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A new year is upon us, 2019 is officially here so happy birthday Earth?!? Now rather than me giving you a Christian horoscope about the coming year I want to talk about how we can embrace change and new beginnings in our lives so we can better serve and follow after God. I know that many people look to posts like this to find out what God is going to do in the world during 2019, be it in politics, the church, world events, or over generalized personal promises. By this I mean words such as “look under your chairs, everybody gets a victory, you get a victory, you get a victory everyone gets a victory” with no details, confirmations or steps to carry out to see it come to pass.
I don’t mean to downplay God’s ability to provide theme words for 2019 and any other year or His ability to provide glimpses into what is about to happen. Instead I want to paint a picture of what I feel God is leading me to teach and talk about over the next twelve months, and spoiler alert it has to do with how to handle and navigate change in our lives. Far too often we hear a word from God and click like and don’t do anything to see those words come to pass in our lives or in the world around us. We need to go beyond chasing after an unending stream of unused/unapplied words from God in our lives and rather we need to learn how to engage with what God has already spoken to us.
A single word from God can change a person’s life but to see that word become a reality we must learn how to navigate the waters of change. Never has God called or commissioned a person to do something great and then leave them in the place He originally found them in. That is the lesson for this coming year and it will be the driving force behind what I will be talking about in these articles throughout the year, and starting in June on my podcast and in my videos.
God Brings Change But Doesn’t Change Himself
The process of life is one of constant change, we get bigger, stronger, older, weaker, smaller and so on. Life is about growth and change and as long as we are alive we are faced with some form of change or another. Be it changes in our appearance, in our family, at work, in politics, or in the world around us in general. At times change is good and other times it can be painful, but that is life, change can bring out the best of us or it can chase us away into a deep dark corner to hide in until the change stops. No matter what happens or what changes what is inevitable is that we will face change again.
Now not all change is bad there are times where God is the one initiating change in our lives or in the greater world. For now though I want to focus on God’s desire to change us for the better, because He is aware of all things and He knows what we have to do in order to fulfill His purpose for our lives. Although we experience change and growth God does not. He is not alive in the senses that He doesn’t have a beating heart and is carried through time. God is eternal and with that eternity brings a stillness to His identity, purpose, nature and vision. God sees all and knows all therefore He who cannot change is able to see into us so that we can change to be more like Him.
Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’” (NKJV)
Daniel 2:21-22 “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. 22He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him.” (NKJV)
Malachi 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” (NKJV)
God has a plan and a purpose for each of us but to achieve those plans we have to learn how to follow God and how to submit to the changes He is trying to bring to our lives. It wasn’t enough for young David to be anointed King by Samuel, yes David had the promise but he still had to live out a life which would turn that promise into a reality. At times there were good seasons and others were marked by rough seasons in the literal wilderness. The promise was not enough for David, the offer of Kingship came at a price: his everyday life.
I feel this is the missing ingredient in the lives of many Christians. We feel that we have a call or purpose from God but we do nothing to see it become a reality. We covet the title of king but we don’t want to fight Goliath, or serve Saul, or lead a band of misfits in the wilderness, or learn to live on the run, or even how to show honor to our enemy as David did with Saul. We expect God to do all of the work and forget that a life with a calling is a life of partnership with God.
We Are Prone To Change In The Wrong Ways
Unfortunately despite how much God tries to change us for the better we as Christians still seem to be prone to chasing after the wrong kinds of change (both personally and corporately). We are comfortable with superficial changes and think that if we experience enough of them it will count towards a change of heart. If I change these eight secondary things I can trade them in for a major heart change in God’s eyes. I know this is silly but it frighteningly happens more than I’d like to admit in the hearts of Christians and in the operation of the local church. We treat God’s commands to follow His words like its some fad diet that we follow along with until we get dissatisfied or too hungry for the old things then we abandon it and move on to the next thing. We have Christians who collect attempts to obey God like other people collect exercise tapes and gadgets, thinking that volume equals success.
We go on these diets of obedience, character development, love, patience but never follow through to the end and assume that as long as we “tried our best” for a couple of weeks that will be enough to satisfy God and open the flood gates of heaven so all of the promises and blessings will rain down upon us. It is an ‘easy Christianity’ that we crave where no change is involved, no challenges are involved and no growth is necessary. We want the benefits of Christianity and relationship with God without any of the responsibilities.
Or even worse instead of making the changes God is speaking to our heart we simply replace God with one in our own image, while others find a pastor who will enable our resistance to God’s voice. Then there are those who hear from God about changing a portion of their own heart of soul and go on a crusade to force everyone else to do what God told them individually to do, while never actually doing it themselves. When we resist change and progress in our walk with God we are demonstrating to Him that we really want to serve a different God all together. One that is passive, one that is quiet, and one that acts more like a guidance councillor than the Wise King of the Universe.
Jeremiah 2:11 Has a nation changed its gods, Which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory For what does not profit. (NKJV)
We have this desire inside of us to go back to living the ways of the world once again and we get triggered and offended when God tells us otherwise. What would have happened if David murdered Saul in 1 Samuel 24 while in the cave with him? What would have happened to his calling and promise to be King of Israel? Far too often we want to take our divine inheritance through natural means, and God’s process of change and refinement in our lives is a mission to keep us from doing that. God wants us to work with and through Him to accomplish the purposes of our lives, lest we drink from the Pride flavoured Kool-Aid and take all of the credit and accomplishments for ourselves.
Isaiah 48:3-5 3 “I have declared the former things from the beginning; They went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. 4 Because I knew that you were obstinate, And your neck was an iron sinew, And your brow bronze, 5 Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; Before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you, Lest you should say, ‘My idol has done them, And my carved image and my molded image Have commanded them.’ (NKJV)
We as believers and children of God cannot go around making changes simply for the sake of making changes. It’s like when a church is struggling financially and/or spiritually, and they think the answer to their problems is unveiling up a new logo. Change for the sake of attention is not real growth, you can make all kinds of changes but that doesn’t make them the right changes. You can move your house off of a foundation of rock and put it onto one of sand and while yes you changed you just made everything worse. We cannot reject the changes God is trying to make in our lives and try to replace them with other changes that we think are more suitable.
Not New But Activated
New Beginnings isn’t just about something new coming along to change a person’s life but it can also be things long promised coming into reality, the newness is in the person’s place in the fulfillment of long forgotten promises. It was new to David to be king despite being anointed for many years, in a single day he went from exile to the crowned King of Judah (and later Israel). That was a profound change in his life, but all he did for those decades prior prepared him for the day the crown would be placed upon him.
New Beginnings then can be look at as the start of a new chapter rather than you opening up an entirely different book. Right now I have a couple of books that I’ve been reading for over a year, not because of laziness but because it seems that when ever I open one of those books I find myself confronting exactly what I need to see at that moment. Yes I power through other books as well but I keep finding myself facing these moments in an existing book which help to direct my life.
That is what I’m talking about here about New Beginnings, all of us feel as if we are multiple books which are opened at the same time. We have a book of family, work, relationships, destiny, goals, successes and at times God will take us to one of those books and flip the pages to the next chapter so that we can begin the next season of that book. At times that chapter will overtake every other book on the table while other times it feels as if it is running in the background muffled by everyday life. What is important is learning how to follow God when He takes us to those new chapters, but we need to understand that God only advances us after we have proven our faithfulness, demonstrated our humility in obeying Him and in our openness to hearing what He is speaking to us.
What’s Coming In 2019
This year I will be teaching on three interconnected themes. The first is on New Beginnings and we will be taking inspiration from two places; the life of David, specifically when he exited the wilderness season by finally becoming King, as I eluded to above. While in the New Testament we will find out how Saul became Paul the Apostle, how he went from Pharisee to the wilderness and then became the great builder of the church.
Secondly, I’ll be teaching on the matter of Hope and how it is tied to our understanding of God’s nature because our hope is grounded in God’s identity. Thirdly, I’ll showing how we are to live as ones who have come out of the cycle of judgment. Think about places such as the book of Judges where Israel would go from faithfulness to apathy to idolatry to suffering (invasion, famine, etc.) to mourning to repentance to blessing/deliverance and back to faithfulness. I believe God wants us to learn how to come into of the process of repentance, blessing and faithfulness and learn how to remain in that place without slipping back into the cycle for as long as possible.
So I invite you to join me on this journey through 2019 as we follow as closely as possible behind God in a place where we can see Him work and learn how we can participate along with Him.
Ecclesiastes 7:8 The end of a thing is better than its beginning; The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. (NKJV)
To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian beliefs which is now on sale. Available in paperback (Canada or USA) and eBook! Get your copy today and discover not just your purpose but how you can build the Kingdom of God here on the Earth
2019 The Year of New Beginnings Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Even as Christians we cast a shadow, so we must learn what to do about it and how to avoid the darkness
Do you know what it is like to have a storm raging in your life? That feeling of being thrown up and down, up and down, side to side from point a to point b over and over again? In this life we are not exempt from troubles, difficult times or the storms which rage physically, emotionally, financially, relationally or religiously. Each one of us faces conflict, pain, frustration, panic, fear, failure and the like but often when we are experiencing those things we lose sight of God in all of it.
We become trapped on the waves in our little boat of our life, calling, ministry and purpose and with all of the rain and wind trying to knock us over into the water it is easy to believe that God isn’t with us. We look at the storms of life and assume they are God’s judgments, or that He forgot to protect us that day or they are the consequences of meaningless actions like forgetting to pray at the same time everyday. It’s almost like the Christian equivalent to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but we instead apply it to God and call Him the Ornery Careless Destroyer. Where if we get the slightest thing in our life out of place or we miss a devotional time (or heaven forbid Sunday service) God will come with a mighty storm to blow our house away, and the rest of the town with it.
We see the winds and waves and forget about not only God but His love and goodness, we feel the rain on our face and forget the very nature of God. We see things around us rise up to terrify or obstruct us and we forget that there is a way out, but we have to look up, high above the storm.
Terror on the High Seas
The disciples went through this very experience, in the early days of Jesus’s ministry they had witnessed countless miracles, demonstrations of authority, and acts of divine power in action. But one fateful night came about where after a long day of preaching and miracles Jesus had the disciples (and some others) set out on the lake in boats to cross it during the night. We can’t forget here that several of the disciples were experienced fishermen who grew up on this very lake, but that upbringing didn’t do much to help them that night.
Let’s turn to the gospel of Mark to see how this story plays out, I’m using The Passion Translation’s interpretation of this encounter because I want it to challenge how you normally read through this story.
Mark 4:35-41 “35 Later that day, after it grew dark, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” 36 After they had sent the crowd away, they shoved off from shore with him, as he had been teaching from the boat, and there were other boats that sailed with them. 37 Suddenly, as they were crossing the lake, a ferocious tempest arose, with violent winds and waves that were crashing into the boat until it was all but swamped. 38 But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion. 39 So they shook him awake, saying, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” Fully awake, he rebuked the storm and shouted to the sea, “Hush! Calm down!” All at once the wind stopped howling and the water became perfectly calm. 40 Then he turned to his disciples and said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?” 41 But they were overwhelmed with fear and awe and said to one another, “Who is this man who has such authority that even the wind and waves obey him?”” (TPT)
What happened here in this encounter? The disciples (and other boats) were facing a raging storm in the middle of lake Galilee and they feared for their lives. As I said these aren’t all land-lovers, but many were hardened fishermen who were that fearful of the storm they were encountering. You can’t blame them it was pitch black outside, there was no coast guard to come rescue them and there was a legitimate chance that they could drown before ever reaching the shore line.
The people were afraid of what was raging around them, but Jesus on the other hand was calmly sleeping in the back of the boat on his fluffed out pillow. What did Jesus know that the others didn’t, what separated Jesus’s reaction from that of the disciples. Was it that Jesus was a really sound sleeper or was there something else at work?
I know it’s easy for us today on the other side of this storm to look back and ridicule the disciples for their actions. We weren’t there but we assume that we would know better, just like we would know better about feeding the 5,000 or the interpretation of many of the parables. Yet we say and believe those things but we make the very same mistakes under different names. We are still just as susceptible to reacting the same way the disciples did in our own lives and in our own circumstances.
I know what natural storms look like, I grew up in Southern Manitoba and throughout the summers I’ve experienced many massive thunder storms. The kind where the thunder shakes the walls of your house, where the rain is pouring sideways instead of downward, and where gusts of wind would snap massive trees like tooth picks. I’ve seen black skies in the middle of the afternoon, I’ve run from golf ball sized hail pelting me on my walk home and I’ve seen the sky resemble spider webs made out of lightning. Those storms were real, they were fierce, they were destructive and they were the same kind of storms that Jesus took a cat nap in.
Natural Storms Don’t Shake Heaven
We have to first realize that the storms which blow in the natural have no effect on the spiritual realm or heaven. There won’t ever be a lightning bolt so fierce that it singes Jesus’s royal robes. No amount of water can ever flood out the heavenly holy of holies, and the angels won’t be left homeless because of a forest fire. It sounds cruel but we must remember that our problems aren’t really God’s problems, however because of His love for us He does respond and bring us assistance.
A hurricane has no effect on heaven but He can and does at times calm those storm to protect his people whom He loves. We have to understand that God is not always responsible for the storms which come into our life or the lives of others. Yet through grace and covenant God has taken a responsibility over out lives. We just need to trust Him enough to follow through on His nature and love for us.
Jesus slept well because He knew the Father was watching over Him as His body rested. The apostles did not feel that way, they saw the natural storm threatening them and assumed that Jesus’ power was limited and that He didn’t truly care about. In that instant they assumed that Jesus lead them into the wilderness of the waters to die. They reacted the same way the people of Israel did when they wrongly accused and complained against God and Moses while in the wilderness.
You see great and mighty works can only produce so much faith in a person’s heart, the real foundation of our faith comes from trust and relationship. One can see a miracle and not know God’s nature or love and continue thinking and believing the same way they did before. Real change comes when a person has a revelation of who God is, the calmer of storms, the protector of lives, the shepherd of lost sheep and the glorifier of broken dreams.
Miracles are good but they are not the foundation of our relationship with God, Christ is, atonement is, covenant is, repentance is, new life is. You should desire to see God move in miracles, healing, prophecy and such but remember those are simply the decorations on the tree of our life with Christ. When we realize that then it becomes easier to sustain our hope in the middle of a storm, where all the light is gone and the memory of past miracles and victories become a mirage clouded by the pouring rain and screeching thunder before us.
Why Are You Still Afraid Of The Storm?
Let’s take another look at Mark 4:40 in various translation to make sure we see clearly what Jesus is saying.
TPT: Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?
NKJV: Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?
NIV: Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?
AMPC: Why are you so timid and fearful? How is it that you have no faith (no firmly relying trust)?
The discipels had seen Jesus preach, and they had seen the broken people healed miraculously but they still did not know who or what Jesus was. They saw Him as someone who was powerful but limited, they took what they had previously seen and thought “well I guess that’s all he can do.” That is why when they faced the storm they assumed that Jesus was powerless, they had never seen Jesus exert authority over the weather before so why would they assume otherwise. Often we make this same mistake, we limit God by what we have seen with our own lives or in the lives of those close to us. We encounter a new type of storm and become unsure if God really has power and authority over it so we foolishly turn to ourselves for comfort and wisdom. Unfortunately that power and wisdom usually leaves us yelling out the same words the disciples did “don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” We could each replace the word “die” with our own words such as, divorce, bankruptcy, debt, estrangement, ministry, stress, suffer, move, fail, burnout and foreclose. We have to go beyond accusing God of not caring and instead look to Him the same way Jesus did as He napped.
Jesus slept because He trusted His Father, He knew that because God said to cross the lake He would arrive at the other side no matter what happened. Jesus had that assurance that no matter what it looked like outside of the boat, inside there was nothing to fear because God was there in the middle of the storm. God didn’t block the storm but He restrained it so that Jesus would not be harmed. Jesus got wet, but He still slept, and when the fear of the people overwhelmed His time of rest then He proved to them why He was able to be so calm. With a word the storm ended.
What is troubling is that God’s people today no longer have that same type of trust. So it is no surprise why every rogue gust of wind is treated like our own personal apocalypse. No longer do people hold out their hands to God in the storms because they instead begin to worship the storm in the hopes that it will be appeased and move away.
We must always remember that no matter what God is there, but people no longer see Him as good but as the destroyer and hater of all. God protected Jesus on those waters, and because of that protection all those with Him were protected as well, do you think that has changed? Proximity to the Son brings us closer to the Father, the closer you are to Jesus the more unfiltered you begin to see God, and the more God gives to Jesus the more there is which overflows onto us His covenant brothers and sisters.
Learn this truth: storms are nothing for God to quench, what is difficult is quenching the storms of the heart because they become ingrained into the identity of people. People set up shops and homes in the eye of the storm and a call it a blessed life, but eventually the storm moves on revealing the destruction which has always surrounded them, and eventually their place of safety is also consumed by the clouds.
Sleep Well In Any Storm
Jesus slept well because He knew God was there, he rested in the assurance that the Father was watching over Him. Despite the waves there was no real danger, despite the wind there was no real danger and despite the cries of those around them there was no real danger.
Wind and waves are not signs of God’s abandonment, they are merely casualties of the storm, God’s abandonment comes when people jump out of their boats and try to escape the storm by hiding under the water. There they feel no wind, they see no rain but soon they choke and drown, they drift to the bottom never to arise again because they trusted their own minds and strength rather than trust in God’s goodness and love. That despite the storms we face God is there to guide us home, despite the wind and the waves we will not be toppled over and despite the darkness of the sky there is always light waiting to pierce through (James 1:6).
Psalms 107:28-31 “28 Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses. 29 He calms the storm, So that its waves are still. 30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven. 31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (NKJV)
Everyone wants a testimony of great faith and perseverance but no one is willing to go through the storm to get it. In the same way people want to see God move through prophecy and miracles but never step out and give God the opportunity. Yes you will go through difficult times, yes you will have seasons where it feels like God is nowhere to be found. Knowing that we have two choices we can either jump out of the boat under our own power and drown, or we can grab our pillow and trust God to bring us through the storm.
You may get wet, your boat may be damaged, you may lose some cargo but you will endure because God is carrying you through. Always remember God will not abandon us if we make room for Him, so follow the model of Jesus who chose to rest in God’s love, character and nature rather than join in on the fear of the people who did not realize who He was or who was watching over that boat.
To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian beliefs which is now on sale. Available in paperback (Canada or USA) and eBook! Get your copy today and discover not just your purpose but learn how you can build the Kingdom of God here on the Earth.
Surviving The Storm With Your Pillow Intact Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.