Friday, August 22, 2014

Old Habits....

image used under Creative Commons license,photo from The People Speak! on Flickr
The other day, I was conversing with a friend.  We talked about a couple of things and were checking our schedules to get together, again.  When we hit on a mutually agreeable date, he asked for a minute to "get it down on paper".  Both of us were using smartphones.  Neither of us was going to whip out pen and paper to write down what we decided.  But the old habit of describing recording our decision as committing it to written form is still there.  We both knew what we really meant.

We know that not all habits are bad.  But, neither are they all good.  In fact, most are in what seems to be neutral territory.  Perhaps quirky, maybe annoying, but not really pleasing nor very bad.

Depending on who you listen to, everything from driving abilities to sexual preferences have been attributed to habits.  With all that man wants to blame on habit, it's interesting that the Word of God says very little directly about habits.  The one verse that does, is this:

Hebrews 10:25 (KJV)  Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

We've talked about the necessity of assembling.  The phrase "as the manner of some" is key to today's thought.  "Manner" refers to a custom or developed habit.  It's saying we all ought to be gathering as the Body of Christ.  And, while we all ought to be thinking that way, only some have made it a habit.

Not knowing I was writing this, Steve Shipley posted on Google+ about choices.  And, of course, thinking about this post, I piped in about habits.  And we had a nice, but brief, conversation on the subject.  It all hit on thoughts I've had on the subject.  But you can thank Steve Shipley for some of the thoughts and maybe the glue that ties it all together.  One of Oswald Chambers devotionals for August 21, "The Ministry of the Unnoticed", added the finishing touches.

Remember that we said most habits are neutral, while a few can be classified as either good or bad.  There are some consistencies in all situations that determine their nature.
  1. Habits don't begin as habits.  They start as a series of choices.  They begin by our making consistent decisions.  It doesn't matter whether experience has us making the same decision repeatedly or formal training does that.
  2. At the time of each choice, we can be focused on God, His call, or what He's said, or we can be focused on self.  That will determine if our choice is good or bad.
  3. The nature of our habits come from the nature of our choices that build them.  So, even the habits that seem neutral are really good or bad.  The choices that develop the habit are either Godly or decisions that leave God out.
  4. Addictions are not habits.  They may start as bad choices or bad habits.  But addictions then take on a life of their own.  But it takes right choices and good habits to break free.
Matthew 5:3 (KJV)  Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Oswald Chambers' devotional was based on that verse.  He mentioned that the poor, paupers, go unnoticed.  They lack strength or wealth of their own that would draw attention.  But they have impact because they're in the midst of the nitty gritty and what they say and do comes from a perspective of being in the trenches.  

I'm blessed to be in a ministry that might be considered overloaded with spiritual wisdom.  Sermons frequently are full of great Truth.  But I've lost count of the number of times I'd be talking about a sermon topic with someone and one of us would say something that transformed the sermon content from spiritual knowledge into something spiritually practical and usable for the rest of our lives.  That's our spiritual poverty yielding to the wealth of God's wisdom.

We know what our flesh and self absorption can create.  Despite that, we can live in the spiritual poverty that creates right choices, that builds Godly habits, because we're yielded to God.  Take a look at a quote that was recently tweeted.  

Use your mornings for study and be in your study at the same hour each day. -- Warren Wiersbe (as quoted by Christine Abraham)

That's talking about study.  I designed my devotional books in a specific way with a suggested way of using them.  First, I suggest reading the devotional as early in the day as possible.  If it's one of the very first things, even shower time can be a meditation time.  Second, reread the devotional later in the day and meditate further on it.  Third, the books are 14 days, so they can be read twice in the month they're for.  That gives the Truths more opportunity to be melded into our lives.

Besides all that, what Wiersbe so nicely highlights is spiritual readiness.  The more consistent we are at having a specific time and place where we take in what God has for us, the more our hearts will be prepared to receive from God.

Before we start our devotional reading or study, we need to begin with prayer.  That's key to opening us to God's blessings.  No, it doesn't have to be some sort of laundry list of wants, needs, and thank yous.  God is omniscient, so the only person who learns what's on our heart from our prayer is us. And we don't need fancy words.  God knows our hearts.  If something special, like poetry or a verse gives us a sense of more greatly glorifying God, go for it.  But He's happy with our everyday ways of communicating, too.  

Then, we want to shut up.  That's when we can wordlessly hear the still, small voice, allowing God to prepare us for everything else.  We all know the saying that we have one mouth and two ears, so we should listen twice as much as we speak.  That's true spiritually, too.  If we don't stop to listen to God, all we hear is us.

Are our decisions, today, God choices?  Developing God habits?  Freeing us to be what God intended us to be?

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for your insight on to the habits and the importance of a daily habit of spending time focusing on God and carrying what we've learned throughout the day. Remembering is just as important!

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  2. Great topic Bill - I think some people fear "Godly" habits as some form of legalism. However, a life of faith always requires action. Hebrews 12:14 encourages us to "pursue" holiness.

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