If You Are Reading This, You Have A Purpose – At Your Best

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How old were you when you realized what you were meant to do or who you were meant to be?

I was 21 when it happened, but it took years before I figured out it was OK to embrace that part of me. Society does a great job teaching us its expectations for who we should be according to American standards. Sometimes, it feels as if the people in charge (parents, teachers, politicians, etc.) provide a guideline on how to put us together. Too often, the results produce a desire to “keep up with the Joneses” or place people where poor instructions breed mediocrity. Both make you wonder if there is a reason why you’re here—or, if perhaps, you’re where you are by accident.

Sometimes, you’re where you are because it’s what you chose. But sometimes, you just haven’t discovered (or been taught) the life-giving answer yet.

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder said, “You have to start with the truth that you have been put here on purpose. You’re not an accident.” This concept isn’t always easy to accept. I heard those words for a long time, but I didn’t always listen to the message. It’s different for everyone, depending on where you are or where you were in life when the call came through.

If you’re living out your purpose, then congratulations! I genuinely mean that. But if you’re reading this, and you’re finding it hard to see your place in God’s masterpiece, then I urge you to keep seeking him.

You are uniquely designed, which means you don’t fit the mold meant for someone else. In the movie Finding Forrester, the character Jamal is ready to take a path toward becoming his true self with the help of a mentor. Jamal asks his mentor, William Forrester, what it feels like to write something that influenced so many. Forrester said, “Perhaps one day you’ll find out.” The response was powerful because Forrester understood what it meant to achieve his purpose.

Take time to determine yours!

Questions:
Have you moved toward a life of purpose? Do you encourage others to find what they are meant to do? What’s stopping you from doing both?

Next Steps:
If you have experienced GrowthTrack, then tell others what you learned. If you haven’t, sign up to discover your purpose. A new class starts every first weekend of the month.

21 Days of Prayer

Day 17 Focus – To Express My Faith in God’s Ability (Jeremiah 32:17)

Dear God, nothing is too hard for you! Through your great power, all things are possible. All authority is yours, all might is yours, and I know that your victory will be complete. You are amazing, and I worship you. I glorify you for your power and presence in my life. You are my God, and you are worthy of all praise. Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


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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What Does It Cost? – At Your Best

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Do you remember what life was like as a child? How could we be so carefree and naïve? Many times as a child, I remember acting without a second thought:

My hand on the hot burner.
Ramp-jumping my bike on a loose stone driveway.
Jumping off the roof of the house.
Trying to catch a wild animal with my hands.

I could go on and on, but the point is, as children, we were foolish. We did things without considering the cost or consequences. And if you’re anything like me, the trend continued into your teen years.

Yeah, it was cool being on the football team, with all the girls checking me out in my jersey. Of course, I didn’t count the cost of all the two-a-day practices, aching muscles, and time sacrificed from doing other things. And I can’t forget about that car I just had to have to impress my girlfriend without considering the cost of payments, insurance, gas, and repairs.

Unfortunately, as the choices get bigger, so do the costs and consequences. As adults, we hope that we are wise enough to avoid such foolish actions—and yet, here we are, reaching for whatever we think will make us happy or fill the void we’re feeling. Again and again, we often find ourselves reaching for things without counting the cost.

Will this new tool truly make my life better?
Will those new shoes or that new phone make a lasting difference?
Will these things truly replenish the emptiness I am feeling?
What does it mean to count the cost? The fact is, it would be foolish to reach for anything before doing a cost/benefit analysis. Jesus taught us this in a parable:

Luke 14:28-32
28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? 29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30 They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’”

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

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder explained that we should avoid randomly reaching for things that are just a quick fix for only part of our being, either physical, mental, or spiritual. Rather, we need to reach for things that replenish our whole selves and avoid the things that deplete us.

Count the cost.

Questions:
What are you reaching for?

Have you taken the time to count the cost of your desire?

Next Steps:
Try to develop the habit of doing a cost-benefit analysis when you desire something.

Continue to follow the rest of the At Your Best series, and read the LIO daily.

Ask God to help you count the cost when tempted to reach for something you desire.

21 Days of Prayer

Day 16 Focus – To Come Close to God (James 4:8)

Dear God, you have promised if I draw near to you, you will draw near to me. I need more of your strength and presence today. I am drawing near to you through prayer, worship, and your Word. I open my heart to you and ask you to be near to me, growing me to be more like you. Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Ned Miller. Ned loves serving through writing on the LIO team, prayer team, group leader and as a greeter. He loves spending time with his family and working on his model railroad.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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Let Me Tell You About My Jesus – At Your Best

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Lead Pastor Ben Snyder gave an amazing sermon titled “Your Motivation – What Are You Reaching For?”

Do you need to be replenished? Maybe you’re confused about what that even means. The definition of replenish is to restore or repair.

“My Jesus” by Anne Wilson
Are you past the point of weary?
Is your burden weighing heavy?
Is it all too much to carry?
Let me tell you ‘bout my Jesus.

Are you feeling weary, heavy, or overwhelmed? This past weekend, Ben’s bottom line was “Reach for what replenishes the whole you.” Because we are physical, mental, and spiritual beings, we must focus on all three areas to be fully replenished.

Physically, I am replenished by eating well, exercising, laughing, resting, and stillness.
Mentally, I am replenished by spending time with family and friends, reading good books, and cooking.
Spiritually, I am replenished by spending time in Bible study, meeting with my Group, praying, meditating on verses, listening to worship music, and practicing gratitude.

I believe we need to do our part to be replenished, but Jesus is the only one who can truly replenish, restore, and repair us. It is Jesus who replenishes us when we put our hope and trust in him.

Jeremiah 17:7-8
7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep in the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green and they never stop producing fruit.”

The last two years have been so tough. I think we have all struggled with hopelessness and fear. Jeremiah 17:7-8 fills us with hope and confidence. We can trust in the Lord and be changed for the better during these tough times. Jesus can replace our fear and worry with his love and hope. He can make us fruitful during difficult times. Will you let him?

Keep reading the LivingItOut Bible Study this week as we dig further into “counting the cost,” our purpose, replenishing our physical and mental beings, and focusing on Jesus for our spiritual replenishment.

Questions:
What replenishes you?

Why is it important to look at your physical, mental, and spiritual self?

How do you trust Jesus during tough times?

Next Steps:
Listen to the song “My Jesus” by Anne Wilson, and meditate on the words.

Join a Group or attend GrowthTrack.

21 Days of Prayer

Day 15 Focus – Dependence on Him (Psalm 121:1-2)

Dear Lord, when things become difficult, I know you walk beside me. You will cross the desert with me and weather any storm with me. When things become unbearable, I know you will carry me to the other side. Today, I declare my dependence on you. You give me my strength and are the only one who can truly replenish my weary soul. Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


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.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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Fighting Distraction – At Your Best

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When I was a teenager, I almost walked into a tree because I was texting on my phone. Thankfully,  I heard people in the background—mainly my family—laughing at my distraction, and I looked up just in time. While I might have been distracted, I was able to hear and see before an obstacle in my environment got in the way.

That can be life sometimes. We have an obstacle, bad habit, or something else that comes up in our environment, but to live our best life we have to listen to our surroundings. We can get distracted (like I was) or resistant and become superficial, which keeps us from trusting that God is shaping our lives for the good.

Today we will focus on the fourth area regarding the parable of the sower: faith. This entails allowing and trusting God to shape every area of your life because he is more than enough.

Matthew 13:13
“That is why I use these parables,
For they look, but they don’t really see.
They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.”

Jesus called out the religious leaders because they refused to listen to or hear what was around them. They were resistant to the implications of Jesus’ words. Jesus frustrated them because he told stories they didn’t want to hear. They  allowed something in their environment to become an obstacle to their trust in God.

God is Jehovah Jireh—the Lord will provide. He is the God who is enough. This concept comes from the Old Testament.

Genesis 22:14
Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

This verse has deep spiritual context, but I will say Abraham was on a path in obedience to God because he trusted him. He was not resistant, superficial, or distracted —he trusted God by being receptive even if he disliked what God told him to do. Abraham heard and saw what was around him, trusting that God would provide. He knew God was enough and trusted how he was shaping his life.

In order to avoid hitting the tree, I probably should not have allowed myself to text and walk. This experience taught me to listen and pay attention to my environment instead of being distracted.

Will you allow God to shape the areas of your life where you are resistant, superficial, or distracted? Are you willing to see and hear what is around you and trust God is shaping your life because he is Jehovah-Jireh?

Questions:
Do you hear and see what is around you, or is there something preventing you from trusting that God is enough?

What are you creating or allowing in your relationship with God?

Do you trust God is shaping your life for good because of who he is?  Why or why not?

Next Steps:
Read Genesis 22.

Assess your environment and observe how what you are creating or allowing is impacting your faith.

Join 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting to increase your trust.

21 Days of Prayer

Day 12 Focus – To Love Fearlessly (1 John 4:18-19)

Dear God, thank you for being a God of perfect love. Thank you for loving me first—before I accepted your salvation, before I even knew you, while I was still living in sin. Teach me to love as you love, without fear or condemnation. Help me to offer grace to those around me, just as you first offered grace to me. Amen

Today’s Parent Prayer

Saturday: Day 13 Focus –To be Like Christ in my Relationships  (Philippians 2:3-4)

Dear Lord, please help me be like you in all my relationships with others. Please help me humble myself and think of the needs of others before my own. Teach me to see how I can serve those around me. Please show me the places in my life where I can make others feel like they matter and let them know that they are not alone. Amen

Today’s Parent Prayer

Sunday Day 14 Focus – To Worship Him (John 4:23)

Dear Father, I worship you with all my heart and soul. I want to sing your praises from early in the morning when the sun rises until late at night when the day has passed. I am so grateful to be allowed to be your child as your love fills my heart again today. Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Becca Roberts, 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!


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You’ve Got a Friend in Me – At Your Best

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In 2004, I was at a New Year’s Eve party with my core group of friends, but I felt more alone than I had in a long time. My night ended around 10:30 with me in my apartment by myself. For the next six months, I continued the trend of leaving early when hanging out with my friends. They were good guys, but I had grown tired of going nowhere with my life. I wanted them to join me in reaching for more, but the conversations never moved beyond music, girls, and basketball when I tried to have more productive relationships with the crew I had known for years.

Things got to the point where we only hung out on the basketball court or while catching a football game together. I told them why the change had to happen, and they accepted our decreased interaction. However, the loneliness didn’t disappear, so I realized I needed to prioritize life-giving friendships while growing into a person I could be proud of.

Ecclesiastes 4:12
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

As I added more of the right kind of people to my life, the conversations turned from entertaining to purposeful. The relationships went from friendly to family.

A flood destroyed my car that I had just finished spending $2000 to fix. The fire department had to evacuate me from my apartment due to the flood. I stood at the safe zone with nowhere to go, so I called one of the friends who I had known since high school. He didn’t answer. I called another one. No answer. It was time to call one of the new friends who had only been around for seven months. I hadn’t even asked the question before he offered for me to stay with him and his wife until the flooding conditions changed.

Over the years, I’ve made a point to connect with more people in the different cities and states we have lived in. I joined my first small group in Virginia back in 2014. The life-giving relationships created there turned into our youngest daughter having godparents and me finding a friend who is like a lifelong brother.  As Lead Pastor Ben Snyder said, “We all need a group of people around us helping live out what God is inviting us into.”

Questions:
Are you going through life alone? Have you tried to find a life-giving Group? Do your friends have purposeful desires and goals?

Next Steps:
Go to the CedarCreek Groups directory and find your Group for the new semester.

Sign up for the relationship strengthening Marriage Event that takes place in February.

Don’t be afraid to change up lifelong relationships if they are life-draining.

21 Days of Prayer

Day 11 Focus – My Freedom (Galatians 5:1)

Thank you, God, for freeing me! You have freed me from sin and from shame. You have freed me from the law and from striving to earn salvation. You have freed me from death itself! For all those things and more, I praise you. Help me to live as someone who is free. Don’t let me fall back into the posture of a slave, to fall back into serving the things that used to control me. May you be the only one I serve, for you bought my freedom and loyalty at a high price on the cross. In gratitude I ask, may your will be done in my life. Amen.

Todays Parent Prayer


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.


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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Don’t Be A Rolling Stone – At Your Best

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Jeremiah 17:7-8
7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
 and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
 with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
 or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
 and they never stop producing fruit.” 

Are you trusting the Lord as your hope and confidence? Or do you trust in yourself, or something else?

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder preached a powerful message last weekend about how relying on God and not ourselves opens us up to living an eternally relevant life in all areas … but first, a confession: I am a lifelong, anxiety-riddled procrastinator, and thus a time-waster. Staying on task is beyond me until my head is about to explode from deadline pressure … like writing this devotional one hour before it’s due after anguishing over it for 38 hours.

Pastor Ben explained how to live our best life as it pertains to how we spend our time. Whether you choose to waste or optimize it, eventually time will run out, and during that finite time we will either gain or lose opportunities and blessings based on what we choose.

The 21 Days of Prayer is a perfect time to ask ourselves: How do I use my time? What can I change to maximize the value of my life and the positive impact I make on others? Ben reminded us that what fills our lives is there, in part, because of what we have chosen to create or allow it through our choices. To explain the various outcomes, he used Jesus’ parable of the sower, found in Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23. A parable is often defined as a simple story used to illustrate a spiritual lesson.

Matthew 13:1-9
1 Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. 2 A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. 3 He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

For our purposes, the seed is the time God gives us and the ground it falls on represents how we use, abuse, or ignore it. Ask yourself, “Which one represents what I make of my time?” Using my procrastination as an example, my mind believes the longer I put off doing something the better; however, this creates unnecessary stress and potential failure.

Pastor Ben encouraged us to take a hard look at the way we use our finances and time, and why they are important. With regard to time … it runs out and, in the process, we lose relationships, opportunities to serve God by serving others, and our potential to live a deeply valuable life before we are called home.

But wait, good news! God gave us the ability to change for the better! We can lean into him and find his path for using our time with focused intention in a way that blesses others with our presence, experience, finances, and love while we still have the opportunity.

I hope you will join me on this journey to a deeper awareness of who we live to serve, and of what we allow, forbid, and simply ignore in our lives as time goes marching on.

Questions:
Are you a procrastinator and wish to change? (If not, place your own negative trait here.)

Are there activities in your life that are draining you? If so, what are they and why do you allow them to continue?

Do you want to love and live like Jesus?

Next Steps:
Prayerfully ask God to guide and teach you through this wonderful, life-giving process of changing the way you use your time so that it’s centered on loving others more and serving God with purpose.

Attend GrowthTrack to discover your unique giftings and learn how God has equipped you to serve others for his Kingdom.

Join the DreamTeam at your CedarCreek Campus.

Check out the CedarCreek Groups page at CedarCreek.tv/groups and choose one of these great Groups to help you grow closer to God and improve your life! It’s not too late!

Check out this life-change story from Karen who completely changed her life and used it as a blessing for others.

21 Days of Prayer

Day 10 Focus – To Connect with God Relationally (Romans 8:15)

Father, I come to you in prayer today thankful that I am your child. You have forgiven me and adopted me as your own. You have made me righteous and restored our relationship. I am so grateful that you are my Father. Thank you for loving me. I love you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


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!


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John Reading Plan


Parable of the Sower – At Your Best

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This weekend, we continued our series At Your Best as Lead Pastor Ben Snyder unpacked the parable of the sower. This is one of the best-known parables and could possibly have been the first. Pastor Ben said that parables are like stories with a  purpose. The Jewish leaders were frustrated that Jesus  did not quote the Torah—the Jewish scriptures—more. Instead he used stories to communicate the practical meaning of the Torah’s teachings.

In this parable, Jesus used the illustration of a farmer sowing seeds to teach a large crowd of common people that had gathered to hear him speak. This story takes place in the land of Palestine, where farmers would sow expensive seeds by hand in a specific way to maximize the harvest. For them, a large harvest meant a better life.

Pastor Ben explained the four different environments this parable is referring to: the path, the rocky soil, the thorns, and the good soil. He made three observations about this list. First, not all soil is good soil. You will not be able to thrive in every environment, regardless of what you think. Second, only one out of four soils is good, so the majority of your environments are not going to lead you toward your best. Third, all these environments can be made good, but you will need to amend them to create a life-giving environment.

Matthew 13:3-4
3 He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them.”

This environment is the path, and it symbolizes a resistant or stubborn posture. You are not willing to let anything in.

Matthew 13:5-6
5 “Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.”

This environment is the rocky soil,  which reflects a shallow and emotional state. Pastor Ben used the word  “superficial.” On the surface it looks good, but it doesn’t last long.

Matthew 13:7
Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants.”

The thorns stand for a distracted and divided environment. You have some good things going, but you also have other less beneficial things that are in competition with the good.

Matthew 13:8-9
8 “Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

The good soil represents a receptive or productive environment. Pastor Ben highlighted the theme of productivity and the huge difference in yield from this environment. The good soil is the only environment where Jesus talked about crops producing thirty-fold, sixty-fold, and even a hundred-fold of what was originally planted. This goes to show that the person at their best is not the one on top, but the one that is being fruitful.

Questions:
What environment are you currently in? Do you identify with the path, the rocky soil, the thorns, or the good soil?

Do you have ears to hear? Are you willing to receive the word of God and live out his invitation for your life?

Next Steps:
Take time to explore and be aware of your environment. This is an invitation to get clarity on how God wants to move you toward good soil.

Participate in 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting by texting “21Days” to 419-419-0707 You will receive prayer prompts each day for 21 days to help you move toward good soil.

21 Days of Prayer

Day 9 Focus – To Live Confidently (1 John 4:16-17)

Father in Heaven, thank you for loving me. I know I can trust you with all I am. I am confident in the salvation you have given me. Help me to abide in you, to become more like your Son every day. Show me how to live like him, according to your will, working for your kingdom in all I do. May my love for you and others be perfected through your love for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


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.


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


How Did He Know? – At Your Best

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Have you ever gone to church and thought, “How did the pastor know?” Sometimes, I feel like God is using the speaker’s voice to talk directly to me! Often it is ouchy, but it’s exactly what I need to hear, when I need to hear it.

We all want to be our best, but the environment we find ourselves in has a significant impact. Over the last six months, I drifted away from some of the practices that feed my spirit. So my New Year’s plan was to get back to journaling prayers and having deliberate, life-giving time spent with God in devotions and study each morning. However, even after starting these practices, I’m exhausted and burned out. I left for work this morning, teary eyed and asking, “God, why have you forsaken me?”

The truth is, God has never left or forsaken me. As I think back to last weekend’s bottom line, “You get what you create or allow,” I realize I’ve created a situation where I am allowing a lot of undue stress and pressure. Our environment consists of our surroundings. I need to consider what I am surrounding myself with and allowing, and ask, “Is this producing my best, or is it keeping me from it?”

Jeremiah 17:8a   
They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.

Instead of being like a tree planted along a riverbank with roots that reach into deep water as mentioned in Jeremiah 17:8a, I’m a twig, stuck in a dry and barren desert, with no roots or water. So I dig in my heels and I try harder, pray harder, work harder! Or, I feel like I’m a victim of everyone and everything around me. I’m not in control! Why do I do this to myself?

The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 is one of my favorite stories. Jesus is inviting us to really identify where our “seed” is being planted, and if it’s producing. Remember, Jesus didn’t come to condemn us. He wants us to be planted, rooted, not bothered or worried. He wants us to never stop producing. That’s what God created us to do. That’s my happy place!

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder mentioned four areas where we typically spend our seeds. They will be expanded on later in the week, but they are:

  • Time
  • Finances
  • Relationships
  • Faith

He explained that Jesus gave us three instances where seeds don’t really produce and only one where they produced a crop larger than what was sown. Mathematically, 75% of my seeds aren’t falling on good soil. I need to rethink my investments!

Questions:
Do we limit what falls on our path? Are we using our resources to deepen our roots? Are we focused on what matters, or are there thorns distracting us in every direction? Are we planting seeds that grow our faith or choke it out? Think through these questions for each area that Pastor Ben mentioned.

Next Steps:
Read Matthew 13 and pray that God will show you how your seeds are being sown.

Join a Group or Bible study and deepen your roots.

Join us in 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting.

21 Days of Prayer:

Day 8 Focus – My Calling (1 Peter 2:9)

Dear Father, you have given me, as a follower of Jesus, the right to be your child. You have set me apart and called me one of your chosen people. I can now show others your goodness and be a light to them in this dark world. Help me shine so others can see you. Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Julie Estep. Julie loves her husband John and their combined five adult children and four grandchildren. Her favorite activities are walking their two dogs and golfing. She loves sharing her faith and is grateful for the chance to be a LIO contributor.


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Ready? – At Your Best

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Have you noticed how in stories and movies, sisters have a problem with perfectionism? One is often extremely beautiful, smart, and obedient, while the other sees herself as plain and is always getting into trouble.

In Little House in the Big Woods, Laura is jealous of her golden-haired, quiet sister, Mary. In Ramona and her Mother, an ornery Ramona is constantly comparing herself to her practical, older sister, Beezus, who always gets A’s in school. Frozen tells the story of Elsa, who is always trying to keep it together, and Anna, who dreams of  falling in love and going on adventures. Even in the new Disney movie, Encanto, the main characters struggle with not being enough, or exerting themselves to be “perfect.”

Every time, the responsible sister ends up frustrated that she never gets to have fun, and the carefree sister is angry that she never seems to measure up. And just like all of those girls, we also become ensnared. We get stuck comparing ourselves to others, or even imagining what we should be like. We set expectations that are way too high. And we are inevitably disappointed when we can’t achieve what we want and stressed when we never find time to have fun.

The lyrics to this song by Hillsong offer a different approach, telling us what God has already done for us.

“Ready or Not” by Hillsong

He’s already bought our freedom
He’s already paid our debt
He’s already done the miracle
He’s already conquered death
He’s our light and salvation
He’s our rock solid hope
He’s already done enough for us
He’s already doing more
He’s already seen the ending
He’s already seen us through
He’s already breaking out of us
He’s already on the move
He’s already won our battles
He’s already paved the way
He’s already gone ahead of us
And he is ready when we are

God has already come to us. This is what we celebrated at Christmas—Jesus, Immanuel, coming as a human to be with us. God is here, reaching out, and all we need to do is trust. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect; he only asks us to take his hand and follow where he takes us. God sees our mistakes, and he loves us anyway.

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 (emphasis added).

Questions:
Which line in Hillsong’s “Ready or Not” speaks to you the most? Can you identify your over-the-top expectations or the ways you compare yourself to others? How can you remember what God has already done for you?

Next Steps:
Listen to “Ready or Not” by Hillsong. Consider playing it on the way to work or when you’re dropping your kids off at school. If you haven’t chosen to yet, take the hand God is offering you. He has already done so much with you in mind—he only asks that you trust him. And if you have let go, reach out again. God is already here.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 5 Focus – Search My Heart  (Psalm 139:23-24)

Heavenly Father, as I come to know and trust you more, help me reflect your love through my thoughts and actions. Search my heart. Find any- thing in me that is offensive to you, and help me remove it from my life. Lead me to live a life that draws people to you. Help me live my life on Earth in a way that impacts eter- nity. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer

Saturday: Day 6 Focus – To Listen to Him  (John 10:4)

Dear Father, I am so grateful to have you near me, guiding me with your voice. Give me the faith and patience to listen, so that I will not stray from the path you have planned for me—the path that I trust will keep me safe and bring me closer to you. Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer

Sunday: Day 7 Focus – To Worship God’s Great Name  (Proverbs 18:10)

God, I am in awe of you. Your name is a strong tower, a place of protection and safety for me. I praise you as my healer, my shepherd, and my hope. You are my peace, my provider, my righteousness, and my joy. Your name is great, and I worship you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


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.


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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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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The Gift That is Fasting – At Your Best

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Since I can remember, my life goal has been to be the best to win praise—not my best to honor God and grow closer to him.

In his weekend message, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder introduced us to the history and how-to of our annual 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. I struggled with this for the first five years I attended CedarCreek. I was neither a great prayer warrior nor a fan of giving up stuff to please God.

Thankfully, God has continued to shower me with his grace. Over the past five years, he has grown me in many areas of my life, including a new desire to become a committed, first-time participant in this year’s 21-day focused effort to draw me closer to him. I believe his desire is to further my journey from serving myself to becoming a devoted child of God, whose life is lived for him. The result of which is to make my life choices an example of the hands and feet of Christ in all things.

First step: Discover the purpose of fasting and why it’s important. I am a big fan of intermittent fasting as a way to kill my carb addiction, but I didn’t know what spiritual fasting was or its goal. In his 7 Steps of Fasting & Prayer, author Dr. Bill Bright writes: “Fasting is one of the Spirit’s tools for strengthening and transforming grace in our lives. This spiritual practice is a gift from God meant to grow us and draw us into deepening relationship with Himself.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”

Fasting has been a discipline practiced by followers of God since the days of the  Old Testament. In Exodus 34:8 we read that Moses fasted while on Mt. Sanai as he waited to receive the ten commandments.

We should prayerfully consider making it a part of our lives. As Ben pointed out, there are things to fast from other than food, for example, videos. When I was suffering from terrible fatigue and brain fog during my recovery from Covid, I discovered puppy, political, and Covid videos, and over time, literally spent up to six hours/day staring at them! I finally acknowledged that was a lot of time spent in self-indulgence and ignoring God, and he graciously gave me the ability to repent and stop.

As Ben encouraged, the annual, 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting is a perfect opportunity for us to refocus our attention away from banal, destructive, daily coping mechanisms and distractions that draw us away from God and lead us into a life of dissatisfaction, fear, exhaustion, and burnout. Instead, use this challenge to move toward a path that is focused on Christ, salvation, and a life of immeasurable blessings for you and those you encounter in your daily walk with God.

Questions:
Are you fruitful like the trees that grow along deep water streams, or are you barely hanging on?

Would you like to live a life of grace, blessing, and growth in your relationship with the one who loves you most, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

Next Steps:
Pray. Ask the Lord to show you his desire for your life in all things.  Ask for guidance as to whether you should fast during 21 Days of Prayer, and if so, what you should give up.

If you have already started the fast, great. And if you haven’t started, it is not too late to jump in.

Check out these resources to gain a better understanding of the how, what, when, and wheres of the process:

  1. 21 Days of Prayer webpage
  2. 21 Days of Fasting webpage
  3. Join our 21 Days text campaign to receive daily prompts and encouragement by texting “21Days” to 419.419.07070.
  4. Join Ben Snyder on any of our social media platforms for Morning Prayer at 7:00 am.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 4 Focus –To Surrender to Him (Romans 12:1)

Heavenly Father, thank you for all you have given me: all the time, resources, relationships, and abilities. I now give them back to you. I surrender it all. I am only a steward—it all belongs to you. God, guide my actions. Help me to listen for and obey your directions. Teach me to trust you and use what you have given me according to your will. May your will be done in me and through me. Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


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