Security in Mastering the Routine

Routine

“There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day; we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.” – Eric Hoffer

Patterns can be mastered that feel like accomplishment, and if it’s rewarded then security sets in. Some people wake up knowing exactly what they need to do tomorrow. The rest wake up with something creative to prove, and you’re only as good as your last production.

We’re a culture that seeks security in mastering a routine that offers meager rewards for minor accomplishments that could be reproduced by almost anyone else; or expensive robots.

The Hoffer quote above is one I’ve carried around for a long time. He wasn’t a Christian, but his comment can apply to those who think yesterdays righteous deeds are a guarantee of faithfulness tomorrow. That’s a holiness alibi. Instead we should start the day desperate for strength to obey, and end it with humble amazement if we do.

 

Be Demanding

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Proverbs teaches us to demand wisdom. It’s worth the investment of time and money. Whatever you put in comes back in multiples. If you want it though, you will have to go get it. You call out for it (Proverbs 2:3). You also dig in and scoop it out of the Word. The wisdom is there but you need to work. That said, mining for wisdom is not like mining for gold. Mining is hard because you only want a minuscule fraction of what you’re digging up. Gaining wisdom is hard work because you have to ignore all the worthless alternatives that are clamoring for your attention. For example, if you spent as much time pursuing wisdom as you do pursuing favor from your boss, then you will be a radically different person a month from now. If just a few TV hours were applied to gaining wisdom you would likely be a sage. The one who gives no effort to seeking wisdom will wonder why he keeps making dumb decisions. A person growing in wisdom will at least know why he made the decision and have tools to do better next time. Demand better and then claim it from the wisdom books of the Bible.

My Stereotypes

Historians want to make sure that we keep to the faith laid down in the Bible and lived out courageously by our forefathers.

Traditionalists like to see the order they set up stay the same. They realize it’s arbitrary and based on preference, but it just seems like the right way.

Conventionalists resist change because it’s worked so far and to them it isn’t broken. Improvement is a dirty word that suggests other people may actually be able to do it better.

Sentimentalists expect every generation after them to embrace their culture and generate nostalgic feelings about people they never knew and stuff they don’t agree with.

I’m all four depending on what we’re talking about.

“The revolutionary mood and temper are generated by the irritations, difficulties, hungers, and frustrations inherent in the realization of drastic change” (Eric Hoffer, The Ordeal of Change, page 6).

Divine Body Guard

Solomon tells his son that God stores up sound wisdom (or victory) for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints (Proverbs 2:7-8). This implies that as a general rule, you can expect victory if you are upright, protection if you walk in integrity, and divine security if you’re faithful to God. This is not a guarantee in all circumstances, but a principle you can generally count on. Every who is walking with the Lord is on a path and God protects you without you even knowing it. In the Old Testament the Lord is called a consuming fire that goes out in advance of his people, fighting for them and doing battle with their enemies. In the New Testament Paul providentially uncovers a plot to kill him and was lowered down the city wall in a basket to escape (Acts 9:23-25). The paths of saints are guarded by a sovereign God. Consider how many life altering decisions you didn’t make, and realize God was watching over your way and had a better outcome in mind.

One Year Honeymoon

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God required a one year honeymoon for new couples (Deuteronomy 24:5). This meant the man was released from military duty or any other public responsibility. He still did his usual providing and protecting, but that was it. The rest of his time was spent at home that first year. The reason was “to be happy with his wife whom he had taken”. This implies two things to me. First the man was to be primarily at home. This likely formed a healthy pattern of focusing attention on his wife and not his work or hobbies outside the home. Secondly, he was to be happy with her. It is both a statement and an instruction. This also forms a healthy pattern of enjoying time with your spouse instead of finding joy in other people. A man who learns to find his joy in his home (instead of other places) and with his wife (instead of other people) is a man who will be on his way to a happy marriage and happy life. This one year honeymoon thing could really catch on.

Sin

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The following lines from A Picture of Dorian Gray have always stuck with me:

“A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is
exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can you want?–
Yes, Dorian, you will always be fond of me. I represent to you all
the sins you have never had the courage to commit.”

Oscar Wilde, a man familiar with iniquity and vice, taught us two valuable lessons from inside the prison of desire.

1. The essence of sin is unsatisfying pleasure.

2. The allure of sinners is unflinching indulgence.

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Blessed Are the Clueless (Sometimes)

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In Deuteronomy 1:39 we read that the Jews were concerned their little children would become prey for the Canaanites. However, it’s those very children who actually become conquerors. In their fear, the parents didn’t trust God and therefore didn’t get to enter the Promised Land. It was these little ones who “have no knowledge of good or evil” who are given the opportunity to enter instead. At the time of the great decision they were clueless, but God chose to bless them anyway. Rewards are given to these helpless little ones who never had to exercise faith or even resist the urge to fear. The picture is one of pure grace.

You Murmur In Your Tent


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There’s an unpleasant theme that runs through the books of Moses. It’s like a foul smell you can’t pinpoint the source of. It surfaces in times of disappointment, change, surprise, alarm, threat, or even when the leadership is unavailable for regular communication. The theme of course is complaining.  Benjamin Franklin once said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do”. This was definitely the case among the Jews in the wilderness. Despite numerous miracles and dramatic divine intervention, the Lord must repeatedly prove himself to his own people. Between miraculous rescues, the people act as if he’s gone on vacation. Occasionally they complain to Moses, but mostly it’s to each other. It’s easier to complain around family. Deuteronomy 1:27 reveals they murmur in their tents. Most of us can keep a lid on our discontentment until we get home. Then it all comes out.

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My grandfather taught me the most effective antidote against the sin of grumbling is thankfulness. It’s counterintuitive, but ridiculously effective at killing the root of whining bitterness that grows with every recycled negative thought. If we uproot complaining and replace it with thanksgiving, we’ll radically change the aroma of our home. Try it.

Humble

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It took 40 years for the Jews to complete a lesson in humility that began when they trusted men instead of God. The purpose of the wilderness wandering was not just punishment. This could have been accomplished with a plague, scorpions, snakes, or some other loathsome thing. It also wasn’t a death march.If killing off the sinful generation was the main point he could have had them swallowed up like Korah (Numbers 16:31-33). No, death and discipline were not the main focus, humility was. The Bible says the humbling was intended to test their heart, and that takes time. True humility takes to develop. But here’s the blessing in the process. Deuteronomy 8 explains that God always brings grace in the time of humiliation. The Jews experienced it. He let them hunger, but fed them manna. He made them camp, but their clothes didn’t wear out. He made them walk, but their feet didn’t swell. Humiliation was covered with grace. Every good father disciplines his son, but not to hurt him, and not even to make him appreciate the consequences of sin. Ultimately discipline should be to humble, and therefore make the person wise. It might take 40 years, but it’s worth it.

Refuge

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Human beings crave justice. The child who honestly complains that something is “not fair” is proving they were created in the image of God. When justice is delayed we recoil, knowing that “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). On the other hand, the character of God makes allowance for both sides to be heard. After all, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). In the Old Testament God directs the Jewish people to establish six cities that would serve as asylum for the accused (Numbers 35:6). It gave time for a fair trial, a sober verdict, and a just opportunity for the priest or state to bear the sword (Romans 13:4), but not the avenger or vigilante. In the same way Christ serves as our refuge from the just wrath of an avenging God. He is the ark (1 Peter 3:21), the refuge (Psalm 18:2), and the ultimate judge who combines punishment and grace in holy harmony. Through faith he maintains justice and rescues us at the same time (Romans 3:26).