Life is full of choices

Luke 9:61-52; Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Life is full of choices. Sometimes we don't ask the right question and we don't get the choices we want. "A thirsty cowboy walked into a saloon. The bartender asked, 'Care for a drink, stranger?' The stranger asked, 'What are my choices?' And the bartender answered, 'Yes or no.'"

Sometimes our choices are made by someone else. A man was taking his wife, who was pregnant with twins, to the hospital when his car went out of control and crashed. Upon regaining consciousness, he saw his brother, a relentless world-class practical joker, sitting at his bed side. He asked his brother how his wife was and his brother replied, "Don't worry, everybody is fine and you have a son and a daughter. But the hospital was in a real hurry to get the birth certificates filed and since both you and your wife were unconscious, I named them for you." The husband was thinking to himself, "Oh no, what has he done now?" and said with trepidation, "Well what did you name them?" The brother replied, "I named the little girl Denise."

The husband, relieved, said, "That's a very pretty name! What did you come up with for my son?" The brother replied, "Denephew."

Of course some times we LET someone else make the choices for us. And some times we choose to not make a choice, which is, in effect, making a choice. And some times we don't listen and we don't make the right choice.

Then there are times that we simply make the wrong choices. We know it's not good for us, yet we choose to do it all the same. Most of the time there are not HUGE consequences to our choosing to do something that is not good for us, but then again, if we continue to ignore what we know to be true, eventually the consequence becomes one that does make a major difference in our lives.

In the Gospel lesson today we have Jesus and two of his disciples not being received in a Samarian village because he was headed for Jerusalem. When the disciples, James and John, sons of Zebedee, known as sons of Thunder, saw this, they say to Jesus, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" Jesus can't believe their pettiness; he turns and rebukes them, and they move on to another village.

Unfortunately, many folks today, followers of Jesus, are like those two disciples. Ready to over react, to pounce, to show some muscle, all because they had their feelings hurt. We have people in power today in this country, whether politics or religion or medicine who make ridiculous 'over the top' choices. They hurt a lot of people by their ridiculous, unthinking choices. That is, thinking only of themselves and their station in life, the power they can wield.

We have leaders who claim to be followers of Jesus, followers of 'The Way,' the path that Jesus directs us to and all along the way. Yet, a simple reading of Scripture belies what they claim. They say one thing and do another. We all know people like that. They don't have to be leaders, but often they are because they got to be leaders by talking a good talk, but not walking the walk.

Every day we are confronted with choices about what has priority in our lives. The church used to be a priority in folks lives. But priorities have changed in our culture. It isn't always that the church is not relevant to the present culture; the present culture has created its own gods and has made itself irrelevant. The things that people chase after today-well, it's absurd. Where are the boundaries? The things that people desire; the things that people spend huge amounts of money on; the huge amount of waste in this culture; the culture is irrelevant to anything that's real, that's lasting, that would make a positive difference in the lives of others.

And all this comes about because of the choices we make. Where is the self-sacrifice in our culture? Look at the heroes we hold up. Is there any sense of self-sacrifice on their part?

Jesus is pretty explicit about who should come first. It's not family; it's not country; it's not tradition; it's not heritage. We all know what should come first. Loyalty to God should come first. God is the first priority.

We who know that can hardly expect such from others when we don't always put God first ourselves. We have countless reasons, countless excuses why not.

But we don't need excuses. You don't have to be 'religious' to put God first in your life. You don't have to be a 'goody-two-shoes" to put God first in your life. You don't have to give up all that you like to put God first.

But you DO have to be courageous. It takes courage to stand up for what you know is right. You DO have to be a person of truth. You DO have to have a sense of what is real and lasting and worthwhile, and it DOES have to matter to you.

Paul says in the letter to Galatians that was read today, "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." He's talking about our OWN slavery. What we have become slaves to in our own lives.

We talk of patriotism, especially around holidays like the 4th of July. But a true patriot is one who recognizes that there is a responsibility to freedom. In order to remain free, we need to be responsible to the freedoms for which we stand, both as a patriot and as a person free in Christ.

Have those who have died for the cause of freedom (whether in wars or even in battles fought right here in the USA-like battles against social injustice, ethnic prejudice, racial prejudice, gender prejudice-battles in which folks also have lost their lives)-have all those who have died or been maimed or crippled or who live out their lives in Veterans hospitals and the like-have all those men and women who have given their full measure given it so that we can become apathetic or abusive with regard to all the freedoms for which they gave their all?

It's not somebody else who's letting our freedoms slip away. It's us. Each one of us when we don't live up to them; when we become lazy and let others take responsibility. The time is coming when you and I will not be able to fade into the background. You and I are going to have to stand up and be counted. You and I are going to have to speak out. You and I are going to have to take an active role in reversing the abuses of freedom. It's not someone else's responsibility-the responsibility belongs to every person who loves freedom, who enjoys freedom.

Did Christ die to free us from the clutches of evil, just so we could take that as lightly as we do? He didn't JUST die for each of us, he died for EVERYONE. He was very explicit about what we are supposed to be doing in his name. There's no sitting back and letting others do it.

If you're a Christian and consider yourself fortunate to live in the United States, then you should be using the freedom to worship to its fullest extent-and not just for yourself, but encouraging others to do so. People who were luke-warm and apathetic were the ones Jesus condemned the most. Luke-warm Christians sit back and let the culture dictate what they believe, rather than standing up, making a choice for themselves, and being true to who they claim to be, and influencing the culture to focus on what is real and lasting.

It's time to put a stop to apathy; time to stop the apostasy (look it up); it's time to be apocalyptic-to stand up and battle the sickness in our culture that is eroding your beliefs and your freedom right from under you, and all that will be left is a shell, a showpiece-empty and as irrelevant as the belief it's based on.

In Jesus' words, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." What are your choices? Yes or No.


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