Spirit-Guided Relationships

Today’s Scripture: Ephesians 5

The header for Ephesians 5:21-33 in my Bible says “Spirit-guided relationships: Wives and husbands.” But I think the entire 12 verses are summed up in this one: “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

Certainly, in the past, verses 22-24 have been used to subjugate women:

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

And when the women speak (verses 25-28), they counter with:

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies.

But both of those passages can be taken out of context when you do not start with verse 21: “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (emphasis added).

This is mutual submission—what we do when we (husbands and wives) understand that we are not our own. We (husbands and wives) have been bought with a price. A sacrifice has been made for us. It cost God his one and only precious Son to redeem us from the penalty that our sin demanded. If we (husbands and wives) say we love and follow Christ, how can we not honor his sacrifice by submitting to the person who at one time we promised, before God and other people, to love and honor above ourselves?

I ask myself that question all the time, because this is hard for me. If today, I don’t feel like my husband has loved me as Christ loved the church, I think I should get a pass on submitting to him. But in my heart, I know that is NOT how God means it to work.

What my husband (or anyone else for that matter!) does or does not do has NO bearing on the call God has placed on my life. I am to submit to him (to them) as to the Lord, out of reverence for Christ. I am to love the people God puts in my life whether they behave as I think they should or not. My husband (God love him!) cannot be the person I need him to be, as much and as well as he tries! The only one who can fulfill all my needs, who will never leave me or forsake me, is my sweet Jesus.

As long as I depend on someone else to do for me what only Jesus can, I will be disappointed and frustrated. When I let Jesus satisfy my every need, I can accept what my husband does for me in love, trusting that God is in control of him, just as he is of me. Marriage is hard. Ephesians 5 lets no one off the hook. But when we submit to each other because of what Jesus did for us, perspective gives us traction to do what Scripture calls of us. At least, that is my prayer!

Questions:
What do you make of this passage of Scripture? Does it cause discomfort? If so, why do you think that is?

Next Steps:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Prayer:
My sweet Jesus, Lord there is none like you! In my love for you, let me find the grace to love my spouse as you have called me to love, like you do. You laid down your life for me and my spouse while we were still sinners. My spouse is your dearly loved child, as am I. Show me how to love and respect him (her) as you love him (her). Let me see my spouse through your eyes, to love, honor, and respect. In Jesus’ name, and for his sake, amen.


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


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Working as One

Today’s Scripture: Ephesians 4

Have you ever watched a beehive in one of those see-through display cases? All these many, many bees busily moving around, each doing its part for the benefit of the hive.

The worker bees have different tasks, all working independently and yet for a common goal. They are able to communicate with each other in various ways (touch, smell, food samples) to coordinate their efforts. Some build the combs to store food for the winter. Others fly out of the hive in search of rich flower fields. Upon their return, these bees perform a very specific waggle dance for the other bees to communicate the direction and distance of what they found, so others may also go and collect pollen and honey for the hive.

This was the image that sprang to my mind when I saw how everyone worked together at the Perrysburg campus on Saturday to make this the best possible experience for those attending the service. It was my very first time as a greeter, and everyone was so kind to me as they showed me the ropes.

And they all worked together, everyone doing their own task, but yet in unison for a common goal! I saw some who were cheerfully greeting those arriving for the service, while others made sure that anyone who needed help with something was well looked after. I saw people filling up those coffee machines before the service, and people cleaning the bathrooms afterward. Others picked up any left behind items from the auditorium.

I knew beforehand, of course, that these things do not magically happen on their own, but it was still amazing to see it happening in front of me. And everyone I talked to was so cheerful!

So when I was reading today’s chapter, one verse stood out to me:

Ephesians 4:15-16 (NIV)
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

We are encouraged to work together as one for his glory and for the greater good. Perhaps you have heard the saying that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Similarly, flowers laid out individually on a table simply do not have the magical appearance they have when arranged as a bouquet, even though they are the same flowers.

Seeing everyone serving as a team really brought that to light for me again. Everyone was doing his or her job, but as a whole it created a clean, welcoming, and peaceful place of worship for those attending. It provided a space for others to be near God and with God, to be able to get closer to him, and to learn more about him.

So we should never forget that working as one, we are able to continue Jesus Christ’s work here on Earth—we can do much more good collectively than on our own. And, as an extra bonus, the beauty of being a part of something bigger than yourself is that it provides immense joy and peace as it brings you closer to Christ.

Questions:
Is there any opportunity for you to work with others for the common greater good? Have you ever had a smile on your face and a peaceful heart when you helped others as part of a group? Have you seen the joy of others who were helped with kindness and love?

Next Steps:
Seek out opportunities to serve others and bring joy into their hearts. Make a list of three people in your life whom you could help in one way or another, then offer your help to them this coming week.

Prayer:
Dear Father, I am so grateful that you allow me to be part of something that is bigger than myself. Please help me keep my eyes open for any opportunity where I may be able to show love and grace to others. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for placing others in my life who have made me feel so loved and cherished. Amen.


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


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Beyond the Beyond

Today’s Scripture: Ephesians 3

I love the beach. I love the feeling when I stand over the water’s edge, dig my feet in the sand, and watch the crashing waves. There’s something so refreshing about the feel of the blazing sun scorching my skin as I see the endless horizon and the unending ocean.

In refreshment, I realize the abundance that our Creator conveys. As Priscilla Shirer puts it, “He’s always been a God of abundance. Is there any reason other than God’s ‘beyondness’ that can explain why, when he decided to create water, he created whole oceans?” In God’s abundance, he went way beyond to create the ocean, the sand, the sun, and the horizon so that he can convey how abundant his love is for us. When you see the depths of his love, you can be refreshed and changed.

Ephesians 3:18-19
18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

God’s love is as wide, as long, as high, and as deep as the ocean. His love is beyond the beyond. It is more than we can fully understand, but as abundant as the water that crashes over the Earth. I don’t know if you understand how beyond his love is for you, but it can be realized in your everyday experiences. And it takes a lifetime of those moments, of “digging your feet into the sand,” for you to realize just how much he gives.

It isn’t always easy digging your feet in the sand. It can be refreshing, but it takes work, just as life can be refreshing at times but also takes work. Even though life’s work can be tough, you can be refreshed by knowing in your everyday how beyond God’s love is for you.

The author of this letter realized how beyond God’s love is in the everyday because it changed him. One day, Saul was on a journey, actively working against Christ’s followers, when Jesus spoke to him. In unforeseen circumstances, Saul was blinded. It took some work for him to get through his blindness, but after a few days, Jesus sent one of his followers to heal Saul and fill him with the Holy Spirit. He was no longer Saul the persecutor—he became Paul the missionary, Jesus’ “chosen instrument” (Acts 9:15).

The same can be said for you too. Life can be tough, but no matter what, you can be refreshed by God’s abundant love and become someone you thought you could never be.

Questions:
What does it look like to be refreshed by God’s love? Do you think that God’s love can change you? What can you do to remind yourself of what God can give, even during hard times?

Next Steps:
Ask God to refresh you. Focus on what God has already done in your life.

Prayer:
Almighty God, thank you for just how much love you are willing to give. It is so abundant, it’s beyond me. I don’t fully understand it, especially when life gets hard. It is in the hard times when you are really showing the fullness of your love, so I trust that whatever is to come of my life, you are providing all that I need. You know what I need, so would you please refresh me by your great love. I pray that when I experience it more and more each day, it will change me—hat by knowing your love, I can become someone I thought I could never be. In Jesus’ name, amen!


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


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You Are a Masterpiece

Today’s Scripture: Ephesians 2

Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s Mass in B minor, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and Puccini’s Madam Butterfly are all masterpieces. A masterpiece is defined as a “person’s greatest piece of work, as in an art; anything done with masterly skill.” By definition, not every piece an artist or musician creates is a masterpiece—only the creator’s best. I have never personally seen these famous works, yet I know that in all of their intricacy and beauty, they fail to compare with the masterpieces I get to hug and kiss every morning. God calls each and every person his masterpiece.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Not only are we his masterpieces, but he knew who we would be, and he had a plan for us from the time of creation. When an artist sets out to create a piece, he has a vision for what it will be. He painstakingly attempts to create his piece from this vision. But it often fails to meet his expectations. In his short life, Van Gogh created more than 2,100 pieces of art. We only know and recognize a handful. That is not what happened when God created you and me. He saw us while we were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1), yet he knew what we could become and loved us despite our shortcomings. He offered us grace when we were dead and slaves to sin so that we could become the masterpiece he created us to be.

Ephesians 2:8-9
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

This is great news! We can’t earn salvation. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves right with God and nothing we can do to make him see us as anything less than a masterpiece. God loves you no matter what. To him, YOU MATTER. He thinks of you with love.

Ephesians 2:4-5
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

Questions:
Do you think of yourself as a masterpiece? Can you accept the fact that, in spite of all of your efforts to be “good enough,” you never will be, but that God loves you anyway?

Next Steps:
The next time you start to think of yourself as anything less than a masterpiece, reread Ephesians 2:1-10. Read Psalm 139. Write down all of the ways God expresses his love for you through this passage.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the beauty we see all around us. Thank you for calling each of us your masterpiece. Thank you for extending your grace to us even when we were dead in sin. Lord, when I feel less than worthy of your love, remind me that you have created me for good works and have prepared amazing things for me to accomplish in my lifetime. Amen.


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


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Recharge

Today’s Scripture: Ephesians 1

This week, we continue with the series Refresh. We refresh many things—our decorations, our homes, our clothes, our bodies, our devices. Many of us have learned to “refresh” our electronic devices by turning them off, counting to ten, and then turning them back on again. Not exactly a scientific method, but 95 percent of the time it works.

Like an electronic device, sometimes our spiritual lives need to be refreshed. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, as well as to all other believers, he gave an in-depth teaching about how to nurture and maintain the unity of the church. One of the ways we can spiritually refresh is through unity in the church and community with others.

Paul 1:3-8
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

As believers, we have been adopted into God’s family through the death and resurrection of his Son. Having been raised from the dead, Christ is now the head of the church (our spiritual family) and the ultimate authority over the world. Jesus is the Messiah—God’s anointed one, the one Israel longed for, the one who would set their broken world right. He is also our source of spiritual refreshment. When we feel like our spiritual battery is low, he is the one we should turn to—through prayer, through reading Scripture, and through community with his church. When we need to spiritually recharge, he is the one who can fill us with energy and light, so that we can share his light with others.

Ephesians 1:18-23
18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

Questions:
Is your spiritual life stuck? Do you need to refresh your enthusiasm for your spiritual life?

How do you best connect with Jesus to recharge yourself? What steps could you take to refresh yourself?

Next Steps:
Consider the way you best connect with Jesus—whether it be through prayer, singing, reading the Bible, conversations with other believers, or just spending time outside surrounded by God’s creation.

Set aside extra time this week for what makes you feel closest to God.

If you are a believer and haven’t been baptized, make the decision to get baptized as a sign of your refreshed and renewed life in Christ Jesus.

Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for paying for our sins and making us one family in Christ. If we commit ourselves to fulfilling God’s purpose, there should be no barriers, no divisions, no basis for discrimination. Help us to belong to him and fulfill God’s purpose. Refresh within us our will to submit to Christ and to love others. Amen!


This post was written by Pam Haynam. Pam is a writer for the LivingItOut Bible Study, a Lead Mentor Mom for Momentum, and a cook for the weekend worship band. She has a passion for education having served her community on a district school board and is currently serving on a board that sponsors charter schools across the state. She and her husband have three grown children, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law and three grandsons.


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Willkommen! (Welcome!)

Today’s Scripture: Philippians 4

I am so very excited! I am positively tickled pink! You see, I will be starting to serve as a greeter and usher at the Perrysburg campus this coming Saturday, and I am very much looking forward to it! Anyone who knows me knows that I have an outgoing and extroverted personality. I love being around people—people of all different backgrounds. I love striking up interesting conversations. I love helping others. So, while I love writing for the Living It Out and will continue to do so, I was looking to serve in another way as well, where I would have the chance to interact more with people. So being a greeter seemed like a logical choice for me.

Today, we are reading Philippians 4. Lead Pastor Ben Snyder actually spoke about this chapter in his message two weeks ago when he discussed how the key to being refreshed is your perspective. What stuck out to me this week is how this chapter, and thus Philippians as a book, ends:

Philippians 4:21-23 (NIV)
21 Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. 22 All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

While this is of course a farewell greeting at the end of a letter, it reminded me of the importance of how we greet one another—especially how we welcome others upon meeting them for the first time. The impression you make on someone within the first couple of minutes can have long-lasting effects. No pressure, right?

I love how CedarCreek has greeters everywhere inside and outside their campus buildings. I still remember the first time I came to CedarCreek, thinking how welcoming and inviting the atmosphere felt. It was definitely like nothing I had ever experienced at any other church before!

When someone smiles at you, shakes your hand, or gives you a hug, there are actually physiological changes in your body that occur, which can have a profound effect on your emotional well-being. The vagus nerve is stimulated, which then triggers the release of oxytocin (AKA: the love hormone, the cuddle hormone, or the trust-me drug). This then has trickle-down effects throughout the body, causing a decrease in heart rate and a drop in the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine. In short, positive human contact is good for us and makes us feel good!

Well, you might say, “Of course it does! We did not need neuroscience to tell us that.” That is true, though it is still important to understand the underlying neurology so that we can better help people (for example, oxytocin has been shown to help people with autism and schizophrenia overcome social deficits).

But I think we do also sometimes forget how much positive impact we can make on a daily basis by simply smiling at the people we encounter. We can forget how much of a difference a heartfelt handshake or hug can make in someone’s life. Someone may be feeling lonely or sad, and your greeting may be the only positive interaction they have that day. They may have had a very stressful work week, or church may be the first breather they have had from a busy parenting life all week (Thank you CedarCreek Kid’s staff!). Greeting someone warmly and showing them they matter in the name of Jesus will also refresh our own heart. I look forward to greeting you at the Perrysburg campus and personally welcoming you to CedarCreek Church!

Questions:
How are you interacting with the people around you? Do you smile when you greet them? Is your handshake or hug from the heart? Is there someone who you encounter on a regular basis, but whom you do not know personally, who might benefit from a positive interaction? Do you have CedarCreek invitation cards in your pocket or purse?

Next Steps:
Make a list of five ways you could brighten someone’s day through a positive interaction. Be aware of your body language when you encounter others. Make sure you smile more often at others and have CedarCreek invitation cards ready to hand out when needed.

Greeting on the First Impressions Dream Team is one of the ways that someone can make a difference at CedarCreek, but there are also many other opportunities to make a difference at our church. To learn about those opportunities and which one is right for you, complete the GrowthTrack at your campus.

Prayer:
Dear Father, thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others through the simple act of smiling, shaking someone’s hand, or hugging them. Please make me mindful not to waste any opportunity given by you to brighten someone’s day! Thank you for refreshing me through positive interactions with others as you use me and them in your plan. Amen.


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


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Experience God’s Joy

Today’s Scripture: Philippians 3

After a two-week missions trip in Honduras, my friend Karen and I showed up to the San Pedro Sula airport with suitcases full of clothes, gifts, and several dozen bags of delectable Honduran coffee and velvet-textured refried beans. (Trust me, those beans are amazing!)

Unfortunately, our checked bags were significantly overweight. So, in a high stakes game of “What’s gotta go?” Karen and I ruthlessly eliminated the stuff that would cost us too much to carry into the next leg of our journey.

In life, we often carry around bad memories or difficult life experiences that weigh us down. Since the theme of Philippians is joy, Paul teaches essential wisdom on how we can overcome a common joy-stealer in our lives. First, he focuses on one specific thing:

Philippians 3:13-14
13 Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Is some memory from your past stealing your joy today? We’ve all felt disappointment, failure, or loss. However, when you replay those painful memories over and over again, you end up tethering yourself to the past. Imagine that every time you replay a bad experience in your mind, it adds one pound of emotional or mental weight. Relaying three bad memories each day would equal almost a 1000 pounds of weight a year. All that weight would likely crush any joy in your life!

What’s the remedy? Paul tells you to look forward. Stop looking back. But how do you look forward? One significant step is remembering God’s promises. One of my favorite promises is Jeremiah 29:11, where God says that he has a plan for us and his plan is for good, not evil. Each step you take forward toward embracing God’s promises for your life is like a spiritual workout that helps you shed the weight of your past. When you drop the weight, you’ll be free to experience God’s joy!

Questions:
What bad memories of the past do you keep replaying in your mind?

How is the weight of those memories stealing joy from your life and your relationship with God and others?

Next Steps:
For today, if you encounter painful or difficult memories from your past, consider saying out loud, “That happened in my past, but I choose to look forward to the future.” Then say it one more time with gusto!

Prayer:
God, I trust that you have a plan that is good for me, even if I can’t see it right now. I choose to let go of my past and pursue the joy of living each day for you. Amen.


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


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Attitude Adjustment

Today’s Scripture: Philippians 2

The challenges presented in Philippians 2 keep me on my spiritual toes. Is it just me? If so, please forgive me for this spiritual rant. The subtitle of Philippians 2:1-11 is “Have the Attitude of Christ.” “Have the Attitude of Christ”? I can too quickly have an attitude—those who REALLY know me can confirm that. But, “Have the attitude of Christ”? That is another story. Philippians 2 offers numerous “helps.” To answer Paul’s questions, yes, I am encouraged because I belong to Christ. Yes, I am comforted from his love. Yes, I have fellowship together in the Holy Spirit and, well… I do strive to have a heart that is tender and compassionate.

But then there’s verse 2: “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” That is a tall order.

It gets better (more challenging) in verses 3–4: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Verse 5 adds, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

Without Christ in me, I am unable to live out verses 1–4. The power of God must live within me before I am able to genuinely agree wholeheartedly with others, love one another, work together with one mind and purpose, not be selfish or try to impress others, be humble, think of others as better than myself, or not look out only for my own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Christ intentionally left his status (as the son of God, equal with God) at the door and “took the humble position of a slave” (Philippians 2:7). What am I/who am I if I did otherwise? In short, I am spiritually arrogant if I do not likewise become humble and serve. Elevating myself above God is NEVER acceptable. The life and the actions of a Christ-follower should mirror Christ’s life and Christ’s actions. Do I resemble him at all? That is a humbling and challenging question.

Questions:
As a Christ-follower, do your life and actions align with Christ’s life and actions? What specific areas need fine-tuning?

Next Steps:
Spend focused time in the presence of God, examining yourself and surrendering yourself (again) to Christ. Make attitude adjustments as led by God. As presented this past weekend, choose to live with high hopes and open hands as you surrender to God.

Prayer:
Lord, please forgive me when I get too big for my spiritual britches. Place reminders before me daily to put others above myself, even when things are difficult for me. It is my desire to be Christ-like in all that I do and all that I say. Amen.


This post was written by Karen Peck, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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A Loving Parent

Today’s Scripture: Philippians 1

One of the biggest blessings of my life is being a parent (the hardest job you will ever love). God blessed my husband and me with two amazing daughters. Anna is 25, and she lives in Pensacola, Florida. She is in the Navy and learning to fly helicopters. Sarah is 23, she lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is in sales. Both of my daughters are doing well, and I am so proud of them. I love and adore them.

I believe my job as a parent is to love, guide, encourage, teach, and pray for my daughters. The way I do this has changed now that they are adults. A wise person told me, “Your daughters are adults now, and your job is to coach them more than parent them.” He said to ask good questions like, ”What did you learn from that?’’, instead of lecturing. I had to change my perspective and give up control. It has been a difficult transition. I have worked on keeping my mouth shut and not trying to fix everything. I need to let my daughters go on the journey God has for them, without interfering with God’s plan.

I will be honest, it’s difficult when my girls are struggling and they are so far away. I really miss them, and I long to see them and hug them. My mommy instincts kick in, and I want to fix all their problems. But instead, I step back and remind myself—love them, support them, pray for them, and encourage them. I pray that God will give my daughters wisdom and strength, that they will each fulfill their God-given purpose, and that they will have close relationships with him.

I believe Paul exemplifies the role of parent, mentor, and coach. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter to the Philippians. He didn’t know if he would live or die, or if he would ever see them again. I believe the purpose of this letter was to show encouragement, love, and joy to the Philippians and to us.

Philippians 1:3-4
3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I make all my requests for all of you with joy.

I love these verses! Paul is being a parent and a coach to the Philippians and to all of us. He loves them, he thanks God for them, and he prays for them with a great joy in his heart. He is thankful for them. He wants the very best for them. He goes on to tell them they have a special place in his heart. He is encouraging them.

Philippians 1:8-11
8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Isn’t this what we want for all of those whom we love? We want them to know how much we love them, and we want them to know what is really important—Jesus! We want them to be changed by Jesus and we want their lives to bring glory to God.

In Philippians 1:6, Paul talks about how he is certain that God has a purpose for their lives: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:6 is the theme verse for CedarCreek’s latest series, Refresh. I am so filled with gratitude and joy that God will continue to work in you and me until Jesus returns. I believe we are refreshed when God works in us to change us and make us more like him.

Questions:
What is God calling you to do? Who can you encourage and pray for? How will you encourage this person? What will you pray for them?

Next Steps:
Read Philippians 1 as if Paul was writing it specifically to you. Journal how he makes you feel. Make a list of people you can encourage and pray for, then do it. Attend GrowthTrack, if you haven’t already.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for being the perfect parent. Thank you for giving us people in our lives that exude your love, wisdom, and peace in our lives. I am so grateful that you have a perfect plan for my life. Please help me to fulfill the purpose you have for my life. Please increase my faith and trust in you when I am struggling. Let the deepest desire of my heart be fulfilling the purpose you have for my life in order to bring you glory. Amen.


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


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Have You Left Yet?

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 28

Matthew 28 completes this book, but it contains a lot of information! We see the women disciples returning to the tomb early in the morning of the third day to properly care for the body of Jesus. But when they arrive, they experience a violent earthquake and watch as an angel rolls the stone of the tomb away. Then he sits on it! The angel tells the women not to be afraid (right!) and gives them this incredible message: Jesus is not in the tomb. He actually did what he said he would (like, rise from the dead!) The angel says, “Tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee.” Then, the women actually see Jesus! He repeats the message and sends them on their way.

So the disciples travel to Galilee at some point. The other gospels differ on the timing and what other events might have occurred in the meantime, but we get to the point of the whole thing, at least for us as Christ followers: the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18-20 (Emphasis added)
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The chapter concludes with Jesus giving us the Great Commission: it is now our job to tell the world that Jesus is Lord. He is the true king of the world. He sends us, his disciples, out into the world with the good news. This means that when we trust in him as well as his life, death, and resurrection, we have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. We have the authority given to Jesus by the Father, to bring this good news into the entire world. And then—the most spectacular promise of all—he will be with us as we do this, always, even to the close of the age, when he returns in triumph!

This is why CedarCreek Church exists: to tell the world about Jesus! Then we are to nurture and disciple those who come to believe. We all share in this commission. God has given each of us gifts that we can use in the fulfillment of this mission. Learn what they are, and use them! It is our privilege and our responsibility!

So, have you left yet? He goes with you everywhere and anywhere, so don’t be afraid!

Questions:
What are your spiritual gifts? (Growth Track week 3)

With whom in your life can you share the good news of Jesus Christ? When are you going to do that?

Next Steps:
As you prayerfully ask God to show you the people with whom you can share the good news, be brave and make appointments with them. Nurture your relationships with love until the moment is right to tell them about Jesus.

Prayer:
My Jesus, my Emmanuel, every time I think of your sacrifice for me, it blows my mind! It is difficult for me to think that I was worth it, but you say that I am! You say each one of us is! It is my joy to share this good news with the people you put in my life! Create in me the urgency and the desire to share what you have done in my life with everyone, so that they may put their trust in you! Amen.


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


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We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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