The Beauty in the Pause

Two weekends ago, CedarCreek’s interns (myself included) went on a 24-hour sabbatical, during which we fasted from food, technology, and conversation. Personally, it was fantastic to set aside some of the distractions—the texts, the emails, the to-do list, the guilt of not being busy, the noise—to be still and listen.

During last weekend’s service, Dr. Calvin Sweeney, pastor of The Tabernacle Toledo church, defined noise as “anything that interferes with the accurate transmission of a message between a sender and receiver” or “anything that interferes with our ability to build powerful relationships and connections.” Even during Jesus’s time, the world was full of noise, as we see in Luke 10:38-41:

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. However, Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” However, the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!”

If Martha could be distracted from Jesus without a phone constantly buzzing in her pocket and with Jesus physically in the house with her, how much easier must it be to get distracted from him today? However, when I got away from the noise for 24-hours, God made me aware of things in my life, both negative and positive, that I had been too distracted to notice before. Not only that—those 24-hours were fun. They were fulfilling! They were peaceful.

John 14:27
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

The beauty of the pause is hearing the voice of the one who gives us peace. We won’t find peace in our day-to-day tasks. We also can’t keep waiting for our lives to become peaceful so that we can pause to listen for God because our peace comes from God. As Dr. Sweeney said, “It is the peace of God that allows us to deal with the pace of life.” We can be still and know that God is God because he is God.

Dr. Sweeney also said that how well we listen affects how well we live. We can’t listen passively, but must be intentional about listening. That means listening expectantly, quietly, obediently, and constantly.

We must listen, knowing that God still speaks.

Over the next few days, we are going to look at some of the ways God speaks to us: through Bible reading, prayer, Scripture memorization, and other believers. For most of us, it’s hard to set aside distractions for one hour (let alone twenty-four). However, I hope you’ll take this as an invitation to open up a little space in your schedule where you can listen, allowing God to speak into your life.

 

Questions:
What are some examples of noise in your life?

Dr. Sweeney gave four types of noise (internal, external, emotional, and cultural). Which type do you feel you struggle with most?

Do you feel you’re being intentional about listening to God?

Of the four ways, God speaks to us that we’ll be discussing (prayer, Bible reading, Scripture memorization, and other believers), through which do you find you hear God most? Which is the most difficult?

Next Steps:
Make a list of the “noises” in your life that you feel are most distracting. Then, plan at least an hour sometime in the next week during which you can set those things aside and listen for God. I also recommend setting aside technology and getting away from people or tasks that might distract you. Try finding a space where you feel relaxed. You can read your Bible, journal, or even go for a walk— try to get away from any possible distractions.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for being a God who speaks to us even today. Thank you for the peace you give us. Please help us to make time for you in our hectic schedules. Teach us to set aside distractions and listen intentionally for you. May your will be done in us and through us. 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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The Choice is Yours…

When I retired in July, I decided I would start cycling again. After all, I loved riding my bike as a child, and when my kids were young, it provided great enjoyment to the entire family when we rode together. I had not ridden in almost 20 years, yet I was able to get on the bike and start riding without even a thought. I was able to do so because of a wonderful thing called muscle memory. What is muscle memory? According to the dictionary, the definition of muscle memory is “the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement.” The term is actually a bit of a misnomer because even though riding a bike does involve certain muscles, the process of learning this skill actually occurs in the brain.

 

Romans 8:6
6So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

In this passage, the “sinful nature” is referring to anything that is not done in reliance on God. Trying ourselves, instead of trusting God, leads to spiritual and eternal death. In stark contrast, when the Spirit is in control, we are alive with the beauty of the Spirit and thus open to a life that is full and peaceful.

Although we are  Christ-followers, we still have leftovers in our minds from our sinful nature, which are a little bit like muscle memory. At some point, we believed a lie that was deep-seated in our brain. For example, the sinful habit of controlling. I once thought that it was all up to me. If I didn’t stay in charge, no one would be in charge, not even God. When controlling thoughts surface from my subconscious, I need to PAUSE and remember that the POWER in the pause is remembering the one who is with me all the time. I need to allow who God is to interrupt my thoughts.

Romans 7:24-25

24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind, I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

What we set our minds on is not determined by intelligence or logic, but nevertheless, our choice will determine the direction our life will take – whether we choose life or death, blessings or curses. To set the right direction, we need our minds to be renewed by Christ’s salvation–to replace our spiritual muscle memory with the Holy Spirit whenever we are lead astray by sin to prepare us for the day we come face-to-face with Christ.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20
19 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life so that you and your descendants might live! 20You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This[a] is the key to your life.

Questions:
Is your mind set on death or on life and peace?

Are you living in peace? Peace with God? Peace with your loved ones and your neighbors? Peace with yourself?

Next Steps:  
This week, make a conscious effort to set your mind on the Spirit. Start your days by coming to the Lord in prayer and in the Word before you are distracted by worldly things.

Take time to write scriptures on an index card. Read those verses while you are shaving, putting on makeup, or brushing your teeth. As you go through your day, write down things that draw you closer to God. Send a text to someone telling them how glad you are that God is the center of your life.

Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, grant me the wisdom to know the power of the pause. Thank you for the gift of Christ’s salvation that has taken my sin from me. Keep me ever mindful and looking toward eternal life. Help me to understand that good intentions are never good enough–I need to see and do things as Christ would. Keep my mind sound so that  I may experience life and peace. In Christ’s name, I pray, Amen.


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


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Fruit for the Soul

Several years ago, I went to lunch with two ladies I worked with. Somehow, the subject of religion came up. They believed there are many ways to heaven. I spoke up and told them what I believe — Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and God raised him from the dead on the third day and believing this is the only way to heaven. One of the ladies thought this was a very judgmental viewpoint and that Christians are self-righteous. I remember laughing and saying, “I don’t think I am better than anyone else, but the truth is, I need Jesus to behave myself because I am a mess without him.” I remember all of us laughing and feeling everyone instantly relax. Then, I remember thanking the Holy Spirit for working through me.

God has changed me through his Holy Spirit so much since I first believed, but I can honestly say the most significant changes have come in the last five years. Please, don’t get me wrong – I struggle with sin every day. But guess what? God has blessed all believers with his Holy Spirit and with the fruit of his Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This is what has made the difference!

When I am stressed, hurt, angry, hungry (or hangry, as my family says), I have learned to pause, cry out to Jesus, and ask for help. As a new Christian, I would react instead of pausing. I would try to fix and manage instead of trusting. I would make a mess out of everything. I would lose my peace immediately. People would look at me like I was crazy. I would feel like I was a failure and experience so much self-loathing. I learned that I had to take time every morning to spend in his Word, meditating on it, praying, listening, and I had to pause. This weekend Ben defined a pause as a temporary interruption in order to redirect my attention and the power in the pause is remembering THE ONE who is there WITH ME.

If I wanted Jesus to work through me and demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit to others, I had to change the way I reacted to stressful situations. I learned to pause and take a deep breath. I learned to prepare my heart and mind to lean on God when difficulties came. I choose daily to make Jesus the Lord of my life. I repent for the times that I put other things before him. I choose to trust God and place my mind on the spirit which leads to life and peace.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I was so excited to have an opportunity to write on the fruits of the Spirit. I recently completed Beth Moore’s: Living Beyond Yourself and Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit. This study helped me really understand the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus exemplified love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I am so grateful that the closer I grow to Jesus, the more fruits of the Spirit he instills in my life. I can honestly say, I have more peace and joy in my life now no matter what is going on.

Questions:
Which fruit of the Spirit do you need the most help with?

Do you believe God can not only save you but transform you? How can you prepare yourself to let the Holy Spirit work through you?

Next Steps:
Really study the fruit of the Spirit. Imagine how the Holy Spirit can transform you. Write out a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to change you by teaching you how to pause and lean on him. Make a plan to pause when things go wrong. Stop and focus on Jesus instead of the situation, asking him to fill you with his peace.

Prayer:
Jesus, you are amazing! Please transform me to be more and more like you. Help me to love others as you have loved me. Give me peace and joy no matter what my circumstances are. Give me the patience to deal with difficult circumstances. Help me to always treat others with kindness and gentleness. Let your goodness and faithfulness shine through me. Please give me self-control in all situations. I love you so much, and I thank you for your Holy Spirit in me and for the fruit of your Spirit. 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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GPS 10.0

Years ago, I used to have a Rand McNally road atlas. That was the GPS of my early years. That atlas had maps of every state, detailing the major highways and byways available for travel. I used it for directions for a long time as we traveled around the country. But there are some inherent problems with maps. First, you have to know where you are in order for the map to be any use at all. Second, not every road was on the map. Only those roads that the publisher thought were large enough or important enough were included. Finally, if you knew where you were and where you were going, there were at least 50 different routes available for you to get there! Using GPS these days in your car or on your phone is so much easier! It tells you where you are, it shows you where you want to go, and it maps out the best route to get there!! I would never go back to maps!!!

Sometimes, our spiritual journey seems like we are using maps. We want to rush forward to where we think we want to go. Unfortunately, we don’t know where we are on the journey, and we don’t have clarity about where we are headed. We need to pause and consult the GPS-for-life, which God has given us the Holy Spirit. When we become Christ-followers, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us.

 

John 14:16-17
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.

 

1 John 4:13
And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.

Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will serve as a guide for us in the areas of truth and direction for our lives.

 

John 16:13-15
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.

The Holy Spirit will help us to understand the truth of God’s Word and how it relates to our relationship with God and to our life in this world. When we read, study, and understand God’s Word and believe its truth, it equips us to face the ups and downs of our lives. It helps us to react to those events in a way more like Jesus would have us do. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the map of our life by showing us where we are on the journey and helping us to follow the direction that God wants us to travel and then helps us to see the best pathway to make progress in that direction. We need to hit the pause button in our life from time to time, listen to the truth of God’s Word, and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us how to live out that truth like Jesus did.

Questions:
What role does God’s Word play in how you set the direction of your life?

When do you ask for the Holy Spirit to help you with understanding God’s Word or God’s direction for your life?

What events in your life need to be viewed through the lens of God’s Word in order for you to react as Jesus would?

Next Steps:
Take time this week to read God’s Word and ask the Holy Spirit to help you with your understanding and application of the truth.

Attend Growth Track and learn about the spiritual journey in more detail. This experience will help you know where you are on “the map” of your life’s journey and provide help in understanding God’s direction for your life.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit in my life. Help me to pause and take time to read your Word and listen to the Holy Spirit as he seeks to help me understand. I pray that your truth would equip me to respond to the events in my life as Jesus would. In Jesus’s name, I pray, 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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You are Never Alone

Take a deep breath. In and out. And another deep breath. And finally, a third one. Sometimes, we need to make ourselves pause for a moment to gain clarity and reclaim our inner strength. Taking a pause allows us to reconnect with God and to give the Holy Spirit a chance to be our advocate.

A few months ago, I attended – as I do every year – the YMCA Women Adventure Wellness Camp. It is a very conscious choice to take a pause from my busy life of being a full-time working mom to two awesome girls (who are rapidly turning into two amazing young ladies). This was my third time attending the camp, and I knew visiting would be good for my soul. At the time, things were especially hectic at work due to some changes in leadership at the university where I’m employed. Some new faces on the team were putting considerable stress on everyone else, which created a challenging work environment. In addition to work, my daughters had kept me very busy at home (as is usual when one has two active daughters), and I also had a personal matter to deal with that caused me great sadness.

Where the camp is held, there are many fantastic facilities for all the awesome indoor and outdoor activities that you can do there (archery, kayaking, high-ropes course, horse riding, arts and crafts, and yoga, to name just a few). Although I did them all and much enjoyed them, this time around, I knew I needed something else. Something more. I needed to make a conscious choice to pause. There is an outdoor chapel on the vast grounds of the camp, which I had passed by in previous years but never considered investigating. This year, I knew that this was where I had to go to seek that moment to pause.

The chapel is surrounded by tall, majestic trees on three sides. Inside, are rows and rows of wooden benches and a wooden stage with a small podium-ll weathered by the elements and simple but beautiful. I chose to go there on Sunday morning while everyone was still at breakfast. All alone, I sat down and prayed regarding that personal matter that had been weighing me down. As I prayed, tears streamed down my face. When I finished with praying, I paused. It had been wind-still the entire time. But the moment I finished my prayer, there was a sudden breeze that went through the trees around me. Just for a few seconds and then it was wind-still again. I knew at that moment that my prayer had been heard and that I was not alone. It was a very special moment, and I felt an incredible inner peace. I felt reconnected with God.

John 14:16

In the spirit, you have an advocate who will never leave you.

The Holy Spirit is always with us as he is inside of us if we have made a decision to follow Jesus. In him, we have an advocate who will never leave us. Someone who will bring our prayers to God as our advocate even when we cannot find the right words to express what is going on inside of us during prayer (Romans 8:26-27). It is important that we do take moments here and there to pause: to realize that we have an advocate and that we are not alone; to regain our inner peace and to let go; to let the Holy Spirit be our advocate; to surrender fully to the path that God has for us. I have carried this special moment at the outdoor chapel with me ever since. I know that God has his best plan for me. His plan is better than I could imagine. No matter what may happen, I will be okay if I pause and remember that I am not alone.

Questions:
When was the last time that you took a moment to pause? If you did pause, how did that make you feel? If you have not taken a pause recently, what are the obstacles that prevent you from doing so?

Next Steps:
Irrespective of how long ago your last moment of pause was, make a conscious plan to find a special place to do so today or sometime this week. Write down the results on the rest of your day.

What can you practically do this week that will help you remember to pause throughout your day? (Be Creative)

Prayer:
Dear father in heaven, thank you for providing me with opportunities to pause and connect with you. Thank you for letting the Holy Spirit within me be my advocate to you when words fail me. Please give me the wisdom to recognize opportunities to take a pause and the strength to let go and have faith in you. I know you are good and that you have a wonderful plan for me. Thank you for allowing me to pause once in a while. 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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Selah – Pause and Reflect

This Tuesday, I have a fairly major surgery scheduled. I am actually looking forward to it because the recovery will force me to sit still for a couple of weeks! How bad is that? I’m retired, for Pete’s sake! There is something seriously wrong with this picture…just ask my husband who daily asks me for my schedule, then shaking his head asks, “Will you be home for dinner?”

How does this happen? Why do we cram just one more thing into already crazy schedules? Where does our relationship with God fit into all of this?  Yesterday, as I finally acknowledged that trying to make a 7:30 am breakfast meeting was not going to be best for me, I texted my friend who graciously let me off my self-imposed hook. I thought to myself, it’s such a relief to finally say, “I can’t!” At that moment, when we finally decide to pause,  God meets us where we sit! He waits for us, wanting our full attention! He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).

This is the point of our new series, “Pause.” God invites us to pause, and remember who he is. In his infinite wisdom, he created time, and then Jesus stepped into it showing us how to live. Jesus was never in a hurry. He got up early to spend time with his Father. He rested when he was tired, ate when he was hungry, wept when he was sad. I know he was never married or had kids to run here and there, but he did have a bunch of somewhat clueless guys who followed him around and multitudes of people who made demands on his time and resources. Yet he paused when, in a crowd of people, a woman touched him for healing. He stopped what he was doing and spoke to her. He paused to talk to a man up in a tree who was ostracized and isolated, and he spent time with him. He paused – suspended an action. He paused – took a hiatus in activity for a calculated purpose or temporary respite. It seems to me that in all his interactions and activities, he remembered that God was with him. He remembered why he had come, what his purpose was, and he did not let the tyranny of the urgent distract him.

What does that mean for us? Can we purposely pause and remember that God is also with us? There is a beautiful transitional word sometimes used in the psalms. It doesn’t have an exact translation, but it is believed to mean “pause and reflect”. The word is selah. As you read the psalms, so often the writers invite reflection on the events of their lives and their noticing the work of God within. This week, we encourage you to use selah in your lives to help you notice the work and invitations God has for you. Take time to pause, remember, refocus, and maybe re-engage with the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. His gift is peace, a peace that is not of this world, a peace of mind and heart.

Question:
What do you do with the interruptions in your life? Are they a bother, a distraction, or an opportunity?

How does God’s promise of peace make you feel? Anxious? Excited? Frustrated? Defeated? Why?

Next Step:
Evaluate your to-do list this week and see where you could create space to pause and reflect, to selah, opening your heart to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Meditate on his promise of peace.

Prayer:
My Jesus, lover of my soul, I open my heart to your Holy Spirit, whom you sent to advocate, lead and encourage us. Show me where I can be more available to hearing and knowing you by being still!! Help me to love you through my obedience to your word. Give me the wisdom and courage to say “no” to the good, so I can say “yes” to your best. Amen.


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


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What’s Next?

Have you ever put your faith in someone you love, only to be disappointed because they “failed” you? If you are a human being and interact with other humans, your answer will be a resounding “Yes!” And they would say the same of you.

Thankfully, it is completely different for the children of God. God the father is faithful in all things. In Psalm 136: 1-26 we read a song that was sung by the army of Judah. Every line in this song starts with a way in which God had continuously proven his faithful love toward them and followed up by this refrain, “His faithful love endures forever.”

 

Psalm 136: 23-26
23 He remembered us in our weakness.

His faithful love endures forever.

24 He saved us from our enemies.

His faithful love endures forever.

25 He gives food to every living thing.

His faithful love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.

His faithful love endures forever.

 

The words in this song are still true today. What God did for the army of Judah, he can and will do in the lives of those who trust him today. We can be confident that he is faithful. We can trust him with our hearts. We can trust him with everything.

As we close out the W/Heart series, take a moment and ask yourself where you stand with trusting God. We all have a next step to take in the area of trusting. Perhaps your next step is to begin trusting that he loves you and that he wants to have a relationship with you.

For others, you may be trusting God for your salvation, but when it comes to trusting him with other areas in your life, you have not opened your hand to him.  Instead, you hold tightly to a relationship, to your desires, and to your money?

Ben shared with us this weekend that our capacity to receive depends upon our willingness to open our hands. Are you willing to open your hands? Are you ready to take steps in trusting him? Don’t miss this and most importantly don’t miss out on all that God wants to give you when you trust him.

 

Questions:
What can we take away from know that faithfulness is endless?

What are you holding in your hand? Relationship, Dreams, Money, Something else?

What is your next step in the area of trusting God?

Next Steps:
If you are ready to take a step in trusting God, mark this moment.

Tell a friend. Write it down in your journal. Do something that will help you to remember that you are going to trust God in that are from this day forward.

If you are ready to take a step in the area of giving and want to mark the moment. Turn in the card from last weekend’s service or fill it out on the CedarCreek app.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for your immeasurable love and countless interventions over the years on my behalf.  Thank you for everything from the breath in my lungs and the love of my family to every material thing I own. It all belongs to you, as do I, and you call me to hold it all with an open hand for you to use or take as you see fit.  Please Lord, help me to accept the counsel and comfort of the Holy Spirit, so I will trust you with my life completely and eagerly obey you in all things. Please Lord, teach me to base everything I do on your Holy Word. In the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen


This post was written by Martha Preckler and the LIO team. 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.


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Giving Up Control

I admit it: I am a recovering control freak. If you don’t believe me, ask my husband and daughters. For the majority of my life, I tried to control everything around me. I had very little peace. I was often fearful. I was a Christian, but I wasn’t free. I would cry out to God for help, and then I would tell him how he should fix the situation. If he didn’t move quickly enough, I would think he needed my help. As Joyce Meyer says, “I was acting like the Holy Spirit, Jr.” It is hard to admit, but I really didn’t trust that God really knew me or knew what was best for me.

About five years ago, my twin brother, Mark, died suddenly. I slowly realized I had no control of my life. I learned how short life is and how things could change drastically in a moment. I knew I no longer had the answers. I turned to Jesus because I understood that he was really in control, and I wanted him so desperately to change me. I desired to learn to treasure every moment God gave me. I yearned for his peace. He knew exactly what I needed. He created me and he knows me so perfectly and completely. He knows me better than I know myself.  Looking back on those times, I now understand how he guided me every step of the way. He saw me and what I needed: his love, patience, caring, peace, hope, and joy. He freely gave these to me through his presence and his Word. He spoke into my life through the Bible, sermons, books I read, my family, my friends, and numerous other ways.

Psalm 139:1-4

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.

The last five years have had seasons of delight, heartache, fear, pain, and joy. God has taught me he knows best. I must admit at times I do revert to acting like a control freak. I’ve found that when I try to take control of a situation, I lose my peace, I become anxious, and everything eventually falls apart. On the other hand, I have learned that when I let go and give the situation to God, everything turns out better. I feel his peace and joy along the journey and have the faith to know he will turn things out for the best. I realize I can trust God. He knows things about the situation that I am clueless to. He knows exactly what I need, before I do. Bottom line: I can trust him completely because he knows what is best for me. I can breathe and relax because he is faithful and loves me in spite of myself.

Questions:
What should you give to God to handle? How much do you trust him? Do you believe God knows you better than you know yourself and that he knows what is best for you?

Next Steps:
Praise God for loving you and knowing you so well. Trust that he knows what is best for you.

Write down ways he has proven himself trustworthy in the past. Meditate on verses that let you know how well God knows you and loves you.

Prayer:
Jesus, I am so overwhelmed that you know me better than anyone else and that you love me anyway. I am so grateful that you have an awesome plan for my life. Please increase my trust and faith in you. Help me to cast all my cares on to you. Help me to grow closer to you. Help me to love others as you love me. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me so much. 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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Generous Provider

Who was the provider in your family growing up—the breadwinner, so to speak? For my family, it’s basically always been my dad. I’m deeply appreciative, especially during my current stage of life as a young adult, for how willing he and my mom have been to help me however they can. Although I can’t fully support myself right now, I don’t worry about money because I can trust them to provide when I can’t.

I realize that not everyone can relate to this sentiment. Some of us have had parents who wouldn’t provide this kind of support—others have had parents who simply weren’t able to. However, we all have a heavenly father, who is able to provide whatever we need, and who deeply wants to. In short, we can trust God with our hearts and lives because he is a generous provider.

As Jesus says in Luke 11:11-13,

“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Just to be clear, these verses are referring to asking for the Holy Spirit—it’s not suggesting that if you were to ask to win the lottery, God would give that to you. I’m also not saying you should quit your day job and expect God to give you everything you need to coast through life. If I tried that with my parents, they would probably have some choice words for me.

But here’s the point I’m trying to make: while my parents are people of compassion and integrity, they’re still imperfect people. My dad’s not even a Christian. If fallible humans like them can be trusted to provide for their children, surely a perfect and loving God can be trusted to provide for his children. Therefore, we can trust God with our whole hearts, knowing that when we follow his will and guidance, he will generously provide all we need.

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6: 31, 33).

Questions:
Do you trust God to provide what you need (energy, time, money) when you need it?

How has he provided for you in the past? Have there been times when you felt he didn’t provide?

Where do you need God to provide right now?

Next Steps:
Consider the areas of your life where you struggle the most with trusting God. If you feel God has failed to provide in these areas in the past, discuss what happened with a trusted friend.

Ask God to provide wherever you need it most.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for being a God who provides, and provides generously. Thank you for being a God we can trust. Please help us to trust you with our whole hearts, following your will and living righteously. May your will be done in our lives. 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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Unconditional Trust

One Saturday night several years ago, I was leading a group of teenagers on a retreat. During the evening, I presented an object lesson that I prayed would make an impact on their lives. I asked for a volunteer and a 7th grade girl jumped at the chance. She came forward from the group, and I gave her a blindfold. She dutifully placed the blindfold over her eyes as I checked to make sure that she really could not see. Then I led her up on a table in the center of the room. I asked her, “Do you know that I love you?” She responded enthusiastically, “Yes, I know that you love me!!” I asked her, “Would I do anything that would hurt you?” She replied, “No, you would never hurt me.” I then said “I want you to fall backwards off the table, and I will catch you.” She responded, “Noooooooooo!!!” I repeated my statements of my love for her three more times, and she continued to respond with a mournful “No!” Finally, she said yes!! With tears in her eyes, she let go of her place of security and fell back into my arms. She trusted my love for her would keep her safe.

We are often like that 7th grade girl on our walk with God. He comes to us and tells us he loves us and assures us that he will always be with us and meet our needs. We have already trusted him with the most important decision of our life—our eternal relationship with him. Jesus demonstrated this great love and commitment toward us in the sacrifice he made on the cross. What great love he has for each of us! Then he comes to us through his Word and says, “Trust me”.

2 Corinthians 9:7-8 (NLT)
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

Most of us read this passage and think, “we’re supposed to  give away what we have, and God will provide all we need??? That does not make sense.” We resist, just as the young girl resisted trusting me to catch her. We cry our mournful “No, I cannot let go and trust you!” and try to make our excuses sound as righteous as possible. Sometimes we do not understand. Sometimes we are afraid. Sometimes we are filled with doubt regarding the promises of God. God calls us to give, to serve, to sacrifice. He calls us out of the boat to walk on the water in the storm. We prefer to trust the boat because we cannot see yet how things will work out. But, what we do know is it’s the one who loves us more than any other that beckons. It is the one who has given his all for us who asks us to take that step and trust him. We resist, but we want to trust him. And he is always lovingly reaching out to catch us when we do step out and trust him.  Fall into God’s arms for he will never fail you!

Questions:
What does God ask you to do, but you resist because of doubt in His love for you or the truth of his word?

In what area do you need to take action to demonstrate your trust in him?

What steps can you take to help you know God’s love for you and his desire to provide for your needs?

Next Steps:
Take a step toward trusting God this week. It may be a step in giving. It may be a step in serving. It may be a step that requires sacrifice. Choose a path of believing God and trusting him.

If you are in a group, share an area where your doubts have kept you from acting on your trust in God. Ask your group members to pray with you as you seek to surrender this area of your life to God’s control.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the great love that you have shown to me in the gift of your Son. I know that you love me because of that gift. Help me to realize that I can trust you because of that great love. Help me to leave my doubts and fears behind and to fall into your arms as I act in obedience to you. In Jesus’s 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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