Decisive

I am an indecisive person when it comes to what restaurant to eat at. I like food — a lot. So when you give me twelve awesome choices, I have no hope of picking just one. So usually I leave the decision of where to eat with someone who has a stronger opinion.

And I feel, oddly enough, like my normal indecision when it comes to eating establishments has started creeping into other areas of my life. I haven’t really struggled with indecisiveness previously. Usually I can make a choice and stick to it fairly well, but recently? Not so much. I don’t know if I’m just tired. Or if I’m burned out. Or if I’m just so overwhelmed with life, the universe and everything that I can’t make a decision.

Either way, though, it has to stop. Because being indecisive is dangerous. It’s unstable and it can be damaging, not only to myself but to people around me.

Joshua recognized this in the Old Testament when he had completed his task of leading the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. At the end of his story is where today’s verse comes from.

Joshua 24:15

15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
 
Joshua announced to the whole population of Israel that he and his family would serve God. Along with that, he told them pretty much that he didn’t care what they did. They just needed to choose to do something.
 
Joshua recognized the danger of indecisiveness. It’s dangerous because it keeps us unsteady. We’re not committed to anything. We have no solid ground to fall back on when we are tested because we’ve never given our whole heart to anything.
 
Christians today have one foot in the world and one foot in the Bible. We’re straddling the fence and we think it’s okay.
 
Well, it’s not.
 
Whatever we choose, we need to choose to do it with our whole heart and our whole mind and all our strength because everything we do will be half hearted until we make that final decision.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hand God something half hearted.
 
I have chosen to follow God. So I need to follow Him with everything I have, not just when it feels right and not just when I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I need to do the things He’s commanded me to do whether I can see the good rewards at the end of the path or not. And I don’t just need to walk the path He’s laid out before me. I need to run it. I need to be committed to it. And when the road gets rough and the path takes me up the side of a mountain, I need to keep going.
 
It takes discipline and devotion and dedication . . . . and faith.
 
I am as guilty as anyone of falling prey to the thought that I have enough time to live for myself. I have been running so hard for so long that taking a break and stepping back for a while was necessary — but I think I’ve rested long enough. And now I have to get up and get back into the game.
 
And like Romans 13:12 says, the night is nearly over and the day is coming. So I need to get my perspective straight and get over myself because life isn’t going to continue like this forever. There’s a change in the wind — and in the earth for those of us living in the Wichita, Kansas area.
 
God chose to put me where (and when) He put me for a reason. And I chose to follow Him. So I need to follow Him. Break time’s over. Like the old song says, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.”
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Listening

Verses like the one this morning make me cringe. Actually, most verses out of James make me cringe because so much of what James writes about is what I struggle with. And this morning is one that truly throws me for a loop.

James 1:19

19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

As I was reading this today, I realized something I never saw before. I always considered these three instructions to be individual. As in, we need to make sure that we are good, attentive listeners. We need to make sure we don’t talk too much. We need to make sure we don’t lose our temper. But as I was reading this morning, I started to wonder if instead of individual commands they’re actually connected.

How many times have I sat and listened to someone speak without interrupting them to tell them that they’re wrong and getting angry about it?

Listening is a sign of respect. Listening demonstrates that you love someone else more than you love yourself, that you’re more concerned about what’s going on in their life than you are about what’s happening in yours. Listening is hard. But that’s probably becuase it’s a good thing to do.

So what do you do when you’re listening to someone and they say something wrong? Or they say something offensive? What do you do? Do you jump all over them? Do you interrupt them and tellt hem that they’re wrong?

If we think about these three commands as though they are all connected, what are they saying to do?

Be quick to listen. That means we need to be eager and excited to listen to someone else’s story. But once they get started, let them finish their thought without interrupting them. And then, don’t get angry at them for expressing beliefs or opinions that contradict your beliefs or opinions. Let them finish their thought. Let them have their say. And then — calmly and without anger — explain your position. Explain your beliefs. Explain your opinions. And explain why you feel that way.

I struggle with this enormously, especially if someone is telling me something I have already heard before. If somebody is repeating something I’ve already heard, I usually interrupt them and finish the thought for them. And, honestly, that’s just rude. I should care more about the people who are talking to me than I do about what they’re telling me. So what if I heard it before? I shouldn’t be in such a hurry that hearing it again bothers me.

I am always quick to listen, but I’m not always slow to speak. And that’s something I need to work on.

Great Scott!

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to know the future? I think that’s one of the reastons why science fiction is such a popular style of writing. There’s something in us that wants to see and know what is beyond tomorrow. But it’s also interesting to me that every story that deals with time travel usually comes back to the concept that knowing the future is a bad idea.

The most notable example is probably the Back to the Future series. All Doc Brown wanted to do was build a time machine that would usher in an era of peace, but simple meddling in the future (a couple of them) turned his and Marty McFly’s lives on their heads.

We don’t know the future. We honestly can’t know our own future. It’s something interesting to think about but even in the secular world there seems to be a consensus that knowing the future (let alone trying to change it) is a bad idea.

But, there’s an exception.

God knows the future. He knows the future because He created it. Heck, He created Time itself, so Time has no meaning to Him.

We weak, puny human types can’t wrap our heads around that. We are bound by the laws of Time because we were created within Time. But God can do whatever He wants with Time. He can look forward. He can look backward. He can step back and see how all the pieces of our fractured broken lives fit together in the beautiful masterpiece He’s painting.

Be honest. Take yourself ten years ago. Would you have wanted to know that you’d be where you are today? Would you want to know what you’d have to go through, the people you would hurt, the people who would hurt you, the challenges yoou would have to overcome, to get where you are today? Would you want to know the responsibilities you would have today?

I wouldn’t have. It would have scared me to death.

But God knew. And He started ten years ago getting me ready to tackle the job He had for me now. I didn’t understand it ten years ago. And I didn’t know that was what He was doing. But that was His plan.

I mean, think about that. God had our lives planned out from the beginning of time. He knew us before time even started.

2 Timothy 1:9 says,

9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

 I know there are a lot of questions about why God does the things He does. I’ve heard people wonder why God would create the universe when we–His creation–were just going to wreck it. I’ve heard people wonder why God would create Satan when He knew Satan would convince Adam and Eve to sin.

Sometimes there aren’t answers.

But one thing I do understand is that God created everything because He wanted to have a relationship with us. He wanted to have a one-on-one relationship with you and with me where we could talk to each other every day. That’s why He created us. That’s why people are the crowing achievement of God’s creation because He designed us to be able to relate to Him.

He loved us so much that even before He made time itself, He knew He would have to save us and He decided we were worth it.

Do I understand it?

No. I don’t have the ability to comprehend love like that. But I’m thankful for it.

All I know for sure is that God loves me and that He’s working the future out for my good. And even if that’s all you know too, you’re good to go. What else do you really need to know? Knowing the details of the future can be bad for your health, so it’s better to just leave it up to God. He’s seen the future already, and He knows what’s coming . . . without needing to generate 1.21 gigawatts.

For Reals

What does it mean to be truly genuine? I checked dictionary.com just for curiosity’s sake, and this is what it had to say:

gen·u·ine
–adjective
1. possessing the claimed or attributed character, quality, or origin; not counterfeit; authentic; real: genuine sympathy; a genuine antique.
2. properly so called: a genuine case of smallpox.
3. free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy; sincere: a genuine person.
4. descended from the original stock; pure in breed: a genuine Celtic people.

 Definition number three suits my thinking this morning. It’s a tall order.

To be free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy–to be sincere–makes one a genuine person, at least by definition in the dictionary.

So what does it mean to be a genuine Christian? Obviously, you need to have faith because if you don’t have faith in Christ, you’re not a Christian. And if you don’t believe the Bible, you’re just spinning your wheels if you claim to be a Christian. But there is more to Christianity than just believing in something–or as in the case of most Christians, believing against something. Our faith requires action, so if you combine the dictionary’s definition to what it means to be a Christian, your actions need to be free from pretense, affectation or hypocrisy to be a genuine Christian.

 Great! . . . So how do we do that?

Well, the answer is pretty simple. Granted, it’s easier said than done, but then most things in life are. You can find the answer in 1 John 4:20-21:

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.

If you want to be a genuine Christian, you need to love people. And not only do you need to love people who don’t know Christ, you need to love people do who. Now, I know that sounds backwards, that it should be harder to love people who don’t share your faith. But to tell you the truth, for me, Christians are the hardest people group to love. Not all of them, of course. Because my closest, dearest friends are Christians who I love more than life. But then–I know some other Christians who aren’t so easy to love. Some of them are hypocritical. Many of them are judgmental. All of them are stubborn. (I could very easily be looking in a mirror right now because I display all these qualities too.) But to be a genuine Christian, I need to love my fellow Believers in spite of their flaws, in spite of our differences of opinion in preference. If they believe in Christ, they are my brothers and sisters; and I don’t have a choice whether I love them or not. I am commanded to love them.

I honestly struggle with this at times because I have experienced so much hurt and hate at the hands of the church and religion. And I have seen other people I love being torn to pieces by cruel words and selfish actions–things you would expect of the world but not of the church! But, yet, the people who have hurt me the most in my life have been other Christians. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

We are a family. And, certainly, it’s normal for families to squabble, but generally speaking families don’t try to destroy each other. (Like I said, generally speaking. I think I’ve heard stories of an axe murderer on my Dad’s side of the family but that could have been a joke.)

Want to be genuine? Christians, love each other. You don’t really have a choice. And if you choose to hate another Christian anyway, you’re a liar. Those aren’t my words. They’re God’s. And some day soon, He’ll call you on it.