There Ought to Be Rules

The older I get, the more I believe the government should establish rules on who should give advice. 

Experience is a great teacher, and time will show you that the instructions most people try to provide are silly. 

For example, I think no one with children under 30 should teach about parenting. What seems like the end of the world when a child is ten will often have little importance to adult life. But, on the other hand, things that seem insignificant will mold and shape them in ways you never imagined. 

There is a long list of people I think should not speak until they are older. I feel this way because I have taught about everything in my fifty years of life and ministry, and much of the help I was trying to offer is embarrassing now. People should not speak about marriage, parenting, finances, loss, leadership, spiritual maturity, relationships, or other things until they have reached a certain age or milestone. This might keep us from repeating the mistakes of youth. 

Of course, no government will pass laws on topics like these. They would be impossible to enforce, and no one would listen anyway. So I suggest you develop your own rules about whose advice you will take. Not every voice is trustworthy, some for Biblical reasons, and others because time alone will show its flaws. 

I know many of you will disagree with what I am writing today, but unless you are older and wiser than me, I really don’t care. Sorry, that is one of my personal rules. 🙂

Illusion of Control

While my wife was driving through the mountains of Colorado, I would reach up and grab the handle above the door. These pieces of vehicles are technically called assist handles, referred to as grab handles, or have a colorful nickname. Their primary purpose is to help people pull themselves up when getting out of an automobile. A second use is by passengers when they are nervous. 

Not only did I grab the handle while she was driving narrow mountain roads along enormous cliffs, but I also took my right foot and kept stomping an imaginary break on the passenger side. If I felt we were a little too close to the side of the road or were going too fast to maneuver an upcoming bend, I would push my foot into the floorboard while holding tightly to the grab handle. 

You need to know that my wife is a great driver. She has never had a significant accident that required us to contact the law or the insurance. On the other hand, I have created numerous mistakes that resulted in us paying thousands of dollars in damages. There is really not a single reason for me to doubt her ability. 

The problem is not my wife’s driving; the issue is me. I am a control freak. I like to feel in charge of every situation. I want success and failure in my hands, even if I am not the most competent in the vehicle. I grab the handle and stomp the floor to gain some form of control in a situation where I feel totally out of control. In reality, my efforts are an illusion.

Often this is exactly like our relationship with God. We have no reason to doubt him. His track record is flawless. Yet, instead of trusting him and going along for a ride. I grab at anything that will give me the illusion of control.

True faith is letting go of the things we think will help us on our journey and completely trusting the driver.    

Seldom Heard

The number of people who will tell you the completely honest truth is limited. Some will try to soften the truth by telling only part of the story. Other people will avoid saying anything. Still, others will lie to your face.

When someone does finally be totally honest with you, how do you respond?

Will you be thankful? Will you think deeply about their words and remain silent? Will you tell them you appreciate their candor?

Will you be hurt? Will you be offended? Will it upset you and cause you to attack verbally?

How you respond will encourage them to continue telling you the truth or avoid it. Some people will not be frank with you because of their character. But some do not speak honestly because of yours. 

Till the End

Whenever I watch short videos online, I will inevitably open one with the words written above it, “Watch till the end.” Others will take a little different approach and say, “Wait for it.”

Quite often, in the last few seconds, something unexpected will happen. The ending will be surprising, funny, or shocking. You might have thought you knew what would happen, but you really had no idea. 

A follower of Jesus believes every day of life should start with a statement of “Wait for it.” 

The problem is that we are not 30 seconds from the end. No one truly knows how long this show will go on. But one day, it will end, and the events will definitely be shocking. 

Not Worth Knowing

Adam and Eve were placed in the garden and told not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They did not listen to God and followed the prompting of the serpent. They took ahold of the fruit and ate, and the passage says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened.” (Genesis 3:7 – NIV 2011)

To what were their eyes opened? What knowledge did they gain? The only answer is that they became aware of evil. Their eyes were opened to shame, sin, and guilt. 

God had given Adam and Eve everything they needed to know. And ALL of it was good. The only thing he kept from them was the knowledge of evil and all the negative emotions that go with it. 

Whenever we step outside of God’s will, we gain knowledge, but it is always of pain, humiliation, regret, anger, and disappointment. There is never anything good to know or learn. 

God instructs us on how to live through his word. There are things we are supposed to do and other actions in which we are not to participate. It is not because he is withholding good things from us. Instead, he is putting up a fence to keep us from knowing bad things.

Some things in life are simply not worth knowing. 

Two Types of Prayer

The first is a preemptive prayer. These are prayers offered before anything happens. For example, one might preemptively pray for the day ahead in the morning.

The other is reactive prayer. These are prayers offered when we hear of a situation beyond our control. For example, one might say a prayer for a family that suffered a tragedy. 

I am learning on my spiritual journey that the more I pray preemptively, the less I am required to pray reactively for the events in my life. 

Christians Are Not Good People

The man said, “They are Christians and are to behave better than that.” Then he drove home his assertion with this punch, “They are acting nothing like Jesus.”

I wish his words were not valid. But unfortunately, they are. 

There is a foundational misunderstanding most people have about the followers of Jesus. They think we are good people who found a religious teacher we like and are now trying to act like him. 

The opposite is actually true.

Christians recognize they are bad people. They know they break God’s rules and commit what the Bible calls sin. They openly admit their life is a mess and do not have it all together. Most of the time, they acknowledge that they are completely awful people. Their hearts, thoughts, and actions are not what they want them to be, let alone what God desires. We are truly nothing like Jesus.

That is why we need Jesus. We do not primarily adhere to him because we think he is a good teacher but rather because he is a savior. He did not come to make good people better but to save bad people from their sins through his sacrificial death on the cross. 

Once we follow Jesus, we are to become more like him, but that will take a lifetime of transformation. And even when we reach spiritual maturity, there will never be a time when we do not need the grace found in Jesus. We will still struggle to do all God requires, but we find forgiveness along the journey.

I am not a Christian because I am a good person with great virtue and noble character. I am a Christian because I am a horrible person who wants to serve a loving, gracious, forgiving God.

A Little Hope

There are seasons in life where things get dark, sad, and hopeless. These come for numerous reasons. All of us walk through them at one time or another.

The temptation is to focus all our attention on what our life will look like when things turn around. We want a grand vision of a new life and all the joy returning every day. 

Sometimes it is better to refocus on the little things. Then we can look forward to the small forms of hope that improve each day until we reach our destination.

There are numerous ways this can play out for us. These can be as simple as hoping the weather this week will be better than last week. The evening meal tomorrow may taste better than anything I ate last week. The conversations in the coming days will be a blessing more than any previous interactions. 

I want you to have hope for a better season of life coming to you, but you only get there one day at a time – one little hope-filled experience at a time. 

The Open Grave

Pastor and writer Eugene Peterson tells a story of he and his wife visiting a monastery. They were walking across the grounds when they noticed in the little cemetery a hole dug and left there as an open grave.

They inquired from one of the monks if someone had recently died. He told them that they always keep an open grave there at this location. It is designed to remind them that one day there will be another funeral, and sometime it will be yours.

Indeed, life has many possibilities but one certainty. Prepare now for what you know is coming.   

Missing the Best Part

One hike my wife and I went on in Colorado was called the Royal Arch. It is not a very long trail but quickly gains over 1,300 feet in elevation. We climbed the stones constructed into a makeshift stairway all the way to the top. 

Well, we thought it was the top. Once we reached the highest point, I started asking about the arch. Where is it? What am I missing? We saw stairs cut into the mountain down the backside, but we assumed that would take us back to the trailhead. Only when we asked other hikers did we realize that what seemed like the top was not the summit of the journey.

The trail actually goes down from the first high point onto another section of path that leads you higher to the Royal Arch. If we hadn’t hesitated and asked some questions, I would have turned around and headed back down about 250 yards short of the peak. 

On our way down from the top, we saw two other guys taking pictures on the trail’s first pinnacle. Then they turned around and started quickly heading back to the bottom. Unfortunately, they stopped short of this unique rock formation and the spectacular views ahead without reaching the top. 

I told my wife I imagined them going home to family and friends and saying how the Royal Arch trail was disappointing, but they had walked all the way up anyway. Little did they know they had missed the best part. 

Whenever I talk to someone about their journey of faith, some will tell me they tried it for a while and were disappointed. Sometimes they will even explain how it didn’t seem to improve their life, marriage, or family. I often want to say, “You probably stopped before you reached the best part.” They had a small view of what God had in store but never truly experienced all he had in mind. 

The life of faith is a long journey; some of it will only make sense when you reach the end of the trail.