Living a Life of Invitation

Quality time with people is essential to our mission to reach people.

When people say, “Do you play golf?” I say, “I go out on the course with clubs.” I’m not sure that what I do on the course would necessarily qualify as “golf.” (My husband wants me to play, so I try.)

Several years ago, while working fulltime at CedarCreek, a friend asked me if I wanted to join her golf league. Working for a church doesn’t necessarily connect you with people who don’t know Christ, so I said, “yes.” It was a 45-minute drive for me every Wednesday morning, but I was hopeful that I would be able to share Christ with the women in the league. I prayed for the women I played with. I cultivated relationships. I partnered with my friend who invited the women to participate in her work at Vision Kitchen.  I loved. I encouraged. I planted seeds that would invite people to be curious about Jesus. As far as I know, no one ever came to church or ever came to know Jesus. Was it worth the effort? I think so! These women knew they could come to me with their concerns, that I would pray with and for them. Some rough edges got smoothed out with extra listening and encouragement.  Maybe some people are curious about Jesus now, and the next time someone invites them to church, they’ll check it out! I think that’s what God planned for me to do there: plant seeds.

When I was a new Christian, I thought that if I didn’t lay out the whole Gospel message and pray with the person to receive Christ, I hadn’t been successful. It was so stressful! (Wait! Was that about me?)  Then someone taught me that salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit, as no one comes to Jesus unless drawn by the Spirit of God (John 6:44). That took me off the hook to “close the deal!” Although I still try to let people know that I love Jesus, and live my life to please him, I don’t have to turn every conversation into an evangelistic belt-notching exercise! Instead, I try to:

Colossians 4:5-6

5Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

More than anything, I want to live a life of invitation. I don’t want anything that I do or say to prevent me from sharing my faith with people I meet or hang out with. This intention helps me make better choices with my words, my attitudes, and my actions. I can’t stand the thought of being hypocritical by saying one thing with my words that my actions don’t confirm. I’m not always successful in that, or in golf. Prayer helps (but not with golf!)

In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul asks the Colossian Christians to pray for them. He asks for opportunities to share the Gospel with others. Then, he instructs them to live wisely amongst those with whom they want to share their faith.

Colossians 4:2-6

2Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. 3Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

5Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

 

Do you find yourself spending most of your time with other Christians?  Where could you look for opportunities to develop relationships with people who may not know Christ yet?  In whom can you plant a seed?  This can be as simple as listening and praying.

 

Do you pray and ask God for openings to share the Gospel with others? If that were to happen, would you know how? (Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels is a great resource for suggestions about sharing the gospel.)

 

Prayer:

Lord, you’ve called us to be salt and light in our world. Help me to look for ways I can bring light into my corner of the world. Give me the desire and the boldness to speak about how you’ve changed my life, and the courage to invite people into this wonderful life of loving and following you. 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 here.


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Who is More Important than What

It’s 1962, and you live in what once was the United States of America. Two decades ago, the Allies lost World War II, and thus the USA ceased to exist. Now, Germany and Japan have split the land of the United States in half, Germany taking the eastern half and Japan taking the western half. Remnants of the former free society are prevalent, but only as a part of the past.

This is the plot to the award-winning Amazon Prime television series, The Man in the High Castle. This show is an incredible exploration of the alternate universe described above. Each episode leaves you wanting to dive further into the story and exposes humanity’s carnal nature.

I can’t recommend the show enough.

A few weeks ago, I was at home with my daughter, and we had a few hours before my wife was going to be home. Ruby and I ate dinner together and then moved to the family room. I fell onto the couch and thought, “Finally! I can relax on the couch and watch my show.” Then, I heard my little two-year-old say,

Daddy! Yeegos? Play yeegos?

Sound like a foreign language?

She was asking me to play Legos with her. Typically, this involves us working together to build towers for her to eventually knock down. I really wanted to watch my show. The last episode I’d watched was so gripping and, of course, ended with a crazy cliffhanger. I didn’t feel like I had the energy to play “yeegos,” but after looking into her eyes, I knew that it would mean the world to her if I’d sit down and spend some quality time with her, building and knocking down yeegos. I put my phone down, and for the next thirty minutes, we played yeegos like it was the last time we’d ever get the chance.

Later that night, as Kaela and I put Ruby to bed, Kaela asked, “What did you and Daddy do today?” To which Ruby responded, “Play yeegos!” The happiness I felt in that moment is indescribable. Imagine if she’d said, “Daddy watched his television show while I just sat and played by myself” (in two-year-old language). That would’ve been devastating.

Quality time is hard to come by. We live in a fast-paced, always busy (or so we say) society. Our devices – phones, computers, television screens, etc. – seemingly demand our attention at all hours of the day. It is not rare, unfortunately, for a group of people to be in the same room but virtually unaware of each other because they are so focused on their devices. It’s not simply electronics, either. It seems that all of us have problems with quality time. We are far too distracted.

This past weekend, Ben Snyder kicked off our new series, The Space Between Us – which is based on the book Love Languages by Gary Chapman – by discussing the first love language, quality time. One story from the Gospel of Luke illustrates how important quality time is.

In Luke 10, Jesus comes to the house of two sisters: Mary and Martha. Martha began preparing a big dinner for Jesus and the rest of the guests while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teachings. Martha was frustrated with her sister, as she wasn’t helping her with the task of preparing the meal, but instead was “just sitting” there. Jesus’ response is striking. He says, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus makes it clear that quality time with him is of the utmost importance. So often we think that we must be doing something – we have to keep busy – and while there are certainly times where we must be busy, we cannot forget to stop and spend time with the ones we love, especially Jesus.

Ben said that quality time is focused attention. It involves listening, limiting interruptions, being present, and having a shared discovery. When our time spent with those around us is spent distracted or unfocused, we aren’t spending quality time, we are wasting precious time.

This week, we are going to discuss how to engage in quality time with those around us and especially with God. Imagine if we all approached our time with others the same way Mary approached her time with Jesus. I hope to remember this so I can make more yeegos moments. I’ll remember those; but as good as The Man in the High Castle is, I won’t be discussing that as a treasured memory in the years to come.

Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

What had Mary “discovered”?

 

What does it look like for you to spend quality time with those closest to you?

 

Try This:

  • Take Love Languages Assessment here.
  • Share your love language with your “inner circle,” and ask about theirs.
  • Quality time: Plan a shared experience that allows you to have focused attention on a relationship that matters to you.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the gift of time. Help me to not take it for granted. I know that it’s so easy to be distracted when I’m with those closest to me, but I also know how important our time together is. Help me to be engaged when I’m with people, and help me to be engaged when I’m spending time with you. 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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What Are You Supposed to Be Doing?

Millions of people watched the Patriots and the Falcons compete in Super Bowl LI last weekend, arguably the greatest Super Bowl game in history. But not everyone watching was a faithful and loyal fan watching the game from start to finish. Some may have only viewed the half-time show, while others just tuned in for the commercials. Still, others were only interested in the wings, chip dip, and beverages!

Many of those watching were also playing arm-chair quarterback. Although not actually involved in the game, they adamantly complained that they could have caught that pass, made that first down, sacked the quarterback, or refereed the play better than those who actually were on the field. It is easy to analyze, scrutinize, and criticize the problems of the world. But we really need people who will not just discuss a situation but actually do something about it.

Nehemiah saw a problem and was distressed. Instead of complaining or wallowing in self-pity and grief, he took action. Nehemiah knew that God wanted him to motivate the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, so he left a position in the Persian government to do what God wanted. Nehemiah knew God could use his talents to get the job done.  He organized, managed, supervised, encouraged, met opposition, confronted injustice, and kept going until the walls were built. Nehemiah was a man of action. To accomplish more for the sake of God’s kingdom, we must pray, persevere, and sacrifice, as did Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a faithful leader. His life story provides many principles of leadership that are still valid today. Leaders need to have a clear purpose and keep evaluating it in light of God’s will be straightforward and honest, live above reproach, and be a person of constant prayer.

Leadership appears glamorous at times, but it is often lonely, thankless, and filled with pressures to compromise values and standards. Nehemiah learned that there is no success without risk, no reward without hard work, no opportunity without criticism, and no true leadership without trust and faith in God. In the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah’s last words were “Remember me with favor, O my God.” Today we know that over 400 years later, God sent his son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. Jesus told his followers to “get in the game” by making disciples in all nations and stop “armchair quarterbacking.” The message in today’s language might look like this:

 

Nehemiah 13:31

31“I also made provision for contributions of wood at designated times, and for the first fruits. Remember this in my favor, O my God.”

 

What gifts has God blessed you with?

 

Are you armchair quarterbacking, or are you in the game?

 

How are you faithfully using those gifts to advance God’s kingdom?

 

Prayer:

O Heavenly Father, thank you for the gifts you have blessed me with. Help me use my talents to expand your kingdom and to do your will. Show me my path and use me to be a light for others on the journey. Help me be faithful in doing your will with joy and thanksgiving! 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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Don’t Waste Your Future Building a Better Past

While some people are natural dreamers who look toward the future, others are stuck in the past, trapped in a time and place they can’t get beyond. Last weekend Ben talked about building a better future. He said that we shouldn’t waste our future by hoping for a better past. Learn from your past, but then build your way forward.

Another way to learn from the past is to learn from other people’s mistakes. The Bible is full of imperfect people. The Old Testament follows the history of the Israelites, God’s chosen people, as they fall into the same traps again and again. It’s easy to read the account of the Israelites in captivity, then in the desert, then longer in the desert and wonder how they couldn’t seem to get it right. But the truth is we all get stuck in the same pattern. Even though we know the right thing to do, we can be prone to making the same mistakes time and again.

At the end of Nehemiah’s story, we see him return to Jerusalem after a year’s absence. The wall had been rebuilt and the people were safe from their enemies, yet Nehemiah finds the people breaking the Sabbath. They were caught working and selling their produce and other merchandise on the Sabbath. Such work was expressly forbidden as the Sabbath was a day set aside to worship God. Nehemiah reminds the people that this sin is what brought God’s wrath upon them in the first place. How can you make sure to not repeat the same mistakes in your life?

While we cannot change our past, knowing where we’ve been is critical to building a better future and a deeper faith. Rick Warren said in his famous book The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For, “We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” But so many people are. Warren goes on to say, “God’s purpose is not limited by your past. He turned a murderer named Moses into a leader and a coward named Gideon into a courageous hero, and he can do amazing things with the rest of your life, too. God specializes in giving people a fresh start.”

If there is something in your life that is holding you back, confess it to God, and he will take the guilt away. Your past is the past and you don’t have to live with the guilt. That is an amazing thing to realize today.

Nehemiah 13:15-18

15In those days I saw men of Judah treading out their winepresses on the Sabbath. They were also bringing in grain, loading it on donkeys, and bringing their wine, grapes, figs, and all sorts of produce to Jerusalem to sell on the Sabbath. So I rebuked them for selling their produce on that day. 16Some men from Tyre, who lived in Jerusalem, were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise. They were selling it on the Sabbath to the people of Judah—and in Jerusalem at that!

17So I confronted the nobles of Judah. “Why are you profaning the Sabbath in this evil way?” I asked. 18“Wasn’t it just this sort of thing that your ancestors did that caused our God to bring all this trouble upon us and our city? Now you are bringing even more wrath upon Israel by permitting the Sabbath to be desecrated in this way!”

Why did Nehemiah have a problem with the people selling their produce and merchandise on the Sabbath?

 

The danger of not learning from the past is repeating the same mistakes. What is something in your life that you keep repeating instead of learning from?

 

Think back through 2016. What lessons can you learn from the events in your life? How can those lessons guide you forward in your journey?

 

Is there something in your past holding you back, or something you are dwelling on? Last week, Ben talked about building a brain trust, or core team, to provide counsel in your life design. If you are stuck in the past, bring up that event to your brain trust, and ask their advice on how you can move forward in your life journey.

 

Prayer

God, thank you for your written words and the lessons we can learn from Nehemiah. Help us to not dwell on our past but instead find ways to build a better future. Thank you for the hope we have in you, Lord, a second chance through the forgiveness you offer. Please guide our journey forward. Amen.

 


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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When It’s Time to Clean House

SPLAT!” I hit the bottom of the watery ditch with all the grace and finesse of a one-year-old attempting his or her first steps. As I surveyed my surroundings in the glow of the ambient moonlight, I realized I was at the bottom of a five-foot-deep ditch. By the time I clambered out of the muddy trench, I realized I had lost my bearings. In the moonlight, all the trees looked the same. I pulled out my compass, figured my general direction, and stepped into the darkness, hoping I’d still be able to find my objective.

As I reminisce about the adventures and mishaps of my military training, I find it amusing how much Army Land Navigation, or “wayfinding,” reminds me of life. In Land Navigation you are trying to find a point on a map by following a specific path. As we’ve discussed in the “Design Your Life” series, you should have a sense of the direction you need, or want, to be heading. The thing about life is that, if we’re not careful, we either begin to drift off course over time, or we’ll run smack dab into an obstacle, like a ditch that pops up out of nowhere!

When you drift over time, or come upon a sudden obstacle, the result is the same; you wind up off course. Maybe you felt like you had things figured out, you were heading in the right direction, you took the right steps and were making progress, but all of a sudden you realize things are not going as planned. Perhaps you drifted over time, you got distracted, misused time, or followed someone or something you shouldn’t have. Maybe you hit a sudden obstacle as your plans blew up in your face: relationships have been severed, the promotion didn’t go through, you lost the job completely, or you didn’t get accepted to the program.

No matter where you find yourself you can find hope and gain wisdom from the story of Nehemiah. As the book of Nehemiah goes on in chapter 13, we find the people of Jerusalem and Nehemiah in a very similar situation. We know that Nehemiah was in Jerusalem for 12 years. Then, he returns to serve the king for a year before making his way back to Jerusalem. When he returns, he finds that nearly all the spiritual reforms and progress that were made have been forgotten and abandoned in the course of just one year. So, in true Nehemiah fashion, he takes immediate action.

We see this play out in Nehemiah 13:6-9:

6I was not in Jerusalem at that time, for I had returned to King Artaxerxes of Babylon in the thirty-second year of his reign, though I later asked his permission to return. 7When I arrived back in Jerusalem, I learned about Eliashib’s evil deed in providing Tobiah with a room in the courtyards of the Temple of God. 8I became very upset and threw all of Tobiah’s belongings out of the room. 9Then I demanded that the rooms be purified, and I brought back the articles for God’s Temple, the grain offerings, and the frankincense.

The primary obstacle that Nehemiah encounters in this passage is that of Tobiah living in the Temple. Tobiah was an enemy of God’s people who was abusing and using the people for his personal gain.

Nehemiah’s reaction is significant. He jumps to action and clears out Tobiah’s stuff. He cleanses and purifies the Temple. Finally, he puts things back the way they should be.  How can we tie this to our life design? When things don’t go as planned, we may not act as rash as Nehemiah did, but we can take similar steps.

When drifting occurs or obstacles are encountered, look inward. Evaluate and set your heart straight. If drifting occurs, ask questions like:

Is there anything you need to remove or stop doing?

 

Is there anything you need to start doing?

 

Then, follow through. When drifting occurs and changes need to be made to get back on track, have the grit to make the right, albeit hard, decision. When you encounter an obstacle out of the blue, remind yourself that what God is working in you is worth the struggle. Find your bearings, take action, and keep moving forward.

As we put our life design into practice this week and for the years to come, let us be less like the people of Jerusalem and more like Nehemiah: focused, diligent, and resilient.

Are there any areas of your life where you are prone to wander off track? If so, what are some safeguards you can put in place to prevent that?

 

If you were making progress in a specific area of your life but then got derailed, what are some ways you could start to get back on track today?

 

Prayer:

Lord, help me to stay in tune to the direction I need to be heading. Help me evaluate my life and stay away from things that will cause me to drift from you. When the obstacles of life come, let me trust in you. I know that your plan working is better than anything I can imagine. Let my life glorify you and make a positive impact on all those I encounter along the way. Amen.

 


This post was written by Alex Woody. Alex is the Director of Students at the West Toledo Campus of CedarCreek Church.  He has an amazing wife and two joy-filled daughters who can regularly be found filling the West Toledo lobby with laughter and smiles. 


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When Things Go Wrong, the Joy of the Lord is Our Strength

We have all made mistakes that are hard to forget. And we all continue to make mistakes — and will continue to do so until our time on earth is complete. Given this reality, it’s important to consider how we choose to react to our mistakes; how we handle the situations that have not gone our way. How much time have we wasted thinking of how we could have handled a circumstance differently (and better)?

In Nehemiah 8:9-10, we learn that Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites are interpreting the Law of the Lord to the people. The people are weeping and mourning as they hear and learn of the Law, not because they are being disciplined, but because they are remembering their past and all the things they have done that were not pleasing to the Lord. But Nehemiah lifts their heads up and says, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God” (v. 9). The word ‘sacred’ means connected with God, holy, blessed, and devoted. Nehemiah continues, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is our strength!” (v. 10). Nehemiah understands that even through our sins and mistakes, God still loves us, still wants to be in communion with us, still wants us to seek him, worship him, and give our best to him.

“The joy of the Lord is our strength!” is a powerful piece of Scripture. We shouldn’t interpret “joy” and “happiness” as the same thing. “Joy” comes from the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to choose joy in any circumstance because we know who God is, what he has done for us, and that he has the best plans for us. “Happiness” comes and goes. It is based on our emotions which can be inconsistent and change within moments. Ben Snyder says, “Don’t waste your future by hoping for a better past.” Rather than allowing your past to determine your future, believe that God has forgiven you, that he loves you and has greater things in mind for your future. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Nehemiah 8:9-10

“Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is our strength!”

 

How can you relate to the Israelite people after they received the Law? What part of this Scripture sticks out to you the most?

 

How can you choose joy amid a broken and messy world?

 

What are some difficult choices you have made that are hindering your relationship with God?

 

Can you reflect on some difficult circumstances you experienced and how you handled them? What could you have done differently?

 

Prayer: Thank God for his unconditional love, guidance, and mercy. Thank him that we can draw strength from his joy even through the difficult times and that we can learn from the choices we have made that we wish we hadn’t.

 


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


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When Everything Crumbles

Have you ever found yourself at a place in life where you felt like you had wasted a massive amount of time? Maybe you spent days working on a paper for school, and then an hour before the deadline you realized you wanted to start all over. Maybe you rearranged your entire living room, and once you finished, you wished you hadn’t moved anything. Or maybe you found yourself entering your senior year of college and realized that your degree program had nothing to do with what you now wanted for your life.

While our stories may differ, we’ve all been in a position where we felt as though we’ve wasted a lot of time. This can also be the case for our life design. So often, we bank on one plan. We have the “perfect” plan for our life, with the ideal future career, spouse, and kids we want. We design our lives around this plan only to realize further down the road that this plan is not, in fact, the real deal.

What do we do?

This past weekend, Ben closed out our “Design Your Life” series by talking about our final mindset, which is, “Know it’s a process.” Often, we spend so much energy focused on the result, that when the actual result doesn’t match up with our intended result, we despair and feel like giving up. This, however, isn’t helpful, and since our plans for our lives rarely match up perfectly with reality, it’s important for us to embrace the “know it’s a process” mindset.

A look at the conclusion of Nehemiah’s story can be helpful.

For five weeks, we’ve talked about the book of Nehemiah. Over the course of Nehemiah’s story, we’ve witnessed him get curious, have a bias for action, reframe his obstacles, and radically collaborate. He had a job he didn’t want in a place he didn’t want to be. He stepped out and boldly asked King Artaxerxes for permission to go and rebuild Jerusalem. He then spent 12 years in Jerusalem rebuilding and responding to both internal and external obstacles. It seemed as if everything was going well and so he went back to King Artaxerxes.

It took one year.

He and his team spent 12 years rebuilding Jerusalem and strengthening its people.

It took one year for the proverbial cracks to begin to surface.

Tobiah was, by Jewish law, prohibited from the temple. However, he had taken over the room specifically dedicated to storing tithes and food for the priests, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the Levites. As a result, the priests and singers had to go work for their food, abandoning their posts in Jerusalem. Also, many people were found working, buying, and selling on the Sabbath which, as Nehemiah points out, is one of the primary reasons God punished Israel in the first place (Neh. 13:18).

Over the course of this week, we are going to look at how Nehemiah responded and how we can apply this approach to our life design. Today, however, let’s look at how the story ends and learn how we can respond when our plans don’t end up the way we’d hoped.

After seeing everything that had gone wrong, and taking appropriate action, Nehemiah writes this:

Nehemiah 13:30-31

30So I purged out everything foreign and assigned tasks to the priests and Levites, making certain that each knew his work. 31I also made sure that the supply of wood for the altar and the first portions of the harvest were brought at the proper times.

Remember this in my favor, O my God.

Nehemiah asks God to remember all that he’d done, to remember the process. Things did not end up the way Nehemiah hoped they would. It might be safe to assume that Nehemiah didn’t anticipate spending 12 years in Jerusalem only to have his progress fall apart in one. His plan didn’t turn out the way he hoped. How did he react? He came and readjusted the things that had gone wrong. He had to let go of the results he expected and move on to making adjustments based on the reality at hand.

Our response to our life design falling short of our expectations should be similar, and this all starts with the idea that there may be many ways our lives could go. This is why Ben challenged us to gather and create options. When we recognize that there are many different paths we can take, we can adjust certain aspects of our design without despair.

 

Have you taken Ben up on his challenge? Have you tried to craft three different life designs? How did it go?

 

What is one of your life designs?

 

Prayer

Gracious and heavenly Father, thank you so much for your love and mercy toward me. I know that you alone know what my life’s course will be. I pray that when my life design doesn’t turn out the way I’d hoped, I would remember that you are ultimately in control. Help me to love you and serve you always. I ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus. 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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What Does the Great Commission Have to Do with Teams?

Let’s play a game. I’ll give you a well-known line, and you try to think of the television show or movie from which it comes.

“You want to be where everybody knows your name.”

“We’re going to make our dreams come true. Doin’ it our way.”

“You’ve got a friend in me.”

“So no one told you life was going to be this way.”

“Thank you for being a friend. Traveled down the road and back again. Your heart is true you’re a pal and a confidant.”

In case you’re not singing the theme songs to “Cheers,” “Laverne and Shirley,” “Toy Story,” “Friends,” or “The Golden Girls” already – now you are. You’re welcome. Friendships are what make us human. These relationships are powerful, and poets, musicians, and authors have been writing about this relationship for ages. The famous friendships mentioned above all have one thing in common – they are give-and-take relationships. You cannot have a good friend without being a good friend. Taken another way, we can’t continually take counsel from others without being willing to pass it on to someone else.

Last year, we learned about some famous mentor/mentee relationships: Moses mentored Joshua, Elijah mentored Elisha, Paul mentored Timothy. But the mentees did not just absorb the wisdom imparted upon them. They used it. Joshua took the leadership training Moses provided and led Israel into the Promised Land. Elisha picked up Elijah’s mantel and continued the work Elijah had started. Timothy used the leadership skills he learned from Paul to continue to grow the early Christian church in Ephesus. While these men were being mentored, they were humble toward their mentor. They had the posture that Ben referred to this past weekend – they asked “help me understand” questions. They humbly listened to the wise counsel provided, made sure that they understood what they were being told, and then did something with it.

This week you were challenged to start thinking about your team. These are people whom you believe you can learn from, who can offer insight into your struggles and provide suggestions. Nehemiah surrounded himself with his own team when reconstructing the wall. He had goldsmiths, builders, perfume-makers, trumpeters, and priests. He had men in his life who helped him fulfill his life’s purpose. He allowed them to step into his life and help him through the good times and the hard times of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. Now think of someone who might need you. Is there someone in your life who is struggling with some of the things that you have successfully navigated in the past? Are you willing to take the teaching that you have gleaned from your team and become a member of someone else’s? Remember that God wants us to use what we have been given to help others grow. Just as Nehemiah had his team, he was also using his wisdom and experience to lead others. He did not just take from those around him; he poured back into others.

We get a glimpse into the last interaction Jesus had with his disciples at the end of Matthew. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he had some parting words for his disciples. They were gathered together on a mountain, and if they had any doubt that Jesus was the Son of God, he put it to rest there. He gave them the Great Commission. He challenged them to take everything that they had learned under his leadership and share it with the world.

Matthew 28:19-20

19Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

What emotions do you think the disciples experienced as they heard these parting words from Jesus?

 

Who in your life can benefit from the life experience and wisdom that you uniquely have? Can you see yourself as a mentor?

 

Prayer:

Thank God for putting people in our lives that help us grow. Ask him to reveal those whom you might learn from and those who could learn from you. Ask him for courage to share your experience and wisdom with those around you. Ask him to reveal.


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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Your Team Can’t Do It All For You

We are now well into the New Year. How many of us set goals and made resolutions after the stroke of midnight on January 1? Setting goals is easy. Seeing our goals through to completion is where the tough work comes in. Nehemiah, the focal point of today’s passage of Scripture, gives us an excellent example of how to make progress toward our goals. He employs the tools of concentrated effort and commitment to get things done with his team.

The Life Application Study Bible describes Nehemiah as, “a man of character, persistence, and prayer.” Nehemiah’s word was as good as gold. He set out to rebuild a wall around Jerusalem, and he would allow nothing to get in his way. He demonstrated extreme focus by continually progressing toward his goal no matter what.

The Bible says that he and his workers didn’t even take off their clothes until the wall was done. 18th century theologian Matthew Henry says this means they were so committed to their goal that they didn’t even take time to dress or undress, going so far as to sleep in their clothes so they would always be ready to work. Now that is focus!  As the leader of the operation, he could have let his team carry out the work of rebuilding the wall; instead, he got down into the thick of it and did his part.

Finally, Nehemiah is said to have been a man of prayer. He did not set out on his own to accomplish his goals. He kept in contact with God throughout his endeavor, seeking wisdom and strength, and he built a team that he worked with to progress in his mission. Today’s Scripture passage indeed has spiritual implications for us as Christ-followers. We need to be fully committed to our journey with Christ and always ready for an attack, but we can’t do this on our own. Like Nehemiah, we should never remove our “clothes” of the truth of God’s word and our continual connection to him through prayer and connection to others on our team. Never let down your guard, be always ready to defend what you believe in and the way you live, lest you be swayed by persuasive arguments that run counter to your way of life and godly pursuits. How is your character, persistence, and prayer life?

Nehemiah 4:23

During this time, none of us – not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me – ever took off our clothes. We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water.

Was Nehemiah alone in this pursuit? Why is it important that everyone was on the same page when it came to not changing their clothes?

 

What is the significance of having weapons with them at all times in this verse?

 

Prayer:

Tell God how grateful you are for any goals or pursuits he has placed on your heart.  Commit your goals to God and ask him for courage, guidance, and strength to pursue your goals in a manner that will bring glory to him.


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


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Apollo 13 and Teamwork

On April 13, 1970, more than 200,000 miles from Earth, a service module oxygen tank on the Apollo 13 spacecraft exploded, prompting astronaut Jack Swigert to utter the famous (and oft-misquoted) remark, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

The explosion robbed the spacecraft of its normal supply of electricity, light, and water, signaling immediate danger and grave concern for the astronauts on board.  As most of us know, it also served as the catalyst for one of the great examples of teamwork in the modern age.

Led by Apollo 13 flight director (and Toledo native) Gene Kranz, a team of NASA engineers and the Apollo 13 crew worked together – against time and a myriad of obstacles – to return the astronauts safely to earth.  Among the team’s accomplishments was devising and testing a method of removing deadly carbon dioxide that accumulated in the lunar module after the explosion.  To do this, they had to work in tandem across 205,000 miles, using only materials found on board the spacecraft – including plastic bags, cardboard, and tape – to construct a makeshift exhaust system.  Flight controllers also developed procedures for powering up the command module after its unplanned sleep, writing the necessary plans in just three days, instead of the typical three months.

Although the crew did not succeed in its goal of accomplishing a lunar landing, the collaboration of the Apollo 13 team averted near-certain disaster, prompting NASA to classify the mission as a “successful failure.”  Virtually all accounts of the mission acknowledge that this inspiring outcome would not have been possible without the diverse perspectives, ingenuity, and resourcefulness contributed by all involved.

As Ben shared this week, the principle – and value – of teamwork applies to our personal lives as well.  Assembling a team is a vital component of designing a well-lived, joy-filled life.

In the Monday edition of LivingItOut, we examined the benefits Nehemiah derived from the team he assembled.  Leaders (those directing the project), laborers (those doing the physical work), builders (those with a particular set of skills to share), and trumpeters (those equipped to sound the alarm in times of danger) each played an essential role in the safe and successful reconstruction of the Jerusalem wall.  To be certain, Nehemiah’s success was fueled by his unrelenting faith in God.  But many hearts, minds, and hands – all working in unison – were required to complete the construction of the walls (Nehemiah 6:15).

Methodist minister and Yale professor Halford E. Luccock once said, “No one can whistle a symphony.  It takes a whole orchestra to play it.”  The same is true with the pursuit of a joy-filled life.  We can try to “go it alone,” but we’re always better off when we dispense with the notion of invulnerability and seek the fellowship and counsel of others we trust.  Last weekend, Ben encouraged us to take steps toward building our own team – our personal board of directors, if you will – to provide helpful counsel in our life design.  Have you taken any steps to assemble your team?

In recalling Apollo 13, mission commander James Lovell said many years later, “I sometimes catch myself looking up at the moon, remembering the changes of fortune in our long voyage, thinking of the thousands of people who worked to bring the three of us home.”  Fortunately, we need not reach across the stars or the years to realize the benefits of a team in designing our lives.  If you haven’t yet done so, consider reaching out to the people you trust to provide counsel in your life.

Nehemiah 4:16-18

16But from then on, only half my men worked while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. The leaders stationed themselves behind the people of Judah 17who were building the wall. The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. 18All the builders had a sword belted to their side. The trumpeter stayed with me to sound the alarm.

Imagine for a moment how Nehemiah’s mission would have been affected by the absence of even one segment of the team referenced in the above passage.  Turning to your life design, can you identify gaps in your team that may be preventing success?

 

What can you do this week to begin closing any gaps by engaging trusted advisers?

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we are ever-grateful for the presence of your loving hand in our lives.  We also thank you for the gift of one another, the fellow creatures of your kingdom.  Help us to exhibit the wisdom – and derive the mutual benefits – of working together as we seek to design our lives and serve you.  Amen.


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


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