Advice Worth Heeding
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
The other day I was going through some books, deciding which would go into the “Blue Room,” when I came across The pastor is in; A thirty day faith devotional inspired by Peanuts®.” I was as excited as Linus being reunited with his blanket, or Snoopy finding his doghouse aka fighter plane gassed up and ready to fly!
Truth be told....who doesn’t almost instantly smile at the very thought of the Peanuts ® gang? So to find an inspirational filled with the sagacity of the warrior poet Linus, the street lessons of Lucy, the determination of Charlie Brown, well it was Christmas all over!
In this thirty day devotional there is a chapter titled “Psychiatric Help 5 cents.” Just reading that title, can’t you just picture ‘Dr. Lucy” sitting behind her ersatz medical office/lemonade stand, with the now iconic “Psychiatric Help 5 cents” written at the top, and the sign “The doctor is in,” at the bottom? It made me think about the journey in faith we as believers embark upon, where we often come upon situations in life that we need some guidance. Maybe it won’t be the kind ‘Dr. Lucy” offers, and maybe it won’t cost 5 cents, but help is needed nevertheless.
To digress a bit, you have to admit, for all her bluster and bloviating ‘Dr. Lucy’ did give pretty good advice. Without her, would Charlie Brown have directed the Christmas play, and in utter frustration, cried out what so many adults have secretly cried out over the years….’does anyone know what Christmas is all about?’ To which our sage, Linus, shares the beautiful story of Jesus, through the eyes of Gospel writer Luke, to millions of children – young and old alike.
Oh to have a Linus and Lucy in our life!
But we do! We can start with the Holy Spirit and our community of believers. But more on that later! Let’s get back to the book….
Rev. Richard J. Dawson, the author of The pastor is in, (using both scripture, and Peanuts ® cartoon strips to complement his text), offers interesting insights into advice, and how to approach important issues that require good counsel, starting with this piece of scripture….
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.”
Rev. Dawson goes on and writes “you should never set out on any significant undertaking without seeking the insight of prudent people.” …you should always be receptive to the blessings that come from the wisdom of the wise.”
That said…who are the wise?
Just type in “wise” or “wisdom” and “Bible” and you will find all sorts of scripture. Go ahead, I’ll wait. OK, you can do it later. Let’s continue….
Wisdom is not something easily acquired, or possessed by all. Recall in the Old Testament, that when given the opportunity to ask God for anything, Solomon asked for wisdom. Of all the things a king – wood be, or crowned, would ask for – strength, courage, wealth, power, an undefeatable army, he asked God for wisdom.
Rev. Dawson is right, though. Because we all face important issues – spiritual, personal, physical-medical, financial, and other domains of life – these force us to find solutions, often outside our own realm of experience or expertise, we need wise counsel.
But who is wise?
That question reminds me of a beautiful song – “Wayward Son©” by the band Kansas. Consider these lyrics….
“Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season,
And if I claim to be a wise man,
Well surely means that I don’t know. “
©Kansas, Wayward Son
Sensing an opportunity to weigh in, there often is no shortage of folks willing to offer their take on things in your life; most folks are well meaning, others just have an inherent need to be ‘the bride at every wedding, and the corpse at every funeral,’ to borrow a phrase from a colleague. They are under the charade they are “wise,” when perhaps they “don’t know.”
Put somewhat differently, how often have we heard the caveat that free advice is worth what you paid for it? And we all know the person who has to be “Johnny on the spot,” proffering advice as if he or she was a traveling version of the Oracle at Delphi. At least with that Oracle there is some pomp and ceremony, not to mention off gassing from deep in the earth that can provide an experience reminiscent of the inhaled ‘euphoria’ agent once offered at dental offices.
But unsolicited advice, unless you are running with scissors, is not necessarily what you need, especially on a journey in faith.
So where does one begin to get the Advice worth heeding?
The devotional Jesus Calling is written by Sarah Young using the construct whereby each day has a message, a collection of insights written as if Jesus was speaking them to the reading as loving guidance. Each of these is followed by scripture that is themed for that day.
In rereading April 22nd on my way to today’s message, what inspired me were the words “Listen to Me (Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit) continually. I have much to communicate to you, so many people and situations in need o prayer. I am training you to set your mind on Me (Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit) more and more, tuning out distractions, through the help of My Spirit.”
Wow that is powerful stuff. And an important reminder. We are not alone. We have advice worth heading, if we remember that God is with us, for us, but we have to focus on Him first.
No surprise the first place to start with any quandary, conundrum, challenge in life, or for that matter, just starting off the new day is in prayer. You gotta phone Home, and talk to the Father. Fortunately it isn’t a long distance call. Through the blood of Jesus and His crucifixion for you and for me, He set the stage for each of us to have God indwelling in each of us as the Holy Spirit.
That still, small voice we often struggle to hear in the midst of our noisy, chaotic lives, is the Voice of God whispering to us. Sometimes we pay attention, sometimes we miss the message. The good news – He never misses our message, our plea, our prayer.
In prayer we may be given the answer directly, or we may be directed to the Bible. For me it is a guidebook how to live and love as Jesus, even though He knows we will do it imperfectly as mere mortals. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit may direct us to a passage that becomes our “aha!!!” moment.
The Holy Spirit might lead us to others in addition to His whispers and Biblical readings.
But who do you call for advice?
My parents advised me from an early age to seek the best in the arena you need help. It’s your life, so pick the best guides, doctors, lawyers, teachers, you can.
Distilling the guidance from Jesus, and Rev. Dawson, select people who have your best interest at heart, who are trustworthy, with integrity and intelligence, and who can help you discern fact from fiction, inspiration from illusion, the effective from expedient, with patience and persistence – those are a good place to start.
Do your homework, and it may take lots of it. And take the advice from the phrase written on a mug given to me by a good friend “Don’t mistake your Google ® search for my medical degree,” which is to say look for reliable sources. Shocking right…but not everything on the Internet is accurate.
But first and foremost – what has God put on your heart? What do you need to solve? Where do you want to be? What situation are you in that you can’t find God in it, you just don’t understand what’s happening? Or maybe you want to serve the Lord, but haven’t found the right fit, or don’t even know what the right fit is?
Look around CCUMC; by proclamation of our being a community of believers we are committed to serving a risen Christ, and to live as Jesus, imperfect though we are as humans. Within the congregation there is represented a wide array of trades and professions, intellects, and experiences – life, spiritual, parental, you name it, we probably have it from Pastor to congregant. Pray about it. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide you. To be sure there are those you will trust, and can trust more readily. That goes with the territory of being human. Perhaps the best that the first person you ask can give you is to refer you to someone else. That’s ok, too.
Start with God, prayer, scripture, perhaps a guide book by a well respected theologian. Ask the pastor, or other profession, or laity. Listening to the voice of God inside will help you get started.
Just remember, for advice worth heeding, this promise fulfilled from the Cross….
“Jesus answers prayer,
Jesus answers prayer,
Cast on Him your burden, roll on Him your care,
Plead His word of love and His promise prove,
For Jesus answers prayer”
From the Hymn Jesus answers prayer, written by Haldor Lillenas