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HEALTHY HABITS

 



HEALTHY HABITS

I like the story of the little boy who fell out of bed. When his mom asked him what happened, he answered, “I don’t

know. I guess I stayed too close to where I got in.”

Easy to do the same with our faith. It’s tempting just to stay where we got in and never move.

Pick a time in the not-too-distant past. A year or two ago. Now ask yourself a few questions. How does your prayer life today compare with then? How about your giving? Have both the amount and the joy increased? What about your church loyalty? Can you tell you’ve grown? And Bible study? Are you learning to learn?

We will in all things grow up into him who is the

Head, that is, Christ. (Eph. 4:15 niv, emphasis mine)

Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity. (Heb. 6:1 niv, emphasis mine) Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. (1 Pet. 2:2 niv, emphasis mine)

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 3:18 niv, emphasis mine)

Growth is the goal of the Christian. Maturity is mandatory. If a child ceased to develop, the parent would be concerned, right? Doctors would be called. Tests would be run. When a child stops growing, something is wrong.

When a Christian stops growing, help is needed. If you are the same Christian you were a few months ago, be careful. You might be wise to get a checkup. Not on your body, but on your heart. Not a physical, but a spiritual.

 

May I suggest one?

At the risk of sounding like a preacher—which is what I am—may I make a suggestion? Why don’t you check your habits? Though there are many bad habits, there are also many good ones. In fact, I can find four in the Bible. Make these four habits regular activities and see what happens.

 

First, the habit of prayer: “Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come endure them patiently; steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer” (Rom. 12:12 phillips, emphasis mine).

Do you want to know how to deepen your prayer life? Pray. Don’t prepare to pray. Just pray. Don’t read about prayer. Just pray. Don’t attend a lecture on prayer or engage in discussion about prayer. Just pray.

Posture, tone, and place are personal matters. Select the form that works for you. But don’t think about it too much.

 

Don’t be so concerned about wrapping the gift that you never give it. Better to pray awkwardly than not at all.

And if you feel you should only pray when inspired, that’s okay. Just see to it that you are inspired every day.

Second, the habit of study: “The man who looks into the perfect law . . . and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who hears and forgets. He puts that law into practice and he wins true happiness” (James 1:25 phillips, emphasis mine).

 

Imagine you are selecting your food from a cafeteria line. You pick your salad, you choose your entrée, but when you get to the vegetables, you see a pan of something that turns your stomach.

“Yuck! What’s that?” you ask, pointing.

“Oh, you don’t want to know,” replies a slightly embarrassed server.

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, if you must. It’s a pan of pre-chewed food.”

“What?”


“Pre-chewed food. Some people prefer to swallow what others have chewed.”

Repulsive? You bet. But widespread. More so than you might imagine. Not with cafeteria food, but with God’s Word.

Such Christians mean well. They listen well. But they discern little. They are content to swallow whatever they are told. No wonder they’ve stopped growing.

Third, the habit of giving: “On every Lord’s Day each of you should put aside something from what you have earned during the week, and use it for this offering. The amount depends on how much the Lord has helped you earn” (1 Cor. 16:2 tlb, emphasis mine).

 

You don’t give for God’s sake. You give for your sake. “The purpose of tithing is to teach you to always put God first in your lives” (Deut. 14:23 tlb).

How does tithing teach you? Consider the simple act of writing a check for the offering. First you enter the date. Already you are reminded that you are a time-bound creature and every possession you have will rust or burn. Best to give it while you can.

 

Then you enter the name of the one to whom you are giving the money. If the bank would cash it, you’d write God. But they won’t, so you write the name of the church or group that has earned your trust.

Next comes the amount. Ahhh, the moment of truth. You’re more than a person with a checkbook. You’re David, placing a stone in the sling. You’re Peter, one foot on the boat, one foot on the lake. You’re a little boy in a big crowd. A picnic lunch is all the Teacher needs, but it’s all you have.

 

What will you do?

Sling the stone?

Take the step?

Give the meal?

Careful now, don’t move too quickly. You aren’t just entering an amount . . . you are making a confession. A confession that God owns it all anyway.

And then the line in the lower left-hand corner on which you write what the check is for. Hard to know what to put. It’s for light bills and literature. A little bit of outreach. A little bit of salary.

                                  

Better yet, it’s partial payment for what the church has done to help you raise your family . . . keep your own priorities sorted out . . . tune you in to his ever-nearness.

Or, perhaps, best yet, it’s for you. For though the gift is to God, the benefit is for you. It’s a moment for you to clip yet another strand from the rope of earth so that when he returns you won’t be tied up.

And last of all, the habit of fellowship: “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead let us encourage one another” (Heb. 10:25 tev, emphasis mine).

 

I’m writing this chapter on a Saturday morning in Boston. I came here to speak at a conference. After I did my part last night, I did something very spiritual: I went to a Boston Celtics basketball game. I couldn’t resist. Boston Gardens is a stadium I’d wanted to see since I was a kid. Besides, Boston was playing my favorite team, the San Antonio Spurs.

 

As I took my seat, it occurred to me that I might be the only Spurs fan in the crowd. I would have been wise to be quiet. But that was hard to do. I contained myself for a few moments, but that’s all. By the end of the first quarter I was letting out solo war whoops every time the Spurs scored.

People were beginning to turn and look. Risky stuff, this voice-in-the-wilderness routine.

That’s when I noticed I had a friend across the aisle. He, too, applauded the Spurs. When I clapped, he clapped. I had a partner. We buoyed each other. I felt better.

At the end of the quarter I gave him the thumbs-up. He gave it back. He was only a teenager. No matter. We were united by the higher bond of fellowship.

 

That’s one reason for the church. All week you cheer for the visiting team. You applaud the success of the One the world opposes. You stand when everyone sits and sit when everyone stands.

At some point you need support. You need to be with folks who cheer when you do. You need what the Bible calls fellowship. And you need it every week. After all, you can only go so long before you think about joining the crowd.

There they are. Four habits worth having. Isn’t it good to know that some habits are good for you? Make them a part of your day and grow. Don’t make the mistake of the little boy. Don’t stay too close to where you got in. It’s risky resting on the edge.

 


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