Looking Backward, Moving Forward

Occasionally at church I need to walk though the Auditorium while the lights are off. It’s really dark in there, but if you’re careful, you can get just enough light from under the doors to guide yourself between the rows of chairs, up the aisle, around the stage, and out the other door.

Walking forward in the dark is not easy–unless you really know the path.

It’s like walking blindfolded.walking-blindfolded

Some would say it’s ridiculous to even try!

Similarly, walking forward while constantly looking over your shoulder, or even walking backward while trying to make progress just does not make sense.

Yet, to a large degree, if we are not willing to look at where we’ve been, we may never find out exactly how to get where we’re going. We need to learn from the past in order to move to our future…but we don’t want to get fixated, or ‘stuck’ in our past.

Over the last 12 months, all of us have learned lessons.

Some have been really great ones: lessons about taking care of conflict before it grows old: lessons about self-control in our diet or exercise program: lessons about investing time in the really ‘important’ things (i.e., developing our faith) as opposed to only dealing with the ‘urgent’ things.

Other lessons have not been very enjoyable…in fact, some of them have been brutally tough: lessons about savoring every minute with a loved one because you didn’t know their end would come; lessons about trusting others and forgiving when they fail you; lessons about trusting God who is Sovereign over your life (even when circumstances seem out of control)…

Here’s the point: IF we want to Move Ahead into 2017, we have to take stock of what we’ve learned in 2016…and before that.

If we don’t slow down enough to do that, they’ll all become just a blur…a distant memory. In that case, we may be more likely to have to learn them again!

This would be similar to the ancient Israelites…time and time again God called out to them and sent them prophets to remind them to get on track, and stay on track with Him–and that this would be for their own good. He warned them of what would happen if they rejected Him and bowed to other ‘gods’, or if they trusted in men to rescue them, rather than trusting in Him.

Each time, they listened and followed…for a brief time. Then they started to pay attention to the people around them, and they’d forget the Lord.

Deuteronomy 8: 1-14:

“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.

Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

This happened, time and time again. Each time, God would allow them to experience the pain that their choices brought about. If they turned back to Him, He’d forgive and restore them. If not, then He’d send His discipline in some way…this would cause them to come back to Him in repentance.

For a time.

Then they’d do it again!

We don’t want to be like that and ‘forget the Lord’.

We want to keep the lessons we’ve learned clearly in our minds.

How do we do that?

By slowing down, taking some time, and remembering.

If you have a Journal you’ve recorded in over the year, look back at it. If you have a calendar–either online or a written one–take a look back over your appointments. If you keep notes in your Bible, take a look back.

If you don’t do any of those things, this would be a great time to start!

Just get a spiral notebook and record each day 1) The things that God taught you; 2) The things on your heart, and 3) The answers to prayer you’re asking for.

It is crucial, of course, that you spend some time in the Word of God each day, and in prayer. These are foundational building blocks of faith.

Take 1/2 hour now to do this. Encourage your family to do it this weekend.

If we want to ‘move forward’ into the New Year and make new strides, we need to build upon what we’ve learned, by the grace and mercy of God.

Let’s Go into 2017 in faith, we a renewed commitment to learn from the Lord and record what He does!

It should be exciting! Bless the Lord!

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Did You Hear a Whisper?

It’s Christmas.

A time of year when a whole lot of people get close…close to getting a taste, or catching a whiff, or hearing a whisper.

A taste? A Whiff? A Whisper…Of What, you ask?

Before I answer, let me share what I mean…

This time of year, we are more likely to give spare change (or even more) to a guy ringing a bell, standing next to a bucket.

We’re also more likely to tip our ‘Waitstaff’ more generously. We give donations to causes, families and individuals that we would not normally give to.

That’s a taste.

We listen to music that we wouldn’t normally listen to–even old stuff. We watch movies from a bygone era which bring up memories for us. Memories of a simpler time, a time that seemed less negative.

We put up decorations, and wear gaudy Christmas sweaters…we greet people on the street with a much more friendly tone than we normally would. We send cards and notes to people we haven’t communicated with in a while, and we commit to doing better at staying in touch.We make time to invest in relationships. We spend more time with family and friends. We forgive offenses and overlook differences a little more easily. 

We make time for things that enrich life. Sure, we stress about our parties, programs and ‘to-do lists’, but we really wouldn’t have it any other way. We love those people, and are reminded at a time like this.

That’s a whiff.

If we’re willing, we listen a little bit more to a Message…THE Message, in fact. The message about love–the Love of a Creator toward His Creation, all of whom have turned their backs on Him. We listen to the story. We hear the words. We sing songs about the event.

That’s a whisper.

A taste, a whiff, a whisper…of what?

Of heaven. That’s right, heaven.

Heaven–where God shows His love, where eternal life reigns, where all things are in their right places, with God being worshiped and adored, given the glory He deserves.

That’s why we can only get a ‘taste’…a ‘whiff’…a ‘whisper’ at Christmas.

Christmas softens our hearts to what is Real, Eternal and True.

It’s a time when the ‘important’ finally overcomes the ‘loud, urgent, crisis’, and we hear whispers…from God…about a love that is so great, we can’t even imagine it. If we listen, we hear His whispers about a life where sins are forgiven and we are graciously adopted into the Family, where hearts and minds are changed into something they would never be, and the hear-and-now is looked at in context of how it relates to Eternity. The whispers are about heaven, to be sure…but they’re also about a life that can be lived now!

The whiffs…the tastes…the whispers…they point to a PROMISE.

The Promise is LIFE!

Eternal Life, Free Life, and Full Life!

Eternal Life with God in heaven after we leave this earth. An eternity with no pain, illness, sin, regret, evil…

Free Life without fear, without threats, without anger and division. Given, not earned. Received, not achieved…

Full Life--in the here and now! A life where God directs out of His love, we follow out of our love, and we reap the benefits! 

THIS is why Christmas warms our hearts and stirs our souls–because it is a Taste, a Whiff, and a Whisper of so much more!

CS Lewis wrote, “If I have found a desire within myself that no experience in this world can satisfy; the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

The promise is LIFE…and the reason that you get a ‘Taste’, a ‘Whiff’ and a ‘Whisper’ at Christmas is because something inside you knows it to be real. 

Receive it today, through faith in Jesus Christ…and get the whole thing!

 

 

 

Glorious!

Glorious:                                                                                                                 delightful; wonderful; completely enjoyable;                                                 conferring glory;                                                                                                          full of glory; entitled to great renown;                                                             brilliantly beautiful or magnificent; splendid

Very few things in this world are truly ‘glorious‘, but we occasionally do find them:

A glorious sunset; the glory of the miracle of birth; the glory of true love.

 

However, there is One who is glorious in everything He does--The God.

When He intervenes in the affairs of earth, it’s usually ‘glorious’.

At Christmastime, we think of one of the most ‘Glorious’ events in human history–the coming of God to earth, in the form of Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem. We read about it in the Gospel of Luke, Ch. 2:

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:1-16)

Can you imagine?

Imagine, for example, what it would have been like to be those shepherds–loners, looked down upon, considered ‘ceremonially unclean’–and here was an angel breaking through the night sky to announce the birth of the Savior–God in the Flesh–to them!

angel-and-shepherds

Then the whole sky filled with angels giving ‘glory’ to God!

What a ‘glorious’ night that was!

As Linus Van Pelt says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown”!

May we–today–get a glimpse of His Glory at Christmas.