The Power of Habit

Throughout the Gospels, we’ll read that Jesus did something “according to His custom.” We’ll read Jesus went off to prayer or  to the synagogue and then the phrase, “according to his custom” would be added.

That is, Jesus had the habit of prayer or the habit of going to the synagogue to worship. Jesus had habits that kept Him close to His father.

In a profound book called The Power of Habit:  Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg says that we can achieve significant change only if we. . .

1. Remove habits that prevent us from achieving our goals and

2. Begin new habits that support our goals.

If as Christ-followers we are trying to establish lifestyles that reflect our relationship with Christ, there are two important questions and needed responses.

First – What are the things we are doing that are keeping us from being more like Christ?

Stop doing them.

Second – What habits do we need to develop to become more like Christ?

Start doing them.

One Decision at a Time

I have just finished reading through 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings.

If you haven’t read these books straight through, I hate to be the one to tell you, but it doesn’t end well.

At the end of 2 Kings, Jerusalem has been destroyed, and King Jehoiachin is a prisoner in Babylon. Sure, he is treated well, but he is still a prisoner.  The best and brightest of God’s people have been carried away into exile.

And because we live on this side of Israel’s history, we know Jerusalem never recovers from the devastation of the Exile.  The story picks up with Nehemiah returning to rebuild the city, but despite his valiant efforts, it would never be the same.  The glory of David’s kingdom and Solomon’s rule was gone forever.

How did that happen?

How did they go from the power of the prophet Samuel through David’s rise to power to Solomon’s international fame to the total destruction of Jerusalem at the end of 2 Kings?

You would think there would be some great moment of crisis somewhere in these stories where their destiny was sealed forever, but when you read the stories, it wasn’t like that at all.

In fact, there are no big moments, just lots of little ones.

this king compromises and brings in the gods of his wives…

…the next king sets up places of worship…

…and before you know it, they are running cult prostitutes out of the Temple.

Read that again and think about it.

How does it happen?  One decision at a time.

No one gets up in the morning and says, “Today I will screw my life up beyond all recognition.”

No, what happens is we get tired, worn down, inattentive…and we make a small compromise.

It doesn’t’ seem like much at the time — and it’s not — but over time, each little compromise takes a little more of the truth away, a little more of your character away, until you can’t recognize yourself in the mirror.

In the end, you get the feeling that God couldn’t recognize His own children anymore.

It’s never the big decisions that sink our lives, it’s the culmination of all the little ones.

Little choices whose consequences don’t seem to matter, but add up over time.

Little decisions…like the ones you are making now.

Each step takes you somewhere. Where is your next step taking you?

Working with Millennials

Both the Tennesseean and USAToday had front page articles referencing a study on Millennials published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  According to this study, Millennials are less civic minded, less focused on helping the larger community and more focused on materialistic values than Gen Xers. In other words, Millennials might be as selfish and shallow as the rest of us.

For some reason, every new generation sees itself as different from every other generation while every other generation views the new generation as the worst in the history of the world.  My generation was going to change the world! We saw ourselves as anointed to wrestle control from the corporations and politicians that were ruining our country…Then, we all grew up and got jobs. Some of the same ones who protested Wall Street got jobs on Wall Street and well, we know how that turned out.

I have been in ministry for over thirty years and I have worked with every generation in the local church. From Builders to Millennials, I have seen them all and I find this generation (Millennials) no better or no worse than anybody else. Given time, I am convinced you will find the percentages shake out about the same across the board.

There are those who are in for themselves and there are those who need to do something more.  And here is what I have found out in working with them all — work with those who want to work. In my ministry, I have wasted a lot of hours trying to convince people with a lot of talent, but no desire, to focus their energies on something that mattered. All of my persuading rarely changed anything.  On the other hand, I have watched ministries explode under the leadership of a leader who, while limited in ability, had an enormous desire to see something happen. I have been surprised to discover it is rarely the person with the most talent that made the greatest impact. It’s the person with the most desire.

So, when I work with Millennials or Builders, my rule is the same. I work with those who want to work. Funny thing, Jesus had the same philosophy. He worked with people who allowed Him to work. He didn’t do any mighty works in Nazareth because the people didn’t believe. Yet, He healed the blood disease of the woman who touched the hem of His robe because she believed. If you didn’t want Jesus to work, He wouldn’t force Himself into your life.

If you do this as a leader, two things will happen. First, things are going to get done. Second, people will see things getting done and want to come be part of the success.

So, who are the people around you who want to work?

Start with them.

And the second question is obvious…

Are you someone who wants to see Jesus work in and through your life?