Developing Good Habits

One of the towns I like to visit has a one-way traffic system running through the centre of it. However for some reason whenever I cross the road in this town I always look both to the left and right before walking across the road.

I have often wondered why I look both ways in this situation because the cars can only come from one direction! After thinking about this I have come to the conclusion that I do this out of habit. I was taught from a young age to look both ways before crossing the road so that is what I do, even in a one-way street.

This got me thinking on the importance of developing good habits in our lives. When we develop good habits we find that they become second nature to us and we do them naturally. They become part of us.

So how long does it take to develop a habit? If you type that question into Google there are a number of web pages you can find that suggests that 21 days is the answer to that question. However I’m not sure there is an exact science to this. There are obviously some habits that take longer to develop than others. Also it goes without saying that there are some habits that take considerable more than 21 days to break.

There are many good habits that we should seek to develop as a Christian. The following three I believe are worth pursuing:

Regular Bible reading and Prayer

One of the good habits I was taught as a young Christian was the importance of setting aside some time each day to read my bible and prayer.

For a new Christian it can be useful to start off by either reading through one of the gospels or alternatively using bible reading notes.

You might ask “when is it best to read the bible and pray?” When I was younger I tended to do my daily bible readings and prayers in the evening as that best fitted in with my daily schedule. However as I got older I changed that to the morning as I found that worked best for me. Whether you do this in the morning or evening does not really matter though. The important thing is to find time each day to read your bible and pray.

Controlling our tongues

Perhaps the most challenging thing in life is controlling our tongues. There are plenty of bible verses that tell us the importance of this. The book of James has some very strong warnings about our tongues and how we should not criticise others.

I expect we all have many times deeply regretted saying something to someone that has caused unnecessary upset. So much damage can be done by careless words.

One of the best habits that we can develop is to decide that we will not criticise others and to think before we speak.

Forgive as we have been forgiven

As a Christian it is a wonderful thing to know that Jesus has forgiven me. He has totally forgiven me.

Therefore just as we have been forgiven we should also be willing to forgive others who have wronged us. If we are being honest most of us would admit that we find this difficult at times.

However we need to remember that forgiving others is extremely important. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer “forgive us our sin as we forgive those that sin against us.” If we don’t forgive others then we run the potential risk of not having our sins forgiven.

So we really need to develop the habit of forgiving others. It’s an important habit to develop.

 

 

 

You became imitators of us and of the Lord

1 Thessalonians verse 6 starts with an interesting phrase “you became imitators of us and of the Lord.

Now it would not surprise anyone to see it mentioned that the Thessalonians became imitators of the Lord. That is surely something to which we all should be aiming. However Paul also says they became imitators of them too. It might be that some would think Paul was being arrogant in using that expression. Surely he should just say they became imitators of the Lord?

Interestingly he also says something similar in the first letter to the Corinthians in the following two verses:

  • Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (4:16)
  • Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (11:1)

Paul in his writings certainly comes across as a man who loved, obeyed and served Christ wholeheartedly. He was striving to follow Christ in every circumstance and situation he faced. Therefore by living this way I would argue that he was a good person to learn from and imitate in what it means to live the Christian faith. The Thessalonians certainly thought he was.

So who do we try to imitate? Do we try to imitate our church leaders or maybe another mature Christian? Or are we easily influenced by those who behaviour is not compatible with Christian faith?

Whether we like to admit it or not we are all influenced by others and imitate their ways in some form in our life.  It is sometimes said of people that they got in with the wrong crowd when they do bad things. We need to be very careful who we imitate.

Would we recommend that others became imitators of us? Is my life a good example for other believers to imitate? Or am I too worldly in the way that I live that I would not recommend that others imitate me?

 

Prayer before Communion

Last Sunday I visited another church and the service included communion.  Just before the bread and wine was distributed the following pray of invitation was read out:

“Come to this table, not because you must but because you may,
not because you are strong, but because you are weak.
Come, not because any goodness of your own gives you a right to come,
but because you need mercy and help.
Come, because you love the Lord a little and would like to love him more.
Come, because he loved you and gave himself for you.
Come and meet the risen Christ, for we are his Body.”*

These are different words to the ones that are used at my home church, although I have heard them before at another church.  I found these words very powerful and helpful. Hopefully they might encourage any who may read this posting.

*[W. Barclay, The Lord’s Supper, SCM, 1967]

Who are you following?

Last Sunday in the church service I attended the preacher asked us the question “Who do you follow?”

I guess many of us might think that we do not follow anyone. However most of us probably follow either: a sports team, musician, film star or TV series.

If we check our various social media accounts we would realise that there are many different people we follow on these platforms too.  When I look at those I follow on social media and put these people into categories broadly speaking they would be, in no particular order:

  • Sportsmen
  • Politicians
  • Comedians
  • TV presenters
  • Christians
  • Friends and family
  • Technology

If though you were to ask me why I follow these people then for many of them I’m not quite sure what reason I would give you. Although I might like a particular sportsman I’m not quite sure why I need to follow them on social media. There might be occasions when I congratulate them, via social media, for winning an event or achieving something outstanding in their sport. But it’s not necessary though to follow them to do this.

Some of the people I follow on social media do post interesting updates. I especially enjoy updates from certain comedians I follow who use their accounts to share jokes with their followers.

Social media has helped me to keep abreast of what my old friends are doing as I’m not very good at keeping in contact. Updates from Christians can encourage and challenge me in my faith in addition to providing me details of their latest blog postings.

I wonder though if those we follow on social media influence us for better or worse, or is it just harmless fun following these people.

Last weekend there was a boxing match shown on You Tube between Logan Paul and KSI. These two individuals are hugely popular on You Tube and between them have over 34 million subscribers to their channels. That is a phenomenal number of subscribers / followers. According to the BBC the majority of their subscribers are young men. Just think of the influence Logan Paul and KSI can have for better or worse in the lives of these young men.

Maybe one of the reasons we follow certain people on social media is because we want to feel part of the crowd. If all our friends follow someone we may feel isolated if we also do not follow them. Perhaps we get a sense of self-worth by following these people and hoping that they might follow us back in return.

I remember feeling pleased that a couple of people I follow, who were popular on Twitter, started following me on that platform.  I think secretly I was hoping that they might retweet my tweets and I would get many more followers out of this! It can be quite interesting, eye opening and embarrassing when we honestly examine our motives.

In closing I think it’s wise to be mindful of who we follow and to ensure that we are careful not to allow ourselves to be influenced in a negative way.

 

 

 

Checking work emails when on holiday

I received an email at work on Monday, concerning some new research undertaken by LinkedIn about British workers checking their work emails whilst on holiday. The following results caught my attention:

  • 24% of British workers say they can’t relax if they don’t check their work emails while on annual leave.
  • 37% feel more positive about their return to work if they’ve been checking in on work while out of the office.
  • 68% of those questioned don’t mind checking their work emails while their out of office is on.
  • 60% admitted opening in their inbox at least once a day.
  • 48% say that they check their emails as they don’t want to fall behind.
  • 84% of those questioned confessed that they actually respond to work emails while they’re on holiday.

I find it incredible that people are unable to switch off from looking at emails and enjoy their summer holidays.

Whilst work is important it is also essential for our own well-being that we relax and take a break from the pressures of it. If you are on your summer holidays then you should not be working but rather enjoying your holiday. Instead of looking at work emails why not switch off your smartphone / tablet and do one or more of the following:

  • Go for a walk
  • Go for a run
  • Go for a swim
  • Play tennis
  • Read a book (make sure it’s not work related!)
  • Take a boat trip
  • Visit a museum
  • Go sightseeing
  • Enjoy the company of those you have gone on holiday with!

We spend so much time at work that we should at least try to enjoy our holidays and forget about work. Go on give it a go!

New Daylight Bible Reading Notes

I know that Christians have mixed views on Bible reading notes. Some find them a valuable tool to aid them in their daily readings whilst others think it’s better to read the Bible without the aid of notes.

Over the years I have used a number of different Bible reading notes and found some to be very helpful. There are also others that I have found not so useful (no names mentioned!).

Since the start of 2017 I have been using “New Daylight” which is published by BRF (The Bible Reading Fellowship). New Daylight notes provide four months of daily Bible readings. Each day starts with a reading which is followed by a comment on the passage and finishes with a prayer or thought to ponder.

Although that format is the same as all the various other Bible reading notes I have used, New Daylight uses contributors who come from a range of different church backgrounds. Therefore unlike other reading notes I have used, I have encountered writings from other Christians whose church traditions are different to mine.

There are a number of differing themes in each addition of New Daylight. Some of these themes are for one week but most of them generally cover two weeks.

Amongst the themes covered in the current edition are:

  • Studies on Psalms 81-93
  • Acts 1-6: adventures of a Spirit-inspired community
  • 1 Samuel
  • Fate and free will in Mark’s Gospel
  • In truth and love: 2 John and 3 John
  • Unsung heroes of the Old Testament
  • Zechariah: rebuilding, God’s way

So as can be seen that is a nice variety of passages and themes. I was particularly impressed that 2 John and 3 John were featured in this edition. I suspect most Christians have not heard a sermon preached from either of those two short letters let along studied them in their daily readings!

If you are interested in using New Daylight then more details can be found on their website. https://www.biblereadingnotes.org.uk/new-daylight/

 

Reading Scripture

I once heard a sermon in which the preacher said there were two ways we read scripture which he described as looking down over scripture and being under scripture.

The first one is the idea that we stand over scripture and ask what do I think this passage means? Whilst that sounds fine in reality it is not quite what it seems. When we read scripture like this we often approach with our own theological leanings and biases which then determines our interpretation of the passage. So depending on what our theological position is on a particular subject it then affects the way we interpret the passage before us.

Sitting under scripture is different though. In this approach we put aside our theological leanings and biases and ask God to open our hearts to truly understand what He is saying, even if it contradicts our theology! The obvious advantage to this method of reading scripture is that we have more chance of hearing God this way. Why you may ask? The reason is because we have not already decided the meaning of the passage by our own biases and prejudices and therefore we are more open to hearing God.

I sometimes read theological debates on line. One of the problems with theological debates can be we look for our “proof” verse to support our viewpoint and then we wade into the argument saying that we are right and everyone who has an alternative view is wrong. Sadly the arguments don’t just stop at saying someone is wrong but can generate into accusing fellow believers of not being real or genuine Christians!

This to me illustrates the problems that can occur when we come to scripture and bring our theological biases and decide in advance what a passage means. Naturally our interpretation is 100% right and anyone who disagrees is obviously wrong. Very wrong!

I have to be honest and say that I myself have done this and it can stop one from fully engaging with scripture. I guess though it is a safe way to read the Bible because if we come to it in a spirit of humbleness and openness there is always the risk that God might show us that we are wrong in a particular area. We then might have to change our viewpoint and completely rethink our theology in that area or maybe in many areas!