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Our weekly newsletter filled with news, updates, and inspiring stories of how God is working in the Bay Area.

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We are faced with hundreds of choices each day. Some big and some small. It’s tempting to believe that the majority of our choices don’t really matter. But in reality, our day to day choices define the men and women we will become and the direction our lives will go: either toward or away from God.

What we choose makes all the difference.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

It’s far too easy to make shortsighted decisions based on our immediate emotions, desires, or circumstances. Like Martha, we can look to what is going to fix our problem now or ease our emotion now, instead of choosing to value what’s important in the long-term. And God is always the more valuable long-term choice. We miss out on growing closer to God when we choose to turn to anything else other than him. God sees beyond the immediate and focuses on what is truly important. When we walk with God, he teaches us to do the same.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

Psalm 63:3 (NIV)

Do you believe God’s love is better than life? That turning to God is more fulfilling, satisfying and helpful than anything else we can turn to in this life? In order choose to turn to God, first you must identify what you turn to instead of God.

Which of these 5 do you turn to instead of God?


1. Pleasure

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

Not all decisions are created equal. Usually, there’s one that requires work, discipline, and faith. And then, there’s the other one that’s easier, instantly gratifying, and just feels better. Simply put, we choose God or choose pleasure. In today’s society, there are countless forms of pleasure! TV, movies, pornography, impurity, shopping, sleeping, drinking, smoking, overeating, under-eating, indulging in emotion, working out, video games, or even work… That’s just to name a few! Whatever form of pleasure you turn to, it is always a cheap substitute for a close relationship with God.

Whenever we turn to cheap pleasure, we are missing a chance to love God. Where do you turn when life is busy and work is stressful? When you are afraid, lonely, sick, sad, angry, or just tired? Pleasure can seem like a quick fix for our troubles, but the good feeling is short lived.When you choose to love pleasure instead of God, the result is an unspiritual hangover, which feels like guilt, regret, fear of exposure, isolation or apathy. This often leads to indulging in a downward spiral of pleasure, because it leaves us empty and just wanting more. God is meant to fill that emptiness.

Where do you turn when you want to feel good?

2. Attention

5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

Matthew 23:5-7 (NIV)

One form of pleasure we turn to instead of God, that deserves it’s own section, is attention. When we need attention to be happy, to be secure or to function we become an attention addict. We change who we are to get the attention we desire. When we choose attention over God we end up having multiple lives, acting different around family, friends, spouses and coworkers because we constantly are trying to get a attention from different types of people. This life of deceit and compromise leads to guilt and insecurity, because we never are truly able to be ourselves. Our focus is on people instead of on God. When we choose to make people happy instead of God, it’s frustrating, because we can never make everyone happy.

Are you more focused on what people think of you or what God thinks of you?

3. Money

13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.

Luke 16:13-15 (NIV)

We need money to survive and function in modern society, but it often replaces God. One of the most common arguments in marriage and one of the taboo topics to talk about with friends is personal finances. Have you ever gotten angry when discussing finances or when someone has tried to help you with your finances? Why? We often have too close of a bond and reliance on money.

We choose to rely on it for comfort, security and feeling of power, but it ends up controlling how we live. Families have been torn apart because of the endless pursuit money and the false security we think it provides. The pursuit of money replaces relationships. And when we choose to get security from money instead of God, it replaces our relationship with him.

Has money replaced your relationship with God? Do you find more security from God or money?

4. Control

5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.
7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NLT)

Life is unpredictable and throws a lot at us. One way we can respond to the challenges is by relying on ourselves instead of God. If life isn’t going as planned, instead of asking God for help or looking to his word for direction, we take control and try to make something happen on our own.

Wanting to control our lives is rooted in fear and unbelief. Fear that the worst is going to happen and unbelief that God is going to help guide us through it. When we turn to control instead of God we end up tired, frustrated and lonely. Tired because we aren’t designed to rely only on ourselves. Frustrated because we get stressed and stuck when we don’t know what to do. And lonely because if we won’t ask God for help, we won’t ask others either.

God wants us to believe in his plan for us and to trust that he will guide us through any situation. When we trust God, we worry less, because we believe that when we follow his word he will come through.

Are you tired, frustrated or lonely? When you face challenges, worry, stress, do you choose to control or do you rely on God?

5. Rules

6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

Mark 7:6-8 (NIV)

Rules and laws exist to keep us safe, but they can also keep us from thinking for ourselves. We can choose to follow religious rules, because it requires less thought, emotion and care than building a relationship with God. If we obey the rules we can feel a sense of security, accomplishment and feel like we remain a ‘good person’. We make up all types of rules to make us feel good about ourselves. If I go to church then me and God are close. If I read and pray daily then God and I are close. If I do everything but sex with someone then I’m not sinning. If I drink and get buzzed it’s ok as long a I’m not throwing up. If I think evil thoughts it’s ok as long as don’t do them. You get the idea.

When we choose to live by rules we replace a relationship with God with religious obligation and trade heart for him with duty. A relationship with God is exactly that, a relationship, not a set rules to be followed. When we whittle our relationship with God down to things to do, there is no relationship, because there is no heart behind it. The bible is a guide to help us to get close to God, so when that is the motivation for reading it, it will result in walking with God.

Do you choose to replace God with rules? What rules do you make to feel good about yourself?

Identify & Change

  • What choices do you make instead of God?
  • Instead of turning away from God when life gets tough choose to walk with God.

Written by

Nick Straw

Nick Straw is a Santa Clara University alum, and is passionate about ministry and community service work in the San Francisco Bay Area.