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God’s Gift—Freedom of Choice

imagesGod gave Adam and Eve a wonderful gift. He told them how to use it. Still, they chose not to follow His directions. Do you know what the gift was? Here’s a hint:

In Genesis 2:16 (NLV), God tells Adam:

You are free to eat from any tree of the garden.”

A few sentences later, another hint:

“God made every animal of the field and every bird of the sky. He brought them to the man to find out what he would call them. And whatever the man called a living thing, that was its name.” (vs. 19–20)

1371397Freedom to Choose 
That was God’s gift to Adam and Eve in those first days of human history. It came with one rule: “Do not eat from the tree of learning of good and bad. For the day you eat from it you will die for sure.” (Genesis 2:17) Instead of obeying God, Adam and Eve decided to obey a conniving serpent. They chose bad over good.

God had given them a beautiful life on Earth, a life just shy of heaven. He wanted only good things for His humans. One of those was freedom of choice. God set Adam and Eve free to make every choice, including whether or not to obey Him. He also warned them that choosing wrong had consequences.

Today, Freedom of Choice remains one of our greatest gifts. It’s not provided by nations. It’s a gift given by God. Each of us has the right to choose between what pleases God and what displeases Him—And just like Adam and Eve, every one of us is guilty of making bad choices.

1.-God-free-will

This leads to the issue of judging others. We might disagree with the choices others make, but too often we forget that God has given them the freedom to choose. We should react to an unsafe choice or a choice to harm someone, but in most circumstances when passing judgment on others we need to remember that their choices are between them and God.

Here are two questions to think about:

  • When judging the choices others make, do you support their freedom to choose?
  • Do you believe that supporting someone’s freedom to choose is the same as supporting his or her choices?

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Slow down This Summer, Discover David Grayson

51tF1mgpTnLThis summer, I’m re-reading “Adventures in Contentment” by David Grayson. You probably haven’t heard of Grayson or his series of books—many haven’t. (I stumbled upon them a couple of decades ago, by accident. It was a “God thing.”)

David Grayson is a pseudonym used by Ray Stannard Baker, an aggressive, muckraking, Chicago journalist at the turn of the 20th century. Baker created Grayson, a fictional character, to tell what it could be like to leave the rat race of the city and experience life on a quiet New England farm. The books were written in a nonfiction essay style that left many readers at the time believing them as truth.

(Read more about it: “The Truth About David Grayson” by Nick Grabbe)

David Grayson portrays himself as a well-read man who has left the city to live on a farm. He likes to walk around visiting people and meeting strangers. He patiently observes the ways of his rural neighbors and shows respect for the humblest of citizens. In the words later attributed to Will Rogers, he never met a man he didn’t like.

The stories are a mixture of essay, philosophy, and quiet humor. They frequently cite the Bible, Shakespeare and Marcus Aurelius . . .

One reviewer wrote, “Those who read Grayson with sympathy and enlightenment are strangely conscious that here is a loyal, familiar and well-approved friend. Here is a man who has thought our thoughts for us, and who has given the soul of those thoughts their appropriate body in words.”

Although fiction, Grayson’s stories serve as a reminder to notice and appreciate the little things in life.

Are you caught up in life’s rat race and too busy to notice? Stop right now and read Luke 10:38–42.

06500_all_01-01-feetAs Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NLT)

Make time this summer to notice and appreciate all the little miracles and blessings that God is has placed around you.

“Adventures in Contentment” by David Grayson begins:

I came here eight years ago as the renter of this farm, of which soon afterward I became the owner. The time before that I like to forget. The chief impression it left, upon my memory, now happily growing indistinct, is of being hurried faster than I could well travel. From the moment, as a boy of seventeen, I first began to pay my own way, my days were ordered by an inscrutable power which drove me hourly to my task. I was rarely allowed to look up or down, but always forward, toward that vague Success which we Americans love to glorify.

My senses, my nerves, even my muscles were continually strained to the utmost of attainment. If I loitered or paused by the wayside, as it seems natural for me to do, I soon heard the sharp crack of the lash. For many years, and I can say it truthfully, I never rested. I neither thought nor reflected. I had no pleasure, even though I pursued it fiercely during the brief respite of vacations. Through many feverish years I did not work: I merely produced.

The only real thing I did was to hurry as though every moment were my last, as though the world, which now seems so rich in everything, held only one prize which might be seized upon before I arrived. Since then I have tried to recall, like one who struggles to restore the visions of a fever, what it was that I ran to attain, or why I should have borne without rebellion such indignities to soul and body. That life seems now, of all illusions, the most distant and unreal. It is like the unguessed eternity before we are born: not of concern compared with that eternity upon which we are now embarked . . .

Slow down. Read Grayson’s books. You can find them for free on Project Gutenberg or buy the complete collection of e-books on Amazon for just $2.99.

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When God Is Silent, Look for Yellow Butterflies

I’ve received many messages about this essay since I posted it almost a decade ago. It seems I’m not the only one who has experienced God’s gift of yellow butterflies. Easter is the perfect time to share it again. May you be blessed and find everlasting life with Jesus, our Savior.

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mWyqLOUI’ve read about people who accepted the Lord and were instantly saved from catastrophic illness or from a life of sin or from debt. My Christian journey didn’t begin that way. It happened slowly. God led me through baby steps and taught me to listen patiently and with all of my senses.

The first time I heard God’s voice in my heart, on the day I was saved in 1984, I thought it would always be easy to know His will. I thought I could ask Him what I should do and He would immediately tell me. Instead, I found that often He is silent. In the weeks and months following my salvation, I cried out endlessly to Him—but He said nothing. I vowed that I wouldn’t give up hope. Having heard His voice once in my inner self was enough for me to believe that God was real. Surely it wasn’t coincidence that He made the sun shine, just as He said it would, as I stood on the bluff that dreary day when He saved me. These things alone were enough to keep me believing. I decided that if I searched hard enough, I would find the golden secret to hearing His voice whenever I wished.

I bought books about prayer, and I read them as quickly as I could. I read the bible, something I hadn’t done for years. I concentrated on what Jesus taught about prayer. I did everything I could think of to please God, and yet He remained silent. Finally, in desperation, I went back to the bluff. I sat there on the grass looking out at Lake Michigan waiting for something miraculous to happen. Then, completely frustrated and at the edge of doubt, I said, “Okay, God. If you’re not going to talk to me then maybe I was right—maybe I’m just not worth it.”

imgThat thought had only formed inside my head when a small, yellow butterfly landed on my knee. I whisked it away, got up, and walked. As I walked it flew alongside me. At first I thought it was a coincidence. Then it became strange. If I changed direction, so did the butterfly. If I walked faster, she stayed with me. Then, after a few minutes, the most incredible thing happened. A dozen yellow butterflies joined the first. They fluttered about, seemingly interested in nothing but me. At that moment God whispered five simple words in my heart,

“I am with you always.”

For the rest of that summer, yellow butterflies became a symbol of His love. I saw them everywhere: on stationery, greeting cards, posters, and in newspaper ads. They flew in front of my car, and they fluttered outside my windows. But the most remarkable butterfly sighting was yet to come.

I sensed God telling me that it was time to move on. The apartment building I lived in was going condo, and I could choose buying my unit or finding another place to live. God said, “Go.”

I worked with a realtor, but nothing I saw was right—too big, too small, too expensive, too far away. Then, one afternoon, she called to say that she found the perfect house in a neighborhood near my apartment building, one I was familiar with. I knew  I couldn’t afford a house there. “Just check it out,” she said. “It feels right.”

The house was in a subdivision of solid, brick homes with tidy yards and flower gardens on quiet, tree-lined streets. I found the address and parked out front. Everything about the house was perfect—the cream-colored brick, the landscaping, the quaint wooden shutters. I can’t afford this, I thought. But then I saw it—  a yellow butterfly! She was the centerpiece of a large stained-glass sun catcher hanging in the front window. She was big and bold with outstretched wings. “Okay, Lord,” I said. “Show me the way.”

The house was more than I could afford, but I placed a bid anyway. It was rejected. I placed a second bid, and that one was rejected, too. I was ready to give up until, on the very morning I’d planned to call my realtor to tell her to forget it, the Wisconsin State Government issued low-interest financing for first-time homebuyers. I qualified, and my third bid was accepted. That was thirty-three years ago, and I still live in the house God chose for me.

The butterfly sightings have decreased through the years, but once in a while God will send a yellow butterfly in an unlikely time or place as a gentle reminder that He is with me. The butterflies teach me that often our Lord speaks without words.

7c476ebe7f4314619729b20b0069b652Just as in Biblical times there are signs and wonders today, but in our hectic world with all of the noise and confusion, it’s difficult to recognize them. We must be quiet and look for them, and we have to trust God to help us see them. Often they are small and draw little attention. God doesn’t shout to us, “Look!” Instead, He remains silent wanting us to explore beyond His words. He might speak in the wind or in the autumn leaves or in the moonlight. He might speak through a rainbow or a gentle spring shower or through a sleeping kitten nestled in a lap. When God is silent, it doesn’t mean that He’s left us. He’s just asking us to be patient and quiet. He’s asking us to look deeper into His creation to discover the miracles that He sends us every day.

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Filed under Desiring God, Easter, God sightings, Knowing God, Listening to God, Salvation, Uncategorized, Yellow Butterflies