Into the New Year, God Goes Before Us

Text: Exodus 23:20-33

“Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20 ESV)

The New Year is upon us and it’s a time of closing one chapter and opening another. Our family likes to spend some time during the New Year’s holiday reflecting on highlights from the previous year, maybe watch some home videos or browse through some photos to cherish the memories we made, and share a festive meal together. This year it’s homemade sushi—a Larche tribe favorite!

A new year is also an opportunity to take time for self-evaluation and introspection, to realign ourselves with the priorities we value most, and to saturate our hearts with the promises of God’s Word, afresh and anew. Here’s a great tool for that.

A particular promise I want to encourage you with today is found in Exodus 23:20. It was God’s promise to Israel as they were transitioning from a season of wandering into a season of stability. They were soon going into their Promised Land and God assured them that He would send His angel to go before them, into the place that He prepared for them. They were not to be afraid of anything because the angel would take care of everything—including their enemies. They only had to pay careful attention to the divine voice guiding them.

The same principle is true for followers of Jesus Christ today. Not only is it true that Jesus goes before us to prepare a place for us in heaven (John 14:2-3), but the place we walk in today was prepared by God, and where we will walk tomorrow is also prepared by Him. He always goes before us.

twitter-64You can face your future with great confidence because God is already there. Tweet this

How might that affect your life going in to this new year? Knowing that God has already gone before us to prepare a place of destiny should be comforting to our souls. It should also swell our faith that regardless of what troubles, trials, sicknesses, adversaries, financial obstacles, or hardships await us, God is already there preparing to sustain us, to strengthen us, and to increase our influence for His glory in the world (1 Peter 5:10).

God never sends you into a situation, or a season, alone. He always goes before you. He stands beside you. And He walks behind you, redeeming every past failure. You can face your future with great confidence because God is already there.

Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your promises. You have given us your Word that you will always go before us and prepare a place for us. Help us to be comforted by the fact that we will face nothing this coming year that you haven’t already confronted on our behalf. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

twitter-64You will face nothing in your future that God hasn’t already confronted on your behalf. Tweet this

Other resources to help you bring in the New Year with great resolve:

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20 Inspiring Bible Verses to Bring in the New Year

Bring in the New Year with God’s promises on your heart! Meditate on these encouraging Bible verses to cultivate a deeper intimacy with God and foster a rejuvenated faith this New Year.

I also recommend these related posts about preparing for the New Year:


Inspiring New Year’s Bible Verses

(Isaiah 40:30-31) Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

(2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

(Psalm 98:1) Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.

(Romans 8:18) I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

(Isaiah 43:19) See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

(Proverbs 16:9) In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.

(Ephesians 4:22-24) You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

(Deuteronomy 7:13) He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.

(Jeremiah 29:11) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

(Proverbs 23:18) There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

(Psalm 31:23-24) Love the LORD, all his faithful people! The LORD preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.

(1 Peter 1:3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

(Lamentations 3:22-24) The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

(Romans 5:5) And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

(Ezekiel 11:19) I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

(Colossians 3:9-10) Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

(Revelation 21:5) He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

(Micah 7:7) But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

(Isaiah 54:1-5) “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

(Philippians 3:13-14) No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

New Year’s Self Evaluation and Introspection

Are you ready for the New Year? This question gets thrown around a lot. Being ready isn’t just about mustering up bold-faced confidence or seismic goals; being ready for the next chapter entails reflecting on all that God has been doing up to this moment, and is continuing to do. It’s not always about turning over a new leaf, but rightly interpreting the journey we are still on—perhaps even digging our cleats in deeper in those trenches to which we are assigned (finding fresh kingdom vision and rekindled passion to serve and empower others).

Many people rush into the New Year with lofty ambitions and New Year’s resolutions without properly evaluating, reflecting, or learning from the past year’s experiences. When we don’t take time to reflect on our previous season, we miss opportunities to grow and to potentially decipher what God may be up to in this moment.

Below is an exercise we have been doing for many years during the New Year’s transition. I encourage you to grab a pen and your journal (or a piece of paper), and walk through each of these questions with other family members, those in your missional community, or by yourself in your quiet time. When reflecting on the following questions in a very honest way, there comes spiritual cleansing, strength, courage, healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, growth, re-imagined dreams, rekindled passion, fresh perspective, and renewed vision.

Questions for Introspection

  1. What are my fondest memories from this past year? Who and what made them special?
  2. Was there a beautiful moment(s) in which God revealed himself more deeply to me? (a relationship, a revelation, a success/failure, an experience of serving somebody, etc.)
  3. What were some of the most meaningful events, accomplishments, or activities I engaged myself in this past year? What underlying factors made them meaningful and how can I build these factors into my core values for the New Year?
  4. What did I procrastinate with this past year? What was possibly lost from that procrastination? What discipline can I add to my life to eliminate procrastination in the New Year? What was the single biggest time-waster in my life, and what will I do about it this coming year?
  5. Am I closer to my friends and family from my activities this past year? If so, what activities brought me closer so that I can practice them more this coming year? If not, what goals or boundaries do I need to set to achieve greater relational intimacy with my family and friends?
  6. The things that excite me most reveal much about my priorities. What did I celebrate most (displaying passion, enthusiasm, excitement, etc.) this past year? What does my passion reveal about my priorities? Do they touch the heart of God?
  7. How committed have I been to my missional community (church family)? Am I invested in helping to nurture this spiritual community so that it can reach outward and serve others with greater gospel fluency?
  8. Did I miss an opportunity to step out in faith this year? What fears or concerns caused me to shrink back and what do I regret most about not stepping out and taking a necessary risk?
  9. What happened this year that needs to be remembered, memorialized, perhaps recorded in a journal so I can return to it in the future and recall the blessing (or the rebuke) of God? Making such a record is like those monuments and altars God had the Israelites raise up when great things worth remembering had happened.
  10. What have been my prevailing feelings and emotions (and what are they at the moment)? What has been my dominant mood this year? Has there been a preponderance of sadness, depression, fear, anger, regret, joy, gratitude, emptiness, or enthusiasm? What is at the core of these emotions and how has that mood affected others?
  11. What have been the “blessings,” those acts of grace that have come through others or—as I perceive it—directly from God himself? Can I express praise and appreciation (sometimes even written in a thank you note or other expression of gratitude to someone)?
  12. Who inspired, mentored, or empowered me this year? Should I let them know how much they influenced my life?
  13. Have things happened for which I need to accept responsibility, perhaps leading to repentance? Why did they happen? Were they avoidable and how can they be prevented in the future?
  14. Is there a possibility that I am living in denial of certain realities—painful criticism, sloppy work, spiritual apathy, habitual patterns that are hurting others or myself? Is there a specific sin or sinful habit that remains unconfessed in my life? Do I need accountability in dealing with it?
  15. Are there any resentments or ill feelings toward others that remain unaddressed, unforgiven? If I don’t deal with them appropriately, I will carry toxins into the next season of my life. What must I do to deal with them? Do I need to release someone who has hurt me or apologize to someone I knowingly hurt?
  16. Is there an overarching message God has been speaking into my life this year? Through Scripture? Through books? Through sermons? What has He been saying through those in my inner circle of relationships? Through critics? What insights swirl up and out of the deepest parts of my soul? Which of them needs to be repudiated, and which needs to be cultivated?
  17. What are the things I might do and say that would make the people in my inner circle feel more loved, valued, appreciated, and even empowered going into the New Year?
  18. Am I mindful of the socially distressed, the poor, the suffering, the oppressed, and those at the margins of my community? Does my heart break for the things that break God’s heart? If not, what can I put into place this New Year to help me become more attuned to how God wants me to serve the needs of the hurting and spiritually destitute around me?
  19. Am I closer to God now than I was at the beginning of this past year? Why or why not?
  20. What have been the biggest disincentives to my God-inspired dreams? Will I allow those deterrents to cause my vision to shrink and my view of God to become smaller, or will I expand my vision by a willingness to grow through every setback, overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges, and live with a bold determination to see God bigger now than I’ve ever imagined Him before?

Are You Going to Have a Big Ask New Year?

I’m Going to Have a BIG ASK New Year!

I’ve always been one for setting goals. I love the feel of the New Year and applying necessary practices to embolden my vision for the future. The last couple of years, along with my goals, I usually have a simple statement, phrase, or a word that sums up the theme or focus for the next season of life. Last year it was a question.

This year it is one word: ASK.

Are you ready for a big ask New Year?

Nancy D. Solomon loves to tell people:

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”

God’s Word is chock full of promises and examples of asking.

Jacob wrestled all night with God and wouldn’t let go until he received a blessing (Genesis 32). Israel was instructed to ask God for His mercy and intervention when they had fallen into hard times for disobedience (Deuteronomy 4:32). Elisha boldly asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.

In Gibeon, the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night and said, “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon didn’t respond selfishly. He asked for wisdom to know how to govern God’s people rightly, to know the difference between good and bad. As a result of his unselfish asking and pure motives, God not only granted him what he asked for (wisdom), but He also added to the mix what Solomon didn’t ask for: wealth, honor, and long life to go with it (1 Kings 3).

This is an awesome snapshot of the heart of God, our heavenly Father. Ephesians 3:20 promises us that He is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to His power at work within us.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

Othniel appears as the first judge of Israel after the death of Joshua (Judges 3:9). His wife Achsah was the daughter of Caleb (Joshua 15:16, 17; Judges 1:13). He gained her hand as a reward for his bravery in leading a successful expedition against Debir. In the very next verse (1:14), before the honeymoon is even over, Achsah urges her new husband to “ask” her father for a field. What made her so quick to petition her father immediately for a blessing (v.15)? She already knew her father’s heart and how he would respond!

Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). When we are abiding in God’s Word, we know the Father’s heartbeat. We see His character more clearly. His desires become our desires; His passion becomes our passion. When our hearts are rightly aligned with His affinities, there is much incentive to ask.

The more we know the Father’s heart, the more we are going to ask boldly that which is in line with His desire and His will.

If we are not abiding in His Word then our asking will become selfish: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (James 4:3).” That’s why God’s Word is so important in our understanding of His character and our own selfish ambitions. We need humility to know the difference. But when we ask according to His will, we know He hears us and we are confident that our asking will be rewarded (1 John 5:14-15).

Remember, asking is God’s idea to begin with.

  • Psalm 2:8 – Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
  • Mark 11:24 – Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
  • John 14:13-14 – Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
  • Matthew 21:22 – And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.
  • John 16:24 – Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Are you ready for a big ask New Year?

What if your New Year became defined by what you had the courage to ask for?

Get into God’s Word daily—and ask boldly.

“ASK” is my word for the New Year.

10 Challenges for the New Year

Thrive in the New Year!

1. Get comfortable with your own skin. Stop trying to be someone else. No one else can be you. Only you can.

2. Let go and let God. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (NLT). What might your New Year look like if you actually did this?

3. Shed the Someday Syndrome. Stop thinking that someday you will catch that big break, experience some grand miracle, or find the hidden secret to contentment. Live in the moment and embrace your NOW.

4. Release the emotional toxins. Don’t let anger, resentment, bitterness, or grudges take root in your life. Take back your joy, peace and happiness by daily giving your emotions to God.

5. Accept grace as your FREE gift to grow. There is nothing you could ever do to make God love you less, or more. His love for you is perfect, though you are not. But He also loves you too much to leave you the way you are. Celebrate God’s grace in your brokenness, but don’t let it keep you stuck in your brokenness. Grace is your catalyst to grow—to get unstuck!

6. Walk in humility. Be ready to admit your mistakes and reconcile your failures quickly. This will give you more influence than you ever imagined.

7. Determine to overflow with generosity. Let your life be a constant outpouring of blessings to others. Seek out needs to meet around you—even more so, not less, when you find your life constrained financially. The road out of constraints isn’t paved with selfishness; it’s paved with generosity. Giving is the highest form of living!

8. Find your tribe. Don’t settle for pseudo community (online community). Get to church and live in real fellowship with others. The best way to discover loyalty in friendship is to become loyal in friendship. Go out of your way to contribute to community. It will pay you back more richly than you invested yourself.

9. Live with an eternal perspective. Maximus the Gladiator was right: “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” This world is temporary. Social acceptance and popularity is fleeting. Money and possessions will pass. Live from the timeless core values that give eternal perspective to your life. Play to the audience of ONE. Make much of Jesus. You will never get to heaven and hear Jesus say, “You were just too passionate about me. You went overboard with your faith.” Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” Eternity hangs in the balances.

10. Take a new risk this year. Peter Drucker admonished, “There is the risk you cannot afford to take, there is the risk you cannot afford not to take.” This year will present you with an opportunity, a risk, that you cannot afford NOT to take. Be ready. My book “AUDACITY: Find Your Crazy. Change The World.” is a great resource on this subject!