“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”
January 4, 2008
It has become a yearly ritual, a twelve-month periodical pause in daily routine in order to reboot my schedule. This past week I turned over my “Day Planner” to the new 2008 calendar year. Before I filed away 2007 I took a fleeting glance at a year’s worth of improbable history. Looking back through my “Day Planner” for last year I wonder how I ever survived it all. There were marriage counseling appointments, memorial services, police chaplain responses for many traumatic events including two suicides (one being a local police officer), hospital calls, and far too many visits to various doctors (including several to care for my own broken arm). Of course there were also many joyful times including weddings, baptisms, sharing the Gospel with new friends, family get-togethers, the birth of our second grandchild, no less than five house-church conferences, experiencing the beginning of what we believe is a church planting movement here in the Bay Area, and weekly gatherings with our own home group on Sunday evenings. Truly, 2007 was an incredible year filled with ups and downs, pleasure and pain, feast and famine, the miraculous and the mundane.
As far as our ministry is concerned it was a year of witnessing God in action. With His prompting we are learning to take our faith on the road by planting simple churches in locations outside our own home. This year we have seen new gatherings begin in our own community as well as in San Pablo, San Ramon, and Modesto. We are currently working toward starting new groups in Livermore and Danville. Two of our couples who used to meet with us in our home have started churches of their own; one of them has been instrumental in starting five additional gatherings. Churches are meeting in homes, in restaurants, and even in a house boat. God is infinitely creative! We are reaching Hispanics, Singaporeans, Chinese, Koreans, Russians and Jews.
We have connected with a growing tidal wave of house churches springing up all around the Bay. We now have five apostolic groups (church planters) meeting throughout the Bay Area for mutual support and encouragement. A year ago we were wondering if we were the only ones in this region who were interested in simple church. Now there is a gathering of simple church planters meeting in our home. None of this can be attributed to our own cleverness or carefully engineered church planting strategy. We have simply been crying out to God for help and following Him into the harvest. Obviously, God is up to something major. But what does He have in store for us in the coming year?
Today I am looking at a brand new, completely clean “Day Planner” for the year 2008. I can only imagine what will be scribbled on its pages after the next twelve months. How many new churches will we see being born? How many new converts will be won? How many new ethnic groups will be reached? How many new church planters will be trained and sent out into the harvest field? Will there be any more weddings, baptisms, family gatherings, and new grandchildren? Will there be entries for memorial services, emergency counseling appointments, or chaplain call-outs?
It is both exhilarating as well as frightening to face a future for which so much is uncertain! How many wars will this world witness in the next twelve months? How many young men and women in our armed forces will have to be sacrificed? How many of our friends and loved ones will suffer tragedy, or fall ill, or pass away? Will this be the year of the great earthquake, or tsunami, or terrorist attack, or pestilence? Will we even live to see 2009? Could this be the year we witness a world-wide revival, or the beginning of the great tribulation, or the rise of the anti-Christ? Will Jesus return in 2008?
These are questions that will only be answered as week after week, one by one, I turn over the pages in my new “Day Planner.” I have the choice of doing so with great fear and anxiety or filled with His peace and joy. I choose the latter! As I have been contemplating the New Year I have put together a few thoughts I have found encouraging. Perhaps they will help you as well.
1. We can’t know all about the future, but we can know Him who does. God already inhabits every moment of the New Year. Every entry on every page of my new Day Planner has already been seen by His eyes before any notes have been written down by my hand. Since I know I belong to Him I also know that whatever touches my life in the coming months, whether good or bad, has been ordained or allowed by God for my ultimate good…and that is enough to bring me peace in the midst of whatever chaos this world has to offer. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” – Psalm 139:16. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28.
2. We can make all the plans we want to, but God is the ultimate editor of our “Day Planner.” “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21. We can face the unexpected with faith and confidence knowing it has been scripted by the hand of God.
3. Every new page is a new opportunity to serve our loving Lord. No matter what is written down in our schedules, work or leisure, toil or play, vocation or vacation, it is to be given to the Lord. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” – Colossians 3:23-24. Along with this idea I recommend beginning each day by praying for specific opportunities to witness and minister to others. You may be surprised how this will change your entire outlook on life. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” – Colossians 4:5.
4. With God every day can be a new beginning. There is usually a certain amount of joy and anticipation when we start a New Year. The failures of the past can be left behind and filed away with the old “Day Planner.” Ahead there is a clean slate, a chance to redeem the past and make the future better. Of course our optimism begins to wane with the arrival of our first trial or our first mistake. Before long we usually determine that the New Year is no better than the old. But when we are living for the Lord, each new day is a brand new start. The past is already redeemed along with our future mistakes. The failures which appeared on the pages of past “Day Planners” are not just filed away, they are destroyed and forgotten. Our slate is permanently clean! “…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:12. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1.
5. Although “Day Planners’ are useful tools, it is far better to trust our daily lives to the One who holds time in the palm of His hands. “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands…” – Psalm 31:14-15. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” – 1Corinthians 2:9.
I wish I had more of a prophetic gift and could predict what this New Year will bring. I can tell you there will be joy mixed with sorrow, happiness mixed with pain, and success mixed with failure. But anyone could predict that and be accurate. My prayer is that as we turn over the pages in our “Day Planners” we will find our lives filled opportunities to serve one another, doors opening to reach the lost, and plenty of time to grow in our relationship with the One who holds eternity in His hands. May all of our “Day Planners” be a witness to our faith, a testimony to what truly matters most in this life, and a blessing to our Lord!
Bill, a child of God…everyday