Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How Do I Make Consistently Wise Choices?

In the second message of his series, "Deal or No Deal", Johnson Bowie opens with several pieces of trivia; "Revlon has 158 shades of lipstick!...Sonic offers you 168,894 possible drink combinations!"  That means, starting with the Chocolate Blue Coconut Dr. Pepper, you can have a different drink every day for the next 462 years!!  Isn't that insane?!?  There are so many choices we have in the world today.  When we were in college, our schedule was pretty structured and consistent, right?  But when we graduated and were free to roam the world, we faced choices that were extremely complex.  What's more, we are faced with the pressure of making the right decisions because our lives become the sum total of our decisions.

How many of you wish you had some sort of Morse Code connection with God?  Wouldn't that make life easier?  Proverbs 4:7 says, "Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding."  Wisdom is supreme.  That's kind of a big hint on life!  Great decisions with big choices is important, but great choices with little choices is almost as equally important.  If you make bad small choices every day, they can add up to humongous problems.  For instance, marriages fall apart one day at time.  It's a slow series of bad choices that adds up to huge problems. We have to establish processes for choices.  They can't just be decisions based on our feelings. 

Jesus asked 3 questions to us to guide our decisions in life (from previous message in series):

1)  Is it Written? 
2) Is it Love? 
3) Is it on God's Agenda? 

God wants us to succeed.  He knows what's best for us.  But a lot of what He says is contrary to what we hear.  We've heard "It's okay to look, but don't touch", right?  But what does the Bible say about that?  "Anyone who looks at a woman with lust in his heart, he commits adultry his heart with her."  Johnson ran into a woman who told him she reads Proverbs any time she is faced with tough decisions. 

We might ask ourselves, "What's wrong with going over to my girlfriend's house and watching a boring movie in the dark?"  To answer this question, we have to ask ourselves what love is and we can find out about love in 1 Corinthians 13:4.  "Love is patient, love is kind....love is not self seeking."   If we think about the reason we want to go to her place, then we can conclude it is not a wise decision.  Also, the Bible says not to place a stumbling block for a weaker brother.  The neighbor might say, "I know what you were doing in there" and you might say, "No!! We were singing Kumbaya."  See, if we knew 1 Corinthians 13:4, wouldn't it save us from so many relationships?

Then, the question in our minds should be, "Is it on God's agenda?"  Does it further the kingdom of God?  The three questions Jesus asks will answer 75% of the decisions we have to make, but what about the things that aren't as clear like who should I marry?  Should I take this job?  Should I go out of town? 

Here is the key question we have to ask ourselves when it comes to making the small decisions; "In light of my past, considering my present and looking forward to the future, what is the wisest choice for me to make today?"  Wisdom is the ability to make great choices when we don't have specific, direct advice from the Bible and remember that wisdom is supreme. 

In "Deal or No Deal", you choose a single case and all subsequent decisions are made based on what we think is in the case we have chosen.  Well, we all have a case.  We all have history, life experiences and advice from friends in that case.  We have junk too.  There are really 3 things based on which people generally make decisions. 
1) We make decisions based on our past.  We are ruled by our past, by our fears and by our failures.  We might be completely insecure because of the past or too proud because of our past.  Here is the problem.  Too often, our past experiences are contrary to the Word of God.  Our past can steal our future.  Remember Moses?  Moses was controlled by his past.  When he went to the burning bush in Exodus 3, God basically told Moses this was his big chance.  Moses is being given the opportunity to lead God's people out of Egypt!  God wants to use Moses is a huge way, but what does Moses do, not once but several times?  He wines and complains about what he can't do.  He says he's not good enough and that he has a speech impediment.  Moses was killing God's present to him.  At one point, it says God actually got angry with him.  The Apostle Paul says, "I forget my past and I press on". 
2) The second case is this; "Open the case".  People are ruled by the present.  "Have you seen my bank account?  I can't tithe."  They're miserable because of how they feel.  What about the people who are cutting down the rain forests?  They are killing their future because of current needs!  These are the Carpe Diem guys.  "Seize the day."  It sounds exciting, but it often ruins our lives!  Jeremiah 1:6-10  talks about how Jeremiah said he was too young and how he was negating God's calling. 
3) The third mistake we make is when we make decisions based on our future only.  These are the visionaries.  These are the people who forget to live in the moment of the day.  Eventually, they just burn out.  Think about it.  "God told me that you were going to be my wife."  Does that reallly work?  No!  You can't tell someone that!  For the future to happen, we have to take a step each day.  It's like hiking to the top of a mountain, but tripping and getting hit by limbs on the trail because we keep looking to the top of the mountian rather than enjoying and paying attention to the journey.  We can't forget about the day. 
Did you ever hear about Lot, Abraham's nephew?  There was this famine in the land.  Abraham and Lot were loaded.  They leave the family and go out and look at this huge, vast piece of land.  Some of the land is beautiful and another part of the land is dry and will require work.  Abraham gives Lot the first choice and tells him that he will take the other. Genesis 13 picks up here.  So, Lot looked out and saw what looked to be best for him. To him it was a no-brainer.  He chose what looked best.  But disaster struck; absolute and complete disaster.  Lot moved near Sodom and eventually moved into Sodom.  Later, we see that he barely escapes with his life and he loses his wife.  Lot would probably have done things completely different if he had considered things more carefully.  But his choice, instead of God's will for him, was based on what appeared physically to look better.

 Just because it looks nice doesn't mean it is right for us.  We have to consider our past ,our present and our future.  Here's what it boils down to;  We have to learn for our  past, we have to be able to look for ward to the furture, but while living in our present.  We can't be told not to go into a bar, but our past experiences can teach us.  We have to know our own tendencies and behavior.  Which in environments do we flourish?  This is the great wisdom of God in our lives.  Here is where we can make great decisions. 
Hang out with your girl in Barnes & Noble without going to her place and watching a funky movie in the dark and alone.  Many of us are stuck in these repetitive sins.  But it's not a sin problem, it's a stupid problem!  We keep going back to that website or that street corner.  We keep making the same choices and thinking it will work this time.  
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. -Einstein

If I want my marriage to look this way... What should I do?  If I want to have a life that looks like this, what do I do?  If I want my relationship with Jesus to look like this, what do I need to do today?  This big.  Is it is it written, is it love and is it on God's agenda?   For the small decisions, again; In light of my past, in view of my current situation and looking forward to the future, what should I do?
James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."  It that easy, but we don't do that!  We just go out and make bad choices.  God wants to stop that in us and he wants to empower us.  He wants to glorify Jesus in our lives. He wants our lives to be a testimoney.  So, can we do that?  Can we get our eyes off our fears and align them with what God wants for us? 

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