Life Choices


dsc_0096Every day we each have hundreds of choices to make. Some minor decisions we make without much thought. What will I wear or eat? Where should I park my car? The blue plastic cup or glass?

Other choices affect us in bigger ways.

Should I spend the extra money for a new phone? Are we going out to eat—Chick-fil-A or Ruth Chris Steakhouse? Vacation this year? Put the kids in private school?

Then there are those choices that are life changing.

Go out with my married co-worker and not tell my spouse? File my taxes? Take another drink or those pills? Click on that site? Tithe? Lie? Cheat? Steal? Forgive? Give or take?

The choices we make determine the life we live.

One minor decision may not alter our entire life. Whether I wear jeans or shorts may make me more, or less comfortable depending on the weather, but otherwise will probably not lead to anything life altering.

However, for example, a small lie makes way for another and another until I begin to live in a pattern of exaggeration or avoidance or blaming which opens a door for more lies to cover my actions, get my own way, or secure something for myself. Eventually, lying can become a lifestyle of stealing, gossip, cheating, hiding secret addictions, or living a secret life.

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Here’s the thing. I can easily say I’ve never killed anyone. But have I murdered someone with my thoughts of anger? And those murderous thoughts can lead to internal conversations that may erupt in speaking or yelling rudely to the guy who cut me off or the gal who didn’t get my order right. And eventually, harboring enough of them may come out in hitting that accompanies the yelling when my spouse says something I don’t agree with, or my child is annoying, or the dog pees on the carpet.

Let’s be real.

The truth is, God created us to live a blessed life in relationship with him. He gave us everything good and longs to lead us in prosperous ways. Despite man’s choice to defy him and usher sin into the world, God still had a plan to save us from ourselves and our destructive behavior.

We’re all prone to it.

Don’t pretend you wouldn’t rather have a Krispy Kreme donut than a kale tonic. (That may be an easy choice for some. I personally love kale tonic, but when I came downstairs at 3:30 a.m. and saw the box of Krispy Kreme donuts my youngest son left on the counter with a note saying Happy Mother’s Day on them, I could have easily eaten the entire half dozen. Not that a one-time splurge will alter the entire course of my blessed life, or maybe that IS part of my blessed life—but you get the idea. Enough. Said. Where is that box?)

See how easily we can digress?

Fill in the blank with your own diversion into less than positive behavior that leads to eventual destruction. Be honest. We all have those areas of wrong choices. Or, put another way, sin.

There. I said it.

The word we don’t want to acknowledge because there’s something about saying (or writing) SIN that makes us cringe and feel shame.

What if SIN means:

  • Sudden Impulsive Nature
  • Selfish Immaturity Naturally
  • Sometimes Indignant Narcissism
  • Slothful Ignorant Negativity
  • Self Interest Negotiations

God is perfect. He created us to be also. We are made in his image. Anything else is sin.

And we get to choose. Be like him or not.

If we choose to be like him—loving, kind, gentle, patient, humble, joyful, peace-loving, good, trusting, wanting the best for others, giving, hoping, persevering, faithful, and self-controlled—then we will live well.

If not, we’ll live in destructive patterns that will hurt us and others.

The bad news is that none of us can be perfect like God no matter how we try. (Thanks Adam and Eve.) Even if we do good things most of the time, none of us are righteous. And we can’t count on us doing something good enough to make us have a relationship with our perfect heavenly Father.

The good news? God planned for that.

He sent Jesus.

He says he doesn’t take pleasure in the death of anyone. He doesn’t want any of us to die as a result of our sin, so he sacrificed his son, Jesus, to take all our sin on him so we could have a new way of living and be covered even if we still made mistakes. Through Jesus we can have a new heart, a new spirit, a new life. That’s why we say, “born again.”

He wants us to live. Live well. Live abundantly. Live in freedom and peace. Live in love.

If we turn away from the choices we’ve made that bring destruction (repent), we can live.

God wants us to live.

Today, will we choose to live?

 Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”  Ezekiel 18:32

How to Move Forward by Turning Around


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The other day on my way to an appointment, I completely missed the street I was supposed to turn on. I had been looking for it, but as I chatted with my passenger, I became distracted and drove right past my turn off.

A couple of miles down the road, an uneasiness rumbled in my stomach.

Could I have not seen the street?

I mentioned to my friend my confusion and the street I had been looking for. “Oh, it’s back there. Right after the bridge.”

No way.

How did I get so mixed up that I missed it?

Naturally, I turned around as soon as possible and went back to the place I made my mistake. Within minutes, I was heading the right direction, anxiety gone. From that point, my friend and I navigated to our destination.

The incident reminded me of repentance.

It’s a word most of us don’t like. We cringe and pull away from the idea of it maybe recalling a man yelling on a street corner about us going somewhere awful.

But the word actually means to turn back or turn around.

We can think of it as changing our mind. Not continuing to think the way we’ve been thinking.

Changing our direction.

Like in my story, a few things can get us headed in the wrong direction:

  • We may be easily distracted and get off track.
  • We may make a mistake in ignorance and miss the mark.
  • We may believe that our way is right or best even though we are wrong.

The good news is that God is faithful to help us discover our blunder by:

  • That uneasy feeling in our heart or mind – it alerts us to stop and check things.
  • Someone points out our mistake.
  • We end up stuck at a dead end or lost and confused.

When we see our dilemma, God offers help and relief not judgment. The quicker we are to acknowledge our mistake, and turn around, the sooner we will find peace. The correct road opens up, and we are moving forward in life again.

Here are some indications we are repentant people:

  • If we’re willing to say “I was wrong.”
  • If we’re willing to be corrected.
  • If we are horrified by what we have done – acknowledging the damage or potential hurt to God, ourselves and others who may be affected by our choice.
  • If we don’t get stuck in beating ourselves up. True repentance removes our sin and the guilt.
  • If we are willing to let go of our wrong conclusion and embrace truth in its place.
  • If we don’t presume that we’re simply misunderstood and can make others believe our misconception if we just keep telling them enough times.
  • If we are willing to accept consequences of our wrong choices.

God encourages us to make a U-turn.

He wants us to have a good journey and end up in good places. So much so that if we keep on the wrong path, he will allow the pressure of consequences to turn us away from something that will end up hurting us worse than the pain of the situation.

At one point in my life, I hated the idea of repentance.

Being wrong about anything brought shame, condemnation and meant awful things would happen to me so I determined at a young age that I simply couldn’t ever be wrong. Obviously that didn’t work out very well. All of us make mistakes for any number of reasons and denying that we do drags us into stuck dead-end roads in life. I confess it’s not always easy to change our mind and go a different way. But if we want to move forward in life, it’s a choice we must make.Fruitful-Repentance-500x500-B

This resource, Fruitful Repentance by Daniel Brown, is what helped change my thinking.

I guess that means it helped me repent.

 

Getting Well Part 5 – How to Turn it Around


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We’ve agreed we want to get well. Even though it seems scary and is uncomfortable, we see our need for healing. The reasons we fall into depression make a little more sense. We’re examining our choices, and are learning to ask others for help.  Much of our unhealthiness of heart may be a result of wrongs done to us by others, but in our learning to cope and our follow up decisions, we’ve also been part of the problem. So how do we turn things around?

Healing often requires confession of sin.

I know. We hate to think of ourselves as sinners. The word holds a connotation of Bible wielding fanatics screaming in judgment,

Repent or die in hell, sinner!

We simply have to re-evaluate how we consider sin.

The Bible says that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but to save us (John 3:17; I John 1:9) God wants to make a way for us to be with him in relationship because he loves us. Let that sink in. Now consider that when we break off relationship with God by deciding that we are better at figuring out our lives than he (the one who created the universe and us) is, that is sin. Simply put, God is God and we are not. He knows everything and we do not. He wants our good, but we, like stubborn two year olds, often think we know better and we want our way. Now.

The concept of sin is that simple.

So when God talks about repentance, he’s asking us to reconsider. To turn toward him instead of away from him so that he can take care of us and bless us in every situation. Even the bad ones. It’s really as easy as making a U-Turn. Okay, so some U-Turns require patience and a little bit of a tight turn, but you get the picture.

How does this apply to getting well?

If we are serious about wanting to get well, we have to be willing to see things in our life that are sin; simply, anything that is not the way God intended for it to be. Then we must tell God we are sorry for doing or allowing something that is sinful—that’s repenting. We may also need to repent and apologize to others who have been hurt by our sin.

At first, repenting can feel so hard to do.

I remember a situation that occurred when I first began to understand this concept of repentance. I shared some information about a friend with another friend that I had no business passing on. It wasn’t gossip, I reasoned, since I wasn’t being mean or sharing something bad, but I had this awful feeling in my heart, a conviction that what I had done simply wasn’t right. It didn’t add anything to either of my friends’ lives, nor to mine other than making me feel important for having “news” to share. Apologizing was in order, but I struggled with my fear of being wrong (pride), and that I’d be rejected by my friends.

Finally, I gave in to the Lord’s gentle leading and repented—first to Him and then to my friends. I’d like to say the situation turned out beautifully and wasn’t awkward at all, but the truth is that the friend I gave the information to didn’t understand why I was making such a big deal over it and was a little miffed at me. The friend whose story I told acknowledged and agreed with my feeling convicted by my sin, and graciously forgave me with love and affection.  While the situation was painful, God brought such good out of it. I realized a lack in one friendship, and I grew closer to the other friend. And I walked away feeling a freedom I had not experienced in the past.

Sometimes it’s hard to grasp God’s grace and desire to love us without condemnation.

If we can be honest with ourselves about our sin, make a U-Turn in our thinking, and reach out for God’s grace in faith, we will be positioned for better things in life. Getting well is a process, but each step of repentance releases new freedom and healing.  Let’s turn this thing around!

What has your concept of sin and repentance been? Do you have an experience of healing as a result of confessing your sin?