New Beginnings; December 31, 2021

Isaiah 43:18-19 “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 desert
and streams in the wasteland.

This is a famous passage that, frankly, I have used multiple times for the reading for New Year’s Eve. That’s because it’s so extremely appropriate for that! Human beings really need occasional resets, new beginnings to recover from the accumulated errors and detritus of the past. The current calendar is quite arbitrary as to when to start a new year. China and Taiwan, while using the Western calendar for business, still maintain what the Japanese call “Old New Year’s” in February, but from an astronomical standpoint the winter solstice, around December 21, would be more logical. The point is that the exact date is relatively unimportant, but the concept of cycles and starting over is quite important. God, as the Creator, is certainly the expert here. Since He is outside of time, a reset is a trivial matter for Him. The study of geophysics reveals that the face of the earth has been very different at different points in its history. As just one example, recent studies have shown that all of North Africa was once a verdant green, with major rivers traversing it. Many years ago I heard a Paul Bunyan joke about how he developed his tree-cutting skills in the Sahara, but that actually isn’t much of a joke. Records show that ancient Egypt used to get a lot of timber from the Sinai Peninsula, which is now a rocky wasteland. We have the Biblical record of the famous “Cedars of Lebanon,” but now they are preserved basically as just an image on their national flag. We take things for granted to our peril. The thing is, none of that is a problem for God. How things have been, or even how things are right now, aren’t really an issue for Him, because He is the Creator. Change is built into His design of the world. It’s been over 20 years since God told me clearly that He isn’t happy with a lot of the way the world is right now. He didn’t say it to me at the time, but that implies that He’s going to change things, and I believe He’s in the process right now. Things are a mess indeed, as they are in the middle of any major remodeling project, but as He said to and through Isaiah, He’s got good things planned, and we are not to be hung up on how things have been, or even how they are at the moment.

This certainly applies to me! After 40 years of ministry here in Omura we still have an average Sunday attendance of around 10. However, good friends who arrived just six months ago and are ministering less than an hour away had over 100 people show up for their Christmas program, with absolutely zero advertising. God is indeed doing new things, and we need to perceive His activity and flow with it. Over a year ago God really impressed my wife with Don Moen’s song, God Will Make a Way, and I translated it into Japanese. That is based on this very passage, and I need to remember it! New beginnings aren’t necessarily easy, particularly when we’re already well past 70, but Moses entered into his ministry at 80, so I’ve got nothing to complain about! I am not to be tied down by my past failures, real or just perceived, but keep my eyes on my Lord, who both never changes and is always new, so that I will be available for whatever He wants to do in and through me, for His glory.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You also for yesterday, that had some very good things to the middle of the afternoon and then had something that made me forget all the good stuff. Help me indeed not be shaken by circumstances, but always look to You and expect good things of You, even rivers in the desert, so that I won’t miss any of what You want to do using me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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