Hi again. John Cress here, and I want to talk to you about new beginnings.
There's something in the human spirit that naturally draws toward new things, fresh beginnings: the smell of a new car, the ripping off of tags from new clothes, the unpacking of a brand-new Apple product (now, that's one for me!), exploring new beaches or trails or even a new city when you're on vacation. We appreciate and even delight in things that are fresh and new beginnings. We're motivated to grow, driven to expand, inspired to create, discover and adapt. It is part of what makes our humanity so remarkable.
I believe this need for a new beginning, for something new, is even more conspicuous because we have had this year of shutdowns, social distancing, mask wearing, stay at home orders and too many "stay vacations."
I also believe that God, too, thinks new starts are pretty sweet, and He desires to provide them for us. Let's look at three of my favorite new beginnings that God provides and the hope that they bring to us.
The first new thing God provides
The first one is found in, of all places, Lamentations 3. It says, "Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23). The book of Lamentations may be the saddest writing in the ancient Near East. Composed of five chapters, each chapter is like a requiem. The whole book is a poem of pain, a symphony of sorrow. In fact, Lamentations has been called the Wailing Wall of the Bible. But right in the middle of it all, of all this pain and all this suffering, we discover this oasis of God's doing a new thing for us. He renews His compassion daily. These verses are the one bright spot of the five chapters of Lamentations. They produced one of the greatest and most popular hymns: Great is Thy Faithfulness. Don't you love that hymn?
During COVID-19, we have experienced plenty of pain, but God's new mercies await us every day. These aren't mercies written in a dusty book or chiseled in a rock somewhere. But these are vital, vibrant and relevant mercies. These aren't mercies of antiquity that God showed to Moses and Jeremiah or Peter. God's mercies are new and fresh and alive and deliberately designed for your present troubles and for your sorrows.
The second new thing God provides
A second new thing God provides is found in Isaiah. Listen to these words: "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). God's doing a new thing. He's making a way for us in this wilderness of this pandemic; He's giving us dreams of living water while we're travelers in the wasteland of our perplexities, frustrations and bewilderment.
My wife is a futurist and her doctorate is in strategic foresight. She often uses a catapult like this one. This catapult is something that she uses to explain that, when you do strategy, you have to start in the past in order to spring forward and launch something. In other words, with strategic planning, you have to begin and get a grip on where you've been before you spring forward into what might be. But here's the problem: you must not get stuck in the past, whether it's stuck in the pain of the past or in the clutches of nostalgia for the good old days. Either way, you get stuck. And so God invites you to spring forward into something new He's providing for you. You see, God is a present, future-focused God, not a past- or present-focused God. He calls us to focus on Him and allow Him to work in us and through us as we move forward in His plan. Your present-future God is not surprised with your current situation. He's intimately invested in every thought you have, in every turn on the road you have to take, and when we allow Him to heal us from the past and we focus on Him in the present, we'll move forward in His great plan for us.
The third new thing God provides
Finally, the third new thing that God provides is found in 2 Corinthians 5, and I love this one. Listen to this. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old is gone, and the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In my thinking, my favorite times in the past always involve watching renovation shows. There's something about the magic of transformation of a tired old room becoming a cozy place to rest, from a decrepit and broken moving into a restored and new, from hideous and unsightly to beautiful and welcoming, from useless to useful. Why is it that way? I think human nature receives so much satisfaction from viewing the process of transformation. We delight in watching this progression over and over again, and it's evidenced by the popularity of the TV shows on renovation. Even when it's not our home, we sit there and watch it.
Perhaps we're drawn to this process because it reflects the very work that God longs to do in each of our hearts. When we receive Christ as our savior, we exchange the old life for a new one. We exchange the sin for forgiveness. We exchange pride for humanity, and legalism for grace, fear for love, weakness for strength, old desires for new desires, and anger for joy. If we're in Christ, we're new creatures. We can choose to believe it and walk in it because it's truth or we can deny the power of God, His power to change even the deadest hearts into hearts that are softened with His love.
God is offering new beginnings, fresh starts, new life. I hope you can grab hold of that experience, the joy and satisfaction of the refreshing, of the new He has for your life right now.