Waste Not

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 8

Today’s LivingItOut:
We are, unfortunately, a very wasteful society. We often do not appreciate what we have. Last weekend I was struck when I came across an article about food waste in the United States. About 40 percent of all food produced here is thrown away. I of course had already previously heard about this problem (though the number still stunned me), but it particularly resonated with me after reading Mark 8. Imagine what good all that food could do, if it were to reach the hands of those in need!

Mark 8:6-7
6 So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. 7 A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.

Jesus took a few loaves of bread and fed thousands. We have millions of loaves of bread, and what do we do with what is left after we feed ourselves and our family? How could we make better use of leftover food instead of wasting it? There are some organizations around that will take leftover food from restaurants and businesses, but I am sure they are still in need of volunteers to redistribute this food to those in need…

This topic then made me think about our other forms of wealth that we have abundance of to give to others. We can give love and support to our loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. Our love and support can “feed” the needs of many, if we follow Jesus’ example.

But to do so, we need to not only prioritize our time accordingly, but also we need to be healed ourselves first. It is a bit like that oxygen mask advice you hear on the airplane during the safety drill: Put the oxygen mask first on yourself before putting it onto others! If we are not healed ourselves, then we cannot help others.

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder talked last weekend about how we need to be “repaired” before we can be good in other areas of our lives. This includes helping others through our love and support. It is our responsibility to take the necessary steps to make sure we are repaired, so we can be ready to serve others. There are many ways to do so, but the key is to decide to take the necessary steps with the beginning of this New Year. We do not want to waste the opportunities given to us by God to serve him by helping others, so we need to make sure we are repaired and thus prepared to “feed many”.

Questions:
What are steps that you could take to repair the areas of your life where there are still issues holding you back from living your best life? Who are the people in your life who love you and could support you on this journey? Have you made a commitment to God and yourself to repair yourself? Have you asked God to give you strength and wisdom on this journey?

Next Steps:
Make a list of steps you need to take to repair yourself so that you can live your best life. Set goals and time frames for each step. Ask people who love you to accompany you on this journey for support. Journal your progress as you move through this New Year. When you feel ready, plan whom you now could “feed” in return with your love and support on their journey.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 12
Prayer Focus: To Live Confidently(1 John 4:16-17)
Father in Heaven, thank you for loving me. I know I can trust you with all I am, and I am confident in the salvation you have given me. Help me to abide in you, to become more like your son every day. Teach me to live like him, according to your will, working for your kingdom in all I do. May my love for you and others be perfected through your love for me.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 13
Prayer Focus: To Live Obediently (Philippians 2: 12-13)
Heavenly Father, thank you for working within me. I am in awe of the changes you have worked in my heart before and of the changes you are currently making within me. I praise you for saving for me, for making salvation possible through your son. Help me to share this gift with others by loving you and others and by obeying your will. Teach me to desire what you desire. I trust you to give me the power to do all you ask of me.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 14
Prayer Focus: Worshipping Him (John 4:23)
Dear Father, I worship you with all my heart and soul. I want to sing your praises from early in the morning when the sun rises until late at night when the day has passed. I am so grateful to be allowed to be your child and your love washes over me. Amen.


This post was written by Cordula Mora. Cordula is a neuroscientist who currently works in the Provost office at Bowling Green State University. She was born and raised in Germany, then spent many years living in New Zealand before settling in the US almost 16 years ago. She was raised in a German Protestant church but feels blessed to have been spiritually awakened when she was introduced to CedarCreek Church. She thanks God every day for all the blessings in her life, including two amazing daughters and a wonderful man whom she loves and whom she wants to serve the Lord with.


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Rules or Relationship?

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 7

Today’s LivingItOut:
As Jesus’ popularity increased, he attracted more and more attention from the religious leaders, and his disciples came under scrutiny. With more than 600 laws a religious Jew was expected to obey, it wasn’t difficult for the Pharisees, a religious sect that prided itself on rigid adherence to each of those laws, to find fault with Jesus and his disciples.

As in the passage Lead Pastor Ben Snyder referred to in Matthew 7 about specks and planks, the Pharisees had lost sight of the purpose for the laws, namely to set the Jews apart as a special people devoted to God. They had made checking off each rule the focus of their devotion, rather than worshipping the God who had set them apart for himself.

Why? Well, rules are always easier than relationships. I can look at the behaviors I think will identify me as a follower of Jesus, such as giving to charity, praying in public, carrying my Bible around, having a daily quiet time, and fasting regularly, and believe that God is pleased with me. On the other hand, I can treat people badly, hold resentments without extending forgiveness, gossip and lie (white only!), but think that my “good” checklist will offset my bad in God’s eyes. When you write it down like that and read it, it seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? Jesus was very clear about this:

Mark 7:9-12
9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents.

Relationships are hard. It was easier for these Pharisees to devote their money to God than to deal with their aging parents. Giving their money to the temple made them seem so generous! While giving money to the temple is of course a good thing, they were probably more concerned with it making them look good in the sight of their peers and colleagues, Which was evident by the fact that at the same time their own parents went without. They used their obedience to their laws and traditions as an excuse to avoid really helping people.

So I have to ask, “Do I do that?” When have I used busyness with ministry chores as an excuse not to spend time with someone who is hurting or needs more time than my crowded schedule allows? Whose schedule is it, anyway? Every day I ask to be guided by the Holy Spirit, but do I listen to his voice?

Questions:
Have you ever used rules to avoid relationships? If so, why do you think you have been doing so? What is holding you back from building relationships?

Next Steps:
God wants your heart and its desire to know him more than any obedience to rules you might think will make him smile. As you pray and fast over the next several days, ask God to draw you to him. Desire to know him more, and then let that knowledge inform the way you treat the people in your life. Treat them as he has treated you!

21 Days of Prayer -Day 11
Prayer Focus: To Love Fearlessly (1 John 4:18-19)
Our Lord and Savior, thank you for being a God of perfect love. Thank you for loving us first, before we accepted your salvation and before we even knew you, while we were still living in sin. Teach me to love as you love, without fear, without condemnation. Help me to offer grace to those around me, just as you first offered grace to me.


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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I Trust You, Jesus

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 6:45-54

Today’s LivingItOut:
Imagine you are one of Jesus’ disciples. You’ve been following him for a while. You’ve heard his teachings, watched him heal others, and built a relationship with him. You are astounded when he takes five loaves of bread and two fish and feeds more than 5,000 people. You are amazed that after everyone has had their fill, there are 12 baskets of food left. Then Jesus tells you and the other disciples to get on the boat and cross the lake to Bethsaida.

Imagine the conversation on the boat between the disciples. How did he feed all those people with five loaves of bread and two tiny fish, and then have 12 baskets of leftovers? Who do you think Jesus is? I bet they would be feeling overjoyed and in awe of Jesus. They had just participated in a miracle!

I bet the disciples were all trying to talk at the same time. They were happy, confused, and awestruck. Things were going well, and they were feeling content. Then out of nowhere, the wind was howling, the waves were crashing, and they were having a hard time rowing. They were in serious trouble.

Mark 6:47-50a
47 Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. 50 They were all terrified when they saw him.

Have you ever been like the disciples, quickly moving from awe of Jesus and the miracles he performed in your life, to fear and loss of your faith? I am ashamed to admit I can easily become fearful and start to lose my faith. I have learned when I lose my peace, I also lose faith. I immediately need to turn to Jesus and pray. I need to repair my relationship with him and make him, rather than my problems, the focus of my life. Honestly, sometimes I do this quickly, but when I am overwhelmed, I can quickly forget all about Jesus. I read recently that a great thing to do is pray, “Jesus I trust you!” Those are powerful words! They take the focus off of me and my troubles and place it on Jesus. Jesus’ reaction to their fear is filled with love and compassion.

Mark 6:50b-52
50 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” 51 Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, 52 for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.

When we call out to Jesus when we are terrified, overwhelmed, worried, or in need, his response is, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage, I am here!” Meditate on Jesus’ response. Jesus, our Savior, is here. We don’t need to be afraid. He will give us courage.

Questions:
How would you have reacted to Jesus feeding 5,000 men and their families with what seemed to be so little? What would have been your response when the storm hit? Is there anything you need to do to repair your relationship with Jesus? Do you need to repent for being self-centered and not having faith in him? How did Jesus respond to the disciples when they were crying out in terror?

Next Steps:
Read and meditate on Mark 6:30-52. Practice saying, “Jesus, I trust you,” when troubles occur. Write down what happened after each time you said, “Jesus, I trust you.” Pray to Jesus to repair your relationship with him. Ask him to turn your fear into a strong faith in him. Participate in CedarCreek’s 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 10
Prayer Focus: Dependence on Him (Psalms 121:1-2)
Dear Lord, when things become difficult, I know that you will be walking beside me holding me by my hand. You will cross the desert with me and weather any storm with me. When things become unbearable, I know that you will carry me to the other side. Today, I declare my dependence on you. 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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Who is in Charge?

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 6:1-44

Today’s LivingItOut:
Do you ever play God in your life? I sometimes do. I find myself trying to hold on to and control the circumstances and relationships in my life without seeking God’s leading.

For our purpose of better answering that first question, let’s delve more deeply into Mark 6:1-6, where Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth for the second time. There he discovers, once again, total disbelief among everyone in the town, even within his own family.

Mark 6:3-6 (English Standard Version)

 3 “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.  4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”  5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

In a way, this visit actually went better than the first one (as the people in the synagogue tried to push him off a cliff for declaring he is the Messiah.) This second visit was, however, equally sad because of the same stubborn disbelief. As a matter of fact, it was so bad, it is one of only a couple of stories in the New Testament where Jesus is described as “marveling” over something. One such story is captured in Matthew 8:5-13, when a commander in the Roman army, a centurion, came to Jesus asking him to heal his paralyzed servant that was home suffering badly. Jesus marveled at the man’s deep faith in him to do so and healed him at that moment.

In today’s reading during this second visit to Nazareth, we read that Jesus marveled because of the townspeople’s unwavering disbelief that he is the Messiah. These people knew the Torah, God’s laws, and the prophecies about the coming Messiah. They also knew him and had heard what he had been preaching in the synagogues and of the miracles he had performed. Yet they chose to hold on to this dark, unwavering unbelief—a decision that caused Christ to both marvel and not perform miracles on their behalf.

Unfortunately, these verses show that when we doubt and try to control everything, we also prevent God from doing mighty works in our lives. As I read this story and examined my own life for unbelief, I realize that while I trust Jesus for my salvation, I have unbelief in other areas. I find myself believing he has saved me from the punishment due to me because of my sins, but at times I don’t believe he will, can, or should be in charge of my daily decisions. Instead I want to be in control and be in charge.

How often do we, as professing believers, turn from God and put ourselves back in charge of our lives? For myself, the answer is more times than I can count. The results are never as good as they would they would have been had I remained obedient and let God make the decision for me. When we try to control our lives and choose not to believe and live in a way that declares God knows best, it keeps us from living our best lives.

So what is our challenge from today’s reading? To keep our eyes and our decision-making squarely focused on prayerfully reading his Word and obeying his commands in all areas of our lives. There we will find our best lives yet.

Questions:
Be honest with yourself: do you still demand your own way instead of seeking God’s? If so, why?

What is stopping you from turning your whole life over to his care?

Next Steps:
As you pray over today’s prayer focus, identify those areas in your life that you are holding on to.

List those areas out and begin believing in God’s power to handle them.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 9
Prayer Focus: Surrender to Him (Romans 12:1)
Heavenly Father, thank you for all you have given me: all the time, resources, relationships, and abilities. I now give them back to you. I surrender it all. For I am only a steward—it all belongs to you. God, guide my actions. Teach me to use what you have given me according to your will. Help me to listen for and obey your directions. May your will be done in me and through me.


This post was written by Martha Preckler and the LIO team. Martha loves Jesus and growing closer to him every day. She loves serving on the Sparkle Team and Greeter Team, as a Landing Leader, GrowthTrack hostess, and fill-in writer for LIO. Martha is the grateful mother of two grown sons and one daughter-in-law. Both sons are good writers, but one is a published urban fantasy writer and self-proclaimed grammar dictator, which he swears he picked up from his mother. She has been a Toledo Business Journal contributor, speech writer, as well as creator of dozens of promotional pieces for seniors’ events and programming offer by the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo.


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It is an Inside Job

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 5

Today’s LivingItOut:
In this week’s LivingItOut, we continue our journey through the book of Mark. Today we begin with Mark 5 and we will end the week by reading Mark 8 on Friday.

In Today’s reading, Jesus has “arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes.” The time spent there is short-lived. The dramatic change in one man, once possessed by many evil spirits, caused the crowd to plead with Jesus to go away and leave them alone (verses 1–17). Jesus went back to the other side of the lake. He healed two women in response to faith (verses 21-42). Both situations appeared to be impossible and hopeless, not unlike the man possessed by many evil spirits. Yet, Jesus again demonstrated his power over disease and death.

Similarly to how the man delivered from the legion of evil spirits proclaimed everything the Lord had done for him, I, too, want to proclaim what Jesus has done for me. Jesus always has been faithful to me. He has walked with me and at times carried me through many challenges. While I would have never chosen the challenges presented, his strength in me has deepened my trust in him. He was and always is with me!

I stand amazed at his goodness to me in spite of “broken” (unwise) decisions I’ve made intentionally. He has saved me from sins I would rather not list. He has restored damaged emotions and he continues to offer deep peace in the midst of unexpected, unplanned storms. As he repairs me it makes life better for me, and when I am repaired it makes life better for those around me.

Questions:
Do you intentionally follow Jesus knowing and believing he is the Son of God, yet fail to have faith in the impossible and hopeless situations life presents?

Next Steps:
Pray, asking him to reveal areas of brokenness that are hindering spiritual growth.

Participate in 21 Days of Prayer with our church. Refer to the 21 Days of Prayer Guide and other resources at cedarcreek.tv/21days.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 8
Prayer Focus: Broken Before Him (Psalms 51:17)
Dear God, I have missed the mark of righteousness many times. Yet while I was still separated from you, you loved me and sent your son to die for me. Thank you, Lord. Do not allow me to act proud; don’t let me pretend to be whole and faultless when I am not. Instead, I offer my broken spirit to you, for you alone can make it whole. I come to you in repentance, knowing you see me as perfect because of your son’s sacrifice. Heal me God, and teach my heart to break for what breaks yours. In your son’s name, I pray. Amen.


This post was written by Karen Peck, a first time contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Weathering the Storm

If you missed Lead Pastor Ben Snyder’s video in yesterday’s study, take a moment and listen to it as he shares vision for this year’s LivingItOut Bible Study, and invites you to journey along with us through the New Testament.
Vision for the 2019 LivingItOut: Video

Today’s Scripture Reading: Mark 4

Today’s LivingItOut:
A few months ago I was going through a wonderful season of life. I was so grateful. I felt close to Jesus. My family and friends were doing great. Life was really good. I was so thankful. I remember going to bed one night and thinking about going to church the next morning. I fell asleep pretty quickly. I was awakened by my phone ringing… I answered the phone and received terrible news. I remember going downstairs and sitting in a chair numb and in shock. I couldn’t even speak. Unfortunately, we’ve all have experienced fierce storms coming out of nowhere—storms that are so heavy, we feel like we are going to drown. How do you respond to the storms of life? Do you become angry and bitter? Do you try to control everything? Do you shout to Jesus, “Don’t you care that I am going to drown?” Or do you pray to Jesus with your heart full of trust and faith, “Help me, Jesus!” Do you take time to take your eye off the storm and refocus on Jesus? Let’s see what the disciples did when they were suddenly struck by a fierce storm.

Mark 4:35-41
35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the Lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat and it began to fill with water. 38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care we’re going to drown?” 39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still! Suddenly the wind stopped and there was great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 The disciples were absolutely terrified, “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Jesus’ questions, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”, really speak to me. They make me ask myself really hard questions. Do I really trust Jesus to help me through the storms of life? Do I live by faith or fear? Will I choose to stop and refocus on Jesus instead of the storm? In my head, I know Jesus is almighty and powerful. I look at his Word and the miracles he has done in my life, and I know that I can trust him. I know he won’t always quiet the storm as he did in this passage. I know sometimes I just have to hold onto his hand and let him guide me through the storm. I do know that the more storms I survive, the greater my faith grows in him. I have to be honest, when I am going through the storms of life I do experience fear, and sometimes I do question Jesus. I wish I could say I handled the storms better. I’ve learned that it is not about how I handle the storms that is important, but what is important is that I have faith that Jesus will handle my storms. All I need to do is trust him. I, like the disciples, am in awe that Jesus can bring great calm after he rebukes the wind and the waves. Unlike the disciples, I know who Jesus is. He is the Son of God, our Savior.

Today’s Scripture Reading: Mark 4

Questions:
How do you respond to the storms of life? Do you respond with fear or faith? What has Jesus done in the past that increases your faith in him?

Next Steps:
Think about the last storm you went through. Write down all the ways Jesus helped you and blessed you during that storm. Refocus on Jesus instead of the storm and thank him for his help. Ask him to reveal to you all the miracles and wonders he does for you. Pray he fills you with hope and trust. Share your story with others. Participate in the 21 Days of Prayer and fasting.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 5
Today’s Prayer Focus: Connect with God Relationally (Romans 8:15)

Father, I come to you in prayer today thankful that I am your child. You have forgiven me and adopted me as your own. You have made me righteous and restored our relationship. I am so grateful that you are my Father. Thank you for loving me. I love you.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 6
Saturday’s Prayer Focus: Express My Faith in God’s Ability – (Jeremiah 32:17)

Father God, nothing is too hard for You! Through Your great power, all things are possible. All authority is Yours, all might is Yours, and I know that Your victory will be complete. You are amazing, and I worship You. I praise You for Your power and presence in my life. You are my God, and You are worthy of all praise.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 7
Sundays Prayer Focus: Worship God’s Great Name – (Proverbs 18:10)

God, I am in awe of You. Your Name is a strong tower, a place of protection and safety for me. I praise You as my Healer, my Shepherd, and my Banner of Victory. You are my Peace, my Provider, my Righteousness, and my Sanctifier. Your Name is great, and I worship You.


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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We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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Focusing on the Right Thing

If you missed Lead Pastor Ben Snyder’s video in yesterday’s study, take a moment and listen to it as he shares vision for this year’s LivingItOut Bible Study, and invites you to journey along with us through the New Testament.
Vision for the 2019 LivingItOut: Video

Today’s Scripture Reading: Mark 3

Today’s LivingItOut:
Over the last few days, we have read how Jesus performed many miracles. On Tuesday, we learned how Jesus had compassion on a man with leprosy and healed him from his disease. Yesterday, we read how he healed a paralyzed man. This man was lowered down to Jesus from a hole in the roof by a few amazing friends. Jesus forgave his sins, healed him, and then commanded him to stand up and walk. These are just a couple of examples of the many miracles Jesus performed in his lifetime.

News of Jesus and his miracles began spreading wide and fast. Crowds were forming and following Jesus. People were curious, hopeful, and desperate for what he could offer them. In today’s reading, we see that the crowds following him were getting so large that Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him when he was teaching by the side of a lake.

It is at this point, with all the crowds around him, that Jesus went to a mountain and chose the 12 disciples he would focus on throughout the remainder of his ministry.

Mark 3:13-15
13 Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. 14 Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach, 15 giving them authority to cast out demons.

Author and preacher Francis Chan, in his study entitled the Gospel of Mark, makes a fascinating point about this passage. He says, “As you read the book of Mark you see that these 12 are Jesus’ focus. It wasn’t convincing the crowds. In fact, he didn’t even try to convince them (Mark 3:11-12). He had compassion on them and everything else, but it was these 12 that Jesus would walk through life with and teach…. His plan was to build into their lives because when he was done, they were going to be the ones to carry it on.”

Through these verses, we see that Jesus was focused on the right things. He had clarity on God’s vision and knew that the church was part of God’s plan to reach those separated from him. It was their job after he was gone to share the news of who he was and what he did through his death and resurrection. Because Jesus was clear on God’s vision and he was able to focus on what mattered, he had clarity to the best next step for his ministry—a step in equipping and empowering those around him to carry out God’s plan for their lives.

Questions:
Place yourself in one of the crowds following Jesus, what thoughts and feelings do you have as you imagine yourself in that setting? Why did Jesus place his focus on the 12 more than the large crowds? In today’s reading what stood out to you?

Next Steps:
Ask God to help you see the vision he has for you and begin to focus on it. As you focus, you will gain clarity on the best next steps that you need to take. Write a list of your next steps and share them with someone.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 4

Prayer Focus: Placing My Trust in God (Psalm 62:8)

Father, in Your Word You invite me to pour out my heart to You. You are my refuge, and I know that anything I think, feel, or do is ok to bring to You. Knowing that You are a safe place for me, I come to You and give You everything on my heart (talk to God about the specific things that are on your heart today). From what is worrying me to what is delighting me, what I hope for to what I’m afraid of, I bring it all to You because I know I can trust You. Help me and guide me in every area, in Jesus’ Name.


This post was written by Ben Bockert. Ben is a proud husband and father of three beautiful daughters. He is honored to serve as the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Why Am I Doing This?

If you missed Lead Pastor Ben Snyder’s video in yesterday’s study, take a moment and listen to it as he shares vision for this year’s LivingItOut Bible Study, and invites you to journey along with us through the New Testament.
Vision for the 2019 LivingItOut: Video

Today’s Scripture Reading: Mark 2  

Today’s LivingItOut:
We’re three days into the 21 days of fasting and prayer—how are you feeling? They say the third day is the worst when we give something up, so if you decided to fast from something, you might find yourself wondering, “Why am I doing this?”

When starting a fast (or any religious practice), it’s good to decide why you’re doing it before you start. If you’re fasting because Ben Snyder told you to, or because the rest of your church is fasting, you might not find the motivation to get through 21 days (or maybe even today). If you’re fasting to prove you can do it, either to yourself or someone else, that might be enough motivation, but the fast also might not be very beneficial to your spiritual growth.

Without a proper “why,” spiritual practices can become empty rituals or, even worse, a way of showing we’re more “spiritual” than those around us. That’s how the Pharisees of Jesus’s time treated the law and spiritual practices. In Mark 2, Jesus has four interactions with the Pharisees, each of which shares a similar structure. Each time, the Pharisees (either in thought or out loud) question Jesus’ actions. “Why is he forgiving sins?” they ask. “Why is he associating with sinners? Why doesn’t he make his disciples fast? Why does he let them break the Sabbath?”

Practices like fasting aren’t bad—there is a time and place for them, and they can help us grow closer to God. But we must approach them with the right heart. The Pharisees followed every rule of the law (including some rules they had made up themselves), but they did not do so for the right reasons. They were so caught up in the practices, they missed the point—they didn’t see their Messiah when he was standing right in front of them! And so, they missed Jesus and his mission on earth.

Mark 2:17
When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Questions:
Are you currently fasting by abstaining from something? If so, why? If not, why not?

Do you feel you started this fast with your heart in the right place?

Next Steps:
Put into words why you’re fasting. Some possible reasons are: as an act of worship, to help refocus your priorities onto God, or to help focus your prayers for something.

Decide on something or someone to fast and pray for each day of our current 21-Days Prayer season.

 

21 Days of Prayer -Day 3

Prayer Focus: Search My Heart (Psalm 139:23-24)

Father God, I ask You to search my heart. If You find anything in me that is offensive, please show me and help me remove it from my life. Lead me to live a life that draws people to You. Help me live my life on earth in a way that impacts eternity.”


This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton Lechner is a college grad currently working at her local library. In her spare time, she volunteers as an ESL teacher and freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

Click Here


More Resources

Memory Verses
Weekly Discussion
RightNow Media


Healing of the Soul

If you missed Lead Pastor Ben Snyder’s video in yesterday’s study, take a moment and listen to it as he shares vision for this year’s LivingItOut Bible Study, and invites you to journey along with us through the New Testament.
Vision for the 2019 LivingItOut: Video

On New Year’s Eve, I read a fascinating article about a woman named Jen Kramer, which had been published originally in the Chicago Tribune and then been shared with me via Facebook. Last year, she made a New Year’s resolution to spend the following 365 days uplifting others. It became her #yearoflove. Every day, all 365 days in 2018, she chose a different person to celebrate. She chose family, friends, and complete strangers, often not knowing from one day to the next whom she “would drop the love bomb on” (as her boyfriend called it) the following day. She then published her uplifting account of the chosen person, including their picture, in a short post on her FB page, praising them to the world for who they were.

I found this story very inspirational. We all want to feel loved and feel like we matter. We want to know that others love and care for us, that we are valued and appreciated, and that we would be missed if we were no longer here. But too often, we forget to tell others why we appreciate them in our lives. With family and friends, we may have the opportunity to remedy that the next day, though we never know, of course, whether we will indeed get another chance for sure to say the things that were left unspoken. With strangers, we may never see them again, and the opportunity may be lost forever.

In the first chapter of Mark, we read how Jesus healed many people of sicknesses, including a man who had leprosy. Leprosy is a cruel and debilitating disease caused by a bacterium that basically causes your body to rot while you are alive. Today, it is curable, but back then, it was a slow death sentence. Not only were you going to die, but to make matters worse, you were going to be isolated in a leper colony until your death because leprosy was considered to be highly contagious. So, you not only lost your life but you also immediately lost upon diagnosis all contact with your loved ones for fear of infecting them.

Mark 1:40-41

40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”

While we may not have the ability like Jesus to go around healing people the way Jesus did, I think this story points toward another purpose we can serve. Physical sickness is the same as “soul sickness” in that both are destructive and both need healing. We can find purpose in our life by bringing healing to people in our lives by uplifting them with words of encouragement, showing them acts of kindness, and pointing them to Jesus.

I have been on the receiving end of this kind of healing. Over the past few years, especially this past year, I experienced some very big and if it were not for the wonderful friends with whom I am blessed, I do not know how I would have weathered these storms. My friends, who so patiently listened and provided words of love, support, comfort, and spiritual advice as well as hugs (never underestimate the immense healing power of a hug!), were and still are my lifeline. They make me strong and able to focus so that I can make it through whatever the current storm is.

Remember the power of kind and praising words as well as the power of a hug (when appropriate), and wield these “super powers” as often as possible with loved ones as well as strangers. You most likely will be making their day through this simple act of kindness!

Today’s Scripture Reading: Mark 1:29-45 

 

Questions:
When was the last time you uplifted someone through your words or actions?

Is there someone in your life that you could uplift today and provide healing for their soul?

Is there someone who is or was trying to uplift you?

Have you thanked those that uplifted you in some way in the past?

Next Steps:
Make a list of people (family, friends, and strangers) whom you could praise and uplift or help to weather a current storm. Set for yourself the goal to uplift someone weekly, or maybe even daily.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 2

Prayer Focus: My Love for God and Others (Matthew 22:36-39)

Dear God, you said that the greatest commandment for me to follow is to love you with all of my heart, soul, and mind. Equally important is to love my neighbors as much as I love myself. Over these 21 Days of prayer as I connect with you, grow my heart so that I will love you more. And as I fall in love with you, help me to love those around me more and more each day.

 


This post was written by Cordula Mora. Cordula is a neuroscientist who currently works in the Provost office at Bowling Green State University. She was born and raised in Germany, then spent many years living in New Zealand before settling in the US almost 16 years ago. She was raised in a German Protestant church but feels blessed to have been spiritually awakened when she was introduced to CedarCreek Church. She thanks God every day for all the blessings in her life, including two amazing daughters and a wonderful man whom she loves and whom she wants to serve the Lord with.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

Click Here


More Resources

Memory Verses
Weekly Discussion
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Knowing God Through His Word

Our hope for the LivingItOut Bible Study is that it will be a resource for you to regularly engage with the Bible because engaging with the Bible is one of the foundational ways that we grow in how we are Knowing God. As we read Scripture and live it out in our daily lives, we grow in maturity and thus position ourselves to receive what God has planned for us.

As we begin this year, take a moment and listen to Lead Pastor Ben Snyder as he shares vision for this year’s LivingItOut and invites you to journey along with us through the New Testament.

Click here to see Ben’s Video.

This past weekend, we started a new series entitled, Living My Best Life. In week 1 of this series, Ben shared with us that FOCUS is often the GAP between VISION and CLARITY. While we all have vision for our life, many of us need clarity, and we can find it through focusing. One of the ways we do that is through reading scripture and applying it to our lives.

Today’s Scripture Reading: Mark 1:1-28

In today’s reading, we will be starting the book of Mark. It is believed that this book was written by John Mark, an early follower of Jesus. He is first mentioned in the Bible as a son of Mary who hosted gatherings of early believers that came together to pray (Acts 12:12). Mark was also a companion of the Apostle Paul and Barnabas, and he traveled with them to share the good news of Jesus Christ (Acts 12:25, Acts 13:5). While his relationship with the Apostle Paul had its moments of frustration and difficulties (Acts 15:39), Mark was recognized as a faithful follower of Jesus and a valuable friend to Paul (2 Timothy 4:11).

In the Hohlman New Testament Commentary on the gospel of Mark, Dr. Rodney Cooper wrote that the words “Lights, Camera, Action,” which are used to begin the filming of a movie scene, are in essence what Mark is uttering as he begins Chapter 1 of Mark.

The stage has been set through years of history and prophecy, and we see John the Baptist preparing the way by shining a light on Jesus. Soon after that, we see action as Jesus begins his ministry. The book of Mark is fast paced and shorter than the other gospels. As you read through it, pay close attention to how Jesus loved others by serving them. Let his example lead you to be a servant to others in your life.

Questions:

Which verse or verses stuck out to you from today’s reading?

What from today’s reading can you apply to your life starting today?

How did Jesus love and serve others in today’s reading?

Next Steps:

Mark 1 describes how Jesus regularly sought solitude away from the crowds and his disciples to pray and thus connect with God. This gives us a wonderful example to follow for our current 21 Days of Prayer series, which starts today. Each day, we will suggest a prayer focus for you to pray about to connect you more closely with God.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 1

Prayer Focus: To Come Close to God (James 4:8)

Dear God, You have promised that if I draw near to You, You will draw near to me. I need more of Your presence today, and I am drawing near to You through prayer, worship, and reading Your Word. I open my heart to You and ask You to be near to me and change me to be more like You.


This post was written by the LivingItOut Bible Study Team.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

Click Here


More Resources

Memory Verses
Weekly Discussion
RightNow Media