This winter I have been newly energized by all things new. Delighting in the unfamiliar and strangely good. Curiously motivated by the harmony between the Old Testament and New. Freshly meditating on the sounds, smells, and sights of the material and immaterial world around me.
There is vast newness all around us. What is new in your world? Maybe it’s a new baby giving you joy with every gurgle and smile. Perhaps it’s a new car that smells of heaven and sounds like a roaring angel as you punch the pedal. Maybe a new book you can’t put down or a new person you are getting to know. Or maybe, like my twins Ethan and Andrew, finding those “new” Bible verses to read out loud in the morning. They wake me up with those verses on days I take them to middle school and what a blessing it has been for me to start the day with! It might even be something new that you would not have chosen like a death in the family, new sickness, or new demands at work that are just getting old. Whatever it is in your life, newness is inevitable and isn’t new.
The Bible is filled with true stories of new beginnings. God gives new life, new names, new hearts, and new desires to those he chooses. The God of the Bible is a God who loves to make things new and beautiful in a way that can only point to him and his glory. Think of God’s promise in the Old Testament: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26). Or the apostle Paul, the most dangerous man to Christians of his time in the New Testament, literally being blinded by the radiance of Jesus only to have his sight returned along with a passion newly set on making Christians instead of killing them.
For those, like the apostle Paul, who have put your faith in Jesus as the risen God of the universe and made him the #1 leader of your life, think of the new outlook you received, the forgiveness, and the heart of flesh you received that increasingly beats for the needy now instead of to the beat of your own drum. New affections, attitudes, and personal attributes are evidence that you have new life in Christ.
I remember the awesomeness of everything new those first few years after God brought me back into his fold after years of wandering and then lukewarm wondering. My renewed heart brought the wonder and joy of my childhood faith back like a strong wind. My affections, attitudes, and friendships changed dramatically over time. I had new and growing affections for things of God over things of the flesh. God gave me renewed love for Christian family I marginalized for years along with new friendships with brothers and sisters in the faith.
I also had a burning desire to share the Gospel with family and friends who I hadn’t shared with before. Even those who knew I previously believed in God but didn’t know my heart was far from him. I desperately yearned for them to see the “new man” in me and wanted them to have new affections, attitudes, and attributes as gifts from God. Often though my zealousness came off as self-righteous, judgmental or strange which caused me to lose closeness with some even as I awkwardly tried to draw close to them with unity in Christ Jesus. So much for the “new man” I wanted them to see. I have since committed myself to learn new ways to love, serve, and share with those I may have unwittingly pushed away as well as new people God puts into my life. A new life does not come without falls and mistakes, yet these falls make a follower of Christ stronger and more confident, scars and all.
As I reflect on the ups and downs of my renewed life, which, by the way, was kick started by small group life at Aspen Ridge Church, I look forward to a new and bright future of small group life here. I believe our small groups here are the best place for “spiritually curious” or skeptics to learn about Christians and the person of Jesus Christ. For those who have crossed the line of faith, participation in a vibrant small group offers a richness to faith that is just plain satisfying to the soul. There are new insights to learn, people to love, and needs to be met in every small group gathering—every time—if we take the time to truly listen and act.
The last weekend in December 2019 and first two weekends in January 2020 we will be offering new opportunities to join one or more small groups here at Aspen Ridge Church. We have over 30 small groups to choose from if you would like to try something new. We have a healthy mix of sermon based, topic based, and recreation based small groups. For example, if you would like to turn over a new leaf financially or strengthen your knowledge on God’s plan for money, we are offering a “Financial Peace” co-led by the Rasmussens and Pastor Jeff. If you are into winter sports or want to give them a shot, we will be offering snowshoeing, skiing, and ice-skating fun groups. These fun small groups present opportunities to make new friendships as we invite neighbors and friends to join in. These are just a few of the many opportunities that exist in our small group life here at Aspen Ridge. You can explore more on our website anytime and meet me or another small group leader in the lobby after services for the next three weekends to learn more.
I don’t know exactly what it is, I’ve just been delighting in “the new” lately. Watching the movie Overcomer with family over the Christmas season reminded me even more how broken or prideful people can become beautiful when God makes them new. I recommend that movie to anyone wanting a heartwarming story about how Christian faith plays out in contemporary society and in the sporting world. How about you? Are you hungry for something fresh in the new year? A new life with God through faith alone in Christ is the ultimate satisfaction to that hunger. After that, joining a small group here at the Ridge may just have you whistling a new tune!
May the God of Grace, Mercy, and Peace give you New Life and Favor in the New Year!
Eric Krajewski, Director of Small Groups