Tuesday, July 7, 2015


My cousin pulled some pretty weird and stupid stunts when I was young. He'd carry a bicycle up into the hay loft in my uncle's barn, and ride through an obstacle course of hay bales and 4x4 holes that my uncle used to drop hay down through to the cattle stalls below. Then he'd pedal full speed and plunge over the edge. While the bike crashed down onto the concrete floor below, he dove for an overhead wooden beam, swinging back to the hayloft floor like nothing happened. Everybody else laughed and slapped my cousin on the back, but I always pictured his broken body, crumpled on the ground, beside the mangled bike.

We seem to be born with that daredevil spirit. Just watch kids on a playground; they soon get bored riding a merry-go-round the right way, or swinging on a swing. Sooner or later they start flinging themselves off the swing, or running inside the merry-go-round. One little trip and they could break a bone -- or get a good smack on the back of the head -- but who cares? You only live once!

A man in Orange, Texas, decided to take a nighttime swim in a private marina along a bayou in southeastern Texas. Signs were posted on the dock warning of an alligator, which had been spotted swimming around the pier. But warnings were not going to slow him down. He dismissed the sign with a curse, jumped into the water, and disappeared a few minutes later when the alligator pulled him under. His body was recovered after a few hours.

New York Giant defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was lighting fireworks on the Fourth of July. One blew up in, or close to, his hand and injured several of his fingers. This was quite a risk to take in an offseason when he's trying to negotiate a huge contract with the Giants.

Speaking of fireworks, a 22-year-old man in Calais, Maine, thought it would be cool to launch a mortar tube from his head. His friends gathered around him and thought they had talked him out of it. Instead, they watched him ignite the firework and die instantly.

Maybe you can see a little of your own reckless spirit in these stories. If so, it might not be a bad time to stop and say a quick thank-you prayer to God and your guardian angel.

I guess that's what scientists mean when they say the risk-assessment part of our brain isn't fully formed until we're well into our 20s.

But just because we've reached or passed our mid-20s doesn't mean we stop taking big risks. We risk our health for the sake of drinking, smoking, under-exercising, overeating, and under-sleeping. We risk our financial security by under-investing in our retirement and over-spending in the present. We risk our families and marriages for the sake of Internet porn or chat rooms, messages and Internet affairs.

Even worse, we risk our eternal salvation. The stakes are massive: a wonderful, thrilling, fulfilling eternity in God's presence, or relentless agony, regret, grief, and sorrow in hell.

But it's a lot more thrilling to spend the weekend in a campground, out on a lake, on a golf course, or in some other amusement, than take an hour and sit in a pew on Sunday morning or Saturday night. Why get up early to let the Holy Spirit make us wise unto salvation through Bible study, or arm ourselves with Jesus' body and blood -- when we could be catching up on lost sleep?

Spiritual risk-taking is one of the greatest dangers we face. For Adam and Eve it was a forbidden fruit; for Israel it was their curiosity in how the nations around them worshipped other gods; for us it might be the smorgasbord of world religions that we can sample and taste for ourselves. Maybe it's paganism, nature religions, or the occult. But the end result's the same -- guilt, sorrow and profound loss -- possibly eternal.

Thank God there's still time. Jesus has taken the punishment for our failings and turned away God's wrath. As long as we draw breath, it's not too late for His Spirit to bring us back to repentance and faith. But the end is coming. It's time to grow up, assess the risks, and realize the tremendous gifts we may be on the verge of throwing away, for the sake of a cheap thrill today.

What are some stupid risks you took as a kid? What are some risky spiritual activities you see people engage in today? How can you help them recognize these risks and see the wondrous things they're missing?

Growing up, we all do silly things. Some may leave us black and blue; others may leave us in worse shape. Got anything from your Evil Knievel past you care to forget -- or brag about? If so, you can click here and give us all the gory details.

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