By Bobby Schuller
If you’re anything like me, I feel different than I did at this time last year. Living through an unexpected global pandemic, watching the suffering and financial devastation that has ensued, and adapting to life in a post-COVID world has changed my perspective and reminded me of the many things of which I am not in control. Thankfully, I have a relationship with the One who holds the earth — and all that’s in it — firmly in His grip, and He is securely, steadfastly, and steadily making everything NEW.
NEW is a process, and it happens gradually.
Though it’s not as easy to leave the starting gate running this year, as Christians, we can embrace 2021 with the confident assurance that NEW THINGS always spring up from the most parched and barren places. In fact, everything we’ve gone through in the past twelve months is part of the fresh work the Lord is doing in our lives right now. While we’ve been struggling, beneath the surface, He’s been faithfully cultivating.
Transformation is the hallmark of God’s hand.
NEW is the essence of God’s work, which is why this powerful word is used over 150 times in the Bible. Interestingly, 43 of these Scriptural references speak of NEW WINE (NIV). Much more than being just an alcoholic beverage, throughout the Old and New Testaments, NEW WINE denotes transformation, providence, and blessing. And, since there are strong parallels between the ancient art of winemaking and God’s manner of forging NEW things in our lives today, we can find encouragement by further examining the process:
- Pressing: In Biblical times, making the best wine meant crushing the grapes underfoot (If this evokes images of an episode of I Love Lucy that took place in Italy, you’re on the right track). Though it’s not pleasant to think about, being pressed down and crushed are important prerequisites to God creating something fresh in our lives. Until we’ve been emptied of the old, we can’t be filled with the new. Pain primes our heart and forces us to release what we’re holding on to in order to receive something much better!
- Preparation: After pressing the grapes, the juice was poured into a container and sealed so that fermentation could begin. With time, the yeasts on the grape skins turned the sugar into alcohol, and after a while, the new wine was ready for consumption. However, upon the first sip, it was noticeably sweet and had a taste that was distinct — unlike any previous vintage. Likewise, as Christ cultivates a new thing in us, He will turn our hearts of stone into flesh and replace our selfishness with His sweet sufficiency. Though it will not happen overnight, what emerges will look nothing like it used to, for our bitterness will be dissolved by the aroma of His Spirit and our lives will overflow with the taste of His goodness!
- Participation: With the wine now ready to drink, it was poured into wineskins so it could be stored and transported. However, as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 9:14-17, these containers had to be as new as the wine lest they burst and waste the entire batch. In the same way, to receive the NEW THING our Savior is doing in our midst, we must be flexible and expand our hearts. Though our tendency is to resist change and hold onto the past, new means new, and we have to accept its distinctly different flavor so we don’t miss His best!
I’m excited about the NEW THING that God is doing in your life today, my friend. Regardless of what you see, I pray that you’ll embrace the process of transformation, hold tightly to Jesus’ hand, and allow Him to use every minute of crushing discomfort and restful refining to birth His powerful plan for your future! HAPPY NEW YEAR!
God loves you and so do I,
By Chad Blake
The faithfulness of God is a mighty thing. In fact, His promises become the foundation for our hope, our strength, and our future. I love the Scripture we find in Isaiah 43. Here, God is promising His people deliverance from their captors, but He is also making that promise to us. When I think of verse 19, “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,” I think of a God who loves to bless us. He takes the wastelands of our lives and turns them into streams. What an incredible picture! And because of the Lord’s proven faithfulness in the past, we can still stand upon this promise today. Jesus is in the business of doing new things, and transforming our lives is His top priority.
My life these days is full of new things. With a toddler quickly approaching 2 years old, it seems like everything is fresh because I see things through his eyes (and believe me, I cherish every moment of it). Many of you know our story, have journeyed with our family and offered prayers and encouragement along the way. But it wasn’t too long ago that I felt like I was in a wasteland, as Hillary and I dealt with the pain of infertility. Yet what got us through those wilderness seasons was standing firm on the promises of God and believing, in faith, that He is good and that He pours out blessings that overflow upon His people. We continue to hold fast to the truth that He is a creative Savior who transforms our bad times into times of redemption so that even when we can’t see it, we know He is at work.
As we enter the new year, we all bring our unique journeys with us. We’ve each shared the 2020 experience, but it leaves an imprint on us in a different way. That said, my prayer is that we will make this year one that is built firmly on the foundation of a God who is doing new things. New things in our lives, new things in our relationships, new things in His church, and new things in the world. As God’s children, we have the opportunity to align ourselves with His work as He makes a way in the wilderness and creates streams in the wastelands!
We have a phrase we like to say a lot around this ministry — “God loves you and so do I!” However, more than just a cliché, this statement is the very DNA of who God is and how He transforms our lives. As we look forward to a year of new things and new circumstances, we can anchor our experiences in the knowledge of His overwhelming love. As we hold fast to the Lord’s manifold promises, He will bless our lives and deliver us from each and every captor!
God loves you and so do I,
-Pastor Chad Blake