who they are—and why? What does the Bible say about this question?

That’s the problem. The Bible doesn’t directly ask and answer this question. There’s no verse in, say, Leviticus 28 that says, “If thy gender identity does not match thy biological sex, then thine body is who you really are.” Or whatever. (There is no Leviticus 28, in case you are flipping pages to check.) But the Bible does say quite a few relevant things about human nature and the importance of our biological sex which will position us to cultivate a theologically informed and biblically rooted answer to our question. (Embodied, p. 63)

After doing lots of research, Sprinkle admits that the Bible doesn’t contain the answers to the questions surrounding the transgender conversation. You can’t compile a list of verses that deal specifically with these issues. 

Not only is this true for the transgender conversation, but it is true for many of the questions we have today. Our culture is significantly different from the cultures that the Bible was originally written for. We shouldn’t expect to to have answers to our modern questions.

Since the Bible is God’s gift to His people, we can expect that it will give us a proper perspective to see the world.

It is important to make this shift away from seeing the Bible as an answer book to one that helps us create a Christian worldview.

God did not give us the Bible so we can have all the right answers. 

Rather, He gave us the Bible so we can become the right type of people. 

If we primarily use the Bible to have the right answers, to win arguments, and to point out other people’s sin then we are using the Bible wrong.

The Bible should help form us into the people God created us to be. One of the ways it does that is to create a proper perspective for us to see the world.

Let the Bible form your worldview.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Keep Making Progress


This year has been, at least emotionally, the most difficult year of my life.

It started last November with a difficult situation within our church community that caused me to doubt my leadership abilities.

Then we moved into winter, that dark time of year that causes depression in many people, myself included. My heart, mind, and soul were heavy.

We all know what happened as winter began to turn into spring - pandemic and lockdowns. I was faced with trying to pivot and provide online worship and resources for people, while not being able to meet face to face to figure things out.

In May my right leg began to hurt. I lived with the pain for a week, trying to convince myself that it wasn't what I knew it was - a blood clot. This was my second clot and I knew that I would now be on blood thinners the rest of my life.

During this time came BLM and protests, and the added pressure of trying to figure out the right things to say about an important moment in America. One of the difficulties of being a pastor is the expectation to have a position or at least a thought about everything that happens.

As things began to open up we had the great mask debate and the discussion of whether our not churches should follow the lockdown orders. After all, I was told, President Trump declared churches as essential, so we should be meeting in person.

This was followed by several families informing me they were leaving. Which again had me doubting my ability to do this job as pastor.

Even during the summer, when I am usually depression free, I found myself sinking deeper into depression.

By the end of August, I realized I needed to make a change. Not only was I depressed, but my health was being affected. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life, I was not sleeping well, and the simplest activities were exhausting me.

The change started with my wife Jenny telling me about an app from Ransomed Heart that was created in connection with John Eldredge's book Get Your Life Back (which I haven't read) called One Minute Pause. I started doing the app every day, usually more than once a day. It helped me to reorient my life back to God.

Doing The Pause app reminded me that through the Wild at Heart website John Eldredge has a resource of prayers. I began daily praying the Daily Prayer for the Head of Households. This practice helped me to start reading the Bible daily again.

After about a month of putting prayer and Bible reading back into my daily rhythm of life, I was ready to start focusing on my physical health. There were a couple of false starts as I tried to figure out the best way to implement what I knew I was supposed to do. Even though I knew the right things to do I was having trouble doing them.

That is when I found out about another app called Noom. This app/program is designed to help you make a lifestyle change so that you can live a sustainable healthy life. Last week one of the readings that Noom had me read dealt with understanding that there would be setbacks and struggles through this process. To combat that reality I was asked to write an "Oh well" statement that I could use when I stumbled. Mine is, "Oh well, I am still making progress." 

The next day I saw this Dave Ramsey tweet:

It is a wonderful thing that we can decide to make changes in our lives. We can make today the day that change begins. It is crucial to remember this.

I also think it is crucial to remember that change is hard. It doesn't happen over night and it doesn't happen just because you know the right thing to do.

Things like overcoming depression, losing weight, getting out of debt, or decluttering your house takes time. If we expect this change to go smoothly, for our habits to shift right this moment, and for our life to be perfect tomorrow we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Making these positive changes in our lives requires time and effort, and more than likely we are going to have a moment or two when we binge on Moose Tracks Ice Cream or put a shopping spree on the credit card, or do something else dumb that we have trained ourselves to do.

That is why we have grace. 

God is not expecting us to be perfect. After all He made allowance for repentance and confession. What God is after is our continued progress towards being like Jesus.

I believe in our quest to make changes in our lives the best thing we can do is to give ourselves grace and to remember that we will stumble along the way. Understanding this helps us to own up to our failure and move on by saying, "Oh well, I am still making progress."

Monday, March 23, 2020

3 Actions for Making Wise Decisions

I believe that our lives are the product of the choices that we make.

 There are big choices which will affect the rest of our lives, and there are small everyday choices which set the direction of our lives each day. The big choices, like whether or not to marry, get much of the attention. However, it is often the culmination of all the various small choices that truly plot the direction of our lives.

 Since all choices are important it is essential that we have the proper foundation for making good choices. We discover this foundation in the Bible.
 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” 
Matthew 7:24-27; NLT 

According to Jesus the foundation for being wise is Scripture. Remember the entire Bible contains the words of Jesus. The wisdom we need to make good choices comes from the Bible.

 This leads us to ask an important question: How do we go about laying a foundation of Scripture to build on choices on? 

 Looking at this parable Jesus taught we find three actions we must do in order to lay Scripture as the foundation of our decision making.

  1.  We must LISTEN to Jesus. Listening implies an active intent on part of the listener. A hearer is passive. If we have healthy functioning ears then we hear the various sounds of life. Listening, on the other hand, requires us to focus, tuning out the other sounds, in order to hear what is important. It isn’t enough just read the Bible. We must come to the Bible with the desire to understand what God wants us to know, and how that word applies to our lives. 
  2. We must BELIEVE Jesus. We can listen to what Jesus has to say, but if we don’t believe him then we will not apply his teaching to our lives. Belief in Jesus is what separates the foolish from the wise. The foolish will listen to Jesus, but because they do not believe who he is or what he says, they will not allow his words to affect their lives. The wise believe Jesus is the Son of God and the result is that they trust what he says. The choices they make are a result of this trust. 
  3. We must CHANGE the way we live. This action step is the extension of believing Jesus. You have to first believe before you can change. Change is the application of belief. The action of change shouts to the world that we trust Jesus. Trusting Jesus means we will adjust our lives to his word. We will align our lives with his will, even when the choice means we will live in away that is opposite of the world around us. Jesus said the fool listens, but does not change his life. In contrast the wise listens and obeys. 

Every single day we are faced with choices. Many times we do not have the time we would like to consider all the options. In this fast paced world how do we lay a solid foundation that will help us make wise decisions?

We build our lives on the word of God, committed to listening to Jesus, believing Jesus, and changing our lives.

 Without this solid foundation we will be at the mercy of the changing winds of this world. With the solid foundation of God’s Word we are able to stand against whatever storms come our way.

Prophetic Revelation and the Gospel

  1 Peter 1:10-12 (CSB) Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who prophesied about the grace that would come to you, searched and careful...