Wednesday, December 19, 2007

DON'T LIVE IN THE PAST

WHERE ARE YOU FOCUSED? Hope offers us a robust experience of the present moment based on our choice to believe in and focus on a promised future. We are able to be attentive to the challenges and opportunities of today because we are not dwelling on the past but anticipating what is yet to come. Life is full of possibilities, not laments or longings for the past. Where are you focused--on the past or on the future?

HOPE IS A CHOICE. The older I get, the more readily I see how important it is to choose hope. That's right: CHOOSE hope. Hope is a conscious choice that we can make or reject in preference for other options. The choice for or away from hope at the mid-point of life is crucial. One's choice for or away from hope in midlife determines to a great extent how one lives out the rest of earthly days.

OL' GLORY DAYS. The people described in Hebrews 11 chose hope. And because they chose hope, they lived forwardly by faith. They weren't thinking about the past. They weren't thinking about what they had left behind. They weren't dwelling on the old "glory days." They weren't fishing around to attach to scattered pals, resurrect old friendships, or recreate "the good times." They weren't hanging on to what was familiar and easy for them. Instead, they looked forward in hope. And they were on a breathtaking adventure. Instead of living for the past, they were forging new history every day.

REJECTING THE FUTURE. "If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return." I see people rejecting the future everyday. They return to the old country. They set out to live by faith, but they get tired or afraid or lonely or feel overwhelmed. And, instead of using the resources readily available to them, they reach back for what is most familiar to them: the past. And they unwittingly return. They may look and sound faithful, but they've abandoned ship and are in full retreat.

CHURCHES THAT COP OUT. Some churches may have great, modern facilities and attractive programs, but they have copped out of the challenges of the present and focused on returning to some imagined more readily managable (i.e., controllable) time. They tickle the imagination that people and America can return to the past. They cultivate nostalgia of revivalism and fundamentalism but fail to lead their congregations into the spiritual warfare that is pressing on the battlefronts in our cities, schools, media, and neighborhoods.

LEAVING IN PLACE. It goes something like this: Things today are more complex than ever before. Relationships change. People transition. Neighborhoods change. Church situations change. Technology baffles. The feelings of familiarity become more fragile. They feel overwhelmed and a bit lost. So, instead of focusing on the future God has guaranteed and seeking to become a faithful adventurer amid incredible challenges, they withdraw into the illusion that you can freeze time and go back to the past. They carve out enclaves of faux safety and false security. They disengage from the challenge. They seek to be served rather than to serve. Unwittingly, thinking of the country they left, they take the opportunity to return.

TEMPTATION OF THE PAST. Living in the past is a real spiritual temptation. And it is just that: a temptation. Past-focused living is not the way of Christian faith. Christ has called us forward, inviting us to leave the past behind and walk with him day by day into a promised future He has secured. He has given us hope. And hope is what we will need to adequately respond to the challenges and situations we will face today. Don't dwell in the past; face today with God's future in heart.

POWER OF HOPE FOR TODAY'S CHALLENGES. No doubt today's challenges are great. Sometimes we are overwhelmed. Sometimes there are setbacks. Sometimes we feel like just stopping. And that choice can be made. But where does that lead? Where do you go? What kind of choice is that? God's comfort and the encouragement of His Word are made for moments like this. When going forward is tough, God's presence and the hope He gives us, draws us forward and keeps us focused on the future he's promised. Keep choosing hope and let God show you His power, His presence, His peace as you forge a history of faith today.

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