4 Weights from Our Past that Keep Us from Running in the Present

God has so much more ahead of us than we could possibly believe.

That’s why the Apostle Paul said that he resolved to keep moving forward: “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” (Phil. 3:13–14).

But forgetting the past is easier said than done. The past continues to haunt our present, weigh us down, and keep us from running.

We need to resolve to leave the past in the past so we can run in the present, but we also need help with how.

Below are four weights that keep us from running the present and how we can “forget” them and leave them in the past.

  1. Losses

    Losses include more than people. We can experience loss when our dreams collapse, when we lose a job, or when plans or relationships fail. These losses weigh us down and make us feel like there is no hope.

    How to leave it in the past: grieve. God has given us a way to deal with losses: eyes that cry. That’s why we have funerals. We gather friends and relatives and grieve together. Sometimes we need to have a funeral for a lost dream, vision, or relationship.

  2. Wrongs

    People have hurt us in many ways. We hang onto these things because we rightly feel that justice needs to be done against wrongs.

    How to leave it in the past: forgive. Forgiveness means that we commit it to God as a Just Judge and release ourselves from needing to do anything about it. When we commit to letting it go, we can have peace. This is something we will often have to repeat mentally several times before we are really able to leave it in the past.

  3. Failures

    Our sins and failures from the past make us believe that we are unlovable and worthless in the present. They keep us from taking hold of the gifts and opportunities that God has for us now.

    How to leave it in the past: trust. Believe the promises of the good news about Jesus Christ. God loves you and wants to forgive you no matter what you’ve done. He values you and wants to use you no matter how many times you’ve failed. You’re still His workmanship.

  4. Blessings

    Ironically, the blessings of the past can keep us from enjoying the present. We liked what happened before so much that we can’t enjoy the present (see Ezra 3).

    How to leave it in the past: give thanks. We should be thankful for the blessings of the past and not try to re-create them. Be thankful for the place you grew up, your old job, your old friends, or a loved one who has passed on. Give thanks to God for the blessing in your life, and recognize that the same God who blessed you in the past wants to bless you in the present in new ways.

  5. We must not let these things weigh us down and keep us from running in the present. Why? Because God has so many more opportunities and blessings for us! “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18–19).

Every Christian Should Memorize This Chapter

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Isaiah 53. I think it is probably a favorite for most Christians. This is the passage where we read: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Vv. 5 & 6).

I have enjoyed reading what some famous Christians have said about this passage. I hope that you will find them edifying as well:

“This in many respects may be regarded as the most important in all the writings of the Old Testament, and which is better adapted than any other to lead us to a right understanding of the whole. The partial obscurity which usually accompanies the representations of the prophets seem here to have entirely vanished.” — E.W. Hengestenberg

“Though some things need explanation, this alone is enough, which is so plain, that even our enemies, in spite of their disinclination, are compelled to understand it.” — Augustine
Continue reading “Every Christian Should Memorize This Chapter”

The First Thing We Need to Hear

When we talk about the Gospel, we think of how someone becomes a Christian. Once you believe in Jesus, then you need to learn how to live a Christian life.

There is some truth in this, but there is also something really wrong.

The Gospel is not just for the beginning of the Christian life. It is for the whole Christian life.

This just means that God’s love and care for us is our foundation, and we need to hear about it again and again. As the Apostle Paul said, “It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you” (Phil. 3:1). We always need to go back to this starting point.

What does this look like?

Someone’s job is coming to an end, and they don’t have a plan as to what to do. They need help in finding a job, but they also need to hear, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Continue reading “The First Thing We Need to Hear”

An Identity More Secure than Our Greatest Successes

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a friend. The subject line read: “I love you, but . . .”

So, I quickly deleted it. Just kidding.

It was a criticism of a suggestion that I had made to a common acquaintance of ours.

I called my friend and said, “Don’t worry about it. My identity is not wrapped up in whether my opinions or suggestions are right or not. And if it is, it shouldn’t be.”

In spite of what I said, I know that I do often wrap up my identity in being right about even the most trivial things. I shouldn’t, but I do.

I fear that if I’m not right or don’t have a good suggestion, then I won’t be valuable.

The fact is that I need to see myself this way: I am a man who makes mistakes. That’s just part of the package that is me.

Not only do I try to imagine I don’t make mistakes, but I also try to build my identity on my successes: how well I did, how many friends I have, what people think of me, what I have achieved.

The trouble with our successes is that they are always open to questions like these: How much money do I have to make to be valuable? How big does my church have to be? How successful do my children have to be? How many home runs do I have to hit? How many degrees should I have? What if people don’t like me? Am I still valuable?

We need a better foundation for our identity than our successes. The Bible reveals that better foundation. Our identity should be built not on what we do or what we say but on what God thinks of us. Continue reading “An Identity More Secure than Our Greatest Successes”

Our Inward Sickness

by Brian Carpenter
My sister-in-law got remarried not too long ago. Her new husband seems like a good man, and we have high hopes that their marriage will be a good one. Her first marriage was deeply unhappy and she was grievously sinned against in it. My wife had to shop for a wedding gift, of course. While she was doing that, I noticed that the famous love passage from 1 Corinthians 13 is a prominent theme on many of these gifts. You know the one. It begins “love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy or boast . . .” It ends with the words, “love never fails.”

Now, these are true words, and I believe them with my whole heart. The problem is that they are being subtly applied in a wrong way most of the time, and it has led to an epidemic of heartbreak. C.S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves shows us that the Greeks had four words for love. Storgē, or “affection” is exemplified by the love between a parent and child, though it is much richer than that. Philia, or “friendship” has its own special meaning. Eros is “romantic” love. And there is Agapē, or “spiritual” love. Agapē is the love that God gives to His children and then commands them to give to everyone else. Agapē is what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13. Continue reading “Our Inward Sickness”

How to Have Humility When Both Sides Stop Listening

In a previous post, I claimed that humility is a healing balm for political discord. If we can learn to value others with whom disagree, show them respect, and listen, then we can create a better and more peaceful community without sacrificing any of our convictions.

But what happens when both sides stop listening? What happens when you’ve tried everything and someone will not be at peace with you? What happens when all that’s left is coercion or, in the case of nations, war?

Before I give an answer, let me say this. There are very few who have tried to listen in the way we should. I have found that people regularly think there is no way forward, but there is almost always a failure to listen, to think beyond old ways of doing thing, or to respect the other side.

Have you really given humility an honest try?

But back to the main question, what happens when you have and you still find yourself in entrenched conflict? I think not just of politics. Right now, I’m thinking of a split family where one side does nothing but attack. The result is that their family is like two armed camps. How do you exercise humility in such situations? Continue reading “How to Have Humility When Both Sides Stop Listening”

Humility: A Healing Balm for Political Discord

You don’t have to be an astute observer to recognize the intense political discord in our nation. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are merely dramatic examples of that phenomenon.

Long before Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, however, Americans were becoming less and less capable of even talking with those who disagree with them strongly. David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, and Gabe Lyons in their book Good Faith state: “Our research shows that having meaningful conversations is increasingly difficult for many of us. This is true not only on an individual level but also society-wide” (Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016], 17. Check out the book to see their research on this point. For one example, they report that 87% of evangelicals don’t feel comfortable having a religious conversation with a Muslim!).

Social media has only made this worse. In a recent interview, NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt suggested that with social media present, there is little hope of healing our political discord: “So long as we are all immersed in a constant stream of unbelievable outrages perpetrated by the other side, I don’t see how we can ever trust each other and work together again” (read the whole interview here.)

Strong ideological opinions and religious views always seem to lead to conflict.

This is not surprising. If someone believes that their viewpoint is absolute, then shouldn’t they seek to give it political prominence? Wouldn’t it lead to an attempt to dominate all others in the name of one’s absolute?

Some suggest that we can deal with this is to abandon our strong religious and ideological perspectives. At the least, we should just not talk about them. This is just what many people have chosen to do. As Kinnaman and Lyons explain, “An uncomfortably large segment of Christians would rather agree with people around them than experience even the mildest conflict” (Good Faith, 18).

But there are significant problems with this. First, pride and not the views themselves are the real problem, and pride is just as likely to assert itself in other areas. Rejecting strong ideological and religious views could simply lead people to fight over their own economic interests or preferences without any recourse to values that could connect opposing parties.

Second, it leaves some of what makes us most human out of our political discourse. To be human is to think of bigger things: God, beauty, morality, and a vision for things being better than they are.

Third, how can we ask people to embrace views that are simply contradictory? As John Dickson in his insightful book Humilitas puts it, “Can we seriously ask Buddhists to accept as valid the Hindu doctrine of ‘atman’ or eternal soul when the Buddha himself rejected the idea and taught that there is no soul, and ultimatley, not even a self?” (Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011], 165).

Is there a way that people of strongly divergent views can come together in a democracy in a way that is productive and provides helpful discourse?

Yes, there is. The answer is humility. Humility is a healing balm for our political discord. Continue reading “Humility: A Healing Balm for Political Discord”

How Not to Bore People to Death with a Meeting

We’ve all been to meetings in which we were bored to death. Meetings can also be frustrating and seem like a total waste of time.

At my church, I have a friend named Art Stump. He is on our Church Admin team, plays keyboard in our band, and is a regional manager for Kitchen Collection.

He has a knack for making meetings interesting, profitable, and fun. So, I asked him, what are the most important things you’ve learned about leading a meeting?

He answered by giving 5 suggestions. They are worth thinking about and implementing.

Here’s what he wrote.

Art Stump: In thinking about leading meetings I tried not to necessarily consider “textbook” types of things. Instead I wanted to focus on things I believe I learned through the process of both leading meetings and, probably more so, sitting through meetings. I’m not saying I discovered any of this on my own, nor that I haven’t read and studied meetings, just that I thought mostly about what I’ve experienced myself.

So, here’s my list of 5 things I’ve learned about leading meetings. (This isn’t a Top 5 so there’s not a particular order to them):

  1. Attitude. Agenda. Action. I lumped these all together. The leader has to be positive, enthusiastic, and upbeat about the meeting. A well-planned meeting will always be more successful. Follow up is important to demonstrate to the participants that their time is important, productive, and meaningful.
  2. Don’t confuse straying with spontaneity. You want to allow space for discussion, letting the meeting progress, but you also need to stay on course. An issue or topic might be extremely important but that doesn’t mean it should be a part of that particular meeting.
  3. Continue reading “How Not to Bore People to Death with a Meeting”

Prayer in Preparation for Communion

By Jean Claude (1619–1687), from Self-Examination in Preparation for Receiving the Lord’s Supper

My God, my Savior, and my Father, I prostrate myself at the foot of your throne, to adore your majesty, and to acknowledge your righteousness. I am in your presence but dust and ashes, a worm of the earth, and most unworthy of your turning of your eyes towards me, or employing the cares of your Providence towards my good. For what is mortal man that you should regard him, or the son of man that you should visit him?
Continue reading “Prayer in Preparation for Communion”

Hardly Anybody Does This, But Everyone Should

Most people are concerned about their own interests, and it is hard for any of us to think much beyond them.

I remember one pastor had a plaque on his desk with a saying on it, “People are not against you. They are for themselves.”

As the Apostle Paul thought about the churches he had planted, he lamented, “Everyone looks out for his own interests, and not the interests of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21).

Isn’t this true? How many of us are really able to think beyond our own prosperity and comfort? How many of us can sacrifice for a cause that is truly bigger than ourselves?

As a Pastor, I need to ask this, too. Would I care about the prosperity of the church I serve if I was not its Pastor? How much do I care about church in general? Do I participate in church activities when I’m not being paid?

If we’re honest, as Pastors, a lot of our interest in church is more self-interest than we realize.

Truly, everyone looks out for his own interests and not the interests of Jesus Christ.

Why are we so obsessed with our own interests? Continue reading “Hardly Anybody Does This, But Everyone Should”