Preaching to the social media choir

Preaching to the choir.

It’s a phrase used to express the ridiculousness of speaking with conviction to people who are already convinced of your position.

But through the sweet and gentle correction of a trusted friend I’ve come to notice that I do it all the time on social media.

Here’s how it happened:

I posted on Facebook about a comment I heard on a podcast. I wrote it in a way that implied that everyone who heard it would see it the same way I did; as an obviously foolish idea. I have to admit that my tone and the hashtags I used were obviously mocking and condescending.

My friend responded by telling me her story as it related to the quote and encouraging me to reconsider the way I’m posting about the opinions of others. In her mind, the way I was going about it was counterproductive to loving people into the kingdom of God.

Her approach was powerful and insightful. And she’s got me thinking about the why behind my social media posting.

I typically post things about my frustrations with the way the world is. And I often have the expectation that many of my “friends” will like what I have to say and acknowledge their agreement with a comment or click.

OR

I make a snide remark about a comment I heard or a meme I read (many times in an effort to appear witty, funny, or wise). And I expect others who are cut from the same cloth as me to affirm my opinion.

As I’ve thought about my social media posts since then, I think that I’m making those kinds of comments because I love the praise of people.

  • I want to be affirmed.
  • I love to be acknowledged.
  • I’m seeking the approval of others.
  • I still want to be the cool kid (even though I never was).

It’s sickening.

But there’s something worse that could be happening when I’m doing this social media choir preaching.

What is it?

The worst part about preaching to the choir is that non-choir members hear what I say.

At first that may seem like a good thing. After all, I’m…

  • “Enlightening” the masses.
  • Educating them.
  • Sharing some insight.

And especially because most of what I share is “Christian” in theme, it seems even more right to do.

But I’m beginning to question if that’s really what’s happening.

I’m wondering if I’m so wrapped up in my little corner of the world that I don’t even consider anymore how my words (wise, caustic, or otherwise) might be construed by those who are not in the choir.

  • Those who are not even sitting close to the choir
  • Those who don’t even like choirs.

Is it possible that instead of hearing a wise observation, they’re hearing condemnation?

Could the strength of my conviction be construed as anger at them, their beliefs, and their way of life?

Could my clever use of hashtags (#fail, #stupid, #FacePalm) actually be crushing their souls and embittering them toward people who call themselves “Christians” because I am one?

Even on Social Media, there are people on the other end of the interaction (yes, apparently I needed to be reminded).

  • Real people.
  • People God loves.
  • People I’m called to love.

Following your passion, receiving a calling, skill development, career mastery, and a guy named Cal Newport

Follow your passion or build your life work?

Somewhere on the way to adulthood I bought into the idea that I should follow my passion, chase my dreams, and do something great in the world.

Those ideas were in the air during the 70s and 80s, the years when I was growing up.

I’m pretty sure that idea didn’t come from my parents.

They were/are part of the “greatest generation,” a group of people that exemplifies almost the opposite viewpoint. Hardworking, do-what-you-have-to-do people, who did exactly that. As far as I can tell, there was no dream chasing in my dad’s career path, unless building a secure and stable life for his family was the dream he sought, because he surely did that.

Wherever my passion-following bent came from, I had it, and it became increasingly more frustrating the older I got.

Why? Simply because “it,” my passion, stubbornly refused to identify itself. By the end of my Senior year of high school I had no hint of what I was “supposed” to do. Though I never said it aloud, I felt there must be something weird about me to make me so clueless. I had many friends who seemed to know what they were going to do with their lives: architecture, music, teaching, and I wasn’t coming up with much.

I wound up choosing a college major I was somewhat interested in and moderately talented at (music) but knew deep down that it wasn’t the thing that lit me up in a good way. {{SIGH}}

On top of that, I grew up in the Christian church.

I constantly heard the stories of biblical heroes, missionaries, and pastors who received a “calling” from God almighty.

Wasn’t that a sanctified “passion” to follow? Wasn’t that what I should expect since I was a Christian, that God Himself would lead me into His calling for my life?

I can see now that I viewed those called-out-ones in the pages of the Bible a bit too idealistically. Some of them (Moses, Jonah, Saul of Tarsus) didn’t exactly pursue their version of a lifelong dream, and once they received their “calling,” not all of them were super excited to follow it.

As a result of all that angst and confusion, I was well into my early adult years before I found what I felt I was truly “meant” to do… which is not what I’m doing to put bread on my family’s table now. But that’s another story.

Is that the way it’s supposed to work?

Did people in the past follow a passion?

Looking at the way those Bible people thought about life and making a living got me thinking. In fact, I’ve been stewing on this one for years.

In the past things worked very differently than they do in our day.

Youngsters typically learned and carried on the family trade, many times carrying it with them as an identification or surname (Smith, Baker, Miller, Hunter, Mason, etc.). In those days there was hardly a dream chaser in the bunch. The primary passions most folks cared about were those of keeping themselves alive and fed.

There were surely exceptions. There always are. But to figure out how things are supposed to be by looking at the exceptions isn’t a very smart way to go about it. The exceptions aren’t helpful by nature of what they are – exceptions.

Those were the days of the ”craftsmen,” people who learned and practiced their trade to the point of mastery and artistry. Long years were spent apprenticed to a master, learning the intricacies and nuances of a craft. It was a job to be sure, but more than a job. The trade became an identity. There was as much pride taken in the exquisite nature of what was made as in the income it produced. Quality mattered. It was an identifying mark of the person.

What about today?

If we humans are meant to “follow our passion,” how do we explain the craftsman of old? Their path into adulthood was not characterized by following a passion. It was in many ways the pursuit of the path of least resistance. In most cases, those individuals took up whatever trade was at hand or necessary, and over time became the best at it, loving it as a result.

That right there might be a clue for us to consider.

Follow a passion OR build one?

Somewhere in my internet wanderings I came across a guy named Cal Newport. He’s been giving thought to these things as well.

Cal believes that career fulfillment and love of what you do come over time as you do the hard work of honing specific knowledge and skills to the point of expertise. Only then do you possess something worth feeling fulfilled about.

Cal is a professor of computer science at MIT. That means he’s really smart. :) When I first noticed Cal I didn’t know he was a professor, nor did I know he taught at MIT. All I knew about Cal Newport was that he’d crafted a headline to a blog post that resonated with something way down inside me.

The Passion Trap: How the Search for Your Life’s Work is Making Your Working Life Miserable.”

In that post, and some others Cal wrote as part of a series, he cites modern stats about job dissatisfaction, chronicles the miserable career journeys of 20 and 30-somethings, and argues that the rise of career discontent tracks concurrently with the rise of the “follow your passion” mantra so popular today. I can attest to its prevalence in the entrepreneurial world. Many of my clients and their featured guests espouse the passion doctrine week after week on their podcasts.

Cal’s position is that focusing on an ethereal passion or undefined dream rather than concentrating on the acquisition of rare and valuable skills, is a damaging and fulfillment-delaying practice. He suggests that a better course of action is to start where you are with what you have available, which would include interests and natural abilities, and begin intentionally acquiring the “career capital” (needed knowledge and skills) to become an expert where you are.

  • Doing so will provide opportunities to advance.
  • It will naturally set you apart from the crowd.
  • And it will open doors that those unwilling to put in that kind of work only wish for.

Sounds like the work of a craftsman, doesn’t it?

One of the most interesting things about Cal’s investigation of this approach is that in person after person Cal interviewed about this topic, doors opened for them as they pursued excellence, and many times those doors led into things they found themselves very interested in.

Am I saying there’s no such thing as a “calling?”

Not at all.

I served as a local church Pastor for 20-ish years, and did so because I believed I was “called” to do it.

I have a long time friend, Greg Stier, who received such a calling way back when he was a pre-teen – at least I think that’s how the story goes. He’s been after that “one thing” ever since then.

So I believe in receiving that kind of calling. And I don’t think it’s always or only a “religious” calling when it happens.

But I’m not sure that’s the norm, or that it’s supposed to be.

Being out of my “called” vocation for over 3 years has shown me that my experience in receiving my calling is not the experience of most people, and that waiting on that kind of calling puts the average person far behind the curve and at a disadvantage in life. And as I look at my situation after reading Cal’s book, I see that some of what he describes is what happened in the path I followed into church ministry. One of the “open doors” was my first opportunity to preach/teach, which revealed some gifts and desires within me that I wasn’t aware of up until that point.

My working theory after reading Cal’s book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” and after thinking through this issue on my own, is this:

The average person is given opportunities by God that will lead into His intended place for them. As they pursue the opportunities that open to them, they will discover any “calling” that may be there. It may come in a flash of realization they actually see as a “calling.” Or it may come through the slow and steady development of skills and expertise that make them into a craftsman.

Either way, they don’t necessarily follow their passion, their passion follows them.

And for most of those people, what they find as they mature is that what they really love about their role in the world is the things it provides for them and their family.

Food. Shelter. Clothing. A lifestyle.

Sounds like my Dad. Sounds like a craftsman.

Sounds like a passion worth following.

Getting started is the hardest part

Getting started is hard.

But it’s the most powerful thing we can do from our current vantage point.

Consider the significance of getting started with:

  • Your New Year’s fitness goals
  • A much needed 12 step program
  • A difficult conversation with someone you love
  • Exploring why you feel physically “under the weather”
  • Changing your financial future
  • Improving your marriage
  • That website or blog or product or business you’ve been considering

Why do we find it so hard to get started?

I think for a lot of reasons, but the one that is most gripping is this:

The present discomfort is more comfortable than the unknown

It’s a bit dysfunctional, but true.

  • We think routine is always our friend, when sometimes it’s our worst enemy.
  • We believe that known is better than unknown.
  • We rest in what is familiar, no matter how gut wrenching it continues to be.

But deep down we know we need to get started, to take the first step toward changes that could bring about…

something different

something better

something we’ve always dreamed about but never believed could be real for someone like us.

The first hump is the hardest. Push your way over it and get started.

Get off the drama bus

DRAMA: An exaggerated amount of emotion or excitement in relationship to the events to which it pertains.

I wonder what might happen if we made a conscious decision, everyday, to get off the drama bus?

If we refused to talk in exaggerated terms about things that aren’t worth talking about?

Silly things, like red cups.

Like the “war on Christmas.”

The latest gossip about celebrities.

The way our favorite political candidate is going to save the world.

The snarky comment our Facebook friend made about his ex-spouse.

What if we got off the drama bus and instead chose to talk about:

  • How to make the 5 mile radius around our home a better place to live.
  • What we can do to love our co-workers and fellow church attenders in more tangible ways.
  • Why our business and hobbies seem more important to us than our spouses and children.
  • Ways we can make someone else smile or have a better day.
  • How we will look at the way we’ve spent this year, 5 years from now.
  • The kind of legacy we want to leave behind when we die.

What might happen?

Do you think we’d become better people?

Would we live each day a bit more intentionally?

Would the people around us enjoy being around us?

What would happen if you chose to get off the drama bus?

Today is the day

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

THIS is the day…

  • It’s the only one you’ve been given.
  • You may not get another.
  • In all it’s blessings and sorrows.
  • It’s yours to do ill or good.
  • It’s yours to mope around in or charge forward in.
  • It’s yours to accomplish what only YOU can accomplish.

that THE LORD has made…

  • He doesn’t make mistakes.
  • Then, it’s exactly as it should be.
  • You get to be a part of it.
  • What does HE intend your part in it to be?

LET US rejoice and be glad…

  • We can choose our attitude about it.
  • We get to decide our outlook.
  • Knowing it’s from Him, we can receive it joyfully, as a gift.
  • No matter the difficulties it may hold.

 

White chocolate differences

The first time I encountered white chocolate was a wonder-filled experience.

My older brother had come home from our little town’s brand new shopping mall, a greatly anticipated marvel I had yet to see.

With the light of a sage beaming from his face he extended his arm. In his hand was a paper sack with an unfamiliar logo on it. From the bag he produced a confectionary marvel. Shaped like pretzels, but white in color, the smell of those bow-shaped beauties assaulted me. I took one. I bit it. It was a pretzel, but amazingly more. I couldn’t believe that something so silky-smooth, sweet, and satisfying could exist.

“What IS it?”

“White chocolate,” my brother said, a knowing smirk on his face. “You can also get big, square chunks of it.”

Chunks.

Could the mall really be so grand a place?

White chocolate VS other, lesser confections

It pains me to even think it, but there are others who do not share my appreciation for white chocolate.

Even people in my own family.

Though she enjoys white chocolate, my oldest daughter prefers the bittersweet bite of dark chocolate. The darker, the better.

I can’t fathom such an abomination.

My youngest son claims to not care for white chocolate at all.

It’s hard for me to conceive that he’s serious. But he is.

I know. Unthinkable, but true.

How can something I feel such a strong opinion about not be the way others feel? It is hard to grasp.

Just as white chocolate is made to be different from dark chocolate, every person is created to be different.

  • Different likes
  • Different dislikes
  • Different opinions
  • Different preferences
  • Different, different, different

And because I’m me, and not them, because I’m stuck inside my head, not theirs, it’s hard to think that those differences are not somehow wrong.

But the reality is that individual differences are good things. They are beautiful things. They are what make each of us, us.

Learning to appreciate our differences is one aspect of the journey into maturity.

It’s what enables us to love a person for their uniqueness rather than dislike them because of it. It’s a skill of discernment that comes from wisdom, from seeing things in this world as they really are.

We all learn this truth at different times and in different ways. Some of us never learn it.

As a result, many a church has split over differences of this nature, let’s call them “White Chocolate Differences.”

Many a war has been fought on their account. (Remember, Dr. Seuss’s children’s parable, “The Sneetches“? It’s not too much of an exaggeration when you search the history.)

And I wonder how many personal, private wars are fought day after day in modern families because of white chocolate differences?

  • How many marriages are in crisis because of an ongoing pattern of stubbornness around opinions and preferences?
  • How many parent-child relationships have been ruined because of unimportant distinctions?

And what can be done about it?

The first step is to admit that white chocolate is not that important.

There, I said it.

Neither is dark chocolate. Or milk chocolate. Or any other preferential thing that tends to polarize people into opposing sides.

There are things fighting for. But most of what we humans fight about isn’t in that category.

What can YOU do today to move toward undoing damage that revolves around white chocolate differences?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Some free ebooks to brighten your holiday season

Hello, and thanks for being a loyal reader and subscriber to my blog…

Depending on when you’re reading this, you may be able to get in on some free Amazon promotions I’m doing with a few of my books.

Check out the following books at the corresponding links for a possible free deal (they only last for 5 days each, so if you read this too late, you’ll miss out. Sorry)

Dragon Slayer 1 - 3d

Dragon Slayer: Beginnings (book one) – free for 5 days

You can get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Slayer-Beginnings-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B00IUMGOPU

Moving Toward God

Moving Toward God

You can find it here – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LCKNRHU

Marriage Improvement Project

The Marriage Improvement Project (a study for couples)

Grab your copy here – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A6Z5K9A

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RECHARGE: Devotional methods to maximize your time with God

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HZS2JGS

Mind Hacks Book 1

Entrepreneur Mind Hacks: Book 1: Productivity and Creativity

 Get one here – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0195X1WY0

I’d love for you to grab a free copy and help me spread the word. Merry Christmas!

 

Scary world, scary God

Human arrogance is a startling thing.

How is it possible that we can become wrapped up in ourselves to such a degree that we can mock the One who created us?

Last week, in response to those who’ve been vocal about the need to pray over the recent spate of terrorist attacks worldwide, the New York Daily News headline declared,

God isn’t fixing this!

Wow. Just wow.

First of all, to presume that any human knows what God is doing behind the scenes, and through a situation like a terrorist attack, is ridiculous.

But the thing that’s even more insane is the scornful attitude about God that can produce such a headline. THAT is a scary place to be, a place even more terrifying the prospect of terrorism coming your hometown. It’s an attitude that heaps scorn on the Almighty, who WILL NOT be mocked. (Galatians 6:7).

Meek and mild, loving Jesus once said this:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. – Matthew 10:28

He’s talking about God there, not some crazed terrorist. He’s saying that even though you live in a very scary world, never forget that your life is daily in the hands of a very scary God. Yes, I said scary and God in the same sentence.

He’s scary because…

  • He’s unimaginably superior to you.
  • He’s entirely pure, while you are not.
  • He’s qualified to render judgment on you, me, and every person throughout history, and He will.
  • He is WORTHY of respect, honor, and worship, and we humans so seldom give it.

There are lots of reasons for God to be ticked, yet, with a kind of mercy that only He could have, He makes a way for our deserved punishment to be absolved. So while He IS scary, He is also kind, kind enough to divert His wrath from us by pouring it out on someone who can take it, Someone who wanted to take it for us.

THAT is yet another reason to be scared.

How do you feel when you’ve gone out of your way to do something really cool for someone and they respond with indifference, or even outright animosity?

Bewildered?

Hurt?

Angry?

We know that God is incapable of the first two. But I’m pretty sure He feels that last one regularly.

He’s done everything to make our self-inflicted plight curable, and we arrogant humans reject it consistently (not all of us, but you know what I’m getting at). That is SO unlike the god of Islam, the god of terrorism. The true God, the Father of Jesus, has taken deliberate action to fix things. And He’s still fixing the mess, every day. In fact, He already has.

But the same arrogance that generates a scathingly irreverent headline rejects God’s solution, Jesus Christ.

I’m joining those who are asking people to pray about these terrorist acts that are going on.

But my request is that you pray for US – that we will be grateful for what God HAS done and IS doing to fix things.

And I ask that you pray for THEM (the terrorists) to see that His kindness extends all the way to them, that the god they are “serving” is false.

“You can’t win without me behind you.”

Those are the words Mae Braddock says to her husband, James J. Braddock, about 3/4 of the way through the movie, “Cinderella Man.”

I’m not much of a boxing fan, but Cinderella Man is one of my favorite movies.

The truth of what Mae says to Jim in that scene is the reason why.

I don’t know if the real Mae Braddock really said those words to the real James J. Braddock.

I don’t need to know.

All I need to know is that God has created me, as a man, in such a way that I need to have that kind of support from my wife.

And she truly needs to give it.

Yes, I really believe that husbands and wives need each other.

Renee Zellweger portraying Mae Braddock

Renee Zellweger portraying Mae Braddock

It’s not the politically correct thing to say. It’s definitely not the feminist thing to say.

But it’s the true thing to say.

I know that it’s true because I cry multiple times, every single time I watch that movie. I cry because there is something raw and real, something deeply significant about the way the marriage of Jim and Mae is portrayed. It takes root in my soul, it makes me want to be that kind of man, who is loved by that kind of woman.

I know it’s true because when my wife asks me why I’m crying, and I tell her, she smiles and hugs me tight. She knows what I’m feeling and why I’m feeling it. She knows because she feels it too. Just like me, she can recognize the beauty of a husband wife relationship that is operating according to God’s design.

Cinderella Man is powerful to me because when I watch it, I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of what God has created. He designed male and female in such a way that they complement each other, that they are able to exist as one instead of two.

As an old friend of mine wrote in a song years ago,

It’s a paradox incarnate, when two are one, and one is more than two could ever be before.

A pair of hearts entangled into one thread that binds them to their Lord.

It’s in those moments when my wife holds me tight and smiles in recognition of my need that I can’t believe it’s real. I can’t fathom that I get to be a part of something so amazing, so God-like. Yet, I do.

That’s the nature of grace, and God’s got lots of it to go around.

It sounds odd in our fiercely independent society, but I’m glad to be so dependent.

I’m glad to need my wife that much. And I’m glad to know that I’m needed that much, too.

She makes me more than I could be on my own, even more than I knew I could be. She believed in me before I knew I was anything worth believing in.

As I’ve told her many times, when she is FOR me, I can take on the world… at least that’s how she makes me feel.

If the real Mae Braddock made the real James Braddock feel that same way, it’s no wonder he defeated the heavily favored champion. It’s no wonder he came back after everyone said he was washed up.

He had a woman in his corner. God’s perfect woman for him.

THAT is a beautiful thing.

Bad Habits Can Be Changed – Thank God!

I don’t remember the first book by Andrew Murray I ever read.

But I do remember having the feeling that I’d met a kindred soul.  (That sounds a bit “Anne of Green Gables“-ish, doesn’t it?)

There was something in the way he wrote, but more so in his perspective of the things he wrote about that resonated with me in a deeply spiritual way.

I still feel the same way today.

I am presently about 3/4 of the way through Andrew’s book, “Humility,” the one book besides the Bible that has truly changed my life. This is my second time to work through it in the past year. It’s that good and that rich.

The chapter I read this morning held this jewel…

We know the law of human nature: acts produce habits, habits breed dispositions, dispositions form the will, and the rightly-formed will is character. It is not otherwise in the work of grace. As acts, persistently repeated, beget habits and dispositions, and these strengthened the will, He who works both to will and to do comes with His mighty power and Spirit; and the humbling of the proud heart with which the penitent saint casts himself so often before God, is rewarded with the “more grace” of the humble heart, in which the Spirit of Jesus has conquered, and brought the new nature to its maturity, and He the meek and lowly One now dwells for ever.

The big idea from this paragraph that grabbed my attention is serving me as reinforcement to a similar idea I’ve been having for a while. Who knows? I could have caught the idea from Andrew my first time through the book. But here’s the idea…

Andrew calls a progression to our attention, something he calls “The law of human nature.” I believe this idea is not only insightful, it’s got the potential to transform us if we apply its truth rightly. Here’s the basic gist of it:

action → habits → disposition → will → character

In short, the idea is that our actions develop our habits, which shape our disposition (attitudes), which form our wills, which finally, produce our characters.

Modern research backs it up

Modern research is revealing that physical actions actually create neural pathways in the brain. Those pathways become larger and therefore stronger, making the actions easier or more natural, the more we do the actions that contributed to its formation in the first place. So a physiological change that’s happening in our bodies as we repeat an action over and over. That’s the action → habit connection.

Beyond that is the cumulative effect the resulting habits have on us as people. Andrew observed rightly that our disposition or mindset is shaped by the regularly occurring (habitual) things in our lives. We are like an old dirt road, rutted and worn by repeated use. That reality demands that we carefully consider the lasting impact of habits such as laziness, criticism, lust, and many others. That’s the habit → disposition connection.

The formation of our disposition, in turn, determines our will. We actually wind up wanting the things we do the most. That result is either good or bad, an addiction on the one hand or a personal discipline on the other. Obviously, we can either ignore this reality or act with intention to use it to our advantage. So, there we have the disposition → will connection.

Whichever fork in the road we take at that juncture will determine our character.

But that doesn’t mean that bad habits destine us to a life of poor character. Andrew observes that God steps in at this point, through the process that we call, “sanctification.” Andrew refers to two passages that tie together the needed transformation of a will already bent toward pride and self, and the desperate need of deeply abiding humility…

Bad Habits are not a one way street

Because of Jesus’ presenence in our lives, bad habits do NOT destine us to travel a one way street into failure and defeat.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. ~ Philippians 2:12-13

  • This passage highlights the powerful role of actions and habit in the development of the soul.
  • But we see that God Himself is using them to craft us, to shape us into people who please Him.

THAT is amazingly good news for us.

We are partners with God almighty in our own reclamation. We fearfully/humbly “work out” or live out the salvation God has already given to us and He promises to do His God-sized work in us.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. ~ James 4:4-7

  • This paragraph also addresses the issue of action and habit, but goes further.
  • The phrase, “friendship with the world” describes a condition, brought about through repeated action (habit).
  • James wants us to clearly see that there is a two-fold result of persistently chasing after worldly things:
    • First, we become worldly in our disposition/character.
    • Second, we become God’s enemy.

That second result is a contradiction beyond measure because the Holy Spirit already resides in us.

We cannot remain in such a condition, so God provides us even more grace through the gift of humility. As we receive His humility and submit ourselves to God instead of the worldly pursuits, over time He conquers the habits that got us into our mess in the first place and helps us overcome all spiritual forces that have taken the opportunity to ensnare us.

Even the most strongly entrenched aspects of our personalities can be transformed by God’s grace.

No matter the myriad actions and repeated habits that have brought us to the point of enmity with God, He will overcome them and change us through humility. That is Andrew’s point.

Could we avoid the habits in the first place?

As I spoke with my wife about this section of Andrew’s book, she said the only thing missing is the issue of belief. In her mind, our beliefs are the first link in the chain because we only acti on what we believe.

I began testing her idea by trying to come up with a situation where an action might NOT be prompted by a belief. I couldn’t do it.

Even actions done spontaneously or instinctively have an original belief behind them. That doesn’t mean that we always take action on what we believe, just that when we do act, the action is instigated by a belief. In a situation where we do not act on what we believe, the inaction is motivated by a stronger belief. That could be the subject of an entire post by itself.

So back to the question: Is there a way to prevent the formation of new, unhelpful habits in the first place?

That’s where my wife’s observation comes in.

If belief is the first link in the chain, then filling our minds with true, strong, righteous beliefs about God first, ourselves next, and the world, we should be able to set ourselves up for the opportunity to act according to truth, which in turn, would begin the formation of good habits.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~ Romans 12:2

The assertion Paul is making an Romans 12:2 supports my wife’s point.

What fills our minds is what will determine whether a not we are conformed to the world-ish way of living. It begins on the level of belief.

So, if we were to re-write Andrew’s progression an a ” How it should look for the Christ-follower” way, it would be something like this…

True beliefs → right actions → truly good habits → godly disposition → conformity to God’s will → Christ-like character

How do these ideas resonate with you?

Do you see the hope we have because Christ in our lives?

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