Will I allow God to do a new thing?
Seems like an odd question – God doesn’t need my permission to do a new thing. God is always at work – and we know what He’s up to – renewing all things, redeeming all things, making all things new in Christ, working things together for the good of those who love Him. Fantastic! Yet I’m in this season of recognizing it’s often me, my resistance or thick-skull missing what God is trying to do around me and in me, that causes things to get stuck and I totally miss the new stirrings of God. I get stuck in the discouragement, stuck in the questions of “Where are you God? What are you doing?”, stuck in doing what just needs to be done and missing the newness of His on-going, in-breaking Kingdom.
Spoiler alert – Here’s what I wind up asking us to consider today – What are we doing, thinking we’re being good Christians, but we’re actually hindering the Gospel from spreading?
I’m also recognizing, perhaps particularly in Atlantic Canada, but not only in Atlantic Canada, that we have a lot of churches and leaders that are stuck. Leaders that seem to have lost hope that God can do something new in their midst. Leaders and churches that have lost hope that God might use them in His redemptive mission in the world. Leaders and churches that are saying – “But we’re just a small group or mostly elderly people, what could God do here?”
Friends, God is God. He is able to bring growth out of deserts, energy out of the tired, life out of death.
God is not limited. God is always at work.
Here’s the thing I’m recognizing, that I hope is helpful for you – God IS doing wonderful, new things – it’s me who is missing it or rejecting it. What would it mean for me to learn to perceive and lean into the new things God is trying to do? Allow me to explain…
I’m in a season of a number of changes:
our CBAC office in Saint John is nothing but boxes and barren office space as the movers arrive tomorrow to take the office to Moncton,
I’ll be working from home in the days ahead,
today is Andrew Glidden’s last day and we’re searching for a new Associate Director of Youth and Family as well as other staff changes at the CBAC,
we’re continuing to tweak and change things like ONE and Tidal Impact to better equip you to join God in your neighbourhoods,
and a number of things are just uncertain and unclear in this season of my life.
Now, understand I’m one of those people that likes change – I like the opportunity to re-look at things, re-think things, purge things, re-order and re-focus things. I find it’s in these kind of conversations I thrive. I’ve been the one around the office the last few days saying repeatedly “Give it away” or “Put it in the dumpster.” I’m ready for the new. I grew up as a military-kid and so I find at least every 5 years I get the itch for a new adventure and new place.
Yet lately I’ve been noticing how resistant I am to God doing new things. I’m noticing how rather than trusting and following God in the new things He’s stirring it is so easy to want to hunker down, hide away and resist any more change. I like things the way they are. Too much change. Too much uncertainty. Just STOP please.
It’s giving me sympathy for our churches, who just want to hunker down.
But it’s also giving me resolve to have more poignant conversations with you and our churches – don’t hunker down. Open your eyes to the new opportunities. I look around and see God stirring new things – new ways of involving younger generations, new ways of doing church, new ways of being the church, new ways of encouraging & resourcing each other, new kinds of leadership, reaching out to new pockets of society, new ways of being the light in the world, new ways of discipling & mentoring one another, new ways of delivering sermons, new ways of doing education, new dreams of Kingdom work, new church plants, new ways to be a sign of God’s loving care for our neighbours and neighbourhoods…
Yet, my heart breaks, because we seem to be missing it and burying it.
There are two main responses when God starts stirring something new, we either
(1) See it as a threat and so try to hunker down and ignore it. Just keep doing what we’ve always done, as much as possible.
(2) Take steps, even with shaking feet, to see and take the new opportunities.
Yes, this can often be and feel VERY uncomfortable (yup, feeling that in this season!) because barren, dry soil needs to be tilled, stirred up, and watered before it becomes fertile soil for new growth. When God is stirring, tilling your soil, it is a good thing – it can lead to NEW growth, if we let it! Don’t let the change, or the new things God is stirring, just make you hunker down and be harder, crustier soil for Christ. I’ve met those Christians…stuck, bitter, rigid, shrinking faith. Instead get inquisitive and lean into the stirring, lean into the new and see what God is up to there.
Do you know what happened to Peter as recorded in Acts 10? His whole life Peter had been taught to stay away from anything impure & unclean – don’t eat pig, certain four-footed animals, reptiles, birds of the air etc. In fact, keep your distance from Gentiles (those non-Jewish people), they are impure and unclean. Peter had it drilled into his head, day after day, “No bacon, no bacon, no bacon.” And those Gentiles, they are sketchy, even unredeemable.
Then God starts stirring, stirring big time. He shows Peter a sheet from heaven with all kinds of “forbidden” animals to eat on it and says “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
And Peter, just like us, has a choice – God is doing a new thing, will I respond to it as a threat or as an opportunity?
Peter’s first reaction is “Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” (v 14)
God says to Peter repeatedly “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
Peter’s first reaction, “No way, Lord” is usually our first reaction.
We see this new thing God is stirring as a threat.
We think we’re being pious, faithful, like Peter, “Surely NOT I, Lord”…I’d never go to church on a different day than Sunday, I’d never give my time to that raga-muffin group, I’d never sing those wild/repetitive songs, I’d never use a different translation of the Bible, I’d never associate with people that believe differently on that theological issue, I’d never go to a party with them, I’d never tell our church to tangibly show the Gospel to our neighbourhood, I’d never tell the Gospel a different way, I’d never start a friendship with them, I’d never let women preach or lead, I’d never take a different role, I’d never question their leadership, I’d never question the system we have in place, I’d never work with that denomination, I’d never make our service geared towards that group or generation, I’d never have Alpha in a pub etc.
What if our first response was “WOW, tell me more” instead of “Surely not”?
What are we doing, thinking we’re being good Christians, but we’re actually hindering the Gospel?
Learn to be attune to God’s voice and stirrings – soaked in His word, staying close to Jesus, connected to His people – so together you can follow the new things God is stirring in your midst.
When God does new things the best way we can react is to listen more and be inquisitive. Start following the stirring. Peter had to listen and then OBEY, to go with it. He had to see the grand opportunity in the new thing. Peter saw God open up the same gift of salvation, through Jesus, to all people and it blew his mind and became a life-long adventure and mission. He realized God had much bigger plans – that this redemption was (and is) for ALL people, even including those Gentiles.
Great opportunities can be on the other side of God’s new stirrings – IF we resist the threats and embrace the opportunities. I see too many of us and our churches caught up in the threats, missing the opportunities.
Here’s a question for us – What would be on your sheet from heaven if God gave you that vision today?
What new thing is God trying to do but you are resisting?
On the sheet could be connections with certain neighbours, befriending a certain pockets of society (e.g. bikers, quilters, singles, divorced, mentally ill, LGBTQ, Tim Horton’s crowd….), a new way of doing church, a new way of doing sermons, a new way of reaching younger generations, a new way of using technology for good and the Gospel, a new career path, a new education path, a new relationship, a new perspective, a new structure…
I know what some of you are thinking – just because something is new doesn’t make it automatically good or better. You are absolutely right. BUT, don’t shut it down too quickly because it’s new, you haven’t seen it done that way before, or an idea comes from an unlikely source. That’s the problem – churches, Christians, shutting it down, hunkering down too quickly, instead of being inquisitive…investigating what God might be up to there, talking to others, showing humility and openness, learning more, and comparing it to Jesus and His word.
Here is a prayer for us today: God do a new thing, I welcome Your new life. Give me courage to respond with faith. Bring new life here.
When God does a new thing – questions:
1. What would God have on your sheet (Acts 10:11-13)? I.e. What new thing is God trying to open you up towards that you are resisting?
2. What would God have on your church’s sheet (Acts 10:11-13)? I.e. What new thing is God trying to open your church towards that you are resisting?
3. How could your resistance be hindering the restoration or Gospel-thing God is trying to do?
4. Is God trying to stir anything new in your life? How are you responding to that – more as a threat or opportunity? How could you lean into it as an opportunity?
5. Is God trying to do a new thing in your church? How are you responding to that – more as a threat or opportunity? How could you lean into it as an opportunity?
6. Read Isaiah 43:16-19
Isaiah 43:16-19 “This is what the Lord says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
’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.’”
a.. What stands out to you personally as you read this passage?
b. What did God need to remind them of in this passage?
c. What do you need to remember about God, as you seek to follow God in the new opportunities?
d. What encouragement does God have for you in this passage?