Quick on the Draw

Christmas – it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s also the most stressful, busy, expensive, and exhausting time of the year.

You could probably add your own adjectives, but you get the point. The holidays can be great, but they can also be overwhelming. And when things get overwhelming, tempers grow short.

It might be over something small, a little nuisance that tips you over the edge, or it might be over something bigger. Maybe the thing that makes you snap in frustration is only the tip of the iceberg, a symptom of a deep-seated conflict or a long-standing feud. Not only can the holidays be overwhelming, but they can also put us in close contact with people we might not want to be around – estranged siblings, parents who were never really present, cousins you no longer hear from. Being around them might feel like an inconvenience at best, perhaps like punishment at worst. But maybe that’s not how God wants you to see it. Maybe he’s giving you a gift – a chance to apologize and a chance to forgive.

Whomever the person, whatever the situation, remember: the holidays can be tough on everyone. So, during this season, when so many of us are quick to anger, please remember to be just as quick to apologize. And if someone loses their temper with you, especially if they apologize afterward, please be quick to forgive as well. After all, we are celebrating the greatest gift of all – the gift of Jesus Christ, who came so that we may all be forgiven.

So, let’s share the gifts of repentance and forgiveness this Christmas, both for the sake of others and for our own sakes. They’re gifts that keep on giving.

 

Questions:
Do you have a tendency to lose your temper around the holidays? Is there anything that you know tends to make you snap? Is there anyone you’re not looking forward to seeing?

With whom might you share the gift of repentance, and to whom might you give the gift of forgiveness?

Next Steps:
Make a list of things that tend to make you short-tempered, especially around the holidays, so that you can look out for what might trigger anger in you. If you’ve already lost your temper with someone because of one of these triggers and haven’t apologized, go do so.

Write down one person to whom you can give the gift of an apology this Christmas and another person to whom you can give the gift of forgiveness.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the holidays. Thank you for the opportunity to spend time with our loved ones, and to be gracious toward one another. Please give us patience and help us stay calm during the stress that this season sometimes brings. And if we do lose our temper, gently remind us to apologize, and give us the humility to repent. Most importantly, thank you for the birth of your Son, Jesus Christ. In his name we pray, amen.


This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton Lechner is a college grad currently working at her local library. In her spare time, she volunteers as an ESL teacher and freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.


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But I Mean It This Time!

“She pushed me!”

“He won’t share.”

As a parent of children ages 5 and 3, I am often playing referee and instructing them to look each other in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry,” and to mean it. My wife has taught them to hug it out and then for the offended party to say, “I forgive you.” They are learning a valuable lesson about how to treat each other and how to move past their disagreements. But as children, they will likely have the same argument tomorrow and repeat the above steps.

We have all done things we wish we hadn’t done. We have all said things that make us want to catch the words as they’re coming out of our mouths and stuff them back in. We have all had to apologize at some point in our lives. And, I am willing to bet that at some point after apologizing, at least some of us have repeated the same actions or said the same words that led to the apology being necessary in the first place.

This pattern of behavior makes sense for children who are still learning how to play together and how their actions affect other people. But as adults, we should be able to learn from our past behaviors or the regrettable things we have said and not repeat them in the future. We can say the words “I’m sorry” until we’re blue in the face, but if we continue with the same behavior, the apology starts to become meaningless. Imagine a “fictional” relationship where one person continues to behave in a way the other doesn’t like or that actually hurts the other person. The conversation ends with repeated apologies and promises that “It won’t happen again,” “Things will be different,” or “This time, I mean it.”

If you find yourself apologizing for the same things over and over again, someone has probably said to you, “If you were really sorry, you wouldn’t do it again.”

Hebrews 5:12-14   
12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

When we are mature in Christ, we are able to recognize how our actions and words affect those around us. Our apologies will only carry weight because we make the necessary changes in our own lives to prevent the offensive behavior from repeating itself, and we no longer have to hear, “It’s not what you said, but how you said it.” Until we take that step, our apologies will only be seen as empty words.

I know that when I apologize to my wife after saying something I shouldn’t have said, she will forgive me. But if I repeat the same pattern every day (saying something hurtful then saying “sorry”), our marriage will inevitably be strained. It is only when she sees the changes in the way I speak and the words I choose that our relationship is restored. It is then that she can accept my apology because my actions authenticate my words.


Questions:
Is there an area in your life where you are having to continually apologize for the same offense?

How can you authenticate that apology through your own actions?

Next Steps:
Make that call. Take responsibility for your actions. Say the difficult words. Ask questions. Make the necessary changes in your life to avoid having to apologize for the same things over and over again.

Prayer:
God, give me the courage to say, “I’m sorry,” and the wisdom to realize how my actions need to change in order to match my words. I want to be a person of integrity who means what they say. Help me to give authentic apologies when apologies are necessary, and continue to change my heart so that I will need to apologize less. Thank you for accepting my apology and forgiving me time and time again. Amen.


This post was written by Ryan Cook. Ryan is an executive director for two Chick-fil-A restaurants in Toledo, so if you see him at church and think he looks familiar, that’s where you know him from. He is married with a son and a daughter. Follow him on Twitter @CookfilA.


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Apologize Without Excuse

My four-year-old son and two-year-old daughter spend a significant portion of their days fighting over the same toy. Usually, this ends in my son pushing or hitting his sister. As soon as he hurts her, he immediately says he’s sorry and looks at me in panic. Every single time, as I’m walking him to “time out,” he cries, “I said I was sorry!” He doesn’t yet understand that there is more to an authentic apology then simply saying “I’m sorry.”

An essential component—and what my son is missing—to an authentic apology is being honest and acknowledging the hurt our behavior has caused the other person.

Jesus talks about this in the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 5:21-24
21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

When my son hits or pushes his sister, many times, he tries to justify his actions by telling me that she hit him first or that she took his toy. He feels righteous and justified in his anger toward her.

When you are angry with someone, do you sometimes feel righteous and justified in your anger? When you insult someone, do you tell yourself that “they deserve it?” Do you find it difficult to be honest with yourself about the root causes of your anger?

We have to be honest with the way we feel in order to acknowledge the pain we’ve caused someone with our anger.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”

When you have offended someone, do you take responsibility for your actions or make excuses and offer justifications like my son does? When you begin to realize the hurt your anger has caused another person, you can begin to reconcile with them and repair the relationship. In the verse above, Jesus explains just how important reconciliation is. He says that if you remember that someone is angry with you, you should drop what you are doing and immediately attempt to reconcile with that person face-to-face.

Jesus is telling us that our sacrifices can wait. Our offerings lack significance if we have anger in our hearts. Serving others and tithing are things that God commands us to do, but they do not make us RIGHT with God. If you cannot maintain reconciled relationships with others, you cannot simply offer sacrifices (tithe, serve at church, pray) and expect a reconciled relationship with God. If your heart is burdened by anger and resentment, you cannot offer God complete adoration. Our relationship with God is NOT independent of our relationships with others.

Questions:
Is there someone in your life with whom you need to reconcile?

Do you find yourself justifying your offenses or making excuses for them?

Next Steps:
Think about a strained relationship in your life. This week, take the first step toward reconciling with that person. Make a phone call, write a note, send an email or text.

Prayer:
God, thank you for the forgiveness you offer to me every day. Please soften my heart and help me to offer this same forgiveness to others. Please help me see how my anger hurts the people in my life, and help me to be honest with myself about the root of my anger. Please show me those in my life with whom I need to reconcile. Amen.


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


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God Wants Me To… What?

Matthew 5:23-24
23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

I’ll never forget the first time I read this verse as a new Christ follower! I had made a pretty big mess of my life before coming to know Jesus, and I was trying to sort things out with a lot of people I had hurt. It was hard to admit that I had been such a deceiver, trickster, and phony. It was hard to believe that God could love me as I was, but I believed even more that he saw me as I could be. So, as I read these verses, I saw that since my relationship with him was secure, he wanted me to mend my other relationships even more than he wanted my “offering.”  He wanted me to hang out with him and learn how to love, forgive, and be forgiven. I had relationships so damaged, some people refused to have anything to do with me! How could I make amends to them? Somehow, in the midst of my crazy, I had made my way to AlAnon where I found a way back to some—but not all—of those relationships.

The most useful tools I have ever found are the 12 Steps of recovery programs such as Celebrate Recovery, which meets at our campuses on Friday nights. Steps 4-9 provide a blueprint for confession and restoration.

The first three steps begin with admitting that we are powerless over our current circumstances and that our lives are unmanageable. We acknowledge that God is the only one who can restore us to sanity. We are then willing to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. Once we complete Steps 1-3, we are ready for Step 4.

Step 4: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. (Lam. 3:40, NIV)

This is a tough step. You must be relentlessly honest with yourself about what you have done. It is painful to even write it down, but you must. It often helps to talk through this with someone you trust. That person might be the one you eventually confess those things to in Step 5.

Step 5: We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16a, NIV)

Step 6: We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10, NIV)

Remember in John 5:6 when Jesus asked the beggar by the pool if he wanted to get well? We have to be ready to confess, turn away from, and be healed from these sins.

Step 7: We humbly asked him to remove all our shortcomings.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9, NIV)

Step 8: We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31, NIV)

Another tough one. Not only making the list, but becoming willing to make amends. In other words, saying you’re sorry and being specific!

Step 9: We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24, NIV)

If you work through these steps, maybe with the help of another brother or sister in Christ, you will find the freedom that can be had when you are at peace with yourself and those close to you. So just do it! Your friends and family are not going to be surprised when you tell them what you have done; they already know, and so does your Father in heaven. They will be surprised and hopeful when you finally admit your responsibility and ask for forgiveness. It is hard, and it is never ending! I found that not everyone was prepared to forgive me or to resume our relationship. But, God only asks me to do what I can do on my end. He is in charge of the rest.

Learning to keep short accounts makes life so much less complicated!  You and your friends and family will celebrate the new you! Trust God! He will give you all the strength you need to do the right thing. Then, bring your gift to his altar with a clear conscience and a clean heart, rejoicing with thanksgiving at all he has done!


Questions:
When you offend someone else, what steps do you currently take to make things right?

Based on the steps from today’s reading, are you willing to do the “heart work” that is necessary in order to authentically identify and acknowledge the real root issues of your offense?

Next Steps:
Reflect on the offenses that you have recently made against someone and ask yourself what the deeper root cause is that caused you to hurt someone. If you have trouble identifying the root cause, ask God for discernment. If you are able to identify the root cause, take a few moments to write down steps that you can take today to begin dealing with it.

Spend time this week reflecting on your relationships. If you need to ask for forgiveness from someone, ask for it. If you need to offer forgiveness to someone who has hurt you, give it. Remember…

Romans 12:18
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Prayer:
Lord, I thank you for your promise that when I confess my sin, you are faithful and just to forgive my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Help me to acknowledge my sin to those in my life I have hurt, and give me the courage to ask for their forgiveness. Give me the patience to wait, and let me accept their response. Thank you for loving me, no matter what. Amen.


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


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The Gift of “I’m Sorry”

This past weekend, we continued our series, “The Gift of Words.” This weekend’s gift is wrapped up in the words “I’m sorry.” When they are shared with someone that we have offended, they offer the powerful gift of healing. In Ben Snyder’s message, he encouraged us to never underestimate the freedom found in an authentic apology.

The reality is that we all find ourselves in situations where there is a need for us to apologize. It can be for small things like being late or forgetting to stop and pick up the milk on the way home. Sometimes, it may be for bigger things like forgetting to pick up our child from school or forgetting an anniversary or birthday. Bigger yet, it could be that we need to apologize for a long-standing pattern of offensive behaviors that have had a deep impact on a loved one.

Whatever the fault that we need to apologize for, big or small, freedom may not be the first thing that comes to mind. For many of us, the anticipation of having to say we are sorry creates anxiety. We might fear that things will be awkward after the apology. We may even conclude that it would be best—or at least easier—to ignore the offense altogether, hoping it just goes away and they get over it.

However, if we ignore our offenses against someone, we will never experience the gift of healing that an authentic apology brings. We will miss the healing that God wants to see happen inside of us and in our relationships. When we tell someone that we are sorry for our actions, it lets them know that we value them. While we may fear that an apology will have a negative effect on our relationships, it will actually increase the health of the relationships as trust, admiration, and authenticity are established.

Ben shared this weekend that in order to experience healing and freedom in the words “I’m sorry”, the key ingredient of honesty must be present. Offering an apology that is accompanied with excuses or blame-shifting will not bring about the healing and freedom needed.

The beautiful thing is that Jesus gives us permission to be honest with him. He loves it when he sees a heart that is feeling remorse for its actions and authentically admitting faults. He is faithful to forgive us, and he wants us to experience a true change of heart that results in a change of behavior.

1 John 1:9
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

2 Corinthians 7:10
For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

Ben said that in order to experience an authentic apology, we need to honestly acknowledge and identify our faults, our feelings, and our follow-up. Over the next few days, we will walk with you as you engage in conversation with God and take steps in these areas. We will be looking in more detail at how to offer an authentic apology and challenging you to give the gift of “I’m Sorry” to those in your life.

Questions:
When you think of having to apologize to someone, what feelings do you experience?

When was the last time you offered the words “I’m sorry,” and what did you experience as a result of the apology?

Next Step:
Jesus loves it when we are honest with him. Today, let’s be sure that we offer the words “I’m sorry” to God. Read through 1 John 1:9 and 2 Corinthians 7:10 again, and take 5 minutes to search your heart and say “I’m sorry” to God for your offenses against him.

Prayer
God, I thank you that I can be honest with you, that I can admit my faults, trusting in the forgiveness you faithfully provide. Thank you for bringing healing and freedom into my relationships. Help me over this week to be honest with myself as I identify my faults and feelings and offer authentic apologies when needed. I give you this week, and thank you for the gift that the words “I’m sorry” brings. Amen.


This post was written by Ben Bockert. Ben is a proud husband and father of three beautiful daughters. He is honored to serve as the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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The Best Man

One of the best (and sometimes hilarious, and sometimes worst!) moments at a wedding reception is when the best man rises to toast the groom. Not everyone relishes their moment in the spotlight, and very few of the best men I have heard could make a living as a public speaker or stand-up comedian. However, when the best man has taken his ‘job’ seriously, you find out things about the groom that give context to this new husband and make you hopeful about his ability to be successful in his new role as husband, provider, lover, friend, and maybe father. The groom and the best man have history together. They have shared experiences during which the best man has seen character traits that indicate trustworthiness, loyalty, courage, compassion, and love. It is the best man’s job to show that the actual ‘best man’ at the wedding is the groom! If done well, the best man can create a vision for the new husband of how he can employ these character traits, which the friend has seen and experienced, to be the excellent husband the best man knows the groom can be.

In Matthew 3:13-17, God does this for Jesus. The scene is the baptism of Jesus, which has been our main point of reflection this week. Jesus has come to see his cousin John who is baptizing people in the Jordan River. John recognizes Jesus and has acknowledged previously that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

John 1:29-31 
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”

Now, Jesus comes to be baptized by John, even though Jesus is sinless and has no need to repent.

Matthew 3:13-17
13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

God identifies Jesus as his Son, who brings him great joy. Why does Jesus bring God great joy? Well, on Tuesday we covered that God was pleased with Jesus because of who he was, his Son. On Wednesday, we looked at what Jesus was, he was loved. Today, we see that God was pleased with Jesus because of where he was and where he was going.

He was with God at the creation of the world (John 1), yet he left his place in heaven to take on a mission to save mankind.  He came to earth as a baby, lived a sinless childhood, and grew up to adulthood. This baptism is marking the moment Jesus begins his earthly ministry, and God was pleased with him for where he was at that moment.

God was also pleased with Jesus for where he was going. For the next three years, he will show and tell people who God is and how he loves them. He will turn their religion upside down. He himself will fulfill all the commandments and regulations that have been a barrier between people and God. He does this so that we can know God and have a relationship with him based on love, not fear and performance. Jesus has come and will do all this, knowing that in the end, the people he came for will reject him, torture him, and kill him in the most brutal method of execution ever devised. For all of these things, God was pleased with his Son.

This past weekend, Ben asked an interesting question. When God spoke audibly at Jesus’ baptism, who needed to hear him? Jesus? The people who were around the action? The answer is both! God was reminding both Jesus and his disciples of Jesus’ significance. Scripture tells us that right after this event, Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted. (Matthew 4) Perhaps this public affirmation of his relationship to God was an important tool Jesus carried with him in order to resist the temptation of the devil. I know in my own life, I am more likely to live up to someone else’s expectations of me than I am my own. When people I love affirm something good they see in me, I don’t want to disappoint them.

The people with John at the Jordan River that day also needed to hear God affirm Jesus. Many of them were followers of Jesus or John. To hear God name Jesus as his Son would have answered their question: “Is this the One?” Others were still seeking, and the affirmation may have helped them on their journey.

We all need to hear the words, “I am proud of you.” These words provide us with the sense that what we are doing matters and that we are making a difference.  We also need people in our lives that can see us for who we can be not just who we are or what we have done.

Questions:
Has there been a time in your life that someone saw you for who you were and helped cast a vision for what you could be?

 

Who in your life needs to hear that you are proud of them for where they are and for where they are going? Could it be done publicly?

 

What are some creative ways you could give tell someone that you are proud of them?

 

Next Steps:
This week, make it a point to tell someone close to you that they are significant and that what they do makes a difference, whatever it is, in your life. Maybe you could try it at the dinner table or with a group of friends where others can hear your words of praise.

Prayer:
Father, I am so grateful for those people who take time to tell me what I have meant to them or who encourage me to do better! I thank you for their investment in me! Most of all, I thank you for your investment in me, for the love you show me every day. Please help me to be a person who invests in others, encourages them, coaches them, and helps them to move closer to you, and sometimes, help me do it out loud. Amen.


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


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You Are Loved!

If you’ve ever written your resume, you know that it is meant to describe you. It tells the reader where you live, how you can be contacted, the jobs you’ve held, the education you’ve received, your accomplishments, and even how you spend your free time. More or less, it describes what you do. Most often, we try to define our identity in what we do.

But it doesn’t describe what you are!  You are loved!

Love is the source of our identity! We are loved by God, no matter what we do or what we don’t do. We are secure in his love.  God created us in his own image! (Gen 1:27) He loved us so much that he gave us his only Son! (John 3:16) He commanded us to love only him and to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mt 22:37-39) He taught us about faith, hope, and love and that the greatest of these is love. He showed us that love was patient and kind, doesn’t boast, and never fails. (1 Cor 13) And he promised that those who believe in him would have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Love gives us security and allows us to feel safe. It is not about what we do, it’s about God’s unconditional love for us, just as we are.

As our celebration of the birth of Jesus approaches and we find ourselves with family and friends, remember to base our relationships on what they are first, not what they do.

In other words, just love ‘em!
Questions:
How do you know you are loved, either by God or others?

Next Steps:  
Love the Lord our God with all your heart. And love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus declared these as the greatest commandments in which the whole law could be summed up. Looking back over the last 24 hours, reflect on the ways you lived out these commands.

Prayer:
Lord, I thank you for being my Father. Thank you for accepting me in all my imperfections and loving me as a child of yours. Help me to love others unconditionally, showing them grace and forgiveness, just as you have shown me!  Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.


This post was written by Pam Haynam. Pam is a writer for the LivingItOut Bible Study, a Lead Mentor Mom for Momentum, and a cook for the weekend worship band. She has a passion for education and has served on a public-school board and currently serves on a charter school board. She is married with 3 grown children—two whom are married—and two grandsons.


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A Dearly Loved Child

As my son walked across the stage to receive his diploma from The Ohio State University, I remember how my heart filled with pride.  I was proud of him because of his hard work, dedication, and self-sacrifice. He showed his commitment to a plan that was set for him from the age of five.  As proud of him as I was, my pride in him was equally important to him. He is my son; we are family. There were many other students receiving their diplomas that day, and I was proud of them too; but there is a difference between the pride you feel for someone with whom you have a close relationship and someone you do not.

 

Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

 

These verses are more significant than they may appear at first. Jesus had yet to officially begin his full-time ministry. Not that the life Jesus lived up to this point was unimportant, but I think it is worth noting that at the start of Jesus’ ministry (not after he fulfilled his mission), God the Father was very pleased with his Son and said so in the presence of everyone watching!

There are only two verses in the Bible where we have God’s recorded words to Jesus: in the story above and again at the transfiguration of Jesus.

 

Matthew 17:5

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.”

 

When we express our pride in someone we care about, we establish the significance of who they are—our child, parent, close friend. God says, “This is my dearly loved Son.” As his children, God wants us to know that he is proud of us as well. We can find our significance in who we are to him, a dearly loved child.

 

1 John 3:1

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!

 

Galatians 3:26
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

Questions:
Do you understand that you are a dearly loved child of God?

 

Do you find your significance in who you are to God or do you look for it in what you can do for him?

 

Next Step:

Spend some time today meditating on 1 John 3:1, soaking in the fact that God loves you and is proud of you because of who are you… his child.

 

Prayer:

Dear heavenly Father, help me to know that I am one of your children and that you are proud of me. Grant me wisdom to know the difference between healthy pride and sinful pride. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.


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


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Turn that Proud Upside Down

Our society celebrates pride. We may not necessarily call it pride, as there are many people who are aware that being proud is a thing that can be taken too far and be destructive. So, we replace this word with other words that sound better, like confidence or self-love, and we glorify it as a means to grow in our careers and in leadership. Unfortunately, we even use it to justify figuratively pushing others out of our way. Even as a Christian, when pride is disguised these ways, it’s hard not to jump on board. Search online for some confidence-inspiring quotes, and you’ll find many things that sound encouraging and empowering.

“Don’t you dare, for one more second, surround yourself with people who are not aware of the greatness that you are.” Jo Blackwell-Preston

“Wouldn’t it be powerful if you fell in love with yourself so deeply that you would do just about anything if you knew it would make you happy?” Alan Cohen

The Bible, however, tells us the complete opposite.

 

Philippians 2:3   
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

 

Proverbs 11:2
Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

 

It’s hard to see fault in trying to better yourself, but the enemy has a way of twisting things, taking it too far and making it feel right. However, destruction ultimately follows pride—the unhealthy kind, that is.

 

Proverbs 18:12    
Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor.

Christian apologist, author, and theologian C.S. Lewis said, “For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” So according to Lewis, not only does our pride ruin relationships, it also rips away the very thing we are trying to attain with pride: contentment.

There are two negative types of pride: haughty pride and harmful pride. Haughty pride is being proud of the me others see or being proud of the me others see in you. This is when we make sure others are aware of our contributions. We claim credit, one-up others’ stories, interrupt often, and get upset when we aren’t noticed. I think for me, this is what I typically think of when I think of pride. This pride is easy to fall into, but when we’ve reached a point where we understand that it is wrong for us, we sometimes try a more deceptive approach to make others recognize how great we are. This is when we tuck our pride in statements that on the surface are showing pride in others but really are a way of seeking recognition for our contribution to their success. For example, it’s natural for a parent to feel pride in their kids and to even do some bragging. Just the other day, however, I was bragging up my kids to my mom, telling her how well they behaved in public, while secretly hoping she’d tell me it was only because of how well I have parented them. These types of pride may seem harmless, but they alter our thinking and encourage our self-centeredness, when we should be giving all credit to God and using our gifts only to glorify him.

 

1 Corinthians 12: 4-6
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

 

The other type of pride is harmful pride. This is when we use what someone else lacks to give ourselves significance. We say things like, “I am so proud of you; you finally found someone;” or, we let them know that they have finally discovered what we already knew. “Oh, you didn’t know that?” This can be any time where someone finally sees significance in another because they have achieved something. We, for some reason, feel that by pointing out others’ shortcomings, we are showing them how great we are and impressing them. All we’re actually doing is making them feel bad and hurting the relationship.

 

Proverbs 16:5

The Lord detests the proud; they will surely be punished.

 

Question:

Have you ever caught yourself “praising” someone else when really you were looking for a pat on your own back?

 

What can you do to change your thinking away from self and toward others as better than yourself? Is there a specific area of your life where you struggle with this?

 

Next Step:

Think of a person or a group of people that you find yourself thinking you’re better than. Be honest with yourself. Remind yourself that God created them with just as much care as he did with you, and he loves them just as he loves you. When you find yourself feeling prideful, either as a result of your own merits or by feeling as though you’re better than others, get back to this mindset. Build a habit of recognizing these thoughts, breaking them down, and reorganizing them to glorify God instead of yourself.

 

Prayer:

Dear God, help me to be humble. Help me to recognize that all my skills and talents come from you. When I begin to feel pride, help me to refocus and give all the glory to you. Allow me to see the value in others and to put them before myself. Help me to discern the worldly advice that sounds good, but I know is not your truth. Thank you for your grace, as I know I will falter time and time again. I only hope with practice, I will build a habit of humility. Amen.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee is a former nurse who is now embracing her role as a stay-at-home mom. She is married and has a daughter and a son. She loves writing for this team, and feels she grows a great deal through writing and listening for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. She hopes to help convey God’s message through this study.


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I’m Proud of You

Last week, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder shared the positive effect we have on others when we choose to notice and thank them for good service or an act of kindness. Words of appreciation are not only good manners, but are encouraging to the person who receives them.

Appreciation is something we can choose to share countless times throughout our day.  It can start with thanking your husband for that cup of coffee he has ready for you as you fly out the door in the morning, then continues with a smile and wave of acknowledgement to the school bus driver who waits for you to pass before turning on the red flashing lights which keeps you from being late for work. The opportunities for showing appreciation are almost countless on any given day.

It’s easy when we follow our grandmother’s time-honored advice, “It costs nothing to be polite.”

This week, Ben went on to discuss another kind of uplifting language, this time directed specifically at our loved ones. What kinds of words and conversation do we choose to gift them with? How do we go deeper than a polite word of appreciation like the one we say to the stranger who holds the door for us at the grocery store?

Ben shared his insights into the powerful words, “I am proud of you” and how deeply they affect the recipient’s sense of significance and value to God and to humanity.

There is a beautiful demonstration of this in Matthew 3:13-17. Jesus joins his cousin John the Baptist at the Jordan River. Jesus instructs John to baptize him, which is appalling to John. He knows Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah; as such, Jesus is in no need of the baptism of repentance.  John tells Jesus to baptize him instead.

But Jesus, knowing prophecy and why God sent him here, tells John, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” (verse 15) So, John agrees to baptize him.

Jesus was focused on one thing, obediently fulfilling the will of the Father—it was his choice to come and die so all could live forever with him in heaven. After Jesus was baptized, “… the heavens opened up and [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.’” (Mt 3:16-17)

This acknowledgement of Jesus from God is the epitome of how to tell a loved one you are proud of them. It tells them that they are unconditionally loved, that they have a home, a purpose, and someone who will stand with them in good times and bad.

“I am proud of you.”  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

So beware, if there are any qualifiers attached to your statement of pride, you need to check your motives. It’s important that your reasons for saying this are pure and truly only about bringing the gift of significance to the recipient and your heartfelt recognition of their value. It doesn’t count if we make it about ourselves in the process. Also, be careful not to let your acknowledgement of the accomplishments of your children be about you being a great parent.

The impact words that affirm our significance have on us is palpable.  For example, there was a girl who was repeatedly told by her father that she was cherished by her parents and that she could and would do anything she set her mind on. Her parents then sacrificed to give her all the tools she needed to become that person. This child grew up confident, generous, and brave. She also used her gifts to bless others and accomplish much. Unfortunately, her baby brother didn’t enjoy these benefits. Instead, their father took every opportunity to demean him and sometimes, even physically abuse him. This brilliant, kind boy grew up and became an alcoholic, agoraphobic, and incapable of seeing himself as possessing any value at all. The difference? Love and encouragement for the daughter but ridicule for the son.

Our words are powerful, and God has gifted us with the ability to use them to profoundly impact those we love, to let them know how cherished and significant they really are. That is his will for us—to know how deeply we are loved and valued by him and those on earth who love us.

Begin to see those you love through God’s eyes. Share with them your feelings of deep pleasure and admiration, and watch them blossom.

Colossians 4:6
Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

 

Questions:
If you were, or are, the recipient of the unabashed approval and admiration of someone you love, how did, or does it affect who you are today?

If you aren’t blessed with a person who is able to say, “I am proud of you,” how can you lean on God to provide that over-the-top love for and approval of you to bring joy and significance to your life?

Next Steps:  
Think of three people you can be unselfishly intentional about telling that you are proud of them.

Take ten minutes to journal about how you felt when someone told you they were proud of you.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for your extravagant love for me. Thank you for creating me with a purpose that gives me great significance now and into eternity.  Lord, please make clear to me exactly how I can serve the cause of Christ.  In his name I pray, Amen.


This post was written by Martha Preckler. Martha loves Jesus and growing closer to him every day. She loves serving on the Sparkle Team and Greeter Team, as a Landing Leader, GrowthTrack hostess, and fill-in writer for LIO. Martha is the grateful mother of two grown sons and one daughter-in-law. Both sons are good writers, but one is a published urban fantasy writer and self-proclaimed grammar dictator, which he swears he picked up from his mother. She has been a Toledo Business Journal contributor, speech writer, as well as creator of dozens of promotional pieces for seniors’ events and programming offer by the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

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


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