One of the radio programs that tweaks my fancy is Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace. It is a very utilitarian look at finances with a focus on the practical, simple things that universally work every time they are applied. Ramsey advises hard work, spending less than you make, budgeting, steering clear of borrowing and and avoiding stupidity (that last one gives me lots of trouble). Ramsey's advice also has a standard 'rule of holes.' The rule is simple ... "if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."
I love that little bit of advice! Its implications are many. Learn from your mistakes. Don't keep doing the things that get you into trouble. Be smart enough to change when your current direction isn't working. Great advice!
The early Church, as depicted in Acts, had lots to learn. They were doing a new thing. And because they were people they fell into some difficulties that caused them to modify their behavior. In Chapter 5 of Acts Ananias and Sapphira made a gift to the Church. Then they lied about it. Acts 5 says both of them dropped dead on the spot. They forgot the first rule of holes ... 'stop digging.'
And don't think holes can't open up even when you are doing good work, even God's work. Peter, a staunch Jew, believed the new converts needed to adopt Jewish behavior, customs and dietary requirements. In a vision (Acts Ch. 10) Peter hears the words ... "Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean." Peter changed his tune regarding the gentiles and new gentile converts began receiving God's Holy Spirit. Peter was willing to change his view to follow what God was teaching. Peter was ready and willing to change to avoid the pitfalls of legalism and elitism. Peter remembered the second rule of holes ... holes can/will appear anywhere and at any time.
There is a final rule of holes. Generally holes have a way out ... up. In Acts 12 Peter is sent to prison. He has done just what God asked and finds himself in a hole anyway (have you ever felt that way?). Acts said the Church prayed 'earnestly.' The people were very afraid for Peter's safety because James had just been killed by Herod. The story of Acts 12 is recounted in Charles Wesley's 1738 Hymn, And Can it Be That I Should Gain. Acts says that Peter was asleep and was awakened by an angel. Peter's chains fell off and the angel led him put of prison and to the home of Mary where the people were praying. Peter's way out of the dungeon was up. I tell this story because of a discussion I had with Nicey as we shared about several of our inmates who should be released from jail soon. Many leave that place, return to their old haunts and never leave the REAL hole ... their environment. Nicey and I recounted that to leave the dungeon ... the hole we have either dug or fallen into ... we must both look up and climb up. C. S. Lewis told the Narnia children to go "Higher Up and Further In." Psalm 40 says God lifted David out of the miry clay and set his feet on solid ground and gave him a new song to sing ... a hymn of praise to God. I think both of these say what Dave Ramsey would say ... change what you are doing and who you are doing it with. When God makes a way out of no way, take the path God provides! Follow God's angel to a place of prayer and safety. It doesn't matter how or why the hole appeared ... it just matters that you are there and you don't belong there. It DOES matter that you stop digging. And it DOES matter that you take the way out God provides. In Wesley's song the words go like this ... "My chains fell off and I was free ... I rose, went forth, and followed thee." Good advice! Randy