L’Shanah Tovah – To a good year! We dip the apples in honey and we wish and pray for a sweet year. A new year – perhaps a time of new beginnings…sounds good, no?
But sometimes new beginnings mean something will need to change. The idea of new may be exciting and even thrilling. But new also may mean letting go of what is comfortable- kind of like an old sweater that has become “less fashionable” with time. Maybe the sweater is worn out and should have been trashed a long time ago, yet you like to sneak it out and wrap yourself in it when people you know aren’t looking.
Maybe it is time to “let-go” – like that ad for the app says…it is time to let go of things in your life that might be holding you back, making you not look so good, and you may not even be aware of it. It’s time to step up and make a change or two.
Or are you too comfortable to make a change? Letting go of what once was stylish or chic is not just referring to the clothes we wear on the outside, it speaks to the person wearing the clothing. Maybe you are more toned because of diet and exercise or maybe you are more “relaxed” because of less exercise and more ice cream. Things aren’t fitting like they once did. Styles change, we change – we have to re-examine where and how we stand today, not just in our clothing but in other areas of life. Just because something worked yesterday doesn’t mean it works today….at least not in the same way.
In the New Covenant, Yeshua speaks about changes and being too comfortable. He relates it to the custom of pouring wine into wine skins as a means for storage. He explains how if new wine is poured into old wineskins they will burst. The old wineskins cannot hold the expanding new wine.
I witnessed an important wine-skin-kind-of-change as I was growing up in the early seventies. The 1967 War in Israel brought Jerusalem under Jewish control, a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Soon after, the Jesus Movement swept across America with thousands of Jewish people finding Messiah. Many of these new Jewish believers felt uncomfortable in the non-Jewish culture of churches. Modern Messianic Judaism was on the rise. This new movement brought with it new terminology, like using the name Yeshua vs Jesus, or New Covenant vs. New Testament as well its own houses of worship that were called synagogues or temples. The idea of practicing our Jewish identity as Jewish believers was very novel and exciting, but the Hebrew Christian movement did not welcome this new expression of faith where young men wanted to wear kippahs and hora dancing was introduced as a form of worship.
So many of these Jewish believers were very comfortable with their Hebrew Christian sweater as they lived and worshiped in a non-Jewish world. Only a few Hebrew Christians were open or were even looking for something better. Change was resisted. Many could not taste the new wine of the Spirit and missed the concept that God’s plans evolve. Hebrew Christianity was once also a new concept beginning in the 19th century and throughout much of the 20th century. To those who were blessed by the warmth of this movement, it was hard to see anything could be better. God’s plans are progressive and advancing and our job is to recognize the changes and stay in step and in style, spiritually speaking.
And as it is in the big scheme of things, so it is in our personal lives.
That was a big lesson to witness and experience personally in my teens. New wine…old wine skins…just like my clothes. I hope to stay somewhat stylish…I want my life…my spiritual life to stay up-to-date…not lagging, dragging or even stagnant. I honestly don’t want to miss out on new directions of God’s Spirit.
But I find change is stressful, even good change, like getting married and planning a wedding (oy!) or having a beautiful baby (give me that epidural!). Whatever the change, it means getting out of your comfort zone.
Sometimes “bad” change is forced upon us and we have to accept it, or absorb it, whether we want to or not. Perhaps it is the deep sadness in the death of a husband, as it was in my case. Or, recently, the devastating outcome of the hurricanes. If you have built your life on the sure foundation of Yeshua…if He is your Rock, then you have the comfort of knowing that while circumstances will shift through the storms of life…God still has you, although it may not feel like it. Things won’t be the same. You will not be the same. You cannot always replace what is missing. You can, however, re-build and move forward. Loss is a part of our human experience. I can’t say I like this kind of change at all, but I’m not in it alone. I believe there is still purpose in life and I seek to intentionally live a life that is both abundant and pleasing to God.
These are the Yamim Nora’im, Days of Awe, where we are called to examine ourselves spiritually and morally (not really our clothing styles…but maybe we should). Maybe there is a behavior, an attitude, a thought, grudge or even a sin that has had its day and it is time to let go. You may realize it is holding you back…but it’s comfortable, I hear ya… (By the way, what does, “That is so 90’s” mean? And while I’m at it, there is a phenomenon I have noticed between parents and nearly grown up children where the parents are asking their kids if their outfits are good enough to wear. I have also noticed, change can be humbling too.)
God encourages us to examine ourselves and see what needs to be “updated” or thrown out. We all have “stuff” that keep us from shining bright with the reflection of God’s goodness. Maybe we need to examine how we use our time. Or quit wasting energy on being angry. Maybe we are just not paying much attention to God. Are you depressed, get help. Try on a new friendship or find a new believer to mentor. Maybe God wants us to find ways we can contribute in His plans and purposes in this world. Isn’t it our job to make this world a better place in some way?
Living life involves change. To do it with any kind of success, whether you are absorbing the change, or stepping out in new directions, demands, first, keeping God, not just on our radar, but front and center. It takes actively seeking God’s face, direction, and wisdom. You can only do this by seeking Him in His Word and in prayer. Also, get good counsel (including spiritual counsel) and be in fellowship with solid, strong believers.
Change encompasses faith, confidence that God is truly watching over you and desires good for you.
It takes courage and bravery.
It takes hanging in there – enduring the changes with our up and down emotions.
It takes using your gifts and talents in humility yet in confidence.
It takes patience and accepting that things won’t always turn out how we want them or that changes are ever easy. Maybe the changes will be good and maybe there will be failure…but from failure, we can learn and try again (I find this has been true with my clothing choices).
It takes believing that God wants you to keep moving forward in life. That He loves you and has called you to live purposefully and intentionally; not to drift through life hoping for good things to happen. Being comfortable is admittedly, comfortable, but it can also be stagnant.
This year let’s look to change it up a little (or maybe a lot). Living intentionally for Yeshua is a good life. He is very creative and dynamic. There is a new book on the New York Times bestseller list called, Option B, about the author’s experience of grief and recovery from the sudden death of her spouse. I feel that if someone who doesn’t know the Lord can endure great loss yet choose to be resilient and to find joy…how much more should we as believers in Yeshua? No judgment, it is a thought that I am holding on to.
So, I say, L’Shanah Tovah! To a good and sweet year…. and remember, God’s mercies are new every morning…He is always doing new things…..
Hope Chernoff-Edelstein serves on the Executive Board of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), as MJAA Regional Conference Manager, and as the Director of Ministries at Congregation Beth Yeshua in Philadelphia, PA. Through Congregation Beth Yeshua and the MJAA she has had the opportunity to serve Yeshua in various aspects such as ministry development, outreach, personal discipleship, mentorship, conference/event management, teaching, and leadership training. A great deal of her favorite focus is in interacting with young adults, as she now has three beautiful young adults of her own! Hope grew up in the Messianic revival and since her teens she has witnessed and been a part of the exciting growth of the Messianic Jewish movement. Her parents, Martin and Johannah Chernoff, were pioneers of the modern Messianic movement; they prayed, believed and worked to see the time of the prophetic outpouring of the Spirit upon Jewish people, especially Jewish young people, which included their children, Joel, David and Hope. It seems like God was listening.