Not “About To”… God IS Doing…
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland (Isa.43:19, NIV).
This is a favorite verse of preachers and teachers who are both advocating and also working for change in the church and in the world. I use it quite often … but am I using it correctly?
You see, I like to use it to tell people that God is “about to” do a new thing … that’s how the KJV reads: “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?” And while I could probably brush up on my Hebrew and pull out the commentaries to look at the various arguments on how best to translate this verse … sometimes, you need to use a little common sense. The prophecy was about a specific future event: Jesus coming into this world. But the greater truth is … the truth for all times and seasons that we so often seek in exegetical preaching … God is continuously active and at work in our world; he is always doing something new at any given moment!
Indeed, the universe testifies to this reality. Scientists tell us that they can observe the continual expansion of the universe. In fact, they speculate that someday, the expansion might reverse and the universe might begin to contract, but as one who believes that it is God who has set all observable things into motion… that it is God who still controls the laws of physics and nature … to me this in itself is testimony of God continuing to work in our world. I’m not alone.
Ancient builders, the builders of the great cathedrals and tabernacles had a practice that proclaimed God was not finished in our world. So they always left something “undone” on a building.
As someone myself who finds great relaxation by working on the various “honey-do” projects at home, my experience validates this truth – a building is never done … there always will be tweaks that need to happen regardless of the best plans. Not only will there be basic maintenance issues, but there also will be the necessary changes to make the home more comfortable for a new generation. Think back to how the coal shuttles, the telephone nooks, the butler’s pantries and the other past features of homes that have now become anachronistic. Sure, some items can be repurposed, others can be fared over, but all things speak to the temporal nature of our buildings and the need for continuous change.
And while our Creator is the Master Planner, I believe a part of his plan to redeem Creation is through continuous transformation. It is God continuously working in our world to transform us, to transform our culture, and to transform our world to the eternal image he had initially set into motion. And like an airplane that is normally off the plotted course more than 90-percent of the time, God’s continual corrections and work in our world will cause us to perfectly arrive at God’s desired "creation" in His time.
The question then is not if God is doing a new thing, but WHERE is God doing a new thing. And most often the “where” is that person, that place, that church or that culture that makes itself available to the transformation of the Spirit.
Occasionally, in times of extreme need, God chooses to work in places that historically have been resistant to him, but most often, the Spirit works to prepare those obdurate “places and spaces” to seek the needed transformation that God desires for them. He often does this instead of forcing the transformation through a dramatic breaking-in of His presence, so that God works more gradually and continuously rather than coercively.
God is at work in our world today.
If we are not seeing it in our world … in our own lives … perhaps what is missing is our own invitation and willingness to receive the necessary transformation God desires for us.
Afterall, while we know that transformation might be needed in any given area of life, we also know (all too well) that the process often is just a little bit uncomfortable … but should be well worth it to cooperate with the new things that God is doing both in and around us!
Lord, Help us to receive your gift of transformation …
…I n Our Life…
… In Our Church…
… In Our Culture….
… In Our Community…
… In Our World…
… But Mostly…
… In Our Own Heart. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains