First Things First

A new year means excitement, fireworks and confetti, predictions and optimistic resolutions.  It’s people declaring, “It’s going to be a great year” and others just hoping that “2012 is better than 2011.”

If there’s anyone out there who is a little like me and perhaps just a little honest, maybe a new year also brings pangs of fear.

Just a bit.

I’m not generally comfortable with the unknown so when you survey a fresh calendar with 12 pages left to go and when you start penciling in dates and activities and you consider how many squares will be filled in later, it can be a little overwhelming.

What if something goes wrong?  What if 2012 isn’t so great?

On New Year’s Day, I picked up my Bible and read these words:

“First this: God created the Heavens and the Earth—all you see, all you don’t see.  Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss” (Genesis 1:1-2 MSG).

“First this.”  For years, I’ve read this verse in other translations and they all begin this way: “In the beginning.”

So, right here at the start of our year, let’s pause and consider what’s first.  What is God doing in our beginning?

Like a blank calendar, the world began “formless and empty” and that’s where fear can reside: in the inky blackness of uncertainty.  It’s not so much in “all you see,” but lurking much more definitely in “all you don’t see.”

But God saw.  He wasn’t surprised by the light, the waters, the land, the creatures or Adam and Eve.  He is the God who designs, plans, forms and creates “all you see, all you don’t see.”  When He said, “Let there be light,” surely He expected light!

Indeed, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1, NIV).  In the past, I considered this mystical perhaps, a hazy and heavy apparition hovering like a fog just above the unformed mass of earth.

But The Message says “God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss” and this is much more the picture here.

John Snyder wrote: “the Hebrew writer portrayed the Spirit of God as ‘hovering over’ the unformed and unruly mass, much like a mother bird fluttering over her brood.  The picture here is the very careful and loving attention God gives to His creation–protecting, shaping, and guiding its development.  In other words, there’s no room for chance or randomness.  Everything is under His control.”

God is in charge.  That’s the reminder here in the very first words of the Bible.  And He’s not an arbitrary ruler or a mysterious mystical force.  He’s loving and attentive.  He brings order out of chaos and light forth from darkness.

That’s what we can look forward to in 2012.  In all of the hectic chaos of our lives, in the disorder of our finances or relationships or jobs, in the shaky ground of ministry or health, in the shadowy uncertainty of all that lies ahead—God is in control, designing a plan for us that isn’t just okay or acceptable.

It’s good.

When God finished off His week of creating, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31, NIV).

We should expect nothing less from a Good God who is present and active in our lives, just as He was from the first moments of our world.  Rest in that and dare to enjoy a new year.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Some Things Never Change

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with chapter 12, “Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire!”

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“But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:27).

“Mom, I know how to spell the word ‘kissing.'”

To myself, I think, “That’s kind of a strange word to show up on the first grade spelling list, but okay.”

Aloud, I say, “Wow, that’s a pretty big word.  Spell it for me.”

Immediately, my first grader breaks out into the full-voiced sing-songy chant:

“K-I-S-S-I-N-G
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.”

Some things never change.

The same chants, the same games, the same tears, the same laughs, the same hand-claps and rhymes and teasing from generation right on to the next.

Some things never seem to change with me either.

The truth is I need a Savior.  I can make 50 resolutions a day not to lose my temper with my kids, but the moment my poky kindergartener pits herself against this super-speed mom, the explosions begin.

In my own, the holding it together and the being perfect don’t happen. I find myself sitting in the pupil’s chair again, learning the same lesson from God that He taught me last year, and the year before that, and year after year for as long as I can recall.

In lessons of patience, grace, love and flexibility, I can be a pretty slow learner.

But there’s something else that never changes.

God.

He’s immutable, unchanging, “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), who doesn’t alter “like shifting shadows” (James 1:17)

So, it gives me hope in all of my wayward sameness, to go back, all the way back to the beginning. That same God, who stared at the dark shapeless mess and saw the potential beauty of the created earth sees beauty in me, as well.  He sees it in you.

No one but God could have seen the potential in that pre-Creation space. Genesis 1:2 tells us, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

Formless, empty and dark.

And God said, “Let there be light.”

The fact of our Creator God mounts my faith on the firmest of foundations.  I know He can make glorious possibilities out of nothingness, painting the sky onto a blank canvas.

I know He can be original and uniquely imaginative, designing solutions that our finite minds could never have achieved—like how fish “breathe” under water.  That means when I am hopeless with no possibility of salvation, I know my God can create a solution that is beyond my comprehension.

And I know He can bring order to the most disordered and messy aspects of my life just as He shaped the earth out of what was “formless and void.”

So when it comes to the things that just don’t seem to change in me, it’s best for me to “let go, and let God.”  I struggle and strive to do the work of self-improvement, only to fail at the first sign of stress.

But when I call on the name of Jesus and bring the messy disorder of it all to Him, He sifts through the mud and mire and brings forth treasure.

It takes honesty, though, the heart-felt, soul-bearing truth when we finally just say, “God, this is a mess.  I can’t do it.  I’ve tried.  I’m a failure at this.  I’ve done it again.  I’ve fallen into the pit.”

When we finally stop pretending to be perfect, then and only then, can Jesus get busy creating, forming, cleaning, and ordering the mess we’ve brought to His feet.

Lisa Harper wrote,

Our Redeemer will carefully help us sort the treasures from the trash.  If we’ll just be honest about the emotional boxes we’ve squirreled away, Jesus will take charge of the cleaning process.

Our honesty allows God to do the dirty work of changing us.  So, even when it’s painful, and even when it’s slow, and even when it’s hard, we know that we really aren’t staying the same.  The lessons may be the same-old, same-old, and yet our never-changing, immutable God teaches us a bit more and goes a little bit deeper.

We’re growing.  Sometimes in shoots and spurts.  Sometimes in painful inches.

Sometimes we can’t see the change at all, but our roots far below the surface are digging deeper down, planting us firm into the soil so that God can do the visible work later without toppling us right on over.

We’re changing.  But, praise God, He’s not.  He’s what really never changes.  With all His patience, and all His grace, with the love that manages to see beauty in our mess, He’s the Ever-Faithful Creator and we His beloved creation.

What messes do you need to hand over to our Creator God today?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King