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Archive for the ‘Success’ Category

 

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Between the putrid odors and stale air below decks, Francis Asbury chose to spend most of his time on the top deck, often taking his journal and pencils with him. The rolling of the ship caused unsteady handwriting, but recording his thoughts passed the time and focused his heart on what lay ahead.

Twenty-six year old Francis had left home in England, September 4,1771, at the invitation of John Wesley, the great Methodist evangelist. The growing colonies in America needed ministers, and Francis accepted the challenge. Nine years of experience in the pulpit had prepared him for the preaching; what else might be required only God knew.

 

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Francis put pencil to page. “Whither am I going? To the New World. What to do? To gain honor? No, if I know my own heart. To get money? No, I am going to live to God and to bring others to do so.”

Upon his arrival in America, Francis soon discovered colonial life was drastically different from that of England. Centuries of development and culture in Britain had created a civilized society. America was rough and raw by comparison, although the towns exhibited more refinement than outlying settlements.

 

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(Asbury disembarked at Philadelphia, home of Independence Hall.)

 

To make his home in one of these towns must have crossed his mind, but Francis was compelled to take his message of hope and peace to the villages and pioneers. He began twenty miles outside of New York in Westchester, and then visited other small hamlets as well. Soon he developed a “preaching circuit.” Other Methodist ministers followed his example. These circuit riders were so willing to travel in all sorts of weather, a saying became popularized: “Nobody out today but the crows and the Methodists.”

In 1775, several of his colleagues decided to return to England, as war between the colonies and Britain seemed imminent. But Francis chose to stay, impassioned as always to continue preaching about Jesus no matter the dangers.

Other perils included sickness, exposed as he was to inclement weather of all sorts. He preached numerous times with an ulcerated throat and high fever. Sometimes Francis was so weak, men would have to lift him onto his horse and tie him in the saddle. In later years, he resorted to a carriage due to rheumatism. Yet he preached on.

 

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(“Francis Asbury Preaching by Lamplight”

by Richard Douglas)

 

Francis also continued to journal about his experiences:

“Near midnight we stopped at A.’s…Our supper was tea…I lay along the floor on a few deerskins with the fleas. That night our poor horses got no corn, and next morning had to swim across the Monongahela.

“The gnats are almost as troublesome here as the mosquitoes in the lowlands of the seaboard. This country will require much work to make it tolerable” (West Virginia, July 10, 1788).

For 45 years Francis traveled throughout the colonies, from Georgia to Maine, and even into Canada. He covered an estimated 300,000 miles, delivered some 16,500 sermons, ordained nearly 700 preachers, and added well over 200,000 members to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

 

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Francis became so well-known, he received mail addressed simply, “Bishop Asbury, United States of America.”

Yet even as a bishop he earned only $80 per year, and that he mostly gave away. He also gave away the coats and shirts from his own back to anyone more destitute than himself.

On March 24, 1816, Francis Asbury preached his last sermon. He was seventy years old.

A week later, he finally succumbed to yet another bout of illness. The well-known bishop died penniless but “rich in souls” (Dan Graves), a tireless participant in the growth of Christian faith across the colonies that included the building of numerous churches and institutions of learning, impacting future generations to this day.

A little more than a century after his death, a statue of Asbury was erected in Washington, D.C. On October 15, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge gave the dedication address at the unveiling.

 

Monument to Francis Asbury in Washington, DC

Monument to Francis Asbury in Washington, DC

 

His commendations included:

“He never had any of the luxuries of this life. Even its absolute necessities he had a scanty share…yet his great spirit pressed on to the end, always toward the mark of his high calling.”

Though Asbury is not listed among the founding fathers, President Coolidge affirmed during his address: “He is entitled to rank as one of the builders of our nation.”

Truly, Francis Asbury could say with the apostle Paul, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation” (1 Corinthians 3:10 NASB). And Asbury’s example was as powerful as his preaching—his self-sacrifice, passion, and purpose recorded in his ship journal in 1771—a purpose from which he never wavered:

 

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“I am going to live to God and bring others to do so.”

 

*     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Oh, Lord, guide me to fulfill that same purpose! Keep me mindful that nothing else will provide such satisfaction and contentment as a life lived for you.

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.christianity.com, “Francis Asbury” by Dan Graves.
  2. http://www.christianitytoday.com.
  3. Seedbed Sower’s Almanac and Seed Catalog, Seedbed Publishing, 2015-2016.
  4. http://www.wesleycenter.nnu.edu.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.wallpaperbeautiful.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wikimediacommons; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.place.asburyseminary.edu; http://www.fggam.org; http://www.bibleteachingresources.org.)

 

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M.’s heart picked up its pace as her eyes took in the return address. Would this letter contain news to celebrate? It was her birthday—her fortieth. What could be more perfect than to receive the announcement she longed to read? M. tore open the envelope.

 

“Thank you for your recent manuscript submission. Regretfully

it does not coincide with our current publishing objectives…”

 

This was not the first rejection letter M. had received. In spite of early triumphs as an author, she had not written a successful book in a decade. This letter, on this day, brought tears to her eyes, and M. considered giving up.

“But I’m a writer,” she wrote in her journal. “That’s who I am, even if I’m never published again.”

M. began work on another book only to have it rejected nearly thirty times. Finally it sold. The book? A Wrinkle in Time, a beloved book of millions. And for it, Madeleine L’Engle was awarded the Newbery Medal for Children’s Literature in 1962 (1).

 

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Surely Mrs. L’Engle would be among those to tell us: Failure is a reality of everyone’s life. Even the most successful people have failed at one time or another.

But when we’re drowning in the despair of failure, we tend to forget its universality.

We also forget:

1. God always makes good use of failure—to develop maturity, wisdom, and humility. 

Think of Peter, who denied Jesus three times as his Messiah was being interrogated by the chief priests and Sanhedrin (Matthew 26). Yet Peter became the rock on which Christ built his church (Matthew 16:18).

 

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2.  Our failures may well be part of God’s bigger purpose.

General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate army during the Civil War, wrote this in 1869:

 

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(“We failed, but in the good providence of God

apparent failure often proves a blessing.”)

 

Even out of the horrific devastation of that war, God did bring blessing. Among them: The Red Cross was founded, a number of hospitals were established, and in the decades that followed, America rose from the ashes stronger than ever.

 

3,  The lack of results does not necessarily indicate failure.

 ‘Ever hear of Edward Kimball? I hadn’t—until recently. Edward once introduced a young shoe salesman to Jesus. That salesman grew in faith by leaps and bounds, and strongly desired that others know the One who changed his life so dramatically. The salsman’s name: Dwight L. Moody—evangelist extraordinaire and founder of Moody Bible Institute.

 

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By comparison to Moody’s stellar accomplishments and resulting fame within the Christian community, Mr. Kimball seems a nobody. But the ripple effect that still reaches around the world today through Moody (2) can be traced back to Kimball.

Most of us will never know the ripple effect emanating from our lives until we reach heaven. It’s probably just as well. What we don’t know can’t go to our heads.

 

4.  True success is not financial security, great respect from throngs of people, or high rank in the public arena.  “True success is growing intimacy with God” (3). 

My eyes are often distracted by the wrong prize.

 

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(“Our greatest fear should not be of  failure

but of succeeding at something

that doesn’t really matter.”

–D. L. Moody)

 

Failure is actually a blessing. God uses it to:

  • a) foster spiritual growth,
  • b) accomplish his purpose,
  • c) guide us into greater intimacy with him, and
  • d) redirect our focus.

Oh, God, help me to embrace failure and the blessed lessons it brings!

 

Notes:

(1) Information about Madeleine L’Engle from http://www.neh.gov.

(2) Thousands of graduates from Moody Bible Institute have served God as pastors, missionaries, and more over the 130 years since its founding in 1886. Millions more have been impacted by Moody Radio and Moody Publishing.

(3) J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 1973, p. 314.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.savannahnow.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.likesuccess.com; http://www.quotesgram.com.

 

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We’ve all heard the story of Joseph (or seen the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat). You’ll remember he’s the one who endured years of slavery and prison before his dreams (of bowing wheat sheaves and stars paying homage) came true.

We also know about Moses, an adopted prince in Pharaoh’s household who ended up in the wilderness herding sheep.  Forty years later God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.

And we’re familiar with Paul who spent years traveling from place to place and, yes, suffering all kinds of trials—beatings, imprisonment, dangers, shipwrecks—all for the privilege of serving God, introducing people to Jesus and establishing churches.

These Biblical stories and others teach us to never give up, because we never know when God will show up to turn a prisoner into a prime minister, a shepherd into a great leader, or a Pharisee tentmaker into a world evangelist.

Then there’s Jeremiah. His is a different kind of story altogether. He was called by God to warn the inhabitants of Judah that destruction would come if they did not return to God and follow his ways. It was not a one-time message. Over a period of forty years Jeremiah spoke many times of coming doom.

 

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Almost no one listened. (A brief revival took place under King Josiah, but when he died, the people returned to their complacency and evil ways.)

We love the stories of Joseph, Moses, Paul, and others, whose perseverance was rewarded with success. But what about Jeremiah?

He, too, persevered through trials–poverty and deprivation, imprisonment and ill-treatment, rejection and ridicule. For what? According to the evidence (minimal results for his efforts), Jeremiah was a wretched failure. Yet he had obeyed God faithfully, endured patiently, and preached courageously.

Perhaps visible evidence is not the best way to quantify success.

Instead, the true measure of success involves our characters, not our acquisitions (Joshua 1:8).

 

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The true measure of success may include the tenacity to get up every day and face the same tasks as yesterday, to persistently make choices that further God’s objectives for each of us, and to remain steadfast even when discouraged (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Last, a true measure of success is how our choices honor God (1 Kings 2:3). Jeremiah may not have turned thousands back to Yahweh, but that was not due to his lack of effort or disobedience to God. Jeremiah doggedly preached to the people of Judah—month after month, year after year.

So the true measure of success includes: 1) pursuing godly character, 2) persevering toward God-given purpose, and 3) making choices that honor him.

 

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Today, such successful people might look like:

  • The parent who has put his career on hold to invest time in his young children.
  • the business owner who drives a twelve-year old car so he can give generously to ministries.
  • The college student slowly working her way through school, anxious to return to her inner city neighborhood and teach school

For those of us looking for that kind of success, Jeremiah is our hero.

He lived out these precepts :

  • Do our prayerful best and leave the results with God.
  • Press on–day by day, month by month, year by year if necessary. Allow such perseverance to build our trust in God and strengthen our character.
  • Persist until God tells us to stop. (How do we know we’ve reached that moment? Peace, not uncertainty, will fill our spirits.)

We may not understand what God is doing, but we know him. And he is holy love and perfect wisdom.*

 

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*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, p. 129.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.christianquotes.info; http://www.pilgrimsrock.com.)

 

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My knowledge of boat parts is limited, but this much I know: throw an outboard motor in the water; it will sink. Throw a propeller in the water; it, too, will plunge to the bottom. So will seats, cleats, and other parts. But when they are assembled together on a strong hull, the boat floats.

Similarly, our lives are comprised of a variety of experiences: some heavy and hurtful, others light and joyful. When properly assembled as a whole, they create a life that floats, and one that’s headed on a course toward worthwhile purpose.

Proper assembly of negative as well as positive events requires the trait of resiliency—the ability to press on through setbacks again and again.

Do those words, press on, sound familiar? The great missionary-adventurer, Paul, said he pressed on toward the goal of becoming what God intended for him (Philippians 4:12-14).  Paul is a worthy case-study for resiliency.

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(The apostle Paul by Rembrandt)

 

He suffered plenty of hurt, disappointment, and failure. For example, Paul was:

  • stoned (Acts 14:19),
  • flogged and imprisoned (Acts 16:23),
  • unjustly charged with treason (Acts 18:13),
  • nearly killed on at least several occasions (Acts 21:30-31), and
  • rejected by many, even after brilliantly preaching about God and his Son, Jesus (Acts 17:16-34).

 

How do you bounce back from such defeats? Researchers have identified the following ways to cultivate resiliency:

 

  1. Get real.

No one sails through life problem-free. Accept the reality that troubles will come, then apply those strategies that provide relief, strategies such as: exercise and proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, laughter, and meaningful activity, including acts of kindness each day.

 

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  1. Get hope.

Be watchful for God’s blessings in spite of the circumstances, and thank him for his loving attention. Gratitude does indeed transform attitudes.

Find fresh strength in God’s Word, especially in his promises and assurance of his faithfulness to keep those promises (Romans 15:4; Psalm 145:13; 1 Corinthians 1:9).

We can ask God to help us set new, worthwhile goals, then look forward to the day when those goals will be met.

Researchers have noted that resilient people do not strive for riches, fame, power, or recognition. Instead they are focused on their legacies—what contributions their lives will make to those around them.  Hope in God—in all circumstances—is in itself an invaluable legacy.

 

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  1. Get in community with other Christians—not just by being present, but by actively participating.

Years ago while I was dealing with an ongoing disappointment, Sunday morning worship on the praise team and mid-week rehearsals did much to recharge my spirit. (Not that all was smooth sailing in between! I still struggled to stay on an even keel; but with God’s help I didn’t stop trying.)

In addition, when we contribute hope to others through listening and encouragement, we find our own outlook much improved.

 

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*           *          *

A boat that floats is not built by just lining up the various parts in the boatyard. It requires the hands and expertise of a master boat builder, to craft a skiff of beauty, function, and purpose.

 

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A satisfying, meaningful life cannot be achieved by mere acceptance of the various events in our lives. It requires the hands and expertise of the Master. He takes all of it—the delightful and the demoralizing—to craft a life of beauty, function, and purpose.

 

(The boat metaphor idea came from Ralph W. Sockman, author of The Higher Happiness (1950).

 

Art & photo credits:  www.inland-boats.com; http://www.slideplayer.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

 

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His record sounds like a tall tale.

He traveled 250,000 miles (that’s ten times around the globe at the equator) by horseback or on foot. All told, he preached 40,000 sermons. And by the end of his life, his followers included scores of people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean:

  • 71, 668 British members
  • 294 preachers in Britain
  • 43,265 American members
  • 198 preachers in America
  • 19 missionaries

But that’s not all. This giant of Christianity also wrote dozens of books.

This is no tall tale; it’s the life of John Wesley (1703-1791).

 

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(John Wesley)

Even into old age, John Wesley proclaimed the good news about Jesus and his gift of eternal life.

At age 83, he was still writing books, but very disappointed that after fifteen hours at his desk, his eyes would start to hurt.

At age 86, Wesley could still preach a rousing sermon, but sadly (to him) he only had stamina for two per day, not three as had been his standard for many years.

It also frustrated Wesley that he needed more rest as he aged. No longer did he wake up ready to seize the day at 4:00 a.m. In his latter years he had to sleep until 5:30.

The evidence seems clear: John Wesley lived every day of his life with purpose and passion—even into old age.

And undoubtedly he received great satisfaction and fulfillment from his choice to remain active and useful.

Like some men and women today, Wesley carried on into his golden years what he had been doing for decades. (I recently heard on the news about a one hundred-year old woman who is still teaching school. Like John Wesley though, she’s curtailed her schedule!)

Others of us explore new paths during our retirement years. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t begin her best-selling “Little House on the Prairie” series until age 64. The last book, These Happy Golden Years, she completed at age 76.

 

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(Laura Ingalls Wilder)

 

Wesley’s and Wilder’s examples (and those of countless others) prove:  It is possible to accomplish worthwhile endeavors even as we age.

If you’re young, you can look forward to new possibilities of successful, purposeful living for decades to come.

If you’re older as I am, we still can enjoy successful, purposeful living.

But for all of us, maintaining an attitude of faith and remaining involved with others is most important because:

Our influence on those around us offers opportunity for the most significant contribution.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank You, Father, that each chapter of my life has included purpose and blessing. Keep me mindful that my purpose includes living a legacy of influence. May love, faith, and integrity be the guiding principles for all my remaining days!      

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Benjamin Franklin was the thirteenth child of a humble soap-and-candle maker. Obviously, no family fortune provided him easy success in life. Neither did a stellar performance in school that would lead to scholarships. His formal education lasted all of two years, from ages eight to ten. Yet Ben became:

  • a respected publisher
  • the country’s first millionaire
  • a world-famous scientist
  • an influential voice as the thirteen colonies fought for independence and established a nation
  • a distinguished diplomat in Europe

No wonder Franklin was proclaimed a self-made man. But there are other factors, outside his control, that contributed to his success, including:

INTELLIGENCE

His varied accomplishments as writer, statesman, and diplomat prove his sharp intellect.

CHARACTER

Ben was  curious and skeptical–useful attributes for a scientist. His astuteness, sense of humor, and ability to communicate served him well as publisher of Poor Richard’s Almanac. And all of these traits came into play when Franklin participated in the forming of our nation.

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TEMPERAMENT

Surely Ben was an energetic and passionate individual. He was always in pursuit of something—things like:

  • Solving problems. Numerous inventions credited to Franklin grew out of need. For example, his desire to create more heat in his home led to his invention of the wood stove.
  • Acquiring new knowledge. Ben attempted his well-known key-and-kite experiment because of his curiosity about lightning.
  • Improving the lives of his fellow colonists. Franklin wrote, met with other delegates, sought the help of France, and more, in America’s struggle to gain independence from England. In 1789, at age 84, he was still writing and working. His cause? The abolition of slavery in America.

OPPORTUNITY

Franklin was often in the right place at the right time. One example: through his connections in the publishing industry of Philadelphia, Ben secured a contract to print the colony’s paper money.

Seems that Ben’s success had much to do with factors outside his control. These elements just mentioned–intelligence, character, temperament, and opportunity–came from God. In fact, for all of us, “Our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

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In reality, the idea of a self-made man/woman is myth. No one is truly self-sufficient.

On the other hand, God has ordained work and effort. From beginning to end, scripture proclaims the value of industry. In Genesis 2:15 we see God placing Adam in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul says, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

So how do we balance working with our God-given abilities and depending on God?

  1. Pray.  Thank God for the gifts he has given us.  Then prayerfully seek to determine what God is doing and cooperate with him. If we are earnest in this desire, he’ll make each step clear. As seminary professor, Howard Hendricks, used to say: God does not play hide-and-seek in the trees with his will.
  1. Nourish.  The effectiveness of our giftedness requires preparation and inspiration. Preparation includes study and practical experience. (Even a talented pianist must take lessons and practice.) Preparation includes nourishing the spirit, too, with study of scripture and practical experience of worship and service. Inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit as he works within us.
  1. Embrace.   Embrace the teaching of wise, godly leaders. Embrace the help of others. Keep in mind that self-sufficiency is not a praiseworthy quality; it’s a form of pride. The person who thinks he knows everything and needs no input, or who is too proud to ask for help, is someone to be pitied, not celebrated.

As dependents upon God, we are meant to work. As workers, we are meant to be dependent upon God.

And…

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(“The God of heaven will give us success”–Nehemiah 2:20)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, Father, for being my all-sufficient God, Someone I can trust completely for guidance, direction, and training. Help me find that balance between working for you and depending on you. May I not neglect preparation, but also look to you for inspiration.  And may I be a humble, grateful recipient of help.  Amen.  

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My first teaching job was in a small community southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. Although the school included first through sixth grades, there were only five teachers. Second grade was divided, some students included in first, the rest with third. I was assigned the first/second split.

The first morning of school went by quickly as we read stories, played a few learning games, and completed a class chart of favorite summer activities. Soon it was time to march to the cafeteria for lunch.

The children lined up to receive their plates of food, and then were instructed to pick up napkins, utensils, cartons of milk, and straws – all without benefit of trays. Little hands struggled to hold so many items–much less carry them all without accident. (And why were the first and second graders seated farthest from the serving line? I never had the nerve to ask.)

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So began my habit of standing at the end of the counter, wrapping utensils and a straw in a napkin, then perching a milk carton on an empty corner of the plate as the students passed by.

One second grader, Ricky, was much too manly to use a straw. Each day he would proclaim, “I don’t need no straw.”

Each day I would patiently correct him: “I don’t need a straw.” Ricky would repeat it again after me.  It almost became a joke between us, as the exchange occurred day after day, month after month.

One noontime in March, while focused on wrapping the next set of flatware, I heard Ricky’s voice proudly proclaim, “I DON’T NEED A STRAW!”

My eyes popped, Ricky’s twinkled, and his broad smile indicated his pleasure in remembering–all by himself–how to correctly form his request.

A quick hug, a few pats on the back, and an “I-am-so-PROUD-of-you!” let him know how I felt.

It never occurred to me to say, “Well, it’s about time, Bud! You DO realize we’ve repeated this little ceremony over one hundred times, don’t you?”

No. This was a moment to celebrate! Our perseverance had paid off. And perhaps this one little grammatical victory would prompt Ricky to conquer the next. I was thrilled.

Do you suppose that’s how God feels when our “practice makes perfect?”

When:

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  • Our quiet time with him finally becomes a near-daily habit?
  • We remember to express gratitude and praise to him throughout the day?
  • We’re able to think before we speak more consistently?
  • We forgo some purchase for pleasure in order to supply someone else with necessities?
  • We put aside our agenda to do a favor for someone else?

Yes, I believe God is thrilled with our steps of progress, just as I was with Ricky’s effort. If God withheld his pleasure until we reached perfection, we’d never experience even one good thing (Psalm 84:11). He’d always be in discipline-mode.

But Isaiah tells us: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (30:18).

David reminds us that out of his grace and compassion he guides our steps and takes delight when we follow his way (Psalm 37:23).

Another psalmist proclaimed that the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (147:11).   No mention of delight reserved only for those who are perfect.

Ah, but what about Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:48:   “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect?”

Yes, that is the standard, but God does not disapprove of us because we have not achieved that goal.   He knows perfection this side of heaven is impossible. What he does approve of is effort—to press on like Paul to “receive the heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14).

When we stumble, we keep going. When we fall, we get up and try again.

But listen closely.  You’ll hear God celebrating our progress (Zephaniah 3:17).

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*    *     *     *     *   *     *     *     *     *

We praise you, Heavenly Father, for being a gracious, compassionate God,

who is slow to become angry and always abounding in loving-kindness.

Even as we strive to be more like you,

we can rest in the knowledge that you will not condemn us

when we stumble and fall.

Thank you for your readiness to forgive and your everlasting love.  

Thank you for continually drawing us closer to you and your perfection. 

(Psalm 103:1-2, Romans 8:1; 1 John 1:9; Jeremiah 31:3).

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.grist.org; http://www.neabscobaptist.org; http://www.untilsheflies.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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