A few months ago we had to replace the toner in the church’s copier. We had coaxed the old one just as far as it would go. In fact, the printing on the last batch of bulletins was pretty light and there were a lot of streaks. Not pretty, but it got us through until the toner cartridge was replaced.

The following Sunday someone was trying to make some copies but the copy quality was very poor. The page was filled with nothing but light printing with lots of streaks, just like the bulletins form the previous Sunday.

Thinking it was the toner, I took it out and gave it a good shaking to get the toner all mixed and ready to work. I reinstalled the toner and gave it another try — only to get the same miserable results. After a little head scratching, I decided to look at what we were coping. The problem was that we were using one of the poor quality bulletins from the previous week. So we were in fact getting very good copies of a very poor original.

Thinking about that I was reminded of something someone told me when I was first learning to play golf. I would spend hours hitting ball after ball at a series of simulated greens at the driving range. I mentioned that practice makes perfect, but apparently not very fast. An instructor corrected me saying that perfect practice makes perfect.

It seems that if we practice doing the wrong things or doing the right thing wrong all that happens is we get much better and doing the wrong things. We see an example of that in Luke 18:10-14

”Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men— robbers, evildoers, adulterers— or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (NIV)

The Pharisee was very good at praying. He knew all the right words to say and was very comfortable in the temple. The problem was that instead of thanking God, or seeking God’s guidance and forgiveness, his prayers were all about bragging to God about how good he was. I am not like these others… I fast twice a week… I give a tenth of all I get…

So as you go through each day I invite you to pause from time to time and think about which example you are copying. Through the things you say and do are you just making copies of bad examples or are you coping Christ’s example?

John R. Fowler is the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Prosper.