He Qualifies the Called – At Your Best

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Journey. I immediately connect this word to the life-changing adventure we talk about every week at CedarCreek.

Change is the piece we often hone in on, because we all want a better life for ourselves. But in doing so, we risk overlooking the two key drivers of that change: life and adventure. These are where the fun begins, but they also take perseverance.

When we grow our faith and live out our true purpose, it is not a one-day event, a 4-week GrowthTrack experience, or a structured, X-number-of-months process. The journey is for life, which makes it so exciting. You have continual opportunities to improve, serve, and grow.

Often, we think we must wait for the right moment to take the next step. But inevitably, the right time never comes or the moment passes us by. Instead, we need to step into the adventure, right where we are, even when we don’t feel perfectly ready.

When I teach GrowthTrack, I always encourage people to remember this key idea:

God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.
—Mark Batterson

This is a message I have really tried to lean into on my own journey.

Was I qualified to host GrowthTrack just one month after signing up myself or to be the only campus host after 2 months?—NO

Was I qualified to take on the weekly closing for my Men’s Group or the best candidate for the Pastoral Ordination Program?—NO

But with each opportunity, I felt a calling. I trusted God, and he got me through each challenge. To me, this is another aspect of the adventure. We often imagine the fun and excitement we are going to have but don’t anticipate the fear and discomfort. How did I counter this fear?

I focused on developing my relationship with God. At the start of my journey, I believed in God, but I didn’t really know God. I’d also add that I didn’t know what it meant to have faith.

Hebrews 11:1
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Through my journey, I have been able to resolve this. When I think of faith, the word trust also comes to mind. Faith and trust have brought me clarity for how to develop my relationship with God, and for how to be at peace with life.

I live with great confidence in the hopes I have today and in great assurance of what I will encounter in the future—even though I don’t know what that life chapter will bring. When you give God your today and your tomorrow, you will be surprised by the clarity it offers and the weight that it lifts from your shoulders.

Will you trust God and give him your all?

Questions:
Are you waiting for just the right moment to step into God’s adventure for your life?

What is one thing you can do to step into the adventure right now?

What is a step you can take to know God better and trust him more?

Next Steps:
Embrace and invest in your relationship with God by attending the weekend message or reading the Bible regularly.

Attend GrowthTrack.

Leverage your unique, personal value triangle—your personality, spiritual gifts, and life experiences—and step into God’s adventure for you.

Prayer:
Father, I praise you for designing me with purpose. Open my eyes to your love, grow my faith, and help me trust in you as I step into the life-changing adventure you have for me.  In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post is written by Steve Sawyer, guest contributor to the Living it out.


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Become a Significant Sacrifice – At Your Best

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Last weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder unwrapped what God wants from us as it pertains to our relationship with him as his children: sincerity, significance, and sacrifice.

Romans 12:1
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of what he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. It is truly the way to worship him.

When I was first called by God to accept him as the One True God, rescuer of my soul, my eternal destiny, and my purpose for living, I was overjoyed. Then I was overwhelmed.

I was overwhelmed at my own unworthiness and inability to ever “measure up.” You see, I was raised in a family that thought the greatest compliment was to be told, “You are such an overachiever!” (Translation: you are smarter, faster, better looking, and more accomplished than everyone else, so you are worthy of my admiration.) It was something we were taught to strive for—but something I knew I wasn’t.

So how do I ever give God a gift that he would cherish, or even want? Heck, I was afraid to share the Good News of Jesus and salvation with anyone, because I was afraid they would ask me a question I couldn’t answer! I was even afraid to participate in Bible studies because I was so biblically ignorant. Consequently, I only served in capacities where I felt I was “good enough.”

1 Chronicles 29:14
But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!

Ben explained that God isn’t looking for us to be “good enough.” It’s never going to happen. Remember, he knows we are born sinners, and as such, unworthy to be in his perfect presence. But he loves us anyway—so much so that he sent his own, perfect Son to pay the price we owed for refusing to deny our sin nature and love and serve him.

Ask yourself, could God, the one who hung the stars in the heavens and created all the complex beauty of the universe, ever be impressed by one of my stick figure drawings? I’m reminded of all the wretched art I enthusiastically hung on our refrigerator when my boys came home from kindergarten. I kept it for years! Not because it was “good” but because it came from the children whom I so deeply loved.

Here’s another example—Ben shared the story of “The Widow’s Offering” from Luke.  

Luke 21:1-4
1 While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. 2 Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.
3 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. 4 For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

The widow gave sacrificially. She could have told herself, “This tiny amount isn’t going to do anybody any good. I may as well keep it!” But, instead, she sacrificed all she had for the Lord. She didn’t wait to win the lottery and give out of her newfound wealth.

Neither should we wait until we are Bible scholars to start sharing God’s love with others. God calls us to BE a living sacrifice. In other words, give from where you are right now—don’t wait for an unnamed time when you may have more to give.

Our Father, who so deeply loves his children, loves our stick figure efforts to serve him.

Questions:
Are you hiding your God-given light instead of letting it shine out into the world? If so, ask yourself, “why?”

Ask yourself how you can change to be more like Jesus—a light in a dark world.

Next Steps:
Get curious about God through daily Bible reading and prayer. Pray for God to grow your faith and curiosity about how to become more like Christ, a living sacrifice.

Sign up for GrowthTrack where you can start the journey to discover who God made you to be and how you can put your wonderful, God-given abilities to work for his kingdom.

Check out the Groups directory. Consider what’s offered at all the campuses.  You aren’t limited to only those at the campus you attend.

Prayer:
Lord, I love you so much. I am so grateful you have put me here and have opened me up to your Word and your will and your love that surpasses all understanding. It makes me want to serve you more and continue to know you better. After all these years, you are becoming the very center of my life, the reason I live. What a gift.  Please help me to sacrificially serve you in whatever way you choose. In Jesus’ precious name I 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.


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The Sincere Life – At Your Best

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Sincerity is such a beautiful thing, isn’t it? I don’t know about you but when I think of sincerity, I think of something small but so very meaningful. One of the Bible stories that may come to your mind concerning sincerity is the story about the poor widow who gave two small coins as an offering (or tithe). If you remember, after offering the two small coins, Jesus honors the poor widow—in front of the rich people who were probably standing very near—by saying, “[she] has given everything she has” (Luke 21:4).

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Essentially, this poor woman, who likely has no means of putting food on the table, declares to God by her act of faith that he is worth all that she has, whether she eats that day or not.

So, what about us? What lessons can we learn from a poor widow, and what does this have to do with being our best? It is possible that there are many things we could learn from the story of the poor widow, but there are two takeaways I’d like to point out.

The first takeaway is that if a poor widow can trust God with everything that she has, so can I. She sincerely gave what she had, and God honored her for it. Through her example, I can be confident that God will be pleased with my small offerings as well.

The second takeaway is that being sincere can be an exercise in vulnerability and trust. Sometimes, I take drives to pour out my life to God—to be vulnerable with him. Recently, on one of these drives, I shared with him how I struggle to pray for family as eloquently as I pray for everything else. I love them dearly but often struggle to find the words.  However, I trust that God knows me and what I am trying to say, and I am encouraged that God sent the Holy Spirit to intervene and help me pray when I am not sure what to say (Romans 8:26). I trust that he recognizes my sincerity.

When I am sincere, I am at my best. How? Because any strands of anxiety I may have are unraveled and grounded in him during prayer. My fears are washed away in thanksgiving.  To be at our best, our emotions should be given to God so that we can identify his best for us. I’d like to think God’s best becomes clearer to us when we are vulnerable, when we are trusting, when we are sincere in our relationship with him.

Questions:
Are you sincere in your prayers?

Do you open your heart to God as if he is the only one capable of fixing the wounds inside?

Next Steps:
Attend the weekend service regularly to know God better.

Spend 15 minutes each day reading the Bible and praying

Prayer:
Father, you are so awesome, and I am so glad you know me. I am so blessed and honored to be able to do what I do for your kingdom. If I had to make an educated guess, Father, I’d guess that you like hearing me talk to you. How lucky am I? I am so glad the Bible tells me that your love is measureless because if it didn’t, how many men, including me, would die trying to measure it.  Jesus, you are my King, and you are the King of the kingdom. Yes, to you every knee will bow, but please help me keep my knee on the ground before you. Amen.


This post was written by Aaron Butler, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut.


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A Living Sacrifice – At Your Best

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Wow! I just noticed that the date of this post, February 8th, would have been my son Marcus’s 47th birthday. Most of you never knew Marcus, but he was one of the founding members of CedarCreek Church. In 1997, at the age of 22, he was the first of our little group to go home to be with the Lord. He greatly impacted the life of our church.

Marcus was born with Down’s Syndrome, and he had a full and adventurous life. I know he is partying with Jesus, waiting for the rest of his family to join him! Having a child with special needs creates opportunities for all kinds of sacrifice, as you may imagine. After grieving for all the things we had hoped for our child to have in a “normal” life, we had to pitch in with lots of extra time, attention, love, and effort to help Marcus achieve his potential.

He helped me to define what was significant, in part because of the extra effort it took for him to achieve the normal milestones throughout his childhood. He gave me new eyes to see what the Lord honors as significant. Marcus was intelligent enough to know that he was not quite the same as other kids, but he never let that hold him back from experiencing life to the fullest. He couldn’t hold a tune or clap to the music, but he loved to worship Jesus. His baptism when he was 19 was quite an event!

Marcus didn’t have a lot to give in regards to talent or wealth, the things we often believe are important. But he helped all of us to learn what God holds as significant. Marcus was loyal and loving and joyful, always looking out for others. He loved Jesus and loved to tell others about him. Don’t get me wrong—he was also stubborn, a bit lazy, and occasionally set things on fire! (A story for another day!) But Marcus gave us eyes to see that those things the world calls significant are not what pleases the heart of our Heavenly Father.

The apostle Paul gives us an idea of how we can please God in the book of Romans. He begins Chapter 12 telling us how we should respond to God’s amazing grace.

Romans 12:1
12 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy 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 to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Being a mom to Marcus changed the way I thought about sacrifice, but more importantly, it helped me learn about what God holds as sacred. When we love sacrificially, it is significant in the eyes of God. We are reflecting him.

Marcus was never less-than in the eyes of God. He never let anything get in the way of allowing God to use him. And he helped others reshape their perceptions of the things that were holding them back from achieving their full potential in Christ. When we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God, he will use us in ways we could never have imagined.

There were more than 300 people at Marcus’s memorial service, many of whom had never heard the gospel message. They heard it that day, and I know many seeds were planted that God is nurturing to this day! Marcus is an example for all of us that God brings out your best when you give him your all.

Questions:
What does being a living sacrifice look like in your life? How are you letting God transform your thinking?

Next Steps:
Attend GrowthTrack to learn more about journey God has for you.

Join a Group. Meet new people and deepen your faith.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for the gifts you give that often come in unexpected packages! Thank you for teaching me, for guiding me, and leading me into your heart. Help me derive my significance from who you say I am. Your divine power has given me all I need for a godly life. Help me to embrace it and live it to the fullest! In Jesus’ name, 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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Offer What You Have – At Your Best

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Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? VeryWellMind.com describes it as “the experience of feeling like a phony—you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud—like you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck.”

Many of us have felt this way at one time or another. Some people push through it, but others may feel tempted to bow out of the job or position that they feel underqualified for. We often feel this way when it comes to service for God. We may think things like, “I don’t know the Bible well enough.” Or, “I am too big of a screw-up to do this.”  As Lead Pastor Ben Snyder’s bottom line reminded us last weekend, God loves it when we offer what we have instead of waiting for what we lack. God brings out your best when you give him your all.

What interests God isn’t how perfectly we do things. What is important to him is that we go all-in for him. He loves it when we take risks and get out of our comfort zone for him. It gives him plenty of room to steer the ship. He gets to be the guide. We lean into our relationship with him and are sort of forced to trust him and be connected to him. In times when we feel the least qualified, God does his best work in us and through us because we aren’t getting in the way.

Luke 21:1-4
1 While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. 2 Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.
3 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. 4 For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

In the weekend service, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder taught us that the widow’s two small coins were more significant to Jesus than the large amounts the other people gave. While we are taught by the world that significance comes from quantity, Jesus sees significance through quality. And those small coins from the widow held significance, sincerity, and sacrifice.

Matthew 16:25-26
25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

Questions:
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt you had nothing to offer? What was the situation, and what did you do?

Have you or has someone close to you taken a big risk for God? How did that feel, and what was the outcome?

Next Steps:
Print out or digitally save the Daily Declarations. Put them in a place that you will see daily (maybe your bathroom mirror, fridge or phone background).

  1. I am at my best when I trust God first.
  2. I get what I create or allow.
  3. I will reach for things that replenish the whole me.
  4. I will focus on purpose to get through what bothers me.
  5. God brings out my best when I give him my all.

Prayer:
Dear God, it is so great that you see and understand the significance behind seemingly small actions. In this world, it is easy to feel insignificant. Help me look toward the purpose you have for me and find opportunities to risk for you with a sincere heart. Help me to do this without the intentions of personal gain, but only from a desire to glorify you. Amen.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee is a blogger at GratefulSheep.com and 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.


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Choose Joy Over Stress – At Your Best

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Running is my favorite way to replenish. To some, that may sound like suffering. To be honest, it is! Early morning wake-ups. Snowy, sloshy roads. Below-zero wind chills or triple-digit heat. But the suffering doesn’t bother me—it brings me joy, knowing I’m improving my physical well-being, cultivating a healthy mind, and connecting with God.

When trials or hard times come along in life, this mindset is more difficult to achieve. It’s easy to be bothered, experiencing anger over what’s happened or anxiety about what could happen. We seek to escape or avoid, hoping to reduce the stress. The situation can become the primary focus of our lives, and when it does, we miss out on the life God has for us.

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder’s bottom line was “refocus on purpose to get through what bothers you.” To get through. Not get around, go over, or sneak by. We’re going to experience difficult seasons, but it’s our choice where we put our focus. If we keep our focus on God, we can rejoice in the hard times and not be bothered.

Romans 5:3-4
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

When we’re focused on our purpose, on what God calls us to do, our trials are an opportunity for great joy (James 1:2-4). They help us to grow closer to God, to remain in him.

John 15:5-8
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”

When we remain in Christ, we’ll be like a tree planted along the riverbank: strong in the midst of heat and drought. We won’t be bothered by our circumstances. We’ll be too busy producing fruit, experiencing the life-changing adventure God has for us.

Questions:
When you feel stressed, what do you do to help relieve that feeling?

What are some practical steps you can take to remain in Jesus the next time you feel bothered?

Next Steps:
Make a list of the things that are bothering you. Find a Bible verse to see what God has to say about it.

The next time you feel stressed, take a moment to pause, read James 1:2-4, and say a quick prayer.

If you haven’t already, sign up for GrowthTrack to discover your purpose in the life-changing adventure God has in store for you.

Prayer:

Lord, there is so much to be bothered by. Too often, I take my eyes off you and get wrapped up in the earthly things around me. When I do this, please remind me of your presence, remind me to remain in you. Jesus, help me to keep my focus on you and give me the boldness to live out your purpose for my life. In your name, amen.


This post was written by Ryan Leone, a first-time contributor to the LivingItOut.


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Our Biggest Fan – At Your Best

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For several years, my dad made special notes to go with my lunch. Sometimes they were jokes, other times just sweet messages, and there was usually a hand-drawn picture or pun to go along with it. Everyone at my lunch table would gather around when I opened my lunch box to see what note I would get.

I still have several tucked away—one with a picture of an electric fan, the words, “Lydia, you are FAN-tastic!” blowing away in the breeze. Besides making me smile, the notes reminded me that my Dad was cheering for me. He was thinking about me and praying for me throughout the day.

Our Heavenly Father does this too. He may not send us notes in our lunch boxes, but the sunshine in the morning, warm coffee, and that garden of beautiful flowers are all little gifts from him to make us smile. These small things are to remind us that we aren’t alone. He is right by our side, holding us up, helping us through the stress and struggle.

Isaiah 41:10
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

There are times we try to take responsibility for things we don’t need to. Sometimes, I get so caught up in worrying about how I’m going to find the time to do everything that must be done that I never find time to do things that actually replenish me. God doesn’t ask us to try tackling these things. He wants us to trust that he will provide—he will make a way for them to get done.

Psalm 54:4 NIV
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Hebrews 13:6
So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

On the way into school, my dad often chanted, “I believe, I believe in you!” with hand motions and everything. It used to drive me bananas, but now, it makes me grin. It reminds me that, like my dad, God is my biggest fan. Not only that, but he is my partner and my coach. I can’t do anything without him.

Questions:
Who in your life encourages and cheers for you? In what ways do they remind you of who God is? Is there anything you are trying to be responsible for that you need to release to God?

Next Steps:
If you don’t know anyone who cheers for you the way God does, consider joining a Group. Groups are safe places for people to trust and encourage each other.

Before starting on anything stressful or exhausting, pray about it. God will provide, whether you can see it right away or not.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for encouraging me, for cheering me on. Help me to trust that you will make a way for everything I need. You are all-powerful, and you have chosen me to love and support. You truly are my strength; I have nothing to fear. 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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Start With What You Know – At Your Best

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Do you know your purpose?

For years, I’ve known what I want my career to be. I’m a person who thrives on meaning, so I have doggedly pursued that goal. But I realized that even though I knew writing was what I wanted to do, I didn’t know what my purpose was—who I was writing for nor the message I was supposed to bring. That uncertainty frustrated me to no end.

Maybe you can relate. As we learned last weekend, refocusing on purpose is the way we get through what bothers us. But what if you’re unsure what your purpose is? That confusion can feel daunting. There is, however, a way through the anger and anxiety that hinders us.

Hebrews 12:1-2
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

When you don’t know your purpose, you should start with what you do know by keeping your eyes on Jesus and what he says about you. It can be as simple as realizing you were put on this earth as a child of God and to share the Gospel. Look at where God has placed you as a parent, friend, spouse, or sibling.

This proved true for me. As I started taking stock of what I did know, I was primed to notice connections and see threads God had woven throughout my life. Through the process, I recognized my purpose—or at least more of it. I realized I write books to help kids and teens reckon with the brokenness of the world. I remind them that even though the darkness exists, so do light, beauty, healing, and wholeness—and they are so much stronger.

Psalm 119:37
Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word.

If you don’t know your purpose yet, allow God to shift your focus toward what truly matters. Start with what you know.

Questions:
Do you tend to focus on the facets of your purpose you’re unclear about, or do you look at what you do know?

Do you know your purpose? If you don’t, what are some words or phrases you think might be connected to it?

Next Steps:
Attend GrowthTrack and craft your purpose statement. If you’ve already completed GrowthTrack, revisit your purpose statement.

Spend time journaling about your purpose.

Read Psalm 139 to gain a clearer picture of what God says about you.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for creating me with a purpose. Please reveal it to me and give me the courage to prioritize it in my life. Help me to keep my eyes on you, and remind me who I am in you. 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.


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Saved – At Your Best

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We are in the fourth week of our series, At Your Best. This week, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder spoke about what bothers us. He said what bothers or frustrates us is usually caused by anxiety or anger.

  • Anxiety is overthinking an issue, reacting to our environment, and living in the tension of “What if?” It is a feeling of worry and being out of control, and it’s contagious.
  • Anger occurs when something goes wrong or when someone or something has wronged you. It is often an indicator of a deeper issue rather than a reaction to our circumstances. Anger is not as contagious as anxiety.

Sometimes you hear a message and you think, “God is talking directly to me.” As I pondered last weekend’s message, I felt deep gratitude because Jesus saved me from the pit of anxiety. I thought long and hard about sharing this story and being this vulnerable, but Jesus helped me realize that he helped me, and, perhaps, through me, he can help you.

I struggled for many years with deep anxiety. My mind was constantly racing. I was hyper, nervous, and worried most of the time. I believed things that weren’t true. I made scenarios up in my mind. I was deceived and believed lies. When we experience anger or anxiety, we don’t always see things as they really are. We can twist the truth.

Jeremiah 17:9
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who knows how bad it is?

Pastor Ben said when we are anxious or angry, we can be in 1 of 3 places:

  • Unaware: We don’t think about it. We’re oblivious to the cause of our anxiety or anger.
  • Unwilling: We don’t want to change. We are stuck and stubborn.
  • Unable: We can’t change. We need outside support.

When I was living with deep anxiety, I didn’t realize that I could change and live a life filled with peace and joy. I didn’t realize there was another way to live, especially since many of my family members also struggled with deep anxiety.

Comments about my anxious behavior really hurt my feelings. I remember being called a “spaz.” I wasn’t taken seriously because I was “too emotional.” As a result, I had a deep self-loathing, like I wasn’t good enough. My mind was like a hamster on a wheel—spinning and spinning. I lived in a state of chaos. And if I wasn’t living in chaos, I created chaos.

I tried to change. I exercised, prayed, and studied the Bible. I went to counseling, but I refused to try any medications. I believed if my faith was strong enough, I would be healed. I was deceived.

One of my friends finally confronted me: “If you were a diabetic you would take insulin. This is a medical condition. Why won’t you try medication for anxiety?” I finally put my stubbornness aside and started taking medication—it made a world of difference.

I praise Jesus that he saved me from the pit of anxiety and filled me with his peace and joy. I know I will experience trials, but Jesus is right beside me.

John 10:10
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

God wants you to have a rich and satisfying life. Please, if you are living in a state of anger or anxiety, stop denying it and do something.

John 16:33
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart I have overcome the world.

Questions:
How is anger or anxiety affecting your life? What can you do to live a peaceful and joy-filled life? Are you unaware, unwilling, or unable to change? Explain.

Next steps:
Confide in a close friend about your struggle with anxiety or anger. Join a Group. Attend GrowthTrack.

Prayer:
Jesus, I praise you that you have freed me from the pit of anxiety and despair. I am so grateful that you love me for who you created me to be and that I don’t need to do anything to earn that love. Help me to love others like you have loved me. 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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Is Jesus Your Compass? – At Your Best

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This past weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder unwrapped the fact that we have a God-given purpose for why we are here, at this point in history, with our individual personalities, passions, skills, and talents. He also explained how we can continue to live out that purpose in peace regardless of the uncertainty, distractions, or disasters that come into and through our lives.

I remember, when I was 11 years old, we girls had surrounded our teacher and were answering her question, “What do you want to BE when you grow up?” I was astonished when everyone had a job description except me. Over the years, I’ve had a variety of roles from a dog walker to an oil executive, wife, mother, and even a horse trainer. However, true purpose goes beyond our occupation and involves our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It was decades before I realized my purpose—even after I learned that Christ is my savior and committed my life to him.

This week’s bottom line, REFOCUS on PURPOSE to get through what BOTHERS you, reminds us to consider what we are fixing our thoughts on. By making Christ our center of purpose, we are building on a solid foundation versus building on shifting sand as mentioned in Matthew 7.

Matthew 7:24-27
24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Pastor Ben’s message was seminal and peace-giving for me. In it, he unwrapped how our relationship with Christ is at the center of our peace and purpose, and that we need to have both. When we focus on our relationship with Christ and our purpose, we will be like the trees planted along the riverbank, “not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought” (Jeremiah 17:8). We will stay our course and be fruitful.

Thankfully, this message explains how focusing on God’s purpose for our lives helps us navigate the distractions of fear, anger, and frustration that attempt to throw us off course.

The LIO devotionals this week will unwrap how to discover your purpose, live it out, and retain God’s peace that surpasses understanding through it all.

Will you step into your purpose?

Questions:
Have you discovered your purpose? If so, what is it?

What irritates and distracts you most from it? How do you turn away from what is bothering you and focus back on Christ and his purpose for your life?

Next Steps:
Plan to attend GrowthTrack if you haven’t done so already.

Determine your responsibilities versus what you need to release.

Forgive yourself for not being perfect, and turn your life over to Jesus.

Find a Bible study or join a Group to help lead you on your path of purpose.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for your love, which I do not deserve and cannot earn. Help me to accept it for what it is—the greatest gift ever given. Please lead me through my life, helping me seek Jesus, as he is my compass to living a life of purpose that serves and pleases you. In Jesus’ name I 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

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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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