Tag Archives: choices

What If, and Stepping Stones

Last Friday I said there were only a few blogs I get as daily emails. The rest I catch up on as I can through Bloglines.

It’s been a very full week (including a weekend at the Sunrise Division Barbershop competition where my husband’s and father-in-law’s chorus and quartet did very well!) Suffice to say, I got behind in those daily readings. I wanted to actually read them, not skim-and-delete.

Yesterday I caught up on posts at Whatever He Says. As always, Belinda and Susan gave me plenty to think about. It started with Belinda’s post, “What If…”–not “what if a certain thing happened” but “what if I made certain choices?”–and actually thinking through how to make and implement those choices.

Susan followed that post with one called “More on ‘What If'” and also talked about stepping stones–crossing a river on the stones Jesus pointed out, ignoring others that looked solid too.

Why not set aside some time, pour a cup of tea or other nice treat, and check these out? Then follow through the rest of them to get up to date and you’ll see some encouraging examples of what this what if/stepping stones can look like in action. I particularly recommend Susan’s “Friday Report” posted today. It’s a bit long, but it’s worth taking the time. She takes it beyond the ordering of daily activities to the working out of new behaviours and attitudes. I’ll need to read it again a few times over the days ahead. Some of us are slow processors!

Choosing God’s Way

Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out: “Papa, Father, you can—can’t you?—get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?”
Mark 14:36, MSG*

I’ve been noticing how many of my choices are based on what I want, or how I feel. When the right choice goes against my preferences, I confess there’s a bit of internal grumbling.

And that’s just the little choices. In this passage, Jesus is wrestling with a huge one. Yes, He’s already chosen, but He’s down to the hardest moment and desperate for another way.

When He puts it back to the Father’s will, it’s not a case of “Your preference over Mine” as if they were choosing a restaurant. Nor is it a grudging “I guess we have to do it Your way.”

It’s a conscious trusting in the plan they made together, a decision to follow through because He agrees with the ultimate goal despite the cost to reach it.

When God asks us to do life His way, it’s not some megalomaniac desire for personal satisfaction.

It’s about fulfilling His plan, which, in case we’ve missed it, is about rescuing us and restoring us to full life in relationship to Him.

It’s about fulfilling His purposes in us, those things we said yes when He called us to do them. And He will provide the means if we’re doing our part by choosing His way.

Father, help me choose Your way in the big and the small things, not to put myself down, not even because You out-rank me, but because I trust You to fulfill Your purposes in and through me—to Your glory, and for the good of those who love You. Forgive my selfish desire to put myself first and chase immediate gratification. Help me concentrate on You, in whom all fullness dwells.

Our song this week is the classic hymn, “Have Thine Own Way,” sung by Jim Reeves.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

When Our Best isn’t Good Enough

Peter blurted out, “Even if everyone else is ashamed of you when things fall to pieces, I won’t be.”
Jesus said, “Don’t be so sure. Today, this very night in fact, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
He blustered in protest, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you.” All the others said the same thing.
Mark 14:29-31, The Message*

Jesus has been preparing His disciples for what’s ahead, but it’s too much for them to grasp. Except for the traitor, their intentions are the best – but Jesus knows that won’t be enough. He knows how each one will fail.

He knows the same thing about each of us, and I’m so glad we have this example to keep us from despairing when we mess up.

Instead of condemning Peter – and us – Jesus takes on our unrighteousness so that we can find His righteousness in us. Pastor and teacher Charles Price says this is the heart of the gospel: “Salvation is primarily from unrighteousness to righteousness.”**

There’s nothing in me – in you – that’s worth much, but Christ in us is our hope of glory. He wants to grow us into His image, to direct and equip us to live worthy of His Name.

When I fail, He doesn’t turn me away. He just picks me up again and goes on working with me. I think it was The Shack that suggested God, instead of being put off when someone rejected Him again, counted it as one less rejection left until the person finally chose right. What a comforting perspective.

As the Apostle Paul would say, that doesn’t mean we should be slack and keep going our own ways. But if we’re doing our best and it’s not enough, we can rejoice that God isn’t finished with us yet.

Father God, You are holy and we worship You. Because You love us so much, we want to please You by living righteous lives. Thank You so much for the Holy Spirit who helps us, and for Your patience and mercy to forgive us and to continue the work You’ve started in each of our lives.

Our song this week can encourage us all: Brandon Heath’s “Wait and See (Not Finished With Me Yet).”

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

**Paul: Moulded by His Message,  Charles Price (Kingsway Publications, 2001) page 116.

Our Good Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
Psalm 23:1, NIV*

This is a comfort psalm for many, and usually what stands out to me is the first part, about green pastures, still waters and a restored soul. I’m aware of other key points: the paths God chooses to guide me in are for the sake of His glory, and sometimes those paths are through dark or enemy-infested places.

Still, somehow I come away with a warm feeling and a sense of the message being about me: He cares for me, leads me, and “[s]urely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (verse 6, NIV*)

A few days ago I read the psalm again, still thinking about “my way or God’s way,” and saw it from a different angle. Don’t you love Scripture, the depths of meaning waiting to unfold?

Verse 4 talks about His rod and staff comforting us. I’ve heard it said the rod is for fighting off predators, the staff (or crook) for pulling sheep out of the messes they get into.

I’d always taken the “comfort” here to mean the actual use of these tools, but now I see knowing God’s strength and desire to care for us is part of the comfort. We don’t have to wait until the situation requires Him to use them.

If our confidence is in Him, we don’t need to fear or fret. With our eyes on Him, we see the psalm is really about Him anyway: He is the shepherd, He leads and provides, and it’s for His glory. The goodness and mercy we receive radiate from Him.

And yet it’s so typical of us to choose our own ways, follow our own inclinations and interests. We try to follow God, but on our own terms. In the little things, and then the bigger ones, we put distance between us and the Shepherd.

Father, thank You for Your goodness, mercy and compassion. Please forgive us for trying to shepherd ourselves in different parts of our lives. You know that never works out, and You are our Good Shepherd, ready and longing to draw us near again. Please help us to hear Your voice. Help us see our need, and when You restore us, help us discover the delight of staying at Your side. Because of Jesus, Amen.

Our song for this week is Todd Agnew‘s “Shepherd

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

My Way or God’s Way

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11, NIV*

Right now what stands out to me is the prayer to “discern what is best.” To choose God’s way even in the small details. My way may be good or not so good, but His way is best. That’s a fact of life. God, who is all-wise, will see what is best, while my clouded vision can’t guarantee the same.

Instead of spinning in circles because I have more to do than time to do it, I need to commit each day to God and asking Him to help me see where I should choose to spend my time. I get distracted so easily it isn’t funny, and then stress sets in because things pile up.

I’ve also been taking God’s Girl’s words to heart about following His way in even the trivial things. It’s amazing how many of these little things that seem so innocuous are really “my way or God’s way” choices. No wonder I’ve felt out of sorts.

Discerning what is best can include not only the best use of time and resources but the best response to a given situation. My friend Elsie wrote about this the other day, and it really hit home: will I “live under the influence of the Holy Spirit and behave like Jesus, or … ignore and neglect Him and do my own thing?” You can read her whole post here.

When a comment or situation triggers an automatic hurt or anger, I want to stop and ask myself how Jesus would respond. Well, sometimes he showed righteous anger, but He never pouted, sulked, or snapped back a cheap insult. His identity was secure in the Father, and He chose not to give in to those irritants that we can take so personally.

This is hard work, but it’s getting my focus off myself and onto God and others. My spirit feels better, too.

Father, please grow my love for You and dependence on You. Deepen my knowledge of Your ways…to Your glory and praise, and for my own peace of spirit.

Our song this week gives us perspective: Robin Mark singing “All for Jesus.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Living by Faith

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Galatians 2:20, NIV*

“The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God….” And Paul mentions two specific things: Jesus loved me, and He gave Himself for me. I’m to live by faith in Jesus… live confident in Him:

Confident in His love. “We know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:16, NIV)

Confident in the power of His sacrifice. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NIV)

I’m not alone, trying to live a good life in my weakness. Jesus has paid my debt, cleaned and forgiven me, restored me to relationship with God the Father.

I can live confident in Him today because He loves me. I can choose to live His way, with His help. And when I blow it, I can trust in His justice and not despair. He has already paid the price. He will clean and forgive me, and set me back on track with Him.

What a wonderful God!

Our song today is a duet by Todd Agnew and Rebecca St. James: “Our Great God

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.