Thoughts From Toby

Several years ago, I had the privilege of watching a Harding University graduate, who I had
classes with and was acquainted with personally, play in the Super Bowl. It was 2008, when
the Giants defeated the Patriots. I watched the game with a group of friends, and we began
with a little friendly competition. Everybody selected who they thought would win and
submitted their guess at the final score, and whoever was closest was to win a prize. This was
the season that the Patriots had finished undefeated in the regular season, and had blown
through their opponents on their way to the Super Bowl. Needless to say, the Patriots were
highly favored to win. However, because of my acquaintance with my former classmate, I
selected the Giants to win. When the Giants somehow defeated the Patriots, my friends and I
took a look at all of our choices, and I was the only one who picked the Giants! Now… I know
it’s a bit of a stretch, and the metaphor falls apart quickly, but isn’t it almost counterintuitive
to choose a life of faith in our world today? Isn’t it, in many respects, going against the grain
of society? Yet the promise is that there is an unimaginable prize for those who endure. May
we learn to press on, despite the forces that seek to defeat us, as we come to realize that God
is faithful, and no force in all creation is strong enough to defeat him.

Thoughts From Toby

A new year is always a time of great excitement, but also brings with it a period of immense frustration. I’m talking about that period of time it takes to get used to writing “19” when you write out the date. If you’re like me, it probably takes you a couple weeks of accidentally writing “18” and trying your best to turn that 8 into a 9 before you get the hang of it. Who can blame us? We just spent 11 ½ months writing “18” over and over again (the other ½ was spent changing “17” to “18”).

For me, this is a striking reminder of the power of habit. We are, as they say, creatures of habit, and when something becomes habitual, it is difficult to change. I think this is part of the power in our weekly worship gatherings. While it is possible for habitual practices to become rote and meaningless, especially if we mindlessly repeat them (like writing the date), they also have the potential to bring about immense spiritual growth. Placing ourselves in a posture of devotion to God week by week (and day by day) allows God to shape us in powerful ways. May all of us, in this new year, seek to grow in our habitual devotion to God, being mindful of

the transformation that can occur through such devotion.