The Rescuer

There’s a firehouse just a few miles from my house. Every time I drive by it, I’m reminded that should my family need rescuing, help is literally right around the corner. Now hopefully, there will never be a need for this type of assistance, but there are many other times through the day where I feel I need a different sort of rescuing.

The kids are demanding things and asking a million questions. Or you’re fighting with your spouse over … wait, how did this argument even start? Or your boss just told you your position is being eliminated. Your sister just called and said she has a serious illness. Or you’re not sure when you’re going to have time to finish your paper after working all day and helping the kids with their homework. We all have something that is nagging at us, something that pushes our stress level over the edge. Jesus knows these struggles inside and out; he knows your heart better than you do. Why then, does he seem to be the taken-for-granted firehouse: the one who is available to rescue us 24/7, but whom we seek only after we’ve exhausted all other resources?

In Romans 11:26, Paul refers to Jesus as a “rescuer.” Jesus is the ultimate rescuer. Because of his sacrifice, he has freed us from our sins and allowed us to enjoy eternal life with him. Sometimes, the imensity of this deceives us into thinking our other “small” problems are too little to take to Jesus. But Jesus cares about our lives here on Earth, too. He doesn’t promise happiness, but he gives us the opportunity to enjoy his peace.

Look again at that sample list above of stressors. Did you find yourself thinking, “My problems aren’t as bad as that?” Your problems are never too small. God cares about every part of you. Did you find yourself thinking, “My problem is much greater than those; a simple prayer can’t fix that.” Jesus is bigger than any situation, and there is power in prayer.

Jesus wants a relationship with you, and this means bringing the ugly parts of our lives to him, too. When you’re in a situation that you just don’t want to be in, pray to your rescuer. Take this name – Rescuer – with you throughout the day. Mentally allow him to walk beside you, on the ready for any situation that arises.

 

Romans 11:26

And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, “The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness.”

 

Do you find that you exhaust all resources first before you go to Jesus?

 

 

 

What are your stressors today that need to be brought to Jesus?

 

 

 

Jesus wants you to be praying all throughout the day, even over the small things. Under what scenarios do you think you will pray now, when you may not have before?

 

 

Prayerfully consider this song. (Give Me Jesus):

 

“In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus …

You can have all this world, give me Jesus …

And when I am alone, give me Jesus …

You can have all this world, give me Jesus …

And when I come to die, give me Jesus …

You can have all this world, give me Jesus.”

 

 

This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean, a regular writer for the LivingItOut Daily Bible Study.

 

 

 

The End is Near

When you hear, “The end is near,” what do you think? Maybe you instantly turn to the Presidential election, or perhaps you think about the book of Revelation and the end times in the Bible. No matter what comes to mind, merely thinking about the end can bring on a strong sense of anxiety or fear.

How do we combat this? We don’t want to live our lives in fear of what is to come. In fact, God tells us over and over again in the Bible to “fear not.” Instead, as Ben Snyder pointed out this past weekend, we need to get curious about the end. Getting curious about the end gives us the courage to thrive, not just survive.

The Apostles in the New Testament knew what it meant to get curious about the end. They were threatened, beaten, and most of them were killed for their faith. The Apostle John, the man who wrote the Gospel According to John; 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John; and the book of Revelation was exiled to the Island of Patmos by the Roman Emperor Domitian. The book of Revelation is a revealing of visions to John, and in these visions, John saw the full glory of Jesus, something that Jesus held back during his earthly ministry. While this book can be confusing and sometimes downright weird, one thing is for sure, it is for us to understand Jesus.

After John saw Jesus in his glory he couldn’t help but fall at his feet (Rev. 1:17-18). Jesus is the point of all Scripture, including the book of Revelation, and that is clear in the first chapter. Jesus is God, he is the initiator of our faith and has perfected it for us (Heb. 12:1-2), he is our rescuer (Rom. 11:26), the image of God (Col. 1:15), the sustainer of our faith (Heb. 1:3), and the beginning and the end (Rev. 1:8). We can pray to these names. Remember, when Jesus told us how to pray in the book of Matthew, he started with, “Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name.” The name of God is so powerful – as powerful as his image – which caused John to fall to his knees.

Is your reaction to Jesus similar to John’s? Do you fall at his feet in worship and rely on him for everything? Or do you find it difficult to do this? Perhaps by reflecting on this passage, we can get a better sense of the incredible majesty of Jesus, and how near he is to us. He is the end that is near. We need not fear all the unknowables, we have Jesus.

 

Revelation 1:12-19

12When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. 13And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. 14His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. 15His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. 16He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance. 17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. 18I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.

19Write down what you have seen—both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen.

 

Pray that God would constantly remind you of how incredible he really is.

 

 

 

Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

All week we have talked about being a giver rather than a receiver, and that’s great, but you have to have something first in order to then give it away, right? Often it seems it is more difficult for us to receive than to give. For instance, if someone gives us a compliment we may feel that we don’t deserve it and deflect it, or if someone gives an unexpected gift we may feel uncomfortable. We may even try to rebuff or refuse rather than graciously receive. Although it is good to be humble, this could be a false sense of humility which is not pleasing to God. When we reject a gift from someone, it is just that—rejection. If someone offers the gift with a genuine heart and truly wants to bless us, how could we turn them down? We are God’s sons and daughters, he wants us to experience blessings so we can bless others. There is nothing wrong with graciously receiving a gift. In fact, it is essential to our well-being because if we are always giving and never receiving, we end up feeling empty and used up. There’s no joy in that!

In last weekend’s sermon, Tom talked about the concept of receptivity as a closed fist versus an open hand. Just as we cannot give with our hand closed into a fist, we cannot receive either. We need to keep our hands open to all possibilities. The Go-Giver understands that the key to effective giving is receptivity.

In the verse from 1 Peter 4, we see that we were all given a great variety of gifts from God. God has given all of us gifts, and we must receive and use those gifts to his glory. Not using the gifts is like refusing to receive them. We may feel scared, think we are not worthy, or that using our gift will be hard, but God has also provided us with the strength to use the gift to his glory.

He has made us sons and daughters—his great craftsmanship—and he has given us great gifts. With hands wide open and through the power that God supplies, we must graciously receive our gifts. Then we can also graciously give those gifts away.

1 Peter 4:10-11
10God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

Which spiritual gift has God given you? If you haven’t already taken the spiritual gifts assessment to identify what your spiritual gifts are, you can go to CedarCreek.tv/spiritualgifts

Do you struggle to receive gifts from others? If so, why do you think that is?

If not, how do you use those gifts (or the inspiration from them) to bless others?

How would our church look different if no one used their spiritual gifts?

Real Gifts and Fake Gifts

When we think of people who get what they want, when they want it, we often think of babies. Yes, these little bundles of joy usually get whatever they want when they want it (of course, that’s after their parent figures out what they want!). Babies are not the manipulators we may think they are. But what about the people that know better and do manipulate others to get what they want? Those people take and take some more without giving to others. They are often focused on how they can do the least amount of work to get the most benefit for themselves, whether it is money, promotion or praise. They cut corners on everything because it saves them money and time. They fake it to make it by looking the part of a giver but they are all about themselves and what they can get. A real giver is authentic and gives of their genuine selves. A real giver gives their money, time, and talents without thought of the personal benefits or expenses.

When we think of someone who gave their all, we think of the widow in Mark 12. She gave just two small coins. But unlike the others that gave to the collection box from their surplus, the poor widow gave everything she had. Her gift to the church gave Jesus an opportunity to teach his disciples about what it means to give your all. It’s not just money that we can give to others but also our time and gifts. The incredible musicians we have at CedarCreek give hours of their time to lead the worship of God using their talents. Givers will give their real selves for the betterment of others. Imagine our services without the music and talented musicians! We also think of Jesus when we contemplate people who have given their all.

1 John is written to encourage and strengthen the new Christian church at that time but has encouragement and application for us today. It gives us reminders that we are to live as Christ and give to others just as Jesus gave his life for us. In the following passage, John exhorts us to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. As followers of Christ, we are called to give up everything to follow him.

 Obviously, we aren’t often presented with an opportunity to give up our entire lives, so we need to look at the next verse, which makes the principle a little more practical. In verse 17, John tells us that if we have extra money and we know of someone who needs money, we are compelled to give. Otherwise, John ponders, “How can God’s love be in that person [if they don’t do this].”

1 John 3:16-17
16We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

Jesus gave up his life for us. What will you give to another?

How will you show God’s love to others?

Thank Jesus for showing us real love by giving up his life for us. Ask him to help us as we seek to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. Ask God to help you show compassion for others.

Cleveland vs. Chicago and Christian Humility

The World Series is wrapping up this week. For Cleveland Indians fans, the most endearing thing about this group of 25 guys is that no one was THE star! There weren’t any “LeBron James” superstars on this Cleveland team. They have their individual sets of gifts and talents. They unselfishly brought them to the table to try and win something which has eluded them for 68 years. Lots of teams spend more money for their talent. Plenty of other teams have players whose batting averages and ERAs win star status for them. But the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs were in the World Series this year! As we look at Philippians 2:3-4 it’s as if this verse was played out by these guys and is a lesson for all of us!

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.” Are you at the top of your game? How did you get there? Certainly not on your own! None of these baseball players would be where they are without lots of coaching, support from their families, and encouragement from their teammates. They ARE at the top of their sport, but none would say they did it alone.

“But in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” We need to acknowledge the fact that there are always going to be people who are ahead of us, who can teach us, coach us, and lead us to the next step. Humility allows us to ask for and receives help. Though you may not say it out loud, how often do you act as if you know everything you need to know? You can tell by how you receive feedback. If you are not open to receiving feedback in whatever form, you will not be able to hear how you can move forward in your relationships, your job, and your life? We should allow others the opportunity to add value to our lives.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” These guys have had their eyes on the prize for a long time, yet they are consistently concerned for their teammates as well as those they play against. As Go-Givers, our eyes must be on those who might be but are not necessarily ‘our people,’ our ‘ethnic or socio-economic status’ group, or our crew.

The World Series has been exciting this year, and we can learn a lot from those players. The Bible has a lot to say about how we impact the lives of those around us, and living that kind of open-handed, generous life is the most exciting thing we will ever experience. When we make a point of doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, and then consider others better than ourselves, we can look after the interests of others, putting them first, because that’s what Jesus did. We are to be imitators of Christ—Christ followers.

Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)
3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Are you selfish? Don’t think just in terms of money, but also with your time, your investment in others, and your willingness to serve others in some capacity.

What can you do today to place the interest of others above your own?

Pray this prayer:
God, I know my heart is sometimes hard towards others, and that often I want my own way. I pray, Father, that you would give me a heart like yours, willing to lay down my life for my friends, and even people I don’t know, whom you love. Give me your heart, Jesus.

What We Deserve

How many times have you heard someone say, “I deserve more money!” or “I demand a raise!”? Have you made the same statements? Sure, we all would like to make more money in whatever job we have, and it is perfectly acceptable to strive for more, to go for that promotion, and to seek advancement. But if you want to talk about what we deserve, the answer is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Verse 3:23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard,” and Romans 6:23 goes on to say, “The wages of sin is death.”

Our payment – what we deserve – for our sinful nature is death. So for “Go-Getters” who seek only their fulfillment and what is owed to them, the outlook is bleak. Fortunately, the verse does not end there but continues: “…but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” God – the ultimate giver – promises eternal life to those who follow him, not by anything we have done or earned, but through the sacrifice paid by Jesus on the cross (Eph. 2:8-9).

In Acts 20:35, Luke quotes Jesus as saying “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” If anyone deserved death for what he had done earlier in his life, it was Saul, for arresting Christians and sentencing them to death. But if ever anyone deserved the gift of eternal life through Christ, it was Saul. After his encounter with the Lord and his acceptance of Christ, Saul (renamed Paul by Jesus), was influential in laying the foundation for the spread of the gospel across the globe.

Paul gave up his pursuit of status and acceptance in the Jewish community to follow Christ. He urges us to think more highly of others than we do of ourselves, to put them first and to serve whenever possible (Phil. 2:3-4). Jesus gave up his life to allow God to give us the gift of eternal life. Both men knew the importance of Jesus’s words that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Jesus did not say our lives will be better if we give or that we will somehow be rewarded with more money. What Jesus did say, however, is that our lives will be blessed because of the impact we have on the lives of others. Giving away our time, money, and energy will not make us rich, but it will fulfill the commands of the God who gave us far more than money could ever buy. Instead of focusing on what you can get (or what you deserve), how would your life look different if you focused on what you could give to impact those around you?

 

 

Acts 20:35
35And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Why do you think so many people struggle with feeling like they deserve something?

 

What can you do for someone today to make a positive impact in their life (be specific)?

Don’t Go and Get, Go and Give!

If you had to describe yourself, which would you be, a giver or a taker? Do you enjoy giving away what you have, or do you find yourself constantly thinking about how much more you can get? Unfortunately, our culture seems to value and esteem the takers rather than the givers.

This past weekend, Tom Martin closed out the “Trick or Treat” series. He talked about the third trick money plays: “Money only comes to Go-Getters,” by drawing from the book “The Go-Giver” and Proverbs 11:24-25. So often, we think that in order to be truly successful in life, we need to be looking out for ourselves and always striving to get more. Instead, as Tom pointed out, in five distinct areas, we need to have a giving mentality – we need to be Go-Givers.

The first area he talked about was “value.” As a society we’ve come up with a way to place a value on someone; we call it “net worth.” An individual’s net worth is their monetary value. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we place a value on a human life by the amount of money they make. This is the way a Go-Getter thinks. They believe that the amount of money or possessions they have determines their worth as a person. This leads them to live a more self-centered life – one where they make their decisions based on what they’ll get. Instead, we should recognize that our worth is determined by how much value we give to others.

In Proverbs 11:24, Solomon tells us that when we give freely, we actually become wealthy. Obviously, this isn’t a promise that by giving away money we are going to become wealthy. Instead, when we look at the next verse (Prov. 11:25) we see that this a general life principle. We benefit in many substantial ways when we are generous; not just with our money, but with our time and talents too. 

Proverbs 11:24-25
24Give freely and become more wealthy;
be stingy and lose everything.
25The generous will prosper;
those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

How have you noticed this principle working out in your life?

How have you fallen into the trap of finding your value in the stuff you have?

Pray this prayer today: Heavenly Father, thank you for your word. Help me to be a person that looks to benefit other people. I know you’ve called me to refresh others, and that I need your strength in doing so. Please remind me always of this mission, and help me to live it out. Amen.

We’re Supposed to be the Salt of the World?

“Pass the salt, please!” How many times have you heard this phrase in your lifetime? When food is bland, our natural reaction is to enhance its flavor by adding seasoning. But what if we added salt and it had no flavor? What if we had no salt at all?

In Luke 14:34, Jesus asks a perplexing question, “if [salt] loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again?” As Christ-followers, we are called to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Until relatively modern times, salt was prized mainly for its ability to preserve foodstuffs, as well as to season food. This was particularly valuable in the hot Mediterranean climate where fish and meat would decay rather quickly. As Christians, we should possess and exhibit the same qualities and characteristics of salt.

 

Salt possesses three distinct qualities:

It has a perfect bond – Chemically, salt forms a perfect bond between two elements (sodium and chlorine). We too, have a perfect bond with Christ once we accept his free gift of salvation.

It adds flavor – Just as salt gives flavor to food, we add flavor to the world by living out the life that he has called us to and not conforming to this world (Romans 12:2).

It preserves and counteracts decay – As disciples, we need to remember all that God has done for us, and continually offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God and his purposes (Romans 12:1).

 

We also need to be willing to use our gifts, talents, time, and resources to “salt” the earth with the message of God’s love and redemption (Matthew 28:19). In Luke 14:35, Jesus says, “Flavorless salt is neither good for the soil nor the manure pile. It is thrown away.” If salt is flavorless, it has become ineffective. If we align our values to our culture instead of being guided by Scripture, we will become ineffective, just as the effect of salt becomes benign when it is dissolved in increasing amounts of water.

When we make a decision to follow Christ, we must be willing to abandon what culture deems right and instead embrace the Gospel and the truth that Jesus gives us. Allowing ourselves to become flavorless not only harms our ability to be effective communicators of the Gospel, it also inhibits our ability to be effective at all. We will not produce any sort of fruit in our lives.

What Jesus is telling us here is that our concern should not be about making something salty again, but about maintaining our saltiness. When we deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Jesus at all costs, we are being the salt and the light for a world that is tasteless and dark.

 

Luke 14:34-35

34 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? 35 Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

 

 

What are some of the characteristics of salt? Does your life add flavor to the world around you?

 

 

 

What do you think Jesus meant when he said salt isn’t good for the soil or the manure pile?

Will Following Jesus Affect my Relationships?

The decision-making process we use revolves around discovering desires and setting goals.  Most often, our goals revolve around… ourselves. What is in MY best interest? What will give ME the highest income? What will make MY kids behave the way I want them to? Flirting with this person is just making ME feel good; it’s not hurting anyone else. There are tons of books on the market dedicated to behavior modification, decision-making, and goal-setting.

Now, imagine that from this day forward, Jesus will be the center of your decision-making. Not you, not your family, nor your children, but primarily Jesus. In today’s passage, Jesus refers to a military decision of kings in a battle.  Jesus is essentially telling us, “Do not go into battle that you will surely lose with half-hearted measures.” Discipleship requires Jesus to be the priority in ALL decisions.

How will your decisions impact your relationship with your spouse if Jesus is the inspiration? For some, the marriage may improve because you will avoid workplace flirtations or look for comfort somewhere other than your spouse. For other married believers, the challenge may be that their spouse is not a Christian. How might the marriage be affected then? A husband could become resentful of a church-going, praying wife if he does not believe. Even more, a spouse can become upset over a commitment to tithe ten percent of the household income to a church. The arguments that can ensue from a spouse’s unwillingness to tithe can be catastrophic. Imagine the impact on the whole family with a decision such as this. Many of your family’s spending habits—including vacations, team sports, etc.—would have to change.

At the office, yours may not be the most popular cubicle if you decline to participate in the juicy gossip and avoid weekly happy hour. The office gossip might even become about YOU, the “Jesus Freak.” Are you willing to accept that?

Jesus is saying in Luke that true discipleship has relational costs that you ought to consider ahead of time and to make peace with the fact that every decision you make WILL affect those around you once your motives have shifted away from you and those you love most to him.

                 

Luke 14:31-33

31Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? 32And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. 33So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.

 

How have your relationships with family and friends been affected by your relationship with Christ?

 

 

What can you do today to allow your relationship with Christ to influence a current difficult relationship?

You Can’t Even Imagine What God Has Prepared for You

“Don’t begin until you count the cost.” Whether buying a new car, building a house, or committing to a life with Christ, Jesus himself warns us to consider the cost – both financially and personally – before we make those decisions. There are obvious financial implications when buying new things, but even Jesus wants us to know what we are getting ourselves into when we live as followers of Christ.

Luke 14:28-30 warns against building a tower without the right plans or means to finish it. Yes, God wants us to be in a relationship with him, but as the parable of the sower explains, there will be some who accept the gospel, but quickly fade away because they did not have the foundation to stand upon in times of trial. “When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful,” (Matthew 13:21-22).

The tower or building in Luke 14 illustrates our Christian walk, or discipleship, with Jesus. In Alexander MacLaren’s commentary, he says, “We are always building, consciously or unconsciously… We are all rearing up a house for our souls in which we have to dwell; building character from out of the fleeting acts of conduct, which character we have to carry with us forever.”

Luke 18 tells of an encounter Jesus had with a man who was curious about how to build his home in Christ. The man, known as a “rich, young ruler,” asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. In addition to keeping the commandments, Jesus said he should “sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But verse 23 says, “When he heard this, he became very sad because he was very wealthy.”

The financial cost of following Jesus may require us to make sacrifices, give a little more than we think we can, change our spending habits, or evaluate our job situation. And it might initially make us sad. But the return on the investment in Christ is worth far more than we could ever imagine. Living for Christ now means living an eternal life in heaven later.

As Paul described heaven in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

 

Luke 14:28-30

28But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? 29Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’


What is equivalent to the builder’s house in your life?

 

 

 

 

 

What changes (if any) do you need to make in order to begin counting the cost financially?