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Glance Backward; Go Forward; Gaze Upward - Genesis 16

Taught on | Topic: time | Keywords: past, future, contemplation, belief, faith, obedience

I like to use the week between Christmas and New Year’s to gain some needed perspective. I usually gather together an inventory of thoughts, plans, and projects—some I’ve completed and many I have not. I like to get nostalgic and recollect my life’s journey so far and then think about the future, including what friends and family I need to reconnect with. These exercises help me find meaning in my life’s journey as I submit them for heaven’s final approval.

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12/30/2018
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Glance Backward; Go Forward; Gaze Upward
Genesis 16
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
I like to use the week between Christmas and New Year’s to gain some needed perspective. I usually gather together an inventory of thoughts, plans, and projects—some I’ve completed and many I have not. I like to get nostalgic and recollect my life’s journey so far and then think about the future, including what friends and family I need to reconnect with. These exercises help me find meaning in my life’s journey as I submit them for heaven’s final approval.
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Series Description

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New Year's Messages

New Year's Messages

These special New Year's teachings focus on new beginnings and God's faithfulness at the time of year when we look to the future and anticipate all that God will do in and through us.

Outline

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  1. Where Have You Come From? (vv. 7-8a) Identifying Your Past

  2. Where Are You Going? (v. 8b) Contemplating Your Future

  3. What Can You Expect? (vv. 9-14) Believing Your God

Study Guide

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Connect Recap Notes: December 30, 2018
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "Glance Backward; Go Forward; Gaze Upward"
Text: Genesis 16

Path

The week between Christmas and New Year's is useful to gain some needed perspective. It's a good time to gather together an inventory of thoughts, plans, and projects—some completed and many not. It can be a time for nostalgia as we recollect our life's journey so far and then think about the future, including what friends and family we need to reconnect with. These exercises can help us find meaning in life's journey as we submit them for heaven's final approval.
  1. Where Have You Come From? (vv. 7-8a): Identifying Your Past
  2. Where Are You Going? (v. 8b): Contemplating Your Future
  3. What Can You Expect? (vv. 9-14): Believing Your God
Points

Where Have You Come From? Identifying Your Past
  • Everyone is looking for a new start at the beginning of a New Year. We often say something like, "This year sure did fly by."
  • People view time from two different perspectives: prospectively (looking forward) and retrospectively (looking back). For Christians, we are to look back at what God has done and look forward to what He will do.
  • Counting time is not as important as making time count. As missionary Jim Elliot stated in one of his journals, "I seek not a long life, but a full one…."1
  • In the text, part of Abraham and Sarah's narrative gives us an indication of how to identify our past.
  • The Angel of the Lord asks questions. It's interesting to note that God asks questions. His interrogation leads to contemplation and ultimately to transformation.
  • The question directed toward Hagar was intended to identify the past. Hagar could only look back to where she had come from: pain.
  • It can be dangerous to look backward when going forward, except for a glance to ensure you're on the right track.
  • As you glance back over the past year, what do you see? Where have you come from? Some answer geographically, some relationally, some medically. What about spiritually? Will you allow God to bring forgiveness and healing to your past?
  • Believers are to look forward, pressing toward the goal of Christ Jesus (see Philippians 3:13).
  • Don't let the past influence your present. Remember Joseph: God can use our past for good. Glance back but allow God to guide your future.
Where Are You Going? Contemplating Your Future
  • We don't know where we're going in life, but God does. Do you want to know the future, or the Person who knows the future?
  • Solomon wrote that we cannot know anything about our future (see Ecclesiastes 8:7). We must give up our quest to know for certain what God has defined for our life; only God knows.
  • The one thing we can predict with certainty is where we are going ultimately: our Father's house.
  • We don't know what tomorrow holds, but we know Who holds tomorrow; we know the One who holds the future.
  • The optimist stays awake to see what the New Year brings. the pessimist says good riddance to the past. The Biblicist goes to sleep knowing it's all in God's hands.
What Can You Expect? Believing Your God
  • God is nearer than you think and He cares about the details that matter to you.
  • Consider the Angel of the Lord:
    • The language used is the same as God speaking
    • Hagar said that in seeing the Angel of the Lord, she saw God
    • Many patriarchs had similar experiences
    • Some scholars see the Angel of the Lord as a Christophany—a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus
  • God seemed far away to Hagar, but He was very near. God hears our grief and pain.
  • God is "the God who sees" (v. 13). There is nothing coming in the new year that God doesn't see or hear.
  • God is always honest. He told Hagar her son would be wild (see v. 12). He would spare and prosper Ishmael, but it wouldn't be easy for him. Likewise, God will be present and plainspoken in the new year.
  • To determine God's truth, we must read the Bible. When reading, God will be honest with your condition. His Word can afflict the comfortable and counsel the uncomfortable.
  • Hagar did as the Lord said, just as we must. In Scripture, God provides texts He expects us to obey. Jesus promised to reveal Himself to those who obey Him (see John 14:20-21). If we draw near to God, God will draw near to us (see James 4:8).
  • God will bless you. God promised to multiply Hagar's descendants. God will bless His children according to His plans and purposes. Our role is to obey.
  • God's blessing to Hagar and to us ends with "exceedingly" (see v. 10). In Ephesians 3:20, Paul says, "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think...."
  • Note that God's blessing does not mean more money, better health, or personal well-being. It does mean what is best for you according to God's will, plan, and purposes.
  • In Nigeria, Christians are being persecuted and killed. One pastor there said, "God is good—all the time" and his congregation replied, "All the time—God is good." Let this be our anthem this coming year.
Practice

Connect Up: God is a God of new beginnings. Using the basic framework of the path to salvation outlined in Romans 8, discuss how God is the beginning and end of our life in Christ:
  • Justified: We are saved by Christ (see vv. 1-8).
  • Sanctified: We are conformed into the image of Christ by the Spirit (see vv. 9-29).
  • Glorified: We spend eternity with Christ (see vv. 31-39).
Connect In: If you feel comfortable, share where God has taken you this past year. What did you learn from the journey—pros and cons? What is your attitude going into a new year? Is there a passage in the Bible you'll use as a guide this coming year?

Connect Out: How can the truths Pastor Skip shared act as a tool for outreach this coming year? Here's one to jumpstart a conversation: Explain to an unbeliever that God's blessing does not mean more money, better health, or personal well-being. But it does mean what is best for them according to God's plan and purposes for their lives.


1 Elisabeth Elliot, "Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot," New York, NY, Harper Collins Publishers, 1958.

Detailed Notes

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"Glance Backward; Go Forward; Gaze Upward"
Genesis 16
  1. Introduction
    1. There are two ways we view time: prospectively and retrospectively
      1. We all experience the illusion that time is moving faster as we grow older
      2. Counting time is not nearly as important as making our time count
    2. In Genesis 16, Hagar is the innocent bystander to Sarai's faithless scheme (see vv. 1-6)
    3. God asks us questions, not because He doesn't know or can't remember, but as a means of stirring up contemplation that can lead to transformation
  2. Where Have You Come From? (vv. 7-8a) Identifying Your Past
    1. A glance backward to go forward—getting our bearings so we can make progress as we move forward
    2. As we look back, we will inevitably see man's faithlessness and God's utter faithfulness
    3. There are three typical perspectives used to answer the question: Where have you come from?
      1. Physically
      2. Emotionally
      3. Medically
    4. Will you allow God to be the God of where you've come from—allowing Him to use the rubble and pain for good?
      1. As Paul said in Philippians 3:13, "reaching forward to those things which are ahead"
      2. Because Joseph was able to move past his previous difficulties, God used him in great ways (see Genesis 45:4-8)
      3. "There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up" –Thomas Edison
  3. Where Are You Going? (v. 8b) Contemplating Your Future
    1. As humans, we have a history of wanting to know what's going to happen next, both generally and specifically
      1. The Greeks frequently consulted oracles to deliver the message of the gods concerning the future
      2. The Romans had an unusual practice that involved placing a hen in a cage with a large amount of food; if the hen consumed a large amount of the food quickly, it was considered a good omen
      3. God withholds information so we won't be overwhelmed by our knowledge of the future
      4. As Solomon stated, "Man can find out nothing that will come after him" (Ecclesiastes 7:14)
      5. However, as born-again believers, we can know what our eternal future holds—eternity in our Father's house (see John 14:2-4)
    2. We don't know what tomorrow holds, but we know that God holds tomorrow; we don't know what the future holds, but we know that God holds the future
    3. "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God" –Corrie ten Boom
    4. The Angel of the Lord promised Hagar that her descendants would be multiplied
    5. Who is the Angel of the Lord?
      1. He used the same language and authority that the Lord used in Genesis 17:2
      2. Hagar said that she saw the Lord (see Genesis 16:13)
      3. The Angel of the Lord also appeared to Abraham (see Genesis 22:11-18), Moses (see Exodus 3:2-22), Balaam (see Numbers 22:22-38), Joshua (see Joshua 5:13-15), and Gideon (see Judges 6:11-23)
      4. The Angel of the Lord does not appear after the birth of Jesus
  4.  What Can You Expect? (vv. 9-14) Believing Your God
    1. You can expect that God will be with you; there is nothing in the coming year that God will not see or hear
      1. He is present (see v. 10) 
      2. He hears (see v. 11) 
      3. He sees (see v. 13)
    2. You can expect God will be honest and plainspoken with you
      1. He told Hagar that her son would "be a wild man" (v. 12)
      2. The Bible is very honest; God's Word will comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable
    3. You can expect that God will command you
      1. The Angel of the Lord commanded Hagar to "return to [her] mistress, and submit" to Sarai (v. 9)
      2. He commanded that she call her son's name Ishmael (see v. 11)
      3. You will not experience the presence of God fully if you don't obey His commands (see Deuteronomy 4:29; John 14:23-24)
    4. You can expect that God will bless you
      1. The Lord promised that He would "multiply [Hagar's] descendants exceedingly" (v. 10)
      2. God will bless you "exceedingly abundantly" (Ephesians 3:20)
  5. Conclusion
    1. Identify your past, contemplate your future, and have faith that God will be with you
    2. God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good
Figures referenced: Thomas Edison; Corrie ten Boom

Cross references: Genesis 17:2; 22:11-18; 45:4-8; Exodus 3:2-4; Numbers 22:22-38; Deuteronomy 4:29; Joshua 5:13-15; Judges 6:11-23; Ecclesiastes 7:14; John 14:2-4, 23-24; Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 3:13-14

Topic: time

Keywords: past, future, contemplation, belief, faith, obedience

Transcript

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Glance Backward; Go Forward; Gaze Upward - Genesis 16 - Skip Heitzig

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Great to be with you. Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to the Book of Genesis-- first book of the Bible-- chapter 16? We're going to be looking at that chapter this morning-- Genesis 16.

There was a man that was reading the newspaper. And he was looking through the obituary column. Can you imagine how surprised he was when he discovered his name was in it?

And he went to the newspaper office, all upset that his name was in the obituary column. And the editor smiled and said, relax. I'll put your name in the new birth column tomorrow, and you can get a brand new start.

We love the idea of a brand new start. And New Year's, for a lot of us, represents exactly that. But I've noticed that every time we get to a new year that we say the same thing every year. Every year, we say, man, did this year go by fast. Or can you believe it's already 2019? We say that every stinking year.

And it is true that as you age, it seems like time goes faster. Am I right on that? Now, there's a reason for that. I did a little research and discovered that we view time from two different perspectives-- either prospectively or retrospectively.

Prospectively is viewing time as you're going through an event. Retrospectively is when it's all done, and you're looking at it. And our ability to remember the past largely depends on those two vantage points.

For example, when we're young, or younger, there's a lot of firsts that we go through. Our first day of school is usually memorable. Our first date, as much as we hated it or liked it, it's memorable. The birth of our first child-- memorable.

So those are unique experiences. And our ability to remember them, or have a vivid memory of that time, largely depends on experiences with that. Once we go through events and we repeat them over and over and over again-- not so much. It's not so unique.

So looking at time in both those ways has the illusion, the older we get, of going faster. And there's another factor in it. If you're enjoying the experience or you're not enjoying the experience-- you've heard the old saying that time flies when you're having a what--

Fun.

A good time, or fun. That's actually true. It does fly by. Now here we are, at the end of a year. And boy, did the year go quickly. And we're on the precipice of a brand new year. We call it a year.

In our culture, every January 1 begins the rotation of the Earth around the sun that takes 365 and a third days, or exactly 8,765.8 hours. That's how much unspent time you have ahead of you in the year.

Some of you have already filled in your calendars. You've already scheduled appointments. You've already made plans and written those plans in.

But I've discovered that counting time is not nearly as important as making time count. So how do we live those 8,765.8 hours? What decisions do we make, or what vantage point do we have as we enter?

Well, there's a question in our text that I'm going to draw your attention to. And it's a question that is asked by the angel of the Lord to a woman, who's highlighted here, by the name of Hagar. Hagar was an Egyptian gal.

And the question is, where are you going? It's a question I ask you today. Where are you going? On one hand, you cannot answer that question. On the other hand, you definitely can answer that question.

So this angel of the Lord asks Hagar two questions in the same sentence-- where have you come from, and where are you going? I'm going to ask three questions based upon our text-- those two questions and a third based upon the revelation that the angel gives to Hagar.

So for outline's sake, it goes like this. Where have you come from? Where are you going? And what can you expect in this new year? Those are the three questions.

So let's begin by looking at Genesis chapter 16 verse 1. "Now Sarai, Abram's wife"-- her name will be called Sarah later on, that's probably how most of us remember her-- "Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.

So Sarai said to Abram, 'See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.' And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.

Then Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar, her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband, Abram, to be his wife after Abram had dwelt 10 years in the land of Canaan. So he went into Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes. Then Sarai said to Abram, 'My wrong be upon you!'"

Boy, it was her idea. And he's-- well, it was a rough day at home. "'My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between me and you.'

Abram said to Sarai, 'Indeed your maid is in your hand. Do to her as you please.' And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.

Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, and by this spring on the way to Shur. And He said, 'Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?' She said, 'I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress.'"

So so far, we get the picture. Hagar, the Egyptian servant of Sarai, was sort of an innocent bystander. Sarai has been told by the Lord she's going to have a baby-- hasn't happened yet.

She figures, look, it's never going to happen. I gotta help God out a little bit. So to help God perform what He said He would do, I'll use this gal. She'll be a surrogate mother. And we'll call that a fulfillment of the promise.

So Abram goes along with it. Hagar goes along with it. Hagar gets pregnant. There's a confrontation between Sarai and Hagar. Hagar leaves. She runs away-- really, not a logical plan.

Because when the angel of the Lord says, where have you come from? she can answer that question-- I'm running away from home. When the angel asks the second question, where are you going? she hadn't really thought about that. She's just in the desert, in the middle of the open field by a well, getting refreshment, waiting for the next step.

So she runs away from home. We continue, verse 9. "The angel of the Lord said to her, 'Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.' Then the angel of the Lord said to her, 'I will multiply your descendants exceedingly so that they shall not be counted for a multitude.'

And the angel of the Lord said to her, 'Behold, you are with child,'"-- you're pregnant. You're going to "bear a son. You will call his name Ishmael because the Lord has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man; and his hand shall be against every man and every man's hand against him, and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.'

Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her You-Are-The-God-Who-Sees, for she said, 'Have I also here seen Him who sees me? Therefore, the well was called Beer-Lahai-Roi. Observe it is between Kadesh and Bered."

That doesn't help many of us out. "So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram named his son whom Hagar bore Ishmael. Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram."

Now, just a note before we get into our little outline. Sometimes in Scripture, you will discover that God asks questions to people, which is kind of weird, right? Why would God ask a question? Oh, I assure you, it's not to get schooled. It's not like God needs the information and is going to get it from a person that He made.

God asks a question, typically, to jog the memory or the experience of the person that He's asking the question to. And here, there is an interrogation meant to stir up a contemplation that will lead to transformation. God wants to change this gal's heart and the way she sees life.

So I'm going to use God's technique in asking questions to all of us. And those questions are as follows. Where have you come from? Where are you going? And what can you expect? Let's begin the first.

Where have you come from? Now, asking that question was designed to get Hagar to identify her past. And notice what she says. After the angel said, where have you come from? where are you going? she said, I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress, Sarai. That's verse 8.

So she is called to look back from where she came to get in touch with that experience of pain and misunderstanding and oppression. And she says, I'm running away from home. I'm leaving all the mess that I came from.

Now, usually, it's dangerous to tell somebody to look backward when you want them to go forward. But it's healthy if it's a glance-- not a fixed gaze but a glance. To glance backward in order to go forward means that we quickly get our bearings, our orientation, make sure we're not running in circles, so that we can make progress going forward.

So as you glance back over this past year, as you glance back-- quick snapshot-- what was it like? I can answer that. I bet it was a mixed bag-- some good, some not so good, some great, some not so great, some encouraging, some discouraging, some ups, some downs, right? It was a mixed bag.

You have seen over the past year, as you glance back, both man's unfaithfulness and God's utter faithfulness at the same time. Hopefully, you've been able to frame it in Romans 8:28-- "We know that all things work together for good to those that love God and are the called according to His purpose." That's probably your glance backward.

But it's a good question to ponder where have you come from? Because different people will answer that in different ways. Some will answer that literally, geographically. I'll tell you where I came from. I came here from Texas or from Arizona or Colorado or Oklahoma or whatever state.

And now I'm in this state. And things haven't happened the way I thought they should happen and-- and you're blaming the state for it. It's this state's fault. Ever since I've been in this state-- well, Paul said, I've learned in whatever state I'm in to be content.

[LAUGHTER]

Or you might answer that question relationally-- well, I've come from a broken home. I've come from a broken marriage. I've come from strained relationships. Emotionally, I've come from difficult situation.

Others of you are going to answer that question medically. I've come from a lot of doctors' appointments, and I've been given not-good prognosis. That's where I've come from.

Wherever you've come from, my question to you is, will you let God be the God of your past? Will you allow God to be the God of where you've come from to sort through the rubble of the past year and use that somehow for your highest good and for His glory?

Now, once you glance backward-- it should just be a glance, not a fixed gaze-- once you glance backward, you want to quickly pivot so that you can go forward and make progress. You've gotten your bearings. You've gotten your orientation. You're making sure you're not just going in circles.

The glance helps the going forward. And that's important. If you want to be miserable, spend the rest of your life looking back over your shoulder. We would never tell a runner to look backwards continually while you're trying to move forward. That would be the end of the race, at least.

Well, there's a principle for that. In Philippians 3:13, Paul wrote, "Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are before, I press toward the mark of the goal of the high calling in Christ Jesus."

Now, when you hear that word "forget"-- we say that a lot-- well, forget about it, forget about your past-- in the Bible, forget does not mean lacking the ability to remember as much as it means don't let it control or influence you now. Don't let it control your present.

Don't let the past so influence your present that it paralyzes you. That's why you need just a glance, not a gaze. You glance backward that you might go forward.

If there's one person that I can think of in Scripture that embodies this principle best, it's a guy by the name of Joseph, who had bad thing after bad thing after bad thing happen to him. Joseph was sold by his brothers to the Midianites, who took him to Egypt.

He became a slave in Potiphar's house. He became a prisoner in Pharaoh's prison. He had one bad turn after another until, eventually, things turned for him. He became prime minister. You know the story.

But do you remember his reaction when the brothers who betrayed him stood before him? Now, he has the power to get back at them. And so, what does he say to them-- you're getting yours, buddies?

No. He said-- remember what he said? He said, as for you, you meant this for evil. But God meant it for good to save, as it were, many people alive this day. I know what you had in mind. But I'm not going to let the past control my present or my future. I'm not going to let it influence it to that degree.

There's a great story about Thomas Edison. In 1914, his shop was burned to the ground. His laboratory in New Jersey was burned. It was December, by the way-- December 1914.

Thomas Edison, the next day, after it burned down, is walking through the rubble of his burned-down laboratory. You would think that would be enough to devastate anybody. As he's walking through, he turns to one of his assistants. And he smiled, and he goes, there's great value in destruction. He said, all your mistakes are burned up.

[LAUGHTER]

Isn't that a great perspective? All the mistakes I've made that people don't know about, they'll never know about it now. All your mistakes are burned up. So you want to have a great new year? Forget last year, and find out what God has for you this year.

So that's the first question-- where have you come from? Second, where are you going? This is contemplating your future. The angel calls Hagar to do that, also, in verse 8. Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?

So if I were to ask you right now, hey, where are you going this year? you can't answer that exactly. You can't predict that precisely. You don't have a clue specifically. And not knowing the exactness of it drives some people crazy. Sort of fun to watch them get driven crazy over this.

Because every year about this time, I watch people try to get all the experts' predictions of what's going to happen in 2019. All the news outlets put experts on their shows and then say, OK, tell us. What's the money market going to do in 2019? What will happen to the interest rates and the stocks? And give us your prediction.

They're doing that so they can make their decisions of what they're going to do with money. And if it's not just generally, people want to know sometimes very specifically what's going to happen in my life. This is why horoscopes are popular. This is why people go see psychics, or even psychos, just to get any kind of guess to help them predict their future. What does the future hold?

By the way, this is not new. It's happened in ancient times. The Greeks used to have people they called oracles. And an oracle was somebody who could communicate with the gods.

And they would get, usually, under some hypnotic state or drug-induced state. They would get in touch with the gods. They would deliver the message of the god to the person who came to consult the oracle. That was in Greek times.

In Roman times, they had a very interesting method of predicting the future. I could only describe it as prophecy by chicken. They would put a hen in a cage with food.

And-- get this-- if the hen ate the food enthusiastically, that was a good omen. If the hen ignored the food, it was a bad omen. They would predict and make decisions based upon that fowl turn of events-- sorry, but--

[LAUGHTER]

--I couldn't resist that. Here's a question. Do you really want to know the details of your future? Would you really want to know this is the year you die? Would you really want to know the diagnosis in 18 months or six months?

Would you want to know that the very plane that you bought that ticket on for that trip coming up is the one going down? Sorry to even bring that up. No, you wouldn't. Would you want to know that the earthquake that's going to happen is when your relatives are going to be-- you would not want to know those details.

And God, in His mercy and grace, withholds information so you and I will not be overwhelmed. Solomon wrote this in Ecclesiastes 7 verse 14. "When times are good, be happy." Some of us could just stop there and try to apply that.

"When times are good, be happy. But when times are bad, consider God made one, as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future." Yet we try. This week, all the apps on my phone were predicting a blizzard.

[LAUGHTER]

I got all these little things-- it's going to snow in five minutes or in one hour. And it's going to be 8 inches. And it's going to be whiteout conditions. I was so excited for that-- a blizzard, here in New Mexico.

I'd live for that. I mean, I pray for that. I'd love to see 8 inches, 10 inches, 12 inches of snow. I'm going to go out and play in it. I'm going to go snowboarding. But the promise was made-- the prediction was made.

Then, I go outside-- nothing. An hour later, another prediction-- nothing. Finally, when it came, it was like a little dusting. So I think Solomon was right. Man cannot discover anything about his future.

So though you cannot predict precisely where you're going, on the other hand, you can predict eventually where you're going. Eventually, finally, eternally, where are you going? Your Father's house, or what Jesus called my Father's house. I've gone to prepare a place for you.

Ultimately, eventually, that's where you are going. In fact, in, I think, a church this size, we could safely say some of you are going there this year. You don't know that yet, but it could happen.

So we come to this. As we look to the future, we don't know what tomorrow holds, but we know that God holds tomorrow. We don't know what the future holds, but we know that He holds the future. And that's where we rest.

Somebody once said an optimist will stay up New Year's Eve to welcome the new year in. A pessimist will stay up New Year's Eve to make sure the old year goes out. I'll add to that, a biblicist will go home, get a good night's sleep, because he or she knows God is in control.

[APPLAUSE]

I can live with that. I've always loved what Corrie ten Boom said-- "Never be afraid to entrust the unknown future into the hands of a known God." So we glance backward so that we might go forward. And the only way to do that is to gaze upward.

So now, the angel of the Lord lays down some future revelation for Hagar. This is where you're going, Hagar. Let me tell you what you can expect in your future.

So verse 9, "The angel of the Lord said to her, 'Return to your mistress, submit yourself under her hand.' Then, the angel of the Lord said to her, 'I will multiply your descendants exceedingly so they shall not be counted for multitude.'" In other words, they'll be so innumerable, you can't sit down and figure out how many there are.

"And the angel of the Lord said to her, 'Behold, you are with child. You will bear a son. You will call his name Ishmael because the Lord has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man. His hand will be against every man, every man's hand against him. And he will dwell in the presence of all his brethren.'

Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees, for she said, 'Have I also here seen Him who sees me?'" OK, really quick, who's this angel of the Lord? The angel of the Lord pops up a few times in the Old Testament. Who is it?

Well, a couple facts about the angel of the Lord. Fact number one-- the angel of the Lord uses exactly the same language and uses the exact same authority as the Lord Himself, who gives the same promise in the very next chapter. So that's interesting.

Number two, Hagar said that in seeing the angel of the Lord, she actually saw the Lord. She saw God Himself. Third fact, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Balaam, Gideon-- let's stop with those five-- all had very similar experiences with the angel of the Lord and came to exactly the same conclusions that I just shared with you.

And a final fact, the angel of the Lord does not appear after the birth of Jesus Christ, which leads many scholars to believe the angel of the Lord is some incarnate form of the Lord, or what they call a Christophany-- a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, a pre-Bethlehem expression of Jesus in the Old Testament.

Well, all of that to say, after two questions are asked, after the interrogation, comes the revelation. This is what you can expect. Now, what I'm going to do is broaden out what I just read to you into four principles. These are four principles that you can expect in your new year.

Number one, you can expect God is going to be with you in the next year. He's going to be with you. Ah, you go, well, that's no new revelation. I kind of knew that when I came in. But let's remind ourselves of it. Verse 10, the promise is "I will"-- "I will." Now, that's personal interaction. "I will."

Verse 11, the angel of the Lord says-- or in effect, the Lord says-- "the Lord has heard your affliction." Now, if Hagar had any misgivings at all about the Lord hearing her, those just went away. She has come from a painful situation. She's probably poured her heart out, cried out, complained, and thought, maybe God isn't hearing me.

Now she knows that's not true. God just got closer. She just discovered through this revelation that the Lord heard it all. The Lord heard your grief.

Add to that verse 14, where she says, "I have seen Him who sees me." So I am now discovering God hears me, and God sees me. All of this speaks of proximity. You have to be close enough to a situation in order to see it and hear it.

Example-- sometimes I'm watching television. It's very hard for me to stay focused on anything very long, especially a television program or a movie. So I will frequently-- I'm kind of getting the storyline. It's being spoken, and I'm seeing it.

I'll get up. I'm still hearing what's going on. I turn my back. I walk toward the kitchen to get something. I can still hear what's going on, but I'm missing a lot.

I miss seeing body language. I'm missing a frown or a smile, or I'm missing how other people in that scene are reacting. I'm missing some of the communication. Because I'm hearing it but not seeing it.

Conversely, if I'm seeing it, but I put it on mute, well, now, I don't know what they're saying. I see body language, but even if it's down low, I'm not hearing the tone or the inflection. So when I'm hearing and seeing, it's a full, orbed communication.

Here's what I want to say using that. There is nothing you will experience in the coming year that God doesn't hear or see. He is the God who sees. He is the God who hears. You can expect God's presence with you.

Now, a cautionary note-- it doesn't mean you'll feel God's presence all the time. I don't think she did until the angel said, God heard everything you prayed. God sees everything you do. She needed that promise and reminder because she didn't feel like it.

And there'll be times in this next year you won't feel like God heard your prayer, or God sees your plight. But He does. God's with you, not because you feel Him but because He promised He would be. We walk by faith, not by sight.

How weird would it be, and ludicrous would it be, and ridiculous, if I walked out in a cloudy day like we had a couple days ago, looked up in the sky, and said, there is no sun, it does not exist? And somebody said, how could you say that?

Because I don't feel it right now. Goodness, it's 10 degrees, and I don't see it. Well, it's still there, whether you feel it or see it or not. It's just a reality we know.

God will be with you whether you feel Him or see the visible expression or not. You can expect that. What can you expect? God will be with you.

Number two-- you can expect not only will God be with you but God will be honest with you. He'll be with you, but He wants to be honest with you. So look at verse 12-- very interesting.

The angel of the Lord describing her son that she's pregnant with-- "He will be a wild man. His hand will be against every man and every man's hand against him." No momma wants to hear those things about her boy that's about to be born. She wants to hear things like, your son is going to be a famous doctor or an awesome lawyer or a great influencer or an artist. He's going to be loved by everyone.

Rather, the angel of the Lord says, no. He's going to be wild and antagonistic. What's happening? God is being honest with her. God is honestly, accurately, predicting the future that this son and his progeny is going to be a wild and free race of Bedouins that will roam that area.

In your future, expect-- expect-- that God will be present with you, and God will be plainspoken to you. Well, how do you know that? Well, if you read your Bible at all in the coming year, expect God to be honest with you there, right?

If you discovered, you'd read in your Bible-- I'm not going to underline that one. That's pretty hard. That truth is hard. Some people quit following Jesus because the truth was so hard they stopped following Him. They turned away from Him.

You'll find that the Bible is very, very honest. If you don't want truth, don't read your Bible. If you want truth, you'll get it. God will give it to you. It won't always be easy to hear.

And some people, I've discovered, don't like it when God is honest. God's being mean. God's supposed to make me feel good. Ha-- funny.

I went to a dermatologist a few months ago because I had something going on, said, would you check this out? And he looked at it-- yeah, I'll check it out. And he came to me, and he goes, you have skin cancer. And there's a portion that I have to cut out.

Now, what if I said, you're mean! You're supposed to make me feel good! He said, well, I will make you feel good eventually, after I cut it out. But I'll make you feel this good-- if I don't touch you, you will die from this. Oh. OK.

That's what I expect, right? I expect honest communication as he's dealing with an area that I might get better in. So you'll find that God's word will both comfort the afflicted and also afflict the comfortable. If you're too comfortable, bam. He'll be honest.

If you're afflicted, you'll find the comfort of the Holy Spirit graciously on the pages of this book. But other books will give you information. The Bible will bring transformation. That's what God's about.

So you can expect God will be with you. You can expect God will be honest with you. Here's the third thing you can expect-- God will command you. In the honesty of revelation, you will find commands in the Scripture.

Look at verse 9. Here's one to her. "The angel of the Lord said to her, 'Return to your mistress and submit yourself under her hand.'" Don't you think the last thing she ever wanted to hear is that?

Go back to the place of oppression. Go back to the place of cruelty and harassment and pain. Go do that. That's the command. But what did she do? She went back.

We know because verse 15, "Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called his son whom Hagar bore Ishmael." That indicates she's gone back under the covering of his authority in his tent. So she went back.

You're going to discover God will be with you. God will be honest with you. And God will give you commands that you will, at that point, have to decide, yeah, maybe not, or, I'm going to obey. And let me just add a layer to this. I don't think you will ever experience the presence of God like you should until you obey those commands.

Because why would He get closer to you and reveal more to you if you won't do that first so that He can give you more? You know, there is that promise in the Bible. Jesus said, in John 14, those who obey My commands are the ones who love Me.

And because they love Me, My father will love them, and I will love them. And I will reveal Myself to each one of them. That's the promise.

Deuteronomy chapter 4, God said, you will seek the Lord, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul. That's the caveat. You want to experience the full enjoyment of the presence of God? Be committed to dealing with honest truth and obeying it.

So you can expect God will be with you. God'll be honest with you. God will command you. Fourth and finally, you can expect God will bless you. He will bless you this year.

Some of you are thinking, why didn't you just talk about that? Because if I only talked about that, I'd be lying to you. All those other are true, as well. But God will bless you. He promises to bless you. Look at the blessing to her, verse 10.

"The angel of the Lord said to her, 'I will multiply your descendants exceedingly'"-- that's a blessing-- "'so that they will not be counted for multitude.'" Notice the angel of the Lord didn't say, I will add. He said, "I'll multiply-- I'll multiply." That's a blessing.

OK, now, I want you to follow this little principle. The instruction was go back and submit, right? So the Lord's saying, I'm going to take away your independence for a while. I'm going to take away your freedom. I'm subtracting freedom from your life.

But in subtracting something, I'm going to multiply something else. You'll discover that when God subtracts from your life, He often does that in order that He might multiply in another area. God will bless your life.

And how will He do it? Well, He says, I will multiply your descendants meagerly. Is anybody going to read that and correct me? I will multiply your descendants adequately. "I will multiply your descendants exceedingly." I'm going to bless you a lot.

Ephesians chapter 3-- "Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us." Expect God's exceeding blessing.

Now, a little warning on this. It does not mean or guarantee that your life will be easy this year. It does not mean that you will be rich this year. It does not mean that you're going to have perfect health this year. Some of God's biggest blessings are disguised as something else.

Funny how we ask, why do bad things happen to good people? Two presumptions-- you're presuming you're good, and you're presuming what God is allowing to come into your life is bad when, in effect, it actually could be really, really good for you. Just hold on, and wait and see. So sometimes God's blessings are disguised that way.

There's an anthem, a two-phrase anthem I want to close with. You know it. Because you're going to speak it out to me in a second. Well, what I want you to know is that this was first introduced not in America, even though it's popular here now and around the world.

It was first introduced in Nigeria. It was developed in Nigerian churches. Christians were persecuted in Nigeria. And during the midst of the highest pinnacle of persecution, a clergyman said to his church, God is good. And they answered back--

All the time.

All the time. That's where it started. And then, he said, all the time. And they said--

God is good.

God is good. God is good all the time. All the time in your new year, God is good. He'll be with you. He'll be honest with you. He'll command you. He'll bless you.

So we glance backward that we might go forward. But our gaze is where? Upward. Father, we close on that note, gazing into Your face. Even as Stephen, when he was actually dying and being martyred and pelted with stones, he had his gaze fixed upward, and said, look, I see Jesus seated at the right hand of God.

Lord, I pray that we will march into this year as a biblicist, confident that You are in control, that You are managing our schedules, our time. Even the things we didn't plan to hear or see, You hear, and You see. And we rest there. In Jesus' name, Amen.

We hope you enjoyed this special service from Calvary Church. We'd love to know how this message impacted you. Email us at mystory@calvarynm.church. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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1/1/1984
completed
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From Beginning to End
Skip Heitzig
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From Beginning to End from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/1986
completed
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New Year's Eve 1986
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's Eve 1986 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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1/1/1989
completed
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New Years: A Time for Rebuilding
Nehemiah 2:11-20
Skip Heitzig
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New Years: A Time for Rebuilding - Nehemiah 2:11-20 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/1989
completed
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Facing the Future with Confidence
Jeremiah 29:1-11
Skip Heitzig
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Facing the Future with Confidence - Jeremiah 29:1-11 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/30/1990
completed
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Fulfilling the Task
Joshua 13
Skip Heitzig
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Fulfilling the Task - Joshua 13 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/1990
completed
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New Year Exhortation
Matthew 5:13-16
Skip Heitzig
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New Year Exhortation - Matthew 5:13-16 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/1992
completed
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New Year's Eve 1992
John 4
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's Eve 1992 - John 4 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/1993
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New Year's Eve 1993
Calvary Pastors
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New Year's Eve 1993 from our study New Year's Messages with the Calvary Pastors from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/1994
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New Year's Eve 1994
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's Eve 1994 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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1/1/1995
completed
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Four Words for the New Year
Philippians 3:12-14
Skip Heitzig
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Four Words for the New Year - Philippians 3:12-14 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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1/4/1995
completed
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New Year's 1995
Psalm 20
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's 1995 - Psalm 20 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/30/1995
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New Year's Eve 1995
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's Eve 1995 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/1995
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Trusting an Unknown Future to a Known God
Skip Heitzig
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Trusting an Unknown Future to a Known God from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/1996
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New Year's Eve 1996
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's Eve 1996 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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1/1/1997
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New Year's 1997
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's 1997 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/1997
completed
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The Untrodden Path of the Future
Joshua 3:1-14
Skip Heitzig
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The Untrodden Path of the Future - Joshua 3:1-14 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/27/1998
completed
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The Best Way to Live
Philippians 3:10-14
Skip Heitzig
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The Best Way to Live - Philippians 3:10-14 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/1998
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New Year's Eve 1998
Skip Heitzig
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1/3/1999
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The Future: Inquiring Minds Want to Know
Matthew 24; Luke 21
Skip Heitzig
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As a child I remember laying in bed wondering about the future. Questions like, "Where will I be in the year 2000?" or, "Will there be an end to the world?" would go through my mind. People have always had futuristic queries. Even the disciples did. What will happen? What should I know? How can I prepare?
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12/26/1999
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I know the plans I have for you
Jeremiah 29:1-11
Skip Heitzig
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I know the plans I have for you - Jeremiah 29:1-11 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/1999
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New Year's Eve 1999
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's Eve 1999 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/2000
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New Year's Eve 2000
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's Eve 2000 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/2001
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New Year's Eve 2001
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's Eve 2001 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/29/2002
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How To Face the New Year
Psalm 65:11
Skip Heitzig
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How To Face the New Year - Psalm 65:11 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/2002
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New Year's Eve 2002
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's Eve 2002 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/28/2003
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Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing
John 15:1-8
Skip Heitzig
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Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing - John 15:1-8 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/2003
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New Year's Eve 2003
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's Eve 2003 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/26/2004
completed
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How To Face the New Year
Psalm 65:11
Skip Heitzig
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How To Face the New Year from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/2004
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New Year's Eve 2004
Skip Heitzig
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New Year's Eve 2004 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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1/2/2006
completed
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Facing the Future with Confidence
Jeremiah 29:1-14
Skip Heitzig
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Facing the Future with Confidence - Jeremiah 29:1-14 from our study New Year's Messages with Skip Heitzig from Calvary Albuquerque.
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12/31/2006
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A Clear Path in a Foggy Future
Joshua 3:1-10
Skip Heitzig
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Do you remember lying in bed as a child wondering what you would be doing in the future? Questions like, “Who will I marry? Where will I be living? How many kids will I have?” occupied our imagination. Everyone wonders about his or her future and, around New Years, such speculation is rampant. But as believers we can walk on firmer ground. With God at the helm, life’s journey can be an exciting adventure. And since we’re already assured of the destination of this earthly pilgrimage, let’s enjoy the ride!
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12/31/2006
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New Year's Eve Fiesta
Skip Heitzig
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12/30/2007
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New Years Revolution!
1 Thessalonians 5:14-22
Skip Heitzig
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This is typically the time of year we pause to take personal inventory. How far have we come? What goals have we met? How could we do things differently? This is the stuff that makes for New Years resolutions. But in making them, where should we aim? How high should we aim? What is the best way to live our lives in the coming year? I say we could use less resolutions and more of a revolution—i.e. radical change!
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12/31/2007
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Special New Years Eve Worship Service
Skip Heitzig
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12/31/2008
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New Year's Eve 2008
Deuteronomy 1:1-46;Joshua 1:1-18
Skip Heitzig
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12/27/2009
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Holes in the Walls
Nehemiah 2:11-18
Skip Heitzig
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With the coming of a New Year comes the evaluation of the old one. Today I'd like to speak candidly about some concerns that I see within the "Christian Camp" as we face the New Year. Picture your life like the four walls within an ancient city (Jerusalem in Nehemiah's time). For the city to be safe, productive, and thriving, the holes in the walls need to be closed and the gates carefully guarded. Consider carefully (and prayerfully) these four vulnerable areas in the coming year:
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12/31/2009
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New Year's Eve 2009
Skip Heitzig
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As we go forward into a new decade we'll remember the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ. Join us as we reflect on what the Lord has done, and look forward expectantly to the good works He has prepared before us.
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12/31/2010
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New Year's Eve 2010
Acts 6:1-4
Skip Heitzig
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As we embark on a new year, we seek the Lord and His vision for our church. We'll get a preview of our upcoming expound Bible study and express prayer ministry as we follow the example of the early church, and renew our excitement for prayer and the Word of God.
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1/2/2011
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The Amazing Race
Philippians 3:12-16
Skip Heitzig
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Are you running to win? Or are you operating in cruise control? As we begin a new year, it's time to consider five essentials in our race toward Godly living. Let's explore what the apostle Paul had to say about the race laid out before us from this text in the book of Philippians.
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1/1/2012
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Where Are We Going?
Philippians 3:12-16
Skip Heitzig
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As we look back in celebration of what the Lord has done this past year, it's tempting to rest on our laurels—to be satisfied with what has been accomplished. But the work is not complete. On the brink of the new year, let's consider these words of the apostle Paul, and apply some important principles that will help us finish the race well.
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12/30/2012
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Navigating Another Year
Ephesians 5:15-17
Skip Heitzig
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What is the will of God? It can seem so elusive, but in this study, we learn five things that are the clear will of God for each of us. As children of God, as a church body, let's make a pact to preach to the lost, to be set apart for Jesus Christ, to be humble, to be submissive and honoring to the people around us, and to be thankful in all things.
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12/31/2014
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Sing In the New Year: Worship through the Ages
Battle Drums Worship Team
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1/4/2015
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Truths to Transform 2015
Psalm 90
Skip Heitzig
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Moses wrote Psalm 90 at a time in his life when he experienced great loss. As we study his words, we learn some simple yet powerful truths that can transform our year—if we put them into practice. Looking ahead, we can't predict what's coming up, but we can make our days count for eternity.
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There are 43 additional messages in this series.