Just Two Choices

A Free Theme Week into the Book of Psalms

Psalm 1 6

Greetings!  I’m introducing a week of devotions based on the Psalms.  There are 150 psalms in the Bible. (Note there are Protestant Bible translations and Catholic Bible translations.  The psalm number has a variation in Catholic translations.  I’ll be following the psalm numbering in Protestant versions ie. NIV, KJV, NRSV etc…)

The word psalm comes from the Hebrew word “mizmor” and means melody.  When translated into Greek it is “psalmos” which means song for the harp or the plucking of strings.  The key is that they are musical pieces.  Just as we sing hymns and praise and worship songs in church, the psalms were written to be sung as part of worship.  Most of the Psalms have been used in Jewish and later Christian worship settings for over 3,000 years (and you thought Frank Sinatra or the Beatles was old music).

Not all psalms are alike.  Different commentators call them different things and they are grouped differently.  I like the following 7 groupings:  1.Wisdom, 2. Royal, 3. Lament, 4.Imprecatory, 5.Thanksgiving, 6. Pilgrimage, 7. Enthronement.  During this week I’ll focus on a different type of Psalm and give the description and brief example each day.

Let me also talk to you a bit about how I incorporate psalms into my daily worship.  For hundreds of years men who live in monastic communities or monks have used the psalms as part of their daily worship.  In many communities they sing/pray/chant through the entire Book of Psalms every month.

A few years ago I came across an idea for going through the entire Book of Psalms every month using 5 psalms a day.  On the first day of the month read Psalm 1, 31, 61,91 and 121, the next day read Psalm 2,32,62,92,122.  Whatever day of the month you are on, read that, and then add 30 and keep going up by 30.  That way, in 30 days you will read all 150 psalms.  I break this up during the day: one when I first get up, one mid-morning, one at lunch time, one at supper time and one at the end of the day.  This way I surround my day and fill my day with these prayers and songs to God.  You don’t have to do it that way, but you might want to try it, or whatever way works for you. (On months with 31 days I just pick a few of my favorites for day 31).

The first type of psalm is a wisdom psalm.  It’s a kind of teaching psalm pointing out the way to live a Godly life.  An example of a wisdom Psalm is Psalm 1.

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

 

This psalm is a simple but clear message about the choices we have in life.  This theme has been taken up by many through history.  Robert Frost talked about having a choice to take one of two paths and he took “the road less travelled” and that it made all the difference.  Jesus talked about wide gates and narrow gates and the importance of following his path “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Even the classic rock band Led Zeppelin sang “yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

This psalm teaches us that we do have choices.  We can follow the path of the righteous or we can follow the path of the wicked.  The path of the righteous is the “right or correct path.”  This path is the path of one who follows God’s instructions.  The law of the Lord is not so much a law like a legal code as much as an instruction about the way to live.  Jesus showed his disciples/students how to live a life that was faithful to God.  Those who follow this path delight in following God’s instructions for life and spend time meditating upon, praying about, thinking about God’s instructions.  What do you spend your time thinking about, focusing on, absorbing?  The person who is fully absorbed in God’s ways will live a fruitful and prosperous life.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they will be financially wealthy, but they will be successful in the way that God defines success, they will be godly, they will have life.

The other path is the path that leads to destruction.  This is the path that does not end well.  If I told you that there was a fork in the road: if you go right, you’ll end up at Disney World and a lifetime of fun and adventure, if you go to the left, you’ll be at the garbage dump and there’s no turning back.  I’m guessing you’d choose Mickey over a trash heap.  It all boils down to a simple choice.  If you feel like you’re currently heading on the wrong path, there’s good news “there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

-Jeff Fletcher

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Decisions, Decisions…

Deut 30

Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 has become one of my most often used passages. It is talking about our decision and the true choices we have. I think these verses need be used in all of our decisions. Deut. 30:15-20   “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

These are the choices that God has set before us “life and prosperity, or death and adversity”, is that a difficult choice. Who would willingly say, I would like more death and adversity in my life. But we are saying that when we choose to live in a way that is anti-God. When we choose to go against the will of God, we choose those things. Then he says, the Lord wants to bless us in our lives, but he only blesses us when we choose to love Him and walk in His ways and follow His commands. But all of His commands are for our own good and leads to a much better way of life. It’s not really a hard choice but it is one that we have to make everyday! Choose Life – the choice is ours but there’s really no comparison, and we can ask ourselves which one leads to the best results. There is only one choice that makes sense.

Sherry Alcumbrack

good choice bad choice

Godly Listening

1 John 4

Can YouHearHimNow_

I listen to the radio when I drive. I have three stations that I rotate between, depending on when there are commercials. In an attempt to avoid commercials, I flip between those stations in search of music. If there is music on one of those stations, I’ll listen to it instead.

 

Some of you may gravitate towards talk show hosts or only listen to news and traffic alerts on the radio. You may skip the radio altogether and instead plug your phone in for a completely customized driving playlist. Perhaps, you listen to your GPS, because it tells you where to go.  

 

Needless to say, we all choose what we listen to in the car. In fact, I can make that sentence even simpler:

 

We all choose what we listen to.

 

You see, we have a choice to make.

 

You can choose to listen to the world – to it’s lies and it’s deceptions. Or, you can choose to listen to God – to His truths.

 

1 John 4:4-6 says, “You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore, what they say is from the world and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.”

 

You have a choice to make. Will you listen to the words of men or the words of God? The choice is yours.

 

– Madison Cisler

Two Roads Diverged – Proverbs 10

If you didn’t read yesterday’s devotion you should go do that now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait…..

Ok, Proverbs 9 sets the backdrop for the next several chapters in Proverbs.  Proverbs 9 gives the contrast between the way of wisdom and the way of folly (foolishness).  One way leads to life, the other leads to death.  With that in mind, chapter 10 begins a lengthy section of Proverbs which give a very clear contrast between the way of wisdom and the way of foolishness.  These Proverbs are technically known as antithetical which is a very common rhetorical device used in ancient literature to hold opposites next to each other.

Chances are, at some point in your educational journey, you became acquainted with the following poem by Robert Frost.

two roads

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

 
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

~ Robert Frost

 

That is poetic and filled with all kinds of metaphorical imagery, and it leaves it to each reader to fill it with its content.  What do the two different roads look like and where do they lead?

Proverbs 10 leaves very little to our individual imagination.  It spells things out like Mapquest.

These are my paraphrases of Proverbs 10:

If you are wise, you make your Daddy happy.
If you are foolish you break your momma’s heart.
If you are lazy, you’re broke
if you work hard, you’ll have plenty of money.

 
If you are wise, you’ll take instructions from those in authority
If you are a fool you’re always running your mouth and you’ll ruin your life because you don’t listen.
If you do things the right way, you have little to fear
but if you cut corners and break rules, it will eventually catch up with you.

 
If you go around spreading hate, it leads to more hate, and fights.
If you love others, it puts an end to the hate and helps bring about peace.
If you willingly accept correction your life will improve
if you ignore correction, you’ll not only hurt yourself, you’ll hurt others too.

 
If you live the right way, you have good things to look forward to.
If you spend your life doing evil things, life eventually becomes a dead end.

 

wisdom verses foolishness

That was fun, putting that wisdom into my own words.

You try it.  Take some of the Proverbs which contrast the way of wisdom with the way of foolishness and put it in your own words.  That’s the practical,  analytical, left-brain approach.

If you are more right-brained, creative and artistic, then write a story or poem or paint a picture contrasting the way of wisdom or the way of foolishness.

And if you’re really into it… try doing both the left and right-brained approach- and then you’ll never forget Proverbs 10.

~ Jeff Fletcher

Wise Choices lead to the Path of Wisdom – Proverbs 9

path of wisdom

Some of my happiest times are when I go out to eat with friends.  And some really memorable times are when a friend invites you to their house for a dinner party.  Something about the combination of good food and good friends coming together usually results in a lot of joy and laughter.

Proverbs 9 compares two very different kinds of dinner parties.  The first dinner party is hosted by Wisdom.  Wisdom has gone to a lot of work to create a top-notch get together.  She has had a beautiful house built, set up high on pillars, it’s a lovely place.  Inside her house, she has set a beautiful table that would impress Martha Stewart.  The steaks are all prepared to perfection and paired with the best wine.  It’s an elegant set-up to be sure.  And then she sends out her servants to invite people from all over the city to come and enjoy the fine dining experience.

Her invitation isn’t just for the wealthy and elite.  She’s inviting the simple folk to come.  Everyone is welcome at this table.

On the other side of town, there’s another dinner party being thrown by another woman.  But this woman’s name is folly.  She’s throwing a dinner party, but there is no evidence that this party has the elegance and preparation as Wisdom’s dinner party.  There is nothing said about preparing fine meats and wines.  In fact, this whole thing is sketchy.  She doesn’t send out servants with invitations; she’s just sitting on her doorstep yelling at everyone who comes by: “come to my house, stolen water is sweet, hidden food is delicious.”  Sounds pretty un-legit to me.  But wait, there’s more: “little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.”  Huh?  A dinner party where all the guests die from drinking stolen water and secret food?  I may be projecting 21st-century American culture onto this Proverb, but what I hear is “crack house”.  Of course, that wasn’t the original authors meaning, but he was clearly showing the stark contrast between a life lived in pursuit of wisdom vs. a life lived in pursuit of foolishness.

The way of wisdom leads to life, the way of foolishness leads to death.  This is just common sense.  With that being said, who on earth would choose the way of foolishness?  The answer, fools.  You can’t make decisions for other people.  You can’t force other people to make wise choices.  And nobody can force you to make wise choices.  At the end of the day, we are each responsible for the decisions we make in life.  Proverbs sets it out in simplistic language and or course there are exceptions.  Even good and wise people occasionally suffer accidents and calamities that impact or prematurely end their lives.  And yes, sometimes people who make terrible life choices still manage to survive and live long and somewhat successful lives.  We can usually find exceptions to almost any rule.  However, in the most simple and general way, if you make wise choices in life, things usually go well, and if you make stupid choices in life, they usually end up not so well.

I have a friend from high school that I haven’t seen in over 30 years, but we keep up with each other via Facebook.  This friend and I made some radically different life choices when we were in our late teens/early 20’s. My friend rejected God in college and embraced a life of atheism.  My friend rejected the traditional Biblical route of marriage and family, spent years shacking up with others.  Finally married, my friend divorced after a short time, remarried, but chose not to have any children so they could “enjoy life.” This friend recently posted that their spouse was gone on an extended trip when their birthday came, so they chose to go out and celebrate their birthday alone at a fancy restaurant (the bill for just my friend came out to over $250.00).  My friend took pictures of every course of the meal and the final bill to prove how much they had spent.  I read their birthday post with great sadness.  My friend has arrived at a place in life where they are all alone on their birthday with no one to share it with except their friends on social media where they tried to impress us with how much they spent on themselves for their birthday.

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My last birthday was spent at home with my family.  They cooked foods I liked, they made my favorite desserts and sang happy birthday and gave me my “obligatory birthday gifts”: (That’s actually what the gift bag my daughter gave me said on it- she has my sense of humor). The meal for 9 of us probably came to less than $25.00.  There were some pictures taken (not by me).  I was certainly not alone, and I was extremely happy.  How did I arrive at such joy?  I took a path that I believe was the path of wisdom.  I married a godly woman while I was in Bible college, we made having a family and raising godly children a priority, and we are now enjoying the blessings of a life where we chose the path of wisdom.  Now, we’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way and we are far from perfect, but together we’ve made a great life and are now enjoying our 11 children and 4 grandchildren.  And we are part of an extended family of believers around the world in the Church of God.  We love God, and we love life.

How do you want your life to go?  Make sure you go to the right dinner party.

The first step of wisdom is to make God first in your life and center your life around God.  God is an Awesome God. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)  That’s our memory verse for the week, and it’s how you make sure that you get on the right path for life.

~ Jeff Fletcher

Pursuing Wisdom – Prov. 1

If you have not yet seen the video for the beginning of this week’s readings, I encourage you to go ahead and watch it. As a reminder, this week’s memory verse is Proverbs 3:5-6.
This week I am going to be talking mostly about wisdom.
Today I will be specifically talking about what wisdom is, where it comes from, and why we need it and need to respect it. Proverbs 1 tells us that wisdom comes from knowledge, and knowledge begins with the fear of the LORD. 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” This chapter also says that we need to listen to our father’s and mother’s because their teachings have knowledge and wisdom in them. Verse 9 says, “They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” Where are most tiaras or crowns held? A box, or a glass case- this means that those physical items are taken care of very well, and protected. We should treat teachings from our parents the same way, as they are just as valuable as tangible objects that we hide away, or protect fiercely.
The rest of the chapter talks about why we NEED to have wisdom. The Bible says that there will be people who are stuck in their wicked ways and will try to entice you into going along with them. They will say things like, “we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; cast lots with us; we will all share the loot” (verses 13-14) Now obviously in this passage, these people sound like they are up to no good, but there are people in our daily lives that will try to lead us astray, and they will be better at covering up their true intentions. Have you ever had a friend say, “Oh they changed their mind, they don’t want to play with us today.” but deep down you know that your other friend was really excited to spend time with you? Have you ever heard someone say, “One little sip can’t hurt anyone?” even though you know that your parents don’t allow you to drink pop, or you aren’t old enough to have wine. These are the exact same as what Proverbs is warning us against. When these things are said to you, you probably have a weird feeling in your stomach, and this is wisdom. Wisdom helps you to discern when someone is trying to lead you away from the path you are called to. This passage tells us that those who ignore what wisdom is telling us will kill them. “For the waywardness of the simple will kill them and the complacency of fools will destroy them” (verse 32).
However, the very end of Proverbs 1 gives hope to those who gain knowledge, and work to learn and understand wisdom. Proverbs 1:33, “but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease without fear of harm.” If we trust in the knowledge and the wisdom taught to us by our parents, and ultimately from fear of the LORD, we will have safety and should not be afraid of harm.

 

Wisdom is an important tool that every Christian should practice, and learn. Wisdom will help us find our way on our path with God, wisdom will help us to trust in the plans he has for us, and wisdom will protect us, in many ways.
Thank you for reading today. Tomorrow, we will delve even more into where wisdom comes from, and what it can do, and why it is important for us in our daily lives. May you have a wonderful day, and God Bless.
~Jana

Make a Choice! – 2 Chron. 34

 

scrolls
This picture is from the Memorial Scrolls Trust (http://www.memorialscrollstrust.org/), a collection of 1600 Czech Torah scrolls saved from the destruction of the Holocaust.

 

Wow! This week has been such a great reminder for me about the importance of scripture! We began this week by looking at our memory verse from Deut. 30:19-20:

 This day I call the heavens and the 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 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.”

We’ve learned how we can choose life through desiring and studying God’s word this week. What does choosing life look like?

Let’s pause for a moment this Saturday morning and turn to 2 Chronicles 34, our key text. The Israelites in the Old Testament always seem to be getting into trouble and turning away from God’s paths. At this point in 2 Chronicles, the kingdom of Israel that Saul and David had established had been divided in two, with the ten tribes in the north making up Israel and the two in the south, Judah. The nation of Israel had become so wicked that God had sent them into exile. The kingdom of Judah had not gotten that bad, yet. But still, the people, under the king’s directions, had begun to worship other gods and neglected the one true God. In 2 Chronicles 33, we find the temple in disrepair and the law of God lost. The nation of Judah was choosing death.

But, in 2 Chronicles 34, we find hope in the form of a boy named Josiah, anointed king at only 8 years old. The Bible said that “he did what was right in the LORD’s sight and walked in the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn aside to the right or the left” (v. 2). Josiah according to this verse was obviously choosing the path of life. But, what does that actually mean? What did he do that was so righteous?

The rest of this chapter goes on to say that he tore down the false gods that his people were worshiping and cleansed the land. Then, he began to restore God’s temple to how it should be. While the priests were looking through the temple and cleaning it out, they found something pretty important. In verse 14, it says that “Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the LORD written by the hand of Moses.” The people of Judah had walked so far down the path of unrighteousness that they totally neglected the law of God and lost it. Later on, it says that the court secretary, Shapan, just told King Josiah, “Hilkiah the priest gave me a book.” The law to him was nothing more than an old book!

Shapan read the law aloud to Josiah and when Josiah heard this, he got so upset that he tore his clothes! He realized that his people hadn’t been choosing the way of life; they hadn’t been keeping “the word of the LORD in order to do everything written in [it]” (v. 21).

choose life

This week, we’ve been meditating on the importance of scripture. We have a wonderful gift already because we have such easy access to the word of God! But, just like the people of Judah, we may neglect it to chase after other things. This year, we have another opportunity to commit ourselves to learning how to choose life from God’s word, both through these devotions and more simply through dedicating ourselves to God. Beginning tomorrow, we will learn more Godly wisdom from the book of Proverbs. Make a choice now to dedicate yourself like Josiah did to the daily reading of God’s word so that we can follow the paths of righteousness that lead to life.