By Mary Garrard

As a new year begins, I believe that it is important to take some time to examine our personal journeys of faith. How are we going to focus on living more effective Christ-like lives in 2017? This renewed focus will be different for each of us, but the following thoughts of Max Lucado from Because of Bethlehem might serve as inspiration.

According to Lucado, “In the manger God loves you, and through the cross he saves you. But has he taken you to his home? Not yet. He has work for you to do. He wants the world to see what God can do with his purchased possessions.” Using the image of a Christmas tree, Max focuses on how God works in our lives.

God prunes us.
God is working on our characters, helping us to address self-defeating habits of thought and behavior. (See John 15:1-2)

God decorates us.
God sends his angels to protect us and his Word as a star to guide us. God festoons us with the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – while challenging us to grow in these traits. (See Galatians 5:22-23)

God surrounds us with his grace
God helps us grow in grace. We need to learn to rely on grace more and more – not just when we need for-giveness but for every moment throughout our days. This is what enables us to increasingly give gifts of grace to others. (See I Peter 4:10)

God places us.
God knows each of us and has a purpose for us right where we are. He is continually helping us to love people and to make a difference in the world through our everyday lives. (See Psalm 139:13-14, 16).

If it’s true that God “wants the world to see what he can do with his purchased possessions,” what might God want the world to see in each of us in this pruning/decorating/gracing/placing season of our lives? As individuals, how might we each complete this starter sentence: Through me, God wants the world to see that He can . . .