In the Waiting

Today’s Bible Reading: Acts 25

Before we start talking about Acts 25, let’s take a moment to acknowledge where Acts 24 ends: “After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison” (Acts 24:27).

Two. Years.

For two years, Paul was imprisoned — even though, as is made clear in Acts 25, he was innocent! Even when Felix was succeeded by Festus, Paul still wasn’t set free. After the leading priests and other Jewish leaders made their accusations against Paul, Festus went to Caesarea and had Paul brought before him. Although the Jewish leaders couldn’t prove any of their accusations against Paul, Festus still asked him to stand trial in Jerusalem.

Realizing that his life would be in jeopardy if he went to Jerusalem, Paul refused, and instead appealed to Caesar. Although this move kept him from being delivered into the hands of people who wanted him dead, it comes came with consequences. As Agrippa remarks in Acts 26:32, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”

Basically, these chapters read like a series of unfortunate events for Paul. On first glance, it seems like nothing is going his way and every turn he takes just leads to more waiting. It seems like those two years are being wasted.

However, if you give these chapters a closer read, you’ll realize that Paul isn’t sitting around waiting during those two years. In Acts 24, we read that Paul talked frequently with Felix during his two years of imprisonment—and it being Paul, you know he was sharing the gospel during those conversations. Then in Acts 25, Paul got to present his story first to Festus and his advisors, and then to Agrippa and Bernice, who were “accompanied by military officers and prominent men of the city” (Acts 25:23).

In the midst of those two years, they might have felt like wasted, but looking back, God gave Paul a lot of opportunities to preach the gospel during those years of imprisonment.

For two years after graduating college, I felt like I was waiting. Sure, I wasn’t in prison while people plotted to kill me, but it still felt like a difficult time to me. I couldn’t find a job in my field, I was living at home, and I felt stuck. Those two years felt like a waste of time.

However, looking back, God gave me so many opportunities during that period of waiting! They weren’t the opportunities I was hoping for or expecting, but I was able to learn, to teach, to form new relationships, to travel, and so much more! If you’d asked me at graduation what I planned to do next, those two years of “waiting” were not what I had in mind. But as I reflect on that time, I’m now so thankful for them. That time brought me to where I am now.

It can be difficult to wait on God’s timing, especially when it feels like wasted time. But if we follow God faithfully, even when it feels like we’re going nowhere fast, God will use that chapter of our life for his glory—even if we don’t see it at the time.

Questions:
Think back to a period where you felt like you were waiting for a long time or like your time was being wasted. What opportunities did God provide for you during that time? What did you learn? Who did you help? How did you grow? Would you be who you are or where you are now, if it weren’t for that waiting?

Next Steps:
If you feel you’re in a period of waiting right now, remind yourself to look for the opportunities God’s placing before you. Keep an eye out for his hand in your life. Follow him faithfully, and he will deeply bless this period of your life.

If you’ve been through a period of waiting recently, set aside some time to look back and reflect on what God did in your life during that chapter. Thank him for the blessings you didn’t see in the midst of the waiting.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for being a God who works during the waiting. Thank you for the opportunities you have provided for me. Thank you for blessing and teaching me, even when I did not realize it. Help me to see how you’re working in my life during the times of waiting. Help me to follow you faithfully, no matter where I’m at. May your will be done. Amen.


This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton is currently an intern at CedarCreek and works part-time at her local library. In her spare time, she freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.


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Know Thyself!

Today’s Bible Reading: Acts 24

As we start with Acts 24, we find that Paul is being put on trial before the governor Felix. He was being accused by the high priest Ananias, some elders, and a lawyer named Tertullus. He was supposedly a “troublemaker,” “stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world”, and a “ringleader of the Nazarene sect” (NIV Acts 24:5). These were very serious accusations at the time! Yet he remained steadfast when speaking to Felix. He did admit to being a follower of Jesus and The Way, but he made it clear that he had not committed any crime that he knew of. Even though this meant he would remain in prison, his answer to Felix was the same every time he was brought before him. He also refused to pay the expected bribe to Felix, which would have likely set him free.

Paul being put on trial and accused of things he had not done reminded me of something that happened to me when I was about 8 years old. I was in elementary school at the time. My school, the Peselmüller Grundschule in München (Munich), was at that time still relatively newly built—in all its 1970s architectural glory (not!). I recall that we were in a classroom on the second floor for a special class, and one of the windows opened over the roof of a classroom below. There were little stones we could reach, which some kids proceeded to throw onto the roof below. Since there was a glass section on that portion of the room to allow sunlight to come in, the stones would have made quite a bit of noise to be heard by those in the classroom below. A teacher had told us before not to do this! But some kids decided to do it again anyway when our teacher was not looking—they simply could not resist the temptation!

I am no longer sure how things unfolded exactly, but I remember suddenly being accused of having been the one who threw the stones when the teacher from the lower classroom came upstairs to complain. To this day, I am pretty certain that I never participated in throwing any stones, though I may have been near the window at some point. I was made to stand up in class while the teacher told me that I should apologize for what I had done. I refused, saying that I had not done what I was accused of. This went on for what seemed to me like an eternity. At least that is how I remember it! I finally caved, admitted that I had done it (even though that was not true), apologized, and accepted whatever punishment would have been handed out. I have regretted that ever since! It still feels wrong to this day having admitted to a misdeed that I had not actually committed. It still irks me a bit that I gave in to the pressure. I decided then and there that I would never do that again!

Acts 24:14-16 (NIV)
14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

That last sentence in particular stood out to me, and I try to follow it every day. Whenever I have felt I have done something wrong in my life, even inadvertently, it will give me a feeling in my stomach that I cannot stand, and that will not go away until I have made things right. If you know yourself, you know what you need to do for things to be right. I think having a clear conscience is something very important to strive for—doing right by God, others, and yourself. You do all you can do and to the best of your ability. And the rest is up to God. That is the moment where you hand things over to him and trust his plan. Then you can be at peace.

Questions:
Have you done anything recently that you knew was wrong? What could you do to make it right again? Have you ever been unjustly accused or been pressured to be someone you are not? Did you remain true to yourself and God?

Next Steps:
If there is anything you have done that did not feel right to you in the eyes of God, make a plan to set things right. Then ask God for wisdom, guidance, and strength to go and set things straight. If you do not feel like you know yourself yet, attend GrowthTrack and try journaling some experiences that you have had, which may allow you to get to know yourself better.

Prayer:
Dear Father, thank you for knowing me and for making me who I am, your child. Thank you for standing by my side and holding my hand as I walk through life. Thank you for the great examples, such as those from Paul, that help us remain true to ourselves and you, even during difficult times. Thank you for giving us peace in our hearts and minds when we hand things over to you after giving our best. Amen.


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


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Be strong and courageous!

Today’s Bible Reading: Acts 23

I often wonder where Paul’s courage came from. Even before he had the encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he had strength in his convictions. He was obviously very passionate about living out his faith, even when it was wrong. I wonder if Paul ever second-guessed himself after he gave his life to the mission God had in mind for him—like, “I sure had it wrong before this. Maybe I’ve misunderstood again!”

I wonder about that because I don’t know if I would have the courage to stand up on so many occasions before so many people who wished me dead! Yet Paul was so on a mission that Dr. Luke tells us that even when Paul’s message was met repeatedly with resistance, and even violence, he was undeterred. He could have been bitter, resentful, and angry with God. Yet with every twist and turn in his circumstances, God made a way for Paul to share his story, and he did. Paul seemed to realize there was a purpose behind each hardship, and in Acts 23:11, God tells him so.

Acts 23:11
That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.

I don’t always (well, actually seldomly) think that way! Even though I say I trust God to work all my circumstances for good (Romans 8:28), I don’t always trust that my good is his good. Every morning in the time I spend with the Lord, I am reminded of his goodness, of his faithfulness, and of his unfailing love for me. But then the first thing that frustrates me often sends me into a simmer of bitterness. Am I ungrateful for his provision? Often! Am I spoiled by his goodness? Most likely! I will probably never endure even one percent of the hardship Paul suffered for the gospel, yet I don’t always look up and focus on God’s grace as Paul did.

Paul set his eyes to see the Lord in his circumstances. I can choose to do that too. When I focus on Jesus, I can share my story and my struggles with many people to bring them the good news. I can trust that God is at work not only in my life, but also in the lives of the brothers and sisters for whom I pray for his kindness, his healing, and his restoration. I can trust that God is at work in our circumstances and that he assures them, and me, of his constant faithfulness.

Questions:
How do you think God wants to use your circumstances for spiritual benefit, whether it is yours or someone else’s?

Next Steps:
With a Christian friend or confidant, explore what God is doing in your life. Ask hard questions and expect God to show up with the answers.

Prayer:
Father, how grateful I am for the example that the apostle Paul is for my life! I thank you for preserving his story, that I may take courage from it. I know that whatever I do for you has rewards well beyond this life. Give me the courage to share the amazing story you have begun to write for me and the fortitude I’ll need to see it through! I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)! Hallelujah! Amen.


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


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A Story to Tell

Today’s Bible Reading: Acts 22

This weekend we had the great honor to welcome Tony and Kelly Trent, parents of Tyler Trent, at our services. They shared about God’s great faithfulness throughout an unspeakably difficult journey—the illness and loss of their courageous son, Tyler. In turn, we were able to see their faithfulness to God in sharing their story. You see, everyone has a story to tell. There is power in a story, whether it’s the story and testimony of how one comes to know Christ or a story of God’s faithfulness in other times of our lives.

In Acts 22, we see Paul telling his story. There are four main parts of Paul’s testimony that stand out. First, Paul related to the people. He spoke to the crowd in Hebrew, their native language. He found common ground with his audience as he shared his Jewish upbringing and education.

Then, he shared what he was like before his encounter with Christ. Paul was not a Sunday school superstar. He not only wasn’t a Christian in his past, but he had also “persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison” (v. 4). He rejected Christ and persecuted anyone who followed him—let that be a reminder to all of us that whatever we’ve done in our past is not so bad that we’re too far gone from coming to (or coming back to) Christ.

Next, we see that Paul voiced the victory. He shared how Jesus came to him, despite his horrific past, and gave him grace. Paul obeyed God’s command and calling, abandoned his previous ways, and turned to Jesus. Because of Jesus, Paul had a story of victory to tell.

Finally, Paul shared the purpose in his story. Every story has a purpose. When one becomes a follower of Christ, God has a purpose for him or her. Ephesians 2:10 says that “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Jesus told Paul he had “been chosen” (Acts 22:14) and that he would “be his witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard” (vs. 15). If your story is one of God’s faithfulness in other times of your life, there is still purpose in your story. Luke 8:39 says to “tell them everything God has done for you.” Stories and testimonies of God’s faithfulness in our own lives will encourage and bring comfort to others.

Questions:
What is your story? How can you share God’s faithfulness in your life? Are you ready to share it?

Next Steps:
1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “be ready” to share the hope we have as believers. Maybe somebody in your life needs to hear your story. Take some time today and write down or journal about God’s faithfulness in your life or even write out your testimony of how you came to know Christ. Pray for an opportunity to share and be ready to do just that when God opens the door. Remember to R.S.V.P. (Relate, Share, Voice, Purpose).

Prayer:
God, thank you for saving me and giving me a story, your story, to tell. Thank you for your continued goodness and faithfulness in my life. Help me to be ready to share stories of your faithfulness. Give me opportunities to share about all that you are and all you have done, and help me recognize those opportunities. Give me the words to say, and may you get all the glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


This post was written by Kendra Grubinski. Kendra is passionate about her relationship with Jesus and loves studying and sharing God’s Word. During the week, she is a Spanish Teacher at Findlay High School. She also enjoys spending time with her family and pups, reading, traveling, drinking good coffee and being active outdoors.


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The Lord’s Will Be Done

Today’s Bible Reading: Acts 21

Today, we will be reading Acts 21. Paul is traveling and makes several stops to visit fellow believers and disciples. Many people warned that Paul should not go to Jerusalem. A man named Agabus, who had the gift of prophecy, approached Paul and took his belt. Agabus bound his own feet and hands with it, then prophesied that Paul would be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles.

Acts 21:12-13
12 When we heard that, we and everyone there that day begged Paul not to be stubborn and persist in going to Jerusalem. 13 But Paul wouldn’t budge: “Why all this hysteria? Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? You’re looking at this backward. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. Can’t you see that?”

Paul’s friends and fellow believers really cared about him. They did not want him to get arrested, beaten, or hurt. They had their own plan about what was best for Paul. They were trying to protect him. But if Paul would have listened to them and not gone to Jerusalem, he would have disobeyed God. Paul was a man of great conviction, and his priority was obedience to God. He knew he would suffer greatly for Jesus if he went to Jerusalem, but Paul also knew that Jesus would work through him to bring many unbelievers to Jesus. He was more concerned about what Jesus would accomplish through his obedience than what would happen to himself. He was stubborn and refused to take the easy way out. Still, it was surely hard on Paul to see those he cared for so upset about what would happen to him if he went to Jerusalem.

When it was clear that Paul couldn’t be persuaded to change his mind, Paul’s friends gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done” (Acts 21:14). I believe they finally realized that God had a plan, and though Paul would suffer and possibly be killed, they trusted God’s way more than their limited knowledge of the situation.

Questions:
Have you ever been in a situation like Paul, where you knew God was telling you to do something but your loved ones were advising against it? How did you handle the situation? Have you ever encouraged someone to do what you thought was best, instead of what they felt God was telling them to do? What happened?

Next Steps:
Reminisce about a time when you felt God calling you to do something, but you were encouraged to do something else. Write down what happened and the end result. Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance to obey him in all situations. Read and study Acts 21. Read different versions. Focus on verse 14 (God’s will be done).

Prayer:
Jesus, I am so grateful that you love me so much and have a wonderful plan for my life. Help me to always revere you and obey you. Forgive me when I think I know how to handle the situation better than you. Forgive my arrogance and please help me to change. Please help me to trust you in all situations. Help me to make spending time with you a priority throughout my day. Help me to listen to you and obey you. Thank you for always having the time for me. 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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Miracle or the Message?

Today’s Bible Reading:  Acts 20

Today’s reading, Acts 20, is an account of Paul’s parting words to the saints at Troas and the Ephesian Elders at Miletus by Dr. Luke.  Paul traveled in the province of Asia, reinvigorating the believers in all the towns he passed through. It may appear that he was just jumping from place to place over a short period of time, however, the events of verses 1-3 actually took place over a year’s time. While he stayed in Macedonia for five days, he wrote the fourth letter to the Church in Corinth. This letter is known as Second Corinthians, which is the longest single letter in the New Testament. He also wrote the book of Romans during his three-month visit to Corinth.

When Paul was in Troas, he met with the local believers in an upper room to share the Lord’s Supper. At midnight, a boy named Eutychus (which means “fortunate”), fell asleep in the window where he had been seated and plummeted to his death. Paul, through his faith in God, raised this young man back to life.

Acts 20:7-10 
7 On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. 8 The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. 9 As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. 10 Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” 11 Then they all went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper,[d] and ate together. Paul continued talking to them until dawn, and then he left. 12 Meanwhile, the young man was taken home alive and well, and everyone was greatly relieved.

It is interesting to me that a miracle like this was noted in such a de facto manner. Can you just imagine if this incident happened today?! I highly doubt many would return to the room and continue conversing. My suspicion is  that social media would be buzzing with the events of the evening, with video footage and interviews all over CNN and the nightly news, and the gathering would end. Would our minds be left with what Paul was trying to convey, or would we be caught up in the fact that someone fell three stories and was brought back to life? It would make sense that Dr. Luke wanted us to be more impressed with Paul’s message than the miracle. Paul’s message was quite clear—he preached the gospel!

Acts 20:21   
I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.

Another point worth noting in Paul’s message to the Ephesian Elders is that Paul emphasized to them that the church did not belong to them, but that they instead had been appointed as shepherds. It was their responsibility to shepherd God’s people and preach the gospel—all while living as an example as he had done.

Acts 20:28
So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.

The same can be said for church leaders today. I have attended several different churches in my lifetime. I can honestly say that the leaders of CedarCreek Church follow Paul’s example. They humbly preach that “it’s okay to not be okay” and give personal testimony that they fall short, just as we all do. They do not put themselves on a pedestal to be worshiped or force their beliefs on anyone. As far as I can tell, no subject matter in the Bible is taboo, and they preach it all. They also preach to large groups and host groups. I have learned more about the gospel since I started attending CedarCreek Church than I had ever before and find it completely fascinating! I no longer think of reading the Bible as a chore, but as a way of life.

Questions:
Are you caught up in the hype of social media? If so, what can you do to minimize its glamour?

Do you have courage like Paul when facing trials? If not, why?

Do you force people to see things your way? If so, how could you use grace instead?

Next Steps:
As you read through Acts 20, pay close attention to verse 24. Paul lived his life not for himself but for the glory of God. Reflect on your life to see if you are modeling Jesus’ life as Paul did. If not, make a list of steps you can take to get your life on the correct path. Pray to God for guidance and give thanks for all he has done.

Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessing of the CedarCreek Church leaders. Continue to use the Holy Spirit in them to shepherd your flock. Grant us the wisdom to know that your Word is much more powerful than social media. Help us to keep worry at bay, so we may experience your peace. Help us to be considerate to others, so they may see the Holy Spirit at work through us. In your Son’s name I pray. Amen.


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


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Reverence

Today’s Bible Reading:  Acts 19

Words mean a lot to me. A while back I was reading, and the word REVERENT hit me like a ton of bricks. A question popped into my head, “Do I show reverence to God at all times?”. Reverence is an attitude of deep respect that is tinged with awe. I started to ask myself some questions: Do I show a deep respect/awe/fear for God at all times? Do I wish to please him more than I want to please myself? Do I obey even when I don’t want to?

Acts 19:13-20 demonstrates how a group of people became reverent to Jesus and made huge changes in their lives:

A group of Jews were traveling around casting out evil spirits. When they encountered people possessed with evil spirits, they would declare, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” (vs. 13) One time, when they tried to rebuke an evil spirit out of a man in this way, the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them, saying, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” (vs. 15). What happens next is amazing.

Acts 19:17-20
17 The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city and the name of the Lord was greatly honored. 18 Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. 19 A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. 20 So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.

People heard this story and believed in Jesus, and they greatly revered him. The new believers confessed their sins, repented, and changed their behavior. A number of them had been practicing sorcery, which was considered a sin. They had very expensive incantation books they used to practice magic, but in their desire to obey God wholeheartedly, they burned the books. They didn’t sell the books to make a profit, they didn’t put the books away in case they changed their minds, and most importantly, they got rid of the books so that they wouldn’t be tempted to sin again. These new believers actively practiced their faith.

Questions:
How do you show proper respect and awe of Jesus? What is he calling you to get rid off in obedience to him? In what way have you been willing to make difficult decisions and give up important things in your life for eternal things? What evidence do people see in your life that you are a Christ follower?

Next Steps:
Spend time thinking about how you can show proper reverence to God. Make a list of ways you can do this. For example:  read your Bible daily, memorize scripture verses, etc. Pray about this and ask God to forgive you when you don’t give God the reverence he deserves. Repent and ask God to help you change.

Prayer:
Jesus, I am so grateful for all you have done for me. I am in awe of you. Help me to show great reverence to you in every area of my life. Forgive me when I am more concerned about having my own way than obeying you. I know I can’t change myself, but I know you can. Help me Lord! I love you so much, and I praise You. I know you have a perfect plan for my life, and even if I don’t understand it at the time, help me to obey you at all times. 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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Graceful Growth

Today’s Bible Reading:  Acts 18

Today, we’re reading Acts 18. In it, we see Paul take his ministry to Corinth. He started out preaching to Jews and Greeks. But because he was claiming Jesus was the Messiah, they insulted him and weren’t thrilled about his teachings. Before his encounter with Jesus (Acts 9), Paul, formerly Saul, had been a captive to his temper. When Paul was rejected by the Jews and Greeks, he could have lashed out. Instead, he shook the dust from his clothes, signifying that not even a speck of dust from the synagogue would remain on him. He was (dramatically) expressing his rejection of their rejection. “Your blood be on your own heads!  I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6).

This weekend, Ben taught us that gentleness is responding with GRACE more than FORCE. Paul felt a responsibility to preach to the Jews first, but his way of responding with grace was to move on to people who would be open and ready to receive what he had to say. Soon after, Paul would receive this message from God:

Acts 18:9-10
9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! 10 For I am with you, and no one will attack or harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.”

This message is one that we can hold on to today. God wants us to be bold, to share his truth, and to do so knowing that while there will likely be opposition, he will be walking with us every step of the way, giving us words, strength, and restraint to remain filled with grace. In verse 23, we see that not only did Paul value creating believers in Jesus, but he also valued strengthening and growing people further in their faith. We see this play out towards the end of the chapter where Paul’s friends Priscilla and Aquila helped grow another believer, Apollos. He was enthusiastically teaching about Jesus but had room for more accuracy, so they took him aside and taught him more.

If I’m being honest, even just reading about this makes me cringe a little because it’s hard for many of us to receive criticism. Constructive criticism is something I never enjoy giving, let alone receiving. But, considering that after this assistance, Apollos goes on to be an even stronger leader, I am guessing Priscilla and Aquila were very gentle in their approach, and Apollos took it humbly. Paul, Priscilla, and Aquila were committed to growing disciples, not just converts.

Questions:
How strong a disciple are you? Is there someone in your life whom can help you grow?
Is there someone in your life whom you can help grow in their faith? Who? And how might you start? What may be holding you back?

Next Steps:
I think we find it tempting to see another believer and think, “Well, they’re saved. I’ll focus my teaching on someone who needs it more.” But God wants us to remember to grow disciples as well as converts. Find someone this week that you can ask, “What can I do to strengthen your walk with the Lord?”. Remember God’s promise, “I am with you,” and you may be surprised at what you can offer this person with the help of God.

Prayer:
Dear God, please point me toward people whom I can help grow in their faith. Allow me to recognize opportunities for growth in myself and in others. Please give me the ability to be gentle and full of grace instead of force. I want to put your will first. 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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Truth Seekers

Today’s Bible Reading: Acts 17

I love books. I love old books and new books. I love fiction and nonfiction. I love stories meant for my children and stories meant primarily for adults. I also love reading books that focus on Christian living. I have been encouraged in my faith and in my life by authors that love Jesus and want to help others grow their faith in  him. However, today, anyone can write a book. Anyone can claim to be a Christian and twist the words of Jesus to say what they want them to say. They can take a passage of Scripture and make it fit whatever trend is popular in the culture at the moment. We need to be careful as Christians not to be led astray by these authors claiming to be followers of Christ. Recently, I have read or heard about many wildly popular books written by these “Christians” that take the truth of God’s word and tweak it just a bit to make it palatable for today’s culture.

As Paul and Silas traveled together, they encountered many people who did not know what to make of their teachings. In Thessalonica, the Jewish leaders led the people in revolt against them saying they were causing trouble “all over the world” (Acts 17:6). After bail was posted, the believers then sent Paul and Silas on their way to Berea. Their reception in Berea provides an example of how we should approach anyone who is claiming to teach us the truth from God’s Word.

Acts 17:11
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.

They listened to what Paul was saying and immediately went to the Scriptures to see if what they were teaching was true. Throughout the Bible, we see warnings about false teachers. We are instructed to keep watch for false teachers and those who twist God’s  word to suit their own agenda. In a letter written by Paul to Timothy, he warns of these false teachers.

2 Timothy 4:3
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.

We have a responsibility as Christians to know the Bible and evaluate everything we hear based on that knowledge. If we are not sure, we are to “search the scriptures” as the Berean brothers did. Every book we read, every Christian message we hear, and every church service we attend should be held up to the light of Scripture. It does not matter how much we trust the person or how popular they are in our Christian circles—they are not infallible. If someone claims to speak the truth of God’s Word and is not consistent with what we read in the Bible, they are a false teacher.

Questions:
How well do you know the Bible? Are you able to evaluate what someone claims as truth according to what the Bible says is true? Are you regularly evaluating the Christian culture you are consuming in the light of the Bible?

Next Steps:
Read Isaiah 8:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, and 1 John 4:1, and take note of what our responsibilities are as Christians when responding to those who are teaching.

Prayer:
Lord, the times we are living in are dark. So many people claim to be teaching in your name, but are leading others astray. Give me wisdom to take each message I am hearing and evaluate it according to your Word. Make me sensitive to your teachings so that I know when something I am hearing is not from you and give me the courage to stand up for what is true. Thank you for letting us know the truth found in your Word. 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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Showing Grace

Today’s Bible Reading: Acts 16

In this past Friday’s LIO, I had written about my best friend in middle school, Melanie, and how I had left her in the lurch at a crucial moment. This easily could have been the end of our friendship. Teenage girls are usually not the forgiving kind! Thankfully, it was not. Instead, she showed me grace by forgiving me after I apologized to her and explained that I regretted leaving her side that day. To this day, I feel very lucky that she chose grace over abandoning our friendship!

As we continue our journey through Acts, I was struck in Acts 16 by an act of grace that Paul and Silas showed their prison guard. They had been thrown into prison after casting out a spirit from a slave woman. The spirit had allowed her to see the future, and she had thus made money for her owners by telling fortunes. Once the spirit was cast out, the source of income was lost, and the owners had Paul and Silas thrown into jail without a trial, even though they were Roman citizens. There, they were beaten and surely kept in horrible conditions.

Yet, they chose to pray and sing hymns to glorify God. When God shook the entire prison to open all the doors and cast off everyone’s chains, Paul and Silas did not flee. More importantly, they talked the guard, who had come rushing in thinking everyone had escaped, out of killing himself (presumably because he thought he would be executed anyway for letting the prisoners escape).

Acts 16:29-31 (NIV)
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.”

They showed him grace, and because they did, the guard and his entire household became followers of Jesus. Showing grace can be incredibly hard and yet very powerful at the same time! When someone who has wronged you asks for your forgiveness, shows true remorse, and has changed their ways, you have an important choice to make. Your feelings may still be hurt, and you may be so very, very scared of being hurt again by this person, yet, you have an incredible opportunity to mend two lives.

Andy Stanley called grace “the unsettling solution for just about everything” in one of his messages. It was a message that deeply resonated with me when I watched it. I always try to remind myself that we should always stop, listen, and respond with grace rather than with force, as lead pastor Ben Snyder had explained during this weekend’s message. Showing grace sometimes means taking a risk or taking a chance on someone. It can  be very scary. But if you choose to take the risk, the reward could result in great blessings for both you and the other person involved.

Questions:
Have you recently had the opportunity to show grace to someone who did not deserve it? What was your response to that person? If you showed grace, what was the end result? If you did not show them grace, could you still do so and mend the relationship?

Next Steps:
Make a plan to stop, listen, and then respond with grace to a person in your life, who may be in need of it. Think of ways you can respond that keep your own feelings at bay while you try to see things from their point of view. If you have wronged someone, go to them and ask their forgiveness. Be prepared with a plan as to how you can show them that you feel true remorse and have changed your ways.

Prayer:
Dear Father, thank you for keeping my heart open so that I can respond from a place of love when someone comes and asks for my forgiveness. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to show this person grace like your Son would have done. Thank you so much for other people in my life who have shown me grace in the past when I did not deserve it. Thank you for showing me your grace on a daily basis. I do not know what I would do without it! Amen.


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


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