Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Decision Time

The older I get, the more I am inclined to become more impatient with people who will not make a decision.  Some of us make a decision and live with its consequences but there are others who will not make a decision at all, even over fairly trivial matters.  Have you ever noticed that if a group wants to go to dinner together, that it is very hard to reach a consensus as to where to dine?  That is because many people do not want to choose a restaurant lest it be a bad experience for one or more persons in the group.  No one wants to be the one who chose the restaurant and people in the future will make remarks about how bad it was to dine there. 

Some people do not want to choose a meal in a restaurant very quickly either.  They peruse the menu and look it over again and again, perhaps wanting to be sure that what they order will actually taste good to them and not being stuck with a fairly inedible entree.  I am not that way at all.  I give the menu a glance and when my eyes focus on something that looks like it would taste good, I choose it.  I do not continue to look it over but just settle on the first thing that looks like it would be good.  I actually do consider the healthy options nowadays over the obviously fattening one (nothing with Alfredo sauce on it, give me a healthy marinara sauce instead) but all things being equal I am not a very fussy eater. 

Choosing clothing is a similar story.  Some people try on shoe after shoe and cannot decide on a pair to buy.  Some folks go to the fitting room again and again, trying on article after article of clothing and not being able to make a decision.  I do not shop unless I need a definite item (I don't shop for fun--I don't even know what that means) and go to the place where I can find the item I need and buy it.  When I finish finding that one item, I am ready to go home or go eat.  I will go on shopping trips with the family if they will allow me to sit on benches in the mall or the outlet mall and do people watching.  It is much more fun to sit and stare than to stand and wait. 

The people that God called out of Egypt and named them after their ancestor Israel (Jacob) had finally reached the Promised Land.  Moses was dead and Joshua had led them across the Jordan River and through the land of the Amorites and now Joshua was about to die too so he gathered them all together at Shechem and gave them his big goodbye speech and covenant ceremony.  He told them that they had to make a decision.  They had to choose whether they would serve Yahweh the God of Israel or the gods they had known in Egypt or the gods of the Amorites.  They were not given a "none of the above" option.  They had to choose, make a decision, come to a conclusion.  He told them their options and then told them they had to consider it carefully because if they promised to serve Yahweh and then did not fulfill the vow they made, then Yahweh could be difficult. 

The people were insistent that they would serve Yahweh only and not turn back to idols but Joshua did not want a maybe, he wanted a resounding "YES!"  They again promised that they would serve Yahweh and this time he accepted their word but he gave them a stern warning and said that a big stone that he set up for all to see was a witness to their words and actions so they better be serious.  The stone would testify against them if they did not keep their word (they believed in such things in their day).  So, the people affirmed, "We will serve the LORD" and that was that. 

As Joshua talked to them about the decision they had to make, he told them, "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."  Joshua had already decided and he had lived his life in service to Yahweh so now that he was an older guy, his trust was in Yahweh and no idol tempted him to do otherwise.  He wanted the people of Israel to be just as confident in the decision they would make on that day at Shechem. 

Some decisions we make in life do not have long lasting consequences.  If we choose a bad meal, then in about four hours or so we can correct that and choose something good for us.  If we buy an article of clothing that is ugly, we can donate it to Goodwill and start again.  If we suggest a restaurant that turns out to be a dud to a group, then people may talk about that decision and even have a laugh at our expense but we may choose a good one someday and they will forgive us.  Other decisions have serious and long lasting consequences.  If the mate we choose to marry suddenly exhibits flaws that make us have second thoughts, then we may have to develop creative coping skills to stay in that marriage.  If the house we buy, suddenly has structural or plumbing problems, then we may have to spend some money on house repairs that we did not bargain for.  If we do not take care of our health through healthy diet and exercise habits, then we may be locating physicians and hospitals to help us in correcting our negative lifestyle choices. 

The faith decisions we make also have long lasting consequences.  Many in our world have little need or regard for faith in their lives.  They made the decision at some point that organized religion did not have to be part of their lives.  They may have even once belonged to a church or other house of worship but allowed life to overtake them and the vows of faithfulness to that institution became non-important.  The decision to "go it alone" without the company of a faith community became comfortable to them and now they rarely think about renewing the vows they made in the past.  It is very sad to most pastors to be called to assist a family at a time of crisis, such as a hospitalization or death of a loved one, and learn that the persons have no faith community upon which to call at such times.  They may even be members of a church but have not attended worship or activities there for such a long time that few currently active members know them.  The faith community would love to be in ministry to all persons in their time of need but when persons have made the decision to be absent from the faith community, then their lack of connectedness is revealed at such times. 

Joshua wanted the People called Israel to understand the decision they were about to make.  Their actions would carry long lasting consequences.  God wants modern people to be just as clear about the way they order their lives.  Deciding to worship the idols that modern society presents to us daily brings about separation from the very source that can give us strength in our time of need.  It is when we are connected to the source of our energy that we are able to survive the storms that we must all endure. 

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