What’s the difference between reading and studying?
Studying gives you more time to reflect and really grow in the Word. There is so much information that can be gleaned from even just a few verses. We would encourage you not to rush through it. Reading is typically done in less detail or less thoroughly and should be a daily thing. Sometimes you will do both at the same time.
It is good to get into the Word as much as possible. It is our spiritual food and the sword of the Spirit. Ephesians 6:17. Read about the full armor of God in Ephesians 6.
Good, healthy food will build you up. You have heard the saying, “You are what you eat” This is true physically as well as spiritually. Jeremiah 15:16 Psalm 32:8.
When studying the Word, spend time reading and rereading the same passage, verse by verse. Meditate on it as you go about your daily tasks. Look for new things or clarification each time you read it. Pray about the verses.
The Word of God is living and active. Hebrews 4:12. It is breathed by God Himself. 2 Timothy 3:16. Ask yourself when studying: What is God trying to say? What warnings are there? What promises can you claim? What commandment is there? What truth can we use to defeat Satan and his lies or attacks? What comfort does it give? What can you use to apply to your life? Is there a part we play?
Reflect on the past
Although Our theme is essentially “Out with the old, in with the new”, we’re not done with the past just yet. Let’s reflect on it a bit more. Not to burden ourselves with it, re-hash it, beat ourselves up or be defeated by it; in a healthy way...to learn from it.
We can then properly move forward and appreciate all that God is about to do. This time we will have a better foundation and understanding so we can repeat the good things (and get better at them). We’ll also look at lessons so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. Remember, it is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it. You only fail when you quit or give up. God helps the good man back up when he falls Psalm 34:24.
Read Isaiah 43:18-19
God tells us to forget the former things. He is doing a new thing. Exactly what former things though? The old things mentioned here are the Law. This was our old contract or “Testament” with God. It can also refer to our old life before Christ. The things He set us free from. Our old way of doing things.
The new thing God was referring to in this passage is Jesus or the New Testament or contract. Similarly, it can also refer to all the new and wonderful things the Lord is doing (or will do in our lives).
Only God could have come up with this plan! What plan? What new thing? Send His only Son to undo all Satan had done, defeating him on every front. Abuse. Addiction. Death. Depression.Grief. Loneliness. Sadness. Sickness. Sin. Sorrow. The list goes on.
Jesus was innocent. He became guilty for us. He became our sacrifice though He had done no wrong. 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Before Jesus came as our sacrifice, we relied on the Law of Moses to govern our daily lives and our relationship with God. We are told these things were only a shadow. Sometimes even in our daily lives, the past is only a shadow of things to come. This is especially true when our hearts belong to Christ and we walk with and submit to Him daily. You never know what tomorrow holds. In a good way. We will see later that God does know, however and this is a huge comfort!
Here’s a few more things to consider about the “old things”:
The past provides a contrast, helping us to appreciate new things all the more. Spring is much more welcome after a cold harsh winter than it would be all year round for example. Not that we don’t appreciate things, but we appreciate them MORE or fully when we are reminded how important they are.
Some spend their entire lives or walk with Christ going over the same lessons because they can’t succeed or graduate. This is on us though. Everything we need to thrive can be found in Christ. If God gave us Jesus what won’t He give us? Romans 8:32.
Old things wear out or lose their effectiveness. Jesus used several illustrations to teach us this:
There is a honeymoon period with new things that helps us look forward to them. Check out these verses for further study as you have time. Revelation 21:5; Psalm 19:7; 98:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 3:13-14.
Take a moment to reflect on a few things that you would consider to be the best things that have happened over this last year and then the worst things. Again, not to blame yourself or beat yourself up but to learn and grow.
If you had to be honest how much of a role did you play in causing them, good or bad? How was God there for you? Did you rely on Him? Did you let those things bring you closer to Him or did you use them to question (or worse) doubt Him?
What do you feel you did well in those situations? Were any of these things a result of or answer to prayer? How do you feel you could have handled them better? What would you do differently next time?
God’s promises are as good as done
This passage is a prophecy of the Christ. In fact, the book of Isaiah is full of prophecies of the coming Savior. This vision shows us Jesus after His crucifixion. We looked at several prophecies on the Messiah in last month’s study.
How did Isaiah react? How did this encounter change him? What was the Lord’s response? Though He had the power to destroy Isaiah what did Jesus do instead? How would you react if put in the same situation? What comes to mind about your life or attitude toward God?
Its interesting that although Jesus hadn’t gone to the cross yet because God promised it it’s as though He already had. Isaiah’s sins were atoned for when He came into contact with Christ. He repented. His heart was convicted not only for himself but for others. He was willing to go out and preach the good news of God’s forgiveness and redemption. He wanted God to send him.
This is the Gospel message! When God promises something it is just as good as though it already happened. The Word of God here presents a very telling portrayal of how we come into contact with Christ.
He wasn’t a baby in this story. He had outgrown the Nativity scene. He wasn’t broken and bloody on a cross anymore. He had overcome it. He was victorious.
He went from being the Lamb of God to being the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Yet none of it had taken place yet. We can trust the promises of God. They WILL come to pass!
Some things we must never cast aside or overlook
The Past is good to reflect, learn from and sometimes just walk away from. Some things we can’t and shouldn’t brush off. Some things should never be forgotten:
Some things are best left in the past
Today is a new day
The wording here in Lamentations is NOT weak. No “maybe” or “might” or “sometimes” or “sort of”. This passage is a promise we can claim. There is, however one stipulation: it is for those that seek Him.
We can’t wait for Him to hunt us down. Don’t expect Him to do all the work and pour everything on us. We have to go after Him. Seek His will. Stay in His face. Do your part. Remind Him of His promises. Psalm 27:8
Every day brings new mercy. Not just for a New Year but in the small things. The daily walk. Right now. Our lives are so fragile and our focus can only be on so much.
A year is a long time. A year from now is so far away. We need help in the day to day. He has plenty of mercy to go around. Not yesterday’s mercy but new mercy. Not stale mercy, used mercy or hand-me-down mercy but NEW mercy. Overflowing.
Mercy for not giving us the things we DO deserve but also for abundantly giving us the things we don't.
The Lord will do new things in our lives. Isaiah 48:6-11; He does this in many ways. In small ways and in large ways. He opens our eyes to verses we never understood. Matthew 28:20; John 14:26; 1 John 2:27. Psalm 119:18.
We are always being refreshed in Him. God’s grace and gifts are new every morning: When does God give new mercies? Every morning.
God’s lovingkindness never ceases and His love and compassion NEVER fail. How often does God fail us? Never. That is HUGE. That is powerful. We read these verses and become so numb. Numb to them and to the One that promised them to us.
We are limited creatures. We can only do so much. We put our weaknesses and our limits on God and attribute to Him our shortcomings or treat Him as an equal to us. Our weakness has not effect on Him.
Sometimes He allows our faith to be shaken intentionally to test us. Where are we at with Him? Are we going to take Him at His word despite what we see?
Just because we see one thing doesn’t mean God has forgotten us or has let us down. Our circumstances don’t limit God or what He will do, can do, is doing or is going to do.
Focusing on what we see and basing our decisions and faith on that only limits US. Not God.
Make the passage in Lamentations a daily habit. There is more to be gotten from it:
We choose our attitude
We also choose how our day will go before we even start it. Psalm 118:24. No one else is in control of our happiness. We alone are responsible for letting the joy of the Lord be our strength. 1 Peter 1:8; John 15:11; Nehemiah 8:10
No one else can make us do what we need to do. We must take personal responsibility for our relationship with Jesus.
It is not God’s job to make us feel happy all the time or set our sights on His promises. It is ours. Jesus has done all He ever needs to do and more. The rest is up to us.
When we move toward God He moves toward us. James 4:8. LIkewise, when we move away from God He also moves away from us.
God will sometimes hide Himself or make Himself difficult to find so we will search for Him. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t love us. It doesn’t mean we are doing anything wrong or that we’ve driven Him away. It means He is testing us and trusting us.
We need to remember especially when we go through dark times, trials, storms, temptations etc that God is trusting us. The only way to see if we have learned a lesson is to apply it.
We come to an interesting conclusion then when we read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. We set our sights not on what we can see and/or our circumstances but rather on God’s promises and on things we can’t see.
We don’t realize the impact we can have on our circumstances by choosing to be a quick learner. The Lord will always present us with the same test until we pass it. This is something that is within our control.
We can have a major impact on our circumstances sometimes by taking necessary actions or correcting whatever it is God would have us address. Until we pass it we can’t move on to the next lesson. Choosing to know that our limitations have no effect on God. He is not bound by our timing or understanding. Be good soil and obey God Matthew 13:8.
God doesn’t promise that bad things will never happen. He did promise He will be with us in the midst of those trials. Things will happen in God’s time. He doesn’t need our help but chooses to involve us and use every opportunity as a chance to bless us and give to us (and most importantly strengthen us).
There is no hurrying God. No settling, No forcing things. Wait on the Lord. Let His will be done and not ours. No trying to force God to see it our way or forcing our way upon Him. That will never work but will instead work against us.
Examine our ways
Lamentations 3:40 gives us some more insight. It gives us some qualifications. Not just everyone gets a free pass with God. 1 Corinthians 11:31 also tells us to examine ourselves. We must be open and willing for God to teach us new things by applying what He’s already taught us.
Faith is action. Not just hearing the Word of God but living it. Not just talking but doing something. James 1:22-25. God will build lesson on top of lesson. For further reading on this check out the following verses about seeking the Lord and waiting on Him:
This is putting ourself in a place where we can hear Him. Willing obedience to do whatever He asks to do. Regular church attendance. Setting aside time to pray and read His Word. Sharing Jesus with others so they too have the hope of Christ. This will be God’s sign that we are ready to move on to the next lesson or revelation.
Some people never mature in the Lord. This verse explains why. Wait, Seek, Hope. We are taught here to be patient and wait on the Lord. No freaking out. No overreacting, No knee-jerk reactions or rash decisions. Not looking at our circumstances. Not judging based on what we feel or what we think we know. Asking for forgiveness for the areas He reveals we have fallen short in.
We can therefore have hope in Him. Remember what the Word says about faith? Hebrews 11:1. We are hoping for things we haven’t seen. We know the Lord would never lie to us. If He has promised we can rest firmly in the fact He WILL deliver them. Faith pleases God.
Ask Him for wisdom (James 1:5) and insight if you are going through something. Maybe there is a lesson He’s trying to teach us. Maybe we aren't listening. Maybe we aren’t ready for the answer but are in a preparation period? Ask Him to reveal what you don’t see or what He’s trying to teach you. Whether it be for healing, someone else’s needs, deliverance. Etc. We know with God the answer will come.
God will not spare us from trouble but will walk with us
Read John 16:33. As mentioned earlier It isn’t that God promises the absence of trouble. Trials and temptations will come. God is more concerned about strengthening us and teaching us. He will be with us and bring us through things. Philippians 4:11 says we must be content in any circumstances.
This is how we learn and develop patience. 1 Peter 1:7. For more reading on this check out: Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:3; James 5:10-11; Luke 8:15; James 1:2-8; Romans 5:3-4; Romans 15:4; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 1 Timothy 6:11.
We learn to trust Him and not only trust Him but to take refuge in Him. (Proverbs 3:5-6); 2 Samuel 22:3; 22:31; Psalm 2:12 is an Old Testament verse talking about Jesus. Read all of Psalm 2; Psalm 4:5;5:11;7:1;9:10;11:1; Psalm 18. This one is also talking about Jesus before He was born.
We run the race to win and we must play by the rules 2 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 12:1-3.
The greatest promise of God
Read John 3:16-19 Let's reflect on the greatness of God and His greatest gift: Jesus
Salvation is a miracle. We are the reason Jesus came Romans 5:6-11. He is the only way to God. Acts 4:12; John 14:6
One of the greatest ways God show us something new is forgiveness and a new life.
God gives amazing forgiveness daily as well. Colossians 1:14; John 5:24
Psalm 130:4 tells us that while God is forgiving we are to fear Him. We can’t take advantage of His forgiveness and use it as a license to sin. See also Romans 6:1.
If you are in Christ you are all the proof anyone ever needs that God exists
An eyewitness account is good for legal matters. It is good for others as well. We have many eyewitness accounts. Luke 1:2; 2 Peter 1:16.
You will hear us say this many times God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise 1 Corinthians 2:14; 1 Corinthians 1:27.
A new birth? Jesus was special and His message was different. Jesus spoke mysteries. He challenged our way of thinking. (see Matthew 5). You don’t have to be famous to be a somebody with Jesus. He sees the outward appearance and looks at our heart. 1 Samuel 16:7.
Even if you aren't famous. David was his father’s last choice to be king. He was too young and way too small physically. Read the story in 1 Samuel 16. Even if you are overlooked by others, God looks at the heart 1 samuel 16:7 and He was about to select a new king.
Even if you don't have a crazy testimony. You don’t have to have a cool story or sordid past to be a somebody in Christ. Your testimony is unique and special. It can help someone else.
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of their testimony. You are valuable because you exist.
We must be born again
Much like Nicodemus, God knows we've spent our whole lives learning the wrong way. He takes us back to the beginning. In order to be born again, something must die first. That is our old self.
Another example of new things is baptism and what it represents. Among other things it is a symbol of being born again. Following are some events spoken of in the Bible that are a shadow or example of baptism:
There is so much that can be said for the resurrection. It is one of the key foundations of the Christian faith.
In the interest of time and to help tie it into the hope and blessing in your new year, we will focus on one aspect of it: for the disciples and those that walked with Jesus, it must have felt like all hope was lost after the crucifixion. How could God do anything to fix THIS?!? Surely He can’t help Jesus now. Why did He die? They were so hopeful that Jesus was the Messiah and it must have seemed as though everything they believed came crashing down.
This can happen in our lives as well. Just when we feel like God can’t do anything to help. He will always come through and amaze us if we let Him. Colossians 2:12-15
In Christ we must be born again. We start our new life as spiritual babies. Jesus said to let the children come to Him and that we would have to come to Him as a child. We will go into more detail on this in next month. We’ll progress from new beginnings and being born again to learning how we grow and mature in Christ.
God gives us newness of life. Romans 6:4; Colossians 3; Romans 12:2.
God will pick us up when we fall
We have the assurance when we fall down we can get back up. The Bible is full of people who made mistakes and were able to repent and let God turn things around.
Here are just a few. As you read these stories ask yourself how you would have reacted. Are we guilty of some of the same sins? Have we done worse?
Repentance is a beautiful thing. Read Titus 3:4-7. We are washed new and clean by the Holy Spirit. How much? Abundantly. Do we earn it? No. Because of who? Jesus. What other promise do we have? Eternal life.
His story is in Luke 22:54-62. John 21:15-17 gives us the hope when Peter repents and Jesus forgives him. Lest you think Peter is out of the woods though he did get in trouble again with Paul for trying to make himself look good in front of the Jews so they didn’t persecute him. He started to backslide and follow the Jewish customs from before Christ came. He began also to play favorites and quit talking to people the Jews didn’t associate with because of what others might say. Was he being Christ like? In a way, was he was essentially denying Christ again so he wouldn’t suffer? Did he care more what people thought? Can we relate? Galatians 2:11-14.
More of God’s promises
Our final bit of good news
Going into the new year we have this promise: God knows the end from the beginning. Romans 4:17. He has this!! You can trust Him and where He's going and taking us. From all eternity Jesus knew the future. He still chose the same ending. He didn't do it to benefit Himself. He did it to benefit you!!! To save you. 2 Peter 3:11-13 NIV
We're always learning and growing in Christ 2 Peter 3:18; Colossians 1:27-29 NIV. He's being formed in us daily. Galatians 4:19
The bad times are temporary as are all the things we see around us 2 Corinthians 4:18
We couldn't begin to know what God has in store for us. 1 Corinthians 2:9
We don’t have unlimited tomorrows. Each day is a blessing. Each new start is one of only a limited number of them. The good news is that one day we will get a new start that will never end. Every day in the Lord’s presence for all eternity is sure to be amazing and worth the time we spend serving Him and others on Earth. Psalm 90:12
Thank you for taking the time to study the Word with us. How has Jesus spoken to you? Are there areas of your life you feel don’t meet where He wants you to be? Has the Holy Spirit pointed out areas to work on? Do you feel better knowing God has this? Spend a lot of time with Jesus.
Be honest with Him about your struggles. He knows who you are and what you’re going through. Hebrews 2:17; 4:14-15; If you haven’t taken the time to invite Him into your heart please do so. You will not be disappointed! If you have any questions, prayer requests or even suggestions feel free to contact us.
As always, God bless you and enjoy the rest of this year. God is doing some amazing things. We are all proof that God is real and that Jesus is alive and well in us!