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SINS ARE HABITS
I’m reading a book right now called "The Power of Habit" (http://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/) about how so much of our daily life is lived by habit. We have to. Our brain needs habits in order for us to be able to function. Just about everything we do is habitual.
How we walk... you don’t have to think about how to move your legs and to lift your foot and bring it forward and to shift your weight. When you’re 2 and learning how to walk, your brain spends a lot of energy training your brain to do that. But now you don’t even think about it... until there is some disability or arthritis or when we trip over something... and then suddenly our brain has to move that thought to our conscious brain.
But if we had to think about every single movement or how we do anything, our brain would be so overwhelmed, we couldn’t get anything done. God designed our brains in a way that most of what we do is done in a small part of the brain that just takes over to free up our conscious brain, that takes more energy.
Try something once (just go with it here). Cross your arms.
Now do it the other way. You have to think about it don’t you?
Almost everything we do, we do by habit... or a series of habits. Walking, talking, eating, driving a car... how you get ready in the morning... and so God designed us this way so that we could function most of the time.
When you get to the top of a set of stairs, your brain already knows what this looks like and so the brain hands it over to the amygdale (part of the brain) to do that hard work of which foot goes first and how the stepping motion works, so that you can focus instead on any surprises that might change the habit, like stuff ON the stairs, that you need to avoid.
It’s a really cool function of the brain to help us handle all the decisions we face constantly everyday.
And if that’s true, then it makes me wonder how much of what we do by instinct and is NOT what God wants us to do, is more from habit than it is a temptation from satan.
Because not only is the good stuff habitual... but so are the things we’d rather change... and it’s why it’s so hard to change our habits...because it has been moved to that part of the brain deep inside that tends to work on instinct instead of consciously.
And so a lot of our sinful behavior isn’t really from satan (per se)... as much as it’s just the habits we have fallen into and developed over time...stuff we have done so much that it is just the way we respond by instinct without a lot of conscious thought going into it.
Catherine Marshall wrote:
"My friend Marge had an experience aboard a plane bound for Cleveland, waiting for takeoff. As she settled into her seat, Marge noticed a strange phenomenon. On one side of the airplane a sunset suffused the entire sky with glorious color. But out of the window next to her seat, all Marge could see was a sky dark and threatening, with no sign of the sunset.
"As the plane’s engines began to roar, a gentle Voice spoke within her. 'You have noticed the windows,' He murmured beneath the roar and thrust of the takeoff. 'Your life, too, will contain some happy, beautiful times, but also some dark shadows. Here’s a lesson I want to teach you to save you much heartache and allow you to abide in Me with continual peace and joy.
"'You see, it doesn’t matter which window you look through; this plane is still going to Cleveland. So it is in your life. You have a choice. You can dwell on the gloomy picture. Or you can focus on the bright things and leave the dark, ominous situations to Me. I alone can handle them anyway.
"'And the final destination is not influenced by what you see or feel along the way. Learn this, act on it and you will be released, able to experience the peace that passes understanding.'"
This morning I want to focus upon some new year’s resolutions that each of should consider for ourselves, but before we delve into our topic, I thought you might enjoy a few stories of failed resolutions: A story is told that At the beginning of a new year, a high school principal decided to post his teachers’ new year’s resolutions on the bulletin board. As the teachers gathered around the bulletin board, a great commotion started. One of the teachers was complaining. "Why weren’t my resolutions posted?" She was throwing such a temper tantrum that the principal hurried to his office to see if he had overlooked her resolutions. Sure enough, he had mislaid them on his desk. As he read her resolutions he was astounded. This teacher’s first resolution was not to let little things upset her in the New Year. Or how bout this one…A son called his parents to wish them a happy new year and when his Dad answered the phone, He asked his dad,” well Dad, what’s your new year’s resolution? His dad replied, To make "To make your mother as happy as I can all year," When his mom got on the phone he asked. her the same question. His mom replied my resolution is "To see that your dad keeps his New Year’s resolution." Or some of you may have given up on resolutions taking the same attitude as the characters in the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes: The cartoon character Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes once said, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I’m so far behind I’ll never die.”
A LITTLE GIRL’S PRAYER
One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do she died, leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator) and no special feeding facilities.
Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. "And it is our last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed.
As in the West it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.
"All right," I said, "Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm."
The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.
During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. "Please, God," she prayed, "send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby’ll be dead, so please send it this afternoon."
While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, "And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?"
As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, "Amen"? I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything. The Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home; anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!
Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.
From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys; eyes sparkled as I pulled them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas --- that would make a nice batch of buns for the week...
Sermon Central Staff
USING THE RESOURCES YOU HAVE
At 12:55 pm the mayday call crackled through the speakers at the Flight Service Station on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The desperate pilot of a Piper A22, a small single-engine plane, was reporting that he had run out of fuel and was preparing to ditch the aircraft in the waters of Cook Inlet.
On board were four people, two adults and two young girls, ages 11 and 12. They had departed two hours earlier from Port Alsworth, a small community on the south shore of Lake Clark, bound for Soldotna, a distance of about 150 miles. Under normal conditions it would been a routine flight; however, the combination of fierce headwinds and a failure to top off the fuel tank had created a lethal situation.
Upon hearing the plane’s tail number, the air traffic controller realized that his own daughter was one of the young passengers aboard the plane. In desperation himself, he did everything possible to assist the pilot; but suddenly the transmission was cut off. The plane had crashed into the icy waters. Four helicopters operating nearby began searching the area within minutes of the emergency call, but they found no evidence of the plane and no survivors. The aircraft had been traveling without water survival gear, leaving its four passengers with even less of a chance to make it through the ordeal. Fiercely cold Cook Inlet, with its unpredictable glacial currents, is considered among the most dangerous waters in the world. It can claim a life in minutes, and that day it claimed four.
Kirk adds these thoughts to the story: For reasons we will never know, the pilot of that doomed aircraft chose not to use the resources that were at his disposal. He did not have enough fuel. He did not have the proper survival equipment. Perhaps he had not taken the time to get the day’s weather report. Whatever the case, he did not use the resources that were available; and in this instance the consequences were fatal.
I wonder how many other people have died needlessly like these four people did? Why, because someone did not manage and or use the resources they had at their disposal. – I also wonder how many have died without Jesus -- spiritually speaking from others being poor stewards of the resources God has placed them in charge of.
Nowery states, "The stewardship of resources is a serious business; and God’s will is that we give it serious attention. This demands that we have the right perspective on our resources, and that is possible only if we have the right focus on our source."
(Story from Kirk Nowery: “The Stewardship of Life,” Page 118. From a sermon by Michael McCartney, 12 dollars a changed life, 6/20/2012)
We think that God wants us to try something on our own first, and then come to him in prayer for help only after we’ve worked at it and can’t figure it out. We hear the saying, “God helps those who help themselves” and think it’s true. Many people even believe it’s in the Bible. It’s not. It actually comes from Greek mythology.
A man is pushing his cart along a dirt road and it gets stuck in the mud. He sits down on the ground next to the cart and asks the gods to free his cart. Hercules appears say, “Get up, man, and put your shoulder to the wheel. The gods help them that help themselves.”
This focus on doing things ourselves without asking for God’s help leads us to believe we actually did them without God’s help, which in turn grows to our believing we don’t need God’s help.
And if we believe don’t need God’s help, we can easily believe that we don’t need him or his rules. We start doing our will instead of God’s, and the more we do it the more prideful we become. Our pride causes us to focus on our will which in turn makes us even more proud of ourselves. It’s like a self-licking ice-cream cone.
Max Lucado (Angels were Silent)
Describes how in a similar way we cry out for something to cut through the clutter of life, turning to faith and religion to give us simplicity, instead finding things just as complicated:
Enter, religion. We Christians have a solution for the confusion don’t we? “Leave the cluttered world of humanity,” we invite, “and enter the sane, safe garden of religion.”
Let’s be honest.
Instead of a “sane, safe garden,” how about a “wild and woolly sideshow”? It shouldn’t be the case, but when you step back and look at how religion must appear to the unreligious, well, the picture of an amusement park comes to mind.
Flashing lights of ceremony and pomp. Roller-coaster thrills of emotion. Loud music. Strange people. Funny clothes.
Like barkers on a midway preachers persuade: “Step right up to the Church of Heavenly Hope of High Angels and Happy Hearts ….”
• “Over here, madam; that church is too tough on folks like you. Try us, we teach salvation by sanctification which leads to purification and stabilization. That is unless you prefer the track of predestination which offers …”
• “Your attention, please sir. Try our premillennial, non-charismatic, Calvinistic Creed service on for size … you won’t be disappointed.”
A safe garden of serenity? No wonder a lady said to me once, “I’d like to try Jesus, if I could just get past the religion.”
He goes on to tell a favorite story of his where this simplicity was found:
Once a bishop who was traveling by ship to visit a church across the ocean. While en route, the ship stopped at an island for a day. He went for a walk on a beach. He came upon three fishermen mending their nets.
Curious about their trade he asked them some questions. Curious about his ecclesiastical robes, they asked him some questions. When they found out he was a Christian leader, they got excited. “We Christians!” they said, proudly pointing to one another.
The bishop was impressed but cautious. Did they know the Lord’s Prayer? They had never heard of it.
“What do you say, then, when you pray?”
“We pray, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’ ”
The bishop was appalled at the primitive nature of the prayer. “That will not do.” So he spent the day teaching them the Lord’s Prayer. The fishermen were poor but willing learners. And before the bishop sailed away the next day, they could recite the prayer with no mistakes.
The bishop was proud.
On the return trip the bishop’s ship drew near the island again. When the island came into view the bishop came to the deck and recalled with pleasure the men he had taught and resolved to go see them again. As he was thinking a light appeared on the horizon near the island. It seemed to be getting nearer. As the bishop gazed in wonder he realized the three fishermen were walking toward him on the water. Soon all the passengers and crew were on the deck to see the sight.
When they were within speaking distance, the fisherman cried out, “Bishop, we come hurry to meet you.”
“What is it you want?” asked the stunned bishop.
“We are so sorry. We forget lovely prayer. We say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name …’ and then we forget. Please tell us prayer again.”
The bishop was humbled. “Go back to your homes, my friends, and when you pray say, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’ ”
Those three fisher men had encountered that you don’t have to be too complicated in your faith, you don’t have to get it all right.
Instead, they had hearts that were focused and strengthened by simple trust in God.
The two men in our story in Luke—like so many of us searching for strength and security and sense in a complicated and confounding world—ended up finding their answer in a remarkable man that cut through all of their confusion.
A LIGHT NAMED AL
On the morning of September 11, Jeannie Braca switched on the television to check the weather report, only to hear that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center.
Jeannie’s husband, Al, worked as a corporate bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald. His office was on the 105th floor of Tower One.
Al had survived the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and had even helped a woman with asthma escape from the building.
Jeannie knew that Al would do the same thing this time, “I knew he would stop to help and minister to people,” she said, “but I never thought for a minute that he wouldn’t be coming home!”
A week later, like so many others who were in that building, Al’s body was found in the rubble. Al’s wife, Jeannie, and his son Christopher were devastated!
Then the reports began to trickle in from friends and acquaintances. Some people on the 105th floor had made a last call or sent a final e-mail to loved ones saying that a man was leading people in prayer.
A few referred to Al by name.
Al’s family learned that Al had indeed been ministering to people during the attack! When Al realized that they were all trapped in the building and would not be able to escape, Al shared the gospel with a group of 50 co-workers and led them in prayer.
This news came as no surprise to Al’s wife, Jeannie.
For years, she and Al had been praying for the salvation of these men and women. According to Jeannie, Al hated his job and couldn’t stand the environment. It was a world so out of touch with his Christian values, but he wouldn’t quit.
Al was convinced that God wanted him to stay there, to be a light in the darkness, and although Al would not have put it this way, to be a hero!
Al was not ashamed of Christ and Christ’s words…and he paid the price of taking up his cross daily. Al shared his faith with his co-workers….many of whom sarcastically nicknamed him “The Rev.”
And on that fateful day…on September 11, in the midst of the chaos, Al’s co-workers looked to him—-and...
THE TROUBLE TELESCOPE
Most of you have seen the wonderful images from the Hubble Space Telescope. From the far reaches of space, we're able to see God's most breathtaking creations. Do you remember that in the beginning the Hubble Space Telescope was not the wonderful machine that it is today. After lots of excitement, the telescope was launched several years ago and the first images were blurry. There was a flaw in the mirror. It was a terrible disappointment. That problem was later corrected, but at the time there was a joke making the rounds that said the only thing NASA learned from the Hubble Telescope was to never name a project that rhymed with "trouble." It was a huge embarrassment.
The self-centered life is just like the early years of the Hubble Space Telescope. It makes everything out of focus so that you don't see truth and reality -- you just see a blurry image of it. The self-centered life makes you think that you are the most important thing in the universe -- but you're not.
Ill. There is a terrible story about a man who went out to play golf early one Saturday morning. His wife became concerned when he had not returned home by dinner time. It wasn’t until about midnight when he came through the front door, exhausted.
“Where have you been?” she demanded
“I’ve been playing golf” came the reply.
“But that was 18 hours ago. What happened?”
“I was having the best game of my life. I was two under par when on the seventh tee Harry had a heart attack and died.” His wife still didn’t understand.
“After that it was hit the ball, drag Harry - hit the ball drag Harry . . .”