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)
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The Promise of Adoption

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The Promise of Adoption

Joel 2:18-29

God’s Response and Promise 1

Then the Lord became jealous for his land,

and had pity on his people.

In response to his people the Lord said:

I am sending you

grain, wine, and oil,

and you will be satisfied;

and I will no more make you

a mockery among the nations.

I will remove the northern army far from you,

and drive it into a parched and desolate land,

its front into the eastern sea,

and its rear into the western sea;

its stench and foul smell will rise up.

Surely he has done great things!

Do not fear, O soil;

be glad and rejoice,

for the Lord has done great things!

Do not fear, you animals of the field,

for the pastures of the wilderness are green;

the tree bears its fruit,

the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

O children of Zion, be glad

and rejoice in the Lord your God;

for he has given the early rain for your vindication,

he has poured down for you abundant rain,

the early and the later rain, as before.

The threshing floors shall be full of grain,

the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

I will repay you for the years

that the swarming locust has eaten,

the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,

my great army, which I sent against you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,

and praise the name of the Lord your God,

who has dealt wondrously with you.

And my people shall never again be put to shame.

You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,

and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.

And my people shall never again

be put to shame.

God’s Spirit Poured Out

Then afterward

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,

and your young men shall see visions.

Even on the male and female slaves,

in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Romans 8:18-24

Future Glory

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?

We have a fascination with honor and shame in the United States today. The Eastern Hemisphere continues to hold on to traditional values of honor and shame, although the younger generations, in part due to increased globalization, struggle against it. There are probably numerous events in our history, here in the West that brought about the fall of honor, but lately, pop culture has rekindled our interest in it. Even ten years ago, a minimum amount of honorwas expected, but the freedom from being restrained by it was celebrated. Over the years I saw reality and sit-coms blur until I could not tell which was real and which was entertainment. Today we have a desire for that honor again, but it has been gone for so long that we don’t know quite what it looks like.

I think in many ways we confuse honor with extravagance and extravaganza. If we spend lots of money making things look elaborate, is that the same as honor? No, I don’t think so. We experienced this at church last year around this time. For years, perhaps decades, our church celebrated Mother’s Day by giving out special flowers to the oldest mother, the youngest mother, and the one with the most children present (or some variation of this). Last year, no one would admit to being the oldest mother and one woman won in two different categories and really didn’t want the attention at all. A month later, we were scheduled to do the same routine for Father’s Day, with gift cards instead of flowers. We had substituted elaborate for honor. We went back to the drawing board and fused on what we could do that would truly honor our parents, as the scripture commands, and we cane up with the idea of doing as slideshow of pictures of our parents along with a meaningful song. Everyone submitted pictures. We even had some visitors from China, who were not Christians, who loved the idea ot honoring their parents, submit pictures and attend worship with us. (That is another incredible story in itself!) Everyone loved it because it was simple, but most importantly we actually showed honor to our parents, both living and deceased.

We may struggle with honor, but we know shame all too well. We try to cover shame with extravagance, which often becomes addictions, leading to more shame, and then even deeper addictions. Or, perhaps we turn our shame outward and attack others around us. Either road ends in despair and death… all because we cannot find honor.

The Old Testament Jews were less concerned with afterlife, and even less concerned with politics than we are today. They were more concerned with honor. They did not need to be the most powerful nation on earth. They just wanted to be a respected nation, treated with honor instead of a people used, abused, and scorned. their cry for salvation was a cry asking God to remove their shame and restore their honor. That is a prayer that God has answered.

Christ’s sacrifice on the cross forgives our sin and removes our shame. Joel lakes this a step further though. He spoke of the day when God would pour out His Holy Spirit on all His people, thus restoring our honor by adopting us into His kingdom. We are like brides who left our groom a the altar and ran off with false lovers, but our groom has invited us into a marriage with Him again. Indeed, like the Prodigal Father, our groom never left the altar, but has been patiently waiting for us.

Paul reminds us that this honor is something that grows as our relationship grows. All of creation yearns for the restoration of honor, of being a world created by a good and holy God. It is a world where children honor their parents and caregivers. It is a world where parents honor their children, not with extravagance, but with real, honest love. It is a world where we speak the truth in love. It is a world that loves God and where we love our neighbors as ourselves, where even our enemies become better people for having been with us. The price for that world has already been paid and it is coming into existence today, one person at a time.

Where do you have shame in your life?

How is God giving you honor today?

How do you give honor to God and others in your life?


  1. (Acts 2:17)