God is in Control of Everything, Even the NFL.

In life we all have made mistakes. We have said things that hurt others. We have done things we shouldn’t have. We all fall short of God’s perfect standard. Wouldn’t it be nice to have our slate wiped clean and our guilt lifted from our shoulders – to have our past screw-ups put “out of sight?”  That’s the beauty of the message of the Bible. We can have that!

Today’s scripture shows us that if we bring our past to Christ and admit our former failings honestly and wholeheartedly, he will expunge our record, so it is as if those things never occurred. And along with our sins goes our guilt. Jesus Christ is the only person with the power to give you that clear conscience and to remove that heavy weight of guilt you have been carrying around. Why? Because he already paid the penalty for our wrong doings, yours and mine alike. So why live life as if we are waiting for impending punishment? He already took our punishment. For crying out loud, he took on death … and WON! Surely he has the power to free us from our guilt and our past.

The Bible talks of Jesus’ power by reminding us that he set the stars and planets in place. It says he holds the wind in his fists. He can turn it loose or restrain it at his whim!

Do you need a modern-day example of God’s power and control over any and everything? Tim Tebow was a quarterback for a short time in the NFL. He was known in college for writing scripture verses on his eye black as a witness. One verse he liked to wear was John 3:16. Once he got to the NFL, he was forbidden from this practice. But our God is much bigger than the powers-that-be in the NFL. After one highly watched playoff game, upper management of the team for which Tebow played told him that he threw for 316 yards, averaging 31.6 yards per reception. The time of possession of his team was 31:06, and the ratings were 31.6 million people. Oh, and 90 million people Googled John 3:16 during the game. It’s as if Jesus said, “Fine, I got this. Let’s show the world who’s really in control.”

This Jesus, who created the universe with his fingers and controls the winds, and, yes, lords it over the NFL (pun intended), is the only being with the power to free you from your past and your guilt. So why are you holding on to it? Bring it to his feet, and drop it. He’s got this!

Psalm 32:1-10

1Oh, what joy for those

   whose disobedience is forgiven,

   whose sin is put out of sight!

2Yes, what joy for those

   whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,

   whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

3When I refused to confess my sin,

   my body wasted away,

   and I groaned all day long.

4Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.

   My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude

5Finally, I confessed all my sins to you

   and stopped trying to hide my guilt.

I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”

   And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude

6Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,

   that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.

7For you are my hiding place;

   you protect me from trouble.

   You surround me with songs of victory. Interlude

8The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.

   I will advise you and watch over you.

9Do not be like a senseless horse or mule

   that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

10Many sorrows come to the wicked,

   but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.

11So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!

   Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!

 

Questions

Contrast the results of confessing your sins in verses 1, 2, and 5 (of what scripture reference?) with the consequences of holding on to your past and your guilt in verses 3 and 4.

What does life look like for those who trust God to lead them? (verses 8 and 10.)

Compare this to how the “senseless” person is described in verse 9.

 

Prayer

Before praying, contemplate verse 6 of today’s scripture passage. If you want God to remove your guilt and forgive you for your prior wrongs, tell him all about your past. He already knows everything. You won’t surprise or shock him. Ask him to forgive you and take the reins of your life from here on out. Ask for his help daily to live life as he would have you live it. Thank him for allowing you to access his immeasurable power.

 

God’s Power is With You.

Have you ever broken the rules? Have you ever faced the consequences of those broken rules? Did anyone ever show mercy to you? Biblical times were no different. God punished the Jewish nation and showed them his displeasure, yet he had mercy on them and delivered them. This gives you background to what the prophets wrote in today’s passage:

Isaiah 43:1-3

1But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.

The one who formed you – God created all of us; he is all-powerful. He created everything in the universe, but there is something special about people – we were created in his image. He does not look at who we are now; he looks at who we are meant to be.

Do not be afraid – We are not to be afraid in any circumstance because God has redeemed us. Redeem means to buy something back and to restore it to its original intent. God allowed Jesus to be put to death so that his chosen people might be saved. As Christ followers, we are his chosen people. He loves us, and he can and will do anything for us.

Called you by name – Calling someone by name means that you have a personal relationship with them. God did not call all the nation; he called his followers because they were his.

Will not drown or burn up – There is such an incredible promise in this verse. The all-powerful God will be with us always. If you have fallen and are suffering in your current circumstances, he will be with you. He will never leave you alone or forsake you because you are his. If your current circumstances are going right, he is with you as well. In good times, we need to be grateful and thank him because of his power and grace.

For I am the Lord – God had entered into a formal covenant, or contract, with his people of Israel, which meant he would protect and defend them. He was the one true God. Other nations worshiped other gods that were not all-powerful and could not protect them. God called his people of Israel to reflect on what he had done. He was their deliverer; he had destroyed mighty nations to deliver them.

Your current circumstance or brokenness does not define who you are. God will love you through this because he is all-powerful. Are you going through anything where you can use the power of the Lord?

You have not out-sinned the grace of God. He is with you always in good times and bad. Do you have an intimate relationship with God, so he knows you by name?

It is important to reflect on your life to see how powerful God has been in every situation. Even if you think God has been silent, he is there.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God;” He is always present, and he is our strength.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to focus on you. Grant me the wisdom to know that you will never leave my side. Give me courage through tough times and patience to know that I will rise up again. Thank you for your guiding light that strengthens me. Through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.


This post was written by Jennifer Macke, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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By Relying on God, We Can Fulfill Our Purpose

They are not much to look at. Small, pearly, ridged, oval eggs, sitting on a soft, fragrant milkweed leaf. When they hatch, they are even less to look at: small, rice-sized, gray worms with a black head. They eat and eat and eat some more, and as they eat, they change. They go from looking like little gray worms to small yellow and black striped worms with tiny black antennae sticking out of their head and rear end. They eat again, but then stop moving and look like they are dead for 12-24 hours. They then slide out of their old skin and start eating again. They repeat this process three more times until they die to their old selves completely to become what they were created to be: a monarch butterfly.

Every summer I look forward to raising my butterflies. The first time I watched the life cycle unfold, I was blown away by how much these insects mirror the Christian life. They go through five instars in which they slide out of their old skin so they can continue to grow. The final shedding, changing from caterpillar to chrysalis, is gruesomely awesome. The caterpillar roams around to find a suitable place, hangs upside down in the “J” position for about 24 hours, and finally splits out of its skin and “dies” as a caterpillar once and for all. In about two weeks, they emerge vibrant and airborne.

The life of a Christian can be seen in this transformation. We live our lives and go about our business until something stops us in our tracks. Some painful event that we must overcome so we can grow in character – to become who we were created to be. This happens throughout our lives, and each time we don’t think we can make it through the obstacle, but we do. And in making it through, we become more mature and more like Jesus. That is our purpose on this earth – to grow and mature and become like Jesus.

Contrary to the beliefs of our culture – and even many Christians, life is not just about us and our wishes and desires. We were created for a purpose and only in fulfilling that purpose can we become what we were meant to be. Just as the monarch caterpillar was not created to remain a small worm, we were not created to remain stagnant in our lives. The formation of our character is the whole purpose of all of our joys and sorrows, the purpose behind the creation of the world, the reason Christ had to suffer and die. According to MacLaren’s Exposition of the Holy Scripture, “God means to make us like Himself, and so pleasing to Himself, and has no other end in all the varieties of His gifts and bestowments but only this, the production of character.” We must go through many transformations and die to ourselves over and over again. Each time we die to ourselves, we can grow. And with each growth opportunity, we have the option to become more Christ-like in our character or fall deeper into our own sinful nature.

In our passage today, Paul is reflecting on his life as a Christian. He reminds us that becoming more like Christ should be our entire aim and purpose in this life. Everything we do, whether in work or play, should be refining our character, so we reflect Christ more clearly. Just as a master musician or artist continually works toward his goal of becoming the best he can be, we must keep our eyes continually looking forward toward our prize: Christ-like character. We may be called fanatical or ridiculed for our dogged devotion to Christ, but it is worth it. As MacLaren so aptly put it, “Let sorrow and joy, and trade and profession, and study and business, and house and wife and children, and all home joys, be the means by which you may become like the Master who has died for this end, that we may become partakers of His holiness.”

In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul writes:

13No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

 

This is the goal. However, we cannot do it on our own. We have to rely on God’s strength. Without his strength, we are just doing good things. If our purpose is to become more like Jesus, only he – in his infinite power – can help us to do this.

 

What race are you running? Is your focus the prize of becoming more like Christ or is your prize more earthly?

 

What areas in your life do not line up with God’s aim for your life? Is God’s aim your aim? How can you begin to focus more on the prize for which you were designed?

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for creating me with the ability to grow and change through any situation. I pray that you use every situation in my life to help me become more like Christ until godly character is my sole aim. I pray for the grace to accept the good and the difficult as gifts from you to help me transform from what I am to what I was created to be. Amen.


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


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When You Realize You’re Weak, You Can Depend on God.

“My dad is stronger than your dad!”

Did you ever find yourself in a discussion like this when you were a kid?

I did … all the time.

I can remember a particular instance in which the back-and-forth continued for quite some time. My friend and I were debating who could throw a football farther. It started with statements like “my dad can throw farther than your dad” and progressed to statements like “my dad can throw from here to all the way over there!” I’m not sure how the argument ended, though I do know that at some point my claim was that my dad could throw a football over six apartment buildings and a mile high.

Needless to say, we did not go ask our dads to compete in the whose dad can throw a football the farthest contest.

I know now that obviously, my dad could not have thrown a football a mile into the air. I also know that though I still have a healthy fear of my father (dad, you’re reading this, right?), I understand his limitations.

As a kid, though, I honestly believed that my dad could throw a football a mile high. I believed he was stronger than any other dad. My child-like dependence on him is what – I think – every father wants from their child. I know that I want my kids to view me the same way.

I also know, however, that one day reality will settle in and my children will realize that I’m not the strongest guy in the world (if they don’t already). They will learn this truth.

This past weekend, Dr. Calvin Sweeney, Pastor of the Tabernacle church, spoke about God’s power. He taught us that when you realize that God is your strength, you discover you are able to face all things.

Genesis 32:24-30

“This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, ” I will not let you go unless you bless me.” “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. “Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”

As Calvin pointed out, Jacob had been a trickster his whole life (it’s what his name means). He tricked Esau out of his birthright (Genesis 25:29-35) and tricked his dad out of blessing Esau (Genesis 27). At this point, we find Jacob – the trickster – alone.

Why was he alone?

He found out that his brother was approaching his location with 400 other men, so he sent his wives and children away and also sent ahead some gifts for Esau. He found himself alone, as Calvin told us, because he was relying on his strength to get himself out of this predicament.

He then begins to wrestle God. They wrestle all night and Jacob wouldn’t stop, so God takes away an essential strength in wrestling: a strong hip. Jacob then finds himself holding on to God and relying on God’s strength instead of his own.

We see here that, in Jacob’s weakness, God was his strength.

Something very profound happens here. Jacob becomes a new person. Through the rest of the story, we learn three principles:

When we discover that God is my strength, I realize …

I can face the guilt and shame of my past.

Jacob was no longer a trickster. He was the namesake for God’s nation. He now could rely on God’s strength instead of his own! We can know that no matter what we’ve done, no matter what our answer to the question “Who are you?” is, we are loved by God, and we have his strength that we can hold on to. Nothing from our past changes that.

We can face the uncertainty and challenges of our future.

Jacob, though facing an uncertain future with his brother, knew that he could face them because he was no longer relying on his own strength, but God’s. When he saw Esau approaching, instead of hiding or trying to scheme, he went ahead to meet him – seemingly ready to meet whatever fate awaited him.

Finally, when we discover that God is our strength, we realize that

We can face the fear and loss of our present circumstances.

What did Jacob have to fear? Everything. His brother was stronger and had 400 men possibly ready to kill him. But, as previously noted, he went to Esau instead of hiding. Esau, instead of killing Jacob, met him with a kiss.

In our weakness, God is our strength.

Why do you think we struggle with living like God is our strength?

In what areas of your life do you need to admit weakness and then turn it over to God?

Prayer:

God, you are my strength. I know this. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to live that out. I tend to depend on my own strength, which I know leads to bad places. Help me to rely on you. I need you. I ask 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, for Christian Apologetics, and for the Cleveland Indians. He is married with two young children. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.


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God Is: Strength – Resources

Start the Discussion:
Click here for printable message notes.

Click here for printable message discussion questions.

Click here for the discussion video and unpack what it means to live out the message principles during the week.

 

How Knowing the Reality of God’s Presence Changed Me Forever.

Throughout this first week of the “God Is” series, The LivingItOut has examined the topic of God’s presence in our lives through scripture in the Book of Exodus.

The wonderfully simple concept we’ve explored this week is that when we realize God is present, we discover that we are never alone. This week’s LivingItOut has delved into several passages from Exodus 3 that illuminate God’s presence and promise. We dug into the story of God’s commissioning of Moses to lead the deliverance of the Israelites from the oppression they faced in Egypt and Moses’ doubts of his worthiness and ability to lead this seemingly insurmountable task. And we learned how Yahweh, the great “I am,” ultimately demonstrated his undeniable presence and power by emboldening Moses to lead the Israelites to the promised land.

Today, we switch gears to examine how knowing that God is present can impact our daily lives.

For many believers, the question of God’s presence is not really a question at all. If you were raised in the church, God might very likely have been part of your reality since you first achieved consciousness. As such, you may not view the certainty of his presence much differently than you would that of your parents, other family members, or friends.

As one who came to belief much later in life, however, I had a very different path to accepting and appreciating God’s presence.

As I’ve shared previously in this space, I lived most of my years wrestling with belief in God. I spent years envying the comfort, strength, and confidence that so many of my friends derived from their belief. Even though I desperately wanted to believe, I lacked a spiritual foundation and struggled with placing unconditional trust and faith in that which was not tangible – that which I could not see, touch, or otherwise qualify. I never questioned whether others were wrong in their belief in God; my empirical way of thinking simply prevented me from definitively agreeing that they were right. In short, I was the very definition of the spiritually restless and unchurched person that CedarCreek is so devoted to helping.

Achieving the awakened realization that God had been with me – and patiently waiting for me – all along remains one of the most joyful surprises of my life. Coming to know him has also impacted me in ways that I could never have imagined possible.

But whether you are new to God or have enjoyed a lifelong relationship with him, we all know that it’s not always easy to be conscious of his presence.

In his book, “Letters to Malcolm,” author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis wrote, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with him. He walks everywhere incognito.”

As I have come to recognize and cherish God’s presence in my life, his impact has benefited me in a number of profound ways:

First, I have a greater appreciation for all elements of my life – large and small. This appreciation begins with my thankfulness for life itself and the gifts God has generously granted me (not the least of which is forgiveness for my sins and salvation through his Son’s death on the cross). I also appreciate the touch of his hand in our world – from the laughter of our children at the dinner table to the indescribable beauty of a burnt orange sunset on a July evening. Knowing that these treasures are gifts – and not merely happy occurrences – makes me appreciative of God’s presence.

My knowledge of God’s presence also allows me to walk with a confident humility; it enables me to be strong, even in my weakness. Christian recording artist Toby McKeehan (better known as TobyMac) beautifully illustrates this concept in the following lyrical passage from his song “Beyond Me:”

Is it so crazy to believe
That you gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Call me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It’s way beyond me

Discussing the song, McKeehan said, “I grew up in athletics, and I feel like I was taught my whole life to say ‘give me the ball, I’m going to score the game winner. I’ve got this.’ The wiser you get and the more life you live, you realize, for lack of better grammar, ‘I don’t got this.’ I have a desperate need for God. It’s beyond me.”

To me, the song also speaks to how God challenges us, while at the same time supporting us, to pursue things beyond our reach and swim in waters over our head. Knowing that I need God keeps me aware of his presence. It enables me to believe in something larger than me; something other than me. And it empowers me to be more than I could ever be alone – for him and others in my life.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, knowing God is with me has also empowered me to live a more flourishing life. Pastor and author John Ortberg describes this phenomenon in his amazing book, “The Me I Want to Be.” He defines flourishing as being connected with the spirit of God, which is available to us at all times. “When your spirit flourishes,” Ortberg writes, “you are most fully alive. You have a purpose for living. You are drawn to put on virtue and put off sin.” God’s presence in my life nurtures me to flourish, makes me grateful for love – both the capacity to love and the blessing of being loved by him.

Questions
• Do you regularly feel God’s presence in your life?

• If so, in what ways does knowing that God is present impact your life?

• If not, what steps can you take today to ensure that you are more aware of God and more trusting of his presence?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for this life and your enduring presence in it. Help me always to know you, trust in you, appreciate the gifts you have bestowed upon me, and flourish in your love. 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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No One Can Stand Against You

This week we’ve talked about how we need to trust God because he has promised to be with us. His very name promises us this. We have looked at the story of God telling Moses that he is the man to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and Moses balking at this commission. Over and over, God tells Moses that the reason Moses is up to the task is because of who God is, not because of who Moses is. God reassures Moses, and us, time and time again that we can do all things through him. (Philippians 4:13) Not through our strength or efforts, but because of God alone.

This is a difficult concept for most of us to grasp. We have a limited perspective of what the “omni” ness of God really means. (For an excellent breakdown of this look back on Wednesday.) We are made in God’s image, but so often we turn around and make him in ours. We may not realize it, but that box we put him in is limited, finite, unable, or unworthy. No wonder we are always afraid! We must begin to internalize the truth about who God is and what that means to us. Only then can we have the freedom that Christ promises and live without fear as God commands. But how do we do this?

The poet Hafiz wrote: “I am the hole in the flute that Christ’s breath moves through/ listen to this music/ I am the concert from the mouth of every creature / singing with the myriad chorus / I am a hole in a flute / that the Christ’s breath moves through / listen to this music.”

What a great image of the truly unfathomable nature of our interconnectedness with God! If we can begin to let go of our small image of God we can start to see the mystery and beauty of God. The real and personal God is always behind us, around us, ahead of us, within us and beyond us!

God told Moses and ultimately showed the Israelites exactly how his power would release them from captivity. All Moses really had to do was trust that God was who he said he was, and that he would do what he said he would do. As we can see from this account and our own lives, this is easier said than done, even when God spells it out for us. But God proved himself in freeing the Israelites. In seemingly impossible circumstances, God did what he promised. He was with them, and he freed them.

Today, we know that because God is with us, he is for us. He was for the Israelites, and just like Romans 8:31 tells us since God is for us, no one can stand against us. When we begin to examine who God is, we can then trust that he is who he says he is. Then we can rest easy, knowing that he is with us and for us always.

Romans 8:31-34

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

As a follower of Christ, and knowing that God is always present with you, what does this passage mean for you?

 

What are some conceptions or perceptions of God you have held in the past that you now see were limited?

 

Meditate on the different “omni”-ness of God: Omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent (refer to Wednesday for definitions) How does reflecting on these characteristics increase your trust in God’s power in your life?

 

Prayer:

Omnipresent God, thank you for giving us these real life examples to prove your presence and your power. Thank you for the reminders that we constantly need you and that you continue to give us your infinite patience. Thank you for your constant presence, in us, around us and with us. 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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Who Are You?

Who are you? If you are as old as me, or just a fan of the rock and roll band, The Who, or the TV show CSI, you now have the song “Who are You?” playing in your head with all the “who-who,” “who-whos” accompanying it! Sorry! But it is a good question, one with many answers. How would you answer? All of us have a name, most often not especially unique in that there are probably thousands of people with the same name (unless your name is Mike, which means there are a bazillion people with your name!). Each person’s last name may narrow down our identity, but it doesn’t give anyone who doesn’t know us personally accurate enough information about who we each are. We often identify ourselves by what we do – our jobs – or how we spend most of our time. If you are a Christian, you have another identity that is truly more significant than any of the other ways in which you might describe yourself.

As we begin to take a look at who God is, we see in Exodus that God appears to Moses with a task, one that he is less than eager to undertake. Despite the fact that God has revealed Himself to Moses in a burning bush, which is not consumed by the fire, Moses is not sure that God has the right guy for this job. After all, who is he? And who is God? I think these are legitimate questions. At this point, the Hebrew people have been enslaved by the Egyptians for 400 years. Pharaoh thinks so little of them that during the time of Moses’ birth, he had commanded the Hebrew midwives to drown any Hebrew male babies that they delivered (which they disobeyed, but that’s another story!). Moses was saved by an act of bravery on his mother’s part, found by Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought up as an Egyptian prince. At age 40, after killing an Egyptian who was mistreating an Israelite, he fled to another country and spent the next 40 years tending the sheep of his father-in-law. If you asked Moses, now 80 years old, who he was, he would be quick to tell you that he was a man who did not possess the skills to lead anybody out of anywhere. His gig was sheep! Moses had a pretty good picture in his mind of who he was, and he was not the guy who could go to the Hebrews and convince them that he would lead them out of Egypt.

Exodus 3:13-15 13But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” 14God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” 15God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.

What kind of a name is I Am Who I Am? In Hebrew, it is expressed with the letters YHWH, which in English we pronounce Yahweh. It derives from the verb, to be, and a more accurate, but maybe less helpful translation is, “I Be Who I Be.” How does that tell Moses, or us, more about who God is when He reveals Himself as “I Am Who I Am?” To scholars, it suggests many things. One is that God is self-existent, and therefore not dependent on anyone or anything else for his existence. Two is that he is the creator and sustainer of all that exists. Three, that God is immutable in his being and character, which is a cool way of saying that he is as he is and never changes. Four is that he is eternal in his existence. So how did that help Moses then, and how does it help us now to know who God is? What does it mean?

To me, it means that he is in control of all that concerns me because his words say that I can cast my cares on him because he cares for me. (1 Peter 5:7) My life consistently demonstrates that I am not in charge! There is truly nothing that I can control in my life, except hopefully, myself (with the help of the Holy Spirit!)

He is omniscient. He knows all there is to know because he has always been, always is and always will be. Therefore, he is not surprised when my plans don’t turn out as I had hoped, or my child goes off the rails, or the month lasts longer than my paycheck. He has a plan and a purpose for my life that is not ruined by my current challenging circumstances (Jeremiah 29:11).

And it means that he is omnipresent. He is always with me. Because I have trusted Christ as the sacrificial substitute for my sin, God has promised never to leave or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:8). I am never without him, his power, his guidance, his strength, his love. In fact, in Romans 8:37-39 the apostle Paul writes: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him Who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The most important thing for Moses to know, and for us to know in our lives, is that God is with us. What we cannot do, God can do. Earlier in that chapter of Romans, Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”

If you are a Christ follower, who you are in Christ is your primary identifier. If, when asked who you are, you describe yourself regarding something that can be lost, i.e., a career, a relationship, a place in society, etc., you are only that one thing away from losing your identity. If on the other hand, you describe yourself as a child of God, nothing can ever take that identity away, or negate all the power it contains. God is with you, everywhere, every time, in every circumstance. As he was with Moses, giving him the words, the power, the authority to convince Pharaoh to let his people go, so he is with you, no matter what you face today. Trust him. He never changes. He never fails. He always loves.

In what circumstance or situation do you need to trust God today?

How does this knowledge of who God is helping you to trust him with your situation?

 

Prayer: Yahweh, today I have decided that I can trust you at your word because you are all powerful, you are all knowing, and you are always with me. By your Holy Spirit, help me to wrap my mind around what that means, and to lean into the love you’ve shown me by revealing to me who you are, the great I Am. Amen.

 


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


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Is God With You?

“God is with me, wherever I go!” This was the Biblical truth my then-4-year-old son proclaimed to me when I picked him up from his first experience at Vacation Bible School last summer. We downloaded the soundtrack and listened to that classic Sunday school song on repeat for weeks. As many times I heard those words, whether from my son or even from the time I have spent studying the Bible, I still often forget.

Moses apparently had never heard the song either, because when God told Moses he would be going to Egypt to lead God’s people out of slavery, Moses reacted with a protest and an excuse as to why he wasn’t the man for the job.

Exodus 3:9-11: 9“Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” 11But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”

I can’t tell you how many times I have prayed to God for clarity, asking him what I should do next, what my next job will be, where I should live. I would love to receive a message or mission as clear as the one God gave to Moses. But if he did, I wonder what my reaction would be. While I hope it would be more like Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8), the reality is that it might be closer to Moses or Gideon (Judges 6), who responded in fear. Ben taught on Gideon’s story in the Heroic series (The Villain of Fear – stop what you’re doing and listen to it, right now). Like Moses, God had a plan for Gideon. He wanted to send Gideon to lead the Israelites in their fight against the Midianites. Gideon’s response? “But how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family,” (Judges 6:15).

What was the reason for their fear? Each man doubted himself; Moses wondered how he could be important enough for Pharaoh to listen to him, and Gideon cowered behind his rehearsed excuse about being a nobody. My doubt comes from a fear of the unknown and a battle with anxiety. It leaves me feeling unsure and nervous, despite knowing the truth that God is with me! To both men, God said, “I will be with you,” (Exodus 3:12, Judges 6:16). The phrase appears in the Bible eight times, and one more time in a cheesy kids song (do yourself a favor and Google it). God makes the same promise to us that he made to Moses and Gideon. With this assurance, we can confidently respond not with a Moses excuse, but with an Isaiah request – “Here I am. Send me!”

How do you respond when God sends you on a mission?

 

What will it take to move your response from, “Not me” to “Send me”?

 

Prayer: God, I pray for the clarity you gave to Moses and Gideon. Despite their reluctance, they knew exactly what you wanted them to do, and they eventually followed. Don’t let me stop at my excuse, rather move me to action by the promise of your presence. Amen.


This post was written by Ryan Cook. Ryan is the business director at Chick-Fil-A in Toledo. He enjoys spending time with his wife, son, and daughter, and watching Cleveland sports as much as anyone can. Follow him on twitter @cookfila


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If You Were Abandoned on an Island, What Would You Do?

Over four years of complete solitude. This was Scottish mariner Alexander Selkirk’s reality. He had spent about a year robbing Spanish ships on behalf of the British Empire when he demanded that his Captain – whom he disagreed with about the safety of the ship – leave him on the island near which they were anchored. When he realized that none of the crew were staying on the island with him, he begged to be taken back aboard. It was a request that his Captain denied happily. He lived for the next four years and four months completely stranded, interacting mostly with goats and his Bible.

To say that he probably experienced loneliness would be an understatement.

What if it were you? What if you found yourself in a similar situation? Deserted and alone on an island with no human contact for over 52 months?

What would bring you comfort?

Most of us would see this as a death sentence.

The thought of being alone for that long is terrifying. Something we only read about in old stories or watch in blockbuster movies starring Tom Hanks.

Sometimes, however, we can feel alone even when we are around people. Sometimes our circumstances cause us to feel a sense of loneliness that is at least comparable to that of desertion on an island.

The Israelites felt this. The Egyptians had enslaved them for over 400 years, and though they were the people of God, they hadn’t been rescued.

Enter Moses.

After Moses had killed an Egyptian for mistreating a fellow Israelite, he fled Egypt and lived in Midian where he married and started a new life as a shepherd.

This past weekend, Ben Snyder started our new series, God Is, by walking through the story of Moses and the burning bush. In his message, he talked about how, once we realize God is present, we discover we are never alone.

Exodus 3:1-8

1One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3“This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”

4When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied.

5“Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 6I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.

7Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. 8So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land.

This week we will be diving into what happens in the story, but for today, we are going to look at one particular portion.

Verse 5 reads, 5“Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.

Ben suggested that perhaps the reason for God’s request was not only that the removal of sandals was a sign of respect, but also to help Moses be present.

Being present, as Ben defined it, is to see, hear, and be aware.

By removing his sandals, Moses removes what he would’ve been used to. It would have – presumably – increased his awareness.

What are your “sandals”?

What are the things that get in the way of you being present with God?

Ben gave us a couple of options, let’s go through them briefly.

Spiritual Sensationalism

Spiritual sensationalism is when you depend on feelings more than faith. Your emotions might determine how close (or present) you are with God. Here, we might feel super close to God one day, but when things go wrong, and we no longer feel God, we might assume that he has withdrawn his presence from us.

Rehearsed Religion

Rehearsed religion is when you believe that God will only accept you if you do it right. Here, we think that if we simply do the things we believe God wants us to do, he will then show up and prove to us that he is present.

Holy Ultimatums

Holy ultimatums are when you tell God you will only accept him if he does it right. In these times, we want God to reveal himself in an undeniably plain way; we want him to reveal himself on our terms.

Drifted Devotion

Drifted devotion is when you have sin that callouses your awareness. We let sins go unnoticed and undealt with, and these sins build up so much that it becomes challenging to experience God.

Which of these have you experienced?

Are you currently struggling with any of these?

We need to remove our sandals. We need to remove these four things from our life so we can experience God’s presence. God’s name is a promise to us that he is always with us (more on that later this week). If you’re currently feeling like God isn’t near to you if you feel like you’ve been alone on an island for far too long, consider the barriers (sandals) that may be in the way of you being present.

As Ben said, “Prayer is the acknowledgment that God is present, and I am never alone.” We need to pray.

Throughout the day today pray this prayer:

Heavenly Father help me to see you, hear you, and be aware. I want to experience your presence and know that you are always with me. I want to live like you’re always with me because you are! I ask this in the name of Jesus and by 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, for Christian Apologetics, and for the Cleveland Indians. He is married with two young children. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.


The series memory verse is John 17:3 – And this is the way to have eternal life – to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 

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