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Skip Heitzig - #TBT

Skip Heitzig - #TBT
Skip Heitzig - #TBT

Let's turn in our bibles to the book of Deuteronomy, shall we? Deuteronomy chapter 8, if you've never heard of that book. Find the first book of the Bible and go five blocks to the right. Deuteronomy is the fifth book in the Bible. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. That's what we're going to look at. Chapter 8 this morning. Our message is TBT, Throwback Thursday. We're going to see what the Bible has to say about the past. Let's pray:

Father, I think of the words of David in Psalm 103, when he said, bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all of His benefits. Thank you, Lord for all of the benefits, all of the goodness. Thank you, Lord, for who you are and what you have been to us through the years. Thank you for our family. Thank you for the great blessings and benefits that are sitting next to us right now. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Well, maybe you heard about the soldier who was overseas. And while he was stationed overseas at his camp, in his barracks, he got a letter from his girlfriend in the United States breaking up with him. It was a Dear John letter. Broke his heart. But to add insult to injury, in the letter she said, oh, and by the way, would you please send me back the picture of myself? It's my favorite picture. I want to use it for the engagement announcement in the newspaper. Now he was just devastated beyond anything he could imagine.

So his buddies, soldiers, came to his rescue. They collected all of the photographs of all of the girlfriends of all of the men on the base. Put them in a shoe box with a supposed note from him saying to her, your picture's in the box. Find it for yourself and send the rest back to me. For the life of me, I can't remember which one you were. Bam! Memory's a funny thing. Because even when you're honest about your memory, you'll have to admit you're losing it as time goes on. As time goes on, we don't have the ability to recall certain things.

So there were two old gals at church who were talking. And as they were having a conversation, one said, the worst thing about getting old is losing your memory. And she was saying this to this gal. She says, I know that I know you. And I feel like I've known you all my life, but I just can't remember your name. What's your name? And the other gal said, do you need an answer right now?

But you know, memory is also a very helpful thing. It can provide for us an inspiration into the future when it works right. Now, our memory, and today we have had a nostalgic morning, looking back with songs and people who were a part of it, and the look on the stage. Yes I, had some of these plants. I can't believe that I did. We just had to dust them off every few weeks. But one of the things that marketers have figured out is that nostalgia works. Nostalgia is something that is good in marketing. They're selling the past, a lot of these vendors and marketers.

So, for example, Hollywood understands that there is power in the past. That's why they take an old movie and redo it. Or they take a comic book series from our youth and they make it into a movie. And they know it sells. Nostalgia sells. The clothing industry has discovered. Put up a vintage clothing store. They're popping up all over the states. It will attract people. They're into vintage clothing. The design industry knows that if you package it as mid-century modern, that that is a powerful lure to people who are outfitting their house.

Also, the auto industry knows the power of the past. Think of the resurgence of those 70s muscle cars. You get something like a new Mustang or something. It's redone, but it tipped its hat to the past. So it's, like, man. I was cool in the 70s in high school, if you're that old. The audio industry understands the power of the past. Vinyl records are back. Go into Hastings and you'll discover a whole section on brand new vinyl records. And I have to admit, I'm into them. I love them. Isn't it funny how we went from vinyl records to 8-track to cassette tapes to CDs to MP3s? Now we're back to vinyl records. It keeps cycling back.

All of these industries and all of these vendors have a formula. They're selling memories. They're selling memories. Now, why would the past have such an allure? Because somehow, the past helps us frame the present. If we can get people back to their roots, they will feel linked to past events- or linked to people in their past, and it will pull them out of their loneliness in the present. Today, the name of the message is that famous hashtag, TBT, which means? Throwback Thursday.

Now, that's what it originally meant. Anymore, it just means reminisce. Let's just go back. Here's a picture of me way back when. TBT. It can be used in a number of ways, just to throwback to an earlier time. Deuteronomy chapter 8 is Moses' version of TBT. In this section, let me just sum it up for you, so we can get to the verses. The book of Deuteronomy is essentially three sermons given by a man who's 120 years old, who is about to die, given during one month in midwinter to the children of Israel. Moses teaches the children of Israel, a new generation, what they need to know before they go into the land they're about to possess.

And in chapter 8, the first 10 verses, he gives them four commands. I want you to see them. In verse 2, he says, you shall remember. And you shall remember. That's the past. Look at verse 5. The second command, he says, you should know. That's present tense. Verse 6, you shall keep. And that is the future tense. And then, finally, verse 10, and you shall bless the Lord. Those four commands. He gets them to look backwards, gets them to look at the present, gets them to look at the future. And finally, it's an upward look to bless the Lord. So with those four commands in mind, now we're going to cull through the text together. We're going to read it.

And I want to give you four principles, four ways to look backwards correctly. Properly. And here's the first. Let the past instruct you. Let the past instruct you. Verse 1, Moses speaking. Every commandment which I command you today, you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply. Go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these 40 years in the wilderness. To humble you, to test you. To know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

And so he humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna. Which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone. But man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these 40 years. Again, notice the command. You shall remember. Moses understands that memory can be a very powerful tool. So learn from the past. Let the past instruct you.

Now, psychologists tell us that you never really forget anything. That every experience you have, every person you meet, every thing you read is somewhere stored in your head. The problem, of course, is where is it, exactly? It's recall. Isn't that always the problem? So the way memories are formed. There's a portion of your brain called the hippocampus. And that's where memories are formed. And then they are later stored in the cerebral cortex toward the edges of your brain. The different lobes, those are the filing cabinets. One thing we know, however, is the recall will diminish with time. The accuracy of the memory, or the ability to reach back and recall it and bring it up to the present, becomes more difficult.

Some people have great memories of early experiences. Some, not so much. For example, my brother swore that he could remember being a baby in the crib. And I used to say, oh come on. This is ridiculous. And my parents actually corroborated some of his stories of the crib. Because no, that actually happened. So here I can't even remember the house we were in, he's remembering events of the crib in the bedroom in the house we were in.

So some have great, great early memories. Some not so much. What Moses is doing is saying, I want to jog your cerebral cortex. I want you to reach back into the wilderness years, going through the desert. The hardships, the trials, the faithfulness, I want you to bring them up again. And think about them. Remember, he says. Remember that the Lord your God led you. There's a few things he tells them to remember. Remember that God led you through hard times. Remember that God tested you sometimes. And remember that God was faithful to you at all times. That sums up these four verses that we read.

So again, notice. You shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way, these 40 years in the wilderness. Now, stop right there for a moment. If you read your Bible, you come to an understanding that the children of Israel wandered around in the desert for 40 years because of their unbelief. They didn't believe God. It was only 11 days to go from Kadish Barnea to the promised land. It was an 11-day journey. It took them 40 years. They managed to turn an 11-day march into a 40-year meander. And it seemed haphazard. It seemed senseless. They're going around in circles. But here, Moses says, I want you to know something. The Lord, your God, led you these 40 years.

Yep. You blew it. You made the mistake. You wandered. But while you wandered, God was leading you. Now, do you remember how He led them? Well He lead them through this incredible GPA system called a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night. And the instructions were simple. When that thing moves, you move. When it stops, you stop. Happened for 40 years. Why is that important to us? Here's why it's important. Because you and I go through experiences that just seem random, senseless, and haphazard. And what you need to know is your God is leading you all the way.

I know we don't like where he leads us sometimes. David said, yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I know a lot of us wish it said, yea, though I'm airlifted from mountain peak to mountain peak to mountain peak to mountain peak. But that's not real life. Some might confess that it is real life, but it ain't real life. We go through the valley, but David said, you were with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You directed me during all those times. So he led you through hard times.

He also wants them to remember that God tested them sometimes. Notice the language. Says, he did it to humble you and to test you. Mark that. They got tested. Why? He explains, to know what is in your heart. Now, that doesn't mean God needed to know what was in their heart. He already knew. God wanted them to know what was in their heart. They didn't know. They thought they were cool and spiritual and mature. And if you really want to find out who you are, go through a trial. That's who you are. Your reaction to the heat of trial and hardship is who you are. And the test reveals that.

So James says, the testing of your faith produces patience, perseverance. Peter said, the genuineness of your faith, even though tested by fire. Why do we need to get tested? Why does our faith need to be tested? Because a faith that isn't tested is a faith that can't be trusted. You need to face the hardship to find out who you really are, so your roots can go deeper. In ancient times, a jeweler, if you wanted to find out what kind of metal he's dealing with, it was an easy test. He just throws it in the fire. The fire heated up a little bit and you'll find out if it's gold or silver or some kind of an alloy. All the imperfections will rise to the top, you can scrape them off. But it proves the genuineness of it. The test will do that.

So God turns up the heat in your life, but not to burn you. But to bless you. And the blessing is so often disguised, isn't it? It's a trial. It's hard. But He's doing it to humble you, to test you, to show you what's in your heart so that you'll come out the other end strong. So he led you through hard times. He tested you sometimes. But he provided for you at all times. And what's interesting here is what he reminds them of in particular. The manna that fell from heaven. Remember the manna? The bread they picked up every day?

OK, can I say, for the record, that manna is one of God's best inventions ever? Come on. How cool is manna? I'm hungry. Go outside. Pick it up off the ground, eat it. So God provided this manna. And I say it's a cool invention, and by the way, God made lots of cool inventions. Like oceans, that's a good invention. Right? Forests are a great invention. Don't we love to go to the forests? A dog is a great invention in my opinion. One of God's great inventions. Cats, well, I don't know. Sorry, Peg. A dog is one of God's coolest inventions. But manna? Bread falling from heaven?

And you know what the Bible says manna tasted like? Exodus 16, it tasted like wafers with honey. Wafers made with honey. So just think at the end of your meal, when you go to a restaurant here in this state, and you get that wafer-like bread with honey on it. That's called a... come on, sopapillas every day for 40 years? And it was good for you. Come on, is that not a great invention? I'll sign up for that. He did that for 40 years. He's reminding them of the provision. To add to that, he said, your garments did not wear out. Imagine having a wardrobe that looks as new as the day you put it on the first time. Your shoes didn't wear out. Your clothes look good. Now, that's wonderful. But for some people who are fashionistas, it's a nightmare. I can imagine the conversations. Honey, I need a new dress. Nope, looks as good as it did 40 years ago. You're good to go. Thank you, Lord. You just saved me a bundle.

Let the past instruct you. Second principle, let the present inspire you. Look what he does in verse 5. He pivots from the past to the present. This is all present tense. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you. Learn from the past, but don't live in the past. It's never wise to do that. It makes life messy when you try to live in the past. A wise person will not completely abandon the past, nor will he enshrine in the past. He will simply build on the past. And so he pivots here, to go from the past tense to the present.

If you want to live a miserable life, try to live your whole life looking backwards. I remember what it used to be like. It used to do that, and we used to do that. It's hard to make progress looking backwards. Imagine a runner trying to go down the track with his neck craned backwards at where he came from. And that really is the thought of Paul in Philippians chapter 3, when he says, this 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.

Two important words in that. Reaching forward. Reaching forward, that's an athletic term. If you're a runner it means when you're in a race, it's that last burst of energy as you reach toward the tape, toward the finish line to win the prize. Paul said, that's how I live my life. And he also said, forgetting those things which are behind. Now, the word here, forget, doesn't mean fail to remember. Just means don't let the past have an unhealthy influence on your present.

It's like when God says, their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more. It's not like God has a bad memory. But God is saying, though I know every bad thing about you, I'm not going to let that influence the way I treat you. Because I'll treat you based on grace. That's what it means. So I'm going to forget those things that are behind. I'm going to reach forward to those things which are ahead. Harriet Hall wrote this. Some things should be forgotten, such as failures and mistakes of yesterday. We've all had them. So learn from them and forget them. It's never wise to nurse a grudge. If someone treated you unkindly or unfairly, forget it. This only drains our energy and creativity. Learn to extract what wisdom you can from the experience. And then bury it. I've discovered that burying lots of things is good. It's healthy. It's helpful.

So when you look back you should only look back as a warning. Like, I don't want to do that again. Or as a blessing. Oh, I remember when God did that. But I don't want to stay there. Your past should be a guidepost, not a hitching post. It should be a sail, never an anchor. It should be a springboard, but not a sofa. And by the way, beware of those people who talk about the good old days. Oh, man. I remember the good old, you know what the good old days is? It's a combination of a bad memory and a good imagination. Because you know what? You're going to look back at today as good old days. I remember the good old days in 2016.

So let the present inspire you. Move past the past. Grow. Grow up. Mature. Be stretched. Because your only other alternative is spiritual atrophy. Nobody wants that. Let the past instruct you, let the present inspire you. Let me give you a third. Let the future invite you. Verse 6, now he pivots from the past through the present.

Now to the future. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God. To walk in his ways and to fear him or respect him, honor him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land. A land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs that flow out of the valleys and hills. A land of wheat, barley, vines, fig trees, pomegranates. I'm going, yum. A land of olive oil and honey. A land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing. A land whose stones are iron, out of whose hills you can dig copper. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord. That's the future. Let the future invite you. God has been beneficial. God has been a blessing. So now, respond to him. Remember the past, be learning in the present, but always with an eye to the future.

So a man went to his doctor. He was losing his memory. Doctor, can you help, he said. The doctor said, there is an operation I can perform. But I have to warn you, I can't fix your memory without impairing your eyesight. So you need to make a decision. Do you want to see? Or do you want to remember? Well, the patient thought about that for a while. And he said, I think I'd rather see where I'm going than remember where I've been. But you know what Moses is saying? You can do both. In fact you need both. You need to remember where you've been, so that you can see where you are going.

And where you are going is keeping the commandments of the Lord. Most of you remember, if not all of you, Charles Dickens' most famous work, called A Christmas Carol. It's been made into movies, but you should read the book. It's about Ebenezer Scrooge. He gets visited by three ghosts, three spirits on Christmas Eve. And one is the ghost of Christmas Past. You know the story. So the ghost of Christmas past shows Ebenezer Scrooge, now an old penny-pinching miserable miser, he shows him his past when he was a young Ebenezer Scrooge. And he was in love with a girl. And he was engaged to a girl. He'd proposed to her. But the girl broke off the engagement, because she discovered that Ebenezer Scrooge loved money more than he loved her.

So as the scene unfolds before Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar. Ebenezer Scrooge. This is what happens, you see, when you get older. The cortex isn't working properly with the hippocampus. In the movie, you can see the emotion sweep over Scrooge's face as he realizes, what a fool I have been. If only I would have married that girl. I could have been so happy. Now I'm this old miser. But you see, that's the point of the whole story. He doesn't stay the way he was. He uses the past to move through the present and pivot into the future, to be a very different Ebenezer Scrooge. He goes from a miser to a merciful man. He goes from somebody who is hardened to somebody who is helpful. He got changed by it.

So follow Moses' thinking here. He's saying, if God has been faithful to you, and if God has been beneficial to you, then you be respectful to him. How? By doing what he says. By obeying him. Because, now, listen to this. If you forget everything else in this sermon, remember this. Obedience is the response of love. Obedience is the response of love. Jesus said, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. Obedience is a response of love.

Let me ask you a question. Does what you say get canceled out by what you do? Well I say I love the Lord. I say, oh, I want to be so close, Lord. Great. Does what you say get canceled out by what you do? Because if you love me, you'll keep my commandments. Remember the past, let the present inspire you. But now, let the future invite you. And the invitation is keep the commandments of the Lord.

Years ago, when I used to do most of the marriage counseling, we were quite small then. I'd bring a couple in. They were having a disagreement. And I know they wanted it resolved. So I would begin every session with a simple question. I said, I'm going to ask you a question. I need a verbal response. Sort of like the stewardesses on the airplanes if you sit in an exit row. Want a verbal response. We're going to look at the principles of the scripture and see how it applies to forgiveness, reconciliation, loving one another, etc. Here's what I need to hear from you. Once we discover from the scripture what is the will of God for your life, are you willing and determined to obey it?

Are you willing and determined to obey it? Because if you say, well, it depends on what I discover. Or maybe not. Then we're done. It's been a five minute counseling session. See you guys. I'm going to go do something fun. But if you say, I am willing and determined to do what God wants us to do, now we have a ground to move forward. Now it's not a waste of time. Now it could be a wonderful investment in our time. And if you make following His ways your priority, then the future will be inviting. If not, it will be foreboding.

Because this is loving God. Loving God is not an emotional goosebump. It's a choice to obey. It's what Eugene Peterson called a long obedience in the same direction. I love the title of that book. A long obedience in the same direction. Just keep on serving him. Keep on obeying. Keep on doing what you know he wants you to do. One of my prayers of late has been, Lord, help me to finish strong. Help me to finish well. I started well, you've been faithful all these years. But I want to finish strong. I want to have a long obedience in the same direction. No regrets. Let the past instruct you, let the present inspire you, let the future invite you.

And now Moses closes it off, this section, with having them look upward. Let thanksgiving impel you. Look at verse 10. We'll close with that. When you have eaten, he says, and are full, you're satisfied with the blessing of God, then you shall bless the Lord, or thank the Lord your God for the good land which he has given you. OK, you still with me? Follow his thinking here. He's saying to them, if God has been faithful to you and beneficial to you, then be respectful to him and be thankful to him. That's the response. I could even sum up all 10 verses with two words. Two commands. Think and thank.

Think and thank. Think what God has done for you. Think of the blessings you have because of him. Think of where you are today. Think about that. And then thank him for who he is. Thank him for what he's done. Be thinking, be thankful. In everything, 1 Thessalonians 5, in everything, give thanks. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Are you a person of gratitude? Gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for the Christian life. You want to fly high? Be thankful. You want to bump around on the stones on the ground? Don't be thankful. Gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for the Christian life.

I understand that, for some of you, in looking back it's quite painful. You don't want to look back. You don't want to get in touch with those, Skip, you're asking me to look back to that night in the ICU waiting room? It was the worst night of my life. You asking me to look back when my spouse left me and was unfaithful? You want me to look back to that? You want me to look back to the day I lost my job, or my friends forsook me? Yes. I want you to look back to those events, and I want you to get in touch with them. And thank God for his faithfulness and presence. And how he humbled you to test you to make you a better person. All of that was for your instruction. To be a thankful person.

Now, what is the holiday we celebrate the third Thursday of every November? Thanksgiving. You know what President it was who said that we had to celebrate it? It was Abraham Lincoln. The year was 1863. What happened in 1863? Was that what was going on in our country? A war. Civil War. Bad time in our country. And yet, the president said, we ought to be thankful. It wasn't signed into law as a legal holiday till the year 1942. What happened in 1942? Was there anything going on in the world? A World War II.

Isn't that amazing? I don't think it's just a circumstance that the two years that two leaders said we ought to pause and be thankful were in some of the worst historical years of our nation's history. Thanksgiving. Let's be thankful. You know the story of Jesus healing 10 lepers? I have to say the word with emphasis, lepers. Because somebody will misunderstand that I said leopards. He wasn't at the zoo healing animals. That's St. Francis. Jesus, he healed lepers. People with leprosy. He healed 10 of them. You know how many came back and thanked him? Uno.

And you know the question he asked the uno? He said, where are the other nine? Didn't I heal ten? How come all 10 aren't back here? How come there's only 10%? And I wonder if the percentages aren't exactly the same today. For all the goodness God has given to us. I think it probably is. I think that about one out of every 10 lives that kind of a life. And I want to challenge you. You can live your life one of two different ways. And I'll give you an illustration, you can answer who you are.

When I was a boy, we played with dirt. It's what little boys do. And you could find cool things in the dirt. You could find metal in the dirt, coins in the dirt. And there's a couple ways to do it. Let's say I took a handful of dirt and I wanted to find metal in it. Well, I could rub my fingers through it. I might find a penny or a quarter, if I was lucky. But I wouldn't find much metal by just running my hands through the dirt. However, if I want to find lots of metal, what do I use? A magnet. And I put a magnet to the dirt. Now I get clumps of metal.

You can live your life one of two different ways. You can run your fingers through life. Being thankful every so often, every blue moon, and just griping in between those episodes of thanksgiving. Or you can run the magnet every day through your life. Every experience you go through. Every month, every year, every season. And you will have gobs to be thankful for. Now, let's change TBT, shall we? Not just Throwback Thursday. But how about TBT, thinking and being thankful.

Father, we just think back to what you've done in us and then through us. You saved us, Lord. You saved us. You forgave us. You changed us from who we were to who we are. And better yet, where we're going is far better. What you have in store, even here on this Earth, those life changes, so much better. Thank you. We think back, we consider the present, we look to the future, but we always look up. And we say, bless you, Lord. Thank you, Lord, for your mercies, your goodness. And even the trial. Even the humbling, the testing, the hunger. Thank you Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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