The Author’s Great Story – At the Movies

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I often find myself planning out my day, creating a schedule or checklist in the morning. (Sometimes, I get proactive and do it the night before.) Yet, even when I carefully schedule my day, it often gets messed up. The cookies I baked took longer than anticipated. The math lesson was harder than I thought it would be. None of these are bad things, but when they mess up my “perfect” plan, I get frustrated, stressed, and anxious.

Last weekend, as part of the At the Movies series, we watched Passengers. Aurora, one of the main characters, had perfectly planned out her life. She was going to travel to a new planet in hypersleep, write a story about her adventures, then travel back to Earth so everyone could read her book. She had a plan and nothing could stop her.

Except Aurora woke up earlier than she had planned. When she found out that Jim, the man she loved and the only other alert passenger on board, was the one who roused her, she was irate. Her “perfect” plan to become an acclaimed author was ruined, and there was nothing she could do about it. She had lost all of her (alleged) control.

In reality, the Bible tells us that we are never in control. God is the real author, the real storyteller. Time and again, when God’s children try to create their own stories, they are directed back onto his path. The Israelites walked in the desert for forty years after choosing to disobey. King Ahab died in a battle after God warned him not to go to war. Mary gave birth to the Son of God, something she never even imagined. Even Jesus prayed for God to remove his suffering, but only if it was his Father’s will.

Proverbs 16:9
We make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

Proverbs 19:21
You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

Aurora eventually chose to live her story, rather than planning it all out. This choice brought her more love, freedom, and adventure than her own plans would have ever allowed. When we trust God with his perfect story for our lives, we experience the same—love, freedom, and adventure beyond comparison.

Romans 8:28
And 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.

Romans 12:2
Don’t follow the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Questions:
When do you attempt to assert the most control over your own life and make your own plans? Are you willing to allow God to write your story, rather than trying to pick up the pen yourself? How can you direct your trust to God?

Next Steps:
Pay attention to the times you start planning to write your own story. Pray for God to help you trust and rely on him completely. Freely give your plans to the Author of your story.

Prayer:
Great Author, your story is beyond comparison! Thank you for allowing me to be a character in it. I have repeatedly tried to become the author. Help me to trust that your story is good and pleasing and perfect. You are giving me more love, freedom, and adventure than I can imagine! What a relief it is not to be in control. Amen.


This post was written by Lydia Snyder. Lydia has been a story-lover for as long as she can remember, often found reading books or writing. She is thrilled to be making a difference by inspiring others to take part in the best story ever – God’s story. Lydia lives with her three wonderful siblings and two amazing parents.


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Spaceships & Sacrifice – At the Movies

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When crisis strikes the Starship Avalon, Jim Preston and Aurora Lane must set aside their differences and work together to save their ship and the thousands of people still in hibernation on board. As they work to solve the problem, it becomes increasingly clear that one of them must make a sacrifice to save the day.

Movie-goers love a good story of a sacrificial hero—someone willing to risk everything, including their life, to save the day and the people they love. Last weekend’s movie, Passengers, offers us another great example as Jim steps out into open space and nearly loses his life while attempting to save the ship, the hibernating passengers, and the woman he loves.

Jim’s sacrifice reminds me of the word of Jesus recorded in John 15:

John 15:12-13
“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

What Jesus is foreshadowing, and what Jim’s moment of sacrifice is reflecting, is Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus gave up everything and laid down his life to save us from the punishment we deserve for our sins.

Jesus commands us to love others as he first loved us. Just as he demonstrated his great love for us by laying down his life for us, we must lay down our lives for others. Now, not many of us will have the opportunity to physically lay down our lives and die for others, but each of us has the opportunity to metaphorically “lay down our lives” for Jesus and for others.

We lay down our life by giving up our own way and trusting Jesus’ way. By putting others above ourselves. By seeking to serve before being served, and by seeking to understand before being understood. Ultimately, we lay down our life by fully following Jesus and obeying him, no matter the cost.

Jim willingly risked his life to save Aurora. After they saved the day and Jim made it back alive, Aurora was faced with a choice: she could go back to hibernation, leaving Jim all alone, or she could give up her old way of life to be with Jim. In the end, she chose to sacrifice her life for Jim, just as he had sacrificed his life for her.

Jesus gave up everything, including his life, to save you. Because of his sacrificial death and the amazing miracle of his resurrection, he now offers you a choice: you can continue to do life your own way, or you can give up your old way of life and follow him.

Questions:
How does it feel to know that Jesus gave up everything, including his life, for you?

What do you think Jesus is asking you to give up for him?

Next Steps:
Read Matthew 16:24-26 and Mark 10:17-22. Identify what Jesus might be calling you to give up for him. Surrender that to him.

Prayer:
Jesus, thank you for giving up everything to save me. My life is yours. I surrender all I am and all I have to you. Amen.


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


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Are You All Alone? – At the Movies

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We continued our series, At the Movies, last weekend with the movie Passengers. Lead Pastor Ben Snyder revealed some hidden messages in the movie that, on the surface, may not be apparent.

Jim Preston is one of 5,000 passengers and 258 crew on board the Starship Avalon, whose destination is the colony world of Homestead II. The journey from Earth to Homestead will take 120 years, and due to the length of the voyage, the crew and passengers will be in hibernation pods for all but the last four months. Approximately thirty years into the odyssey, the ship collides with an asteroid that damages the computer controlling one hibernation pod—and Jim is awakened.

As an engineer, Jim tries for almost a year to get the ship turned around or to get himself back into a hibernation state. Unfortunately, all his efforts are in vain. Luckily, the ship is automated and Jim has everything he needs—he is healthy, he has plenty of food to eat, he has shelter, and he’s totally safe.

The only problem is that Jim is all alone, and it’s killing him. Being alone might be good for a week, a month, or even a year, but loneliness for Jim became crippling.

Life is no good alone!

Genesis 2:18
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

Up to this point, everything God created was good—so why did the Lord say this was not good? God did not design us to live in solitude; we were made as social beings. His plan was for us to live and to share life together, walking with him. God provided a woman, an equal, for Adam so he would not be lonely.

Jim is much like Adam in the garden of Eden before Eve. Like Adam, Jim has everything he could possibly want at his disposal, but he is lonely. He knew that in order to survive he needed someone to share his life with.

We too need others in our lives. Don’t try to do life on your own. We are not made to be alone; life is better in community.

If you are not currently part of a life-giving church, seek one that helps you know God, find freedom, discover your purpose, and make a difference—and join it! Surround yourself with other Christ followers who can support you on your journey.

Questions:
Do you feel lonely? If so, what can you do to rectify the situation?

What would you do if you were in a situation like Jim’s? Would you awaken someone to be with you to end your loneliness?

Next Steps:
Consider joining a Group for winter semester. With the hundreds of groups available, you are certain to find one that will fill your desires.

Prayer:
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit so we may share love with others. Grant us wisdom to discern the difference between right and wrong. Thank you for giving us a desire for companionship. Thank you for sending your son to die for our sins. It’s in his name that we pray, amen.


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


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The Secret to Contentment – At the Movies

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We are currently in the second week of our series, At the Movies, and Lead Pastor Ben Snyder unpacked the movie Passengers. At the beginning of the movie, Jim finds himself utterly alone—his only contact, a bartending android named Arthur. In one scene, Jim is sitting at the bar pouring his heart out to Arthur because he’s in distress and lonely. Arthur tells Jim, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”

Arthur was encouraging Jim to find contentment—something we all long to experience. Contentment is defined as being satisfied or pleased in our current situation. Contentment fills us with gratitude and peace. “We have a choice to make,” Pastor Ben said, “Are we going to be content with what we have? Are we going to be bitter or better?”

Notice it is a choice. Are you going to look for the silver lining, or are you going to focus on the cloud? It all  depends upon your perspective.

Ben went on to talk about the Apostle Paul. Paul was an amazing man who suffered great hardships because of his faith in Jesus. He was beaten, flogged, whipped, imprisoned, and eventually killed for speaking the truth of Jesus. Yet he was filled with contentment.

How is that possible? Paul tells us in Philippians:

Philippians 4:10-13
10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Paul was in prison when he wrote this—he was probably cold and hungry—but the first thing he did was praise the Lord. He talked about how he was never in need and how he learned to be content in all situations. The secret to Paul’s contentment was Jesus. He knew that Jesus loved us so much that he died for us and rose again to save us. Paul knew Jesus would give him strength regardless of the circumstances. And because of Jesus’ unfailing love, Paul knew that he was never alone.

In Matthew 28:20, Jesus told his disciples, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Questions:
What are some factors that could prevent someone from being happy?

How would you rate your contentment? Where do you find contentment? What do you do when you are discontent?

Next Steps:
Write down three things you are grateful for every day. Thank Jesus for them, and give him praise. When things are rough, focus on how Jesus has helped you in the past. Meditate on Philippians 4:10-13 and Matthew 28:20b.

Prayer:
Jesus, I praise you for filling me with your contentment. I am overwhelmed by your great love for me. Help me to focus on you and fill me with gratitude for all your blessings. Help me to be content and trust you in all situations. Fill me with your love, joy, and peace. Amen.


This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.


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Don’t Be Consumed by a World of Worry – At the Movies

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In the movie Passengers, 5,000 people have embarked on a 120-year voyage to evaluate a new world, during which time they will all be peacefully hibernating until they reach their destination. Jim, the main character, wakes up in a fog but soon shakes it off when a recorded message reminds him where he is and informs him that he is only four months from starting his new life with the new friends who have traveled with him.

The idea of living life with new friends overwhelms Jim’s emotions. As he repeats, “my friends,” he is unable to mask his excitement. But as Jim starts preparing for his adventure, he quickly realizes that a mechanical hiccup has brought him out of his sleep 90 years too early. Understanding that he is no longer where he was supposed to be in life, Jim is thrown into a situation that he wasn’t expecting and desperately wants to avoid.

Quite often, life doesn’t happen the way we expect either. Often bitterness creeps in while we are waiting for our circumstances to change—while we are attempting to write our desired outcome instead of letting go and letting God.

We need to understand that existing is going to occur whether we like it or not. Detective Lester Freamon, a character from the HBO drama The Wire, said something that really stuck with me, “life is what happens when you’re waiting for the things that never come.” So amid the chaos, we have a choice to get better instead of getting bitter. Time won’t stand still while we hold onto the “control” we never had in the first place.

Matthew 6:25; 6:31-34
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?

31 So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34 So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Jim receives some valuable advice while searching for answers. The bartender (well, a bartending robot) says, “Sometimes you can get so hung up on where you want to be that you forget to make the most out of where you are. Take a break, don’t worry about what you can’t control.” We miss out on so much when a world of worry consumes our being. Trust in the one who is always prepared to handle every situation.

Press pause on panic.

Questions:
What are you worried about that you can’t control? Are you letting it control you and make you bitter?

Next Steps:
Take time to pray about your circumstances, and let God take over. Share your doubts and hardships with fellow Christians to allow them to pray over your concerns. Fill your life with positive people.

Prayer:
God, continue to provide me with strength and wisdom to handle the things outside of my control. Thank you for loving me and protecting me, even when I get in my own way. Each day is a blessing and an opportunity to be better than I was before. Thank you for allotting me the time to live my life, forge new bonds, and create lasting memories. 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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