The Gift of Forgiveness

“ His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” – Genesis 50:18-21.

Do you remember white out correction fluid? It is the magical liquid that covers over your errors, your typos, your unfortunate slip-ups. You brush on the liquid and start all over again–hopefully this time with no unfortunate slip-ups. It was used when typewriters were used so you can correct a mistake without typing the whole document over again. Forgiveness is much like that. It does not eliminate the hurts or pain, but it does cover them over in a way that they never really happened.

All this week we have been looking at the subject of forgiveness. The bottom line is forgiveness is a promise. That’s really what it is. It’s a promise. It’s a promise never to take revenge. It is the opposite of a refusal to forgive, which is a promise to get back at the person who wronged or hurt us.

If you want a simple definition then of forgiveness, think of it as a promise never to take revenge. It is a statement of obedience to God that affirms, “I hold no anger, I hold no hatred, I hold no bitterness against you. I won’t ever bring it up to you, I won’t ever bring it up to anybody else, I won’t ever bring it up to myself.” That’s forgiveness.

It will take an act of love.  Because forgiveness is the most Christ-like act a Christian can do.

Never are you more like God or Christ than when you forgive, because that is what Christ does. The personification of forgiveness is when Jesus looked at His crucifiers and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)

A prime example of forgiveness is the story of Joseph. When presented with an opportunity to exact vengeance on his brothers, Joseph chose, instead, to point them to the overarching plan that God has for His glory: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 60:20)   

Joseph understood that God’s plan was bigger than his revenge. Joseph served a God that enabled him to love those who had sinned against him. Joseph was able to do this, not because they were inherently deserving or because he was inherently righteous. He was able to forgive because he understood that God’s providential hand had guided him to this point, and that God’s plan was bigger than his hurt, just as it had been bigger than the jealousy that lead to that pain.

We serve the same God. We serve a God who enables us to love and forgive others, not of our own power, but from God’s forgiveness that has radically changed our view of the world. Because Jesus loves, we love. Because He forgave, we forgive. 

During this Christmas season I hope you will learn to forgive those around you.  It is one of the best Christmas presents you can give yourself.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Does Christmas change the idea of what forgiveness means for you? 
  2. What is most important to you in your life and how can forgiving help?
  3. What do you dislike about the idea of forgiving? What do you like about it?
  4. What is reconciliation, and how is it different from the act of forgiving?
  5. Why do you think forgiveness takes courage?

How Can I Forget?

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” – Colossians 3:12-13 

There is no waffling about forgiveness in the Bible. Matthew 6:15 tells us:”But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” That seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? The question that often surfaces is something like this: I understand that I should forgive, but how do I know whether I have truly forgiven them? Can we forgive yet not be sure how we did it? Forgiving, and knowing that we’ve truly forgiven, comes easier when we understand a few things about forgiveness. 

The first thing we need to remember is that forgiveness takes time. We expect change and peace to be instantaneous, but the reality is that while God can forgive in a fraction of a second, we need time. Just before he died, C.S. Lewis wrote: “I think I have at last forgiven the cruel schoolmaster who so darkened my youth. I had done it many times before, but this time I think I have really done it.” As you’re forgiving someone or yourself, know that forgiveness takes time. It’s a process. You will have to be honest with yourself and accept the fact you were hurt, but there are ways to not stay bound to the hurt.

The second thing is forgiving does not require forgetting. Forgive and forget—it’s a cliché we all know. But honestly, will we ever forget the wrong someone did to us? What if someone abused you? Cheated? Lied? You may try to dump those things out of your head, but they’re things you will probably never completely forget no matter how forgiving you are. It is impractical and ineffective for us to try to forget. Rather, the goal is to detoxify the memory to the extent that it no longer controls our lives. Philippians 3:13 says, “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.”  Ask God to heal and defuse the power of old memories and empty out stored emotions so you can find peace.

We have the example of real forgiveness in our Lord and Savior. Think about Jesus when He was on the Cross, taking on our sin and dying one of the most agonizing deaths so that we could experience true forgiveness.

But while Jesus does forgive, He doesn’t forget. He doesn’t remember our sins either. Isaiah 43:25 says, “(43:25), “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12 says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jesus never said He would forget our sins, but instead that He won’t remember them—He won’t bring them up again because we have been forgiven.

Isn’t that beautiful to know that God won’t throw our past sins in our face?

My prayer is that we will trust God to redeem the failure and pain of the past and that we can forgive even if we can’t forget.

Tomorrow: The gift of forgiveness.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you believe you can forgive even though you can’t forget?
  2. What do you have to change in your mind in order to give yourself permission to forgive?
  3. Picture the person who has caused you the most hurt or the person who has greatly offended you. Imagine forgiving that person, and imagine what that would look like. What is the biggest obstacle to making that happen in real life? 
  4. Pray and ask God to give you the strength to forgive those who have hurt you.

Why Should I Read Philemon?

“So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.  I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.” – Philemon 1:17-21. 

Nestled between the books of Titus and Hebrews in the New Testament is the book of Philemon. The book of Philemon is a letter written by Paul while in prison. The key personalities of Philemon are Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus. It was written to Philemon as a plea to request forgiveness for his runaway servant Onesimus, who was a new believer in Jesus Christ. The book of Philemon consists of only one chapter and 25 verses.

Onesimus was clearly in the wrong, was clearly a criminal who had violated his master’s trust, and now Paul says, “Maybe that’s the way God wanted it all to work out.” You see, Paul knows that Philemon has a clear case against Onesimus, but that’s not what is important. Onesimus has become a believer and now that he has experienced a change of heart and character and conduct, Paul is making a final appeal for Philemon to receive this guilty slave with mercy and forgiveness.

We all experience times in our lives when it is highly difficult to forgive and be restored to someone who has hurt us.  The question is “how?” How do we forgive someone who has hurt or wronged us? First, consider the providence of God. Paul and Philemon both knew that Onesimus was in the wrong, but what Paul so masterfully pointed out was that God had allowed it for a higher purpose.

During the message on Sunday, I’m sure most of you were thinking about one person or maybe several people that you have had trouble forgiving. What they did is still so fresh in your mind. Or maybe what they did takes them outside the realm of possibility for forgiveness in your mind. 

But have you ever considered that maybe God allowed that thing to happen in your life for a higher purpose? Could God have allowed some bad thing to happen in your life in order that you might experience the greater good?  All you know is what was done to you is still an obstacle. But is it an obstacle? Or is it an opportunity for you to grow and to manifest the love, compassion and mercy of God to an individual that does not deserve it.

Philemon 19-20 says, “I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.”

When Paul asked Philemon to receive Onesimus and forgive him those old debts, he reminded him that he too was once a man with a terrible debt that had also been forgiven. When we can’t forgive someone, we need to pause for a second and remember what God did to forgive you. I understand that forgiveness may cost you something.  It may not be easy. And it may require sacrifice. But whatever it cost you in terms of sacrifice will pale in comparison with what has been done for you by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Tomorrow: How can I forget?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read the book of Philemon. Can you identify with Philemon?
  2. One of the greatest gifts we receive from Christ becomes one of the greatest challenges to following him: forgiveness? Agree or disagree?
  3. Have you ever considered that maybe God allowed that thing to happen in your life for a higher purpose?
  4. What steps can we take to forgive others.

Why Should I Forgive?

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:8-12 .

When most think of the classic Francis Ford Coppola film, The Godfather, images of violence and the mafia most likely come to mind.  The movie is about revenge. The film opens with the undertaker, Bonasera, asking the Godfather to avenge the violence committed against his daughter.  In the movie, his wish for revenge is granted. There are so many movies that are built on revenge or getting even.

And no wonder. There is something sweet about getting revenge for a wrong done you. There is something about holding a grudge that seems to be the right thing to do. It makes us feel more fulfilled. After all, wrongs should be righted. And we deserve to feel anger and contempt for those who hurt us. The problem is we are the worse off for seeking revenge or holding a grudge.  I don’t think I can give a single example of any good coming out of refusing to forgive. This is why Jesus said we are to forgive one another seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). We should forgive so much that it becomes second nature—our automatic response to those who have hurt us.

God gives several good reasons in His word for why we should forgive. First, God commands us to forgive others. Matthew 18:23-25 says, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 

Second, it is in our best interest to forgive. Mark 11:25 says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”   And Luke 6:27 says, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.

God is telling us to forgive. He is not talking about what is in the best interest of the person who needs to be forgiven. We are the ones who God is trying to protect. We are the ones who receive the most benefit from forgiveness, not the person who wronged us.  A lack of forgiveness complicates and compromises our walk with God. Forgiving others releases us from pent-up anger and allows us to receive the healing we need. God does not want anything standing between us and Him. Anything that stands between or hampers that relationship is not good for us. 

Charles Spurgeon had it right when he said: “To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison with it. But yet there is one thing sweeter still, and that is to forgive. As it is more blessed to give than to receive, so to forgive rises a stage higher in experience than to be forgiven.”

Tomorrow: Why Should I read Philemon?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why should we forgive?
  2. What do you see as the benefits of forgiving others?
  3. What have you found helpful in forgiving those who have wronged you?
  4. How has God’s forgiveness affected your life and your willingness to forgive?
  5. Is it harder to forgive others or yourself?

What I Learned About Forgiveness

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.  Isaiah 55:6-7

Remember the book, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum? The book is predicated on the idea that all I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten; how to live, what to do and how to be. His premise is that wisdom is not found in an ivy league university, but there in the sandpile at school. It was there that we learned to share everything, play fair, not hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, don’t take things that are not yours, and say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Now forgiveness is not something we learn early on. It is not intuitive and is not natural. While I may not have learned much about the subject when I was five, I have learned a whole lot about the subject since then. I certainly have not mastered it, but I do know a whole lot more than I did back in my early school years.   

For example, I have learned that forgiveness is not always fair. There can be a pretty big dose of inequality in forgiveness. I have learned that forgiveness is not easy. In fact it is hard. Another thing I have learned is that forgiveness has little to do with how deserving the person is or whether they have asked to be forgiven. God expects us to forgive even the unforgivable. C.S Lewis summarizes this idea when he said, “ To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” And that means forgiving somebody who has wronged you even if they are not sorry.

Another thing I have learned is forgiveness is an act of faith: trusting God to work in every situation, knowing God has greater plans and knowing God will handle any justice, mercy, or grace that needs to take place. Still another thing I have learned is that forgiveness is a choice; a choice I make. And I have learned that forgiveness is not about “letting go” pretending we can “just get over it” without addressing the heart.  Moving on without addressing the heart accomplishes little.   

There is one last thing I have learned. We know we should forgive, not only from the Bible, but also because of our relationship with God. Because He forgives us, we should strive to forgive others in the same way. 

Tomorrow: Why Should I Forgive?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is your initial reaction to the concept of forgiveness? Do you react in denial, anger, self-righteousness, or judgment? 
  2. What have you learned about forgiveness in your life? Are you seeking relief or release?
  3. What characteristics in your life might indicate that you haven’t fully forgiven past hurts, even if you know in your head what you need to do?
  4. Read Luke 5:17-26, the healing of the paralytic. What does this passage imply about the relationship between forgiveness and healing?

Marriage and the Past

“Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him! A king who sits on the throne of judgment winnows all evil with his eyes. Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?” – Proverbs 20:6-9.

As you well know, marriage is a subject near and dear to my heart. Marriage is a gift from God that He wants you to fully enjoy. But if the pain you’ve suffered in your past is still impacting your relationship now, you can’t fully embrace the new life God offers you because you’ll be stuck in a frustrating rewind of the past. 

When I married Angela I didn’t know everything about her. Nor did she know everything about me.  Neither of us knew much about married life, but we wanted to figure it out together—the two of us. I was learning how to be her husband, and she was learning how to be my wife. And that included dealing with any issues in our past. The truth is the past isn’t the past until it has been dealt with properly, because our past affects today in a negative manner. Therefore, it is still the present.

We must look back and deal with the past in order to move ahead. Your best bet for a successful future is to own your share of the past. In order to deal with your past, you first of all have to be willing to be blatantly honest with yourself. We need to honestly look at some of our less than stellar qualities and ask this question: “Could I be this way because of something in my past that I haven’t dealt with?”

The answer could be yes because we are the sum of all our experiences. The good things in our past show up in the positive aspects of our lives today. But here is the thing. The bad things in our pasts that we haven’t dealt with can create personality problems, emotional issues, relational difficulties and potentially, trouble in marriage. Those same bad things can also show up as positive aspects of our lives if we give them to God and we learn from them.

Jean Paul Sartre once said “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” So what are we going to do to dissolve the hold the past has on us? In marriage as in very phase of life, the first thing to do is to surrender to Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you anything or anyone in your past you need to deal with. And that includes forgiveness. Forgiveness is an essential part of marriage and when we forgive, we give up the right to punish others. The simple act of forgiveness can set you free from your past and free from your future faster than almost anything else you can do.

When Angela and I stood hand in hand at the altar, promising to stay in this covenant for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until one of us died, we knew little of each other’s past. But it really didn’t matter unless we let it matter.  We were focused on our future and what God planned for us. We were focused on loving God and loving each other.   

Now, after all these years of marriage, we know much more about the past. We have learned to look past what is not important down to the terra firma. And that is one relationship with Jesus Christ.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Talk about a time when you’ve seen someone repeat mistakes from the past because that person didn’t take ownership of his or her part of those mistakes.
  2. Why do you think it’s so difficult for people to recognize their roles in past mistakes?
  3. What are some things in your past from which you’ve hidden? In what ways did that make you unavailable for the people in your life?
  4. What is one area of your life where you haven’t owned your part of past results? What can you do this week to begin to own your part? 

Through a Glass Darkly

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)    

It seems that the more we accomplish, the more we have to learn. With all our knowledge, how little do we actually know?  And when it comes to God, we do see through the glass darkly. The glass referred in 1 Corinthians is a mirror, but not what we know as a mirror today. Mirrors in biblical times were most likely brass and they required constant polishing. It was probably a cloudy reflection.

The Amplified Bible says it this way: “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us.”

We all see thru the glass darkly when it comes to our past and our present. It is like peering backward through a telescope or microscope. If you look through the wrong end, you will get a little light, but what you will mainly see is your own eye reflected in the glass. It does not provide a clear picture. So it is in dealing with our past. If we are are looking backward we are looking in the wrong direction. And, as a result, we struggle for peace and we forget the author of peace, Jesus. The past, the present and the future does not seem nearly as intimidating when we place our faith in the risen Savior. 

Faith is the belief that Jesus is in your corner, that Jesus is looking past your past and has plans for your future. Faith is believing that Jesus knows you and loves you right precisely where you are at, regardless of any baggage you bring into the relationship. Faith is trusting that He is fighting for you, loving you, forgiving you, seeing you and sitting with you in your darkest moments, and celebrating right along side you in your greatest joys and when you experience His peace.

If I think, really think, about how much God has loved us all these years — it is overwhelming. But here is where it gets challenging. When I catch a glimpse of what that love has meant to me, it can be life changing. The truth is that the kind of love, the kind of depth of relationship, the kind of forgiveness and mercy and grace and gentleness that we hold so close is like peering through the fog, of the true extent of love that God has for us.

The love of God exceeds all comparisons, and is strong enough to move past our past, regardless of what that past looks like.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is seeing through a glass darkly a metaphor for life? If so, what areas?
  2. How does humility apply to seeing through the glass darkly?
  3. Do you think God’s love changed based on our past? 
  4. What steps can you take to broaden your faith in and vision of God?   

”But This is Who I Am…”

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17. 

Are you living a life full of of regrets? In those quiet moments of reflection do you think, “If only…” “If only I had that college education…If only I had married the right person…If only I had won that job…If only I had not made that stupid mistake…”

But here’s the thing: The key to peace and to real life change is forgetting, not remembering. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need closure. Is it important to deal with your past?  Yes, it is. God doesn’t want us to pretend. He wants us to face our past and to deal with it by focusing on Him, and putting it behind us. 

There are positives that can come out of the past. You have the ability to make today better than yesterday. You can change the way you lived by applying the lessons you have learned. Your past was meant to teach you, train you and equip you for where you are today. Everything happens for a reason. Nothing remains the same unless you choose not to change. We have to keep moving.

But we are used to letting the past hang around. We hang onto the past for any number of reasons. One of those reasons is because we think it is a part of who we are. Or it feels so familiar because the past is a known commodity and the future is a question mark. Or maybe we just feel that the future can’t be better because of our past. Or finally, maybe we just think that because of what we did in the past, there is no point trying because we will always be behind in God’s view of us. Or maybe we can’t let go of the past because of the way some person treated us. Maybe we have anger because of a long list of wrongs that have been done to us  But we can let go of the past and what’s more we should.

The past cannot block our future because it is behind us. Our past can only remind us of where God brought us from. The future is ahead of us, just waiting for our arrival. Take a moment and thank God for everything in your past. The past was supposed to happen.  It is part of the plan. And better yet, it had a purpose. 

If I didn’t have a past, I would not have a future. My past is the reason why I am who I am today. I may have failed at some things, but I am not a failure. The past may have bruised me, but I am not broken.   

I’m not what happened to me. I’m not what I have been through, I’m not what people said I would become. I am who God created me to be. Remember what Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you have a lot of regrets?
  2. How has the past contributed to who you are today?
  3. How much does the past play in your present life?
  4. What steps can you take to put the past in the past?

Redeeming The Time

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17 (KJV).

As you are reading this devotional, one of your most valuable assets is slipping away. This asset is shared equally by the poor and rich, educated and uneducated, married and single alike. And once it is lost, it is impossible to regain. I am talking about time.  And in Ephesians 5, Paul tells us to redeem the time. The NIV version tells us to “making the most of every opportunity” while the ESV tells us to “making the best use of the time.” Paul instructs the church to use their time in a way that reflects Jesus’ redemptive work in their lives. That means there is a way that we can give generously of our time, in a way that honors God.

God is going to give to you a measured amount of time to live on planet earth. How are you going to spend it? Or, let me back up a bit and rephrase that question this way. How are you spending it?

The difficulty we have in redeeming the time in the present is we often find ourselves traveling and dwelling in the past, as if we would have little to do with the present. We return to our yesterdays, resurface bad memories, and by doing so lose the time in the present. Happily, it doesn’t need to be so. The apostle Paul reminds us that the past can be forgotten so we can focus on the present.

Redeeming the time is a great reminder when the holidays are in sight. Time is about to become scarce and, if we are not careful, time will fly by before we know it. We have to be intentional about reserving time so that we can be generous with it.

With that in mind, think and pray about how you might be more generous with your time this holiday season. Maybe say “no” to activities that take up time while distracting us from Jesus. Say “yes” to activities that keep us focused on Jesus and the people Jesus loves. As you do, you will find peace and blessings in the time of the holidays. You will also find that Christ is redeeming your time as you give it away.

Every once in awhile it hits me. I made the decision to start Northstar over 18 years ago, although it seems like yesterday. And 20 years from now may seem as if it is here as soon as tomorrow.  And then my grandchildren will be looking at pictures of me and thinking, “He sure does look old!” No, I am not having a midlife crisis. The point is that we don’t have enough days to spend on the past. We need to focus on the present.

Since I only have a limited number of days, I want them all to matter in the light of eternity.  So I’m focused on the present and helping the whole world find and follow Jesus.    

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do any of your past afflictions or trials still affect you in the present? In what way?
  2. Do you ever fear that your past experiences will keep you from serving God and ministering to others in the present? Why?
  3. What past hurts do you need to trust God to redeem? Take some time to pray for God to help you let go of the past and trust Him to work those past hurts for your good.
  4. Spend some time this week reviewing your use of time. Write out how you are spending your time. Don’t let your time keep slipping away. Identify time that can be captured for His kingdom’s purposes and redeem it.

In Times Past

“…that, regarding your previous way of life, you put off your old self [completely discard your former nature], which is being corrupted through deceitful desires, and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation].” –  Ephesians 4:22-23 (AMP)

Ephesians 4:22-24 is a very encouraging passage of scripture. The Amplified Bible tells us to “put off our old self… and be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude]”  In other words, you can overcome any negative situation or pain from your past if you will just get with God and say, “Yes, I did this in my past. And yes, it haunts me to this day. But I am a child of yours and I know You have a good plan for me.”

Of course that is easily said than done for many of us because we tend to keep looking in the rearview mirror. We want to stare at our past rather than focus on the future. Our hope should never be based on what’s in our past. Our hope should be based on God and His promises for our life. Philippians 3:13 says, “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.” 

Paul tells us to forget what was behind, but is that really possible? It can be very hard to forget some aspects of the past, especially those we are not proud of. Even though it is difficult to forget, we cannot allow our past to hold us back from our future. I believe as we move into 2016 that God has great opportunities planned for each of us. It is hard to see those opportunities ahead of us if we are too busy looking backward. Or in other words, we should not let our past deter us from our future. Our past can either be an anchor which holds us back, or a rudder which helps guide us forward.

The question is are we looking forward or backward? My prayer is that as we move into this new year we would be laser focused on Jesus Christ and seizing the opportunities Jesus Christ and all that He has for us. May this be a year where you grow closer to God than you have ever been and that you see life, others and opportunities through His eyes.

The book of Numbers records the Israelites journey from Egypt to the promised land. A trip that took 40 years. The Israelites stayed in the wilderness 40 years because they couldn’t see God’s vision for their life. They thought of everything in terms of their past. In fact, they complained to Moses that they wanted to go back to Egypt and return to a life of slavery because that’s what they knew. But God wanted them to get a new present and future in a land flowing with milk and honey.

If you want to see change happen in your life, you’ve got to see past what you’ve already seen and experienced.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much is the past a part of your present life?  
  2. What did you get that you did not expect from God, people, and circumstances in the past? What was your view of God before the situation occurred? When it was occurring? After it occurred?
  3. What do you want from God, people, and circumstances in the present so you can move past your past?
  4. What part of your past do you need to let go? What is one thing you can completely give to God now?