A Dog Named Joe
By Teresa LeNeave
Don't live in the past. There is no future in it.
Do you know anyone who lives in the past? They constantly bring up the past. They constantly remind you of every mistake you've ever made. They remember everything they did for you for the past 40 years, but find no joy in your present experiences. As a result, life for the person who lives in the past is normally not very enjoyable.
The truth is we get to live every day in the moment of Jesus. "In Him we live, we move and we have our being" (Acts 17:28). God doesn't dwell on our past ... and if we want to be like him, we can't dwell on our past, or anyone else's past. God is Creator. A Creator forgets the past because he is constantly working on a future project. He's constantly involved in big plans for the future. If we are in Him, we are also in constant forward-movement. Like a plant, there may be dormant times in your life, but you can't stay dormant and live. At some point, you must wake up and return to forward-movement.
How do we move forward? How do you put the past behind you?
One way is to invite Jesus to take you're unhealthy thoughts. If you're caught in the past, force yourself to live in the moment. Paul said, there was one thing he was careful to do: Forgetting what is behind and press toward what is ahead ... reaching the goal that God called him into was more important than dwelling on the past. Phil. 3:13:14. God wants to move in our lives and we know this because the Bible says, "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). It's not money that makes us happy. It's not kids or career that makes us happy, but it's knowing we are in the right place. The right place is where God is moving and I promise you, he won't throw your past up to you.
Let me tell you a story of a dog name Joe. He is a great example of being in the right place. Joe ran away from home a little over two years ago. His family consisted of a mom, a dad, a little boy and a young teenage girl. They lived in the country on several acres of ground where Joe could run and play and chase rabbits and deer every day of his life. Every once in a while he saw a few coyotes. Why would he run away when everything that would make him happy was right there at home?
When he disappeared, his family's first thoughts were that he was caught in a trap or attacked by coyotes. They searched every acre of their farm and even asked the neighbors if they could search their grounds. Joe was nowhere to be found. The kids cried and the parents were disappointed. Joe was part of their family. Without a moment's notice, he was gone.
Although Joe was gone, his family never forgot him. For months, as they drove to work or went on any other trip in a vehicle, they scanned the roads and fields hoping for just a glimpse of him. Every once in a while the kids would jump on the 4-wheeler and scout the farm again hoping to find some trace of him. Eventually, they decided he was dead and they decided to move on. They got another dog to replace Joe.
Two years passed and then, out of the blue, someone called and asked what Joe looked like. They thought they had found him. As quickly as Joe left, Joe came home. No one knows where he had been for the past two years, but one thing they did know: he was glad to be home. When he wagged his tail, he wagged his entire body. Joe was as excited as his family.
Immediately, his family began to make plans for Joe's well-being. A new collar, his favorite dog food and even a warm corner in the garage was found for him. If he was lucky, he even got to sneak in the house once in a while.
If Joe thought he was special before, now he really got the royal treatment! Joe was home. He was where he belonged. He was in the right place. He got the best bed. He got the best food. He got the newest dog collar.
That's like the love God has for us. No matter how far you run from God, no matter where you've been or what you've done, God still loves you. You may have been gone for two years or twenty years, but God still loves you. He's still waiting for you to come home.
People mess up, they sometimes disappear from the ranks, but Jesus said God is like the father who sat on his porch waiting on his prodigal son to return home. When he saw him coming down the road, he didn't care that his child smelled like the pig pen he had been living in. His nasty clothes and dirty face didn't hold the Father's love back. He didn't demand an explanation of where he had been and he didn't drill him on his sin. He didn't tell him how bad he had been.
What he did do was ran straight to his son and throw his big arms around his neck and welcomed him back home. He never asked him where he'd been or condemned him for leaving. He was just overjoyed to have his child back.
Like a dog named Joe, you'll be welcomed back into the family. Like the family of the dog named Joe, we must welcome the lost child back without questions or condemnation. Just be overjoyed they are home. Forget the past. There is no future in it. Love covers a multitude of sins.