Winding road through the Guatemalan jungle, Peten, Guatemala

When God does something new, it’s always impossible

In less than 24 hours, a new year begins. 2015. 2015? I was looking at a list of upcoming movies the other day, and the summary of one stood out to me. It’s a sequel, and the directors have set it 22 years after the original movie released. Then, I remembered that the original movie released in 1993. And the sequel is releasing–and is set–in 2015. I remember 1993. I remember 1993 very well. And that was 22 years ago?

Gosh.

New years are always exciting because it’s a chance to do something different. It’s a fresh start for everyone. That’s where the idea of resolutions came from. The desire to start over, to live life differently, to make better (usually healthier) choices. Something new isn’t always appealing, especially to those of us who dislike change, but new is important.

God is always up to something new. He’s always got some project He’s working on, and while we may not understand all the pieces, the whole is always undeniably good. Because He is good.

Winding road through the Guatemalan jungle, Peten, Guatemala

Winding road through the Guatemalan jungle, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are Isaiah 43:16-19.

I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters,
making a dry path through the sea.
I called forth the mighty army of Egypt
with all its chariots and horses.
I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned,
their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick.
“But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

It’s one thing for us to make a New Year’s Resolution. It’s something else for God to do something new. Why?

Well, for one, if God promises that He’ll do something, He’ll actually do it. When was the last time you met someone who actually kept a New Year’s Resolution? They’re hard to keep. You have to be pretty dang stubborn.

What the prophet Isaiah is actually talking about in this passage is the birth of Christ. That was certainly something the world has never seen before–or since. But if you look at your own life, you’ll see how God is working on a day-to-day basis, accomplishing things in you and through you that you never thought possible.

When God does something new, He always does the impossible. Have you seen a path through the wilderness? Have you seen rivers in a desert?

God wants to do something new in your life, but the trick is trusting Him enough to let Him. It’s easy to cling to the same-old, same-old in your life because you know it, you understand it, you can halfway control it (you think). Stepping back and letting go of the life you understand is terrifying, and giving it over to God is doubly so. Giving up control in your life is petrifying.

But God is always up to something new. And it will always be impossible. And it will always be good.

So wherever you are on this New Year’s Eve 2014, consider letting go of your life. The harder you hold on to it, the more of it will slip away. Let God have it. Let God do what He wants with it, and your 2015 might be bigger and better and more impossible than you ever imagined.

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A lamp post at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Uncharted territory is rarely predictable

The beginning of a new year is always an interesting time because everyone is thinking about the future. Everyone is making plans for how this year will be different than last year or how they’re going to improve themselves or their lives. And it’s absolutely a good thing for people to look into how to better themselves. Resolutions are great things, especially if you can keep them. But have you ever been in a position where God is leading you to do something you’ve never done before?

We all get caught up in the hustle and bustle of a new year, the making of resolutions, the struggle to keep our resolutions, the disappointment when we drop our resolutions. Everyone has experienced that. But what about God? Not that God makes new year’s resolutions, but if He did, what would they look like?

A lamp post at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

A lamp post at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Today’s verse is Isaiah 43:19.

For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

One thing I love about God is that He’s always up to something. He’s always got something going on. Life with God is never ever boring, and those of us who truly follow Christ understand what the Bible means when Jesus tells us that He came to bring us life more abundant. Life following Christ is always exciting.

What God is referencing in this verse through the Prophet Isaiah is the coming of Christ to save His people. That was something that had never happened before. That was something people had never seen before. And the way He promised to send Christ was impossible, but He explained how it was going to happen centuries and centuries before Christ was born. He gave people a head’s up so they could get on board with what God had planned before it happened.

I think God does that for us today. I think sometimes He hollers down at us and is just waiting for someone to pay attention long enough to see Him waving. God has plans. He has lots and lots of plans, and He’s just looking for someone to step up and offer to do what needs doing. His plans don’t always make sense to us, and even when He makes “paths in the wilderness” for us to follow, they don’t always seem like they go anywhere. But if you’re one of the people who agreed to do what God asked and you find yourself feeling lost, remember that God may be doing something new in your life.

What does it mean to do something new? It means that it’s nothing anyone has ever seen before. So if it’s nothing anyone has ever seen, if it’s a path that no one has ever traveled before, why do you expect to know where you’re going? How can you think you will know what to expect? It’s uncharted territory. The only person who really knows what’s coming is God. He’s the map maker, after all.

So if you’re one of those people who has decided to chase after God wholeheartedly, to live for Him, to “sacrifice” everything else you could be doing with your life, remember in the dark moments that you’re not going to be able to see the end of your road all the time. Navigating God’s plan isn’t like navigating in Kansas, where you can see 20 miles in front of you. It’s more like trying to get around in London or Edinburgh or one of those ancient cities where you’re fortunate to be able to see your next step because the roads are so narrow and the buildings are so close. And because you can’t always see where you’re going, that just means you have to trust your navigation system.

What’s great about God is that He doesn’t leave us to navigate alone. We have the Bible. We have the Holy Spirit. And if you’ve decided to follow the path God has marked out for you, you have everything you need to find your way. You may not be able to see where you’re going, but sight has never been essential when it comes to following God.

It’s not that far into 2014 yet, and some people may already be ready to give up on their resolutions because change feels impossible or too uncontrollable. Be encouraged this morning. Don’t give up, especially if it’s something you know God has called you to do. You won’t always be able to see your next step, but if it’s something God has called you to do, He won’t let you fall.

Decorative cross ornament from my Christmas tree, Haven, KS

Believing when Christmas is over

Christmas is my favorite time of year, and ringing in the New Year is always bittersweet for me because that means Christmas is over. That means vacation is done and I have to go back to the “real world” again. And we also have to take all our decorations down. That’s the part I dislike the most, mainly because taking decorations down is so much more difficult than putting them up in the first place. That’s what I did on New Year’s Day–took down Christmas decorations, packed up the lights and the ornaments and disassembled the trees. We stuffed everything in boxes and stuffed all the boxes in the basement where they’ll wait until the day after Thanksgiving in 2014 when we’ll put them all up again. I guess it’s a vicious cycle. So why keep doing it?

During the Christmas season, everyone talks about hope and dreams and being thankful for family and friends. Even people who don’t follow Christ do it. It’s just something amazing God does in people’s hearts at Christmastime, and part of that comes from the decorations, I think. Because if people who don’t even believe in Christ can set up a Christmas tree and decorate their homes and sing Christmas carols about the night of His birth, you have to admit that’s something special.

When it comes down to it, I think it’s easier to believe in God at Christmastime because the whole world stops, even if the world doesn’t understand why it’s stopping. It’s easier to remember that Christ brought us hope because we’re face to face with representations of that hope in every manger scene on every street corner. It’s easier for me to believe in general because I get a reminder of God’s goodness every time I see an ornament or a tree or a blinking light on a tree.

So what do we do when all the decorations are gone?

Decorative cross ornament from my Christmas tree, Haven, KS

Decorative cross ornament from my Christmas tree, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 27:11-14.

Teach me how to live, O Lord.
Lead me along the right path,
for my enemies are waiting for me.
Do not let me fall into their hands.
For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
with every breath they threaten me with violence.
Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.
Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Christmas should be more than a time of year for Christ-followers; Christmas, or at least what Christmas means, should be a lifestyle. Maybe it’s more difficult to get through the ordinary everyday grind when Christmas isn’t coming, but just because we haven’t got the tree or the ornaments or the lights up doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate what Christmas is. And since we don’t have the reminders on every street corner and on every radio station, we have to make more of an effort to remind ourselves.

Life has bumps and valleys we have to get through. We face challenges and obstacles that are way bigger than we are, and sometimes it really does feel like life’s circumstances are laughing at us. Sometimes I feel like life is just looking for the next opportunity to screw with me. But whether that’s true or not, my responsibility as a Christ follower doesn’t change.

My attitude and my perspective is my responsibility. Tough times are coming, more than I know about, and I need to accept that so I can move on, so I can face those oncoming difficulties remembering who God is and what He’s done for me, in spite of the fact that it isn’t Christmas. It’s absolutely 100% possible to keep believing when it isn’t Christmas; it just takes an effort.

Experiencing God’s goodness doesn’t mean life is perfect. Life down here will never be perfect. That’s the point. But God is still here. God is present in our lives, and He never stops taking care of us, and if we look for Him, we’ll see Him. If we’re open to what He’s doing, He’ll become obvious.

You don’t need a Christmas tree to keep celebrating Christmas, sort of like you don’t need perfect circumstances to believe that God is still working. Just believe. Make the choice today, that no matter what happens in your life you’ll keep believing. It won’t be easy. Life is hard, but God is good.