Pastors Report - 08 Nov 2019
A Lifetime Of Choices

A Lifetime Of Choices ...

"... I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)

A Bizarre Situation:

In Tooting, South London, just outside the front entrance to the public library, sits a bench seat that has become home for an elderly woman in her 70s from Somalia and her 30-year-old son. Sheltering from the rain by pulling a large blue tarpaulin over their heads, and combating the below freezing night-time temperatures with an array of blankets they have existed like this for the past four and a half years. Yet can someone not do something about their situation you may ask? And the bizarre answer is that they have already been offered a series of flats by the council, but each offer has been refused – without even going to look.

Living on the bench actually appears to be their choice. Even though they have been assessed as having no discernible mental-health problems and a passable grasp of English, having to deal with the multiple pressures of paying rent on time, electricity and gas and the myriad other things involved with running a conventional home seems to appear too much compared with the simplicity of the bench-life they have chosen. Their situation seems to flow from specific choices made – which is really something that is true for all of us. Our entire existence is very much designed as a lifetime of choices. ( bbc.co.uk)

Even Before Birth:

You can't help but wonder what the background was in this extreme example. When in Somalia, how simple, how basic was the home the lady was previously used to? What about her parents – and her grandparents? What choices had they made in life? Is it possible the situation was something like Jonadab who decided his descendants would neither drink wine or live in houses – something they were still observing 300 years later when God used them as a positive example via Jeremiah:

  • Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? saith the LORD.
  • The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father’s commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me. (Jeremiah 35:13,14)

We just don't know, but the point is even before birth choices have been made by others that directly affect us all to a greater or lesser degree. The sins of the fathers – evil choices they have made – do indeed impact upon the third and fourth generations, just as God said they would. (Exodus 20:5)

We can see this graphically illustrated in the case of Esau, who despised his birthright – and therefore all his subsequent descendants – all for a mere bowl of soup. Such a choice may well appear trivial at the time but in this case – and so many others in life – choices made by others before our birth have very far reaching consequences. Witness the misery of babies born heroin addicts! And yet, when you think about it, a choice made many thousands of years ago has probably had the greatest effect on us all. The incident of the two trees in the Garden of Eden literally set the scene for all of our lives, very much a simple, but very wrong choice as Mr. Armstrong clearly brings out:

Adam had the “spirit in man” and access to the Holy Spirit (tree of life). What happened to Adam? He used his MIND with its “spirit of man” to CHOOSE A WAY OF LIFE contrary to the Law of God. His mind became carnal, Satan swayed it. Satan has been swaying human minds from birth ever since – all EXCEPT THAT OF JESUS! ( The Worldwide News – December 8, 1980)

Carnal Wisdom:

Though not an end in itself, this physical existence we've been granted is very much to teach us the wisdom or otherwise of choices made ... ours and those of others. Many quotations end up in our general vocabulary to this end: "Once bitten, twice shy", "Think twice and cut once", and "The man who never made a mistake, never made anything". Integral to this process of learning from our choices is the ability to make mistakes. In fact, the last 6,000 years and the entire episode of ancient Israel has been specifically allowed by Almighty God to teach some very painful lessons using 'aversion therapy', and many unwise, evil and rebellious choices have been well documented:

  • Thus saith the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.
  • And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes, they have not walked in them.
  • Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye multiplied more than the nations that are round about you, and have not walked in my statutes, neither have kept my judgments, neither have done according to the judgments of the nations that are round about you;
  • Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, am against thee, and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations.
  • And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations. (Ezekiel 5:5-9)

Knowing full well the direction mankind would take under the sway of Satan God still will not take away our right to choose. God even gave the angelic realm the right to decide which way of life to follow, as the alternative would be a creation of robots – and not individual personalities, who were sold on the way of God. Though He warns us to "choose life", the alternative direction is still very much available to us.

Rearing Children:

And the same is true for our children also. Ultimately they are going to have to make far-reaching choices themselves and our job as parents is very much to prepare them for this eventual transition. Wrapping them in cotton wool may protect them short term – but is it preparing them for life in the real world? They too – as do we all – must learn to make wise choices in this life and the child rearing we use should very much have this end in mind, from the cradle onwards. Although there will be times we'll have to tell our children, "Because I said so!" ... even a toddler can be given a little leeway to learn life lessons; e.g. that if little Johnny insists – against his parents' advice – to take his favourite but cumbersome Lego truck with him to the park, then he will have to be responsible for it and probably carry it around all day. And the chances are that Johnny will be happy to leave his truck behind next time, realising mum and dad had a good reason for their advice.

Of course, this does not mean to say that our children need to experience all the trials of life themselves, thereby learning the hard way, but they do need to be made alert to the wiser choice of learning the hard lessons via others ... i.e. "A wise man learns by another's mistakes". Constant communication within the family is vital, something that can take place around the family dinner table – a time and place to share experiences, hope and dreams, and also life lessons from the parents.

  • My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
  • Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.
  • When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.
  • For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: (Proverbs 6:20-23)

Sadly one of the results of poor choices made are often one-parent families – more often than not with an absent father – where the youngsters are left to fend for themselves. Not that the parents always have any good advice to pass on, often being the end result themselves of a series of wrong choices, and it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of misery. But it's a cycle that God expects us to break, regardless of our upbringing. We've been assured that even if our children don't immediately take on board all that they have been taught, including God's way of life, that all is not lost! That training is still there, in their background, and one day it will come to the fore:

  • Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
  • And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children. (Isaiah 54:13)
God's will:

As parents we dearly long to see our children succeed in life, having made wise choices in their careers, their marriage partners, etc etc. And as God's children, He also longs to see us succeed – as the apostle John mentions "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John 1:2) . But it goes far beyond this physical life and well-being! As Christ says, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32)

God's ultimate plan involves "planting the heavens" with His way of life (Isaiah 51:16) – so is it too much of a stretch to regard the entire present creation and cosmos as having been specifically designed for us to learn the value of making the right choices? Even consistent 'carnal' choices can lead to a much better standard of living, health and happiness and makes good sense – teaching us in the process – but we need to go much further and choose 'God-plane' choices in our daily lives. These and these only will lead to the Spirit-born Life – and that more abundantly – that was the very reason Christ came to this earth. (John 10:10)

The Millennial Rule:

During the millennial rule of Jesus Christ so many wrong choices will become a thing of the past – choices that once led to deforestation, the universal use of plastics, dumping of industrial waste etc – our present ecological crisis. At that time wise righteous educated choices will be made, leading to Utopia:

  • Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, [wrong choices] and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.
  • Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.
  • Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded.
  • And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by.
  • And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
  • Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it. (Ezekiel 36:31-36)

God's will is indeed that this earth becomes another Garden of Eden, but unlike 6,000 years ago, this time there will be a different spirit, a different mindset, and human beings will be taught His outgoing way of life – guided and living each and every day by God's Word. Their teachers will aid their decision making processes, especially when they come to a 'crossroads' in life, wondering which way to turn, which choice to make.

  • And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:
  • And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21.22)

But as the 'called out ones', presently in training for that time, we are well aware WE didn't choose God's way of life initially ... God chose us – the weak of the world, but He does give us the choice whether to accept or reject the calling. And if we respond positively, then we are led first to baptism ...

From Baptism On:

With the impregnation of God's Holy Spirit at baptism we should then become a new creation, looking at everything in a new way, as we're now part of the very God family, even though in embryo. (II Corinthians 5:17) This gives us an ability to think and walk on a totally different God-plane level – albeit to a microscopic degree initially! Our focus in life alters radically ... we have then made the decision that, come what may, we're determined to go God's way from that point on, placing ourselves unambiguously under the government of God, and that means our choices should change accordingly.

The ultimate goal from the step we have taken – to be converted into a God being – is humanly impossible, but with God then as our Father and Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour we can have the faith that they will make the impossible a reality over the course of our lifetime. Our lifetime of choices then changes from purely the mundane to the divine – from entirely human to godly with each choice then made according to the principle of God's spiritual Law.

  • Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (2 Corinthians 3:6)

That principle is much more than a mere list of points we've personally decided to follow, but much more a desire to serve God with 'heart, soul and mind' and also an outgoing approach to our fellow human beings ... "the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5) ... and a particular example of this springs to mind, one which was told to me some years ago.

A church member friend of ours needed to quickly run to the local shops to get some milk, bread or cereal for breakfast for her baby son, and asked her neighbour – another church member – if she would just take care of him for a short time. The answer was "No, sorry ... can't help. I haven't said my prayers yet". Now I am sure she reasoned in her mind that her refusal was the right thing to do according to her list of points – but how was that loving her neighbour as herself? Her focus was unwittingly a selfish one ... the choice made was to "look out for No.1" and to "look the other way" regardless of any problem caused to anyone else.

The Big Stage Drama:

What we are involved in ... assisting God in creating the holy righteous character of a God being that will lead to Real, True, Spirit-born Life-to-the-full ... is so monumental that traditional Christianity doesn't even come close. Though he didn't have any idea of the understanding we've been privileged to know, the atomic scientist Richard Feynman – one of the theoretical physicists behind the atomic bomb during World War II, and a Nobel prize winner – made the following insightful observation concerning traditional religion during an interview:

"It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different plants, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil – which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama". ('Viewpoint' Interview (with Bill Stout) for Los Angeles KNXT television station, 1 May 1959),

The fact is the stage Feynman considered too big is, if anything, too small for the true drama – of God reproducing Himself, His Holy righteous perfect character, in frail mankind. Yet it involves quite mundane daily choices: what we choose to do; what we choose to think; what we choose to say. Such choices – now based on God's Word (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4) as understood via God's Spirit – are destined to produce a God-mind over a spirit-begotten lifetime – the very reason and purpose of our existence! Only such a God mind will survive – to live the true, abundant life for all eternity.

  • Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives
  • as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
  • But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:11-13 NIV)

As Mr. Armstrong brings out:

And God said, “Well, I’ve given you the choice.” Now, instead of choosing character, he chose the wrong way; and God allowed that. God is not going to force you to choose the right way. Adam was able to choose whatever he pleased, and so are we. But, if you make the wrong choice, you’ll never have the character of God. And God is able to take care of that too. ( Sermon, 1978-05-13 - Creation And The Gospel)

  • I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.
  • When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.
  • When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, [make those right choices] you will find me.
  • I will be present for you, declares the LORD, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will bring you home after your long exile, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 29:11-14 CEB)

Israel – with all mankind – will finally return after an even longer spiritual exile of 6,000 years since the garden of Eden – no longer making choices according to the wrong tree – but consistently choosing the Tree of Life. So with God's glorious future in mind, let's all do the same ... And choose LIFE.