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.


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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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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