Monday, February 3, 2014

Coal or Diamond - Part 8

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of Wikipedia
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. -- George Bernard Shaw

The one thing that's always true of life is that we have choices.  From the day we are born to the day we leave this life, we are confronted by choices.  If we become mentally incapacitated, others may have to deal with them because we no longer can.  What we do with those choices can have huge consequences.

Deuteronomy 30:19 (KJV)  I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: 

Joshua 24:15 (KJV)  And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD

There's quite a contrast there.  Which do we choose?  Do we choose?  Does it matter?  There are a lot of schools of thought on that.

Let's start with "Do we choose?" and "Does it matter?".  There are two schools of thought that ask that one.  One is the non-Christian who may or may not believe in Heaven and Hell, definitely a different God or none.  And some may even question temporal results of choices.  Among Christians, there are those who would say that God chooses who gets to Heaven and who goes to Hell and we have no real effect on our salvation.   And there are Christians who question the reality of the Bible and the reality of Hell, both based on the idea that some of it comes from human authorship.  Those are contrasted by a Christianity that says God gifted us with free will, allowing us to accept or reject what He offers because His intent is to have those around Him who voluntarily choose the things that get them there and voluntarily choose Him.  I happen to be in that last group.

In my late teens, still finding alcoholic beverages unthreatening and "safe".  I discovered the "joys" of crossing a state borderline in order to drink legally.  The rest of my choices went right along with that, including giving in to my lust patterns.  There was important background to those decisions.

I saw several interesting patterns in Roman Catholicism much of which fits all of legalistic Christianity.  The Mass, at the time, was mostly in Latin, which few American Catholics understood. Some had accused the Catholic Church of using that and the rest of the rituals, in part, as a form of control.  It's possible that some individuals did that, but I've never believed that was the intent of the church.  What I did believe I was seeing, was a form of hypocrisy.  Dress nice, go through the motions once a week and you were good with God.  Mess up, go to confession, and fall back in the routine.  My description, then, of the Mass was two Bible readings and a sermon, none of which necessarily related to the other two parts.  And I saw the "sermon" as most often dealing with fundraising for something.

My problem, back then, was separating God from the missteps of His followers.  If that kind of behavior was acceptable to God, I wanted no part of that kind of God.  Some spiritual discernment, huh?  But it points out something that happens all too often.  Whether it's deviating from any of the varieties of accepted Christianity or rejecting God altogether, it's rarely our own misconceptions or the man-made parts of religion that get blamed.  God and His Word always seem to directly or indirectly take the hit.  And it certainly ignores that we're making as many missteps as those we point to.

Think about Joshua 24:15a (KJV), "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve;".  That's not God saying, "Whatever your choice is, it's OK with Me." or "Choose whatever.  You're safe, either way.".  Joshua's saying to us, "Get off the dime and make a decision."  In that context, consider Revelation 3:16 (KJV), "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.".  Whether we choose correctly, wrongly or waffle in our thinking, it's our choices that get us in trouble or allow us to accept the grace of God. But God would rather have us make a clear cut decision of any kind than not understand what we believe.  If we're right, that's good.  If we're wrong, there's discussion and the chance to contrast, leaving another opportunity to correct wrong thinking.  When we "sit on the fence", we tend to fill our spiritual minds with "Yeah, but...".  We're good at avoiding decisions or taking responsibility for our own.

While God gives us the freedom to choose as in Joshua 24:15a, He knows that our best will only occur in Matthew 6:33 (KJV), "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.", so we need to "choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:19).  God wants us to create ourselves with the inherent useful value of coal and the added value that pressure and cutting give the diamond.  Is the "you" that you've created been through right decisions or wrong choices, today?

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