The Missing Puzzle Piece

Today’s Scripture: Revelation 5

I love doing puzzles, all sorts of puzzles! Not just those 3-D ones where, for example, you have to get a ring off some twisted structure by manipulating the parts, but also the traditional kind with many pieces that form a beautiful picture.

Puzzles take time, but my patience and perseverance are rewarded with the completed puzzle, revealing that beautiful picture I have been trying to put together. It is immensely satisfying, whether I do the puzzle on a table the old-fashioned way or electronically on my iPad, to insert that final missing piece! That final piece brings together the picture and makes it whole—as the picture on the box promised.

While I was reading Revelation 5 today, one verse particularly stood out to me:

Revelation 5:12 (NIV):
In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”

When Jesus fulfilled the prophecies by dying on the cross for our sins, the final puzzle piece was added to reveal a glorious picture. The picture of the worthy lamb, sacrificed by his Father in his love for us, sitting finally by his side. One cannot help but marvel at the beauty of that picture. And to feel at peace.

Living our lives is also not unlike trying to put together a beautiful puzzle. Each day we live, we add more pieces, thus gradually revealing the larger picture. Although, unlike those puzzles in a box, we do not know what the final picture will look like until it is truly finished—the moment when we take our last breath. It is up to us to find all the crucial missing pieces by following God’s guidance in our lives to reveal the picture he had planned for us all along. Searching for those pieces most certainly requires patience and perseverance. It requires closing our eyes and listening to God’s guidance as we reach out, trying to find the next piece.

I am feeling immensely blessed that I have found some very important puzzle pieces in my life so far. I have been blessed with two awesome daughters, who surprise me every day with the amazing people they are becoming. We will actually all get baptized together this August as the next step in our spiritual journeys, something which we all three are very excited about. I have also been blessed with a wonderful, kind-hearted significant other, who is just as curious about the world as I am and in whose company there is never a dull moment. And last but not least, I have an amazing, caring group of friends who keep me on the straight and narrow. There are some other areas where I am still looking for pieces, but the puzzle is coming together, slowly but surely. I am sure I will be amazed when I see the final picture one day.

Questions:
What pieces of the puzzle are you still searching for in your life? What pieces have you been blessed with so far? How could you quiet your mind and heart so that you could better listen to God’s guidance to find the next crucial piece?

Next Steps:
Make a list of three pieces of your life’s puzzle that you feel are still missing. Prioritize them in order of importance. Share your list with a fellow believer and talk about how you could go about finding them. Ask God for patience and perseverance in your search.

Prayer:
Dear Father, thank you so much for never ever letting me give up in my search for the crucial puzzle pieces that will fit into the beautiful picture you have planned for my life. Thank you for blessing me with patience and perseverance during times that I wanted to give up. Thank you for walking beside me, hand in hand, during my search. I have no words that can truly express my gratefulness for the pieces I have been blessed to find so far. 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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The Wonder of God

Today’s Scripture: Revelation 4

I always find it interesting when I talk with someone from what I would consider a beautiful area of the country like Hawaii, California, Colorado, or anywhere with an ocean or mountain view. I get excited imagining what it must be like to live there and to be able to witness such beauty each day. As I talk with them about their home, I often find that while they appreciate it, they don’t share the same excitement. To them, it is just where they live. It’s as if having the same view each day wears away at the wonder and beauty of their surroundings.

In today’s reading, we get a glimpse of God’s throne room. A place so beautiful and so majestic that beings can remain there for eternity and never grow tired of it. No matter how long someone remains there, that sense of awe never dissipates. Each passing moment there is as beautiful and majestic as the first.

The reason the throne room is so beautiful is because of who is on the throne. This seat of honor, authority, and judgment is filled by a God who is described as being as brilliant as gemstones! These stones represent his beauty, light, and purity, amongst other things.

Revelation 4:3
The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow.

Continuing through chapter 4, we see an amazing image of worship. Seated closest to the throne are four living beings who day after day and night after night are saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—the one who always was, who is, and is to come” (vs. 8).

Seated around them, we see 24 elders dressed in white with crowns on their heads. Nowhere in Revelation are these 24 elders identified, but it is widely believed that they represent the Church that has been redeemed by God. Whenever the four beings give glory, honor, and thanks to God, the 24 elders fall down and cast their crowns at his feet saying, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased” (vs. 11).

This scene is played over and over, again and again, yet it doesn’t grow old. God’s glory and the depth of his majesty have no limits. He is worthy of our praise today, and for eternity. One day, all of creation will bow to the majesty of God’s throne.

Philippians 2:9-11
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor  and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,  in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Father.

Questions:
Do you ever think about God’s throne room?

How might this image of God change your perspective on everyday life?

Next Steps:
Spend some time reflecting on God’s throne and his majesty. Listen to these songs as you think about this passage:

Travis Cottrell feat. Lily Cottrell – What A Beautiful Name / Agnus DeiWonder by Bethel

Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, you are beautiful in all your ways. You are holy, just, majestic, and pure. Holy, holy, holy are you Lord God, Almighty— the one who always was, who is, and is to come. May I never lose my wonder of you, and may I grow in the area of knowing you more and more. Amen.


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


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Wake Up Call

Today’s Scripture: Revelation 3

Have you ever been in a hotel, dead asleep in the wee hours of the morning, and you are jolted awake by the wakeup call you ordered the night before? It can be a bit of a rude awakening. You may feel a little groggy. You may need to rub the sleep from your eyes. But finally you’re awake, ready to start your day.

That is what Jesus is ordering up in Revelation 3:1-3 (emphases added) as he continues to address the seven churches. To the church at Sardis he bluntly says, “YOU ARE DEAD” (vs. 1). He is calling on the other end of the hotel phone saying, “WAKE UP!” (vs. 2). Once they had rubbed the sleep out of their eyes, he elaborated:

  • Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead” (vs. 2).
  • Go back to what you heard and believed at first” (vs. 3).
  • Hold to it firmly” (vs. 3).
  • REPENT and turn to me again” (vs. 3).

The Christian walk is one that ebbs and flows. There are times you are faithful and steadfast in being in the word, in church, in groups… and there are times when busyness, sin, or apathy creep in and you start to feel disconnected from God, from church, and from others. This is normal. We have ALL been through this. But, Jesus loves us too much to leave us this way. So, he shouts to us like he did to the church at Sardis, “WAKE UP!”

Strengthen what little remains.” Do you have a sliver of faith left? Strengthen that.

How? “Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly.” Some examples of what you heard and believed at first are:

  • God loves me.
  • I matter to him.
  • His Word is my daily bread.
  • Community is essential.

As I think about those truths, it reminds me that I need to continually have truth spoken into my life, and one of the ways that happens is through reading the Bible. This past week, I was in the Dominican Republic. The pastor at the church I visited said that you wouldn’t play football without a ball, so why would you try to live the Christian life without the Word of God? He also said that if your heart’s not in the Word, it WILL be somewhere else.

So, when your priorities are out of whack, you find yourself being apathetic or moving away from God, choosing sin over him. Remember this warning to Sardis and “Wake up!”

We are never too far from God or past the point of return. He loves the people of the church of Sardis, and he loves us. He wants what’s best for us, and that is to be in right relationship with him.

Questions:
Is your Christian walk in sleep mode? Do you remember when you first started walking with Christ or a time that you were especially close to him? What steps can you take to “wake up”?

Next Steps:
Ephesians 5:14 says, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Christ will give us light. Turning to him and his word is crucial for living a life that honors and glorifies him. His word is the bread of life. Take a step to get back (or continue) in his word—even a chapter a day and the Living It Out study is a great place to start. Repent and turn back to God. He is waiting for you because you matter to him.

Prayer:
God, we thank you for your Word and the wake up call that it brings. Thank you for loving us so much that you don’t want to leave us dead in our apathy, our busyness, or our sin. Awaken our souls to follow you fervently. Help us to make time to be in your Word, to know you more, to live for you. Forgive us for moving away from you, as you have never moved. Thank you for the forgiveness and hope that we have in you. In Jesus’ name. AMEN!


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


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First Love

Today’s Scripture: Revelation 2

Revelation 2:4-5
4 But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! 5 Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.

What first drew you to Christianity?

I don’t mean what first brought you to church. What first made you want to believe that Jesus Christ is your savior?

The answer to that question will vary from person to person, but I’d bet most—if not all—answers stem from one aspect of Christianity.

Maybe there were things in your past you regretted, and you were drawn to Christianity by the idea of forgiveness. Maybe you felt ignored, lonely, or insignificant and were attracted to the belief that you matter to God. Maybe you’d been hurt, mistreated, or abused, and the thought of a God who would never abandon or forsake you tugged at your heart.

For most of us, it is Jesus’ love that first made Christianity so irresistible—the idea of a God who loves us so much that he can look past our sins. A God who cares about us as individuals and would never abandon us. A God who loved us so much that he was willing to die for us, just so we could have a relationship with him.

Isn’t that Christianity’s biggest appeal? I don’t think anybody becomes a Christian because those 10 Commandments just really spoke to them, or the church they attend is just so pretty. Maybe some people are drawn to Christianity by Christians themselves, but rarely because a Christian reasoned them into it, and definitely not because a Christian judged them into believing. Usually, it is the kindness, compassion, and love of a Christian friend that draws one to Christianity.

When you’re shown the level of love that God has shown us, there are two natural responses: wanting to reciprocate that love to the one who first showed it to you, and wanting to share that kind of love with others. So, basically, “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39).

Maybe you’re still living in that space, pouring out love to God and others. However, for many of us, that passionate love starts to cool over time. So I ask, do you have that passionate love, or are you like the Christians John is referring to in these verses?

It’s worth noting that the Christians John is writing about were doing a lot of things right. They were hard-working, they didn’t tolerate evil, and they patiently suffered and endured (Revelations 2:2-3). However, no matter how intelligent, faithful, or generous we are—no matter how good we are—without love, it means nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Because the church in Ephesus lacked love, Jesus threatened to remove its “lampstand from its place among the churches” (Revelation 2:5). Honestly, I’m not sure what that means. Still, it seems appropriate. As Christians, we are called to be like lamps, shining light into the world.

Matthew 5:14-16
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

But how?

Well, as the song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

Do you have that same love you had when you first became a Christian? Do people know you are a believer by the love and kindness you show others?

Questions:
What first drew you to Christianity? Do you have that same love you first felt when you believed—for God and for others—or have you lost some of that spark? How can you rekindle some of that love?

Next Steps:
Think back on how you acted when you first accepted Jesus as your Savior, considering the habits you’ve fallen out of and the habits you’ve drifted into. Set aside time daily to work on your relationship with God. Consider memorizing some of the verses referenced in today’s devotional.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for your unfailing love — for loving me even when I didn’t love you or others. Teach me to love like you do. Help me to love you with all that I am and to love others not only as I love myself, but also as you love them. In Jesus’ name I pray, 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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His Word

Today’s Scripture: Revelation 1

Has God ever spoken to you? Things would be, presumably, so much easier if we could hear directly from God on certain matters. Maybe he’d audibly say, “Don’t date that person—it’ll only end in misery.” Or, “Don’t buy that—you will regret it.” Hearing directly from God would make life easier. Of course, we’d have to listen for his words to be effective.

John touches on this as he writes:

Revelation 1:1-3 (Emphases added)
1 This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, 2 who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.

Notice a few key statements in the passage:

  • John faithfully reported what he saw.
  • What we’re about to read in this book is his [faithful] report.
  • God blesses anyone who reads the report.
  • God also blesses everyone who listens to the report.

This introduction to a letter in the New Testament stands alone in indicating its importance. John is essentially saying, “What you’re about to read is ridiculously important because they are God’s words to you. By reading and listening to them, you’ll be better off.”

We would do well to listen to this message, as it is specifically for the church. Of course, some of the details in the message are specific to the seven churches mentioned from the first century, but it pertains to us as well. John spends much of the rest of the opening of the letter (Chapter 1) by exalting Jesus and his word. He even describes Jesus in striking fashion (verses 12-16; see also Daniel 7:9). John’s point, seemingly, is that what the reader is about to read is of the utmost importance, as he is confident that it is most-assuredly the word of Jesus.

If John is confident in this—and many of us pay lip service to the Bible being “the Word of God”—then why do we struggle to live as if it were true? If we’re honest, we find it difficult to truly believe that God speaks to us through the Bible. We might view it as a way to know more about God, but not necessarily the way John viewed it—as words directly from the all-powerful, perfectly loving, infinitely knowing, majestic, righteous God of the Universe.

Questions:
Why do you think so many of us struggle to view the texts of the Bible in the way John did?

Do you struggle with knowing the Bible to be the way God speaks to you? If so, why?

Next Steps:
Take some time out of your day (five minutes or more) to pray to God and ask him to remind you of just how amazing and available his word really is. Try as hard as you can to treat the Bible as his word.

Prayer:
Father in heaven, I need your help. I struggle often with seeing your word as truly your word. I approach it as simply a textbook, a biography, or anything other than what it is: your glorious and perfect message for me. I know the Bible to be the primary way you communicate with me, so please help me to believe it. Amen.


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy 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.


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A Positive Voice

Today’s Scripture: Colossians 4

Have you ever been tempted to delete your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account because people, particularly Christian people, say stuff that makes you cringe? As one who spends a lot of time on social media for my job, I’ve been tempted to block a lot of Christians. Seriously. While we should stand up for our faith, too often Christians are known for what we’re against rather than what we are for.

So, how do we wisely use our voice and influence as believers on social media? Furthermore, how do we handle those who hate or oppose the gospel message?

While Paul didn’t have to deal with Facebook, he knew how to appeal to hard hearts or to those who were against the gospel for one reason or another.

Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV)
5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

In verse 6, Paul offers two precepts or guiding principles that we can apply to maximize our online opportunities with unbelievers:

  1. Share words of hope and grace rather than criticism or condemnation.
  2. Post social media updates that uplift and encourage others rather than just talking about your problems.

An older translation of Colossians 4:6 says that our words should be chosen “with grace and seasoned with salt.” Unfortunately, many Christians translate that verse to mean “judgment, seasoned with a hammer.” It’s the Holy Spirit’s role to convict unbelievers of their sin (John 16:8), while our job is to love them and share the gospel. (When it comes to calling out sin amongst believers, check out Matthew 18:15-18 or Galatians 6:1-2.)

When I’m online, I recognize that my social media comments, shared videos, or memes are opportunities to open the door to the gospel. The THINK acronym offers a practical approach to help me decide what I should or should not share:

Is it TRUE?

Is it HELPFUL?

Is it INSPIRING?

Is it NECESSARY?

Is it KIND?

When it comes to what you say or post on social media, consider the opportunities that you have to be a shining, loving example of someone who follows Jesus. Over the years, I’ve been amazed at the number of non-believers who’ve contacted me with spiritual questions because of uplifting or encouraging content that they’ve seen on my page. Believe that your encouraging words are a door for the gospel. Make it your mission online to open as many doors as possible!

Questions:
How can you use your social media to be an attractive door for the gospel?

Next Steps:
Spend the next week sharing encouraging words with others to uplift them—whether they are believers or not.

Prayer:
Dear God, I want to make the most of every opportunity, including my social media pages. I will look to you for wisdom on what to post and how to respond to those who may not always like what I post. Let my words be an encouragement to believers and a door to the gospel in an unbeliever’s life. Amen.


This post was written by Barb Roose. Barb’s main passion in life is to be a shining light for Jesus! She worked on staff at CedarCreek Church for 14 years. Since 2016, Barb travels as a full-time speaker and author, but she’s at the Creek every weekend with her family and periodically serves as a Growth Track host. She loves traveling, reading and all things chocolate peanut-butter.


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Thankfulness

Today’s Scripture: Colossians 3

When I was sixteen, my mom died suddenly. I longed for a womanly influence in my life, like a sister. I was overjoyed when God blessed me with two daughters, Anna and Sarah. They grew up so fast that before I knew it, they were adults. I looked forward to doing all the things with them I wasn’t able to do with my mom. Lunches, talks, trips, family dinners on Sundays, etc. I dreamed about having a close relationship with them and that they would live close by.

Of course, reality set in. First, Sarah was adamant that she wanted to go away to college. She had dreams of moving away permanently. I was disappointed, but I still had Anna close by. She was a junior at the University of Toledo studying engineering. I thought, I will be okay Anna will be close by, and I can visit Sarah a lot. And then the other shoe dropped. I remember the day Anna told me, “I want to go into the Navy and be a pilot.”

I was stunned. I’ve always had so much respect for the militarymy twin brother, Mark, was a proud Marine. I remember smiling on the outside but in my head I screamed, “Really God!” I remember telling myself she will change her mind. However, during a lunch several months later, she told me, “I believe being a pilot is the purpose God has for my life.” This time, I screamed in my head, “God, you are really not funny!”

I realized how selfish I was behaving and how proud I was that my daughter wanted to serve her country. I knew at that moment, I needed to change my perspective. I had a choice to make: focus on my disappointment and be ungrateful or thank God for all the opportunities he was giving my daughters. I realized that I had to surrender my dream to God and not strive to get what I wanted. So instead, I prayed for and encouraged my daughters to fulfill their dreams.

I have found that I will not experience Jesus’ peace unless I am thankful for his many blessings. I’ve learned to trust him when things aren’t going the way I want. I have tried to change my focus away from me and my issues and toward his many blessings. When I do this, I am filled with his peace.

A few years ago, I began writing down three ways God blessed me each day. I focus on them and thank him. When something bad happens, I meditate on how God has helped me through rough times in the past, and I thank him for his faithfulness. I am so grateful for the peace God has given me. I know when I let his peace rule in my heart, I am better able to serve him and fulfill my God-given purpose.

Colossians 3:15 (NIV)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

I love this verse!

Today, my daughter Anna lives in Pensacola, Florida, and she is finishing up Navy flight school. My daughter Sarah graduated from the University of Richmond a year ago and lives in Richmond, Virginia. I talk, FaceTime, and text them frequently. We are so close. I am the first one they call with good and bad news. Just yesterday, Sarah called to let me know she got the job of her dreams. Anna is doing well. I treasure every minute I get to spend with them.

I am happy to say God has given me the most amazing Christian sisters. They have blessed my life beyond measure. I am so thankful that these women are in my life. We have fun together, support each other, laugh together, and pray for each other. My husband and I are having the time of our lives being empty nesters. My dreams didn’t work out the way I envisioned them—God had a plan—and it is so much better than I could have ever imagined!

Questions:
What is the correlation between thankfulness and peace? What are you grateful for today? Why is it so important to let the peace of Christ rule in your heart?

Next Steps:
Start writing down three things you are grateful for each day and thank God for them. Meditate on God’s blessings. Journal about how you feel when you focus on God’s blessings instead of your problems.

Prayer:
Jesus, I am so thankful for all your love, peace, and blessings. Help me to recognize every one of your blessings. Forgive me whenever I am selfish and ungrateful. Help me to focus on you and not my struggles. Help me to surrender everything to you. I know you will resolve things better than I can ever imagine. I praise you for your faithfulness. 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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I Have the Nail!

Today’s Scripture: Colossians 2

I gave my life to Christ on February 16, 1994. It turns out that it was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which encompasses the 40 days that lead up to Easter. We don’t necessarily focus on Lent in our church calendar, but it was part of my childhood church tradition. When I told the news to my mom, who had been praying for me for years, she was thrilled! She gave me a devotional book that her church was using for Lent, along with a nail. Twenty-five years later, I still have the nail. I’m actually holding it in my hand right now. During that season of Lent, I meditated on these verses:

Colossians 2:13-15 (emphasis added)
13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

A couple weeks later, my mom, a girlfriend, and I traveled to Ixtapa, Mexico, for a vacation. Ixtapa is on the west coast of Mexico, overlooking the magnificent Pacific Ocean. Every morning, I took my nail and my devotional booklet down to the beach where I thought about what the nail meant. I talked to God about my recent decision to turn my life over to Jesus as I looked out on his stunning creation.

At 43, I knew I had been dead in my sins. I believed that, incredibly, God had made me alive with Christ! He had forgiven all—that would be ALL—of my sins. Not only did he forgive them, but he canceled the record of charges against me. He took those charges and nailed them to the cross! I had the nail! Well, not THE nail, but that nail took on enormous importance as I began to understand the price Jesus was willing to pay for me. And not only were my sins nailed to the cross, but in doing so, Jesus took away all the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities (all those who stand in opposition to the supremacy of Christ alone). Not only did he take away their authority, but he shamed them in public, in front of everyone, on a cross!

Holding that nail pierces my heart to this day. It is precious to me because during that Lent season, I came to understand and embrace the fact that my life would never be the same. I knew that Jesus had done for me what I could never do for myself—and that nail represented his sacrifice for me. I was ready to sacrifice my life and my will for his will. I still am.

Questions:
In your walk with Christ, have you found somethingan object, a verse, maybe a poemthat symbolizes your commitment to him? Have you ever thought about a symbol of some sort that could be that for you? (In the Old Testament, that sort of symbol has been called an ebenezer. I like that!)

Next Steps:
Look for a verse, a symbol, or something else that might become a physical reminder of your commitment to Christ. It might be your “PRAY First” bracelet! If you already have a symbol, journal about its significance to you and what difference it makes in your life.

Prayer:
O Lord, my God! I pray that I never get over the amazing truth that you sent your one and only Son for me! I pray that I remember to thank you every day for that sacrifice. My desire is, that out of my love and gratitude to you, I consciously submit my will to yours every day. I thank you that your mercies are new every morning and available to all who ask. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.


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Endurance Training

Today’s Scripture: Colossians 1

If you’ve been baptized and/or have experienced a baptism service, you know how present the Holy Spirit is. It’s practically tangible. The experience of being baptized is somewhat similar to the emotions and excitement felt when getting married. It’s passion accompanied by a giant leap into uncharted territory. It’s scary, but beautiful.

However, anyone will tell you that the day after, the week after, the years after that wedding… things change. Without an intentional effort to continually seek each other in the marriage as partners, the emotions and passion felt on the wedding day may become more like a distant memory than a current reality. If we’re not careful, that is, if we don’t continually seek God after taking the step into a relationship with him, the passion we once felt may begin to fizzle, leaving us feeling lost.

In today’s reading, Paul praises the Christ followers of Colossae for maintaining their passion for the gospel and for fixing their eyes on Heaven. He prays for their strength, so that they would have the endurance and patience they needed to be fruitful in their faith walks.

Colossians 1:5-8 (MSG)
5-8 The Message is as true among you today as when you first heard it. It doesn’t diminish or weaken over time. It’s the same all over the world. The Message bears fruit and gets larger and stronger, just as it has in you. From the very first day you heard and recognized the truth of what God is doing, you’ve been hungry for more. It’s as vigorous in you now as when you learned it from our friend and close associate Epaphras. He is one reliable worker for Christ! I could always depend on him. He’s the one who told us how thoroughly love had been worked into your lives by the Spirit.

Colossians 1:11-12 (MSG)
11-12 We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

So how do we do this? Many married couples set aside a certain day for a date night. They plan their schedules around that time with one another.

In the same way, we need to plan our schedules around our God-time rather than trying to squeeze time with God into our busy days. He needs to be the priority. When we make it our purpose to pursue him, we become like a runaway snowball from those old cartoons: speed increasing, no obstacle capable of stopping us, and growing in strength while taking anyone in our path with us. When we are intentional with our relationship with God, together we can become unstoppable. Isn’t that who you want to be for God?

Questions:
Have you experienced a time when you felt so much passion for God, only for it to fizzle out later? If so, have you been able to reclaim it?

What steps can you take to designate “pursuing God” as your purpose?

Next Steps:
Take a look at your calendar and see if there is anything standing in the way of your time with God. If possible, reschedule or just remove it. We really have no excuse to not spend time with God. We find time to watch our favorite shows, pursue hobbies, and sometimes just mindlessly scroll on our phones. Prayerfully assess where your priorities need shifting, and then make the necessary changes so that you will be filled with passion and hungry for more time with God, not burdened by it.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, I pray that I will never lose my endurance and strength in pursuing you and your word. Help me to recognize where I need to shift my priorities so that my fire for you will grow. I pray that my passion for you grows so big that people around me can’t help but join me in loving you. Amen.


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


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Spiritual Armor

Today’s Scripture: Ephesians 6

Baseball is my favorite sport! Oh, I know some think it’s boring, but that must be because they have never watched the College World Series or even the Little League World Series.

My son played baseball from the time he was 8 years old through high school. He played different positions on the teams throughout his years. When he was the catcher, he needed special equipment (once called catcher’s armor) to keep himself protected from errant balls, foul tips, and flying bats. He would never have crouched behind the plate without donning all his equipment. When he was on the field, he knew who his opponent was, what would be coming at him, when the opponent would strike, and what he needed to protect himself.

Today’s Scripture is a letter that was written by the Apostle Paul to the Saints in Ephesus, while he was incarcerated in a Roman prison. Paul was most likely surrounded by guards wearing armor. During Biblical times, everyone would have been familiar with what Roman soldiers looked like, the armor they wore, and the purpose of each piece of armor. So, for him to use the analogy of physical armor to spiritual armor would have been quite appropriate.

Ephesians 6:13-18
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the times of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Let’s unpack what Paul meant by the full armor of God by comparing it with actual Roman armor:

  • The Belt of Truth

The Roman belt was used to hang weapons on so the soldier would have quick access to them. The spiritual belt is truth. Psalm 18:30 states that “all the Lord’s promises prove true.”

  • The Breastplate of Righteousness

The Roman breastplate protected the vital organs. The spiritual breastplate is righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states that our righteousness with God was given to us through Jesus Christ.

  • The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace

The Roman shoes were thickly studded with sharp nails to insure a good grip. The spiritual shoes help us walk with confidence, so we are prepared to share the Good News with others. John 16:33 states that Jesus overcame the world so that we may have peace in him.

  • The Shield of Faith

The Roman shield was made from wood covered with linen and leather as protection from fiery arrows. The spiritual shield is our faith in God. Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38 all state that the righteous shall live by faith.

  • The Helmet of Salvation

The Roman helmet protected the head. The spiritual helmet is the hope of salvation. Romans 8:31 states that if God is for us, who can be against us.

  • The Sword of the Spirit

The Roman sword was a double-edged weapon used to protect the soldier or to attack the enemy. The spiritual sword is the word of God or Holy Scriptures. Hebrews 4:12 states that “the word of God is alive and powerful” and cuts between the soul and the spirit.

  • Prayer in the Spirit

Prayer is the way we draw spiritual strength from God.

Ephesians 6:11
Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.

Paul packed a lot in this verse. He told us who the enemy is (the devil), what we are battling against (the devil’s schemes), the goal of the battle (to stand firm against the devil), and how we can win the battle (by putting on the whole armor of God). The one question he did not answer is when. Since none of us know when battles will arise, it is always a good idea to pray, read the Bible, have Jesus in your heart, and say “I am prepared!”

Questions:
What are you struggling with?

How do you stand strong during spiritual battles?

Are you missing a piece or two of God’s armor?

Next Steps:
Think about the whole armor of God. Now examine your armor to see if there are any pieces missing. Journal what can be done to add any missing pieces so you can stand firm against the evil forces.

Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your armor that protects us against evil. Give us insight to know which pieces we are missing and how to acquire them. Embrace us Lord so we may know true peace. Guide us so we may live out your divine plan for our lives. All this we pray in Jesus’ name, 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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We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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