Wisdom For Life: Dealing With the Past

I was reading a magazine article recently, and the article was talking about all the recent proliferation of books on how to find happiness in life. One of them was titled Happiness for No Reason. Another one’s called The Geography of Bliss. The most recent one to come out is by Harvard psychologist, Dan Gilbert, it’s called Stumbling onto Happiness. And I think you see all of these new books coming out, which I think are selling quite well because I think modern human beings are finding the happiness that they are searching for is elusive.

But what I find interesting, and what most people aren’t really aware of is that over the last 20 years, there’s been a significant amount of research that’s been conducted at a number of prestigious universities, like the University of Chicago, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, all attempting to understand this relationship between happiness, or what sociologists call a sense of well-being, and how it’s related to rising prosperity. The results have been quite baffling to the researchers because as prosperity has risen in the Western world, instead of an increasing sense of well-being, the researchers are seeing it’s in decline.

In fact, Gregg Easterbrook, who, I don’t know if you all saw it, but he had an article in The Wall Street Journal on Friday called “Life is Good, So Why Do We Feel So Bad?” He’s a guy that, he was with the Brookings Institute, he wrote the bestseller, The Progress Paradox. He’s written articles for The New Republic, Atlantic Monthly and Newsweek. And he makes this observation. He says, “People are not feeling better today, but worse. Throughout the United States and Europe, the incidence of clinical melancholy has been rising in eerie synchronization with rising prosperity. Adjusting for population growth, unipolar depression, which is simply the condition in which a person always feels blue, is today 10 times as prevalent as it was 50 years ago.” Why is that?

What’s really interesting is that Princeton professor, Daniel Kahneman, who won a Nobel prize for economics in 2002, spent the better part of two decades observing what he called subjective well-being in people’s lives. And what’s interesting is after two decades, 20 years, he abandoned the project because he could never come up with any conclusive insights regarding people’s happiness.

And then one final thing I want to share before I get into the guts of the talk is an observation made by Dr. Richard Swinson, who wrote a wonderful book called Margin. And he says this, “As I listened to my patients, I have come to realize something is terribly wrong in people’s lives. People are tired and frazzled; people are anxious and depressed. People don’t have time to heal anymore.” And then listen to this. He says, “There is a psychic instability in our day, a psychic instability in our day, that prevents peace from him from implanting itself very firmly in people’s lives.”

Now guys, with this introduction, you know, I could go in any number of directions. You know, I could talk about the frenzy of modern life. I could talk about narcissism. I could talk about materialism and greed. You know, there are a host of other issues, but I want to go in a different direction this morning and look at a fundamental problem that I truly believe robs us of the joyful abundant life that God originally intended when He put us here. I’ve rarely heard anybody speak on this, but I hope to point out that this is a major issue in people’s lives and most people aren’t even aware of it.

Where I want to start this morning is to read from Thornton Wilder’s play, I think every high school in America has probably put this play on. It’s called “Our Town”. It was a famous Broadway play and in it, Emily, a young mother who died in childbirth, is given the opportunity to go back and observe a single day in her life. And she’s advised to choose an ordinary day, for even the most important day will be important enough a day to remind her. True enough, Emily chooses a day and quickly finds herself overwhelmed by it. Her ensuing lines are fascinating.

I can’t go on. It goes so fast. I didn’t realize; so, all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back up the hill to my grave, but first, wait, one more look. Goodbye world, Mama, Papa, goodbye clocks ticking and Mama’s sunflowers, and food, and coffee, and new ironed dresses, and hot baths, and sleeping, and waking up… oh, earth. You’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.” And upon returning to the dead, Emily wonders, if anyone ever realizes life while they live it. Life, as it is. Every minute enjoying the present day. The response she receives is pointed. No, the saints and the poets, maybe they do some.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is a very powerful image and I think the lesson is very clear. We’re to seize each day as it comes. We’re to live our lives one day at a time to the fullest.

The present day at hand, guys, is so profoundly important. I mean, consider what God tells us in Psalm 118: 24. “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in this day.” Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today. And I share this, guys, because I find so many men whose lives are haunted by the past, weighed way down by baggage from the past. And it makes their lives in the present miserable. And I see so many men, and I’m guilty of this, who live in the future. You know, life is not particularly good now, but it will be when I retire, when I get this amount of money in the bank, when I get to a certain point in the future, then my life will be full and complete.

Well, there’s anxiety and fear of the future that makes life in the present very difficult. I bet most of us have to deal with fear on a regular basis, or the future looks bleak. You know, whenever I meet with a person who’s struggling with depression, I always ask them to tell me how they see their future. How does the future look? It’s always bleak. It’s always a despair. And you know, that makes for a very miserable life in the present.

Guys, I’m here to tell you that God designed us to live a full and joyful life each day with no impediments from the past or the future. And this week, I’m going to talk for a few minutes about the past, issues of the past. The next week, I’m going to talk about dealing with the future. And I want to tell you, this is fascinating stuff. And before I start, I want to share with you a line as it relates to the past, and when I share this with you, a sentence, it won’t be really meaningful to you at first. But as I go through this, you’ll see the significance of it. And the word or the sentence that I want to share with you is this. We are what we remember. We are what we remember.

I had a very wise professor over at Beeson Divinity share with me an interesting thought. He said the past doesn’t necessarily determine who you are, but it clearly shapes your life. He says, furthermore, if you don’t recognize the baggage that’s in your life from the past and if you don’t deal with it, at some point, it will sabotage not only your life, but your relationships. And what I find is that so many men are not aware of the baggage in their lives. They go through life so quick. They’ve never stopped and looked at themselves, and many who are aware of the baggage from the past, refuse to deal with it. And so, I question I would ask you to consider this morning. Is there anything in your past that is keeping you from living a full, joyful life in the present?

And that’s what I want to look at this morning. I want to think through this. Think about the past. Think about issues like anger, bitterness, hatred. These are all about the past; past hurts, where people may have wronged you, where they may have injured you, abused you, mocked you, betrayed you. It happens. And as I was preparing, I realized, you know, I could spend this entire session just talking about anger, which eventually, usually, if it’s allowed to fester will turn to bitterness and cynicism. But let me just say this. I really believe that unresolved anger leaves a real mark on your soul.

Then you have the issues of guilt and shame. Guilt and shame which generally comes from more moral failures in the past. I had a guy share with me something that took place 40 years ago in his life. And we talked about it, and I’m not even sure his wife knows about it, but he says he thinks about it regularly. Guilt and shame. And then you’ve got the regret about decisions in the past. Columnist Sidney Harris wrote, “Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time. It is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”

I had a guy last week sitting in my office and says and share with me, I am haunted. My life today is haunted by missed opportunities in the past. I see more and more men beginning to realize that they have wasted their lives as they pursued all the wrong dreams. Regret. That’s a big issue for a lot of men. Again, that’s part of the past. I don’t know how many of you read best-selling author John Eldridge’s book, Wild at Heart. It’s a best-seller, probably three or four years ago. He says, “as men,” listen to this, this was interesting, he says, “we all live with wounds in our lives from the past. Some men clearly had deeper wounds than others.” And this is interesting. He says, “The number one inflictor of wounds in a man’s life is his father.” It’s his father.

Dallas Willard addresses the same issue in his book, A Renovation of the Heart. And he says there are two types of wounds. One, he calls wounds that are caused by being assaulted. He’s not really saying physical assault. He’s talking about verbal.

I had a guy tell me, he’s 53 years old, he says the one thing I remember my father telling me as a teenager was, you’re nothing but a failure. And he said, soon after that his father died. He says, that’s the only thing I really think about when I think of my dad, you’re going to be nothing but a failure.

Have you ever thought about this? You know, you can think about your own wounds, but if we ever thought about how our words so easily wound our children, maybe your own son? You know, it’s not too late to do something about it.

Willard also says there’s a second type of wound that comes from what he calls, withdrawal. Someone distancing themselves from you because it communicates indifference. So here you have anger, hatred, bitterness, guilt, shame, regret, wounds from the past all types of baggage, all types of junk that we so easily carry around in our lives. And the problem is guys, if we allow it to fester and go unattended, it can easily contaminate our lives, our relationships, and our soul. And therefore, we are instructed, in Scripture, and just logically thinking about it, we are instructed to look reality in the eye and deal with the past.

Now, I want to take a minute and look at a few verses from the Bible. If you’ve got your Bibles, you can follow me. If not, I’m just going to read to you. I want to start with Paul’s life in the book of Philippians. Paul had an interesting past, I mean, he was a persecutor of the church. He approved the death of many, many Christians, including Steven. Listen to what Paul says. He says in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet. But one thing I do forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul I’m sure had a great deal of burden in his life from the past. Guilt and shame probably; persecuting the early church, but he says, I have to forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead.

And if you read in the next chapter of Philippians, there’s a verse that you’re probably familiar with. It’s Philippians 4:13. He says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In II Corinthians 3:5, he talks about his inadequacy, how inadequate he is as a man, but his adequacy is in Christ. Now he doesn’t come out and say this, but I believe that he looked to God to heal the past. He looked to God’s strength, God’s grace, God’s forgiveness to heal the past and enable him to do what he shares in Philippians chapter three.

Philip Yancey shares a very, very powerful event in his church, as it has to do with this looking to God to heal. He says, “The church I attend reserves a brief time in which people in the pews can voice aloud their prayers. Over the years, I’ve heard hundreds of these prayers and with few exceptions, the word polite indeed applies to the prayers. One, however, stands out in my memory because of its raw emotion. In a clear, but wavering voice, a young woman began with the words, ‘God, I hated you after the rape. How could you let this happen to me?’ The congregation abruptly fell silent, no more rustling of papers or shifting in the seats. ‘And I hated the people in this church who tried to comfort me. I didn’t want comfort. I wanted revenge. I wanted to hurt back.’ You see the rage. But then she said, ‘But I thank you, God that you didn’t give up on me. And neither did some of these people. You kept after me. And I come back to you now and ask that you heal the scars in my soul.’ She recognized only God can heal the scars of the soul and He can do it if we’ll let Him.”

Most of you are familiar with Psalm 23, probably one of the most famous Psalms. It’s read at most funerals. But I think we overlook some of the words when it says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters.” Listen to this. “He restores my soul. He restores my soul.”  In Ruth 4:15, it says, “He,” talking about God, “is a restorer of life.”

And so, as I was preparing, I looked up how often the word “restore” is used in the Scriptures. And I can’t tell you the number of times Scripture says, “God desires to restore the souls of His people.” And you know, if you think about it, restore means to take something that’s broken, something that is beaten up, and repair it to make it new and make it whole. And even Webster says this, and I thought this was interesting: “to bring back or put back into a former or original state; to make new, to make whole, to make healthy again.

Again, I think this is what God truly wants to do in men’s and women’s lives. This is what he wants to do with the past. Again, if we let Him.

One other Scripture from the New Testament. In I Peter 2:24-25, it says, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd; to the guardian of your soul.”

You know, John Ortenberg made an interesting observation. He says, “There is only one safe place for grudges. And that place is at the foot of the cross. At the cross, I remember that I too stand in need of forgiveness. At the cross, I remember that for me to expect to receive ultimate forgiveness, purchased at the ultimate price from Heaven, yet if I withhold it from someone who has hurt me, it’s the ultimate contradiction.” In other words, he’s saying is if I expect God to heal me and forgive me, doesn’t that mean that I should forgive those who have hurt me? Now, let me just stay on this God’s forgiveness. I think this is so important, particularly as it relates to guilt and shame. David says in Psalm 41:4, “God heal my soul for I have sinned against you.”  You see guys, we need the past to be forgiven, remembered no more. Again, I want to come back to what I said when I started; we are what we remember. We are what we remember.

Philip Yancey has some powerful words to say about this in his book, Rumors. He says,

“When I was researching a book that I was writing on Jesus, I could not help noticing the tenderness which Jesus treated people with wounds caused by moral failure. A Samaritan woman with five failed marriages, a dishonest tax collector, an adulteress, a prostitute, a disciple who denied Him, all these received from Jesus, not the judgment they expected, but forgiveness and reinstatement. Jesus elevated sinners. He appointed the Samaritan woman as his first missionary. He defended the woman who anointed him with expensive perfume. ‘She did what she could. I tell you the truth. Wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.’ He restored Peter to leadership and Mary Magdalene, she of the seven demons, He honored as the very first witness of the Resurrection, a testimony at first discounted by his status-conscious followers. I reflect also on the greatest gift we have from the unseen world. The gift of grace. Grace means that no mistake we make in life disqualifies us from God’s love. It means that no person is beyond redemption, no human stain beyond cleansing.”

I had a guy call me yesterday on the phone. I made some notes on our conversation and he gave me permission to share this. His father’s dying. He had just left the hospital room and he’d been helping his father write out his obituary and his father said to him, “Son, I want you to know this one thing. I want you to know this one thing, the importance of forgiveness.” The father, who had come to Christ late in life, and as he was thinking back upon his life, as he’s writing, kind of sharing things for his obituary, the son said there was a great deal of guilt and shame that just came up as he was talking to him. And the son of course assured him that he was forgiven. And then this man who’s been married for almost 60 years, as they were sitting there talking about his life, he said, get your mother on the phone. He didn’t want to wait until he saw her. She was at home. You get your mother on the phone. And he began to tell his wife and ask for her forgiveness, for just all the things that he’d done to her in the past, as a husband, or things that he didn’t do that he should have done. And as the son and I talked, we both realized and agreed there’s tremendous power in forgiveness. There’s a real freedom found in forgiveness.

I want to come back and talk about anger, bitterness, and hatred, and talk about forgiving other people. It’s one thing to receive God’s forgiveness. It’s another thing to forgive people that have wronged you and hurt you. This is what Paul says in the book of Ephesians chapter four (Ephesians 4:31-32), he says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other just as God and Christ has also forgiven you.” You know, guys, people in this life will wrong us, they’ll hurt us, they’ll betray us, and they may do all types of horrible things to us, yet nevertheless, we are responsible for our anger. We’re responsible for any hatred that we have towards others and our bitterness towards them. We’re responsible for how we respond to them.

I don’t know why, but I just thought of the words of Christ from the cross. They beat Him. They spat upon Him. They mocked Him. They crucified Him and He said, Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.

You see, our anger, guys, our hatred does no harm to them, but it poisons our lives. We think it’s something that we want to hold on to, is if my hatred, my anger, is going to do something to them. And so, we latch on to it. We don’t want to let go of it. And somebody shared with me about John Fogarty, the rock star, the musician. He gained his fame with Creedence Clearwater Revival. And I did some reading about his life and it talked about here, this very successful wealthy group of men in a rock band, how they had so much bickering, and how they had so jealousy, and their tumultuous breakup. And he talked about how angry and how bitter he was. In fact, he even didn’t sing many of their songs for years. And after 15 or 20 years, Fogarty realized what his hatred and his anger had done to him. And he said this, and this is an interesting thought. As he realized what had happened in his own life, he says, “Bitterness is a poison you drink hoping it will cause the other person to die.” Bitterness is like a poison that you drink, but you think it’s going to hurt the other person. And it doesn’t. That’s why novelist William Young says, “Forgiveness is for the forgiver, to release you from something that will eat you alive, and that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly in the now, in the present.” Guys, there is a real power in forgiveness.

Now I want to read to you. What I’m going to read to you is worth you coming here this morning to hear, and it’ll take me a couple of minutes to read, but it’s from Tim Keller’s new book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. And he talks about forgiveness. It’s the best I’ve ever seen on this issue. And he says this, “Imagine that someone borrows your car and as he backs it out of the driveway, he strikes a gate, knocking it down, along with a part of a wall at your home. Your property insurance doesn’t cover the gate and the garden wall. So, what can you do? There are essentially two options. The first is to demand that he paid for the damages. The second is to refuse to let him pay anything. There may also be middle of the road solutions in which you both share the payment. But notice that in every option, the cost of the damage must be borne by someone. Either you or he absorbs the cost for the deed. But the debt does not somehow vanish into thin air. Forgiveness in this illustration means bearing the costs for his misdeed yourself. Most of the wrongs done to us cannot be assessed in purely economic terms. Someone may have robbed you of some happiness, reputation, opportunity, or certain aspects of your freedom, but no price tag can be put on such things. Yet, we still have a sense of violated justice that does not go away when the other person just says, well, I’m really sorry. When we are seriously wronged, we have an indelible sense that the perpetrators have incurred a debt that must be dealt. Once you’ve been wronged and you realize there is a just debt that can’t simply be dismissed, there are only two things you can do. The first option is to seek ways to make the perpetrators suffer for what they’ve done. You can withhold relationship and actively initiate or passively wish for some kind of pain in their lives, commensurate to what you experienced. And there are many ways to do this. You can viciously confront them, saying things that hurt them. You can go around to others and tarnish their reputation. And if the perpetrators suffer, you may begin to feel a certain satisfaction feeling that they are now paying off their debt. There are some serious problems with this option. However, you may become harder and colder, more self-pitying, and therefore more self-absorbed. If the wrongdoer was a person of wealth or of authority, you may instinctively disliked and resist that sort of person for the rest of your life. If it was a person of the opposite sex or another race, you might become permanently cynical and prejudiced against whole classes of people. In addition, the perpetrator and his friends and family often feel they have the right to respond to your payback in kind and therefore cycles of reaction and retaliation can go on for years and years and years. Look at the Middle East. Evil has been done to you, yes, but when you try to get payment through revenge, the evil does not disappear. Instead, it spreads, and it spreads most tragically of all into you and your own character. There’s another option, however,” he says, “you can forgive. Forgiveness means refusing to make them pay for what they did. However, to refrain from lashing out at someone when you want to do so with all your being is agony. It’s a form of suffering. You not only suffer the original loss of happiness, reputation, and opportunity, but now you forgo the consolation of inflicting the same pain on them. You are absorbing the deb when you forgive. You’re taking the cost of it completely on yourself, instead of taking it out of the other person. And it hurts terribly.  Many people would say it feels like a kind of death to forgive somebody. Yes, but it is a death that leads to resurrection instead of the lifelong living death of bitterness and cynicism. As a pastor, I’ve counseled many people about forgiveness. And I found that if they do this, if they simply refuse to take vengeance on the wrongdoer and action, and even in their inner fantasies, the anger slowly begins to subside. You are not giving it any fuel and so the resentment burns lower and lower.  C.S. Lewis wrote in one of his letters to Malcolm that last week, while I prayer, I suddenly discovered. or felt as if I did, that I had really forgiven someone I’ve been trying to forgive for over 30 years. Trying and praying that I might, he said.” Keller goes on to say, “I remember once counseling a 16-year-old girl about the anger she felt towards her father. We weren’t getting anywhere until I said to her, your father has defeated you as long as you hate him. You will stay trapped in your anger unless you forgive him thoroughly from the heart and begin to love him. Something thawed in her, when she realized that. She went through the suffering of costly forgiveness, which at first always feels far worse than bitterness into eventual freedom. Forgiveness must be granted before it can be felt, but it does come eventually. And it leads to a new peace to a real resurrection in your life.”

I want to read to you a letter, just a few parts of it. A woman wrote to a very well-known minister, true story, but you’re going to see the power of forgiveness here. You’re going to see how we are what we remember.

This woman says, “In 1991, my beautiful three-and-a-half-year-old daughter was accidentally shot in the head and killed by the eight-year-old boy, next door. Needless to say, my life came to a screeching halt. My daughter laid dead in my front yard and my five-year-old son had witnessed the whole thing. My life went from normal and routine and beautiful to a complete mess, filled with psychiatrists for both my son and myself, near divorce over the next couple of years, due to the stress and thoughts of suicide for myself, as well as plotting and planning how I would kill not only the little boy who shot my daughter, but also the entire family. I felt justified. I felt that I should do it. Well, it’s been four years now and I never did harm the family next door, nor did I harm myself. Instead, finally, after all this, one day, I got down on my hands and knees after trying to make it on my own and I asked Jesus into my life. I told him I wasn’t the supermom, super-wife, the superhuman human being that I thought I was. I couldn’t do it on my own anymore.”

She was carrying around this huge, huge burden of rage and anger and hatred.

“But once I surrendered to Him, He began to work in my life. And He’s still there, so powerfully in fact, that I can almost feel His breath sometimes. He’s that close to me.”

And then she goes on to share how she had had her tubes tied and had them untied because they wanted more children after the loss of their daughter, and she tells she gets pregnant and has triplets. And it goes on, and one of the triplets, they don’t think is going to make it, the doctor tries to say, well, you ought to abort it. And she refuses and has them, and they are all three healthy. And the one, the one baby that they wanted to abort, they ended up naming Sean Michael. And she says this.

“And one more thing. I mentioned that God is working so powerfully in my life. Let me just end this letter by telling you that the people next door, the parents of the little boy that killed my little girl are now the godparents of Sean Michael. Tell me God isn’t alive and working in my life.” And then she said, “I must end now. My three little ones are all in their cribs calling ‘Mama, Mama.’ It’s music to my ears. God’s blessings, Colleen Hackett.

You know, contrast the thoughts of suicide, plotting and planning to kill the little boy next door and their entire family; just the unbelievable rage and anger to, “I have to go now. My three little ones in their cribs are calling ‘Mama, Mama.’ It’s music to my ears.” The anger and rage to the incredible joy in this woman’s life. There’s power in forgiveness, guys. And we are truly what we remember.

Now, with that being said, this does not mean the past is not important. Our memory is important. It is what makes us feel fully human. And though there’s much in our past that God does want us to let go of, that He wants to heal us of, that He wants to forgive us and wants us to forgive others, there are things in the past that we’re called to remember, and not called to remember, but to celebrate.

I mean, take something as simple as a birthday. I mean, you’re celebrating somebody’s life. I mean, we make a big deal about birthdays, particularly for our kids. And it means everything to them. My wife went to graduate school out in Colorado, to a school that Larry Crabb teaches at and got a master’s degree in counseling. And one of her professors said, “If you really want to do something really positive for your marriage, celebrate your anniversary with a lot of vigor, make it a big deal.” And so, my wife and I, we have three anniversaries. We celebrated one last night, we were married 13 years ago. We had dinner, we talked about the day, we talked about what we could remember. It was great. He says, this is important; remember how you fell in love. So, we celebrate not only that, we celebrate the day we had our first date, and the day we got engaged. We make a big deal about it. And I think it’s made a huge difference in our marriage. The past. I mean, that’s why we take pictures, photographs.

Think about the church. Think about why you have Lent. Think about why you have Advent. We celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Easter because basically God wants us to remember what He has done in the past. And there are many ways God wants to impress upon our hearts, this truth. He desires to bring the full reality of the past into a place of real and honest remembrance, not just for us, but for future generations as well.

Listen to what the Psalmist says in Psalm 78. This is powerful stuff. He says, “Listen, oh my people to my instruction, incline your ears to the words of my mouth, which we have heard and known. And our fathers have told us,” talking about the past, “and we will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done in the past for, He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that we should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and,” listen to this… “and not forget the works of God in the past, but keep His commandments.”

You see, the word throughout Scripture guys, remember, remember, remember. God is continually saying, remember, but then you also encounter verses like, “But the problem is you’ve forgotten me. You’ve forgotten the Lord your God.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who probably is the greatest Russian historian to ever live made this observation about the Russian revolution and all of the death and destruction. He says, “Over a half a century ago while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that have befallen Russia. Men have forgotten God. That’s why all this has happened. Since then, I have spent, well now 50 years working on the history of our revolution and, in the process, I’ve read hundreds of books. I’ve collected hundreds of personal testimonies and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by the upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible, the main cause of the ruinous revolution, that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat, Men have forgotten God.”

Guys, our faith is built upon what God has done and said in the past as recorded in the Scriptures. And he says, remember because you are what you remember. Consider Paul’s last words to Timothy in the book of second Timothy when he says, “Timothy, remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead.” In II Peter 1:3, Peter says, “The best way that I can stir you up,” the best way I can fire you up, “is do it by way of reminder.” Press home the truth of God. That’s what you’ve heard and that what you know to be true. I stir you up by way of reminder.

And finally, unfortunately, something I think the modern church has truly neglected is the remembering of the Last Supper, the Sacrament of Communion. What does He say? “This is My body. Do this in Remembrance of Me.”

When I say guys, you are what you remember, what I believe is that what we remember affects who we are and what we experience in this life. And if our lives, think about this, if our lives are healed of past wounds and moral failures, and we are able to let go of anger, hatred, and bitterness by forgiving others, and if we have a strong faith built on God’s Word, on God’s revelation from the past, think of the life you could live. Think of how free and how vibrant and how healthy you could be and think of how abundant life would be in the present. Right now. Guys, this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in this day.

Let me close in prayer. Father, thank You for Your truth. And we thank You, Lord, for what You want to do in our lives, that You want to set us free from the past, that You want to set us free from things that weigh us down, that are baggage in our lives. You want to forgive us, and You want us to forgive others so that we are truly free to live in the now. We thank you. We’re grateful just for Your love for us, Your care for our well-being and that You truly want us to live a full and good and abundant life in the now. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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