The Most Beautiful of All – Advent

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LIO Advent Edition: Day 5 of 15

Today’s wow-inspiring truth about God: He is glorious—he is infinitely

beautiful and great.

 

Christmastime. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” right?

Well, if I’m being honest, Christmas is not my favorite time of the year. (Maybe

you can relate. If not, please stay with me for a moment.)

Don’t misunderstand me—I’m no Grinch or Scrooge. I like Christmas. This

season just comes with a lot of challenges. As a perfectionist who’s attached to

her to-do list, the extra tasks can feel overwhelming. As an introvert, all the plans

and gatherings can be exhausting. As someone who works at a church, this is

when the pressure really ramps up for my job. I could go on.

And on top of all that, I tend to struggle spiritually during the winter. I connect

best with God through the beauty of nature—getting away from the work, the

expectations, the stress—going to a park and just letting God speak through

his creation. And while I certainly can go for walks during the cold of winter,

most of the time, I really don’t want to.

However, sometimes, for the sake of my mental, spiritual, and emotional health,

I do it anyway. On a freezing, snowy day, I’ll put on my gloves, my scarf, my parka

(bought specifically for January in Russia, so it’s plenty warm) and drag myself

to one of Toledo’s many parks.

And standing out there in the stillness—everything coated in ice and snow, the

whole world glimmering around me—I’m reminded that, honestly, I do kind of

love winter.

Our God is beautiful, glorious. And while it’s important to remember the creator

is separate from the creation, his creation does reflect this. When I get out of

the house to appreciate the world God created, especially in the winter, I’m

struck by the beauty and glory of it—and I’m reminded of the beauty and glory

of our creator.

Reflecting on this, I’m reminded of the song “You’re Beautiful”—I encourage

you to give it a listen.

You’re Beautiful by Phil Wickham

I see your power in the moonlit night

Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright

We are amazed in the light of the stars

It’s all proclaiming who You are

You’re beautiful

God created us with an appreciation of beauty for beauty’s sake—when we

experience something beautiful, it awakens a sense of awe and wonder in us.

That’s because it’s a reflection of our God, who is infinitely beautiful and

glorious—in every season, no matter what’s going on in our personal lives.

It’s my hope that, whether it’s today, this weekend, or later in the month, you

get a chance to pause and experience God’s glory and beauty this season.

Romans 1:20

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky.

Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his

eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Questions:

Where do you best experience the beauty and glory of God? It’s different for all

of us—maybe it’s through nature, or through manmade art at the museum, or

through music. Maybe it’s in your child or grandchild’s smile.

When was the last time you were caught off guard by God’s beauty or glory?

Next Steps:

However you most clearly see God’s beauty, make some time for it this season.

Set down the to-do list, stress, and expectations to spend time somewhere or

with something that reminds you of God’s glory and beauty. Reflect on and

praise God for his infinite beauty and glory.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I praise you for your beauty and glory. Thank you for creating

a world where we’re surrounded by reflections of your beauty. Thank you for

giving us sense to see, hear, taste, and touch the wonder you’ve placed around

us. Help us to have open minds and hearts to experience your glory. Amen.

Family Advent Activity:

Throughout this Christmas season, CedarCreek’s Family Ministries will be

providing us with some fun ways to connect with the Christmas story through

Scripture readings and engaging activities. This will help prepare our hearts

for Christmas and create great Christmas memories for you and your family.

These Family Advent Activities will be located at the end of each LivingItOut

devotional.

Today’s Activity:

Read Luke 2:1-4 together as a family. Parents, share about a particularly special

or unique Christmas that you experienced as a child.


This post was written by Payton Lechner, a regular contributor and editor of the LivingItOut.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

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More Resources

Series Theme Verses
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RightNow Media
John Reading Plan


Real Love – Advent

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LIO Advent Edition: Day 4 of 15

Today’s wow-inspiring truth about God: He is loving—God infinitely, unchangingly loves you. 

I always tell my kids that no matter what they do, I will always love them. I will guide them, discipline them, and teach them when they are making questionable choices, but I’ll still love them. And I may get mad, sad, or frustrated, but despite my negative emotions, I’ll still love them. 

My oldest child has a fairly good grasp of this concept, but my youngest doesn’t quite believe me. (He also believes that if he gets in trouble, he has a good chance of going to jail. He’s 5, so it’s unlikely.) He can’t quite understand how it’s possible to love someone even though they’ve upset you. And when he gets in trouble, he often becomes concerned that we don’t like him anymore. I think the concept of unconditional love is taught to us in many ways, but I personally never understood it better than when I became a mom. My kids may screw up royally, but I still end up hugging them so they know they’re loved. 

As we get to know Jesus, we begin to see many parent-like aspects to his relationship with us. We’ve all had different experiences with our earthly parents, some better than others. But God is the perfect father. He truly loves unconditionally. His love doesn’t change based on our behavior or our thoughts toward him. It isn’t bound to how much we offer him in return. God showed the ultimate act of love by sending a part of himself to a broken world, knowing what the future held. He loves us so much that he walked with the hurting, the sick, and the needy instead of cashing in on his status. He was born to this earth in such a way that showed his glory but made him accessible to regular people. 

As you prepare to celebrate Christmas this year, remember that God loves you regardless of your current (or past) circumstances. He isn’t one to shy away from a complication or a difficult situation. He wants to be in those situations with you, and to walk with you through them. He loves you and wants you to know him so intimately that seeking him in times of need comes to you instinctually. 

1 John 4:9-10 

9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 

Family Advent Activity: Read Luke 1:39-56 together as a family. Create a playlist of favorite Christmas carols and worship songs. Play it while on the go all week—and don’t be afraid to sing along! 

Questions: Do you struggle to believe God’s love for you is unconditional? 

Discuss your experience of unconditional love in your relationships. 

Next Steps: Make a list of the ways God has shown you love in both the good times and bad. Reflect on how his love is unchanging. 

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for offering your love freely to us. There is nothing we can do to earn it. In fact, you love us regardless of our circumstances. Help us to reciprocate that love, and to fully appreciate the gift it is. Amen.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee is a stay-at-home mom and wife. She loves writing for this team, and she hopes to help convey God’s message through this study. 


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

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Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

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More Resources

Series Theme Verses
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RightNow Media
John Reading Plan


Here, There, and Everywhere – Advent

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LIO Advent Edition: Day 3 of 15

Today’s wow-inspiring truth about God: He is omnipresent—he is always everywhere. 

Psalm 139:2-3 2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. 3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. 

I wonder if these Christmas carol lyrics from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” were inspired by the verses in Psalm 139? 

“He sees you when you’re sleeping 

He knows when you’re awake 

He knows if you’ve been bad or good 

So be good for goodness sake!” 

One of God’s attributes is exactly that; he is omnipresent. HE is not held captive by time or space, instead, he is everywhere simultaneously. Omnipresence means that “there is no place to which God’s knowledge and power do not extend.” 

Personally, I know this to be true from hard experience. Innumerable times, God has gone with me through dangers, injuries, bad relationships, and a particularly bad accident. 

In 1979, on a trip home from graduate school, it took me 16 hours to make an 8-hour drive. A drive that should have left me badly injured if not dead. 

The warm, rainy weather suddenly turned bitter cold in the Adirondacks, and the highway became covered with black ice. I was in the left lane when I spun three times going 60 mph, miraculously missing the other cars. I was then deposited into a huge snowbank on the right side of the road—instead of sailing into the mountain wall looming just beyond that snowbank. Soon afterward, a nice couple took me to a nearby garage where the mechanic towed my car, reset my tire, and sent me on my way—all for free. I continued 9 

on my trip, but as night fell, I realized something was wrong with my headlights. I could barely see the road. 

I drove another 90 miles like that to a rest area and called my family. When my brother picked up the phone, I told him, “You’re lucky to be talking to me. I should be dead!” After I explained my situation, he told me to clean the snow and dirt off my headlights. Oh. 

On the last leg of my trip, I hit an infamous Buffalo, N.Y., snow event! The visibility dropped to zero, the winds were whipping, and the roads were slick with ice … again! I was fed up and yelled, “Go ahead Satan do your worst! I am a child of God and live to serve him.” I was a new Christian and surprised when an unfamiliar peace instantly settled on me—I realized I was not alone. God was with me and always would be! Soon after that, the snow slowed to a flurry, and I arrived home safe and sound. 

So remember, especially this Christmas, when trouble, loss, illness, or loneliness come your way, Jesus, whom we are celebrating, is right here with you and loving you. He will see you through it all. Here is a verse I love to recite when I’m feeling overwhelmed: 

Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8 

6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. 8 Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you. 

This means wherever we’ve been, wherever we are, AND wherever we may go, God is there—omnipresent! Rejoice in the fact that you are never out of his sight or presence. 

Family Advent Activity: Read Luke 1:38 together as a family. Bake a batch of Christmas cookies. (No shame if you grab a tube from the grocery fridge section!) Share a snack together, and take some of them to a neighbor. 

Questions: Are you a child of God? 10 

Do you know Jesus as YOUR Lord and Savior? 

If so, do you know that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live in you to guide and guard you with every breath you take? 

Next Steps: If you haven’t done so already, repent of your past refusal to ask God for forgiveness for your sins. Acknowledge God sent his begotten son, Jesus Christ, as the only way to be saved from sin, death, and eternal darkness. And then accept God’s gift—eternal life forever with him, and a life of value on Earth in the meantime. 

Prayer: Father God, Creator of all that was, is, and ever will be, please hear my prayers begging for your continued guidance and forgiveness as I stumble through this life as your child. Please keep me focused on you and your love, goodness, and will for my life every minute of every day—through every good time, crisis, and loss—as you carry me through it all. In Jesus’ glorious name I pray, amen. 

 


This post was written by Martha Smith, a regular contributor and editor of the LivingItOut.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

Click Here


More Resources

Series Theme Verses
LivingItOut Podcast
RightNow Media
John Reading Plan


Infinite Tradition – Advent   

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LIO Advent Edition: Day 2 of 15

Today’s wow-inspiring truth about God: He is Infinite—he is self-existing, without origin, and has always been.

What are some holiday traditions that you observe?

In my immediate family, a few come to mind. When we decorate for Christmas, everyone puts their own ornaments (collected over the years) on the tree. Then, once the halls are decked, we snuggle up and watch Elf to kick off the holiday season. Another tradition is COOKIEPALOOZA! We take an afternoon and bake a “bounteous lot” of cookies and treats. Finally, after attending the Christmas Eve service, we have a fancy Christmas dinner and open presents.

Those three events are staple traditions in our family, but as our family is changing, so are the traditions. This year, one daughter will be working a 12-hour shift at the hospital, Christmas Eve night through Christmas morning, so our family meal and presents are shifting to Christmas Eve morning. Between basketball coaching (hubby), our daughter’s sports, work schedules, and more—COOKIEPALOOZA will be divided into a couple of days. And with our oldest married, she is starting new traditions with her hubby.

I’m thankful for the traditions that we’ve created over the years and for whatever they will look like in the future. And even though our family holiday traditions may look a little different going forward, the message of Christmas remains the same. God, the Creator of the universe, sent Jesus—his Son, who is God—to this earth to be the Savior of the world.

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

He always was, is, and will be. While Jesus, the man, came to earth a little over 2,000 years ago, he is also God, and therefore, he always has been. In the prologue of John 1, Jesus is described as “the Word”—the truth of God.

John 1:1-2

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.

Jesus (God) is self-existing. He is infinite. He always has been. Although family dynamics are changing what our traditions look like, current events in life and in the world do not change who Jesus is or will be. The same Jesus who was born in a manger was there at the beginning of the world and has always been part of the plan. The Book of Isaiah is brimming with prophecies declaring such, long before Jesus—the God-Man—ever graced the earth.

Isaiah 7:14

“…The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”

Isaiah 9 continues to proclaim the infinite Christmas message:

Isaiah 9:6

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (emphasis added).

And this same God, this same Savior, is the hope we hold on to in these days and the days to come.

Isaiah 43:1-3a

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (emphasis added).

The God who sent Jesus to earth as a little baby is the same God who still holds the world in his hands. The One who walks with us through adversity and suffering. The One who calls us HIS. He is the One in whom we can have infinite hope because he is infinite.

Questions:
What are some of your family traditions? Have they changed over the years? How does the fact that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever give you hope?

Next Steps:
Reflect and rest in the infiniteness of our faithful and loving God. Take some time to praise him for his goodness, his infiniteness. As we continue with these attributes of God, grab a Bible and consider doing a Bible study. The more we know God, the more we recognize his magnificence and stand in awe of him.

Prayer:
Jesus, we praise YOU because you have always been, are, and always will be. You are infinite and never-changing. We can trust you because you exist on your own accord, and always have. This is mind-blowing yet provides us with so much hope. Thank you for ransoming us and calling us yours. Thank you that no matter what we face in this world, you are with us. This Christmas and every day, we worship you as you are without bounds of time or space, and you are infinite in wisdom and power. You are our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. We adore and glorify you. In your precious name, we pray, amen.

Family Advent Activity:

Throughout this Christmas season, CedarCreek’s Family Ministries will be providing us with some fun ways to connect with the Christmas story through Scripture readings and engaging activities. This will help prepare our hearts for Christmas and create great Christmas memories for you and your family. These Family Advent Activities will be located at the end of each LivingItOut devotional.

Today’s Activity:       
Read Luke 1:34-36 together as a family. Taking care of a new baby is a big challenge! Take a meal to a family you know with a new baby, or pick up diapers to donate to a local shelter or food bank.


This post was written by Kendra Grubinski, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

Click Here


More Resources

Series Theme Verses
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RightNow Media
John Reading Plan


The Most Wonderful – Advent

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Christmas—what a happy and wonderful time of the year. Right? According to singer/songwriter Andy Williams, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

“With the kids jingle belling

And everyone telling you, ‘Be of good cheer’

It’s the most wonderful time of the year”

Why, though? Why is it the most wonderful time of the year? Andy Williams gives a few good reasons.

“There’ll be parties for hosting

Marshmallows for toasting

And caroling out in the snow”

That sounds pretty good, right? Though I’m not quite sure about the caroling, Williams starts to get closer with his next series of reasons.

“There’ll be much mistletoeing

And hearts will be glowing

When loved ones are near”

I can’t say that I have ever mistletoed, but having loved ones near is definitely a highlight of Christmas for me. Being with family and friends and sharing gifts, good food, and laughter is part of what makes Christmas special for us. However, the true wonder of Christmas doesn’t come from parties, friends, or family.

The wonder of Christmas comes from who God is and what he has done for us. Christmas is most wonderful because it is when we celebrate the arrival of Emmanuel—God with us. It’s a time to intentionally stop and reflect on Jesus’ humble birth in a manger, which set God’s rescue plan for humanity into motion.

We hope that the wonder of who God is and what he has done for you captures your heart this Christmas season. Our prayer is that reflecting on him causes you to stop everything and gives you a child-like sense of wow that leaves you speechless as you realize God is beyond anything you could imagine.

Over the next three weeks, the LivingItOut will focus on the amazing character and attributes of God. We believe that as you know him more and fall in love with who he is, you will be wowed by him and what he has done for you. Are you ready to meet the God who wows us at Christmas and beyond?

Luke 2:6-7
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Questions:
What are some of your favorite things about this time of year?

As you reflect on the meaning of Immanuel — God with us, what does it say about who God is and who we are to him?

Next Steps:
Commit to reading the LivingItOut this Christmas season and ask God to open your eyes to his splendor.

Also, during this Christmas season, CedarCreek’s Family Ministries will be providing us with some fun ways for families to connect with the Christmas story through Scripture readings and engaging activities. This will help prepare our hearts for Christmas and create great Christmas memories for you and your family. These Family Advent Activities will be located at the end of each LivingItOut devotional.

 

​​Prayer:
Dear God. You are worthy of our praise. You wow us with your splendor. As we enter this Christmas season, help us grow in the beautiful truth about who you are and who we are to you.  Amen. 

 

Family Advent Activity:
Read Luke 1:32 together as a family. God’s plan for Christmas surprised everyone. If you could plan Christmas this year exactly the way you wanted, what would it look like?


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.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

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More Resources

Series Theme Verses
LivingItOut Podcast
RightNow Media
John Reading Plan


A Different Point of View – At the Movies

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One of the pivotal scenes from last weekend’s featured movie, Black Widow, took place around the dinner table. After years apart, the “family” was back together, and their conversation was eye opening.

The last time this family had seen each other, the evil Drakov had separated them against their will. This abrupt end to the world they knew caused pain and heartache for each one of the characters. In the years between their family being torn apart and this reunion, they had each tried to understand why things had happened the way they did by forming a story from their own point of view. As they tried to make sense of it all, blame became a central theme in each character’s mind.

In Pastor Ben’s talk, he pointed out that it was clear from their conversation that each of their perceived views of the past had defined and shaped the state of their heart and their views of each other in the present. As I thought about this point from Ben, it reminded me of the bottom line from a past series.

In week 1 of our series, How to Not Hate a Jerkface, Ben taught us that while our perspective might be right, it is not always complete.

In this case, each character had a perspective of what had happened years ago and a perspective of what had happened in the years between, but they only had their own perspective. Once they settled down and took the time to talk to each other, it became clear that each of them held a perspective that wasn’t complete. As they listened to each other’s stories and connected with each other’s hearts, they began to find understanding and healing.

What a great lesson for us to learn from. When we are hurt by someone, or when a relationship we value is broken, there may be more to the story than we see. But if we humble ourselves, if we are patient and compassionately listen to one another, we may gain a more complete perspective. This helps us to see what is real, what is not, and what really matters—and allows us to move toward forgiveness.

Ephesians 4:2
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

Questions:
Can you remember a time when you thought your perspective was right and complete but later discovered you were missing something?

What tension point(s) in your life do you need to spend time on this week in order to get a better perspective?

Next Steps:
Listen to Ben’s talk on perspective from the How to Not Hate a Jerkface series.

Prayer:
Dear God, I recognize that my perspective isn’t always complete.  Forgive me for the times that I place blame or try to hurt others based on my incomplete view of the circumstances around me. Help me to be patient, open to learning, and forgiving in all of my relationships. Help me to love others the way you love me. In Jesus’ name, 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.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

Click Here


More Resources

Series Theme Verses
LivingItOut Podcast
RightNow Media
John Reading Plan


Ready to Turn the Page? – At the Movies

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I’ve had many conversations with teenagers and young adults about the difficulties they experienced growing up. I relate to them because I understand that their pain came at a time when they were defenseless. Not everyone is blessed enough to have caring people to pull them out of the darkness early in life. “I remember when I was afraid. Oh, the hand I felt lead the way. For the first time in my life, I felt safe. Now that I’m older, would you lead me again?” Thankfully, I was blessed to have people whose compassion introduced me to Jesus.

In one of the clips played this weekend, the mother, Melina, tells Natasha the story of the mouse born in the cage. Her story is heartbreaking. When you live in the darkness long enough, you start to believe that’s all there is for your life. Natasha responds with, “But you’re not a mouse, Melina. You were just born in a cage, but that’s not your fault.”

Galatians 4:19
Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.

In a conversation I had  a few weeks ago, I mentioned that what happened to my friend in their childhood wasn’t their fault, and it wasn’t fair. It is now their choice to keep their story on the same page or to move forward believing God has something greater for them.

There is an answer to everyone’s hurt.  Choosing to find the light in your future can help you to deal with your past.

John 12:46
“I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.”

Questions:
How do you show compassion to others? Did you have people in your life who showed compassion to you?

Next Steps:
Don’t ignore hurting people. Pray for them, offer them guidance, and listen to their story. Invite them to a life-changing church. If you’re one of those hurt people, find a community of Christ followers. Take GrowthTrack to help lead you to your purpose.

Prayer:
Dear God, I am reminded of how blessed I am to be part of a fantastic story each day. Thank you for showing me that I was never forsaken. Allow me to do my best to help those who are lost and hurting to find their way back to you. 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.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


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A Portrait of Compassion – At the Movies

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Confession time: Compassion doesn’t come naturally to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely care about people. However, knowing what to say or do when someone is hurting? That’s not my forte. God has been growing me in this area, but it still often feels like everyone else has wiser, kinder words in those situations than I can scrounge up.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. If we look around, one of the common responses to others’ struggles is to tout affirmation and offer familiar, feel-good platitudes such as “it’ll be okay” or “everything happens for a reason.”

But what if that’s not true compassion?

This weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder introduced us to the Greek word for compassion—splagchnizomai—which means “to be torn up in the gut.” It means we ache because the other person hurts, that we step into their pain. We can’t have compassion and stay comfortably situated in our day-to-day lives simply because we’re unaffected.

The greatest example of this is Jesus, who loved us so deeply that he entered our messy, sinful world to heal our pain. He didn’t shy away, leaving us to bear the consequences of our brokenness. Nor did he offer well-intentioned, cliche phrases. No, he was Immanuel—God with us—and he cared about our suffering so much that he died so we could be saved. The Apostle Paul puts it like this:

Romans 5:6-8
6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Jesus is a portrait of what true compassion looks like—it’s stepping into others’ pain to help, even though it costs us. Through the Holy Spirit, he empowers his followers to imitate his example of loving and serving others. We don’t have to rely on our own strength or insight to muster up compassion. Isn’t that wonderful? And when we depend on his compassion, it also prevents us from adopting the other extreme of taking unhealthy ownership of others’ issues.

Our reaction to others’ pain shouldn’t look like the world’s. Demonstrating true compassion requires greater sacrifice than spouting off a trite saying, but it ultimately helps others far more. Because of Jesus’ compassion for us, we can show compassion for others and step into their pain.

Even when it doesn’t come naturally to us.

Questions:
Do you know anyone who is struggling? How can you show them compassion?

What are some practical ways you can step into others’ pain?

Next Steps:
Identify your natural reaction when people are hurting. See how you can bring it closer to Jesus’ example.

Ask God to help you grow your compassion and refine it to be more like the compassion he has for us.

Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the compassion you’ve shown me. You loved me dearly enough to send your Son into my brokenness to die so that I could be saved. Father, I sometimes struggle with showing compassion. Please, help me to love others the way you do, and give me wisdom so that I may best help those who are hurting. I can’t do this on my own. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Sarah Pagel. Sarah is passionate about weaving stories pierced with beauty, light, and sehnsucht. She’s an avid reader of everything from dusty classics to modern fantasy. When not living in worlds made of words, she can be found spending time with her family, taking long walks, or practicing yet another Vivaldi piece on her violin.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


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A Journey from Pain to Blessing – At the Movies

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Last week, as I was reflecting on Thanksgiving and all I have to be grateful for, I was honestly overwhelmed by all the good in my life. God has given me more than I could ever deserve. Of those many blessings, the greatest blessing of all is the people I get to do life with—my friends, family, and coworkers.

The irony is that a lot of the blessings in my life right now were, at least in part, the result of pain. In the midst of dealing with the pain of a broken relationship, and the broken trust that resulted from it, I had a choice: I could either isolate myself to avoid getting hurt again, or I could lean on those around me as I healed.

Last year, I made a hard decision that upset someone I care for. I don’t blame them for responding the way they did, but their response damaged my outlook on all of my relationships. If one friendship was that easy to break, could I trust my other friends to continue to care about me, even when I make mistakes?

I could have chosen to isolate myself—it’s harder for someone to hurt me when there’s distance between us. After all, if I can’t trust others to care about me when I inevitably mess up (and since we’re all imperfect, we’re bound to make mistakes), then maybe it’s safest to just keep them at a distance.

Fortunately, I knew better. I had already learned an important principle: we all need honest friendships, authentic relationships, community, and connection—especially when we’re hurting. Instead of withdrawing, I leaned on my friends. It helped me to heal and learn from the situation. And as I realized my friends could be counted on and wanted to be there for me, those friendships became even stronger.

Proverbs 17:17
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.

Leaning on my friends not only strengthened my current friendships but also opened opportunities for me to form new life-giving friendships as I learned from my mistakes, grew, and honestly shared my experience.

We’re not meant to do life alone—in good times or bad. We need Jesus first and foremost, but as a close second, we need others who can help us experience God’s love in a tangible way. And then we need to help share that love with others.

When we allow others into our hurts, it can heal our hearts. It’s like medicine. And the more we heal, the more we’re available to help others do the same.

Questions:
How do you usually respond to hurt—do you withdraw or do you lean on those closest to you?

How would you want the people you love most to respond when they’re hurt?

Who can you lean on the next time your heart is hurting?

Next Steps:
If you’re not currently in a Group, I can’t encourage you enough to join one when the winter Group semester starts. One of the best ways to prepare for whatever life might throw at you is by building life-giving relationships right now.

If you’re currently struggling, reach out to a trusted friend. Just as you want to support your friends, healthy friends will want to support you—give them the opportunity to do so.

If you’re currently in a season of life where you’re thriving, look for a friend you can share the love of Jesus with.

God’s church thrives when we are there for each other.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you that I don’t have to do life alone. You have designed us to help and encourage one another—we are strongest in community. Thank you for the life-giving relationships you have placed in my life. Help me to build authentic community and connections. Help me to lean on others when I am in need and to support others when they are in need. May your will be done in us and through us. Amen.


This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton is currently the apprentice copywriter at CedarCreek. In her spare time, she freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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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Thief of the Heart – At the Movies

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Proverbs 4:23
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Last weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder delved into the movie Black Widow. In the beginning, we hear the mother tell her two young daughters not to fear pain. She tells them to use their pain to make themselves stronger (and more ruthless) and to “never let it steal your heart.”

But what does that mean? Pain, both physical and emotional, can be life-altering in ways no one wants. It can make us bitter and take away from the life God has for us.

Ben described what happens inside us when pain flattens us. He said one of the things pain destroys first is trust, and when pain begins to redefine your heart in a destructive way, you stop trusting others. You begin isolating yourself, always preparing to defend yourself against every real or imagined attack.  And that’s when it happens—hurt people hurt people.

So how do we guard against that? How can we stop pain from destroying us and, instead, choose to take that pain and use it to make us stronger?

First, we need to recognize that some of the most important and meaningful lessons in our lives are born of pain. For me, the hardest lesson was watching my husband bravely live with and then succumb to the ravages of Alzheimer’s.

Somewhere along the way, I learned to ask God in every scary, painful, and even fatal circumstance, “Lord, what is it you want me to learn from this? How can I serve you better by having lived through this?”

Pain has taught me God is the potter, and as such, he has the undeniable right to choose to shape me for what he wants me to do to bring him glory. It’s never about what my self-absorbed sin nature wants to do.

After that revelation, my question then became, “Will I trust you Lord through the painful times?” Through his grace and leading, my answer has become, “I do.”

Zephaniah 3:16-17 tells Christ followers, “Don’t be afraid! For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Thankfully, God has taught me several things:

First, life is full of pain, but God never wastes a hurt. In Romans 8:28, the Apostle Paul proclaims that as adopted children of God, “we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Secondly, God allows but does not cause our pain. God uses it to purify our sinful nature. He uses it to make us stronger, more Christ-like vessels, knowing that because Jesus suffered and died in our place for our sins, God not only goes with us through the fire, Jesus carries us through it.

Then God uses us to bless, grow, and help others through their pain-filled hurts and disasters. With God at the center of our lives, we confirm to them how and why we will never allow pain to steal our hearts.

Questions:
How do you deal with pain? Do you let it weaken and/or destroy you? Or do you let God use it to strengthen you?

Do you know Jesus Christ saved you from the price demanded for your sins?

Next Steps:
Dig deep into what the Bible has to say about how immense God’s love is for you.  He chose to sacrifice his only begotten son to save you from the punishment demanded as payment for making yourself the god of your life.

Ask questions. Talk with your DreamTeam Leader, Groups Leader, or a CedarCreek staff member. They would love to connect with you! Not sure how to connect? Check out CedarCreek.tv/connect.

Pray that you will turn your life, hurts, habits, and hangups over to the one true God who loves you.

Prayer:
Thank you, Lord, for giving us a way back to you, our creator, father, and lord, by providing for us what we could never provide—a perfect sinless sacrifice to pay the price for us—your son, Jesus Christ. Help us to live with and for you all the days of our lives and for all eternity. In Jesus’ name, we pray, amen.


This post was written by Martha Smith, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study. Martha describes herself as a lover of Christ who likes to share faith with others.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

Click Here


More Resources

Series Theme Verses
LivingItOut Podcast
RightNow Media
John Reading Plan