• Justin Myers

Old Dog. Good Tricks.

Updated: Oct 23

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” the saying goes, reflecting a cultural distaste with the oldness of the dog and his abilities. "Old" and "old-fashioned" aren't descriptions of value today. Rotary phones, cable-phones, flip phones and the original iPhones are not just "old" at this point, but are "outdated". And the latest smart-phone innovation will join these antiquated ranks in no time. New consistently displaces old. In technology, the displacement is mostly good. But not everything innovative is good; not everything old is bad. Herding sheep is an old (thousands of years) dog trick that remains valuable today. And dogs still play fetch.


Is there a place for "old" in the way we think and live? I think there is. If we want to live our lives according to what is good and true we will inevitably be in touch with what is "old". Truth and goodness aren't moving targets--they don't change down the highway of time. There is a large highway that runs through the town I grew up in, where the speed-limit is typically 70 miles-an-hour (mph), until you hit the "welcome to Decatur" sign, where the limit drops to 55 mph. As you can imagine in such a "speed trap", plenty of drivers get tickets there because of the unexpected change. Truth and goodness don't do that.


Despite our distaste with all things “old-fashioned,” it isn’t the age of the tricks that make them good or bad; it is the purpose and reason behind the tricks that determine their worth. This means we aren't shackled to today's wisdom to learn how to live. People throughout all of history had access to truth and goodness, and found ways to live in light of it. We can tap into their wisdom and find it valuable because truth hasn't changed since they were alive.

We should not discount older ways of thinking and living. Instead, we should mine the past for treasure--good, old tricks!--to apply to our lives today.


The prophet, Jeremiah said something similar when he recounted the word of God:


Thus says the LORD:


“Stand by the roads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.

(Jer. 6:16).


There is good in the ancient paths. There is truth. There is peace.


One "old" practice my family started this year is family worship. Not worship of the family, but worship of Jesus together as a family. This is something Christians have been doing for thousands of years. We set aside just a handful of minutes a day to read God's word together, to pray together, and sing. We aren't perfect, and it isn't always a spiritual mountain-top, but it has reminded my family of Christ every evening and drawn us closer together. We didn't make this up! People in the past wanted to be faithful to Christ and to know him and love him and obey him because of the truth of the Gospel and God's commands. To that end, they worshipped him together in their families.


I am not saying you have to start doing family worship if you are a Christian, though I strongly encourage it. What I am saying is that something very old has made a significant impact on me, my wife, and our son. It is an old trick, but it is a good one that promises to help my family look to Christ for years to come. There may be old "tricks" that would be significant for you too, if they weren't simply discounted for their age.


What can you do today for "old" to have an influence on your life? Ask someone older than you which of their habits they value most. What have they made a practice of doing that has made their life better? And ask them why they started the habit. They may begin to talk about what is True and Good. They surely will if they are a Christian.


The old has consistently enriched my life because Truth and Good himself is older than old. I want you to experience this too. So, read old books (like the books of the Bible). Read biographies about people in history. See how they lived and why they did so. Notice your own habits today. How are you using your time? Ask yourself why you do what you do. Is it connected to Truth and Goodness? Is it pushing you to love God and neighbor? Are your habits tied to something steady and true, or are they unstable in the tossing see of changing ideas? The past may have the anchor you need. Look for life-wisdom anywhere in life. But don't discount the dog or his tricks just because he looks old.








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