Walking into a local diner yesterday, I heard a voice – “Hey, Jerry, you gonna eat by yourself?” It took a second to register the greeting of my old friend, Jack, who have known for almost 50 years. He was the best man at my wedding. We spend the next hour ‘catching up’ on life, talking about our families, sharing our faith walk, being friends. It was sweet to remember.
Nostalgia is dangerous as the old song says – “Once upon a time the world was sweeter than we knew, Everything was ours, how happy we were then!” It is good to remember the blessings of the past, times of fruitful ministry, people still loved – but, we can’t live there.
The opportunities that exist today can be hidden by the haze of past glories or the darkness of regret. We rewrite history, perhaps not on purpose, but we do. The ‘ordinary’ is lost to us and the moments we remember are the big ones – those that stand out. We may well remember those ‘good old days, forgetting most of the hardships that are eclipsed by the shining moments of joy.
Conversely, the failures that cause us pain may hide a hundred lesser victories, long forgotten. With age, I know that living in the past is a major temptation, one that will hinder my relationship with the Lord. Even if you are not that old, our quickly changing world can bring on longing for another era, one that we remember as being so much better! Are you bemoaning life? “It’s not the way it used to be.” Life is not static, never has been, never will be.
Christian, we must keeping growing and learning. If we starting living only in yesterday, we will die – spiritually. I hear your objection – “But, Jerry, Christianity is ancient. Traditions are important.” Yes, it is true. The Bible assures us that “Jesus Christ is the same; yesterday, today, and forever.” The grace gifts of Communion, baptism, and holy days in our calendar are valuable experiences that preserve continuity in the Christian community, that take us ‘back to the foundations.’
And, this too, I do not suggest that all change is good or that we should seek change out of boredom. We change for the good when we invite God, the Spirit, speak to us in our place, our time, with a word for this day that brings the unchanging Christ into this world. While the Gospel of Christ, the grace that reconciles us to our Creator God, never changes, how it is communicated; the ways that we worship, the methods we use to observe the traditions and rites of our faith – will all change over time.
Songs that moved us, that shaped our expressions, will be replaced by the songs of new artists who are expressing their love for Christ with new rhythms and melodies. Preachers whose methods were inspired by the Spirit for a generation will pass on to their reward. Today will bring innovative ways to share the authentic Message of Christ.
Let’s make it personal before closing this thought today.
I want to encourage you to enjoy what the Lord wants to do in your life TODAY!
Do you fondly remember a decade when God seemed so close to you? Rejoice in that!
Do you feel deep regret for some choices you made in past? Remember the great grace of God that forgives our sins –completely.
Great memories strengthen bonds bringing families, churches, and even nations together. We learn from the terrible memories of poor choices, sinful decisions, or simple folly! But, we must not sing ‘once upon a time,’ too fondly, so as to miss God’s work, right here, right now! Pray that the Spirit will renew your vision. Give thanks for the possibilities that exist in this day. If you think the Church has gone a little ‘off the rails,’ pray for those who lead, asking the Spirit to make His Presence known.
Be ready, whether you have walked with God for 4 months or 40 years to see God to do a new thing – in you, in your church, in this world! Consider Jesus’ parable – “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be torn, and the patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. The new wine would burst the old skins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins.” (Luke 5:36-37, NLT)
Here’s a word from the Word. Paul writing about the path of his life speaks of a forward looking faith. “I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” (Philippians 3:12-14, NLT)
Press on to the prize!
(a song I love for the hope it inspires)
When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall
When the choices are hard
When we’re battered and scarred
When we’ve spent our resources
When we’ve given our all
In Jesus’ name we press on
In Jesus’ name we press on
Dear Lord with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on
Dan Burgess © 1983 Good Life Publications, Inc. (Admin. by Jubilate Music Group, LLC)
CCLI License # 810055