Not New, Not Improved

Thursday, August 13, 1998

Isaiah 40:8 – The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever. (NIV)

A while back, I saw a newspaper story on the latest electronic business gadget. The author says, if you want to be on the cutting edge of the digital wave, you need this item.

It's an electronic screen about the size of an adult human hand. It's a combined electronic address book and notepad all in one. Too small for a keyboard, you use a special stylus and write directly on the screen. I read the article with great interest, right until I got to the end. This thing is an electronic version of a notepad and pencil, but if you want this digital wonder, it will set you back almost $600 Canadian.

Ouch! Now, to some people, it's a bit of a digital status symbol to have the very latest technological toy out of Japan, but this is overkill. If you want a pocket pad and pencil, go buy one. You can pick them up for a couple of bucks.

That's something about life at the end of the 20th century. New is not necessarily improved. Sometimes the old things work best. I work in one of the largest data centres in Canada, with access to everything in the way of computer systems. One of my most important "tools" is a photocopied checklist to help me keep track of important things. Just a simple sheet of paper, with boxes for me to tick off, and a lead pencil to tick them off with.

Don't laugh. It works. The last thing I need is another screen to watch. All I need is something that does the job. No virus problems. No software problems, no hard drive crashes. Just tick it and then recycle it when I'm done. Have you heard the saying "If it's not broken, don't fix it"? I think we forget that, lots of times. We have to have the latest, new improved thing, and no one ever asks if they've got the bugs out of it yet.

Tell me what works; what I can rely on.

Walk into any bookstore these days, and you'll see shelf after shelf of self-improvement books, each one by a guru with their own following. A Christian friend was asked what he thought of one of these books. He said he liked the life-advice in four books authored by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

I'll take the old words, the gospel words, that people have been relying on to guide their lives for 2,000 years.

Prayer: Dear Lord, "new and improved" might be the watch-words for this century. Help us to remember that "new" does not necessarily mean "improved". Life gets more uncertain every day, and we need a sure foundation for our lives. In the rush for the very latest version of something, let's not forget that people have been guiding their lives by Your word for 20 centuries, and your commands are still fresh, alive and vital today. Amen.

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Bruce M. Dinsmore <>
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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