Happy New Year! It always feels so good to turn the page to a brand-new year, some years even more than others. I know there are quite a few of you reading this who are very glad to see 2023 begin to recede in the rear view mirror. It might have been tough, but we made it, and we have a new road ahead. Rather than spending all of our time dwelling on last years’ troubles, or bracing ourselves for those that will come this year, what if we spent more time focusing on the new things God is doing in our hearts and lives?
One of my favorite hymns is “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” which is heavily inspired by the book of Lamentations, itself one of the most strangely encouraging books in the Bible. It is an honest account of the difficulties and frustrations of life, and the questions and complaints that arise in all of our hearts at one time or another as we muddle through life in this fallen world. It is written in a literary form that is shaped like a mountain peak, rising and then falling with the crescendo in the very middle of the book, which 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.
Other versions translate the word love to be mercies, and the thought is one worth pondering…God’s mercies and love are new every morning. In other words, they never run out or are exhausted - every day is New Year’s Day! This book was written as a lament over the destruction of an entire city; so many families and homes and livelihoods changed forever. But the prophet recognized that because of God's great love, the essence of who we are as real souls that will live forever, just can't be consumed.
Circumstances may be difficult, and we might even have to bear the repercussions of past decisions and complications (our own and others'), but the Lord’s powerful help and concern is ready and waiting with each sunrise. Even though we live in a frustrating, confusing, often tragic world, we are cared for by a patient and loving God of the New. Isn’t that amazing?
Honestly, recognizing God in this way can be confusing, and can even feel dishonoring. Our world has become so wrapped up in politics that we almost cannot help but equate the word “progressive” with a certain radical political agenda. But I am not talking about politics, and actually don’t believe that most of the world’s problems can be solved by governmental fiat. Rather, most of our troubles can be solved only by addressing the problem of the human heart. God is always operating on hearts out of His love and goodness; He is always moving towards both truth and redemption, never away from them.
God is quite progressive in the sense that He is always doing something new and unexpected - even unconventional. He isn’t like us, only able to act within certain bounds of power and agency. If you think you have Him and His ways figured out, think again. And if you think that you are out of answers and out of options for your life, look again to the God of the New.
Here are just a few things our loving and merciful God has in store for you…
A New Song
I waited patiently for the LORD;
He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
and put their trust in Him. - Psalm 40:1-3
A New Outpouring
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
I will show wonders in the heavens
and on the earth,
blood and fire and billows of smoke. - Joel 2:28-30
A New Heart
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. - Ezekiel 11:19-20
No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” - Matthew 9:16-17
A New Kingdom
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” - Mark 1:15
A New Command
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:34
A New Covenant
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” -1 Corinthians 11:23-25
A New Point of View
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! - 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
A New Way of Thinking
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
- Ephesians 4:20-24
A New Self
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. - Colossians 3:3-10
A New Birth
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. - 1 Peter 1:3-4
A New Name
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
- Revelation 2:17
This first month of a brand new year is almost past - it has already been long enough for the relief and bright hope of a new year to feel worn thin. What area of your life needs a touch from our God of the New? Lay your fears and concerns at His feet, and let Him carry them for you. Let Him take your heart of stone and breath warmth and life into it again. Let the Holy Spirit renew your mind and attitude, reset your perspective, and give you a lasting hope for the future.
Further, what new things do you sense God doing in and through your life and circumstances? We cannot fall for the untruth that following God means life will be all sunshine and roses: Jesus followed in perfect obedience, all the way to death on the cross, and all but one of His closest disciples died martyrs’ deaths. Jesus Himself said that “in this world you will have trouble.” The cares, concerns, and trials of this fallen world are without number. HOWEVER, Jesus continued by saying, ‘but take heart! For I have overcome the world.”
God’s mercies and love are new every morning. In His hands, even the most severe testing and trials can bring beautiful fruit into our lives. Look carefully - what lovely things is God bringing into your life through your circumstances? Perhaps more love, compassion, patience, perseverance, grace, humility - all wonderful, desirable qualities that can’t be purchased or faked or forced. Let God develop these Christlike characteristics in your own heart and life.
Lean into the daily-fresh love and mercies of our Father, and may this new year be one of tremendous spiritual growth and health!
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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