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  • CJ Rhodes DMin

All Things New!


Happy New Year! 2022 has just dawned and for many there is both excitement and expectation for what this new year may hold. There is also hesitation about the future as we continue to navigate a global pandemic and reset of economic and political realities.


As for me, I look forward to 2022 with renewed zeal. 2021, as any year, was filled with ups and downs for me. The ups included being a panelist for Jude 3 Project's Courageous Conversations, being named 3rd Vice President of the General Missionary Baptist State Convention, and being appointed to the International Council of Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship's Young Pastors Department. Our church, Mt Helm Baptist Church, was awarded a large gift to assist us in feeding Jacksonians during the city's historic water crisis. Despite lingering public health concerns, our church was resilient to the glory of God, and experienced joy and freedom in work and worship unparalleled to previous years as we reassembled for in-person service in the spring.


There were many lows too. The grief of losing two brothers and several ministry colleagues to either COVID or other illnesses over the past few years weighed heavily on me. As I turned 39 in May, I wrestled with my own mortality (Dr. King was 39 when he was assassinated and my two deceased brothers were in their early 40s.) and even doubted if I'd done enough or been present enough for family and ministry as I approached the fourth decade of my life. A great encouragement to others, I battled with discouragement while smiling and letting my light shine.


I suspect 2021 held similar moments for you. For all of us, new years come with potential promises and perils. No amount of Christian clichés or prophetic pronouncements can block the believer from the spectrum of positive and negative experiences that can accrue in 365 days. But, despite this, I remain a hopeful realist, someone who dares not deny the reality of painful predicaments, but who also knows such realities are not all there is to reality. Pain doesn't have the last word. There are unseen and seen possibilities that make the "real" richer, more textured. God's activity in history always makes possible something miraculous. For me, that meant, in part, reading an encouraging text just when I needed it, or hearing a song whose lyrics reminded me of God's promise, or an unexpected check in the mail. We are more discerning of divine activity when we aren't distracted, so giving ourselves to prayer, fasting, Scripture meditation, and the like help to center us and tune our ears to hear God's voice.


As I began my morning with the YouVersion Bible app, I was pleased to see today's Verse of the Day is Isaiah 43:18-19. I preached my first sermon New Year's Eve 2000 from this passage. It reads:


“Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

Just as YHWH did for His exiled people, we continue to trace the divine movement of God doing new things and paving roads in wildernesses. God can bring delight in dry places, wow us in wildernesses, and encourage us when our faith is on empty. We are only asked to behold it, to open the eyes of faith to see the strange, unpredictable, and improbable ways God mysteriously moves to do something fresh, reviving, new.


I don't know all that 2022 will hold for me and you. I've received enough prophetic words last year to help me know that this will be one of the best years of my life. I know, too, that I may meet unwanted and unpleasant experiences that will challenge me. The same goes for you. Through it all, be attentive to God's activity in and around you. Adjust your vision to see new things God is performing, and expect God to make roads in wildernesses and rivers in dry places. Expect God to do a new thing.

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