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Recently I was reading some A.W. Tozer and was hit by these words: “Men and women are being molded by their affinities, shaped by their affections and powerfully transformed by the artistry of their loves. In the unregenerate world of Adam, this produces, day by day, tragedies of cosmic proportions.” Take a moment to read that again. Let it sink in. Every day, we are being molded by what we are choosing to love.

shaping our lives

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Our lives are framed by those things to which we are giving our attention. We choose. We decide how our lives will be shaped. For most of us, circumstances have occurred over which we’ve had no control. Some of these are so horrific we cannot help but have them shape who we are. But most of what we allow to shape our lives is by our choice. And most of it is not healthy.

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We’ve all had one of those days. One of those days when nothing seems to go right. The car breaks down. The babysitter bails. You spill coffee down your shirt before a big presentation. Or maybe it’s one of those days that negatively impact your life forever. A parent dies, or a spouse walks out. You lose your life savings in an investment that was never supposed to fail.

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I’m not sure why, but often these disastrous and tragic events seem to occur in groups. In these times, your faith will be tested. When you have one of those days, how will your perception of God change?

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My personality is such I try to become better every day. It’s the way I’m wired. What this means for me is, each day I look to improve my relationship with God and the way I live for Him. I look for ways to be better in my job, and to hone my writing craft. I am always on the lookout for processes and methodologies to make me more efficient and effective in everything I do. Truth be told, I’m probably a bit (or a lot) obsessive about these things.

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I am of the conviction God has given me gifts and talents to be used for His glory, and I have an extraordinary appreciation for the shortness of time. I want to maximize whatever He has entrusted to me so I might bring God immense glory and leave His mark on this world before I depart.

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On your journey to discipleship, it’s important to remember following Jesus is always about the next step. We aren’t concerned with where He’s leading us, we’re simply content to follow. A hallmark of discipleship is never looking back. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve done. The blood, grace, and love of Jesus makes all which has come before irrelevant. We are who He says we are, and He sees only who we are becoming.

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As far as God is concerned, the past doesn’t matter. He’s not interested in what you’ve done, only in what you will do for His Kingdom.  He holds no grudges. Jesus never looks at what you’ve messed up in the past as an indicator of what you might accomplish in the future.

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At least in the Western world, we tend to allow our lives to be defined by what we produce or consume. We measure our success in comparison to our friends and neighbors, whether it’s by how far up the corporate ladder we’ve climbed or how many toys we’ve collected. If our neighbor buys a new car, chances are good we’ll suddenly feel compelled to do the same.

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If our friend and coworker receives a promotion, we’ll likely tell someone else the reasons we deserved it more than they did. When our identity is defined in relation to someone else, it’s easy to let these kinds of ugly reactions occur in our lives.

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One of my mentors, Jim Rohn, was known for saying, “For things to change, you have to change.” So many want a closer relationship with Christ, to move beyond Christianity into discipleship, but waste their lives waiting for the transformation to occur. We have a role to play in becoming a disciple. Put simply, discipleship is a choice, and it is up to each of us to decide if it’s worth it.

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If we believe in Jesus but aren’t pursuing a life of discipleship, we are valuing the things of this earth more than we value Him. I am troubled by anyone who professes Jesus with their lips but denies Him with their attitudes and actions. Jesus didn’t call us to a life of belief in Him; He called us to a radical abandonment of all things that are not Him.

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I have no doubt each of us has been put here to glorify and further the mission of Christ. Every one of us has been given a unique combination of skills, passions, and gifts. This unique combination of talents has been designed to accomplish specific work within God’s Kingdom. We get to choose whether we will do this work. If we refuse, God’s will won’t be thwarted; He’ll just give the job to someone else.

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He leaves it up to us to decide if we will spend our lives killing time or living on purpose. We can simply count the days until He returns, or do something with the time and gifts He has entrusted to us.

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God is a Creator. In the beginning, He created, and He continues to create to this moment. Every day He is creating new opportunities for His followers to spread His message. He is never caught off guard or without a plan. Instead of reacting to the freewill decisions of His creation, He instead is spinning new avenues to provide an entirely new way for His plan to be accomplished. He isn’t discouraged by our lack of cooperation or frustrated by our failures.

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I see Him moving in constant fluidity, constantly creating throughout history, and never losing sight of the mission at hand. In contrast, we tend to be a reactive people. Instead of collaborating with Him in creating something new, we busy ourselves reacting to what has already been created. If we want to be more like Christ, we’re going to need to stop living a reactive life.

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Recently I’ve had the frustrating experience of trying to get three of the largest churches in my city to come around a family in need. The situation at hand is a low-income single mother with six children, whose minivan was recently involved in an accident and totaled. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. One church never responded, one said they get too many requests to be able to help but did ask what my own church was doing about the situation, and the final church – the one I attend and have been financially supporting – responded they only helped with rent and utility bills and would not be able to contribute towards purchasing a vehicle for the family.

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Being a preacher’s kid, I understand the inner workings and dynamics of a church better than most, but I was still left flabbergasted by the lack of assistance these local churches were willing to extend.

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I was recently wondering what it would look like if I reoriented my life around the rhythms of the calendar. If you’re anything like me, you don’t take much time to celebrate or even breathe. In the Old Testament, God gave His people festivals and Sabbaths to observe. I don’t believe God does anything on a whim or without purpose, so I know He had a reason for these events. Could it be, as our Creator, He understood we need these times to refocus and re-center?

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Working with this knowledge, it makes sense to orient our lives today around similar rhythms. I’m not advocating we observe each of the Jewish holiday’s if you aren’t Jewish. They won’t have the same beauty or effect without being immersed in the tradition and history. But we can all build an effective and even joyful cadence for our lives based on the calendar of our own culture.

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