Moving Forward to a New Year

Sitting in my office today, New Year’s Eve, I started to think about the year that is now passing on. It has been a full year, with my son graduating from high school and now having both of my kids in college. I have walked with friends and family through joys and sorrows and have myself made multiple changes in my life. I suppose the biggest change was moving from Ebenezer Presbyterian Church in Greenfield, where I commuted several times a week, to Woodland Heights Presbyterian Church in Springfield, where I live.

Because of all of the changes that were occurring in our lives these past few months I have found myself unable to keep up with this blog. Even when I did write articles for the local paper in Greenfield, I didn’t get them all posted here. I’ll be catching up soon by posting those articles.

Back to New Year’s Eve. The year 2014 will be ending in a matter of hours, and what have I done with what God has provided? While this day is known for its celebrations, parties, and fireworks, I believe a major emphasis should be retrospection, thinking back to what has been and looking forward to what will be. Looking back, there are many things I would like to have done better, and some things that I wish I would not have done! There are words I have spoken and words I wish I would have spoken.

Thinking about the past can be of great benefit. We can learn from the past, from our successes and mistakes, and move forward stronger and more hopeful. However, the danger of retrospection is that we often forget that we are not to live in the past—whether good or bad. How many times have you met someone who refuses to move beyond a past event, who lives in the memory of that event, which stunts their present and future?

Whether good or bad, dwelling on the past separates us from those around us, building walls that enclose us and imprison us. There is a place for the past in our memories; the Scriptures teach us to remember the past, to learn from it. But the Bible also teaches us that the past is just that, something that is to be left behind. We are not to be controlled by our past.

One of my favorite Bible passages, Lamentations 3:19-24, says,

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

Whether the past was good or bad, whether we have succeeded or failed, whether we knew joy or sorrow, we are to learn from the past, but we are also to move forward, knowing that God is with us and will bring new hope each day. But how do we find that hope?

Lamentations continues in verse 25-26: “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

We are to hope in the Lord, but what does that mean? It means that we not place our value, our worth, in our accomplishments or detriments, in the value that society places on us. Rather, finding our hope in the Lord occurs when we come to know the kind of God we serve, a God who is compassionate and forgiving, one who loves unconditionally. The cost for receiving that grace was a great one, one which we could never have paid on our own. Only one who was sinless could have paid that price, Jesus Christ, and He did so on the cross of Calvary. By that sacrifice He opened the way for us to be reunited with our Creator, to be adopted in to the family of God as God’s His beloved children.

In Christ, each day is a new day. This isn’t meant to minimize your joy or sorrow over the past, but to enable you to step forward in spite of what has been. Just as the Apostle Paul said, “16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

This evening, as you celebrate the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, I invite you to spend some time in prayer, turning over to our Lord all that has passed before and seeking God’s grace to take you into this new year knowing that you are not alone and that you are loved and valued.

Blessings, and Happy New Year!

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