Where is Your Focus? – Get Me Outta Here!

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Dr. Calvin Sweeney wrapped up the Get Me Outta Here! series last weekend. Calvin’s bottom line was, “Hope grows when we trust God’s promises for tomorrow.” Today we will focus on the truth that God will bring me through.

No matter what you are struggling with today, you can trust God. He promised that he would help you, and he will be right beside you, holding your hand.

Psalm 37:23-24
23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. 24 Though they stumble, they will never fall. For the Lord holds them by the hand.

My heart leaps for joy and hope when I realize that the God of the universe delights in every detail of our lives. He is right beside us, preventing us from falling.

As we’ve traveled through the book of Daniel, we’ve witnessed his incredible faith. Daniel didn’t focus on all the injustice around him or how unfair his life was. All of his hope was in God. He was able to thrive in Babylon because he trusted God to help him through his struggles, and we see how God continually showed up during the difficult times Daniel faced. He was never alone.

I have found that reflecting on the ways God has helped me increases my faith, gratitude, and hope. A couple years ago, I began keeping a gratitude journal. Each day, I write down three things I am grateful for. At the beginning of 2021, I looked back over my blessings for each day during the previous year. Even though 2020 was an extremely difficult year for almost everyone, I was amazed by how faithful and good God had been to me. I was overwhelmed with gratitude because, in retrospect, it was a much better year than I remembered.

1 Peter 1:6
So truly be glad there is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure trials for a little while.

It was very easy to see that my hope, trust, and faith all depended on where I focused. When I focused on my blessings, I was able to find joy—regardless of my circumstances. But when I focused on all the negatives, I was overwhelmed and depressed.

My exercise in gratitude has been invaluable. Moving forward, I will do all that I can to shift my focus to God, trusting him to fill me with his peace, joy, and hope. What will you focus on?

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Questions:
What or whom do you put your hope in? What have you learned from studying the book of Daniel? What will you focus on?

Next Steps:
Meditate on the Scripture verses above and on this truth: God will bring me through. Write down three things you are grateful for each day.

Share your hope and joy with someone else by participating in the Hope it Helps Campaign.

Prayer:
Jesus, I am overwhelmed and so grateful that you love me so much. I choose today and every day to put my focus on you. I will trust you when I struggle. I am so blessed that my Lord and Savior delights in every detail of my life. Fill me with your peace, hope, and joy. Let your love flow through me to others. Help my life bring you glory. Amen.


This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.


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God’s Plans for Here and Beyond – Get Me Outta Here!

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When we stop listening to God’s whispers, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the unknown. This can cloud our understanding of who we are and who we belong to. We have to be careful not to allow the ideas of others or voices of criticism (including our own) distract us from the truth that God has a plan and a purpose for each of us.

In Dr. Calvin Sweeney’s weekend message, he told us the Bible assures us that our hope will grow if we trust God’s promises for tomorrow. But how do we remain full of faith and hope when we don’t know what tomorrow will bring? Or when we encounter pain, loneliness, disaster, and anything else that clouds our vision of God’s plans for our lives?

Have you ever wondered if, maybe, we need the hardships that life offers? In 2018, while battling colon cancer, actor Chadwick Boseman delivered a speech at Howard University in which he said, “Sometimes you need to feel the pain and sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose that God predestined inside of you.”

1 Peter 1: 6-7
6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know 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.”

The unknown gets even harder to navigate when more people are added to the equation. I had many reasons for not wanting to move to Ohio in 2018. I wondered how I would use my degree when most of my job opportunities were in California, New York, D.C., and Canada. I would’ve taken factory work or anything else if it was only a job, but I was moving toward my passion and purpose.

I waited, listened, prayed, and ignored the skeptics while trusting that my wife and three small children wouldn’t suffer. Three long years passed and I never asked how much longer it would take before opportunity would meet preparation. I maintained my faith, and I can honestly say, now, that I am exactly where I was meant to be.

You must have faith in God’s plans and promises for your life—here and beyond.

Questions:
How do you stay focused on the good when you’re surrounded by the bad? Have you discovered God’s plans for your life physically and eternally?

Next Steps:
Talk to God and listen for his response by praying, reading your Bible, and connecting with your faith outside of a weekend service. Watch Whisper on RightNow Media for ways to hear God speak to you.

Attend GrowthTrack to discover the purpose God has for you.

Prayer:
Dear God, let me follow the design you have for my life. Forgive me when I lack the patience to wait on the blessings you have for me and my family. I want to experience the journey to your promises with everyone you have placed in my life. I pray that those who don’t have hope for today and tomorrow can find the truth you have already delivered. Amen.


This post was written by Jaron Camp. Jaron is a storyteller and a professional ghostwriter who enjoys using his gifts to write for the LivingItOut. When he’s not developing fictional worlds, researching, and writing, Jaron enjoys watching sports, participating in family game night, and spending time with his wife and four kids.


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Run to the Eternal Prize – Get Me Outta Here!

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I felt the sun burning my skin as one foot after the other hit the ground.

In eighth grade, I thought running was something I wanted to do, so I attended cross country practice at the beginning of the season—once. After experiencing my lungs burning in the summer heat, I wanted out! It felt like death in a microwave. What I thought would be a way to connect with my friends turned into a reality I did NOT want to get stuck in. Burning lungs and sore legs just weren’t worth it.

I think this is a lot like life. With all the decisions we need to navigate in the world, sometimes it’s hard to know if it’s worth it. Is it worth showing up another day at work? Is it worth pursuing that friendship? Is it worth being single? Is it worth making that decision you have been avoiding?

As I struggled with my decision to quit cross country, I wondered what God wanted for me in that season. What I have come to realize is that I was expecting (presuming something would happen)—I had an unrealistic expectation that I would be fast on the first lap. I was not being expectant (anticipating receiving something). I completely ignored all the hard work and training that I needed to become a better runner.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25
24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.

Luckily for those who have accepted Christ as their Savior, there is a race we can all win. We can live with certainty and hope—with an expectation that God is at work in every situation in our lives and that he will work everything out for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

That is today’s promise: God knows what is best for you.

1 Peter 1:3
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation…

God has your best interest at heart. In having hope for tomorrow, be expectant of the work God wants to do in you or through you—even if at times it seems challenging or difficult. Jesus, himself, prayed for his cup of suffering to be taken away but, ultimately, asked for God’s will to be done (Mark 14:32-36). God knew what was best for Jesus in that moment, and he knows what’s best for you.

As a middle-schooler, I allowed my expectations to get in the way of receiving what God wanted to teach me and missed a moment to trust that God knows what’s best for me. (Ironically, I eventually learned I actually do love running!)

Questions:
Do you have confident hope that God will work things out?

Do you doubt the promise that God knows what is best for you? Why?

How can you curb your expectations so that you’re open to receive what God is trying to teach you, especially when you’re in a situation that doesn’t seem worth it?

How does God’s promise that he wants what’s best for you give you hope for tomorrow?

Next Steps:
Take the personal step God has been calling you to, but you have been avoiding.

Write down the promise for today, and put it somewhere you frequent as a reminder that God’s got this!

Prayer:
God, you have my best interest at heart, even when it doesn’t seem worth it. Today, I trust in this promise that you know what is best for me. I pray I will be expectant of the work you are doing instead of expecting it to turn out a certain way. I pray for boldness for the step I think might not be worth it so I can have hope for tomorrow. I look toward your best and trust you with the outcome. Amen.


This post was written by Becca Roberts, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut.


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God Loves You – Get Me Outta Here!

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In times of despair and trouble, we all need hope—we need to see a light at the end of the tunnel. We need the hope that a better tomorrow is possible.

Often in difficult moments, we buy into lies—lies about who we are, who God is, and what he thinks of us. In these times, we need to focus on truth, which not only helps us combat the lies but also gives us the hope we need.

Today, we’re going to focus on this truth: God loves you.

This is a truth that all of us should embrace. But don’t just take my word for it. Look at what Jesus’ friend, the apostle John has to say:

John 3:16 NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 4:9-10
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

1 John 4:16
We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

These are just a few of the many verses that highlight the important truth that God loves us. But how does this truth give us hope?

If God loves you so much that he gave up everything to have a relationship with you, then you can be assured that at all times he will provide for and take care of you. He may not provide in the way you want, or at the time you think is best, but he does promise he will be with you always (Matthew  28:20, Romans 8:38-39).

God’s love for us gives us hope for tomorrow. As we embrace that truth, we begin to trust him more, even in difficult times. And when we trust that God is good and he is on our side, we can have a confident hope that no matter what tomorrow brings, and no matter how difficult life gets, he will be with us and help us through it.

Questions:
How does knowing God loves you give you hope for tomorrow?

Who do you need to remind of God’s love today?

Next Steps:
Look up verses on God’s love to remind yourself how much he loves you.

Share one of the verses you find with a friend or family member who could use a reminder of God’s love.

Prayer:
God, thank you for loving me so much that you gave up everything for a relationship with me. Help me remember this truth and embrace it each day. Help me show your love to others. Amen.


This post was written by David Hammack, Jr., a regular contributor to the LivingItOut.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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Eternal Hope – Get Me Outta Here!

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If I asked you to name everything wrong in the world, I’m guessing it wouldn’t take long for you to make a laundry list. Poverty, disease, broken families, mental illness, war … it feels like the list could continue forever. Andrew Peterson captures this feeling in his song “Is He Worthy?”

Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
Do you know that all the dark won’t stop
The light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it, all made new? (We do)

We look at our own lives or the headlines and wonder when the pain, heartbreak, and exhaustion will end. When we’re living lives of “quiet desperation” as Henry David Thoreau put it, we keep waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel. We want something that tells us the struggle is almost over. And when we don’t see that glimmer, we begin wondering if it will ever come.

This past weekend, Dr. Calvin Sweeney finished the Get Me Outta Here! series by looking at a vision Daniel received as an old man. Torn from his culture at a young age and forced to serve the mercurial king oppressing his people, Daniel is old friends with hardship. And then, near the end of his life, he hears more suffering is ahead for the people of Israel.

But there’s more.

While the angel describes adversity in the future, he also reminds Daniel of the big picture. Evil won’t last forever, and God’s kingdom prevails. There. Is. Hope.

This same promise is repeated in the New Testament by Peter, the “Apostle of Hope.”

1 Peter 1:3-5
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

Even though we might “feel the world is broken,” it won’t stay this way.

1 Peter 1:6-7
6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

You might be facing circumstances you can’t change and trials with no end in sight, but by focusing on the big picture, you can still have hope. There is nothing in this world that can undo God’s faithful promises, and he offers us unshakeable, eternal hope.

Questions:
What struggles are you facing right now? Do you turn to God’s promises for hope? Do you focus on the big picture of God’s plan, or just what you can see in the moment?

Next Steps:
On note cards, write down three verses that remind you of the eternal hope you have in Christ. Place them in strategic spots where you can see them throughout the day.

Participate in the Hope It Helps campaign, and share hope with others.

Prayer:
Dear heavenly Father, sometimes I get caught up in the challenges I’m facing and the brokenness of the world. Please remind me of the hope I have in Jesus. This world is temporary, and you will make everything new, taking away all tears, pain, and death. Thank you for those beautiful promises. When I am tempted to despair, help me keep my eyes on you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


This post was written by Sarah Pagel. Sarah is passionate about weaving stories pierced with beauty, light, and sehnsucht. She’s an avid reader of everything from dusty classics to modern fantasy. When not living in worlds made of words, she can be found spending time with her family, taking long walks, or practicing yet another Vivaldi piece on her violin.


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