Hi everybody!

Welcome to 2017, the year of rivers in the desert!

After the hustle and bustle of Christmas, with tons of Christmas assemblies, lots of carols and Christmas projects, and one of our schools making national news due to a severe outbreak of flu, our team took some time this side of the new year to reflect. We spent two days holed up in the Life Centre in Romiley taking stock of the last term and looking forward to this one. It was so special to spend time in worship and prayer with one another and also with the Trustees, and to take from some of them tips from their many years of experience. We are truly blessed as a team to have such wise and knowledgeable Trustees guiding us. It was also a great time of preparation for the coming term; a time for planning and big ideas. After all our talking and planning, now it’s time for us to go out and do it, actually see what God has got planned for all our plans. Are our ideas in line with his? Does he have other big ideas he hasn’t yet revealed? We’ll find out.

But for me, I want this to be the year of rivers in the desert. I have been mulling over Isaiah 43 verse 19 (as pictured above.) God is looking forward – he is creating new things in places where it was thought new things would never grow, he is making ways in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Now, this isn’t me saying that Stockport is a barren land, quite the opposite. As some of you may know, deserts are actually incredibly fertile. For hundreds of miles of seemingly arid land there is, teeming beneath the surface, a multitude of organisms waiting to be given life, waiting for the rare rainfall or the heavy dew of dawn. I believe that Stockport is fertile ground. I believe that seeds have been sown for years and years, with the prayers and intercession of supporters like yourselves, and this year the Lord will bring the rain that will blossom Stockport and create rivers, life-giving rivers, in our fertile desert.

2017: The year of Rivers in the Desert.

Although I have chosen verse 19 to be my tagline for this year of work, the chapter itself has been incredibly revealing to me. The Lord does not just promise new-ness, not just a revival of life where none had been seen by the naked human eye. The Lord promises His protection first:

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.”  (Isaiah 43: 2-3)

How powerful to have these words of protection to cling onto as we enter the new year, and face unknown challenges! And then, should we doubt His ability to provide that protection, He reminds Israel (and us) of all of the works of his hands. He recalls to Israel their rescue from Egypt, His mighty hand parting the water of the Red Sea. (vs 3-4, 16-17) Faced with such acts of power, can we deny that the Lord is powerful? What a challenge then, to examine our own lives and wonder what mighty acts the Lord would lay before us to remind us of his strength? From my life I know that He could remind of a million times when He has reached into my life and proved that “I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name. You are mine.” (vs 1). Yet, even after the promise of life and renewal, the Lord still sees Israel’s disobedience. (22-24) He sees ours also. He sees my own doubts and insecurities about this year even as I write these words. Yet! Yet what a great God he is, for even as we doubt He forgives our unbelief:

“I, even I, am he who blots out
    your transgressions, for my own sake,
    and remembers your sins no more.” (verse 25)

Sometimes, we cannot help ourselves. We all have doubts sometimes. Will the Lord really come through for me? Does he really care about the little minutiae of my life, or my child’s life, or the life of a child I just met in a school? We all have doubts. Through those doubts, we are guilty of unbelief against Him, even Him who has demonstrated his greatness, called us His own, and promised to renew our lives. Yet He remembers our sins no more. In Isaiah 44 the prophet writes of God’s continued blessing as He promises to bless the line of Jacob, from which the green shoot of hope will one day spring: Our Lord Jesus, He who takes our transgressions upon him at the cross, for His own sake, so the Father will remember our sins no more.

And isn’t that what all this newness is all for? What else can we pursue as Christians in Schools but to see young people come into the family God? For us, the rivers in the desert will be the pouring out of the holy spirit in schools and youth groups. It will be the young people and children who, this year, make a decision to follow Christ for themselves for themselves. This decision might be made in so many different ways; maybe a big event, maybe a quiet discussion, maybe even a private whisper in their own heart, but the decision will be to accept the Fatherhood of the One who makes rivers in the desert. The One who tells all of us, “I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name. You are mine.”

So as we begin this new term with our new bookings and new projects, join our team in trusting the Lord’s plan. He will do a new thing. He will make roads in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. We pray his will be done.