"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
November 2, 2016
The definition of a custom is: a traditional and widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place, or time; a thing that one does habitually.
Jon and I have had the privilege of traveling internationally together a couple of times; once to Singapore, and later to Germany. On these trips, we discovered that in each country, things were done very differently than they are here in the United States. We were in each of these locations for three weeks, so had a chance to soak up some of their culture and discover a little bit about their way of doing things.
Honestly, we found some of their customs very refreshing and less stressful than what we experience here at home; then there were some that were very, very different from what we are accustomed to!
Singapore has 5.5 million people living on an island that is 276 square miles; that's about half the size of Los Angeles, CA. It is known as the "Garden Island", so is beautifully landscaped. It is exceptionally clean, with no graffiti or trash anywhere. Yes, chewing gum is banned in Singapore. There are heavy fines for littering. Only the wealthy can afford to own vehicles; with most people either walking or depending on public transportation (subway, bus, taxi). Singapore boasts that it's very diverse culture, but it is also very segregated. There is an particular area known as "Little India" and another known as "Chinatown"; as well as other sectors. It is very obvious when you enter and leave each of these different areas. There are restaurants in Singapore; but there are huge areas all over the island with food hawker booths set up. We saw monkeys in the trees or along the sidewalks when we were out and about (not in the busy city, but when we got outside of the city). Women's size of clothing only went up to maybe a large or x-large, which in US sizes would be maybe a small or medium.... and that is no joke. Their largest ladies shoes is maybe a size 7. The men are shorter and slighter built than Jon. When he worked on the ship there, he had to duck down to avoid hitting his head on overhead pipes and beams.
When we visited Germany, we also found their culture very different. One of the first noticeable things that struck us was the taxi ride from Hanover, where the airport was, to Celle, where we stayed. I was sitting where I could see the speedometer and whispered to Jon and asked what a certain kilometer of speed was; and he told me that we were going over 100 MPH! When we checked into our hotel we saw that they didn't have a ice machine and no snack or drink vending machines, but there was a cigarette vending machine. Drinking beer with meals in Germany is much like drinking soda pop here. There was no sweet tea. When we ordered Coke with our meals, it was never served with ice -- ever. In fact, none of our drinks were ever served with ice. The beer mugs were about twice as large as the glasses for non-alcoholic beverages. The food seemed to be freshly cooked after we ordered, so there was no such thing as a fast meal. Meals there were a time of socialization and relaxation -- not something to be hurried through, but to be enjoyed. In the town where we stayed, there was a farmers' market twice a week where people came to buy their fresh produce, eggs, meat, etc. Those who lived in the area would ride bicycles, with a little basket on front to haul things in. Germany has an excellent train system, which many people seem to use, instead of driving themselves.
I could go on and on about various things we observed in both Singapore and Germany; but my point is, their way of life and their customs were much different from ours. I'm sure people visiting the US from other countries feel the same.
Not only are customs and traditions noticeable for different countries, but is something that can be very different in families, too.
In my family, we always opened our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve night; in Jon's family, they always opened them on Christmas morning. I think that my family's tradition is right, and Jon thinks that his family's tradition is right! We've had this discussion every year leading up to Christmas for the past eleven years of marriage. That's our tradition.
Growing up, church was of vital importance to our family. We were there every time the doors were open.... Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and every night during a revival. There was never a question of whether or not we were going to church; we knew that if there was church going on, then we would be there. It never even entered my mind to ask my parents to stay home. It was our custom to always be faithful to church.
My family gathered in the living room each night before bed-time for family prayer. We would all get on our knees and have a personal time of praying. It wasn't Mama or Daddy praying aloud, while my sisters and I listened, but we all participated. This was our custom.
We didn't have a TV when I was growing up. We did a lot together as a family, and generally all sat together in the living room in the evenings that we were home; we usually didn't hang out alone in our bedrooms -- probably because we had to share bedrooms and none of us had a room by ourself. We took family drives together on Sunday afternoons. My sisters didn't mind me hanging out with them and going places with them, even though they were older than I was. We ate together at the table for supper each evening.
I thought that our family was perfectly normal and that all families were like ours, until I grew up and found out differently. We had our customs, just as other families had their own customs and way of doing things.
In scripture, we find that Jesus had customs while He was here on earth. There were things that He did habitually and it became accepted and expected by others.
Luke 4:16: "When He came to the village of Nazareth, His boyhood home, He went as usual [some versions read, 'as was His custom'] to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures."
Mark 10:1: "Then Jesus left Capernaum and went down to the region of Judea and into the area east of the Jordan River. Once again crowds gathered around Him, and as usual [according to His custom] He was teaching them."
It was Jesus' custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath. I believe that this is what He grew up doing while living in His earthly home with Joseph and Mary. They raised him to be faithful to attend church on the Sabbath; and this was something that He continued doing during His three years of ministry. I don't believe that on Jesus' 30th birthday, He suddenly had this moment of insight and thought, "Oh... I'm the Messiah... I need to start attending synagogue and learn the scripture and pray to my Heavenly Father! It's time for my ministry to begin, so I need to start being faithful to doing what's right and learning the scripture and attending church!" Mary and Joseph raised Him to know the scriptures... they raised Him to attend synagogue... they not only taught Him, but were an example to this son of theirs. Even though Jesus was the Son of God, Mary and Joseph raised Him as their son and taught Him, just as they did their other children.
Not only was it Jesus' custom to go to synagogue on the Sabbath, but He also read the scriptures aloud and taught the people wherever He went.... as usual. It became expected that when Jesus showed up, He would teach and read the scriptures to the people. When Jesus came to town, the people would flock to where He was, knowing that it was His custom, His habit, to teach. They knew that they could count on Him.
Luke 22:39-40: "Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual [as was His custom] to the Mount of Olives. There He told them, 'Pray that you will not give in to temptation.'"
From this scripture, it seems as if it were the custom, or habit, of Jesus to go to the Mount of Olives to pray. The night prior to His crucifixion wasn't the first time that He did so. After having the last supper with His disciples, Jesus and His disciples went there once again, for the last time, to pray. Scripture says that as usual, or as was His custom, this is what Jesus did that night. It would be easy to think, "If Jesus was the Messiah, why would there even be a need for Him to pray?!" But during those thirty-three years that Jesus was on earth, He was here in human flesh just like us. In fact, during His time of prayer that night prior to being crucified, He fell to the ground and prayed, "My Father! If is is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine!" (Matthew 26:39)
John 14:10 say, "The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does His work through me." Jesus was in constant communication with His Father, in order to allow God to speak through Him.
During Paul's ministry, he also had to custom to faithfully attend synagogue on the Sabbath. He traveled and preached from town to town, but also made it a habit to go to church.
Acts 17:2: "As was Paul's custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people."
Hmm.... Jesus was faithful to attend synagogue (church) on the Sabbath; Paul was faithful to make attending synagogue (church) on the Sabbath; and both made this their known custom. One of the ten commandments is: "Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." (Exodus 20:8) There's an old Puritan saying, "Good Sabbaths make good Christians."
It's more than just church attendance once a week, but it's giving yourself a day of rest from the hectic work week. It's taking a day and giving your time to honor God and worship Him.
Hebrews 10:25 says, "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do; but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near."
There seems to be the mindset in our society that says, "Why do I need to go to church? I can pray at home! I can be a good person without sitting through a sermon once a week. I can read my Bible when I'm by myself." This scripture puts it all in perspective: We are to not neglect meeting together with other believers, because we need our brothers and sisters in Christ as the day of the return of Jesus draws near and times become more difficult, so that we can encourage one another in our faith and walk with the Lord.
Ecclesiastes 4:10-12 goes a little deeper into explaining why this is of vital importance. "If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."
It may not be impossible to keep your faith in God alive, when trying to do it alone without a church or fellowship with other believers; but it will be much easier when you have the support and encouragement of Christians. When you're feeling tempted or are going through a difficult time or feel alone or feel like giving up or are facing a crisis...... you have others who can pray with and for you. You have others who can say, "I've been through similar circumstances and I know it's tough, but I made it through, and so can you!" You align yourself with others who are walking the same path, have the same focus, and who will encourage you and pray for you when you feel tempted to sin or make ungodly choice -- not sit by your side and make those same bad choices, while justifying why it's okay to do so. It's like that triple-braided cord that's not easily broken. You're not going to be as apt to stumble and stay down or give up, when you have other believers by your side.
We each have personal customs -- habits -- that we are known for. Perhaps we need to take some time and reflect on that, asking ourselves if those are things that we are proud of and are what we want to be known for; or if it's something that we're actually a little ashamed of and wish we could change. When family and friends and co-workers and acquaintances look at our lives and say, "It's Loretta's habit to ........" or "It's Jon's custom to ......." or "It's (insert your name) habit or custom to ......."; is it something that we can hold our head up and know that they are saying it out of respect? Is it something that we'd rather not be known for? Is it something that we want our family and friends to remember us for when we're gone from this life?
It's not too late to change, if changes need to be made! Today is the day to make the decision to get out of those bad habits, those customs, that weigh us down, or make us feel ashamed, or that just plain ol' isn't a good example to our kids, grandkids, siblings, or the people we hang out with. Ask God to help you make the necessary changes and steps towards developing those customs that He wants you to have! It may take more than one time of asking God for help.... sometimes I have to ask Him over and over again throughout the day, until that time finally comes when I know that I'm on the right path, doing the right thing. Let's make sure that we have godly customs in our lives!!
Habits can also be in our thinking. This can mean a lot of things, but an example that comes to mind is our language. Many adults in our culture use profanity as a habit. They may just think unhealthy words to themselves most of the time, but when they smack a finger with a hammer, or lock their keys in their car, or realize they left the baby's bottle on top of the car when they drove off, they tend to let it slip out. Most of the time, it might not be any real harm. Unless it is in front of their two-year-old who starts repeating it at daycare.
We can do the same thing with sins. We might think to ourselves that we would never do it. But if we think about it often, we can let it slip out. So, guard your thoughts, and the habits you form in your thoughts, too.
Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Chops
4 pork chops
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and all the spices until well mixed. Rub the mixture on both sides of the pork chops and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is nice and hot, place the pork chops in the pan and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until they are cooked all the way through.
This week leading up to the election of a new president, I encourage you all to spend time in prayer for our nation! Pray that God would place the right person in this position of leadership, whether we understand or like who it may be; and pray for the salvation of our new president. Pray that all the strife and hatred and racism and fighting and back-biting would be healed, and that there will be an outbreak of revival across our land. Pray that the hearts of the people will be turned back to God. Just pray!
We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense.
We pray when there's nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all. - Oswald Chambers
We love you!
Loretta & Jon