A NEW YOU FOR THE NEW YEAR – LET’S TAKE ONE STEP CLOSER – SERMON RESOURCES
ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP
Many of us, we are creatures of habit. We have our set routines, and we are frustrated when they are disrupted. Our routines are the unconscious patterns that help shape and give meaning to our lives. Our habits are formed here in our routines, our pre-programmed responses, our unquestioned confidence in our own perspective, our lack of wonder. The scaffolding of our lives. And we move through the world as though we don’t have the capacity to live any differently. We accept the structures we have built as they are, assuming they are the best way to build a life, often leading us to accept our habits as our destiny, giving them power and dominion over us, failing to take time to inspect them, to ask them questions. Transforming a habit isn’t necessarily easy or quick, but it is possible. And it isn’t a matter of will.
The understanding starts with our daily routines, which our brains turn into habits. If left to our own devices, our brains will try to make a habit out of any routine. Our brains are trying to conserve energy and effort, so the scientists tell us, by converting everything and anything that looks like a routine into a habit. It’s a three step loop: cue, routine, reward. Our cues can be triggered by anything: physical, mental, or emotional, and if there’s a reward attached, this helps our brain decide if we should make this particular loop a habit. Our wiring has no way to distinguish between a good or bad habit. Our brains were designed to save energy and effort, to be alert for other input, signals, or potential threats. And many of our habits emerge without our explicit permission.
Because we slip so easily into our habits, we often don’t inspect how they shape our reality or our expectations. Causing us to miss things, we experiences, opportunities, and chances to experience wonder.
Two disciples of John the Baptist–Jesus’ cousin and desert prophet, abruptly leave John behind to follow Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do are you looking for?”
We are all searching for something: healing, peace, hope, purpose, contentment, space, excitement, companionship, love, welcome, acceptance, fulfillment, wealth, kids, clarity, popularity, happiness. And our habits, our ways of seeing God affect how we pursue the things we are searching for. Some of us form habits which produce life in us, and the rest of us, we struggle for the rest of our lives with our habits–hoping to one day overcome them and see transformation in our lives.
What are you looking for? Many of us haven’t really taken time to reflect on what we are searching for. The reality of our lives is this: what we are searching for will determine how we organize our lives and affects our understanding of and our relationship with God.
“Rabbi, where are you staying?”
In reply, Jesus says, “Come and see.”
You want the good and beautiful life, then you have to come and see. You have to be willing to disassemble the scaffolding you have used to build your life. This invitation is for all of us. You have to surrender your picture of God, surrender your idea of how the world works. We start with surrendering our narratives, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and God. We replace the false pictures of God we have and share our lives with others. Finally, we start to create new routines. Habits formed and shaped in this new reality with Jesus as our guide. Habits of expecting God to hear when we pray. Habits of expecting the kingdom to break into our reality. Habits that allow us to expect the unexpected.
Habits or soul-shaping exercises are wisdom, not righteousness. We add these habits not to get back on the salvation ladder, we do them because Jesus is a good physician, and he tells us the best way to live our lives. The only reason to do this is because you choose to believe you have a Heavenly Father who sees you, who longs to draw you close, and who wants to reward you with the intimacy of his presence, with the tenderness of his compassion toward to you, who wants to give you the grace that you need for this moment. It’s because the reward of his intimate presence, with tenderness, and compassion is so compelling that yes, you would be willing to do what ever it takes to lay hold of him. As hard as creating those new habits, these routines are, the reward of intimacy with the Father that Jesus knew as Good and Beautiful is worth it. This is why we incorporate habits in the presence of Jesus, so we can live better lives.
SURRENDERING OUR HABITS TO GOD
For this sermon series, we were going to focus on a single habit: practicing the spiritual discipline of being present.
We choose life there is an invitation to slow down, to block out distractions and be present with God and also with ourselves. If we find that we are able to slow down or even pause and take off our shoes, we may have the space to do some self-inspection and introspection. Do you trust a Father who sees and accepts you unconditionally as you are? With God’s presence and assurance of His love, we can look at some of the habits that have come to define us without us even realizing. With God’s guidance, we can make a good faith effort to resolve the habits that do not bring life, that burden us down, that prevent us from enjoying the freedom that Jesus invites us into, and that have come to define us.
Practical Tip #1
Take 10 minutes to pause and try to become more aware of your habits and routines. Identify three, and ask these habits “do you allow me to have intimacy with God or not?” With God decide whether any of these habits bring life, whether they serve God or not.
Imagine you are in God’s presence, and your habits represent your shoes, and he invites you to remove your shoes. Imagine you are like Moses and God tells you take off your shoes because you are stepping on Holy ground and if your shoes represent your habits, as you leave your shoes behind, what habits would be left behind?
Practical Tip #2
Take some time to sit in God’s presence, ask yourself what you are looking for today?
Have you ordered your day to support what you are looking for today?
Do you trust and believe in a Father that is good and who loves you and accepts you as you are?
Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.