Learning when you look back

The end of the year is a time when everyone starts looking back over the weeks and months that have passed. At least, it is for me. I think about where I started at the beginning of the year. I think about all the great things that have happened, but I also think about all the bad stuff too.

I love life. I love following Jesus. I love doing what God has called me to do, but it’s a foregone conclusion that life isn’t always happy. Sometimes bad things happen, and they often happen to good people. But the world isn’t perfect, and we’re all just doing the best we can to get by in it. That being said, I screw things up. I make decisions in fear or insecurity or anger. I hide when I ought to speak up. I speak up when I ought to shut up.

But no matter how many times I mess up, one thing is certain–I learn something.

PTJNJ5LZLAToday’s verse is Deuteronomy 4:9.

But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.

I don’t like making mistakes, and I don’t like difficult situations. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like it when people are unhappy with me or with others. But many times I end up in a circumstance where I’m facing one or all of those things, and many times it’s because of something I did or said (or because I failed to do or say something I needed to).

I noticed that gasoline was really low the other day. Like less than $1.50 per gallon, and I should have filled up. But I didn’t. I decided to put it off. And the next day, it was up around $1.75, and I had to fill up because I was almost out. When you make a judgment call about anything, you have to face the consequences. And whether the consequences are good or bad, you can still walk away with a lesson learned.

God cautioned the Children of Israel to remember what they had been through in the wilderness, how He’d taken care of them, how He’d guided them and provided for them. He wanted them to remember so that they’re children wouldn’t forget. And that hasn’t changed today. It might be thousands of years later and we may be living in a different culture, but the concept is still the same.

When God brings you through something, remember it. Remember what you learned. Remember how you got into it. Remember how God got you out of it. And take steps to keep remembering it. Tell your family. Tell your friends. Tell anyone who will listen. Write it down, because you will forget, and you shouldn’t.

So take stock of where you are and how you got there. Take a moment and look back on your life and the choices you’ve made that brought you to where you are today. Then learn from it. If you made a choice and good consequences followed, remember it. If you made a choice and bad consequences followed, remember that too and don’t do it again.

The New Year is approaching with more speed than any of us realize, and many of us will try starting over. That’s all well and good, but if you don’t remember how you got here to begin with, you are destined to make the same mistakes all over again.

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Evidence

It’s so easy for me to forget God sometimes. I get so caught up in life and ministry and work that I just sometimes push Him to the side and don’t think about Him. Even now as I write this blog this morning, my brain is going in a million different directions and staying focused on Him is difficult.

Why is that? I am so easily distracted, and it’s frustrating for me. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is for God.

It’s ironic, though, because if I just open my eyes and look around, God is everywhere. His fingerprints are all over creation. He’s in thunderstorms and gentle rains. He’s in gray, overcast skies. He’s in the startling green wheat fields that presently surround my house. He’s in the lilac bushes, the blossoming pear trees, and even the garlic chives that have taken over the garden plot. He’s in all these things because He made them. He created them for us and gave them to us for us to enjoy (although, I think the garlic chives may have come from Satan as a curse).

But nature is more than just something for us to take pleasure in. Nature is a sign. Everything around us is a sign, pointing with both hands to God as the Creator of everything.

I heard in a theology course I took once that there are two kinds of revelation, natural revelation and special revelation. The Bible is special revelation because God spoke through men specifically. Nature, however, is natural revelation because you can look at it and understand a lot about God just from what you see.

The verse this morning says it better than I can:

Romans 1:20

20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

 I don’t understand how people can look at the world and think it happened by accident. That everything we see here came about on its own, by chance. I don’t have a problem if people want to believe that, and I won’t try to change anyone’s mind (I can’t do that anyway). I’m just saying that I don’t understand it. It makes more logical sense to me that the Earth was created, but I’m not going to start on the Creation vs. Evolution soapbox this morning because that’s not what I thought when I read this verse.

I actually felt frustrated with myself. Because I know God. I know Him personally. He’s been my best friend for 21 years. The only other person I’ve been best friends with longer than that is my brother. I know God, and even though all of nature throws Him in my face, I still manage to forget about Him.

I still run into a problem that I can’t fix, and I stress out. I still reach the end of my power and worry. I still try to do everything in my life on my own. I still feel alone.

But all I have to do is watch the moth flying around in my upstairs office (I still don’t know how it got in here; I haven’t been able to swat it), and that is evidence of God’s creativity. A moth is an incredible creature. They fly; what’s not to like? All those tiny little wing feathers. The brilliant, muted colors (no, that’s not a contradiction). Their fuzzy little antennae. (It’s no wonder Arthur the accountant picked it as an alter-ego!)

God made moths, just like He made everything else. He designed them. He created them from nothing. And He gave them to us to study and watch and see and enjoy, and when we see it we can remember who God is. We can remember that He can do anything. We can remember that no matter what problem we’re facing, He is strong enough to overcome it. Because if He’s creative enough to stick fuzzy antennae on a bug and make it fly around a eat clothes, He can help you come up with a solution for any situation in your life.

Just as people have no excuse for not knowing God, I have no excuse for forgetting Him. And on this Good Friday, I want to remember.