Tag Archives: consequences

What Choices Do We Have?

20 Mar

So much in life is beyond our control and choice. Flood, fire, earthquake, tornado, hurricane—each powerful and demanding. We’re forced to kneel before Nature’s fury. Other situations may trap us and deny our power to choose.

Consider other people’s choices. Children have no choice regarding frequent moves due to a parent’s occupation or military service. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse rob many of dignity and hope. Thieves “choose” precious possessions in the dead of night and hijack our treasured security. A spouse decides he/she no longer wants to remain married consequently jeopardizing our financial and relational world. Someone drives drunk on the Interstate, creating orphans and heartbreak.

Another category:  choices we make but can’t choose resulting consequences. We abuse our sedentary bodies with food, alcohol, and tobacco despite the doctor’s warning. We now face hospitalization, perhaps long term care. We practice shopping therapy—clothes hang in our closets still wearing price tags, a “keeping-up-appearances car” fills the garage. Yet we’re helpless to control a plunging credit score and high interest credit card bills. We take our spouse for granted refusing support, affection, and attention. Unfortunately, we can’t control the response of “too little, too late” and the divorce that follows.

At these times, life seems to offer no alternatives, no choices.

Don’t despair. We were created to choose. The first thing God did was to give mankind work and a choice (Genesis 2:15–18). He designed humanity with the ability to choose between good and evil.

Choosing God brings life.

Deuteronomy 30:19 Today I ask heaven and earth to be witnesses. I am offering you life or death, blessings or curses. Now, choose life! Then you and your children may live (NCV).

There are several kinds of death other than physical. We can experience mental, spiritual, emotional, and/or intellectual death.

When other people’s choices threaten to destroy us, we can choose bitterness and anger, resentment and revenge. We can ask “why me” and wonder “if only.”

Or we can choose life and trust .

Romans 8:28a We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love Him (NCV).God

This isn’t a promise for everyone; it’s only for those who love and trust God. With His help we can rebuild after a disaster. We can choose to exercise, eat healthy, and give up harmful habits. We can decide to get counseling rather than rely on shopping therapy. We can learn to communicate and cherish loved ones even if we can’t undo past mistakes. We can trust God to bring justice in His time and His way, even if we don’t see it (Romans 12:19).

Most of all, we can choose to forgive—forgive others and ourselves. When we pray the prayer Jesus taught, we say, “Forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors.” That may be the secret to living fully—continual confession and continual forgiveness, accepting and offering the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ. Let’s choose wisely, friend.

How Many Chances?

25 Oct

Do you ever get tired of yourself? A friend recently said, “I get so tired of me.” This person had misplaced something—yet again. Sometimes our bodies disappoint us by not performing as they once did. Maybe we’re sick of an endless cycle of busyness that prevents us from intimacy with God. We may feel defeated by a disagreeable habit. Perhaps we exercised or ate healthy for a time but gradually fell back into our old identity as a snacking-couch-potato. We intend to spend more quality time with family and friends, but good intentions dissolve into procrastination.

At such times, we’re tempted to give up and convince ourselves it doesn’t matter. Jumping off the merry-go-round seems to take more effort or self-discipline than we possess. That’s where I was not long ago.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21–23 NRSV). Every day is a new day with God—for us and for others.

Peter came to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive a believer who wrongs me? Seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21–22 GW). That’s the standard for second chances for others as well as for us.

Rabbis traditionally taught an offended person should forgive three times. Peter, no doubt thought he was generous in proposing seven chances. Not even close. Jesus declares 490+ do-overs. We’re to offer the same limitless forgiveness God offers us. The situation isn’t hopeless even when we offend God by not loving and serving His people, not taking care of His temple (our bodies), or wasting the time He gives. It’s never too late too late for a fresh start.

Receiving another chance doesn’t mean we won’t experiences consequences of past behavior. We lose things, forfeit precious time with God, put on weight, and damage relationships. We may need to ask for help or seek an accountability partner, but a new start is possible.

The solution remains the same—renew our minds and be transformed. Believe the truth. Without realizing it, when we feel hopeless, we believe a lie about who God is and how much He loves us (John 3:16). We also believe a lie about ourselves. We forget Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (NKJV). I can’t claim this verse and begin performing brain surgery. However, I can accomplish all God uniquely planned for me (Ephesians 2:10).

I find both peace and excitement living in the center of God’s will. I experience anxiety, stress, and frustration doing life on my own. I need the Spirit of Christ to forgive and empower me. I’m so grateful for second chances.

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. (Psalm 86:5 NLT).

Being Least in a Most World

5 Jul

How big is your pond?

I once had a university friend ask if I’d rather be a big frog in a small pond or a small frog in a big pond. Hmmm. It’s a bit like asking if I’d rather be valedictorian in a class of twenty or ranked twenty in a class of 1000. We all have a tendency to want to be most or best at something—most beautiful, organized, popular, or intelligent; best athlete, CEO, parent, or grandparent. It’s an endless list. The smaller our pond, the greater our chance of becoming the biggest frog.

Our need to feel important isn’t a new thing. Even Christ’s disciples weren’t immune to such attitudes.

[Jesus] asked [the disciples], “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:33–35 NRSV).

Later, ten disciples became angry with James and John who asked to sit on Christ’s right and left hand when He came into His glory (Mark 10:37).

So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:41–45 NRSV).

“But it is not so among you…” Christ followers walk a different path to glory. Glory doesn’t come through intelligence, talent, connections, education, or other contributors to “worldly success.” Jesus says greatness comes through slavery. Slavery has never held much appeal. Who wants to be completely controlled by someone or something?

Actually, I can name several. Paul, James, Peter, and Jude all declared themselves bond-slaves of Christ. I’ve known too many who yielded to alcohol, drugs, food, or sex. We’re all obedient on some level. We submit to laws, company policies, wedding vows, and more.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16 NRSV).

In “My Utmost for His Highest” (March 14), Oswald Chambers says, “remember what lust is: ‘I must have it at once,’ whether it be the lust of the flesh or the lust of the mind.”
What must we have at once? That thing controls us.

Lord Jesus, I want to be Your bond-servant. I confess that I often make wrong choices and want to be a big frog. Teach me to be “slave to all.” Amen.

What have you learned about obedience and yielding? What’s hard? What consequences or rewards have you experienced? Please share your insights and experience.

Control

7 Jun

I may be a slow learner, but one thing I know: I have no control over another human being. I can’t make someone love me. I can’t control someone else’s drinking, spending, risk-taking, or attitude. I can influence, guide, instruct, even threaten or beg, but I cannot control. Neither can you. There’s freedom as well as frustration in that realization.

As a teacher and parent, I attempted to motivate obedience through teaching personal responsibility and intrinsic benefits. I wanted my children and students to know the joy of learning and the rewards of commitment and hard work. However, failing that, I dispensed consequences. Faced with consequences, most people comply with rules and standards. But not always. Sometimes we try to get between our loved ones and life, but that eventually becomes impossible. Life overflows with consequences—everything from a damaged relationship to life in prison.

I control only one person. I can choose my thoughts and my behavior and emotions will follow. Excluding physical restrictions, so can you.
“Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:28 NASB95).

I require God’s help controlling my spirit; it’s not an option. His faithfulness is my stability and strength for living. I need Christ’s love as my motivation and purpose.

“For the love of Christ controls us. . .so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him. . .” (2 Corinthians 5:14–15 NASB95).

As we grow in knowledge and love for God, we’re changed. We’re able to give God control when we remain focused on His character and compassion rather than our fears or needs. Then, like a fruit-producing vine, the Holy Spirit reproduces Christ’s nature in us.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things (Galatians 5:22–23 NRSV).

We Need Supernatural Help

19 Apr

Most of us have felt alone and hopeless at some point in our lives, but that lie can lead to disastrous life-changing consequences. Jesus never intended His followers to live without supernatural help, that’s why His last words on earth were “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). I find that extremely encouraging and I pray you do too.

Even though Jesus isn’t with us in bodily form, His Spirit lives within all believers just as He promised in John 14:16–17. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper,* that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (*Helper can also be translated Counselor, Advocate, and Comforter.)

Please consider several biblical truths that demonstrate how God loves us and offers His help, counsel, support, and comfort.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV).

There is no sin or situation beyond God’s love. The Bible records God’s forgiveness for every type of sin: murder, adultery, theft, gossip, prostitution, lying and more. The problem is no longer sin, because Christ died for all sin.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8 NASB).

The question becomes “Will you accept God’s love and forgiveness available in Jesus Christ?”
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 ESV).

God doesn’t wait for us to get ourselves straightened out or cleaned up. He accepts us where we are. Jesus takes our sin and replaces it with His love and power. Even in pain and trouble, He gives us hope.
“. . . hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5 ESV).

1 John 4:8b tells us that “God is love.” Although 1 Corinthians 13 describes how we are to love to one another, it seems reasonable to assume God perfectly demonstrates all these loving characteristics. Try personalizing these verses. In other words, God is patient and kind with me.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 NIV).

And finally…
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38–39).

Perhaps you feel hopeless and need to renew your mind with the truth of God’s love and forgiveness. Or perhaps you can share how you overcame feelings of hopeless. Let us hear from you.