I always tell people that today is a new year… from this day exactly a year ago. And without fail, they give me a weird look. I suppose you have to be in my brain to get it. I was brought up with January 1 as being the New Year.
Then I moved to Israel.
In Israel I was used to hearing that Rosh HaShanna was the New Year… until I learned that it is actually the Feast of Trumpets and that the Bible says that the New Year is in the month of Nissan. That marks the beginning of the religious New Year. But then there is Tu B’Shvat, a non-Biblical New Year that celebrates the new year for trees.
Then I started working with Chinese people in Israel.
In the Chinese congregation, I learned more about the lunar Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, celebrated sometime in January or February.
By now your heads are probably spinning. I know mine is… and that is why, every time I turn around, it seems like it’s a New Year—and now, suddenly, it is!
Some Jewish tradition regarding the New Year
And now, suddenly, it really is a NEW year, a new Jewish year (Rosh HaShanah). Traditionally, in Judaism, people use this as time to look back at the past year and hope ahead for the New Year, with the days of Yom Kippur and Sukkot marked clearly in their thoughts.
As I’ve explained in other posts, the Days of Awe, between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are meant to be days where one focusses on their sin. But what I didn’t realize until recently, is that according to Jewish tradition, while atonement is made on Yom Kippur (today through prayer since there is no temple), Sukkot is when God makes up His mind and gives the final command as to whether or not one is written in the Book of Life. Sounds a bit complicated, doesn’t it?
So really, with all of this in the mix, it strikes me that Sukkot marks a new beginning and I catch myself wondering, why isn’t Sukkot the Jewish New Year?
My New Year
As I look back over the past year, and years, I have so much to be thankful for. The past couple of months have marked several milestones for me, including being awarded “Outstanding Worker for the year 2018” at work and seeing the audiobook of my printed book, Connecting the Dots of a Disconnected Life, go live on Amazon. But then there have been other things that have happened, that are more encouragements, and wonders to me than anything—the way the students in the Chinese Church continue to grow in the faith. The numerous opportunities I have to encourage them and others, and see that God is indeed giving me the right words to help them on. I’ve also begun writing articles a printed Messianic newspaper, the Messianic Times. With the new year barely started, my third article has been accepted for publication and a fourth is in the works.
And so, as I’ve considered the past New Year, and look ahead at this New Year… I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness to me. I am so aware of how great His goodness is. Sometimes I wonder why He has blessed me so much. Is it too much? Am I spoiled? And when I ponder this I suddenly realize…
The sweetness of GOD’s love removes the bitterness of past pain
I suddenly realize that the sweetness of God’s love removes the bitterness of past pain. I don’t know about you, but I have this tendency to get bogged down with how bad I am. I’m not talking about self-image, I’m talking about reality check self-talk.
The kind negative self-talk when:
- I stayed up until 1 am—again—playing a stupid computer game, knowing I have to get up early the next day.
- I got angry—again—at some unknown driver who carelessly passed me, cut in front of me, or made me have to slam on my brakes… and the thought comes into my mind, that driver needs Jesus too.
- I spent the entire morning or evening browsing through different Facebook status of real friends (and I do want to keep in touch with them), instead of having a quite time reading my Bible and praying before going to work or going to sleep.
- I messed up again…
And then when I finally do sit down to pray, I feel so worthless, so hopeless, so unusable by God, and cry out to Him… when will I be perfect? When will sin no longer tempt me? When will the things others do no longer disturb me? When will I really be like Jesus? And in the midst of my cries, I wonder, how can God put up with me, and why.
Stop listening to the lies
Over and over I realize, I have to stop listening to the lies. Over and over, when I read God’s word, it is not about a scale system of judgement, it’s not about Him putting up with me, it’s about God loving me, and loving me first, best, and always. It’s about every moment in my life being a potent opportunity to start a new year, refreshed, restored, rejuvenated in Him… or as Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:22-23,
22 Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for His mercies never end.
23 They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness!
This is the truth, for you and for me. As I ponder this truth, I think of King David, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Solomon, Samson, Esther, Tamar, and so many others whose stories in the Bible inspire us… but if we look closely at these people, really, it is their imperfections that give us hope. If God could work through these people, all of whom had major shortcomings and faced huge challenges… all of whom were tempted severely, and many of whom fell, isn’t this really why their stories encourage? Because if God could work in and through them He can work in and through you and me.
Happy New Year
So yes, Jewish New Year was already a couple of weeks ago, but I’d like to wish YOU a different and a Happy New Year… starting right now, right this moment. May you, together with me, accept and rest in the faithful love and mercy of our God, which is truly new every morning, and in fact, every moment of our lives.
Note: Please view this on my website to access the links in the text… thank you.