"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 30, 2015
Happy New Year!
A few nights ago I was having trouble falling asleep so I began praying. I prayed for various people who were going through difficult times, then began praying for myself. I tend to be my own biggest critic and will beat myself up over my shortcomings, sins, mistakes, imperfections, etc. I have a tough time letting go and forgiving myself, therefore, really accepting God's forgiveness. I know in my heart that when I repent that God forgives me, but it's one thing to know it and another to really believe and accept it.
I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart and say something very profound: "Stop condemning yourself for things you did in the past (whether it be years, months, days, or hours ago)! Stop feeling guilty over things that happened that were either out of your control or that you feel you should have handled differently. Those things are over and done, and you can't go back and redo or change anything. Instead, live in the forgiveness and grace that God has given you today!! God's mercies are new every morning -- so live like you believe that. You are not to live as one condemned; instead live as one who has been set free!"
Some of us may share the same type of struggles, but overall, we each have different areas that we battle. One of the things I feel like I'm constantly fighting is my thoughts; whether it be feeling as if I've been critical or judgmental towards someone, or being negative, or just having stinky thoughts. Then I really feel guilty when I put those thoughts into words. I also have a hard time forgiving and forgetting hurtful things that were said or done to me in the past. If I had truly forgiven, then I wouldn't keep thinking about it over and over and bringing it up over the years; whether it be in my own mind or telling someone else about it. I've also become a whole lot more sensitized and selective on what I watch on TV or the type of books I read, because when I'm not, Satan uses ungodly things I've read or seen to disrupt my thoughts. Jon and I have realized that we have to be more selective on which movies and TV shows we watch. There have been several times when we've recorded a movie or turned on Netflix and the language will get bad or there will be a scene that makes us uncomfortable, and we'll turn it off. Sometimes it's a PG rated movie, and one that was recommended to us. We've also watched a series on TV that started out good, then they will start throwing in scenes with homosexuals or same-sex kissing or innuendoes, and we stop watching it; no matter how funny it was previously or how good the series was. We don't want those images stuck in our mind, or having to battle ungodly thoughts. Satan uses those type of things to distract us away from spiritual things; then will heap guilt and condemnation upon us. "You shouldn't have watched that".... "You shouldn't have read that"... "You shouldn't have laughed at that one scene".... "This is just the way of the world, it won't hurt to watch this one movie with bad language or scenes"... "You should have turned that TV show off"...... And I tend to replay my sins and mistakes and failures over and over again in my mind -- feeling bad and repenting, then going onward for a while, then looking back and feeling bad and repenting........ Therefore, the message the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart a few nights ago. STOP DOING THAT!
Paul wrote many scriptures regarding this topic, and perhaps it was because he went through a period of time when he had these same type of struggles. He had a horrible, sordid past before he came to know Jesus. Paul (who was named Saul prior to his conversion) had been a harsh man who used his power corruptly, and his name and reputation struck fear in the hearts of many people. Acts 8:1 says, "Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen." After Stephen's death, a great wave of persecution began sweeping over the church in Jerusalem. Verse 3 says, "But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison."
Acts 9:1-2: "Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord's followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them -- both men and women -- back to Jerusalem in chains."
But then something life-changing happened, as he was approaching Damascus on this mission. A light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?" Saul asked who was speaking. The voice replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." When Saul picked himself up off the ground, he opened his eyes and found that he had been struck blind. He remained blind for three days and did not eat or drink.
God spoke to a believer in Damascus named Ananias through a vision. "Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again." Naturally, Ananias was frightened, because he had heard people talk of the terrible things that Saul had done to the believers in Jerusalem. He also knew that Saul had been authorized to arrest anyone who called upon the name of the Lord.
But the Lord said, "Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name's sake."
Paul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. Immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is indeed the Son of God!" God greatly used Paul to boldly preach the message of salvation.
I'm sure that there were many times when Satan tried to hinder Paul by reminding him of his past. I'm sure he even used other people to remind Paul of the man he used to be and all the terrible deeds he had done. Paul may have struggled from time to time with feeling good enough or feeling as if he was worthy to preach. That may have been what brought him to the point of writing certain scriptures. He learned to not let his past define who he was in the present. That was over and done with, he couldn't go back and change what he had done, so he chose to move forward and not look back.
Paul wrote in Romans 8:1-2: "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death."
Jesus tells us in John 8:36, "So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free."
The same is true for us today. It doesn't matter if we committed a horrible sin against others in our past, as Paul had, (perhaps not endorsing the killing of christians -- but something that caused hurt or harm to others), or if it's a struggle with something more minor; none of us have to live under the heavy cloud of condemnation and guilt. We can never truly move forward and thrive if we are constantly wearing our past like a shackle around our leg. We must allow the power of Jesus to free us from the stronghold that sin has over our lives and our thoughts. If Jesus sets us free -- then we are truly free!! We need to stop living in the regret of the past -- no matter if it was years ago, yesterday, or five minutes ago -- let it go -- and move forward.
We need to all put into practice what Paul writes in Philippians 3:13, 14: ".....I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."
As we face another new year, let us each determine in our heart to stop living in the past.... stop regretting past failures and mistakes.... stop living under the weight of condemnation and guilt regarding past sins.... stop trying to "fix" the past..... stop mourning over how great the past was in comparison to what may be happening right now.... just stop! Jeremiah tells us that God has given us a future and a hope!! But we can't truly enjoy and experience that until we release the past and let it go.
I don't know what 2016 holds in store for myself or anyone else. Only God knows that! It may be a year of great blessing and favor for some, but a year of difficulty and hardship for others. Whatever it has for each of us, we can choose to see each day as a gift from God and live it the way He would want us to. Don't look behind, don't look ahead, but take each day as it comes and allow God to show us the blessing of that day.
I am determined to take the message the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and put it into practice this coming year. I'm also going to put Paul's words from Philippians 3:13-14 into practice. I'm going to focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead!" I'm going to press forward day by day until I reach the end of my life and receive that heavenly prize. Won't you join me?!
I've heard, and have repeated an old joke: "If I learn from all my mistakes, I gotta be a genius by now."
Regretting the sins we commit or have committed is a good thing. Otherwise, we can feel free to do them again and again. We need to learn from our mistakes, to find a way to avoid repeating them. Of course we won't learn to avoid them if we don't desire to avoid them, which is what regret is all about.
On the other hand, if we think about a mistake we've made too much, we can get absorbed in it, and end up repeating it again and again.
When you (or I) make a mistake, the best things to do are to pray about it, figure out what you can do to avoid repeating it, and let it go.
Hidden Valley Ranch Oyster Crackers
3/4 cup oil
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 (10 oz.) package Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (dry)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1 package oyster crackers
Whisk together oil, dry dressing mix, and spices. Put crackers in a large bowl and pour mixture over the top; stir gently to evenly coat. Place crackers in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 275 for 15-20 minutes. Store in ziplock bag or airtight container.
Happy New Year to each of you!! Regardless of what 2016 holds in store, may your life be filled with the peace of God. May you experience the blessing of God and see Him at work in your heart each and every day. Through good and bad times, may you fully trust in God and know that He loves you more than you could ever imagine. God has given you a future and a hope -- so stop looking back, go forward, and press on to your eternal prize!
"As we look to the new year remember this:
We can trust an unknown future to a very known God!!" - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon