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Past, Present, and Future pt. 1 – Remembering the Past

Past, Present, and Future pt. 1 – Remembering the Past
 

We had a great Easter celebration a few weeks ago. For the first time in a long time we stayed home instead of traveling to be with relatives. Our Sunday included worship down the road at a new church (in our community), watching a sermon streaming live online, lunch with a discussion about baptism and a leisurely drive through the woods in the afternoon. No hunting for eggs, no sleeping on futons. and no-hours and hours of driving. Don’t get me wrong, I do like those things but it was nice to have a change of pace and routine this year.

In the weeks following Easter my mind has often been going to the gospel accounts of Jesus; His life, ministry, obedience, death and His victory. Then, I had an interesting thought… something I hadn’t yet considered. I am 33 years old (Yikes! I still can’t believe I’ve gotten here so quickly). Jesus was 33 years old when His ministry culminated.

It was a sobering thought.

Immediately, my mind started racing with questions. What if this was my last year in ministry? What if I had to ask someone to take care of my family after I was gone? Have I accomplished anything since I started in full time ministry? I thought about Jesus’ first disciples and their years spent with Him. I started asking myself even more pointed questions: What have I done in the past few years? Has it been more for my glory or God’s glory? Have I learned, have I repented, have I become more like Jesus?

It was pretty easy to come up with a huge list of questions about my experience in ministry over the past decade. I think my list of questions started to overwhelm me. I put it on the back burner, hoping it might go away or my attention span would give me something else to think about.

Of course, it didn’t. But as I sat with it, I realized God was inviting me to stop and really consider things. These questions were an opportunity to ponder something more than a small journal entry or quick list of highlights. I think it’s much bigger than that and may be farther reaching.

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I’m the kind of guy who likes looking ahead, dreaming big and moving forward. Reminiscing about the past or even sitting still in this moment is on my list of “things that give me restless leg syndrome”. However, I have not been able to shake my Easter thoughts. In the past few weeks since that initial thought, I find myself in a season where God is calling me to remember the past, ready for the future, and remain in the present.

I plan to get some time away, especially before a big summer of ministry starts here at the camp at the end of May. Part of my time away will be to remember the past. This of course, is nothing new. It is an old practice called the Examen. It is the idea of examining your “spiritual health and experience”, looking back to notice and name where God has been at work in your life. It can be the Examen of a day, a week, a month, a year or a season of life.

Respectfully, each duration requires more time away to seriously engage in meaningful thought and prayer. That time away can be a combination of distance between you and your normal routines, relationships and surroundings. For the Examen of a day, it is simple to find a few minutes before bed to sit quietly and reflect. For a month, it may take a whole day to recount and remember.

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On the heels of Easter, I encourage and challenge you to consider introducing the Examen into your daily, weekly or monthly spiritual practices. Here are some steps (more like things to focus on) during your time of the Examen.

  1. Give thanks to God for the benefits you have received from Him.
  2. Ask for the grace to know your sins and rid yourself of them.
  3. Ask God for an account of your soul – your thoughts, words and deeds (hour by hour, day by day or season by season).

 Some Helpful Questions for this Third Section:

  • Take a moment to reflect on the activities, encounters, and conversations that you’ve had today.
  • Ask God to reveal the moments in this day that He wants you to notice.
  • What are you most grateful for today? What are you least grateful for?
  • When did you feel most alive today? When did you feel most drained?
  • When did you give and receive love well today? When did you fail to love well today?
  • When did God feel close today? When did He seem hidden?
  • When were my thoughts, words, and actions open to the Father’s will today? When were they resistant to Him?
  • Is there a place in my life where I feel God calling me to a change of heart?
  1. Ask God for forgiveness.
  2. Resolve by His grace to follow Jesus.
  3. Rest. Abide in the truth that God loves you, forgives you and has promised to give you everything you need for life and godliness.

As we remember the past, my prayer for you and myself is the same as Paul’s, “We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” – Colossians 1:9-10

Writer’s Note: We’ve all heard that Jesus lived to be 33 (or 33 ½) and engaged in full time ministry for approximately 3 ½ years. Check out Christianity Today’s recent article that focuses on Easter and Jesus’ age.

Ben Myers
Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp
Ben Myers has served as the Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp in Brackney, PA for the past 13 years. Arrowhead is a ministry committed to discipleship through its programs for adults with developmental disabilities, missions opportunities for youth groups, and mentoring of High School and College students. Ben also teaches as an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College and holds degrees from Cairn University and Baptist Bible Seminary.