Turn the Other Cheek – At the Movies 2022

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In our earthly lives, each of us is bound to face adversity. Unfortunately, some of this adversity results from the evil acts of others. This can cause us to get caught in the heat of the moment and try to get revenge on those who wronged us. Oftentimes, we want to see them suffer to pay for the suffering they caused us.

However, in the Bible, God instructs us not to repay evil for evil; he promises he will one day get rid of all pain and suffering. Our heavenly Father is the ultimate judge (see Deuteronomy 32:35). We are called to persevere in doing good to everyone, even to those who have wronged us.

Matthew 5:38-39
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.’”

At the beginning of King Richard, we see Richard Williams teaching his daughters how to play tennis. While doing so, gang members repeatedly harass his girls, making inappropriate comments and refusing to leave them alone.  When Richard tried to stand up for his family, he was beaten right in front of his  daughters.

Finally, Richard had enough. He wanted revenge for their evil deeds. In his anger, he planned to shoot one of the gang members. Seconds before Richard was about to fire, his victim was killed in a drive-by shooting. Richard was saved from committing murder, going to jail for the rest of his life, and missing out on all of the important things in his life, including raising his family.

That night, Richard realized repaying evil with evil had terrible consequences, so he changed his perspective and focused on the good. Instead of focusing on the trials that came his way, he put his energy into being a good father and coach. He took the pain from his adversities and used it as motivation to give his daughters the best lives that he could. Because of his perseverance and sacrifice, two of his daughters, Venus and Serena, became several of the most successful tennis players in sport’s history.

Every one of us is faced with how to deal with evil. We can either stay a victim of evil, or we can persevere through it all, knowing that this is what God has called us to do.

Galatians 6:9
9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Questions:
Why is it tempting for us to want to repay evil for evil?

In what specific ways can we persevere through evil and instead respond in a positive way to those who hurt us? How can we show them the love of Jesus?

Next Steps:
Pray for someone who has hurt you in the past. Ask God to help you let go of any remaining anger or resentment that you have against them and to help you reconcile the relationship if possible.

When you find yourself facing trials or adversity, pray first. Make space for God to work in the situation, and ask him for guidance.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for providing me with your Word as a guide on how to deal with evil in this world. Please give me the encouragement I need to persevere throughout the adversities that I face each day. Help me turn my pain into motivation to spread the love of Jesus to everyone I encounter. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Isabelle Billnitzer. Isabelle is a regular attender of CedarCreek and serves in the children’s ministry. She is passionate about writing and loves spending time with her family and friends. Her goal is to show people the love of Jesus Christ.


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No Foul – At the Movies 2022

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Being unresponsive to insults, while constantly being the target of hateful actions and not doing anything about it, is something that can be difficult to live with—at least for me. I don’t know about you, but I want to retaliate. The good news is we know that Jesus lived a perfect life free of sin and retaliation. Because of our sinful nature, we can’t. However, when we become his followers, we can learn to be more like him, and in the process, learn to bless our persecutors instead of emulating them.

1 Peter 2:23 NIV
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

Jesus was judged and insulted and assaulted for US. He didn’t have to do it; we certainly didn’t deserve it. But he did it anyway, and he didn’t complain or back down. Now that is how I wish I could live life!

If I’m being honest, sometimes when I’m full of anger or frustration, I’m quick to threaten and retaliate, but because I am a child of the one true God, I know better and am trying to do better. We all need to remember man is fallible, but God is not. So when we slip and fall, we don’t have to get upset, because we have been forgiven. We are new creations in Christ.

In last weekend’s message, we saw Richard from the movie King Richard overcome his basic urge to return evil with evil. It reminded me of an event from my past.

I played basketball for one year when I was in junior high. It’s probably a good thing that I only played one season. I had an attitude problem and was quick to anger in my younger days.

Exodus 21:23-24
23 “But if there is further injury, the punishment must match the injury: a life for a life, 24 an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot,…”

I had a tendency to play like my favorite “bad boy” players in the NBA. I can’t remember all the details, but during one of my games, a player fouled me with an elbow to a sensitive area. The ref didn’t see it—“of course not!”—I thought. So, with an “eye-for-an-eye” mentality, I took it upon myself to return an elbow for the elbow I received.

I chased the other play down from mid-court and did some type of flying elbow move that everyone saw. Deservedly, I was called for the one-and-only technical foul my team received that year, if my memory serves correctly. In the moment, it felt great. But I soon regretted it—I knew better. I never should have sought my own revenge.

Romans 12:19
Dear 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.

My basketball career ended as fast as it began. Perhaps if I had focused on scoring rather than settling scores, I would have gone further.

Today, I try to live more like Jesus teaches us to. Rather than return the same punishment, I choose to forgive and move forward.

Colossians 3:13
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Questions:
Do you seek your own revenge when others wrong you? What can you do rather than return anger for anger?

Next Steps:
Read and reflect on 1 Peter 2:18-25.

If you feel you’ve been wronged, talk to someone about how you feel and pray for a peaceful resolution. Try to reach out to the person that wronged you. They might not even know what they have done to upset you.

Prayer:
God, show me how to give up seeking revenge to you. It’s not mine to seek out; it belongs to you alone. Help me grow in maturity so that I don’t act out before I pray to you about what is upsetting me enough to look for revenge. I know you are the bringer of peace through your awesome Son. In his name I pray, amen.


This post was written by Casey Stengel. Casey is a follower of Christ, a dad, and an avid Chicago sports fan. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with family and friends. He works in recovery and loves to help people however he can. He is also working toward his Associate Degree in Biblical Studies.


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Three Wise (Monkeys) Frogs – At the Movies 2022

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Ohio is full of farmland, factories, humid summers, even colder winters, and it’s football country (Go Blue!)—it’s home. I was born here, and when I left, I never wanted to come back. Many of the reasons for me wanting to stay away were due to my personal war against snow and below-freezing temperatures. (The Findlay campus’ new Student Director, Zeeke, seemed frighteningly surprised when I told him true cold is when it is too cold to snow.)

My wife and I decided coming home was part of God’s plan. She knew before I did. But I’m stubborn, so it’s no surprise. We were definitely excited that the average commute in the Findlay area is 8 minutes compared to the sometimes 2-hour drive to the Pentagon. We began preparing our children for the changes they would experience in Ohio. They would be introduced to casseroles, real mosquitoes, and going to school, even after receiving a few inches of snow. Unfortunately, this list also included racism. It was the main reason I scoffed at returning.

Things are certainly better now than when my siblings and I were younger. It was much more challenging then. My response now is better, too. Back then, my siblings and I physically fought against any disrespect or unwelcome glances. Unsavory words were always an invitation to continue a more heated conversation. I can’t speak for my siblings, but it never felt satisfying. Fighting always created more problems for us.

1 Peter 3:9, 11
9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. … 11 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

I’ve been honest with my kids about my upbringing. They know I returned being called the n-word the first time with a punch, which continued longer than I’m proud of. I’m sure some people still call me by that word, but I’ve only heard it twice in the last 18 years.

The first of those times occurred in 2004, and my reaction was to ignore it. The second time occurred while I was playing basketball with my son and nephew a few weeks after moving back to Ohio, which I ignored again.

It’s impossible to “see no evil” and “hear no evil,” but we can let God handle those things. Something inside me wants to tell my kids to handle things the way I did growing up, but parenting and learning how to forgive has stopped me each time. Teaching them a better way is the right thing. Thankfully, they’re quicker to listen than I was when my Mom tried to teach me.

Questions:
What do you do when confronted by evil? How have your decisions hurt you?

Next Steps:
When evil hurts you, work harder on things that create positivity. Pray about it, give it to God, and be an example to others. Read  1 Peter 3:9-12 and Proverbs 20:22 to further understand how to address evil moments in your life.

Prayer:
Lord, I appreciate the lessons I’ve learned from trying to take matters into my own hands. Thank you for showing me how things can improve when I let you handle certain situations. I am better when I remember who I belong to. Amen.


This post was written by Jaron Camp. Jaron is a storyteller and a professional ghostwriter who enjoys using his gifts to write for the LivingItOut. When he’s not developing fictional worlds, researching, and writing, Jaron enjoys watching sports, participating in family game night, and spending time with his wife and four kids.


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Repurpose Evil – At the Movies 2022

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Last weekend At the Movies, Richard Williams, father of tennis greats, Venus and Serena, was presented as a man with an undying love for his daughters. He wrote a 78-page plan to ensure his daughters would succeed in tennis. That is no small undertaking. It would be interesting to know the number of revisions he made to his plan.

Mr. Williams portrayed the heart of many fathers. He wanted to ensure his daughters received the respect he never received growing up. He wanted all of his daughters to become the amazing women they had the potential to become. Clearly, he did not sit on the sidelines, hoping it would happen. He got involved. He stayed involved. And although God is the only perfect father, it appears Richard gave it his very best.

Followers of Christ, similarly, have a plan to refer to—the Bible. It is a trustworthy point of reference for everyone (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is within the pages of this book we are instructed how best to respond to evil—the very dilemma Mr. Williams faced. He had the mindset to take someone’s life for the evil perpetrated against his family. His intended response—murder—is understandable to many.

As is often the case, God’s response to evil supersedes man’s response. Paul’s letter to Rome offers three separate responses to evil: Romans 12:21 NIV: “overcome evil with good”; Romans 12:17 NIV: “never pay back evil for evil”; and Romans 12:19 NIV: “leave room for the wrath of God.”

Peter’s words get very personal! 1 Peter 2:1 identifies several forms of evil behavior. OUCH! Becoming Christ-like requires much pruning! The reference in Matthew 15:19 reports our hearts produce much evil. What is one to do? For me, accepting I am nothing without him, and that I can do no good thing without him, keeps me on the right path.

No one should be surprised at the level of wrongdoing and evil in our country and around the world. No one can consistently follow God’s lead in managing evil without his holy presence in one’s life. Not you. Not me. Obviously, many remain in need of a Savior to save us from our sin. That same Savior will save us from ourselves as we allow him to empower us to overcome evil with good when it shows up in our lives.

Questions:
How do you respond to evil? Have you been a victim of evil? Have you resolved evil done to you? Do you identify as a victim of evil? Have you allowed evil done to you to define you in a negative way?

Next Steps:
Increase your understanding of evil from a biblical perspective. Consider ways to overcome evil as a Christ follower. Claim the truth of God’s word in Romans 8:28 NASB.

Prayer:
Father, there is no shortage of evil in this world. Give me the fortitude to stand properly in the face of evil in ways that honor you. As I recover from evil done to me, empower me to be a vessel of healing to those close to me. Strengthen me to take a stand against all forms of evil, recognizing it is through the blood of Christ I am empowered to face every form of evil known to man. Align my path with those choosing to face evil in Godly ways. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Karen Peck. Karen retired in March 2018 from Lucas County Information Services. She has been married to her husband, E. Michael, for over forty years. Karen is extremely grateful retirement has afforded her several soul-fulfilling opportunities to engage in deeper, meaningful relationship with Him and others.


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First Things First – At the Movies 2022

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King Richard. What a great movie and story! Through background conversations with his daughters, you come to understand that Richard’s childhood was anything but a storybook. And yet, Richard was determined to create better circumstances for his girls. I love that! It affirms yet again that our choices can change our life’s trajectory!

During the weekend service, we learned about three possible choices when faced with evil.

The first is to return evil for evil. We saw Richard yield to this temptation when he confronted the gang members in the movie and then decided that was not the example he wanted to give his family.

Another choice is to become a victim. It was obvious by Richard’s persistence and determination that being a victim was not an option!

The third choice is to battle evil by doing good. This is where King Richard landed. He got busy doing good—for his girls and for his family. I loved his 78-page plan for Venus and Serena. I have great admiration for how he seemed to be able to implement it without any apparent envy or jealousy on the part of the other girls. Those girls were obviously high achievers in their own right in other areas, but the focus (at least in the movie) was on the tennis players.

I imagine the effort must have been exhausting for both Richard and his wife, as well as for Serena and Venus. Having “average” children without a 78-page plan is exhausting! At times, it probably seemed easier to give up than to continue.

Our world is challenging. We have immense pressure from many things, pulling at both us and our families. But we get to choose, and choose we must. It requires lots of energy, willpower, and effort. Following our devotion to God, it is our most important job.

Galatians 6 has many verses which we can apply to our lives.

Galatians 6:2-3
2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important (emphasis added).

Galatians 6:7-10
7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith (emphasis added).

Several examples of these verses could be seen being lived out in King Richard. He and his wife shared each other’s burdens, but they were not ashamed to ask for help from others. They knew that eventually they would reap what they had sown with their girls. They knew their sacrifices would be worth the effort. As tiring as it must have been, Richard never grew tired of helping his girls achieve their full potential, and they all reaped a great blessing.

So how can you receive this kind of blessing in your life? By seeking peace and pursuing it and doing good to everyone—especially those within our family of faith.

Questions:
Have you made the most important things in your life the most important?

Next Steps:
On one side of a piece of paper list the things most important to you, in  the order of their importance. Across from that, list the amount of time you spend on each of those things. Figure out how you can bring those things into better alignment, then do it! Share the list with your Group or a trusted friend and ask them to hold you accountable for making first things first.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for ordering my life. Help me to listen to your word and apply it to my life. Help me to embrace the roles you have given me, and help me find the will and guidance to invest in them. Give me the energy and the courage to put first things first. This is not a mystery, nor is it difficult to figure out. Help me to wait for your blessing, which you have promised, at just the right time. Amen.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.


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