with Bob Condly

February 2016

Don’t Look Back?


Twice I got lost walking around outdoors. The first time I was camping with the Boy Scouts. We had some free time and most of the kids had taken off, but I wanted to explore the woods around the campsite. So I hiked a while but eventually realized that I couldn’t get back. I didn’t know where I was! It took a long time, but I finally arrived at the campground. Fortunately, hardly anyone was there, so I didn’t have to explain myself!

The second time occurred when I was an adult wandering in some open space in Angeles National Forest just north of Los Angeles. Just like before, I enjoyed the scenery at the expense of paying attention to my location and pretty soon, I was lost. God was gracious to me again; I roamed until I spotted my car. Mission accomplished!

Periodically looking back would have clued me in about where I was and how to return to where I’d started.

My conclusion? Look back!

But the Bible appears to disagree.

In Luke 9:62, Jesus insists that “no one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” You can’t plow straight ahead if you’re looking behind you. As Proverbs 4:25 advises, “let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.” To please the Lord, you have to look ahead.

And Genesis 19:26 records that “Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had sinned to the point that they’d exhausted God’s mercy. The Lord was about to destroy them, but He sent angels to rescue a man named Lot and his family. The angels got them out of the city, but the city must have remained in the heart of Lot’s wife. She sinned, not because she turned her head, but because her action demonstrated her deepest desire. She wanted to go back. She liked Sodom and Gomorrah and if she could have returned, she would have done so. Consequently, Jesus warns believers to “remember Lot’s wife!” Don’t cling to old sins; let them go!

The Bible’s conclusion? Don’t look back!

So which is it? Should you look back or not?

It depends. Ask a deeper question. Where are you going?

Is your aim to return eventually? Do you have unfinished business, unrealized potential, or unfulfilled commitments? If so, don’t ignore them. Look back and deal with them.

When I was camping, my ultimate end was the campground. Even though I’d drifted from it, I’d always intended to return.

The same goes with my walk in the California countryside. I sought out amazing views but my unstated goal was to get back to the car. Occasionally looking behind me would have made that easier!

And the Word supports this. As Psalm 77:11 declares, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago.” Sometimes you have to look back to remind yourself of who God is and what He can do.

The prophet Isaiah gives similar advice: “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many” (51:1-2). Explore your spiritual heritage. Learn from those who followed Jesus before you and see how God worked in their lives. It’ll do you some good!

But if you’re focused on God’s promises for you in Christ, then look ahead!

The Lord is in front of you, guiding your steps. According to Exodus 13:21-22, “by day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” You may not yet have arrived where you want to be, but following Christ will get you there!

The apostle Paul felt this way. As he disclosed to his “brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

So what direction is your life taking right now? Do you need to revisit an unresolved issue? If so, look behind you. Or are you dreaming about your future, trying to discern what the Lord wants for you? If so, then look forward!

Where are you going? And who is going with you?

A Pinewood Derby Christian


Last week, at our church’s pinewood derby competition, I gave a devotional based on a talk I had found online. Here’s a beefed-up version of what I said:

A Question

In Mark 4:30, Jesus asked, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like?” He answered His own question by comparing the kingdom to a mustard seed which starts out tiny but grows huge.

I’d say the kingdom is a God-ruled life. If the Lord governs you, you’re in His kingdom. But what does that look like? I get why Christ used imagery like a mustard seed, or soil, fish, and a party to describe the kingdom. They help people visualize an invisible reality. Following His example, I suggest that a God-ruled life resembles a pinewood derby car. Here’s how.


Before you build your car, you have an idea of what you want it to look like. Maybe you observed someone else’s model and thought it was awesome. Or you saw a picture or a video of a vehicle that caught your eye. You want to build a car that captures the picture in your head. Ideally, the car will look good and race fast!

God has a design for your life. He wants you to do His will and by His grace, you can.


If you want to enter a car in the derby, you have to buy the kit. Only then can you begin fulfilling the vision you have for it.

Jesus purchased you with the shedding of His blood. He bought you so He could work on you.


The kit comes with a block of wood which you fashion according to your design. It doesn’t look like much to begin with, but that piece of wood can become something special.

You may not feel like much, and you may not look like much, but God can make something magnificent out of your life. Just trust Him!


Michelangelo is reputed to have said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” You’re a pinewood derby artist! To bring out what you can see the in your mind, you have to cut away anything that doesn’t belong.

When you give yourself to Jesus, He gets rid of the sin in your life because evil and guilt  don’t conform to God’s highest and best for you. He has something better!


Once you cut away the extra wood, you’re left with the rough shape of the car you envision. However, it’s not ready for the track. You have to sand the wood so it’s smooth and shaped like it needs to be.

In the same way, God polishes you, even if you don’t like it! You might feel like you’re ready for the race; after all, the sin and regret are gone. What remains is supposed to be good, right? Yes, but it’s not done. Through spiritual disciplines, the Lord polishes your life so that you begin realizing His His plan for you. No discipline is pleasant at the moment, but the results are worth it!


Colors, decals, accoutrements – all these make your car stand out. They set it apart and help to identify the vehicle as yours. What began as a rough block of wood has taken on an impressive appearance. (I hope!)

God made you distinct, too. You’re special in His sight. In some respects, you’re the same person you always were, but in significant ways, you’re completely different. But there’s more; yes, more!


Your car might appear remarkable, but it belongs on the track. You have to install the wheels and they need to line up right. Be sure to coat the axles with graphite so the wheels can spin fast; the less resistance the better.

Jesus didn’t redeem you to sit still. He’s given you everything you need to get into the the spiritual race. Get ready for the racetrack; it’s where you belong.


One final preparation. Your car should get as close as possible to the maximum weight without exceeding the limit. If it’s too light, you can add little weights here and there. If it’s too heavy, you might have to drill a few holes in the bottom of the car to shed a few tenths of an ounce. Pinewood derbies are precise!

The Lord equips you with everything you need so you can do your best. He may add to your life what you perceive to be an unnecessary burden, but God views it as a responsibility. Take it seriously. Or, He might require you to shed something you value. But God knows better. What you presume to form a part of you may be keeping you from performing at your best. Like it or not, it has to go.


In the Derby, you compete against others. Not every car comes out on top.

In the Kingdom, Christians help each other. In God’s sight, you’ve already won! If you believe in Jesus, you’re a winner! So you can afford to encourage and assist other racers. The Lord promises to reward those who live this way. The spiritual race may not be easy, but it will  be worth it!

Your Turn

What does the kingdom of God look like to you? How would you describe God-ruled life that Jesus offers? What images or pictures spring to mind?

with Bob Condly

Recent Posts

Recent Comments