I begin this devotional by confessing that I struggle with claustrophobia. It has gotten noticeably worse as I have aged. Mine manifests itself in a fear of being trapped, rather than a fear of small spaces. This became very evident on a trip to Paris several years ago when I descended to the basement level of a charming restaurant in search of a ladies’ room. The restroom ended up being dark and tiny, as those places tend to be, but that was fine … right up until the point when I tried to leave and discovered that the door handle wouldn’t move. It was amazing how the room grew smaller and smaller, like the time that Luke, Leia, and Hans got trapped in the trash compactor in Star Wars. I swear I saw the dark tiled walls closing in around me.

I had walked down three passages to find this place, so I knew its remote location was not in my favor. As the reality of my entrapment became more and more evident, panic took over and I found myself banging on the door and yelling in broken French (maybe it was Spanish?) for someone to come save me. Eventually a waiter came by and began to yell instructions (in French, of course … not helpful) to stop yanking on the door handle so that he could fix it. He used a screw driver to get the door open, making me think that this had happened before. I emerged exhausted, sweaty, and very grateful to see the annoyed, eye-rolling waiter.

Have you ever found yourself in a horrible situation where you could not find a way out? A relationship, a job, a marriage, a terminal illness, an addiction, a family situation … we can get stuck in situations where we don’t think there is any way to escape. Like people on a crowded elevator stuck between floors, we feel paralyzed by circumstances beyond our control and lose sight of which way is up or down. Hopelessness and panic easily set in when you can’t find your way out of a bad scenario. I have been there and I imagine you have, too.

Several of my friends are stuck between floors right now. One is newly divorced and one is newly widowed. One is dealing with a son’s addition. They all feel trapped in their sadness and are having a hard time imagining that life will feel better.

It will.

God is the great way-maker, and he desires to “un-stick” us when we feel hopeless.

Isaiah 53 (Common English Bible)

The Lord says—who makes a way in the sea
    and a path in the mighty waters,
17     who brings out chariot and horse,
    army and battalion;
    they will lie down together and will not rise;
    they will be extinguished, extinguished like a wick.

Isaiah recounts the time when God brought Israel out of slavery and hardship in Egypt through the Red Sea to the Promised Land. Pharaoh’s army was in strong pursuit, but God caused its chariots, horses, and battalions to get stuck in the mud. God extinguished Israel’s pursuers as easily as one extinguishes a candle wick. He will do that for you as well.

18 Don’t remember the prior things;
    don’t ponder ancient history.
19 Look! I’m doing a new thing;
    now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert,
    paths in the wilderness.

This is the best and the hardest part of the teaching today. God’s instruction is to not remember the prior things, and to stop dwelling on ancient history so that you can focus on the new thing he is doing. When we are stuck, the “prior things” are all we can see. When those things bring up feelings of fear, anguish, and despair, God desires for us to wait and watch him make a way in the desert of our hopelessness.

20 The beasts of the field,
        the jackals and ostriches, will honor me,
    because I have put water in the desert
    and streams in the wilderness
    to give water to my people,
    my chosen ones,
21     this people whom I formed for myself,
        who will recount my praise.

God is our great way-maker. No matter what the circumstance, he works to free us from our situation so that we can find the streams of hope in the desert of life. He will work to open up the snare that is caught around your ankle so that you can walk in freedom toward a new and different future.

Are you stuck right now? Ask God to come and unlock your chains. Our great Way-Maker is able and ready.

A New Thing by Becca Ziegler

New Creations

How many times in your life have you “made yourself over”? I have lost count. I have been a blond. I’ve been a brunette. I’ve been 20 pounds heavier and 20 pounds lighter. I’ve been a yankee and a southern girl. I’ve been a student and a teacher. The list goes on. I think it is only human to try to make ourselves over in some image that has captured our attention. The popularity of make-over shows on television supports this theory. Don’t we just love the big reveal, when the work of experts has brought out a new and better version of the person, house, or restaurant?

God is in the make-over business. In fact, he has been trying to make-over humanity for thousands of years. The trouble is that God’s standard for beauty is so much different than ours. We look at superficial things like weight and appearance, while God only concerns himself with the heart.

2 Corinthians 5 (Common English Bible)

16 So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

You are a new creation in Christ! That statement brings all the hope and promise of a changed life, a changed attitude, and a changed heart. God desires us to be clean and whole through the application of the shed blood of the atonement. You can apply all the eyeliner and lipstick you want, but you will never achieve the change that giving your life to Jesus brings.

1All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.

Our transformation comes through our reconciliation to God through the cross. We are made one with the One who dismisses our sins and makes us become something new. There is no better “look” than that!

20 So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, “Be reconciled to God!” 21 God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God.

When you undergo a physical change, people notice and comment. What would it take for them to notice a spiritual change in you as well? Christ offers to change your inward appearance so that your outward appearance … notably your actions and deeds … match up with the new you. So don’t just go and tell. Go, and show.

Reflections of God by Wende Pritchard

All Things New

As we start this Monday of Holy Week, let us consider why the crucifixion happened. Today we will look back to Isaiah, who never met Jesus and never knew the son of God who taught, healed, performed miracles, and attracted followers. Isaiah could not have imagined Jesus’ birth in a manger, the twelve men who joined him to do his work, and women like Mary Magdalene, Martha, and Salome, who attended to our Lord. Isaiah didn’t know anything about Jesus, but he knew everything about the WHY of Jesus.

Isaiah 42 (Common English Bible)

But here is my servant, the one I uphold;
    my chosen, who brings me delight.
I’ve put my spirit upon him;
    he will bring justice to the nations.
He won’t cry out or shout aloud
    or make his voice heard in public.
He won’t break a bruised reed;
    he won’t extinguish a faint wick,
    but he will surely bring justice.
He won’t be extinguished or broken
    until he has established justice in the land.
The coastlands await his teaching.

God told Isaiah that his chosen one would bring justice to the nations. He taught Isaiah that his servant would be challenged, but would prevail. God instructed Isaiah to tell the nations about the savior who would come to open blind eyes, lead prisoners to freedom, and offer a covenant of blood and atonement for their sins.

God the Lord says—
    the one who created the heavens,
    the one who stretched them out,
    the one who spread out the earth and its offspring,
    the one who gave breath to its people
    and life to those who walk on it—
I, the Lord, have called you for a good reason.
    I will grasp your hand and guard you,
    and give you as a covenant to the people,
    as a light to the nations,
    to open blind eyes, to lead the prisoners from prison,
    and those who sit in darkness from the dungeon.
I am the Lord;
    that is my name;
    I don’t hand out my glory to others
        or my praise to idols.

So while Isaiah never knew Jesus, he knew that Jesus would usher in a new world order where sin and death would be vanquished. Behold! God makes all things new.

The things announced in the past—look—they’ve already happened,
    but I’m declaring new things.
    Before they even appear,
    I tell you about them.

When Jesus walked that lonely journey to the cross, he carried the words of Isaiah in his heart. Isaiah gave him strength for the task. But for today, let us rejoice in knowing that just as Isaiah foretold it, the old things no longer exist. God is declaring all things new.

Where in your life is God declaring new things for you? Have you put the past in the past? Have you left it all behind? What changes do you have to make to receive the new life God is offering?

The God who created the heavens, gave breath to his people, and offers eternal life calls you to close the door on the past and claim the new things that Jesus purchased for you on the cross.

Its time to move forward.

Holy Monday by Debby Fox