Monday, February 3, 2014

Small Habits = Substantial Changes

My friend Johnny Mac graduated with one of those high school classes that has a reunion just about every year. Every year he gets away and heads up to Central Oregon to spend time with his buddies from almost a half-century ago. When he comes home, he regales me with stories about their time together. I walk away from those tales feeling like I was there with him

I didn't graduate in one of those classes. In fact, my high school class has had very few reunions over the years and I was able to attend only one. It was an eye-opener. It's not that I felt shock at how the years had wrinkled everybody but me. The changes I saw weren't so much the natural progression of time as the obvious ways different classmates had used their time. I mean, some of those who had been the life of the high school parties now looked like they wanted to melt into the wallpaper. Others who had been the quietest kids in school were now confident and outgoing. What had happened?

I started to realize those changes as I watched an old friend. He was the mascot of high school success. He went on to a very successful career. Yet, I noticed that he couldn't handle the crowd of former classmates without a few beers under his belt. At the same time, I had a brief conversation with a woman whom I barely remembered. We had been in high school band together and I remembered her as quiet to the point of being reclusive. Our short talk showed me that she was calm and confident in ways I never would have imagined.

The lesson I learned at that reunion was simple, but profound: small habits over a long time can make substantial changes. As follower of Jesus, I have been noticing the way one small habit has reshaped me over the years. It's the habit of reading my Bible every day.

Many years ago, I was intrigued when a publisher introduced The One Year Bible. At the time, it was unique. I

bought the book and began to read small passages from the Old Testament and the New Testament every day. Those passages were followed by a short excerpt from the Psalms and a few verses from Proverbs. I discovered that an investment of 10-15 minutes a day would make it possible for me to read the entire Bible in a year.

I would love to tell you that I had already been reading the Bible through each year; by then I had been a pastor for quite a while. However, it took the One Year Bible to encourage me to develop this habit. That was a little over 27 years ago and I have been reading the Bible through each year since. To be honest, some of the early years included days where I was mystified by the content I was reading. Verses (and sometimes whole passages) didn't make sense. I kept reading anyway and the volume gradually became familiar territory.

It's understatement to say that the Bible changed me. How did it do it? Pretty simple, actually. I started out reading the Bible and soon discovered that the Bible was helping me read myself. I saw things in my life that didn't reflect the character of God's people in the Scriptures. I discovered ways to handle many of the everyday stresses of life. I learned how to treat Cathy and love my kids. I learned about how to manage money. I learned about generosity. The list goes on and on.

This week at Stone Ridge Church, we will talk in depth about ways the Bible changes us. Can't join us? Catch the podcast!


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