Be The Change

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian writer regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. (Quote source here.)
Yesterday I posted a blog post on my other blog titled, All Things New,” that is themed around the changes that have occurred in my life over the past decade. One of the things I noted was how much I have changed during this past decade. While the external circumstances of my life changed dramatically over this time period, the internal changes for me personally have been, well, quite remarkable.

In continuing with the theme of change from All Things New,” here is what the apostle Paul had to say about “pressing on” in Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT):

 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but 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.

It is hard to move forward when we allow the past to hold us back. In an article titled, Leave the Past Behind,” by David Zerfoss, Owner of The Zerfoss  Group, Chair of Vistage International, and Executive in Residence at Queens University McColl School of Business, he writes:

Without realizing it, we often carry something around with us everywhere we go. We bring it out in our conversations, and it shows up in our attitudes. Whatever that thing is from the past may never have really existed, yet its power lives inside us and keeps us from moving forward.

Listen to people talk throughout the day, and take note of where their conversations are grounded—in the future, in the present, or in the past. Where would you guess most conversations draw from?

The answer is the past.

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. — Isaiah 43:18–19

Some of us take our past—and, therefore, stress—with us everywhere we go, towing it along behind us. Why do we do it? It’s familiar to us. It’s that warm and fuzzy bag of stories we like to take out and share with our family, friends, and coworkers. This comfortable past is often our “best friend.” It’s who and what we know best. It’s like a worn-out easy chair or an old pair of shoes that fits us and feels just right. But God commands us, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18), lest we miss the new thing He is doing right in front of us!

When people talk about or think about their past, it seems to take on the characteristics of a real-life being. The past cannot breathe, talk, think, or do. However, it is immensely powerful and can take over our future—if we let it. It’s like the sirens on the shore, luring you toward the rocks over and over again. Focusing on the past will certainly limit your choices for the future.

For a lot of people, I know the past holds a difficult childhood, an abusive marriage, or a financially draining job loss. Yet no matter how painful our past may have been, for some strange reason we often choose not to let go. In order to get on with our future and simplify our lives, we must choose to make a clean break and leave the past behind.

There’s an engaging Peanuts cartoon where Lucy is apologizing to Charlie Brown for missing a fly ball during a baseball game. She’s sorry she missed the fly ball and says it’s because she started remembering all the others she missed. “The past got in my eyes,” she says.

Many of us know people who are very reasonable—they have very good reasons for why they can’t move forward in life. Take for instance a person who has endured multiple bad relationships or marriages. He is certain that because of these relationships, he’s stuck in the terrible spot he’s in today. Isn’t it difficult to watch that person once again become attracted to the same type of person with whom he just ended a contentious relationship?

Carrying the past forward to the future will provide us with only one thing—incremental change—in our lives. “Unreasonable” people make a choice to create transformational breakthroughs, without “reasonable” ties to the past.

Each of us has a powerful choice. We have the ability to create our own simplified future by starting with a blank sheet of paper and a heart surrendered to God’s will for our lives.

Choose to leave the past behind, and begin living a life filled with new possibilities! (Quote source here.)

And in another article titled, Moving Forward,” by Trey Bradley, speaker and evangelist, he writes the following in two sections titled in his article titled, “Forget the Past But Never Forget the Past,” and “Don’t Settle”:

Forget The Past But Never Forget The Past

When Paul spoke of moving forward [see Philippians 3:12-14 above] he said that he was going to forget what was behind him. Paul definitely had a past and a dark one that surely haunted him often. We all have a past and the enemy often uses this to try and distract us or stop us from being effective in the kingdom. As Paul stated we must leave the past behind and recognize that it does not define us anymore. We have a new identity and a new name in Christ. The old person is dead and we have been raised to new life in Christ Jesus so we cannot allow past mistakes to keep us from moving forward. It is the past! Done! Forgiven! At the same time we must never forget the past as far as remembering where God has brought us. We must never forget where we come from! By always remembering how the grace of God brought us through in the past, we will be reminded that this same grace will get us through our current circumstance that is keeping us from moving forward. God came through before and He will come through again. He freed me from that sin in the past, and He can free me from this sin that I currently struggle with so I can and will move forward by His grace.

Don’t Settle

Many of us often settle for less than God’s best for our lives whether it’s our own spiritual walk, relationships, or career path. God has offered a feast at His table, and we often settle for scraps that fall on the floor. I find it interesting how Paul is in prison for following Christ and could have easily just gone into cruise mode. He could have just given up and quit by assuming that God must be done with him. However, he was not willing to settle based on his circumstances. He vowed to continue to move forward toward the goal and had a desire to know Jesus in such a way that he never had before. He knew that since he was not dead, that God was not done. If Paul can move forward while in prison than we can move forward despite what our circumstances may be. In fact your circumstances just might be the vehicle in which the gospel will go forth in your circle in ways that it never has before. Let’s not settle and think that our current circumstance is reason to just ride things out until the end. Keep moving forward.

Trey ends his article with the following statement:

It is so easy to allow apathy to set into our hearts, minds, and emotions but we must keep moving forward. I want to have the heart of Paul and never let myself become stagnant regardless of what my current situation may be. Let’s continue to run the race, leave the past behind, and press ahead. (Quote source and complete article at this link.)

Those are good points to remember–continue to run the race, leave the past behind, and press ahead (with enthusiasm!).

We all have things in our past that we wish we could change, and often they are very major things that have had a huge impact on our lives and even our relationships. But whatever those things are, we should not let them hold us back or stop us from moving forward. Paul was in a prison cell at the time he wrote those verses above in Philippians 3:12-14, and he didn’t let that hold him back. Moving forward in not just something that is external; it is also, and even more so, internal. It’s an attitude as much as an action. So, in closing, let’s remember to . . .

Continue to run the race . . .

Leaving the past behind . . .

And pressing ahead . . . .

YouTube Video: “Moving Forward” by Hezekiah Walker:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Moving Forward

“I have found that if we go as far as we can, God often opens up the rest of the way.” ~Isobel Kuhn, (1901-1957), missionary to China

In my last blog post, The Journey Out,” I mentioned a small book titled, The Red Sea Rules,” by Robert J. Morgan, teaching pastor at The Donelson Fellowship. In his book, he gives us ten strategies or “rules” for dealing with difficult times in our journey through life that come from the story of the Red Sea crossing which is found in Exodus 14.

As the story unfolds, it was “an action of God at the time of the Exodus that rescued the Israelites from the pursuing forces of Egypt. According to the Book of Exodus [Chapter 14], God divided the waters so that they could walk across the dry seabed. Once they were safely across, God closed the passage and drowned the Egyptians” (quote source here). It looked like an impossible situation. Behind the Israelites was the Egyptian army of Pharaoh (with over 600 chariots) quickly approaching, and in front of them was the Red Sea. It looked like there was no way out, and that the army would end up slaughtering them. Exodus 14:10-31 (MSG) tells the story:

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and saw them—Egyptians! Coming at them!

They were totally afraid. They cried out in terror to God. They told Moses, “Weren’t the cemeteries large enough in Egypt so that you had to take us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Back in Egypt didn’t we tell you this would happen? Didn’t we tell you, ‘Leave us alone here in Egypt—we’re better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness.’”

Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you’re never going to see them again.

God will fight the battle for you.
And you? You keep your mouths shut!”

God said to Moses: “Why cry out to me? Speak to the Israelites. Order them to get moving. Hold your staff high and stretch your hand out over the sea: Split the sea! The Israelites will walk through the sea on dry ground.

“Meanwhile I’ll make sure the Egyptians keep up their stubborn chase—I’ll use Pharaoh and his entire army, his chariots and horsemen, to put my Glory on display so that the Egyptians will realize that I am God.”

The angel of God that had been leading the camp of Israel now shifted and got behind them. And the Pillar of Cloud that had been in front also shifted to the rear. The Cloud was now between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. The Cloud enshrouded one camp in darkness and flooded the other with light. The two camps didn’t come near each other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and God, with a terrific east wind all night long, made the sea go back. He made the sea dry ground. The sea waters split.

The Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground with the waters a wall to the right and to the left. The Egyptians came after them in full pursuit, every horse and chariot and driver of Pharaoh racing into the middle of the sea. It was now the morning watch. God looked down from the Pillar of Fire and Cloud on the Egyptian army and threw them into a panic. He clogged the wheels of their chariots; they were stuck in the mud.

The Egyptians said, “Run from Israel! God is fighting on their side and against Egypt!”

God said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea and the waters will come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots, over their horsemen.”

Moses stretched his hand out over the sea: As the day broke and the Egyptians were running, the sea returned to its place as before. God dumped the Egyptians in the middle of the sea. The waters returned, drowning the chariots and riders of Pharaoh’s army that had chased after Israel into the sea. Not one of them survived.

But the Israelites walked right through the middle of the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall to the right and to the left. God delivered Israel that day from the oppression of the Egyptians. And Israel looked at the Egyptian dead, washed up on the shore of the sea, and realized the tremendous power that God brought against the Egyptians. The people were in reverent awe before God and trusted in God and his servant Moses.

We have all faced situations that seem impossible at times. And in this story, the Israelites had no idea how they were going to get out of this mess with the Egyptian army on their heels and the Red Sea in front of them and nowhere else to go, and they were terrified. Never did they imagine what God was about to do. While frozen in fear, God told Moses to tell them to “get moving” (vs. 15). And as Moses raised his staff to the sea, it began to part so that they could walk through the sea on dry ground.

Red Sea Rule #6 in The Red Sea Rulesstates, “When unsure, just take the next logical step by faith” (page 65). Well, if you’re like me, sometimes you aren’t even sure what “the next logical step” is that you need to take! Morgan writes the following:

On the despairing shores of the Red Sea, the Israelites couldn’t see what was in the distance. They had no binoculars that could view Canaan or even the opposite shore. But the Lord gave them a simple plan: “tell the children of Israel to go forward.”

The 19th Century expositor C. H. Mackintosh believed the Red Sea did not divide throughout all at once, but opened progressively as Israel moved forward, so that they needed to trust God for each fresh step. Mackintosh wrote, “God never gives guidance for two steps at a time. I must take one step, and then I get light for the next. This keeps the heart in abiding dependence upon God.”

It is axiomatic that God generally leads His children step-by-step, provides for us day by day, and cares for us moment by moment.

The pillar of cloud led them forward day by day (Nehemiah 9:19 TLB, emphasis added).

Day by day the Lord also pours out his steadfast love upon me (Psalm 42:8 TLB, emphasis added).

Your strength shall be renewed day by day like morning dew (Psalm 10:3 TLB, emphasis added).

Give us day by day our daily bread (Luke 11:3 NKJV,, emphasis added). [And if our daily bread, then our daily work. Our daily plans. Our daily opportunities.]

The Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with loud instruments until to the LORD (2 Chron. 30:21 KJV, emphasis added).

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16 NKJV, emphasis added). (Quote source: The Red Sea Rules,” pp. 67-68.)

Morgan continues on page 69 stating:

Whenever I haven’t known what to do, I’ve just tried to do what comes next, to take the next logical step by faith. I’ve decided that sometimes plodding is better than plotting when it comes to finding God’s will, and I’ve often been encouraged by the word of this much-loved hymn:

Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or fear.
~Day by Day by Karolina W. Sandell-Berg (1832-1903)

And in the footsteps of Jesus, neither do you. (Quote source: The Red Sea Rules,” p. 69.)

On pages 71-73, Morgan tells the story of a missionary in China named Isobel Kuhn (1901-1957) who was in China with her son, Danny, when the Communists took over China in 1949 (see The Chinese Revolution of 1949):

Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount: “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow, too. Live one day at a time” (Matt. 6:34 TLB).

When the Communists overran China, missionary Isobel Kuhn escaped on foot with her young son, Danny, across the dangerous snow-covered Pienma Pass. She finally arrived at Myitkyina in Upper Burma, but there she was stranded “at the world’s end” without money, unable to speak the language, and still half a globe away from home. “I cannot tell you the dismay and alarm that filled me,” she later wrote.

But in her perplexity, she made two decisions. “The first thing is to cast out fear,” she said. “The only fear a Christian should entertain is the fear of sin. All other fears are from Satan sent to confuse and weaken us. How often the Lord reiterated to His disciples, ‘Be not afraid!’ So Isobel knelt and spread her heart before Him. “I refused to be afraid and asked Him to case such fears out of my heart.”

Her second determination was to “seek light for the next step.” She had no idea how to get out of Asia, but with God’s help she could figure out what to do that day to provide food and funds, to find a safe place to stay, to find a means of communicating with the outside world.

Eventually she arrived back home, safe and sound, but it came by trusting God for guidance in small increments, taking the journey one footprint at a time.

When you don’t know what to do next, cast out fear and seek light for the next step. Trust God for guidance in small increments; and if you can’t see what lies dimly in the distance, do what lies clearly at hand. (Quote source: The Red Sea Rules,” pp. 71-73.)

So, what’s the next step if you’re in a situation right now where you have no clue what the next step is? Pray, and trust God for guidance moment by moment, step by step, and day by day . . .

Cast out fear . . .

And seek light . . .

For the next step . . . .

YouTube Video: “Moving Forward” by Hezekiah Walker and LFC:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here