21 Days of Prayer – Day 19

It is hard to believe that our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting is almost over. Our prayer for you throughout this journey has been for you to connect with God in a powerful way and to know him more. As we enter this final weekend, our Senior Director of NextSteps, Marna Ward has an invitation to join us Sunday night as we break the fast online together.


Today’s LivingItOut Study:
Keeping an Eye on Heaven

Paul the apostle first appears in the New Testament as the Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus. You may have heard of Paul. He is a major figure in the New Testament church and actually wrote about two-thirds of the letters in the New Testament.  But before that, while he was still Saul, he tormented the early church. His actions were approved by the ruling hierarchy of the Jewish Temple. He persecuted those who followed Jesus and used his knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures to support his actions. One day, on his way to capture followers of ‘The Way’ in Damascus, Saul encountered the risen Christ, and his life, and his name, were changed forever.

Do you ever wish God would give you another name? (Well, actually he has if you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, but that’s for another day.) I know that by the time I invited Jesus to lead my life, I would have liked to change my name, my circumstances, my social group, my work colleagues, my hemisphere… really, everything that I had allowed my life to become. Little did I know that I, like Paul, would be able to use the experiences of my life before Christ, as well as after, to allow me to speak into the lives of others in a helpful way.

Because of Paul’s life-long training in the Jewish Scriptures, he had authority and knowledge that he used to illustrate how God had always intended his grace and mercy to be for all nations, not just the Jewish people. Because of Paul’s dedication to the cause of Christ and the commission given to Christ followers to make disciples everywhere, he traveled far and wide and encountered many, many challenges. Through them all, Paul trusted in God’s plan for his life. In fact, in a letter he wrote to a church he had started in the city of Philippi, he wrote:

 

Philippians 1:21-24

21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

 

In Monday’s LivingItOut, Todd shared that in the book Mere Christianity, author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.”

Paul is a great example of someone who knew that what he did here on Earth had an eternal impact in heaven. He knew that God had a purpose for his life, and that his actions here mattered. Paul’s experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 further shaped his perspective on his purpose and helped him stay focused on heaven. He was stoned and left for dead outside of the city of Lystra (Acts 14:19-20) and was given a glimpse of heaven.

 

2 Corinthians 12:1-4

1 This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. 3 Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know 4 that I was caught up[b] to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.

 

Paul was eager to return to the heaven he had experienced, but he was confident that God would leave him to do the work he had planned for him. Paul knew he would not go ‘home’ until it was all accomplished. We all get our “It is finished!” moment when God says we’re finished, and not one second before.

 

Psalm 139:16
 You saw me before I was born.

    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out

    before a single day had passed.

 

I’ve never had a near death experience. I’m not sure I know anyone who has, but I know that God has used me and the experiences of my life to point people toward eternal life with him. I made many poor choices that demonstrated my inability to figure things out on my own. Somehow, through God’s mercy, even though I had no time for him then, I survived. I learned how much I needed him to direct my life, to give it purpose and meaning. Once I submitted my life to him, he began to bring people to me who could benefit from hearing about the mistakes I’d made, so they too could make different choices. My list is not nearly as lengthy as Paul’s in 2 Corinthians 11:25, but I was pregnant and unmarried at 19, sexually assaulted, and later married to an alcoholic.  I had a child with Downs Syndrome, got divorced, remarried a Vietnam veteran with undiagnosed PTSD, and got divorced again. Then, there were abusive relationships, a house fire, the death of a child, a prodigal child … well, that’s enough. Needless to say, I have some experience with tough times. God redeemed all of them by letting me help others to see that he has a better plan for them, and it starts now, the moment we submit our lives to him!

To my joy and amazement, my ministry continues because as of today, my life on earth continues. God isn’t done with me yet. If you’re still breathing, he isn’t done with you either. I have no doubt that the life to come will be better than my mind can imagine right now. I have no doubt that I will spend eternity with Jesus and that I’ll get to know my new name (Rev 2:17, 3:12) because I have trusted him to wipe my sins away. I know from the letters of Paul that he felt the same way—used by God for the purpose for which we were created, for God’s ultimate glory and for our enjoyment.

 

Questions:
How do you think God can use your past mistakes or negative experiences to encourage others?

To whom could you offer help or consolation today? Will you?

How can you share the good news of eternity with Jesus in heaven with people in your life who may be far from him? (Hint: Begin with prayer!)

 

Next Steps:
Take some time to think about how your life has been impacted by a brother or sister in Christ who has encouraged you along the way. This week, write them a note thanking them for their kindness to you.

Find someone you can encourage to take a next step towards full devotion to Jesus.

Join a Group or consider leading a Group where you can do life with others and help each other on your spiritual journey. Browse the Group directory at www.cedarcreek.tv/groups and connect with a Group today.

 

Prayer:
My Sweet Jesus, how grateful I am for your promise of eternal life with you. The thought of spending eternity with you and my loved ones fills me with joy. It also causes me to beg your help in finding new ways to talk about you to those friends and family who may not have gotten the message of your love and mercy. Lord, I know you love them more than I do, and that you desire none to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Use me Lord! I am your servant. Amen.


21 Days of Prayer – Day 19
This Week’s Prayer Focus:

Personally ask God to help you identify where you can take steps in living out your purpose today. Ask God to help you grow in your understanding of your purpose and how your past, your personality and your placement have potential with God. Collectively, let us pray that CedarCreek will be a place where people will know they matter to God and that he has a purpose and clear vision for their life.

Today’s Prayer Focus:
Day 19 – Our specific needs (finances, health, family members to be saved, and other personal needs.) Pray for the sick.

Saturday’s Prayer Focus:
Day 20 – The weekend church service

Sunday’s Prayer Focus:
Day 21 – Communion, worship, & celebration – Join us Sunday at 8pm on Facebook Live – http://Facebook.com/cedarcreek


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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21 Days of Prayer – Day 18

We start today off with an inspiring talk from our Perrysburg Campus Pastor, Tom Martin, as he encourages us to persevere, to grow, and to move closer to God during the 21 Days of Prayer, and even beyond that.  He reminds us to live for what really matters!


Today’s LivingItOut Study:
The Right Place at The Right Time

Do you know the story of Gideon, one of the judges of Israel?

I’ll admit, I couldn’t remember the details of his story off the top of my head. It’s fair to say he’s not quite so well known as Joseph, Moses, or Paul. Despite this, Gideon is listed in Hebrews amongst the biblical heroes.

Hebrews 11:32-34  
32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.

So who was Gideon? And how did he earn a place amongst the great examples of faith?

Gideon’s story can be found in Judges 6-8. In these verses, we learn a few things very quickly about Gideon.

We learn about his placement: Gideon is from the clan of Abiezer, “the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh,” and in Gideon’s own words, he himself is “the least in my entire family!” (Judges 6:11, 15)

We learn about his personality: Gideon is a “mighty hero,” according to the angel of the Lord (6:12). However, he is not especially bold, and certainly not reckless. Instead, Gideon comes across as more cautious and skeptical. He asks for proof on multiple occasions that these commands are coming from God.

Judges 6:11-12
 11 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 12The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”

And, we learn about his passion. Although Gideon approaches his encounters with God and the angel of the Lord cautiously and is occasionally afraid, he still obeys the Lord’s commands. He might not be the boldest of the judges, but he is still passionate about and faithful to God.

So, how do Gideon’s past, personality, and placement play a role in God’s purpose for him?

Well, just as God chose the least of the least from the tribe of Manasseh, he chose out of 32,000 warriors only 300 men to fight off Israel’s enemies, so that Israel would not boast that they had won the victory. Through the smallness of Gideon’s social standing and his army, God was glorified. Gideon’s humble upbringing also saved him from the anger of the people of Ephraim in Judges 8:1-3.

And although Gideon was not bold, God had a plan of victory that made use of his more cautious, thoughtful nature. Instead of rushing in, as many judges might have, Gideon had his army surround their enemies and blow on ram’s horns, causing great confusion. In the end, the enemy army was so confused, they started fighting themselves, possibly saving Gideon’s army from many casualties.

In the end, Gideon’s humble past and cautious nature did not impede him from completing God’s purpose for his life. In fact, God had a plan for Gideon that made use of these things to bring greater glory to God’s name. But none of it would have mattered if not for Gideon’s passion for obeying God, in spite of his perceived weakness or fear.

 

Questions:
Do you fear that your past, personality of placement may be impeding God’s purpose for your life?

How might God actually be using your perceived flaws to speak to others and glorify his name?

How has God used your weaknesses to benefit you or others in the past?

 

Next Steps:
Write down some of the things you feel may be keeping you from fulfilling God’s purpose in your life. Write down some of the ways these may actually be used to benefit God’s church. Act on some of these ideas.

 

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for being a God who doesn’t reject humble beginnings, skepticism, or perceived flaws, but who uses these things to fulfill great purposes. We ask that you would open our eyes so that we may see our weaknesses not as limitations, but instead that we may see them in the light of your purpose. May your will be done above all else. Amen.


21 Days of Prayer – Day 18 
This Week’s Prayer Focus:
Personally, Ask God to help you identify where you take can steps in living out your purpose today. Ask God to help you grow in your understanding of your purpose and how your past, your personality and your placement has potential with God. Collectively, let us pray that CedarCreek will be a place where people will know they matter to God and that he has a purpose and clear vision for their life.

Today’s Prayer Focus:
Day 18 – Personal freedom – breakthrough in every area!


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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21 Days of Prayer – Day 17

It’s hard to believe that we are already at Day 17 of our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. To start today’s study off, here is Senior Director of Students, Josh Whitlow, sharing a few words on prayer, heaven, relationships and restoration.


Today’s LivingItOut Study:
Does My Past Disqualify Me?

Today we will continue looking at characters of the Bible that used their potential for God. My prayer for you is that you may have a new perspective on your potential and how God can use your past, personality and placement today.

Moses’ story is well known from the movie The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston. At the age of 80, Moses stands up to Pharaoh, warns of the ten plagues God would cast on the Egyptians, and leads his people, the Israelites, out of slavery. But Moses’ story didn’t begin or end with that event. Moses had a unique past, a unique personality, and a unique passion that God used to carry out his work, beyond freeing the Israelites.

Moses’ unique past began at birth. When Moses was born, Pharaoh feared the growing population of the Israelites and ordered all male babies to be killed. Hidden in a basket in the Nile River, Pharaoh’s own daughter found Moses and raised him in the palace as her own son. Moses grew up with the best life had to offer – education, comfort, riches – yet he saw God’s people being forced to work as slaves.

 

Exodus 2:11-12

11 Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. 12 After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.

 

At age 40, Moses was a hothead! In a fit of rage, he killed an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite and fled to the desert for 40 years.  When God appeared to Moses in a burning bush, Moses’ first response was to resist.

 

Exodus 4:10 (NIV)

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

 

Scholars speculate that Moses may have had a speech impediment. Although Moses was no longer a young man, was no longer in a position in the palace, and was removed to the desert, God still chose to use Moses to carry out his purpose. Moses led God’s people out of Egypt, out of slavery, and across the Red Sea; he delivered God’s Ten Commandments and led the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years! If God can use an old hothead, imagine all the ways he can use your past, personality, and passions to reach people for his Kingdom!

 

Questions:
Why is it hard to believe that God can use a person with a bad past to carry out his purpose?

At first, Moses was resistant to God’s calling and felt inadequate to lead the Israelites. What fears or hang-ups do you have about God using you?

How can the story of Moses help you get past those misconceptions and allow you to follow God?

Next Steps:
Write down 1-3 people that don’t know God as their personal Savior. Next to each name, write down how you can use your unique past, personality, and passions to share God with them.

 

 

Prayer:
Dear God, thank you for the story of Moses. Thank you for using imperfect people like Moses, and like me, to carry out your purpose. Help me see how you can use my past, personality, and passions to reach people for your Kingdom. Amen.


21 Days of Prayer – Day 17
This Week’s Prayer Focus:
Personally, ask God to help you identify where you can take steps in living out your purpose today. Ask God to help you grow in your understanding of your purpose and how your past, your personality and your placement has potential with God. Collectively, let us pray that CedarCreek will be a place where people will know they matter to God and that he has a purpose and clear vision for their life.

Today’s Prayer Focus:
Day 17 – My personal vision for 2018 – relationships, ministry, reaching my full potential


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


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


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Do You Have What It Takes?

This weekend Ben Snyder asked the question, “What will we be surprised by in heaven?” Ben went on to share that we will be surprised by the fact that our lives on earth had tremendous potential for God. When our life is reviewed in heaven, we will see that our past experiences prepared us to serve God and others. We will also see that God equipped and designed us perfectly to live out the purpose that he created us for. Finally, we will realize that God placed us on earth at a specific time and in a specific place to make an eternal difference. This life review will show us that our past, our personality, and our placement had potential with God while here on earth.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait for a life review to see your potential. You can begin discovering your purpose today. In order to do that though, you will need to trust that there is potential inside of you. You will need to realize that no matter what is in your past, it doesn’t disqualify you from living out your purpose. Often, it is your past that qualifies you by giving you perspective and experience. It’s also important to know that God has gifted you with the exact talents and personality that you need to fulfill your purpose. In fact, even the parts of your personality that you don’t like make you unique and equipped to make a difference in a way that no one else can.

Over the next few days, we will be looking at four different characters of the Bible that God used to make a difference. Each of these characters had potential in them that led them to fulfill the very purpose that God had for them.

Genesis 37:2-4
2 This is the account of Jacob and his family. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he often tended his father’s flocks. He worked for his half brothers, the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing. 3 Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. 4 But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.

Joseph’s past, personality, and placement had a purpose. Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons, had been born to him at an old age and was obviously his favorite. Joseph was overly self-confident; His natural self- assurance, increased by being Jacob’s favorite son and by knowing of God’s designs on his life, was unbearable to his older brothers. They hated him. The fine robe that Jacob had made for him became a symbol of Jacob’s favoritism and aggravated the already strained relations between Joseph and his brothers. His youthful pride, immature attitude, and boastful manner fueled the fire of jealousy between them. No one enjoys a braggart. Joseph learned his lesson the hard way. His angry brothers sold him into slavery to get rid of him.

Joseph’s self-assurance and painful life experiences, combined with a personal knowledge of God, allowed him to survive and prosper where most would have failed. He added quiet wisdom to his confidence and won the hearts of everyone he met, eventually even his brothers’!

Genesis 39:2a
The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did

Joseph’s story is captured in Genesis 37-44. Perhaps you can identify with one or more of the hardships Joseph experienced. Hopefully, you can also imitate his positive responses, transforming each setback into a step forward, and even victory!

As long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher. When I was little, my father, who worked in construction, gave me some seats from a one-room school house that he had salvaged from a worksite. As I grew up, the neighborhood children and I played school with them often. And when we played, I was, of course, always the teacher. After high school, I started college as a math major with the intent of teaching at a high school someday. I have always been shy and introverted. Four weeks into my first education class, I came to the realization that I did not have the personality to stand up in front of a group of people every day. Fortunately, while planning my schedule with a guidance counselor, she suggested that I take a computer programming class.

Many years later, with my three children in school and many work experiences under my belt, I found myself helping their school set up a computer lab. I was not teaching per se, but I was using my knowledge of computers and my passion for education in a setting that would help people I cared about. Another few years forward, I found myself using my MBA skills to help in my role as an elected school board member, helping more than 7500 children in the local district. A few years later, I found myself using the skills I learned on the school board to help children in over 45 schools around the state whose parents had chosen to send them to a charter school that was sponsored by the organization I volunteer for.

God used Joseph’s past, personality, and placement for a purpose. And I believe he uses these in us, too!
Questions:
How is God using your personality for a purpose to make an eternal difference in his kingdom?

Next Steps:  

Start by purposely choosing one of these: your past, personality, or passions  to make a difference.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for giving purpose to my life. Help me believe that I matter in your kingdom. Guide me to use my past, personality, and passion to make a difference! Amen.


21 Days of Prayer – Day 16
This Week’s Prayer Focus:
Personally, ask God to help you identify where you can take steps in living out your purpose today. Ask God to help you grow in your understanding of your purpose and how your past, your personality and your placement has potential with God. Collectively, let us pray that CedarCreek will be a place where people will know they matter to God and that he has a purpose and clear vision for their life.

Today’s Prayer Focus:
Day 16 – Our Church’s vision for 2018 – building projects, campus launches, conferences, finances, leaders


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 and has served on a public-school board and currently serves on a charter school board. She is married with 3 grown children—two whom are married—and two grandsons.


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We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


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21 Days of Prayer – Day 15

Today is the start of the final week of 21 Days of Prayer. We are excited that so many have joined together on this journey of prayer and fasting! As we enter this final week, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder has some encouragement for you to finish the journey well!


Today’s LivingItOut Study:
Why Am I Here?

Why Am I Here?

These four words compose one of life’s most persistent, and daunting, questions.  For some, including many non-Christians, our earthly life is viewed as a finite and singular experience.  It begins, it ends, and then we are no more.  Through this lens, the question of why we exist is understandably confounding.

But for those who seek wisdom in the Bible, the answer to this question is surprisingly clear. As Lead Pastor Ben Snyder shared in the third week of the Imagine Heaven series, God has placed us on Earth for a purpose, and with a purpose. The key to understanding our purpose is found in two areas: knowing God and appreciating the inextricable connection between this life and the next.

It’s all too easy – even for Christ followers – to view heaven and Earth as entirely separate worlds. On the surface, the differences are stark. Most elements of our life on Earth involve tangible experiences. We can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell the world around us. Heaven, by contrast, is an uncharted realm (for the living) that is equal parts mystery and wonder. Even some otherwise faith-filled people can struggle to visualize, much less believe in, the domain of our afterlife.

This world, like the creatures who inhabit it, is imperfect. To be certain, God has provided us with wonderful treasures on Earth – people we love, beautiful landscapes, and abilities that provide us the opportunity to leverage his gifts for the good of others and his Kingdom. At the same time, being both fallen and empowered with free will, mankind has shown its propensity to sin. Every day, we bear witness to evils such as violence, dishonesty, and hatred, which remind us of this fact. The harsh underbelly of our world can leave us skeptical, wondering if there really is a point or purpose to our earthly lives.

But when we realize that this life does not exist in isolation, we can begin to understand and appreciate that in heaven, God will reward us with further joys – beyond what we can imagine – and with the restoration of the earthly hardships we’ve endured.

An earthly existence without heaven would be a life without purpose.  Similarly, a heaven separated from Earth would leave us in a world without God. The good news, as we learn in the Bible, is that our earthly life is not a discrete experience disconnected from what lies ahead. Rather, it is an important and meaningful beginning to an everlasting story written by God.

If heaven is our desired destination, then our lives on Earth represent an on-ramp to an amazing journey. Through this lens, we can view this life as a preamble of sorts to what lies ahead in heaven.

As Ben revealed this past weekend, we can begin to get a taste of heaven today by leaning into the reality that our past, our personalities, and our placement have potential with God.

When we see that God has uniquely designed us, we see that there is an underlying purpose for our creation.

 

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.

 

God created us for good works. Our purpose is to be faithful to the life we have been given by loving God, loving others, and employing the gifts he gave us to add to the foundation of Jesus.

As Ben described, our perspective on this life can be changed by what is reviewed, restored, and rewarded in heaven.

 

Reviewed

1 Corinthians 4:5

So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time – before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.

In heaven, our whole life will be reviewed.  The life we lived on Earth will be laid bare.  There will be no secrets for, as we know, there are no secrets from God.  While most of us are intellectually aware of this fact, the reality is that our day-to-day choices and actions don’t always reflect this knowledge.

 

1 Corinthians 3:12

12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

While our salvation will not be in question, judgment day will reveal the extent of our faithfulness and good works on Earth – how we leveraged God’s gifts to serve him and, therefore, others.

 

Restored

One of the most beautiful realities of heaven is that it will be the setting in which God will restore our earthly hardships. In his book, All Things New, author John Eldredge describes restoration as bringing things back to their created goodness – to their original intention.

“Restoration is exactly what Jesus promised,” Eldredge writes.  “Despite what you may have been told, he didn’t focus our hopes on the great airlift to heaven.  He promised ‘the renewal of all things,’ including the earth you love, every precious part of it, and your own story (Matthew 19:28). The climax of the entire Bible takes place with these words: ‘I am making everything new!’ (Revelation 21:5).  A day of Great Restoration is coming.”

 

Rewarded

In heaven, believers will also be rewarded for how we love God and love others.

This should not be misunderstood to suggest that heaven itself is a reward. Salvation from sin and access to heaven are gifts. Because Christ died on the cross for our sins, they are not earned, but given to those who have given their life to Christ.

But God will reward those believers who are faithful stewards of the gifts and opportunities God has bestowed on us. Guided by his foremost commandments in Matthew 22:37-39, he will ask, “How did you love me?” and “How did you treat others?”

Heaven on Earth

As the memory verse for the Imagine Heaven series suggests, setting our sights on the realities of our eternal destination, and abiding by God’s commandments, enables us to experience and embody the joys of heaven in this life.

 

Colossians 3:1-2

1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

 

In his iconic book, Mere Christianity, author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

The phrase, “Heaven on Earth” is commonly used to describe an intensely pleasurable experience or state. But Lewis rotates the concept of heaven on Earth to a more literal and productive meaning – that of drawing down the desires of God in heaven to this world and walking in step with them in this life.

God has lovingly designed a purpose and destination for us all. And all that is required to achieve it is our acceptance of his gift of salvation.

 

Questions:

How can you live a life that matters here?

 

Do you see and steward the purpose God gave you?

 

How can you take a step toward your purpose, today?

 

Next Steps:

Set aside time this week to consider God’s purpose for you.  Reflect on how your walk is aligning with his desires for you and rededicate yourself to building the foundation of Jesus by loving him and loving others.

Attend GrowthTrack at your CedarCreek Campus and begin taking your first steps towards discovering your unique gifting and purpose. For times and locations visit www.cedarcreek.tv/GrowthTrack.

 

Prayer:

Heavenly father, I am so grateful for the gifts you have bestowed upon me in this life and for the eternal love you promise me in the next.  Help me always to keep you present and to be a faithful steward of the purpose you have designed for me.  Amen.


21 Days of Prayer – Day 15
This Week’s Prayer Focus:
Personally, ask God to help you identify where you can take steps in living out your purpose today. Ask God to help you grow in your understanding of your purpose and how your past, personality, and placement have potential with God. Collectively, let us pray that CedarCreek will be a place where people will know they matter to God and that he has a purpose and clear vision for their life.

Today’s Prayer Focus:
Day 15 – Families and Marriages


This post was written by Todd Romain. Todd enjoys sharing life with his wife Jessica and their family and serving at CedarCreek. He is a communications director at Owens Corning and an avid supporter of his alma mater, The Ohio State University, and all teams who play Michigan.


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Restoration of a Masterpiece

For many years, the painting “Adoration of the Shepherds” by Italian Renaissance master Sebastiano del Piombo was hidden in storage away from public view. An attempt to lift the painting off of its original wooden panel and transfer it to canvas in the 1700s left it damaged almost beyond repair. “Every now and then our people would take a look at it and walk away again, sadly shaking their heads,” said Rupert Featherstone, director of the Hamilton Kerr Institute, a world leader in conservation research and techniques.

Over a span of nearly ten years, thousands of hours were devoted to restoring the painting: restoring the original colors, reconstructing missing areas, and uncovering hidden layers. The finished restoration was hailed as the “rescue of a masterpiece” and is now on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. A masterpiece that was once relegated to a storage closet is now on display in a world-renowned museum for all the world to admire.

Do you know that God promises to restore the earth the same way “Adoration of the Shepherds” was restored?

In Revelation 21: 3-5, John says:
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” 5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

We sometimes like to think of heaven as an alternative to this world, but it is actually more like a restoration, or rehabilitation of this world. When Jesus died on the cross, he defeated sin, death, and Satan. Although defeated, they were not destroyed. This means, that although God is in control, we still feel and experience the negative effects of sin and death while we live on this earth.

Right now, the earth resembles the “Adoration of the Shepherds” before it was restored. We get sick, we die, we do horrible things to each other. Natural disasters, famine, war, and conflict occur. It may be tempting to look at this world and walk away, sadly shaking your head. However, when we read the verse above, God promises to destroy death, sorrow, and pain forever. One day, we will experience freedom from Satan, sin, and spiritual darkness. In heaven, we will experience a spiritual restoration.

In Revelations 20:10, God promises:
10 Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

This is the final destination of Satan. When he is thrown into the fiery lake, the power of sin and death will be destroyed forever. In heaven, we will experience freedom from sickness, sadness, and sin. We will experience freedom physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

 

Questions:
What are some things on earth that need restoration?

What are some things in your life that need restoration?

 

Next Steps:
Take a moment to visualize what the earth restored will be like. Think about death and sin being destroyed. Imagine heaven as you understand it from the recent messages.

 

Prayer:
Jesus, thank you for defeating Satan and sin by dying on the cross. Thank you for your promise to destroy Satan and sin forever. Please help me to live my life today in a way that honors and anticipates these promises. Amen.


21 Days of Prayer – Day 12
This Week’s Prayer Focus:
Personally, pray for God to help you find freedom from areas of ongoing struggle. Ask him to help you identify the areas that are keeping you from knowing him better and holding you back from being a difference maker. Ask, what step you need to take this year to find freedom. Collectively, let’s pray that CedarCreek will be a place where thousands of people will find freedom this year and that our relationships with each other will be authentic.

Today’s Prayer Focus:
Day 12 – CedarCreek Students

Saturday’s Prayer Focus:
Day 13 – The weekend church service as we enter week 3 of “Imagine Heaven.”

Sunday’s Prayer Focus:
Day 14 – Praying for all people in their journey of faith to know God, find freedom, discover purpose, and make a difference.


This post was written by Meghan Yarnell. Meghan is an art teacher and artist. She is married and has a son and daughter.


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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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21 Days of Prayer – Day 11

As we reach day eleven in 21 Days of Prayer, our prayer is that you are experiencing God in a powerful and personal way. It is an honor to be on this journey alongside so many of you and to hear what God is doing in your lives through prayer and fasting. Sarah Bucher, Senior Director of CedarCreek Kids, has been participating and journeying alongside us. Today she offers us a few words of encouragement and inspiration.


Today’s LivingItOut Study:
Love In Its Purest Form

Being a medical student means I see many different types of patients each day; some I click with and others I don’t. Recently, I saw a patient who was an older lady and at the end of our encounter, she said “I love you” in the endearing way a grandmother would use the phrase. I impulsively repeated these three words back to her just as you would tell the cashier at a grocery store to also have a good day after they wished you the same. I walked out of the room and chuckled to myself a bit – how funny that I just said these three words to somebody I had met only 15 minutes earlier. Unfortunately, though, “I love you” is a term too casually thrown around in our society today. While the quick “love you” at the end of a phone call with a family member can be endearing, we often see people posting “love you” on Instagram and Facebook posts. Even worse, younger people in relationships often use this phrase as a means to an end, often intended to keep the relationship going or to gain something more out of the relationship. Sometimes it is hard not to wonder what these three words really mean; what is the depth of these frivolous “I love yous?”

Much of the time, there isn’t much depth to it. It is simply a reflex, an impulsive act, or a selfish way to get what is desired from another person. These attributes are not the intention of love as God had planned. As Paul says…

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!

 

This doesn’t sound like the “love” I’ve been seeing in our world today. Sadly, what we describe as love in our society often brings about pain, jealousy, anger, and sometimes even the exact opposite: hate.

Fortunately for us, our future heavenly life will only consist of pure love, not the senseless love we repeatedly witness on earth. Revelation describes the walls and streets of heaven as consisting of “pure gold, as clear as glass.” We will be together with God in our perfect, glorious body, which will endure “no more death or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4). That means no more stressful work days, no more struggles to pay bills, no more worry about upcoming exams, no more arguing, no more fake love, and no more hate. All those who inherit the kingdom of God will also enjoy the emotional freedom of heaven, that which comes with God’s love.

We all have our own ways of managing emotional distress in our lives. Maybe you see a counselor or you run to relieve stress and clear your mind. Maybe you find support in a close friend or a significant other. But, this emotional relief is often temporary and partial. The torment of life continues to creep back, and we continuously put up a fight to quiet these new stresses. We can alleviate these stresses by giving our problems to God as it says in Matthew 11:28, “come to me, all of you who are burdened and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” In heaven, however, these distressing thoughts and burdens will be no more – we will only have rest. We will be emotionally whole as a result of God’s love and the love that will endure in others. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 (NIV), “for we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears… and three [will remain]: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” In this passage, we can interpret our earthly life to be “in part,” while “completeness” describes heaven when we are united with our Lord. The Oxford dictionary defines “complete” as having all the necessary or appropriate parts – we will not have to work for love, it will simply be there in its purest, intended form.

 

Questions:
How can we emulate simple heavenly love here on earth?

What emotions are you most looking forward to finding freedom from in heaven?

 

Next Steps:
Reflect on the love you have toward others, and pray for God to help you demonstrate his true love.

 

Prayer:
My Lord, help me to truly love those around me in a pure way as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13. Help me to love with a pure and simple heart, just as you loved us when you gave your life for us. Amen.


21 Days of Prayer – Day 11
This Week’s Prayer Focus:
Personally, pray for God to help you find freedom from areas of ongoing struggle. Ask him to help you identify the areas that are keeping you from knowing him better and holding you back from being a difference maker. Ask, what step you need to take this year to find freedom. Collectively, let’s pray that CedarCreek will be a place where thousands of people will find freedom this year and that our relationships with each other will be authentic.

Today’s Prayer Focus:
Day 11 – CedarCreek Kids


This post was written by Sandy Tadros. Sandy enjoys serving as a fill-in writer for the LivingItOut.


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21 Days of Prayer – Day 10

We are almost halfway through the 21 Days of Prayer journey! How is your fasting going? Today our Whitehouse Campus Pastor, Shawn Bellner, shares with us what God has been teaching him through the first ten days of prayer and fasting.


Today’s LivingItOut Devotional:
A Pain Free Eternity

Can you think back to a time you have been to the hospital? Maybe it was to visit someone, or perhaps you were the patient. Maybe you work at the hospital.  How did you feel being there? Whatever the situation, most everyone can agree that hospitals are not the most pleasant of environments to be in. After all, hospitals exist and stay in business because people get sick or injured.

Any time we personally experience physical pain and illness, or when the people who are so important to us get sick, we tend to ask, “Why?” It’s hard to understand why bad things happen to each person; however, the only reason that physical pain, illness, and darkness exist in this world is because of sin. When God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he intended them to be whole, healthy, and to solely live a life filled worshiping him. It all fell apart as a result of disobedience, when Adam and Eve took just one bite of the forbidden fruit. God had warned that if they did eat from that tree, they would surely die.  That leads to the obvious question: So what happens to our bodies once we get to heaven?  When we look at Scripture, we are promised new and whole bodies in heaven free from the limitations of our earthly bodies.

 

2 Corinthians 5:1-5

1 “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.  2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.”

 

The Scripture above relates to all of us in the fact that our physical bodies do grow weary on this earth. We become exhausted and sometimes experience physical pain and sickness. But there’s encouragement in this Scripture as well. We will have new heavenly bodies that God has prepared himself. No more sickness, no more pain, and no more exhaustion.

 

Isaiah 65:17-25 gives us a  brief but powerful glimpse of what to look forward to in heaven:

17 “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth,

    and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.

18 Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation!

    And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness.

    Her people will be a source of joy.

19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem

    and delight in my people.

And the sound of weeping and crying

    will be heard in it no more.

20 “No longer will babies die when only a few days old.

    No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life.

No longer will people be considered old at one hundred!

    Only the cursed will die that young!

21 In those days people will live in the houses they build

    and eat the fruit of their own vineyards.

22 Unlike the past, invaders will not take their houses

    and confiscate their vineyards.

For my people will live as long as trees,

    and my chosen ones will have time to enjoy their hard-won gains.

23 They will not work in vain,

    and their children will not be doomed to misfortune.

For they are people blessed by the Lord,

    and their children, too, will be blessed.

24 I will answer them before they even call to me.

    While they are still talking about their needs,

    I will go ahead and answer their prayers!

25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together.

    The lion will eat hay like a cow.

    But the snakes will eat dust.

In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain.

    I, the Lord, have spoken!”

 

God promises believers a place of happiness for eternity. No more weeping, no more crying. Life will never end, and we will never grow old. Before we even think about our needs, God will be taking care of them. One thing that sticks out in the beginning of the scripture is that God references the city of Jerusalem. Cities are not made up of one single person; they are composed of a community of people. And that’s how we live today. God knows we cannot live on our own here, that we need the support of others in our pain, our sorrow, and our sickness. In heaven, we will have the joy of being surrounded with people we will know.

 

Questions:
What pain or illness have you encountered lately, and how did you overcome it? What people have been placed in your life to walk with you through challenges?

Next Steps:
Think about the community of people you have surrounded yourself with and how they, along with God, have loved on you and impacted your life. Meditate on heaven and the promise of a future perfect body without pain, disease, and death.

Prayer:

God, thank you so much for this new day you have set before me. Thank you that you have placed me right here where I can love and serve you by loving and serving others. Help me to be connected with the support groups I have in my life, and help me to be a supportive friend to others. Amen.


21 Days of Prayer – Day 10
This Week’s Prayer Focus:
Personally, pray for God to help you find freedom from areas of ongoing struggle. Areas where you are stuck emotionally and spiritually. Ask, what step you need to take this year to find freedom. Pray for help in identifying people that can help you take those steps toward freedom. Collectively, let’s pray that CedarCreek will be a place where many people will find freedom this year and that our relationships with each other will be authentic.

Today’s Prayer Focus:
Day 10 – GrowthTrack and Serve Teams – leadership development, covering over every leader, fresh vision.


This post was written by Rachel Marroquin, a regular contributor of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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This Broken World

2018 is barely two weeks old, and I’m already tired of it. On January 2, my oldest child woke us up at 3:00 in the morning reporting that she had just thrown up — and she continued to do so for the next 12 hours. That night, my three-year-old pressed repeat, and we spent another night with a bucket. Then it was my turn. My 20-month-old was next, followed by my five-year-old. And my husband rounded it out on Friday. Needless to say, when the last of us got through it, we exhaled a big sigh of relief. And then my oldest woke up with a 103º+ fever on Saturday, and the process resumed to some degree for the next four days. Then, while we were enjoying a quiet Sunday recovering, I heard my husband yell, “Oh no!” followed by an audible, gushing explosion as our grinder pump spewed sewer waste all over our basement for the second time in three weeks, dousing our kids’ artwork, cards, and countless other items in our basement. And the garage door opener usually will not work in the car, so we have to go into the house and force it shut while everyone waits in the car. And the snow blower broke, and, and, and… Sometimes it seems as though this world we live in is falling apart. We are constantly fixing things that are broken, replacing things that have worn out, and looking for newer and better things to make our broken existence somehow seem more tolerable.

Stepping back from our individual lives, we can see evidence of creation falling apart before our eyes. There are snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes in which “creation is groaning” under the weight of the consequences of sin.  Creation itself is eagerly waiting for the day when God will restore our world to what it was meant to be.

Romans 8:19-22
19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

Creation is not the only place where we see the breakdown of our world. People live in fear of their neighbors. The rulers of this world are corrupted by greed and power. We save for retirement only to lose it all when the stock market crashes. It seems that there is little we can depend on in this world except deterioration.

Matthew 6:19-21   
19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

There are moments, however, where we see glimpses of what heaven must be like. Think of the most beautiful place you have ever visited. I remember staring out across the Grand Canyon and being in awe of its majesty. Or looking down from the top of a mountain in Colorado at a nearby lake and thinking there are few things on earth more beautiful. Or staring across the desert in Arizona in the darkness as stars shoot across the sky. While creation is groaning under the weight of sin, we still can see glimpses of heaven. However, even the most beautiful sights here on earth will pale in comparison to the beauty we will experience when we get to heaven. In heaven, God will make “everything new.” The “first heaven and the first earth will pass away.” (Revelation 21)

Paul wrote in Romans 8:21 that creation will join believers in “glorious freedom.” Isaiah writes in Isaiah 64:4 that “For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” The book of Revelation lists countless images that John uses to describe heaven.

Revelation 19: 11-12 (NIV)  
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.

Revelation 21:10-11 (NIV)
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

Our simple, finite minds cannot even begin to grasp the beauty of heaven. It is almost easier for us to skip over this part of the Bible because it is so beyond our comprehension. And yet, God saw fit to bless us with the promise of heaven in the Bible. When thinking about heaven, we should have hope that the groanings of this world will be overshadowed when we finally experience the redemption of creation and our souls.

Questions:
Paul uses strong words to describe creation’s anticipation of the restoration of Christ’s rule on earth. Look back throughout the passages noted above and take note of the words used to describe creation as it is now and how it will be in heaven. How does that make you feel?

Next Steps:
Read Revelation 21. Try to imagine what heaven will be like. Think about what it would have been like to be John as he watched this unfold before his eyes.

Prayer:
God, my finite mind cannot wrap itself around the majesty of heaven. I am often so caught up in the groanings of this world that I forget that these trials are nothing compared to the riches and glory I will experience when I get to heaven. When I am caught in a cycle of despair, help me remember that the trials of this world will pass away, but your rule will last forever. Thank you for the hope and help you have given us to endure the trials we face. Amen.


21 Days of Prayer – Day 9
This Week’s Prayer Focus:
Personally, pray for God to help you find freedom from areas of ongoing struggle. Areas where you are stuck emotionally and spiritually. Ask, what step you need to take this year to find freedom. Pray for help in identifying people that can help you take those steps toward freedom. Collectively, let’s pray that CedarCreek will be a place where many people will find freedom this year and that our relationships with each other will be authentic.

Today’s Prayer Focus:
Day 9 – Groups – leaders, members, real life change to happen in our Groups.


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


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21 Days of Prayer – Day 8

Today begins week 2 of our 21 Days of prayer and fasting. I am thrilled to be on this journey and I am thankful for the encouragement that I receive from others along the way. As we kick-off this week, here are some encouraging words from our Lead Pastor Ben Snyder!


What Will Heaven Be Like?

Colossians 3:1-2
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

When we set our sights on heaven and start to imagine all the glorious things we will experience, many questions come to mind. Last week we kicked off the “Imagine Heaven” series with the question, “Who will be there?” This past weekend, we looked at the question, “What will heaven be like?”

A description of heaven can be found in Revelation, the last book of the Bible.  Many believe the author of Revelation is the Apostle John who was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Jesus called him “Beloved” and included him in his closest circle of trusted friends. Revelation’s description of heaven was inspired from a vision that John received years after Jesus left earth to return to heaven.

Revelation 21:10-21
10 So he took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal. 12 The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  15 The angel who talked to me held in his hand a gold measuring stick to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 When he measured it, he found it was a square, as wide as it was long. In fact, its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles. 17 Then the angel measured the wall using human measurement.  It was 216 feet thick. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. 19 The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones: the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl. And the main street was gold, as pure as transparent glass.

Streets of gold in a city that sparkles like precious stones and is as clear as crystal — the picture that John paints for us is truly amazing, but it undoubtedly pales in comparison to what it really is like.  John could not adequately describe the beauty of what he experienced because he could only draw from earthly terms.

I love the example Ben gave this past weekend.  He tried to capture the beauty of an Israeli city through a photo. His eyes were able to capture the beauty in front of him, but the photo didn’t do it justice.

I can relate to this.  I have witnessed several beautiful sunsets over Lake Michigan. However, sharing them on film with friends or placing them on Facebook never captures the true beauty that I experienced.

When it comes to heaven, there is so much more than a beautiful place  to experience. As we talked about last week, the highlight of heaven is that God will be there.

Heaven will also be a place of “no mores”. Unlike our experiences here on earth, there will be no more natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, or fires. Physically, heaven will be a place of no more pain, hunger, sickness, or death. Emotionally, there will be no more worry, fear, jealousy, betrayal, or loneliness. And there will be no more sorrow as Jesus will personally wipe away every tear.

Revelation 21:4
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.

Spiritually, there will be no more separation from God. There will be no more sin, no more Satan, and no spiritual darkness or spiritual attacks trying to keep you from knowing God.

Ben used the word “freedom” to describe heaven. It really is the perfect word as heaven is where we will experience the freedom that God always intended us to have. Freedom from all of our suffering, from our hardships, pain, and distress.

While the promise of freedom gives us the hope of an amazing future, many of us are shackled by the struggles of today and are looking for freedom here on earth. The good news is that we can begin experiencing freedom now. As Ben talked about last week, knowing God is the first step in our spiritual journey. Finding freedom is our next step after knowing God.

Many of us try to do this in reverse though. We think we need to change the things that hold us back, such as our regrets, shame, habits and/or pain to get to God.  But the truth is, we need to get to God first, then he will change the things in our life and grant us freedom.

If you are unsure of what it means to have a personal relationship with God, talk with your Group leader or member of your campus staff, or attend Week One of GrowthTrack in February.

While only a personal relationship with Jesus can provide us with eternal freedom, we can experience additional freedom through our relationships with those around us.   .

James 5:16   
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

We can find freedom by engaging in authentic relationships with people that will help us get through life’s challenges.  Many of us can say we have friends, but are they friends that will help us get through our struggles? Are they friends that we can be real with? Will they pray for us, encourage us, and point us to God? These relationships are powerful, can lead to healing, and produce wonderful results.

As a church, we recognize the importance of authentic relationships, and it’s our hope for each of you to be surrounded by others who will help you find freedom.

In order to help people find freedom through authentic relationship, we offer Groups where people can be known by name, share their struggles, pray for each other, and discuss scripture. Consider joining a group! We kick off a new semester this month!

Questions:
When imagining heaven, how would you describe it?

How do authentic relationships help you find freedom?

Next Step:
Continue reading this week’s LivingItOut and discovering what is means to be free.

Consider joining a Group. You can search the Group directory at www.cedarcreek.tv/groups.


21 Days of Prayer – Day 8
This Week’s Prayer Focus:
Personally, pray for God to help you find freedom from areas of ongoing struggle. Areas where you are stuck emotionally and spiritually. Ask, what step you need to take this year to find freedom. Pray for help in identifying people that can help you take those steps toward freedom. Collectively, let’s pray that CedarCreek will be a place where many people will find freedom this year and that our relationships with each other will be authentic.

Today’s Prayer Focus:
Day 8 – The Lost – friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, etc.


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.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


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