Prayer Brings Perspective

Some of the gifts from Christmas are still sitting under our tree. They are no longer enveloped by beautifully colored paper. They are not waiting for their bright ribbons and bows to be untied. And their tags have long revealed their donor’s intended recipient.

Taking a closer look at these gifts may uncover why they are still beneath our tree. One of the gifts was not requested; perhaps the recipient doesn’t understand its purpose. Another gift is very large; maybe that recipient just doesn’t know where to keep it. And a third gift has many pieces; possibly this recipient just doesn’t know how to put the pieces together to form a useful gift.

Do you ever feel like one of those gifts? Your shell is no longer colorful, you’re bigger than you used to be, and all your parts don’t seem to know how to work together? Welcome to retirement age!

Anyway.

Nehemiah was deeply grieved about the condition of Jerusalem, but he didn’t just brood about it! After his initial grief, he prayed, pouring his heart out to God as he looked for ways to improve the situation. Nehemiah put all his resources of knowledge, experience, and organization into determining what should be done. When bad news comes to you, first pray. Then seek ways to move beyond grief to a specific action that helps those in need. Nehemiah fasted and prayed for several days, expressing his sorrow for Israel’s sin and his desire that Jerusalem would again come alive with the worship of the one true God. Nehemiah demonstrated the elements of effective prayer: (1) praise, (2) thanksgiving, (3) repentance, (4) specific request, and (5) commitment.

Heartfelt prayers like Nehemiah’s can help clarify (1) any problem you may be facing, (2) God’s great power to help you, and (3) the job you have to do. By the end of his prayer time, Nehemiah knew what action he had to take. When God’s people pray, difficult decisions fall into proper perspective, and appropriate actions follow.

Perhaps like Nehemiah, you are greatly grieved about something. Take the time to pray about it. Thank God for all he has done and specifically ask him what action you should take!

Nehemiah 1:10-11

10The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. 11O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.

Are you facing problems with which you need God’s help?

What is God doing in your life to help you with your problems? 

Prayer:

O Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings you have given me. Help me realize the full value of my gifts. May I use them to honor and serve you, and tell the world about your son! Amen.


This post was written by Pam Haynam. Pam is a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Daily Bible Study, a Lead Mentor Mom for Momentum, and a cook for the weekend worship band. She has a passion for education, has served on a public-school board, and serves on a charter school board. She is married with three children and two grandsons.


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Obedience and the Reward it Brings

Church sermons and Bible studies often focus on the wondrous gifts of God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And this is for a good reason; these gifts reveal the essence of God’s unconditional love for us and represent the keys to our eternal future with him.

Every one of us – even the most virtuous person you’ve ever met – has sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect standard, and without his mercy, we would all be destined to spend eternity apart from God.

Today, let’s consider the flip-side to this topic. Rather than focusing solely on the wondrous gift of God’s forgiveness when we falter, let’s unpack the similarly valuable rewards he grants us for obedience. Make no mistake; God loves his followers in both sin and obedience. And, if we accept him as our Lord and Savior, we can be assured that our destiny is secure. But as we learn in the story of Nehemiah, amazing rewards are also promised to those who pray to God and serve him obediently.

Nehemiah served as the cup bearer to Artaxerxes I, the king of Persia in the 5th century B.C. After the walls of Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians, Nehemiah first prayed to God, then asked the king for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. He knew that reconstructing the walls would be vital to restoring Jerusalem as a thriving city. (City walls were essential to both security and commerce, which in turn, laid the foundation for Jerusalem to serve as a home to religious awakening and reformation.) Benefiting from God’s gracious hand, Nehemiah fended off Judah’s enemies and led the successful reconstruction of the walls in just 52 days.

Nehemiah was the model of a committed, God-honoring leader. As we’ve learned this week, Nehemiah first prayed to God, offering praise and then confessing his sins. In Nehemiah 1:8-9, he references God’s promises for obedient faith which enabled him to engage in the challenges he faced.

Remembering God’s promises gives us the confidence to endure the problems in our lives. There is invaluable comfort and assurance in knowing that when we pray to God and invite him deeper into our lives, we are emboldened to confront earthly challenges with confidence. God’s promises give us hope, proper perspective, and propel us forward.

As you know, CedarCreek is observing a church-wide fast from January 9-29. Fasting enables us to hone our obedience to God by increasing our spiritual alertness and focus on him and making him our priority over food, drink, and other things we desire. As you fast, take the time to consider not only God’s incredible gift of forgiveness but his rewards for our obedient faith. And take comfort in knowing that if God is for us, who can ever be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Nehemiah 1:8-9

8Please remember what you told your servant Moses: “If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. 9But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.”

 

What does the knowledge of God’s promise to reward our obedient faith mean to you?

 

Is there an issue you are currently facing that you can take to God? If so, engage in prayer and draw confidence from the power of his loving promises.

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we thank you not only for your gift of forgiveness but for your promise to reward us for obedient faith. Help me to keep you near and take comfort and draw confidence from the grace and power of your loving hand as I face challenges in this earthly life. Amen.

 


This post was written by Todd Romain, a regular contributor to and editor of the LivingItOut Daily Bible Study.


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When in Crisis You Should…Confess?

What’s your first reaction when facing an incredibly difficult circumstance? Do you despair, “freak out,” or shut down? Do you think about how to solve the problem? Do you take it to God? Many times, we aren’t sure what our posture should be in these particular circumstances but maybe Nehemiah’s story can give us some insight.

Nehemiah was facing a life-changing problem. The walls of Jerusalem are destroyed, leaving God’s people without a defense against their enemies. Before taking action, we see Nehemiah respond to this surprise in an unexpected way: he mourns, fasts, and prays. Today we are going to take a deeper look at Nehemiah’s prayer and how that can guide us through our troubles and other unexpected events in life.

It would be easy to understand if Nehemiah started his prayer lamenting the news he received, the challenges ahead, and the despair he feels. Instead, Nehemiah starts by praising God! Not blaming God or cursing his enemies, but praising God.

Many studies show that gratitude journals not only make people more positive, but also improve their mental and physical health, have a positive impact on relationships and careers, and even improve the quality of their sleep. It is common to set fitness goals at the beginning of the year. What if the start of reaching your goal was as easy as acknowledging what is already good in your life? What if it could be accomplished while drinking your morning coffee, or on your way to work? Many people don’t like journaling, and that’s okay. Instead of writing until your hand hurts, try writing a bullet list of 3 to 5 things for which you are grateful.

As Christians, it is important to not just acknowledge the blessings in your life but to thank God for those blessings. Thank God for who he is and what he means in your life. Start your day by praying to God and sharing the list you wrote. Then look back over the day and week to see if you can notice the positive changes in your life.

The next thing we see Nehemiah pray about is his sins. What do Nehemiah’s sins have to do with the wall being down around Jerusalem? Were his sins directly responsible for this tragedy? Probably not, but the act of confession has everything to do with Nehemiah’s relationship with God. The foundation of any good relationship is honesty. Although God already knows our sins, the Bible tells us to confess our sins to God and ask forgiveness. Nehemiah had to clear the air and get right with God before starting the mission God set out before him.

The combination of praising God and asking forgiveness for our sins is powerful. It gives us perspective on the past but also in looking forward. It reminds us of God’s promises and his presence in the coming days. And it frees us to be in the right frame of mind to focus on the problem ahead. How much easier would our problems be if we followed Nehemiah’s example?

Nehemiah 1:5-7

5O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! 7We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.

When facing difficulties or trials, why is it important to both praise God and confess your sins?

 

What surprises, difficulties, or problems are you facing today? Have you brought these issues to God in prayer?

 

Instead of focusing on your problems today, focus on prayer. Focus on God. Take time to praise him for the blessings in your life. Look back at 2016 and acknowledge the wonderful surprises that happened, both large and small. Follow your praise with humility and admit your sins to God. After praying, re-evaluate your outlook on 2017 and the issues you face.

 

Prayer:

God, thank you for loving us and blessing our lives. God, I am not a perfect person. I confess that I fall short of your perfect standard. I know you will be with me in the coming days. Amen.

 

**We are on day 3 of our church-wide 21-day fast. Has fasting helped you take any problems to God? Let us know how it’s going in the comment section below!


This post was written by Kaye Althaus. Kaye loves to read and do crafts with friends. She and her husband live in the quiet country and raise chickens.


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Tough Break? Here’s What You Should Do

We all experience difficult situations and must make difficult decisions —sometimes in what seems like a split second. As situations and circumstances occur in our lives, we have the opportunity to choose the way we respond. Do we respond with a negative and depressing attitude, or do we engage in the situation and trust God to create space for growth in our life?

We can observe and learn from a man from the Old Testament named Nehemiah, who is faced with a serious conflict. The way he responds in the midst of a stressful circumstance is an example that everyone can learn from and be challenged by. In today’s passage, we learn that Jerusalem’s city walls are completely destroyed:

They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:3-4).

The walls of Jerusalem, home to thousands, are destroyed, leaving the city in danger. Nehemiah could have given up, become depressed, or let anger overtake him. Instead, he sets the example of crying out to God, spending time with him, and worshiping him. For days he mourned, fasted, and prayed. We must do the same. Rather than running from challenging situations, we must embrace them and believe and trust that God is in control, that he is working all things for his good. We must pray and ask God for wisdom, knowledge, and joy. God promises that if we “seek him wholeheartedly, we will find him” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Rather than running from challenging situations, we must embrace them and believe and trust that God is in control, that he is working all things for his good.

How, in the past, have you responded poorly to a challenging situation?

 

What can you learn from Nehemiah’s response?

 

What situation are you facing today that you need to take to God in prayer and fasting?

 

**We are two days into the fast. How are you doing? Let us know in the comments below!

 


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


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What’s Your Ideal Vacation?

Imagine waking up to the sound of birds chirping, and a view of a vast mountain capped in snow just outside your window. The sun is shining, the trees look magnificent, and the weather is in the low 70s. You can choose how to spend your day based on how you feel. Maybe you go exploring the wooded area or even walk up the base of the mountain to catch a view you’ve never seen before. Or perhaps you sit on the porch with a cup of Ethiopian coffee and a good book. Either way, what you do is up to you and your family.

I’ve just described my ideal vacation.

What’s yours?

It might be like mine, or it might be something quite different. You might want it to be hot all the time – though I’m not sure why anyone would want it to be hot all the time – with an ocean view.

Either way, we can all imagine what a great vacation would be like, but none of us expect that vacation to just happen, right? We know that we can’t just one day wake up on vacation. Instead, we understand that to have a vacation, we must plan for it. Vacations don’t happen by accident.

Should our approach to life be different? We know that we must take steps to live a well-built, joy-filled life, but often, we don’t know which steps to take. New Year’s resolutions, or resolutions in general, are a perfect example of this phenomenon. We resolve to make changes to grow, yet often we fail to invest the planning to make those resolutions reality.

In their book, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans talk about how engaging in “design thinking,” a human-centered approach that leverages creativity and collaboration to spur solutions, can help us to achieve the life we desire. By combining the concepts of design thinking, and the timeless truths found in the biblical story of Nehemiah, we can see how God might bless us with a well-built, joyful life, especially when we encounter problems.

Nehemiah, a Jew who grew up in the captivity of the Persians, was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes I. In the opening chapter of the book, he is told that the walls and gates of Jerusalem had been destroyed. Jerusalem, the Holy City of Israel, was vulnerable to destruction by its enemies. Nehemiah’s initial response is worth noting. “When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4). A problem was presented to Nehemiah. He wept and immediately went to God in mourning, fasting, and praying, presumably seeking his next step. In a sense, he got curious as to what God would have him do given the news just delivered to him. This is the first mindset in design thinking: Get Curious.

We are going to encounter problems. These problems threaten our chance of experiencing a well-built life; however, if we take the posture of curiosity as to what God might want us to do amid these problems, we can gain the perspective necessary to experience joy.

For the next 21 days, we are going to be fasting as a church. Fasting is an incredible opportunity to get curious about God. I hope that you join us in fasting, and like Nehemiah, you get curious.

Nehemiah 1:4

“When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.”

How can you change the way in which you approach problems to be more like Nehemiah’s approach?

Are you participating in the church-wide fast? Let us know what you’re fasting from and how it’s going in the comments below! We also want to encourage you to visit one of our welcome centers during our weekend services to pick up a journal. If you would like more information on fasting and journaling, we have Fasting and Journaling Guides specific to our Design Your Life series available at the links below.

Fasting Guide

Journaling Guide


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy is the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study. He has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people and for Christian Apologetics. He is married and has a beautiful little girl. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.


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What Do We Do With God’s Surprise?

Brexit, Trump, Hurricane Matthew, Zika, Rio, Pokémon Go, Prince, and Mother Theresa are all names that will stand out in the years to come when we remember 2016. It was a year of surprises – some good, some bad. It was a year of increasing violence in many parts of the world and a year of increasing fear. Some have even dubbed 2016 as “the worst year ever.” While I doubt this is “the worst year ever,” we’ve definitely had our fair share of surprises. How has God surprised you this year? Did you thrive, survive, or struggle in 2016?

Over the last few weeks, we have been looking at how different people in the Bible were “Surprised by God.” In every case, God took something unexpected and used it to bless his people. We end the year with a sense of hope, possibilities, and eager anticipation. The hope and wonder of Christmas are then transferred into the new year. Something in a new year awakens hope of change, of improvement, and of possibilities.

When we look at how God gave us his best and most costly surprise, we can only stand back in amazement. God, the Creator and Sustainer of the earth, chose to come and live among the people he created. In ancient times, the people believed whenever the gods came to roam among the people, trouble always ensued. They were always trying to appease their gods. These gods were vengeful and temperamental. They crushed any rebellion and the people lived in fear. These were the gods people in biblical times understood. Yet the true God came as a baby, innocent and helpless. He surprised us with his arrival and he then surprised us with his humility, wisdom, and grace, and finally his death. He became the sacrifice so our blood would not need to be spilled.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul beautifully presents the surprises we experience in the life of Jesus. He died so that our sinful nature could be put aside and we could become new. Not only does he give us the opportunity to become new but he also gives us the privilege to bring others into this new life with us.

Not only does he give us the opportunity to become new but he also gives us the privilege to bring others into this new life with us.

He has surprised us by making us new. Our responsibility is to rise and live as we are: a new creation. We are to put off our old and sinful nature and embrace the new life we are called to live. As Andrew Peterson so beautifully says it in his song All Things New:

 

Rise up, oh you sleeper, awake

The light of the dawn is upon you

Rise up, oh you sleeper, awake

He makes all things new

 

The world was good

The world is fallen

The world will be redeemed

O hold on to the promise

 

The stories are true

That Jesus makes all things new

The dawn is upon you

2 Corinthians 5:15, 17-18

15He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

17This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun. 18And all this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him.

What are the surprises of God present in the above passage?

 

How can you begin the new year in a way that reflects that you are a new person in Christ?

 

Pray this prayer:

God, thank you for new years and new beginnings. Thank you for being a God of surprises, surprises that are always for our good. Thank you for sending Jesus to take our punishment so that we can be made new and free in you. Help me to live in such a way that those around me see that I am a new creation and want to enter this new life as well.

 


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 four young children.


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Is My Sin Actually Bad?

It’s so amazing. How lucky are we to have such a merciful God that even though we’ve sinned against him, he offers his forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus? We know that through Jesus we will one day be in Heaven, not because of the things we’ve done, but because of God’s mercy. What does this mean for us now, though? When we’re saved, God calls us to live as Christ-like as possible, not because we gain right-standing with him, but because we love him. It’s a way of telling him, “You’ve done so much for me, so I want to do this for you.”

Do you find yourself struggling to break an old bad habit? Is there sinful behavior in your life that you wouldn’t want your fellow church-goers to know about? “But God forgives us, so what’s the big deal?” Sin is so normalized and even celebrated in some corners of our culture, that it may seem that your particular tough-to-break sin isn’t really all that bad. If you find yourself clinging to one particular sin, know that in God’s point of view, sin looks like chains dangling from our feet. It’s preventing us from living the way he wants, from being utilized in his plan to the fullest. It keeps us separated from him. God knows our sin is bad for our souls. God hates sin. Our sin killed Jesus. Jesus was killed to set us free from sin, not to allow us to sit in it. We need to hate sin, too.

In Titus 3:8, Paul tells us to devote ourselves to doing good. This isn’t so that we can earn our way to Heaven; that’s not possible. Jesus is the only way. But God gave us this gift, and we are so clearly undeserving of it. So instead of taking the gift for granted, we need to celebrate it by doing as God asks. Live righteously, show God’s love, run from sin. A very wise-beyond-her-years woman from my LifeGroup told us that she shows God’s love and mercy, not because it comes from her, but because God’s love is so great, that it is pouring out from her; it can’t be contained. How beautiful is that concept? God has done so much for us, let’s show our love for him by sharing his love with others and living right.

Titus 3:8

This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.

 

What does this passage mean for your life? Where specifically do you feel God is calling you to do good?

 

Is there a sin in your life that you cling to? What would it take for you to let it go?

  

Pray this prayer:

God, thank you for the greatest gift in the word: Jesus. It is amazing that even though I have sinned, and will continue to fall short of your glory, you have offered your forgiveness. Please help me to never forget the vastness of this gift, and to show you I’m grateful by living as Christ-like as possible. Help me to rid my life of sins that get in the way of your plan for my life. Amen


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee is a registered nurse on a step-down coronary unit. She loves anything arts-related, and really enjoys writing for Living it Out. She is married with a little girl and boy.


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Farewell, 2016

If you’re like me, as you bid farewell to 2016 this past weekend, your thoughts quickly pivoted to the year ahead.  Some of us made resolutions (some of which have already been broken) and most of us at least pondered what 2017 will have in store.  Increasingly, it seems, our nature as a society is to look forward – not always with patience – figuratively straining our necks to see what is next.

But before we turn our gaze to peer through the windshield at the year ahead, let’s take one last glance into the rear-view mirror to appreciate the year gone by.

As an appreciation of God’s love, consider how he generously blessed you this past year.  Was it a personal event, such as the birth of a child, a union with a new spouse, recovery from an illness, or perhaps an opportunity that permitted you to better provide for your family or others in need?  Or was it an experience with God himself – the gift of deeper spiritual understanding and growth, or even feeling God’s hand guiding you to more fully use your gifts to further his kingdom?  Whatever his gift, take time to thank him for his love and generosity.

All of God’s blessings are worthy of our appreciation, but none compares with his ultimate blessing – the gift of his grace.

The closing week of the “Surprised by God” series featured scripture from the book of Titus.  Earlier this week, we dug into the book of Titus to examine how we have fallen short of God’s example by being foolish and disobedient, and how God saved us, not because we were deserving, but because of his mercy.  Today, as we explore Titus 3:6-7, Paul tells us of how God has generously given us his spirit and, through his grace, made us right and provided us the confidence that we will inherit eternal life.

God’s blessings are not only wondrous; they are also essential.  It is by no other method than accepting him as our Lord and Savior, and in doing so receiving the gift of his unmerited grace, that we obtain salvation.

The amazing thing about God’s grace is that it both humbles us and gives us confidence.  Think about that.  Too often, we associate being humbled with shame or possessing low self-esteem.  But as author and theologian C.S. Lewis famously wrote in his book Mere Christianity, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  Our humility comes from knowing that we do not deserve God’s grace; from thinking of ourselves less in terms of the credit for achievements.

At the same time, our confidence comes from knowing and believing that our eternal destiny is secure – again, not because of our own works, but because of those of Jesus.  The result is a confident humility that serves as a powerful tailwind in our walk with God.

Titus 3:6-7

6He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.

Questions

For which of God’s blessings were you most grateful this past year?

 

What does God’s grace mean to you … and for you?

 

What can you do you more fully appreciate the humility and confidence that are inherent in the gift of God’s grace?

 

 

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your love and blessings, and most of all for the unmerited gift of your grace.  Help me to appreciate the humility and confidence that come with your gifts, and to live my life buoyed by the confident humility that your grace provides.  Amen.

 


This post was written by Todd Romain, a regular contributor to and editor of the LivingItOut Daily Bible Study.


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Where Do You Come From?

 A question people occasionally ask someone they are meeting for the first time is, “Where are you from?” Knowing where a person hails from provides context that enables us to learn more about them. For instance, we would expect a person from a Muslim country or Taiwan to possess different cultural customs and behaviors than someone from Sweden or Ohio. As individuals, we can learn about ourselves when we reflect on where we have been during different phases and seasons of our lives. As Christians, thinking back on who we were and what we were like before we decided to follow Christ can make us ever more appreciative of the gift of salvation that Jesus Christ purchased for us with his life.

In today’s Scripture, Paul, uses words such as foolish, evil, and disobedient to describe who we were before we repented and followed Christ. While these aren’t flattering descriptors, they are deadly accurate. He calls us “slaves” in our former life. Do you know what the Biblical meaning of slave is? Slave! That’s right; Paul is stating that we were completely dominated, totally imprisoned, and unable to break free from the lusts and desires of our previous nature. We were pathetic and helpless creatures.

So why should we think back to what a wretch we were then? Because remembering what we were like and where we came from helps us to appreciate the immeasurable value of God’s gift of a new life and his promise eternity without sin, pain, or sadness. We have been given something that no amount of gold or jewels or treasure could purchase: liberation from our sinful, despicable nature and the gift of a new life and eternity in a sinless, perfect world one day. What is even more amazing is we did, not nor could we ever, do anything to earn this gift. It is only because God is so loving, amazing, and merciful that he has bestowed such blessing upon us. When we consider how far God has brought us from our former self and existence, the correct response should be overwhelming awe and eternal gratitude. Where did you come from?

When we consider how far God has brought us from our former self and existence, the correct response should be overwhelming awe and eternal gratitude. Where did you come from?

Titus 3:3-5

3Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4But-“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”

Circle the adjectives Paul uses to describe us in verse 3. What emotions do those words evoke in you about the person they describe?

 

In verses 4-5, circle the names and pronouns of the person Paul says saved us. How many times are we given credit for this gift? What did we do to merit this gift? What does this tell you about the giver of this gift?

 

Prayer

Think about what you were like before you came to know Christ. Thank him for suffering so much for such an undeserving person like yourself, and for doing it gladly, all for you. Let him know you are grateful beyond description because he is loving beyond comprehension.


This post was written by David Vernier, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Daily Bible Study.


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Christmas is Over

Christmas Day came and went more than a week ago. Can you believe it? After all the waiting, all the parties, all the gift exchanges, all the cookies, and everything else that accompanies the Christmas season, it’s over. You’ve probably already packed away your decorations and moved on to embrace the winter for what it is: cold. If you’re one of those people who still has your decorations up, kudos to you. You’re a trooper and are hanging on to whatever remnant of Christmas is left. However, at some point, all of us move on from the Christmas season.

If the Christmas story is as powerful as we know it to be, shouldn’t it last a little longer than it does? Can the Christmas season last longer than post-Thanksgiving to December 25th? Yes, if we’re defining Christmas correctly. If we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus, then, of course, we can celebrate it all of the time, and we should!

A challenge in this is that our lives move quickly, and we tend to operate in a forward-thinking mindset. We are always looking forward, and always planning. While this is a good thing, it can cause us to miss out. As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

When we look at the birth of Jesus, one of the fascinating parts of the story is Mary’s response. Tucked away in Luke chapter 2, is a fascinating verse that gives us a glimpse of how important Jesus’ birth was to Mary.

Luke writes, “19but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” This verse might not give you pause, however, it should because it challenges our forward-thinking mindset. Mary, who gave birth to Jesus Christ, spent time reflecting on the events we read about 2,000 years later.

But how does this relate to us? Obviously, none of us have experienced what Mary did, but we’ve all experienced Jesus. Throughout your life, haven’t you had memorable experiences with him? As Christians, we should reflect on these moments, because they can do a lot for us. They can inspire us to continue following Christ, they can encourage us in our doubts, and they can reinvigorate a dull spirit.

As Christians, we should reflect on these moments, because they can do a lot for us. They can inspire us to continue following Christ, they can encourage us in our doubts, and they can reinvigorate a dull spirit.

 

Take some time to reflect on these questions:

 

How has this year been for you?

 

In what ways has God surprised you this year?

 

What were some memorable experiences from this year? How was God connected to these experiences?

 

Prayer

God, help me to take pause today and reflect on the good things you’ve given me. Help me to reflect on the most amazing gift you’ve ever given: your Son. Amen.


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy is the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study. He has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people and for Christian Apologetics. He is married and has a beautiful little girl. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.


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