Choices

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Choices

Jeremiah 42:18-22

“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Just as my anger and my wrath were poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so my wrath will be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You shall become an object of execration and horror, of cursing and ridicule. You shall see this place no more. The Lord has said to you, O remnant of Judah, Do not go to Egypt. Be well aware that I have warned you today that you have made a fatal mistake. For you yourselves sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the Lord our God, and whatever the Lord our God says, tell us and we will do it.’ So I have told you today, but you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God in anything that he sent me to tell you. Be well aware, then, that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go and settle.”

Mathew 10:5-23

The Mission of the Twelve1

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Coming Persecutions2

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Sometimes it feels like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place and I’m going to lose no matter what happens.Have you ever felt that way? These are some of my points of lowest motivation for following God instead of my own selfish desires. I mean, if the result is going to be the same anyway, why does it matter?

That is a hard place to be in and an even harder place to speak to, when you are not in it yourself. The Chalmers Center has a book called When Helping Hurts that describes ways that our attempts to speak into and intervene in the lives of those caught in tough places often ends up doing more harm than good. If you are not in one of those places but know someone who is, be sure to get your facts straight before barging in with a cure-all for their woes… because, the truth is, it really does matter.

It matters whether we are suffering as a consequence of our own disobedience or if we are suffering for obeying God. It matters in the moment because suffering out of obedience is suffering that takes on meaning. It shows the world its own corruption and brokenness. Prophets face persecution for their faithfulness because a world that wanted to hear what they had to say would not need them to say it. Their role is to stand in between unfaithful people and a God demanding justice, the unstoppable force and the immovable object, and to mediate between them. Most prophets do not survive the task, but their work is honored and their suffering brings healing to those around them. On the other hand, God uses our disobedience as well. If we will not be lifted up as a good example, He will use us as the bad example. He has His ways of getting the point across whether we want to go along or not.

The choices we have before us each day are really not as much about suffering or comfort, which we have less control of than we think. They are about honor and shame. That may not mean as much to you today, but if you look at the big picture, it may mean a lot tomorrow. Honor opens doors. Shame closes them. Doors you may not even see yet. It is why we tell our students to study and get good grades, knowing it will take years of their life away from friends, family, making money, and many other pursuits they may have. There is nothing inherently valuable about a good grade. In fact, most of our grades will never be looked at by people other than our parents and teachers. But they will open doors to places of honor that would otherwise be unattainable when we get to those paths down the road. That is the difference between a rock and a hard place.

What difficult choices do you have to make today?

What guidance is God giving you?


  1. (Mk 6:6b—13; Lk 9:1–6)
  2. (Mk 13:9–13; Lk 21:12–17)

Tough Decisions

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Tough Decisions

Philippians 1:21-30

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. “

Suffering is only temporary, but not in the way we might hope.

I wonder why Jesus died so quickly on the cross. Two thieves may have hung there longer than He. Don’t get me wrong, He did not deserve any of it. Yet for those who claim He took our punishment upon Himself, I wonder if our own crucifixion would have been as short. Why does Jesus give a loud shout and die when most die slowly of suffocation? I don’t know.

One of my professors, Robert Tuttle once told me that the suffering of Christ did not begin on the cross, it began in the manger. If he was right, than Jesus really did have one of the longest punishments – 33 years worth! What all would that include then?


  1. Being born helpless and vulnerable.


  2. Being hunted


  3. Being misunderstood by his own family


  4. Being tempted by the devil himself

…and that is all before he actually starts any of his ministry. It also does not count much of the first 33 years of His life for which we have very little information on.

It was fairly downhill after that. Doubts, questioning, betrayals… people always around trying to use Him for their own agendas. Some of those were the ones He called friends. Most of them called themselves leaders and upstanding citizens. A few called themselves revolutionaries. Jesus called Himself the Son of Man). Those who knew Him best called Him the Son of God and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Paul called Him Christ, which means messiah or “anointed one”. Somehow knowing the suffering of Jesus inspired Paul to carry on despite his own suffering. As far as starting new movements went, Paul was not terribly successful in his own lifetime. He was kicked out of more towns than he had friends, and even the places he was able to establish Christian communities were often corrupted by false teachers who followed after him. It was then and continues to be an act of God that the church perseveres.

In all this Paul wonders, would it be better to die and be with Jesus than to continue suffering through the day to day pains of trying to be a witness for God to a world that wants nothing to do with Him? That is a question we all have to answer for ourselves.

Paul found his answer in the same way Jesus found His own. He loved God, and he also loved all those around them. Well, he may have struggled to love all of those around him, but he certainly loved some of them. He knew that death might bring him some relief and maybe even some joy. But he also knew that those left here on earth would suffer without him. Even if he could not end or even ease their suffering, there was something powerful and loving about being willing to suffer with them. There is a word for that. It is called compassion(which literally means to suffer with).

What tough decisions do you face today?

What role does suffering play in these decisions?

What choice most reflects the compassion of Jesus?

Gifts from Heaven

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Gifts from Heaven

Exodus 16:9-21

“Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’ ” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’ ” The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. ”

Love the giver, not the gifts. Love is not jealous . Love doesn’t get greedy.

Easier said than done.

How about, just follow the directions… hahaha.

Welcome to existence. It is not overly complicated. It is not impossible to live a life that blesses others and leaves the world better than you found it. However, it does require you to surrender your desires to control, to know everything, and to be humble enough to receive the help God has sent your way.

God provided the means for the Hebrew people to survive in the wilderness. He sent them food from Heaven every day but the Sabbath and Moses gave them specific instructions on how to use that gift. “But they did not listen to Moses…”

Too often I want to blame my problems on some kind of inability to do right, but God gives me everything I need. It is not everything I want, but it is everything I need to follow Him. It is easier to claim that I do not have the secret knowledge I need to really follow God, or to act as though I am powerless to choose otherwise. If you do not believe you have any choices, simply ask yourself, “Can I think of a worse person than myself?” Most of us can probably think about someone who has done something worse than our many misdeeds. I could have followed their example, but instead I chose a better path. Even if it was not the best option, I made a conscious choice to be better.

The trick is, taking that same motivation and trusting God to give us the direction instead of making something up ourselves – following directions instead of making our own way.

The Apostle Paul wrote this about battling our desires:

Romans 8:4-11

“ For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. ”

God does not just provide for our bodies, He provides for our souls as well. God has made sure that we have the choice to follow Him if we are willing to receive His help and follow His direction.

What directions do you struggle following?

What directions has God given you today?

 

Where do we begin?

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This is a question I cannot answer for everyone. I can however answer the question, “Where can we begin?”

Our culture adamantly, and sometimes almost violently cries out for positive affirmation and, at the same time, a lack of judgment… most of the time very hypocritically. I grew up in a family that was no stranger to the notion that churches were full of hypocrites, but to be honest, I have seen as many hypocrites in law firms, prisons, restaurants, and food pantries – among the rich and poor alike. Regardless of what our t-shirt slogans and bumper stickers say, I think the honest desire of our hearts is that our past mistakes would be “understood” and largely overlooked, while our present personal desires would be affirmed – regardless of what they are or who they benefit. We are, in many ways, the poster child for hedonistic society that C.S. Lewis wrote about in his book Mere Christianity.

Here’s what I love about God’s grace given to us in Jesus Christ:

  1. God judges us. When I’m drowning in my own sin and selfishness, with no direction and have become a hindrance or am hurting those around me… God lets me know. He judges me for the sin of prejudice in how I treat those different from myself and He judges me for the ways I put Him last instead of first – or make up my own way of serving Him instead of obeying what He has told me through Scripture and the trusted counsel of Christians holding me accountable. He has high expectations for my life and does not settle for less than the best person that He created me to be.
  2. God does not just encourage us… He empowers us. When our strength, wisdom, patience, knowledge, etc. ends, His Holy Spirit begins to pick up the slack and provide for us. His Spirit is like one of those portable phone battery chargers except it is unlimited in its power because it is like plugging in to God Himself. This might be how eternal life actually works. Even if we run ourselves down to nothing and our battery is completely dead, if we are plugged into God, we can still live like we are on 100%.

Because God both judges and empowers us, the answer to the question: Where can we start? is with a fresh start for ourselves. The world around us may choose to keep living in the same spirit as last year, but we don’t have to. God’s grace identifies the guilt and shame that hides in our lives, and as Jesus takes that upon Himself, we are set free to begin again from scratch with at least one single choice. Will you follow God this year or not? You may not immediatly have any other choice available to you, but because…God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life.

So, wherever you are today, you can take your first step of 2017 toward God or away from Him. Which will you choose?

the train in the microcosm – I

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whistles and synthetic sighs

ring and chirp out buttery lies

of noisy fumes beside my fears

which fill my ears

and plug my eyes

abducting my sensation

bleeding out all lines of motivation

save a single chain

linked into my brain

those images in a nation

that draw me in with sound

drawn out with cringes crowned

and kicks my knees

to trip with ease

and trap with further footstep found

in given retrograde

alas poor Yoric never made

as foolish act as mine

who choked upon the line

that sought to seek but never stayed

to see the consequences

of loving through those glassy fences

masked with words and moving pictures

shocks to still our fragile fixtures

prodding providences

to inordinately thin delight

whose plastic padding holds the night

in smothering embrace

with breath withheld for heart to race

within this silent space

withall this pleasant plight

on it tracks a tempered tune

of softened steel pull too soon

from tongues that sought to lick it clean

and breathe on it a sheen

presented as a boon

to harness hollowed tendencies

whose disarray brings to my knees

a wholly desperate desire

to hold into the fire

these pale pleasantries

that sing the song of all the other

sticky wisps that seek to smother

facets shaped and shined for dreaming

life inside the gleaming

singing on of yet another


 

An Acrostic on Two Roads –

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(The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost)

 

This world opens

roads of all diverse sincerities

dubious insights vying, each road granting entry differently,

inspired not

altogether,

yet each letting loose over wild

whimsies of opened dreams.

 

All new dreams

seep over rustic rushes, yielding

into

clammy, orphaned, understated life, despairing

nothing other than

tents removed and vaulted, each leaving

brothers of the heart.

 

Another never discovered

better ether

or never explored

the rest and vexing, entered long enchanting rivets

left over night grown

in

saline tongues of old dishes.

 

Anytime night dries

lying open, out knocking

differences over wishes now,

owning no expense

and setting

faces as rigid

as stone

in

cold ordered undercurrents left dissident.

 

The other,

winding, here ending riches, ended

in taste

before each necessary trio

in nonconforming

tangles, heaping eagerly

up near dear eternity rests, glowing round with tempered heats.

 

Then having each new

trade of open kindness,

this here establishes

our true humors, entered restlessly,

and singing

jollies uncertain – still this

aching sore

finds an inner repose.

 

As never dreamt,

here a value is newly given,

paid enough respect, having a penchant surreal,

to have elated

bright, eagerly tried, tear-eaten ruts

cut long across inner masks.

 

But enough cause and use seems evaded

in tow

with a song

guiding rains and singing salted yeast,

(a northern delicacy)

whipped and nostril-tied, each dear

weapon edged and ready.

 

This has our undercurrent going heavy

and silent,

fanning out radials

that have a track

that heavens escape,

preoccupied and sent sailing in newer grasses

to hail each reticent end.

 

However, a doe

wears out relatively new

trails here, entering mildly,

rueful ever about latent lions yelling

and boring on under the

tempered haven encamped

silently amidst mowed entrenchments.

 

A nibbled dent

between our touching hands

that hold a treat

meant only, reflecting not, in nails gained,

escorted quite unevenly and left laying yonder

looking at you.

 

I note:

love ever after vows each step

not only

secretly – there each promise

has a destiny

that reaches our delayed death, ending naively

before love actually comes knightly.

 

One hope

I

know either providence trusts,

though half-edged

forward, I rest securely tonight,

fearless, or retiring

and never opening this heart enjoined repose

deep and yearning.

 

Yearning effectually, this

keeling nonsense of ways ingrain new guesses

having out with

ways after your

lessoning erupts and deals softly

on negligent

trails of

wakening and yielding.

 

Instead

deafly ordered underlings buy tents enfleshed, dispirited

into flames

ired

sickly heavy or unconsciously laid down

ever vied, ever ready,

calling out mistaken encouragement

before a child kneeling.

 

I

surrender here a lowing lull

by entering

this election, logic left in neutral guess

to his unswerving season,

while I take hold,

again

stayed in great hesitation.

 

Symbols of my eternity were heard ‘ere rising, enthroned

against grace’s eager succor

and new deliveries

although glaring ensigns still

herald each new choice encountered.

 

They will observe

rich offerings ahead, down steady,

draped in veracity entered red, growing each day

in nobility,

and

wearing out ourselves deploring

all naive doubts

interrupting.

 

I

traded out our knife,

the hard escape

of no earnest

left ended, set sadly,

tolled ribs and veiled eyes lying eastward, dimly

breaking yesterday.

 

A new direction,

taking hand and toe,

has already set

my attitude: desperately encouraged,

and living love

through holy enchantment –

dearly, I found friendship eternal reaching each new chosen engagement.

 

 

Two Roads – Frost

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Robert Frost (1874–1963).  Mountain Interval.  1920.

  

1. The Road Not Taken

  

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

 

And sorry I could not travel both

 

And be one traveler, long I stood

 

And looked down one as far as I could

 

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

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Then took the other, as just as fair,

 

And having perhaps the better claim,

 

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

 

Though as for that the passing there

 

Had worn them really about the same,

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And both that morning equally lay

 

In leaves no step had trodden black.

 

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

 

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

 

I doubted if I should ever come back.

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I shall be telling this with a sigh

 

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

 

I took the one less traveled by,

 

And that has made all the difference.

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