Head Heart Hand
Three groups of people were given the following instructions:
Group One: Track how often you exercise.
Group Two: Track workouts and read articles on the benefits of exercise.
Group Three: Track workouts, read articles on the benefits of exercise, and formulate a plan for when and where you will exercise the following week.
Which of the three groups got fitter? Here are the results as reported in James Clear’s Atomic Habits:
- Group One: 35-38% exercised at least once per week.
- Group Two: 35-38% exercised at least once per week
- Group Three: 91% exercised once per week.
The third group had more than twice the success of the other two groups. A plan for implementation is clearly essential for habit change.
The third group were helped towards implementation by completing the following sentence:
“During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME] in [PLACE].”
The implementation plan includes two key details: the when and the what, when and where to act. The general format is:
I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
Clear comments: “The punch line is clear: people who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through” (70-71).
So, if you want to change habits you need more than: “I’m going to read my Bible more often,” or “I’m going to keep in touch with friends this year,” or “I’m going to pray for my pastor,” or I’m going to love my wife better,” or “I’m going to get my children to learn the Shorter Catechism,” or “I’m going to read more.”
If that’s all you’ve got, you’ve got a 35% chance of success. Want to almost guarantee it?
- I will read my Bible at 6.30am every morning in my bedroom.
- I will meet with a friend for breakfast every Friday morning at 7am.
- I will pray for my pastor every Saturday evening at 9pm.
- I will dedicate every Friday evening entirely to my wife.
- I will teach my children the Shorter Catechism every Sunday at 12 noon for 30 minutes.
- I will read a book every evening from 9.30pm to 10 pm.
Obviously the Christian will want to add (D.V.) to each of these plans, but James 4:15 is no warrant for failing to plan. As Clear says, “Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity. It is not always obvious when and where to take action.”
Another benefit of such clear implementation plans is that we can more easily say no to whatever might hinder our progress. Clear again: “We often say yes to little requests because we are not clear enough about what we need to be doing instead” (72).
With the Lord’s blessing and help, I would hope we can get the success figure up to 100%.
Toward a More Meditative Life
“We do not live in a time that encourages quietness and meditation. As Thomas Friedman, columnist for the The New York Times, said, “We have gone from the Iron Age to the Industrial Age to the Information Age to the Age of Interruption.” Indeed, we live with the constant interruptions of beeps, blinks, and buzzes. They tell us now the average American spends more than half their days in front of a screen. We are not just interrupted; we are self-interrupted.”
May His Cancer Heal Millions: The Grandeur and Grief in Losing Tyler
Tyler Trent’s pastor reflects on his life and death.
Urban Meyer, Oswald Sanders, and the Pain Leadership Can Bring Your Family
“I’m done. I want him to be done.” I have heard this statement and similar statement from the spouses of leaders for years. I don’t know Urban and Shelly Meyer but I understand the pain of leadership, and know that impacts more than the leader.”
Systematic Theology Review
“Below you’ll find my brief evaluation of several systematic theologies, with the reading level noted for each (Beginner, Medium, Hard). I’ll start with my three favorites and then move on to the others in a few different categories.”
Reflecting on Social Media: Some Tips to Navigate this Medium
“Social media has changed, and we must change with it, especially if we are seeing that it has any negative implications in our lives.”
Life and Ministry with Conrad Mbewe (New Podcast Episode)
In this episode, special guest Conrad Mbewe, pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia discusses his conversion, calling, formative influences, and ministry with Brian and Jim. Conrad Mbewe has been referred to as “The African Spurgeon” because of his powerful preaching and zeal to raise up and train others throughout Africa for pastoral ministry.
Why Trust the Bible? by Greg Gilbert $2.99.
Disciplines of a Godly Young Man by R. Kent Hughes $2.99.
Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented Age by Erik Raymond $3.99.
Where Is Jesus in the Old Testament?
“Jesus unites the Bible. He is not absent from the Old Testament, sitting on the bench, awaiting his fourth quarter winning play. He is the player-coach-manager directing all things. Throughout the Old Testament, he is the one and only Mediator of God Most High, marching purposefully toward his own incarnation. Jesus is Lord. He always has been.”
And here’s a good example of this in Robert Rothwell’s article, David’s Son.
Teach Your Teen How to Read Their Bible
Jen Wilkin: “Your teen will be exposed to devotional content and topical studies at every turn, and they likely don’t need a resource that is targeted specifically at their demographic. What most are missing are basic tools to help them read and learn the Bible on their own. By guiding them in some basic study methods, you can position them to use devotional and topical material with far better discernment and far greater benefit, as those types of resources assume a first-hand knowledge of the Bible that many teens have not yet developed. Here is a simple approach that you can adapt to fit the age of your teen:”
How to Develop a Personal Growth Plan as a Pastor
“If you want to grow, you need a plan and the fortitude to see that plan through. So let’s develop a personal growth plan. Together.”
What Made #TylerStrong?
This from Tyler Trent’s pastor:
“Tyler Trent, who died this week at age 20, captivated the sports world and the nation after ESPN told his story. Tyler’s four-year battle with cancer and his indomitable perspective were inspiring….His inspiring battle led to awards, trips to bowl games, interviews on TV and radio, and calls from the vice president. He wrote a book. The gravitational pull of Tyler’s winsome spirit, his interest in others, and his unflappable courage attracted fans from all walks of life. It wasn’t hard to enter Tyler’s orbit. People marveled at his attitude and wondered, How is he so strong? As Tyler’s pastor for 10 years, I can tell you. It’s simple but profound: Tyler loved Jesus. That’s it. And it made him #TylerStrong.”
David Platt Drops 50-point Sermon from Revelation at CROSS Conference
I haven’t watched this, but the points are beautiful. There are 48 characteristics of Jesus and a pair of exhortations.
Love and Anger at the Cross?
I agree with Nick’s take on this:
“It is right for us to both affirm that the Father never stopped loving the Son when he hung on the cross and that the Father was justly angry with the Son “because of the sins themselves which he took upon him, and because of the persons of sinners whom he sustained.”Kindle Books
The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling by John Stott $2.99.
The Son of God and the New Creation by Graeme Goldsworthy $3.99.
Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World by Eric Metaxes $1.99.
If you want to increase godly habits in your life, increase godly cues in your life. If you want to decrease ungodly habits, decrease ungodly cues.
A cue is a trigger, a stimulus, that spurs your brain to initiate a behavior. For example, if you see your running shoes at the door, your brain will suggest going for a run. If you keep a water bottle beside you, you will want to keep more hydrated. Or, negatively, if you see a cookie, your brain will convince you that you are hungry and must eat. If you walk down the candy aisle at the store, you will crave sugar.
The “cue” is the first step in James Clear’s four-stage analysis of habit formation. He asks, How do we create a good habit? He answers, Make the good cue obvious. How do we break a bad habit? Make the bad cue invisible.
When it comes to sanctification, many of us fail because we focus our efforts on the second step (fighting the craving that results from the cue), or on the third step (stopping the response to the craving). Clear’s book calls us to begin the battle at the first step, the cue or the trigger.
So let me suggest some samples of good cues that will help trigger desires for godliness and then some samples of bad cues that we can remove to avoid cravings for sin.
Cues for Starting Good Habits
1. Place a Bible beside your bed to trigger craving for God’s Word.
2. Listen to sermons rather than talk radio to trigger craving for peace rather than hate.
3. Buy Thank You notes to trigger desires to thank people in your life.
4. Read missionary books to trigger prayer for missionaries.
5. Surround yourself with godly friends to trigger longings for holiness.
6. Listen to testimonies of conversions to stimulate passion for evangelism.
7. Converse about heaven to cultivate longing for things above not things below.
8. Go to church to fire up your longing for God’s presence.
9. Wear a Fitbit to boost your commitment to stewarding the temple of the Holy Spirit.
10. Talk to an unconverted friend or family member to stimulate evangelism and prayer.
Hiding Cues that Provoke Bad Habits
1. Cancel cable news if you are inclined to anxiety.
2. Avoid car magazines and showrooms if you don’t want to covet cars.
3. Don’t walk along the beach in summer if you want to stifle lust.
4. Install covenant eyes if you don’t want to see porn.
5. Avoid bad news if you have a tendency to depression.
6. Don’t sit with people drinking alcohol if you want to stop longings for it.
7. Remove email and social media from your phone if you are not “present” when you are at home.
8. Don’t take your phone into the bedroom if you want to seek God rather than the Internet when you wake up.
9. Stop following the NFL if you want to keep the Sabbath Day holy.
10. Don’t listen to bad language if you want to keep your own mouth clean.
Make the Unconscious Conscious
When it comes to sinful habits, there is always a cue. We may feel like the craving and desiring begins without a cue, but that is never the case. If we can’t identify it, we need to pray that God would reveal it to us, that he would make the unconscious conscious. As the psychologist Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Of course, sometimes the cue comes from our own sinful heart and mind; we don’t need an external trigger to make us desire evil. That’s why the ultimate action to create good cues and remove bad cues is the prayer, “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord.”
Disowned for Jesus | Desiring God
A stirring testimony:
“When I left Islam to follow Jesus, I didn’t know what it would cost me. I hadn’t realized what it would take to deny myself, lay my life down, and take up my cross (Matthew 16:24). I wasn’t aware that even the precious relationships of my family should not come between me and following Christ — that I should even hate my family compared to my love for Jesus (Luke 14:26).”
Designed for smiling
“Happiness seems to be hard-wired into us. We are designed to smile, and made for joy. We are born that way, live longer that way, and prosper that way. And that’s exactly what the Bible says—we are made for joy. God is, in his three-fold existence, uniquely joy-filled. We are made by Him to know Him, and in knowing Him to enjoy joy.”
On Getting & Keeping Masculine Men in Church
This and the next article are by the same author. An extremely important subject:
“One of the things I’m grateful for over my 30 plus years of ministry is I’ve had a lot of good men in my churches. Getting them into church and keeping them there hasn’t been a big problem for me. I’d say my congregations have been roughly split, 50/50 between men and women. From all I’ve seen and heard, that’s unusual. And it isn’t just the result of belonging to a particular denomination, or holding to a particular theology. In two of the churches I formerly served my successors managed to drive the men out and return the ratios to something more like the norm–70/30 favoring women.”
“Everybody wants to reach the upper east side of Manhattan with all those artists and stockbrokers. And we should try to reach those folks. But you know what? Prioritizing those people at the expense of these men leads to bubbleization. And I know too many bubble-boy church planters who look more like Resnikoff than the Apostle Paul. Paul knew how to work with his hands. I suspect Paul wouldn’t have needed to call a plumber, even though he’d likely have known several personally.”
Five Ways to Be a More Effective Leader in 2019
“Five ways I think all of us can be more effective and Christ-honoring as we begin our leadership service this year. I hope these will provide you some food for thought as you reflect on where God has you and who he has under your care.”
Shepherds Gone Astray
“The very nature of the pastorate is being intentionally overhauled and the “new” worldly paradigm does not look much different from that which God condemned in the Old Testament.”
Wine, Women, and Social Anxiety: Helping Women Who Use Alcohol to Inoculate Fear
“Maybe you live in mortal terror of the mandatory office party, church fellowship, or bridal shower. You want to escape, hide, and forget. You don’t want to be drunk; you just want to shave off anxiety’s edge with a glass (or two) of pre-event wine. If you’ve ever tried to inoculate fear with alcohol, you’re not alone. Women are consuming alcohol at record-high rates and often drink to tame anxiety in social settings. How does the gospel speak to social anxiety? How does Christ offer freedom to vice-burdened hearts?”
The Promises of God: Discovering the One Who Keeps His Word by R. C. Sproul $0.99.
The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story by D. A. Carson $1.99.
Find it hard to start good habits? Find it even harder to stop bad habits? Yeh, me too. So we just need to try harder don’t we? But what does that actually mean? What do we actually do? What steps should we take?
The core of James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, is a four-step analysis of how habits are formed (and broken). It’s an extremely important cycle to understand not only for our own sanctification, but also if we are involved in counseling people away from bad habits and towards good habits.
Step 1: Cue. The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. It is a bit of information that predicts a reward and therefore leads to a craving. (47-8)
Step 2: Craving. Without some level of motivation or desire—without craving a change—we have no reason to act. What you crave is not the habit itself but the change in state it delivers. (48)
Step 3: Response. This is the actual habit you perform, which can take the form of a thought or an action. Whether a response occurs depends on how motivated you are and how much friction is associated with the behavior. 48-9
Step 4: Reward. Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward. We chase rewards because they serve two purposes: (1) they satisfy our craving and (2) they teach us…which actions are worth remembering in the future. Hence a habit is created.
In summary, the cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue. Together, these four steps form a neurological feedback loop—cue, craving, response, reward; cue, craving, response, reward—that ultimately allows you to create automatic habits. (50-51)
Having analyzed the four steps of habit creation, Clear then suggests four laws of habit creation and four laws for breaking bad habits.
How to create a good habit
- The 1st law (Cue): Make it obvious.
- The 2nd law (Craving): Make it attractive.
- The 3rd law (Response): Make it easy.
- The 4th law (Reward): Make it satisfying.
So, if you want to start a good habit at the beginning of 2019 ask yourself: How can I make it obvious? How can I make it attractive? How can I make it easy? How can I make it satisfying? (54). Ask the same questions if you are counseling someone towards better habits with food, money, technology, etc.
How to Break a Bad Habit
- Inversion of the 1st law (Cue): Make it invisible.
- Inversion of the 2nd law (Craving): Make it unattractive.
- Inversion of the 3rd law (Response): Make it difficult.
- Inversion of the 4th law (Reward): Make it unsatisfying. (54)
As above with good habits, ask yourself regarding bad habits: How can I make it invisible? How can I make it unattractive? How can I make it difficult? and How can I make it unsatisfying?
Anyone with a sound biblical worldview can find many ways to “Christianize” each of these steps and can find many biblical and spiritual resources to enhance each step of good habit formation and to effectively break bad habits. Christians should therefore be far better at breaking bad habits and starting good ones than non-Christians.
Too often, we simply tell ourselves or others, “Just try harder.” But neither we nor they know where to start or what to do. What Clear does is identify the specific areas in which to focus our attention and therefore the specific questions to ask and the specific work required. In the following chapters, each of these steps is examined in more detail. We’ll follow Clear’s structure in further blog posts, suggesting ways that Christians can learn from him and improve upon him.
What the ‘Quarter-Life Crisis’ Says About Young Adults in Your Church
“The networking website LinkedIn found that 75 percent of 25- to 33-year-olds report having a quarter-life crisis. I’m one of them.”
Great to see Desiring God tackling this weighty subject, and none better to do so than the wisest and most compassionate counselor I’ve ever met, Dr. Eric Johnson.
“About one in ten people suffers from a personality disorder, a deeply ingrained, long-standing dysfunction that forms part of the structure of someone’s personality. Although people with personality disorders often struggle to find long-term healing, the gospel of Jesus Christ, communicated by skilled counselors and patient friends, provides unique therapeutic resources that can, over time, bind up the most broken personalities.”
How Total Depravity Changed My Life
“Only through total depravity do the beauties of unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints come into their full glory. Only through understanding how indebted we are in Adam do we ever even begin to perceive how deeply loved we are in Christ.”
Caring for a Friend with a History of Promiscuity and/or Abortion
Brad Hambrick tackles the question: “What does the process of redemption and restoration look like for a person scarred by a past that includes multiple sex partners and abortions?”
Diverse Theologians to Read in 2019
Thabiti provides “a short list of theologians and leaders from differing ethnic backgrounds for those who may be interested to diversify their reading lists.”
10 Exciting Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology in 2018
“This past year brought numerous discoveries that supported biblical accounts and provided context for other scriptural knowledge. Here are 10 of the top discoveries from 2018.”
Prison Was My First Pulpit……
This is quite the story. “Linda Barkman was incarcerated after the man she lived with murdered her toddler. But she turned hardship into ministry.”
How protected is your teen from finding pornography online?
“Take this quiz to see how protected your teen is. While not every question may provide an answer that fits you exactly, choose the one closest to your reality. ”
Why Pray for the Media?
“Why pray for the media? The answer is simple. Because God answers prayers offered up for the media. Consider that in 2018 two of the heralded heroes of Sports Illustrated, Time, ESPN and other major media outlets were Rachael Denhollander and Tyler Trent. Both are Christians who have suffered immensely, and have persevered and/or continue to persevere. In various ways, they were heard in 2018 and still are being heard because of their faith.”
31 Days toward Trusting God by Jerry Bridges $2.99.
Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God by Rankin Wilbourne $0.79.
The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together by Jared C. Wilson $0.79.
I’ve heard it argued that daily devotions are a bondage, that daily Bible reading and prayer is a legalistic imposition that restricts a Christian’s freedom. Though not a Christian book, James Clear’s Atomic Habits demonstrates why the opposite should be the case.
He turns to neuroscience to explain that as habits are created, the level of activity in the brain decreases. Habits reduce cognitive load and free up mental capacity, so we can allocate our attention to other tasks (46).
For example, how much brain activity is involved in turning the ignition key, putting the car into reverse, and easing out of the garage? Very little, if you’ve been doing that for many weeks, months, or years. But this frees the brain to concentrate entirely on looking for pedestrians and other cars.
“Habits do not restrict freedom. They create it. In fact, the people who don’t have their habits handled are often the ones with the least amount of freedom. Without good financial habits, you will always be struggling for the next dollar. Without good health habits, you will always seem to be short on energy. Without good learning habits, you will always feel like you’re behind the curve. If you’re always being forced to make decisions about simple tasks—when should I work out, where do I go to write, when do I pay the bills—then you have less time for freedom. It’s only by making the fundamentals of life easier that you can create the mental space needed for free thinking and creativity.” (46-7)
“Conversely, when you have your habits dialed in and the basics of life are handled and done, your mind is free to focus on new challenges and master the next set of problems. Building habits in the present allows you to do more of what you want in the future.” (46-7).
Now apply that to daily devotions. If we have a good regular routine in the morning, we are engaging in numerous habits without even thinking about it.
Alarm goes off > get up > brush teeth > shave > shower > dress > coffee > breakfast > devotions.
The same routine, the same habits, each and every day. There’s no internal debate over each step, there’s no cognitive fuel used up in the process. There’s no “should I/shouldn’t I” argument. This frees the mind to focus on listening to God in his Word and speaking to God in prayer. Far from a bondage, this is freedom. The bondage is the daily debate, the daily guilt-trip when devotions are forgotten because not scheduled, and the daily battle to find a few minutes wherever whenever.
The Rhythms of Grace
“As you look back over the past year and find yourself puzzling over why God did what He did, turn from what happened to the Who behind all that happened. This will strengthen you as you press into the new year before you. And when you hit confusing trials in the year ahead, and begin to doubt the goodness of God, pause and remember all you know about Him, for He is infinitely worthy of your trust.”
A Holiday Miracle
If you care for someone with mental illness, you want to read this deeply moving article.
A Simple 3-Step Bible Reading Plan for Children
“To develop a biblical worldview, we need to saturate our minds in Scripture. This requires repeatedly reading and engaging with the Bible throughout our lifetime. The earlier we begin reading the Bible the more time we have for God’s Word to seep into the marrow of our souls. That’s why helping a child to develop the habit of Bible reading is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.”
Is Saving the Earth More Important than Saving Souls? (The Ten Commandments of Progressive Christianity #10). – Canon Fodder
“We finally come to the tenth and last “commandment” of progressive Christianity and this one is a classic: “Life in This World is More Important than the Afterlife.”"
The Internet’s Gifts in 2018
“While probably idiosyncratic and not very comprehensive, this seemed like a good day to reflect on some of the blessings God’s brought my way through the internet. Though I love a good internet-bashing session, it remains an incredible tool by which a discerning Christian can gain many good things. In no certain order, here are things the internet gave in 2018 for which I remain grateful.” And if you need more help, here’s a list of the Top 100 Technologies. Not saying they are all good, but they are certainly influential.
The Tech-wise family: A conversation about parenting and family
And if you want help with managing that technology, Russell Moore interviews Andy Crouch, author of The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place which is on sale today for only $2.99 (Kindle version).
The Bible as an app: One man’s quest to have everyone engaging with Scripture
Another good-news tech story
“As of the day of our interview, 315 million unique devices had installed The Bible App. “And it is growing by about four million new devices every month.” Even more amazing is that most of the app’s growth is outside of North America. “We have a lot of growth happening—I mean triple-digit growth happening—in many, many regions of the world [like] India, Russia, Syria, Central Africa, Brazil,” Gruenewald pointed out. In fact, “it has been used in every single country and territory on earth.”"
And then there’s the bad and the ugly What Facebook Knows about You. You probably don’t want to know, but you should.New Book
2 Samuel (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Richard D Phillips. One of my favorite series of commentaries and one of my favorite commentators.Kindle Books