Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Taking the Plunge

I have recently developed a new habit. It isn't one that I expected or even wanted. In fact, I used to scoff at people who did such things. I'm really not sure why I even tried it. Most people who hear about it act like there's something wrong with me. I could stop if I wanted, but it is after all a habit now. I'll tell you what it is in a minute.

A habit is a nice, safe word that people with addictions like to use. Is there something in your life that you can't live without? Have you tried to stop with only limited success? People just don't wake up and say, "I'm going to start a new addiction!" But addictions are the prison bars of life that countless people grab onto every day even when they want to release. I know people addicted to drugs and alcohol, pornography, food, eating disorders and television. You probably do too. I know people addicted to other people, technology and sports. You probably do too. I even know a few addicted to themselves. You probably do too. Addictions always seem easier to spot in someone else's life. Do you have the ability to distinguish between an addiction and a habit in your life? Whether it's a habit or an addiction, it can and needs to be given to God and controlled.

My new habit is swimming. I get up at 5:30 AM 2-3 days a week and swim. My first day I felt like I was going to drown after 12 lengths of the pool. For some reason I decided to go back and try it again... and again... and again. Every swim day I wake up and decide if my habit is worth getting out of my warm, comfortable bed. At this point, I have made the decision to go swim every time - 14 different times now. This morning I swam 44 lengths. I have learned that the benefits far outweigh the struggle. I've decided that a good habit is a conscious decision every time... it doesn't happen automatically. Conversely, an addiction is something that almost happens automatically because saying "NO" seems impossible. My swimming habit is far from an addiction, but like anything, it could become one. It has to be given to God and controlled.

Is there a new habit that you need to start? It won't ever be a habit unless you begin and decide upon it every time. Is there an addiction that you can't live without? No matter what it is, it can be controlled when you develop the habit of giving it to God.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Heaven is a Place on Earth

Recently I took Benjamin and Ethan on a camping trip to some family land in the sticks of West Virginia. There is no house there, no building, no water, no people, and of course, no bathroom. But there are endless camping spots, plentiful firewood, hiking trails, wildlife and seclusion. My busy life needs the occasional refreshment of time in the wild and time with my boys. I was reminded yet again that Heaven is a place on Earth.

At the crackling campfire we stared in amazement at the innumerable stars filling the crystal-clear night sky. The three of us and sang the song, "Indescribable" and discussed how God knows the name of every one of those stars and everything about them. We talked about how the Big Dipper looks the same 3 hours away as it does at home. We listened to an owl join in with the night sounds as it repeatedly called into the darkness. We discussed at length the dangers of alcohol and drug use and how to say no to temptation. We actively missed LaVonna and the younger boys and look forward to them joining us when the young guys get a little older.

What makes Heaven a place on Earth? Extended, secluded time with God, His creation and family. On this side of Heaven, it simply will not get any better than that.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bible Reading Laziness

People everywhere are reading their Bibles... at least for a few more days. Thousands of guilt-avoiders have entered 2010 saying, "I should read my Bible more this year." As a Christian and pastor, I'm always thrilled when people read their Bibles. Lots of slipping is starting to take place - on the roads - and in our Bible study attempts. We are less than 2 full weeks into 2010 and there are untold numbers who have started slipping from their vague "read the Bible more this year" resolutions. It has become another chore or "to do list" item. It can and should be one activity that we really look forward to doing. I actively work to avoid the disease of "Bible Reading Laziness." Here's some things that I do to keep it fresh and exciting for me.
1) I develop a plan of what I will read today in the Bible. I have done many different plans over the years. Without an intentional approach, you'll stop sooner.
2) I pray that God will help me stay focused and interested. Don't forget, this is His word after all.
3) I work to understand what it meant when it was written before I seek to make personal applications. This is the hard part, but it is the key to becoming a Bible student.
4) I often read with a pencil in hand. My mind is much more focused and engaged when I am looking to circle or underline in my Bible (I like pencils b/c pens & highlighters too often bleed through the thin page).
5) I will sometimes read out loud. The words sink in when I see, hear, and say them.
6) I read (much) more than a chapter a day. I can read most chapters in 5 minutes or less. Spend some time reading more at once so it has a chance to sink in.
7) I always read a more "interesting" book when I'm in a tougher book. For instance, I recommend reading a New Testament epistle to supplement your reading of books like Leviticus or Ezekiel. (there are no unimportant books - but some are more straightforward and directly practical)
8) I view Bible Reading and Bible Study as two separate activities. All Christians should do both. Bible Reading is like doing an aerial tour of the Grand Canyon. Bible Study is like hiking through the Grand Canyon.
9) I look forwards to sharing what I learn with others. Why should I keep all this good stuff to myself?
10) I read the Bible through in a new translation every year. With true respect for those whom this appals, this helps me evaluate translations while experiencing true spiritual growth through the readily available resources of our day.