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?

 

Qualities of an Elder

At the beginning of Paul’s letter to Titus he lists the qualities that he expects in a person who is going to be in the office of an Elder. Interesting the requirements are mainly character based ones.

Paul does not list any of the following:

  • Good preacher
  • Gifted with youth work
  • Experienced in church growth
  • People’s person
  • Keen evangelist with a passion for the lost.
  • Passionate worship leader
  • Committed leader

Now obviously there is nothing wrong with having any of the above qualities. I expect the majority of churches would want people with these gifts and abilities. However what Paul lists for an elder is:

  • An elder must be blameless (v6 and v7)
  • The husband of one wife (v6)
  • A man whose children believe. And the children are not wild and disobedient (v6).
  • Not overbearing (v7)
  • Not quick tempered (v7)
  • Not given to drunkenness (v7)
  • Not violent (v7)
  • Not pursuing dishonest gain (v7)
  • They must be hospitable (v8)
  • One who loves what is good (v8)
  • Self-controlled (v8)
  • Upright (v8)
  • Holy (v8)
  • Disciplined (v8)
  • Someone who holds firmly to the truth (v9)
  • An encourager (v9)
  • Someone who refutes those who oppose sound doctrine (v9)

That is quite a list! I wonder if we will ever see a church leadership role being advertised anywhere that lists these qualities rather than the first ones I mentioned?

I personally am not an elder and to be honest do not aspire to be one. However I would like to have these qualities in my life. I think that any Christian young or old, leader or not should aspire to aim to have these godly qualities in their life.

 

 

God uses Fallible People

In Genesis 26: 7-11 there is the episode in Isaac’s life when he told everyone that his wife Rebekah was his sister. Why did he do this? Verse 7 tells us he was sacred that the men of the city would kill him as his wife was beautiful. Yet why was Isaac scared? God had told him to stay put and He would bless him. You would have thought that once he had received that promise then he would have been full of faith. However Isaac showed that he was a fallible person, just like us!

In fact if we look through the Bible we can see plenty of examples that God uses fallible people to achieve his purposes.

Interesting Isaac’s father, Abraham, had done exactly the same thing as Isaac but on two different occasions. This is the man who was commended for his faith yet still was not immune from getting things wrong.

Moses is remembered as the man who God used to leave his people out of Egypt. However he was also the same person who murdered a man and fled, hiding away for 40 years. Then when God called him he did his best to try to avoid God’s call on his life and requested that God send someone else instead (Exodus 4:14).

David is described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). He was a man who bravely defeated Goliath in battle and someone who refused to take revenge on Saul when he was being hunted by him. Yet this same man also committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah too.

Elijah was used by God to defeat the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18) at Mount Carmel. Yet a short time later he was afraid and ran away and hid from Jezebel. You would have thought that after seeing the great victory at Mount Carmel he would have nothing to fear.

Jonah was the man who ran away from God to avoid his calling to preach in Nineveh. He then obeyed God’s call and preached to the people in that city. After the people repented and received God’s forgiveness, Jonah then complained and moaned at God for his generous love and graciousness. Not the best of attitudes!

Peter was the leader of the early church. He preached the gospel bodily to the crowds. Yet this was the same man who denied three times that he knew Jesus, despite saying he would never desert him.

All of the people mentioned above were fallible individuals yet God still used them. Doesn’t that sound like us? What hope that should give us. What an encouragement to us that God uses people like us despite the mess we make of things on occasions!

 

 

 

Face Cream and Yogurt will not change you

I remember a while ago watching an interesting TV programme on the World War II. This programme was being shown on a cable channel so eventually there was a commercial break.

One of the adverts was for a face cream and the person advertising the product said that this item would help create a new “you” i.e. it would change you and make you feel like a new person.

Another of the adverts said that to make you feel good on the outside you had to feel good on the inside and the way to do this would be to eat a particular type of yogurt. Once you had eaten this yoghurt your inside would be changed thus leading you to be changed on the outside.

Now I guess most of us realise that these are just marketing ploys to encourage people to buy these two products. However I wonder if sometimes we might act like we believe these adverts are actually true. Perhaps we think that some of the following might make us feel like a new person:

  • New hair cut
  • Changing jobs
  • Moving house
  • Having a new relationship
  • Purchasing the latest phone or tablet

Now there is nothing wrong with any of the above,  however none of them will actually change us and create the new “you” that the adverts would have us believe. They will not lead to a transformed life. Neither will they provide true satisfaction to the soul.

The second advert was more relevant as it hit upon the fact that change takes place on the inside and then that change is reflected on the outside. However there was one slight problem in so much that yogurt cannot change you!

There is only one person who can truly change us and satisfy the soul. This person died on a cross and took our sin upon Himself and He is the one we should seek.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

Learning from past mistakes

You would hope that if there is one lesson in life we learn it is learning from past mistakes.

Many years ago I had a car accident when I was driving in some bad weather. It had been snowing and some of the roads were icy. I was driving to a friend’s house and took a short cut down a side road. Next thing I knew I had crashed into a tree.

The big mistake I made was to go down the side road, which unfortunately was icy. I should have kept on the main roads which were fine.

I learnt two important lessons that day which I have never forgotten. Firstly, that I should drive carefully when the road conditions are treacherous. Also secondly, I should keep to the main roads in icy conditions even if it makes the journey longer.

I have never forgotten those two lessons and have certainly learnt from my past mistake in this area.

Sadly there are other areas of my life in which I have not learnt from my past mistakes. One of which is thinking before I open my mouth.

If I could write a letter back to my younger self I would stress the importance of watching what I say. There have been a number of difficult situations I have got myself into over the years due to my mouth.

You might hope that eventually I will grasp this lesson: “Think before you speak!”

In Ezekiel 23 God gave a word to the prophet about Oholah (Samaria) and Oholibah (Jerusalem).

After watching Oholah prostitute herself to the Egyptians and Assyrians and seeing her humiliated we are told in v11

“Her sister Oholibah saw this, yet in her lust and prostitution she was more depraved than her sister.”

We are told in the remainder of the chapter about the full extent of Oholibah’s sin and the subsequent judgement that both sisters would encounter.

You might have thought that Oholibah would have learnt from the sin of Oholah. Surely she would not copy the bad example of her sister? Sadly though she did not learn and exceeded her sister’s wickedness.

There is a lesson for us here. It’s quite simple. Learn from past mistakes, both your own and others, and adjust your life accordingly.