Weston Methodist Church Bath

for all the community

HOLY HABITS

Some of our human habits are bad, some are good. Holy Habits, by definition, are wholly good and essential for a healthy Church and also for our individual Christian life. Ten Holy Habits are -                             

                       Biblical teaching                           P10    

                                    Fellowship                                     P11

                       Breaking of bread                         P3

                       Prayer                                            P4

                       Giving                                            P9

                       Service                                           P5

                       Eating together                             P8

                       Gladness and generosity             P2

                       Worship                                         P6                        
                       Making more disciples                 P7

                                                                                      

They were the essence of the first Christian community that Luke describes
in
Acts 2:42-47

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 2    GLADNESS AND GENEROSITY

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They brok   e bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:46)

Here Luke links worship in the temple with acts of generosity and gladness. The gladness of those first Christians was not a self-engendered easy come, easy go party spirit of ‘Let’s eat, drink, and be merry!’ It was the abiding fruit of the Holy Spirit that had filled them on the Day of Pentecost in fulfilment of Jesus’ promise that ‘from within him will flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:38). Their gladness was like life-giving water bubbling up from an artesian well deep within the earth.

If gladness (joy) and generosity (love) are fruits of the Holy Spirit how can we make them a Holy Habit? We can’t! Why not? Because they are fruits of the Holy Spirit and not the creations of our own human will, however strong that will is. The good news is that we can

Walk habitually in the Holy Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16).

As young toddlers learning to walk we were glad to reach up a hand to grasp the hand of mum or dad who were firm on their feet. Elvis Presley sang, ‘Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water’. When we walk through each day habitually holding on to Jesus’ hand, then his gladness and his generosity will be as a ‘river of living water’ flowing through us in blessing to others.

                                                                     

                                            3  BREAKING OF BREAD

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:46)

 Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19)

 The first Christians broke bread so gladly, not only because Jesus had commanded them to do so, but because they wanted to remember all that Jesus had done for them through giving his body to be broken on the cross for their salvation. This act of remembrance in turn inspired them to acts of costly love that led to the salvation of many others.

 To begin with they didn’t share in formal services of Holy Communion as we do, but

whenever they shared meals at home, as they had always done as Jews in remembrance of their deliverance from slavery (the Passover) now, as Jewish Christians, they remembered with great thanks their deliverance from sin through Jesus.

 Gladly remembering Jesus’ gift of salvation to us can be not only a Holy Habit of sharing Holy Communion in church but also of any shared meal in a home. Saying ‘Grace’ at meal times can be not only an important way of giving thanks to God for our physical food, but also a way of remembering all that Jesus has done for us as symbolised in the breaking of bread at Holy Communion.

They devoted themselves to... prayer. (Acts 2:42)

                                                           4   PRAYER

They devoted themselves to... prayer. (Acts 2:42)
Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
the Christian’s native air.

Those hymn lines say that prayer is as vital to our spiritual life as breathing is to our physical life. How true, but I am thankful that I do not need to develop a conscious habit of breathing and that my body does it for me! Not so with prayer. I have to decide to believe in God and decide to relate to him through prayer. I must make an effort for prayer to become a Holy Habit in my life until it is as natural and spontaneous as breathing.

I find it easier to read one of the many books about prayer than to actually pray. I have so many other distractions. I am so busy. (How important I must be!) Yet when, many years ago, I was falling in love with my wife to be, I found it so easy to make time to meet her as often as possible! It was love that made the creation of a habit so easy, a habit we call  marriage!

 A prayer:  Dear Lord, help me to fall head over heels in love with you!

 

5 SERVICE

 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (Acts 2:44,45)

 In his book ‘Holy Habits’ Andrew Roberts has this poem written by Jaydine after she had encountered Jesus through the service of Christian Pastors on the streets at 3 a.m. on a cold November night:

Someone to watch over me
Ow my ears they hurt ‘coz the beats too loud.
Know I’ve drunk too much, inside I’m not too proud.
Lungs can ‘ardly breathe, feel like a tub of lard.
No one sees I’m scared, I’m really not that hard.
Head’s spinnin’ round and round, my heart it’s thumpin’ fast.
Whatevah’s goin’ down I’m hopin’ it won’t last.
Everythin’s a blur, don’t really wanna stay
to be wiv what occurs, just need to run away.
Want me mum to hold so my world won’t crash;
want me dad to hold when I’m smoking hash.
My God, it’s freezin’ out, how will I make it home?
Who will take my hand, see that I’m all alone?
Then I saw your face glowin’ angel bright,
offerin’ tea and warmth in the dead of night.
You held my eyes, touched my feet with love,
wrapped me from the cold so I wouldn’t feel so rough.
Then I looked again, saw a mother’s smile,
saw my father’s pride, not his backhanded bile.
I never thought that I would ever see
someone care enough to watch over me.

 Jesus said, ‘Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

 

                                      6  WORSHIP

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts’ (Acts 2:46).

As Jews they continued to worship in the temple but now ‘in the name of Jesus’ so their worship was so much richer than before. Our greatest privilege is to be able to worship God in the name of Jesus at any time and in any place. Worship should be a Holy Habit that is not confined to one or two hours in a church building every Sunday. To worship God is to allow God to be at the centre of everything we do.

Archbishop William Temple wrote that  “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” Wow! Isn’t that a Holy Habit worth developing? But how?

 Brother Lawrence was a 17th century monk who wrote a Christian classic called “Practising the Presence of God”. As a humble cook in the monastery kitchen he wrote, “It isn’t necessary that we stay in church in order to remain in God’s presence. We can make our hearts personal chapels where we can enter anytime to talk to God privately.” We can let our hearts be a personal chapel at the kitchen sink, as we drive our car, when we are shopping, when we go to sleep or are awake.

 

                                       7  MAKING MORE DISCIPLES

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)

Jesus last words to his disciples were, ‘Go, and make disciples of all the nations’. When we receive very good news it is natural to want to share it. The first Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, found that sharing the good news of Jesus was the most natural and indeed supernatural thing to do. It was a Holy Habit and, as a result the Church spread rapidly to every corner of the Roman Empire.

Today, when much of the western Church is in numerical decline, this Holy Habit is especially important. However, it comes with a health warning. In our concern to reverse this decline it is easy to become preoccupied with ‘getting people to come to church’. That was not the motive that inspired the growth of the early Church. It was LOVE, God’s own Spirit-empowered compassion, that drove them out to every corner of the known world. God’s love and compassion have not changed, nor has his way of making more disciples.

God of the poor
Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame

Dear Lord, please help us to make this our Holy Habit

                                                   8  EATING TOGETHER

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:46)

We already know how enjoyable it is to eat together with friends, so maybe it is not surprising that one web site lists 264 restaurants in Bath! Of course, the cost of eating out does not encourage us to make this a regular habit. But eating at home with family and invited guests features large in the gospels. In Luke’s gospel there are sixty references to food and drink and ten occasions in which Jesus is sharing a meal.

 The common Jewish practice of sharing meals at home with invited guests was not only because it was enjoyable, but because it expressed God’s promise of a heavenly feast when his kingdom finally comes. Jesus stressed that this feast would be for all people when, as an invited guest at a meal he said, ‘Blessed is everyone who will feast in the kingdom of God… Go out to the highways and country roads and urge people to come in, so that my house will be filled.’ (Luke 14:15, 23). Sharing a meal, especially with those lacking in food and friendship, is a Holy Habit that Jesus encourages us to embrace as an expression of his coming kingdom.

 

                                                          GIVING

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (Acts 2:44,45)

I have quoted these words earlier as an amazing expression of the Holy Habit of ‘Fellowship’. We do not need to take this early practice as a call to ‘live by faith’. Probably the first Christians maintained sources of income that sustained them and supported their Christian mission to the world.

I once asked a university student who had recently become a Christian what he was studying. He replied ‘Business Studies’. I asked him ‘Why?’. He replied, ‘I want to become rich’, the last reply I had expected! Trying not to sound judgmental I asked him why he wanted to become rich. He replied, ‘So I can share my wealth with others in need’.

Here was a young man who had just become deeply aware of how much God loved him. Now he wanted to use his privileged education to make God’s love real to others through generous giving.

St. Paul wrote: ‘God loves a cheerful giver’, and if we love God then we will give cheerfully. Once again a Holy Habit is an expression of our love for God as well as our love for the person to whom we are giving, be it our treasure, our time, or our talents.

 

                                        10  BIBLICAL TEACHING

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42)

The apostle’s taught the first Christian believers what Jesus said and did during his ministry. Your bible is a written record of this teaching, but it can be so much more. When we make bible reading our Holy Habit that written record becomes an encounter with our living, loving God.

Break thou the bread of life,
O Lord, to me,
as thou didst break the loaves
beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page
I seek thee, Lord;
my spirit longs for thee,
O living Word!

If we are to experience this life-giving presence and power of Jesus then growing a Holy Habit of bible reading is essential, ideally every day, just as essential as the daily eating of food is for our physical health and growth. Indeed, regular feeding on the Bread of Life is essential for our eternal life.

                                         11 FELLOWSHIP

‘They devoted themselves to...fellowship’ (Acts 2:42)

Look back at the bible passage on the first page. How many times does the word ‘fellowship’ and ‘together’ come in Acts 2:42-47?

Did you see one mention of ‘fellowship’ and three of together’?  Fellowship and togetherness is what we experience when we worship together, study together, serve together, eat together, pray together, play together. In the first Christian community fellowship was expressed in an amazing way - All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need’. (Acts 2:44,45) This was God’s own Welfare State of caring and sharing, inspired by the same compassion for all people that Jesus had shown.

John Wesley demonstrated the same compassion for those of his day who lacked the support of a Welfare State. Furthermore he kindled that same flame of compassion amongst his new converts by gathering them into small fellowship groups to read the bible, to pray for each other, and to get to know each other at a depth of love which could not be experienced in isolation. Today home groups are the successor of those first ‘Class meetings’. The Holy Habit of belonging to such a group is a great blessing. If you are not already in a home group this could be arranged, including transport. Why not start one in your own home, just one or two friends to begin with? You could receive help to do this.

                                                                                                                                     Prepared by Revd Ray Lansley for Weston Methodist Church: May 2018                                                                                                                                        


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     


 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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