Choose today whom you will serve ...

…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

An old time circuit riding preacher was ready to retire and decided to sell his horse and buggy. There was a blacksmith who wanted to buy the horse. As he completed the deal the man remarked to the blacksmith, "This is not just an ordinary horse". Since he has been owned and driven by a man of the cloth all his life he does not respond to the commands of whoa or giddy-up.

When you want him to go, you don’t say, 'Giddy up!' You say, 'Praise the Lord!’ He won’t move if you say, 'Giddy up!' And once you get him going, if you want to speed up, just repeat, ‘praise the Lord!' And then, when you want to stop, you don’t say, 'Whoa!’ You say, 'Amen!'

"Now it’s real important that you use the words this horse understands, 'Amen!’ to stop, and 'Praise the Lord!’ to go. If you’ll remember that, you won’t have any problem at all." When you want this horse to stop you must say AMEN. When you want him to go you must say PRAISE THE LORD!

Later that day the Blacksmith decided to take the horse for a ride to see how good he was. Comfortable in the saddle, he said, "Praise the Lord," and the horse moved right out. He said "Praise the Lord!" again and they moved faster and faster. While trotting down the road the horse was startled by a snake and bolted. Wildly they headed across a field full speed. Looming ahead, the blacksmith saw a cliff that dropped away into a deep canyon. He was getting closer and closer to the dangerous edge. In a panic the poor Blacksmith was shouting WHOA STOP but the horse didn’t stop. Then he remembered the preacher’s instructions and finally yelled out a loud AMEN! The horse stopped just at the edge of a thousand foot cliff, and stones tumbled out into space. Relieved and overjoyed, the Blacksmith wiped his brow, raised his hands to the sky and shouted "PRAISE THE LORD"

Just when I thought riding a horse would be an excellent solution to the problems of my week. Some of you know that this week my car was hit by an uninsured driver. I guess a horse like this might have been worse! My decision to get in my car last Tuesday was as treacherous an idea as the blacksmith’s in the story. It was a life-changing decision.

Some of our decisions are more well-informed than others. For example, if I had known what was to happen, I would have never gotten behind my wheel last Tuesday. And I guess the blacksmith would not have taken that horse for a ride.

Our O.T. reading is Joshua’s farewell speech. He calls upon his beloved people to make a decision. Choose this day whom you will serve – but as for me and my house. We will serve the lord. The people remember and list all the things God has done for them and respond by saying – therefore we will serve the Lord, for he is our God.

Bill Havens made a decision in 1924. At the Olympic games in Paris in 1924 the sport of canoe racing was added to the list of international competitions. Bill was the favorite to win. A few days before the American team was to leave for Paris, Havens learned that his wife was going to give birth at precisely the same time he would be competing in the Paris Games. In 1924 there were no jet airliners from Paris to the United States, only slow-moving ocean-going ships. And so Bill found himself in a dilemma. Should he go to Paris and risk not being at his wife's side when their first child was born? Or should he withdraw from the team and remain behind. Bill's wife insisted that he go to Paris. After all, he had been working towards this for all these years. It was the culmination of a life-long dream. His wife pleaded with him to go to Paris...that everything would be all right at home. Clearly the decision was not easy for Bill to make. Finally, after much soul searching, Bill decided to withdraw from the competition and remain behind with his wife so that he could be with her when their first child arrived. Havens made a momentous decision. He would give up his chance at immortality. Bill considered being at her side a higher priority than going to Paris to fulfill a life-long dream.

To make a long story short, the United States four-man canoe team won the gold medal at the Paris Olympics. And Bill's wife was late in giving birth to her first child. She was so late that Bill could have competed in the event and returned home in time to be with her when she gave birth.

People said, "What a shame." But Bill said he had no regrets. After all, his commitment to his wife was more important then, and it still was now. The story of Bill Havens is a story of how one man paid a high price to fulfill a commitment to someone he loved. It was a life-changing decision.

The child eventually born to Bill and his wife was a boy, whom they named Frank. For 28 years Bill Havens was not certain he made the right decision. Then in the summer of 1952 he received a telegram datelined Helsinki, Finland, the scene of the 1952 Olympic Games. The telegram read, "Dear Dad. Thanks for waiting around for me to be born. I’m coming home with the medal that is yours. Your loving son, Frank." Frank Havens had won the gold medal for his father.

And if you can believe it, Frank Havens won that gold medal for the United States in the canoe-racing event, a medal his father had dreamed of winning but never did. Where did this boy learn such love and faithfulness to family? He learned it from his father who gave up his chance at Olympic gold for a woman he loved and a boy soon to be born. A life-changing decision.

Some of Jesus' followers were beginning to leave him. His teachings were too difficult for them. Some were offended by his references to eat his body and drink his blood. Many disciples left him and stopped following him. So he turned to the 12 and asked, "Will you also go away?" Peter's reply lives forever, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." "Lord, to whom shall we go?" This remark had to have come from Peter. At the mention of leaving Christ, Peter's soul was on fire, and the words in his heart overcame the slower processes of his mind. He spoke as one who had experienced the power of the words of eternal life. "Lord, to whom shall we go?" isn’t it an appropriate question for each of us? The powerful temptation to let go of our Christian commitment is always with us. After all, commitment to Christ is an expensive, all-consuming, proposition.

This morning Craig and Lisa Lambert make a decision for little Cole. They have made a decision that he will be raised as a Christ-follower, and they give him to God this day. They make promises today that they will follow through with that decision. Bonnie and Bradley Brown promise too that they will make sure Cole is raised in the faith. And each and every one of us who accept those promises from all of them this morning also make a decision that we will support them and assist them to carry out those promises. This is a life-changing decision.

Jesus said, "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. You are the Holy One of God." To whom shall we go? It is a life-changing decision.


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