30. Faithfulness while Waiting

“New Days” Meditations 30: Faithfulness while Waiting

Isa 42:9 See, the former things have taken place, and NEW things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”

And so we come to the end of this series where we have sought to raise our expectancy of the Lord coming in a new way, to His people and to His world, that we may raise our eyes from the things that have filled our vision over the past year and a half of pandemic, and instead look to the ‘horizon’ for signs of His coming. But the nature of these things requires that they are not merely the subject matter of a mere month’s worth of studies, but they become an attitude, a way of looking that becomes part of us until we enter into the reality of the vision and no longer need reminders because of the reality that is Him, who has come.

When God told Abram he would become the father of a great nation (while he was childless) Abram believed God and THAT belief was righteousness but before the pregnancy became obvious they had to hold to that belief, they had to remain faithful. The call to be faithful comes again and again in our lives, mostly to counter temptations and pressures of the enemy and the world, but sometimes to hold to the vision that is put before us in His word and by His Spirit.

They, sadly, didn’t hold fast at one point of their waiting and so Ishmael was born (see Gen 16) with all the subsequent problems. Faithfulness is about remaining true to the vision WHILE WAITING.

Waiting is not always easy for the enemy will be there whispering, “Did God really say that?” (Does that sound familiar? Gen 3:1) but if we have caught anything in our heart of His coming in these days, we must make the effort to hold on to it.

It seems that Jesus was very much aware of this problem for it comes in various parables that he told, for example the servants waiting for their master to return (Lk 12:36) where Jesus declares, It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.” (v.37) and explains more when Peter questioned him. Then there were the ten handmaidens waiting for the bridegroom to come (Mt 25:1) but “The bridegroom was a long time in coming.” (v.5) and Jesus concluded it by saying, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (v.13) Because we live in an ‘instant society’ we easily get impatient when we have to wait. Thus we need the encouragement of Jesus’ words. You may not yet have the conviction that these prophetic words we have been referring to are ‘now words’ but nevertheless these calls to watch remain true and are part of Jesus’ calling to us. So keep ‘looking to the horizon’, keep praising and thanking, and remain ready, open to the Spirit (see Mt 25:1-10), available and obedient – and be blessed.

29. Revelation leads to Prayer

“New Days” Meditations 29: Revelation leads to Prayer

Isa 42:10 Sing to the Lord a NEW song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea” 

There is one further aspect of this to be considered. We’ve talked about making preparations, trying to get ready to be available for whatever new thing He might do, but having done that, what else? Well, we then considered yesterday about these things being sovereign acts of God and we can be those who lose out if we hold back and resist the work of God – just like the Pharisees did in the time of Jesus’ ministry. But what else is there to consider?

One thing I observe among the Psalms and in the Prophets, is that once the general will of God is discerned, the writers start speaking and acting as if it is done. If God declares His sovereign will, that is not conditional upon us, then once He has spoken it, it is as good as done. Yes, it has yet to happen in time-space history but when God decrees it, it WILL happen. It IS as good as done, and our part if we are like the psalmists or prophets whose hearts were knitted to God’s, is to start thinking as if it HAS happened.

But there is a second, apparently at first sight anyway, strange thing that takes place – they start praying urgently for it to happen. It is as if the Holy Spirit urges them in prayer to pray for what they now know is God’s will. Now whether this is to prepare them for it by changing them, or whether it is somehow something the Lord uses to bring about what He is then going to do, is unclear. However the fact remains – they now pray for the will of God to come about, this will that has been revealed to them.

So where does that leave us? All through this series we have been reminding ourselves that this word about God coming to do something new, has been appearing around the globe in the past few years. Hopefully, as we have considered this, the Holy Spirit has been able to establish that belief within us, this is the will of God. If that is so, it is time to pray. So here’s an exercise: stop and think and write down say five things you would like to see changed WHEN God comes in power. Now pray and thank and praise AS IF they have already happened. As you do the Spirit will witness with your Spirit to the truth and faith and power will flow. Go for it. Praise is a faith response. Maybe, though, as you pray, you will find the Holy Spirit will start drawing you closer to Him and you will start sensing more fully His heart – which maybe much bigger than your five things – though they will be a good starting place, so don’t be put off by feelings of inadequacy. I find prayer often starts with me feeling inadequate, then He turns up!  

28. Today?

“New Days”  Meditations 28: Today?

Isa 42:10 Sing to the Lord a NEW song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea” 

As we have been pondering aspects of this NEW song, we noted initially the things that stir songs within us, events that bless us. But then we considered what caused this particular new song and noted that it was because the Lord was doing a new thing. In Isaiah’s day it was a new phase in Israel’s history which would lead on the The big phase of the coming of the Messiah. But when He says it today, it leaves us speculating what that ‘new’ thing could now possibly be. Earlier we had wondered whether it was revival or renewal or maybe even something completely different, something that impacts us and gets us to change, both our way of thinking and maybe even our way of living.

Let’s look at this slightly differently. So why does the Lord announce them to us, these new things? (v.9) Well perhaps it may seem we are going backwards but back in Isa 40 we mentioned that more familiar word, “prepare the way of the Lord”. Why? Because the Lord is coming to do a new thing and like any other king, we need to get ready.

But how? We check out our lives, observe the need, take steps to bring order and availability for the Spirit to come and move and adjust our thinking to realize He wants to make us different people – and that is good! Enough goals there?

Now although all that is well and good, and the Christian life is often just largely responding to the word of God, i.e. us doing things, we have to recognize something more here – the sovereignty of God. God WILL act regardless of how we respond. When Jesus came, he just got on with the business the Father gave him to do – preaching, teaching, healing etc. etc. and it was up to people how they responded to him. Large crowds came and went but regardless Jesus just got on with expressing the kingdom of God. So when God says He is coming to do a new thing, He WILL do it regardless of how we respond.

One of the most terrible things in life, I sometimes think, must be to be alive when God does something spectacular but not to get involved in it, so when it has passed (all revivals, for example, have passed) we are left untouched. I saw this in the so-called Toronto Blessing. Many of us found ourselves drawn into that new thing God was doing – and were mightily blessed and changed – but there are still many people I talk to today, who knew nothing of it. They lived in church communities that were not open to the Holy Spirit and thus they missed out on something most significant. Other came and saw but stood back as spectators, and they too missed out and have a hole in their testimony. How terrible.

27. Why a New Song?

“New Days” Meditations 27: Why a New Song?

Isa 42:10 Sing to the Lord a NEW song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea” 

Yesterday we reflected on the thought about what causes us naturally or spontaneously to sing. Many will say they sing when they join in with music they are listening to, and that is right, but we are purposefully thinking about how we are inspired to sing by events, by the things that happen around us or to us. It flows out of this verse in one of Isaiah’s prophecies where the prophet calls his listeners to sing something NEW, but it isn’t a call out of the blue, it comes in the context or flow of what he has been saying.

So what is the cause of this new song? This is where it gets sneaky because we’re back to the beginning of this series but with a new verse from which our present header verse flows on from: See, the former things have taken place, and NEW things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” (Isa 42:9) This was the first Servant Song of Isaiah so he was basically saying, the original plans for Israel have been fulfilled so the time is coming to bring in the next new phase that involves God’s Servant, the Messiah.

Now it is not dispensationalism, that claims rigid defined periods or ages to which God has allotted distinctive administrative principles, to suggest that God works in the linear flow of history and so does build on what has just gone and does progress to a next phase. The servant songs of Isaiah are always to be seen as referring to Israel but also with echoes of the Messiah.

The Lord had called Israel to be a light to the nations (Isa 51:4, 60:3) but tragically, with rare exceptions (see 1 Kings 10), they failed in that and instead of revealing the wonder of their relationship with the Lord, they turned to idols and, instead, revealed even more clearly the sinfulness of mankind. Nevertheless they were still the vehicle, if you like, in which God would eventually bring His Messiah. As I like to refer to Israel when Jesus came, a God-environment, prepared through history to receive and reveal the Son of God, the Saviour of the World.

This is the prophetic hint in these passages, even though they may also be applied to other historical outworkings in the life of Israel. Whenever God moves in the affairs of mankind it is to reveal Himself and His Son. Whenever He brings revival or renewal, it’s a new phase, where He shakes up the existing order to bring new life. How He does that is a matter of conjecture  or speculation for He alone is God and He alone decides the right way for the right time. In my lifetime we have known a Charismatic Renewal and the Toronto Blessing but what they show is that not everyone is open to such moves. May we be open.

26. A New Song?

“New Days” Meditations 26: A New Song?

Isa 42:10 Sing to the Lord a NEW song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea” 

“You who go down to the sea”? Have you ever stood on a beach and looked out? What do you see? Expanse. Space. Distance. Vastness. Who knows what is out there? Adventure, the explorers of old would have said. Travel, the modern consumer says.

But why sing a new song? A new song in the context of scripture – and specifically a song of praise – is because there is something new to praise God for. We’ll see what that is tomorrow, but how about adopting (if you don’t already) starting every day with thanks and praise for the opportunity of a new day, God’s gift to you? Give it a go and watch another ‘seed’ sprout and grow.  

Let’s ponder together the idea of what provokes singing. You wake up in the morning and have had a good night’s sleep. You look out the window and the sun is shining and the birds are singing and it feels like a good world. Your spirit rises within you and you find yourself humming or even singing out loud. It is a natural thing to do, something you do spontaneously, you don’t even think about it, you just do it.

When things go well, it is a natural thing to do. Perhaps these thoughts are alien to you. You might have sung when you were younger but age and the weariness of life have squashed those simple feelings of appreciation of life from which singing springs. Perhaps singing acts as a barometer for the state of our life, our sense of wellbeing, and when we don’t have that sense, we are quiet. But then God comes along and does something new and whatever God does is good and that so often triggers that sense of wellbeing, of gratefulness, of thankfulness and so praise, thanksgiving and worship spring forth spontaneously.  After the Exodus “Moses and the Israelites sang,” (Ex 15:1) and then Miriam sang (Ex 51:21). After an enemy king had been killed, Deborah (the prophetess) and Barak sang a song of triumph and praise to the Lord. In the days of David’s early triumphs the people sang (1 Sam 18:7).

Many of David’s psalms are songs, expressing what he had been through with the Lord and now felt (2 Sam 22:1). When the first temple was completed, singing formed a large part of the dedication ceremony and as they sang, the glory of the Lord filled the temple (2 Chron 5:13). When Hezekiah reconsecrated the temple, he ordered singing to play a part in it (2 Chron 29:27,28). Years later singing played a part under Ezra (Ezra 3:10) and then Nehemiah (Neh 12:42) Singing and God and faith go together, especially when something new occurs. Singing thus becomes the vehicle for us to express both truth and what we feel. Hallelujah

25. Possible ‘Seeds’?

“New Days” Meditations 25: Possible ‘Seeds’?

Mt 13:8 other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop.”

We suggested yesterday that you and I are the good soil and we can ‘sow’ seeds that will bring a NEW harvest. We dwelt on the condition of the soil and observed conditions that inhibit newness and growth, and so now we are going to meditation on the ‘seed’.

The first characteristic of these ‘seeds’ that are the word of God planted in the good soil of our lives, has to be faith which, in this context, means a commitment to responding positively to whatever you sense God saying, whether it be here, listening to preaching, or whatever.  You would like to see change? You want to prepare for whatever God might be coming to do? Start sowing this seed in your life and get ready for a new crop. Faith, remember, is hearing God’s word and responding to it (Rom 10:17). Obedience, we suggested yesterday, is a key ingredient in faith.

So, how we purposefully express faith, what are some other aspects of these ‘seeds’?  What things can we establish in our lives that are responses to the word of God and enable us to be more available to the Holy Spirit for Him to speak to us? Here are some simple suggestions and, remember, these are just things that we can do to open ourselves more to the Lord so that we perhaps can more fully catch what He is saying and sense His movements as He comes with a new thing.

First – and you may already do this – how about setting aside five new minutes every other day just to listen to God. This means be quiet, stilling our spirit and purposefully making ourselves available to Him alone, so we can catch that still small voice in our spirit.

Second, how about setting aside five new minutes every day or every other day to meditate on just one verse of Scripture so that the Spirit can hone your spiritual sensitivity to the revealed will of God which, in turn, will enable you to become more sensitive when He comes to share His ‘now word’.

Third, how about looking for a regular opportunity to encourage someone else, either by telling of how Jesus has blessed you, or simply building them up. In making ourselves available to the Spirit on the front-line in this way, we will find a new sensitivity to Him and to people around us which may, in turn, enable us to become more sensitive to His quiet and gradual working in the world around us.  

Finally, how about setting aside five new minutes every day or every other day to pray for one specific not-yet-believer. As you do this you may find Him giving you a new awareness of them and what is happening in them, perhaps something new He may be doing in them. Seeds sown in and through you. Watch for the new harvest. 

24. Conditions for Growth & Newness

“New Days” Meditations 24: Conditions for Growth & Newness

Mt 13:8 other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop.”

If you wonder where the ‘new’ bit comes in, please be patient. Possibly this verse is not appropriate for Autumn (the Fall) but spiritual realities are not limited by seasons. I have two ideas. First, YOU are the good soil – you’ve proved it by becoming a believer. Second, you can plant spiritual seeds in yourself that will bring NEW fruit.

We may be mixing metaphors here but it may be worthwhile pondering a little more on these two ideas and we’ll start with the ‘good soil’ because in Jesus’ parable, the harvest is not so much determined by the seed – which is the same of all sorts of ground in the parable – but the ground.

In the parable, the seed is clearly the word of God, The ‘good soil’ is contrasted with a) the hard path (v.4) where it was immediately snatched up by the birds, b) the rocky ground (v.5) where it grew and then quickly died because the soil was shallow, c) the soil with thorns (v.7) which chocked the growth.

So according to the interpretation there was hardness that enabled the enemy to snatch away the word (v.19), the shallow ground inhibiting deep roots (v.20,21), and the thorns representing the worries of life (v.23). So, if we want new growth in our lives, our first thing to do is check we don’t have these three conditions:

First, our hearts are not hardened, fixed in outlook, set in our ways, not open to hear the new.

Second, we refuse shallowness, a casual approach to the word of God and to faith and instead have a yearning to learn, to go deeper with God, to take time in His word, asking Him daily to teach us.

Third, we refuse to become so materialistic that we focus our lives on pleasure and enjoyment (as good as they might be) to the detriment of our spiritual lives. What I observe quite often is people who are blessed by God so that their careers or lives are flourishing and bit by bit they stop exercising the spiritual disciplines – daily bible reading, daily prayer, regular worship of God and sharing God’s love – so that unwittingly they become hard, shallow and less concerned for their spiritual welfare, and soon crumble under the weight of the world, no longer having the resources to resists its pressures. So we want NEW life, we want to be open and available to the NEW thing that the Lord is speaking about bringing? OK, but we need to check our lives for these things above. ‘Good soil’ is that which is open, obedient and available to God, yearning for Him to come in power and bring life transformations in us and through us, that is soft and ready to hear, receive and respond to His word when it comes. Yes? Yes! 

23. Minds Transformed by Living Faith

“New Days” Meditations 23: Minds Transformed by Living Faith

Rom 12:2“be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

We need to think on a little more about this renewing of our mind, this thinking in new ways. The Living Bible puts our verse above, be a NEW and different person with a FRESH NEWNESS in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.” I like that!

Earlier we consider looking in new ways on our world and our lives. As God transforms our thinking about ourselves, we can start seeing who we really are and what our potential (still) is and as we ponder that, we’ll understand how good it is and feel a new sense of fulfilment or satisfaction, and that in itself will continue the transformation. Let’s unpack that a bit more.

When God transforms our thinking about ourselves. He does that by putting His word before us, a word that challenges untruths that we have allowed to settle in our minds. It happens when we read His word and it happens when we hear preaching or teaching. While reading His word, we can suddenly find it coming alive in a new way, or a verse stands out in some way we’d never noticed before.

Yesterday my wife pointed out in her reading that she had never noticed before that when the Lord called Samuel (1 Sam 3), on the last occasion when the Lord saw Samuel was now prepared to properly listen, it says, The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times.” (v.10). I too had never noticed that? When our minds have been changed (as Samuel’s had by Eli’s instruction – 1 Sam 3:9) it can open the way for the Lord to draw near in a new way! No, the Lord isn’t at a distance, whatever your emotions might be telling you, He is there right with you, standing there in the room with you. As you sense that, allow the sense of His peace to flow over you, savor the stillness, the quiet, the tranquility of soul.

Do you see what happened here? A change of mind, of thinking, brought a release of faith that enabled you to encounter reality, move in the spiritual dimension in a new way which, in its own way, more affected your thinking and your emotions. Perhaps one of the greatest contrasts in how we think is seen in 1 Sam 17 when Israel are confronted by the enemy giant, Goliath which stirred dismay and fear in Israel (v.11) but along comes faith-filled David and all he can think about it getting out there and taking down this Philistine.  The difference? David has a living faith that had experienced God’s enabling (read 1 Sam 17:34-37) and now he lived in the confidence of that. And us? Do we allow the ongoing blessings of God to transform our thinking to bring that same confidence?   

22. A Mind Check-up

“New Days”  Meditations 22: A Mind Check-up

Rom 12:2“be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

This seems the obvious follow on from where we were yesterday. Perhaps we need to start here by considering the mixed up ways our ‘minds’ or our thinking, or the way we see ourselves, God or life, work. I’m not sure when I was younger that I thought much about what I was thinking, I was too busy living the life, but as I have aged I realize that what we think, why we think as we do, and how we think, are important issues.  

Of course, if we have never become a Christian all our thinking will be self-centred. Being self-centred also means we will be defensive about ourselves, uncertain about ourselves and struggling to make sense of life. When we come to Christ we realize that all our self-efforts were going nowhere and, if we could be really honest, we were making a mess of life.

Now we can only see that and feel that when the Holy Spirit is at work in a twofold way – He convicts us of our shortcomings on one hand, and He reveals God’s love for us on the other, and the latter often brings the security to face the former. But it’s all about thinking, what goes on in our mind which needs renewing.

Again, once we come to Christ we start on a new path where we learn to think differently about ourselves and about God and we learn that we don’t have to earn God’s love and approval, Christ has earned it for us on the Cross. Now this is a whole new way of thinking. As we grow in Christ we start to learn and realise there is a whole new spiritual world out there that we hadn’t been aware of and there is a battle going on for our mind.

Several versions of our present starter verse say, “let God change you inside with a NEW way of thinking.” We need to have NEW thinking. If we have let the enemy whisper his lies into our soul – “You’re a nobody, you’re a failure, you can’t do anything,” as we suggested in the previous study, we need to get rid of that thinking and replace it with NEW positive truths of the Bible – I am a child of God, I am much loved, I can do all things through Christ, I may sometimes feel weak, sometimes feel a failure, but HE is making me new and working all things together for my good. Hallelujah! Declare it three times a day! Do you see this? There is a battle going on for your mind, over what you will think about yourself. I don’t know if you have ever realized this but when you, by faith, declare the truth, the indwelling Holy Spirit witnesses to that truth, affirming it, and so as you declare it, He will strengthen that belief within you, confirm this is the truth and it applies to you and is for you, and as He does that, we change.

21. Believe it!

“New Days” Meditations 21: Believe it!

Lam 3:22,23 his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.”

I was about to move on from this verse today but there is someone who especially needs to hear this. I suggested yesterday listening to “One Thing Remains”. Well the refrain continues, “Because on and on and on it goes.” I believe there is someone who will read this who feels they are out of resources – despite the last two day’s readings. NO! God is here for you RIGHT NOW, and He has a new delivery of grace for you right now, grace will go on and on and on and will not run out. It doesn’t matter what has caused this feeling, HIS stickability love (compassions) are NEW for you this moment, now. Pause and receive it.

Now there may be four things that prevent this truth dropping deep into your heart to bring the change you need: i) Satan, ii) your present feelings, iii) past happenings, iv) modern culture.

i) Satan: the enemy whispers lies into our minds, such as ‘You aren’t worthy of God’s love.” Well, actually Jesus dying for YOU proves otherwise. God thinks you are.

ii) Present Feelings: these can be the greatest hindrance to being able to say, “I know I am loved,” but feelings have a variety of origins and need to be checked against the reality of God’s revealed word.

iii) Past Happenings: we’ve talked about resolving past issues in studies 12 & 13 and if we let past hurts or failures determine what we feel today, rather than rely on God’s word, then we make ourselves vulnerable.

iv) Modern Culture: We need to distinguish between the kingdom of God where truth and the revealed will of God prevails and ‘the world’ where thinking has no fixed anchors. Because of the breaking free from fixed anchors, there is much confusion in the western world today that tends to focus on identity and identity is increasingly assessed by feelings which, we’ve already noted, are frequently fluid.  

Young people are particularly vulnerable in this area as the teenage years are the years of greatest physical and emotional change and in the absence of wise and tested role models, can bring about massive areas of hurt and confusion. There are an increasing number of reported cases of those who entered gender-transition (with unwise medical help) who, in their twenties are saying it was a major mistake and are seeking to retransition. Such is the confused world of the West of the twenty-first century.   The truth is that whatever you are feeling God does love you, is for you and is here for you now. Only He knows the truth about you and as someone wisely wrote recently, what is most important is not what we think about ourselves, but what God thinks about us. Whatever direction you are going in, He loves YOU and is for YOU