Careless Words

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 12

Matthew 12: 34-37 The Message (MSG)

34 “You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. 35 A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. 36 Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. 37 Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.”

I have lived a while – 68 years. I have learned, am still learning, the power of words. I remember vividly in my years as a police officer (You didn’t know that about me, did you? Twenty-two years in the Oregon, OH police division.) how often words ushered people into situations where they didn’t want to be. I remember in the years before I was a cop, as a bartender, how often people used their words to manipulate others into doing something that they may not have wanted to do. Then, as a pastor and spiritual director, I listened to people’s words as they tried to identify their feelings and thoughts, describing why they thought what they said was necessary. We use words to defend, to justify, to celebrate, to manipulate, to emasculate, to encourage, to describe, to identify, to glorify. Our words have power. Our words are (oh my!) a reflection of the condition of our hearts.

B.C. (before Christ), my words were often profane, sarcastic, demeaning, and wielded as a weapon. I was quite skilled with weaponized words! My gift kept me out of a lot of physical altercations, but those same techniques were not so effective with my family! When I accepted Christ, the profanity went (mostly!). However, I joked that I had the spiritual gift of sarcasm until a dear brother in Christ pointed out to me how hurtful and disrespectful sarcasm is to the person on the receiving end. What a journey this has been for me! When I read these verses, I seriously tremble!

Verse 36-37 says, “Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you.” It’s true! It’s Scripture! The New Living Translations it says, And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. 37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.

Your words have the power of life and death in your relationships! Choose them wisely. Choose them with love. Remember, every one of those careless words will come back to haunt you! We will all give an accounting one day. We will hear our words played back for us. Will yours be words of love and encouragement, or not? Remember, your words reflect the condition of your heart!

Questions:
Are you comfortable with the knowledge that you will be held accountable for your words? How might you speak differently?

Next Steps:
Join me in repenting, in being truly sorry, for the words you have used to hurt people, especially those whom you love. Ask them for forgiveness. Start using your words to encourage, uplift, praise, and love.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I pray as King David prayed: Create in me a clean heart, O God, Renew a right spirit within me! Do not banish me from your presence and don’t take your Holy Spirit[d] from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation. (Psalm 51:10-12)

I desire to obey you, Jesus! Please, help me use my mouth to encourage people, to glorify you, to make your love known. Thank you that while my words have been recorded, my forgiveness, by your righteousness, was won on the cross! Amen.


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


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Your Significant Story

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 11

I think when we are looking for our place in life, we look for significance. I was looking for significance when I got my first job in a hair and nail salon. I didn’t know where this opportunity would lead me, but I stepped into training to do nails and assist the owner, who does hair. As I would assist, I started to break out in hives all over my hands and arms while shampooing clients. It turns out that I am allergic to hair color!

This caused me to doubt the journey God had for me. However even though I couldn’t see it, God was working through connections that led to a different opportunity at a nail salon. If not for the people in my life, I would have said “no.” Looking back on that time, I could not see God working in my life, but through the journey, I felt significance in the relationships I had with others.

As we read Matthew 11, we see that John the Baptist finds himself in prison. His significance in life was found in making a way for Jesus, but this imprisonment was turning his life upside down. He was stuck in a place he didn’t want to be, and it caused him to doubt Jesus and the work that he was doing.

To try to make sense of everything he was experiencing, he sought assurance that he hadn’t been wrong about Jesus. In Matthew 11:2, John asks his disciples to find Jesus to clarify that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. When John’s disciples find Jesus, he responds in verses 4 and 5.

Matthew 11:4-5
4 Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5 the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.”

Jesus assures John that the works being done point to himself being savior, and they reveal that John did not do his ministry in vein, even if he can’t see it. Jesus turns to the crowd and begins telling the crowd about John’s story. John couldn’t see the work Jesus was doing in his life because he wasn’t in the place he wanted to be.

Like John, sometimes we can’t always see what God is doing. John’s imprisonment caused him to ask questions. When I thought I couldn’t work at the salon anymore, I had questions too. The truth for us all is that there are times in life when we won’t like where we are, and it will cause us to question our journey. These are the times that we have an opportunity to seek Jesus, ask him for clarity, trust that he is who he says he is, and trust the journey that God has us on.

Questions:
Where do you find your significance? Is it in your job, who you are in Christ, to whom you are married, where you live, or something else? Are you in a place that you want to be? If not, are you willing to invite others into your journey?

Next Steps:
Reflect on the times that God has worked through your life even if you didn’t see his hand on it while you were going through it. Share your story with someone.

Prayer:
Jesus, thank you so much for making my story significant. I can’t see the work you are doing in my life now because I am in a place I don’t want to be. Would you bring people into my life that I can share my journey with? I don’t want to be stuck in this place, and I can’t do it alone. I am trusting you are working through my life. In Jesus name, amen.


This post was written by Rebecca Roberts, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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On a Mission

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 10

Today’s chapter, Matthew 10, is all about Jesus sending his 12 apostles (Simon who is called Peter and his brother Andrew, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot) on a mission to spread the message that “The Kingdom of heaven has come near” (v. 5). His lengthy instructions are designed to instruct them how to go about this mission and to prepare them for what they may encounter along the way.

Matthew 10:9-10 (NIV)
9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts – 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.”

Matthew 10:16-17 (NIV)
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues.”

They were to travel as they were and warned to expect trouble along the way. But they were also instructed to have faith that God would take care of them on their mission.

This account made me think of what it would be like for us to go on a mission for God in modern day times. Spreading his Word is no longer an oral tradition. The Bible is easily accessible in print and online. So how do we spread the good news, if we choose that to be our ministry here on Earth?

I am very fortunate to be good friends with a wonderful artist, published author, and exceptional human being, who is also a fellow Creeker. Her name is Kathryn “Kathy” Housepian, and perhaps you have seen her amazing art in various Perrysburg locations. She is using her artistry to spread cheer to her fellow human beings by frequently hiding beautifully painted rocks around Perrysburg for people to find and keep.

She is also known for spreading his Word to others, especially non-believers, by handing out small cards with Bible verses on them. She very intentionally crafted these cards to be too pretty to be thrown away. The cards are colorful in blue, purple, and green hues with gold lettering underneath or above one of her miniaturized paintings. They almost glow, that is how pretty they are!

She will hand these cards out anywhere and to anyone whom she feels would benefit (or who is her lucky friend!). She calls this her ministry. And what an amazing and inspiring ministry it is! But she is not alone in her mission. She also gives note cards with her gorgeous artwork on the front to her friend Karen, who is also at the Perrysburg campus, and to Mark Hearndon from the Whitehouse campus to hand out, both of whom also write and hand out their own cards to bring people closer to Jesus.

Kathy will humbly tell you that this is not about her. She says that all three of them simply want to bring “Jesus into people’s lives in a practical and loving way.” Bringing people closer to God is her ministry, as she will always tell me.

But it is important to remember that we do not have to be a talented artist or gifted orator to spread Jesus’ message. The people Jesus sent as his Apostles to spread the word were a motley crew, none of which would have been an obvious choice for such a mission. Yet, they did an amazing job!

Jesus would like all of us to be on a mission for him, and he gave each of us a unique talent and spiritual gifts to spread his message of love to others. So all you have to ask yourself is how your specific gifts from God could be used to spread his Word. And however you choose to do it, make sure it is in a loving and kind way! 

Questions:
What are your unique talents or gifts from God? Write them down. How could you use them to reach out to others in a loving way to draw them closer to God? What could be your irresistible calling card?

Next Steps:
Have you ever tried being on a mission for God to draw people closer to him? If not, why not? If you have not yet discovered your unique talents and gifts from God, make sure to attend the next GrowthTrack where you can take steps toward discovering your purpose.

Prayer:
Dear Father, thank you for wiring us all uniquely and giving us each special gifts which we are able to use to serve you. Please help me discover what my special talents are and how I can use them to bring those who need it most closer to you. Please help me to shrug off any doubt or fear that I am not talented enough and instead, let me be creative when I embark on my mission for you. Amen.


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


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Faith in Action

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 9

In today’s reading, we see Jesus heal a lot of people—six, by my count! As I read this chapter, I noticed one word repeated throughout these stories: faith.

In Matthew 9:2, it says, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven” (emphasis added).

In Matthew 9:18, the synagogue leader showed a lot of faith in Jesus when he said, “My daughter has just died… but you can bring her back to life again if you just come and lay your hand on her.” And the suffering woman in Matthew 9:21 showed great faith by thinking, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Jesus says in response to her thoughts and action, “Daughter be encouraged! Your faith has made you well” (Matthew 9:22 emphasis added).

Before healing the two blind men, Jesus asked them if they believed he could make them see, and when they said yes, he told them, “Because of your faith, it will happen” (Matthew 9:29 emphasis added). And perhaps it’s a stretch, but the people who brought the demon-possessed man to Jesus must have had faith that Jesus could help him, or else they wouldn’t have bothered, right?

In Matthew 9:12-13, Jesus implies that he came to heal the sick, and heal the sick he did. Of course, we know that Jesus’ primary concern is not physical sickness, but the kind of sickness he forgave the paralyzed man of—the sickness of sin. And as we see repeatedly in this chapter, the healing Jesus brings requires faith in him.

Faith is a word we hear and use a lot in church, but it can feel airy and insubstantial at times. Maybe you’ve found yourself wondering what it even means to have faith—I know I have. But really, faith isn’t as ethereal as it sounds. It’s just trust—trust that Jesus is who he says he is, that he did and can do what the Bible says he did and will do, and that he has a plan for each of our lives.

This kind of faith isn’t just something that we feel—this faith leads to action. Faith inspires the paralyzed man’s friends to do whatever it takes to get him to Jesus (Mark 2:2-5). It motivates the synagogue leader to seek Jesus, even though his daughter is already dead, and drives the ailing woman to reach out for the fringe of Jesus’ robe. The blind men walked right into the house where Jesus was staying because of their faith (Matthew 9:27)! But perhaps the most inspirational act of faith in this chapter is that of Matthew himself.

Matthew 9:9
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.

Getting up and following Jesus—just like that—requires a lot of faith. But that’s exactly what Jesus asks of us. He asks not only that we trust he will forgive and heal us of our sins, but also that we follow him in action and word. He asks us to have faith not only for our own sakes, but also to help lead others to him, just as the paralyzed man’s friends helped him get to Jesus. Jesus asks us to have the faith to help shepherd his sheep and work in his field, for “The harvest is great, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). May we have the faith to be the workers God sends!

Questions:
In what ways have you seen God heal you through your faith? What actions have your faith inspired you to take? Is there anything God is currently calling you to do in faith? Who in your life can you help lead to Jesus and his healing through your faith?

Next Steps:
Thank God for the spiritual healing he did in your life when you accepted Jesus as your Savior. Consider what step of faith God is calling you to take (baptism, inviting someone to church, joining or leading a group, attending GrowthTrack, etc.) and make a plan to pursue that next step. Identify someone in your life you can spiritually invest in.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the free gift of salvation that you offer to all of us through your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for the healing you have done in my life. Help me to trust in you and your plans for my life. May I have the kind of faith that moves me to action and helps point others to you. Above all else, may your will be done. Amen.


This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton is currently an intern at CedarCreek and works part-time at her local library. In her spare time, she freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.


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Leprosy Parallels Sin

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 8

In today’s reading, Matthew 8, we read an account of the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, including faith healings. It is not surprising that since God the Father healed his faithful people, God the Son, Jesus, would continue healing the faithful while he was on Earth.

Matthew 8:2-3
2 Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” 3 Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared.

This man with leprosy would not have been welcome in the large crowd that had gathered around Jesus. In biblical times, people did not treat lepers well because they were considered ceremonially unclean. They were treated like social outcasts. It was thought that the disease was punishment for a committed sin and that it could be contracted by physical touch.

It was illegal to touch someone with leprosy, but Jesus did the unthinkable and touched the man. Instead of Jesus becoming unclean, the man was completely healed! Jesus did not have to touch the leper to heal him yet he chose to do so. I think it is worth noting that before the man asked for anything, he honored Jesus by calling him Lord. He knew in his mind that Jesus had the power to heal him and believed with his heart that Jesus could heal him. His question was if Jesus was willing to heal him. Jesus was, is, and will always be willing to heal sinners.

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

R.C. Trench writes, “Though the leper was not worse or guiltier than his fellow countrymen, he was nevertheless a parable of sin—an outward visible sign of innermost spiritual corruption.”

Trench and others have written that leprosy is symbolic of sin for several reasons. The average incubation period for leprosy is five years before any of the sores or other physical problems appear. When the sores first appear, they are very painful, but leprosy causes damage to sensory nerves which makes the skin numb. Once this happens, the leper could cut or burn themselves and not be aware. The disease also attacks the vocal cords so the voice would become hoarse. During biblical times, lepers were separated into colonies so the disease would not spread because there was no cure. Jesus healed lepers on many occasions. Read Luke 17:12-19 for the account of Jesus healing 10 lepers.

Like leprosy, sin starts from within and can take years before anyone can see it. Left unchecked, sin can cause our conscience to become numb and our hearts to become hardened to Christ. Sin can destroy relationships and separates us from God. We, too, need to be cleaned and healed and touched by Jesus.

Proverbs 10:11
The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions.

This story is not only about a man being healed from a physical disease, but more importantly about a man who was able to return to worshiping God. The leper had deep faith in Jesus and was therefore healed by his touch.

Questions:
What is your personal leprosy? Have you put your faith in Christ? If not, why not? Are you combining your hearing of the Word with faith? If not, what is stopping you? Do you apply the Word of God to all areas of your life? If not, why not?

Next Steps:
On a piece of paper, write these key areas of life: career, financial, spiritual, physical, intellectual, family, and social. Now, next to each category, write if you are trusting God with that area. For those areas where you are not, journal ways you can introduce faith into that area. Once you have introduced faith, journal the ways God has changed those areas or is using you in those areas.

Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Son. Give me wisdom to recognize my sins so I may confess them. Keep my eyes on you so I may see as you see and do as you say. Thank you for carrying me when I did not have strength. I need the strength that only you can give. Thank you for looking beyond my faults. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


This post was written by Jennifer Macke. Jenn has a son, daughter, granddaughter, and grandson, and she thanks God every day for them. She is enjoying retirement and feels blessed to be writing for LivingItOut. She was raised in an Evangelical Church, but her spiritual life awakened when she started attending CedarCreek.


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The Narrow Path

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 7

Walking with my dog is one of the greatest joys in my life. When we go for our walk, there our two paths that we can take. One path is narrow and the other path is wide and open.

The first path is a country block which stretches about four miles. The path at the side of the road is narrow. I have to be aware of traffic, other dogs that come out of their yards, or critters in the ditches. Stay alert!

The second path is our secret path. It is one where the leash comes off and we both enjoy the freedom of following or making our own path. He loves the chance to explore, and I love watching him be a dog. Both paths are enjoyable. Both paths carry risks.

Jesus tells us in verses 13-14, “You can enter God’s kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and it’s gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow, and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.“

I know when I stay on the narrow path, I have rules to obey. I need to be courteous and cautious in judging the people I come in contact with. I have a solid foundation rooted in the word of God to ground me on the narrow path. I can walk in the face of danger and feel safe there.

The wide path is like blowing in the breeze. There is no set direction, no rules to guide me, no one to pray to, no sense of accomplishment. Most of all, there is no safety net. Joy can turn to tragedy in an instant. Once, I lost my dog and thought for sure he was dead and gone. Only by the grace of God, did he find his way home. He was very weak and sick when he got home, but I was overjoyed at seeing him and scooped him up in my arms.

This can happen to me when I stray off the narrow path and run “free”, only to find that I am lost, far from home and those who love me. Only by the grace of God, do I find my way back to him and the safety of his arms.

Questions:
Have you considered the spiritual path that you’re on? Do you know where you are spiritually? Where you’re headed? Where you want to be spiritually?

Next Steps:
Think of someone who shows a mature spirituality that you admire. Introduce yourself. Ask that person how he or she developed that spirituality. Ask that person to mentor you. Spend time with him or her. Write down goals of where you want to be spiritually: serving on a dream team, praying daily, studying the Bible regularly, etc.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for meeting us right where we are on this faith journey. Show us the way. Enlighten us. Help us to be of maximum service to you and others, always and in all ways. Remind us that we were made for your divine purpose and give us the courage to go forward on the narrow path. In Jesus’ name, amen.


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


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Worry or Pride

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 6

Matthew 6:28-30
28 And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.

The long slender petals of the trout lily, the intense whiteness of the trillium and bloodroot, the delicate petals of the spring beauty, and the gentle, unfurling of the fern frond all tell me there is a God. When I enter the woods in the spring, I am reminded that the God who created this amazing world is taking care of me. The God who created flowers in every shade and shape and who creates them to bloom in all their splendor without the aid of any human also directs my life.

And yet at the first sign of trouble in my safe, sheltered world, I begin to worry. I worry about my sick child who just can’t seem to shake a virus. I worry about the long trip my husband has to take for work. I worry that in all of my intense striving to be the best mother possible, I won’t ever be enough. Sometimes I worry that if I don’t worry about something, then it will be sure to happen.

When I remind God that I’m aware of the “worst-case scenario,” I somehow believe I am protecting myself against that fear actually occurring. Yet, throughout Scripture, God continually reminds us that there is no reason to fear — that worrying is not only unnecessary, but also sinful. I realize my need to worry is directly correlated with my desire to control. I believe that when I worry about something, I am controlling the outcome in some way, but actually it is my pride that tells me I can control my life and the outcomes with my worry.

Matthew 6:31-33
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

When I try controlling the things in my life, I am telling God I don’t need him. I can take care of myself and my family. I know what is best for my life, and I cannot trust him to take care of me. During this striving for control, I feel stressed and anxious. I know in the depths of my soul that I am not enough. I am not God.

When I allow, however, the words of verse 33 to pour their balm over my anxious heart, I find peace. I discover that if I seek God first, I won’t waste my time worrying, but I will spend my time honoring him and he will provide for my every need. He who clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air will meet my every need. So even if the “worst-case scenario” happens — and it rarely does — I rest in the knowledge that he will take care of me. Then, and only then, can I rest in the peace that passes all understanding.

Questions:
How big of a role does worry play in your life?

Have you ever considered that your worrying is really a sign of pride?

Next Steps:
Reread verses 25-34. Think of one or two areas in your life you constantly worry about. Allow the truth of those verses to guide you as you claim the promise that God will give you everything you need.

Prayer:
Gracious Heavenly Father, thank you for providing us with visible reminders of how you care for your creation. Thank you for the beauty we see around us in every season that shows us your artistry. Forgive me for my anxiety and pride. Forgive me for wanting to control my life and setting myself up as a god. Help me to seek you first and rest in the knowledge that you will provide for my every need. Amen.


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


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Let’s Be Meek!

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 5

Today we are reading Matthew 5, which is full of many important and well-known passages. One verse in particular caught my eye and made me think about how we develop a close relationship with God:

Matthew 5:5
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

I always thought that this is a very interesting verse. So who are the meek? Jesus declared himself to be meek (Matthew 11:29). In today’s world, “meek” is defined as “quiet, gentle, easily imposed on, submissive,” but in the Greek New Testament, “meek” is derived from the Greek term “praus.” The meaning is not that of weakness, but rather it denotes “strength brought under control.” It was apparently a term the ancient Greeks used to describe a wild horse tamed to the bridle. I read that in biblical terms, being meek actually describes someone who submits to God and has channeled their strengths into the service of God.

If you have ever sat on a horse, you can feel the power of at least 1,000 pounds underneath you. A horse has a lot of strength, yet it submits to the rider and channels its strengths to obey his or her commands. The horse and the rider work together for a common goal. To do so, they must have a close connection.

So how can we be meek? How can we follow God’s instructions as a horse obeys the bridle? How can we have a close connection with God? One obvious answer is prayer. As we talk to God and listen to him, we grow closer. Another way we grow closer is through serving others because it connects us to the heart of Jesus. Growing closer to God is something that happens internally. Heart work can be hard work though, so sometimes it is easier to create the illusion that we are close to him. We decorate our houses with Christian-themed items. We place huge, elaborate crosses in every room including the kitchen pantry, religious paintings, Jesus-themed pillows, and tableware with crosses (to name just a few). Could such things be a distraction from a more internal and personal connection with God?

While there is nothing wrong with any of these displays, we should nevertheless look within ourselves and ask ourselves why we surround ourselves with these things? Is it to prove to others that we are close to God? To demonstrate to ourselves that we are “Christian enough” or to show to others that we have “Christian street cred”? If so, do these items really help you build a closer relationship with God?

Ultimately we become close to God when we grow internally. It is not about the external things. It is when we trust him. Trusting is what allows us to take steps toward meekness as we give him control to use and direct us. As the horse obeys the bridle, we can obey and take God’s direction, working together to accomplish his purpose for our lives.

Questions:
How could being meek bring you closer to God?

Do you focus more on an internal bond with our Lord, or are you focusing on external things?

Are you trying to prove to others that you are “Christian enough”?

Next Steps:
Make a list of three ways you could forge a closer bond with God without relying on material things.

For example, finding a peaceful location where you can pray regularly and be near God, or serving others in a meaningful way, or channeling your personal strengths on a dream team @ CedarCreek.

Make a plan to implement these ideas in your life on a regular basis.

Prayer:
Dear Father, thank you for allowing us to be part of your plan. Thank you for giving each of us strengths that we can use to serve you. Please help me discover ways I can apply my strengths to follow your plan for my life. Please help me focus on an internal relationship with you rather than being distracted by external, material forms of worship. Amen.


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


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From Temptation to Triumph

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 4

As we learned in last week’s LivingItOut, the Gospel of Matthew so far presented a methodical and meticulous case to the Jewish people that their savior had arrived, and that Jesus Christ was indeed the one true Messiah.

Stepping into Matthew Chapter 4, we are presented with four distinct passages that reveal Christ’s promises and power: Satan’s temptation of Jesus, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the recruitment of the first disciples, and the crowds following Jesus as he travels through Galilee healing the sick and afflicted.

Today, we focus on the temptation of Jesus, which provides believers with a powerful demonstration of how Jesus was able to resist temptation by relying on God’s word.

Matthew 4:1-4
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. 2 For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. 3 During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

After being denied by Jesus in this first temptation, the devil tempts Jesus two more times, daring him to jump from the highest temple in Jerusalem (goading him by saying that the angels of God would lift him up) and then promising “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” if Jesus would bow and worship him. In each case, Jesus denied the devil’s temptations, citing scriptural commandments that he was determined to obey. In the end, “…the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus” (Matthew 4:11).

The timing of Satan’s temptation is significant in that it came immediately after Jesus was declared the Son of God. Knowing the threat that Jesus posed to him, the devil sought to tempt Jesus. But to what end? In his Bible commentary, Matthew Henry notes, “That which Satan aimed at, in all his temptations, was, to bring (Jesus) to sin against God, and so to render him forever incapable of being a sacrifice for the sins of others.”

While it may seem unfortunate, or even unfair that Christ would be tested in such a devious manner, these passages from Matthew Chapter 4 illustrate the opportunity within these challenges. As Henry writes, “there is no conquest without a combat,” and in triumphing over Satan’s temptations, Jesus proved his goodness and strength, and preserved the unfathomable gift of his sacrifice for our sins.

Our daily lives are filled with tests and temptations. And while they may not be as dramatic as the epic story of Satan’s temptation of Christ, they are just as real. Temptations do not come only in moments of weakness. On the contrary, the Bible tells us that we can expect to be tested when we are called by God to serve his kingdom, just as Jesus was in the wake of his baptism and God’s declaration that he was his dearly loved Son (Matthew 3:16-17). So, while temptations may be unwelcome, we can take comfort in knowing that God is with us in those moments, and when we live in his word, our triumphs will serve to strengthen his kingdom.

Questions:
Do you ever feel particularly vulnerable to temptation in the moments when you are being called to serve God? Have you ever attributed these temptations to Satan’s desire to separate you from God?

What lessons can you take from the manner in which Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations?

Next Steps:
God has foretold that we will be confronted with tests and temptations even as we walk with him. Consider the source of these challenges (Satan’s desire to separate us from God) and focus on the wisdom and benefit of not facing adversities alone, but with God. Listen to the recent sermon on Jesus vs satan by Calvin Sweeney @cedarcreek.tv.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I am forever grateful for the love you have shown with the gift of your Son, Jesus. As I face life’s inevitable temptations, help me to always keep you present and remember the example — and sacrifice — that Jesus provided in his triumph by walking with you. It is in your holy name I pray. Amen.


This post was written by Todd Romain. Todd enjoys sharing life with his wife Jessica and their family and serving at CedarCreek. He is a communications director at Owens Corning and enjoys reading, writing, music, and sports in his spare time.


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Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 3

Growing up, I remember my mom telling me frequently, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I think she was trying to teach me a huge life lesson: don’t judge people on how they look, instead notice their character and actions. Reading about John the Baptist reminded me of this.

If I were to meet John today, my first impression of him would be that he was weird at best, and mentally ill at worst. He wore clothes made of coarse camel hair and a leather belt around his waist. He ate locust (how disgusting!) and wild honey. I imagine him with long wavy hair and a crazy look on his face when he preached. John spoke about the importance of repenting from your sins and turning to God. People came from all over to see him.

I wonder why people were drawn to him. Was it because they wanted to see a freak show or because they heard about his teachings and were intrigued? It amazes me that the Pharisees and Sadducees went to see him. They were well respected and powerful. Unfortunately, they were like a book with a beautiful cover on the outside, but the inside was meaningless drivel. They were arrogant, judgmental, legalistic, selfish, and self-centered. They did not desire to bring the people closer to God. Instead they preferred the glory for themselves.

John was different from them, for he knew his purpose was to point not to himself, but to the one who was greater than he. John had a lot of courage and integrity. He called them out on their behavior.

Matthew 3:7-8
7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? 8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.

The religious leaders were more focused on getting praise and worship from the people than having them repent their sins and turn to God. John’s focus was on telling the people:

Matthew 3:2
Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.

He was preparing them to meet Jesus. The religious leaders thought they were special because they were descendants of Abraham, and already saved by God. John was baptizing the people and preaching something totally different.

Matthew 3:11
I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I am not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

John was bringing glory to God and preparing the people to meet Jesus. John was a man of great humility who knew his purpose all along.

In John 3:30, John the Baptist says of Jesus, “He must become greater and greater and I must become less and less.”

If I had “judged a book by its cover,” I would have thought that the Pharisees and Sadducees were the true believers and followers of God and that John the Baptist was a nut and I would have been totally WRONG.

Questions:
How often do you “judge a book by its cover”? How often do you or someone you know work on the cover of your book instead of the content?

What are the differences between John the Baptist and the religious leaders? What are the differences between you and someone you know to be a serious, purpose-driven follower of Christ?

Next Steps:
If you haven’t repented your sins and turned to Jesus as your Savior, please consider doing it now. Read Matthew 3 carefully and compare John the Baptist and the religious leaders. Ponder on who really cared about the people’s salvation.

Prayer:
Jesus, please help me to see people as you do. Please do not let me be fooled by outward appearances, popularity, and wealth. Help me to love all people and not be judgmental. Help me to see people for who they are—your masterpiece. I praise you, because you can use every person to do your will and bring you glory. I beg you to use me, Lord! I am awed by your love and your acceptance of me. Amen.


This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.


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