We have a daughter entering her senior year in high school. It is a year of choices. Her class schedule is set for the year, but its time to send out college applications. It is time to consider schools, majors, programs and careers. Our mailbox receives a college advertisement every day (sometimes 2 to 3 a day). Colleges from Washington State to Florida: private schools, academies, public universities, community colleges... they all have their appeal. And making a choice for one takes away the opportunities presented by another. It is mind numbing (not to mention expensive.)
We live in a complicated world today. I can’t say it is harder or easier than previous generations. We don’t have to grow/hunt our own food or sew our own clothes like earlier generations. I am glad I don’t understand those challenges. I do understand many of the struggles of this generation. I believe our world is drowning in choices.
Look at what is available to the average family today. Think about what there is to involve yourself in. I am not sure there has ever been a period in history when we have had more things to choose from: cable, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, gaming, on-line gaming, bowling leagues, golf leagues, softball leagues, corn hole leagues (yes, they exist... google it). Kid’s sports leagues, Swim Club, gymnastic clubs, shooting clubs, dance, movies, parks, beaches, boats, cabins, school, on-line school, church, concerts, shopping (yes, some people claim this as a hobby), fishing, hunting, running, the gym, the theater, MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, FIFA, college sports, vacations, eating out, spin class, Pilates, yoga class, hot spin yoga Pilates class… the choices are endless. And these don’t include the bad/evil choices of things to do. There is a list of sin choices we could add here too. These are all possibly good. We are drowning in things to do.
When I look at our culture, I see one of Jesus’ parables displayed for us clearly. In the parable of the sower, the farmer(sower) is planting seed in many different places. The seed is the truth about God. Some of the seed grew into plants. Some did not. One of them is described as seed being planted among weeds. Jesus says there… "And other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.” (Mark 4:7 NAS)
The person was ready and wanted the truth about God in their life. But in the end, because other plants already existed in great number, God’s truth could not grow in their life. It got choked out. God was drowned out of their life because of the many choices of these lives.
We are drowning in choices.
If God is bringing us the best of life, and we want what God has to offer, we’ve got to make room for him in our lives. God’s counsel is for us to do a little weeding and make room for what is most important.
Most of the families that I meet are busy trying to keep up with dozens of things. They really do nothing very well. When everything’s a priority, nothing is important. We become driven by our schedules, and sometimes paralyzed by our choices. We want to do more for God, but can’t fit it in.
The counsel of God is clear. You cannot have God and everything else. There are moments we must choose. And what we choose reveals the real priorities of our life. Choosing commits us to something and excludes other things. Choosing is GOOD.
When I asked Denise to marry me, (she said yes... I am still shocked) we both made a choice. There would be no other woman in my life, and no other man in hers. Dating became exclusive. The choices now were not “who” to date, but “what” to do. Choosing one person, cemented both of us in a relationship that has lasted 30 years. That choice has been one of the best choices of my life. (I hope she would say the same.) Limiting my “options” in this area has freed me from the rat race of dating, and insecurity, and has put me in a permanent, loving relationship. Choosing is GOOD… when the choice is right.
We experience the same thing in leadership at MCC. There are hundreds of things we can do as a church. There are hundreds of ministries doing good work with people for the Kingdom of God. But we can’t do all of them. Even some of the ones we have done in the past, we have let go. Ministries aren’t like marriage. They were not meant to last a lifetime. Programs and ministry opportunities need to be constantly evaluated and improved or replaced so that we are doing the most good with the time and resources we have.
We didn’t do VBS so we could do Family Camp in the community around our church.
At Christmas, we didn’t collect gifts for families so that we could pack meals for people in need.
We have stopped doing a food pantry and started partnering with Message of Hope (a prison ministry).
We are making conscious choices of what we will involve ourselves in so that we can have a more consistent impact on the community around us. We are limiting what we can do as a church to ministries around our Core Purposes: Will it make God known? Will it develop disciples? Is it part of our strategy – our strategic go? And every time we say “yes” to something, it allows us to focus our attentions and silences the voices of other choices.
How about your life? Feeling overwhelmed by the choices around you. Take God’s advice. Focus on the most important first. Make those choices and set them in motion in your life first. Give God a chance to grow in your life. Do a little weeding out of things that may be pretty (some weeds are) or entertaining (which drew our attention in the first place). And give his ways a higher priority.
Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV)
Summer is in its last month. It is time for us to being to plan for our fall. Make God and his ways a higher priority in your plan. Let his words into your life. Get to know him. Share him. Get involved with others... helping them. Learn. Put him first and see what he can take care of in your life. Let’s see if God can do something better with the rest of our life than we can. Maybe he can clear our plates, focus our lives and help us feel like we are getting somewhere instead of just drowning in choices.
We’ll see you on Sunday,