What Choices Will You Make?

I was preaching a lesson on choices recently that led me to illustrate how familiar we are with making choices.  Several years ago, I was in a Country Kitchen restaurant with friends and family when I decided to order the popular “Barn Buster” breakfast.  Keep in mind this breakfast consists of four of each item.  The waitress was patient with me as she administered a series of questions in which I was to make a choice. 

She asked, “How do you want your eggs?”  I said, “Over easy.” 

She continued by asking “Would you like bacon or sausage?”  Well I’m kinda partial to sausage and told her as much…  She asked, “Would you like patties or links?”  My choice that day was patties… 

“Would you like gravy on your hash browns?”  I replied, “No, not today.” 

“Would you like pancakes or toast?”  I replied, “Well, with all of this, four pancakes might be a little much, so I’ll have the toast.”

“Will that be white or wheat?” she asked.   I had to chuckle when the order was finally placed.  That’s a lot of choices!! 

I suspect some of you are familiar with the TV show Let’s Make a Deal.  This show allows contestants to play games, taking chances and choosing whether they want to take this item or that item.  The hope is that perhaps a better deal will come their way.  At the end of the show those that have won prizes are asked to make one last choice and that is whether they’re willing to give up what they’ve won in order to go for the big deal.  If they do, there is one more choice to make, that being, Door #1, #2, or #3?

There are always going to be choices in our lives, some with greater consequences than others.  This was true even in the early days of God’s people Israel.  Before his death, when Moses was turning over the leadership to Joshua, he exhorted Israel to “Choose Life” by pursuing God and obeying His commands as they entered the land of Canaan… (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)  Likewise, when Joshua was nearing the end of his life, he also made a choice and declared as much to Israel when he said, “…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve;  whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

H. E. Fosdick said, “He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads.”  I am reminded of a national campaign years ago with billboard messages that were signed “GOD”.  One of those messages stated… “Will the road you’re on lead to me?”  The answer depends on the choices you make.  Choosy mothers may choose JIF, but choosy Christians, choose God! 

Copyright © 2019, Nolan P. Rutter

Let God Build What’s Important

Jeremiah 10:23I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. NASU

I like building things.  Some of my past projects have included multi-level decks, bookcases, cabinetry, various remodeling of homes and even general contracting my home.  While I haven’t been able to do as much as I would have liked, hopefully I will be able to do more in the future. 

It may have escaped the notice of many that the holy bible contains messages regarding building in both new and old testaments.  In 1 Corinthians 3, the apostle, Paul was addressing the growth of the church, using an agricultural illustration he mentioned that he planted, and Apollos watered and yet it was God who caused the growth.  As he continued with his letter, he switched to a building process in that he, “like a wise master builder,” lays the foundation and another will build upon it.  The foundation, however, must be none other than Jesus, the Christ.  Whatever is built will be tested and it will either stand or fall, based upon its ‘construction’ as the temple of God. 

In Psalms 127:1, we are told that “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it, Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.”  This passage of scripture holds a critical message for us who would follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Everything must be under the control of God and His direction or it will bear nothing of true value for us.  As we walk through life, we will have to make decisions that require discerning God’s will and we need to seek it to be pleasing to Him, and in the event of a failure, make necessary course correction when it is detected. 

This principle is found in several places in scripture.  As we consider the great flood of Genesis we need only reflect on the instructions for Noah in building the Ark.  The specifications of its size, layout, and materials to use were dictated by God and in Genesis 6:22 we read all that God instructed, Noah did.  As a result, Noah and his family were brought safely through it, able to survive a worldwide flood that destroyed all that have ‘breath of the spirit of life in its nostrils” (7:22).  This was not by any power of Noah, but rather in the faith he had in God to deliver on His promises.  Another perfect example would be the provision of a dwelling place for God upon Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.  God gave specific guidance for the building of the ‘tent of meeting’ or Tabernacle and all it contains as well as practices for worship and sacrifices.  The faithful obedience of the Israelites brought about the presence of God in the building of the Tabernacle and eventually in the temple in Jerusalem.  It was only by the power of God that these were able to accomplish their purposes. 

On the other hand, we see another example in Genesis 11, that is not ‘endorsed’ by God where man began a building project.  This project by man was intended to ‘reach into the heavens’ and to make a name for themselves.  God looked down us what was unfolding and in Genesis 11:6 and we read what He thought about it when He said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” (NASU)  What was God’s response?  He destroyed the tower man was building, confused their language in which they spoke, and they were scattered abroad.  Are you ready to let Him build the house of your life?  We would do well to heed the word of the psalmist and realize that the control of God over our very lives is the only way to live… here as we prepare for the home He has prepared for the faithful for all eternity.

Copyright © 2018, Nolan P. Rutter

Destruction Awaits the Unknowing

There are a number of challenges that face the church today, perhaps none so serious as the lack of knowledge.  A dear brother in Christ once told me when he was a ministry student at Harding University, “The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know…”  The underlying message here may be even greater than we see on the surface, in that as we gain knowledge we will also gain a desire to know more.

In James 4:4 we see that tremendous conflict exists between the world and God.  The world’s standards differ from God’s and yet many blindly follow the ways of the world thinking that they are pleasing to God, even blessed by Him.  I ask myself why would professing Christians make the choices they do, and I believe there are 3 possibilities.  The first one is that they believe they’re obeying God, the second is that they are unknowingly disobeying God and the third is that they are knowingly disobeying God.  In the last case, if they don’t repent they will alienate themselves from God for all eternity.

In today’s world truth is relative rather than absolute. We live in a world today where gender confusion is promoted and celebrated, thinking we can choose what sex we want to be.  God’s institution of marriage is nearly destroyed in that we see approval of same sex marriage, numerous marriages, adultery and immorality running rampant.  And last, but not least, the world has approved of the premeditated murder of babies in an act we call abortion.   

God certainly made His lament known when He spoke through the prophet in Hosea 4:6, “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

We know who’s behind this, for even from the beginning, Satan began changing God standards in the garden when he convinced Eve that she ‘surely’ would not die if she ate of the one forbidden fruit.  Just prior to His ministry Jesus, the son of God was faced with Satan’s tactics of deception in testing Him and yet Jesus was able to prevail because of His knowledge and application of God’s word.

Throughout Israel’s history they failed to maintain the relationship God desired with them.  Their rebellion and disobedience were often due to a lack of knowledge, understanding or neglecting His word entirely.  In the days of Jesus, we see the Sadducees mistaken about God’s word even though one can conclude the truth of the resurrection illustrated in God’s word.  Not to mention the Pharisees who elevated traditions above God’s word making their traditions much more important and at times invalidating the very commands of God. 

Prominent author Chuck Swindoll when speaking in a Chapel program in the mid 1990’s gave 6 reasons why he believed it was important to pursue knowledge of the scriptures:

  • Knowledge gives substance to faith.
  • Knowledge stabilizes us during times of testing.
  • Knowledge enables us to handle the Word of God accurately.
  • Knowledge equips us to detect and confront error.
  • Knowledge makes us confident and consistent in our walk with God.
  • Knowledge filters out our fears and superstitions.

– Kindred Spirit, Vol. 22, No. 1, Spring, 1998, p. 8

I’m afraid that today we have heard and believed so many lies we don’t even recognize what the truth is anymore.  And as a result, the same can be said of God’s people in 2018, that we are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.  When Jesus gave His Great Commission to the apostles, He gave clear guidance.  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20  Have you been taught?  Are you being taught?  Do you make yourself a student of the word of God?  Or are you ‘destroyed for a lack of knowledge’?

Copyright © 2018, Nolan P. Rutter

Where’s the Gratitude?

In the movie Groundhog Day, Phil Connors is caught in a loop that repeats Groundhog Day and its series of events over and over.  In one particular scene we see him walking down a sidewalk counting aloud, eventually rushing forward at the last minute to catch a young boy who has fallen out of a tree.  As the young lad is put down he runs away to Phil’s voice shouting, “You have never once thanked me! See you tomorrow!”  It certainly would have been proper since he had been saved from possible injury!

The thought of being grateful or showing appreciation is something that is sometimes lacking as we go through life.  And the times of today aren’t much different than those of the past.  Take for instance the text of scripture found in Mark 6:53 and following.  Jesus and His disciples arrive ashore after enduring a difficult night on the Sea of Galilee only to be recognized immediately by the people of Gennesaret.  Their response was to scour the countryside for all the sick, lame and otherwise infirmed they could find, all the while keeping tabs on where Jesus might be, in order to bring them into His presence.  No matter where Jesus found Himself, people with needs were there, ‘entreating Him that they might just touch the fringe of His garment’ (vs. 56) so that they might be healed of their affliction.  This scene reminds me of the woman with the hemorrhage of twelve years who did just that and was healed (Mark 5:27). 

What I find to be remarkable isn’t so much what we see in the text, but what we do not see.  Even through the first verses of chapter 7 we see not one indication of gratitude for what Jesus did for so many in need.  Was this an oversight on the part of Mark?  Perhaps, but we know that ingratitude was not always the case.  Take, for example, the ten lepers who were cleansed of their condition (Luke 10:11ff).  One of them saw fit to return to the presence of Jesus, humbling himself at the Lord’s feet praising God and thanking Jesus for what He had done.  But still there were the nine who did not return… perhaps they had opportunity later.  Again, in Mark chapter 5, we read of an individual who was possessed by many demons who identified himself as Legion.  Jesus exercised His authority and power by casting them out and into a herd of swine, delivering that man from unbearable anguish and suffering!  His response was to entreat Jesus to be allowed to accompany Him as He was leaving.  He wanted to be in Jesus’ presence!  Jesus told the man to go and tell his people what great things the Lord has done for him. 

With what Jesus has done for us in saving us from our sins, what have we done, to show our gratitude?

Copyright © 2014, Nolan P. Rutter

The Best of Hopes

What would you consider your greatest hope?  Is it your ideal job?  Could it be a particular level of education, maybe a Master’s degree or a Doctorate?   Perhaps it is one you believe will be the perfect spouse?  We would certainly be remiss if we didn’t consider hopes of a spiritual nature, after all, Hebrews 11:1 speaks of faith and hope as connected, ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for’.  So now, what would you say your greatest hope is?

A group of men and women had tremendous hopes nearly 2000 years ago.  It started with a Galilean carpenter turned rabbi who offered them hope regarding the oppressive rule of Rome in the diminutive region of Palestine.  What great hope they must have had that He would deliver them from the occupation of Rome.  This continued in spite of the unusually dark messages concerning His future.  Following a night of tribunal’s before religious and government leaders their hope evaporated on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem.  Their rabbi was dead and now two men, who had also believed in Him, retrieved His body and hastily prepared it for burial in a borrowed tomb.  Despair now filled the hearts of these once hopeful disciples leading them to seek refuge and comfort with one another behind locked doors.

Yet, in the span of three short days their despair is replaced with renewed hope.  The once occupied tomb is now empty as witnessed by several of His followers, and He has even appeared to those who knew He had died.  Forty days of added time with disciples conclude with confusion as Jesus now ascends from Mount Olivet, but not before rebuking the Apostles for questioning the restoration of the kingdom to Israel.

Perhaps the message we ought to embrace as hopeful is the one relayed by the two men in white at Christ’s ascension and that is “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11, NASU) Friends, we can have hope that Jesus is coming back and He is going to gather His faithful to be with Him always (1 Thessalonians 4:17) in a place He Himself went to prepare for us (John 14:3).  If this is your hope, I encourage you to consider the words of the Apostle Paul in that as we “hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:25b)  That is the best of all hopes, don’t you agree?

Copyright © 2014, Nolan P. Rutter