A New Thing

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

Us old guys have a tendency to dwell on the past. Sometimes we remember longingly "the good old days." Funny thing is, the good old days were not always all that good. When I first started in ministry in 1973 we were limited to land line phones. If I were in the car on an errand and a parishioner was taken to the ER with a heart attack, there was simply no way to be notified until I returned home or to the office. Then, in the 80's, I got a pager! I would feel the vibration or hear the beep, receive the message, and pull over at a pay phone to call the office and find out what I needed to know. My cell phone is now an indispensable part of ministry and family life.

Sometimes we have trouble getting over a major failure or wound from the past. I am haunted by what could have been in ministry if I were connected to the Holy Spirit in prayer and dependence on Him in the consuming, too-busy year I spent as pastor at the first larger church I served when I essentially stopped having a daily devotional time and praying every day. Imagine a pastor who only prays when he leads prayer in worship or at the beginning of a meeting. Imagine trying to do God's work in one's own personal strength alone. It was a slow motion disaster.

It is neither right nor healthy to dwell on the past when God wants to do a new thing in our lives. I am grateful for end-of-the-year review of the past year and beginning-of-the-year anticipation of a fresh start that happens each year as the calendar flips from December 31 to January 1. For me, this goes beyond new year's resolutions. I'm with the guy who said, "I don't see any value in making new resolutions when the ones on the books are not being enforced!"

It's worth asking God at the beginning of each new year to whisper to my heart what new thing He longs to do in my life in the new year that lies before me. Is this the year God's Spirit opens my mind to new and deeper understanding of His Word? Does He long to deepen my prayer life in the coming months? Will a door open for greater impact for His Kingdom through a new avenue of service at work or in the neighborhood? Is this the year God is calling me to take that international, short-term mission trip?

We know from God's Word the general direction of the new thing God wants to do in our lives. His purpose is to transform us to be like Jesus. The new thing He wants to do in every one of us is to drive out the sin nature and restore us to be the image-bearers He intended when He created humans beings.

We don't always embrace the transformation, because it will mean real change in our lives, and change is hard. If caterpillars have consciousness, one can imagine they have no idea what becoming a butterfly will mean for their existence. Yet the chrysalis calls for them to climb inside and die to crawling on limbs and leaves in order to fundamentally change into a creature who soars on the breeze. How tragic to continue to live in the prison of old, sinful ways when God wants to set us free to live a life of simplicity and freedom and joy and love like Jesus lived.

At our Christmas Eve services we saw how the shepherds left normal life on the hillside with the sheep to seek out the Lamb of God whose birth had been announced to them. They saw Him for themselves and made known what the angels had told them about Jesus. Then they "returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen." (Luke 2:20 NIV)

Let's dare to embrace the new thing God wants to do in our lives in 2022. Let's go beyond business as usual and embrace transformation. Let's not live in the past, but embrace God's bright new future as we walk with Jesus in the present, minute by minute and day by day.

Happy new year, everyone!

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