When God Does a New Thing – Pt. 4: Misapprehension (continued)

Ironically, my meditation on God’s “new thing” is not actually a “new thing”.  It’s been a part of my understanding of God and how He works from my earliest days of walking with Him.  Once we understand the nature of God as being sovereign, of limitless power and creativity, and as “The GOD of the “new thing'” as revealed in creation and Scripture  (Part 2), that understanding becomes a part of one’s base-line perception and expectation of who God is and how He works.  This has had very practical ramifications for my wife and I as we have walked with God for over forty years and how we’ve sought to serve Him in the building up of His Ekklesia.

As an example of this, some 25 years ago now, my wife and I were led of the Lord to gather a scattered remnant of believers in a certain nearby town.  We held foundation-laying “ministry meetings” in a rented hall on Sunday nights for a number of years and eventually included Sunday morning home gatherings as a means of seeking to see birthed an organic expression of His Church in that area.  People would ask, “Are you starting a church?” and we would answer, “No, the church is already there.  We’re just trying to gather it!”

For many, if not most, our “vision” was something of a “new thing”.  It didn’t fit the normal model or mold of what “church” is.  It wasn’t institutional/organizational/denominational, Sunday morning/sacred building/service and program oriented.  There was no prescripted “order of worship” nor pre-determined “worship sets”.  Neither were there weekly bulletins, Sunday school, children’s church, offeratories, ushers, worship team, etc…  I didn’t like or want to be called “Pastor”, “Rev.” or any other honorific title (since Jesus said these should not be used among His followers – Matthew 23:8-12), neither was I salaried nor drew a stipend. How could this possibly be “real church???”

What did the vision consist of though?  Well, we sought to gather the “living stones” of God’s building together on the foundation of Jesus Christ alone to be a manifest habitation of God in the Spirit!  We sought to gather the family of God together in the Name of the Lord, the Name above every name, and not in some sectarian, man-made, lesser name.   We sought to gather the Bride together around Her one Husband, Christ, as Her central passion, pursuit, and pleasure…period!  We sought to see the Body of Christ assemble under the Headship of Christ as a functioning, many-membered, spiritual organism.  Our “vision statement” said: “We seek to see an organic expression of the Church established, according to the heavenly pattern, where God can put His Name, establish His throne, and inhabit with His glory.”  And He did!

As an essential part of laying foundations concerning the works and ways of God, I taught a message back then (1995) called, surprise, surprise“When God Does a New Thing.”   Yes, this has been in my “slow cooker” for quite awhile!

Recently I went rummaging through the attic and came across a box with all of the recorded messages from those years on cassette tapes.  I’ve been listening through some of them again, this time with a twenty-five-year-distanced perspective.  Although I’ve seen some areas where my understandings of things have changed slightly, for the most part, I feel like most of those messages could have been preached yesterday.  I attribute that mostly to the fact that I was no less centered in Christ back then than I am now.  I was ruined for God’s eternal purpose in Him then, and since that Purpose never changes, neither has my vision nor burden.

So, as something of a “throw-back Thursday” dynamic to this post, I’m including that message in an audio player here (and at the bottom of the post) for your consideration.  It ties in perfectly as a continuation to the previous post in this series concerning, “Misapprehension” and goes into greater detail and example as to exactly how we tend to misperceive, misinterpret, and mis-react to God’s “new thing.”  In fact, we are given a “template”, as it were, from God Himself on this matter in the oldest book ever written in the Scriptures, the Book of Job.

~ ~ ~
“When God Does a New Thing” – by David Bolton  5/14/1995

~ ~ ~

For those who prefer to read a synopsis of this “template”, or as a supplement to the spoken message,  I will share briefly concerning the basis of this teaching and of the further examples highlighted in it where those principles and perspectives can be seen playing out throughout Scripture.

A Psychological Template for Missing God

The book of Job gives us a very insightful example of men misapprehending God’s “new thing”.  In fact, on close inspection, it presents a rather comprehensive pattern for how human beings in general are most likely to misperceive, misinterpret, and mis-react to God’s unconventional workings.  Not only so, it also indicates the God-ordained path to properly apprehending God’s mind in relation to His unprecedented works and ways.

In this ancient narrative, we see God doing a “new thing” in the earth.  Here we have a man of whom God Himself says: There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8)  The existing theology, life experience, and common understanding among men at the time was that the righteous are blessed with prosperity, health, and a godly household in this life while the wicked are cursed and suffer want in these areas.  When suddenly in a day, without warning or explanation,  all of those good things are taken from Job, he is slammed into an utterly unprecedented “new thing”! 

Three of his friends gather around him and sit with him in silence for seven days and seven nights because of the severity of Job’s sufferings.  Then Job begins to pour out his heart to them and they begin to counsel Job, each from their own perspective.  As well-intentioned as they are, all three of them miss the mark, however.  They all misapprehend the mysterious “new thing” that is transpiring in Job’s life! 

If we look closely at each of these men’s “counseling sessions” with Job, we see that they were each coming from a slightly different perspective.  As such, they personify a specific psychological framework through which human beings generally perceive, comprehend and project their thoughts and judgements concerning a situation.  These frameworks, if separated from and unfiltered by the Lord’s wisdom, can each become a psychological hindrance that will keep one from apprehending rightly what the Lord is doing.  Without going into all the details, we see the following three psychological paradigms represented by their individual perspectives:¹

  1. Eliphaz = the voice of personal experience (natural and spiritual.)
  2. Bildad = the voice of tradition (practical and theological/philosophical.)
  3. Zophar = the voice of dogmatism (rash assessment, assumption and assertion.)

If we look at these more closely, we see that the first two depend entirely on what has been learned and received from “the former things”/“the past.”  The first, the voice of personal experience, is what one learns from the past through first-hand experiential knowledge and inward, personal reasoning.  The second, the voice of tradition, is what one learns from the past primarily through what is passed down from others, i.e. second-hand and third-hand knowledge and practices.

The third, the voice of dogmatism, does not make a conscious appeal to the past, though it is certainly sub-consciously formed and affected by it.  It is what one deduces and asserts without much forethought, analysis, and/or reasoning.  Very often such rash assessments, assumptions and assertions are made on the basis of pragmatism, i.e. if it works it is true and/or of value.  Therefore, this “voice” can often be more forward looking as to outcomes rather than backwards looking as to sources of wisdom and knowledge, as the other two.

Both backwards-looking perspectives, which rely on first-, second- and/or third-hand knowledge, and forwards-looking ones, which rely on dogmatic assessment, assumption, and assertion, can cause one to misapprehend God’s “new thing.”  All three can become psychological strongholds that hold our thoughts captive, preventing us from being able to perceive, receive, and respond to the thoughts and ways of God which are higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Paul the apostle said,

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

If we are ever to be liberated to rightly apprehend God’s “new thing”, we have to deal radically with the emotional arguments and psychological pretensions that come from adherence to “the former things” and from “dwell(ing) on the past”. 

As a first concern, we need to bring our past, first-hand experiences in relation to God, His Church and His work to the cross and lay them down.  As Paul said, “Forgetting those things which are behind…” (Philippians 3:13)  God will resurrect that which is truly of Him and needful for His present and future work, but this is the only way for us to not be blinded and bound by our past experiences as we seek to be led by and walk in-step with God’s Spirit in His present working.  As  Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Do not be wise in your own eyes;” (Proverbs 3:5-7a, emphasis added.)

Secondly, we must consider all of those second- and third-hand religious practices, protocols, and perspectives that have been handed down to us and take those to the foot of the cross as well.  Jesus said to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!”  “…Thus you nullify the word of God by your traditions that you have handed down.  And you do many things like that.”  Mark 7:9,13   That propensity lies in the heart of every man and “tradition” has a terribly blinding and binding power that is able to hold us captive from true obedience to the Word and ways of God.  (For a fairly exhaustive treatment of this, please see here.)

There are godly traditions that we are exhorted to hold onto and put into practice (see 1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15, & 3:6 for instance), but Christendom at large has incorporated such a plethora of man-made traditions and practices that it is hard to sort out the “good” from “the bad and the ugly”.  Like the Pharisees, we “do many things like that!”  Sometimes we need a total purge of all handed down, preconceived ideas, assumptions, and practices and then let the Lord sort out, rescue, and resurrect those things that He esteems, pressntly endorses, and will empower going forward.  If we fail to allow the cross deal with these matters deeply, we run a great risk of making false assessments, assumptions and assertions based on our adherence to past traditional perspectives and practices.

By dealing with our past in this way, we will be in a much better posture and place for being in-tune with God’s Spirit and walking forward with Him in His present and future workings.

We, likewise, have to deal with our present and forward-looking perspectives that, similarly, have the power to deceive and make us vulnerable to missing God.  At the root of these, I believe, lie two main roots, pride and pragmatism.

Pride causes us to think too highly of ourselves in regard to our own perceptions, understandings, and conclusions.  We can make snap decisions and judgements without sufficient knowledge, analysis and/or insight simply because we trust in our own “wisdom”.  Proverbs says, “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes, there is more hope for a fool than for them.” (Proverbs 26:12)  Pride causes us to miss the mark every time!

Pragmatism filters everything through the supreme arbiter of “outcomes”.  It begins at the end of the process of truth and works backwards in a strictly utilitarian manner to arrive at what is ultimately to be accepted as “true”, “virtuous”, and/or of “value”.  God, however, begins with the Source of Truth, Virtue, and Value, Himself, and then works forwards from there to outcomes.  Those who make dogmatic assessments, assumptions, and assertions based primarily on perceived outcomes, even “spiritual” ones, are bound to misapprehend God and His present/future workings.  (For more on this, please see the page, Pragmatism and the Truth.)

Here again, the only safeguard is to bring our prideful thoughts and pragmatic reasonings to the foot of the cross in order to break the power of them over our hearts and minds.  Only then can we be positioned rightly to properly apprehend the high thoughts, ways, and works of God.

Knowing the Mind of the Spirit

The Book of Job does not simply leave us with a psychological template of how man is typically vulnerable to missing God, it also gives us the way that the mind and ways of God may be apprehended properly.  This is personified in the emergence of a fourth counselor/friend in the story of Job, Elihu. (See Job 32-37)

4. Elihu = the voice of revelation (prophetic utterance.)

Elihu didn’t rely on the wisdom gathered with age from past experiences and handed-down traditions, neither did he speak rashly out of his own self-assured judgements and pragmatic reasonings.  Instead, he waited on the Lord in humility and only spoke what the Spirit of God revealed within his spirit.

He said to the other three counselors,

“I am young in years, and you are very old; Therefore I was afraid, And dared not declare my opinion to you.  I said, ‘Age should speak, And multitude of years should teach wisdom.  But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.  Great men are not always wise, Nor do the aged always understand justice.  “Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me, I also will declare my opinion.  ‘Indeed I waited for your words, I listened to your reasonings, while you searched out what to say.  I paid close attention to you; And surely not one of you convinced Job, Or answered his words–” (Job 32:6-12, emphasis added.)

Further on he added,

I also will answer my part, I too will declare my opinion.  For I am full of words; The spirit within me compels me.  Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; It is ready to burst like new wineskins.  I will speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. (Job 32:17-20, emphasis added.)

Finally, near the end of his dissertation, he declared:

“Bear with me a little, and I will show you that there are yet words to speak on God’s behalf.  I will fetch my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.  For truly my words are not false; One who is perfect in knowledge is with you”  (Job 36:1-4, emphasis added.)

In this, Elihu shows that he was not speaking his own words but the very words of God on His behalf.  This is the essence of prophetic ministry.  The proof of this is further found in that once Elihu stops speaking to Job and the Lord Himself begins to take up the discourse directly with him, God takes over right where Elihu left off and keeps on speaking along the very same lines concerning the greatness of His wisdom and power as revealed in the created order.

What we can learn from Elihu, therefore, concerning how we may rightly discern and declare the mind of the Lord, especially when He is doing a “new thing”, can be summarized as follows:

  1. Do not rely on your past and the wisdom that comes from age alone.
  2. Remain humble in heart and mind, even allowing others to have their say first.
  3. Listen carefully and be discerningly observant of what is transpiring in God’s providence around you.
  4. Wait on the Lord and seek the wisdom that comes from His Spirit alone.
  5. Allow the Holy Spirit to give you the very words to express the wisdom and burden of God into the situation, even as the apostle Paul said,  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” (1 Corinthians 2:13NIV)
  6. Release God’s wisdom into the present situation with humility, respect, boldness, and clarity.
  7. Trust God to confirm His word by His Spirit, personally and directly, to the hearts of others once you are done speaking.

In this day and hour, it is essential that we have the mind of the Lord to understand our present situation and what God is currently doing and will be doing going forward.  May we learn from these four counselors the difference between man’s ways and God’s way of discerning, interpreting, and responding to the present workings of God.  May we have “an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (see Rev. 2-3) and then be a mouth-piece for Him to His people that GOD may have HIS way among us!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”
Romans 12:2


As a final, “throw-back Thursday”, element to this post, I’m including below the message I taught some 25 years ago to a small gathering of believers that elaborates on these truths and gives further examples throughout Scripture of where these dynamics can be seen at work.  Please enjoy the original: “When God Does a New Thing!”

 

~ ~ ~

Continued here.


¹Ref. Baxter, J. Sidlow, Explore the Book, Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan Publishing House, 1960, Vol. 3, pgs. 45-52


Series posts:
Part 1: Preparation;   Part 2: Expectation;   Part 3: Misapprehension

Further related:
Pragmatism and the Truth
Tradition, Scripture, and the Church (PDF complete)


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When God Does a New Thing – Pt. 3: Misapprehension

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
Isaiah 43:18-19a

When God spoke to His people concerning the “new thing” He was doing among them, He didn’t jump right in and announce, “Hey, I’m doing a new thing!”  He prefaced it first with an exhortation: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”  There was something concerning their past that needed to be addressed first before He spoke to them concerning their present and future.  It is clear from this that in order for them to respond properly to His “new thing”, they had to first deal radically with that which would hinder them from doing so and would keep them bound to the “former things.”

The question arises, then, “What is it about the “former things” and “the past” that tend to hinder us from responding properly to God’s ‘new thing’?”  That is a very searching and consequential question when it comes to walking with a God as creative and “unconventional” in His ways as our God is!  (For more on this, please see the previous post.)

I believe the answer to that question lies along two lines, one personal and the other collective.  Both of these are intricately related and equally significant and so I will touch on them both in this post.

The Personal Dynamic

There are multiple ways in which the past tends to shape, form, and guide our mental processes and, therefore, how we perceive, comprehend, and project our thoughts/judgements concerning a present or future matter.  These three aspects of perception, comprehension, and projection, which relate to the beginning, middle, and end of our thought processes, can be summed up in a single word “apprehension.”

The Merriam Webster Dictionary’s definition touches on all three of these aspects regarding the verbal form of the word: “apprehend”:

  • “:to become aware of: perceive”  (i.e. perception)
  • “:to grasp with the understanding: recognize the meaning of”  (i.e. comprehension)
  • “:to anticipate especially with anxiety, dread, or fear” (i.e. projection)

These definitions lie, in a positive way, at the root of the word “apprehension”, which is what we all should be seeking for when it comes to our ability to perceive, comprehend and project our thoughts and judgements properly in relation to the works and ways of God.

“Misapprehension”

The opposite, negative form of this word, “misapprehension”, also needs to be considered in relation to how the past affects our personal (and collective) response to God’s “new thing”.  “Misapprehension” signifies a failure to perceive, comprehend, and/or project our thoughts and judgements properly concerning a matter. (More on this shortly.)

When it comes to our mental facility to either apprehend or misapprehend God’s “new thing”, however, we need to understand just how significantly our psychological relationship with the past becomes a primary determining factor.

If “the former things” and “the past” were a positive aid to our ability to rightly apprehend God’s “new thing”, then He might have said something like, “REMEMBER the former things, DWELL on the past.  These will help you to ‘get’ what I’m about to do.  See, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?”  He did not say that, however, but rather the opposite: FORGET…Do NOT dwell…”

This is because our past has the power to impose psychological hindrances and mental stumbling blocks to our ability to properly recognize and grasp God’s works and ways.  Our failure to deal properly with the past is a, if not the, primary factor in our tendency to misapprehend what God is doing and/or about to do.

If we dig a little deeper into this word, “misapprehension” we see that it very accurately describes the failures of the human psyche to rightly apprehend that which confronts it which is new and unknown.  By looking to the Miriam Webster Thesaurus this time, we find two brief, yet significant definitions of the word “misapprehension”:

  1.  a failure to understand correctly
  2.  a wrong judgement

It then offers a list of synonyms which include: incomprehension, misconstruing, misimpression, misinterpretation, misreading, misunderstanding.  All of these are very closely related to and augment the meaning of the word, “misapprehension.”

When God does a “new thing” and we fail to deal properly with the past, we set ourselves up to misapprehend what God is presently doing.  What tends to ensue is an incomprehension, a misconstruing, a misimpression, a misinterpretation, a misreading, and/or a misunderstanding of the present activity of God.  Every one of those words has and will mark the way “the natural man” tends to miss (“mis-“) the spiritual wisdom, ways, and works of God!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”
Isaiah 55:8-9

“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
1 Corinthians 2:14

This is brought out very poignantly in the following excerpt, from T. Austin Sparks, on God’s “new thing” and man’s psychological reaction to it based on the past:

“God is always going to take us out of our depth with His new thing…Now when God moves from heaven in relation to His Son and all those fulnesses which yet lie ahead concerning Him, what do we find?  We find that His movements are not according to convention.  Let that be settled.  God does not move forward according to convention. God’s great movements are always very unconventional movements. God refuses to be put in a box.  He demands liberty to take us beyond any limitations that we may impose upon Him.  So often convention is God’s main obstruction.  The spiritual, the heavenly nature of God’s developing movements is altogether beyond the understanding of men; and because man cannot understand it, he does not believe in it.  He doubts it, he questions it, he throws suspicions upon it, he raises issues as to its soundness, if he cannot understand it, and therefore it is not acceptable to man, it is put aside.”  (Words of Wisdom and Revelation, page 67)

Notice it is “convention”, i.e. the way something is usually done (i.e as in the past), that becomes the main obstruction to God’s “unconventional movements.”

To give a Biblical example of this, consider how this dynamic was powerfully at work in the Jewish leaders during the time of Christ as they misapprehended the coming of the Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth.  God was doing a “new thing” among them by coming as a suffering servant and sacrifical Lamb, rather than a conquering, warrior king.  Consider how those two definitions of “misapprehension”, (1. “a failure to understand correctly” and 2. “a wrong judgement”), along with the associated list of synonyms, apply in relation to the psychological processes going on within their minds, and then consider how much of their perceptions, comprehensions, and projections arose out of their reliance on their past traditions and experiences. 

This example further shows just how vulnerable those are to misapprehending God’s “new thing” who are especially devout and have a long history of walking with God.  One might think that those who are most committed to God, His Word, and His work, and for the longest time, would be the least likely to miss the present workings of His Spirit, but this is very often not the case.

In reality, the longer one has been in “the things of God”, the more “former things” there are to “FORGET” and the longer the “past” to “NOT dwell on!”  It usually doesn’t get easier with time and experience to be or remain responsive to the fresh movings of God’s Spirit, but more difficult as an increasing religious rigidity and theological inflexibility naturally sets in.  As this increases, the life of God within the person becomes progressively restricted and constricted by “a hardening of the arteries”, as it were, caused by the repetitive nature of past routines, habits, conventions, traditions, experiences, low expectations, and the like.  Ultimately, a condition I call “religi-mortis” can develop leaving one virtually incapacitated and incapable of perceiving and/or responding to the present movings of God’s Spirit.

The Collective Dynamic

As this is true in the individual, so it is the case in an even greater sense regarding the corporate “wineskins”of the Church.  In the collective dynamic, not only do the psychological factors of each individual member aggregate together creating a multiplied, strengthened form of resistance to change, but also the sociological factors of the collective itself begin to increase and multiply.  These add to the corporate “wineskin” an even greater dynamic of resilience in the face of change.  Over time it becomes nearly impossible for the “conformative matrix” that develops to maintain responsiveness and flexibility to the “unconventional” ways and workings of God.

Here also, the life of God begins to be quenched and choked out through the “cholesterol” of past routines, habits, conventions, traditions, experiences, low expectations, and the like, and a collective form of “religi-mortis” begins to develop.  Such a collective will, all but inevitably, misapprehend God’s “new thing” when it comes.

The longer a corporate expression has been in existence and the more established it is, the more this becomes inevitible.  Apart from a very deep work of “corporate kenosis” (please see here for further explanation) and the kind of collective preparations described in Part 1 of this series, there is little hope of God obtaining a “new wineskin” to pour His “new wine” into.  “Old wineskins” rarely convert back to “new wineskins”, especially when those who comprise and control them collectively say, “the old is better.” (see Luke 5:39)

A. W. Tozer hits the nail on the head in his book, Rut, Rot, or Revival.  Consider the folllowing quotes from one section:

The treacherous enemy facing the church of Jesus Christ today is the dictatorship of the routine, when the routine becomes “lord” in the life of the church…

This seems to be the most deadly threat in the church today. When we come to the place where everything can be predicted and nobody expects anything unusual from God, we are in a rut…

Then we have reached the place where what has been determines what is, and what is determines what will be.

…the greatest enemy is not outside of us. It is within – it is an attitude of accepting things as they are. We believe that what was must always determine what will be, and as a result we are not growing in expectation.

“As long as there is growth, there is an air of unpredictability.”

May God show us just how dangerous and treacherous our past history, experiences, and traditions can be, both personally and collectively, when it comes to walking with “the GOD of the ‘new thing'”.  May we allow the cross to deal radically with our past so that we can heed God’s strong exhortation and move forward into God’s present purpose and working, for He has said,

“FORGET THE FORMER THINGS; DO NOT DWELL ON THE PAST.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
Isaiah 43:18-19a


Continued…here


“When God Does a New Thing” – previous posts in series:
Part 1: Preparation
Part 2: Expectation

Related:
Tradition, Scripture, and the Church by David Bolton (PDF – complete)
Of Wine and Wineskins – (3-D post)
Co-Laboring With God
“Pressing On” – by David Bolton  (Original song adapted from Philippians 3:13-14 and Hebrews 12:1-2)


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When God Does a New Thing – Pt. 2: Expectation

“My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him.”
Psalm 62:5 KJV

In this post I hope to raise our collective expectation of God’s “new thing” by taking a deeper look at God Himself and His (predictably) unpredictable ways.  In Part 1, I began by discussing how we are in the beginning stages of an historic, global, “new thing” and how this world-wide crisis is forcing and even facilitating a radical “new thing” within the Church.  I focused, specifically on what is needed in order for us to be inwardly prepared for the titanic global shifts and spiritual transformations that are now being precipitated.

Unless we have a deep understanding of “the GOD of the ‘new thing'”, however, we will not be expectant of nor seriously prepare for “the ‘NEW THING’ of God” that is coming.  We must raise the level of our collective understanding and expectation, therefore, if we are to take preparation in this hour seriously.  To help facilitate this, we can look to both the Divinely-created natural order and the Divinely-inspired Scriptures to lay a firm foundation on which our understanding and expectation of God’s “new thing” may be greatly raised and fully established.

“Expectation”

Before we dive into looking at these two sources of revelation (“general” and “special”), however, let’s begin by taking a look at the word “expectation”.  The Oxford American Dictionary defines it as:

“A strong belief that something will happen or be the case.”

To dig a little deeper, the root word of “expectation” comes from a Latin verb, “exspectare” which means “to look out”.  The root word,“expect”, therefore, means to,  “…look out for; desire, hope, long for, anticipate, look for with anticipation,”  (Online Etymology Dictionary)

So if God is doing a “new thing”, do we have
a strong belief that [it] will happen and be the case???
Are we…
looking out for it…
desiring it…
hoping for it…
longing for it…
anticipating it…
looking for it with anticipation
???

In other words, do we have an
EXPECTATION
of God’s “new
thing”??

“The GOD of the NEW THING”

If we understand the very nature of God, we will understand why we ought to have a strong expectation that out from Him will continually come forth a “new thing.”  God is essentially a God of eternal newness.  “Newness” is an immutable attribute of His nature for He is transcendent of all that comprises or causes the attribute of “oldness”, even time itself.  The I AM forever exists in the undiminished freshness of the eternal NOW.  In fact, His “eternal NEWness”,  is simply an inherent characteristic of His eternal NOWness”.

Furthermore, if we look at the correlation between the words “new” and “now” as to their origins (“etymology”), we see that they are closely related at the root level and are believed to possibly have originally derived from the same root word.*   It seems reasonable to conclude, then, that when God is doing a “NEW thing”, He is, likewise, doing a “NOW thing”, and when He is doing a “NOW thing”, He is, likewise, doing a “NEW thing”.  In similar manner, when He calls for a “NEW song”, He is, in fact, calling for a “NOW song”; when He pours out His “NEW wine”, He is literally pouring out His “NOW wine.”; etc…  ALL of God’s workings take place in that space of time we call, “NOW”, and, therefore, are not essentially “OLD THINGS”, or “FORMER THINGS” when they appear, but “NEW THINGS” and “NOW THINGS”! 

Because God is “the GOD of the NOW THING”, He is, likewise, “the GOD of the NEW THING.”!

God is also a God of infinite creativity.  He is unconstrained by the tyranny of the familiar, the dictatorship of the routine, and the confines of convention.  His creativity is only “bounded” by His infinite genius, His limitless power, and His ineffable glory.  His creative works express His glory and so His glory expresses His creative works.

In addition, He is a God who seeks deep relationship.  He has created us in His image and likeness that we may ultimately be one with Him even as He, the Triune God, is one.  He created us in His image as creatives, and has re-created us in His likeness as “new creations”.  He is raising us as His sons and daughters to be led by His heavenly, free Spirit and is breaking us free as His adopted children from being led by our earthly, bound souls.  He is training us to walk by faith, not sight, that we might become one with Him in His will, His works, and His ways which spring from His eternal newness and infinite creativity.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14)

“The NEW THINGS of God”

-The Natural Realm-

This eternal newness and infinite creativity of His Person naturally spill over into His works and ways.  These are seen first in the natural, created realm.  We could camp right here for a very long time and trace the unfathomable multiplicity of His creative, “new things” found in nature.  May a simple “thought experiment” suffice, however, to help us begin to lay hold of the magnitude of God’s “new things” in this realm:

To begin with, let’s just take the city, town, or village in which you live and consider, simply within that geographical boundary, how many natural, unique, “new things” exist that God has created.  First consider all of the vast diversity of living things currently habitating there: all humans, mammals, birds, fish, insects, microorganisms, vegetation, flora, and fungi.  Consider how even within common genus/species of these categories, there is vast individualization, uniqueness, and diversity. [I.e. there are over 150 species alone of roses (genus=Rosa.*), let alone further uniqueness/diversity within each species.]

Now consider all the diversity and uniqueness of all Divinely-created non-living things within that same geographical boundary: rocks, soil, minerals, metals, liquids, and gasses.  As you combine all of these together in your mind with all of the living “new things” within your city, town, or village, you are at the beginning of the beginning of grasping the multiplicity of God’s “new things” within the natural realm.

Now let’s expand that geographical boundary out a bit further, considering the same types of categories, to the entire state or region in which you live.  Pause and think about that for a moment until it begins to really sink in!

Moving on from there, let’s push that boundary out further to encompass your entire country!  How much biological, geological, hydrological, and atmospheric diversification, differentiation, and specialization exist within your country alone?!?

But we’re not done yet!  Let’s go even further now and expand out from there to encompass the entire globe.  To help with that, consider some of the following estimations concerning the biological diversity alone that exists within our world:

  • Humans:  7.8 billion individuals (each genetically, physiologically, and psychologically unique.)
  • Genera: 240,000 genus classifications within the animal kingdom. *
  • Mammals:  6,500 species. *
  • Birds:  18,000+ species. *
  • Fish: 34,000 species. *
  • Plants: 350,000 – 1,000,000 species. *
  • Fungi: 2,000,000 – 3,800,000 species.*
  • Insects: 1,000,000 – 10,000,000 species. (Approximately, 1.4 billion insects per person on planet earth, and weighing more than 70 times the weight of all human beings put together. *)
  • Microorganisms: 1,000,000,000,000 species. *   (I’m glad they are “micro-“!)

That represents merely the diversity of living “new things”, not taking into consideration the preponderance of non-living “new things” created by God that exist in our world as well!

Now if you don’t have a throbbing headache yet, consider further what creative “new things” we might find if we expanded our boundary out to encompass our solar system? (check out these incredible images of Jupiter, for instance.) … the Milky Way Galaxy? …the observable universe (with its estimated 1,000,000,000 – 2,000,000,000, galaxies? *)???  All of this is the product of the infinitely creative genius, limitless power, and ineffable glory of our Creator God!

Oh, but, wait….we’re still not done?  So take two more Advil, and consider with me what Job said, “…these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him!  Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14NIV)   Even after all that we’ve considered, this statement leads us to contemplate even further for we have one remaining boundary expansion to explore: the entire UNSEEN REALM of God’s creation!  (Picture exploding head emoji here!)

~ ~ ~

Well, I’ve got good news for your cranium…
this thought-experiment is now over!
Please exit to the left!
(………or to the right, if you want to be like GOD and do a “new thing.” 🙂 )

~ ~ ~

-The Spiritual Realm-

The natural realm is only the first sphere of revelation concerning the “new things” of God, however.  The Scriptures are the second.  So we must briefly move on from the realm of “general revelation” to look at the realm of “special revelation” by considering the Scriptures in relation to the spiritual “new things” of God.

Here, then, is list of a number of  “new things” that He has created, called for, and/or consecrated in the Scriptures:

  • “the new moon” – 1 Chron. 23:31; Ezra 3:5; Neh. 10:33; etc.
  • “a new grain offering” – Lev. 23:16; Num. 28:26; etc.
  • “a new song” – Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1 Is. 42:10; Rev. 5:9; 14:3
  • “a new name” – Is. 62:2; Rev. 2:17, 3:12;
  • “mercies…new every morning” – Lam.3:23
  • “a new covenant” – Jer. 31:31; Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:6,8; 9:1
  • “a new and living way” – Heb.10:20
  • “a new spirit” – Ezek. 11:19; 36:26;
  • “a new heart” – Ezek. 11:19; 36:26;
  • “a new creation” – 2 Cor. 5:17
  • “the new self” – Eph. 4:24; Col.3:10
  • “one new man” – Eph. 2:15
  • new tongues” – Mark 16:17
  • new fruit” – Ezek. 47:12
  • new wine” – Neh. 10:39; Joel 3:18; Matt.9:17
  • new wineskins” – Matt. 9:17; Mk. 2:22
  • “a new batch” (of dough) – 1 Cor. 5:7
  • “a new commandment” – Jn. 13:34
  • “the new Jerusalem” – Rev. 13:12; 21:2
  • new heaven and a new earth” – Is. 65:2; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1
  • “the renewal of all things” – Matt. 19:28

Beyond these sightings of the word “new” in Scripture, the entirety of the Bible is a perpetual testimony of God calling His people out of the old and familiar into the new and unknown.  Consider just a few of these unprecedented, “new things” that God did in relation to His people:

  • Adam and EveThe first ever created beings made in God’s own image and likeness. (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7)
  • Enoch – a man who “…walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Gen. 5:24)  The first ever human to not see physical death.
  • Noah and the flood – God sent a world-wide deluge to judge the existing world. (Gen. 6-8)  The first and last time for planet earth.
  • Tower of Babel – God confused the languages of all peoples. (Gen. 11)  Unprecedented!
  • Job – God allowed a righteous man to experience extreme tragedy, suffering, and loss for his ultimate good, God’s supreme glory, and Satan’s shameful demise. Utterly unexpected and unexplained!
  • Abraham and Sarah – God called them out of a familiar land to go to an unfamiliar one that would later become their inheritance (Gen. 12); they gave birth to a son by the power of the Spirit when both of them were beyond their physical ability to procreate (Gen. 21); Abraham was tested by God to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering on an altar, then God provided a ram in his place at the last minute. (Gen. 22)  All firsts!
  • Moses and the Israelites – Were delivered out of Egypt by Divinely-sent plagues (Ex. 7-12); were brought through the Red Sea by a mighty miracle (Ex. 14); were led by a cloud/pillar of fire through the wilderness (Ex. 13:21-22); received the Law, the pattern for the tabernacle, and the institution of the priesthood directly from God on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 20); were provided for with manna from heaven and water out of a rock (Ex. 16-17), were healed from poisonous snake bites by looking to a bronze serpent lifted up on a pole, to name a few. (Num. 21)  Utterly unprecedented!
  • Aaron – Had his staff bud, blossom, and produce almonds when placed before the Lord in the Tent of Meeting at God’s command. (Num. 17)  A “new thing” for sure.
  • Balaam’s donkey –  Spoke. (Num. 22)  Like…!
  • Joshua and the Israelites -Saw the Jordan River stop flowing at flood stage when the ark of the covenant was carried into it and they crossed over into the land of Canaan on dry ground (Josh. 3); saw the walls of Jericho fall with a shout (Josh. 6); Joshua prayed and “the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day” so he could win in battle (Josh. 10). Utterly unpredicted and unpredictable!
  • ETC, ETC, ETC,… (the rest of the Bible!)  The Book of God’s “new things!”

We’re only to the sixth book of the Old Testament and already we can see beyond a shadow of a doubt that God works over and over again in absolutely unprecedented, unpredictable, unexpected ways, perpetually doing a “new thing” in regards to His people.  Time does not allow us to elaborate on Gideon, Samson, Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha, Hezekiah, Esther, Nehemiah, Job, the prophets, and a host of others, to show further, innumerable examples.

Neither do God’s “new things” cease to be manifest when we come to the New Testament with John the Baptist, Jesus, the disciples/apostles, the Jews, the Gentiles, the Church, the entire world.  In fact, to pretty much everyone recorded in Scripture, when God was working in their lives, to them His works were unpredicted, unpredicated, and unprecedented in relation to their prior experience.  To them, He was continually doing a “new thing!”

Finally, the consummate expression of God’s “new thing” will be the universally-transformative creation of a “new heaven and a new earth” with a “new Jerusalem” coming down out of heaven to dwell upon the earth forever. (Rev. 21-22)

And so God’s final word in Scripture on this matter is simply and conclusively,

“BEHOLD, I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW.”
Revelation 21:5

~ ~ ~

Conclusion

It is abundantly clear that in both the natural and the spiritual realm that God is revealed as “the GOD of the ‘new thing’.” And this is the very same GOD that you and I are in relationship with through Jesus Christ!  We would be utterly blind and foolish, therefore, not to have the highest level of expectation that this same GOD is going to regularly do a “new thing” in our lives and within His Church!  We ought, therefore to be…

looking out for it…
desiring it…
hoping for it…
longing for it…
anticipating it…
looking for it with anticipation
!!!

Our level of expectation will directly determine our level of diligence to be spiritually prepared for God’s “new thing” (as described in Part 1) and greatly affect our degree of watchfulness for and perception of the appearances of God’s “new things” as they begin to spring up, even as God says,

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
Isaiah 43:18-19a

~ ~ ~

Continued…here.


Related:
When God Does a New Thing – Part 1: Preparation  (Previous post)
Centrality and Expectation  (On our collective expectation when we gather in His Name)
“Wind Dies in a Box”  (On our religious propensity to “box in” the Holy Spirit)


Or check out a “mystery post”  (randomly-generated selection 🙂 )

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When God Does a New Thing – Part 1: Preparation

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
Isaiah 43:18-19a

We are certainly living in unprecedented times!  What the world is experiencing right now seemed to come out of nowhere and within months/weeks our whole world turned upside down.  There have certainly been plagues and pandemics before, but nothing that has brought about this level of global social disruption, world-wide contagion/death, and personal/national economic disaster.  Globally, it could be said that we are in the midst of an historic “new thing”!

This historic “new thing” for the world is also forcing and facilitating an historic “new thing” within the Church.  The Church, worldwide, has been forced to shut down virtually all public gatherings and to find new ways of staying connected with, ministering to, and serving the people of God and the communities they are in.  There are very few types of calamities or judgements that could have the global effect of stopping the established Church ” dead in its tracks” from carrying on in its traditional forms and practices, while still allowing a significant means of virtual connection and ministry, thus forcing the Church to enter into and conform to a radically “new thing”.

We know that, ultimately, behind everything is a sovereign God who has not been caught off-guard by this pandemic.  In His perfect foreknowledge of all things, He has had this world-wide crisis incorporated into His eternal plan “for such a time as this” to ultimately serve His Divine purpose and the supreme good of His people.

“…according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will”  (Ephesians 1:11b)

“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)

The big question is, then, “What ‘new thing’ does God desire to do in the Church not only in the midst of this crisis, but, more importantly, through it and beyond it?

I do not believe that God’s purpose for the present “new thing”, is merely to serve as a “temporary fix” to patch us through until we can hurriedly return back to the “old thing” as soon the crises subsides.  That is not God’s way.  He says:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
Isaiah 43:18-19a

When God does a “new thing”, He commands and counsels us to, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”  His purpose for His people is ever pushing forward, and so Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:62)  Likewise, Paul says, Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)  This certainly has an individual application, but it also, just as certainly, has a corporate, collective application. 

If the Church comes out the other side of a calamity and crisis of this magnitude virtually the same as it went in, I believe She will have much to answer to Her Lord for.  I would not be surprised if even greater judgments or persecutions would shortly ensue.  Scripture says, For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God;” (1 Peter 4:17). Yet, it also says, If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment.” (1 Corinthians 11:31 GNT.)  Or as the Message translation puts it, “If we get this straight now, we won’t have to be straightened out later on.”  There are deep issues that God wants to address and radically reform within His people, and this world-wide calamity is a severe instrument in His hand to get down to the very root of them.  If we don’t perceive and allow Him to do His incisive, radical work within us now, I shudder to think what it will take for Him to get our attention going forward! 

Every believer and every collective body of believers, therefore, need to be first looking inwards and then forwards in this hour, praying earnestly to be in-tune and in-step with God’s “NEW thing”.  Our Lord is decisively moving onward and upward into His full purpose for His people, not longingly looking backwards to bygone days of circular, “same old, same old”, wilderness wanderings!

“And the LORD spoke to me, saying, You have circled this mountain long enough.
Now turn north,'” (Deuteronomy 2:2-3 NAS)

Preparing to Enter the Land of God’s “New Thing”

The Scriptures are overflowing with examples of God leading His people into His “new thing” for them, and Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 10:11, I believe, aptly applies to these situations: Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”  One of these examples, in particular, offers us valuable insight and wise instruction as to how to prepare ourselves to enter into God’s “new thing”.

As Israel came through the wilderness to the Jordan River and was getting ready to enter into God’s “new thing” for them, life in the land of Canaan, Joshua instructed the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” (Joshua 3:5)  When God is doing a “new thing”, what is needed first and foremost is a new and deeper consecration of His people.  A new level of consecration is needed because in God’s “new thing”, a new level of  faith is demanded and a new level of obedience is required.  It is no small thing to break with old thought-patterns, assumptions, ways, means, practices, traditions, experiences, and expectations.  These are far more ingrained, intertwined, and inextricable from the fabric of our lives, both on a personal (psychological) level and collective (sociological) level than we would ever imagine.  It usually takes something terribly drastic to rend the conformative matrix of our established patterns sufficiently for personal and collective change to even be possible.  That is why it is so important to understand the purpose of the Lord in this terribly drastic time we are living in right now.

Outward rendings of the “conformative matrix” of our lives, individually and corporately, however, are not enough to render permanent change.  If these are not matched by a corresponding inward rending of the “conformative matrix” of our inner man through prayer, repentance, and a deeper consecration, little to no lasting outward change will ensue and remain once the crisis has passed.  Everything will simply snap back to its original form as soon as the outward pressure is lessened or removed, and most likely become even more resilient, inflexible, and solidified than before.  It is, therefore, more important what God is doing inside His people during this time, than any outward, temporary changes. The primary focus of the Lord in this hour is to do a deep work of preparation within the hearts of His people to get us equipped and ready to enter into His “new thing” outwardly.

The children of Israel were also instructed before crossing Jordan to keep their eyes fixed on the ark of the covenant and to move out and follow it only when it moved, being carried on the shoulders of the priests. (see Joshua 3:3)  They were told, “Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.” (vs.4)  In this “new thing” that God is doing, there is only one way to navigate our way forward, by fixing our eyes on “the ark of the covenant”, i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ, to only move when we see Him move, and to only follow where He leads us to go, for we have never been this way before!  We are not called to blindly follow the “former things”, but to “forget” them.  We are not to “dwell on the past”, but to be “straining toward what is ahead”, being led by the Holy Spirit in all things as we follow Christ alone!

When the ark of the covenant did move forward, it was carried into the middle of the Jordan River and the waters were cut off and piled up a long ways off at a town called Adam.  (see Joshua 3:14-17)  The Israelites crossed through the dry riverbed and came through into the promised land of their inheritance, Canaan.  This act of Israel’s crossing Jordan is a deep and rich symbolic type of the inward, experiential work of the cross in the life of the followers of Jesus Christ.

The Israelites were then led to Gilgal, and there the entire second generation of Israelite men and boys, who were born in the wilderness, were circumcised before the Lord.  Circumcision was the outward sign of the covenant that God made with His people through Abraham.  It was an outward sign of the Abrahamic covenant, but it pointed to an inward work of the Spirit in the new covenant, of a cutting away of “the flesh”, the sinful nature, by the Spirit of God. (See Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 6:15; Phil. 3:3 Col. 2:11-12)

The nation of Israel was not prepared to move into God’s “new thing” until they had first consecrated themselves afresh to the Lord, descended to the lowest place to cross Jordan, and been circumcised at Gilgal.  So, today, the Church will not be prepared to move into God’s “new thing”, until She, collectively consecrates herself afresh to the Lord, follows Christ into a deep experiential working of the cross leading to an inward circumcision of Her heart.

These are not the kind of deep spiritual workings that God’s people generally gravitate towards and embrace on a collective basis.  Apart from them, however, there just is no preparation for crossing into and possessing the land of our inheritance.  Like the two and a half tribes of Israel who decided to settle on the east side of Jordan, we will remain where things are more comfortable, familiar, and predictable, but we will miss God’s ultimate intention for us.

Wherever you may be at this time, and whatever your circumstances, know that God wants to do a “new thing” in your life.  He also wants to do a “new thing” in the expression of the Church that you are a part of.  This fresh working of the Lord must begin within our own hearts with a fresh consecration to Him and His “new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20).  This must be followed by a deep working of His Spirit, applying the cross to our inner man and cutting away (“circumcising”) the “flesh” of our “old man” with its old and dead ways.  This will only come about through spending extended time in His Presence in humility, repentance, and deep consecration.  But this is the time, and this is the pressing need among God’s people, that He may bring us through this deep, dark crisis, transformed from the inside out, prepared to enter into the land of our inheritance…the land of God’s “new thing”!

~ ~ ~

“But as it is written:
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man
the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'”
1 Corinthians 2:9

~ ~ ~

Continued…here


Related:
Five Dynamics of the Spiritual Life (Three-post series complete – PDF)
Parables of the Cross – by Isabella Lilias Trotter (free audiobook)
“We’re Going Up” – by David Bolton  (shadow and fulfillment of “possessing the land” – original ballad – listen below)


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