by Stu Johnson
Posted: February 22, 2018
Making life choices…
No. 12 in the Thursday Morning Guy’s group series (
No. 12 in the Thursday Morning Guy’s group series ()
Once again, I report from the Thursday Morning Guys group I’ve been attending at a local church. Each week one of the guys suggests a topic for discussion. The blogs that result are not minutes from the session, but an attempt to glean useful themes, to which I may add my own insights. The topic at the February 15 session focused on best and worst decisions.
This topic relates to an earlier one, “ .”
THE DISCUSSION STARTER
Topic suggested by one of the guys, shared in an email the night before
What is the best and worst decisions that you ever made and why? What were the consequences or blessings of those decisions? I've never done this before as it is much easier for me to cook than do this.
Maybe we should talk sometime about what is easier than suggesting the weekly topic! It could reveal some unknown talents.
REVEALVING GOD AT WORK THROUGH STORIES TOLD
Over the period of an hour, the subject of CARS came up several times…bad decisions on getting them (especially when young, in need of cheap transportation, perhaps too proud to accept the oldest family car) and using them (getting two tickets within a few blocks in downtown Chicago; spending a few hours in jail after a minor traffic incident while friends went through his sister’s dorm gathering enough cash to pay his bail; driving a clunker without a required rear bumper and being told by police in two different towns not to show up there again, then being given responsibility for reviewing safety procedures at the front gate of his new employer; falling asleep at the wheel when driving with the boss after a long day at work). Embarrassing, humiliating, but often funny now that time has passed . . . and in some cases, evidence that driving proves the need for guardian angels!
Other stories related to situations at different stages of life. Instead of following the pattern of previous blogs, this week I will suggest several themes, illustrated by the stories that were told. Then, the Guidance from Scripture section will be organized around several principles.
God’s purposes often don’t become clear until later; we may not be confident of decisions along the way, but can trust God for the long haul.
- When I divided the stories into groups, this one reminded me of my experience as a leader in the Wheaton College Vanguard Program—a wilderness experience to help prepare incoming freshmen and transfer students for their college experience. The difference between student and leader parallels the point of this section. At points in the program, groups would be responsible for making their own way to a destination using map and compass (no GPS back then!), but only being given large scale Forest Service maps to cover the journey in segments. As leaders, we knew the ultimate destination. Each group was allowed to make its own decisions, unless its leaders (usually two) sensed imminent danger—very rare, more likely a selected route that seemed good would actually be made more difficult and cover more territory because of obstacles along the way. How often does that mirror our experience in life—God allows us to make judgments, which may not always be the best, but watches over us to reach the ultimate destination in that portion of his plan for us. As we go through life, if we pay attention, we’ll learn to sharpen our own decision-making and grow even more confident in our trust of God’s ultimate guidance.
- One dad in the group related how he dragged his daughter to an open house at a vocational high school program in our area, thinking she might be interested in the beautician program. She did enter the program, but more to please him, he realized. Thinking his son might be interested in TV production, he took him to the open house the following year, where what excited him most was the aviation mechanics program. Taking the bus to this school was not a cool thing to do (their district high school was heavily college prep), but going with his sister helped and he flourished in the program. He became one of only two to qualify for the federal aviation power plant license before graduation from high school. An ex-Marine teacher had committed to make that program succeed, and the son ended up enlisting in the Marine Corps, where he would become lead mechanic in an aviation group.
- While his son was in high school, another of the guys related how they reluctantly took in a Nigerian student who needed housing, not sure it was a good idea at the time. The boy became part of their family, went on to attend college, started his own business and now has his own family. What was a difficult and seemingly unwise decision at the time, turned out to be a good one for everyone involved.
- Prompted by another in the group, one of the guys reprised a story told in a previous session. He and his wife were located in a university town where they were happy with work and church. He became aware of an opportunity in the Chicago area, but it did not interest him that much. The small group they were part of prayed for them and encouraged him to pursue it. He got the job, which turned out to be very good, but God’s seal on the deal was made evident when the company he had been working for announced its closure, with the loss of that job, within two weeks of making the decision to pursue the new opportunity.
- A newer member of the group introduced himself by telling the story of God’s guidance in college. He started at a time when roommates were pretty much thrown together. His was a smoker and it was not long before he picked up the habit. Four years later he met his future wife, who would not let him smoke in her apartment. Being forced to smoke outside in the winter was enough to convince him that it was a habit he could do without. Now, it is clear that the Lord used that situation to lead him to his wife, and to enter marriage without the burden of a major health risk.
- A decision to go to law school, for one of the guys, was the result of he and his wife deciding they would have to take turns pursuing graduate work.
- Another spoke of the bad consequences of marrying young (19) into a family, it turned out, with a history of drug and alcohol abuse. The marriage later ended, leaving two daughters from whom he was estranged for 14 years. Later, he came to faith in Christ, as did both daughters, with whom there was eventually reconciliation. Sadly, the oldest daughter died of a heart attack at age 45, but he is confident of her eternal place with Christ. He has since remarried to a wonderful woman. That backstory of redemption has given him the motivation to work with youth and talk to kids about their decisions.
Hang on, God’s direction can take you on a wild ride
- Someone asked the pastor to relate his own story. He came to the church as a youth pastor, assuming that might last five years or so. Then, he became Senior Pastor, and encountered a “crazy, uphill” learning curve over the past four-and-a-half years. He owes much to those who have mentored him, mentioning one in particular, who sadly came to the end of his earthly ministry, but left a great legacy of wise counsel.
- As I was busy writing notes, I did not comment as much as usual. When asked, I shared the story of our decision to sell our house three-and-a-half years ago. We had talked about moving to a townhouse for several years, but then when we finally made the decision, things unfolded at breathtaking speed. There were some bumps in the road that kept us clinging to the Lord along the way. We ended up with a cash buyer without having to put the house on the market, found a good townhouse—the first we wanted became unavailable before we could make an offer, but we then made an offer on another in the same development before it was officially listed (as we went through the financing details, the second was clearly the best option). We financed through our Credit Union, which was able to move quickly by all accounts because of the cash purchase. Moving from a house we had occupied for 42 years was not easy and though we were exhausted by the process, it was evident to us that God had directed every step of the way, including those that seemed like major obstacles.
Some decisions move away from God
- When a guest from another school came to Wheaton College (IL) to speak, one of the guys related, he asked about the paths that both schools had taken. Each was founded about the same time as Christian liberal arts colleges, with presidents known for their strong Christian convictions. Why, then, did the other school drift from its Christian roots? The guest explained that at one point in its history his college received a very large gift, with the stipulation that it be used to make it the best liberal arts college in the country. Doing so, however, caused it to lose focus; within twenty years its Christian heritage had been abandoned.
There is one certain “best” decision in life, setting us on a different path with more lessons to learn
- One of the guys had trouble coming up with only one or two bad examples, but said the best was when he made the decision to follow Christ. It was a Wednesday night at camp, which set his life on the right track, while leading him to become a life-long supporter of Christian camping.
- One of the guys who came to faith in Christ while growing up in a Muslim country in the former Soviet Union, told of lessons learned in sharing his faith. He and a friend both became Christ-followers, but a third who was part of a close-knit trio, did not feel the need to follow their lead. They tried to force the friend to pray to Christ, but they came to realize that while their motives were good, their methods were not. When talking with family, discussions of Orthodox faith made some think they wanted to be Russian, betraying their own heritage. He and the friend were right to share their new-found faith, but they had to learn (as shared in a previous session) to pray for friends and family and trust God to work in their hearts, often by seeing them come with questions.
What stories can you add?
PRINCIPLES PROPOSED / GUIDANCE FROM SCRIPTURE (God’s written Word, the Holy Bible)
In addition to the Scriptures that follow, see the references on the topic, “.” You may also find additional resources in the section of this website helpful.
The key decision: become a Christ-follower
- “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.” ( )
- “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in [Jesus]. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” (from )
- Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. ( )
Trust in, obey the Lord
- “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This[a] is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” ( )
- “Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer. “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” “Do what you think is best,” the armor bearer replied. “I’m with you completely, whatever you decide.” ( )
- Jeremiah replied, “You won’t be handed over to them if you choose to obey the Lord. Your life will be spared, and all will go well for you. ( )
Honor, serve God
- Solomon decided to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord, and also a royal palace for himself. ( )
- But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” ( )
The importance of character for the decision-maker
- Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold ( )
Preserve unity, advance God’s work
- So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. ( )
Dishonoring God a bad decision
- They decided to abandon the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Because of this sin, divine anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem. ( )
- But those who choose their own ways— delighting in their detestable sins— will not have their offerings accepted. . . . ( )
What principles (or Scriptures) can you add from what you have learned, observed, and applied to your life?
About the Scripture references: unless indicated otherwise, these are taken from the New Living Translation (NLT). Links connect towhere you can see other translations, view the broader context, listen to an audio version and find other Bible resources. Also check the resources available in the section of this site.
Stu Johnson is principal of Stuart Johnson & Associates, a communications consultancy in Wheaton, Illinois. He is publisher and editor of SeniorLifestyle, writes the InfoMatters blog on his own website and contributes articles for SeniorLifestyle.• Author bio (website*) • E-mail the author (moc.setaicossajs@uts*) • Author's website (personal or primary**)
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