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Posts Tagged ‘Ephesians 2:10’

 

 

A number of years ago and for the span of a decade, I commuted a half hour each way to and from the school where I taught.

Needless to say I saw all kinds of drivers: the speed demons and poke-alongs, the weavers and squeezers, the distracted and multi-taskers—each one an accident waiting to happen, each one confident that he or she was not.

One day a young man on a motorcycle whizzed by, darting between vehicles left and right in search of the fastest lane. This was not in near standstill traffic; it was on a stretch of Florida Turnpike where the speed limit is seventy.

Oh, Lord, I thought. Talk about an accident waiting to happen. That boy has no idea the danger he’s creating for himself and everyone else in his path.

 

 

A few minutes later I reached my exit and gasped aloud. Lying in the grass in the middle of the cloverleaf turn-off was that young motorcyclist, far separated from his twisted bike.

A few people were already hunched over him, perhaps from the nearby tollbooth area. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw his leg move.

Every now and then that scene comes to mind. I imagine that young man as he straddled his cycle that morning, anxious to be on his way for another exhilarating trip of engine revving, speed, and clever maneuvering.

No doubt a trip to the hospital never even crossed his mind.

The young often do live in a fantasy world of invincibility. And those of us with a bit more life-experience shake our heads at their carelessness.

But fast-lane living isn’t the singular domain of speeders and teenage boys on motorcycles.

Even a retired schoolteacher like me can forget: life is fragile.

 

 

Not that I drive recklessly or take foolish chances.

But I am very capable of rushing through a to-do list and missing an opportunity to provide joy in someone else’s life. I can breeze right past the blessings-of-the-moment because I’m focused on something down the road.

I can even forget the values I hold dear, including attentiveness to God and loving compassion for others.

It is downright foolish of me to live in a fantasy of invincibility, as if there will always be plenty of tomorrows for attentiveness and compassion, while cruising along in the fast lane of frenzied activity.

Instead, I’d rather cup my hands around each day and:

 

 

  • Find the wonder in the common. “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribable, magnificent world in itself” (Henry Miller).
  • Take note of the everyday miracles. “Looking is the beginning of seeing” (Sister Corita Kent).
  • Hug often. “Hugs are one of the reasons God gave us arms. So stretch out your arms to someone today…It will warm the heart of the giver and give light to the soul of the recipient” (Unknown).
  • Laugh easily. “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God” (Karl Barth).

 

 

  • Value every person. “The way we treat others is more about who we are, not who they are” (Unknown, emphasis added).
  • Forgive quickly. “Forgiveness isn’t about letting the other person off the hook. It’s about keeping the hooks of bitterness from getting into you” (Gabrielle Bernstein).
  • Avoid negativity. “Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity” (Unknown).
  • Choose joy. “True contentment is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it” (G. K. Chesterton).

 

 

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Lord God, I have so much to be thankful for, including this cloudy, cozy day and the welcome chill in the air. I thank you for this moment, complete with winking candle, hazelnut coffee, and soft music to keep me company as I write.

Thank you also for the designated purpose you ordain for each person.   Because I am still alive, you still have plans to fulfill through me, especially to bless others. And for that I am grateful as well.

Keep me mindful, I pray, that fast lane living is not only foolish, it is dangerous to my soul.

(1 Thessalonians 5:18; Psalm 37:23; Proverbs 19:21; Ephesians 2:10)

 

What will you cup your hands around today?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikimedia.com; http://www.lawofficer.com; http://www.medienwerkstatt-online.de; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.quotesvalley.com; Nancy Ruegg.)

 

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(Granddaughter #3, Maarit Anne*, was born on Sunday, January 15.)

 

Creator of Maarit Anne and Heavenly Father of us all,

We praise you for this precious gift of new life—

A delightful reward from your gracious hand of love.

Already she is a blessing as we cuddle her tiny form,

Caress her downy head, and kiss her soft cheeks.

 

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We marvel how you wove together so many disparate parts

To create this unique little person,

Evident in her distinctive collection of family traits:

Mommy’s dark hair and Daddy’s brow line,

Auntie Heather’s long, slender fingers, and

Grandpa Terry’s narrow feet.

In more ways yet to be revealed Maarit is an exemplification

Of your exquisite workmanship—

a heavenly piece of poetry—

in mind, body, soul, and spirit.

 

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We praise you for the perfect life-course

You’ve already planned for Maarit—

A future gleaming with hope because

You’ve set her apart and equipped her

For special purpose to accomplish your good works.

 

May her eyes be drawn to you and your Word,

The wondrous splendors of your creation,

And the signs of your love all around her.

May Maarit’s mouth be filled with praise,

Declaring your glory all day long.

May her ears be quick to hear your voice,

And her heart be delighted to respond.

 

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May Maarit’s spirit grow strong

In the loving care and nurture of Jesus.

May she wear your instruction

As a garland of praise.

 

Give to all who love and care for Maarit

The wisdom and grace to guide her in all your ways.

Protect and provide for her all the days

You’ve ordained for her.

 

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These things we ask for our Maarit Anne

In the Name of Jesus.

Amen.

 

(Psalm 127:3, 139:15; Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 119:18; Jeremiah 1:5, 29:11;

Psalm 71:8; Proverbs 23:12; Psalm 119:35; Proverbs 1:9; Psalm 139:16, Psalm 23:6.)

 

*Maar (rhymes with bar)-it is a Finnish name, meaning “pearl,” in honor of our daughter-in-law’s Finnish heritage on her mother’s side. Maarit’s middle name was given in honor of Hilja’s grandmother–and me, a delightful, humbling surprise.

 

Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest (3), http://www.ourdailyblossom.com.

 

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Logic said his chances were slim to win the 400-meter race at the 1924 Olympics. After all:

  • Four hundred meters is a long sprint; he was a short sprinter.
  • Two other competitors in the race had achieved world records in this event.
  • He had been assigned the least desirable lane.

But when the starting gun fired, Eric Liddell quickly took the lead and pounded around the track at a steady pace—his head thrown back, arms pumping at his sides. Against the odds, Eric crossed the finish line first to win the gold medal. In fact, he set a new world record.

In the film, Chariots of Fire (1981), about Eric’s rise to Olympic gold, his character says, “God made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.” The scriptwriter was actually responsible for those words, but the attitude behind them surely reflected the strong faith-experience of the real Liddell.

 

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No doubt about it: Eric was gifted by God to run. And when he used that gift, Eric felt confident God was pleased, because he was fulfilling one of the purposes for which God had created him.

But those famous words from the film beg the question:

How can a person know when the invisible God experiences pleasure?

Scripture is the obvious place to begin our search for answers. In fact, the first book of the Bible—the first chapter no less—gives us indication. Seven times as God was creating the universe he “saw that it was good.” God takes pleasure in what he has made.

His pleasure is especially evident in the creation of humanity. He knit each of us together—not just bones, muscle, and organs—but personality traits, modes of intelligence, talents, interests, and more. Each of us is an incredible feat of engineering, a breath-taking masterpiece (Psalm 139:13, Ephesians 2:10). With so many variables at his disposal, God creates each person with precise uniqueness for distinct purposes.

 

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God also plans out each of our lives: the places where we’ll live, the people we’ll meet, the events we’ll experience (Psalm 139:16).

 

“God formed us for his pleasure…

and meant us to see him and live with him

and draw our life from his smile.”

A. W. Tozer

(The Pursuit of God, p. 32, emphasis added)

 

In Psalm 147, we’re told, “The Lord delights in those who fear* him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (v. 11).

What might that delight or pleasure feel like to us?

Perhaps a warm contentment in the spirit—the way we feel when someone we respect smiles upon us with approval. Perhaps deep confidence as we live by his wisdom.

With God, such sublime moments are not necessarily random events.   We can be assured to experience God’s pleasure as we:

  • Take joy in his presence (Psalm 16:11) through worship—anytime, anywhere.
  • Radiate his joy to others. There is blessing in being a blessing.
  • Make right choices – especially the tough ones.

Eric Liddell surely sensed God’s pleasure as deep confidence when he made the tough choice not to run in his best event, the 100-meter, in the 1924 Olympics. The race was scheduled on a Sunday, and Eric took seriously God’s commandment to keep the Sabbath set apart for worship and rest.

 

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When does God experience pleasure from our lives?

Consider Eric Liddell’s statement in the film, only let’s personalize it based on the way God has created each of us. Prayerfully fill in these blanks:

 

“God made me ____________. When I __________, I feel his pleasure.

 

One of my statements might read: “God made me a grandmother. When I play a rousing game of tag or hide ‘n’ seek with Elena and Sophie, I feel God’s pleasure.”

I’d love to hear your responses. Please share in the comment section below!

Meanwhile…

My mind cannot fathom the incredible privilege you have given us, Lord God. Thank you for ordaining the reciprocal process of pleasure between us: we enjoy bringing you delight, and you allow us to feel your pleasure. My mind cannot fathom it: I bring delight to the King of glory! I rejoice in you and praise you with all my heart.

 

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* “Fear of God” in the ancient Hebrew refers to awe, respect, and reverence for him.

 

Sources of information about Eric Liddell:

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.swordofthespirit.net; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.azquotes.com.)

 

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Three times in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as Author. Peter called him the Author of life (Acts 3:15), and the writer of Hebrews referred to him as the Author of salvation (2:10) as well as the Author and Finisher of our faith (12:2).

As someone who enjoys writing, I’m intrigued by this title for Jesus. How is he like an author? And how should his role as Author impact my life?

Research and ponderings took me down these pathways:

 

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Writers are creators.  Where a character, place, or idea did not exist before, an author brings them to life.  Without C.S. Lewis, for example, we would not know Aslan, the great and noble lion, the land of Narnia, or the concept of a New Narnia with its astounding dimensions: ” The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets.  The inside is larger than the outside” (The Last Battle, Book #7 of the Narnia series, p. 180).

Jesus, the Author of life, participated in the creation of the world, including us.  “By him all things were created in heaven and earth…all things were created by him and for him.”  (See also Note #1.)

Writers animate settings, characters, and ideas with the choicest words they can find. The sentence, “A bird sat on the gate looking over the snowy field,” becomes “A black and white magpie, sitting on the rail of a gate, reigned benevolently over the tranquility of a snowy field” (from Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland, p. 322). Jesus animates our lives with his choicest blessings: purpose, hope, contentment, and joy.

 

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Writers cajole their ideas on the page, striving to form nebulous concepts into clear, solidly built statements. They organize their thoughts, structure sentences, and decide upon word selection. Jesus lovingly coaxes us along, slowly over time sharpening the fuzzy understandings of our faith into solidly built knowledge, wisdom, and conduct.

Writers peel away redundancies, wordiness, and boring details. Jesus peels away our sins, spiritually unhealthy habits, and weighty emotions like discouragement, anxiety, and fear—any excesses that keep us from being our best selves.

According to author, Joan Lowery, writing is “a complicated mixture of art, craft, structure, free-flowing ideas, unleashed imagination, soaring hopes, wondrous insights, giddy joy, deep satisfaction, strong persistence and solid determination” (from The Making of a Writer, pp. 1-2).

 

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As we allow the Author of Life (2) to write upon our souls, he applies these same processes. Persistently and determinedly he:

  • crafts our spirits into works of poetry (Ephesians 2:10) (3),
  • offers us safe structure in which to function (Proverbs 2:6-8),
  • exposes us to ideas of freedom we never knew existed (John 8:31),
  • surprises us with more blessings than we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20),
  • fills us to overflowing with hope (Romans 15:13),
  • imparts wondrous insights, especially through his Word (Psalm 119:130),
  • bestows his complete joy upon us (John 15:11), and
  • fills our hearts with deep satisfaction (Luke 6:21, John 10:10).

 

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Joan Lowery’s long list of writing components (above) appears daunting. It’s a wonder anyone puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

Yet there are many of us who actually enjoy the process—the discovery of new information and ideas as we research, the development of clearer understanding while wrestling with a concept; the puzzle-assembling of thoughts into organized paragraphs and words into precise sentences; the delight of creating a musical rhythm among the syllables.

In fact, Truman Capote asserted:

 

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(“The greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about,

but the inner music the words make”

–Truman Capote)

Surely Jesus feels the same. His purpose as Author is not to produce best sellers of our life stories. He’s interested in relationship. In collaboration with each of us, Jesus wants to write upon our souls and create inner music together: symphonies of joy, madrigals of peace, and songs of love.

Praise God, he takes great pleasure in the process (Psalm 149:4, Philippians 2:13).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

NOTES:

  1. For the record, Genesis 1:2 and Psalm 104:30 give us glimpses of the Holy Spirit’s role as well.
  2. God the Father and the Holy Spirit are also involved in the process, of course, as three-in-one.
  3. Paul said, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10). That word, workmanship, is translated from the Greek word, poema, from which we derive our English word, poem. Our triune God is making us into heavenly pieces of poetry—“the highest, finest, most beautiful expressions of his thought and purpose!” (Herbert Lockyer, Seasons of the Lord, 330).

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.crosscards.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

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(Steve and I are enjoying time with family this week.  I’ll return soon with  new posts.  Meanwhile, I’ll reblog previous ones.  Hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.  The following post was first published June 13, 2013.)

From stage left, she crosses the platform in confident strides.  One hand waves in sweeping arcs to the large audience. The crowd claps and cheers.

In the other hand, with confident ease, she holds the microphone.  And the smile—big and broad, bright white teeth visible even from the balcony.

Able to sing like a nightingale and articulate truth with conviction. Impacting thousands.

Now there is someone God is using in a powerful way, whispers an accusing voice.  Look at her significant contribution in the Kingdom of God. No doubt she’s highly valuable to him.  So what are you doing that’s important?  Your spot in the scheme of things is nothing compared to that shining star on the stage.  You might as well face the truth:  You are unimportant.  The ship of Significance has passed you by.

Sound the least bit familiar? You’re not alone. Demons use those same lies on a lot of us. Evil spirits aren’t very creative, are they?

But here’s the truth of the matter:

Each of us is the workmanship of God (Ephesians 2:10). The Greek word, workmanship, sometimes has the connotation of “work of art.” You are a work of art—carefully designed and meticulously executed.

The verse goes on to explain we’ve been created to do good works. It does not say the same work. Diversity of personality, talent, and interest are necessary among the children of God in order that all his plans are accomplished.

He made each of us unique, to fulfill a personalized plan. Every now and then we see such a plan unfold so clearly, we know God engineered the circumstances. Sometimes it’s a unique set of talents or gifts that work together sublimely to meet a need.

Take, for example, the naturally talented writer, who happened to grow up in a bilingual home, and studied Christian Education in college. She was especially prepared by God to write Spanish curriculum for a Christian publishing company.

Other times the plan is much less obvious, and we must trust that the task before us–caring for our families, teaching that Sunday School class, working at the homeless shelter–is indeed accomplishing divine purpose.

What we can know for certain:  each of us is valuable to God (Matthew  10:29-31).

Believe that he has prepared in advance good works for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).  Take joy and satisfaction from completing those good works.

It may not be walking across a stage with a microphone. It might mean walking across the kitchen with a rolling pin—to bake cookies for the neighbors.

That’s just a small, insignificant thing, you say?

Think about this: What if God takes particular pleasure in small things?

Personally, I’m fascinated by small things. Miniatures, doll houses, petit-point, babies!

Scripture gives us indication that God does indeed love small things as well:

Sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

Two little mites given by a widow (Mark 12:41-44).

Five small barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:1-13).

Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

Let’s never again allow those little demons of abasement to put us down. God has promised: “I will bless those who fear the Lord—small and great alike” (Psalm 115:13, emphasis added).

You see, in God’s sight, we’re of equal worth.

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“Be careful what you think,

because your thoughts run your life.”

–Proverbs 4:23, NCV

 

That would explain why worrisome thoughts can turn into paralyzing fear, pessimism into debilitating discouragement, and sadness into utter hopelessness.

No one wants to dwell in such misery.

But if a person is facing difficult circumstances, and she allows her thoughts to run amok on auto-pilot, she’s likely to slide downward into hyper negativity.  Climbing out is difficult.

“Snap out of it!” someone will say. Not very helpful.

“Look for the silver lining,” advises another. Easier said than done when tragedy strikes–and lingers.

“Spend some time in reflection.” That’s what one web site recommends, offering sixteen questions for a person to consider. Most of us don’t have time for that much introspection, nor the inclination, when we’re hurting.

So, how can we climb out of a miserable pit of despair?

By replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, especially scripture.

You see, our brains cannot focus on two things at once. Prove it to yourself by counting to ten and reciting John 3:16 at the same time. You’ll find you’re either counting or reciting, not both simultaneously.

We can apply the same strategy to negative thinking. At the first moment we realize our thoughts are headed in the wrong direction, we can confess it and ask God to help us renew our minds:

“Lord, I don’t want to think about this anymore.  I know it’s counter productive and does absolutely no good. Help me to refocus on what is noble and right, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8).”                            

Then we start singing a favorite praise song, listing all the reasons we can trust God in this situation, or reciting an uplifting scripture.

For a start, the bulleted quotes below highlight some common threads of negative thinking.  Following each is a positive scripture as rebuttal:

  • “There is no way this situation is going to work out.”

 Oh? “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, italics added).

  • “I can’t stand another day of this.”

Oh, yes, I can stand. I can put on the full armor of God, so that in this day of trouble, I may be able to stand my ground” (Ephesians 6:13).

 Restoration will come. “Though you, [God], have made me see troubles…you will restore my life again…you will again bring me up” (Psalm 71:20).

  • “I am never going to succeed.”  

Not true.  God says [He] will accomplish all [his] purposes (Isaiah 46:10b, italics added).  What greater success could there be than to accomplish the purpose of Almighty God?

  • “I have no idea how to proceed. Maybe I should just quit. This is just too hard.”

 I can pray as the author of Hebrews did: “May the God of peace…equip me with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in me what is pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

  • “Sometimes I can’t seem to do anything right. How can God use me?” 

I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).

If the bulleted comments in bold print are our focus, our lives will surely head in a downward direction toward discouragement and hopelessness.

If, on the other hand, we focus on the promises and positive affirmations of scripture, we head in an upward direction toward wholeness, productivity, and joy.

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“He enables [us] to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19)–above the doubts and uncertainties.

Focus determines direction.

*     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *     *

What scripture promise or affirmation lifts you up when circumstances try to pull you down?  Add your favorites in the Comments below!

(Photo credits:  www.facebook.com/wonwithoutaword; http://www.zazzle.com.)

 

 

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His name keeps popping up in books and blog posts: Andrew Murray.

His words are thought-provoking:

  • “Never try to arouse faith from within. You cannot stir up faith from the depths of your heart. Leave your heart, and look into the face of Christ.”
  • “Abiding fully means praying much.”
  • “Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds you abased and empty, His glory and power flow in.”

So who was this deeply thoughtful man, Andrew Murray(1828-1917)? Did his conversion experience turn him around 180 degrees like Paul’s? Did he face great danger like David or Daniel? Did he impact throngs of people with his preaching like Jonah or John the Baptist?

 

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No. According to the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (www.ccel.org), Andrew grew up in a Christian home. No spectacular transformation from unbeliever to saint.

His father was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who served in the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa. Andrew became a pastor himself and served several pastorates, also in South Africa.

Andrew helped found two schools, made several evangelistic tours of South Africa, and received an honorary doctorate for his contributions to world missions. Today he is best known for his devotional writings, found in the 240 publications to his credit.

Not a shabby list of accomplishments, but Andrew faced no giants or lions. There are no cliff-hanger stories to tell about him. He simply served God faithfully where he was.

No doubt there are some who would skim-read such a biography, yawn, and seek more exciting stories–Adoniram Judson’s or David Livingstone’s.

Andrew Murray may have written some thoughtful books and essays, but let’s face it. His life-story borders on ho-hum ordinary.

But wait. The Bible and annals of history are overflowing with the stories of ordinary people such as:

  • Jethro, a shepherd. Yet his wisdom greatly assisted his son-in-law–Moses (Exodus 18:1-27).
  • Mordecai, a captive. However, he was in the right place at the right time to hear of a plot against the Jews (the book of Esther).
  • Lydia, a dealer in fine purple cloth and dye. She just happened to provide housing for Paul and Silas, and became the first convert—in all of Europe (Acts 16).

No doubt these people considered themselves just ordinary folk. But God used them in astonishing ways.

The truth is, there is no such thing as an ordinary person in God’s kingdom.

So, guess who’s talking when that voice in your head whispers, “You are a nobody. You aren’t accomplishing anything worthwhile in your life.”

It’s not God!

He placed within each of us wondrous, unique gifts. Would God do that if we were worthless?

Second, he placed us within a circle of influence that includes family, neighbors, friends, church acquaintances, business contacts, and more. (And let’s not forget the ripple effect.)

Third, God provides opportunities within that circle for us to use our gifts, be a blessing to others, and  bring him praise.

So whether God ordains you or me to be a leader or follower, a platform personality or a behind-the-scenes helper, a larger-than-life Paul, or a lesser-known Andrew Murray, we each have a unique niche to fill—especially designed by God himself.

 

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For we are God’s workmanship, 

(Think of it—we are the handiwork of the Master Designer!)

Created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 

(Works that will bring glory to God and supreme satisfaction to our hearts.)

which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).”

(Availing ourselves to what he’s prepared results in supremely worthwhile accomplishment.)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Father, for gifting each of us with unique abilities to fulfill your specially designed plans. Thank you that in your kingdom there is no such thing as ho-hum ordinary, because you, the Master of the universe only create masterpieces! May our joy be centered in faithfully completing the works you have prepared for each of us.

 

Art and photo credits:  www.newparadigmthinkers.wordpress.com; http://www.dayofgrace.me.)       

 

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