Redefine

Everybody likes makeovers and shows about makeovers. There is just something satisfying about seeing a before and after photo, whether it’s a person or a house renovation. We just like to see something spruced up and revitalized. Given 2020, most of us would like a makeover for the year. There’s just one catch: In order to have a makeover we have to be willing to let go of the old.

18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Personally, I reject the phrase “new normal” as most people apply it these days. I prefer the word redefine. My world has changed in recent years but not because of the pandemic. There are different seasons in our lives due to changes in age, job situations, relationships, and health. There are mountains and valleys. When a new season comes, we have to let go of the old so that we can enjoy the new. If we want to enjoy the colors of fall, we have to put away the shorts and flip flops of summer.

The same is true spiritually speaking. Growth can be a painful process sometimes but the blessings far outweigh the negatives. We can sit around and whine about what we don’t have, or we can be grateful for what we do have. Look around and I’m sure we can find reasons to thank God. We shouldn’t let what isn’t steal the joy of what is.

When we are tempted to complain about how different things are at the moment, we need to take a moment to grieve what has passed, whether it’s a loved one, a job, or even a dream. Then, we should take stock of what we have and where we are, and dream a new dream. Give it all to God and let Him make something new out of it.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

God only wants the best for us, but sometimes that means giving up something we think is good in order to have what is best. The key is learning the fine art of letting go so that we can hold on. Let go of whatever is not of God, and hold onto our faith.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.

Philippians 3:13

So, as we move into a time of giving thanks, let’s be mindful of what we have and open to the new things that God will do. Let God redefine us so that we are more like Him tomorrow than we were today.

Letting Go

 

Sometimes more is not better. At one point in time I had four part-time jobs. I had a steady job that I worked 4 days a week, plus another job working in a friend’s shop on Saturdays and some afternoons after my regular job. Then, I also taught English at an online university on a fairly regular basis and occasionally did scoring work for another company online. It seemed like I should have more than enough money, but no matter how much I made, it always seemed to slip through my fingers. I could never get ahead to the point where I could write because I was always too busy. I had too much to do.

One day I got a notice that the online school was closing abruptly due to bankruptcy. Gone was one of my backups. Then, because of the Pandemic, my other online work was cancelled that I was depending on to pay some unexpected bills. How would I cover those now?

Gideon and the 300

Gideon faced an even greater challenge than personal finances. He was called to lead the Israelites into battle against the Philistines, a strong nation with a substantial army. Gideon rallied 32,000 men for the battle, which seemed insufficient in comparison to their enemy. Yet, in Judges 7:2, God says:

“And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me…  And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place” (Judges 7:2,7).

Gideon was probably thinking too many men? What? Aren’t more men in battle better? However, God points out that if Israel went into battle with 32,000 men, then they will think they won the battle on their own merit. He wanted them to trust Him for deliverance, and not themselves. On top of cutting the army down to 300, God told Gideon to send the rest of the men home. While it wasn’t easy to hear that he should take only 300 men into battle, it was probably even harder to send the rest home, knowing he wouldn’t have any backup if things didn’t go well. He had to let go and trust God with the outcome. In the end, Gideon obeyed God and the Israelites were victorious because God went ahead of them, winning the battle using an unorthodox approach (read the rest of chapter 7 for details).

In my own life, I had been depending on the extra jobs as a backup when God wanted me to trust Him to provide for my needs. When I let go of trying to find replacement jobs and focused on writing instead, I began to see some success. I had an article, a devotional, and a Bible study published. While it wasn’t a lot of money, it added to my publication clips and increased my confidence that I was doing what I was called to do. In the meantime, other income came in to cover some of the unexpected bills. In order to move forward, I had to let go of the old so that God could open up new opportunities.

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). If we want God to do a new thing in our lives, we have to be willing to let go of the old. So, open your hands, let go, and see what God will do.

Trust and Obey

Trust and Obey is a song I have sung in church since before I can remember. It’s as familiar as a favorite sweater, but because it is so familiar, it is easy to overlook the words. It is even easier to overlook the meaning of the words much less how they should work out in our daily lives. Trust is easy when the going is smooth and even, the road stretched out clearly before us. Trust is something else altogether when the road is full of curves, the end unseen, and rain coming down so hard you cannot see the next curve until it suddenly appears in front of you.

Passage after passage in the Bible tells the story of people, ordinary people, called to step out in faith and trust and obey. They were asked to do build a boat when there had been no rain, pray fire down on a soaking wet altar, or walk on water. We think how amazing those people were but they are no different than us. They were merely believers who trusted and obeyed. Saying we trust means nothing until we actually obey, actually take a step forward in faith.

To walk out on the water sounds so difficult, but we have to remember Peter was looking at Jesus and hearing his actual voice calling to him. In John 20:29 the Word of God says, “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” It takes more faith to trust and obey when you can’t see at all. I was watching Field of Dreams this morning while I was eating breakfast and trying to get motivated. The whole story is one of trust and obedience and not understanding why he was asked to do things that made no sense while his world seemed to be crumbling around him. His obedience is rewarded in a way he never dreamed with the fulfillment of worldly needs (money to pay the mortgage) and spiritual/emotional needs (a chance to make it right with his father).

It is hard to continue to move forward on a path that the world says is not logical or practical. It is hard to trust when bills loom in the distance and we don’t see how it will get paid. We are tempted to fall back into old patterns of trusting on what the world says is the way to go, but God says, “Trust. I am doing something new” (Isaiah 43:19). We will never see God work in glorious new ways if we never step out. God is working in the background for our good (Jeremiah 29:11)we just have to hold tight to the promise and Trust and Obey.

Trust and Obey

The Old Ways

Old WayThe other day I was playing a computer game and was getting frustrated because I couldn’t beat a certain level. I closed out of the game and came back an hour later only to realize that I had already beaten that level the day before. I was fighting a battle I had already won. How often do we do the same in our spiritual lives?

In recent months I have felt God calling me to change careers. While I have been teaching English for almost 20 years, I have always wanted to be a full-time writer. I have struggled with writing on the side, but there was never enough time to really devote to it. I taught part-time, so I often had 2 or 3 jobs, which made it even harder to focus. When the current school I was working for closed its doors abruptly, I kept hearing the following verse:

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

Music Notes

 

 

God is Doing a New Thing by Lara Martin

 

 

I have started down this path before, but I always ended up back with several part-time jobs with the best of intentions to write on the side without any success. It was time to try something new. New is often scary. There are times when God wants to move us into a new season of life. Sometimes it is through the loss of a job, but it could also be through a change in health or the loss of a loved one. We were comfortable in the old way, not necessarily because we were happy, but because it was familiar. God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to be obedient. Sometimes He uses a change in circumstances to shake us out of complacency so that He can move us to where He needs us to be.

Once we begin to move, there will always be a temptation to go back to the old ways, to the familiar, but the old ways will never be as comfortable as they once were. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians  5:17). The new man will never be satisfied with the old ways.

So, let’s follow Paul’s advice: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).