On New Year’s Day 2013 I wrote this in my journal:
“It’s January 1st and I am moving all the markers in my devotionals to the beginning of the books again. I give thanks for all those words that encouraged me, inspired me, held me up, gave me pause, gave me hope, gave me something to pray about, to journal about, to long for, yearn for, to cling to and think about. I’m thankful for these books and praise God for these authors giving of their time and gifts to write them. For the Word of God so richly spoken through them and for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in each of them.
So moving these markers from the end of the books to the beginning again saying, “Here we go again, God! I need You more than ever because life is so uncertain and fragile.” I like how one gal writes on her blog (www.lifeingraceblog.com) :
“I am a complete sucker for a fresh start. The New Year is like manna from heaven. I’m overwhelmed with list making and dream-seeking and soul-searching. Hope swells and washes the memory of past failures clean. I couldn’t care less that I’ve made this list 20 times before and didn’t follow through with it. As a matter of fact, this tendency towards renewal and resolution wasn’t even our idea. We borrowed it from our Father who promised new mercies every morning and fresh starts ‘seventy times seven’ times.
I completely believe deep down in my heart that this year will be different. You couldn’t convince me otherwise. But isn’t part of the reward of our new years’ lists the longing and the planning and the hope beyond all hope that this year surely things can be different? The gift is there already, in the courage to believe. And when I fail, I fall hard into the hands of Grace. There is no downside – only endless expectations as we ‘groan inwardly’ and ‘wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.’
What if I don’t keep my resolutions? Here’s why it doesn’t matter. God has given me everything I could need in His Son. I am forgiven and blessed in every good gift from the Father. The rest is icing on the cake.
But this liturgy of life – the rising and setting of the sun, the coming of another new year – was never meant to be hum drum routine. It is life-giving ritual and rhythm. And I hope I never tire of it because it’s the stuff life is made of and it’s pure gift from the Father.
I hope that despite many of my frailties and failures, I always approach this newness with anticipation and joy.
It’s going to be a great year. Revolutionary even. I just know it.”
Isn’t that great? I’ve moved the markers, made my lists and I’m working on letting go the failures and disappointments of the past year and give thanks for all the blessings that came my way. To let hope swell again and to step out in faith once again.
Of my devotionals, here is what a couple of them said about either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.
From Joyce Meyer “Ending your day right”: Isaigh 43:18-19 Amplified version. “Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
God created us to need new beginnings—places where we can release our faith and say, ‘This is a place of new beginnings for me and a place to have a fresh start.’ The dawn of a new year is always a good time for a fresh start.
You can experience the abundant life Jesus says you can have, but it requires making a decision to let go of the past. Unless you refuse to go on the way you have been, no change will come. God wants to change things for you, but He is waiting for your total cooperation.
Seldom do your circumstances change without something first changing in you. So if you want to experience God’s ‘new thing’ this year, release your faith right now and say, ‘This is a place of new beginnings for me.’ Then watch for the results.
When Paul wrote about forgetting the things of the past and pressing into the present (Philippians 3:13), he knew what he was talking about. Many of us reading this blog who have already left the meeting church, to be able to do what Paul wrote and what Joyce Meyer was talking about, is not only huge but vital. AND extremely difficult.
Few people other than those of us who have made this journey will ever understand the enormity of this task because our ‘past’ involves the powerful hold that church had/has on our lives, our minds, our emotions and our memories. It is a stronghold that only the Word of God can free us from. Of course we have some precious memories from those years, but where we often get stuck is in fear of what others are now thinking of us, our pain that others have misunderstood us, our loneliness that results from walking away from our community, our tendency towards isolation for a long period of time, and our misinterpretation of certain portions of Scripture that keep running through our minds because we haven’t yet replaced them with Truth.
It has been 13 years now since leaving the Work but I STILL have dreams OFTEN of suddenly being put back into the Work again and the dreams are frustrating big time because I either don’t have any ‘worker’ clothes anymore, or I don’t have all my stuff with me, or a meeting is looming and I’m not prepared for it, OR the funny ones are when I am trying to get ready and I have long hair again but for the likes of me, I can’t remember how I put it up in a hair do! Or I’m trying to put my make-up on! But I am SO weary of those dreams. So weary and just when I think they are done and over, I will have another one. Yes, I have prayed time and time again about that but still they remain. My point is this: How deeply ingrained that old life is and how desperately I need to leave it behind. It can take YEARS. Obviously, my subconscious hasn’t moved on totally. Help me Lord! (Chris, I really need your prayers in this! You get it.)
Beth Moore writes in her devotional “Breaking Free” for New Years Eve:
Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place: You protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.’
For just a moment, I don’t want you to think about how far you have to go. I just want you to think about how far you’ve come as I pray this verse over you. I come down to my knees in your honor, as well as God’s. You, my fellow sojourner, are a display of His splendor. May the Lord break each evil bond that enslaves you and shine His healing light of liberation on your face.”
Then, for New Year’s Day she writes:
Deuteronomy 34:4 “This is the land I promised Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. I will give it to your descendants.”
Like Moses, we will scale the heights this year to gaze over into the promised land, the land of freedom and splendor. But unlike Moses, we will have the opportunity not only to see it but to cross over and live there.
So come with all haste. Come to the place of breaking free. The place where we truly know God and believe Him. The place where we seek His glory and forget our own. The place where satisfaction comes from the only true satisfier of our souls. The place where we experience His peace no matter what the world may throw our way. The place where His presence is our constant desire and daily joy.”
I want to encourage and pray for us all in this part of the journey to continue to come to the place of breaking free. When Beth writes about getting to the place of truly knowing God and believing Him; I remember when that was so real to me. When I left the Work, God spoke so clearly to me about how I needed now to get to know Him. I knew the friends and workers better than I knew Him. And I realized I didn’t just believe in God but I had to believe God. There were so many verses in Scripture that I was taught to rationalize away for whatever reason and I simply was not believing God in so many areas. Verses about salvation and grace for instance.
One last quote from a devotional. This one is from Sarah Young ‘Jesus Calling’ January 1st.
“Come to Me with a teachable spirit, eager to be changed. A close walk with Me is a life of continual newness. Do not cling to old ways as you step into a new year. Instead, seek My Face with an open mind, knowing that your journey with Me involves being transformed by the renewing of your mind. As you focus your thoughts on Me, be aware that I am fully attentive to you. I see you with a steady eye, because My attention span is infinite. I know and understand you completely; My thoughts embrace you in everlasting love. I also know the plans I have for you: plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Give yourself fully to this adventure of increasing attentiveness to My Presence.”
A final word of encouragement to anyone who has recently left the meetings. I often remember what Paul wrote about his own experience when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He tells his experience in Galatians 1:11-24.
“I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[b] and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.”
Paul went off to Arabia for 3 years to unlearn and learn. He had a lot of Pharisee-ism to get out of his system and Christ to get in. He must have poured over the Old Testament Law word by word because at the end of that time, he came back with an understanding of Christ from the Old Testament that few, if any, have ever had to that degree.
We need to be gentle with ourselves when we are in the process of breaking free. It takes time and we may need to retreat for a while and not go to church at all for a long period of time. Or maybe never be able to go again.
So, may 2014 be a year of continued freedom for us, a year of more walking by faith than by sight, a year of more dependency on God than on ourselves. A year of falling more in love with Jesus every day. May we support each other, pray for each other. It’s an even numbered year; I always like those best anyways!!