Are You Being Tempted?

Today’s Bible Reading: Romans 7

In today’s reading, Paul writes about a struggle that all followers of Jesus face. It is a hidden battle that is happening in each of us. A struggle between our old sinful nature and the new life we have in Christ. To solve this struggle, we try to defeat our sinful nature by being good Christians who follow the God’s law. The problem is we all fail miserably and we then start to blame the law for our sin. The Law isn’t the problem though, as it serves another purpose. It shows us how much we need Jesus.

Romans 7:7-13
7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

Pastor Tim Keller writes this about the above verses:

When we read God’s law properly, and when we look at our own lives honestly, we can only conclude that we are “wretched.” Without accepting this, we will never grasp the glory of the gospel. We will never truly appreciate the gospel of received righteousness. Only if our hearts truly cry at our wretchedness can we then know the hope and liberation of looking away from ourselves and to what God has done.

As we finish out this chapter, we see Paul’s authenticity and transparency. It is always encouraging and comforting to know that others share in our struggles. In this case, we read that the apostle Paul, a hero of faith who wrote much of the Bible’s New Testament, struggled with the war waging within him. He even refers to himself as a wretched man.

Romans 7:21-25
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

In verse 25, Paul answers his own question of who will rescue him by declaring that it is God who delivers him through Jesus Christ our Lord! What an encouraging verse. We can also know that when we struggle with sin, and keep doing those things that we have promised we wouldn’t do anymore, we too can nevertheless have victory through Jesus. We can stop trying, so that we may begin trusting God to save us from our wretched selves.

Questions:
What are the areas of sin in your life that you find to be a constant struggle? Pride, anger, lust, etc?

Are you trying to overcome your sins on your own or are you trusting God to help you overcome your struggles?

Next Steps:
This weekend Calvin shared that the Bible is key to overcoming temptation. When we overcome temptation, we avoid sin. Take time this week to evaluate the role the Bible plays in your life. Are you reading it regularly? Are you memorizing or meditating on it? Are you using it to shine light on decisions?

After evaluating, take time to write out a few steps that you can begin taking to connect with God through the Bible. Share these steps with someone else and ask them to help you take these steps.

Finally, trust God with your struggle. It is God who delivers us through Jesus Christ. Write out a prayer of surrender and start trusting God to save you.

Prayer:
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for loving me even though I am a wretched soul. Please give me the strength to surrender to you fully and to trust your plan for my life. Please give me the courage to stop trying on my own, but to close my eyes and send my worries up to you in a prayer so that you may save me. Amen.


This post was written by the LivingItOut Team.


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I am a child of God

Romans 6

Have you ever adopted a child or known someone who has? It’s a long and arduous process. At the end, when the child becomes part of his/her new family, any authority that the previous guardians, parents, or government entity had over this child no longer exists. He or she is “dead” to his/her previous life. Through adoption, the child now has a new name, a new status, a new identity.

Will he/she continue to identify with the person he/she was before the papers were signed? Perhaps, even though the child now exists in an entirely new situation. Will the child continue to behave as he/she did before the adoption was final? Most likely, because it takes some time to adjust to a new reality, to accept that what once was true of one’s self is no longer true.

Romans 6 says the same of us when we are born again into Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul explains to his readers how, since all our sin is forgiven— past, present, and future — it is no longer our identity to be sinners.

Romans 6:15-17
15 Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! 16 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you.

We have died to our old selves. We have been born again, adopted, immersed, into a new family—the family of God. We are now sons and daughters of the King. What used to have power over us, no longer does because when we died, all that was true of us when we were alive died too. You are no longer a liar, an adulterer, a substance abuser, a cheat, a thief, a gossip. When we are born again, we are new creations in Christ. We are now under his grace, and we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

But just as with a child who has been newly adopted, it takes a while to grasp and live in this new reality. These children often test the love and affection of their new parents, and often we followers of Jesus do the same with our heavenly Father. But we are no longer slaves to sin. That bears repeating: We are no longer slaves to sin. We are slaves to God and his righteousness. God’s grace has set us free, but satisfying the payment for our sin cost Jesus his life. May we live lives worthy of his sacrifice.

Romans 6:22-23
22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Questions:
Do you struggle with the same sin over and over?

How can you access the power to have victory over this sin?

Next Steps:
Sin is no longer your master. Attend GrowthTrack or Celebrate Recovery for help in making this truth a reality in your life.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I thank you so much for your gift of grace, an unmerited favor that I could never earn on my own . Help me live out of the fact that I am a new creation in Christ because of your free gift. I submit to your leadership and lordship in my life today, and every day. Amen.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people who God used to start CedarCreek 21 years ago, and was on staff until 2013. She and her husband Mike love to travel the country in their motor home with their kitties Jane & Mary. Lauri is passionate about prayer, and about helping women discover who they are in Christ. She doesn’t tweet but you can follow her and Mike’s adventures on Facebook.


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Are Bad Things Always Bad?

Today’s Bible Reading: Romans 5

When I drive my kids to activities, I tend to take the opportunity to talk to them about Jesus. I call them “car sermons,” and they’re great because the kids are strapped in; they can’t leave. Despite my quasi-Clockwork-Orange approach, the kids really enjoy it.

The other day, my oldest asked why Jesus had to die. I reminded her of the story of Adam and Eve, and how their bad choice brought sin into the world. It separated them (and us) from God. I told her that God missed us and sent Jesus to save us. When Jesus died, he took our place and made us right with God even though we still make bad choices sometimes. I told her that after Jesus died, he came back to life because he is more powerful than death.

I thought I had given her enough big concepts for the day. But then she asked why bad things still happen after Jesus fixed our relationship with God. Romans 5 celebrates our freely given reconciliation with God, but hidden in there is a little thing about trials that we shouldn’t skip over.

Romans 5:3-5
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Rejoice over problems? We must have to reach a supreme mastery of Christianity to achieve that level of faith, right? No. With our new covenant with God, we can have a relationship with him, experiencing life in a different way. In good times, we can rejoice with God. During trials, we can rejoice instead of falling into despair. When God allows trials in your life, it is a chance for growth. Receiving the gift of Jesus doesn’t mean life will be perfect from here on out. It means that the imperfect world we live in can be experienced in a more beautiful way—walking in relationship with Jesus as we go.

I explained this to my daughter, who sat thoughtfully afterward. It’s a tough concept. A good parent allows their children to make mistakes so they learn and become stronger. God is the perfect parent, and he knows that if we live our entire lives without problems, we will remain stagnant in our faith, resilience, and endurance.

When God allows trials into your life, he is training you for spiritual battle. Training isn’t easy! It hurts, and we walk away sore. But we also walk away stronger! Without intending to discount or minimize your trials, I compassionately encourage you not to get caught up in self-pity so much that you let a trial go to waste. Rejoice in the chance to walk away a stronger, better warrior for God.

Questions:
Describe a trial you are experiencing (or have experienced in the past) that God might be using to build endurance, strengthen your character, and/or build your confidence in salvation.

God offers us the gift of relational restoration through Jesus. Are you taking advantage of this gift and finding freedom? If so, explain. If not, what sins are you clinging to that are holding you back?

Next Steps:
When you experience a trial, try journaling about it. Pray for God to use it for his glory and to build your spiritual endurance. When you begin to reach the other side of the trial, reflect back on your writing and jot down what God has done in your life through the trial. If it isn’t clear right away, keep praying about it. You may not have a clear answer on every trial, but you may begin to see how God is working in your life.

Prayer:
Dear God, thank you for the gift of your Son. I am so grateful for a restored relationship with you, and I pray that I can rejoice both in good times and in bad. Because in all times, you remain unchanged. You are good all the time. I pray that you reveal to me what you are teaching me and building in me to help me through the trials, but also that I remain faithful when these answers are not clear. Amen.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee is a stay-at-home mom and wife. She loves writing for this team, and she hopes to help convey God’s message through this study.


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What Does the Scripture Say?

Today’s Bible Reading: Romans 4

There’s a lot of talk regarding what it means to be a Christian—a follower of Christ, a believer, or someone who is right with God. Some think, well, if you’re not too bad or if you make sure to do some good things, you’re all set. Others may think that if you go to church or if you took part in a traditional religious ceremony, that’s how you became a Christian. Some may even think you have to have it all together to be right with God.

But what does the Scripture say?

This weekend, guest speaker Calvin Sweeney’s bottom line was, “When the tempter comes to TEST you, remember it is God’s Word that PROTECTS you.” It’s God’s Word that protects you. It’s also God’s Word that defines your standing with Him. Romans 4:3 asks that same question in regards to faith: “For what does the Scripture say?” (HCSB). Paul answers, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith”.

Abraham believed God, and God counted him righteous (in right or good standing) because of his faith.

He goes on to say, “When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners” (vs. 4-5). In other words, it is nothing that we DO that puts us in right standing with God—no religious ceremonies, good works, cleaning ourselves up, or going to church. And, for that matter, there’s nothing so bad that we’ve done that keeps us from him. Paul wanted this message to be clear, so he reiterated it all throughout Romans 4.:

  • Abraham wasn’t a stellar man of God with a squeaky clean record (check out his story in Genesis).
  • Abraham didn’t do so much good that he became the father of many nations (vs. 13, 17).
  • Abraham’s religious acts didn’t open the door to faith in God (Genesis 15:6).

“Because of Abraham’s FAITH, God counted him as righteous” (vs. 22).

Here’s the good news for us! “When God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (vs. 23-24).

Romans 4:16 says this is a “free gift.” Another version calls it “grace” (HCSB). “And we are all certain to receive it… if we have faith like Abraham’s(v. 16). A right relationship with God comes by faith (vs. 13; emphasis added). Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done…”

“It will be credited to us who believe in him” (vs. 24 HCSB). Yes, it really is that easy. THAT’s what the Scripture says.

Questions:
Do you believe God? Do you believe that it really is that simple, that all we need is faith in him? Do you have faith like Abraham? What does the Scripture say?

Next Steps:
The “Starting Point” material asks, “What if the starting point for a relationship with God is TRUST?” Maybe today is the day to trust—to believe God and to believe IN God, “the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (vs. 24). If you’re not sure what all that means or what it might look like, consider joining a Starting Point Group at your campus. Believe God. Have faith. Trust what the Scripture says.

Prayer:
God, thank you for making a way for me to be in right standing with you, through faith, through Jesus. And when I struggle to believe, “Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Thank you that, no matter what I’ve done or not done, I matter to you. Thank you for this immeasurable gift. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


This post was written by Kendra Grubinski. Kendra is passionate about her relationship with Jesus and loves studying and sharing God’s Word. During the week, she is a Spanish Teacher at Findlay High School. She also enjoys spending time with her family and pups, reading, traveling, drinking good coffee and being active outdoors.


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We Are Saved By Faith in Jesus

Today’s Bible Reading: Romans 3

We are taught from a young age that we earn things. We earn an allowance, grades in school, a diploma at graduation, a paycheck, and many other things. For nonbelievers, I think one of the most puzzling things about Christianity is that we don’t earn salvation. Many nonbelievers think “If I am a good person, if I do more right than wrong, or if I obey the law, I will earn my way into heaven.”

But following God’s law is impossible. If you break one of his laws, you have broken the whole law and have sinned. Sin is an offense against religious or moral law. God gave the law to us so we would realize how sinful we are and how short we fall in comparison to his perfection. Sin separates us from God and prevents us from getting into heaven.

God loved all of us sinners so much that he had a perfect plan to save us. He sent his Son, Jesus, to the world. Jesus lived a perfect life (he never sinned). He was an innocent man, yet he was sentenced to death. He died on the cross and rose on the third day to offer the gift of salvation to all. We cannot earn our salvation. We are saved by believing Jesus died for our sins to make us right with God.

Romans 3:22-25
22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.

I am filled with joy, gratitude, and love for all that God has done for us. We don’t have to earn his love or salvation. We just need to have faith in him. It must have been so painful for God to watch Jesus suffer. One of my daughters has been going through a tough time. Yesterday was a really bad day for her. I was angry and upset. My heart was hurting for my beloved daughter. I cried out to God! (Really, I had a heated discussion with God!)

Today, I realize that God was hurting for her more than I was. He loves us so much, he hurts for us! He couldn’t stand the thought of us suffering for all eternity for our sins, so he sent Jesus to save us. I can’t imagine, as a mom, how much pain and hurt God would have felt seeing his Son suffer. God reminded me today how much he did for me and how I have to remember the price Jesus paid for me. My heart exclaims, “I trust you, Jesus! Forgive me when I question your plan and start to lose faith in you.”

Questions:
How do you believe you get to heaven? If you haven’t chosen to put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, what is stopping you from doing that right now? If you are a believer, in what ways do you struggle with your faith?

Next Steps:
Read and meditate on Romans 3. If you are not a believer, discuss this chapter with someone who is a believer. If you are a believer, pray and thank God for his perfect plan to save you. Praise Jesus for fulfilling God’s plan to save us and for loving us so much.

Prayer:
Jesus, I am so grateful for all you have done for me! I praise your wonderous name! Please fill me with faith in you. Help me to know that you are present in my life at all times and that I can count on you to work everything out for good. Please forgive my impatience with you when I am struggling. Thank you for listening to my concerns and reminding me of your love. 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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Humility Over Judgment

Today’s Bible Reading: Romans 2

Yesterday, we started reading the book of Romans. It is one of my favorite books of the Bible, probably because it is so blunt. Paul tells the truth as he sees it. I’m personally not one to sugarcoat things, especially when I think something or someone is wrong. I see sin as black and white and often err on the side of judgment instead of grace. I often lack the humility I should have  when thinking about the sin in another person’s life. While Paul never excuses sin, he cautions those who would cast judgment on others.

Romans 2:1
You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.

It’s easy to look at the sin in someone else’s life and ignore the sin in our own hearts. We want God to administer the punishment for their blatant sins but to go easy on the more subtle sins we hold in our own hearts. We are like the man in Matthew 18:21-35. We want Jesus to show extravagant mercy to us, yet we want those other sinners punished immediately. Paul reminds us that we, too, are in desperate need of God’s mercy and kindness.

Romans 2:4
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

It is the critical, judgmental attitude and hypocrisy of many Christians that turn many unbelievers away from faith in Jesus. They can feel attacked by these judgmental attitudes. As Christians, we claim to know the truth, yet we don’t always live in that truth. The result is that we turn broken and hurting people away from the only one who can heal them.

Romans 2:23-24
23 You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. 24 No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.”

When we approach the sin we see in those around us, we must first examine our own lives. Is there something that we need to turn from? Are we harboring a hidden sin that needs confession and repentance? If our hearts are clean before God, how are we approaching the sin we see in others? Do we step forth in humility or in judgment? Do we love the person and want them to live their best life, or do we care more about being right? Our approach to sin will have an eternal effect on those we encounter.

Questions:
What is your first response to sin when you see it in someone else’s life?

Do you examine your heart regularly to be sure that there is no hidden sin?

Next Steps:
Read Matthew 18:21-35. The next time you feel tempted to confront someone about sin, ask yourself the questions in verse 33.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for being wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient with me in my sin. Thank you for approaching my sin with kindness and giving me the opportunity to turn away from my sin without condemnation. I pray that I approach others with the same gracious attitude. Help me to help others turn from sin in a manner that shows them love and grace. Amen.


This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her five young children.


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Right with God

Today’s Bible Reading: Romans 1

Today we begin reading the book of Romans, arguably one of the most theologically dense books in the Bible. It was written by the apostle Paul to a church he had not yet visited, to people he had yet to meet. Romans is the gospel. The gospel tells us what it takes to be “righteous” or right with God.

Paul introduces himself as “a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News” (Romans 1:1). He goes on to tell his audience how he got this news, and who it is about. Paul then lays out the case against sinners (us) as any prosecuting attorney would, each piece of evidence undeniable by us, the defendants. But he gives us a glimmer of hope.

Romans 1:16-17    
16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

For the rest of chapter 1, and all of chapters 2 and 3, Paul lays out the case against us—all of us: religious, irreligious, believer, non-believer. He makes it clear that we have no standing before God.

You know the feeling you get when you are not right with someone you love or care about? You’ve done something or said something that you cannot fix or take back, no matter how much you wish you could. There is no way to make it right. This is where we stand with God. We all have done things, lots of things, that go against the plan God has for our lives. These things, these sins, separate us from God and there is no undoing them.

So where is the good news? It’s this, which Paul tells us in Romans in great detail:

  1. God loves sinners (all of us).
  2. We (all of us) cannot do anything on our own to make ourselves right with God.
  3. Jesus makes a way for us (all of us) to be right with God.
  4. Faith in Jesus results in the power of the Holy Spirit living within us.

Last weekend, Ben talked about how, when it feels like everything is against us, we need to remember who is for us. Romans tells us that God is for us, so no one can be against us! Through faith in Jesus, God gives us the ability and the power to live lives that honor him! It’s a great book! Dig in!

Questions:
When have you done something, you wish you could have taken back but couldn’t? What would you give to take it back?

Next Steps:
In Romans, Paul calls the gospel “Good News.” If you do not have this Good News in your life, talk to a Christian friend about how to get it.

If you have trusted Christ with his Good News, go to GrowthTrack and discover your next step.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for being for us! Thank you for making a way through Jesus for us to be righteous in your eyes. Thank you for your amazing grace! Amen.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people who God used to start CedarCreek 21 years ago, and was on staff until 2013. She and her husband Mike love to travel the country in their motor home with their kitties Jane & Mary. Lauri is passionate about prayer, and about helping women discover who they are in Christ. She doesn’t tweet but you can follow her and Mike’s adventures on Facebook.


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The Finish Line

Today’s Bible Reading: Acts 28

When I gave my life to Christ, one of the very first Bible verses to impact me was Paul’s quote in 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” Here is a man who lived a faithful journey and came to the end of his life with no regrets. What an amazing feeling that must be! I rejoice with Paul about his ability to never waiver from his goal of preaching about Jesus Christ. Paul gives me a great godly reference for how to be steadfast and stand firm in the things I believe through difficult times.

Acts 28 is the final chapter of Acts. In it, we find Paul destined for Rome. Chained as a prisoner, shipwrecked, and now with a snake fastened to his hand, Paul never loses sight of the finish line! Why? Because, as we read last Friday, God had promised him safe passage.

Acts 27:23-24
23 For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, 24 and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’

Paul desperately wanted to reach the people of Rome for God, and God honored that. Throughout Acts, we see that God may not make us comfortable or secure, but he will provide the opportunity to honor him and do his work! Yes, trials can bring great suffering, challenges, and distraction. If we are focused, however, on the finish line, these hurdles only serve to make us bolder and our faith stronger with each obstacle we overcome! That was certainly the life example Paul set.

Questions:
How can God help you overcome the trials and hurdles in your life? How is your finish line aligned with God’s will for your life?

Next Steps:
Identify the struggles in your life today and talk about them with someone. Then, pray about them. What is God revealing to you about how your suffering can be used for the good of his Kingdom?

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, we know it is not always easy to rejoice in suffering. Help us to see the challenge for what it is and give us the strength to rise above it. Help us to see YOU. It is not easy to overcome life’s struggles, but we praise you now for the amazing ways you will help us persevere. You will make us stronger, and we thank you for being by our side as we run our race. Amen.


This post was written by Mike Bilik. Mike is a father to 3 amazing daughters and one awesome son. Spare time is rare, but given the opportunity you are likely to find him with friends: hiking, hunting or fishing.


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Paul vs. The Stormy Sea

Today’s Bible Reading: Acts 27

The Lord told Paul he would be going to Rome back in Acts 23. Acts 27 is an account of the hardships Paul and those with him faced on that voyage.

Acts 27: 20-26    
20
The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. 21 No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. 22 But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. 23 For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, 24 and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ 25 So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. 26 But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”

I really admire Paul’s optimistic perseverance. Paul not only had people who wanted to kill him, but it seemed even the weather was against him! With so much working not in his favor , he must have had a sharp eye on the God who was for him! This is the same God who seems to send encouragement at just the right time, every  time—the God who takes our mess and turns it into a message for others to be encouraged.

Questions:
When is the last time you saw God’s encouragement to keep going when it seemed like all was against you? When have you been the encouragement for others?

Next Steps:
Think of a time when you were doing something you felt called to do. Journal about it or share with a friend how God encouraged you when difficulties came into play.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for the example of perseverance Paul gives us. Thank you for always being there to encourage us along the way. Thank you for your protection as we face the storms of life. Help us, Lord, to keep our eyes fixed on you. Give us courage to share our stories of faith with others. Open our eyes and show us where we might be an encourager for someone else along their journey. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Julie Estep, a first-time contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Speak Where You Are

Today’s Bible Reading: Acts 26

My youngest daughter, Sarah, is an amazing woman, and I admire her greatly. She is driven, observant, bold, and fearless. Sarah is not afraid to step outside of her comfort zone. Not only does she have the gift of really listening to people and understanding what is important to them, but she is also a skilled communicator and knows how to relate with people on their level. As I read Acts 26, I realized that Sarah has a lot of Paul’s characteristics.

Paul was bold. He spoke the truth about Jesus at all times. It didn’t matter if he was talking to people at the synagogue, to an angry mob, or to governors and kings. He always shared the Good News with audiences that loved him as well as those who wanted to kill him. He was driven. He knew God’s purpose for his life was to preach that Jesus was the Son of God, who died for our sins and rose on the third day so all who believed in him would be saved. He spoke to people on their level and he showed great respect for them. He was open and vulnerable with them.

When he spoke to King Agrippa, Paul voiced that he was fortunate that King Agrippa was hearing his case. He said King Agrippa was “an expert on all Jewish customs and controversies” (Acts 26:3). Paul requested that the king listen patiently to him. He explained that he had been raised a Pharisee, the strictest sect of Judaism. Paul was on trial because of his belief in Jesus—the same Jesus who was raised from the dead by God. Paul talked about how at first, as Saul, he persecuted followers of Jesus, even voting to condemn them to death, but drastically changed after he had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul listened to Jesus and obeyed. Jesus instructed him to preach to the Jews but to mostly focus on the Gentiles. Jesus changed Saul’s name to Paul, and Paul used every opportunity he had to evangelize. We see in Acts 26 that Paul also preached to Governor Festus and Bernice in the hope they would believe in Jesus and become Christians. King Agrippa saw through what Paul was doing.

 

Acts 26:28-29
28 Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?” 29 Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”

Paul was amazing! He was focused on telling others about his faith in Jesus, not on his chains or his circumstances. He saw this as an opportunity. He prayed that everyone who heard the message of Jesus would be saved. He evangelized to King Agrippa, who had the ability to bring charges against him that could lead to a death sentence. Paul was bold, observant, fearless, and driven.

Questions:
Where is God giving you the opportunity to share the truth of Jesus Christ? At work, at home, or in another setting? What stops you from telling others about Jesus?

Next Steps:
Read Act 26 and focus on how Paul evangelized to others. Write out your story about how Jesus changed you. Practice reciting it and be prepared to share your story and tell others about Jesus.

Prayer:
Jesus, thank you for giving us role models like Paul. Help me to be fearless, bold, and driven in sharing my story about how you changed my life. Help me to take the time to really observe and listen to others. Give me the words to speak about you on their level. Forgive me when I am too afraid to share the ways in which you have blessed me and changed me. Jesus, please help me to always bring glory to your name. 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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