Literature + Mud = Love

“Being a parent basically means that your entire adult life is crammed into a two-hour block each night after the kids go to bed.” Or so says a meme that is currently floating around Facebook. And in our family right now, that’s about it. Sadly, that means for my husband and I our entire adult life consists of washing dishes, sweeping up the two inches of food that somehow managed to fall onto the floor during dinner, wiping up spilled milk, and maybe (if we’re lucky) reading a book or watching a show. Most of the time we don’t have the energy for adult conversations unless they involve some issue we are working on with our children, our work schedules, or prayer for a full night’s sleep.  However, God did not create us to survive on so little enjoyable, stimulating conversation. After a long exhausting day at work or at home, engaging in stimulating conversation can seem like more effort than it’s worth. However, God created us as three-dimensional beings: mind, body and spirit! Therefore, to neglect one part of ourselves is to do our life (whether married or single) a disservice. Our mental and emotional needs cannot be ignored.

I love to read, and I read widely. This year alone I’ve tackled 50 books, including Les Miserables, which was 1,400 pages long. I’ve read fiction, biographies, mommy books, middle-grade books, theological books, and educational books. I say this not to brag on myself, but to say that through this reading I have been exposed to great ideas that make me think and thus give me fodder for conversations with my husband. When I talk with him about an idea I’ve encountered in a book, I allow him to have a glimpse into my heart, and by his response I get a glimpse into his own heart. I allow him to have an opportunity to speak my love language, quality time, through stimulating conversation.

My husband is not an avid reader, but he does like to run races — especially through mud. To me, the idea of intentionally diving into a puddle of mud and then running in wet shoes for three miles is asinine. Why would I want to do that? However, this year I tied my shoes and completed my first mud run. While it wasn’t my favorite experience of the year, it wasn’t terrible, and I agreed to do it again some time in the future. While it does not seem like a traditional “act of service,”  to him it is because I did it out of love for him. There are plenty of things we both enjoy doing, like working in our garden or taking the kids on walks in the woods, but it’s the things we do that are not necessarily our own preference that speak the loudest to the ones we love.

As Ben said this weekend, “The more you give, the better it gets.” So as we give our time, put aside our own preferences or step out and join our spouses in an activity that seems crazy in our minds, we also benefit. My husband benefits from the ideas I encounter because it makes him think about things that he may have never considered. I benefit from running a muddy race because we are spending time doing something together that does not involve our children, creating memories, and getting some exercise. He shows me he loves me by listening and responding to my thoughts, and I show that I respect him by entering into his world because he wants to have experiences with me.

In Ephesians 5, Paul is giving instructions to husbands and wives on how to truly love one another.

Ephesians 5:25:
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.

Ephesians 5:33:
So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

In her short book to her daughter, Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot says, “One of the most joyful discoveries of life is that in recognizing, affirming, and comforting another person we find ourselves recognized, affirmed and comforted.” When we as wives respect our husbands, we value what they value and seek to join them in activities they enjoy. We set aside our preferences to participate in what they enjoy. A husband can love his wife by seeking after her heart, listening to what she is really saying and responding appropriately. When we make the effort to engage with our spouses mentally and emotionally, we are not depleted but are actually filled.

Questions:
Think about the last time you really talked with your spouse about something other than the kids, your schedule, or work. How did you feel after that conversation?

What is one thing your spouse would love for you to do, but you really don’t want to do? What’s keeping you from actually doing it?

Next Step:   
This week, plan on spending a night with your spouse without handheld screens. Go out on a date and talk to each other or go to a movie and talk about the movie afterward. Keep the screens away. Focus on the person sitting across/beside you.

Prayer:
God, thank you for giving me my spouse. Thank you for all the ways they make my life better. Thank you for the ways I experience you more fully through them. Give me your eyes to see how to engage more fully with them on a mental and emotional level. Give me the desire to follow through on what I see. Thank you for your grace and the opportunity to improve the relationships with those we love the most. Amen.


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


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Seek First the Kingdom

When we enter into marriage, a lot of promises are made when we say those vows. Most of them are said excitedly through smiles with teary eyes and anticipation for the unknown. I think it’s safe to say that most of us have no real idea of what we’re entering into. We know we are promising to stay together and to be there for each other through the good and the bad, but we say so with hopes that it will be all good, right? In reality, the attraction and butterflies that first brought you together may begin to fade; those aren’t enough to keep your marriage strong and within God’s design. God tells all of us to put him first, above everything. This means we are to put him above our spouses and even our children. After all, your spouse and children are his more than they are yours. Does this mean you cast your spouse aside and only focus on God? No. It means you both are a part of each other’s spiritual life and journey. A goal in your relationship with your spouse should be to help each other get closer to God. As Ben Snyder pointed out this past weekend, as you both focus on God and move closer to him, you naturally end up getting closer to each other. God wants our marriages to be a source of spiritual encouragement and companionship, walking together as a couple toward God and seeking first his plan for our lives.

Matthew 6:33:
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

So, what does this look like in a marriage? God wants married couples to seek his Kingdom together, encouraging each other along the way. The trouble is, we live in a broken world that offers many barriers to this wonderful design God has for us. Many times, spouses grew up in families that may have approached faith differently. Maybe one person’s family prayed together and read the Bible together, while the other’s family never spoke about God outside of church. Or maybe our lives have become so busy that we feel lucky to accomplish all our daily activities, let alone make time to work on our spiritual life together with our spouse. Another barrier is if one spouse is further along on their faith journey than the other, or if one or both have a fear of being open and vulnerable with the other. Spiritual intimacy in marriage is about more than just spending time in God’s word. Let’s face it, spiritual talk touches the deepest part of our being—faults, doubts, fears, etc.—and we may be afraid to admit those things, even to the one we love most. Instead, be willing to verbalize what is holding you back. Tell the other what you need from them to help you get closer to God. Talk about your fears, questions, struggles, and hesitations, and you might be surprised how they respond.

Questions:
How is your spiritual life? What do you need from your spouse to help you receive from God? Are you willing to talk to them about this?

On the other hand, how can you encourage your spouse to grow and accept the things God has for them in life?

If you are single, do you have a trusted friend or small group to encourage you in your spiritual journey?

Next Step:
Talk to your spouse (or trusted friend). Discuss what you need to do to help each other grow spiritually. You can start with simply attending church together, praying together for each other, and sharing what God is doing in your life.

Prayer:
Dear God, help me to meet my spouse’s spiritual needs. Help me to be willing to be open, vulnerable and receptive to those needs. Bring to light the barriers that are holding us back, and guide us on how to break through them. Help us to commit to seeking you first in the hopes that we will both grow spiritually and, as a result, become stronger together. Amen.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee loves anything arts-related, and really enjoys writing for the LivingItOut. She is married and has a little girl and boy.


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Let’s Talk About Sex

“All right,” the youth pastor said. “Let’s get all the giggles out now…” The topic of the night was sex. Students snickered all through the lesson like it was the first time they ever heard the term “sex.” I was a senior in high school, and this was the first time I ever heard sex talked about in church. The unfortunate part was, I already knew all about the topic. I started learning about it from “Sex Ed” in fifth grade. My friends discussed it around the lunch table. I had friends who had been having sex for years. Media taught me how to think about sex. The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Friends, and countless movies taught me it was just as much a part of life as eating and sleeping.

If you haven’t noticed, we live in a sex-charged world. Our culture has taught us what and how to think about the topic. But, very few of us were raised thinking correctly about sex. Perhaps this is because we so often shy away from the topic at church. Most people can list all the places that they have learned about sex, but the majority would not include church on that list. The first “Sex Ed” course most of us took was from the world we live in; we didn’t enroll in it, but we took in the information, feelings, presuppositions, and “facts” our culture wanted us to believe.

Due to the way we’ve seen sex treated or ignored throughout our lives, the church often has to react to how the world thinks about sex rather than using its influence to help parents raise up people who understand a healthy view of sexuality from a young age. Thankfully, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder got the conversation rolling this past weekend around what a healthy, biblical view of sexuality looks like by diving into Scripture.

1 Corinthians 7:1-7:
1 Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to abstain from sexual relations. 2 But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.

3 The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. 4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.

5 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 But I wish everyone were single, just as I am. Yet each person has a special gift from God, of one kind or another.

 

Ben pointed out from verse two that the apostle Paul had to combat the unhealthy views of sex that were prevalent in his day and remain all too prevalent in our day as well. He pointed out that our culture has taught us several improper ways to view sex. For example, our culture tells us sex is instinctual, like an appetite; you’re hungry, eat. Also, our culture says sex is informal, it’s just another activity like going to the gym. Our culture views sex as the ultimate, almost deifying it. Actually, that makes us our own god which is idolatry. Many of us find our identity in sex rather than in Christ. Some view sex as a means to an end, it helps them get something they want. Then finally, many people, including those in the Christian community, view sex as evil.

Ben went on to show in verses two through four that ultimately, sex is sacred. Sex is something God created, and it can further our worship of him and connection to our spouse.  The biblical sexual ethic that Ben outlined is that we should honor God with our bodies, we shouldn’t sexualize our relationship outside of marriage, and we should be mastered by nothing. As we embrace this way of thinking, it will enhance our marriages both in and out of the bedroom.

The upside down principle is found in verse four, “The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.” The idea is that fulfillment is found in mutual submission, putting the needs of one’s spouse before your own and trusting they will do the same, because the more you give, the better it gets.

Ben described five areas of need to focus on in order to apply this upside down principle in our marriage relationships: spiritual, mental, practical, emotional, and sensual. As we unpack these five needs this week, we will begin to see this upside down principle—the more you give, the better it gets—come to life.

If you’re married, use this as a catalyst to begin the conversation with your spouse.

If you’re single, don’t tune out over the next four days. As we learned this past weekend from 1 Corinthians 7:7, single doesn’t mean second-class. God’s design for sex is important to know no matter what stage of life you find yourself in. It will help you speak truth into a culture that will consistently push you the opposite direction of God’s purpose for you in this area. Paul, in 1 Timothy 4:12, calls on those who are younger to “Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” If you are single, you are called to set an example of purity, which begins in the heart (Matthew 5:8). To live a life of purity, especially sexual purity, is a hard road as one denies certain desires in order to honor Christ and one’s future spouse. Do not give up what you want most for what you want now.

If you have struggled or are currently struggling in the area of sexual purity, reach out to a mentor, step into GrowthTrack, find a group to do life with, and rest in the fact that God, in Christ, has made you spotless and blameless in his sight (Col. 1:22), a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Begin again!

Questions:
Have you ever held any of the improper views of sex that Ben talked about? If so, which ones, and why did you believe that?

Does the entertainment that you allow into your life (what you read or watch) help or hurt as you try to live out a biblical sexual ethic?

Next Step:
Pray. Pray individually and with your spouse today for God to reveal whether either of you have unhealthy views of sex that need to be addressed. If you are single, identify any obstacles in your life to living out the biblical sexual ethic, and ask a trusted friend to help keep you accountable for taking a step toward removing those obstacles.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for creating sex. You are the author of life and know exactly how you created sex to work. Help me to leave behind the improper views of sex that this culture throws at me. Let me honor you with my choices in entertainment and in how I handle sexual situations. Give me the courage to have the conversations I need to have with others to take my next steps in this area. Amen.


This post was written by Alex Woody. Alex is the Director of Students at the West Toledo Campus of CedarCreek Church. He has an amazing wife and two joy-filled daughters who can regularly be found filling the West Toledo lobby with laughter and smiles.


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Passing the Test of Greatness

In scripture, “humility” does not mean weakness. It means a proper appreciation of who we are in relationship to God. Author C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

1 Peter 5:5b-6:

5b “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.

Humility is spiritual clothing. It is a choice; you do not wait to be humble. Humility helps us manage our relationship with God. Humility invites God’s grace; it proves that pride is wrong, that God will exalt it. And it wins every single time. Humility looks like less of us. Believe in the power of becoming less, through humility. By choosing to become less, we choose to become more through Christ. We are not okay by ourselves; we need God Almighty.

Would you call 911 if you did not have a real emergency? Thus, we would not call upon the Lord if we could rely solely upon ourselves. Often what it takes for us to become humble is painful situations in our lives. When we experience pain, we make adjustments to eliminate that pain. However, that’s when we often realize that we can’t do that on our own. We need help from God or from the people that God has put in our lives.

Difficult circumstances and difficult relationships in our lives can be the catalysts that move us to a place where we depend on God and that help us realize that he is everything. Those difficult relationships that we have at work or with a family member are often the very thing that reveals our shortcomings. They can be exactly what we need to show us who we are and who we are not.

So, as Calvin said this past weekend, we face a simple test of greatness every day. In that test we can choose to humble ourselves or to exalt ourselves. In our ambition, we can choose to try make things happen in our time, or we can humble ourselves and trust God to exalt us at the right time and place as he sees fit. In our need to be noticed, we can choose to elevate ourselves and our achievements above those of others. Or, we can thank God for giving us the opportunity to use our gifts to serve and help meet the needs of others. In our tendency to compare, we can scramble to get the upper hand, or we can intentionally take the lower seat.

In choosing the humble path, we see that humility helps us manage our relationship with God. When we fail the test of greatness, it is because we are trying to be great on our own strength.  However, when we pass the test of greatness it is because we realize our need for God and we put our trust in him.

 

Questions:

What struggles are you facing that could potentially bring you to a place of trusting God?

How can you humble yourself in those difficult situations or relationships and trust God to somehow use this to strengthen you?

 

Next Step:

Take ten minutes, right now if you can, and pray for God to help you see those opportunities where you can pass the test of greatness today.

 

Prayer:

Dear heavenly Father, help us to put on the clothes of humility. We know that pride will be changed to humility through trials and tribulations. Grant us the wisdom to understand what pride is and how to disarm it. Oh Lord, rescue us from foolish pride and help us to learn from your gentle and humble heart. In the name of your gracious Son Jesus Christ, Amen.


This post was written by Ben Bockert, the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Friend, We Have a Better Place For You

“I’m bigger. I’m going to ride the biggest bucking bronco!” “No I’m the biggest! I’m going to ride the biggest bucking bronco!” These were the words I heard coming from the back of our van as we were driving home from vacation last week. I had to laugh at the smack talk going down between my almost three-year-old and four-year-old boys. Needless to say, neither really knew what a bronco was (let alone a bucking bronco), but each had enough pride in their little hearts that they wanted to be the biggest and have the biggest. It can be amusing to hear children try to one-up each other on things that they are clueless about, but at the heart of it is pride and wanting to be the best. It’s somewhat cute in children. It is not so cute when we become adults.

As adults we look at those around us and evaluate the state of our lives based on what we see. We scroll through social media and leave feeling defeated because our best friend from high school (who we have not seen in 20 years) just got back from a tour of Europe with her three perfect children and her husband who looks like he walked off the cover of a magazine. When we turn our attention back to our own personal zoo, there is a toddler who just rubbed noodles in her hair and a preschooler yelling that he needs his butt wiped. We pray our other children are somewhere in the house and wonder where we went wrong. Or we see the haggered single mom dragging screaming kids through the grocery store—or worse yet, each with their own screen plastered in front of their faces—and feel pretty good about the job we are doing to maintain our house and to raise our kids. Or perhaps we stew that the boss’s friend got the promotion we deserved, not on his own merits, but on his connections, while we do all the work and get treated like a slave.

We are always comparing ourselves, trying to manipulate circumstances to get the upper hand. Cain killed his brother because he could see that the offering he gave up to God was not as good as the one Abel gave. He allowed his pride to take over and committed the first murder. In the parable of the prodigal son, the older son compares all of the hard work he did, while the younger son was out having a good time wasting his life. He was furious that he was not getting what he deserved, all the while his brother was getting what he did not deserve. We try to manipulate situations to get the upper hand, to put ourselves in the spotlight so our good deeds can be noticed, but that is not what Jesus did. He continually put other’s needs before his own. He humbly served those around him often at great expense to his own time and energy. He could have highlighted his accomplishments: the miraculous healings, feeding five thousand people, knowing so much about what God actually said. But he didn’t. He healed another “insignificant” person, he hugged a lonely child, he spoke with a woman who was an outcast among outcasts; and in his humility, he was exalted.

Jesus teaches in Luke 14:10-11 more clearly about this principle:
10 “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. 11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

He reminds us that we should not seek to put ourselves above anyone else because if we exalt ourselves prematurely, we may be painfully humbled by someone else. However, if we maintain a spirit of humility, we will be exalted. Comparison steals our joy and makes us feel either better about ourselves than we ought or worse about ourselves than we ought. Neither attitude is one that Jesus wants for us. In our humility we allow others to get the upper hand, but in return, we are blessed and exalted by Christ.

Questions:
Do you compare yourself with those around you? Are you trying to push forward your own agenda so your merits will shine in the eyes of those around you?

Next Step:   
Pick one thing you can do today to put the needs of someone around you before your own and take the lower place.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for you example of perfect humility. Thank you for the examples we see from your life in which you willingly put the needs of others before your own. Help me to stop comparing my life and circumstances with those around me. Remind me that you have given me my own puzzle to work out, and it will not look like those around me. Help me to willingly and joyfully put the needs of others before my own. Thank you for promising to help us become more like you. Amen.


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


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Watch Me!

“Daddy, watch me! Again! Again!” If you have kids, or have ever been around children, you have heard these words more times than you care to remember. As a parent, you have probably mastered the art of “watching” without even stopping what you’re doing. From an early age, we want to be noticed and praised. That desire does not go away as we get older. We want to be recognized for our accomplishments. To use a biblical word, we want to be exalted.

To exalt means to hold something in high regard, or to raise something to a higher rank. It can also mean to dignify. We exalt ourselves without even noticing. We justify our actions, we point out our good deeds to seem better than others, and we want people to tell us that we have done well. Last weekend, Calvin Sweeney said our need to be noticed is what leads us to exalt ourselves, but humility helps us manage that desire in order to notice the needs of others.

Philippians 2:3:
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

The apostle Paul, who authored Philippians, continues in verse 4 to say, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” He wrote similarly in Romans 12:3, “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

So how do we stop thinking of ourselves more highly than others? As someone with a love language of words of affirmation, I certainly enjoy it when other people tell me how great my ideas are or how much they liked my contribution to LivingItOut. But it is my response to those words that will make the difference between exalting myself and humbling myself. I can respond to those words with pride and puff myself up, elevating myself and my achievements above those of others. Or, I can thank God for giving me the opportunity to use my gifts to serve and help meet the needs of others.

Notice the words Paul used in those verses. We are permitted to think about our own interests, but we must also consider the interests and needs of others. Learning humility is difficult. It does not mean lowering our self-esteem. It does not mean neglecting our own needs. In fact, Ben Snyder recently encouraged us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 5:43-44). To do that, we must first love ourselves. Many of us, myself included, would even like to have higher self-esteem. What we can’t do is exalt ourselves to the point of looking down on others or comparing ourselves to make us feel better. To love others as we love ourselves, we need to care as much about their needs at least as much as we care about our own. Instead of seeking to serve our own interests first, we can, in humility, seek to serve the interests of others.

Question:
Has your need to be noticed ever prevented you from seeing the needs of others?

Next Step:
Today, pay close attention to the needs of those you cross paths with. Ask God if there is something you can and should do to meet that need.

Prayer:
God, give me the confidence to live in humility, to serve others before I serve myself, and to consider the needs of others before my own. Teach me what it means to love others as I love myself. Give me sober judgment to look upon myself, not in selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, to see myself as you see me, and to see others as you see them. Amen.


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


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Who Is the Greatest?

Are you ambitious? We’ve been brought up to be, I think. Ambition by itself is neither good nor bad. It is simply a strong desire to achieve something. The problem is when our ambition becomes a strong desire to be somebody. Noble ambition can deteriorate into selfish ambition all too quickly. And we learn how to do this very early on in life. We compete with our siblings, our peers, our families and our friends. As we get older, our lives are based on comparing our situation with that of others. Most of the advertising we see offers us opportunities to better our situation (as compared to the next person). Social media is all about achieving and displaying accomplishments so everyone can see: the perfect family, the healthiest meal, the most sculpted body, the cutest pet. An artificial demand has been created for us to always end up on top, which begs the question, “If we all must be on top to be successful, who is on the bottom?” What do these selfish ambitions cost us? If we are not careful, they cost a lot more than we logically are willing to pay.  Or in hindsight, a lot more than we ever thought we would pay. For example, the big job comes with the price of 80+ hour work weeks. The big house and the flashy car come with staggering debt. In our relentless pursuit of being somebody great, we ultimately sacrifice our freedom. We become slaves to that debt, both financially and emotionally.

2 Peter 2:19:
19 They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you.

To make ourselves important in our own eyes, we demand things from the people in our lives who are supposed to journey with us, not for us.

Jesus spoke often about how we are to live our lives, and he usually confounded his listeners. His ideas were so counterintuitive that even his disciples needed the broken-down-to-the-basics explanations.

Matthew 18:1-4:   
About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

2 Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. 3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

You may know that in ancient times, children were of little value. There was a definite hierarchy of importance in the family unit as well as in the social construct, and children were always at the bottom.

Jesus turned all that upside down. Even after all the time the disciples had spent with Jesus, they didn’t seem to get the message. I wonder how long it took them to understand that Jesus was introducing a whole new system of values. I’m not sure that even now, we who say we are Christ followers understand it. What is it to ‘become like children’? To be innocent. To be open to wonder. To be excited, enthusiastic. Yes, but even more basic, to be dependent. Little children know they are powerless, and in humility, they trust. They trust their parents, grandparents, teachers. They depend on adults, even when adults aren’t so dependable.

As adults, we exalt ourselves and our ability to create the outcome we think will serve us best. We think we have power and control. And as a result, we become demanding as we struggle in our own strength to secure our place in the world.

Jesus’ upside down principle teaches us to trust and depend on our heavenly Father, not to exalt ourselves by demanding our way. And we must remember, God is not like our earthly fathers. He is always trustworthy. He is good. He is love.  His mercies never fail. They are new every morning.

The humility of a child is what our Savior looks for, and that makes one great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Questions:
In what ways do you demand outcomes from God? From others?

Are you willing to wait for God, even when his timing doesn’t make sense to you?

Next step:   
This week, pick one thing you need to let go of and trust God with. Humble yourself before God and wait for his perfectly timed answer.

Pray:
Lord God, I let go of my need to be in control of my life. I trust that your plans, your ways, are perfect for me, and I submit myself to them. Help me trust you. Help me remember how much you love me, so much that you sent your Son to die in my place. Help me follow you in humility and joy. I place my trust in you. Amen.


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


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Be the Greatest

This past weekend, Dr. Calvin Sweeney, pastor of The Tabernacle in Toledo, talked about our second upside down principle in this series: those who humble themselves will be exalted. Jesus said this again and again throughout the gospels. If you want to be great, you must become the servant. Not only did he say, he lived it.

John 13:3-5:
3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

Have you ever read or heard the story about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet? To put into perspective exactly what the significance of this was at the time, we need to understand that roads in Israel in the first century were dusty and dirty. People walked everywhere in sandals that allowed dust and dirt to cake on their feet. We also need to understand that unlike the table in the famous painting “The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci, the table that the disciples used was probably much lower with cushions resting on the floor instead of chairs. This means that feet weren’t tucked away under tablecloths; rather, they were out in the open in close proximity to food. For this reason, it was customary to wash feet before a meal.

John 13:6-9:
6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”

Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”

9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

Why was Peter so upset that Jesus was washing his feet? Footwashing was usually done by the lowliest of servants. When Jesus stopped to wash the disciples’ feet, his act was in direct contrast to what was commonly done at the time. Ironically, the disciples had recently been arguing about who among them was the greatest (Mark 10:35-45). Wasn’t Jesus too “great” to wash the disciples’ feet?

John 13:12-17:
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

Jesus made clear that he wasn’t washing the disciples’ feet for hygienic purposes. Jesus humbled himself to perform a task that was considered beneath him at the time. He set the example of what we are supposed to do as his disciples: serve.

Matthew 23:12:
12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

In our culture today, humility is not a quality that is often valued. We are instead drawn to reality stars, athletes, competition, and fame. What does it look like to humble yourself in our culture?

As a recent college graduate, I was hired to teach ceramics classes at Lott Industries, a vocational and educational center for adults with developmental disabilities in Toledo. When I first met my students, I will admit that I had low expectations. Here I was using  my fancy art degree with students who couldn’t speak or even acknowledge my presence! However, I quickly began to build relationships with these adults. They were kind and funny, each with their own unique personality. I was blown away by some of the ceramic pieces they created. These precious people, who typically are not valued by society, brought great value to my life. Looking back, I have only fond memories of my time spent at Lott Industries. Even though I might have initially felt this opportunity was “beneath me,” it ended up changing my perspective and helped me to see value and importance in the lives of people who are typically undervalued.

Questions:
Have you ever turned down an opportunity to serve someone because it felt beneath you?

Who do you exalt (hold in high regard)? Are they worthy of your exaltation?

Who does God exalt?

Next Step:
Today, focus on being a humble servant. Listen more than you talk, find value in everyone with whom you interact today, and treat them like they have value!

Prayer:
Jesus, thank you for being a humble servant. It’s so easy to get caught up in our culture of fame and winning. Please help me to apply your example of humility to my life. Help me to see the value in everyone and not think of myself as greater than any of your children.  Amen.


This post was written by Meghan Yarnell, a regular contributor of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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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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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I watch Daniel Tiger with my grandchildren. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Daniel and his neighborhood, he is the cartoon spinoff of the old PBS children’s show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers used to ask, “Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?” Both Daniel and Mr. Rogers have kind, loving, compassionate dispositions and are a calming influence. Given recent world events, and in this flat world where technology has made everyone a neighbor, the question has become not “who is my neighbor?”, but “what is required of me to love my neighbor as myself, as the Lord commands us to do?”

I have found that sometimes the answer of what is required of me is found in the difference between empathy and responsibility.  Love always requires empathy, but it does not always require action.

Sometimes what love requires of us is to not step in and try to save someone when they are struggling. In some cases, the most loving thing we can do for someone is set up boundaries for them.  As Ben mentioned this weekend, boundaries are not meant to be a barrier to keep people out. Instead, think of them as invitational guardrails that guide people into healthy relationships. Setting up boundaries may be the most difficult thing for us to do.

There are many times, though that love requires action. We see this in Luke 10:33-36 when the Good Samaritan acted with kindness when he saw a neighbor in need.

 

Luke 10:33-35:      
33But a Samaritan, as he traveled came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

 

When the Good Samaritan encountered a traveler in need, he didn’t pass on by. He saw the traveler in need, and he saw that he had the potential to make a difference in the traveler’s troubled circumstances. After he saw the need, he went to him and had mercy on him. He assessed and bandaged his wounds. And he didn’t stop there. He brought the man to a safe place and continued to care for him. He went above a beyond what anyone would have expected. Isn’t that what love often does? It goes beyond expectations, and it stays until the end.

 

Questions:

Can you think of a relationship in your life where setting boundaries would be the most loving thing you could do?


Can you think of a relationship in your life where love requires action?

 

Next step:

Ask a trusted friend if they feel you have any relationships that may require healthier boundaries.  Sometimes an outside perspective is very helpful.

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for showing me mercy! Help me to have mercy on others and to love my neighbors as you have loved me. Help me to have eyes that are open to those in need around me and give me wisdom to discern what loves requires of me in my relationships. Finally, give me the courage I need to be a difference maker to those around me.  Amen.    


This post was written by Pam Haynam. Pam is a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Daily Bible Study, a Lead Mentor Mom for Momentum, and a cook for the weekend worship band. She has a passion for education, has served on a public-school board, and serves on a charter school board. She is married with three children and two grandsons.


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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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Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I’m sure I’m not the only one frustrated by all the negativity and vitriol that assaults us from all directions these days. People make pronouncements about other people, ideas, and events as though they have personal knowledge of each thing. They offer their opinions as facts that must not be disputed. With our instant electronic access to the world, it is easy to broadcast your reaction to any and all situations before thinking about what you’re saying or the implications of your words. Often times, even our leaders are poor examples of courteous public discourse.

But, just because there are sad models of good behavior doesn’t mean we must follow that example. After all, we live in a country that values freedom, and God has created us with the ability to choose freely how we treat each other. Not only that, but he has given us lots of instruction.

 

Ephesians 4:29:    
Don’t use foul and abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

 

What would happen if we let that verse season our conversations?  Verses 31-32 of the same chapter go on to say, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Just pause for a moment over the last phrase of that verse. How much has God forgiven you through Christ? For me, it’s a whole bunch! That verse made forgiveness much less difficult for me to extend to others.

Once upon a time, a friend told me a phrase that has served me well. He said, “Take everything as a compliment; then you’ll never be insulted.” Now I don’t always manage that, but I don’t take offense often. It lets me make a positive out of a negative, and that’s what I think is needed. It’s the beginning of a code of conduct that invites me to think the best of people first.

In his opening talk for the annual Global Leadership Summit this year, Willow Creek Community Church Pastor Bill Hybels addressed what he believes is one of the most damaging trends harming the United States: incivility. Hybels said, “How do we lead in an era of run-away divisiveness and disrespect? The solution has to begin with me.” (https://churchleaders.com/news/308098-bill-hybels-incivility-even-christian-leadership-killing-us.html)

The solution does have to begin with us. These verses say that it is our responsibility to bring encouragement with our words so they will benefit those who hear them. We are to rid ourselves of bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander. We are to be kind to each other, tenderhearted and forgiving as God in Christ forgave us! Could you begin to develop your own code of conduct using these verses as a starting point? Perhaps it could look something like this:

 

  • I will rid my speech of harsh, vindictive language.
  • I will seek more to understand than to be understood.
  • I will speak words of encouragement often.
  • I will always respect the person in front of me as one made in God’s image.
  • I will cultivate kindness and an attitude of forgiveness.

 

Questions:
How could your relational world benefit from a code of civil conduct?

Is there someone you need to forgive, or ask forgiveness from?

Next Step:
Think and pray about developing your own code of conduct. Write it down and post it on your computer screen.  Make it a screensaver on your smartphone. It shouldn’t be complicated, but if you have a plan, you can respond rather than react.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I am overwhelmed by your grace, mercy, and kindness to me. While I was still a sinner, you died for me. Help me to remember how much I need that forgiveness every day, and help me to be willing to extend forgiveness to those who challenge my beliefs and values. I need help remembering that you love them just as much as you love me. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord my God. Amen.


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


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:

Click Here


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