Freedom to Choose

Someone I know and love told me that she was taught that God knows which people will be saved and which ones will be sent to hell.  So she professes that if she is to be saved she will be saved, if she is not to be saved she won’t be saved, and there’s nothing she can do about it.  She claims to have no personal responsibility for deciding whether to follow Jesus or not.

She had an Afghan dog that could jump very high.  So high in fact that she had to put a leash on him because he could jump over the high fence in her back yard.  He would then be gone for days and in danger of getting hit by cars.  I said to her, “You know that if you put him outside without a leash he will jump the fence right?”  She said “yes.”  “Because you know what he will do, does that mean you want him to jump the fence and get hurt?  Or, that you are forcing him to jump the fence?”  She said “no.”  “If you know what your dog will do if given a free choice, how much more does an infinitely wise, all-knowing God know what we as people, His creation, will do given a free choice?  But that does not mean He has decided what we will do or forces us to do it,” I concluded.

God said that he wants no one to perish but all to turn away from sin; He wants each one of us to turn to the love and life and meaning found only in Jesus.  But, Jesus also said that no one seeks Him on their own initiative.  So, God gives us circumstances and relationships to try to influence our decision; to help us to learn that sin harms and His love benefits; and to come to seek Him and to trust His character.  God loves us first and he desires our love in return.  He enables us to choose Him if we want to choose Him.  But he leaves the decision up to us.  Love cannot be forced.  Love is always the choice of a free will.


You may be reading this wondering if God loves you, if God wants you in heaven with Him.  Jesus willingly took the punishment for your sins and mine so that we could spend forever with Him in heaven and with all who love Him.  Freely choose Him today.  Accept His death as full payment to God for your sins.  Let Him lead you today.  He will fill your life with other people who love Him and love you and take you on an adventure you cannot imagine.

I wasn’t a "Cheerful" giver

Much of the time I have the wrong attitude about giving.  I give out guilt or compulsion, out of a feeling of “I have to, it’s expected.”  I feel bad before, during and after the giving.  It’s a bad experience.  I had read in the Bible that God loves a cheerful giver.  I wondered what that meant.  Cheerful has the same root word as “hilarious”.  I knew I wasn’t feeling that when I gave.  I asked God to make me a hilarious giver.

Our friends needed some money and so I asked God if my wife and I could give with “hilarity.”  We gave them some money and we felt great.  We were so happy that God was providing what they needed, that their needs were being met and that God had graciously allowed my wife and me to be a part of this miracle.  Jesus said, “Give and it will be given back to you. Pressed down, shaken together and running over into your lap.”  It wasn’t money that was given back to us.  It was something far more valuable.  We were given “Joy”, a heart filled with “Hilarity.”

I have long since forgotten about the money I spent on myself that year.  But I will always remember how God had mercy on me and filled me with “Hilarity” simply because I asked Him to enable me to do what He desired.

Why doesn’t God want me to have fun?

Before I met Jesus I sometimes thought that God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Christians were BORING!!!  For example, if a man and woman who were not married wanted to be intimate, why would God want to stop them?  Love is good right?  They’re not hurting anyone so what’s the problem?  Why doesn’t God want people to have fun?

The Bible says sin definitely is fun.  God says in the Bible that you can “…enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time” (Hebrews 11:25b NIV84).  The fun doesn’t last, however.  And the fun ultimately results in separation from God and his love forever.  Why?  Sin always hurts God or people or both.  And it always hurts ourselves.  God jealously loves us and He wants nothing to hurt us.  That’s why He gave us the Bible.  In it are His commands and principles for us to live by so that we can know how not to hurt God, others, and ourselves.  And how to truly love and do good.  But knowing that is not enough.  We need a heart transplant.  We need our spirits made alive.  Jesus says He will give us a heart of flesh for a heart of stone.  Jesus said he will make our dead spirits alive like His.  He said He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

For Jesus to change us we need to believe that He is and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.  Then we need to agree with Him (confess) that we have hurt Him, others and ourselves and that with His help we will try to never sin again (repentance).  Then we need to trust Him, that His death on the cross paid the full debt we owed God (faith).  Then ask Jesus to fill you with His Holy Spirit.  We then need to tell others about the wonderful thing God has done for us.  And repent if we sin again.

Now that I have a relationship with Jesus my life has never been more of a fun adventure.  The more I obey Him the more fulfilling it is.  I found out that satan’s “fun” was only a worthless imitation of the joy that Jesus freely gives.  Life with Jesus also has been more difficult in other ways.  Satan attacks my mind more now.   But now I have Jesus living inside me through the power of the Holy Spirit and He guides me and encourages me, He protects me and provides for me.  And, He helps me write about Him in this blog.

I hope you will choose Jesus over sin.  You will never regret it.

What if love is our purpose?

Jesus said in the Parable of the Talents (below) that each servant was given resources in proportion to his ability to use them.  To one he gave five talents of silver (a talent of silver was worth about $600,000 in today’s money).  To another he gave two talents of silver.  And to another he gave one talent of silver.

This passage is many times interpreted as talking about being faithful in developing and using your skills to the best of your ability.  And so, the word “talent” is being used today, not as a measure of a weight of silver, but as a measure of skill.  Could it be that Jesus was talking about something much more valuable than skills?

Could He be talking about loving others as God loves us?

If the ability to love is really the theme of this parable then how could the parable be interpreted?

We could say the man who was given five talents of silver had the ability to love “many” people.  He immediately went to work interacting with others and using the means his Master gave him to love and help them.  And the Master rewarded him.

The man who was given two talents of silver had the ability to love “some” people.  He too, immediately went out and interacted with others, and using his Master’s means, he loved and helped them.  And the Master rewarded him.

The man who was entrusted with one talent of silver had the ability to love “one” person.  He did not go out and interact with another, to love and help them.  He buried the Master’s means of loving and helping others and loved and helped no one.  Because of the reference of putting the money on deposit with the bankers in the parable, I can imagine Jesus asking  the man “Why didn’t you let my “means of loving and helping” at least be used by others, if you yourself weren’t going to use it?”  And Jesus will cast him away from His presence.

When I surrendered to Jesus I read this parable.  I didn’t know if I was a one, two or five talent person.  I prayed for God to make me a five or a two, but if I was a one, I asked that He help me to use my talent and not bury it.  God has been gracious to me and helped me to love other people.  What about you?  To truly love you need Jesus in you, loving the other person through you.  To do that you need to ask Him to forgive your sins, and surrender your life to His leadership, and ask to receive His Spirit so that you can do good.

You will start a journey with Him that He has designed just for you.

The Parable of the Talents

[Jesus said,]  4 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mt 25:14–30). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

So if Jesus pays the bills, what do I do?

Jesus Christ said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NIV84).

 Jesus isn’t against working hard (for the right reasons). Jesus isn’t  against planning for the future and putting something away for a rainy day.  I think the point of this verse is Jesus wants us to see our value to God.  And to know that if God cares enough about birds, to supply them with what they need to survive, He will with certainty care about us, to give us all that we need.  He wants us to stop worrying about what only He can provide, and wants to provide, for us.

Now, God doesn’t take the worm and bring it to the robin and put it in her and her young ones mouths.  The robin has to use its God-given abilities to hunt for the food and take it to her family.  We are no different.  We have to do what God wants us to do.  When God fed the Israelites manna from heaven they had to go out and collect it and grind it and bake it.  God does what only He can do, we do what we He tells us to do.

I think God wants us to trust Him for everything.  From trusting Him about food, clothing and shelter, to trusting Him enough to give Him back His 10% of our gross income by giving it to the local church.  And, trusting Him to make the other 90% meet our needs.  I think we also need to ask Him what He wants us to do with the skills, abilities, knowledge, and particularly the ability to practically show love to others, He has given us.

But, the process of growing in trust is HARD for me.  It involves risking the seen for the promise of the unseen.  I can risk looking stupid at times.  I can be at odds with society.  Hey, I didn’t have Christian role models in my life when I was growing up so I’ve never seen this done before.  As the Christian pop singer Carmen might say: if I step out on nothin’ will I find somethin’ there?  But taking the chance of obeying Him is the only way I can find out if He is trustworthy or not.  Jesus said that if anyone does His word he will find out if Jesus is from the Father.

I used to be afraid to tell Him I will obey anything He asks (okay, I still am a little;-).  Now that I have obeyed Him several times I have much more confidence that He is as good as He says He is.

As Charles F. Stanley might say, “[Trust and] obey God, and leave all the consequences to Him.”

Will Jesus pay the bills?

When I was a child I depended on my father to supply my needs.  I didn’t wonder where my next meal was coming from and I didn’t worry about how the mortgage payment would be paid.  My father loved me, I was his, and I assumed he would take care of me.  And he did.  Jesus said that to enter the kingdom of God I and you need to become like children.  We need to trust our Heavenly Father like I used to trust my earthly father.

Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV84).  Jesus said that He would supply our needs if we trusted Him as our Lord (His kingdom) and Savior (His righteousness).  He also said, that we could not serve God and Money.

We need to make a choice as to whom we want to trust.

We can see Money.  We can predict what Money will do.  And when we make Money our master we are deceived into thinking we control Money and that we are the master.  And it is very “normal” and natural to love Money.

But to trust God for the daily basics of life is not natural.  And very few people trust God with their lives.  We can’t control Him.  And we can’t predict everything that He will do or want us to do.  And we can’t even see Him.

So why do I attempt to make Him my King?  Why do I try to give up loving what I can see for the One I can’t see with my eyes?  Why do I trust Someone who lived 2000 years ago?

What I can see with my eyes doesn’t satisfy for long.  And then I need more and it still doesn’t satisfy.  Alcohol, drugs, sex, power, prestige do not fill the emptiness of the human heart.  Even good things like spouse, kids, work, and church busyness are empty without Jesus.  In the end, depending on this world that we can see, touch and hear will leave you helpless and hopeless.

The emptiness we feel and search the earth to fill was designed to be the home of God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.  He made you, He loves you and He died in place of you so that your sins could be forgiven.  Then He rose from the dead to give you a new heart, and a new living spirit.

Jesus loves you and wants you to know Him personally and have your soul satisfied with His infinite love and eternal care for you.  And you can know Him right now.  Agree with Him about your wrong attitudes and actions.  Ask Him to forgive you and to fill the empty spot in you with Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Then tell others about Jesus.  Read the Bible.  Find a church that believes the Bible and preaches it.  (And tell me about it, I would love to pray with you!).

Are you going through something bad?

While God never does anything evil, He does do things that on the surface appear to be bad.  That is, until His wisdom is proved right by its results (Jesus said that wisdom is justified by its children).  I said to God when I was in my late teens that I wanted to be a Christian like they were in the Bible .  I wanted God to tell me how pleased he was with me, and congratulate me on how well I have done so far and that I was so close to being perfect.  Instead God told me I was “a sinner.”  Not your average church going sinner that we all are, but evil, vile, repulsive.  I recoiled at what He said about me.  I said, “No, I’m not” twice to Him.  And then He gave me mental illness for ten years.

Now, I have said that “God gave me mental illness” to others and they have “corrected” me and said that God “allowed” me to have mental illness.  They said that He was not responsible for giving me mental illness.  Yet, when I rebelled against Him, He said He would “humble me for ten years.”  And what followed the statement was mental illness for ten years.

Dr. Charles F. Stanley of In Touch says that if God does something that we think is “bad” but God uses it for good, isn’t it ultimately “good” for us?  I wouldn’t wish mental illness on anyone.  Yet, now that I have the right meds and the pain is over I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.  Because God used it to change me from being fake nice and self-centered, to being willing to surrender to Him and being very concerned about other people.

If you are going through something that is bad, God may be using it for your ultimate good.  He will only keep you in a problem until you have learned what He knows you need to learn.  And any pain you endure will not be wasted.  You will be able to offer credible help to others in a similar situation.  And the joy you experience helping others through what you went through will make the former pain worth it.