Share the Gift of Your Story

We just love getting gifts! As children, we get presents, and we get all excited. Ripping off the paper and revealing the great present hidden inside, we show everyone what a great gift we have received. These days, gifts don’t come nearly as often as they did when I was growing up. But there is still an inexplicable air of excitement that goes with receiving a gift. I think it is because the gifts I receive now show the love for me that is in the heart of the giver. It makes me want to take that gift and show everyone how much I am loved.

The God of the universe has given me the greatest gift in sacrificing his only Son to purchase my freedom. That great gift demonstrates the immeasurable love that God has for me. How excited I am to have received that gift – the gift of forgiveness! But knowing the price that was paid for the gift and the love that was shown in the giving move me to share what has happened with others. I am excited to let others know that this great gift of love is available for them as well. I want those I know and love to share in the blessing of the greatest gifts: forgiveness and friendship with God.

Romans 5:10-11

10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Friendship with God changes us. The woman at the well was ostracized from social interaction because of her lifestyle. She came to the well at a time when no one would be drawing water (midday) in order to maintain that isolation. At that well, she had an encounter with Jesus. He saw her. He knew her. He had compassion for her. That encounter changed her life. She was no longer seeking to be apart from the crowd. Instead, she went into the city and sought out those that she knew to tell them of the great gift she had received. She was excited, and she wanted others to meet Jesus and share in that same joy.

John 4:39-42 
39 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” 40 When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, 41 long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. 42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Our story about Jesus is just as powerful as the story of the Samaritan woman. He loves us and seeks us out. Even as we hide from him, he sees us and comes after us with a desire to make us part of his family. We have become friends with God through the sacrifice of Jesus. As a result, we are able to love others and share the truth of this great gift with them. And as we share the gift we have been given with others, we bring to light God’s great love for them.

Questions:
Have you received the great gift of forgiveness and life available through faith in Jesus?

If so, has your friendship with Jesus changed how you show love to others?

Are you moved by the great gift that you have received to share the news of that gift with those you know and love?

Next Steps:
Write out the story of how you came to have a relationship with Jesus. Include details that led you to put your faith in Jesus.

Pick a person you know and ask them if you can share your story with them to get their feedback. Writing the story first will help you be focused and confident in your sharing. Then, be open and honest and share the story you have written. God will take care of the rest. He just wants us to share.

Prayer:
Dear Father, help me always to be excited about the great gift you have given to me through the sacrifice of Jesus. May I be always mindful of the way you love me and the great price that Jesus paid to provide that gift. May I look to the Samaritan woman as an example of how I should show that love to others. You have called me your friend. Move in my heart to share the truth regarding the change that your friendship has made in my life. Give me the courage and the love of others that I need to be able to share. I will give you all the praise. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Terry McGraner. Terry is an engineer at Dana Corporation. He facilitates GrowthTrack and leads a Group at the South Toledo campus. He is married and the father of four adult sons. He loves spending time with his family and communicating the truth of God’s Word to make an impact in the lives of others.


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Does God Want to Hear from Me?

Have you ever fallen out of contact with a friend? I imagine we all have.
Maybe you upset them, and they stopped talking to you. Maybe they upset you, and you haven’t gotten over it.

Or maybe, neither of you did anything wrong. They moved, you got busy, and without even realizing it, a month passed with no contact between the two of you.

Or two months. Or twelve.

Then one day, out of the blue, you wonder, whatever happened to…?

Whether it was a falling-out or just neglect, there’s a good chance the thought of reaching out has crossed your mind. It’s easy enough with social media. You could probably find them on Facebook and send a quick message.

But it’s not that simple, is it?

Because they hurt you. Or you hurt them.
Because they might not want to hear from you.
Because how do you explain weeks, months, years of silence?

So, we don’t send that message.

When we feel like a friendship has been lost, we hide. We do it to our friends, family, and sometimes even God.

Here’s another question: have you ever been reluctant to read your Bible, to pray, or even to step foot in church because you’re afraid you’ve upset God? It could be that you have a recurring sin you’re struggling to overcome, or that you’ve made a mistake you fear is too big to forgive.  Maybe it’s just been too long. You feel the guilt in your gut and start to wonder, Does God even want to hear from me?

He does – and he desires more than a quick message. A quick message is just the start, but he longs to be your best friend and Father. He wants this so much he sent Jesus to pay for your sins – all of them – so that you can have a relationship with him.

 Romans 5:10-11
10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

You can stop hiding. You can stop running. No matter what you’ve done, or how long it’s been, God is offering you a chance to begin again. He’s waiting. All you have to do is reach out.

James 4:8 (ESV)   
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

 

Questions:
Have you been avoiding God or trying to avoid a specific conversation with God?

Which of these four areas is a barrier to your friendship with God: guilt, shame, protection or pride?

What truth does God want to lead you into?

Next Steps:
Identify a person or a conversation that you have been avoiding. Ask yourself if it is pride, guilt, pride, shame, or protection causing you to hide. Take one step this week toward coming out of hiding in this situation.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for this opportunity to remember what a gift you gave us when you sent Jesus Christ for us. Thank you for making a relationship with you possible, even when we were far from you. We pray that you will draw us closer to you, reminding us that we don’t need to hide. May your will be done. Amen.


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


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I Need Help

As a man who is married with children and works in a leadership position, I rarely like to admit that I need help. I tend to rely on my own ability, my own knowledge, and my own experience. I’ve got it. I can handle it. I often find myself trying to hoard more manna than I need, only to find it has rotted by the morning (for more on this, read Exodus 16). I think I can do more than I am able, relying on my own strength. But to be honest, I have let myself down more times than I would like to admit.

John 4 recounts the story of a Samaritan woman who probably feels let down by life, by one or more of her five previous husbands, perhaps even by herself. The woman meets Jesus as she attempts to fulfill her physical need for water. She actually had two needs, but she was oblivious to the second, deeper need of spiritual fulfillment. In those days, it was unheard of for a Jew to engage a Samaritan in conversation, and even less likely if that Samaritan was a woman. Even so, Jesus asked the woman to help him get a drink from the well. When she felt compelled to tell him all the reasons why she couldn’t help him, Jesus replied,

John 4:13-14
13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

The woman jumps at the prospect of never having to make the trek to the well for water ever again, but as Jesus continues to converse with her, she realizes he is talking about a deeper need than physical thirst. Like the Samaritan woman, in order to become friends with God, we need to see our need. This woman had a longing to be seen and loved. When Jesus explains that he knows all about her past and is still offering her friendship, then she comes out of hiding and begins seeking.

Questions:
Do you typically think you can handle life on your own?

Is there an area in your life where you need to ask for help?

Are you able to identify your needs?

Next Steps:
Irrespective of whether you consider yourself a mature Christian or someone who is still looking for answers, we all need help, whether we want to admit it or not. Be honest with yourself about a need that you have right now. Journal it out and take it to the Lord in prayer.

Prayer:
God, I want to be filled with your living water – the love that never ends, never fails, never gives up. I don’t want to wander around the desert. I don’t want to find my own manna. I want to trust in you to provide what I need, when I need it, and when you want me to have it. Amen.


This post was written by Ryan Cook. Ryan is an executive director for two Chick-fil-A restaurants in Toledo, so if you see him at church and think he looks familiar, that’s where you know him from. He is married with a son and a daughter. Follow him on Twitter @CookfilA.


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Can You See Jesus?

This past weekend, Ben Snyder unpacked the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. In yesterday’s study, we looked at how the Samaritan woman was surprised that Jesus saw her. Today, we will look at how Jesus let her know that she did not really see him.

John 4:10
Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

John 4:25-26
25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

The woman did not understand with whom she was speaking. She did not know he was the one she needed. His living water would wash away her sins and give her eternal life, unlike any water drawn from the well.

To become friends of Jesus, we need to see Jesus for all he is. The Bible has a myriad of verses that give us insight into the Son of God. The following list is just a small sample:

  1. Son of the Most High“He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.” (Luke 1:32)
  2. Lamb of God“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
  3. Resurrection and the LifeJesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. (John 11:25)
  4. Almighty One“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” (Revelation 1:8)
  5. Bread of Life“Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
  6. Light of the World – “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12)

Once we understand who Jesus is, we begin to comprehend what he has done for us and how important it is to follow him.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


Questions:

Do you know the gift God has for you?

Are you like the Samaritan woman who did not recognize Jesus?

Are you friends with Jesus?

Next Steps:
Jesus died for our sins and then rose from the dead. His resurrection symbolizes that eternal life is granted to anyone who believes in him. This is a great promise and blessing and helps us see who God is—our Savior. This week, start each day by focusing on one of the six verses from above. Ask God to help you see him.

Prayer:
Dear heavenly Father, help us focus on the amazing gift of the Easter season. Thank you for sending your Son to die for our sins. Grant us wisdom so we may see Jesus for all he is and become friends with him. Through your Son’s name we pray, amen.


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


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God Wants to Be My Friend?

My daughter Ruby is 3 years old, and one of my favorite games to play with her is hide and seek. Even though she’s not very good at the game, it doesn’t make it any less fun. She can only hide for so long (roughly 30 seconds) before she leaves her hiding place and yells for me to come and get her. She also tends to laugh uncontrollably as I approach her hiding space. The funniest part is that she is simply a bad hider. Just like any small child, Ruby thinks that if she hides her face, she is hidden from the seeker. She’ll bury herself under a pillow, and since she cannot see anything, she assumes that no one can see her. Unfortunately for her, the seeker can see her arms, legs, and pigtails.

Ruby, in her youth, thinks that if she can’t see anyone, no one can see her. As an adult, I laugh at this and find it quite funny. If an adult were to hide like this, however, and sincerely think he was hidden, it would be a bit concerning.

Unfortunately, this is often how many of us act when it comes to God. To illustrate, this past weekend Ben Snyder described a story from the book of John in which Jesus interacts with a Samaritan woman.

 John 4:7-9
7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

One significant part of this passage is verse 9. The hatred between Jews and Samaritans at this time was deep. So deep in fact, that Jews and Samaritans refused even to be near each other. But Jesus, being the long-awaited Jewish messiah, spoke with the Samaritan woman seemingly as if those lines of hatred were non-existent. This woman would have never expected that the Jewish Messiah would speak with her. She would have felt as if she were invisible to God – as if she were hiding in plain sight. But Jesus – being God – knew who she was and wanted to be close to her. Throughout our lives, we too act like this woman. We think we can hide from God, for whatever reason, and that he can’t find us. Or we think that we are invisible to God, that he does not even care about us. But God seeks us out – even when we feel the most invisible (or undesirable).

When the Jewish leaders wanted to execute a woman who had been caught in adultery, Jesus loved her (John 8:11). When the many lepers were kicked out of their city, Jesus healed them (Luke 17:11-19). When Jesus encountered a rich tax collector – whom everyone hated – he ate with him (Mark 2:13-17). Our God loves to seek out those far from him. No matter where you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how hidden you think you might be, God is present. Your socioeconomic status, ethnicity, weekend activity, or even religious affiliation cannot stop him from loving you. He sees you. He really sees you, and you matter to him.

Become friends with God, because he is already friends with you. Over the next few days, we will look at what it takes to become friends with God.


Questions:
Think about times in your life during which you thought you were hidden from God. What happened?

Next Steps:
Write a paragraph describing what you believe God sees when he looks at you. Does your paragraph reflect the reality that God wants to be friends with you? Why or why not?

Prayer:
God, thank you for being a friend to me. I know you see me even when I don’t want to be seen. Keep me from hiding so I can grow in my intimacy with you. I ask this in the name of Jesus. 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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Power of an Invite

Today concludes our series on prayer, and our Easter services begin tonight. This week in LivingItOut, we have learned how prayer makes us better under pressure. At the beginning of the series, Ben Snyder asked us to pray consistently for someone and to look for an opportunity to invite them to an Easter service. Sometimes, there is no greater pressure (or so it seems) than the burden to share your faith with someone close to you. So much is at stake, and so much depends on their response. With all that pressure, it is easy for us to take all that responsibility on ourselves.

However, we are not in charge of how people respond to our invitation—God is! He only desires that we be obedient to what he asks us to do. Jesus was willing to obey God’s plan that required his sacrifice as substitutionary payment for our sin. He trusted God with the outcome.

 

Matthew 26:42
Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.

 

On a much lesser scale, God asks us to be willing to step out of our comfort zone, to invite people into a relationship with him. Sometimes it takes persistently asking, as we have learned is also necessary in prayer. Often, it takes an investment in building a relationship, spending time, listening, earning the right to be trusted as a friend rather than seeing a person as an agenda item. Even though Easter is a great time to invite people to church, maybe now is not the time for the person(s) for whom you’ve been praying to come. You don’t know the right time – only God does – but you do know they most likely will not come unless you ask! So keep praying and keep listening, to them and to God.

For 14 years I prayed for my daughter to come to know Jesus. Our relationship was rocky. Her church experience was really bad. In my misguided enthusiasm and concern for her eternity, for the first five years I “assaulted” her with the Bible. Then, I realized that God loved her even more than I did, that he wanted her to be his more than I did. So I eased off, and prayed. I loved her, and gave her back to God, praying that he would put someone in her life that would lead her to him. I prayed. I listened. I persisted, gently and with respect. This past February, she celebrated her 10th year as a Christ-follower! I did what God asked and trusted him with the outcome. It works!

 

Questions:

Whom has God placed on your heart to invite to church? Have you invited them to Easter service?

 

If you haven’t extended an invitation to them, what has kept you from doing so?

 

Can you go with them? Sometimes that makes all the difference!

 

Next steps:

Keep praying for the people God has placed in your circle of influence.

Pray for opportunities to invite them to church. Offer to pray for them, share scriptural truths, or share the gospel with them.

In addition to tonight (Friday, March 30 at 5:15 and 7pm), we have Easter Services on Saturday, March 31 at 3:30, 5:15 and 7pm, and Sunday, April 1 at 9, 10:45am and 12:30pm. Why so many? Because people matter to God, and they matter to us.

 

Prayer:
Precious Father, thank you that you love us so much, that you were willing to give your one and only Son that we might have a relationship with you. Help us to be generous with this amazing gift, to share it with those we love. Give us courage and grace. In your name, 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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Communion

In Matthew 26, we read about Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, commonly referred to as “the Last Supper.”

Matthew 26:17-28  
17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?”

18 “As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus told them and prepared the Passover meal there.

20 When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the Twelve. 21 While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

22 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”

23 He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. 24 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”

25 Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?”

And Jesus told him, “You have said it.”

26 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.”

Wasn’t it incredible to take Communion together as a church this past weekend? This is a great way for us to receive what Jesus did for us on the cross. Jesus commands us to take Communion to remember that he died to pay the debt for our sins.

The Last Supper took place during Passover, a holy event for Jewish people commemorating the time that God spared them from the plague of physical death and delivered them from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 11-13). During a traditional Passover meal, every food has a meaning. The bitter herbs represent the bitterness of slavery, the salt water represents the tears they shed under Egypt’s oppression, etc. During the dinner with his disciples, Jesus took two common Passover symbols and gave them fresh meaning as a way to remember his sacrifice and the grace that he offers. Instead of giving the traditional meanings for the bread and wine, Jesus reinterpreted them in himself. The focus was no longer on the suffering of Israel in Egypt, but on the sacrifice Jesus made for us. With the Last Supper, Jesus provided a new story of redemption to be celebrated with a new ceremonial meal.


Questions:
How did Jesus give the Passover meal new significance?

Why is taking Communion important?

Next Steps:
Read through Exodus 11-13. Journal, or discuss with a friend, any significance this story adds to your understanding of Communion.

Prayer:
Jesus, thank you for sacrificing your life for my sins. Thank you for offering me the gift of grace and providing a way to remember your sacrifice and receive your forgiveness. Amen.


This post was written by Meghan Yarnell. Meghan is an art teacher and artist. She is married and has a son and daughter.


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Juicy Fruit

The kind of juice one gets depends on the kind of fruit being squeezed.  Not many bananas, cantaloupe, or peaches are juiced (although they are excellent in smoothies!). We desire the navel oranges, lemons, grapes, or carrots. Why? Because they are juicy! The results of those freshly extracted nectars are delicious.

When the pressure is on, what comes out of us?

It depends on what is inside, what kind of “fruit” we are.  This depends on who we are, what we have witnessed in others’ lives, and how we choose to react when we do feel the squeeze.  Oh, and you WILL feel the squeeze at some point.

It was three years ago when our family home burned down for a total loss.  No life was lost, but the humongous weight of the disaster put the squeeze on all ten of our immediate family members.  We were about to discover what kind of fruit we were—mushy bananas or sweet, refreshing oranges. Were we going to just have sour lemons or let the Lord make lemonade? The interesting thing is, you do not know what kind of fruit you are until you are pressed and the juice comes out.

We know what kind of fruit we should be. God desires the nectar of the Christian to be sweet trust, fragrant faith, the perfume of peace, the essence of hope. That is what we strive for, but it is not always what comes out. Let’s observe Jesus under the pressure of his impending crucifixion:

Matthew 26:39b
“My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

What kind of “fruit” was Jesus? Who he is: God’s Son. What had he witnessed for eternity? His Father’s goodness, faithfulness and love.  How did he choose to react? He prayed. He trusted, had faith, peace and hope.

And again in Matthew 26:42:
Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.”

Jesus’ example is to ask God for what we want. It is ok to do so!  Yet, we must trust his will for us. We can resist the pressure of God’s will, or we can receive it and the blessings that follow. My husband and I realized that the only way for the sweet nectar to flow was to trust God and lean into the squeeze.

 

Questions:
Which choice have YOU made when the squeeze is on? Resist or receive? With whom can you share your struggle or victory?

Next Steps:    
Pray! Ask God to grow you so that you are ready when the pressure does come. Spiritual maturity is trusting God under pressure. Ask God to strengthen your faith and trust that his plan is best. Choose a verse to memorize such as 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, James 4:8a, Romans 8:28, or Hebrews 11:1.

Prayer:
Father, we long to be safe, happy, and untouched by the ills of this world. But, YOU long for us to be like Jesus: trusting, faithful, beautiful under pressure. Help us to withstand the pressures of this life and the trials we are facing in each direction. Help us to lean into you in prayer, to turn to you FIRST, not last. Allow me the privilege to mature day by day and to be confident that you are right here with me, through it all.  In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Julie Roehl. Julie loves God’s Word and CedarCreek and is so very grateful for the love and grace of Jesus. She enjoys grammar, traveling, and tennis. She is married to John, and they are blessed with 7 children.


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Feel the Pressure

The last week of Jesus’ life, captured in Matthew 21-28, was full of emotional highs and lows. He entered Jerusalem as a king. People threw their cloaks and palm branches down before him. They praised him shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Next, he went into the temple and was filled with holy anger as he drove out the money changers and merchants. He healed the sick and taught in the temple. He was anointed in Bethany with costly perfume. He shared an intimate meal with his closest friends, knowing they would all abandon him, one would betray him, and one would deny him. Finally, he took his three closest friends with him to the Garden of Gethsemane to await the hour of his betrayal.

Gethsemane literally means “place of the olive press”. It is a perfect description of what Jesus experienced during his last hours of freedom. He felt the pressure of his final hours heavily upon his soul. He was full of anguish and grief.

 

Matthew 26:38
He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 

Luke 22:44   
He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

 

Jesus knew the agony he was going to experience. He knew that all those he loved would abandon him. He knew he would experience unspeakable pain. He knew that his own Father would turn his back on him as he became detestable sin before a righteous God. He knew this was why he came, and he asked for it to be taken away.

We, as Americans, are afraid of pain. We do everything possible to avoid pain, and why not? Who wants to willingly expose themselves to pain? We don’t want the pressures of the world to weigh us down. At the weekend service, Ben Snyder used a juicer to demonstrate how pressure can sometimes be a good thing. Pressure can push out of us good things that are hidden deep inside. However, often we fight against that pressure. We want the good things that can come from pressure, but without the struggle. Other times, we are just afraid to experience pain, not knowing if we can survive it. Jesus felt the pressure, but he was not crushed under the weight. He allowed the pressure to bring him to prayer.

 

Matthew 26:39a    
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.

 

He did not want to suffer. He asked God to take it away. When we come before God in prayer we need to ask God for what we want. God is not afraid of our requests. He knows our hearts and knows what we need, but he wants us to open ourselves up to him. When we feel pressure, it should push us to prayer.

 

Questions:
Do you allow the pressure you feel to lead you into prayer?

Have you ever experienced anguish of soul? Did it lead you toward God in prayer, or away from God?

Next Steps:
Reflect on your current circumstances. Pick one area where you feel pressure and allow it to lead you toward God in prayer, and to a place where you can receive from him.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for allowing us to feel pressure in this world. Thank you that you care about our daily concerns and want us to lift them up before you. Remind us that the pressure we feel is an opportunity to come before you and ask for what we need. Thank you for Jesus who willingly suffered for us and gives us an example of how to pray. Amen.


This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie Mabus is a writer with the LivingItOut Bible Study. She 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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It’s Not Always About the For

We pray for a lot of things.

We pray for ourselves, our families, our friends and other loved ones, and sometimes for people we’ve never met. We pray for good health, physical safety, and financial security; we pray for strength, courage, and self-discipline. We pray for wisdom and guidance. We pray for a lot of things. But when’s the last time you prayed without the for? When’s the last time you just prayed?

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with “praying for”; the Bible tells us to pray for forgiveness, our daily needs, and others, just to name a few things. However, if we only pray to ask God for things, then we are missing out on a far greater opportunity.

As we have discussed in this series, prayer is not meant to be a last resort, nor is it primarily about what we get. Prayer is meant to be an ongoing, relational conversation with God. I cannot stress enough how amazing it is that our all-knowing, all-powerful God, who created all that we see, allows us to come into his presence and speak directly to him!

But he does. And that’s what prayer is about.

Yes, we’re meant to ask God for what we need. This is a parent-child relationship. However, if your children only came to chat with you when they needed something, you’d probably be a little hurt. Of course, any good parent wants their child to ask when they need help, especially if that parent is able to help (and God certainly is). But prayer goes far beyond that.

Prayer can be thanking God for what he has done for us, or asking what he wants us to do for him and his Kingdom. Prayer can even just be telling God about your day – both the parts that were praiseworthy and the parts that weren’t so pretty. God wants to hear it all. These different types of prayers are all ways we can draw closer to God and can reveal how God wants to use us.

This week, we’ll be talking about how prayer can make us better under pressure, drawing on the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). In these verses, Jesus asks for God to take away this cup of suffering he is about to drink from, if there is another way. However, he ends each prayer asking for God’s will to be done.

I am not a biblical scholar, so I can’t claim to understand everything going on in these verses. But personally, I think Jesus (in his divine nature) knew God wouldn’t take this cup from him, that there was no other way but the cross. Although this is what Jesus asked for as he was pouring his heart out to his Father, and although it was what his heart desired (in his human nature), I don’t think Jesus went to the garden or said that prayer expecting for God to answer it in the affirmative. I think he was looking to connect with God the Father relationally, so that he could handle what was ahead.

When we pray under pressure, God doesn’t always remove the pressure, but he does help make us better under pressure (Philippians 4:13) – because it’s not about what we’re praying for. It’s about whom we’re connecting with.

 

Questions:
When is the last time you prayed to God instead of for something?

Next Steps:
Spend some time in prayer, focusing on thanking God, communicating with God, and listening to God.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of prayer. Thank you for allowing us into your presence, for listening to all we have to say, and for answering prayers. Thank you for not always taking away the pressure in our lives, but for always giving us the strength we need to get through it. May your will be done above all else. Amen.


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


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

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


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More Resources

Memory Verses
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