04-27-2014 If Only…Next Time

We had the privilege of welcoming retired covenant pastor Rev. Karl E. Johnson who visited this week with Pastor Kevin out for a short break. In Sunday school, Sara Stewart brought to life the impact that art has had on people and theology in history, especially the Middle Ages. 

In our minute for missions Linda Irwin encouraged us to actively participate, pray for our missionaries and the world, and pick up a calendar book and a copy of Operation World. We lifted up those in need and were heartened to see and pray over Megan Laninga.

Rev. Johnson focused on Mathew 26:30-35 and 1 Peter 1:3-9. Peter, lived as a man of God with amazing strength of character and fortitude:  Who was a rugged fisherman who replied to Jesus call with “I will follow You”; Who among the disciples declared to Jesus “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God”; Who boldly declared that he wouldn’t deny Christ even to the point of death; Who picked up a sword and used it to try to defend Jesus at Gethsemane; Who on the Mount of Transfiguration declared that is good to be there and was ready to build three tabernacles; and who’s eyes met Jesus’s as the cock crowed…and who went out and wept bitterly.

In life many of us started with great expectations and had confidence in our relationship and commitment to God. Over time may have experienced hard times and troubled waters and outcomes don’t go as we thought they should…and we didn’t act like we thought we would.  Disappointments and disillusionment can pile up even for believers. We become cold…and start warming our hands at other fires.  We find comfort in our lifestyle and enjoy, and even habitually abuse, the comforts that help us feel better for a time.

Perhaps lying in bed at night…we focus on our regrets and reflect back and think a subtly poisonous thought: If Only.  If Only I hadn’t done that…or had done this. We might even find some perverse enjoyment as we hash back through old mistakes and disappointments…enjoying our self-pity and self-focus.

Thinking If Only keeps a person facing the wrong way and can evolve into an excuse for not trying anymore. The tactical remedy is to shift our focus from Drag to Lift and replace If Only…with Next Time.

Our Heavenly Father is yearning for us to experience forgiveness and restoration…and waiting for us to choose to receive it. With Peter, Jesus asked “Do you love me?” three times. Then Jesus said…”Feed my sheep.”

In 1 Peter 1:6, we’re told “…though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” We need to start today, facing forward. Jesus told the woman at the well…to go and sin no more.

Because we belong to Him we need to keep our focus on today and start each day anew. We must die daily to ourselves and seek the help of the Holy Spirit. We need to find the needs of others and be about the business of meeting those needs; living in preparation for the day when we’ll enter His presence unafraid and unashamed.