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?

Remember The faithfulness of God 

“God’s faithfulness means that God will always do what He has said and fulfill what He has promised.” – Wayne Grudem. 

We tend to forget things, don’t we? We forget names and faces. We forget where our keys are. The older we get the more real the struggle becomes. Some things we would like to forget, like the past few difficult years. For many people that is an understatement.  In spite of everything, if we take some time to think about it, some incredible things also happened in 2020 and 2022. I hope you can say the same. It is easy to remember the hard things. It is more difficult to remember the good things. Whatever is happening we want to remember the faithfulness of God.

We need to take some time each day to notice, recognize, and appreciate God’s presence in our lives. He is working in our lives whether we are looking or not because He is faithful.

The Scripture is replete with examples of God being a God who is worthy of our trust. Hebrews 11 is known as the faith chapter. It talks about people throughout Scripture and how they lived out their faith in God. More than that, you see the faithfulness of God. His protection of Noah, His plan for Joseph, the exodus of the Israelites, the battles won, and the rewards received. You can see how God moved in each and every one of their situations. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

If a person gets out a photo album or the high school yearbook, memories of the people and places will flood our minds. The same thing will happen if we take time to reflect and recollect on what God has done for us. One way to remember God’s faithfulness is through journaling. Whenever God does something in your life, no matter how big or small,  write it down. And then make it a habit to read the journal periodically. Every time you read through it, you remember God’s faithfulness; it will encourage you and deepen your trust in Him. You will be amazed at how blessed you are. If you will start each day thinking of something God has done for you and thanking Him for it, you will remember to remember God. “Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.” (Deuteronomy 8:18)  Psalm 103:2 adds, “Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.”  Remembering God’s faithfulness isn’t limited to our personal experiences. Listen to the faithfulness of God in the life of others through their testimonies. The situations may be different, but God remains the same. 

Do whatever we can to remember the faithfulness of God.

Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever had spiritual amnesia? How does forgetting God and what He’s done weaken our spiritual growth?
  2. How do the consequences of forgetfulness have ripple effects that go beyond ourselves?

 Don’t Forget about God 

But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.”  –  Deuteronomy 8:11–14.

“You’d forget your head if it wasn’t screwed on.” That is a phrase that most people have heard at one time or another. While it doesn’t make sense, there is some logic to it. It’s easy to forget things, isn’t it? That’s the way life is. Items to pick up at the store. Appointments to remember. Deadlines and work-associated things. Things to organize. Forgetfulness can strike anybody. But forgetting God? The Israelites did but we are not immune from forgetting Him either.   

The story of the Israelites in the desert is pretty well known. God allowed them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.  As the people of Israel prepared to settle down in the Promised Land, Moses took time to warn them of certain dangers they must avoid. In Deuteronomy 8, he cautioned them about the perils of prosperity and self-satisfaction that they would face in their new homeland, imploring them not to forget about God.  

Do not forget the Lord means consciously and consistently thinking about what God has shown us in the past, including His miracles of deliverance and provision, His abiding presence, His tender care, and His loving discipline. It also means obeying the “commands, laws, and decrees” in God’s Word.

Forgetting God even happens in the good times. Without realizing it, while in the midst of everyday living, one’s sense of the presence of God can become dulled and fade away. Remembering God requires some thought and time. Having all one’s needs met can cause a person to forget about God. When there is a deep need in our lives, we tend to seek God and ask for His help. When God meets our needs, it is easy to forget again.

Forgetting God usually results in some degree of self-sufficiency. After things have gone our way for a while, an attitude of self-sufficiency sets in. “I did it by myself,” creeps into our psyche. We forget what God has done and consider our success a personal accomplishment. All that God did is forgotten and the memories of God’s grace and provision fade in time. 

Take time to remember God and all that He has accomplished in your life. Remember the road that God has brought you to in this specific time and place right now.    

Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever had spiritual amnesia? How does forgetting God and what He’s done weaken our spiritual growth?
  2. How do the consequences of forgetfulness have ripple effects that go beyond ourselves?

Were You Born For Greatness?  

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 1Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” – John 14:12-14. 

We were born for greatness. At least that is what Jesus is telling us in John 14:12-14. Jesus is telling us not to be greater but to do greater. In other words, you don’t ask in Jesus’ name so you can be great, you ask in Jesus’ name to do great things that would bring honor and glory to God the Father through His Son. 

So what is greatness? Most people have a personalized definition of greatness. Maybe it centers around accomplishments; people like Steve Jobs from Apple come to mind.  Or maybe historical names come to mind, like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr., etc. They had a huge impact on world history. But what is greatness from a Biblical perspective? 

Some people have this erroneous thinking that some people are destined for greatness, while others are just destined for average or the down life.  Jesus never died to make you insignificant. God never designed some to be great while others just have to limp through life struggling. God wants you to be great, nothing more, nothing less. Forget about your background, race-ethnicity, or nationality. When you became a follower of Jesus, greatness was conferred on you.

In the eyes of God, greatness is obedience in small things, faithfulness in the mundane, and boldness in proclaiming His name. Biblical greatness shows up in the details of other people’s lives. Greatness is being a blessing to others: The Lord blesses us because He loves us. Because of this, we can be a blessing to others. He instructs us, so we can instruct others. He comforts us, so we can comfort others. Blessings flow from God, but they should never stop with us. They come to us and then flow through us. 

You were made to be great. You are called to a specific task that only you can do. God has a plan and you have a purpose in His plan.  Obedience and surrender aren’t very popular words these days, and embracing what God is doing in your life, jumping on board with it, and trusting Him – it’s tough sometimes, isn’t it?  But God knows the full story and has already read the upcoming chapters. Faith is key in living a life of greatness.

Greatness begins when you take your everyday ordinary life and surrender it to the one who is the Greatest.  No matter how small, ordinary or mundane your obedience may seem, it’s building greatness in you from the inside out.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you believe you were born for greatness?
  2. What can we do this to be blessing to somebody this week?

Living An Unrushed Life 

“We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” – Psalm 39:6-7

Do you ever feel rushed? Most people do. They find themselves running from one errand to another. Replying to one email after another. Having one conversation after another. Saying yes to help one person after another. And at the end of most days, they are either worn out from all those rushed moments or feeling anxious about all the demands the next day will bring. The answer is finding a way to be a little less rushed, a little less in a hurry. To do that, we need to look at the life of Jesus. His decisions. His lessons.

Jesus never rushed. Intentionality, yes. Rushing, no.  Jesus knew pressure. He knew stress. People pulled at Him everywhere He went. Crowds demanded His attention. Individuals begged for healing. The disciples wanted leadership. Friends wanted time with Him. The religious rulers wanted answers. There was an entire world to save. All of this in the span of three years.  

Almost every miracle story is someone interrupting Jesus when He’s on his way to go somewhere. The leper shouts out “Lord, have mercy on me” and Jesus stops and walks over to where the leper is and heals him. The bleeding woman stops Jesus and is healed by Him and He takes a moment and talks to her. Almost every single person that was healed or helped by Jesus interrupted Him. Do you know why? Jesus was not in a hurry. If you’re in a hurry and someone stops you and needs prayer, or needs a listening ear, and you don’t have time for them, then we are not a representation of Christ to them. You cannot be in a hurry and be loving to others.

Scripture gives us some insight into what to do when we are in a hurry; in short, we are asked to wait on the Lord.  Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalm 37:7 adds, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act….”  Micah 7:7 says, “As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me,  and my God will certainly hear me.” James 5:8: “You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.”  

Part of our spiritual, and even physical lives must be spent in waiting. Don’t live your life in the express lane. Take time from your rushed day to sit down before the Lord and wait on Him. The next time you feel rushed or overwhelmed, remind yourself of God’s words which tell us to rest in Him. Turn off the TV, the radio, or whatever distraction is before you just now, and spend some time waiting on the Lord.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Evaluate your schedule. Is there room for God to move in your life and space for you to hear His voice?
  2. Is your life too hurried? What can you cut to make room to rest?

 Called To Love

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8.

What does God say about love? What is love according to the Bible?  We have been given an abundance of Bible verses about loving others, so we can assume it’s important. For example, John 13:34-35 (TPT) says, “So I give you now a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you. For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers…”

We are commanded to love one another as Jesus does. There is not one person Jesus does not love and did not come to save, so by default, we should love everyone we lock eyes with, walk past on the street, hear about in the news, live next door to, or sit next to in class.  Christian love is more than just a nice, heart-warming feeling. No matter what resources or talents we have, we are all called to love.

God’s love in us changes us. Love makes our actions and spiritual gifts useful. Great faith, acts of service, and miracle-working power produce very little without love. Love involves unselfish service to others and shows that you care. Not all of us can preach or teach. Not all of us can sing or play an instrument. Not all of us will go to foreign lands as a missionary. But we can all love and love is the greatest witness of the Christian life. 

Because no matter how edifying the preaching is or the worship, no matter how much we serve in the church, without love it doesn’t mean a whole lot. It was Jesus’ love that drew others to Him. It was love that built the early church and it will be love that will continue to build the church today. When we realize how unconditionally God loves us, we will begin showing that same love to others. When we realize how much He has forgiven us, we will freely forgive those who hurt us. When we realize that everything we have comes from Him, we will generously share with the needy. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we will passionately share the good news of that love.

Such love is beyond our ability to grasp with our minds, but it is not beyond our ability to experience with our hearts. The more we study it, the more we understand it, the more we realize, we will move steadily beyond our understanding. But it does not mean that we cannot have confidence in the fact that God unconditionally loves us. Know it, cling to it, and remember it; don’t underestimate the love of God for you.

When we look back on our lives, we will no doubt remember events and experiences. But more than that, we’ll remember the people who loved us, respected, encouraged, affirmed us, and helped make our lives better.

As Christians, our love for others is a reflection of who God is. We are called to love God and love others. When we do this, our loving behaviors and attitudes point back to God and who He is.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What’s one way God’s love has changed you?
  2. How is God’s love moving you to show love to others?
  3. What is one way your love for others can point them back to Jesus?

 Our Mission 

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him.” – Acts 1:6-11. 

Jesus has completed His public ministry. He has proclaimed the good news. He has healed the sick. He has died the death that we all deserve. And He has been raised to life in the resurrection. It’s no wonder then, that the disciples are wondering, “has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” (Acts 1:6) They are wondering if Israel’s everlasting reign and rule have finally arrived. 

Jesus’ answer shocks them. He assures them that His reign and rule are coming, but it is not here yet. In the meantime, He tells them to “be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)

God is behind all of our missions plans and efforts. God chooses to work through His people to accomplish His purposes. He invites them to join Him, bidding them to adjust their lives to Him. The prophet Amos indicated that “Indeed, the Sovereign Lord never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7). When God heard the cry of the children of Israel and decided to deliver them, He appeared to Moses. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God worked in the same way as He did with Moses, inviting His people to be on mission with Him.  God initiates a relationship with us and invites us to join Him.

We should not forget that mission is and always has been God’s before it becomes ours. The entire storyline of the Bible reveals a God of missional activity. God is on mission and we join His mission as His invited guests, His co-laborers. Missions: God starts it, leads it, sustains it, and calls us into His mission.

If we are faithful to join God’s mission, no matter how small or ordinary our contribution may seem to us, God will use it: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

Discussion Questions:

  1. On a scale of 1–10, how well are you living with an uncluttered pursuit of God’s mission? What influenced your rating? What will you do to move your number closer to 10?

Focus On Jesus 

We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. He endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, because he knew that later on he would be glad he did. Now he is seated at the right side of God’s throne!”  –  Hebrews 12:2 (CEV).

What does it mean to “fix your eyes on Jesus?” How do we practically live out “focusing on Jesus?” And why are we encouraged to turn our eyes upon Jesus? How does focusing on Jesus help us endure difficult circumstances?

In broad terms, fixing your eyes on Jesus means choosing to take our attention off of our circumstances and place our focus on God. It’s remembering God’s faithfulness in the past, His presence today, and His promises for tomorrow.  It’s remembering His love, mercy, and grace toward us. It’s doing what Paul said in Philippians 4:8 when he said, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” It’s choosing to list all we’re thankful for, even when we’re not feeling particularly thankful. It’s choosing to see our circumstances as God sees them. It’s replacing our human perspective with a kingdom-centered perspective. 

So how do we have that same type of focus? Reading Hebrews 12:2 reminds us to take our eyes off ourselves and our circumstances – off the setbacks or the walls in our lives—and fix them squarely on Christ. Because our focus determines our direction. When we look at ourselves, we see our weaknesses, past failures, and the many excuses we make. But in looking to Jesus, we find strength, forgiveness, and the courage to run our race. No matter how much adversity comes our way or how many disappointments threaten to knock us out of the race, keeping our focus on Jesus will ultimately bring us victory.

The bottom line is entrusting ourselves to Jesus by trusting Him fully. It means turning your eyes away from other things and fixing them on Him. For instance, if you really focus on something, everything else becomes somewhat blurry. It’s the same when you’re using a camera. When you get your subject dialed in, the focus blurs out other elements so your subject stands out more clearly. That’s what it means to look to Jesus. By looking to Him, you’re putting Him first. You’re filling your mind with the Word of God. And that can help you get through whatever you’re going through.  

Colossians 3:1-4 teaches us what life looks like when we’re focused on Jesus: “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.“

Christ is the perfecter of us and our faith. We can trust Him to turn our resolution into reality as we stay focused on Him.

Discussion Questions

  1. We will only live the life we want when our eyes are fixed on Jesus. How will you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus this week? As you fix your eyes on Him, what changes do you expect to see? 
  2. What can we do this week to keep from being distracted and completely focused on God?