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I've been reflecting on a big moment in Joseph's life. It was just after Joseph's son, Manasseh, was born, and Joseph explains why he gave his son this name: "God has made me forget all my hardship" (Gen. 41:51). Oh, blessed forgetfulness!

God gives each of us a memory with two primary functions. First, our ability to remember is so we can recall the things we need to know. We use our memories to try to remember the flow of our sermon notes each time we preach. Before that, memory helps us remember where the church meets every Sunday morning. The other function of memory is the opposite: We use our memories to forget some things.

Bob Pitman, my elderly preacher friend, says the years have gathered up against him, and he has become a very good forgetter. "In fact," Bob said, "I have become almost a perfect forgetter." Joseph had forgetting in mind when he named Manasseh. Joseph effectively was saying, "I am a perfect forgetter because I refuse to allow some memories to burden me." The Hebrew word kineshni also might be translated "oblivious to" or "unmindful of."

There are some things in our memory banks we do better to let go, especially because we preachers and pastors are given the added call to be role models. What things should we ask God to help us remove from our memories? Reflecting on my 40-plus years of pastoral ministry, I can think of at least four, one of which may surprise you:

Forget Your Sins!

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Each time I come to that verse, a conversation with Valerie* comes back to me. Valerie, who had committed her life to Christ as a teenager, was approaching middle age. For more than two decades, she had carried the burden of a momentary moral lapse on a high school graduation trip. When I pointed out John's inspired words to her, she said, "I've read that hundreds of times, but I just cannot forgive myself." I reminded her that because God had forgiven her, she effectively had set a higher forgiveness standard than God Himself. We are all sinners, and we need to confess; and then, having received God's forgiveness, forgive ourselves.

Forget criticisms!

As preachers, we will be the targets of critics no matter what we do. C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters instructs Wormwood to become a church faultfinder. That has been a good strategy for Satan—one he still uses. Mean, ugly, jealous attacks are part and parcel of life for ministers. They hurt, but we must practice forgetting them. Otherwise, we will find ourselves ministering on the defensive, and that never works! By intentionally forgetting them, we can demonstrate the love and mercy of the One who called us to preach and who said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). Forgive your critics, forget the hardship of whatever they said or did, and move ahead. Oh, blessed forgetfulness!

Forget Your Own Goof-ups!

Given the number of times we speak and act in public, it should not surprise us that we will say and do some things that come under the heading of Dumb! Every time it happens, quickly apologize and ask forgiveness. Then move forward. Forgive yourself. Imagine what a terrible difference it would have made if Paul had continued to beat himself up emotionally for all the things he did before he encountered Jesus. Instead, he chose to count all those things as rubbish (see Phil. 3:8). Learn your lesson, then intentionally forget what you did and allow the gospel's unique peace to reign in your heart.

Forget Your Successes!

We all enjoy recognition and commendations. However, when we bask in past achievements, we become self-centered bores, and our whole future looks as if it happened yesterday. See those great moments as stepping stones to the new successes God has planned ahead. Thank God for what you did, and put your hand in His great hand for what He has in store for you. Paul, remembering his successes, said, "One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14).

Keep your mind focused on "whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Phil. 4:8).

*Name has been changed.

The Rev. Dr. Leslie Holmes is professor of ministry and preaching at Erskine Theological Seminary in Columbia and Due West, SC. A Presbyterian minister, he was most recently senior pastor of Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in Augusta, GA.

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Richard Rodriguez

commented on Oct 4, 2014

I couldn't agree with you more, and while this is a good place to start, some people need to forget their 190 year old sermons and realize that. The word of God is relevant to every area of life today. Being stuck in time is one of the worst things we can do, people are looking for what is relevant, they are looking for real solutions to todays problems. Forgetting that which behind!

Todd Funk

commented on Oct 25, 2014

while I agree with all four tenants of the article, I think the one aspect regarding criticism does need some qualifications. I have been on both sides of church leadership and have seen many a pastor neglect and shake off many criticisms along the same line which greatly needed to be heated. We must recall the Scripture which says faithful are the wounds of a friend. how can iron sharpens iron unless the complaints and gratings of other people are considered. I once heard someone say that if enough people call you a mule you had better go and buy yourself a saddle because that is what you are. while I could not agree more that you will never please every person and to try and do so would be futile and unproductive. the flip side or other extreme to this argument is that if you ignore all criticism even the valid ones you will never grow as a pastor or as a Christian.

Anonymous Contributor

commented on Oct 26, 2014

Dear Todd, I agree with your view. While it is prudent to consider all criticism in an unbiased manner. On the whole it is a very good article though it is hard to handle criticism correctly on every occasion. It will do good if one considers criticism on case by case basis to resolve any conflict, reasoning vividly. One should be humble enough to graciously accept criticism and wise enough to rubbish unnecessary criticism. We need to seek the wisdom of God to know the difference, keeping aside our fleshly opinions.

Charmine Durrant

commented on Oct 25, 2014

This is such a wonderful message, so please continue to post these information to bless other pracher

Charmine Durrant

commented on Oct 25, 2014

This is such a wonderful message, so please continue to post these information to bless other pracher

Roy Thomas

commented on Oct 27, 2014

Remember brothers that the article is reminding us what to forget on a Sunday as one steps into the pulpit to preach the word of God . We must benefit from the "wounds of a friend." But the focus on Sunday morning is not allowing other things to prevent us from being the channels for delivering God's word to others. Benefit from the criticisms. Take the corrections that are necessary. Do all the preparations needed but when you step in the pulpit the focus is delivering the God breathed message. Preparations including ALL THE CRITICISMS and prayer form the RECEPTIVE arm of the message. When you get into the pulpit, the focus in on the EXPRESSIVE arm. It is the time to forget the receptive as it were and focus on the expressive. It is not saying that the receptive is not heeded, that corrections are not going to be heeded but the focus IN THE PULPIT is on faithfully declaring the unbridled message of the spirit of God.

Ronald E. Vanauken

commented on Feb 26, 2019

Forget it. Ok. It's forgotten. Were it only that simple. Memories, good and bad, are there for a reason and they do not magically disappear simply because we no longer want them. A would offer that a better suggestion is to not dwell on them; but deal with them. In a perhaps perverse manner, I am grateful to God for my memories of failing. Why? Because it brings to me the reality of God's incredible grace.

Wilfred Yego

commented on Feb 26, 2019

Thanks for this great message. Sometimes we actually forget the things we should be remembering and remember the things we should be forgetting. Forgetting is a skill we need to develop and perfect as we mature in faith.

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