December 31, 2009

Encouraging Words 12/31/09-Times Moves Forward, And So Should We

I (Jim) want to end the year with an encouraging word essay I contributed to the Unidiversal e-magazine that will be published online next week:

With a new year and a new decade upon us, it seems like a good time to acknowledge that God established time to move in one direction-forward. If you’re in a situation where it is moving backward, you’re either part of a sci-fi movie or in some situation that is way beyond my pay grade to explain, so I’ll stick with what I know.

What I know is this; dwelling on the past, even the bad parts, is very seductive, but it’s not what the Lord would have us do. After all, He didn’t send Jesus down here to recite all of our past sins. Jesus came to die so those sins could be forgiven and mankind could move forward into eternal life. Focusing on looking back can have consequences, as we see when Lot and his family were trying to escape from Sodom.

Genesis 19: 17, 26 (NIV) As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!" But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

While this story reminds us that we should always follow the direction of an angel, I believe it is also a metaphoric example on how destructive losing a forward focus and being enticed to look back can be in our lives.

Easy for me to say? Hardly. Brenda and I are preparing to move to a new home, and I’ve spent a lot of time recently going through boxes that haven’t been opened in 5, 10, even 20 years. I actually ran across my baby blanket for crying out loud! It was difficult not to be smothered by memories of the loved ones I’ve lost over the years; all the things that happened in my life that left me feeling like a victim, and the pain I inflicted upon myself with poor decisions, made on my own without involving the Lord and seeking His will.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

As I have incorporated this and other important truths from God’s word into my life, I’ve been able to separate myself from the past and accept that our Heavenly Father has plans for us that are much, much better than anything we can come up with ourselves. My life bears out that truth; the before and after is astonishing!

Luke 9:59-62 (NIV) He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

When God feels we are ready to move forward with His plans for our lives, he’s often not worried about our convenience or comfort. When it’s time to move, it’s time to move, especially as the time before His return grows shorter.

When I started the Straight, Not Narrow blog, I took baby steps in that direction. Not surprisingly, the rewards were very limited for quite a while, just enough for me to keep it going. When I fully embraced that project as a ministry I needed to make a serious commitment of time to, I was able to drop other projects I had been involved with for a long time and, with Brenda’s help, continue to build it into a serious ministry resource. It was only when I was able to release goals and objectives that had been important in my past and focus on the Lord’s plans to give me a hope and future that the blog started really bearing fruit.

We’ve all got parts of our lives that we regret, but Jesus has already paid the price for them and wants to lead us into a new chapter to write a success story.

Most of us have lost people that were very important in our lives, but God loves us so much that He will bring new people to us that will help us move forward into His new plans for us.

While parts of the Bible taught lessons learned from the past, an overarching theme throughout both the Old and New Testaments is that of prophecy—looking forward. The New Testament shows how many of the Old Testament prophecies came true and left us with new ones that man has pondered, unpacked, and analyzed for the last 2,000 years.

I would encourage you with the beginning of this new year to study the prophecies and to avoid dwelling on the past by spending time in prayer to receive words about the plans God has to prosper you, to give you hope and a future.

Happy New Year everyone!

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