Happy New Year! I believe that this is going to be our best year yet. Whether you are under ten or over ninety, I believe that is true. My wife said to me, “You always say that!”
Yes, I believe every year is a good year; but I believe this one is going to be a very good one. I went to bed on the 31st, with a smile on my face and I hope you did too.
I also know that people are suffering, and I know that God comforts people who are hurting and going through all sorts of losses and trials.
I do not believe in denial. Our Lord Jesus is familiar with suffering and acquainted with grief. He is our Savior in the blues as well as in the celebration.
Three Words for 2017
Double For Your Trouble
Because you got a double dose of trouble and more than your share of contempt, Your inheritance in the land will be doubled and your joy go on forever.
-Isaiah 61:7 (MSG)
God is going to give us a double blessing for the trouble that we went through.
Watch for God to fill up the losses and overflow them with double joy.
What we lost will be given back double.
From Strength To Strength
Happy are the people whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a source of springwater; even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength; each appears before God in Zion.
-Psalm 84:5-7 (HCSB)
In 2017, we will go from strength to strength. We were strengthened in 2016. We will build upon what we gained and go further in 2017.
2016 was not a wasted year, but a good year where you were strengthened. In 2017, God will build upon what He built in you in 2016.
January 1, 2017 is not a repeat of January 1, 2016. You are different. God strengthened your life in 2016.
You are a pilgrim, on a journey. You are not where you were one year, 5 years or 10 years ago. You may still have some of the issues, problems or unfulfilled dreams; but you are different
God is going to build 2017 on what He built in you in 2016 and 2015. What God built in you will give you the foundation for what he now wants to build.
The pilgrimage or journey that we are all on is towards God. God gives us all passions, desires, callings and destinies to fulfill, birthrights and inheritances to receive and assignments to serve in.
In whatever we do, including the high calling/assignment/ministry of making babies and raising children, we do it all to the glory of God. Making money or publishing writings, doing art, creating community, being a friend or gaining status is only fulfilling if the core aim of our lives is God: knowing God, being known by God, being loved by God and loving God.
We will not find rest, joy or fulfillment in anything unless we first are centered in the pursuit of God.
And the strengthening or building up of our lives to hold more and then give more blessing only comes to us as we go towards Elohim, the plural God. The blessings that really satisfy only come to us, as we are in Christ.
The mountain of God is the destination of our life’s journey. As you journeyed in 2016, God strengthened you. In 2017, God will strengthen you more. And you will know God, Elohim, God plural, more: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Come Drink, Buy and Eat For Free!
Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!
Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.
-Isaiah 55:1-2 (HCSB)
We just got done buying, giving and receiving gifts for Christmas. Some of us now have gift cards or cash to spend. I think that God has a different kind of consuming and buying that God wants to offer each of us in 2017. And it is described in Isaiah 55:1-2.
I spend a lot of time shopping, but I don’t call it shopping. I call it research. Over the summer, I wanted to buy a couch or a bed or a day bed or a couch with a hide-a-bed. I may have spent 100 hours or more researching this.
I can tell you that if you want a couch that you can also sleep on that is not junk, you are going to be spending about a thousand dollars, minimum. I opted for a very comfortable bed, that subs as a couch (like king David’s couches), with a hardwood frame; that came in under five hundred dollars.
I did most of my 100 plus hours of research (shopping in disguise) on-line, but furniture stores are pretty amazing. You could spend a small fortune at one. We went to Ikea last summer and had brunch; but we thought the prices were high.
So, I bought a table saw and plan on making my own furniture over the next year or two. We need more bookcases and I am going to learn how to make windows.
One Saturday, I got all the grocery ads together, and I circled all the best deals that I wanted to purchase. We get about 8 to 10 ads and I narrowed my stops, based on the ads, down to 4 or 5 stores. You have to work out a map and get the perishable stuff last, unless you bring an ice chest, which I know some people do.
I did my big trip, to 4 or 5 stores, and saved a lot of money (groceries are expensive!). But, it took me 3 to 4 hours. And time is money and time is invaluable. I never did that again and instead had to choose one store.
Now, our new thing, is that my wife and I go together, and shop as a team, and get to work together and spend time together. Many years ago, my oldest mentor, who himself was divorced, told me that if you can work together, you can live together. Before we were married, we renovated my house together, and it was hard, but went well.
I believe God wants to turn out attention away from constant, lengthy and continuous shopping and consuming, towards shopping for and consuming what is from God. This is symbolized by the water, the food, the wine and the milk. God wants us to be consumed with consuming from him.
God knows we need groceries, clothes, cars, furniture, appliances and shelter. But shopping for and consuming stuff is not what life is all about. Shopping and then buying and doing it over and over, stacking stuff upon stuff, is an obsession of ours, in our western culture.
God wants us to simplify our time consuming and costly and even idolatrous consumption and amplify our free consumption of what God offers. Many us are so full of material that we have no room and no hunger for the goods God offers us, for free.
God is going to be having a sale in 2017. We will want to go to God to drink and eat, and it is free. We just have to take God up on this free offer and go and get it.
Think about your favorite material Christmas gift. It was nice to get that and I imagine you are enjoying it. I am going to enjoy that new wrist watch, that waterproof bluetooth speaker and The Passion Translation.
But the gifts that God has for me, the foods and drinks, metaphorically speaking, are ten, one hundred, one thousand, one million times: immeasurably better than any stuff or earthly food. And it is all free. All we have to do is come and get it.
The first word of Isaiah 55, which is some times translated “Ho!” or “Hey!”, is translated, “Come everyone”, in the version I chose. It is a call to “Come and get it”, like a huge dinner bell or meal horn going off on earth.
Will we hear that sound, will we heed the call to come and drink and eat and get satisfied, for free? To do so, we just have to take the time and make the effort. And it is not hard, but it is not automatic and takes an effort to get up and go to God, to seek God and say “yes!”
After Christmas, there is a discontent, an aftertaste that is not the taste of satisfaction or contentment; for the material things we longed for and consumed. Material things can be good, very good: like these Ugg boots I am wearing, that were a gift last Christmas.
Giving and receiving gifts is good and even wonder-full, and reminds us of the gift of Jesus. But that is the “not only”, and the “also” is that God wants to give us gifts all the time, in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of things.
2017 is a year to receive from God, to be a consumer of God. For sustenance and for our contentment.
God wants to give us a foretaste so that we will have a taste for. In other words, God wants to change our appetites to be consumers of God rather than consumers of stuff, consumers of entertainment and addicts of mood altering substances or experiences.
God wants us to spend more time shopping for what God offers. What if we started spending as much time shopping for and consuming from God as we do other things? What if we tried fasting from consuming stuff and practiced feasting on God?
What if we decided to give God 90% and hold back 10%? The percentage is just a metaphor because our hearts are what God would like to have. And our hearts are what we will give God, if we love God.
What does shopping for God look like? If you have this question, it is a question, a quest for you, that will drive you on an adventure to find God and receive from God more and more, to your fill and unto and into a change of your appetites, in 2017.
The photo at the top is of a 1964 (I believe) Plymouth Valiant. The Hebrew word for ‘strength’, in Psalm 84, is ‘ha∙yil’, that literally means ‘valiant’.