Activate - September 25

Acts 20:36-38     
When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
Protect the present from the past and the future.
As the apostle Paul was following God’s leading, it became clear he would need to say goodbye to his dear friends in Ephesus. They embraced, knowing it was the final opportunity to see each other this side of heaven. The kindest words were exchanged, tears rolled, hugs were long, and prayers were mustered. Their hearts were fully invested in the closeness of their relationships. Every sweet second of their final time together was deeply cherished. Have you had any goodbye moments like that?
Following months of planning, our wedding day finally arrived. With hundreds of people attending, there were more than enough details to make anyone’s head spin. Trying to get some quality time with everyone, making sure there was enough food, reviewing the details of the ceremony, and addressing many questions just began to scratch the surface of topics in our hearts and on our minds. Have I mentioned that we were also moving from Iowa to California immediately following the wedding, selling my condominium, saying goodbye to dear friends, packing our belongings, and preparing to start new jobs? How many points is that on the stress-o-meter? 
You can imagine how easily we could have been distracted and not fully embrace one of the most joyous days of our lives. But we made a decision to enter into the moment and enjoy the festivities. It truly turned out to be a glorious celebration (I realize I have a slight bias with that statement)! 
Wedding days and average days can both be swallowed up by the wrong mindset. Do you ever take life for granted or become unnecessarily stressed because you are carrying the weight of the past and are caught in fearful anticipation of what is yet to come? You can make room for the present by releasing past regrets. Sadly, many people refuse to truly accept that God has forgiven them, even after God has covered their failures with His mercy. If you are very hard on yourself, there is a strong possibility that you are too harsh with other people as well. God’s grace can free you from the trap of excessive shame and guilt. On the other hand, if you are someone like me, who naturally looks ahead into the future, realize that tendency is not always helpful. 
You might need to reel in your mind from traveling down hypothetical situations and assumed scenarios. Worrying if you will get cancer because your parents did or if a natural disaster is looming does not extend your life (Matthew 6:25-34). There might be steps you can take now, however, to prepare for an emergency or to choose a healthy lifestyle. I have tried many approaches and have learned that a two-mile run or making a prayerful plan is usually much easier than a sleepless night! Can you relate? 
Like trying to improve a golf swing, learning a new language, or beginning crochet, changing your focus can feel awkward initially. Practice and cultivate this approach by remaining available in your present situation. If your circumstances feel too consuming, begin to talk with God and process your thoughts with Him. Use a pen and paper to write down what you are thinking and hearing. The One who stills raging seas can also calm your unhelpful, internal intensity. Choose to connect your thoughts and emotions to Him. Enjoy what you have right now and be faithful to your present role, instead of distracted by past regrets or future assumptions. You can have freedom by trusting the results to our loving God who is able to handle your future and mine. 
How can you limit the influence of distractions that sidetrack you and savor the present?

For more from Pastor Jesse Bradley and Activate Media Ministries, visit

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