Lose Everything and Gain Christ – At Your Best

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Luke 14:25-26
25 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.

When I was a child this passage bothered me. Why would Jesus want me to hate everyone who was important to me? Didn’t Jesus call us to be loving and committed to those in our lives? And the near-sacrifice of Isaac on the altar by his father, Abraham, gave me nightmares (Genesis 22). How could a good God ask a father to do that horrible act?

My immature idea of commitment to God did not encompass giving up the things I held most dear. I could not see that if I had my eyes focused squarely on Jesus, everything else would pale in comparison.

As I have grown in my faith and understanding of God, these passages still sting a bit. I look at my own beloved children and shudder to think of the thoughts running through Abraham’s mind as he was leading his son up the mountain. I cannot imagine being one of the disciples and hearing Jesus say that they must hate those they love the most for his sake.

However, I do understand a bit more of what Jesus meant when he said we must “give up everything” to be his disciple. Jesus was asking his disciples, and Abraham, to fix their eyes on him alone. He was asking them to set aside all of the things the world offers as substitutes for their affections and find complete fulfillment in him alone.

Luke 14:33
So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.

How does one get to that position where they are willing to lose it all to gain Christ?

It involves giving up the labels we have for ourselves and setting aside the expectations others have for us. The heavy burden of our unmet expectations and old wounds literally crush us under their weight.

Instead, we should look to Jesus for our identity. He is calling us to a place where we can remove those burdens from our shoulders and give them to him. By removing the pressures and expectations of those around us and seeking replenishment in Christ, we find peace. When you come to a place in your relationship with God that you are willing to give up everything, you will know you truly love Jesus and are his disciple.

Questions:
How are you doing spiritually? Do you feel dry and stunted like the shrubs growing in the wasteland, or are you flourishing like the trees growing along a stream?

What burdens and expectations are you carrying? Are they burdens someone else has place upon you? What does Jesus say about your identity?

Next Steps:
Spend some time thinking about what makes you feel refreshed spiritually.

Intentionally set aside time this week to meet with God in prayer and Bible study. Consider finding an artist who helps you worship God for all he is through song, or go outside to appreciate God’s amazing creation, even if it’s just for 15 minutes each day.

21 Days of Prayer

Day 19 Focus – Broken Before Him (Psalms 51:17)

Dear God, I have missed the mark of righteousness many times. Yet while I was still separated from you, you loved me and sent your Son to die for me. Thank you, Lord. Today, I offer my broken spirit to you, for you alone can make it whole. I come to you asking for forgiveness from (insert areas of sin here), knowing I need you. Heal me, God. Teach my heart to break for what breaks yours. In your Son’s name, I pray. Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer

 Saturday: Day 20 Focus – My Growth (Ephesians 4:15)

Heavenly Father, I am not who I was before I met you—and it’s all because of you. Thank you for the growth I have been through, and thank you that you’re not finished with me yet! Teach me to be more and more like your Son every day. Help me to submit humbly to the situations you use to change my heart, even when I wouldn’t choose them for myself. Above all else, may I grow in love for you and for others. In Jesus’ name I pray! Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer

Sunday: Day 21 Focus – To Praise Him (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Dear Father, I praise you for all you have done in my life and in my heart over these last 21 days. Thank you for drawing close to me and for leading me. Help me to continue growing and taking steps toward you throughout this year, so that I might know you more and make a difference for you. Amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her five young children.


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What Do You Get To Do With God? – At Your Best

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Today is the day to fill up with what is good and life-giving when it comes to our mental and physical well-being! Don’t worry, even though I have a heavy background in health and wellness, I am not going to give any lectures on eating right or exercising. I want us to consider something a little bit deeper today.

Ask yourself, “What do I do on a regular basis that fills me up?” It’s OK if you’re thinking, “I don’t do much that is life-giving.” What a great place to start!

When I get past the obvious, what I should be doing, I stroll playfully into a category I call “What I Get to do With God.” In other words, what do I have the privilege of doing with God that fills me up?

For me, a long walk anywhere in nature is like heaven on earth.

I know some of you are like me—you used to love really intense workouts and trying new things all the time—but life happened. Now you’re left with limitations. That life-giving outlet you used to enjoy daily is gone. I understand your pain and frustration, but I look at it this way—without my trials, I never would have slowed down enough to really enjoy a walk.

Another life-giving activity for me is on my floor, stretching while I look out the window and listen to worship music. This brings mental nourishment to me because it reminds me of the verse God gave me during my very painful times: [April], I am “the LORD your God, who rescued you from [your] Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things” (Psalm 81:10). God did all he promised.

I have the privilege of substitute teaching in an elementary school. Every time I make a child smile, my heart overflows.

God has also given me people that speak love and truth into my life, and I make time to be with them. Spending time with my husband is life-giving to me. We have a date night every week, and without that fun, I am not my best.

Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Groups at CedarCreek are a great place to find the community you are looking for. God is faithful. He will provide all you need to be at your very best.

What do you get to do with God that fills you up?

Questions:
What do you do on a regular basis that fills you up?

What do you get to do with God?

Do you have life-giving people around you?

Next Steps:
Identify life-giving activities and implement them into your schedule for a month, then evaluate how it has affected your life.

If you have not joined a Group consider it today. It is not too late!

21 Days of Prayer

Day 18 Focus – To Receive Power (Philippians 2:12-13)

Heavenly Father, thank you for working within me. I am in awe of the changes you make possible in my heart, how you continue to grow me to love you and others more. I praise you for saving me, for making salvation possible through your Son. Help me to share this gift with others. Teach me to desire what you desire. I trust you to give me the power to do all you ask of me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Today’s Parent Prayer


This post was written by April Willer, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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


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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.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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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

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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