Blogging for the new year?

Here’s how I hope to keep up on a discipline I’ve failed to do for years and years.

So my new year’s resolution is to have some discipline in the new year. It’s not that I completely lacked discipline before, but that I always see the need to improve in that department. The weird part is that developing discipline is not quite a thing in itself as much as it is seeking to change your habits form bad ones to good ones. You don’t gain discipline by seeking to develop discipline in the abstract, but by more directly seeking the things you should (and as a result ignoring the things you shouldn’t).

The Christian life is, in the end, not so much about primarily avoiding things, but seeking after things; primarily seeking after the God who is the proper object of our affections, but also concretely seeking the things that mark such an ultimate pursuit. As Paul says in his letter to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, sbut in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, vwhich surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:4-9, ESV)

Notice that Paul doesn’t leave his hearers seeking to *not* do something primarily, but to avoid the evil by seeking the good. You don’t become a lover of truth by hating lies (or false news, or whatever you call it), but by seeking truth. You gain joy by thinking on worthy things, you become a man of prayer by seeking communication with God, you avoid sin by seeking to be holy etc.

This year, I’m trying (yet again) to become a regular blogger. I am not sure it will work out, but I think my failures in the past can be informed by some of my recent successes in discipline. I have found myself more able to spend time in the Word, and in prayer, not by seeking to be a man of prayer and the Word, but by keeping love in mind, and acting accordingly. That’s how I power the long obedience in one direction that is discipline.

The prayer list program was helpful, but what drove me to my knees more regularly was the memory that I loved the people I was praying for, and I loved the God I was communicating with (and I realized that love was as much long-term action as it was gushy feelings). I found it easier to keep to my Bible reading schedule because I wanted to hear from the God I love. The discipline came as I held that before me and acting accordingly.

Hence the renewed interest in blogging. I am commanded to tell of the glories of God, and to reflect on His goodness in my life, living as Paul did, an example of godliness (not perfection). So here I am aiming to reflect on how God is teaching me, and share it with you, my readers.

I have no idea if this will bring me the discipline (and the ultimate joy) of daily blogging. Telling of how God is working all things together for my good mediately, and His glory ultimately. But that is the goal.

One year from now, lets see how it went.

Keep me in coffee

The author is often highly caffeinated. Keep him that way!

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People Don’t Change?

It’s always been a bit of a puzzling maxim for me: People don’t change. I’ve heard it fairly frequently, whether it’s said positively, about some character trait of a person you’re depending on, or negatively about some person, and their character trait that is causing pain for others yet again. Yet what puzzles me is that it is so clearly not true, and in fact leads us to believe some strange things about people, and possibly dangerous things about ourselves.

A Grain of Truth
Like most ideas we have as a culture, this one stems from a bit of truth. There are character traits that people have that one should not count on changing. If you are looking at a partner with marriage in mind, you should not be thinking about things they need to change to be a good spouse. Nor should you rely on someone to display character traits in day to day interactions that they have never displayed before.
With people, the most accurate predictor of future activity is past activity. That is something I will frequently say in counselling situations, even after I spend a blog post debunking the maim of how people don’t change. The reason is that people do most often keep character traits that they have in the past, and are most likely to continue to struggle with sins that they have struggled with in the past (Biblically, think of David’s weakness for women, Peter’s fear of people, etc.)
So then why would I take issue with a statement that seems to pass on this useful bit of information?

A More Accurate Picture
Unfortunately, the reason that we can count on past character as an indicator of future character has nothing to do with the unchangeableness of humanity. Rather, that particular bit of truth is a working out of the fact that all humanity is ALWAYS changing. This is true whether we are talking about our physical change (growing from children, to adults, to the elderly, and eventually to death), or change in our personality (from childish, to mature, whatever “mature” will look like for you).
The change we’re going through continues day by day, often so slowly we do not notice, and so we humans (having freakishly low attention spans) imagine that this is constant. This is also the reason we can be dumb enough to believe that changeable parts of us should be considered our identity (beauty, intellect, etc.). It also means that there is an awful lot of inertia going for the trajectory of changes we’re going through, and so to change our direction, there will have to be many choices we make in a different one.

Danger and Opportunity
Ths simple fact is that the changes in our character and physique are going to happen, but the way that those changes are going to happen will be determined by the choices and actions we have right now. Just as in the physical sphere, we will never start to get healthy habits and thus a healthy physique unless we actually take the time to change our present habits that have been building our present body, our character will only improve insofar as we make decisions and do things in keeping with a better character.
This means that as Christians, while our justification is secure in Christ’s action on the cross, we will never be the kinds of people Christ calls us to be unless we avoid sin and act righteously. That is to say, unless we make the decisions that will lead us away from what we were making ourselves into through sin, and follow Christ who will remake us into righteous people.
We will all change. A year from now, we will all be a year older, and we will either be more conformed to the image of Christ (if we seek Him) or we will be more conformed to our sinful nature if we follow sin. Change will happen. The question is what change will it be?