Last week, I visited my parents in Houston. One afternoon, my mom showed me an old loose-leaf notebook with recipes in it. It was a small black notebook that held recipes from my grandparents. Seemingly out of place was a quote from the great poet, Tennyson and a hand-written page containing, what I am assuming was thought from my grandfather.
On this page, written in red ink, he expounded on where life begins. It resonated with me, because it was as if it was written just for me. He has been gone a long time and I am not sure when this was written, but it was certainly for me in 2022. (Maybe it is written for you as well)
Of all the stupid, silly, useless, inexcusable habits – Regret is the tops.
Check up on yourself sometime and you’ll be astonished how much time is wasted in trying or wishing to undo something that is all finished beyond recall.
Regret is an enemy, and a very persistent one, as well as, a great time consumer.
Regret is useless – you can’t make things unhappen.
The only thing that binds you to an unhappy or unfortunate past is your own regret. Nobody else is going to care much about it.
The past is a closed chapter. The future is full of opportunities and possibilities, no matter whether you are forty or eighty.
Life begins at the very moment you cease to live in the past.
This is a challenge to all of us. The choices we have made in the past, are in the past. You cannot undo bad choices, but you can make a decision to make good choices in the future.
Philippians 3:13-14, “13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” CSB
If you are always looking back, you will never see what is ahead. Press on. Move forward. Let go of regrets and live.
I have shared this before, but as I continue to watch the lives of hurting people, it is more relevant today than ever. Most of us have a mask we wear. Hiding what is really lying on the inside of our hearts. To be free, we must remove the mask and the only way we can be free is through Jesus Christ. He heals what is behind the masks we wear.
I read this poem on Sunday. I pray it ministers to you today and causes you to think. Let Jesus have all the pain you are carrying on the inside. Cast your cares on Him for He cares for you.
The Mask Please don’t ask What’s behind the veil No one can really tell
What am I hiding? Why am I crying? What is it that I cannot tell? The Mask Please don’t ask
What I am covering up? Why I have had enough Enough of the pain Why is it always the same? My sin holds me down In it I am going to drown
The Mask Since you had to ask Shows me all smile When behind it all the while Is my hurt, my toil, my shame On the inside is nothing but pain
The Mask Please don’t ask I can’t take it off It’s all my fault I drowned my pain with sin I can’t get free within The Mask
The Mask It only hides the void in my soul I need someone else to take control Is there a savior? is there a God? Who on my soul will not trod? But take my pain, take my hurt Take my sin and give me some worth
The Mask Jesus I ask Take my life, take all of me Heal my pain so I can finally see This person behind the mask
When I have a little free time in the office, I generally take a look back at some things that have impacted my life. Years ago, my grandfather was in ministry and carried a loose-leaf Bible with sermon notes inside of it. I enjoy reading through these notes to see if I can glean anything from his words of wisdom.
In his sermon on a passage in Ezekiel, he made an insightful statement that cut me to the heart. “Remember, if you are hungry, you are healthy. Hunger is a sign of health and if you have no hunger for God, you are sick. May God create in us an appetite which only Jesus can satisfy. Down, Christian, down on your knees, if you want the blessing that God will give to you.”
Are you hungry for God? If you are not hungry your spiritual life is sick. The only remedy for hunger is to take the path to blessing. On our knees is the place to find hunger. On our knees is the place to have our hunger satisfied.
In this life we have so many things competing for our affections. It is hard to keep our hearts hungry for more of God. If you find yourself in a place where you are not hungry for Him, you need healing from your spiritual sickness. God will place in you a hunger if you will only ask Him. May we hunger for the Bread of Life!
DISCLAIMER: This is a lengthy article. Since, we are not having church because of the weather, I thought I would share what was on my heart for our message tonight.
Monday, we drove out to the Buffalo River area and gazed at the beauty of God’s creation. The rising bluffs that create a marvelous backdrop for the Buffalo River. The water was flowing freely, and the rapids were rushing, not turbulently, but at least steadily. I love this area of Arkansas. Truly, it is a gift from our Creator.
Sonya and I have frequented this area many times. In all four seasons, yet it is in winter that you notice the lack of life. The trees look dead. The leaves have fallen, the grass is brown, and apart from a smattering of evergreens, there is little color in the wintertime.
One thing we must remember, however, is that even though it looks lifeless, it doesn’t mean it’s dead. The trees are very much alive even though there are no leaves on their limbs. Winter, in itself, holds its own beauty. But one oft overlooked blessing in the cold season is that you can see things you never saw when the trees were teeming with life. With the tress full of leaves, you cannot see at a distance. The view is blocked. Therefore, the winter season produces a greater vision than the summertime.
In Psalm 42, the Psalmist is walking through a winter season of his life. He is missing the house of worship, being around God’s people, and we even catch a glimpse of his thought that perhaps God is absent during these moments. Things had changed drastically in his life. So much so that he reveals his heart is breaking because he misses the times of singing for joy and relishing the celebration.
The Psalmist then begins to question, “Why am I so discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” Have you been there before? Walked through a winter season of depression?
Our tendency in those seasons is to focus on the gloom of the winter. No sign of life. Things look and feel dead or at least, as if the presence of God has escaped us. This is when the Psalmist changes his perspective. Why am I discouraged and feel so sad? Yet, I will hope in God! I will praise Him again! He is no longer looking at the lifeless winter, but the God who is full of life. When our season feels like a long winter, we have to change the way we see things. We have to look up, rather than around.
In verse 8, the writer gives us the greatest shot of hope while also giving us instruction.
“But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.” -Psalm 42:8 NLT-
The Psalmist shows us that God is always pouring His unfailing love on us. This gives us a reason for living. But here comes our response to that unfailing love. It should cause us to have a song in our heart. “Through each night I sing His songs.” When we are embraced by the unfailing love of God, we should have a song. It gives us a reason to sing.
Our next instruction tells us that if we are in winter and lack life, we need to pray to God. “Praying to God who gives me life.” Life comes when we are connected to Him in prayer. In Psalm 43:4 it tells us that we should build our altar to God, who is our source of joy. These verses remind us of the power of prayer to get us through the gloomy season.
As I was thinking on these verses, it sparked a way that we need to pray when we need life. I’m not talking about our next breath, but rather life in our soul, spiritual life. If that is what you need, try patterning your prayer this way:
LISTEN TO GOD
Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still and know that He is God…” We must slow down our lives long enough to listen to His voice. Listening for Him to calm us, lead us, and draw us to Him.
In his book, Getting Your Life Back, John Eldredge writes about the One Minute Pause. Taking just 60 seconds to stop, breathe, and listen to Him. During the One Minute Pause, Eldredge says it is a time to release to God whatever is weighing us down. He gives a couple of questions to ask that will help us focus during these 60 seconds. Simply, ask and listen.
1. What do I need to let go of? (What is weighing me down?)
Pause and give it to God. Let it go.
2. What do I need from God today?
Pause and ask Him for it.
Eldredge encourages everyone to do this multiple times throughout the day. I challenge you to make this a part of your daily life.
INTERCEDE FOR OTHERS
Nothing helps us take the focus off of our own situations like praying for others who are in need. The Bible is emphatic about our need to “stand in the gap” for others. (Ezekiel 22:30, I Timothy 2:1-2, Matthew 5:44, Ephesians 6:18)
If you have trouble finding things to pray about, just take this summary from the verses mentioned above.
The nation and our leaders
Family and Friends
People who are going through hardship
There are needs all around us, and the way to breathe life into your winter season is to focus on the needs of others. If you focus on their needs, it will help you to not be glued to all the troubles you are walking through.
The Bible does tell us that we are to pray for ourselves. It is not unselfish. We are instructed to pray for our own needs.
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (I Peter 5:7 NLT)
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT)
“Commit your future to the Lord.” (Psalm 37:5 NET)
The word commit in Psalm 37:5 carries the idea of rolling your burden onto the Lord. It pictures a camel loaded down with cargo, kneeling down, and rolling to its side to unload its weight. This means that we are literally to roll our burdens off on to God. We do this by praying for our own needs.
EXALT THE LORD
Remember, the Psalmist in Psalm 42:8 said that he sang songs throughout the night. We are also told in other places that we are to exalt the Lord. It is during our time of prayer that we should take time to worship the Lord for who He is and give thanks for what He has done. The Apostle Paul connected letting our requests being made known to God and giving thanks. When we are thankful for what He has done, it helps us have faith for things He hasn’t down yet.
Friends, I encourage you to build an altar and pray to the God who gives us life.
Listen to God Intercede for others For Yourself Exalt the Lord.
When you do these things, you will find clarity and spiritual life even in your winter seasons.
Of course, it is the first day of 2022 and I know we are all thinking about the resolutions we should be making for the new year. I believe, however, that resolutions are outdated, and we would be better off forming new habits.
I have always heard it said, “New Year, New You”, but honestly, you are the only you that you will ever have. My goal should not be a new me, but a better me. In studying for my first sermon of 2022, I came across a list of perpetual new year’s resolutions that will make all of us better people. To be frank, these are not a pick and choose list of resolutions. Every one of these should be a must in our lives. No options. Our world would be a better place if we all would all just follow these ideas for a better you, and a better me.
PERPETUAL NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
Call up a forgotten friend. Drop an old grudge and replace it with some pleasant memories.
Vow not to make a promise you don’t think you can keep.
Give a soft answer.
Free yourself of envy and malice.
Make a geniuine effort to stay in closer touch with family and good friends.
Resolve to stop magnifying small problems and shooting from the lip. Words that you have to eat can be hard to digest.
Find the time to be kind and thoughful. All of us have the same allotment: 24 hours a day.
Give a compliment. It might give someone a badly needed lift.
Think things through.
Apologize when you realize you are wrong. An apology never diminishes a person. It elevates him.
Try to understand a point of view that is different from your own. Few things are 100 percent one way or another.
Lighten up. When you feel like blowing your top, ask yourself, “Will it matter in a week from today?”.
Avoid malcontents and pessimists. They drag you down and contribute nothing.
Don’t discourage a beginner from trying something risky. Nothing ventured means nothing gained.
Walk tall, and smile more. You’ll look 10 years younger.
Don’t be afraid to say, “I love you”. Say it again. They are the sweetest words in the world.
This week, I finished the book, The Garden of God by Andrew Peterson. It was a great read on trees, of all things, and the lessons that they teach us. It was a book that caused me to think, as the author related the life of the trees and how they are all the Garden of God. I wrote this after finishing the book.
On the inside, something I have missed Not noticing on earth, God’s glorious kiss
In my heart, yearning for so much more Eden’s garden, near Heaven’s shore
All too often, I overlook the glory of God Along the path of life, everywhere foot does trod
It is evident that He is everywhere Yet life goes on, as if we do not care
Perhaps the busyness, makes us look past All the creation, God has graced us with
The water flowing and falls many feet below It runs so much more, after winter’s snow
Though winter is long and the cold is blight Though our sins are as scarlet, He does make them white
Winter gives way to spring when it all shall bud again Flowers bloom, the grass will grow, when we get spring’s rain
Why do I miss the forest in the midst of all the trees? But in the thicket, I feel the Spirit’s gentle breeze.
God is present and in all things good. I cannot help but be grateful, like I always should.