Making All Things New
I attended the JEMS (Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society) Conference again this year in the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains of California. Every year, God uses this time to bless and refresh me with messages, relationships and time to reflect on who He is and what He’s doing around the world, my ecosystems and my heart.
This year’s theme was from Revelation 21:5: “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” I have to admit: Theme verses don’t usually excite me. They may make for catchy T-shirt designs, but the question of whether those words make it past my T-shirt, skin and rib cage—and into my heart—is a whole separate matter.
But “I am making all things new” was different. When I saw the verse hanging above the stage, I knew God was reinforcing a journey that I’ve been on as a pastor for the past 20 years and as a follower of Christ these past 38 years. It can be boiled down to one sentence: Experiencing the newness of Christ’s work is impossible when I’m sitting on my own throne, declaring “I am making all things about me.”
There have been times in my life when I was perfectly content with the way I was living and I was not looking for God to do anything new. During those times, “trust in God” was not an unwavering heart embrace but more of a vacillating trust: “I will trust God as long as He doesn’t rock the boat or change what I think would bring me happiness right now.” And that kind of conditional “trust” is really no trust at all.
But in recent years, my heart has been opened to the need for invigoration—and yes, even desperation—that comes from leaning into God fully and continually. I am more willing to try (and fail) at things that push me out of my comfort zone to see Him more clearly and the mission He has in store for me.
At the JEMS conference this year, we honored a very special couple—Rev. Saburo and Marion Masada—who started the JEMS Special Camp to minister to developmentally disabled individuals. They started this ministry in 1975 because they have two special needs children of their own, and they know from God’s Word that every person has inherent dignity and worth. No one is a mistake, and no one should be marginalized. This community is as valuable to God as any other, and the Gospel needs to be preached to them as well in word and action. Rev. and Mrs. Masada had no books on how to start this ministry, no mentors to learn from, nor any conferences to attend. They just had the humility and obedience to “do something new” just as God is “making all things new.”
The Masadas remind me of a famous Old Testament character: Abraham. Think about what Abraham did in leaving his homeland to go to a place God had called him to—without GPS coordinates and without the guarantee that the path would be easy. Yet he sensed that being in God’s presence and the promises He offers was better than being in familiar environments of his own choosing (Genesis 12:1–9).
What new thing does God want to do in you and through you? Is there something that God has been prompting you to follow through on that you have been resistant to because you would rather have your controlled, risk-free, mapped-out path of personal “success”?
May I offer up some options to consider?
- Confessing to God that you have been rejecting the new things that He has been placing before you because you would rather be on the throne of your own heart than allow Jesus to be there.
- Joining an accountability group or entering a discipleship relationship where you can process your faith journey and pray together regularly.
- Volunteering to serve in new areas you’ve never served before, such as:
- Children’s Ministry (to help our kids see, experience and trust in the wonders of new life in Jesus through faith and by His grace)
- SFC Worship Service Teams as we prepare to relocate our worship services from the sanctuary to the Sports & Fellowship Center (to make more room for new people to come to AABC and, ultimately, to Jesus)
- Benevolence/Counseling Ministry (to aid those with acute or long-term needs have newness in life through holistic approaches centered on Christ)
God is making all things new. Are you in for the journey?