Promises Devotional

Three Life-Changing Ways to Ring in the New Year

“Quiet as it’s kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941.”

It’s likely you’ve never read this sentence before. It is the first line of Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye, and my favorite work of fiction. There are certainly more famous first lines of novels in American literature, but to me, this line is perfect. It makes me curl up into my mind and ask, “What’s going on? Why? And what can be done about it?”

These are the questions of a provocative opening scene. Questions that compel you to pay attention and even participate in the rest of the story. But in order to answer these questions, we have to look back at what happened before the first line was written.

So, as 2019 is upon us, its opening line yet to be written, we are each responsible to ask: what happened in 2018?

What did I start? What did I finish? How did I celebrate? How did I grieve? Did I succeed? Did I fail? Did I fall? Did I get back up?

All legitimate questions that can set you up for a few well-intended New Year’s resolutions. But maybe there is more to the new year than just a few haphazard goals that we recycled from last year.

What if there’s a wildly incredible story waiting to be written for you over the next 365 days? And what if the first line determines what the rest of the story will be? The setting, the main characters, the conflicts, the conclusion.

January 1st is your first line.

And as we close this short, awkward period between Christmas and New Year’s Day, you have a decision to make. What will be the first line of your 2019? The choice is yours. It’s a precious opportunity nestled right in the tension between the past year and the next.

This not a time to bash and bury 2018 for breaking too many of its promises. And it’s not a time to make promises to yourself on behalf of a 2019 that has yet to see the light of day.

This is a time for us to be real and accept the fact that years actually can’t make promises.

2019 can’t promise you anything. Not a job. Or a spouse. Or a house. Not a fit body. Or a new car. Or a successful business venture.

Years can’t make promises. But God can. And he does. And this is good news.

Things don’t change just because a new year begins. Things change because we begin. We begin to take God at his word and live like his promises are true for our lives. This can happen in April, August or October.

God is no respecter of calendars.

Years can’t make promises. But God can. And he does. And this is good news.

But the Bible shows us that God is also no stranger to a New Year’s party. There are a few moments in scripture when we see him choose New Year’s Day to begin something really special.

As I embraced the tension of the past week, I studied these moments and realized that God does some of his best work at the beginning of the year. And when his people respond to him in the right way, good things happen. People achieve amazing things. God interrupts boring routines with his presence. And the story unfolds to be more beautiful, more powerful, more glorious than anyone could expect.

As you reflect, pray and expect for this next year, consider these four things that God did on New Year’s Day and how he may desire to do them in your life on January 1st, 2019.

Three Life-Changing Ways To Ring in the New Year

1. Believe that the flood is over.

In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. -Genesis 8:13

After 40 days of torrential rains and overwhelming floods, the first day of the year was the day God dried up the waters. Noah opened the window of the ark and saw what must have looked like a ravaged wasteland. There was going to be a lot of working, building, and growing to do in order to get life reestablished on earth. But the flood was over, and there was a fresh hope for the new life that God was going bring. Exactly one chapter later (Genesis 9:13), God set his rainbow in the sky as a promise that he will never allow a flood like that again.

If you felt in over your head in 2018, drowning in the waters of anxiety, uncertainty, and disappointment, God is ready and able to dry up the land. There is a lot of working, building, and growing ahead, but New Year’s Day is the perfect time to believe that those waters have receded and that God’s rainbow promise is true for you too.

2. Create space to encounter God’s presence.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. – Exodus 40:1

God’s people had just finished making all the elements they would need for proper worship: the materials for the tabernacle, the ark, the altars and their utensils, the priestly garments, etc. Now, God was asking them to take everything they had made and put it all together. Now that they had everything they needed, he wanted them to erect the tabernacle. This wasn’t just God saying, “Do what I command.” This was God saying “I want to be with you, so create a space for me.”

After everything is set up, God’s glory fills the tabernacle, and his people experience his presence like never before. All because they decided to respond to God’s word on New Year’s Day.

Did 2018 felt like hard work? Maybe even a little disjointed and hard to find a common thread in what God was doing in your life? It could be that you were accumulating the pieces, and now it’s time to put it all together. It’s time to create space in your life to encounter his presence in a radical way.

Set aside a new time to commune with him in a new place in a new way.

This could be as simple as starting a new journal, or moving your quiet time to a different corner of the room, or creating a new worship playlist for your times of seeking God. Make a few changes and ask him to show you how to put all the pieces together. 2019 could be your glory-filled tabernacle year!

3. Commit to a time of consecration

They began to consecrate on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the Lord. Then for eight days they consecrated the house of the Lord, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished. -2 Chronicles 29:17

King Hezekiah called on the priests to consecrate both themselves and the temple. The priests did this to prepare to worship and serve the Lord in greater measure. They began this process on New Year’s Day, and God may be calling you to do the same.

A great way to do this is to commit to some type of fast to begin the year. Whether it’s food, social media, or something else, fasting is a great way to consecrate yourself for the Lord so that you can draw near to him and prepare to serve him in greater ways.

These New Year’s Day moments are “opening lines” that could determine the plot of your 2019 story. We don’t need snarky memes, or catchy slogans, or hotel parties to ring in the New Year right. We need God (and his word) to point us in the right direction. To start us off on the right track and keep us on it for the rest of the year.

No matter what 2018 did or didn’t do for you, believe that God can begin a new thing in 2019! Take hold of New Year’s Day. Take him at his word. And take a few simple steps of faith. Believe that the flood is over, create space to encounter his presence, and commit to a time of consecration.

Then give God the pen and let him write the story.

Did this essay resonate with you? Share your thoughts!

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