Are We There Yet?

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:321 (ESV). 

If there is one question that has been asked by every child it is probably this one: Are we there yet? Generations of children have asked it. They have then grown into parents and then grandparents and continue to be asked that question. 

You have to wonder how many times the Israelites asked that question of Moses. Before rescuing them from slavery and leading them out of Egypt, Moses told them that the Lord would lead them to “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8) He did, but first, they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. This was no ordinary wandering, however. They were not lost; they were wandering for a purpose. The children of Israel needed to have their hearts, souls, and minds reoriented toward God. This was accomplished in the wilderness: “Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.” (Deuteronomy 8:2) But not before an entire generation died because of their disobedience. Numbers 32:13 says, “The Lord was angry with Israel and made them wander in the wilderness for forty years until the entire generation that sinned in the Lord’s sight had died.”

In life, it sometimes seems as if we are wandering in circles. We feel lost. We want to ask God, “Are we there yet? How much longer?” At such times, it helps to remember that the journey, not just the destination, is important to God. How often do we get focused on the destination and forget to pay attention to the journey? We’re anxious to move on from one season of our life to another physically and spiritually. So much that we sometimes forget the journey’s just as important as the destination. Maybe it’s even more important.  

When Jesus said “Follow me” to Peter, He was setting Peter out on a journey. Peter didn’t immediately become the bold apostle we see later in Acts. No, he had to wait. Had to wait for the Holy Spirit to come. It was through the journey Peter developed into the man Jesus called him to be.

Yes, the destination is important and we need to have goals and identify where we’re called, but then we need to allow God to set the timeline and take us through His journey. It’s the journey, after all, that prepares us for the destination.

What about today? Are you impatiently waiting to get to your next destination? Or, are you allowing God to take you through the journey?  In times when you are impatient, remember to relax, and learn what God is trying to teach you in the journey.

Discussion Questions

  1. What’s something you’re currently waiting for God to do for you? What might He be doing in you?
  2. Why do you think God’s timing is different from ours? What could be so different about our perspective?  What do you typically do while you are waiting? 

Do You Believe In Miracles?

“You are the God of miracles and wonders! You still demonstrate Your awesome power.” – Psalm 77:14 (TLB)

We live in a world where almost anything seems possible. Technology and computer tricks of today make it almost impossible to discern fact from fiction. Movie effects no longer amaze us as we’ve come to expect fantastical creatures to come alive in realistic far-off landscapes. We’re taught to be skeptical because any media can be altered. We read in the Bible on how God parted the Red Sea, gave sight to the blind, healed lepers, and raised Lazarus from the grave. But that was then and this is now. Do miracles still happen? 

In other words, does God miracles today as He did in biblical times: The first possibility is God performed many miracles during Biblical times and then stopped, concluding that He did everything He needed to do to prove Himself. The second possibility is that God does miracles today just like in Biblical times; we just don’t hear about them, see them, or attribute them to Him. The second possibility makes more sense. If Jesus Christ could perform miracles two thousand years ago, He still can today. His heart broke for those hurting then, so it still does now. His desire to heal never changes. He’s the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

The movie Breakthrough is the story of John Smith, a 14-year-old boy, drowned in a lake in a tragic accident. After being rushed to the hospital, John was without a pulse for almost an hour. Like most moms, John’s mother prayed that God would miraculously revive her son. When almost all hope was lost, John’s pulse returned. The doctors attending John could only describe it as a miracle.  There is no other explanation. John’s story is a powerful reminder that God is still in the business of doing miracles.  

Chances are, you can also think of a miracle in your own life or the life of someone close to you. A body healed, a marriage saved, a crisis averted, a heart mended…and many more. It is an amazing thing to see an act of God that can’t be explained any other way. It’s nothing to do with luck or coincidence. God can break into our world any time He chooses to do things that we cannot explain. Jesus said in Luke 18:27, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” Jeremiah 32:17 says, “O Sovereign LORD! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!”

Jeremiah, knowing who God is and what He is says, “Nothing is too hard for you.” So what you see as impossibilities is addressed in Jeremiah 32:27: “I am the LORD, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?”

Hudson Taylor said it succinctly: “There are three stages in the work of God: impossible, difficult, done.” 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever witnessed a miracle? If so describe what happened? 
  2. Why do you think so many people today don’t believe in miracles?

  The Enemies Of Christianity

“I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners to punish those who sit complacent in their sins. They think the LORD will do nothing to them, either good or bad.” – Zephaniah 1:12. 

If you asked a group of believers what the enemies of Christianity are you would probably get the following answers: “Sin.” “Satan.” “Pride.” Those are good answers; they are the enemies of Christianity.  But would anybody say complacency?  

Complacency is basically contentment with the status quo. Among Christians, it is contentment with the way things are—in one’s own spiritual life. You can be reading your Bible every day, going to church every week, etc., and still be complacent. 

It is easy to want to tread water rather than face change and the unknown. Complacency can happen when we grow tired, lose focus, allow things contrary to God to flood our mind so we grow desensitized and question our passion for the process of growing and yearning after God; and most importantly applying it to our life. Galatians 6:9 tells us, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

One sure way to battle competency is to spend time in the Word.  If Jesus is the Word, and the Word is alive, then when we read the Bible, we are having an actual, real conversation with the Living God. It’s not just reading to read — it’s reading towards a deeper relationship. Another way to battle complacency is to make a commitment. When someone asks me to sign up for something new — something that adds a new discipline or a new area of service, consider making a commitment, even if it is short-term.  When you commit to a short-term spiritual challenge, you will most likely be motivated to keep going. 

The third way to battle complacency is by creating time and space for God to speak to you. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to do all the things that we do for God, and never give God the chance to speak to us. When God speaks to you, it will change everything. Complacency fades because God becomes real.   

When the Jesus you know about is replaced by the Jesus you know, complacency will be a thing of the past. “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.” (Job 42:5 ESV) 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is it difficult to recognize when complacency has set in? Why? 
  2. What can we do this week to counteract any complacency in our lives?     

 Life Is A Long Race

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1.

We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” The current world record holder for the 100-meter sprint is Usain Bolt, the “fastest man on earth” with a time of 9.58 seconds. That’s fast! The current world record holder for the marathon (26.2 miles) is Eliud Kipchoge with a time of 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds. These are two very different events that require very different skill sets, body types, training regimens, preparation, and strategy.

When we first became a Christian, we came out of the blocks like Usain Bolt. We can’t wait to tell everyone we could about what happened. We poured into our Bibles, got involved in church, learned how to pray, and sought after God like Usain Bolt seeks the finish line.

But over time, we come to realize that our walk with Jesus is a long race. Life happens, storms come, distractions are inevitable, and sometimes you run out of gas. Marathoners call that “hitting the wall. ” This typically happens two-thirds into the race when their legs feel like concrete and feelings of utter fatigue and negativity set in. They wonder if they can make it to the finish line. Things are different from the days as a new Christian when we jumped out starting blocks in a dead sprint, seeking the things of God.

The Christian life is much more a marathon than it is a sprint. God wants us to be endurance runners – the kind of people who will run the whole stretch of our race and finish victorious at the end.

The good news is we don’t run the race alone. God will help us. So when you grow weary and hit the wall, don’t be discouraged. God knows exactly where you’re at in your journey, and He knows the next steps. He wants to run the race with you. The Christian life is more like a marathon than a short sprint. Whether we have a few years left or many in our journey of life, we need the perseverance to press on. Paul says in Philippians 3:14, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” 

The good news is Jesus made us lightweight runners. He took the burden of our sins and placed them on himself at the cross. Then he rose from the dead and sat at the right hand of God to pray for us to fight sin and continue in faith throughout the long race that is life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are your big hopes and dreams for the race that God has set out for you in 2022?
  2. What do you think could be some of the challenges that you will need to persevere with?How can we better exercise our faith and put it into practice?

 The Promises Of God 

“The promises of God are to the believer an ‘inexhaustible mine of wealth’. Happy is it for him if he knows how to search out their secret veins and enrich himself with their hidden treasures. They are an ‘armory’, containing all manner of offensive and defensive weapons. Blessed is he who has learned to enter into the sacred arsenal, to put on the breastplate and the helmet, and to lay his hand to the spear and to the sword. They are a ‘pharmacy’, in which the believer will find all manner of restoratives and blessed elixirs…blessed is he who is well skilled in heavenly pharmacy and knows how to lay hold on the healing virtues of the promises of God.” – Charles Spurgeon.

Did you ever stay up late watching an infomercial about a boat made of tape, a knife sharp enough to cut through a soda can, or an exercise machine that promises you the fitness results you’ve always wanted? We are typically skeptical, but something in us, says, “Hmm, maybe I’ll give it a try.” Maybe it’s the features and benefits. Or the low price. Or the money-back guarantee. So you placed the order and found yourself in some cases owning something that doesn’t live up to the promises. Fortunately, God does live up to His promises.
 
Remember when the people of God were slaves in Egypt. They were oppressed, weak, and helpless but God promised that He would rescue them and give them a land of their own. So, He raised up leaders like Moses and in miraculous and surprising ways led their escape from Pharaoh’s reign.  He continued to care and provide for the people as they wandered in the desert by giving them food and water, causing them to win battles, and continually leading them to their promised land. 
 
What does this mean for us today? God has made promises to us, and He keeps them. There are too many to list in this short devotional. We know from historical and current evidence that the promises of God are sure. “And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” – 2 Peter 1:4. God keeps His promises so now what? Do we keep these promises hidden for some future date? Do we set them on some shelf to collect dust waiting for us to get around to experiencing them?

God’s promises require faith. We must trust in God and believe He’ll follow through on his promises. In fact, experiencing His promises to the extent God intends for you requires trust. Philippians 4:19 says, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” God promises to supply every need of yours.” His promises are sure.

So when you see storms on the horizon, do not be afraid. Hold fast to God, dig in deeper in prayer, study His word, and trust in His promises.

Discussion Questions:
1. What are you trusting God with today? Are you anxiously or patiently waiting for God to fulfill His promises?

2. We can trust God, no matter how impossible the circumstances, because God always keeps His promises. Agree or disagree and why? 

 Fear Of The Future

“In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” – Jeremiah 29:12-14. 

In the book of Jeremiah, we read about how the people of God had been captured by King Nebuchadnezzar and taken into captivity in Babylon. In their eyes, their future looked bleak and scary. They had no idea if they would ever get to go back home or what would happen to them while they were in Babylon. Would families be split up? Would they be abused and tortured? Would they be slaves? What would the future hold? In chapter 29 we find a letter from Jeremiah encouraging the people who were in exile with the truth that God will rescue them.

The question for each of us is, can God be trusted with our future? Most Christians would answer that question with a definitive yes. But each time we struggle with letting go of our agendas to follow Christ, we are asking if we can trust God to navigate the future successfully. The bottom line is we can trust God.   

Through all of Scripture God shows us who He is, what He is like, and what He does. He tells us that He is all-powerful; He can do things that we can never do on our own. He is loving and kind. He is faithful. He has a plan. We are called to be faithful in the little things, with the little things, for the little things right now, and trust God with the rest. We are where we are when we are for a reason. God has placed us here now. Instead of being of feeling fear, take comfort in the fact that “…every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:16). and “the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

If you have ever worried about your future, wondered how to prepare, or feared that you might miss God’s calling on your life, hold fast to these truths and remember — you are where you are for a reason. Press on where God has placed you. He is using where you are and your circumstances this moment as a training ground for the future. Ask yourself these questions: are you willing to do your best and pour yourself out wherever you are right now? Are you willing to stop being distracted by all of the “what ifs” of the future and trust God?  

We can prepare for our futures by being the people God has called us to be in our present life circumstances and, by faith, leave the rest in His ever-capable hands.

That is the best way to prepare for the future. Yes, none of us knows what will happen in the coming year. But the Bible also assures us God knows, and that we can trust Him. In fact, He has declared “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10 ESV). As Christians, we possess a hope that is unshakable.

Discussion Questions

  1. If you were able to know one thing about the future, what would it be?  
  2. What can we do this week to trust and accept God’s plan for the future?

 Look Forward

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” – Philippians 3:13-14. 

Our world likes us to believe that our past determines the future direction of our life. If you were treated unfairly, that will dictate the condition of your life today. If you were rebellious in your youth, the remainder of your life will be spent struggling with rebellion. But the future is not a prologue to our future.

For one thing, as Christians, we know that Christ has overcome our past. The “The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)  If you are preoccupied with your past, ask God to open your eyes to the incredible future that awaits you and begin, like Paul, to press on to what is ahead.

In Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan uses the image of a Christian carrying on the way, until one day he grew kind of content with his life and stopped to take a nap. When he stopped to take a nap he forgot his summons, and he was captured and brought into the Pit of Despair for a while until he remembered what he had, then he had to go back. He messed up the entire journey. Paul is saying I’m not going to do this, I’m going to press on the goal for the prize of the upward call of God and in Christ Jesus. He says I’m not going to stop, I know how far I have come, praise the Lord, but that’s not enough because there’s still more to gain. I haven’t arrived yet and so I’m going to press on toward the finish line.

It may not be easy, but we need to forget all those past hurts, pains, failures, disappointments, rejection, regretful actions, conversations, and misunderstandings, of the past. In order for you to move forward into that place that God has destined for you to be, you have got to let go of the past.  Purpose in your heart and mind that the past will not be your focus in the future. Forgetting the past and reaching toward the future with Christ in view is where we need to head throughout the remainder of 2022. We should never forget that God loves us. Like a trusted friend, He encourages us. He nudges us to press on. To stay in whatever race we are in. To stay focused on whatever it is He wants us to do.

As we gather as a church as a community, as we gather in small groups and other places where we have the opportunity to gather together, the goal is to press forward together. This is a team sport, it’s not an individual race. Do you realize that? We have front row seats to that in each other’s lives. That’s what the church is. That’s what our hope is together and together we can press forward.   

Discussion Questions

  1. What things do you fear in the future whether that is tomorrow or twenty years from now.
  2. What truths about God are you struggling to believe related to these fears? What can you do this week to strengthen your faith in those areas.

God Will Always Be There 

“But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you..”
– Isaiah 43:1-2. 

The Home Alone movies are great movies. After watching those movies who haven’t thought about being left home alone and having to protect the house through ingenious booby traps throughout the house. But the side story is it would be no fun to be left alone. Loneliness is real and even with social media, many people feel alone and unconnected. Too often we as believers forget that we are never alone in this journey through life.

The Psalmist tells us: “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.” (Psalm 139:7-10) Theologians call this God’s omnipresence. God is not limited to time and space; He exists everywhere at the same time. No matter where you go or how fast you get there, God is already there. His presence is a reminder of His love for you. No matter where you go, you are always in His presence. As you rest in His presence, you rest in His love. No matter what is happening in your life at that moment, God’s presence is with you. If you feel all alone and that no one cares, remember, God is with you, and He loves you. If I trust Jesus, then I must take Him at His Word, and He tells me over and over again through Scripture that He will not leave me behind. 

If we are honest, we can think of God as our “magic genie” from time to time. We keep him on the shelf until troubles arise and we really need Him. The reality is that God will not be left on the shelf of anyone’s life. Scripture is clear that all of life—and, principally the gospel life—is about being in God’s relational presence. This is why David proclaims, “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” (Psalm 16:11). In the Great Commission, Jesus is sending His closest friends into dangerous locales, to places where they will be persecuted, hunted, and ultimately, killed. And despite that terrifying reality, Jesus promises them: “…And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

Jesus is with you too—today, yesterday, and forever. No matter what you’re facing. No matter the sorrow past or present, He is here, grieving with us, celebrating with us, growing and filling us with His Spirit, and helping us take steps forward with hope. So remember that no matter where you go, God is with you.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you believe God is always there? How have you experienced that?
  2. What can we do this week to make his presence real in our lives?    

 Hope Is Real 

“Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared! They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.” – Luke 24:31-34. 

The last few years have been hard financially, mentally, and physically. If your hope has waned a little bit over the last few years consider how the two disciples of Jesus felt on the walk to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-34) 

The disciples on the Emmaus road are feeling a little low. Jesus is dead, yet life goes on. The scenarios they envisioned no longer seem viable, so there is nothing left to do but go home and figure out where they go from here. Plus, with all that transpired, it probably seemed like the safest choice.

But as they walked, their new walking companion decried their lack of faith and spoke wonderful things to them from the Bible. At the end of the Luke passage, the disciples said “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” That evening after the long journey home, Jesus sat with His two disciples and did what He’d done so many times before. He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them (Luke 24:30). And when they ate, the disciples’ eyes were opened to their Savior. With them was hope Himself. And they ran back to Jerusalem to share the good news with their brothers and sisters. They went home mourning a dead Jesus but on the way, they met a living Savior.  

Hope often works that way. When things seem bleak, Jesus does His best work. But here is the thing: It is up to us to see it. We are the very reason He lived, died, and rose again. He wants us to have hope. That day, Jesus taught two of His followers, and us, to not set their hope on the uncertainty of worldly riches. Rather set our hope on God: “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17) We are on the victory side not because we have overcome anything, but because Jesus, our hope, has overcome everything.  

In Hebrews 6:17-19 Jesus is described as the hope set before us and the anchor of our souls. When the Bible uses the word hope, it does not mean mere wishful thinking. Hope in Scripture means trusting in God’s faithfulness. We have a confidence that cannot be shaken or moved because of what Jesus has accomplished.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does a hope filled life look like?
  2. Through Christ, we have hope. How can that be evident in your life this week?

Are You Excited About The Future?

I have to get to the point of the absolute and unquestionable relationship that takes everything exactly as it comes from Him. God never guides us at some time in the future, but always here and now. Realize that the Lord is here now, and the freedom you receive is immediate.” – Oswald Chambers.

How can we face our uneasy, uncertain future when we have political unrest, nations quarreling with each other, the threat of terrorist attacks, and a pandemic. People are struggling to view the future in bright light. What does the future hold? Psalm 46:10 answers that question:”Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” 

As John Maxwell observed, “Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.” Crack the Bible open and you will find account after account of individuals who made hard choices during their journey of following God and as a result, enjoyed His rich blessings. Every choice we make either moves us closer to God or moves us away from Him and His purpose for our lives. We have a choice. We can make things happen or not happen by what we decide, including our future individually and collectively. 

In the midst of this pressure to plan our lives out completely, God reminds us that He is in control and that we don’t have to figure our future out on our own, in fact, we really shouldn’t. God’s plan for our lives is much better than any plan we could try and make on our own. In Isaiah 41:10, God says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” We do not need to fear our future, because God is going to be there every step of the way.

Your future starts today. Are you happy with the direction of your life or are you merely existing? Are you excited about the future and moving toward the desired goal? Or do you feel as if you are drifting along from day to day hoping that the future will be better?  Don’t live a “settled-for life.”  

Rather remember the reason for our hope and for our peace. “Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (Romans 5:2) Today and in the future, we are nothing without God and everything with Him.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are you worried about the future and if so, why?  
  2. What do we do when Satan tempts us and tries to undermine our hope?