Life Lessons Learned Part One

As of this year (2023), I’ve been a follower of Jesus for 67 years; I hope I’ve learned—really learned!—some basic Life Lessons to live by during those years.  When a person is first presented with a lesson, teaching, or new information of any sort, if that lesson or information doesn’t filter through one’s thought processes and then “drop down” into one’s spirit, resulting in genuine change and transformation…then those lessons haven’t really been learned; they’ve been merely useless information.  That learning process is true of all genuine, lasting learning…

Learning begins with the early formation of our basic belief systems resulting in forming our fundamental thought processes and ways of thinking, then those affect our values, our attitudes, our worldviews, and—finally—our behavior.  All meaningful and lasting learning and change begins inside of us and then works its way out into our transformed behavior; the widespread concept of changing our outward behavior first, resulting in changing us on the inside, has never worked.

Here’s a very basic, five (or six) step word picture of how we learn:  First, we receive new information by our 5 senses.  Second, that information flows into our brain.  Third, our brain processes the information to see if it’s something we want to or need to learn.  Fourth, if we choose to learn it, the new information becomes part of our beliefs, our regular thoughts, our attitudes, and our worldview.  Fifth, the new information is something that begins to help us change our physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual behavior because of it.  If that happens, we’ve really learned it—it’s become part of who we are and how we behave. 

Sometimes there’s a sixth step; if it’s “spiritual” information, our mind sends the new information to our spirit, and it become part of our vital relationship with God through Jesus, and changes or transforms how we relate to God and how we serve God.  I’ve vastly oversimplified our learning processes, but “in a nutshell,” that’s how we learn.

For more information about such learning processes and concepts, I invite you to read and study two other teachings on this website:  Change Your Mind and Whole In One

From very early as a new follower of Jesus, whenever I’ve been given new information, and new teaching and lessons have been introduced to me that I’ve felt might be useful and transformative to me and to others, I’ve written that information on 3 x 5 cards, and then attempted to put that information into practice and share it with others.  If I’ve worked at learning them and they’ve resulted in some sort of positive change in my beliefs, thinking, values, attitudes, worldview, and behavior, I’ve labeled them Life Lessons Learned, and then placed the 3 x 5 cards in a box and reviewed them periodically, usually weekly.  That box now contains over 500 Life Lessons Learned…along with biblical references and other positive principles, for a total of over 800 cards!

They are lessons I’ve learned by life experience, in addition to what God has taught me from the Bible.  Most of the lessons I’ve learned from outside the Bible have, however, been compatible and consistent with what the Bible teaches.  You see, the Bible is God’s final, complete written revelation of Himself to all humankind.  God the Spirit uses the Bible to transform our lives more and more—little by little—into God’s image as best seen in Jesus.

I’ ve now decided to list some of the most important life lessons I’ve learned—really learned!—and share them with you, in two separate teachings on this website titled Life Lessons Learned Part One and Life Lesson Learned Part Two. By all means, feel free to copy them and learn them—really learn them—for yourself…and pass them on to others.  Remember, if they don’t result in real change and transformation in your thinking, values, attitudes, worldview and behavior, then you haven’t really learned them; they’ve merely been useless information or—spiritually—“pious platitudes.”

 Here are approximately 100 of the most important Life Lessons I have learned; approximately 100 more will be found in Life Lessons Learned Part Two:

My Basic Theology:  I am a Bible-believing follower of Jesus who has saved me from sin and death and replaced those with his own eternal LIFE.  I hold to the generally accepted beliefs of orthodox, biblical faith—including belief that God is three Persons yet one God, the Trinity:  Father, Son, Spirit.  Also—based solidly on the Bible!—I believe God will redeem, restore, and reconcile all creation—including all humanity!—to Himself, through the completed work of God the Son, Jesus, who boldly promised He will draw ALL  humanity to Himself!  (I define “Theology” as “Studying God’s Person, character, and nature, and the way He works throughout all creation, including his good purposes for earth, and especially how He lovingly relates to and works among all humanity”)

My Lifetime Teaching Credo:  “Let my teaching be as gentle rain, my words be like nurturing morning dew.  Let it be as spring showers on a garden, as abundant rain in new grass.  For it’s God I’m teaching about.  Praise the greatness of God, our Firm Foundation.  He’s a God you can depend on, a trustworthy God.”  –Deuteronomy 32: 2 – 4

My Overarching Lifetime Credo I try to live by daily:  “God is altogether good, and absolutely everything He does is good.”  –Psalm 119: 68     Therefore, good things are coming my way all the time.  First, I must recognize them.  Second, I must reach out and grab them…or they will whiz right on by me.

Success is for me to steadily and consistently move toward accomplishing God’s purposes for my life, according to my potential. *    It is a journey, not a destination.

  • Potential consists of  1. My desires.  2. My training and education.  3.  My God-given gifts and skills.  4.  My God-given talents.

Prosperity is for God to provide me enough for my journey.  

Every cell of my body is whole, healthy, and intact, and wards off all disease, sickness, illness, and infirmity.  Every cell of my body is fully alive with God’s LIFE.

“A soft, quiet, gentle answer from me defuses anger and rage in another.”   (Proverbs 15: 1)

It seems there are five principal ways God “speaks” to humans, but I certainly don’t mean to imply these are the only 5 ways He speaks to us:

  1. From the Bible, God’s written, LIFE-giving, transforming revelation of Himself to all humanity
  2. . By inserting and imbedding his thoughts and creative ideas into our thoughts
  3. . By means of visions, images, pictures, our creative imaginations, and dreams “broadcast” on the “viewing screens” of our spirits
  4. . By means of strong but gentle inner impressions, nudging, and urgings.               
  5. By means of speaking in tongues with the interpretation following.

Again I don’t want to limit God speaking to us in only these 5 ways; He cannot be limited to our finite comprehension:  we cannot put God in a box and limit Him in any manner, but He does Self-limit his means of communication with us in order for us who are mortal, finite humans to understand Him.

There are 3 would-be “tyrants” who seek to wrongfully influence my financial giving to God:           1.  Seemingly overwhelming needs.  2.  Urgency.  3.  Emotional appeals.  If I try to give to God based solely on those 3 tyrants, they are seemingly never-ending, and will keep trying to seduce me over and over and over. 

On the other hand, there are 3 simple principles to govern my giving:  1.  Ask God.  2.  If He says “No,” that’s it; I can forget about it without any guilt.  However, if God says, “Yes,” I must ask Him “How much?” and 3.  Obey Him.  (Note:  These and many other thoughts about giving money to God are found in my book, LIFEgiving, available at

I want always to give without remembering and receive without forgetting!

It is impossible for me or anyone to live a godly life.  Only Jesus can live a godly life in me, through me, and as me.  It is impossible by my own efforts and in my own strength to live for Jesus; He must live his own life out of me from within me where He lives in his “unbodied form” of Holy Spirit.  The essence of useless religion and dead tradition is to feel I can grow spiritually by my own efforts.  Instead to really grow, to really live I must “die” to my self.

True humility is not to think less of myself, but to think of myself less.  It is to know I am not better than anyone else, and no one else is better than me.  Humility is to “bow the knee” to God as when in days of old knights would bow on one knee before their sovereign’s throne and swear fealty to the sovereign.

God is more interested in who I am than in what I do.  I am a human being, not a human doing.

God’s justice and judgments are not the same as human justice and judgments.  God’s justice and judgments are always “to make all wrong things right:  to lovingly redeem, restore, and reconcile all things to Himself.”

Far too many people spend their entire lives making a living.  Making a life is much better.  The former live in a narrow circle of self.  The latter in a world unlimited in time and eternity.

The longer unforgiveness, anger, hatred, and bitterness stay bottled inside me, the more poisonous they become, until they are a fatally toxic and potent inner elixir.  If forgiveness isn’t instant, it’s unforgiveness.  I must try never to go to bed angry or harboring unforgiveness.  Unforgiveness can grow into what the Bible calls a “root of bitterness” eventually leading to death.

Love myself unconditionally.  Thank God for me!

When I pray “Your will be done,”   it does not mean giving up my personal ability to make choices and decisions.  It simply means I let go of thought patterns, attitudes, worldviews, and ways of living that limit me so God can lead me in better ways.

Worry is simply a misuse of my creative imagination.  If I pray, I don’t worry.  If I worry, I don’t pray.

Most of my hurts come through relationships with other people; so do most of my healings.

Every follower of Jesus has a past; every pre-follower and emerging follower has a bright future.

In any moment of decision, the best thing I can do is the right thing; the next best is the wrong thing; the worst thing is to do nothing.

God will always show me the way even if He doesn’t show me the why.

I am a king in the royal household of God—in training for reigning and schooling for ruling in Jesus’ coming Kingdom.  I am a highly favored, greatly blessed, imperfect but forgiven, royal, righteous child of The Most High God!

Blessed am I if I remain flexible, for I shall never get bent out of shape.

Never ask “How can I get out of this?”   Instead, ask “What can I get out of this?”

To the world, I am only one person, but to one person I may be their world.

God can always turn my messes into messages and my tests into testimonials.

I cannot cross faith-chasms in my life with two or more leaps.  I must take one great leap of faith.

While Jesus is preparing for me a place in his coming Kingdom, He is simultaneously preparing me for that place.

I try to always be careful not to be significantly engaged in that which is not significant.  I try to keep the main things the main things.

People will forget what I say.  They will forget what I do.  But people will never forget how I cause them to feel.

I have no choice but to be myself.  Everyone else is taken.

As a leader in Jesus’ church He is building with living “building materials,” I must always make choices between two conflicting theological propositions; there is no middle ground:  1.  God has saved everyone unless the Bible specifically states He has not.  2.  All are not saved unless the Bible specifically states they are.  I choose to believe #1.

I have read thousands of books in my life.  The Bible is the only book that loves me back.

God allows me to be “broken” at my weakest points, so that afterwards He can make me strong at the broken places.

My daily mission is to bring the Kingdom of God to earth:  God to people, people to God, and display and exhibit to others Jesus in his “Bill Boylan” skin.

This is one of my daily prayers:  “God, intensify my hunger for You.  Get me to the place where my deepest passion is for you.  There is no safety anywhere else.  There is nothing of value anywhere else.”

Jesus did not come to “take sides” with any group of people, with any religious or political system, any belief system.  He came to “take over” and establish his eternal, coming Kingdom on earth.

I will always make mistakes with money.  God, help me make mistakes in being generous, not in being stingy.

Everything                         Nothing
-Jesus                           + Jesus
       = nothing                       = everything

I place all my “end-times” hope in a Person, not in real or imagined apocalyptic events that generally result in fear; rather in faith that God the Son, Jesus, will return to earth to usher in his Kingdom and make all things right.

Here’s the authentic Good News (the Gospel) to share with others in 10 words:  God restores all.  Those who know, tell those who don’t.

Remember to always carry with me some cash in a “Discretionary Fund” so I can give it away on-the-spot as God directs me.

When Jesus finally returns to consummate his eternal Kingdom on the freshly restored earth, the power of love will finally replace the love of power.

The passing years of my mortal journey through this life don’t automatically make me smart or wise.  No, simply getting older doesn’t mean much unless I learn wisdom during my journey.  Wisdom is defined as “comprehensive insight into God’s purposes for my life…and making purposeful and meaningful decisions and choices based on that insight.”

Birthdays are good for me.  Research has shown the more I have, the longer I will live.  I don’t resent growing older; many people are denied the privilege. 

When others ask me the secret of my longevity, I reply “I haven’t died!”

Most people feel we are in the land of the living journeying toward the land of the dying.  Not so!  We are in the land of the dying journeying toward the land of the living.

When I forget to be grateful to God and others, I have fallen asleep in life.

I can never go wrong to journey on the road that follows Jesus.  At the very least, it’s much less crowded!

“All that is not eternal is eternally useless.”  –C. S. Lewis

“My life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.”  –Soren Kierkegaard

Every year on February 28th, I count my blessings, not my birthdays.

Great people talk about relationships with God, positive and creative ideas, concepts, beliefs, appreciation, praise, values, reasons for living, serving God, etc.  Average people talk about events, money, clothes, “toys,” things, entertainment, self-indulgences, etc.  Small people talk disparagingly about other people, about wine, partying, “the world going to hell in a handbasket,” and food.

“Great tranquility of the heart is for the one who cares for neither praise nor blame.”                                         –Thomas a Kempis

“Don’t negate an apology with an excuse.”  –Benjamin Franklin

“Don’t I ‘destroy’ my enemies by making them my friends?”   –Abraham Lincoln

“Treat people as they are, and they remain that way.  Treat them as though they already are what God purposes them to be, and I help them to be become what God wants them to become.”

                                                                                                 –adapted from Goethe

“The two most important days of my life are the day I was born and the day I found out why.”

                                                                                                            –Mark Twain

I really get bored with people who are negative and whine and complain almost all the time about almost everything.  It’s such a waste of time!

For a moment, I let myself imagine that God began taking from me the many things for which I have failed to be grateful and to give Him thanks.  Which of my limbs and faculties would I have left?   Would I still have my hands and my mind?  And what about my loved ones?  If God were to take from me all those persons and things for which I have not thanked Him, what would I have left?

God often tells me not to be too hard on myself:  I am an imperfect person living in an imperfect world interacting with other imperfect people.

God, keep me free from having a mind like concrete:  thoroughly mixed up and permanently set!

I must be myself just as God created me.  Everyone else is taken.

I try not to make assumptions about others because I don’t like being wrong that much.

It’s entirely possible for me to be doing things right…but not doing the right things!

My hardened heart is the heart of my problems.

Open discussions are exchanges of knowledge.  Arguments are exchanges of ignorance, and create heat, not light, and—generally—arguments are simply people wanting their own way:  the essence of self-centered, self-absorbed sin.

Most people are addicted to a far more powerful “drug” than anything they can smoke, drink, ingest, inject into their veins, or snort.  What drug?  They live for their self and no one else, including God, and don’t realize how it reduces them to a mere shell of a human being.  One wrapped up in oneself makes a very small bundle.

There are only 3 categories of people:  1.  Pre-followers of Jesus.  2.  Emerging followers   3.  Followers of Jesus.  Every pre-follower is at some point on a continuum of being irresistibly and inexorably drawn toward Jesus (John 6: 44 and 12: 32), but are facing away from Him.  Emerging followers are also being drawn toward Jesus, but have crossed an invisible line known only to God where they have turned 180 degrees away from their past and are beginning to move in the direction toward Jesus instead of away from Him.  And, of course, Jesus’ followers are those whom Jesus has fully drawn to Himself and in whom He now abides permanently in his “unbodied form” of Holy Spirit.

I may not be who I think I am, but…who I think…I am!

I try to learn from the mistakes of others, since there is not enough time to make all of them by myself.

There is no such thing as luck (blind chance) as most people perceive it.  Luck occurs when my preparation meets opportunity.  Rather than blind chance, there are God-orchestrated co-incidents in my life, rather than coincidences.

God wants me to build bridges, not walls, between people.

Abandon anger.  Keep bitterness at bay.  Forgive freely.  Grant grace. Jettison judgment.  Be wary of wrath.

Seeing all that’s bad in the world and in people isn’t difficult…or wise…or witty…or insightful…or clever, it’s lazy!

“For we were little Christian children, and had early sampled the joys and delights of ‘forbidden fruit.’”        –Mark Twain

I am going to spend the remainder of my life in my future.  I choose to “co-create” it with God.  I pray:  “Dear past, thank you for your lessons.  Dear future, I’m ready; here I come!”

“The only people who are truly happy are those who seek and find ways to serve God and others.”     –Albert Einstein

It’s my attitude, not my aptitude, that determines my “altitude in life.”  I was not born with attitudes; they were learned.  They can be unlearned and replaced with new ones.

Holy Spirit alone uses the Bible to transform lives.  I cannot transform another person’s life.

I seldom learn anything while I am talking.  And…I cannot be hurt by words I do not speak.

While reading the Bible, I must be careful to believe what I read, not read what I believe.  Reading what I believe leads to authoritarianism, rigid dogma, control, coercion, and manipulation,  My Bible knowledge is like underwear:  it’s useful to have it, but not necessary to show it off.

Always praise in public, criticize in private…always.

God has given me the Bible not merely to inform me, but to transform me; it is LIFE-giving and full of power to totally transform me.  Reading and applying the Bible to my daily life will keep me from sin…or sin will keep me from the Bible.

When it comes to obeying God, if it’s not instant obedience, it’s disobedience.

Whenever I come to crossroads in my life, I always attempt to take the road leading me closest to the cross.

If I am not willing to humble myself and “wash the feet” of others, I am not qualified to be their servant-leader.

When I’m wrong, change.  When I’m right, be easy to live with.

The Bible says of itself it is sharper than any two-edged sword, the sword being it’s two parts:  The Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament informs the New, and the New Testament fulfills the Old.  The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed.  The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.  Together the two Testaments constitute God’s complete written revelation of Himself to humanity.  And…in some inexplicable manner, every book of the Bible is about Jesus.  The Old Testament is the prologue to the Bible’s main story about Jesus in the four gospels, whereas the remainder of the New Testament is the epilogue without an end.

Not elaborating about the horrors of hell, nor detailing God’s wrath, nor rehearsing his judgments draw people to Him.  Rather, telling people about the love and goodness of God causes them to turn to God.

The essence of sin is living a self-filled, self-absorbed life rather than a God-filled life.  It is to have a delusion of independence from God.

The question is never “When does God speak to me?”  Actually, the real question is a twofold question:  “When is God not speaking to me?” and “Am I listening?”  Another question is never “When should I pray?”  The question is, When is there ever a time or situation when I should not pray?”  Prayer should never be my last resort; it should always be my first response.

Suicide occurs when one decides to give one’s life back to God prematurely by one’s own hand. Suicide is not a one-way ticket to hell as many followers of Jesus have been wrongly taught.

We sinful humans naturally disappointment one another.  I disappoint others.  Others disappoint me.  If I expect to be disappointed, I won’t be.  God is the only one who is never disappointed or disillusioned with me because He never had any illusions about me to begin with.

Always, always, always have at least two other people whom I can trust to pray for me daily; have these two people hold me accountable by meeting with them at least once a week and being completely honest with one another.

I’ve learned to listen to others with the intent to understand, not with the intent to reply.

Have at least two male friends who are just friends, not “prayer partners, not “accountability partners,” just friends.  Guys I can just hang out with.

Never cause people to feel they are failures; failures are events, not people.  People may fail, but they are not failures.  Help them see they are victors, not victims.  They are overcomers, not overcome.

The finest mirror is a good friend.  The heart of a true friend most resembles God.  Every true friend is a glimpse of God.

When I don’t set goals for my life, I am inadvertently planning to fail.  My goals help “pull” me toward the bright future God has in store for me.  I live much of my life moving regularly and consistently toward accomplishing predetermined goals.  When I complete one goal, that is the automatic beginning of another goal.

God’s will shall prevail eternally.  Human will shall not.  God’s will always trumps human will.  My will must bow to God’s will, motivated by his unconditional, eternal love for me.

Bill Boylan
Revised and Updated February 2023

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