Timeless advice for troubled times ● Part 1 | "Connecting the Dots"

For better or worse, your decisions go beyond you and impact those closest to you. Want to be a person who impacts others for the better? Here are some tips guaranteed to leave you saying, “I’m so glad I did.”

NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.

Today we are beginning a brand new series entitled, You'll be Glad you Did, timeless advice for troubled times. Now, here's what we all have in common, this isn't a religious thing, this is just a thing thing. We have all lived, most of us have lived long enough basically to reap the benefits from some good decisions we've made and some good habits we've developed, and most of us have lived long enough to have dealt with the consequences of some bad decisions we've made and some bad habits we've developed. So looking back again, this is kind of the wide end of the funnel, looking back we are either glad that we did or we wish we had or we're glad we didn't and we wish we hadn't. I mean, right now every one of us could stand up and tell a, hey I'm glad I did or I wish I had story. Now, because eventually, and this is just part of growing up, eventually we realize that life is connected, that the decisions we make today end up impacting what's gonna happen tomorrow, or create tomorrow's realities.

When we think about the things we're gonna talk about for the next few weeks, not only will you be glad you did, other folks will be glad you did as well, because today's decisions impact your tomorrows, but they also impact the tomorrows of the people you love the most and care about the most.

And this is a really, really big deal, and maybe you knew this, but I'll just throw this out there in case you haven't thought about it in a while. We are rarely happier, isn't this true, we are rarely happier than our relationships are healthy. So your decisions now, my decisions now, my decisions in this season of life that have the potential to impact my relationships later, ultimately it comes back to me, so this is not just about us, but it impacts everybody around us, but ultimately it comes back on us. Your own decisions aren't just about you. In fact, again, most of us have lived long enough to know this. In fact, I'm gonna say some things in the next few minutes, and you're gonna think what I think even when I put a message like this together. I wish I had known this when I was 20, or I wish I would have remembered it when I was 20, or I certainly wish I would have applied this when I was in my 20's, that in every season of life, we make decisions that impact and shape the lives of the people around us in the next season of life.

So in this series, I'm gonna give you some unoriginal... I don't claim that I came up with any of this stuff, some unoriginal, in some cases, learned it the hard way, you'll be glad you did advice. It's just advice. These are not moral or ethical imperatives. In other words, these aren't rules. We all already know we're old enough to know the rules, the rights and the wrongs, right? In fact, your greatest regret was probably connected to a broken rule. This glad you did advice that we're gonna talk about for the next few weeks will ensure that you don't break the rules that have the potential to break you, the potential to break your heart. The potential to break the hearts of the people that you love the most.

So this has just learned it the hard way, didn't make any of this up, just practical, practical advice. Now, the advice that I'm gonna give you is like the advice you give other people, because all of us, don't we love to give advice? When somebody says, "Hey, can I get your opinion?" You're like, it is free and it's worth as much. Okay, we all love to give our opinion, you love to give advice. So the advice that we're gonna talk about is just like the advice that you give, okay? They're not rules. It sits... This advice kinda sits between the rules. It's not in the realm of right and wrong, ethical, unethical, moral, immoral or legal versus illegal. This sits between the rules, this sits in the category of wisdom. And wisdom, this is a definition I just made up. You may have a better one. Wisdom is basically insights, things like... I understand this is an insight. Insights inform by the knowledge, again, going back to what we said at the beginning, that life is connected, that today shapes tomorrow, that one thing leads to another.

So here's a couple of examples of what we're talking about. Here's some good advice, okay, here's some good advice. Don't trade what you want most for what you want in the moment. That's good advice, right? I mean, don't trade what you want most for what you want in the moment. Now, if you're a parent, you're like, I'm gonna write that down and tell my kids. Let's think about your kids later. Let's think about us for a minute, okay?Don't trade what you want most for what you want in the moment. In other words, if you have financial goals, you know what you ultimately want most financially, well then don't do something stupid now financially that's gonna rob you of what you want, ultimately want. If you're in school and you have academic goals, you know, what you ultimately want most, don't do anything now that's gonna rob you of what you want most in the future. This has to do with your marriage, relationships, with everything. And here's the point of where we're going for the next few weeks, there's nothing illegal about ignoring this. There's nothing immoral about ignoring this. There's nothing unethical about ignoring this, right?

It's just... But to ignore this, it's just a bad idea, to ignore this principle or to ignore this advice, it's just unwise. Here's another one, okay. This one's a little harder. Fear being wrong, fear being wrong more than you fear admitting you're wrong. Nobody likes to say, oh yeah, I was completely wrong about that. Now, some categories, it doesn't matter, but a lot of times we kind of get in a back and forth, and as you're going back and forth, it begins to dawn on you, "Oh, oh, I didn't know that. Oh, oh, I hadn't thought about that," but now you've dug in your heels, you kinda made your case. And so nobody wants to admit they're wrong. And so we fear looking wrong, and so we kind of add more and more words to an argument that never made sense to begin with but that's so ridiculous, right?

We should fear being wrong more than we fear admitting we're wrong. And here's maybe the deepest thing I'm gonna say all day, okay, so we'll get this out quick. The great thing, the great thing about admitting that you're wrong when you're wrong, is you're not wrong anymore. I'm gonna go over that again because that's very... That's very significant, that's deep, okay? I can see you just glazed over. It's like, what's he talking about? Yeah, the great thing about admitting you're wrong, when you realize you're wrong is you're not wrong anymore. How many of you wanna spend the rest of your life wrong about a bunch of stuff? Yeah, that would be no one. So when we realize we've been wrong, we should throw a party because from now on I'm not gonna be wrong about that anymore, but isn't it true, that's not how we work. On the inside we get defensive rather than making progress, but you can't grow if you resist admitting your wrong, right? Okay, so that's not the sermon, that's just good advice. That's just wisdom. So wisdom... Now the other thing wisdom does, wisdom gives us two gifts or it helps us in two specific capacities.

One is wisdom serves as a guide and we're gonna talk a little bit about that. Wisdom serves as a guide. If you think about it, the decisions that you make in your life, your decisions are like the steering wheel of your life, right? If you look back and you think about how you got to where you are, you steered your way there for good or for bad, and you steered your way where you are for the most part. I mean, other people impacted it, but for the most part, you steered your way where you are based on your decisions. So good decisions get us to where we wanna go. I mean duh, right? And wisdom, here's the role of wisdom, wisdom fills the decision-making gaps when we don't know exactly what to do. We're trying to make a decision, we're trying to decide, and in those moments when we're not exactly sure what we should do, when we ask the question, what is the wise thing to do? What is the wise thing to do? In other words, when we invite wisdom into the decision-making equation, wisdom oftentimes brings instant or ultimate clarity to decision-making.

Now, the second thing it does is wisdom allows us or helps us set up guardrails. We've talked about this before as well. You know the purpose of a guardrail. The purpose of a guardrail is to keep you a safe distance from danger, and we all, we all need financial, moral and certainly relational guardrails. And the reason we need those guardrails is because guardrails protect our mental, our emotional, and our physical safety.

Now, Here's something I've observed. I've observed this in my life, I've observed this in the lives of so many people, too many people, and maybe it's as if I'm about to read a little bit of your story. And the great thing about our past is we can learn from it if we can bring out of it or tease out of it there's lessons to carry into the future, and this may be one of them. Greatest regrets, and we all have regrets, greatest regrets are often preceded by a series of unwise decisions, not immoral, not unethical, not illegal. Your greatest regret, probably greatest regrets are generally preceded by a series not of illegal, immoral, but simply unwise decisions. So let me meddle for just a minute and we'll get back to the sermon. If you are currently making a series of unwise relational decisions, you are moving toward a relational regret, I promise.

And whereas the unwise decisions have virtually no immediate consequence, the ultimate regret in the circumstances surrounding that regret may follow you the rest of your life. And the role of wisdom is to keep you back at a safe distance from regret. if you're in the process of making a series of unwise financial decisions, and your husband or your wife or your friend, or your roommate, or your fiance is going, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know, and there's something in you that's going, you know, this probably isn't the wisest thing to do but you keep doing it, keep doing it. Let me just predict your future for you. You are moving toward a financial regret, and once you get into the realm of regret, you can't go back and that regret may follow you the rest of your life. And I can go through every single arena of life that our greatest regrets are generally preceded by not immoral illegal decisions, by unwise decisions. So in this way, in this way, asking the wise... You know what's the wise thing to do, inviting wisdom into our decisions, which comes right back to the advice that we're talking about, wisdom protects us from unnecessary regret.

And all you have to do it, and all I have to do is to take that one simple idea and drop it into my past and I'm like, yep. My greatest regret that day, that moment, that weekend when I made that decision, I wish I could go back and undo. It wasn't just out of nowhere, it was I set myself up by making a series of not illegal, not immoral decisions, not even unethical decisions, just unwise decisions. So in that way, wisdom, you know what wisdom does? Wisdom highlights the danger zone and I get this, I get this. I realize that out along the edges is always where we burn to be, further on the edge, the hotter the intensity. You wanna take it right into the danger zone, you wanna ride into the danger zone. Yeah, but back here in the real world, back here in the real world what happens? The danger zone, what does it do? It often sets us up or leads us to the disaster zone. So again, sort of moving out of the message for a minute, here's some more wisdom, here's some more advice, here's an observation that you bring this into the realm of decision- making. This will help you out.

Culture, we've all experienced this, culture. Culture will bait you to the threshold of self-destruction and then condemn you once you step through the door. This is what culture does, and there's nobody behind this. There's just not a group of people in a room going, how can we just destroy more life? Nobody's doing that. Alright, that's what we think sometimes. It's like, no they're not. They're not trying to destroy your kids. You know what they're trying to do? They, whoever they are. They're trying to make money. That's all they're trying to do. They're just trying to make money. That's fine, you're the same way, we're all trying to make money, but there are waves and there are threads through our culture that bait us and bait our children and bait our high school students through the threshold of self- destruction. It's like, come on, come on, come on, come on. And then the moment we step through the door, culture changes the conversation, it changes the direction of the conversation, and it's like you go, you fool, you idiot. You're crazy. You know what, what's wrong with you?

This is just the nature of life. And wisdom has the power to allow us and empower us and provide for us what we need to avoid all that. In fact, wisdom empowers us to avoid the disaster zone, because wisdom keeps us back from the edge of the danger zone. Now, this This is so amazing, Jesus connected his invitation to follow, and that's the invitation of Jesus, if this is one of your first times watching or one of your first times with us, that's the invitation of Jesus. He didn't start with believe, he started with follow. And Jesus' invitation to follow him in life is... Jesus invitation for us to follow him leads us into a life or a lifestyle that's characterized by wisdom.

Now, there's a huge implication connected to that I wanna stop and talk about, then we're gonna move on. That's this, if you're not a religious person or if you're of a different faith tradition, or if you used to be a Christian and you've sort of walked away or you had a really bad church experience, and we get that. If we heard your story, we'd be like, yep, I'd be hesitant too, if that had happened to me. So if you're not really a person of faith or not a Christian or a Jesus person, here's the good news, everything, just about everything in this series is gonna be practical, helpful, a takeaway for you, for some of your friends, maybe your kids, okay? In fact, this advice alone was worth the price of admission. Okay, I mean, this statement alone. This explains perhaps your past and is gonna help you avoid regret in the future, right? But the point is, if you're not a Jesus follower, if you're not a Christian, application of any of this stuff is of course 100% optional.

You don't have to do any of it. You can just listen and take notes and say, "I'll take a little bit of this, take a little bit of that. I think I'm gonna share this with a friend, but I'm not gonna apply it myself." I mean, you just pick and choose. There's gonna be so much helpful stuff in this series, but if you're a Jesus follower, if you're a Christian, if there's something in you that you wake up every day and to the best of your ability you're surrendering yourself to the Lordship of Christ and you wanna follow Jesus, then the way of wisdom is essential. It's actually baked into the teaching of Jesus. I'm gonna give you a quick example. This is a little parable that I refer to all the time because it was so pivotal in the life and message of Jesus, Some of you have heard this and didn't even know Jesus said it, but at the end of the Sermon on the Mount...

He said, "Therefore... " This is the very end. "Everyone who hears... " He just finished this long message, "Everyone who hears or just heard these words of mine and puts them into practice... " and hears our word, "Is like a wise man." The implication is, I want you to walk wisely, I want you to live wisely. I want your life, your decisions, your relationships, your finances, every arena of life, I want it to be characterized and shaped by wisdom. And then he points to or underscores or illustrates the connectedness of life. He says this, "Therefore, every man who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Which means nothing to us. In fact, it means the opposite to us because you don't wanna buy a lot full of rock, right? You're gonna spend a lot of money and time getting rid of the rock, but back then it was a whole different thing.

There were no automated tools, there's no dynamite, there's no jackhammer, it's just hard work. But the wisest thing to do in ancient times was to find a piece of land that had some rock that had a foundation that wasn't gonna shift with the weather and shift with the rain and potentially a flood. And so he says this wise man actually took the time and the effort to build his house on rock. When he says this, everybody in Jesus' audience knew what that meant. It meant a lot of time, a lot of expense, and it could be done a lot quicker and a lot cheaper. And then you'll remember perhaps Jesus said this, the rain came down because eventually, even in that part of the world, that's what happened. The rain came down, the streams rose. And in this part of the world, the streams rose really quickly, it didn't have a lot of rain, but when it rained because the earth was so dry, it was just... It was dangerous. Streams rose and the wind blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall. Why didn't it fall? Well, it wasn't because the owner did the moral thing, or the ethical thing, or even the right thing. It's because the builder did the wise thing.

And Jesus says, "This is what I'm inviting you to. This is the life I want you to live, and I'm gonna help you live it if you will listen and follow me." Then you remember the other half of this parable, "But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice... " You heard it, right? You are the note-taker, you agreed with it even. "Anyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man." Now, by a foolish man, we don't like the word fool, you fool, no, we don't use that language. But here's what that meant in New Testament times, even in Old Testament times, a fool is someone who decides to live their life as if life isn't connected, that today isn't connected to tomorrow, that'll just work out when it works out, that I'll deal with that when I come to it, that today's decisions don't, in any way shape or form, define what my future is like. What I do in the relationship today is it gonna impact the future later. What I do financially today isn't gonna impact my finances later. What I do academically today, there's just no connection.

So the fool or the foolish person is the person that trades what they want most, trades what they want most for what they crave and desire and want in the moment. And Jesus... Here's what's amazing, Jesus is inviting all of us away from that kind of thinking and the kind of living. He goes on, everyone who hears these words of mine and he doesn't put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. And again, there's huge implications for all of us here, but here's one in particular that you don't necessarily see in the text. If you're not a religious person or not a Christian person, Here's what I want you to hear. And maybe this will mean something, and maybe this will mean something later, the implication is this, that Jesus' instructions, the teaching of Jesus is for our benefit, not our detriment, that Jesus taught for our benefit, that Jesus taught for your benefit.

He taught for your benefit, not your detriment, and if your interaction with Christians has always been as if somebody was trying to take something from you, and they didn't seem as if they were actually for you, and I don't know what was going on in that church, and you might have even experienced some of that in one of our churches, I hope not. But I just want you to know and hear from me, and again, read through the Gospels, when Jesus taught, he was inviting people into a better life, he was not trying to take something from them, because Jesus came for them and Jesus came for us. I mean, it's the most famous verse in the whole Bible, for God so loved the world that he did and does what you do when you love somebody, he gave something of value, he gave his son. This is why we say, and if you've been around here for a while, hopefully you can quote this by now, I certainly hope so, that following Jesus will make your life better and ultimately make you better at life. It will make you a better father and a better friend, and a better wife, and a better mother, and a better employer and a better employee.

It'll make you better everything, not immediately, but ultimately, and eventually, because that's the nature of wisdom. Wisdom is sowing now so we can reap later, wisdom is giving up now so I can have later, wisdom is doing the hard thing now, so life may not be so hard later, wisdom is investing now so there's something to show for it later. Whether it's investing in my marriage, investing in my kids, or even investing financially. This is the life that God invited us into, and Jesus modeled it for us. He's asked us to live according to the way of wisdom or the short version, to simply walk wisely. Now, that's kind of the subtle part of that parable, that Jesus wants something for us. But here's the actual point of the parable, and this is the big take-away, and as obvious as this sounds when I say it, it's something that unfortunately isn't so obvious when the pressure is on to ignore it. The point of the parable that's really almost impossible to miss is this, that knowing and doing, knowing and doing are two completely different experiences with two completely different outcomes, that knowing and doing are two completely different experiences with two completely different outcomes, and unfortunately, one is often used as an excuse to ignore the other.

In other words, we are quick to defend our refusal to do, because we know. Let me illustrate that for you. If you've got kids, or if you've ever been a kid, either category, if you've got kids or you've ever been a kid, you had this experience or you... And you've maybe been on both sides of this experience, "Honey, dad just wants you... " "I know, I know, I know, I know. You don't need you to tell me. I know, I know, I don't need you to tell me. I know, I know." "Honey, honey." "I've heard that. I know, I know." This happens in our marriages, right? This happens with our kids, happens with their parents. Happens a lot. "I know, I know... Look, I know, I know, I know, I know. I don't need you to tell me." The assumption being is that knowing is enough. Since I know I'll do, but that's not true, right? And isn't it true that when we hear something, we need to hear our immediate reaction sometimes is, I know, I know, I know? In other words, you don't need to tell me that, but perhaps they do.

In fact, already in our last few minutes together, I've said some things you've heard before that if somebody else said it to you, you would have said, "I know, I know, I know." But see, knowing and doing are two completely different experiences, and here's what's so amazing. Okay, again, I don't know what your church experience has been, and I don't know what your interaction with Christians has been like, but let me just tell you about Jesus for a minute, his heart's desire, this is why he said what he said, this is why he told this principal, this parable, excuse me. His heart's desire is that we would do and not just hear, that we would act on and not just listen to, because knowing but not doing has the same outcome as not knowing. Knowing without doing, knowing but not doing it's as if you... You might as well not even... As a matter of fact, it's worse than that. To know and not to do, if I can be unkind, to know and not to do makes a fool out of you. Right? Applied wisdom. This is why Jesus was so amazing. Look up here. This is why God became flesh and dwelt among us.

This is why God didn't just send us a letter, this is why God didn't send us more commandments, this is why God didn't send us more law, this is why God didn't send us just a to-do list. And if your whole religious experience regardless of your religion, has been a to-do list, I would just love for you to pause and read through the Gospels and follow Jesus through the gospels. The reason God became flesh and dwelt among us was to show us what to do so that we would know what to do because it's applied wisdom that makes the difference, not in an effort for him to take something from us, but because He was for us, doing is what makes the difference. So I'm gonna meddle one more time, last time this message I'm gonna meddle with you. And again, this is... I have no authority over any of you, you can do whatever you want, so this is just me giving you some advice. What do you know you need to do, but you just aren't doing it?

What do you know you need to do, you just aren't doing it? Let me tell you about this important question, because until you do it, you are living as if life is disconnected, and you know better than that. You've advised better than that. You know what you would tell a friend who's in your circumstances, you know what you would tell a child or a grandchild in your circumstances. You know better, and here's the urgency of the gospel, and here's the urgency of Jesus. Read the Gospels, he's like, "The reason I came to Earth to live among you is because I want you to apply and I want you to do because I love you."

Knowing without doing doesn't make any difference, it makes a fool out of you, and if you know what you need to do and you refuse to do it... It's Jesus' words, not mine. You're like a foolish man who built his house on the sand, knowing that down the road, this may be a disaster, regret. So what do you need to stop doing, you just haven't stopped yet? What do you need to start doing, you know you need to start doing it, you just haven't done it?

So I wanna give you some advice, okay? It's advice, not moral and moral ethical, it's just advice, it sits right there in the realm of wisdom. Give you some advice. Whatever it is you know you need to do and just haven't done it, do it today. You'll be glad you did because you wish you already had. It's that simple. And this is why, this is... I'm gonna wrap up. This is why Jesus' invitation... This is so powerful, this is why Jesus' invitation didn't end with, learn from me. He said, "I want you to follow me. And if you will follow me, if you will apply the wisdom I give you, if you'll apply the teaching I give you, if you'll embrace my upside down ethic, where you go to the back of the line and you put people ahead of you, if you will apply what I've invited you to apply, if you will live out the wisdom that I've left for you, then here's the promise. I will help you build a house, I will help you build a life that can endure. I will help you lay a foundation that can endure the difficulties of adulthood and the cultural norms and the cultural exceptions and the things that come your way you don't even know are coming."

And if you'll follow me, and if you'll apply what I teach you, He says, I promise you, you will be glad you did. But maybe more important than that, the people that you care for most, they'll be glad you did as well. But here's the starting point. What do you know you need to do and you just haven't done it? Just do it. You'll be glad you did. And we'll pick it up right there next time in part two. You'll be glad, you'll be glad you did, timeless advise for troubled times.

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