God Knows Who You Are

Have you ever been afraid? If so, then you are part of a small, very selective group known as… the entire population.

That’s right, you are not alone; everyone has been afraid at some point in their life. Fear is normal and completely legitimate. However, fear can cause us to act irrationally.

It can make us doubt ourselves, doubt our circumstances, and we can even begin to believe the lies that our fears tell us.

Sometimes, all we want is to know what to do. We would love to have a sign, a giant neon one with an arrow on it, pointing us down the path we should take. Often, we feel alone in our fears, believing that no one understands.

Gideon was just like you and me.  He had seen the injustice of his people, and he was focused on his circumstances. Then an angel of the Lord showed up and told Gideon that he was a mighty warrior.

Whoa, hang on. Hold the phone. Imagine if you had an angel telling you that you are something quite the opposite of what you think you are.

Don’t be too surprised, because that is what happens to us every time we read Scripture. God tells us who we are, even when we don’t believe it to be true.

Gideon was like the runt of the litter, though. He was from the weakest clan, and he was the weakest in his family. He was much like Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit,” an unlikely hero.

The angel tells Gideon that he will lead an army in victory. At this point, Gideon is really wondering if someone is messing with him because he is not a mighty warrior, or a leader of anything.

Gideon never tells the angel “no,” but he does give excuses as to why he can’t do what the angel wants him to do. He responds the same way you and I would. Who am I? I’m not capable of doing that! I’m the least of the least! If you’re really with us, why has all this other stuff happened?

Then he says:

Judges 6:17-18

17Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me. 18Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.” He answered, “I will stay here until you return.”

 

Gideon needs a sign. When the angel tells him all the things that he is going to do, he needs reassurance.  He needs to know that it is really God telling him what to do. Most people might be appalled by his questioning of the angel, but the reality is, we do the same thing.

God, if you would just show me a sign. God, if it’s really you, can you make it very clear to me?

The angel responds gracefully, “I will stay until you return.” In other words, he is saying:

“No problem Gideon, I know this is hard for you to understand, especially with everything that is going on around you, because of your past, and because everyone else is telling you something different. I will wait here, so that you know that what I say is true.”

The angel of the Lord was patient with Gideon, even when Gideon challenged him.

God is patient with us in the very same way. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will always remind us of who we are, even if we don’t believe it ourselves.

How have you noticed, or not noticed, the patience of God in the midst of your fears?

 

Prayer:

Lord, remind me of who you say I am. Help me to walk in the strength that you have provided for me today. Allow me to not give into my fears of not being adequate and to rest in the grace that you offer. Amen.


This post was written by Stephen Dull. Stephen is a Continuous Improvement Engineer, Triathlete, and Blogger. He is passionate about Faith, Finances, Fitness, and helping men to discover their God-given dream. He has a lovely wife and 2 beautiful daughters. You can follow him on twitter @maxxdull or on his website: www.the360manproject.com


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Comparison Wants to Steal from You

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt, truer words have not been spoken about my life. For as long as I can remember, I have been comparing myself to others. I was the smallest kid in my class all through middle school. High school wasn’t much easier. With braces and a bad haircut, not many girls wanted to talk to me. And being cut from the junior varsity baseball team didn’t help my self-esteem. When I started following Christ around that time, I began to find some peace, although it was hard not to look around and wonder why others had and I had not.

The comparison game got even easier to play as I got older. After college, I got a job (that I didn’t like) and moved to a new city (that I wasn’t crazy about). While many of our friends were moving up in their careers, buying new cars or houses, and going on vacations, my wife and I lived in a one-bedroom, basement apartment. Everyone has their struggles – emotionally, financially, physically, spiritually – but I couldn’t stop feeling sorry for myself, so much so that it led me into depression. There were other contributing factors, but I remember being jealous of so many people in my life who were now so much more “successful” than me. My fear of not measuring up had taken over. As I was throwing myself a pity party, I felt a lot like Gideon, who referred to himself as the weakest of the weak. He doubted that even God could do anything in his life:

Judges 6:14-15

14Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

15“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

 

Just about the time God healed me and brought me out of my depression, I lost my job. Talk about embarrassing for someone who was so concerned with the perception of others and desired to have what they had. Little did I know that it was during this season that God would humble me to the point of acceptance, revealing himself to me in new ways. My wife and I prayed constantly for provision, and God used the same people I thought were so much better than me to bless us many times over. Our rent was paid anonymously, and friends pooled together to pay our bills and buy groceries. I was envious of these friends for what they had, but through their generosity, I became envious of their willingness to love us in our time of need and to serve where God called them. The Lord told me the same thing he told Gideon.

Judges 6:16

 “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

 

I still encounter the green-eyed monster of jealousy from time to time. I would be lying if I said I never compare myself to others, because I do. Now, though, I am less concerned with their job title and more interested in how I can know Christ the way they do.

Comparison led me to a place I don’t want to revisit. I still want to be like other people, but God’s promise to Gideon is a promise to all of us – that he will be with us. He made the same promise in Deuteronomy 31:8: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Do you find yourself stuck in the comparison game, like Gideon?

 

How should the fact of God’s presence change the way you view yourself?

 

Prayer: Father, help me to understand how you see me. Help me to listen to and love you so that I am not comparing myself to others or thinking that you couldn’t do anything through me. Thank you for your presence and for your mercy in my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Ryan Cook. Ryan is the business director at Chick-Fil-A in Toledo. He enjoys spending time with his wife, son, and daughter, and watching Cleveland sports as much as anyone can. Follow him on twitter @cookfila


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When It’s Hard to Trust God

Have you ever had a habit that you just couldn’t seem to quit?  You would vow once more to never do “that” again. For a few days, maybe weeks, or even a month or more, you do fine. You think, “I’ve got this! This is never going to trip me up again.” Then, who knows why, Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired (HALT) – you give in – again! Well, you have lots of company. In fact, the Bible gives us many stories that chronicle the same sad history of God’s chosen people.

Starting with the prophet Moses – who led the Jews out of Egypt to the Promised Land with so many miracles of God’s provision and mercy, through all the other prophets of the Old Testament – God’s people have been quick to turn their backs on God. Why? We read these Old Testament stories and wonder how these people could continuously forget about God. We would never do that, well, right up until the time when God asks us to trust him with… whatever!

Can you trust God with your problem? “Sure!” is the quick answer; but do we really believe this? Even though you have trusted Jesus with your eternity, are you really sure he cares about your ‘today’? As you pray, or even think to ask, for the things that concern you today, are you confident that God hears and is ready to answer your prayers? What if an angel showed up and sat under your oak tree while you were hiding from the thing you feared would take away your livelihood? What would you say then?

Take a minute and put yourself in Gideon’s place. The Midianites have been stealing everything the Israelites have produced for the past seven years. Why? Because God’s people did not trust in his provision. They worshiped other gods. Over and over in the book of Judges, the sentence is given: The people of Israel went back to doing what was evil in God’s sight.

Judges 2:18-19 (MSG) reads,

When God was setting up judges for them, he would be right there with the judge: He would save them from their enemies’ oppression as long as the judge was alive, for God was moved to compassion when he heard their groaning because of those who afflicted and beat them. But when the judge died, the people went right back to their old ways—but even worse than their parents!—running after other gods, serving and worshiping them. Stubborn as mules, they didn’t drop a single evil practice.

So, we find Gideon threshing his grain in a winepress to hide it from the Midianites. When God’s messenger comes to him, does he believe that God cares about him and his people? Well, not really! Look at what has happened in the past seven years! Nothing good, that’s for sure! Not what you’d expect from the God Who Provides. Well, truth be told, the Israelites haven’t exactly held up their end of the bargain. But come on! They are the chosen people! Shouldn’t that be enough? Yet God still calls Gideon, as he calls us. He says, “Go in the strength you have.” “Wait, Lord…” (you say with Gideon…) “do you really know me? I cannot be trusted to tend to my own business, let alone yours!”

Have you ever asked the question, “God, how can I trust that you are who you say you are? I know you say you are good, but right now I see no evidence of that in my life.” Certainly, there are circumstances that are hard, not what you expected, not what you ever would have wanted: broken relationships, hard diagnoses, loss of loved ones, job struggles, financial difficulties, and the list goes on.  How does God answer? He calls us to action.

In his song, “Do Something,” Matthew West says that God created us to do what we can do:

Woke up this morning, saw a world full of trouble now, thought,

How’d we ever get so far down, and how’s it ever gonna turn around?

So I turned my eyes to Heaven.

I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”

Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of people living in poverty, children sold into slavery.

The thought disgusted me.

So, I shook my fist at Heaven, said, “God, why don’t You do something?”

He said, “I did, I created you”

If not us, then who? If not me and you?

Right now, it’s time for us to do something.

If not now, then when, will we see an end to all this pain?

Oh, it’s not enough to do nothing, it’s time for us to do something.

What has God asked you to do? Sometimes I think we get lost in the immensity of the problem. Who has the resources to meet the needs of the millions who are starving in East Africa? How can we possibly provide clean water to all of those who don’t have it? As individuals, none of us possess those resources. But God doesn’t ask us to do those things on our own. He gives us each other, and more than that, he gives us himself. He promises to meet our needs, and not just ours, but the needs of those whom we care about. He gives us the desire and the heart to meet the needs of others, and in that, he provides assets, connections, resources, concepts, ideas, material, personnel, etc. to get the job done. Just as he did for Gideon, meeting not just his needs, but providing assurances, guarantees as it were, of his faithfulness, he promises us of his provision when we step out in faith.

So, what do you need to trust him with today? How can you trust him to be who he says he is? As Andy Stanley says, “You are God’s plan A. There is no plan B.” It’s a challenge, to be sure. But what is life without challenge, without the opportunity to be ‘all that you can be’? It takes courage, relying on God’s strength when yours is not enough. But he has promised never to leave us or forsake us! We can be confident in his unfailing love and power!

Judges 6:12-14

12The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”

13“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

14Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

 

Where is God asking you to trust him today? Will you?

 

Is there something in your life that you need to repent of and ask God to remove in order for him to work in that place?

 

Prayer:

Father, I choose to trust you today. I know you desire the best for me, that your plans are good, to give me a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) Help me to lean into that truth today. You are my life, my hope, my love. Let me be your hands and feet! Let me be your love. 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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What Should I Do With Fear?

It was many years ago that I was introduced to a horror I now wish I could forget. My sister and I were at home with my aunt and uncle, who decided to rent some movies. One of the movies was something we were not allowed to watch, the other was a documentary based on the findings of the prolific novelist, Stephen King. My sister and I went into our basement and began to watch a film that would eventually change my life. Who knew that a simple investigative film into the world of a particular clown (I can’t say, or write the word) would radically alter my perception of so much. Stephen King exposed the true nature of this creature, popularly known as a *lown, as a monster of horrific proportions. Since my viewing of this eye-opening masterpiece of investigative journalism, I have found myself deathly afraid of *lowns. Even as a husband and father of two children, I cannot bring myself to even say the word let alone watch or be in the same room as one of them.

While you may, like me, have a wholly rational fear (or awareness) of something, many people harbor irrational fears that they carry throughout their adult life. Fear is a part of life that we cannot escape. While there are certainly fears of spiders, heights, dark, etc., all of which tend to be surface-level, there are also fears that are deep-seated — ones that cause more problems than we might be willing to admit. A problem we typically won’t recognize is one in which we allow our fears to prevent us from living the life that God wants for us.

At the 2016 Global Leadership Summit, Danielle Strickland, the Western Territory Social Justice Secretary of the Salvation Army, spoke about these fears. She explained that these fears manifest themselves in a tape of sorts. We place the shortcomings we think we have on this proverbial tape, and anytime God might be calling us to do something, we replay the tape, thus denying ourselves the opportunity to serve God.

What do we do with these fears?

This past weekend, Ben Snyder talked about a passage from the book of Judges about a man named Gideon. God called Gideon to something big. Gideon, however, responded with his fears about this call. When we look at God’s answer to Gideon and apply this answer to our own fears, we can begin to make steps to move past the fears and into a deeper faith with God.

At this point in Gideon’s story, which we’ll be reading throughout the week, a few things have happened.

The Israelites had turned away from God and toward the false gods of the Amorites (Judges 6:10), so God turned them over to be oppressed by the Midianites (Judges 6:1). After the Israelites cried out to God in response to the oppression, God sent a prophet to essentially tell them that because they chose the false gods, God turned them over to be protected by those false gods, which clearly hasn’t worked. Now, God calls Gideon to lead the people, but Gideon expresses his fears. He asks how God could be with them if all this bad was happening (Judges 6:13); says he can’t be the one God wants to lead because he is the weakest man in the smallest clan (Judges 6:15); and finally, just to make sure that it was God, he asks for a sign (Judges 6:17).

While this is happening, Gideon is unsure whether he was receiving this message from God. This is where we find ourselves in the story today. Right after God (or the angel of the Lord) departs, Gideon realizes that he was in his presence.

Judges 6:22-23

22When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”

23“It is all right,” the Lord replied. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.” 24And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the Lord is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day.

 

Now, Gideon was afraid that since he had been in the Lord’s presence, he was going to die. God’s response to him is simple:

Do not be afraid.

The Lord was with Gideon and told him to not be afraid.

So often, like Gideon, we let our fears take over and we miss out on what God wants to do in our lives. Whether we fear something related to our relationships, job, money, security, safety, etc., we cannot let this fear consume us and hinder our trust in God and his calling.

As Ben said, fear is allowing uncertainty to redefine reality. The reality is that God is calling us to faith in him and thus action for him. Unfortunately, like Gideon, we allow our uncertainty – about many things – to redefine reality. For the past couple weeks, we have been talking about bringing certain villains into the light. With fear, though, it’s different. Fear doesn’t need to be brought into the light because it’s already there. Fear is obvious; we know what we’re afraid of. Instead, what we need to bring into the light is our uncertainty, and then we can ask the question, “who does God say I am?”

This is what Ben called “true humility,” mainly, “agreeing with God about who we really are.”

You may not have the same fear as Gideon; however, your fears can get in the way of realizing and accepting the way in which God views you: as his son or his daughter. Like the song we listened to this past weekend says, you are no longer a slave to fear, you are a child of God.

We need to take these uncertainties and place them on the altar of Yahweh-Shalom. Not a physical altar, but a metaphorical one. We need to offer these uncertainties up to God and ask that he give us peace and patience as we define and navigate our reality.

What are some uncertainties you’ve allowed to redefine your reality? It could be uncertainties about your finances, relationships, jobs, etc.
How can you offer these up? (Who can you talk to?)
Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercies and your grace. Thank you for loving me enough to point out the areas in my life where I am operating in fear rather than trusting in you. Help me to bring my uncertainties into the light so that I can live in freedom. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, 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 with two young children. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.


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Forgive Your Enemies. All of Them.

Everyone has felt resentment at one time or another. Maybe you’ve have suffered traumatic wrongs. You may have had parents who were abusive toward you. You may have been wronged by a friend or co-worker. Our natural reaction to these situations is to feel resentment, anger, and bitterness toward the person who has wronged us. Often when we resent someone, we wish for them to experience pain, to “get what’s coming to them.” The Bible calls us to respond in a radically different way.

Proverbs 25:21-22 says, “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.” Wow! That’s a little different than our natural reaction. These instructions are so important that Paul repeats them in the New Testament in Romans 12:19-21.

It is easy to read these words and immediately question their direction: “How does God expect me to be nice to that person? Doesn’t he understand what they did was wrong?!” Not only does God know every detail of your life and how others have treated you, but when Jesus was on earth, he experienced the hurt and shame and rejection and betrayal that everyday people experience. Jesus’ purpose on earth was to provide salvation from sins like these. Jesus died on the cross for everyone and every sin.

How can we live out the actions described in Proverbs 25 and Romans 12? It starts by not sinning. Seeking actions of revenge is a sin. Wishing pain and misfortune on someone is a sin. We must humble ourselves and remember that everyone matters to God. God’s love is not contingent on one’s actions; it is unconditional. That might not make loving and serving someone any easier, but it puts life in perspective. Read Romans 12:19-21 below and think about how you can love and serve the person toward whom you feel resentment.

Romans 12:19-21

19Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;

I will pay them back,”

says the Lord.

20Instead,

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.

If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap

burning coals of shame on their heads.”

21Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

 

What surprised you most about Paul’s words in Romans chapter 12? Why was it a surprise?

 

Who is someone you are feeling resentment toward today? What is causing those feelings?

 

When we are offended (hurt) by someone, we are to respond in love. The literal command is to serve them by meeting their needs. If an “enemy” of yours needs a favor, do it. How can you serve the person you identified above? What needs does he or she have that you could meet?

 

It is not easy to be kind to someone toward whom we harbor resentment. What is holding you back from meeting those needs? How might you benefit from putting your feelings of resentment aside and focusing on him or her by showing how individuals matter to God?

 

Prayer:

Dear God, I confess my feelings of resentment toward (fill in the name of the person) because of (fill in the cause of those feelings). God, please give me the courage and love and strength to put those feelings aside and show love to this person. Thank you, God, for showing me your unconditional love even when I mess up and don’t deserve it. 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 Your Bitterness Controls You

One of my favorite movies growing up was “The Lion King.” I learned easily, like most kids, how to rewind the tape player. I used to rewind the movie multiple times just to watch some of my favorite scenes. In today’s world, it has been made easier than ever to be able to “rewind” a TV channel with one remote button. One thing I have realized is that as easy as it is to rewind a movie, I can be even quicker to rewind my memory.

Life doesn’t always seem fair. Life doesn’t always feel loving. When we have been hurt by a friend, a co-worker, a boss, a family member, or a peer, it’s not always easy to move on from that situation or from words that have left a sting. Depending on the circumstance or the person that hurt us, we can be so upset that we allow resentment to build into what can eventually block the great opportunities we have in front of us.

Resentment, bitterness, and anger have the dangerous potential to lead us to other sinful behaviors. In Ephesians, Paul warns us to not give the devil room to work in our lives. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” When we hold onto anger and resentment toward others, we give the devil a foothold and the space to create more anger. Andy Stanley challenges us by saying, “Here’s a question every angry man and woman needs to consider: How long are you going to allow people you don’t even like — people who are no longer in your life, maybe even people who aren’t even alive anymore — to control your life? How long?”

So how can we keep resentment from building up inside of us? Paul continues giving instructions in Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” God doesn’t tell us that forgiveness and loving those who have hurt us is easy, but it is the solution to being set free from the pain and anger that holds us down and allows us to live a life after God’s heart.

Are there areas in your life that are holding resentment? If so, what do you need to do to let them go?

 

Prayer:

Dear God, thank you for being all powerful and for taking our darkness and turning it into light. Take the anger and bitterness that I have been hanging onto and help me to be transformed into an image of your grace and love. I trust you and thank you in advance for the work you are doing in me. Amen.


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


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The Unicorn Frappuccino

We live in a culture where everyone wants to be treated fairly. The issue though, is that very few people agree on what is “fair.” For instance, I had a friend who was quite offended recently because he was unable to get a Unicorn Frappuccino from Starbucks. He complained that Starbucks’ being sold out of the drink was “unfair,” especially since he was in line and saw the last two sold in front of his very eyes… to the same person! Who needs TWO Unicorn Frappes? The person who wants to have sugar problems, that’s who. I digress. My friend took it personally that Starbucks didn’t plan for its colorful, pixie dust sprinkled, taste of heaven drink to go viral.

Of course, my friend is merely a colorful example of what often happens on a larger, and more personal, scale in our lives. This past weekend, Ben Snyder discussed the villain of resentment. One way resentment grows in our lives is when we grow bitter about being treated unfairly (or when we think we are being treated unfairly — not always the reality). The reason we think we’re treated unfairly is that in some way, shape, or form, we do not get what we think we deserve.

Anyone who has kids or has been around kids has heard the phrase, “That’s not fair!” Of course, parents respond with the intuitive and loving answer of, “Sorry kid, life isn’t fair.” It’s ironic, the same adults who in one breath tell their children “life isn’t fair” will, in the next breath, complain about being passed up for a promotion, having to pay too much for something, a vehicle breaking down, relational strife, or something else that seems… unfair! The breakdown is often that we expect life to work out a certain way, and when it doesn’t, we begin to project our frustration on the person or thing we view as being the cause of why our life did not work out that way. Once we have a person on whom we allow our frustration to settle, we begin to take things personally and allow a root of bitterness to take hold.

As we saw this past weekend from Hebrews 12:15, it is vital that we not allow a root of bitterness to take hold in our life. To help prevent resentment, we have to ask God to help us identify the root of bitterness, deal with it, and heal from it.

We discussed this yesterday, but briefly, we have to:

Identify the root of bitterness

Deal with the root of bitterness.

Heal from the root of bitterness.

The bigger the offense, the longer the healing process. There are some very serious issues that require help from someone to walk through the healing process. At the same time, we feel treated unfairly because we feel we were owed something we did not get. To begin to heal from those smaller, often daily “offenses,” it helps to remember the way God has dealt with us. Jesus has extended his grace to us by allowing us to have a relationship with him through his death on the cross. In a relationship with Christ, we find full love and joy now, as well as the promise of eternal life, neither of which we truly deserve. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. Due to our sin, we deserve a life and eternity separated from God.

Paul reminds us of this truth in Romans 6:23:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We need to live out the truth that God gave us what we did not deserve by dying on the cross for us. Now, that’s “not fair!” This should make us more loving and joy-filled people. It should help us get over being treated unfairly and help us realize the importance of grace and forgiveness.

In a resentful, bitter, and unforgiving world, the person who freely extends grace and forgiveness is a rare person who brings great joy to those around him/her. Perhaps those stuck in a bleak, dull, flavorless, “unfair” life can see that the one who is like Christ is like a sweet, colorful, delicious Unicorn Frappuccino.

In what areas of your life do you feel like you are being treated unfairly?

 

Who do you need to go and have a conversation with this week to keep from allowing a ‘root of bitterness’ to grow?

 

In what areas of your life have you begun to think you are owed something? How can you let that belief go and rest in God’s grace extended to you today?

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord, you have been so good to me. You have poured your grace on me and given me what I don’t deserve, a relationship with you. Help me to let go of my preconceived notions of what I deserve from others. Grant me courage to have conversations with people where needed and then heal my heart as I move forward in your grace. 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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I’m Still Bitter Over the World Series

Rajai Davis stepped up to the plate, swung the bat, and crack! The ball sailed over the giant left field wall for a 2-run home run, tying the game. I couldn’t believe it. The Indians had tied game 7 of the World Series in the bottom of the 8th inning. I screamed so hard I’m sure the neighbors thought a murder was taking place. It was so surreal. It wasn’t long until the game was over. Indians’ Michael Martinez hit a weak grounder to Kris Bryant who threw the ball to Anthony Rizzo to end the game. As a lifelong Indians fan, I can say that this game had my emotions running the gamut. I never had a problem with the Cubs. I loved their history and how they represent a classic baseball team. It wasn’t until the end of this World Series that a deep-seated bitterness found a home in my heart. Every time I see a Cubs logo, or that “W” flag, I die a little on the inside. It’s sad, and I know it. Whether it’s with close friends (who happen to be Cubs fans) or running into a random stranger at the grocery store donning a Cubs hat, I can’t help but feel angry at that team – and resentful toward the person.

In some ways, we can joke about resentment, but if we’re honest, there are areas of our lives in which it manifests itself in an ugly way. This resentment can be toward a person, a group of people, an event, and more. We all – in some form or another – struggle with resentment. When it’s not about a baseball team – when it’s serious – we should treat it seriously.

What we often do is treat our resentment as something we simply have. We might think, I’m just a bitter person, or, it’s not much to worry about, but the problem is if we don’t deal with our resentment (our bitterness) it will inflict more and more harm to our souls.

This past weekend, Ben Snyder talked about the villain of resentment. He gave us a helpful definition of resentment: when we put the pain of the past on repeat.

He also gave us some tips on what to do with our resentment.

First, we need to identify it.

We have to admit that we are resentful in an area of our life. We can’t just assume it’s a brief moment of anger or negative feelings, resentment is something rooted deep in our self. As Ben talked about last weekend, we need to bring it into the light.

Next, we need to ask God to help us deal with it.

This begins with confession. When we recognize an area of resentment in our life, we must admit it to God by confessing it to him and asking him to help us deal with it. It might also be helpful to confess to those around you whom you trust.

If you are resentful toward a person, then part of dealing with it is taking it to them.

Jesus gives us step-by-step instructions on how to deal with situations like this in Matthew 18:15-20. We’re going to dive into this more this week, but what’s important is that Jesus tells us to go with them in private first to talk about it. If someone has offended you, which is typically the beginning of resentment, then you have to talk to them one-on-one about it.

Finally, we have to ask God to help us heal from it.

The author of Hebrews tells us in 12:15,

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

As previously stated, bitterness is not something to ignore. It is dangerous. It not only harms us, but also the people around us. As the author of Hebrews says, it doesn’t just hurt others, it actually corrupts them. It can infect their person as well. Our resentment doesn’t just infect us, it infects those around us. While we give our own resentment a pass – because we think we can handle it – we’re actually passing on the deadly disease of resentment to those we love.

What about you? Do you struggle with resentment in some area of your life? Are you harboring bitterness toward someone that you need to let go of?

 

How can you bring this bitterness into the light today, so that it doesn’t corrupt those around you?

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and grace toward me. Help me to extend forgiveness and grace to the people that have offended me. I want to bring my resentment into the light so that you can help me deal with it and heal from it. I ask all this in Jesus’ name, 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 with two young children. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.


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Weeding the Heart’s Garden

Gardening season is upon us. I’ve already been out surveying the damage from both winter and the previous summer, when I could not give my vegetable garden the care and maintenance it needed. Weeds abound in the raised beds, and the wood is rotting away as the decomposers God has created are doing their work. It’s not a pretty sight and very disheartening. The problems in my garden are very apparent, and with time and effort, I will work with my husband to pull out the plants I did not plant, repair or replace the disintegrating wood, and attempt to restore order to this little corner of my life. In some places, it is apparent that there is chaos and disorder; however, there are also places where the problems are not so visible.

Every Sunday I can dress myself and my family for church in our best clothes. I can brush their hair, pack them all into my sparkling mini-van, arrive at church right on time, and deliver them to their respective classrooms. I can smile at the greeters, sing out worship songs, and clap my hands. I can look great on the outside yet be a hot angry mess on the inside. Sin can be rotting away my insides. The greeters cannot see the angry words that erupted from my mouth when the kids did not wash their hands after using the bathroom or before dinner. They cannot see the bitterness lurking beneath the surface when you see someone who has the life you always dreamed of. Sin is like that: it’s easy to hide, but far more destructive to our hearts than the weeds and rotting wood are to my garden.

In today’s passage Jesus is speaking to this issue. His disciples had just been accused of breaking the laws created by the religious leaders. Apparently, they thought it was good to wash their hands before they ate, too. Jesus was quick to point out that while his disciples may have broken man’s laws, the Pharisees were breaking God’s laws. He made them angry and it bothered his disciples. They wondered why Jesus would intentionally upset the religious leaders of their time. He got frustrated with their lack of understanding and reminded them that it’s what is inside a person that matters. We can hide a multitude of sins, but Jesus can see it all. He could see that, inside, the Pharisees did not care about what the law really said. They were more concerned with upholding the laws they’d created. They wanted to look good outside for the world to see and would do whatever it took to maintain their image.

We are often like the Pharisees. We maintain an image that the world respects and upholds but are unwilling to allow Jesus access to our hearts, to see the sins that lurk in the hidden places of our souls. We don’t want to deal with the mess of our hearts; don’t want to deal with the anger that is simmering beneath the surface, which causes us to explode at those whom we love; or the greed that causes us to work long hours, ignoring our families to obtain the newest car or hottest thing. Our hearts are dirty places and can only be cleansed when we allow Jesus access to all of the dark crevices. What is in your heart that you need to bring into the light that Jesus provides?

 

Matthew 15:10-20

10Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 11It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”

12Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”

13Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, 14so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”

15Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”

16“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17“Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”

 

Why do you think the disciples were concerned with how the Pharisees felt?

 

Jesus was referring to the Pharisees when he was speaking about the plants that were going to be uprooted. Their traditions and rules were not implemented by the Father. Are there any areas of your life that you have allowed to grow that were not planted by the Father?

 

Think about an area of your life that causes you to sin. Is it a harsh tongue, a prideful spirit, lust, envy? What does this sin say about what is inside your heart? What do you need to do to allow this sin to be transformed by Jesus?

 

Prayer:

Ask God to reveal areas of your heart that are causing you to sin. Pray for clear direction on how to address this sin and move toward purity of heart. Thank God that he is always willing to help you overcome sin and gives you the strength to defeat temptation.


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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The Holy Spirit: The Mentor of the Christian

Have you ever wanted to be good at something? I mean really good. Let’s say you wanted to excel at a sport, a musical instrument, or a profession. Seeking out an experienced coach, teacher, or mentor would be a great place to start in acquiring the skills to perfect your craft.

Such a mentor would be able to show you the ins and outs of becoming proficient at your chosen activity. They could challenge you and show you skills to practice to become a true master. But what would you have to do? You would have to put in the work to become skilled. You would have to actually do what your teacher or coach told you to do. You would ask questions, research answers, and put into practice what you learned. You may have to do the same things over and over again until they become second nature. You would meet regularly with and listen to your coach. You would have to imitate your mentor and follow their lead if you wanted to develop the skills and attributes in you that you sought to perfect.

That is the message of today’s scripture. If we try to go about our own way of creating godly qualities in our lives, we will fall flat on our faces. Likewise, we will fail if we feel everything depends on our own efforts. Today’s scripture tells us that only the Holy Spirit can develop godly qualities in us. However, it also tells us to live by the Spirit and follow his leading. We can only do that if we meet with him regularly in prayer, study his teachings in the Bible daily, and imitate his personal qualities. Living in the Spirit means sticking close by God, imitating him, learning about him through his word and connecting with him regularly.

A great teacher can only help you excel if you fully give yourself over to his or her program or method of teaching. You may feel you know better than your mentor at times, but you are not the expert. They are. Likewise, we need to fully commit and yield our wills to God’s plans. Just as a great teacher cannot impart his or her qualities upon us if we only have a half-hearted commitment, God requires that we go “all in.” Only then will he bring about the godly qualities that signify a true follower of Christ. Is our stubbornness or self-will holding us back from God producing his qualities in us? Do we need to give up the reins and allow him to lead? I guess that depends on how badly we want his finished product in our lives.

Galatians 5:22-26

22But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

 

What do you think Paul means when he writes, “there is no law” against the fruits listed in verse 22?

 

What does it mean that those who follow Christ have nailed the characteristics of their sinful nature to the cross and crucified those attributes?

 

What does it mean to “follow the Spirit’s leading”?

 

Prayer

Let God know how grateful you are for giving us access to his Spirit. Ask God to help you understand what he is trying to tell you through the above Scripture passage. Ask him to show you where you are blocking the Holy Spirit and pray for the wisdom and strength to yield your whole will to his.


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


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