Here to there: Keeping your eyes on Jesus in the journey

Backward:

I made the trip up to my attic the other day…you know the attic…the place in your home where the most random of random things go to collect dust and cobwebs? For some reason, we put our family pictures and sentimental things up there (in plastic totes of course). I came across one of my high school yearbooks from when I was a Junior at Bedford High in 2002. I opened it and began looking at the pics of all the people I went to school with, and of course found a picture of a much younger me. I wondered what many of these people were up to, if anyone of them were still the same person, or if some of them went through deep changes through their early adulthood. When I looked at my pic, I know the question I had was “wow, who is that guy?” It wasn’t because of the long hair or 16 years younger…It was because I was literally a completely different person…A different identity…A different set of values and a different worldview….I was chasing the World and no idea that God was chasing me

2 Cor 5:17 says that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

I am so thankful for that truth as I reflect on the person I used to be. I remember endless nights of partying, the drama that came with that, crazy nights playing in a garage band, Spending the night in jail, going to drug rehab, and at some point, thinking there had to be more than this to life. Of course I found that purpose In Christ. The life I sought was the life that was promised in John 14, saying the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I (Jesus) have come to give life to the fullest.

You know what though, I need to be reminded each day that I am a work in progress and Christ is not done working in me. I am in need of His strength each day.

See, if I am being completely transparent, there are times in my life when the enemy of my soul creeps up and begins to tell me lies and highlight my past.

Have you ever looked at your past and then be paralyzed with different feelings about it? Guilt, condemnation, shame, temptation, etc? Sometimes we are so wrapped up with the person we used to be, it hinders us from moving forward into what God has for us.

In the last 2 days, we explored the Israelite’s journey out of Egyptian bondage and how God would lead the way. This whole plan was nearly derailed by what happens in chapter 14

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelite’s looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

See, God was leading them outward into the place He promised, but they took their eyes off of it and looked backwards. They were so comfortable in the dysfunction of their past identity, when they looked back at it…they were willing to trade what God had for them to be back there…See, when you have your eyes fixed on Egypt, you can’t see the promised land ahead.

You might have a past just as I do…be encouraged today knowing that there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ, that He began a work in you and will see it through until it is finished, that in Christ you have victory because of His life, death, and resurrection…and that means when your past comes creeping in, when your eyes look backward at things before…and when fear sets in…we can be reminded today of what Moses response was to the Israelites when they were in this situation

EX 14:13-14

13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

God is fighting for you….Walk in the victory He has for you, and keep your eyes fixed on the Promised land in front of you

 

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Here to there: Keeping your eyes on Jesus in the journey

Onward

We read in Exodus 13

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.[a] The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.

I love what happens next…

21 The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. 22 And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people.

So, basically God was leading the way…Could you imagine the emotions these people were feeling? Part of them I am sure was filled with excitement of what was in store…Think about it, for 400 years they have been in bondage in Egypt…Their identity was completely embedded in slavery…but now they were moving outward…But mostly, I have to believe that they were Scared out of their minds because of  all the unknowns ahead…Would their be enemies out there? Would they know where to go? How would they survive?……But God had a plan for them. God was not going to just take them out of Egypt and leave them on their own. Right? Could you imagine God being like “welp, I got you this far….peace out”….not so much….He moved them outward and guided them onward…with a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night…

Know this today…That God does indeed have a plan for you, and also a desired path. It may not be illuminated by a pillar of cloud or fire….but it’s there…, we must have eyes to see the signs around us, we need to be aware of where God is working, and we must have the faith to take the steps He has established. This is how we keep moving on the path He plotted out for us.

I am reminded of proverbs 16:9 where it says that in their hearts, humans will plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps

The other day I was thinking back to a time when my wife Mandie and I were first dating…We decided to take a walk in the woods at Wildwood park together, just to spend time and talk to one another. It was in the early evening hours…beautiful temperature…Great summer day….maybe we would get to watch the sun go down. Neither of us were extremely familiar with the different paths they had there… But we started on our journey anyhow…. Some time had passed, and our conversation was interrupted by the realization that we literally had no idea where we were in the woods…It seemed we zigged when we should have zagged at some point.So we were out in the woods, not knowing the way back…Me being a guy, overconfident, I played it off and acted like I knew how to get us out, but I just took us further in. The sun had gone down and now we were in the woods and it was black…it was pretty scary… And there we were…in the middle of the woods at Wildwood park…Wishing I would have payed more attention to the trail signs (obviously, we made it back to where we needed to be….but it certainly was different from the original plan)

Sometimes in our walk with the Lord, we get off path a bit, we wander, we get distracted…

New job…

Money issues…

Family dynamics…

Kids…

Sports…

Or just the business of our everyday…

And we just find ourselves in places where we know we’re probably not supposed to be asking the question….man, how did I get here?

If that’s you…

You need to know today that you are not alone in the wilderness…God’s plans are still for you and not against you…In the passage we read earlier from Exodus, its ends by saying that God did not remove the pillar of cloud or fire from their place..He was with them and did not leave them….God will not leave you…I know this passage from Exodus is a narrative of a specific people group…But I think the same truth principles apply today….God’s love for us never fails….nothing can separate us from it…and it is the kindness of the lord that leads us to repentance and change direction..

You may have taken a detour from the steps God established…But follow His leading, His steps and your path will be made straight again. And your journey from here to there will continue onward.

Here to there: Keeping your eyes on Jesus in the journey

Outward:

I love living in northwest OH. One of my favorite things about it is getting to take part in all 4 seasons of each year. Spring time: things are new… Summer time: it’s hot and lively… Fall: The air is crisp…. the temperatures begin to drop and you know you’re on the cusp of change as you look at the leaves turning colors…. winter: is dead, stale, and cold

Each season has its own unique beauty, even in the midst of the things wed like to be different about them.

I think when it comes to spiritual things, you know, those things in life that directly impact our soul? We also go through similar seasons.

I know in my life, I have seen the beauty of newness forming in my soul, I have been in seasons where everything is alive and thriving, I’ve been in seasons where things begin to spiral downwards, and of course I’ve been in seasons where everything is dead, waiting for new life to come…

Through each season though, I have learned to appreciate the journey no matter how hot or cold it may feel..

I can put my trust and my hope in God, because I know that in His timing He will move me from Here to There….from season to season…and He will make those things that were dead spring up to life…

And so, if you are in one of those seasons where all seems dead or dying in your spirit…I want to encourage you today…and remind you to fix your eyes on Jesus know matter the obstacle that is in front of you.

I am reminded of the Exodus from Egypt as recorded in Exodus 13….

The Israelite’s (Gods peeps) were all in slavery in super harsh working conditions….Seemingly hopeless, but still crying out to God…

This was a season of time that spanned some 400 years….That’s a pretty long time….But what we need to realize is that God was preparing His people…He was multiplying their number while in Egypt so when the time was right…When He would move them from here to there…they would be prepared and strong in number…

What we don’t realize sometimes is that when we are in that winter season in our souls…it does not mean God has left us or has forsaken us…Oh no…God loves us, and He is for us…and He is with us…But when we don’t see the leaves…and all we feel is cold…we forget that God is doing a work deep within us…Under the surface…

A little science for you today…During the winter months…Trees are actually searching for and collecting minerals and nutrients…not only stay alive…but so when Spring comes…they will be prepared to blossom…

God is going to move us outward …from here to there….listen to this passage….

17 When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.[a] Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.[b]

Sometimes change comes when we don’t expect it…

Sometimes it does not look like we think it should look

But God knows what He is doing….He knows where we will be weak on the journey…He knows the detours we need to take………….and if we let Him…he might make us patient in the process…

Be encouraged today no matter what season you’re in…Don’t give in…don’t give up…Keep rejoicing in the Truth…Keep your hearts and minds fixed upon Jesus today.

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