Archive for September 30th, 2013

Moving forward

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to go through life looking in the rearview mirror, focused on what didn’t work out, who hurt us, the mistakes we’ve made;  “if only I’d have finished college, spent more time with my children.”  but as long as you’re living in regrets, focused on the negative things of the past, it’s going to keep you from the bright future God has in store.  you’ve gotta let go of what didn’t work out:  hurts, pains, disappointments, failures.  you can’t do anything about the past, but you can do something about right now.  whether it happened 20 years or 20 minutes ago, let it go and move forward.  if you keep bringing negative baggage from yesterday into today, it will poison your future.  you may have had an unfair past;  you don’t have to have an unfair future.  you may have gotten off to a rough start in life, but it’s not how you start that matters, it’s how you finish.  don’t let what somebody did or didn’t do for you be an excuse to live sour.  don’t let a bad break, divorce, betrayal, bad childhood, cause you to settle where you are;  move forward, and God will pay you back, vindicate you.  you’ll come into a new beginning.

nothing that’s happened to you is a surprise to God.  the loss of that loved one didn’t catch God off-guard.  the business that didn’t make it, the relationship that didn’t work out, did not stop God’s plan for your life.  are you going to get stuck, fall into self-pity, become bitter, let the past poison your future?  or, are you going to shake it off and move forward, knowing that your best days are still up ahead?  your car has a big windshield and a small rearview mirror;  the reason is that what happened in your past is not nearly as important as what’s in your future.  if you stay focused on the past, you’ll get stuck where you are.  this is the reason a lot of people don’t have joy, no enthusiasm for life;  they’re dragging around all this negative baggage from the past.  somebody offended them last week;  they’ve got that stuffed in their resentment bag.  last month they lost their temper, said some things they shouldn’t have;  they’ve got that in their guilt and condemnation bag.  they carry around their bag of regrets, all the things they wish they would’ve done differently.  if they went to take an airline flight, they couldn’t afford it;  they’ve got 27 bags they drag around with them everywhere they go.

life is too short to live that way;  learn to travel light.  every morning when you first get up, forgive the people that did you wrong the day before. forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made.  at the start of the day, let go of the disappointments, setbacks, from yesterday.  start every morning afresh and anew.  God did not create you to carry around all that baggage.  some of you have been holding onto it for years.  it’s not going to change unless you do something about it.  you’ve gotta put your foot down, and say,  “I’m not living in regrets, focusing on my disappointments, dwelling on who hurt me, what didn’t work out. I’m letting it go and moving forward with my life.”  we should focus on what we can change, not on what we cannot change.  what’s done is done;  if somebody offended, mistreated, disappointed you, you can’t undo that.  you can either get bitter, pack it in a bag and let it weigh you down, or you can forgive them and go on.  if you lost your temper yesterday, you can either beat yourself up, carry around the guilt and condemnation, or you can ask for forgiveness, receive God’s mercy, and do better today.  if you didn’t get that promotion, you can get sour, go around with a chip on your shoulder, or you can shake it off, knowing that God has something better in store.  no matter what happens in life, big or small, if you will learn to let it go and move forward, then your past doesn’t have to poison your future.

when you hold onto the hurts, pains of the past, it will poison you everywhere you go.  you cannot drag around the baggage from yesterday and expect to have good relationships today.  you’ve gotta let it go.  quit living life looking in that rearview mirror;  start looking out the great big windshield.  you may have had some bad breaks, but that did not stop God’s plan for your life.  He still has something amazing in front of you.  when one door closes, if you’ll stay in faith, God will always open up another door.  when one dream dies, don’t sit around in self-pity, talking about what you’ve lost;  dream another dream.  your life is not over because you lost a loved one, went through a divorce, got laid off.  you wouldn’t be alive unless God had another victory in front of you.  quit mourning over what you’ve lost.  let go of what didn’t work out.  how do you let it go?  quit thinking, talking about it, reliving the negative things that have happened to you.  when those pictures come up on the movie screen of your mind, change the channel;  you have the remote control.  you don’t have to watch everything that comes up.  if you keep reliving negative memories, thinking about how unfair it was, “how could they do that to me?”, that wound will never heal.  every time you think about it, you’re re-opening it.  the mind is very powerful;  when you replay negative experiences, you will feel the same emotion as when it first happened.  before long, you’ll be sad, angry, depressed, bitter.

Philippians 4:8 (KJV)

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

if you’re going to keep moving forward, you’ve gotta be disciplined in your thought life.  the negative memories will try to replay again and again;  you’ve gotta guard your mind.  some of you would go to a new level if you would quit replaying the disappointments, reliving the bad breaks.  every time you watch or think about that, you’re re-opening the wound;  it’s making it more difficult.  if you’re sitting around nursing your wounds, feeling sorry for yourself, you’re not going to see anything new;  you’ve gotta let those doors totally close.  let go of the disappointments, failures.  you cannot change the past, but you can change the future;  if you’ll move forward, you’ll see the new things God wants to do.

Isaiah 61:3 (KJV)

… to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…

you have to let go of the ashes before you can receive the beauty.  ashes represent our broken dreams, failures, disappointments, hurts.  we all have our share of ashes, but as long as  you’re holding onto the ashes, thinking about the disappointment, mad at somebody, bitter at the past, you won’t receive the beauty;  an exchange has to take place.  it’s an act of faith to say, “God, I’m forgiving this person that hurt me.  I lost my biggest client, but I’m not going to have a chip on my shoulder.  my friend betrayed me, but I’m gonna keep a good attitude”;  that’s when God can give you the beauty. “they hurt me too badly, I can’t forgive them”;  that’s a heavy price to pay.  if you won’t let go of the old, you can’t receive the new. “we prayed for our mother, but she wasn’t healed, we don’t understand it”;  I don’t claim to understand it all, I’m simply asking you to let go of the ashes, disappointment, blame.

take those ashes, broken dreams, hurts, failures, questions, put them into God’s hands, and say, “God it wasn’t fair.  they hurt me.  my dream didn’t work out.  but I refuse to live life looking in the rearview mirror;  you promised me beauty for ashes, so right now I’m releasing the bitterness, forgiving the person that hurt me, letting go of the disappointments.”  the enemy would love for you spend your whole life sitting in the ashes;  bitter over a relationship that didn’t work out, angry over a job you didn’t get, feeling sorry for yourself because of a loved one that died.  no, turn loose of those ashes.  you went through a divorce, let it go, God has somebody better in your future.  if you weren’t treated right growing up, let it go, and God will make it up to you.  move forward;  quit mourning over something that’s over and done, that you cannot change.  if God wanted them to still be here, they would still be here.  if God wanted you to have that position that you didn’t get, you would have it.  shake off the self-pity, disappointment.  Paul put it this way:

Philippians 3:13 (ESV)

13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead

that word “strain” indicates that it’s going to take effort.  you go through a bad break, a loss, the easy thing to do is sit around and talk about how bad life is treating you.  but if you’re going to keep moving forward, you’ve gotta have a strong will, rise up like Paul and say, “that’s it, I am not holding onto these ashes.  I know what’s in my future is greater than what’s in my past, so I am pressing forward in life.”  this is what the prophet Samuel had to do.  Samuel had invested a lot of time and energy into his relationship with  Saul;  Samuel chose him at the Lord’s command to be the next king of Israel.  Saul wouldn’t walk in obedience, and God rejected him as king.  you can imagine how Samuel must have felt;  it looked like all the energy he’d put into Saul was a waste of time.

1 Samuel 16:1 (NIV)

16 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?”

God is asking us the same thing;  “how long are you going to mourn over what you’ve lost, a relationship that didn’t work out, a job you didn’t get, somebody that hurt you?” there is a problem with excessive mourning;  it stops God from releasing the new things he has for you.  God told Samuel:

1 Samuel 16:1 (NIV)

16 … Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

God was saying, “Samuel, if you’ll quit mourning, and instead get up and start moving forward, I’ll give you another king.”  Saul was His 1st choice, but God didn’t say, “Saul blew it, that ruins everything,” no, God always has another plan.  if you’ll quit dwelling on the disappointment, quit feeling sorry for yourself, and put on a new attitude, put the smile back on your face, get your hopes up, start expecting God’s goodness, that’s when  you’ll see the new things God has in store.  Samuel could have said, “God, I can’t do it, I’m too heartbroken”;  if he would have done that, he would have missed out on choosing David, one of the greatest kings that’s ever lived.  just like with Samuel, what you may think right now is a big disappointment, stumbling block, God is going to turn it into a stepping stone to take you into the greatest days of your life. if you’ll let go of the ashes and not get bitter, God will do something greater than you’ve ever imagined.  when you go through a loss, disappointment, it’s easy to think, “it’ll never be like it used to be.”  if you’ll stay in faith and keep moving forward, you’re right;  it won’t be what it used to be, it will be better.  that’s the way our God is;  that’s beauty for ashes.

are you still mourning over something that you should be over?  if you’ll put on the new attitude, start moving forward, you will see the better things that God has in store.  in life, we all have to deal with some kind of loss;  loved one, job, dream, relationship.  it’s tempting to feel like something was taken away from us.  you can have 1 of 2 attitudes:  you can say, “God, it’s not fair.  I don’t understand it.  how could You let that happen to me?” you can get angry, bitter, pass blame.  but a much better approach is to take that loss and sow it as a seed.  say, “God, I don’t know why this was taken away, but I’m not going to let anyone steal from me;  I’m sowing this as a seed and trusting You to bring me a harvest.”  you didn’t get a promotion that you deserved;  don’t get bitter, have the attitude, “nobody stole this promotion from me.  God, I’m sowing it as a seed, believing that you will bring me an even better position.”  a relationship didn’t work out;  “God, I’m not going to live my life sour, thinking that I’ve wasted months or years of my life, I’m sowing this as a seed, knowing that You will bring the right person into my life.”

you can’t have a victim mentality;  “oh man,  I’ve been robbed, my loved one was taken away,” no, turn it around, give it to God.  sow it as a seed, and you’ll be amazed at what kind of harvest God will bring you.  we all come to places where something is over and done;  there’s nothing more we can do about it.  we may not understand it, it may not have been fair, but none of that changes the fact that it’s no longer alive.  we could either hold onto it and let it drag us down and defeat us with it,  or, as difficult as it may be, we can choose to break free, move forward, so we can experience a new beginning.  if something is dead your life, don’t die with it.  if something is over and done, don’t hold onto it, let it go.  say, “God, they hurt me, it wasn’t right, but I’m not gonna dwell on it, relive that memory;  I’m gonna cut it off and move forward.”  sometimes you have to take bold measure to keep making progress.  if a dream died, don’t die with it;  cut off the broken dream, relationship that didn’t work out, self-pity, unforgiveness, negative attitude.  where you’re unwilling to walk away is where you’re going to become stuck.  in the scripture, Job went through a 9 month period where everything that could go wrong did:  he lost his health, business, family.  at one point:

Job 2:8 (NIV)

Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

when you go through a loss, disappointment, there’s nothing the enemy would love to see you do more than to sit down among the ashes, get bitter, hold on to something that is dead, lose your enthusiasm for life.  that’s what Job did for a period of time;  he sat down.  but he didn’t stay down. he got his fire, passion back, and rose up out of those ashes:

Job 19:25 (NIV)

25 I know that my redeemer lives

Job 42:10 (KJ21)

10 … Also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

some of you today, life hasn’t turned out the way you had hoped;  you’ve gone through some unfair situations, now you’re sitting in the ashes, holding on to something that didn’t work out, bitter, discouraged.  God is saying, “if you will let go of the ashes, put on a new attitude, I will do for you what I did for Job;  I’ll not only bring you out, but I’ll bring you out with twice what you had before.”

Isaiah 61:7 (MSG)

Because you got a double dose of trouble
    and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled
    and your joy go on forever.

your future starts today.  don’t go through life looking in that rearview mirror;  look out the great big windshield in front of you.  your life is filled with possibilities.  there are incredible opportunities in front of you.  you may have had some bad breaks, but always remember, God has promised beauty for those ashes.  do your part:  let go of the ashes.  quit reliving negative memories.  don’t let season of mourning turn into a lifetime of mourning.  be bold to cut off whatever didn’t work out. whether it was 30 minutes or 30 years ago, let it go and move forward.  if you’ll do this, you will feel a heaviness lift off of you.  the rest of your life will be the best of your life.  God will take what’s meant for harm and use it to your advantage.  you will overcome every obstacle, defeat every enemy, and become everything God has created you to be.

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