Think God Forward
by Pastor Connie Larson DeVaughn

Altadena Baptist Church has a handful of Transformational Learning Communities. These are our small group Bible studies and prayer groups. They happen almost every day of the week, in homes all around our communities. We call them TLC for short, and don’t mind that most people think this means Tender Loving Care, because that’s what happens in these groups.

You never know what you’re going to get when you go to TLC. Last Tuesday, at the TLC that meets in the Zobrist home, led by Jill Boekenoogen, the passage we worked on hit me square in the heart, and has been with me ever since. I’d like to share it with you.

The prophet Isaiah is speaking to a people in bondage, taken into captivity by the mighty Babylonians: (Isaiah 43:14-21)

Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel;
For your sake I will send to Babylon
and break down all the bars,
and the shouting of the Chaldeans will be turned
to lamentation.
I am the Lord, your Holy One,
the Creator of Israel, your King.
Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
Who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
They lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:

Imagine what this would mean to a people in captivity. The biggest event in their past history was the exodus from Egypt, in which God, and only God, brought them out of slavery in a display of power. While they walked safely through the waters of the Red Sea, the army of chariots and warriors, who were bent on recapturing them, was swallowed by the waters of the sea. God was now mounting a new rescue operation. God, their Redeemer, was once again on the move.

Time and again, the people of Israel are pointed back to the Exodus, to remember their faithful and powerful God. So the next verse is puzzling:

Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.

What? Those were their glory days! That was the time when God was close and personal—visible in the pillar of cloud and fire. That was a time of being led directly by their God in thrilling, miraculous ways. Forget the past??

Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
So that they might declare my praise.

It’s as if God is saying, “The Exodus is in the past. That’s nothing. Look ahead at what I will do now. It will be magnificent. Your glory days are yet ahead of you.”

The challenge to the TLC members, was to think of what “new thing” we needed in our lives, and how to trust God to provide it. My mind immediately went to ABC. We are living in challenging times. Change is in the wind. Our beloved administrative assistant, Alice Blackwood, has retired after 20 years of service. (Some have wondered out loud how ABC can go forward without her.) Glenn Molina, Director of Worship Arts, has announced his intention of stepping down in 2013. This will mean an even greater change for us. (Others have wondered the same thing about Glenn.) The poor economy has caused much belt tightening in the past few years. Some of our outside streams of revenue have dried up. We might be tempted to think of this as our wilderness.

Except that the Spirit of God is present in our congregation. ABC is not our church, it is Christ’s church, and he has invested himself in his body already in a mighty way at ABC. We have seen his work, and it is a marvel. We have had some glory days in the past, but, “I am about to do a new thing.”

You may need a “new thing” in your own wilderness. Think back on your faithful God, and then think Him forward into your future!!

PS: You never know what you’re going to get when you go to TLC. But it’s always something good. If you don’t belong to a small group, consider joining one. The encouragement and prayer support is what every one of us needs. We’re also planning a new Alpha course (basic introduction to Christianity) in September, and that might be the right small group for you.