A New Thing

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” – Isaiah 65:17

Well, the start of 2021 has sorta-kinda-maybe disrupted the planned “New” series, keeping in line with last year’s “Walking in the New”. Still it’s a new day and there’s no time like the present to start, right?

In reading Isaiah chapter 65, it struck me how difficult a task it was to tell his nation what thus said the Lord. Much of his book was about the judgment of God’s people after years of turning away from Him, of seeking other gods and fulfilling their selfish desires. I can imagine the righteous indignation and heartbreak the prophet must have felt at seeing his people choose old habits and ways that ultimately led to their being conquered and exiled to Babylon. I can image his frustration at a people being spiritually stuck when they had the Lord who could set them free. This sounds like what parents go through with children that refuse to heed advice that’s “too old”, or ignore cautions that are not applicable in the 21st century. Time and time again, Mom/Dad will say one thing (based on what they learned the hard way) and their sons or daughters do the exact opposite. It’s indeed painful to see loved ones, people we care about, choose a path that leads to an avoidable dead end.

Yes, I can imagine what Isaiah must have felt. It’s a tough assignment to deliver a hard word to hard-headed, hard-hearted people, and have it rejected. However, Isaiah also received a great word that’s the focus of today, a fantastic word of salvation and redemption, an awesome word for a new start.

It’s the latter part of the verse, “…and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind”, that we all need to embrace. If the Lord won’t bring up the old stuff we did in 2020 and years before, if our mistakes don’t enter His all-powerful mind, if He doesn’t burden us with our past, then we shouldn’t do it to ourselves, either. God loves us too much to be done with us, to leave us in the messes we make, so we should be ecstatic to know and eager to accept His redeeming gift! We have more than enough reason to jump and shout for joy that the Father of all creation chose to do a new thing for His people Israel, and also for His family (all of us who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior) in spite of our bad choices and sins!

Yes, we made some costly mistakes even during a pandemic and said harsh words that could not be taken back. We wrecked relationships over politics, racial injustice, and faith. We worried far more than we trusted, and made ourselves sick in the process. But I tell you this: God is sho’ nuff a forgiving God. When we fess up to Him with sincerity, He doesn’t hold grudges. With Him, “…the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” He gives us something new to look forward to, a new chance to get it—i.e., life—right. He gives us a chance to leave the failures and disappointments behind, which allows our perspective on the present and future to shift, and enables our trust in and relationship with God to deepen and grow.

There is so much to experience and gain with the new thing God wants to do for us and His entire creation, so why not leave last year behind and chase after that new thing in 2021? Why not chase after the vision seed He planted in your mind years ago to change careers, start that business, or pursue higher education? Why not forgive those who wronged you, give them a call and allow healing to begin? Why not trust God 3000 percent in all things and at all times? He has a proven track record with those who trust Him, so we can’t go wrong!

Let’s leave all the mess behind, fam, and move forward into that new thing. Let’s take that first step together, encourage each other to take another step, and another, and another. Let’s nudge each other forward when the temptation to step back becomes a little intense. Let’s cheer each other on through the challenges and celebrate the victories (and believe me, there will be victories).

We can do this, folks. With God we can, and we will!

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for every new chance You give us to get it right, to walk in our purpose and calling. Thank You for never giving up on us despite the reasons we give You to do so. I ask that You be with us as we make this first move. Order our steps in Your word, Lord; keep us connected to You and each other as we face what 2021 brings with confidence that we will achieve all that You have set for us. With You, we can’t go wrong! I ask this in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.

Wise Words

In light of today’s events in Washington, DC, the original posting for this New Year will be delayed until next week.  What is needed right now in this historical moment are words of wisdom that speak truth to power, to the fact that the Lord is God of order and not chaos.  Regardless of political affiliation, something has been shifting among the principalities and powers in the spiritual realm for some time.  They seek and sow destruction, but we who are children of God seek His will, wisdom, and way.  Fam, I ask that you stand in the gap with me for this country, from coast to coast, and pray for forgiveness, healing, and commitment to choose God above all.  For when we keep God first, all else will fall into His order.

Proverbs 28 (ESV)

28 The wicked flee when no one pursues,
    but the righteous are bold as a lion.
When a land transgresses, it has many rulers,
    but with a man of understanding and knowledge,
    its stability will long continue.
A poor man who oppresses the poor
    is a beating rain that leaves no food.
Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
    but those who keep the law strive against them.
Evil men do not understand justice,
    but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.
Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
    than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding,
    but a companion of gluttons shames his father.
Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit
    gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,
    even his prayer is an abomination.
10 Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way
    will fall into his own pit,
    but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.
11 A rich man is wise in his own eyes,
    but a poor man who has understanding will find him out.
12 When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,
    but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.
13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
    but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
14 Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always,
    but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
15 Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
    is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
16 A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor,
    but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.
17 If one is burdened with the blood of another,
    he will be a fugitive until death;
    let no one help him.
18 Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered,
    but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.
19 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
    but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
20 A faithful man will abound with blessings,
    but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
21 To show partiality is not good,
    but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.
22 A stingy man hastens after wealth
    and does not know that poverty will come upon him.
23 Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor
    than he who flatters with his tongue.
24 Whoever robs his father or his mother
    and says, “That is no transgression,”
    is a companion to a man who destroys.
25 A greedy man stirs up strife,
    but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.
26 Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
    but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
27 Whoever gives to the poor will not want,
    but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
28 When the wicked rise, people hide themselves,
    but when they perish, the righteous increase.

The Perfect Stitch

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” – Psalm 103:2-5

For my sophomore year at college, my mother made me a queen-sized patchwork quilt. Made of pink, green, yellow, white, and blue pieces, this fairly thin covering has surprisingly kept me warm for nearly thirty years. Maybe it’s the love or prayers that went into stitching it together, I’m not sure. But to this day, if that quilt is not on my bed, I can’t get warm enough to sleep.

Yeah, I know, I sound like the female version of Linus and his blue blanket…oh well.

As expected with time and usage, this old quilt has collected some rips, tears, and lost stitches. It’s not at the point of being unusable, but a little extra handling care was in order. Recently, I really looked at it and decided to repair as best I could. Needle and thread in hand, I pulled frayed pieces close and stitched them up. Suffice it to say, the stitching isn’t pretty, and it’s very noticeable. Why after all this time it never dawned on me to fix the rips when they were smaller, I don’t know. What I do know is that every pass of the needle through the material was symbolic of what the Lord has done for me personally and for others:

He stitched us back together. However, His stitch is so perfect that none of us look like there was anything torn or broken within us. With His awesome, beautiful handiwork, we don’t look like what we’ve been through.

Think about it: this year we have experienced rips and tears that could have completely unraveled us spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially. The fabric of our society, already stretched by the ever-present effects of hatred and fear, was pulled apart in ways few of us thought would happen in our lifetime. The hopeful expectation of 2020 being the year of vision became tattered and torn by calamity after tragedy after catastrophe.

This year, more than any other, has been a trip, leaving us much like my old quilt. And yet, there are only two words I can say to that:

But God.

See, despite all that was going on, the Lord has been putting us back together, working in the background and at the forefront. We don’t look like:

a. Salary reductions or job loss, because bills were still paid, food still in the pantry, and a new job was waiting for us

b. Broken relationships, because a single text or phone call opened a path to reconciliation

c. Sickness and disease, because our God is a healer, and it is His report that we believe

d. Depression, because the joy of the Lord has held the darkness at bay

e. Anxiety, because God took the cares we cast on Him and is handling them with so much ease

Every piece of our lives that was ripped, the Lord has repaired. Every seam that was stretched, God has strengthened. Every part that went missing, He has made new. His is truly the perfect stitch, and I’m just glad He loves us enough to make us whole in heart, mind, and spirit.

I don’t know about you, fam, but I can’t wait to see how and what the Lord does in 2021. I expect The Great to do great things for you, and for me.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Prayer: Lord, it has been a year. Still every time we thought “This is it”, or “Can’t handle this”, but You, Lord. But You, who stepped in and did more than we could ever ask or think. For every tear of sadness, You gave us tears of joy. For every sigh, You gave us multiple reasons to sing Your praise. For every bad moment, You showed up with Your goodness and showed out with Your grace. Thank You, Lord, for all that You have done. I pray that You keep doing what You do best in 2021, and all the years to come. And for the person who is waiting for that breakthrough, believe that it is coming. Your waiting is not in vain. Amen.