My Today is Not My Forever

My now ex-husband made our divorce as vicious, bitter, and acrimonious as he had always promised to make it. He had threatened that if we ever divorced, I would be lucky to see my daughters every other weekend because according to him, he was the better parent and thus would be their caregiver. Oh, and he would also get the house, so I had better find a new place to live. My ex-husband was verbally and emotionally abusive to me for many years, and even when he became physically abusive in the last year of our marriage, I was still holding out hope that he would finally get the help that he needed. But there came a night when I was, for the first time, truly afraid for my life and the lives of my sleeping daughters—I had that gut instinct that things could go horribly wrong that night. I locked myself in my bedroom, called for help, and got a civil protection order the next day. I was terrified in the courtroom with the magistrate, even though it was just the two of us. I had never been in a courtroom before. I recounted through tears what had lead up to this court appearance. I felt like a failure, like I had done something wrong in our marriage. Like I had failed somehow.

I never knew what new schemes and lies my ex-husband would come up with during the divorce proceedings. My attorney said that he had never seen someone like him in his 30-year career. But, something else happened during these months—for the first time, I discovered strengths that I never knew I had, and I discovered that God had already put a group of wonderful people in my life who helped me through this incredibly tough time. (My family was also very supportive, but they all live in Germany.)

1 Peter 5:10

In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.

Just like Peter told the early Christians, God will lift you up again after your suffering. What is lost will be returned and restored to you in eternity. So do not despair! Looking back a few years later, I can see that God had a plan for me for a better life. He helped me through the divorce by putting good people at every step of the way to guide me and support me. I got the civil protection order, the magistrate (in the end) saw through my husband’s schemes and lies, I am my daughters’ legal guardian, and I got to keep the house. And after some bizarre, and in retrospect, even sometimes hilarious online dating experiences, I did finally meet a wonderful man with a good heart. What kept me going every day during those difficult times was the thought that my today was not my forever, and I feel blessed to see now what God had in store for me all along.

Questions:
When was the last time that you went through a difficult time? Are you going through a difficult time now? Are you asking God for guidance as to what you should do to navigate through this? Are there good people in your life, who love you and whom God placed there for you? Are you reminding yourself that your today is not your forever, that there will be an end to your suffering?

Next Steps:
Look at the people in your life to see whether anyone is suffering and think about how you could help them through their difficult time. If you are suffering, look for people that God has placed in your life to help you make it through. Write down things you can look forward to again once your suffering has passed.

Today, we complete 1 Peter by going through 1 Peter 5. Feel free to simply read through the chapter. Or, you can listen to it through the StreetLights Bible. Download the app or visit streetlightsbible.com.

Prayer:
Dear Father in heaven, thank you for having a plan for my life. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow and find new strengths by helping me face difficult times and guiding me through them. Thank you so much for placing wonderful people in my life and for walking beside me at all times. 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 Lutheran 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 and a wonderful man who loves the Lord.


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Don’t Give Up

I am not a runner. If you are, please do not be offended. I am sure you find some joy in pounding the pavement into submission. I hate it!   That is why I had such a conflict when my son asked me to enter a 5k race on a 4th of July weekend in Houston. I agreed. For weeks, I conditioned, running and walking, getting ready for the race. Finally the day came. The race started at 7 a.m., and it was already 90 degrees. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like taking the shortcut to the finish line. But I went on and finally finished the race. Near the finish line, my son came running back to me and ran/walked alongside with me to the end. I love him, and I knew I couldn’t quit. All the conditioning and all the enduring was just a demonstration of my love for him.

As we run the race of life, there are many places where we just want to quit doing the right things. We want to stop worrying about making the right choices. We feel drained and unable to act in the way we know would please Jesus. We become so self-focused that we don’t see the next step he wants us to take. But the reality is that we show our love and devotion to Christ through enduring the trials in life that we face. Paul writes that it is Christ’s love for us that controls us, moves us, and motivates us.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

The devil wants us to be discouraged by our circumstances and just quit. Peter encourages us to stand firm against him.

1 Peter 5:9

Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

In the same way that I had to prepare for that race, we need to prepare to grow in our ability to stand firm. As we stand firm in the little trials we face, we grow in our ability to trust God in the middle of those trials. Our faith muscles get stronger, and we are able to stand in the face of more difficult circumstances. Those muscles get stronger because we are becoming more accustomed to surrendering ourselves to the Holy Spirit. We trust that He is working in our lives and preparing us for the future. The knowledge that the Holy Spirit is at work within us is encouraging. We know that he is the source of strength that helps us stand firm during the darkest storms of our lives. This is “spiritual conditioning.” And it will prepare  us for the life race we are running.

Many times we feel that if only our circumstances would change, we could do better. If only we had more money, a better boss, a different job, a better spouse, or better kids, then we could really make a difference. The truth is we make a huge impact when we endure the difficulties in life rather than escaping them. When we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and give us the strength to stand, we provide hope for those around us who see our struggle,  our response, and our glorifying of the Lord.

 

Questions:

When you face trials in your daily life, do you look for a way to escape, or do you ask God to help you endure?

 

What can you do this week to work on your “spiritual conditioning” in preparation for the difficult circumstances that you may face?

 

Next Steps:
Get involved in a group.  Through those relationships, the Holy Spirit will bring encouragement and help you focus on Jesus when difficult times come to your life. Start building those relationships now.

Be observant this week. Look for someone who is going through difficult circumstances and be the voice of encouragement for them. Help them to focus on the source of strength that will help them endure the trials that they are facing.

As we continue through 1 Peter this week, we focus today on 1 Peter 4. We encourage you to read through this chapter in your Bible. Or, you can listen to it through the StreetLights Bible. You can download the app or visit streetlightsbible.com.

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for the great gift of salvation that you provided. I know that gift does not mean that all is going to be well in life. In fact, I know you tell me in your Word that I will face trials. Help me to keep my focus on you so I can develop the spiritual strength to stand firm no matter what life throws at me. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who guides and comforts me.  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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Know Thy Enemy

“In the days when monsters and giants and fairy folk lived in England, a noble knight was riding across a plain. The Red Cross Knight had never yet faced a foe, and did not even know his own name or where he had been born. But now he was bound on a great adventure, sent by the Queen of the Fairies to try his young strength against a deadly enemy, a dragon grim and horrible.” So begins one of my boys’ favorite stories, “Saint George and the Dragon,” retold by Margaret Hodges. Throughout the story, George battles this evil, deadly dragon. His foe is far superior in strength, and George’s life is continually at stake. George is repeatedly knocked down and left for dead, but his strength is restored to fight another day, until he finally defeats the dragon.

In many of the fairy tales I read to my children, the enemy is very apparent. They are ugly and bold and vicious. The battles are fierce and the hero often is wounded, but in the end, our hero always wins. In our daily lives, our enemy is not always so apparent. It is often disguised as a nasty co-worker who seems to be trying to tear us down. Or, it could be a friend who broke our trust, or a toddler who refuses to use the toilet (ask me how I know).

On Monday, we discussed the idea of self-promotion and self-demotion. The examples above fall into the self-promotion category. The other person seems to be the enemy and is preventing me from getting what I want. We think we should have career advancement opportunities, we deserve to have true friends who never hurt us, our children should always do exactly what we want them to, and so on. But in each of these cases, there is an unseen enemy seeking to destroy us. We cannot change the actions of the other person, but those actions are not what will ultimately destroy us. Our responses to these people—anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness—are what will ultimately destroy us. Sometimes, the enemy comes from within. We decline an amazing job opportunity because we are afraid to fail. Or, we close the door on a budding friendship because we are afraid to get hurt. In these cases, we believe lies about ourselves, and we allow the devil to defeat us with those lies.

1 Peter 5:8
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

As human beings, and more specifically as Christ-followers, our enemy is not another person, and it is not ourselves. It is the devil. He knows our weaknesses and will exploit them to bring about our ruin. We need to remember who our real enemy is and engage him in battle through Scripture and prayer.


Questions:
Are you more likely to view others as an enemy to be defeated, or are you defeating yourself?

What are some of the ways that the devil is attacking you through others or through yourself?

Next Steps:
As Christ followers, we have a deadly enemy in the devil. We need to take active steps to guard ourselves from his attacks. Think about your answers to the questions above. Find some passages in your Bible that you can refer to when you are feeling attacked, so you have something to fight back with.

As we continue through 1 Peter this week, we focus today on 1 Peter 3. We encourage you to read through this chapter in your Bible. Or, you can listen to it through the StreetLights Bible. You can download the app or visit streetlightsbible.com.

Prayer:
Lord, sometimes I forget who my real enemy is. I view others as the cause of my difficulties and lash out against them, or I allow my own fears to prevent me from taking important steps. Remind me that I am not alone in this fight and that through Jesus and Scripture, I can stand up to the attacks of the devil.  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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Don’t Tell God You’re Just Browsing

I’ve been so blessed for the last five years to have a Bible study group that is filled with people who share their struggles, wisdom, and love. At our most recent meeting, a girl in my group mentioned that she had been struggling with anxiety and worries earlier in the day, so she filled up an imaginary bucket of her worries and handed it to God. She’d think some more, grab the bucket, and toss some more worries in. She had a rough day with worrying, but by the time we met, she had given those problems to God, and had not taken them back. This friend of mine has grown so much since I first met her, and to hear her talk in such a bold and honest way inspired me.

Giving our worries to God isn’t a new concept. It’s just that it’s one of those things that is easy to say but actually tough to accomplish. We tend to share with God our cares and worries, but for those of us who lean toward self-promotion, we tend to go right back to stewing over them or trying even harder to fix it all ourselves. All this does is say to God, “I want to complain about this to you, but I can fix this myself. I’ll just try harder. Thanks anyway.” On the other hand, those of us who lean more toward self-demotion may justify what we’re going through with, “Well, I deserve this,” or “I’m just going to put this issue on the back-burner for a bit and move on.”

What we don’t realize is that giving God our cares and concerns is a form of showing him devotion. One way to define devotion is, “loyalty and love or care for someone or something.” By giving God our cares, we are actually showing him love. We are displaying our trust in him, and we are giving him permission to come into the situation and do his will. When God tells us to cast our cares on him, he isn’t saying it like a store employee asking if you need help, when in reality they’re really hoping you’ll say no. We can typically tell when their offer to help is not sincere, so we tell them we’re just browsing, even though we know what we’re looking for and really don’t have a clue where it is. God tells us to let him help by giving him our cares—hoping that we really do! When we do this, we are loving him, trusting him, showing devotion to him, and not only giving permission, but seeking his will to be done in our lives.

1 Peter 5:7  
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.


Questions:
What cares, concerns, and worries do you need to give to God?

Are you more of a self-promoter or self-demoter when it comes to giving God your cares? Once you’ve identified this, what can you do to change this?

Next Steps:
A good way to make a new habit of giving God your cares is to keep a prayer journal. Write down the cares and concerns you’ve given to God. Make a habit of reviewing the journal, going back to previous concerns and writing down how God has worked in each situation. Seeing results on paper can help you recognize what God can do if you invite him in.

As we continue through 1 Peter this week, we focus today on 1 Peter 2. We encourage you to read through this chapter in your Bible. Or, you can listen to it through the StreetLights Bible. You can download the app or visit streetlightsbible.com.

Prayer:
Dear God, help me to recognize the need to give my cares to you. I cannot fix things on my own, and I know that giving my problems to you is a way of inviting you to do your will in my life. I long to be closer to you, and I long for you to use me and shape my struggles for your glory. Amen.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee is a former nurse who is now embracing her role as a stay-at-home mom. She is married and has a daughter and a son. She loves writing for this team, and feels she grows a great deal through writing and listening for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. She hopes to help convey God’s message through this study.


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Be Humble and Kind

SPLASH!” As I came up out of the water, I looked up to the bridge, hoping the girl I was trying to impress saw me. I had completed a perfect front flip into the James River from the 50-foot-high bridge. The summer after graduating college, some friends and I went hiking and then bridge jumping. Of course, since it was a group of guys and girls, the guys immediately started to one-up each other by jumping from higher and higher heights, then attempting more advanced jumps. Since I was trying to get one of the girls to like me, I had no choice but to do the highest and most dangerous jump (not recommended!). Thankfully, I landed it safely, and the girl, Brandy, is now my wife.

When we want something, like a spouse, there is a force within us that drives us to present the best version of ourselves, to promote ourselves, to prove how much we deserve whatever it is, and to win it. When I was first trying to impress my wife, I wanted her to see how adventurous I was. I felt I had to go above and beyond to prove it. If I didn’t promote it to her, she might have missed it, then missed me, and wound up with the wrong guy. I had an obligation to win her heart because she deserved someone like me, and would have been miserable without an adventurous guy like myself.

Obviously, I’m embellishing a bit (my wife would probably say otherwise), but the lengths I went to to impress my wife are a great example of self-promotion. Self-promotion is the natural tendency within us to push our agenda of what we think we deserve. We promote ourselves by publicizing our skills and abilities, often in a forceful way.  When we feel out of place in some way, shape, or form, our first reaction is typically to promote ourselves. Last weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder talked about our call as Christians to flee the desire to self-promote and instead humble ourselves before God.

In the book of 1 Peter, Peter calls followers of Jesus to choose devotion, not self-promotion.

1 Peter 5:5b-6    
5b And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.

Unfortunately, sometimes when attempting to pursue humility, some Christians swing to the other end of the spectrum of self-demotion. Self-demotion is when we forcefully reduce our involvement or lower our place of worth. Humbling ourselves under God’s mighty power is neither self-promotion nor self-demotion. “The mighty power of God” in verse 6 is an allusion to God leading his people to the promised land. It is an emphasis on God’s deliverance regardless of our circumstances. As we grow to know God in deeper ways, our devotion to him should also grow. It is our love, loyalty, and commitment to Jesus that will allow us to remain in a state of humility no matter the situation we find ourselves in.

The rest of the week, we’ll look over the four ways we can increase our devotion to Jesus and humble ourselves by surrendering our cares, staying alert, standing firm, and sharing the glory.

Questions:
What is an area you have chosen to self-promote or self-demote?

How can you deepen your knowledge of the “mighty power of God”?

Next Steps:  
Admit your need for God to work in your circumstances, whatever they are. Attend GrowthTrack, if you haven’t already.

Also, as we close out our study on 1 Peter, read through the book this week. Today, we will focus on 1 Peter 1. Feel free to simply read through the chapter. Or, you can listen to it through StreetLights Bible. Download the app or visit streetlightsbible.com.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, sometimes I self-promote and, in pride, think too highly of myself. Other times, I self-demote, and I allow lies or fear to hold me back from what you have in mind for me. Please forgive me for both and help me to humble myself under your mighty power. You are good, and I want to be right where you want me to be. Amen.


This post was written by Alex Woody. Alex is the Senior Director of CedarCreek Students. His family attends the West Toledo Campus where his two daughters and son can be found filling the lobby with laughter and smiles.


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Fireproof

Faith, like gold, is precious, rare, beautiful, and valuable.  Faith, like gold, must be refined, tested, and purified. Refining gold and purifying it involves heat. When God allows “heat” in a Christian’s life, he is refining our faith and purifying our trust through the trial, loss, tragedy, or crisis. He is making it pure, rare, and more valuable. He is making it fireproof.

Having a fireproof faith can only happen through testing. How can an athlete know he has worked hard enough, trained long enough, and practiced well enough unless he is tested in competition? The Lord allows suffering to prove to us that our faith is true, it is real, and the God of creation will not fail. With each trial, true faith is becoming more precious, beautiful, and rare.

Christ followers know trials and tragedies will happen because Jesus said so. But, he said it with a promise: “‘Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world’” (John 16:33b). Therefore, I should not ask why the trial or suffering has come upon me, but what is God trying to teach me?”

1 Peter 4:19
So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. (emphasis mine)

Again, the question to ask is not why. The question to ask is what. What does God want you to receive and learn from in your trials? It may be an invitation to trust him, to trust the God of creation, who holds the world in his hands and who knit you together in your mother’s womb. The God who spoke truth to Job in Job’s questioning of why and reminded him with whom he was speaking.

Job 38: 18-21
18 Do you realize the extent of the earth? Tell me about it if you know! 19 “Where does light come from, and where does darkness go? 20 Can you take each to its home? Do you know how to get there? 21 But of course you know all this! For you were born before it was all created, and you are so very experienced!

God’s point seems to be to remind Job that he (God) is eternal and knows what he is doing, and Job shouldn’t question why God allowed this crushing series of tragedies in Job’s life. Interestingly, it was Satan who went before the throne of God and asked to test Job (Job 1:6-12). When bad things happen in our world, most people blame God. Job’s choices were to curse God or trust God. Job did not have to trust God. He could have listened to his friends, his wife, the naysayers, but Job chose to trust God. Satan had to slink away defeated. Job had chosen to love and trust God, even as he had lost everything in this world. This book of the Bible is a beautiful witness to who God is and what our choices are when suffering comes. Job chose to trust the God whose majesty is displayed for all to see. Job allowed these trials to refine his faith. Pure faith is a beautiful, valuable gift that only God’s hand can fireproof.

Questions:
When have you felt the refiner’s fire through a trial?

What is your first response to suffering? Is it “Why, Lord?” or “What, Lord?”

Are your friends encouraging you to trust God or curse God?

Next Steps:
Think about the last time you suffered and reacted with little faith. Now, think about a time you had a trial and you responded with strong faith.

Did you ever think that Satan asked to test you, and your trust in God defeated the enemy? If you haven’t had a major trial, praise the Lord.  However, trials will come. Allow God to fireproof your faith through Bible study, prayer, sharing life in a small group, and observing God move in the lives of other Christians.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, you are the lifter of my soul. You are amazing!  Everywhere I look, I see the works of your hands. Sometimes I am too busy to notice, but today I marvel at the beauty and majesty in your creation. The sun’s rays streaming down, the birds’ songs, the wind gently blowing the blades of grass. How beautiful and lovely! Thank you for creating me to witness your power and beauty in all you created. I know I can trust in you, for you made the storehouses of snow, the morning star, the moon, the expanse of sky, the orbit of the Earth. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. All glory and honor to you!  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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Most Important Of All

Each time we experience trials, hardships, or unmet expectations, we suffer the loss of something—whether it is the loss of a close friend or family member, loss of a job, security, freedom, or something else. Most of us react in a series of denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance (better known as the Five Stages of Grief). While going through these stages is normal and healthy,  we might also think about how we might react during difficult times by giving to others. How can we show love to others during our suffering? It might sound strange that I’m suggesting you serve and love others when you are going through hardships, but that is what the Bible tells us to do in 1 Peter.

 1 Peter 4:7-11
7 The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. 8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.

10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. (emphasis mine)

Don’t let your suffering become an excuse to hide from others or focus only on yourself. Remember, everyone is suffering from something. You may be in the unique position to offer comfort to another person, or just a listening ear. Your experience may lead to sharing advice or giving direction to someone going through a similar ordeal. Serving one another does not have to mean physical labor or menial tasks. It is simply easing one another’s burdens. What opportunities do you have to serve and love others?

 

Questions:
When has someone else served and loved you while going through a difficult time themselves? What did that person do for you?

Next Steps:
Based on 1 Peter 4:10, think of one way you can use your spiritual gifts to help someone this week. If you don’t know what your spiritual gifts are, week three of GrowthTrack includes a spiritual gifts assessment.

Prayer:
Dear God, thank you for caring about us and loving us through the pain and hardships we endure. Although we don’t always understand why we have to suffer, help us focus on who we can love and serve through our suffering. Thank you for blessing us with unique spiritual gifts. Show us ways to use those gifts to honor you. Amen.


This post was written by Kaye Althaus. Kaye is honored to be a member of the LivingItOut writing team. In her spare time, she loves to read and do crafts with friends. She and her husband live in the quiet country and raise chickens.


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Never Alone

I received some bad news last week. I’m not going to discuss the news in detail because this is neither the time nor place. Suffice it to say, this was the kind of news that raised a lot of why questions for me. Why did this happen to me, to my group of friends? Why would God allow this to happen?

At the time, I didn’t have a good answer to those questions.

I still don’t.

Listen, there are whole books written by theologians about the problem of suffering. It’s certainly not going to be solved by someone in her twenties writing a short devotional.

However, I was reminded of something while dealing with these questions. In the midst of dark times, sometimes why isn’t the right question. Sometimes a better question is how. How are we as Christians going to deal with these trials?

Some say that trials draw us closer to God. I think that is partially accurate. Trials can draw us closer to God, if that’s how we choose to handle them. Trials can also do the opposite, push us away from God. Which path we take depends largely on us. You see, God is there for us no matter how we choose to handle things. As written in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” It is actually up to us to decide whether we’ll turn toward God during difficult times, or, in our anger and hurt, push him away.

I’m not going to say God gives us trials to draw us closer to him. I think it’s more complicated than that. However, I do believe God can bless us through any trial, helping us grow in our relationship with him if we allow him.

Our world can be very beautiful, but it can also be very cold, very dark, very ugly. This is the end result of God’s perfect creation being corrupted by sin. We will all face hard times and hurt during our lives – it’s the nature of our existence. As we brace ourselves for the future, it’s good to remember that even though we don’t always know why bad things happen, as Christians we know how we will get through these trials because we know who is looking out for us.


Questions:
When do you feel closer to God – when life is running smoothly, or when times are difficult?

How do you respond when facing difficult problems? Do you draw closer to God, or do you push him away?

Next Steps:
Make a list of friends whom you can talk to and pray with when times are difficult.

If you’re currently going through something difficult, take this opportunity to stop and pray. Be honest with God about what you’re struggling with and how you’re feeling.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for always being there for us, in the good times AND the dark times. Please, provide comfort for those who are hurting, wisdom for those who are lost, and strength for those who feel weak. In the midst of suffering, help us turn to you instead of turning away. 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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Adjust Your Thinking

When I turned my life over to God and accepted the unsurpassable gift of his love, friendship, and protection, the Holy Spirit came to live in me. Almost immediately, I stopped asking why and realized we live in a fallen world. And due to our abuse of free will and the age-old insistence on choosing evil over good, we can expect suffering until Jesus comes again or we go home to be with him.

It was at this moment, I was given God’s peace that surpasses understanding and began looking for the lessons in everyday life. In 2009, my then 62-year-old husband received the dreaded diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I googled it and read, “A terminal illness; life expectancy 4 to 8 years.”

After a good cry, I asked God, “Ok Lord, what do you want us to do with this?”

From that point on, he never left our side, never let us lose hope or feel despair, and brought us people and situations that made our journey to the end of Gary’s life an amazing one for all of us. God and his miracles are found in the what of every situation – both good and bad.

1 Peter 4:1-2 reassures us of this outcome: “So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.”

What was Christ’s attitude? Simply, obedience to the will of the Father.  Jesus left the glory of heaven to take on all the pains, sins, failings, and sorrows of humanity because the Father asked him to and because it was the only way to save us from the consequence of sin.

In the garden of Gethsemane on the night before he died, Jesus prayed, “‘Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:42-44).

When the center of our desires becomes loving God as both our Lord and Savior, we can accept the why and seek to know the what. There, we will find his blessing and peace in all things.


Questions:
Are you ready to let go of what you want and humbly live a life of obedience which brings God’s blessing? If not, why, and how can you change?

Next Steps:
Read 1 Peter 4:12-13. Then, adjust your thinking and look for the lesson and the blessing.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for the opportunity to draw closer to you during every event in our lives. Please give me the strength and desire to focus on loving and serving you every moment of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


This post was written by Martha Preckler. Martha loves Jesus and growing closer to him every day. She loves serving on the Sparkle Team and Greeter Team, as a Landing Leader, GrowthTrack hostess, and fill-in writer for LIO. Martha is the grateful mother of two grown sons and one daughter-in-law. Both sons are good writers, but one is a published urban fantasy writer and self-proclaimed grammar dictator, which he swears he picked up from his mother. She has been a Toledo Business Journal contributor, speech writer, as well as creator of dozens of promotional pieces for seniors’ events and programming offer by the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo.


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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A Difficult and Exciting Place

It was so great to have our founding pastor, Lee Powell, with us this past weekend! I first met Lee shortly after I gave my life to Jesus in 1994. He was the associate pastor at Grace Evangelical Church in Oregon, ready to transition into the senior pastor’s job when Pastor Davis was supposed to retire the following year. About 6 months later, Lee asked me and about 25 others to leave, with Pastor Davis’s blessing, to plant a new church in Perrysburg. Because of a desire to reach the spiritually restless and unchurched, Lee made the very difficult choice to start fresh in a different place.

I don’t know that it required great suffering for most of us followers, but for Lee and his family, I believe it did. They chose to turn their backs on a sure thing—a well-established and fairly prosperous church with an active membership—to plant a church with a different focus. We really had no idea what we were doing, but we prayed – a lot! And God answered that prayer by bringing us people who did know what they were doing! Steve and Brenda Hutmacher came to us from a church planting organization, totally by God’s design, to give us godly wisdom, technical advice, and a strategy to move forward. But, we had no money! One night, Lee asked us all to write down what we could promise to devote financially to the mission of this new church, so he could decide whether or not he and his family could survive on that money. I’ll tell you from my experience, and I bet any of the founding members would tell you the same, that at no time in my life as a Jesus follower, did I depend more on God than I did with that group of people at that time!

As difficult as it was to find the money to do the next thing God called us to do, we did so with prayer, faith, and joy! We never did get the ‘big check’ to support what we wanted to do next! Why? Weren’t we doing what God called us to? Not the question to ask! What was God doing? He was showing us who he is—the God who provides for our every need when we need it, and not a minute before! Was it strange, tense, challenging? Yes, but it was, and is, how God reveals himself and his love for us day in and day out, without fail. We don’t belong here, but while we are here, we need to point people to Jesus, especially in the midst of the difficult times in which we sometimes (often!) find ourselves! When we face the whys with faith and confidence in our God, people will notice. They wonder why? and we get to tell them who!

1 Peter 4:12-13   
12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

Over the next few days, we are going to look at what we can receive from God when we have trials in our lives.


Questions:
When has God called you to depend on him when all circumstances seem to say, “No Way!”?

How did he show up for you then?

Next Steps:
Spend some time journaling about ways God has shown up for you lately. If you are in a small group, ask for the time to share your revelation.  

Prayer:
Lord God, I am so grateful for the adventure I have been on with this church and with you! I pray that you will continue to bless our efforts, especially as the new Oregon campus returns to the place we started from. We trust that you will always be present for us, providing everything we need to fulfill your will. Our greatest desires are that you are glorified and your will is done. 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.


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!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

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