GOD WILL REPAY ALL . . . . All the choices we have made

If thou wilt, to keep the commandments, and to perform acceptable faithfulness. He hath set fire and water before thee: stretch forth thy hand unto whether thou wilt. Before man is life and death; and whether him liketh shall be given him. For the wisdom of the Lord is great, and he is mighty in power, and beholdeth all things: And his eyes are upon them that fear him, and he knoweth every work of man. He hath commanded no man to do wickedly, neither hath he given any man licence to sin.” (Reference: Sirach 15:15-20)

A paraphrase – according to me:

If you have the will and intent, keep all the laws and precepts that God has established from the time of the first calling of God’s people up until and including what Jesus made known. And try to keep with good intentions and determination as you can. God has placed before humanity two options – fire and water. Reach for whichever seems to suit your intentions. Before all of humanity is the choice of life and death; what people strive for, that is what they receive. Remember, the Lord’s wisdom is great, and the Lord is mighty in power, and sees all things. God’s eyes are on those who fear the Lord (and those who don’t.) He knows what everyone does, and is capable of doing. The Lord God has commanded that no wicked thing should be done, and has not given any permission to sin.”

I have not said much about the fact that we are in the third week of Advent. I have posting along side the daily blog Advent themed postings. There has not been much overlap between the two. That is not surprising because the themes of historic Anabaptists don’t have much overlap between themes of Advent and Christmas. It was the Roman Catholic’s intention to appropriate Christ’s birth and secular winter celebrations. And since the historic Anabaptists did not have much use for the state-run Roman Catholic church, I imagine that during that time there was not much overlap of Advent themes into their Anabaptist households. At least I have not read accounts where their would be.

Over years the Anabaptist/Mennonite faith has picked up Advent and Christmas themes, using them in worship services and other times of fellowship. I remember Advent candles playing a part of worship services, and we had yearly Christmas programs. And of course we sang Advent and Christmas hymns. And Christmas was celebrated in every Anabaptist/Mennonite home.

You may ask why I am writing along this line. Humanity has the choice, and has always had the choice as to how they celebrate Advent and Christmas. Whether they “stretch out their hands” to the commercialism of Christmas or the sacred/religiousness of Christmas. Whether the focus is on the bottom of the Christmas tree or in the stockings hung up in waiting. Or on the nativity scene and the baby Jesus. And those choices, it seems to me, might be reflected at other times of the year. We choose and reach out our hand to what is important in our life. God watches us. And in the fullness of God’s time those choices will be repaid. So, what you choose now will determine what you receive later.

It is my hope and pray in this Advent season, which is the beginning of a new church year, that you will choose will. And will continue choosing well throughout the year. Selah!

PUT AWAY BITTERNESS . . . And all the other manner of bad behavior

“Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger [etc] . . . . And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31a,32 from Ephesians 4:17-32 [Insert mine])

Many years ago I realized that right living is a daily choice – even an hour by hour or minute by minute choice. This thought came to me as I was driving from one destination to another. I had several years ago gotten my driver’s license (rather comparatively late in life) and I was still conscious about being a good driver rather than it being an ingrained and rote process. It occurred to me that I was in control of a powerful machine that could cause destruction and ruin if I made poor choices. In the same way I could make poor choices in my life, and potentially cause ruin in the lives of others. Or . . . I could make good choices, wise choices, God-driven choices. It was up to me.

I hope I do not have to be so blatant and obvious as to what choices I made. I am not perfect – not nearly perfect. But each time a choice lay in front of me, I have tried to chose the authentic Christian way. To make the choices that lead to kindness, forgiveness, and mercy. And to pass on to others the forgiveness that I have received from God when my choices were not the best.

One CAN chose to be bitter and angry, choosing wrath over compassion. The thing is, once you make a choice for bitterness etc, it is easy to make that choice again and again. It is better to make the choice for compassion and tenderness. And truly, gentle reader, it is easier to make that choice again and again because the positive outcomes are so much better than negatives.

I hope and pray that you do chose to make the choices that emulate God. May God look down on your with favor, mercy, and blessing for the good choices that you make. Selah! And shalom for all of us this day.

Christian Stewardship: Three directions I could go – which to chose?

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 )

Option 1.

When I first read this verse, in preparation to write about it, I thought about acquiring possession, things that one does not really need. But my thoughts were along those lines anyway stemming from a conversation I had just had with my husband. Living wisely then would mean making wise choices about using resources and adding things to a household. The opportunities would be chances to bring new/other things into the household, and/or take things out.

Humanity has a tendency to buy things that they do not need, and update things that do not need be updated. Cell phones is on item that there never seems to be a stopping point. Bigger televisions, faster computers, more luxurious cars – the list goes on. Some Mennonites have a reputation of living a more “simple” life, but the definition of “simple” is so varied as to make it a poor barometer or indicator. The question comes down to whether we are being good stewards of the resources we have and the resources we have for acquiring more.

Option 2.

The Confession says, “We believe that time also belongs to God and that we are to use with care the time of which we are stewards.” This is not all the Confession says about stewardship, but it is as much elaboration as there is on this verse. The Commentary section of the Confession says on this issue, “Our tradition of simple living is rooted not in frugality for its own sake, but in dependence on God, the owner of everything, for our material needs.“ But for whatever reasons, the writers of the Confession did not feel/see the need to say much more about this verse.

Option 3.

Verses 17 to 20 continue saying, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.“ The verses that follow verses 15 and 16 place the emphasis not on the physical but on the spiritual. In a sense, it causes the hearer/reader to consider how their choices affect their relationship to God. And to consider how one’s character is affected by the choices one makes.

I can easily see how options 1 and 2 would be affected by the character and conduct of a person. And with option 3 the exhortation to make the “most of every opportunity” would be the most important. What will you do gentle reader? Acquire things? Speed time on activities and pursuits that do not bring you “in step with the Spirit”? Or fill you days with worshiping, praising, and giving thanks for all things?

May you gentle reader make wise choices with how to use your time, energy and resources – making the most of every opportunity to live as God would have you live. Selah!