Wednesday, June 21, 2017

June 22, 2017

"Follow God’s example in everything you do just as a much loved child imitates his father. Be full of love for others, following the example of Christ who loved you and gave himself to God as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, for Christ’s love for you was like sweet perfume to him. Let there be no sex sin, impurity or greed among you. Let no one be able to accuse you of any such things. Dirty stories, foul talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, remind each other of God’s goodness, and be thankful.You can be sure of this: The Kingdom of Christ and of God will never belong to anyone who is impure or greedy, for a greedy person is really an idol worshiper—he loves and worships the good things of this life more than God. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible wrath of God is upon all those who do them. Don’t even associate with such people. For though once your heart was full of darkness, now it is full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! Because of this light within you, you should do only what is good and right and true." Ephesians 5:1-9
Although Ben is a close relative of mine our stories couldn't be more different.
I made a decision to follow Christ at seven years old, surrendered to His Lordship at fourteen and answered the call to full-time ministry at 18. By the age of 22 I was leading a Wesleyan Church in Princeton, Illinois.
Did I have lapses in my spiritual walk?
Did I make some unwise decisions in my teen years?
Of course I did.
But did I develop harmful sinful habits?
No, I didn't.
Unlike Ben, I resisted temptations to try smoking or get involved with drinking alcohol. Those were habits I never developed. I have never smoked and never started drinking. 
I had some unstable people in my life who were alcoholics and I got an up close look at the futility brought on by that addiction and the pain it inflicts on others. That cured me of any desire to get involved with alcohol.
God gave me the wisdom to surround myself with like-minded godly people. I stayed active in church, youth group, youth camps, youth rallies and a Campus Life group in my high school. Playing high school baseball and basketball helped keep me busy, physically fit and personally disciplined. And being accepted by the "in crowd" at high school was not a high priority for me. I liked everyone and most people liked me.
In college I was a spiritual leader on campus, a leader in student government, a leader in my class, played soccer in the Fall, basketball in the Winter and baseball in the Spring.
I know what you are thinking, "You were one boring kid."
Pretty much.
It's a solid resume' but not the spectacular testimony people clamor to hear. No one will want to write a book or make a movie about my story.
But, unlike Ben, I came through high school and college without harmful habits I had to overcome. So, overcoming harmful habits was not much of a struggle for me. I'm thankful for that!
Don't get me wrong, I have some bad habits. I bite my fingernails. I don't get enough sleep. I tend to drive too fast. I don't call my mother often enough.
My struggle has been consistently developing helpful and holy habits. It is a daily challenge to carve out a quiet time in the Word and prayer. It requires daily discipline to walk in the Spirit. Making time to read a good book each week is not always easy. Its a struggle to get into the gym several times a week to stay fit. Developing friendships with men who don't know Jesus is an ongoing challenge. Scheduling time to visit or meet regularly with other Christians requires constant attention. For many years I blocked out a day each month to go away somewhere and spend a day with God. I am finding that hard to maintain recently.
So defeating harmful habits is essential for every believer who is devoted to following God. If God has changed your heart your habits need to reflect that!
A holy heart must be demonstrated by holy habits.
God can change your heart but only you can change your habits.
Are you still battling a harmful habit?
What is your plan for overcoming that habit?
Who is helping you and who is holding you accountable?
We're in this battle together SO LET'S WIN IT!
We must repeal our harmful habits and replace them with holy habits - beginning today!

June 21, 2017

"And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you." Romans 12:1-2

Michael Frost writes in "Surprise the World", "The links between our (inner) spirituality and our (outward) action are far greater that man believe. In fact, Jesus and the New Testament writers saw a powerful integration of faith and action, so much so that they found it impossible to separate them. In fact, to separate a person from his or her actions can be very dangerous."

Swiss psychiatrist, Carl once said, "You are what you do, not what you say you'll do."

As Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."

If you transfer that concept to faith. You can make the case that faith is not an act, a single choice, or even a system of belief; it is a habit!

Habits are hard to change because they are hardwired into the default setting that is our sinful nature. The selfish attitudes, appetites and actions that arise from the evil nature lend themselves to habitual and harmful tendencies.

Habits are connected to our emotions, our desires and our needs. Those connections give habits a powerful hold on us. But since our sinful nature is self-destructive and habits are connected to the sinful nature it is clear to see why habits can be destructive.

In the Scripture reference above, Paul shares the powerful news with the Christians in Rome that God in Christ has changed their hearts. God through the Holy Spirit is transforming their minds. Now it is up to them to draw on their relationship with Christ to help them change their habits.

The Bible is clear that God does what only He can do by changing your heart but He also expects you to do what only you can do and change your habits.

Since your heart is changed and your mind renewed what are you doing to change your habits?

What are you doing to make sure your habits reflect the changes that have happened in your heart?

What do you need to do?

When will you do it?

What are you waiting for?

Who will you choose to hold you accountable?