Many years ago, I had the opportunity to be honored by an organization founded by Art Linkletter in honor of his daughter, 20-year old Diane, who took her life by jumping out of a sixth floor window while experiencing a flashback from LSD. His goal was to get to speak truth and hope into the lives of pre-teens, on the cusp of making life-changing decisions as they entered their challenging teen years. He hosted a challenge to create a poster which accurately depicted the extreme damage of "doing drugs". The contest was supported by schools nationwide. Those selected would have the honor of being his special guests in a large gathering within various towns across America. My "Speed Kills" poster afforded me the opportunity to meet this great man, but most importantly, gave me the chance to hear his message and to lay hold of his heart to keep kids safe from the damaging influence of drugs. In an era when drugs were on the rise, he hoped no other parent would receive the dreaded call which informed them of the loss of a child to drug's ravages.
Keep the rules and keep your life; careless living kills. (Proverbs 19:16 MSG)
As you listened to his heart, you could see his message was more than just a casual hope you'd obey the rules and keep your life! It was heartfelt - an appeal to listen before it was too late! The heart of a father challenging thousands to avoid the careless choices life seemed to afford in the sixties. My poster, "Speed Kills", featured a man taking speed, then speeding down a road filled with turns, until finally he crashed and died. Kind of morbid when I look back on it, but my thought was to capture the twists and turns life puts us through and the dangers created when we don't "obey the rules". The rule I heard over and over - don't do drugs! Don't even go near them!
I think I might have been hearing the heart of God when I was listening to the heart of Mr. Linkletter that day. He really was "preaching" to "keep the rules and keep your life". Many don't realize he was an orphan, adopted by a preacher, growing up as a "P.K" (Pastor's Kid). He was abandoned by his own family when he was only a few week's old, adopted by an evangelical preacher, and grew up to be quite a man. One of his most talked about accomplishments in life is the longevity of his marriage! 75 years married to the same woman! Not a thing most people in Hollywood can boast! One of the things I liked best when he spoke to us was what he said about choices in life - there will be many, but not all will be the best for us. He was saying we have to keep growing, constantly developing, because none of us is perfect yet. So true!
In considering our passage today, let's focus on a couple of things:
- Life comes at us fast - decisions made on the fly often get us by, but they don't always make sense for the long haul. When we have a good foundation, we often respond better to the "on the fly" choices we have to make. When we don't take time to lay the right foundation, we often lack consistency, or what some may call integrity in our decisions.
- We have choices in life - not everything is cut and dry. If you have ever tried to find some things in scripture, such as exactly when to marry, if you should marry at all, or if you should get a tattoo, you might be a little frustrated to see there are no clear cut "words of wisdom" recorded for us on these matters. Sure, there are "guidelines" like not doing something which will offend others - so it clearly points out we don't get a tattoo which depicts something which dishonors God! There is nothing in scripture which clearly says YOU should marry HIM, or YOU should not ever marry ANYONE. In fact, Paul tells us some will desire to marry, and this is okay. Others will desire to stay single, this is still okay. Not one set of guidelines fits for everyone. In cases such as these, we need to go with the guidance of scripture and prayer. God is giving us choice in some matters such as marriage - so, if it is for you, go for it! Just use wisdom in selecting the one you are going to spend the rest of your life with - it is a "for keeps" relationship!
- Carelessness kills. Being careless is when we don't really pay attention to the choices we are making. We might think of it as being a little too "unconcerned" about the outcome. In making choices, when we are not concerned with the outcome, we almost always will be caught a little off-guard with what "comes out" of our choices! Rules are there for our safety. Although I don't like to think of scripture as a set of "rules", they are! The guidance set out in scripture does what a "rule" does - it sets boundaries for living. Embrace them and we usually come out okay. Disregard them, and we are mopping up the mess!
The heart of our heavenly Father beats for us as his kids. His words to us are heard over and over in scripture - the beat of his heart for us is found in the words recorded for our learning and protection. His goal in all the "rules" - for us to avoid the hazards of carelessness. What seems burdensome to us at this moment makes all the difference in the outcome! Just sayin!