Posts Tagged ‘work in progress’

Irreplaceable Influence

October 30th, 2014

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”  Philippians 1:3 NIV.

Cultivate friends whose lives and faith encourage who you want to be.

My thoughts and comments today are about “irreplaceable influence.”

My friend, Don, told me of a conversation many years earlier when I had said to him, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” Though I do not remember saying those words, I trust that I did. I aspire for those words to accurately reflect my gratefulness to God and appreciation for my family and friends whose love and lives have made me want to be better than I would otherwise have been. Anything noteworthy is owed to others’ kindness and God’s mercy; my faults and foibles are mine alone.

There are no such “self-made men or women,” and if there were they would have little of which to boast. “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 NLT. Along the path of my life, people made a difference in who I am still becoming. People invested in my life, as well as our marriage, family, and ministry. Often selflessly and sacrificially, friends shared irreplaceable time, priceless experience, practical counsel, needed correction, and patient forgiveness. Such friends are above price, God’s gifts, for whom I realize how important they have been, and continue to be. Some people are alongside for a season of life, others for a lifetime, but all are irreplaceable in the process of God’s work in your life. As is true of all of us, I remain a work in progress.

Families provide a legacy. From most of mine, I learned how to live; from a rare few, I learned how not to live. My grandparents had much to do with shaping my earliest years. Looking back, I learned the privilege and priority of family from them and the security of being loved and willed to succeed. My parents taught me about my Christian faith by their Godly example; the consistency of their lives confirmed their words. Still today, my convictions and choices are influenced by my Mom’s songs and my Dad’s sermons. My wife has modeled caring and selflessness that challenges my desire to be more than I have been. Our children and grandchildren enrich our home and family every day by sharing our values, passions, and service to God.

Teachers contributed to who I am becoming. A fourth grade teacher taught me a love for language and learning; a Sunday School teacher invited me to know and love Jesus; a college professor changed my life through his friendship and counsel; a minister’s diligence and loyalty to the Word of God created my passion to know and share truth faithfully; friends became mentors giving Godly counsel. The example and personal availability of so many spared me from the mistakes I would have made and unwise paths I might have taken. Others’ unshakable belief gave me the courage to venture further than I would have dared without their company.

In the three congregations we have served, Church families made ministry a lifelong joy. People have been as gracious as God has been generous. Our marriage and children are blessed with the kindness of those we served, as well as those who partnered in ministry alongside us. All have made our journey more safe and satisfying than would have been otherwise, and Gayle and I are grateful to God and you.

Life apart from good and Godly friends is unimaginable. Indelible impressions formed my habits and heart. Our years have been graced by a quality of valued friendships I could never have anticipated. Now, across a lifetime of years our friendships are counted as Gayle’s and my greatest treasure. Walking without such pleasant company and invaluable encouragement is unthinkable. God planned that from the beginning.

With intentionality, cultivate people whose lives and faith encourage who you want to be and to what you are called to do. Such friends bring to mind Paul’s words, “I thank my God every time I remember you . .  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be . . filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:3-11 NIV. To a company of people, I gratefully say, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” By the grace of God, I hope to be that kind of person to others.

Today, my prayer for you is to develop friendships whose influence you find irreplaceable.

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An Original

September 28th, 2012

“[God] fashions their hearts individually.” Psalm 33:15 NKJV

Pressures can conform you into something other than your God-given uniqueness.

My thoughts and comments today are about “an original.”

I find the endless creativity of God amazing. “He created everything there is. Nothing exists that He didn’t make. Life itself was in Him, and this life gives light to everyone . . For everything comes form Him; everything exists by His power and is intended for His glory. To Him be glory evermore. Amen.” John 1:3-4/Romans 11:36 NLT. Of all the people who have lived before you and all who live alongside you, there are no two identical fingerprints. The structure of each and every snowflake is unique to itself. And who but the Creator of all could imagine the limitless possibilities or create the variety of plants, or the species of insects and animals? The things the most creative people make are mere discoveries of what God has created, or adaptations and improvements of what has been made.

Very little is truly original; but you are an original – fashioned by God, made in His image, gifted for achievement, and destined for purpose. There is no one exactly like you, before or after you. Why then would you be willing to be a cheap copy of anyone else? In life, as in art, a copy however masterfully reproduced is of lesser value to the original. You sell yourself short and discredit the One who lovingly made you when you fail to identify and celebrate your originality. The Psalmist marveled at the creativity of God with these words, “The Lord looks from Heaven . . He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.” Psalm 33:13-15 NKJV.

Read again those words, “[God] fashions their hearts individually.” God doesn’t deal with people en masse – neither by ethnicity, nationality, religion, nor by associations or family. You stand individually made by God and personally responsible to God. Your heart, in its original purity, is fashioned by God personally. The practical application is this: God will work in your heart in ways unique to how He fashioned you to be. God may speak into your heart differently than He makes Himself known to others. God’s way of relating to you will be suited to the personality and temperament that He gave you.

I think Paul’s instruction is relevant, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2 NIV. Internal and external pressures can conform you into something other than the uniqueness with which God endowed you. Maybe you don’t wish to be different, but neither should you default by conforming to others’ opinions or expectations.

By His original design and continuing intent, God is working in your life transformatively, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose . . predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son . .” Romans 8:28-29 NIV. You are an original, yet all of us remain a work in progress, a work of His hands He is faithful to complete. “God, who calls you, is faithful; He will do this.” Read 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NLT. See 1 John 3:1-3 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you become only and all that God created you to be.

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A Work in Progress

June 24th, 2011

“But Christ gave Himself . . one sacrifice for all time.” Hebrews 10:12 Living Bible.

“The best of us definitely remains a work in progress.”

My thoughts today are about “a work in progress.”

Have you noticed how hard it is for people to forget what you’ve done, and how you have been? That may not still be true of you now but what you were seems to be what people always remember. A bad reputation is too easily gained and difficult to be changed sometimes. Being your best is so important at all times, however young or old you may presently be.

People know you the way you were; they can’t see inside or know your heart. But God sees inside your heart and knows the depths of one’s soul. The Bible reminds us that “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” See 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV. God knows who you already are in Christ, and foresees who you are becoming in grace, and knows who you have always been in His heart. Admittedly, even the best of us definitely remains a work in progress. Here’s the good news: “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV. God is still working in you, and the best is yet to be. While you and others were looking at your past, God was planning for your future – and it’s glorious!

Read these words slowly, thinking over every word.  I have taken the liberty to personalize it directly to you. “Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose (you) to be His very own through what Christ would do for (you); He decided then to make (you) holy in His eyes, without a single fault – (you) stand before Him covered with His love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt (you) into His own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for (you).” Read Eph 1:4-8 TLB.

And before you can even ask why, Paul answers your incredulous disbelief: “And He did this because He wanted to!” Enough said! And God decided all of that before the world was made, and before you were even born! What God did is not about you, nor who you are or aren’t, or what you’ve done or failed to do; what God did is all about God and who He is – abounding in grace, love, and mercy.

“But Christ gave Himself . . one sacrifice for all time . . for by that one offering, He made forever perfect in the sight of God all those whom He is making holy.” Hebrews 10:12/14 Living Bible. A friend of mine asked the question, “What can you do with a God like that? You love Him and give your life to Him!” How could it be hard to love and trust a God like that? See 2 Corinthians 5:15 TLB.

Don’t feel badly at others who can’t always see past your past. You probably have struggled with doing that yourself. Your own insecurity and self-doubts are what makes criticism so painful from family or friends. “So stop evaluating Christians . .  by what they seem to be on the outside . . when (you became) a Christian, (you became) a brand new person inside. (You) are not the same anymore. A new life has begun!” Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-18 TLB.

Remember that less than good reputation, which is so easy to acquire? Paul wrote this, “Jesus made Himself of no reputation.” Philippians 2:7 NKJV. I think that was for the purpose of taking upon Himself your reputation and mine, and giving us His! What can you do with a God like that?

My prayer for you today is that you love Him and live for Him all of your life.

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A Wonderful Work in Progress

August 20th, 2009

“We cannot even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns.” 1 John 3:2 NLT

“Measure what you are alongside what you are meant to become.”

My thoughts today are about a “wonderful work in progress.”

Do you ever worry about what you are right now, or more likely, worry about what you are not? At any given moment, I am not sure that many of us are ever fully pleased with what we are, or content with what we have done thus far in our lives. I think maybe that push forward is a part of God’s divine design. A danger anyone of us might risk is to become so preoccupied with what you are today, that you may forget how much more you still have the potential to become.

I have found a strange paradox about successful living: you must learn to live fully in the constraints of the current moment’s reality while maintaining a faith-filled anticipation of a greater reality still to be seen. The Bible warns of the trap of unwise comparisons with others in these words, “They are only comparing themselves with each other, and measuring themselves by themselves. What foolishness!” 2 Corinthians 10:12 NLT.

Don’t compare yourself with others, for that is rarely profitable. If another is presently exceeding your achievement you may become disheartened and quit trying, while if you are excelling you risk becoming proud, self-satisfied and no longer productive. You will not yet have arrived until the Savior greets you with His “well done!” Measure what you are alongside what you are meant to become. Paul’s advice is this, “Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” Galatians 6:4 NLT.

In watching our six grandchildren of ages 10 through 21, I have observed that few people grow or mature at the same pace as anyone else. Your journey is distinct from others’. That seems to be as it should be. You should be cautious of judging your progress, or that of others, prematurely. You, like every other one of us, are decidedly a work in progress, albeit a wonderful work of the Lord’s doing. You may appear to have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but your God will bring you all the way. Here’s how you can know that, “And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.” Philippians 1:6 NLT.

Our son, Bruce, is a master builder and craftsman, presently building a new church facility nearby. I drive by and see what it is now, unfinished and unattractive while under construction. Ah, but he envisions what it will be when finished. He has seen the plans and knows the design. He sees not only what it is but also what it will be when he’s finished. God looks at you and your life that way – and I think He is excited with the possibilities.

The purpose of God for your life will always contain the dynamic tension of the now and not yet – and both can be unbelievably wonderful and fulfilling. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God . . dear friends, now we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:1-3 NIV. That eternal reality will be gloriously beyond anything you imagine.

My prayer for you today is: remember, God is pleased with you now and knows what you can yet become.

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