What Does Your Portfolio Look Like?

We all make decisions in life about what we will invest our time, talents, treasures – ourselves – in. We need to choose wisely. Luke 12: 15 says, “Life is not measured by how much you own.” That statement can apply to money, possessions, or material goods in general. As for me, I spent my early professional years attempting to amass degrees and certifications and knowledge and a name, at one time lecturing nationally. What I did not invest in was my relationship with my wife. As a result, I lost her, along with the prospect of children and a family. I was too focused on the wrong things – selfish, self-serving things. God chopped my legs out from under me and got my attention. He has been lovingly building me up into who he always wanted me to be since then. I wish I would have paid attention earlier, but I love what he has been doing with me since then.

So, if life is not about things, what is it about? God placed us here with a purpose in mind. He put us here to serve him right where we are! So, what does that look like? Today’s scripture tells us that the things of this world will deteriorate or be taken away. Things are temporal. People’s souls, however, are eternal. If you want to invest in something that will last, invest in those God has placed in your life. Love your family, your spouse, your kids, your parents, your crazy aunts and uncles and cousins, your neighbors. Invest in their lives. Spend time with them, learn who they are, and love them for that.

Every family has idiosyncrasies. Such crazy quirks can make us want to disown our family members at times. A better approach would be to accept these peculiarities, even embrace them. Laugh and admit, “Hey, this is just who we are!” God’s family is no different. The outrageous, insane virtue as members of his family is that we love lavishly, crazily, with abandon, expecting nothing in return. Shower those you have been given with limitless attention and unconditional love. Invest in them. By doing this, you are serving God and allowing him to love others through you. This will not only benefit the people in your lives in the here and now, but it will follow you into eternity. What are your treasures? If you are not happy with your choices, ask God to change you and help you finish strong.

 

Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 

Contrast the ultimate end of worldly treasures with those we store in heaven.

 

Why does this verse link your treasure with your heart?

 

Prayer:

His Plan For Me

When I stand at the judgment seat of Christ

And He shows me his plan for me;

The plan for my life as it might have been

Had He had His way, and I see

How I blocked Him here and I checked Him there

And I would not yield my will,

Will there be grief in my Savior’s eyes’

Grief, though He loves me still?

He would have me rich, but I stand there poor,

Stripped of all but His grace,

While memory runs like a hunted thing

Down paths I cannot retrace,

Then my desolate heart will well-nigh break

With tears I cannot shed.

I’ll cover my face with my empty hands

And bow my uncrowned head.

Lord of the years that are left to me

I yield them to thy hand.

Take me, make me, mold me

To the pattern Thou hast planned.

-Martha Snell Nicholson


This post was written by David Vernier, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Daily Bible Study.


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Pinterest and Personal Time

Pinterest is so fun. If you’re not familiar, it’s a website that allows you to search for a wide variety of crafts, activities, recipes, clothes, hair ideas, home improvement projects; the list goes on. You can “pin” these ideas to save for later. I’ve had many a successful Pinterest craft, but I’ve also had plenty of Pinterest fails. (Search online for “Pinterest fails” if you’re in need of a good laugh. It compares the original, perfect idea, to pictures of people’s hilariously unsuccessful attempts.) My four-year-old daughter is usually the guinea pig for my attempts. I’ve made costume pieces and created activities, usually with unintended high expectations for her reaction. Usually, she is surprised and happy, and we create fun memories. But now and then, she is less than impressed, and I am let down because of the time I’ve put into making it unique. But why am I doing these things? Is it for the reaction? What am I expecting her to say? “Wow, you did great, Mom! You really followed those directions well, even though I didn’t ask you to do this.” Hmm. Really what I am doing is trying to show her how good of a mom I am. (“Look at all the effort I put into this, you should be happy!”) As silly as that sounds, it’s true. What she wants, though, is a relationship with me. She wants time with me, even if it’s doing something simple like playing Barbies or coloring.

We make these same mistakes with our spiritual lives. We tend to let things get in the way of our relationship with Jesus. Sometimes it’s things that truly move us away from him like sin-condoning TV shows. Sometimes it’s things that are distracting and non-purposeful like social media. However, more deceivingly, it can also be the things that are rooted in good intentions. In Philippians 3, Paul describes how well he followed the Jewish law. He was circumcised and was a member of the Pharisees (who strictly followed Jewish law). He goes on to describe how his thinking has changed.

 

Philippians 3:7-8

7I once thought these things were valuable, but now consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.

 

Paul realized that though his previous actions were with good intentions, they are worthless compared to what Jesus has done for us and that no human effort can be relied upon.

Jesus doesn’t want anything fancy. He doesn’t need us to show him how religious we are or how perfect we are. He wants you, the real you, and all of you. We don’t need to give him a polished, perfected person before we pursue him.

He wants you now, and he wants to know you and for you to know him.

What in your life (righteous or otherwise) is distracting you from bettering your relationship with Jesus?

 

What do you need to do to get rid of this?

 

Paul understood that because of Jesus, the Jewish laws were no longer something he needed to concern himself with. He even called them “worthless.” What are some modern-day examples of “churchy” distractions that deceive people into thinking their actions aide their salvation instead of crediting only Jesus?

 

God, please help me to recognize what is distracting me from my relationship with you. Help me to shift my focus onto you and less on my human efforts. Allow me to live righteously without its pursuit becoming a distraction from my actual relationship with you. Amen.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee loves anything arts-related, and really enjoys writing for the LivingItOut. She is married and has a little girl and boy.


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Wanting “More” Isn’t Just About Stuff

I love Pandora. I can select a song or an artist, and the Pandora magicians pull together a cast of songs that work amazingly well together and fit my mood. I can be worshiping with the musicians from Bethel Music gathering my courage to be brave and escape the bathroom to see what my newly potty-trained two-year-old is up to. And then I hear “O, O, O, O’Reilly’s Auto parts,” and I’m transported from striving to be brave to thinking I might need some auto parts to fix my perfectly functioning van. Or when my son this past Christmas heard “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and immediately said, “No, it’s ‘We wish you a merry gift card.” Thank you, Applebee’s, for taking a classic Christmas song and making it more about getting stuff.

We live in a culture where we never have enough. We are bombarded with advertisements while we listen to the radio, watch television, read a magazine, attend sporting events, and now even while we pump gas. We cannot get away from the message that everyone has more than we do, and we need more. I am a reasonably content person. I don’t need a lot of stuff, but when I see a new book come out, or even better, a beautiful old one, I want it. I want to fill my bookshelves with books that hopefully someone will read (preferably me); but even if I don’t, at least I have that pretty book on my shelf. It makes me feel good. I like my books. It’s not like I’m buying shoes or clothes or purses, so it’s relatively innocent and cheap. But it still shows a side of me that wants more. When we constantly want more, we are revealing the true condition of our hearts, that Jesus is not enough.

Sometimes it’s not stuff that we want – it’s knowledge. Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived. He had everything anyone could want: money, possessions, hundreds of wives and children, fame, and wisdom that left the Queen of Sheba speechless; however, he concluded that it was all meaningless. In Ecclesiastes 2:11-12 he cries out,

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;

I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my work,

And this was the reward for all my labor.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done

And what I had toiled to achieve,

Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;

Nothing was gained under the sun.”

This is a far cry from the words he wrote in Psalm 72 when he was prophesying about the coming Messiah, when hope and justice were filling his heart. Verses 12-13 state,

“For he will deliver the needy who cry out,

the afflicted who have no one to help.

He will take pity on the weak and the needy

and save the needy from death.”

And yet even though these two passages appear entirely distinct, they are marvelously connected. Solomon knew that Jesus, the coming Messiah, was the only thing that would truly satisfy. But, he kept seeking more and more until he was a wealthy, yet bitter old man with too many wives & children and no hope. Jesus and only Jesus is enough. It’s not what faith in Jesus gets you. It’s not about us; it’s always about him.

Jesus and only Jesus is enough. It’s not what faith in Jesus gets you. It’s not about us; it’s always about him.

In Matthew 16 Jesus is telling his disciples that following him will not be easy. They will suffer for their faith and may even be killed for their belief. He encourages, reminding them that their bodies are temporary, yet their souls are eternal. When we grab after things on this earth (be it things, people, relationships, knowledge, or money), we risk forfeiting our souls in exchange for something that will not last and will leave us empty. When we accept that only Jesus can satisfy, we can join and boldly sing:

Enough for me that Jesus saves, This ends my fear and doubts;

A sinful soul I come to Him, He’ll never cast me out.

I need no other argument; I need no other plea,

It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.

 

Matthew 16:24-26

24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

 

What does Jesus say his followers must do? When we give up our lives, what do we gain?

 

What does it mean that Jesus is enough? What would that look like in your life right now?

 

Ask Jesus to help you live like he is enough. Pray for the strength to fight the temptations to allow things or people to try and fill the void that only Jesus can fill. Allow him to fill those empty places, and help you live like nothing else is needed.


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 four young children.


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Stuff: You Can’t Take It with You. Or Can You?

Last October, my wife and I were blessed with the opportunity to be part of a mission team from CedarCreek and Rock City churches that traveled to Choluteca, Honduras. The week in Honduras generated many memorable experiences, including our participation in constructing two homes for families in need. But looking back, there is little doubt about the most indelible memory from our visit: The perpetual smiles we saw on the faces of the local children.

The poverty in Honduras is crushing. We’re all familiar with televised images from impoverished nations – the sort that are so painful to view that our immediate reaction is to turn the channel to escape the sadness of what we are watching. Witnessing true poverty up close is different. It’s so profound that you don’t just see it, or even feel it; you can almost taste it. Most of the families in the areas we visited live in homes with dirt floors and only the most primitive of possessions. Electricity and running water are nothing short of dreams for most of the residents. A solid roof and walls represent far more reasonable – but not always achievable – desires.

The local children commonly wander the neighborhood shoeless (out of necessity, rather than choice).  And a good number of them live in single-parent homes where it is not uncommon for young children to effectively raise their even younger siblings while older family members pursue work in hopes of providing even the most basic needs. Access to education is limited, a privilege that all too few enjoy; and health concerns abound due to the environment and living conditions.

And yet, the smiles of these children endure.

What makes the smiles so striking is that they are worn amid the most trying of circumstances. These children who have so little concerning worldly comforts and possessions seem happier and more content than many of us who possess far greater material wealth. They are eager to greet and hug visitors and to play when the opportunity exists.

A particularly vivid illustration of this contentment was on regular display throughout our time in Honduras. Each day, as we worked at the residential construction sites, we watched wistfully as a young boy galloped across a nearby clearing. He ran in circles, chasing an old bicycle tire that he was propelling along the ground with a pair of sticks he held in his small hands. Watching this, one could not help but think that he could not have been happier if he had a Hoverboard or the latest video game that so many in the U.S. covet.

In concluding the Heroic series this past weekend, lead pastor Ben Snyder addressed the “Villain of More.” Like the other villains in the Heroic series, the unquenchable desire for more is all too familiar to many of us. As Ben noted, we know we have an issue with “more” when it becomes evident that the cost of pursuing it exceeds its worth.

The experience in Honduras followed my wife and me home. Along with affirming our belief in the value of mission work that is supported by churches like CedarCreek, the trip affected our view of how much is enough. Spending time in fellowship and friendship with those who have so little made us question why we’ve acquired – and continue to acquire – so much.

 

1 Timothy 6:6-10

6Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

9But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

In speaking about the above scripture, Andy Stanley, senior pastor of Atlanta-based North Point Community Church, shines a light on the emptiness found in chasing “more.” Stanley juxtaposes this desire with the wealth, or “great gain” that comes with true godliness and contentment.

Great gain, Stanley says, is about godliness, or surrendering our life to God to become what he wants us to become, and contentment, or being satisfied with what we have. “If great gain is just about stuff, then when we die and leave it all here, that means we had no gain because we didn’t send anything on ahead,” Stanley says. He adds that if we keep chasing “more,” we won’t do anything of any real value other than just acquire stuff.

None of us wants our legacy to be that of a selfish acquirer of stuff.

Often, we want more because we aren’t content with what we have. But as Socrates said, “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”

Just imagine how much easier it would be to fight the villain of “more” if we were as content as those children in Honduras.

Contentment is its own reward. As Paul tells us, it is also protection against ruin. Later, in 1 Timothy 6:11, Paul provides us an attractive alternative when he writes, “But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.”

Instead of chasing after the riches of “more,” Paul instructs us to be content with being rich in good deeds.

It may sound like a caveat – and perhaps it is to some degree – but none of this is to suggest that we should refrain from all discretionary purchases, or necessarily dedicate ourselves to living without. We should, however, take care to invest the appropriate amount of attention to valuing what we already have. In doing so, we can help prevent the want for more from becoming the driver in our life. For when we focus on God and the gifts he has afforded us, we know we are surely on the road to a richer and more contented life.

When were you the most content in your life?

 

If you had only the bare essentials, could you be content?

 

Do you find it difficult to draw the distinction between needs and wants?

 

What can you do to be more mindful of times when you are confronted by the villain of more?

 

Do you have a friend or spouse who can help “keep you in check” when your desire for more rises to an unhealthy level?

 

What can you do to be more content in your blessings?

 

Heavenly Father, I thank you for all that you have provided me and ask that you grant me the wisdom to appreciate that it is just enough for me. Help me to live a life that is far richer in deeds than in possessions. And help me always to remember that godliness and contentment provide unparalleled wealth. Amen.


This post was written by Todd Romain. Todd is a regular contributor to and editor of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Have You Ever Had Too Much Chinese Food?

Have you ever had too much of a good thing? For you, it might be cookies, ice cream, candy, or other sweets. It could also be television or video games. For me, it is the single greatest type of cuisine: Chinese food. When I’m staring at a plate of Chinese food, no matter how full I might already feel, I feel the need to finish it. I convince myself that if I don’t finish the food, I’ll be missing out. I also know that it’s quite easy to place said food back in the container, and then in the refrigerator, to enjoy as leftovers the next day. However, I also tell myself that it simply won’t be as good the next day, and so finishing it is the only option. Thirty minutes later, I lie down on the couch, and that uncomfortable, overly full feeling sets in, as does my regret.

Yes, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
This past weekend, Ben Snyder closed out our series, Heroic, by talking about the villain of more, which he defined as, “When the more we pursue costs more than it’s worth.” Certainly, this definition applies to my overeating of Chinese food.

But what does this look like in other areas of life? Too much Netflix, video games, certain foods, caffeine, etc., can cost us more than they’re worth. If you watch too much Netflix or play video games too often, this can cut into relational time, and of course, time that we should be spending in prayer, reading, etc. If you eat too much of certain foods, you run the risk of major health issues; and if you drink too much caffeine, this can hurt your sleep patterns, which can cause a whole host of other health problems.

Simply put, “more” isn’t always a good thing.

In the story, we read this past weekend, we saw a clear example of how more can be a dreadful thing. In Acts 5, we come across a story from the time the Christian church began. The people in the church operated as a family. They pooled their resources and gave as much as they could to support one another and the mission of the church. Enter Ananias and Sapphira.

 

Acts 5:1-6

1But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.

3Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”

5As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.

What’s important to note is that Peter tells Ananias that he didn’t have to sell the property and give the money to the “church.” This was something that if he decided to do, it would’ve been out of his free will. So, there was no point in holding back some of it. He could’ve said, “I sold my property, and I want to donate a certain percentage of my profit to you.” This would have been acceptable and generous! Instead, he lied about giving it all to them. It seems that Ananias wanted more recognition for his generosity and also wanted more money. For Ananias, it was more important that people thought he was generous than it was for him to be honest.

What does this mean for us? Of course, the circumstances aren’t the same, but there is still something to be gleaned from this text. Like Ananias, when we pursue more of something, we are placing a high value on that thing – whatever that thing might be. We have to ask ourselves the question, “Does this cost more than it’s worth?” If we can quickly answer no, then obviously we shouldn’t be pursuing that “thing.” However, most of the time it’s not as easy to give an answer. Instead, we can look at goodness, faithfulness, and self-control like personal assistants in helping us to bring the villain of more into the light.

What is true goodness? What do we want our lives to look like? For Christ-followers, though we may want a good job, a healthy family, and other worthy pursuits, the ultimate goodness is knowledge of and closeness with God. Nothing compares to the goodness of knowing God. If that is the chief goal of our lives, then we should use that as the filter through which we run all of the “more” we are chasing. If more Netflix, Chinese food, video games, golf, etc., detracts from your relationship with God, then it certainly is not worth pursuing. The same applies to a healthy family, a healthy life, etc. Whatever is included in your definition of “goodness” should be the filter you use to answer the question “does it cost more than it’s worth?”

Nothing compares to the goodness of knowing God. If that is the chief goal of our lives, then we should use that as the filter through which we run all of the “more” we are chasing.

Then, we can look at what we can actively do now to help us to reach the goodness we desire (faithfulness). If we desire closeness with God, we know that we should be practicing basic spiritual disciplines like reading, praying, fasting, etc. If we desire a healthy family, we should practice the disciplines of eating together, praying together, and forgiving together.

Finally, we can look at self-control. When we exhibit self-control, we ask the question, “What appetites left unchecked have the potential to wreck my life?” The good news is that we can apply this question to any “more” we are pursuing.

Ultimately, we have a choice. We can, like Ananias, choose to pursue the more in our lives – which eventually becomes a villain – or, we can pursue goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.

What more are you pursuing?

 

Does the more you’re seeking cost more than it’s worth?

 

What appetites left unchecked have the potential to wreck your life?

 

What can you do today to bring the villain of more into the light?

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and your grace. So often, I pursue things that aren’t worth what I’m giving up for them. So often, I place so many other things before my relationship with you. Help me to love you and hold you above all else. Help me to resist the temptations in my life and to live a life pleasing to you. I ask this in Jesus’ name, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, amen.


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy is the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study. He has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people and for Christian Apologetics. He is married with two young children. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.


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Venting Your Anger Isn’t Always a Good Idea

“What a jerk! How can someone do this to me? Sorry, I’m just venting, I’m really mad right now at this [fill in the blank].”

Many people lobby that venting anger through explosive language and aggressive actions is a healthy way to cope with a situation, but there is a real danger in giving in to anger. “Venting” is accompanied by one person sentencing and judging an offending party – a right we do not have as fallen, sinful human beings. Be careful not to judge someone else unless you yourself are as perfect as Jesus! God witnesses this behavior and does not approve. God is not the only one who will judge you for this.

Sinking into corrosive thoughts affects all that you do, and everyone around you. Venting will procure fear in your children — not fear of the offender, but of you, with your loud voice and vicious gestures. Your spouse may try to calm you down, soothe the issue or offer suggestions, but clouded by your anger, you interpret the gestures as him/her taking the offender’s side. More explosive behavior, “venting” and hurtful language ensues towards your spouse, damaging your relationship. You expect your friends and family to become martyrs for your cause. After all, you are right. Families are torn apart by this kind of anger, friendships destroyed; the message of love is lost. In time, a personal hell is created just for you as you find yourself isolated.

Anger does, however, serve a godly purpose. It is meant to fuel and energize us to move towards a solution to the original offense, to fix the problem without degrading or judging another person. For example, finding out a classmate cannot afford school lunch might make you enraged at his parents for not taking care of their child or it can inspire you to organize a fundraiser to help this family with school lunch money for the remaining school year. Shaming the parents does nothing, but calling your community together in love and kindness to help provide for someone does more than just buy a sandwich. It shares the Gospel of love. The ripple effect from the child, his school, his family and the community is amazing! Retraining yourself to use anger as a source of problem solving is a discipline, an incredible tool to do a great amount of good. It takes time and focus!

To recap our week, we must admit that we get angry. Pray about it and confess our sins in this regard. We must understand that anger itself is not a sin and does, in fact, have a purpose in our lives.  Apologize for our anger to the offending party, for we know we are not perfect ourselves. Forgive the offender as Jesus has forgiven us. Finally, re-channel the anger towards a solution. And through all things, pray.

Matthew 5:22

But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

Prayer:

Dear Father, thank you for giving us such amazing, powerful tools to use to your glory. As with all tools, mastery is required. Help us to learn how to use anger for a good purpose instead of destruction. Let it energize us to spread the Gospel and your message of compassion, love and forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Aviva Hufford. Aviva has been married to Dustin Hufford for eight years, has a 2-year-old son, Desmond, and is expecting another child in May! Aviva is a stay at home mom and has an RN, BSN, and worked in pediatric surgery for years. She was raised Jewish and began going to CedarCreek Church in the winter of 2013. After consistently attending both the weekend service and LifeGroup, she gave her life to Christ and was baptized in 2014.


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John McEnroe and Your Anger

In the summer of 1981, 22-year-old tennis phenom John McEnroe was battling fellow American Tom Gullikson in a first-round match on Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court. Along with his requisite tennis whites, McEnroe sported long, curly locks tucked under a navy-blue headband, and an already legendary temper that had prompted the British press to dub him “Super-Brat.”

Midway through the match, McEnroe served what he thought was a clear ace down the center stripe of the court. Moments later, he was initially dubious, then quickly enraged, when chair umpire Edward James ruled the shot “out.”

“You can’t be serious, man. You cannot be serious!” an enraged McEnroe screamed at James. “That ball was on the line! Chalk flew up!” he said. For good measure, he later added, “You guys are the pits of the world!”

James proceeded to award a point to McEnroe’s opponent as a penalty for the tirade, which was particularly unwelcome at the austere British tennis club. The Wimbledon crowd responded with a rousing cheer in response to what they deemed a richly deserved public scolding.

The irony, of course, is that every member of the crowd that delighted in McEnroe’s reprimand for bad behavior had undoubtedly wrestled with the villain of anger themselves. Anger is an unseemly, but unavoidable emotion to which all humans are prone. The primary difference on that midsummer day was that McEnroe’s rage was on display for thousands to witness.

Thankfully, few, if any of us have laid our anger out before a crowd of thousands as McEnroe did so often during his tennis career. But the fact remains that we all encounter anger on a regular basis. Our anger may be provoked by a careless driver on the roadway, a rude co-worker or boss, or a rebellious child who wantonly ignores our rules or expectations. Regardless of the circumstances, we’ve all experienced the flash of anger in response to feeling that we’ve been disrespected or otherwise done wrong.

Last weekend, lead pastor Ben Snyder defined anger as “aggressively wanting to control what you cannot control.” This definition resonates with me when I think about my own dealings with the villain of anger. More often than I would care to admit, I allow injustices – perceived or real – to derail me from thinking or acting in the manner that I know God desires of me. I want to be treated fairly, to be respected, or even just to be heard. And yes, sometimes I want to control how others view and treat me. While these are not wholly unreasonable desires in and of themselves, I know that becoming angry when I do not receive what I desire is far from righteous behavior.

James 1:19-20

19Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

Often, we are tempted to give in to our anger because we deem it to be “righteous.” Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible for humans, because of our fallen nature, to be righteously angry. This is why James says, “human anger” is not godly anger. We cannot, like God, be angry in a pure way. Our anger will always be infected with sin and, for this reason, he desires that we resist the temptation to rise to anger.

As a young tennis player and fan, I delighted in rooting against John McEnroe. Like the Wimbledon crowd on that long-ago summer day, I detested his boorish behavior. My sports idol as a youth was a quiet and seemingly emotionless Swede named Björn Borg. For several years, Borg was McEnroe’s chief rival on the court, always providing a stark contrast to the American’s brash behavior. What I later learned, however, was that Borg had himself once wrestled with his temper on the tennis court.

“I was a real nutcase,” Borg said in recalling his early years in the game. “I swore, threw my racket around and cheated.” Borg was even once suspended for six months by Sweden’s tennis authorities and banned from practicing at his local club. The experience motivated Borg to control his on-court emotions, which he credited for helping him to win 11 grand slam tournaments (including five consecutive Wimbledon championships).

Borg and McEnroe faced each other 14 times on the professional tour, with each winning seven times. Amazingly, over the course of their “fire and ice” rivalry, McEnroe said he always controlled his temper. “I never acted like a jerk when I played Borg,” McEnroe wrote in his 2002 autobiography (aptly titled, You Cannot be Serious). “I respected him too much; I respected the occasion.”

And perhaps therein lies yet another compelling reason to fight against the villain of anger. By walking with God and leaving anger to him, we can serve as an example for others to behave in the manner that he desires.

What is your typical response to growing angry?

 

If it is not anything like getting some AIRR (see Monday), what can you do now to move toward something like that?

 

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for your love and grace. I ask that you grant me the wisdom to recognize – and the strength to confront – the villain of anger. Help me to walk as you desire and leave the control of this world to you. Amen.


This post was written by Todd Romain. Todd is a regular contributor to and editor of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Why You Should Talk to Someone When You’re Angry

“Are you sure you’re not mad?”

“I said, I’m fine.”

We’ve all been there, whether on one side of the conversation or the other. Honestly, we’ve all probably been on both sides at least once in our lives—as we discussed yesterday, everyone gets angry. So why is it so hard to admit when we’re mad?

Confessing sins is never easy, and anger (the unhealthy kind) is no exception. But the first step to solving any problem is admitting the problem exists. As it says in James 5:16, we must “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Confessing the sin of anger can help us heal the broken relationship between us and whoever we’re upset with, but even if nothing needs mended, or the other person isn’t interested in mending things, confessing still heals us as individuals. We gain nothing by holding a grudge.

So, who should you confess your anger (the unhealthy kind) to? First and foremost, you must confess your sin to yourself. Those of you who already know you’re angry may roll your eyes at that, but there are also those who haven’t yet accepted they’re angry. Even if you know you’re angry, you might not think you’re doing anything wrong—we’ll talk about that tomorrow. For now, search your heart. Have you been holding onto anger against someone without admitting it? Have you knowingly held onto your anger, but refuse to confess it as a sin?

Once you’ve admitted your anger to yourself, you need to confess it to at least two others: God and another person. You must pray to God, admitting and repenting of your anger. Sometimes it helps to confess your anger to a friend who is removed from the situation. James 5:16 also says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” If you’re having difficulties getting past your anger, find a person whose faith and wisdom you respect and explain the situation. But be careful you don’t succumb to gossiping when explaining your anger—this is about dealing with the plank in your own eye, not the speck in someone else’s. Then ask this person to pray with you, asking God for forgiveness if you haven’t already, and for help in resolving your anger.

You might also feel the need to discuss the reasons for your anger with the offending party. If so, you should also apologize to the person for your anger. Remember, apologizing for being angry with someone doesn’t condone their actions, just as forgiving them for their behavior doesn’t mean it was acceptable. Still, because Jesus calls us to lead lives of love, we must apologize and forgive. If it helps, you can ask the friend you prayed with to help mediate between you and the offending party. Whether you decide to discuss it with a mediator or privately, always remember to do so with love.

James 5:16

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, please give us the wisdom to recognize when we sin through anger, and give us the humility to confess our sins. Thank you for your forgiveness, freely offered. If our anger has caused a rift between us and others, help us to mend it. Above all, help us to love others as you love us. Amen.


This post was written by Payton Lechner, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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When Anger Controls You

Even Jesus got angry!

Let’s face it, we all get angry. The Apostle Paul got angry, and yes, even Jesus got angry. But when we look at this verse from Ephesians we see that it is not the feeling of anger itself that is the problem, it is our reaction to that feeling. How do you behave when you’re angry? Does the anger control you? That is where sin enters into the equation.

I think we get a little confused by this passage and maybe when thinking about anger in general. Anger in and of itself is not bad. It is an emotion that we all face every day. God gave us our emotions, so it really can’t be bad. In fact, righteous anger, such as Jesus’ anger towards the Pharisees or the money changers in the temple, was completely justified. They were behaving badly and hurting people. When we see injustice in the world we should be angry. That can be, and usually is, the impetus for change. The problem is actually twofold. First, we tend to get angry about things that are not worthy of anger, and second, when we get angry, we usually don’t handle it properly. When we allow our anger to boil over, causing us to say or do things that are hurtful to others, that is sin.

“Don’t go to bed angry.” This saying is often given as advice to couples as they begin their life together, but I know I didn’t get it. Chasing my husband around the house telling him “we have to resolve this so I can go to bed” didn’t go over so well sometimes! Rather than haranguing him, what I needed to do was resolve my own feelings. I am responsible for myself and my actions, not his or anyone else’s for that matter. The point is for me to control my feelings and to figure out what is causing those feelings.

One of the fruit of the spirit talked about in the memory verse for this series is self-control. Oh, and kindness and gentleness, let’s not forget those! If I am allowing the Holy Spirit to live in me, then I am able to have anger but not let it have me. So, when I feel myself getting angry, I need to remember to respond rather than react. The difference is presence of mind and thought. If I react, that is knee jerk and usually not good! That is where the sin enters in. I say or do something in reaction to my emotions. On the other hand, if I thoughtfully respond, I can be angry and be reasonable. Being angry isn’t necessarily sinful, though it most likely will lead to sin. When we are angry, we need to fight against it. And, as Paul tells us, we need to deal with it. As Ben explained this weekend, and as we unpack his message through this week, we will learn some practical ways to do just that.

Ephesians 4:26-27

26And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

 

When you get angry, do you respond or react?

 

How is reacting giving “a foothold to the devil?”

 

Prayer:

Father, thank you for giving me a mind that can think and reason. I praise you for sending the Holy Spirit to guide me and produce good fruit in me. Help me to live by the Spirit and not let anger control me. Amen.


This post was written by Kelda Strasbourg, Kelda is a grateful member of the LivingItOut writing team. She has a love for Jesus and the desire to help others find that same love. She has her own business and a border collie named Emily.


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Road Rage and Jesus

What’s one of your pet peeves? Is it when someone chews with their mouth open? Maybe it’s when someone uses the word “seen” in a sentence inappropriately. For me, it’s bad drivers. I’m not sure that anyone else in the world took a driver’s education course but me. Other people either drive too close to me, drive too slow in front of me, neglect to use their turn signal when changing lanes, don’t know how to merge, or simply cannot drive. One of the more infuriating mistakes everyone (not including me because I’m a perfect driver) makes is when they back up traffic because they’re looking at what’s going on to the side of the road instead of just pressing forward. My family always called it “rubber-necking.” I cannot put into words how angry I get when I am sitting in traffic for what seems like forever only to realize that the backup was caused by nothing but rubber-necking. I might yell, “Drive your car and pay attention to the road, you’re causing a backup!” to those vehicles ahead of me. The term road rage was created because of people like me.

You see, everyone else on the road is a bad driver. You might be reading this thinking, “Not me! I’m a good driver. It’s everyone else who can’t merge!” Or, “not me, I follow all the rules! It’s everyone else that drives poorly.” But that can’t be true because, as I’ve already explained, everyone else is a bad driver, I’m the good one.

As ridiculous as this sounds – and it should’ve sounded ridiculous – this is how I feel most of the time on the road. I know I’m not a perfect driver. I’ve accidentally cut people off, I’ve followed too closely, I’ve changed lanes without using a turn signal, and I’ve merged horribly (sometimes). When this happens, I expect those around me to give me a little grace and just know that I made a mistake. Unfortunately, when other people on the road make mistakes, I do not give them the benefit of the doubt; I get angry.

This past weekend, Ben spoke about the villain of anger and defined it as “aggressively wanting to control what you cannot control.” If this doesn’t describe my road rage, I don’t know what does. When people don’t drive the way I want them to, I get angry. I think to myself, “Why would they do that!?” I want them to drive how I expect them to drive, and when they don’t, I get angry. This is my aggressively wanting to control what I cannot control.

This doesn’t just happen with driving, however. Anger manifests itself in many areas of our lives. When our relationships with people become difficult, we might get angry; if we experience continuous difficulties at work, we might get angry; and the list goes on and on. What do we do? If anger is aggressively wanting to control what you cannot control, then what do you do when you’re angry?

Ben gave us a simple acronym to remember that can help us in these situations: AIRR.

Admit

Identify

Rest

Reach Out

When we are angry, we need to Admit the aggression, Identify the burden, Rest in the one who is in control, and Reach out for what we can do now.

In one instance, Jesus tells us what to do in the midst of trying circumstances, which can include anger.

In Matthew 11, Jesus says one of the most peace-giving statements in the Scriptures. He says,

Matthew 11:28-30

28Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Directly before this passage, Jesus talks about how when someone knows Jesus, it is a gift from God. This gift is offered freely from Jesus to us. What’s important to note, however, is that the gift of salvation is not merely about entrance into heaven. It should radically impact our lives here on earth. This is what it means to be in the Kingdom of God. When Jesus says to us, “I will give you rest,” he means it. Yes, he wants to give you rest from the law and its requirements, but he also wants to give you rest from the everyday problems you will encounter, including anger.

He continues and says, “Take my yoke upon you… for my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” A yoke is a piece of wood that fastens across the backs of animals in order for them to pull a heavy load. Often, we are carrying around such a heavy burden that it can be hard to press on. When we don’t deal with our anger, it can greatly contribute to this burden. In this, our yoke becomes heavy. Jesus wants to give us rest from many things, including our anger. This isn’t to say that Jesus is promising an easy life. On the contrary, Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and be willing to risk everything for his sake. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t burdens he is willing to bear for us, including our anger. If we just take it to him by Admitting, Identifying, Resting, and Reaching out, we can experience what it’s like to carry the light yoke that Jesus promises us.

What typically causes your anger?

 

How do you respond?

 

If there’s something in your life currently that’s causing you some anger? How can you practice AIRR?

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for your grace and mercy. I know that you promise me a yoke that is easy to bear and that this not only pertains to my salvation, but also my everyday life. Help me to deal with the things that make me angry in a positive way. Help me to rest in you. I ask all this in Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy is the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study. He has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people and for Christian Apologetics. He is married with two young children. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.


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