Forgive and Forget and Begin

Good, to forgive; Best, to forget. Browning

I like the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. There is something quite powerful about closing the books on old things and turning the page to new and exciting things. How was your year? If it was like most, it had it's ups and downs - things that you will look back upon with fondness, and things that will cause you to shudder. It's the things that cause you to shudder that I want to focus on in this  little article.

Too often our past encumbers our future. People have done things to us that were unfair and unkind. We have done things to others that were unfair and unkind. We have had our disappointments and sorrows and times that we felt betrayed. After a lifetime, these things store up in our hearts and minds like poison. Is it any wonder, then, that we often have a hard time looking forward when our minds are filled with the toxins of the past? But, what can we do?

Forgive! If we ever want to accomplish all of the great and important things that God has in store for us, we must forgive those who have wronged us. And, we are going to have to ask forgiveness from those we have wronged - especially God, and then we are going to have to forgive ourselves. Having done that, we are going to have to forget about those past wrongs! Easy to say but hard to do, I know, but did you think that excellence came without a price? Did you think that the quality of life that most only dream about would come without effort?

Here is the thing: You can't put a new bag on your vacuum without first removing the old one that is clogged with filth. You would not change your car's oil without first draining out  the old oil and gunk. And, once you had removed all of that filth and gunk, you would not save it - much less cling to it - you would throw it out. In the same way, we cannot possibly start all of the exciting and new things that we want to accomplish in this new year until we have cleansed our lives of the gunk and filth of the past.

So do it! And get ready for a fresh and exciting new year for your Lord and Savior!

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14, NIV

 

Forever Young

What I wouldn't give to be 70 again.  

Oliver Wendell Holmes - aged 92

While I confess that there have been times when I would have liked to have been a different age, I can honestly say that 70 was never the age I had in mind. Perhaps if I am fortunate enough to live as long as Mr. Holmes, I might change that thinking.

The fact is that we are all growing older. While it's true that it would occasionally be nice to be younger, the aging process that God has designed is a blessing, not a curse. It reminds us that we are not permanent fixtures on this earth - that time is running out. Since this is the case the wise man will ask himself, "What is to become of me? Is there an existence after this, or is this life all there is?"

The Bible provides the answers to these questions. God's word clearly reveals that each one of us has an immortal soul, and that we will spend eternity either with God or apart from God. I know that a lot of people don't believe that but, after reviewing the evidences of God's word, I do! Since I am absolutely convinced of the teachings of God's word, it has become imperative for me to make certain that I am giving at least as much attention to the condition of my eternal soul as I am to my aging body.

In short, I am very much looking forward to living forever! In addition to that pleasant prospect, I am also looking forward to each day of the rest of my life here on earth. I know that each year will bring a certain reduction in my physical capabilities, but that's okay because I know that each day my body ages just brings me one more day closer to the eternal life that God has promised to those who will live for Christ. It's rather nice, when you think about it: We don't have to worry about getting older and then dying because each day that passes just brings us one day closer to the life that we were created for in the first place.

Isn't God good!

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him... And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.    

I Thessalonians 4:13-18, NIV 

 

Fooling Some of the People

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. Mark Twain

I, like many of you, have been watching the budget debates in the House and Senate in the same manner that one might view an auto accident. You really don’t want to look, but sometimes you can’t help but sneak a peek. When you do, you are invariably disappointed that you did.

I have to confess that I am a bit confused by the whole process. The politicians say that they were going to spend $10 trillion more than they were planning on taking in over the next ten years. However, through a self-described process of unparalleled fiscal discipline and social heroism, these patriots have decided to spend only $7 trillion more than they are planning to take in. This of course does not included any extra funds that they will have to borrow for “unplanned emergencies”. They refer to this process as “deficit reduction”.

Cool!

We kind of expect this from our politicians, but how sad it is when we fool ourselves in a similar way when it comes to serving God. We promise ourselves that we will start our righteous living some day, but we instead just cut back a bit on our sinful behavior. Then, having cut back on our sin, we declare ourselves righteous.

This type of behavior might deceive politicians and other self-deluded individuals, but it shouldn’t fool us. And we can be certain that it doesn’t fool God.

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. I Corinthians 6:9-10, NIV

Serve wholeheartedly, as if serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does. Ephesians 6:7-8, NIV

 

First Class to Heaven

Perhaps you have heard this one: There was a woman flying to Houston who had taken a seat in first class, even though her ticket was only for coach. The stewardess tried to get her to move, but the woman would not hear of it. "I'm blonde", she stated, "I am beautiful, and I'm flying first class to Houston". The stewardess went to the cabin and reported the problem to the co-pilot, who said that he would take care of the woman, himself.

However, when he approached the woman, she said again, "I'm blonde, I'm beautiful, and I am flying first class to Houston". The co-pilot went to the captain and recounted the conversation. "She's blonde? Why didn't you tell me she was blonde?", the captain inquired, "I married a blonde - I speak blonde!"

At that the captain went to the woman and quietly whispered something that only she could hear. The woman blushed, got up and said, "I am so sorry - I didn't realize", and then immediately went back to her seat in coach. Amazed, the stewardess and co-pilot asked the captain what he said to get the woman to move. "It was simple", he replied, "I just told her that first class wasn't going to Houston."

While this story is obviously a bit far fetched, it is no more ridiculous than the attitude of many people with the "beautiful blonde syndrome". We are quick to see that the woman did not have a right to fly first class because she had not made the arrangements to do so in advance. Yet, she still felt entitled to first class because of who she thought she was. How many people are just like her, who, though never having made the required arrangements, feel that they are going to Heaven? And they, like that self-deluded woman, feel that they have a right to Heaven because of who they are.

The fact is that no one is going to Heaven absent of God's grace, but there is a required role for each one of us. While we can never "pay" the price of Heaven (for Christ has paid the ultimate price with His own blood), there is still a lifetime of obedient service that is expected of all of God's children. And, just as airlines have a coach class for those unwilling to pay the price for first class, God has created a hell for those who have not made the required arrangements for Heaven.

But for those who are willing to pay the price, it will be Paradise!

Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own, they belong to the Father who sent me.

John 14:23-24, NIV

 

Finish the Race

The mass of people prefer the easy way. William H. Danforth

If you're like me, you like it when things go your way. The day just seems better when everything  falls into place. The only problem with everything going our way is that we never grow, because it is in the struggle that we learn to excel.

Two years ago, in the 110 meter hurdles at the Texas state track meet, I witnessed excellence firsthand. The runner in second place was rapidly gaining on the first place runner and appeared to have the gold medal in hand. Then she tripped over the final hurdle - at full speed she tripped and landed squarely on her face. Now we have all fallen on our faces at one time or another but it was what happened next that revealed the character of this young lady:

She got up and finished the race.

Then, walking back with the rest of the runners who had finished out of the medals (a walk that I had witnessed many times that day, each time having noted that most of those who considered themselves "losers" went by with heads hanging or pouting expressions) this girl walked with dignity and poise. And the crowd cheered. And she, anything but a loser, looked with wonder into the stands and thanked those near to her for their kindness.

She had to be crushed to have worked so hard to get to State only to have her dreams dashed at the very moment victory seemed so near. Though she did not accomplish what she had hoped and trained for, she achieved something far greater: She finished the race.

There is a lesson here for you and I. If we are to ever accomplish anything worthwhile in life we will, from time to time, have to pick ourselves up after disappointing (and sometimes embarrassing) falls and finish the race. If we will do that, we will someday receive the victor's crown that has been promised to those willing to serve the Master to the best of their ability.

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's Grace. Acts 20:24, NIV