Pretty Good at Bad Decisions

I lead a charmed life.


I can’t explain how good my life is. I certainly don’t deserve it.

I hesitate to use the word “blessed,” although that is how I feel. I hesitate because I know there are good people whose lives are difficult to the point of seeming impossible. It doesn’t seem fair to me to say that God has “blessed” me, when the same God hasn’t “blessed” them.

They deserve it as much as I.

Probably more.

If the book of Job has taught me anything, it’s that there is no simple explanation for why some people seem to have everything coming up roses, and others can’t seem to have even one thing go their way.

However, I do think our decisions can make a big difference.

I admit that it’s easy for me to get sort of judgmental toward some folks who haven’t been as fortunate as I have been. People who seem to be in desperate situations.

“Well, that’s what happens when you make bad decisions.”

This judgmental observation is easy because it contains a nugget of truth. Bad decisions will often have bad consequences. But here’s the thing: I’ve also made some colossally bad decisions. If you’re honest, you’ll recognize that you have, too.

I’ve come to two conclusions about bad decisions:

The 1st is that we’ve all made some.

Some may not make a big difference: “Yes, I believe I will have that last piece of pepperoni, Italian sausage and banana pepper pizza.” Then follow it up with about four scoops of ice cream just before bed. I know the consequences of this one very well. It can be pretty uncomfortable, but it’s temporary.

Others may be career ending and family destroying: “I know she’s married, and so am I, but she has made it clear that she’s available. We are two consenting adults. If no one else knows, who are we hurting?”

The 2nd is that, along with God’s grace, our lives are defined by the smart decisions we make before and after our bad decisions.

As I said, I’ve made some colossally bad decisions in my life. I won’t go into the details here, but believe me when I tell you that I deserve literally none of the good things that have come my way. None.

But I made some very smart decisions long before the colossally bad ones.

I decided that my life would be lived for Jesus. I am committed to him for the long haul. That doesn’t mean I’ve always been consistent, or that I’ve never let him down. I have. But my decision to follow him remains. Just like a child who seeks approval in the eyes of his earthly father, my life goal is for Jesus to find pleasure in me. This is an overarching decision that keeps me coming back to him, even after I’ve failed him. This is a smart decision that can guide you through, and past, the consequences of the bad decisions that you will most certainly make.

I decided very carefully and prayerfully about the woman I proposed to. It was a smart decision. (She decided to say, “yes.” She’ll have to be the one to say whether that was a smart decision or a colossally bad one.) We’ve been married for almost 43 years. We remain as committed to one another as the day we said our memorized vows. I don’t see that ever changing. The bad decisions I made could have had devastating consequences if I hadn’t been married to someone who took our vows as seriously as we both do. Other than your decision to follow Jesus, your decision concerning your marriage partner will have the biggest impact, for good or ill, on your entire life. Don’t be afraid of this decision. With the right person, it’s a good decision to make. But, don’t take it lightly.

There are probably others, but you get the idea. If you are smart about the big, over-arching decisions concerning what you want your life to be, it will help you navigate through the bad decisions.

Whenever I have made a bad decision, I always did my best afterward to make it right.

This is seldom easy, and it is sometimes simply not possible. But, if you’re ever going to recover from a colossally bad decision, you have to give it everything you’ve got.

When I’ve made my colossally bad decisions, in order to make it right I had to put my fate in the hands of another. You will, too. It might be the person you harmed, or cheated. It might be your employer. Whoever it is, if you’re going to make it right, you have to do it on their terms. They get to decide how you will make it right, or even if it’s possible. It may take a long time of rebuilding trust. Do it. Don’t short-change it, and don’t take it lightly.

This is where it becomes clear just how important those earlier decisions were. Decisions about who you marry, and who you work with and for.

If you made smart decisions before your colossally bad decision, and you make smart decisions afterward, then your life will not be defined by your bad decisions.

So, as I said earlier, there is a nugget of truth to the belief that “that’s what happens when you make bad decisions.” But it’s really not as much about the bad decisions themselves, as it is about the good decisions you’ve made before and after the colossally bad one.

You can get pretty good at bad decisions.

At least, that’s how it has worked for me.


Tuesday Picks ~ 4-4-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

For worship leaders and worshipers…

Stop Hating And Start Loving Your Church
David Santistevan
Stop HatingHere’s what I’ve noticed in my own life: when I’m closest with Jesus, the less I criticize and find fault in every environment and leader around me…

Of course, I don’t agree with everything. Of course, imperfect people lead me, pray for me, preach to me, and lead worship. But… Rather than defaulting to criticism, I pray for them, understand the struggle of ministry, and stay focused on the right things.

But when I wander, when I try to live in my own strength, I start to get offended and hurt by every little thing… I’m only concerned with how I’m served and treated.

Should I press in to the church or withdraw? I’d rather have a bias of pressing in. Of being who God has called me to be. Of loving what Jesus has chosen to love.

Five Ways to Grow a Culture of TrustJ.D. Greear natural tendency is to fill the gap with suspicion: He was late because he’s lazy; she didn’t consult me because she doesn’t value my opinion; he said that because he’s a racist. But cultivating a culture of trust means choosing to fill those gaps with trust instead.

We might think this is difficult, but there’s one person in our lives that we tend to treat this way already—ourselves… We “fill the gap with trust” all the time with ourselves. What we need to do is to extend the same kindness to others.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” right? Shouldn’t the Golden Rule extend to the way we interpret others’ actions?

I appreciate so much the hearts of the missionaries I know. I don’t know Stacey Hare, but it’s the same heart…

African Traditional Religion Keeps Them PoorStacey Hare
Missionaries are generally disliked by the secular linguistics/anthropology community. Why? Because missionaries do not come to the field as neutral observers, but with a desire to see change. Missionary linguists do not come to merely preserve and describe languages, but to see the Bible translated and then confront the culture.

Do not get me wrong, there are aspects of Bakoum/Cameroonian culture that I love and miss…

But then there are some aspects of their culture that I cannot accept because they are harming the neighbors I have come to love. So much so, that they are actually ensuring that an already impoverished people remain in poverty. What I see around me in Cameroon is not a tribal religion that supports a rich culture among its people. Instead, I see a commitment to a system that enslaves its followers…
Graphic by Tim Challies

“We measure worship by how we feel as we worship. True worship is measured by what God thinks about our worship.” -Kevin DeYoung“All we have to do is be the person we say we are. No need to shop for a better you, or to work overtime to make bigger promises. Keeping the promises we’ve already made is sufficient.”
Seth Godin


Luke 13:18-21

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 13:18-21
18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Have you ever seen a mustard seed?
Have you ever seen one grow to become a tree?
They can get pretty big, but not that big.
Unless I do something miraculous.
Yeah, my kingdom is like that.

How about leaven, or yeast?
How does it work?
Does it all gather in one place away from the flour?
Does it organize to force the flour to do its will?
Or, does it mix right in with the flour?
Does it work together with the flour in order to rise together?
My kingdom is like that, too.

Are you trying to make a tree out of a mustard seed without me?
Are you trying to make your community rise without being part of it?

Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Monday Picks ~ 4-3-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Yeah, I didn’t do too well…

George Will’s 2017 Opening Day Quiz
Baseball numbers aren’t difficult. But be precise: As players say after a close play, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” And don’t be discouraged if some questions stump you. As Phillies manager Danny Ozark said in 1976, “Even Napoleon had his Watergate.” And as Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn said after losing the 1982 World Series to the Cardinals, “We’re going to hang our heads high.” Now, name the player or players who…

This older article recently came to my attention. Good stuff…

How To Know Whether You’re Trusting God…or Just Being StupidCarey Nieuwhof
What is a Godly decision?

Is it always wise, prudent, restrained, responsible?
Or is it always risky, edgy, out-there, half-crazed?
Or neither?
Or both?

That’s a tough one, isn’t it?

For the record, I don’t believe there’s an easy way, five step, bullet proof way to resolve the tension between faith and foolishness…

Here are two questions I’ve started asking myself to help when things aren’t clear:

1. Is ‘wisdom’ killing my trust in God?

2. Does my ‘trust’ in God disregard all wisdom?

Church Life: Keep It Two Chevrons ApartStephen McAlpine
keep-apart-2-chevrons-road-signThe mantra among many evangelicals is often “Couldn’t we be doing more?”   And the answer is “Yes”, it’s always “Yes”. Of course you could be doing more, but the question is should you be doing more? …

…Granted some people have more capacity than others, and can juggle much more, but I see no good reason to fill in all of the white space just because it is there.  No reason to drive bumper to bumper.  For a start it gives you very little reflective time spiritually, and that always, always means there’s a bit of wiggle room for the Accuser to get hold of you.  Unthinking fast paced living can be a real danger spiritually and morally.

I wish I had been better at this…

Parents, Be Quick to ListenMichael Kelley
There is a certain humility you must embrace if you are truly going to listen first rather than speak. It’s the humility that acknowledges your own limitations – that you might not know all the information; you might not be privy to all the details; you might not understand all the dynamics. And this is especially hard for us, as parents, because we would like to know that we do indeed know all the dynamics. If we assume a posture of listening, we are admitting that perhaps we don’t know everything our kids are feeling or thinking or believing.

But if we do embrace this humble posture; if we do ask genuine questions of our children; if we do fight assumption and instead try to understand, then we will set the table for communication that follows. And I for one want my children to know that their father is certainly not perfect, but he will always hear them.“The hour is coming when we shall be astonished to think what mere trifles were once capable of discouraging us.’  -John Newton

Opening Day in Cincinnati…
Peanuts – Click image for a larger view.

Luke 13:10-17

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 13:10-17
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
So, what’s the lesson here?
…Rules were made to be broken?
…Jesus was a rebel?
…Jesus didn’t have to keep the law, but you do?
…Keeping the Sabbath isn’t as important as the other commands?

Don’t be distracted from a few things:
1. Jesus saw the woman. (He sees you.)
2. Jesus freed the woman. (He can free you.)
3. She was healed immediately. (He can heal you right now.)
4. She glorified God. (So can you.)

“…his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced…”

Which do you want to be?

Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.