One of our biggest spiritual problems is this: we want God to do something new while we keep doing the same old thing. We want God to change our circumstances without us having to change at all. We’re asking God for new wine, but we’ve still got an old wineskin.
We get stuck, and sometimes mad at God, because we keep doing the same thing while expecting different results! Routines are an important part of growth, but when the routine becomes routine, change it before you turn into a veggie. What got you to where you are might be holding you back from where God wants you to go next.
Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba … Seek the Lord and live.
Bethel’s the place where Jacob had his amazing dream. He built an altar there and made a promise. Gilgal is the place where the Israelites camped God on their first night in the Promised Land. And Beersheba is where Abraham made a treaty with Abimelek and called on the Lord. His son Isaac dug a well and built an altar there.
All three places held special significance. They were sacred landmarks in Israel’s spiritual journey. So why would God tell them not to seek Him there?
The answer is simple: You won’t find God in the past. His name is not I Was. His name is I Am. If we obsess over what God did last, we’ll miss what He wants to do next. God’s at work right here, right now. God’s always doing something brand spanking new.
So go ahead and build altars to mark holy moments in the past, but the purpose of altars is to remind us of God’s faithfulness in the past so we have the faith to believe in what He’ll do next.
At some point in our lives, most of us stop living out of imagination and start living out of memory. That’s the day we stop living and start dying.
To be fully alive is to be fully present. And to do that, you’ve got to leave the past in the past. Paul says it best in Philippians 3:13-14:
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Press on indeed. That’s gold!
Whenever I hear it, I have flashbacks to my college basketball days. There are two ways of playing defense. You can sit back in a half-court defense and let the other team come to you. It’s a defensive way of playing the game. It’s protecting the lead. It’s playing not to lose. In football, it’s called a prevent defense.
But there is an offensive form of defense—the full-court press. You don’t let the game come to you. You take it to them.
I’m afraid the Church is content with a prevent defense while God is calling for a full-court press. We need to recapture the intensity of Matthew 11:12:
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.
Are you playing offense in your dating? Or are you playing a prevent defense that leaves gentlemanliness, consideration, romance and respect on the sidelines?
Are you relating reactively or proactively with your friends? Who’s influencing who?
Are you working for a paycheck or stewarding your God-given gifts pursuing a God-ordained dream?
Are you trying to break even spiritually by avoiding sin? Or are you going for broke?
I’ll challenge you to go for broke. Carry the light with you everywhere! Love people just because.
At the end of every year, my wife and I take a little retreat to reflect on the past year and plan for the next one. We usually talk about our calendar and budget first. If we don’t control our calendar, our calendar will end up controlling us.
Budgeting is the way we play offense with our money. If you make your money work for you, no matter how much you have, it can’t control you.
I also check out my life goal list and set some new ones for the next calendar year. We walk away with an offensive game plan. Then on Mondays, which is my day off, Lora and I do a coffee date. It’s a weekly touch point to make sure we’re playing offense!
The only way to predict the future is to create it. You don’t let it happen. You make it happen.
How? Stop regretting the past and start learning from it. Let go of guilt and hurt by leaning into God’s grace. Quit beating yourself up and let the Spirit of God heal your heart.
God wants to reconcile your past by redeeming it. He’s in the recycling business: He makes recycled goods out of wasted lives.
Too many of us get comfortable with comfort. We follow Christ to the edge of inconvenience, but no further. That’s when we need a friend to come slap us in the face and kick our butt over the edge.
If you aren’t willing to begin at the beginning, God just can’t use you. You’re too thick. You’ve got to be willing to leave the seat of honor and take the lowest place at the table. you’ve got to be willing to go from first to last.
Isn’t that the example Jesus set? The all-powerful Creator became a servant. If you follow suit, there is nothing God can’t do in you and through you.
Are you willing to start all over again?
In God’s upside-down Kingdom, a step down is a step up. And if you’re willing to be demoted by men, then you’re ready to be promoted by God Himself!
Taken from All In Student Edition by Mark Batterson. Copyright © 2014. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church (NCC) in Washington, DC. He is the New York Times bestselling author of 20 books, including his latest, Win the Day: 7 Daily Habits to Help You Stress Less & Accomplish More and the children’s book God Speaks in Whispers, co-written with his daughter Summer. He and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.