Sunday, May 17, 2009

Choose Life

This morning was Confirmation Sunday, an important step in which young people say, "It's not my parents' faith, it's my faith." Pastor Brad welcomed us, exclaiming, "It thrills us when young people want to have a relationship with Jesus Christ."

Announcements included:
1. Eric and the Youth would be selling "Stock Shares" after the service as part of the CHIC fundraising they continue to do. The "Stock" was on sale for $10 a share, which can be redeemed at a dinner on Friday, June 5 here at the church.
2. Church Council Meeting will be Tuesday the 19th at 7:00 p.m.
3. Today was the last day of Sunday school. Thanks was extended to all teachers, substitutes and volunteers for the school year now completed. (Thank you, JoaAnn for your dedicated leadership!)
4. Next Sunday the summer schedule will kick in. Worship begins at 9:30 a.m.

The youth in our church led the call to worship, invocation and Scripture readings. The Scriptures today included Daniel 1:11-21 and I Timothy 4:11-16.

Our prayer time this morning was especially poignant. There are many hurting people in the church family dealing with a wide range of issues, some quite heartbreaking. Many needs, much pain and heartfelt prayers touched many of us today. It is good to be part of a church family.

At one point a visitor stood and encouraged us to keep doing what we are doing, loving one another. And Brad noted that God is in "the Restoration business." Despite the challenges we have much to be grateful for.

Choose Life

Today's message was based on Deuteronomy 30:11-20.
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

"I wish I could infuse in our young people how much God loves you and how important your choices matter," Brad began. His message continuously returned to this theme of the importance of our choices based on Moses' appeal to the people of Israel as he was about to depart from them. It was the end of a forty year trek in the wilderness. Moses would not be permitted to lead them across the Jordan into the Promised Land as God was bringing him "home." So Moses speaks to this ragged band, these stiff-necked people whom he has loved and led all these years. His aim is to infuse in them an urgency. We have daily choices to make. Some lead to life, others to death.

Brad noted that we have many opportunities daily to make choices which are not neutral. One path leads to life, freedom, joy, fruitfulness. The other path leads to guilt, bitterness, death and destruction. It is up to us to make every choice count, for the rest of our lives, in light of these words.

In verse 16 Moses states that the path to life is obedience which is demonstrated three ways.
(1) Love God.
(2) Wise conduct.
(3) Obey his guidelines for life, His commandments.

Do this and you will thrive. God's blessings will be with you.

The answers are not far off, not hard to understand, not obscure and difficult. As Moses states in verse 14, "The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it."

But Moses goes further. If your heart is not tender toward God and attentive to God's Word, you will be led astray. (vs. 17) No one starts out in life seeking destruction. What happens is that they do not have a strong aim and therefore drift there. Disaster follows when we slip away from the community of faith and hope.

Choose life! It does not seem that hard to understand. Yet so often we can get deceived and some things we think will lead to life actually lead to death.

By way of illustration Pastor Brad shared three anecdotes. The first was a story about going to Jackson Hole in Colorado. He thought this would be the end all and be all of really living. Starting off on the wrong foot he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed on the way after a 20 hour drive. This did not deter them from continuing. At the mountain itself he felt expansive and confident, ignoring warnings to "respect the mountain." Needless to say, the adventure concluded with a friend's blown out knee, and some other lessons.

Another story Brad told was about a lifelong smoker whom he visited in Minneapolis who had to breathe through a tracheotomy as a result of his many surgeries. As a youth he thought smoking was something glamorous. His addiction, which led to bad health and much personal suffering, was no longer that glamorous when he had to smoke through the hole in his throat.

Brad also recalled some mean this he'd said about a classmate in his school days which were cruel and unkind. He cringes to this day for having said things which seemed "cool" at the time.

We have many places where we encounter forks in the road and decisions to make. It may be decisions about finances. Scripture speaks of tithing and giving to the needy. This is a path which leads to life. The other path -- hoarding, coveting, scheming to acquire things we don't need or which seem life-giving but are not -- leads to death.

Another fork has to do with relationships. We come to this fork hundreds of times a day, and most often the decisions are not neutral. We can be listeners or tune others out. We can say hurtful things. We can gossip. Sometimes we need to confront but we keep silent. In short, your daily choices matter. Choose life!

Don't you know that this is the one and only life you have to live? Choose life. Life and death are held out to you hundreds of times a day. Choose life. This is the Gospel.

The message was followed by a Rite of Confirmation ceremony for Grant Borndal.

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