How to make better decisions

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. Whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  — Galatians 6:7

This little gem of a verse isn’t brain surgery. Paul isn’t explaining some great mystery or even proclaiming a new law to live by. He is simply reminding us how reality works. We reap what we sow. We won’t get figs from an apple tree or chicken sandwiches from a cow. Put tomato seeds in the ground and expect tomatoes, not corn.

We reap what we sow.

The ability to look at conditions and ride them out to conclusions is a mark of maturity. That’s why we train children by giving them consequences when they misbehave. They are not naturally wired yet to think down the road so they must be trained in that discipline. A child’s thought life is very much present-tense. A friend’s child proved this recently when he snuck out of bed late one night and ate a tube of toothpaste. Clearly, his “if-then” function was not operating at a high level. Let’s just say it didn’t work out well for him.

We reap what we sow.

This principle becomes incredibly relevant in a year when many reading this blog are making personal choices about the future of our denomination. In the coming season, each of us will be faced with a choice about how we will lead or where we will continue to worship based on what we value. Keep in mind as you listen, pray, lead and love that we reap what we sow. A decision to passively go with the flow may find you surprised and disappointed when things don’t turn out as you’d hoped.

Our decisions have consequences. Our theological choices, our moral choices, our parenting choices, our spiritual choices, even our eating choices all have consequences and most of those choices have the potential to shape not just our lives but our world.

Decisions determine destiny. My decisions determine the direction my life takes and my decisions make an impact on other lives and destinies, too. So learning to make a better brand of decision becomes an important thing.

John Maxwell puts it this way: “Sow a thought reap an action, sow an action reap a habit, sow a habit reap a destiny.”

A friend said, “My many and most colossal mistakes were those using the best information available but missing the element of God’s wisdom and blessing (italics mine). I guess I always assumed he would see my brilliance and validate the choice.” I don’t think he is alone in that experience. I suspect lots of us tend to make decisions as if they are an assignment to be graded. We make them, we turn them in, and then hope for the best. But this isn’t God’s best for us and isn’t how we’re taught to make choices. We’re not taught to sow then hope for the best but to learn to sow well so we can be confident about the harvest. We are certainly not taught to put our heads in the sand and hope the storm blows past us.

Here’s what I want for you, my friend. I want your decisions to incubate in something deeper than self-preservation. I don’t want them to start with self-interest or childish bias. I want your decisions to reflect the mind of Christ. Whether you are choosing a theological position, leading a congregation through a crisis, or making a personal choice around spiritual disciplines, I want your choices to rise above the level of emotion to the place where deep calls to Deep.

1. Start with the harvest. What does yours look like?

Have you taken time to dream God’s dreams for your life? Do you have a vision and a goal that is bigger than what’s for supper? What do you want to contribute to the world? What are your gifts? What breaks your heart? Look down the road toward the end game and get a vision for that first. Then back up from that point and ask yourself if what you’re doing now is heading you in that direction.

2. Will what you’re sowing now get you to the harvest you’re hoping for?

Picture what your harvest looks like, then back up from there and ask yourself: Are the things I’m doing now setting up for the harvest I’m hoping for? If I’ve always wanted to read the Bible all the way through but I’ve never actually opened one, I’m probably not going to get there. If I’ve always sensed a call to teach children, then what am I doing right now to point me in that direction? If I want to lead a movement that makes healthy, committed disciples, have I chosen a path that will lead to that end?

3. Are you sowing from the past or for the future?

We’ve all felt the desperation of “If only” thinking. If only I’d gone to college … If only I’d married later in life … If only I’d taken better care of my body …  We can drown in ‘if-onlys,” but there comes a time when we have to decide how much we believe in the grace that doesn’t live in the past but challenges us to stand up and start from here. That goes for our personal lives as well as big institutions. We can waste a lot of time discussing what ought to have happened, or we can stand up from here and become part of what happens next.

I want your decisions to incubate in and be born out of two things: a vision for the harvest and the voice of the Holy Spirit. This is where wise choices are born. Wise decisions are incubated in and born out of a vision for the harvest and the voice of the Holy Spirit. Learning to start from this place will change the way you see and affect the world around you.

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Building Lives, Breaking Cycles

Today, our Mosaic community commits to a new season of ministry together. We want to gift our larger community with a Christ-centered resource that offers healing and wholeness to hurting people, so we are developing a relational, transformational system for discipling people in crisis situations. Our heart is for those who need a community — a family, a supportive partner — so they can be built up in every way into Christ who is our head and so they can break the cycles that keep them stuck (the same cycles that kept many of us stuck).

Our vision for The Mosaic Center is a vision for moving people beyond mercy to discipleship.

Once a month, we already offer something called Third Saturday (a ministry taught to us by the people of Grace Church in Cape Coral, Florida). Now we are listening to the folks who come to Third Saturday to understand exactly what their next step needs to be. How do we move them from invitation to transformation? We are building a viable plan for offering the kinds of programs that break cycles and lead to sanctification.

Think of Third Saturday as the front door and The Mosaic Center as the living room. Third Saturday welcomes people in, and The Mosaic Center will offer classes, programs and mentoring that move people forward with Christ at the center.

Building people, breaking cycles.

I’ve never been more proud of our faith community. Already, our folks have proven their desire to do something significant and already they’ve shown their willingness to invest not just funds but time and skills. We plan to do this in the spirit of Exodus 35:

“All who are skilled among you are to come and make everything the Lord has commanded.”

It will take all of us to make this vision a reality. Our folks are up for it. Our goal is to have a working center by the middle of 2018. If you want a business plan for this, here it is: We want to use tangibles to produce intangibles. We want to use a building to build lives and break cycles. We want to use food and classes and computers to open the doors of people’s hearts.

This is the pattern Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 9, but he didn’t make it up. The principle is built into God’s design. We find it repeated over and over in the Bible. Go back to Exodus and the building of the first tabernacle out in the desert. God used the gifts of the people to build a building and then he used the building to guide the people through the desert. In other words, the very first building designed by God was used to guide people through a desert and toward his promises. To explain the character of Christ’s new world order, Jesus used bread and wine. To heal a man, he used dirt and spit.

God has a habit of using tangibles to produce intangibles. 

This is what Paul taught the Corinthians. “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (2 Cor. 9:12). And this is the end goal of our Harvest. We want to use practical acts of help and care — GED classes and job training and budgeting and life skills — to produce a harvest of worshippers. We want to do practical things that lead people into the presence and power of God, where they can discover he is everything he says he is.

Slowly but surely, we are working our way toward the vision of John, who saw what it will look like when all our acts of love and care culminate in worship at the throne of God:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

This is what we’re after. We’re after a harvest of souls. We recognize that this kind of harvest takes time. It takes sacrifice; it takes patience. It takes investment. Great moves of God tend to happen because of great moves of heart.

But we’re up for it because we are hungry to see the power of God and the Kingdom on earth, as it is in Heaven.

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