I venture to say that if your birth certificate says “human,” there are things in your past that you regret. In the words of a once popular song, “Regrets, I’ve had a few.” Mary, the mother of a son who was arrested for drug abuse and sales, continually beat herself up with self-accusations that she must have failed her son in the past. Fred fights back the tears when he discusses his failed marriage and divorce; lamenting things he wished he could go back and change or not do. Eric stands by the bedside of his dying mother with the pangs of guilt over his past behavior toward his mother and father.
While it is true that the past is past, we keep it alive and active in our lives and let it rob us of present moments of joy, peace, and happiness. While it is true that the past is an amazing teacher and we learn valuable lessons from past experiences, we tend however, to hold on to those mistakes, failures, and regrets as tools of mental torture.
Ironically, we choose to hold grudges and resentments that create an unforgiving spirit and even hatred of another person. In some warped way of thinking the attitude is “I’m getting back at you by not forgiving you;” we endure the pains from the past as a sign of self-justification. Forgiveness is letting go of the past and not holding the charges perpetually against the person. This isn’t forgetting but reframing.
In the movie, “The Edge of Tomorrow,” Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), attempts to save the human race from an alien invasion by changing the past (cf. www.scienceeveryday.org/2016).
In the movie, “Back to the Future” (1985), Marty McFly meets Dr. Emmett Brown, who has invented a time machine out of a DeLorean car. Through a number of mistakes they travel back to 1955 where Marty becomes involved, in negative ways, in the events that surround his parents’ lives. He must change his involvement before traveling back to the future.
These two movie, and others that could be referred to, remind us of the interest that exists in going back to the past. In almost all fiction the goal is to change, alter, and learn from the past. Some center in eliminating psychological trauma be getting in touch with the past. One popular success guru offers a treatment called “running the movie in your mind of the event back to the beginning, and then changing the sequence,” which changes the present emotion in your life.
However, the stark reality in most of our lives is that the past can’t be changed. But the irony is that we spend a lot of time dwelling in the past. The past is an anchor or weight tied to our ankles that keep us from enjoying and fully participating in today. One writer hit the nail on the head: “There is no future in the past.”
I have two statements I frequently use when trying to help people understand that the past can’t be changed: “You can’t put stink in a skunk” and “You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube.” Yesterday ended last night, tomorrow is not promised, and today is all we have. Today becomes tomorrow’s past. Get a tube of toothpaste, squeeze out three inches and then try to put it back.
Relative to the influence of the past and how to deal with it, the apostle Paul wrote: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, FORGETTING those things which are behind and reaching FORWARD to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14).
I love this quote from Dale Carnegie: “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put the past together again. So lets’ remember: ‘Don’t try to saw sawdust.”
The tendency of most of us is to walk around like Zombies shackled by past mistakes, hurts, disappointments, failures, regrets, and negative attitudes about an event or person in the past. A sage said, “The past is a point of reference, not a place to reside.” It is a psychological truth that “If you look back too much, you’ll soon be moving in that direction.”
You can’t change the past! Agree? However, you can take charge of today and how you choose to think or not to think about the past. You can choose to look forward, like the apostle Paul did and trust God and his promises, forgiveness, and power. Therefore, I CAN CHANGE:
Every day we are given a set of circumstances with which we must deal. How we deal with them relates to our choice of attitude: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Solomon gave us a sound piece of advice: “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For you do not inquire wisely concerning this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10). Choose the Psalmist’s words: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
Is there something in your past that continually robs you of having peace, joy and happiness today? [ ] Yes [ ] No: What is that issue?__________________________________________
Here are ten positive actions that can help you deal with the past:
There are a hundred things
I wish I could undo,
But it cannot happen
The past is gone—it’s through.
We all have done things
That we deeply regret;
The past is past—gone;
So I refuse to be upset.
Today is a brand new day
I’ll not be defined by my past;
I’m turning my cares over to Christ;
And I know I’m free at last.
“If only” are two sad words
But now I can let them go;
Remembering God’s amazing grace
Knowing my Father loves me so.
Let the past be the past
And rejoice in the blessings of today;
Knowing that all your sins
Have been washed away.
No! You can’t put stink back in a skunk. But you don’t have to let the “stinking things” linger in your life or return.
One bit of humor I have enjoyed at the expense of my wife, which she now enjoys too, is when I introduce her I say, “This is my wife, Isabel, she is married to a preacher.” The expressions on the faces of those to whom I introduce her are always interesting; sometimes for a moment with a puzzled look. It would be an understatement to say this is the most folly from me she has had to put up with in our 50-plus years of full-time ministry.
King Solomon was right when he wrote, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). Whoever coined, “Behind every good man is a great women” was right. Whatever I have been able to do in the ministry is because of the support, encouragement, and help of my wife. During all these ministry years together, “she had stood beside her man.” She has never flinched in the good or bad times.
My wife didn’t marry a preacher; she married a sailor in the US Navy, who later became a machinist and was a policeman when we obeyed the Gospel together. As we studied the Bible my burden and desire to share God’s word grew and grew. I couldn’t get enough of God’s word. My mind was on the Word constantly. The thoughts of learning more about the Bible started to include studying to preach the Word. I knew absolutely zero about what being a preacher involved other than preaching.
I remember the evening I shared my desire to preach with Isabel. She listened, asked a few questions, and we prayed. Almost every day I would bring up the subject, until finally she encouraged me to stop talking about it and do something about it. I did. I went and shared my desire with the preacher who had baptized us into Christ. I didn’t know it at the time but in his wisdom he tried to “discourage” me by assuring me I could learn the Bible and share in in the church. It was a spiritual litmus test, i.e. the “new convert zeal” that usually passed in time.
I couldn’t be deterred from my desire. I resigned as a Detective; we sold our furniture and moved to Texas to study to become a preacher. From that day to this, I haven’t looked back or had any regrets. My wife also grew in Bible knowledge as she attended special classes and college; her burden, along with mine, grew with the desire to share the Good News.
During these 50-plus years my wife has been just outside the spotlight. As I have been on the stage receiving the compliments, awards, accolades, etc. she has smiled, rejoiced and understood the role that has been assigned to the preacher’s wife. During those times, and there have been those times, when I was discouraged, feeling like Jeremiah, she has always been there to pray and encourage; believing “This too shall pass.” And it did and still does.
We have spent 30-plus years of our ministry training preachers, teachers, and missionaries. Isabel, my wife, has taught future preachers wives; served as Dean of women, and made major contributions to the lives of young women, some reluctant, so excited, in becoming preachers wives.
During all these years of ministry we have been a team; each doing his or her part to glorify God though being faithful to the “calling of the Gospel” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). My wife has sacrificed the most, without complaining, as she stayed at home as I travelled the world preaching and teaching. While I was out late at night helping others with problems, she was at home helping our children with their problems. While I was eating in a restaurant with brethren, she was at home making ends meet; serving a casserole. While I had the latest suits, she wore dated dresses; even made her own clothes. I can honestly say she is the Proverbs 31 women—my wife.
Sadly, during our 50-plus years of ministry we have witnessed scores of preachers leaving the ministry because their wives didn’t support them. In her book, Private Lives of Pastor’s Wives, Ruth A. Tucker, wrote this about the challenges faced by some minister’s wives: “Pastors’ wives in every generation have had widely varying views of their station in life. Some have resented the intrusion of the parishioners into their lives and have been exasperated by the long hours required of their husbands. This position was expressed by an Anglican vicar’s wife: ‘Clergy ought to be celibate … because no decent, right-minded man ought to have the effrontery to ask any woman to take on such a lousy job! It is thoroughly unchristian….I myself am happy, basically, because I love my husband—but I am afraid it is often in spite of the church’”. (p. 10, 1988, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Mich.).
I believe many of the negative attitudes preacher’s wives develop is because of their husbands. I have known of cases where preachers made demands of their wives that were not only unreasonable but sinful. These range from never being able to express their opinion to demanding they be involved in every activity of the congregations. Some wives resent being made to feel like they have “been hired too”, as congregations expect more from them than they do the other women in the church. This is commonly referred to as the “Glasshouse Syndrome.”
My wife has helped me in more ways than I could every express. She has had the nerve and love to challenge me on some point or attitude I had in a sermon. After I tried to justify my action, because of male ego, I had to admit she was right. She has made leadership suggestions that were so very wise. Asked questions that I’d never thought about. She has had insights into problems that only a woman can have. She has supported me when others complained about something I did or didn’t do. No, I am not perfect and she knows it too.
I believe my wife, as a preacher’s wife, is described by the Psalmist in these words, “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house” (Psalm 128:3). This is true because she is an extension of Christ; He is the vine and she is a branch (cf. John 15:1-8). What flows through Him flows through her. First and foremost as a Christian women, she is committed to “Bearing the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-26).
I have no doubt that if I had chosen to be a ditch digger, my wife would have been loving and supportive of me, encouraging me to be the best ditch digger I could be. Isabel is a gift from God: “Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Proverbs 19:14).
It is a blessing and privilege to honor all wives of preachers by asking them to step out of the shadows and let the spotlight of love, appreciation, and thanksgiving shine on them. As you hold your husband’s hand remember, “The best is yet to be.”
We have all heard, read and studied the story of Noah and the ark. It is a favorite Bible story. But I wonder how many of us have looked at these grand old set of truths with the idea of leadership in mind? That’s what we will do in this lesson: Study the numerous leadership lessons to be gained from Noah and the ark. In order to prepare for this study you should read Genesis 6-8.
Here are 25 major lessons from Noah and the building of the ark:
1. God can always do great things out of the midst of chaos (Genesis 6:1-7, 1-13).
2. God always has a mission for a righteous man (Genesis 6:9, 13).
3. No other person may have been asked to do what God wants you to do (Genesis 6:14, “Build me an ark”).
4. God will be with you as you do His will (Genesis 6:18, 22).
5. Do things in pairs—there’s strength in numbers (Genesis 6:19-21).
6. The ark was built by an amateur, not a professional.
7. Use what you have—“gopher wood”—not steel, pre-fabrication, etc.
8. Take care of your health because God may have a mission for you in old age (Genesis 7:11, Noah was 600).
9. Finish what you start (Genesis 6:22).
10. Before you rock the boat, remember others are on it with you (Team building).
11. Don’t be afraid to launch an untested boat, in untried waters. Walk by faith!
12. Do not worry about what others think about your “strange project.”
13. You can build “your ark” right where you are.
14. Don’t neglect your family—share your ark with them.
15. Ride out the storm—it won’t last forever—the sky will clear—sail on.
16. Put on your raincoat even though you’ve never experienced rain—be ready.
17. Don’t fret about not having any “boat building experience.”
18. Speed isn’t important—great things take time, be patient. (Noah was).
19. God is smarter than you are—obey, even if you don’t fully understand.
20. Look for the dove—the signs that you have finished the assignment.
21. No matter how severe the storm (or challenge), God will always provide a rainbow.
22. Celebrate after the “cruise” (job) is finished (Genesis 8:20-22)—worship God. 23. Believe in what you don’t understand, or haven’t experienced.
24. God doesn’t sponsor failures—trust Him.
25. Be careful not to drop your guard after success (Genesis 9:18-29). God has an ark for all of us to build as we lead his church to accomplishing the assignments he has given us. Learn from Noah.
Is your leadership team ready to build an ark? Are you? The Jeremiah Institute has prepared numerous helps for equipping the local church to fulfil the mission given by God. Want a Diploma of Biblical Leadership? Check our course offerings. Need a leadership seminar or training program? Check our leadership section. Contact us through our CONTACT icon.
Few subjects related to prayer are questioned more than praying for the sick and praying for personal health issues. In some Christian circles when prayers for the sick or health issues are brought up there is a darting to disclaim miraculous healing, such as we see claimed by a televangelist. I would lead the parade in affirming disbelief in such so-called healing. That doesn’t mean, however that there isn’t a need to examine the relationship of prayer to health. The Bible and research have information on this question: Are there any health benefit from prayer?
First, let’s notice some commands relative to praying for the sick: Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick. Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sin, He will be forgiven (James 5:13-15).
Whatever interpretation we may place on these verses, one thing is clear and that is God has commanded us to pray for and with the sick. Why would He require this if there are no health benefits given in answer to prayer? Second, there are numerous examples of Jesus in the Gospels healing for the sick. While these were signs to prove that Jesus was the Son of God (cf. John 20:30, 31); they also affirm God’s love and concern for those who have health issues.
Third, the apostle Paul had a health issue: A thorn in the flesh. Here is what Paul wrote about this health issue: And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:8, 9). God heard and answered Paul’s prayer, but He gave him something different than what he asked for. God, our heavenly Father, knows what is best for us; therefore we pray for His will to be done.
Fourth, King Hezekiah had a health problem. In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.” Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, ‘Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly (2 Kings 20:1-3). God answered the King’s prayer and added fifteen years to his life (2 Kings 20:6). Remember, this Old Testament story was written for our learning (Romans 15:4). We can pray about health issues and God will answer according to His will for our lives.
Fifth, Timothy, the young evangelist mentored by the apostle Paul, evidently had some kind of stomach health issue, while I’m sure Paul must have prayed for Timothy, he gave him this health advice: No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your frequent infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23). As a side point it is clear that the Apostles never used their power to perform miracles to arbitrarily heal people. Peter didn’t heal Paul relative to the thorn in the flesh.
Sixth, in writing to the Philippians the apostle Paul shares some good news about the faithful servant, Epaphroditus: [S]ince he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he is sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow (Philippians 2:26, 27). I think it is within reason to believe Paul and the church prayed for Epaphroditus.
The biblical evidence is clear. Prayer is to be offered for the sick; sometimes “medicine” is offered as a remedy, but it every case God’s will should be prayed for and accepted. There are health benefits in prayer.
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH RELATIVE TO HEALTH BENEFITS OF PRAYER
It has been amazing how much attention has been given in recent years by scientist, medical doctors, the government, mental health professional, etc. to the subject of the health benefits of prayer. Few of these have had as the basis of their studies a theological premises; most have been based on the anatomy and physiological makeup of human beings. How does the body respond to prayer? has been one of the basic question researchers have been trying to answer. Without delving into the theological issues related to these studies, let’s just take a moment and note some findings of those who have researched the relationship of prayer to health.
I typed in “Health Benefits of Prayer” into my computer search engine and 13,300.000 results popped up. Evidently there is a lot of interest in the health benefits of prayer. Here are some research observations on the subject: • NewsMax presented a sales pitch for The Mind Health Report which offered an article on 47 Scientific Benefits of Prayer, by a Dr. Newberg. It referenced the benefits of prayer relative to reducing pain, stress, lowering blood pressure, improving memory, helps one be more optimistic, less fearful, less angry, etc. Prayer obviously has some psychological benefits (cf. Proverbs 23:7; Mark 7:21-26).
• In a 2010 study reported in the Social Psychology Quarterly, it was stated that prayer can help manage and healthfully express emotional pain including illness, sadness, trauma and anger.
• In the Journal of Psychology and Theology (1991, 1, 71-83) a study was referenced that demonstrated that prayer and prayer experiences have a positive effect on the general health of those who practice praying.
• Researchers at the University of Cincinnati found that asthma urban adolescents experienced worse symptoms when not using spiritual coping like prayer or relaxation.
• Concerning the health benefits of prayer, the popular television physician, Dr. Oz, has numerous positive observations about the health benefits of prayer. Here are some of his observations: Of those people who said they prayed for health reasons, 70 percent said that prayer was helpful. Why? Seems like it may work through several different mechanisms: It relaxes…It’s positive…It may be a placebo effect.
• A Duke University study of a group of 4,000 people over age 64 found that those who prayed regularly had significantly lower blood pressure than those who prayed intermittently. At Dartmouth Medical Center, one of the best predictors of survival among 232 heart patients was the degree to which they drew comfort from prayer. In studies at several medical centers, prayer had been shown to speed recovery from depression, stroke, hip surgery, rheumatoid arthritis, heart attacks, bypass surgery, and alcoholism (Dr. Kathleen Hill, www.sharecare.com).
• In the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin from Ohio State University it is shown that persons provoked by insulting comments from a stranger show less anger and aggression soon afterwards if they take time to pray for another person after the account. This would be a great exercise the next time you are cut off in traffic or tailgated. In 1991, S.P. Laird in his doctorate dissertation, University of Kansas, reported that a preliminary investigation into the role of prayer as a coping technique for adult patients with arthritis revealed several things: 1) having faith in prayer was positively related to better emotional adjustment, 2) praying more days per week was positively related to fewer health concerns, 3) engaging in confessional prayer was positively related to having more health concerns, 4) engaging in receptive prayer was positively related to greater social involvement with friends and relatives. (blog.beliefnet.com/prayer plain and simple/2009/10).
• According to a study by Dr. Anne McCaffrey of the Harvard Medical School, one-third of Americans use prayer to facilitate physical healing. Sixty-nine percent of the 2,000 people surveyed said prayer greatly improved their health.
• An Australian researcher, R. D’Souza, has affirmed that patients consider prayer and spiritual issues to be important and express the conviction that caregivers should be aware of their beliefs.
While research continues to explore the health benefits of prayer from the scientific point of view, which is just another way of letting light shine on one of the amazing power of prayer given by God. For the Christian there is belief and trust in God to answer prayers related to health issues, but always according to His will. No, it is not expecting a miraculous answer such as Jesus and His Apostles were able to perform. It is a simple and faithful obedience to the command, Is any among you sick, let him pray.