Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Tonight, Kelly asked if we could talk about the amazing year we have experienced. A great idea, but not something that comes easy for me. I am a visionary, one who pretty much lives my thought life about 3 months in advance. This contributes to me being from a long line of planners and explains why I have difficulty concentrating on the task at hand (I drift off in my thoughts to the “what-could-be’s” or “what-if’s” or the “what’s-it-gonna-be-like”…as Kelly teaches our 8 year-old, we’re realizing Tori is like this a lot…difficult seeing the importance of a math problem at the moment when she’d rather talk about the future or create some work of art about another time and place!) While “thinking ahead” can be a strength, I recognize when it comes to recalling the Lord’s faithfulness, I fall short. I move on to the future moments without learning enough about God’s faithfulness in the lessons of the day. As we recounted the challenges and the delights of 2006, I was surprised to remember the wonderful ways God has been with our family! The people who moved in and out of our life throughout the year…the long months of sickness, not to mention Kelly’s scary bout with a bad case of malaria back in June…the losses of lives of people who we knew well or had prayed for fervently…the new births (little tiny wonders of God as well as spiritual rebirths…especially our nieces!)…the number of visitors we have had (almost some friend or some family every month of the year) as well as our visits home to Texas during October and November…I was overwhelmed at remembering some of the amazing things that God has done (and embarrassed to say that I had forgotten so many of them already…or thought they happened LAST year!)

This morning I had the opportunity to worship with the Kaiteme congregation, a small band of believers who first began to worship over 8 years ago (thanks to the fruit of Greg Bailey’s labor). My lesson came from the prophet Isaiah.

“See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being, I announce them to you.” (42.9)

From the beginning God is a new-thing-doing-God. That’s His nature…he does new things! He creates wonder from nothing. He births life from death. He fosters hope from hopelessness. He delivers captives from captivity. He washes clean those who are filthy with sin and rids the earth of it when necessary! Noah lived by faith and constructed his salvation as God was doing a new thing! Moses lived by faith and conversed with a burning bush and agreed to join God in doing a new thing! The Apostle Paul sailed ships and crossed land, even being turned away by the Spirit to do a new thing in another land! God is ALWAYS doing a new thing.

Even further into Isaiah’s word of prophecy, we hear the mouthpiece of God proclaim something rather surprising.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (43.18-19a)

What’s unanticipated is the context just preceding this exhortation. You see, you often hear people assert this promise when they want to enact a new program at church or even modify the church’s worship style. But the shocker comes when you read the prior verses that recount God’s faithfulness to deliver His people out of Egypt! How are we to forget that?!! Should we?! But why?!

Now God is not saying, “it wasn’t important, so forget about it.” God is not saying to us today, if we have had a bummer of a year and some bad things have happened, that we should just “put it behind us and move on.” No! Nor is He saying, “All those new things I did last year, those were irrelevant.” No! Remarkably, the people who heard this from Isaiah were not yet enslaved, but were destined for such fate and Isaiah is foretelling them of their hope and deliverance. So, what He is telling the Israelites is that, God WILL DO A NEW THING! He is capable of reenacting faithfulness all over again. He is proficient in miracles and wants to show you! He is trying to say, “I’m not just a “God-DID-that-a-long-time-ago-kinda-God,” but rather “a God-WILL-DO-A-NEW-THING-today-kinda-God!” He will do it; He will do that new thing!

2006 was a banner year for some of us. Some amazing things happened! We can declare, “God showed us His power!” In remembering such marvels, God is saying, “don’t forget, that in 2007, I can do it all over again!” Don’t dwell on God as a God who used to do things. He still does!

For some of us, 2006 was a year wrought with death, tragedy, broken dreams, pain, and the year just seems to have the stench of devastation. In remembering such misery, God is saying, “don’t forget, that in 2007, I can do a new thing!” God is always active and is ready to deliver us from the agony of the days in which we live.

While God’s performance should not be measured by the quantity or qualities of his actions during a calendar year, we can take time each year to reflect on His goodness. We should remember the things He has done. When doing so, we are reminded of His love for us and the purpose He has for us:

“I have summoned you by name; you are mine…since you are precious and honored in my sight and because I love you…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (43.1,4,7)

In 43.10, we are confronted with the reminder that we are God’s witnesses. As in Acts 1.8, we who are in Christ are fully equipped with God’s Holy Spirit to display His wonders to the world! We are filled with God’s presence so that the world enslaved into the oldness of hopelessness CAN experience the newness of God’s new thing! We are on this earth to testify to His great Glory! (and it really doesn’t depend on the type of year we have had.)

God is doing a new thing in our family…we are aware of it! As we face the path of re-entry in 2007, we look forward with great anticipation of the doors He will open for employment, school, ministry, friends, etc. We are fortified in our faith by the things He has done this past year. Yet, we can also recall the AMAZING things that God did back in 1996 when He first started showing us His plan for coming to Benin. Those were big, new things back then…they serve a purpose today to encourage us for 2007! But we serve a God who does NEW things all the time, so while we do not fail to remember such faithfulness, we can anticipate God’s fresh ways springing forth right before our very eyes!

Happy New Year…and may the true Author of NEW bless you abundantly in 2007!


vicki said...

I am confident that the Lord will bless all the Vaughns greatly in this new year and I am excited to see how richly the Lord will bless and work through the Aja Christians whose lives you have touched. We are so eager to have you back in the US, but I know that all those dear friends, especially Ega and family, will miss you so much. Blessings on the Vaughns as the new year dawns in Benin!! Much love from the Goodes of Farmers Branch...

Jill said...

How beautifully stated! I love that he is doing new things all the time. I love the freshness of God. My tendency is to want to stay stale because change stretches me too much!

I join you is looking forward to what He will do in 2007 in all of our lives. May we remain flexible to His plans.

Happy New Year. I look forward to seeing you this year!!!!!!