prayer

Each year many plan their New Year resolutions. Each year resolutions made become resolutions broken. Resolutions are good, but we are not our resolutions. We are our habits.

An anonymous quote I came across several years ago says it all:

Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny!

As a pastor, I have conversations with Christians and non-Christians alike regarding their spiritual lives. One of the more consistent conversations revolves around one’s identity or self-perception. We live in a culture that suggests we can be or become whatever we think or dream. The identity crisis that permeates gender and sexuality found its roots in the self-help ideology that believes we can define ourselves, our future, and our successes.

After a recent win for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, Rodgers articulated a belief in himself and self-fulfillment. He went on to say: “I do believe in the power of manifestation and I do believe in momentum and I believe very strongly in the force of the mind. And when you start to believe something strongly, some miraculous things can happen.”

That’s well and good, but the Packers lost last night agains the Detroit Lions. Manifestation and the force of the mind failed Rodgers and the Packers in a game where a win would get them to the playoffs.

Identity and belief is tremendously important, but not in the way self-help gurus and the identity culture we live in would have us believe.

We are first and foremost who God says we are. This means we are image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:28). This truth about identity is for every person on earth regardless of religion, experience, background, or environment.

For those who follow Jesus, we are described as new creatures and the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). While we are sinners by nature, we have been justified by God through Christ (Romans 3:21-26). We have been given the privilege of becoming children of God by faith in Christ (John 1:12). On an on the Bible goes about our identity in Christ.

This is where our habits come to play in our Christian experience. Our habits either support what the Bible says about our identity in Christ or they align with cultural values. Our habits teach and form us. Reading the Word, praying, attending church, memorizing Scripture, being involved in an accountable community, and other disciplines remind us regularly of our identity in Christ and his redeeming and transforming work in our lives. Christians who neglect these spiritually forming habits are in danger of buying into the cultural shortcomings that so pervade education, media, and ideologies.

So in this new year, will you review your habits? Discover whether you’re Bible reading, prayer, and church engagement are adequate to form your faith and walk with Christ spiritually. If you’d like to consider these questions at a deeper level make plans to attend Wilkesboro Baptist during our series on the book of Hebrews. We’re learning what it means to follow Christ who is greater than the patterns, promises, and prophecies of the Old Testament. If you’re not in our community, make sure you’re a part of a Bible-believing church with healthy leadership where you can grow in your knowledge of Christ and find accountability for your habits.

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

I write this post from a desk in my bedroom at home. I’m at home because our family is in covid quarantine this week. 22 months after the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted all our lives, our family has its first positive case. We were away for a few days celebrating our oldest son’s birthday when our youngest began with a sore throat, fever, and other cold-like symptoms. We came back to town, got him to a doctor, and our youngest tested positive for Covid-19. At this point, we are all presumed covid positive even though the symptoms shown by the rest of us have been relatively mild. Nevertheless, your prayers for our family this week would be appreciated.

This quarantine is an interruption into our lives. Our celebration trip was interrupted. Our regular schedule was interrupted. Our family interactions and things we can do for the next several days have been interrupted.

Inconvenient.

That’s what I’ve been thinking. I don’t have time for this. There are sermons to preach, classes to teach, people to interact with. Our Associate Pastor, Tad Craig, preached a great message on Sunday January 9, about doubt and the need for community. And now I’ll be away from in person interactions with my church community for at least this week. And that’s just me. Our boys won’t be in school, and my wife has had her work week affected this week as well. This covid quarantine is quite inconvenient.

But even so, it might just be a divinely appointed interruption. I hold a high view of God. He is absolutely sovereign. He is great. He is good and full of mercy, grace, and love in his interactions with people. So this interruption in our lives is not isolated from God’s control. Rather, it is a part of his handiwork.

The Bible testifies of divine interruptions in people’s lives.

  • God interrupted Noah’s life to have him build the ark.
  • God interrupted Abraham’s life to send him to the Promised Land.
  • God interrupted Job’s life by allowing him to suffer immensely to show Job that God alone is sovereign.
  • God interrupted David’s life of shepherding to become a warrior and then a king.
  • God interrupted the disciples’ lives by calling them to follow Jesus.
  • God interrupted Saul’s life on the road to Damascus by calling him to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
  • God interrupted Peter’s prayer life to send him to a Gentile family whom he would have presumed unclean unless God intervened.

I don’t share this list to somehow conflate my family’s covid interruption with this list of biblical interruptions. In the examples above God moved forward his divine purposes in the world. While we are not these characters in the Bible, and our stories are not their stories, interruptions in our daily life can be opportunities for God to intervene in our spiritual lives.

A proper view of God’s sovereign glory and greatness in the lives of his people requires that we not perceive interruptions as anything less than an opportunity to see God more clearly and follow Jesus more closely.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30

I like to quote Romans 8:28 above, and I believe that this interruption in the life of my family is something that God will work for good. But keep reading. The good that God wants to do in my life (in our lives) is to conform us into the image of his Son. God is working out the daily events of my life (our lives) to make us more like Jesus.

Here ares some things I’m praying during this time of quarantine. I would be honored if you’d join me in these prayers.

  • Father, would you show me whatever needs to be removed from my life to make me more like you? Would you help me to be quick to confess and repent of any sins that are an encumbrance to my spiritual life?
  • Father, would you grant our family grace and patience with one another during this quarantine? I know for a fact that I’m at times very impatient. This is an opportunity for God to bear the fruit of his Spirit in my life. Particularly, God is working to form “patience” and “self-control” in my life.
  • Father, would you help and heal our family and the many others who are more sick than we are? One of the things that has caused so much fear with Covid-19 is the apparent randomness of how it has affected people. We all know that people with underlying conditions have been affected significantly. Some of you reading this have been very sick and some have lost loved ones due to Covid-19. But others have been very sick with no apparent underlying connection. As we are praying for healing and health, we’re also praying for others connected to our congregation who are more sick than we are.
  • Father, would you help this time of family quarantine to be more than inconvenient, but to be a time of divinely appointed interruption for your work in our lives? Regardless of what our circumstances in life bring, God wants to make us more like him. This could be a prayer that we all pray about any of the circumstances we face.

May we learn to see interruptions as opportunities for Divine intervention.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash