I am not the man I ought to be, I am not the man I wish to be, and I am not the man I hope to be, but by the grace of God, I am not the man I used to be.
~paraphrase of quote from former slave trader and lyricist of Amazing Grace, John Newton
Here are five things I'm thankful for this week:
1. Sanctification. Philippians 1:6 says, "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you wil bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." At this very moment, God is at work sanctifying me-- he making me over in His image, transforming me from the inside out. It's often a painful process as I come face to face with my sin and how it manifests itself in my life, but I'm encouraged too, because God promises that He will change me, and that the end result will be so much better than anything I could possibly imagine. I can trust that He will do as He's promised, which gives me the strength to persevere.
2. God's Providence. Theologian and professor D.A. Carson writes, "I do think, though, that it is one of the common features of those who become intimate with Jesus that they think of themselves not as those who love him particularly well those who are particularly well loved by him. Thus, John, the writer of this Gospel, refers to himself as 'the disciple whom Jesus loved.'" I wouldn't say that I'm near as confident as John was when he called himself that, but I do feel loved by Jesus. Ultimately, his love for me is demonstrated by his dying to save me, but I also feel loved by the food he places in my hands, the clothes he places on my back, the shelter he builds over my head, and the friends he blesses me with. Specifically, I'm thankful that I'm working and making money; I'm thankful to live with the Parks family; I'm thankful for my friends at United Christian Church of Dubai and Redeemer Church of Dubai. I'm thankful to be sandwiched between two households of people who love God and strive to honor him. I'm thankful that God has me here at this moment in time for his purposes.
3. People who Speak Truth into my Life. I'm thankful for the friends I have who love me enough to call me on my sin when they see it. They see my pride and my unrepentant heart and they lovingly confront me about it. They also correct the lies that I preach to myself by injecting the truth into my life. When I am tempted to despair, they remind me of God's faithfulness. This week, those people were Brinton, Mack and Leeann, Romana, and Krishan. I'm thankful that they challenge me and help me along the path of sanctification (see #1).
4. The Service of Men in the Church. Today at church we took communion (which I'm also thankful for-- what a blessing it is to receive that sacrament). The elders and deacons of the church (all men) gathered at the front of the church to collect the bread and grape juice so that they could distribute it to our sizable congregation. It just so worked out that on the aisle where I was sitting that the trays were passed by Brian Parks and Mack Stiles. I've had the honor of staying with both the Parks and Stiles families during my times in Dubai, and I've been blessed beyond measure by these Godly men. They've housed me, fed me, discipled me, and loved me. I've seen them love their wives and their children and it has been a powerful experience. Watching them serve the church by distributing the elements that represent Jesus's body and blood brought tears to my eyes. Brian and Mack represent many godly men both at this church and at other churches worldwide-- men who strive to follow Paul's injunction, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself of for her." Their example, as well as the other godly men that God has placed in my life, is an inspiration. I thank God for them and pray that He continues to bless and sustain them.
5. Nature. Again this week I was blown away by the rugged beauty of this region. On Monday, I flew to Amman, Jordan for a shoot, and on Tuesday, I did another dhow cruise in Musandam, Oman. I saw mountains and goats and blue skies and fish and various gulfs and rolling fields. It is a delight unto my eyes and I am thankful for my creator God who delights in such beauty.