It’s New Year’s Eve as I sit at my computer and write. Many years, the old passes and the new comes without me even giving it a second thought. I try to avoid all of the New Year’s Eve hoopla because I have no one to share it with. It’s that loneliness that seems to accompany the entire holiday season.
This year, however, I have found myself somewhat contemplative. As I look back over 2013, I find myself overwhelmed and amazed at how God has taken me from a state of anxiety to a place where I am consumed with His peace that surpasses all understanding. I look back with such joy to see how He has taken my little blog that I began as a way to fill a void in my life and has begun to use it to encourage others. I look back over all of the glimpses of my future that God has used to encourage me in 2013. I can truly say that 2013 has been amazing!
But, now I stand on the cusp of a new year. 2014 is only a few hours away, and the last few days I have sensed a growing anticipation for what God will do this next year. I feel each and every day that God is getting so close to bringing some things full circle, to fulfilling the desires of my heart. I sense that I will soon be able to see what He has been doing in the midst of His silence. I am bursting with excitement for 2014!
Yesterday, as I opened my email early in the morning, I received a message from YouVersion, my Bible app that I use every day. (If you’ve never tried it, it’s the best Bible app around!) The email encouraged me to choose a verse for 2014 and post it using #verse2014. Immediately, my mind was drawn to Joshua 3:5:
Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.”
As my anticipation for the great things God is going to do in 2014 continues to grow, I know that this verse is mine for the new year. It further confirms that God has me in the palm of His hand, that He has seen my pain and will keep His promises to repay two blessings for each of my troubles (Zechariah 9:12). It’s a reminder that the scriptures He planted in my mind early in this journey (Psalm 37:4-7) are true. It’s a reminder that not one of the Lord’s good promises to His children has ever failed; they have all been fulfilled (Joshua 23:14).
Over the last 24 hours, I have continued to meditate on this scripture. What, exactly, are the great wonders He has planned for this next year? I believe I know some of them—things that He has specifically planted in my heart and mind to pray about. However, I don’t know the specifics. What will this ministry He has begun look like in the upcoming 12 months? The book that I long to write: will this be the year that He lets the words flow onto paper and brings the publisher along? What is He going to do in my finances to allow me the opportunity to bless others? Then, of course, there is the longing for that special man in my life. I find myself playing out scenarios in my mind regularly. I know it’s coming, and I simply can’t wait to see how God allows it all to unfold.
But, my mind has shifted today from the excitement of what God has planned to the beginning of that verse: Purify yourselves. I find myself asking God today what I need to do to prepare myself for what He has planned. What do I need to purge from my life? What do I need to add to my life? What areas of my life still need to be refined?
I believe God has done much purifying over the last few years. As a matter of fact, just a couple of days ago I came across Deuteronomy 8:2 in my morning Bible reading: Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. You see, I’ve often compared the last few years to wandering in the wilderness, waiting for God to take me out of the difficult days into the Promised Land of a future that only He could prepare. As I read this verse, I began to contemplate all God has done in my life while I’ve been in the wilderness—how He has given me a new and deeper faith, how He has revealed areas of weakness, how He has provided for every need and wiped every tear, how He has revealed what is in my heart both good and bad. I feel as if I am a totally different person from the one who entered the wilderness five years ago.
But, still… What does God want of me as I enter this new year, this exciting season of life? What do I need to do to prepare for my entry into the Promised Land?
This morning as I continued my morning Bible reading, I actually found myself in the beginning of Joshua. I read my verse for 2014, and then I read the Israelites next steps. It seems as if they purified themselves by circumcising the men and celebrating the Passover. Just as importantly, they dedicated the first city they conquered (Jericho) to God. All of the spoils were given back to God; the Israelites were instructed not to keep any of the spoils.
Circumcise. Circumcision was a requirement that God had placed upon the Israelites as an outward sign of their covenant with God. In Deuteronomy, the Israelites were commanded to circumcise their hearts, to put behind them their stubbornness and to be fully committed, devoted, and obedient to God. The Israelites could not circumcise their hearts—be fully committed and obedient to God—if they failed to be physically circumcised. In Jeremiah 4:4, the people of Judah are again told to circumcise their hearts—to surrender their pride and power, to change their hearts before God (NLT). Perhaps that is the best concept of what circumcision means to us. We must be willing to put away anything that might prevent us from connecting with our Savior, to surrender our own will and pride and come fully under His control.
Celebrate the Passover. Before they began the battles to take possession of the Promised Land, the Israelites were instructed to celebrate the Passover, to remind them of how He had miraculously rescued them from the Egyptians. Although I frequently contemplate in my mind all that God has done in the last few years, I think tonight my kids and I will sit down together and review God’s miraculous works in our lives. I will remind them how far He has brought us in so many ways. We will talk about the Great I Am and how He has always been exactly what we needed at the exact time we needed it. I think it is time to have a celebration of all He has been and done through our wilderness wanderings!
Set apart the first part of the year. Our church staff regularly begins the new year with a fast. Last year was the first year I ever participated fully in any type of fast. Although I did not do a full-blown Daniel fast as many did, I chose to give up two things that often have a tight grip on my life: Diet Coke (or soda of any kind) and sugar. For 21 days, I gave them up as a sacrifice to God. At the end of the fast, God very clearly revealed a truth to me that I had been wrestling with for nearly a year. He gave me a peace that I have not been able to escape. He has used that moment to build my faith in unbelievable ways. As I look back over 2013, I have the inescapable sense that the year was blessed because I dedicated the first of the year to God—just as the first battle (Jericho) was dedicated to God, just as the firstfruits are to be God’s, just as the first of everything is to be dedicated to God.
As I look forward to the wonders that God will soon do in my life, I want to do whatever is necessary to purify myself—to prepare myself so that I am ready to receive God’s blessings. I know that He is about to do things beyond all I could ever ask or imagine. I only want to be found ready!
Lord Jesus, as I enter this new year, I want to experience you and all of the wonders and blessing you have planned. I pray that you would circumcise my heart. Show me anything in my heart and life that is not pleasing to you. I want to be fully committed, devoted, and obedient. Help me to share with my kids all of the amazing ways you have cared for us, protected us, provided for us. Help us to remember your tender mercies that are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness! As I dedicate these first 21 days to you, I pray that you would accept my sacrifice. Accept the firstfruits of my year and bless the rest! Make 2014 greater than my wildest dreams!