4/30/08

Of Paper Clips and Proactive Choices

Would you rather use a paper clip, clamp, or staple to hold papers together? Would you choose chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Would you choose to watch American Idol or read from the Bible? Would you lie about your income for a tax report, or tell the truth? Some decisions don’t make much difference in the scheme of life. Others aren’t wise or healthy, and some decisions can be devastating.

All choices count, even the paper clip/ clamp/ staple scenario, as I discovered when I dropped my notes before speaking. The paper-clipped stack came undone and scattered across the floor. I had to collate the unnumbered papers (another bad choice) while my audience watched with amusement!

My friend Pam Farrel is a kindred spirit in this whole issue of choices. In her book, The 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make (Harvest House, 1999), she opens chapter one with this title: “Decide to Decide: You Make Your Choices and Your Choices Make You.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, Pam! This chapter epitomizes my entire ministry. If I live my life haphazardly, I will have haphazard results. I must be proactive and decide exactly how I want to live my life. No choice is unimportant. For me, as a Christian, that means finding the heart and will of God, and making choices accordingly (Ephesians 5:15-17).

What are your choices today? In this hour? Right at this very minute? You will perhaps make choices today about what you will think, how you will respond, what you will do, where you will go, who you will believe, what you will dream, and so much more.

I have become passionate about choices because I see the consequences of choices (both devastating and dream-building) everywhere I turn. Many choices have the potential to bless people or put them in bondage, to build the kingdom of God or tear it down. I’ve determined that I will be proactive and choose wisely and well. I’m not perfect by any means, but the choices I make today will make a difference.

4/23/08

Stein's Magnificent Challenge

If you haven’t seen the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (which debuted in theaters on April 18), I strongly urge you to go. It will be one of your best choices this year. Take a liberal, and it will be an even better choice!

When I attended this powerful, pro-Intelligent Design flick, I was prepared for a bit of indoctrination from both sides of the evolution-Intelligent Design debate, but I was not prepared to hear such foolishness from the mouths of those who claim to be the intellectual elite in our country. (I won’t spoil the experience for those who have yet to go.) As Ben Stein worked both sides, revealing why a number of highly credentialed scientists and scholars were forced out of their jobs because they simply proposed Intellectual Design as a possible alternative to Darwin’s theories, the theater sounded like a church congregation one minute—people spouting, “That’s right”!—and a comedy club the next.

I was engaged in more than what transpired on screen. I watched a young, tattooed girl, sitting slightly to my left and one row ahead. A bit rowdy, she scoffed at scientists who addressed issues from a perspective she’d obviously never heard, or at least, never believed.

“Yeah, right!” she mocked. Half way through the documentary, however, she leaned forward in her seat, her mouth open as she watched Stein stroll painfully through a German extermination site. She had perhaps never made the connection between Darwin’s theory and Hitler’s politics. The girl turned to a male friend as a Planned Parenthood sign flashed across the screen and Stein explained how Margaret Sanger’s organization grew from Darwinian philosophy. She heard Richard Dawkins, the Oxford scientist who wrote The God Delusion, explain why his atheism grew out of his faith in evolution. Stein allowed the foolishness of man to speak for itself (I Corinthians 3:19). When the tattooed girl left, she appeared quiet and thoughtful. I wondered whether Stein opened her mind. I wondered whether he changed it.

As Stein challenged the audience to stand up for true academic freedom, my eyes filled with tears. The whoops, “right ons” and rolling applause in the theater was so intense, I almost expected a standing ovation. It’s hard to know what the long-term effects will be for this remarkable film, but I’m sure that America’s liberal elite must feel threatened and concerned that their belief system might just crash if theater-goers find their backbones. This is a crucial time to stand for truth. Stein gave us an opportunity, and if we are wise, we will take it.

4/16/08

Reaching Higher with Role Models

Mentors and role models help us reach higher in our journey with God. A good choice is the search for worthy role models. Nancy Leigh DeMoss of Revive Our Hearts ministries and Pam Farrel of Seasoned Sisters are high on my list. I also draw from Susan Henson of Princess Pure In Heart, and Kathy Howard, author of Before His Throne. As I review books, I glean from the character and wisdom of authors I’ve never met, including Donna Otto, Nancy Pearcey, Lysa TerKeurst, and Leslie Vernick. (You no doubt have learned from other authors, as I have, and this is not to discount male authors and speakers in any way!)

It’s not just the “famous” who’ve influenced my life. I’ve developed a more gracious spirit because of my husband’s mother, Adele, and my dreams have blossomed under my sister-in-love, Janice. I’ve learned much by rubbing shoulders with Donna, a true prayer warrior; chatting with supportive older women like Sue, Nancy, and Alline; and observing my young, inspiring niece, Jamie. I’ve discovered that many of the women I teach in Tapestry Bible Fellowship have actually taught me. I’ve learned the value of “servanthood with joy” from my friend, Gail. I’ve understood endurance and prayerful dependence on God as I’ve watched my mother, Patricia, deal with the hard blows of life. I've seen hope-in-action in my sister Pam's life.

When I prayed for wisdom as a child, I also prayed for a teachable spirit, saying, “God, show me how to live.” I believe that God is answering that prayer in two ways. He has given me many worthy examples of women who are following hard after God. He has also given me the ultimate role model in His Word (His son, Jesus). The apostle Paul understood the value of role modeling. He wrote, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things…” (Philippians 4:9, ESV).

Choose your mentors and role models carefully. They will greatly influence your life.

4/9/08

Integrity “Lite”

As news channels surveyed the recent hypocrisy of the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal (with flashbacks to other public and religious figures that also “fell from grace”), many comedians poked fun at Spitzer. I laughed, too, until I heard Christian commentator Cal Thomas ask why no preachers were standing up to talk about the moral implications of Spitzer’s choices. God convicted me and I stopped laughing.

Integrity includes soundness and incorruptibility as we adhere to a code of moral values. In our culture of decadence and integrity “lite,” it’s far too easy to go along with the crowd and laugh at “character flaws” rather than calling sin “sin.” It’s hard to persuade people that a holy God has certain expectations of His creation when we keep laughing.

We can’t excuse sin, even though we might understand how those who do not know God might do so. The Apostle Paul, in Romans 6:1-23, makes a clear case, however, that those who have died with Christ and now live in Him (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:4-6) are not to continue in sinful lifestyles. “Certainly not,” Paul said. We do not linger in sin, taking the grace of God for granted. We are new creatures in Christ, and we are expected to walk in righteousness and truth, with integrity, purity, and good character.

A popular poster about integrity says, “...The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become... .” We must make biblical choices and carefully guard what we say and do. Our freedom in Christ is not a license to sin.

Christ paid for our sins with His own blood on the cross, and we were raised to newness of life in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:1-11). Perhaps when we laugh too easily at sin, we forget what sin cost our Savior.

4/2/08

Letting God Choose

I stood at the kitchen counter recently with great longing, eyeing a big basket of Easter candy. I love chocolate. That and ice cream are the evil twins that destroy every weight loss plan, even the “you can have chocolate and ice cream on your diet” plan! I simply have no will power with those two “food groups”!

As I debated whether to take a Russell Stover truffle egg or a Hershey bunny, another voice entered the debate. “Will you let me choose for you?” Now my ministry is all about choices, so I had to listen to this intruder, but before I responded, I took another look at the basket. “Well, that won’t be any fun!” I replied, as I turned and walked to my desk. I tried to rationalize that the voice might mean that He’d choose the chocolate with the least number of calories, but I knew better. God’s Spirit was asking me to yield to His control, and I didn’t like it one bit. It’s easy to surrender some things. I can give God my music, my reading habits, my clothing, my family—all these things—because they are not my issues. I can give Him just about anything but chocolate and ice cream. They are my hold-out for fun and indulgence.

God’s Spirit nudged, “No, they are your hold-out for your own way. You are so self-willed.” Chocolate and ice cream aren’t the real issue. Some might debate the “goodness” of these two foods, but I believe that there are appropriate times for all foods like these—for celebrations, perhaps, but not for daily fare. I know that, but I continually choose against my better judgment. My waistline is clear evidence.

So when God asked that day, “Will you let me choose?” I knew that I had a decision to make. I said, “Yes, Lord.” Chocolate can be a stronghold as clearly as drugs, when it’s a point of surrender.