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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Guard yourself against "good advice"

Advice:  an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action, conduct, or some business you are about to engage in.  We have probably all offered advice at one point or another in our lives - sometimes solicited, at others not so much. Then there are those times when we have been the "subject" of advice!  You know what that it like!  You are forced to sit and listen while others who don't know exactly what you are thinking, feeling, or going through proport to have exactly the right piece of wisdom to get you through at the moment.  In those moments, you almost feel like turning tail and running as fast as you can away from the advice giver!  Why?  You are neither in the place to receive it, nor are they in the place to give it!  There are lots and lots of rules in life we must follow, but not all advice is worth following.  One of the rules my daughter established when the boys were very young was one she learned growing up - brush your teeth (at least once a day) in order to keep your teeth strong, remove unpleasant odor from one's mouth, and to be socially acceptable!  It isn't one of those rules she is willing to look the other way on when it is violated. It is meant to be kept.  Some other rules might just be "bendable" a little - such as bedtime on Friday nights not being as strict as bedtime on school nights.  Now, break that rule and the kid is happy!  Break the rule of brushing your teeth and no one is happy around you!  Sometimes we treat "rules" as though they were advice - giving us the ability to "pick and choose" portions or pieces we might embrace.  This can be the very place where we get ourselves into trouble.

Your rules make me happy. They give me good advice. (Psalm 119:24 ERV)

Living in the United States, there are a lot of rules I would have to say are "social norms" which may not be as "critical" to follow in some other countries. In fact, one such rule is the use of deodorant.  It isn't probably as big of a deal for the individuals living in the hill country of the rain forest, or the dry sands of the deserts of Africa.  It isn't readily available, is sometimes "out of reach" when it comes to the cost, and just hasn't been adopted as the "social norm" of the region.  So, trying to enforce a rule to wear deodorant isn't going to be very successful because of all the listed reasons.  On the other hand, some rules are placed into society because they help to keep the members of that society safe. One such rule might be that of driving down only one side of the road (either right or left of the line depending on the country you live in).  When traffic is allowed to drive helter-skelter down the road, accidents can happen rather quickly and it is almost impossible to know what another will do when approaching them if there are no "rules of the road".  

We have the privilege of living "under rules" which guide our behavior.  Yes, it is indeed a privilege to do so - regardless of whether we might "chafe" a little under those rules at times.  Mom always had a rule about how closely we could sit to the TV - especially when color television came on the scene.  There was some idea "rays" of some sort were emitted from the screen which would ultimately harm us.  In fact, the only real concern was that it probably put a little more strain on our eyes than was necessary - something many of us suffer from when we sit for hours in front of our computer monitors these days!  My eye doctor said I didn't need stronger glasses - that wasn't causing my occasional blurry vision.  It was the eye-strain of staring consistently at the computer screen.  In order to avoid this, I needed to vary my visual "distances" at regular intervals, by looking away from the screen for a minute or so, allowing my eyes to adjust to distance again, then I could return to the screen. I often take breaks from looking so intently at the screen, or the paperwork in front of me just for this reason.

As you can see, some rules seem pretty "easy" to adjust to, while others put a little more burden on us to actually follow them.  I have to get up, move away from the screen, and get a different "focus" in life.  I have to go into the bathroom, put toothpaste on the brush and scrub my pearly whites.  I have to drive on the correct side of the road, or I will be in danger of both being a traffic hazard and becoming a traffic fatality!  On the other hand, some rules just seem like "advice" we can take or leave - giving us a little bit of control in life.  This really should not be the case when it comes to following the intentional direction God gives us in his Word.  He has a purpose for the rules we might not understand fully, but when followed intently, we find they keep us safe or create a culture we can live in which is bears less burden and creates less barriers. When the psalmist said God's Word gave him "good advice", I don't believe he ever intended to create the idea we could take it as nothing more than a "recommendation" of how we should act.  It isn't a rule our "social group" adopts and then it becomes the "social norm".  It is a rule of living we must adopt as a child of God - regardless of society's opinion of its merit.

If you are on social media at all these days, you will find there are numerous individuals sharing all kinds of "rules" which many kind of adopt willy-nilly without much thought.  For example, have you ever been scrolling through to come upon that picture of your favorite food, only to read the caption, "Five foods to never eat"?  Yep, someone, somewhere, at some point determined that bread is the dreaded food.  If I am to live healthy, I must NEVER consume the substance!  Well, sorry guys, I LIKE bread, God created bread and all the ingredients which go into bread, and I am gonna eat bread!  What God does give me as "rule" about the bread is to not be inclined toward gluttony!  In other words, I am not to eat the entire loaf in one sitting!  That is where the "limit" is implied in the rule - not in the eating of the bread in the first place.  I say all this to remind us to beware of following someone's advice over what the truth of the Word says.  There is no wisdom in following advice unless the advice is confirmed by the truth contained in God's Word!  Just sayin!