Don’t miss the new

 

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God is doing something new in you.

Don’t miss it.

Don’t mistake it.

Don’t misunderstand it.

He is working in your life, today, in this season, in this moment.  He is doing something new and good and beautiful.

It started when you first met Him and He made you His new creation.  It started with a new name and a new destiny as old debts and identities were cancelled.

And what He started in you, He is finishing.

He is bringing His new life to every corner of your old one.

Do you see it?

New things are, by their very nature, tricky to recognize because they are unfamiliar.  They are different to what we have experienced before.  They seem foreign and easy to misinterpret or overlook or even reject.

Sometimes these good, new things are hidden behind disappointments or imperfect circumstances.  Or perhaps they are disguised as set-backs or u-turns or closed doors.

Sometimes they just feel too painful to be good.

In Isaiah, God pleads with His children, ‘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 was doing something new but His children were in danger of missing it.  It didn’t fit within the perimeter of what He had done in the past.  It was almost unrecognizable, even strange but it was good and it was God.

And so it is with us.

God is making a way.  He is carving out a path.  It may twist and turn and appear to be going completely the wrong direction, but don’t fear.  It may look unfamiliar, even scary but remember that it is a new way, a way you haven’t gone before.  Trust the Good Shepherd to lead you well.  Trust His ways because they are perfect.

Don’t expect things to always be the same, to look safe and familiar.  We have mountains to climb and the paths are steep.  Sometimes the only way forward is straight up.

God is always doing something new, something surprising, something out-of-the-box.

It’s a God thing. He is the creator after all and His ways of working in our lives are countless.

Our God has never run out unique melodies so don’t be surprised when He gives you a new song to sing.  

His mercies are new every morning, so keep your eyes open.  There are fresh revelations in His Word and new places to discover in prayer.  There are areas of your life that are broken that Jesus wants to touch and heal. There are long-standing circumstances He is ready to change and old prayers He is ready to answer.

Look. See what He is doing.  It is new and fresh and alive.  Don’t miss it by facing the wrong way.  Don’t let yesterday’s discouragement close your eyes to a miracle today.  Remember the wonderful things God has done in the past but don’t expect future blessings to look the same.  God is so much bigger than that.

Let Him be big.

Let Him work newness into your life.  He has already started.  There are green shoots poking up through the cold soil.  Don’t miss them. Open your eyes, your heart and your hands.  Say yes to God, even before you see the whole picture.  Trust His goodness and His leading and He will make a way, a new way, a good way.

And then expect every single day of your Christian life to be utterly unpredictable and altogether miraculous, for the glory of His name.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stairs that lead to miracles

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Sunday’s sermon was about Daniel and I can’t stop thinking about him.

You know the story.  King Darius has been tricked into making a law that would hand down a death sentence to any man or woman who prays to anyone or anything other than the King.  Daniel hears the news.  His response is simple.

He goes upstairs, opens the window towards Jerusalem and prays like he has done three times a day, every day of his life.

What an understated moment in Bible history!

Daniel is faced with a horrible execution of unthinkable violence and he just does what he always does.   It sounds so unspectacular, so uneventful.

But it really isn’t.

It is a glimpse into the secret life of a man of God, just before he receives his deliverance.  We are made privy to the backstory, to the secrets behind the miracle so when the miracle comes we understand.

My youngest is learning to drive.  He will be safe on the road when the mechanics of driving a car are automatic to him so that he can handle unexpected situations without having to think too much.

And so it is with me.

The enemy of my soul dreads the day prayer becomes my automatic response to difficulty.

He knows there is a place of victory available to me when God’s presence and His Word become non-negotiables.  He knows that when I no longer believe the lie that discipline is legalism, I am on the way to a powerful, overcoming life.

And it can start today.

When I feel too busy, I can pray.  When life is good and I have nothing to worry about I can pray.  When I don’t feel like it, I can open my Bible.  I can slowly, daily wear out the carpet that leads to my prayer spot.  I can keep going until prayer is like breathing and God’s Word has become the place I go for my answers, without exception.

You see, disciplines are slowly grown.  There are no shortcuts or microwaved entrees when it comes to habits and character.  Eugene Peterson calls it a ‘long obedience in the same direction’.  What a beautiful description of following Jesus every minute of every day.

Because most of the time following Jesus looks somewhat ordinary.  It isn’t, of course, but its miraculousness can be hidden within our daily grind.  We get up, meet with Him, worship and commune with Him and then we cook or type or iron or change diapers or draw buildings or run companies.  And we do the same thing the next day and the next.

When small problems and troubles show up, we remind ourselves to do what we always do. When disappointment arrives, or fear or betrayal, we just do what we always do.  If something happens that we don’t understand, nothing changes.

We climb those stairs and open that window and tell God He is all we need.  We listen for His voice.  We turn our eyes away from circumstances and towards the God of promises and faithful, loving care.  We decide to believe He is good.  We allow His Word to comfort and redirect and change us.  We raise our expectations of the miraculous and flex our faith muscles.

We remind our hearts that God is very, very big and lions and kings are very small.

And then when a big crisis hits, there is no big decision to make.  It has already been made.

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.

 

 

 

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Tethered to goodness

Thinking today about escaping puppies and wandering souls.

 

2014-05-20 06.42.11We didn’t know there was a gap in our hedge.

Our previous labrador, Rudi, have never discovered it.  But three days after we took ownership of a six-month-old puppy named Buddy, he found it.

It was an unusually warm spring morning and having let Buddy out into the garden, we were enjoying coffee in our pyjamas.

The doorbell rang and it was our lovely next door neighbour with Buddy in her arms.  While we had been relaxing, Buddy had escaped next door, gone in through her back door that was open, up the stairs and right into our neighbour’s bed!  I was absolutely mortified!  I still blush when I think about it.

Unfortunately, it was so much fun that Buddy decided he would regularly visit his new friend and because our boundary is a hedge instead of a fence, every time we fixed one gap, he would find another.

In the end, there was only one solution, a very strong tether.  Every time Buddy was playing unaccompanied, we would tie him to a tree so he couldn’t escape.

Tethering is a very effective solution for wandering.

In one of my favourite hymns, we find these words,

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Every time I sing that song, I think how painfully true it is of me. Like a natural reflex, I suffer from an innate predisposition to wandering.

My thoughts wander.  My desires wander. My schedule and my plans wander.

My minutes and hours and days wander regularly from my Heavenly Father to pretty much anything else.

It frustrates and embarrasses me.

Why can I remember movies and magazine articles but not Sunday’s sermon?

How on earth do I get to the end of the day without making time for Jesus but I have never, ever forgotten to eat or get dressed or check Facebook?

Why is it so hard to focus when I am reading God’s Word or praying?

These lyrics make an interesting suggestion, though.  They suggest that God’s goodness is our fetter.  A fetter is a chain that was used to bind prisoners around the ankle.  It prevented escape, just like Buddy’s tether.

What a beautiful picture.

God’s goodness is the ultimate antidote to wandering. 

Not rules or responsibility or religion but only the goodness of God keeps us content enough to stay close.

So, one answer to our propensity to wander off is to constantly, in every way possible, remind ourselves of the unmatched, unrivalled goodness of God.

Every time, in the midst of busyness and distractions, we take a moment to remember how good our God is, we are tethering our heart to His.  We are ensuring that there is only so far we can drift away from His presence and His will.

With less than five weeks to go to my daughter’s wedding, I have to put this into practice daily.  Otherwise, my thoughts will be consumed with ribbons and glue and Pinterest pins and to-do lists and I will begin to believe that small, earthly things are really important and big, eternal things are unimportant, just as long as I find my wedding shoes and the florist gets the right shade of roses.

It is a battle we fight every day.  It is the battle for our hearts.

And our secret weapon is the knowledge of how good God really is.

So, whatever we are doing today, we can make worship the theme tune.  Just turn on some music, sing the words, believe the words, and live the words, even while driving the car or folding the laundry (or 120 orders of service!).

Find scriptures and quotes about our good God, decide they are true and display them where you will regularly see them.  Today I have put a little reminder by the kettle because I certainly need that truth as often as I need caffeine today.

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If you struggle to believe and trust in the goodness of your heavenly Father, may I suggest Bill Johnson’s book, God is Good.  It is a life-changing study of the character of God that will tie you tightly to Him as you understand the depth of His love and the certainty of His goodness.

Try making it a habit every day to write down three things that you are thankful for.  Ann Voskamp says in her book, One Thousand Gifts,  ‘The real problem in life is never lack of time.  The real problem of life – in my life – is lack of thanksgiving.’  That is because when we stop thanking God, we soon forget His goodness.  The next step is wandering away, searching for goodness elsewhere.

It is a funny thing but Buddy never tries to run away when we are in the garden with him.  When he is enjoying our presence, there is nothing else that can compete.  He knows we are good.  He knows we are his source of food and play and petting and walks.  He just forgets sometimes.

It is the remembering that keeps us.

Today, whatever you are doing, determine to remember how kind and loving and good our God is.  Remind yourself, in every way possible of the truth of the unchanging character of Yahweh.

Stop pulling.  Stop straying.  Stay close.

An abundant, joyful, purpose-filled life is only found in the presence of our good, good God.