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.


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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.


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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.


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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

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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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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.


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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