THE POWER AND REACH OF MEMORY

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!  -Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Gordon MacDonald writes, “When I asked a ninety-three year-old man if he and his ninety-year-old wife ever have conflict, he assured me they do. I asked him how they treat each other in such moments, and he told me how important it is that he speaks tenderly to her. When I asked why, he told me that when his wife was a girl her father always spoke to her in a harsh and hurtful tone of voice. ‘Now whenever she hears any man speak in an angry manner, the feelings of hurt and fear return. ‘But that was eighty-five years ago,’ MacDonald replied, are you telling me that she still remembers?’ ‘More than ever!’ he responded emphatically.” In our earliest years we watch those who are largest in our lives and note how and when they express anger, joy, sadness or fear. And we take our cues from what we see. So, “What do I do with those painful memories? you ask. The Bible gives us at least 4 answers: (1) Practice repentance;

acknowledge your own mistakes. (2) Demonstrate grace; forgive others-and yourself. (3) Show gratitude; focus what’s

good not what’s bad. (4) Find wisdom; turn your pain into a learning experience.

When Israel crossed the River Jordan, God commanded Joshua to erect a memorial of 12 stones saying: “In the future.,

. when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean. tell them … These stones are to be a memorial” (Jos 4:6-7 NIV). In other words, remember with repentance, with grace, with gratitude, and with wisdom.



REPAIRING THE PAST

Zacchaeus discovered that you can’t be right with God until you’re first right with those you’ve hurt. Joseph discovered that being Prime Minister doesn’t mean much if your family relationships are strained. Relationships are like a house. If you don’t maintain it your task won’t be to repair it-it’ll be to rebuild it. We each Carry within us the experience of our yesterdays. They influence our relationships, our choices, our view of ourselves, even our understanding of God. You can’t live in a spiritually healthy fashion if you’ve an unrepaired past.

For a long time Jacob lived that way. He took advantage of his brother Esau, manipulating him out of his inheritance. When when things got bad between them he fled the country. When he returned home, he did so fearing the face of his brother. In his case the relationship was healed, but it doesn’t always end that way. Repairing the past is best done immediately. Patching up wounded relationships, dealing with festering regrets, letting go of feelings toward someone who’s betrayed you; these issues lie deep within us as if asleep. Then suddenly they’re awakened by some “trigger.” It could be an anniversary, an old face in the crowd or a particular song on the radio, but they don’t go away until we deal with them. How? By forgiving, and when possible making restitution. You see, forgiveness isn’t just for the other person’s benefit-it’s for yours. So, is there a relationship you need to repair today? If so, take care of it!



GENEROUS WITH … WHAT?

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other.   1 Thessalonians 3:12 NIV

So, what does it mean to be generous? And generous with … what? (1) Your time. Listen: “May the Lord show mercy

to … Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains … when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me” (2Ti 1:16-18 NIV). Wouldn’t you love to know more about Onesiphorus? He’s the kind who’ll stand by you when you’re under attack-he’ll even visit you in prison. Ever visit a prisoner? Jesus said you should! (See Mt 25:35-40). (2) Your encouragement. Paul had a friend named Barnabas (“son of encouragement”). It was Barnabas we have to thank (in part) for the incredible success of Paul When the early church doubted Paul’s conversion, Barnabas welcomed him into fellowship. The last we hear of Barnabas is defending John Mark, a failed young man who needed a second chance. Are you willing to do that for others? God did that for you! (3) 11mI’ money. Jesus watched folks giving to attract attention. Interestingly, none of them are named in Scripture. Who was? A poor widow. Suddenly Jesus called His disciples and said, “Hey, I want you to watch this.” People with little to give, tend to be avoided. Who notices them? Jesus! Listen: “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on” (Mk 12:43-44 NIV). We tend to seek out glamour and power, but the eyes of Jesus seek out true generosity. So you say you’re generous? Generous with … what?



KNOWING GOD INTIMATELY!

Luke gives us a fascinating description of a lady called Anna, who recognized the Christ-child when His parents first brought Him to the temple: “Anna the prophetess was also there … by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshipping night and day … At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the [Christ] child to all” (Lk 2:36-37 TM). Anna never stopped searching for God! What a challenge to those whose spiritual life has never evolved and deepened with age. They slowly empty their tank of yesterday’s zeal, and now go through the motions of a faith that makes no sense and has no appeal on the streets of the real world.

Oswald Chambers once made an entry in his journal that reads, “A great fear has been at work in my mind, and God has used it to arouse me to prayer. I came across a man I knew years ago, a mighty man of God. Now ten years have gone by

and I met him again-garrulous and unenlivened. How many of us seem to become like that after forty years of age?” Garrulous? It describes someone who talks a lot but says little. Unenlivened? It describes a person whose spirit is nexercised, undeepened, and starved almost to the point of death. But it doesn’t have to be that way for you; the rest of your life can be the best of your life, if you dedicate it to one purpose- knowing God intimately.



DEVELOPING SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE

Just talking about spiritual discipline won’t get you very far. Nor is there any value in talking about how badly others

need it. Describing some friends he’d known for a lifetime, Scott Turow writes, “Many years ago I learned their dirtiest, most crabbed secret. That their passion to change the world derived from the fact that they could not change themselves.” Hello! Do you talk a lot about things you haven’t personally experienced, as a kind of smokescreen for your own shallowness? Understand this: developing spiritual discipline is demanding, mostly done in secret, usually humbling, and not always fun. Let’s break that down.

Demanding? Absolutely. It means being harder on yourself than you want to be. It calls for regularly examining your speech, relationships and life choices, then correcting them if necessary. Done in secret? Yes. When you’re striving to develop spiritual discipline it’s wise not to talk too much about what you’re in to. Talk is cheap. “Just do it,” goes the well-known slogan. Humbling? No question about it. Some days it will feel like one step forward and two back. Spiritual discipline calls for “staying the course,” while others walk away in denial or excuse making. Not always fun? Developing a life of spiritual discipline is a satisfying experience, but it’s not always fun experience. Listen to Paul: “I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself’ (ICo 9:26-27 TM).



UNTIL THE LAST SPIKE IS DRIVEN

I press on toward the goal to win the prize. Philippians 3: 14 NIV

Stephen Ambrose’s book, Nothing Like It in the World, tells the story of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad in America. He describes the moment when construction was to begin and certain people decided that there ought to be a great ceremony. A host of dignitaries were invited to gather at the place where the first rail was to be laid. One of those invited was Collis Huntington, perhaps the railroad’s most important West Coast backer in California. But he declined, saying, “Anybody can drive the first spike, but there are months of labor and unrest between the first and the last spike.” When construction of the railroad was finally completed in May, 1869, the last spike, a golden one at that, was pounded into place and a telegram sent to President Ulysses S. Grant: “Sir, we have the honor to report that the last rail is laid, the last spike is driven, the Pacific Railroad is finished.” Now Collis Huntington had something to celebrate!

Paul felt that way too: “Forgetting what is behind .. .I press on toward the goal to win the prize” (Php 3: 13-14 NIV). Almost fifty years ago Thomas Merton wrote, “If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair. But ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for – Christ!” That’s a question we each need to ask ourselves-daily!



WHEN IT’S TIME TO BOW OUT

Moses … laid his hands on him. Deuteronomy 34:9 NIV

Some subjects are hard to talk: about. Bowing out and passing the torch to someone else, is one of the most difficult. But it’s not about you-it’s about God’s kingdom! Stepping down calls for humility. The future of any work depends on it. For 40 years Moses dreamed of leading his people into the Promised Land-but it was not to be. Joshua, his successor, would be the man to fulfill that dream. How did Moses handle it? With grace and dignity: “Joshua … was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses” (Dt 34:9 NIV). The plan worked, the transition was smooth and the followers immediately transferred their allegiance to Joshua. Why? Because Moses had placed his hands on Joshua and prayed for God’s blessing on his leadership. That’s leadership in its finest form and final hour-when it counts most! Is this hard to do? Yes, or 7 reasons: (1) Job security-“What am I going to do next?” (2) Fear of retirement-“Me, retire?” (3) Resistance to change-“The saddle is so comfortable.” (4) Self worth -“This job is my life.” (5) Lack of confidence-“Who else can do this job like I do it?” (6) Love for the joh—-“I really love my job and the people I work with.” (7) Loss of investment-“I’ve put too much into this to let it go.” What’s the answer? Rejoice in your God-given accomplishments, bow out graciously, bless and assist your successor, then ask God “What’s next?”



GOD KNOWS YOUR NAME

When we see a flock of sheep, we see exactly that -a flock. All alike. Not so with a shepherd; to him every sheep has a story and every face a name. When we see a crowd, we see exactly that-a crowd, filling a stadium or flooding a mall. Not so with Jesus; to Him each of us has a story and every face a name. “I have written your name on my hand” (Isa 49:16 NLT). That’s awesome! Your name-written on God’s hand where He sees it constantly. Your name is on His lips. Maybe you’ve seen your name on some impressive things-like an award or diploma, or the walnut door of the executive suite. But on God’s hand and on God’s lips-quite a thought, isn’t it? That means what matters to you, matters to God. You probably think that’s true when it comes to big stuff like death, disease, sin and disaster. But what about smaller things like financial pressures that make us insecure, arguments with loved ones that leave us drained, bodies that do less while demanding more? Understand this: you are God’s child. John writes: “We really are his children” (IJn 3:1 NCV). It’s as if John knew some of us would shake our heads and say, “No, not me. Mother Teresa, maybe. Billy Graham, alright. But not me.” If those are your feelings, John adds this phrase just for you: “We really .are his children.” That means if something is important to you, it’s important to God! Try to hold on to that truth!



LORD … AND SHEPHERD

When Lloyd Douglas, author of The Robe, attended college, he lived in a boarding house. A retired wheelchair-

bound music professor resided on the first floor. Each morning Douglas would stick his head in the professor’s door and ask, “What’s the good news?” The old man would tap his tuning fork on his wheelchair and say, “That’s middle C! It was

middle C yesterday, it’ll be middle C tomorrow, and it’ll be middle C a thousand years from now. The tenor upstairs sings

flat. The piano across the hall’s out of tune, but, my friend, that’s middle C.” And don’t we all need a middle C? Haven’t

we had enough changes? Relationship changes. Job changes. Health changes. Weather changes-but the One Who ruled the earth last night is the same One Who rules it today. He never changes! David writes, “From everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps 90:2 NIV). Counselors may comfort us in the storm, but we need a God Who can still the storm. Friends may hold our hand at our deathbed, but ultimately we need the One Who defeated the grave. Remember the Wizard of Oz? Dorothy followed the Yellow Brick Road only to discover that the Wizard was a wimp! All smoke and mirrors. Is that the kind of God we need? No. We need One Who can place a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, and a hundred billion galaxies in our universe; a God Who, while so mind numbingly mighty, can come and touch us with the gentleness of a mother’s hand. We need both Lord and Shepherd. Both strength and tenderness- and that’s what we’ve got!



THE NEED FOR APPRECIATION

After 30 years of marriage his wife was ready to throw in the towel. “I have had it, living with you. You never tell me you love me anymore.” The husband replied, “I told you I loved you when we got married-if I change my mind I’ll let you know.” Too many leaders expect their followers to run on autopilot, like the hard-hearted husband. They don’t understand that people thrive on appreciation. They need it. Sometimes Christian organizations are the worst: “You’re working for the Lord and He’ll reward you.” Yes, we’re all working for that final pat on the back in the sky, but God expects us to pat others on the back along the way. Paul writes: “Encourage one another and build each other up.”

Some people don’t need encouragement. They’re so strong and so busy that attempts at praising them would be nothing more to them than a pesky gnat flying around their face. They’d brush it off with a look of confusion. There are also people who view praise with suspicion because others have taken advantage of them. With them, all you need to do is cultivate kindness. But most of us do need encouragement-and lots of it. Phillis Theroux writes, “One of the commodities in life that most people can’t get enough of is compliments. The ego is never so intact that one can’t find a hole in which to plug a little praise.

Compliments by their very nature are highly bio-degradable and tend to dissolve hours or days after we receive them-which is why we can always use another.”




 

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