The Most Important Thing

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 12

Today’s LivingItOut:
If you were to sum up your life’s purpose in one or two sentences, could you do it? When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, his life’s purpose was being fulfilled. He spent his last week teaching and clarifying what the Law really required. In Mark 12, Jesus is being questioned by the religious leaders. They are trying to trick him into saying something that will either expose him as a fraud or catch him saying something that will inflame the people and discredit his ministry. They ask him about paying taxes (something sure to divide the crowd of Jew and Romans), the Resurrection (something the religious sects could not agree on), and finally about the Law (something that the religious leaders followed to the minutest detail). What is the most important part of the Law? Is it more important to not commit murder or not steal or keep the Sabbath? Jesus saw their intentions and answered every question with wisdom that amazed both the leaders and the crowds. With his answer to the final question, he silenced them all. His response was to love God first and love others second.

Mark 12:29-31

29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. 30 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

I wonder what the people thought when they heard Jesus say this. They were all following a set of strict rules to prove their love for God. If you were to ask them if they loved God, they would surely point to all of their observances as proof of their love. But really, what does it mean to “love God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength”? And then there is also the part of loving your neighbor as yourself. Essentially, Jesus was saying that if you allowed these two commandments to fill your mind, rule your thoughts, and be reflected in your every decision and action, you would be fulfilling the whole requirement of the Ten Commandments. If we truly love God, we will want to obey his every word. We will look at the sin that is tempting us, and the knowledge that it hurts the one we love the most will compel us to turn away from it. When you really love someone, you want to make them happy, even if it means denying yourself in the short term (and your entire life is short-term in comparison to eternity). You may still want to engage in a sinful behavior, but your love for God will be stronger than your desire. When you love your neighbor (who really is anyone that you come into contact with), you will put their interests first. Your love for them will trump your own sinful desires. When we love God and others, sin loses its attraction, and we are able to fulfill our life’s purpose.

Questions:
In what ways are you loving God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength? How have you behaved towards others in your life, especially those who love you? Could you in turn show them your love? Is there an area of your life that you need to surrender to God so that you can love him more fully?

Next Steps:
Think about your life’s purpose. Try to come up with a couple sentences that express why God put you here on Earth. Come up with a plan to fulfill that purpose.

21 Days of Prayer – Day 19
Prayer Focus: My Freedom (Galatians 5:1)
Thank you, God, for freeing me! You have freed me from sin and from shame. You have freed me from the law and from striving to earn salvation. You have freed me from death itself! For all those things and more, I praise you. Help me to live as someone who is free. Don’t let me fall back into the posture of a slave, to fall back into serving the things that used to control me. May you be the only one I serve, for you bought my freedom and loyalty at a high price on the cross. In gratitude I ask, may your will be done in my life. Amen.

21 Days of Prayer – Day 20
Prayer Focus: My Growth (Ephesians 4:15)
Heavenly Father, I am not who I was before I met you—and it’s all because of you. Thank you for the growth I have been through, and thank you that you’re not finished with me yet! Teach me to be more and more like your son every day. Help me to submit humbly to the situations you use to change my heart, even when I wouldn’t choose these situations for myself. Above all else, may I grow in love for you and for others. In Jesus’ name I pray! Amen.

21 Days of Prayer – Day 21
Prayer Focus: Worshiping Him (John 4:23)
Dear Father, I worship you with all my heart and soul. I want to sing your praises from early in the morning when the sun rises until late at night when the day has passed. I am so grateful to be allowed to be your child and your love washes over me. 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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Triumphal Entry

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 11

Today’s LivingItOut:  
Today, we read in Mark 11 about Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. Crowds of people that had heard about his teachings and miracles were excited to see him. They were anxious and hopeful that he might bring salvation and freedom to them and usher in a new kingdom that would no longer be under another nation’s rule.

Mark 11:8-10

8 Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Praise God!

Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

10 Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!

Praise God in highest heaven!”

Today many refer to this triumphal entry into the city as Palm Sunday. It is the beginning of Jesus’ week of Passion or what is also designated as Holy Week. A week in which Jesus would do the most amazing thing in history. The week when he gave his life as a sacrifice for all on Friday and resurrected himself on Sunday (Mark 15-16).

One of my observations from this story is that so many of the people praising Jesus during his entry to the city did not understand what he would be accomplishing in the upcoming days. He would defeat death and make salvation possible for everyone. Yet they did not see it, because they were looking for something different from him. They were looking to be saved from earthly oppression by the Romans, but that’s not what Jesus was offering. He was doing something more significant than they imagined. He was offering salvation from the eternal and spiritual bondage that kept them from the life God wanted for them.

I sometimes wonder how those who were witnesses to Jesus’ life and miracles missed it. It was right there in front of them. How could they not have seen it? The older I get, however, and the more I reflect on my life and actions, I recognize that I often miss what Jesus is doing all around me. Like the crowds who followed Jesus, I focus on needs that are immediate and obvious and that is when I miss what God is always offering. He is always offering me more than I can imagine. He offers answers to more than the here and now. He offers answers to my eternal needs.

Questions:
What stood out to you from today’s reading in Mark 11? Are you so focused on the here and now that you are missing the bigger things that God is doing around you?

Next Steps:
Ask God to help you see beyond your immediate needs so that you can identify your eternal needs instead. Identify 2 or 3 steps you could take this coming week that will serve your eternal needs. Journal about your experiences this coming week and how God is using your steps to move you closer to meeting these needs.

21 Days of Prayer – Day 18
Prayer Focus: Commitments to Him(Psalms 37:5)
Heavenly Father, you are trustworthy. I know I can rely on you, so I commit everything I have and am to you. May I carry out your will in my actions. May I bind my thoughts and behavior to your path for my life. Help me to trust you in all that I do. Teach me to listen for your voice and obey your guidance. You are the source of my strength, and my help comes from you. In your son’s name, I pray! Amen.


This post was written by Ben Bockert. Ben is a proud husband and father of three beautiful daughters. He is honored to serve as the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Change me, Jesus!

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 10:32-52

Today’s LivingItOut:
Jesus told the disciples that he was going to be betrayed, sentenced to die, and handed over to the Romans. They would flog him, whip him, and kill him, but three days later, he would rise from the dead. Imagine hearing those predictions from your best friend.. What would you be thinking? What would your response be? I would be confused, scared, and fearful. I hope I wouldn’t respond like his disciples James and John did. Hey, Jesus, can we ask you a favor? When you are sitting on your glorious throne, can one of us be on your right and the other one on your left? They wanted to be at the place of high honor. They were so focused on themselves, they totally missed what Jesus was trying to explain to them. He was trying to demonstrate that he, the Son of Man, loved them so much he would knowingly be betrayed, suffer horrific pain, die a brutal, agonizing death, and rise again. Jesus came to serve and save us. If we want to be like Jesus, we need to be a servant. We need to be others-focused, not in constant selfie-mode. Jesus’ kingdom is so different than our world. The world judges people by wealth, power, self-reliance, and strength. Jesus wants us to love him, love others ,and serve them.

Mark 10:43-45

43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

It is hard for me to admit, but I am more like James and John in verse 37 than I would like to be. I love human praise, and I love to be served. I haven’t ever suffered like Jesus or the disciples did. Yet, I can be ungrateful for my blessings and become irritated when I don’t get my way. I am frequently selfish and worried about myself more than others. Luckily, Jesus loves and understands me anyway. I can try and try to change myself, but I will fail—or I can humbly turn to Jesus and repent. I can ask him to save me and help me to be more like him. I can beg him to change me like he changed John and James. I am so blessed that Jesus has been changing me, and will continue to change me for the rest of my life as long as I let him. I can honestly say now that serving others gives me much more peace and joy than to be served.

As you read more of the Bible, you will learn how much Jesus changed James and John and how much they would suffer for him. James died as a martyr, and John was forced to live in exile. I bet now they are celebrating in heaven with Jesus!

Questions:
Do you focus more on yourself or on Jesus? If you were a disciple, how do you think you would have responded to Jesus predicting his death and resurrection? Are you more like James and John in these verses or like Jesus?

Next Steps:
Pray that Jesus helps you to have a servant’s attitude. Write down a list of ways you can serve others. Participate in the 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting.

21 Days of Prayer – Day 17
Prayer Focus: My Calling (1 Peter 2:9)
Dear Father, as a follower of Jesus, you have given me the right to be your child. You have set me apart and called me one of your chosen people. I can now show others your goodness and be a light to them in this dark world. Help me shine so others can see you. 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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Great Expectations

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 10:1-31

Today’s LivingItOut:
I love how this section of scripture starts out in verse 1: “Once again crowds gathered around him, and as usual [emphasis added] he was teaching them.” Imagine living that life, always ready to teach and always being followed by those pesky Pharisees! We start out today’s reading with a discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees about marriage and divorce. In the same chapter, Jesus also ends up flipping people’s preconceived notions onto their heads not once, but twice.

To better understand what Jesus did there, we need to remember that at this time, children were looked upon differently than they are today. Today, many parents find themselves uprooting their whole lives to focus on their children. We read articles and lists like the one I just found called “25 Scientific Tips for Raising Happy (& Healthy) Kids.” Parents constantly worry that they aren’t doing enough for their kids. But when Jesus walked the Earth, children were considered less-than. I could relate to the disciples in verse 13, if they were feeling irritated, since this gathering had an adults-only undertone. But for them, this wasn’t the only issue. They didn’t consider the children to be worthy of being in their presence. They were with the Messiah for crying out loud! What made these parents think they could bring their snot-nosed children to the Lord?! However, not only did Jesus see the children as valuable, but he became angry with the disciples. In verse 15 he said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” So not only are these children valuable, but we’re to be like them? Outrage! Children are playful, shapeable, teachable, and humble. Jesus wants us to approach our faith and our relationship with him in the same way.

In the next story, we see Jesus encounter a rich man, who is wondering how he might inherit eternal life. He boasts over his perfect commandments report card, but Jesus tells him it isn’t enough. To top things off, Jesus tells him to sell ALL OF HIS POSSESSIONS, and then to follow him. Now, Jesus isn’t necessarily asking all of us to do this. He is just so astute that he was able to see that for this individual, the things holding him back from a real relationship with the Lord were his possessions. The man was treating his wealth as an idol. He walked away, saddened. Later, the disciples expressed concern to Jesus: “Then who in the world can be saved?” Jesus explained that it is humanly impossible to do enough to be saved, but everything is possible with God (verse 27). Hallelujah!

Questions:
How can you be more playful, shapeable, teachable, and humble in your faith?

What is something that distracts you from a life with Jesus? If Jesus asks you to give it up, like he asked the man to give up his possessions, will you? If not, would you consider that an idol?

Next Steps:
Try out a playful approach when you pray. Children don’t use formalities. They don’t often worry about what others think of them. Try praying something like, “tell me something you love about me” or “tell me something you want me to work on” or “point me to a story you want me to read in the Bible.” You may not feel anything put on your heart right away, but keep trying. I’ve found that when I ask open-ended questions, God rises to the occasion more often than not. I truly believe he enjoys the interaction and the playfulness.

21 Days of Prayer – Day 16
Prayer Focus: Listening to Him (John 10:4)
Dear Father, I am so grateful to have you near me and guiding me with your voice, so that I may not stray from the path you have planned for me. The path that will keep me safe and bring me closer to you. Amen.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee is a stay-at-home mom and wife. She loves writing for this team, and she hopes to help convey God’s message through this study.


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Journey Together

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 9

Today’s LivingItOut:
When I read Mark 9, one passage that stood out to me immediately was the one where Jesus took a child in his arms and told his disciples that welcoming children also welcomed him and thus God. I think another way of saying this would be that to cherish children in this world, is to show our love to God.

Mark 9:36-37

36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

I am a mother to two beautiful girls, who are growing up so fast before my eyes! The image of Jesus holding a child in his arms really touches me. Usually, Jesus is depicted by himself without bodily contact to others, or if there is any contact, it is only very limited like his hand on someone’s shoulder. So, I really loved that image of him wrapping his arms around this child. It symbolizes to me how God spiritually wraps his arms around us—to show us his love and to make us feel better when life gets tough.

I then had to think immediately of a friend of mine. She lost her beautiful, 13-year-old daughter in a tragic car accident about 10 months ago. I met this friend briefly for the first time during her visit from Indiana last fall at the house of mutual friends. Her daughter Kaelynn was an amazing young woman with a special spirit and wonderful smile. The grief and pain my friend and her husband are experiencing are beyond words. Unless you’ve gone through this same experience, there is no way to fully comprehend what it is like. I wish I could help her, but I am at a loss for words really. I know enough to understand that articles or memes about, or for, grieving parents are definitely a no-no to share with her on Facebook, despite my natural urge to do so with good intentions. So, I decided on a different approach: Each day, I share a cute or funny animal video with her on Facebook with a heart emoji to put a smile on her face, albeit brief, and let her know that I am thinking of her. I asked her to let me know at anytime if she would like me to stop and ensured her that no offense would be taken by me. She said to keep sending them (as long as no hedgehogs are involved because apparently, she had a bad experience with a mean one at some point!) and often responds with a heart or smiling emoji.

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder spoke this past weekend about how life is better when we journey together. This is why we should not surround ourselves with friends who can just do something for us or who are there just there to have fun with or distract us. Rather, we should be looking for life-giving friends who help us become what God meant us to be. I am so blessed with exactly those kinds of friends in my life. I met quite a few of them in my LifeGroups. I am trying my best to pay it forward by literally and figuratively wrapping my arms around any of my friends whenever they are walking through a dark valley. I am trying my best to lighten their load by accompanying them on their journey.

Questions:
What kind of people are you letting journey with you through life? Are they life-giving people, or are they draining your spirit? Who could you wrap your arms around, literally or figuratively speaking, to help them feel safe and not alone on a difficult journey?

Next Steps:
If you have not yet found life-giving friends, join a Group here at CedarCreek church. Visit our directory to find a Group that best fits you.

Make a list of three people whose load you could lighten by journeying with them. List five things you could do for each of these people to make them feel like they matter and are not alone.

21 Days of Prayer – Day 15
Prayer Focus: My Relationships (Philippians 2:3-5)
Dear Lord, please help me emulate you in all my relationships with others. Please help humble myself and think of the needs of others before my own. Help me see how I can serve those around me. Please help me make others feel like they matter and let them know that they are not alone. 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 and a wonderful man whom she loves and whom she wants to serve the Lord with.


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Waste Not

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 8

Today’s LivingItOut:
We are, unfortunately, a very wasteful society. We often do not appreciate what we have. Last weekend I was struck when I came across an article about food waste in the United States. About 40 percent of all food produced here is thrown away. I of course had already previously heard about this problem (though the number still stunned me), but it particularly resonated with me after reading Mark 8. Imagine what good all that food could do, if it were to reach the hands of those in need!

Mark 8:6-7
6 So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. 7 A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.

Jesus took a few loaves of bread and fed thousands. We have millions of loaves of bread, and what do we do with what is left after we feed ourselves and our family? How could we make better use of leftover food instead of wasting it? There are some organizations around that will take leftover food from restaurants and businesses, but I am sure they are still in need of volunteers to redistribute this food to those in need…

This topic then made me think about our other forms of wealth that we have abundance of to give to others. We can give love and support to our loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. Our love and support can “feed” the needs of many, if we follow Jesus’ example.

But to do so, we need to not only prioritize our time accordingly, but also we need to be healed ourselves first. It is a bit like that oxygen mask advice you hear on the airplane during the safety drill: Put the oxygen mask first on yourself before putting it onto others! If we are not healed ourselves, then we cannot help others.

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder talked last weekend about how we need to be “repaired” before we can be good in other areas of our lives. This includes helping others through our love and support. It is our responsibility to take the necessary steps to make sure we are repaired, so we can be ready to serve others. There are many ways to do so, but the key is to decide to take the necessary steps with the beginning of this New Year. We do not want to waste the opportunities given to us by God to serve him by helping others, so we need to make sure we are repaired and thus prepared to “feed many”.

Questions:
What are steps that you could take to repair the areas of your life where there are still issues holding you back from living your best life? Who are the people in your life who love you and could support you on this journey? Have you made a commitment to God and yourself to repair yourself? Have you asked God to give you strength and wisdom on this journey?

Next Steps:
Make a list of steps you need to take to repair yourself so that you can live your best life. Set goals and time frames for each step. Ask people who love you to accompany you on this journey for support. Journal your progress as you move through this New Year. When you feel ready, plan whom you now could “feed” in return with your love and support on their journey.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 12
Prayer Focus: To Live Confidently(1 John 4:16-17)
Father in Heaven, thank you for loving me. I know I can trust you with all I am, and I am confident in the salvation you have given me. Help me to abide in you, to become more like your son every day. Teach me to live like him, according to your will, working for your kingdom in all I do. May my love for you and others be perfected through your love for me.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 13
Prayer Focus: To Live Obediently (Philippians 2: 12-13)
Heavenly Father, thank you for working within me. I am in awe of the changes you have worked in my heart before and of the changes you are currently making within me. I praise you for saving for me, for making salvation possible through your son. Help me to share this gift with others by loving you and others and by obeying your will. Teach me to desire what you desire. I trust you to give me the power to do all you ask of me.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 14
Prayer Focus: Worshipping Him (John 4:23)
Dear Father, I worship you with all my heart and soul. I want to sing your praises from early in the morning when the sun rises until late at night when the day has passed. I am so grateful to be allowed to be your child and your love washes over me. 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 and a wonderful man whom she loves and whom she wants to serve the Lord with.


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Rules or Relationship?

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 7

Today’s LivingItOut:
As Jesus’ popularity increased, he attracted more and more attention from the religious leaders, and his disciples came under scrutiny. With more than 600 laws a religious Jew was expected to obey, it wasn’t difficult for the Pharisees, a religious sect that prided itself on rigid adherence to each of those laws, to find fault with Jesus and his disciples.

As in the passage Lead Pastor Ben Snyder referred to in Matthew 7 about specks and planks, the Pharisees had lost sight of the purpose for the laws, namely to set the Jews apart as a special people devoted to God. They had made checking off each rule the focus of their devotion, rather than worshipping the God who had set them apart for himself.

Why? Well, rules are always easier than relationships. I can look at the behaviors I think will identify me as a follower of Jesus, such as giving to charity, praying in public, carrying my Bible around, having a daily quiet time, and fasting regularly, and believe that God is pleased with me. On the other hand, I can treat people badly, hold resentments without extending forgiveness, gossip and lie (white only!), but think that my “good” checklist will offset my bad in God’s eyes. When you write it down like that and read it, it seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? Jesus was very clear about this:

Mark 7:9-12
9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents.

Relationships are hard. It was easier for these Pharisees to devote their money to God than to deal with their aging parents. Giving their money to the temple made them seem so generous! While giving money to the temple is of course a good thing, they were probably more concerned with it making them look good in the sight of their peers and colleagues, Which was evident by the fact that at the same time their own parents went without. They used their obedience to their laws and traditions as an excuse to avoid really helping people.

So I have to ask, “Do I do that?” When have I used busyness with ministry chores as an excuse not to spend time with someone who is hurting or needs more time than my crowded schedule allows? Whose schedule is it, anyway? Every day I ask to be guided by the Holy Spirit, but do I listen to his voice?

Questions:
Have you ever used rules to avoid relationships? If so, why do you think you have been doing so? What is holding you back from building relationships?

Next Steps:
God wants your heart and its desire to know him more than any obedience to rules you might think will make him smile. As you pray and fast over the next several days, ask God to draw you to him. Desire to know him more, and then let that knowledge inform the way you treat the people in your life. Treat them as he has treated you!

21 Days of Prayer -Day 11
Prayer Focus: To Love Fearlessly (1 John 4:18-19)
Our Lord and Savior, thank you for being a God of perfect love. Thank you for loving us first, before we accepted your salvation and before we even knew you, while we were still living in sin. Teach me to love as you love, without fear, without condemnation. Help me to offer grace to those around me, just as you first offered grace to me.


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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I Trust You, Jesus

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 6:45-54

Today’s LivingItOut:
Imagine you are one of Jesus’ disciples. You’ve been following him for a while. You’ve heard his teachings, watched him heal others, and built a relationship with him. You are astounded when he takes five loaves of bread and two fish and feeds more than 5,000 people. You are amazed that after everyone has had their fill, there are 12 baskets of food left. Then Jesus tells you and the other disciples to get on the boat and cross the lake to Bethsaida.

Imagine the conversation on the boat between the disciples. How did he feed all those people with five loaves of bread and two tiny fish, and then have 12 baskets of leftovers? Who do you think Jesus is? I bet they would be feeling overjoyed and in awe of Jesus. They had just participated in a miracle!

I bet the disciples were all trying to talk at the same time. They were happy, confused, and awestruck. Things were going well, and they were feeling content. Then out of nowhere, the wind was howling, the waves were crashing, and they were having a hard time rowing. They were in serious trouble.

Mark 6:47-50a
47 Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. 50 They were all terrified when they saw him.

Have you ever been like the disciples, quickly moving from awe of Jesus and the miracles he performed in your life, to fear and loss of your faith? I am ashamed to admit I can easily become fearful and start to lose my faith. I have learned when I lose my peace, I also lose faith. I immediately need to turn to Jesus and pray. I need to repair my relationship with him and make him, rather than my problems, the focus of my life. Honestly, sometimes I do this quickly, but when I am overwhelmed, I can quickly forget all about Jesus. I read recently that a great thing to do is pray, “Jesus I trust you!” Those are powerful words! They take the focus off of me and my troubles and place it on Jesus. Jesus’ reaction to their fear is filled with love and compassion.

Mark 6:50b-52
50 “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” 51 Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, 52 for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.

When we call out to Jesus when we are terrified, overwhelmed, worried, or in need, his response is, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage, I am here!” Meditate on Jesus’ response. Jesus, our Savior, is here. We don’t need to be afraid. He will give us courage.

Questions:
How would you have reacted to Jesus feeding 5,000 men and their families with what seemed to be so little? What would have been your response when the storm hit? Is there anything you need to do to repair your relationship with Jesus? Do you need to repent for being self-centered and not having faith in him? How did Jesus respond to the disciples when they were crying out in terror?

Next Steps:
Read and meditate on Mark 6:30-52. Practice saying, “Jesus, I trust you,” when troubles occur. Write down what happened after each time you said, “Jesus, I trust you.” Pray to Jesus to repair your relationship with him. Ask him to turn your fear into a strong faith in him. Participate in CedarCreek’s 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 10
Prayer Focus: Dependence on Him (Psalms 121:1-2)
Dear Lord, when things become difficult, I know that you will be walking beside me holding me by my hand. You will cross the desert with me and weather any storm with me. When things become unbearable, I know that you will carry me to the other side. Today, I declare my dependence on you. 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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Who is in Charge?

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 6:1-44

Today’s LivingItOut:
Do you ever play God in your life? I sometimes do. I find myself trying to hold on to and control the circumstances and relationships in my life without seeking God’s leading.

For our purpose of better answering that first question, let’s delve more deeply into Mark 6:1-6, where Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth for the second time. There he discovers, once again, total disbelief among everyone in the town, even within his own family.

Mark 6:3-6 (English Standard Version)

 3 “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.  4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”  5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

In a way, this visit actually went better than the first one (as the people in the synagogue tried to push him off a cliff for declaring he is the Messiah.) This second visit was, however, equally sad because of the same stubborn disbelief. As a matter of fact, it was so bad, it is one of only a couple of stories in the New Testament where Jesus is described as “marveling” over something. One such story is captured in Matthew 8:5-13, when a commander in the Roman army, a centurion, came to Jesus asking him to heal his paralyzed servant that was home suffering badly. Jesus marveled at the man’s deep faith in him to do so and healed him at that moment.

In today’s reading during this second visit to Nazareth, we read that Jesus marveled because of the townspeople’s unwavering disbelief that he is the Messiah. These people knew the Torah, God’s laws, and the prophecies about the coming Messiah. They also knew him and had heard what he had been preaching in the synagogues and of the miracles he had performed. Yet they chose to hold on to this dark, unwavering unbelief—a decision that caused Christ to both marvel and not perform miracles on their behalf.

Unfortunately, these verses show that when we doubt and try to control everything, we also prevent God from doing mighty works in our lives. As I read this story and examined my own life for unbelief, I realize that while I trust Jesus for my salvation, I have unbelief in other areas. I find myself believing he has saved me from the punishment due to me because of my sins, but at times I don’t believe he will, can, or should be in charge of my daily decisions. Instead I want to be in control and be in charge.

How often do we, as professing believers, turn from God and put ourselves back in charge of our lives? For myself, the answer is more times than I can count. The results are never as good as they would they would have been had I remained obedient and let God make the decision for me. When we try to control our lives and choose not to believe and live in a way that declares God knows best, it keeps us from living our best lives.

So what is our challenge from today’s reading? To keep our eyes and our decision-making squarely focused on prayerfully reading his Word and obeying his commands in all areas of our lives. There we will find our best lives yet.

Questions:
Be honest with yourself: do you still demand your own way instead of seeking God’s? If so, why?

What is stopping you from turning your whole life over to his care?

Next Steps:
As you pray over today’s prayer focus, identify those areas in your life that you are holding on to.

List those areas out and begin believing in God’s power to handle them.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 9
Prayer Focus: Surrender to Him (Romans 12:1)
Heavenly Father, thank you for all you have given me: all the time, resources, relationships, and abilities. I now give them back to you. I surrender it all. For I am only a steward—it all belongs to you. God, guide my actions. Teach me to use what you have given me according to your will. Help me to listen for and obey your directions. May your will be done in me and through me.


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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It is an Inside Job

Today’s Bible Reading: Mark 5

Today’s LivingItOut:
In this week’s LivingItOut, we continue our journey through the book of Mark. Today we begin with Mark 5 and we will end the week by reading Mark 8 on Friday.

In Today’s reading, Jesus has “arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes.” The time spent there is short-lived. The dramatic change in one man, once possessed by many evil spirits, caused the crowd to plead with Jesus to go away and leave them alone (verses 1–17). Jesus went back to the other side of the lake. He healed two women in response to faith (verses 21-42). Both situations appeared to be impossible and hopeless, not unlike the man possessed by many evil spirits. Yet, Jesus again demonstrated his power over disease and death.

Similarly to how the man delivered from the legion of evil spirits proclaimed everything the Lord had done for him, I, too, want to proclaim what Jesus has done for me. Jesus always has been faithful to me. He has walked with me and at times carried me through many challenges. While I would have never chosen the challenges presented, his strength in me has deepened my trust in him. He was and always is with me!

I stand amazed at his goodness to me in spite of “broken” (unwise) decisions I’ve made intentionally. He has saved me from sins I would rather not list. He has restored damaged emotions and he continues to offer deep peace in the midst of unexpected, unplanned storms. As he repairs me it makes life better for me, and when I am repaired it makes life better for those around me.

Questions:
Do you intentionally follow Jesus knowing and believing he is the Son of God, yet fail to have faith in the impossible and hopeless situations life presents?

Next Steps:
Pray, asking him to reveal areas of brokenness that are hindering spiritual growth.

Participate in 21 Days of Prayer with our church. Refer to the 21 Days of Prayer Guide and other resources at cedarcreek.tv/21days.

21 Days of Prayer -Day 8
Prayer Focus: Broken Before Him (Psalms 51:17)
Dear God, I have missed the mark of righteousness many times. Yet while I was still separated from you, you loved me and sent your son to die for me. Thank you, Lord. Do not allow me to act proud; don’t let me pretend to be whole and faultless when I am not. Instead, I offer my broken spirit to you, for you alone can make it whole. I come to you in repentance, knowing you see me as perfect because of your son’s sacrifice. Heal me God, and teach my heart to break for what breaks yours. In your son’s name, I pray. Amen.


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


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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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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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