Sunday Evening Service
Several years ago, there was a temperance speaker who was lecturing on the evils of liquor. “Who has the most money to spend?” he yelled. “The saloon keeper! Who has the biggest house? The saloon keeper! Who has the finest furs and the most jewelry? The saloon keeper’s wife! And who pays for all of this? You do, my friends, you do!” A few days later, a couple who had been in the audience met the speaker against liquor in the street and congratulated him on the enlightening speech. “I’m pleased to see that you’ve given up drinking,” the lecturer said. “Well, not exactly,” admitted the man. “We just bought a saloon.” The speaker didn’t realize he was presenting them with a choice.
A. Read the text: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
B. Moses was delivering the children of Israel the covenant he had received from God. He had no choice but to deliver a hard message. The stakes were high. The very survival of his people was at stake. Vs. 19
C. Moses was saying that a time of decision was at hand. The people of Israel could no longer walk on both sides of the fence. They must make a choice.
Thesis: Tonight let’s talk about choices.
I. We are always making choices.
A. Some are minor choices. Getting ready for church tonight. Am I Going? What am I going to wear? Where am I going to park? Where am I going to sit?
B. In rural Arizona, a man went to see the Hopi Indians perform ceremonial dances. It was a long lonely drive to the reservation across secluded desert terrain and some rough roads. Late afternoon, after the dances, the man returned to his car only to discover he had a flat tire. To make matters worse, he had no spare in his trunk. But he remembered seeing a service station about 5 miles back down the road. After getting a ride to the service station, he found the proprietor sitting in a chair drinking a soda. The stranded man asked, “Excuse me sir, but do you fix flats?” The proprietor said, “Yep.” So the man asked, “How much do you charge?” The proprietor replied, “What difference does that make?” The man was in no position to bargain. Not much of a choice.
C. Some choices have little impact. Other choices make all of the difference in the world like going to college, choosing a profession, choosing a mate.
D. Some time ago the newspapers carried the obituary of Captain Peter Townsend, a famous WW2 fighter pilot. It was he who loved and lost Princess Margaret and then went into more than 30 years of self- imposed exile from Great Britain. He was 80 when he died. Captain Townsend left Britain after Margaret, bowing to the establishment, told the nation, October 31, 1955; she had decided not to marry Townsend because he was divorced. The romance between Captain Townsend and the young princess, 16 years his junior, became public in 1953. It was a year after his divorce and the year Elizabeth was crowned monarch and head of the Church of England, which frowns on divorce. After this, the much decorated war ace was banished from the palace, on the advice of Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, to a diplomatic post in Brussels. But the romance survived until 1955 when Margaret, then age 25 and third in line to the throne, made her final decision. “She could have married me,” Captain Townsend wrote in his autobiography, “only if she had been prepared to give up everything- her position, her prestige, her money. I simply hadn’t the weight to counterbalance all she would have lost.
E. Choices, choices, choices- so many choices. We will not have to choose between true love and a throne, but we still have choices.
II. We have to live with our choices.
A. Moses laid out the choices. Israel would have to live with the consequences of their decision. Make the right choice and prosper. Make the wrong choice and suffer.
B. Maturity is recognizing that the choices we make carry consequences. I had a good laugh at a story in the newspapers sometime back about a teacher who found a great way to make students pay for their crimes. Troublemakers at Riverside Brookfield High in Chicago are being forced to serve after school sentences in the Frank Sinatra Detention Club. There, for 30 minutes, they must sit still- not talking, no homework, no snoozing- and listen to Mr. Sinatra croon songs. “The kids hate it. They’re miserable,” reports teacher Bruce Janu, a Sinatra fan who devised the club as a way to make detention more fun for him, and less so for the kids. “It just got to where I couldn’t stand it,” said one senior. “It so boring.” Janu isn’t totally heartless, though. He lets students sing along if they want- but nobody does.
C. It is important for young people to learn at an early age that choices have consequences. Adults who are continually bailing their children out when they make mistakes are cheating their children of one of life’s most important lessons: we reap what we sow.
D. I read an interview with actress Martha Scott. When asked about the great amount of energy acting requires, she said, “It’s exhausting. It takes enormous energy and stamina, much more than meets the eye.” Scott said she often thinks about something she’d heard as a college girl acting in school plays. Her theater arts director wouldn’t let her go to a football game. Their school was big on football, but when she mentioned going to the game, the director really chewed her out. He said, “If you’re serious about acting, you give up other pleasures. You can’t use your vocal chords at a football game Saturday afternoon and expect to have a speaking voice Saturday night on the stage.” In effect, life is a matter of choices on the road to a goal.
E. It is a law: you reap what you sow. If you sow a good life- a life of integrity, of kindness, of paying attention to your relationships with God and your neighbor, of taking care of your body, mind and soul- you will reap a good life of lasting friendships, better than average health, and a feeling of deep satisfaction within. The other is also true. Take short cuts, be a cheater, a slacker, eventually life will find you out.
F. This is true in every area of life.
III. God’s will is that we make choices that will lead to life.
A. VS. 19
B. This was a lesson Mel Trotter had to learn the hard way. For much of his life Trotter was an alcoholic. He came home after one 10 day drinking spree to find his baby dead in his wife’s arms. “I’ve killed my son,” he cried. “I’ll never touch another drop.” But two hours after his baby’s funeral, Mel Trotter staggered home- drunk again. He had taken the little white shoes of his baby in the coffin and pawned them for money to buy drink. In despair, he headed along a Chicago street for Lake Michigan. He was going to drown himself. But on the way he ran into Harry Monroe, Superintendent of Pacific Garden Mission, who pulled him inside a hall where the Gospel was being preached. That night Mel Trotter heard that there was hope in Christ. He became a Christian and for the next 40 years served as superintendent of a rescue mission in Grand Rapids, Michigan. From this base he started 60 other gospel missions in the US, all designed to reach people like he was. He counseled thousands, putting them on the road to happiness and Heaven. Mel Trotter chose to turn from death to life.
C. Our situation is probably not as desperate as Mel Trotter’s but we make choices everyday that determine the quality of our lives and the quality of our relationships. God’s will for us is to choose life.
D. It’s like an incident that Benjamin Franklin told about. An English minister was once ordered to read a proclamation issued by King Charles I. After a period in which the country had observed strict blue laws on Sundays, the king issued a decree urging people to return to participating in sports on Sunday. Most church leaders refused to read this proclamation. But to one congregation’s amazement, their minister read the king’s decree. But he followed the pronouncement with these words, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” And he added, “Brethren, I have laid before you the commandment of your king and the commandment of your God. I leave it to you to judge which of the two ought to be observed.
A. As a preacher, the most frustrating thing is to see people making poor choices. WE warn them, preach to them, help them to see the light, but the choice is up to them.
B. There are destructive choices and constructive choices. Our future hangs on the choices we make. Let us choose life.