The Impact – Be You

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I remember when my kids were younger, around 2002, an event called “Impact” came to their elementary school. It was a performance of rollerbladers, BMX bike riders, and skateboarders. The show was phenomenal and really impressed the kids!

The performers were just kids who wanted to tell other kids their stories about the “Impact” God had on their life! And although their stunts were amazing, it was their testimonials for Christ that made a lasting impact. I know of at least two kids from that class who became pastors, and others are in the field doing God’s work. That particular, seemingly small, intersection went on to create a legacy with those kids, now adults, impacting lives for Jesus.

Lydia’s story is also one of continued legacy. There wasn’t just impact in that one moment, but this intersection created a ripple effect for the future.

Philippians 4:15
As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.

Philippians 4:22
And all the rest of God’s people send you greetings, too, especially those in Caesar’s household.

Remember, Lydia was a dealer in fine purple cloth, which was rare and expensive. This got her an audience with the more affluent people of her community. I imagine she had lots of friends and clients in high places, and many opportunities to share her beliefs. (Followers cannot help but share the love of Christ with others when given the chance!) As she amassed wealth from selling her cloth, she was able to provide for the needs of Paul and the others.

As a public-school teacher, I’ve had opportunities to serve and to share the love that Jesus so freely shares with me. There have been so many chapters and changes and adventures! Saying “yes” to God’s call in your life can be so exciting and invigorating!

Open your ears, heart, and hands and serve God where you are with what you have. Only God knows what might be possible if you open yourself to his intersections in your life.

Questions:
What gifts do you have that God can use? Who are the people in your life that you can influence for Christ?

Next Steps:
If you don’t know your spiritual gifts, take GrowthTrack and find out. Sign up for a Group. Volunteer on the DreamTeam or for Serve Day. Keep trying new things until you find that place that brings you immeasurable joy!

Prayer:
Father, quiet my mind so I can hear from you. Help me to open my heart and trust you, Lord!  Give me faith as I open my hands. I am so blessed that you have invited me into the work that you are doing in this world! Protect me from the enemy who prowls and tries to stop me.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


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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Receiver to Giver – Be You

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My younger sister, Mary, is in kindergarten, just learning how to read. The first time she tried, she stuttered out every sound, taking forever to figure out just a few words. Now, several months later, she can read a whole book, and with much less hesitation. I love watching her progress, seeing her learn to love stories!

The Book of Acts (the acts of the apostles) follows stories of the first church leaders. One was Paul, the first Christian to spread the Gospel by traveling. On a journey to Greece, Paul stopped in Philippi, where he spoke with some women gathered by the river.

Acts 16:14
One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying.

Far from her home, Lydia was likely either a young widowed mother or a single woman. Either way, it would not have been easy for a woman to live without a husband or relatives nearby. She poured her work into selling purple cloth, which was very challenging to make. Yet, when Paul came to the river, Lydia listened.

Lydia already worshiped God, but she didn’t have a personal relationship with him. Lydia had never been told the Good News about Jesus until Paul shared it with her.

Acts 16:15
She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

Acts 16:40
When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town.

Hearing the Good News about Jesus changed Lydia’s life. She went from just worshiping God to having a personal, everlasting relationship with him. It didn’t stop there. Lydia’s household was baptized alongside her, and she repeatedly opened her home to Paul and the other apostles. Lydia received Jesus’ love—and she wanted others to have it too—so she gave her home and her time to them.

My sister, Mary, is now learning to write her own stories. She has gone from reading books to creating her own, from passively enjoying a story to actively making a story for others to find joy in. This is the adventure God called Lydia into, and it is the one he invites us into as well. God says, “Come, beloved, join me in loving others!”

Questions:
What limitations do you believe prevent you from opening up to God’s invitation? How can you open yourself up to him? Where is God calling you to stop being passive and take a step on his adventure?

Next Steps:
Pay attention to where God is calling you. Attend GrowthTrack or join the DreamTeam. Find someone to pray for or extend an invitation to church. Before rolling out of bed, waking up your kids, walking into work, or going up to the cashier—ask God to show you how to demonstrate his love.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for choosing to use ordinary people, like me. I have no qualifications or degrees in the work you do, yet you have chosen me anyway. What an honor and a gift! Please, keep me open to your call. Open my eyes to the work you do in, around, and through me. Your love is so incredible—I get to both receive and give it! Amen.


This post was written by Lydia Snyder. Lydia has been a story-lover for as long as she can remember, often found reading books or writing. She is thrilled to be making a difference by inspiring others to take part in the best story ever – God’s story. Lydia lives with her three wonderful siblings and two amazing parents.


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God’s Open-Door Policy – Be You

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I shy away from attention, which has caused me to miss out from time to time. If it ever seemed like the lights were too bright, I would close myself off in the dark. It’s something I’m working on.

Last month, I received an email about a potential press opportunity for my writing. The attention that could be gained from it was something I didn’t want. The old me would’ve deleted the message without responding, but I chose to think and pray about the offer. My wife didn’t even know about the email because, as I mentioned to her, if I would have told her, she would’ve pushed me when I didn’t want to be moved—and “no” would’ve been my final answer.

Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder talked about being open to challenges, trusting God, and using our unique gifts. I prayed about that email and was reminded of another prayer I made in August 2019: I wanted to use my gift of writing however I could, and I promised to be patient while I waited for opportunities.

I accepted the press opportunity that was offered to me, and it opened another door and another door and another. Everything is unexpected, but it’s not by accident.

Last year, I was asked if I had ever thought of doing public speaking. “I’ll never do something like that,” I said. This past week, I was one of two writers (one from the US and one from the UK) on a panel for a company that employs 750 writers. I spoke on and off for over an hour, live, with guests from California to South Africa and everywhere in-between.

All of that was made possible because I willingly opened myself to a challenge and trusted God with the outcome.

Questions:
What stops you from choosing to be open to challenges? What gifts from God are you letting fade away?

Next Steps:
Pray about the things that keep you from being more open. Take GrowthTrack to learn about your spiritual gifts, then join the DreamTeam and volunteer in your community to open yourself up to how God wants to use you.

Prayer:
Jesus, help me to discover my spiritual gifts and encourage others to do the same, so that we can all move toward living lives of purpose. I know that God has gifted me to bring glory to his kingdom. Help me to communicate his truth with wisdom and intuition in fresh ways—and not be afraid to color outside the lines when necessary. Amen.


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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Compounding Intersections – Be You

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During the weekend message, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder talked about compounding intersections—the “coincidences,” opportunities, and interactions that can have a huge impact on our future if we’re open to them.

In Acts 16, we see Paul lean into some of those intersections as he travels to Macedonia and has a conversation with a unique and unlikely person who ends up helping him make a difference for Christ. If you missed the weekend message, watch it online to hear that story. Right now, I’d like to talk a little about my story. Please stick with me—there’s a point to all of this, I swear.

I’m in a great season of life right now. Yes, I’ve had some deeply challenging seasons in the past few years, and I’m sure I will have challenging seasons in the future. But here, now, I’m living a life I love.

Here’s a snapshot of it: I own a house that truly feels like home, where I live with my best friend/roommate and our two cats. I love my job at the church, where I get to use the way God’s wired me to fill a need, working for a mission I care about. I have an amazing support system of family and friends.

It’s an imperfect life, certainly, but also a deeply fulfilling one. Some days it’s hard to imagine living any differently—this just feels so natural. But honestly, when you dig deeper, it’s pretty unusual.

Owning a house of my own, as a single, 20-something woman, isn’t normal—nor is it that common to buy a house with the intention of having roommates. It’s just what I felt called to do.

My roommate is not from Toledo—she’s from a small farming community outside of Columbus, with a nursing degree from Case Western in Cleveland. We became friends while getting our Bachelor’s Degrees at a tiny, Christian liberal arts college in Indiana. We were in different majors and probably wouldn’t have ever gotten to know each other if not for the fact we both studied abroad in Ireland during our freshman years.

The job I love so much, I never intended to have—I wanted to work in publishing. But when I was struggling to find a job in my desired field, I applied to CedarCreek’s internship program (kind of on a whim—I even said in my application that I wasn’t sure I’d be a good fit). A year later, I was praying they’d offer me an apprenticeship because I loved the work I was doing; a year after that, I had a permanent position.

Many of the friends I spend the most time with right now are through a Group I joined about a year ago, led by a friend I met through the internship. Without that Group, I probably never would’ve gotten to know most of the people in it, and I’m so grateful that I have.

Sorry, that was a lot of rambling about me. Here’s my point: I would not be who I am or where I am, doing the work I get to do, surrounded by the people I get to do life with, if I hadn’t listened to God’s leading, leaned into the opportunities he gave me, and stayed open to the compounding intersections that resulted. It is my prayer for you that you would do the same—you have no idea where those intersections may lead, but God does.

Romans 8:28
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Questions:
What are the intersections God wants you to be open with right now?

What opportunities is God currently nudging you to lean into?

Next Steps:
Set aside time each day to pray and listen to where God might be guiding you to make a connection or make a difference.

Throughout your day, actively look for intersections God may want to use.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, you use our lives to write powerful stories when we let you lead. Thank you for the unlikely connections that lead to lifelong friendships, the detours that lead to meaningful callings, and the painful phases that create powerful life change. Open our eyes to the areas in our lives you want to use to make a difference. May your will be done in us and through us.


This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton is currently the apprentice copywriter at CedarCreek. In her spare time, she freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.


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Be Open to God’s Intersections – Be You

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Acts 16:9-15
9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.
11 We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. 12 From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15 She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

How did you get to where you are today?

Did you set goals and do everything necessary to reach them to the best of your ability? Or, perhaps one or more hurts, habits, or hang-ups (either your own or others) got in your way and kept you from acting upon an opportunity that you feel could have changed your life for the better.

Everyone’s life includes some percentage of these opportunities, occurrences, and even unnoticed events that affect the outcomes of who we are and what we do. When piled up and weighed, they become what Lead Pastor Ben described in his weekend message as, “compounding intersections of your life.” He went on to say that every day of our lives, we interact with various people, in various places and for a plethora of reasons. The result is a “compounding effect” that creates outcomes we never saw coming.

Personally, my change of trajectory occurred at 22. I was still in college after five years—because I was having so much fun and making so much money as a bartender. My boss walked up to me and said, “I’m so disappointed in you. Why are you still here?” That question was the catalyst that, first, made me angry but, more importantly, made me see myself and my actions clearly.

I finally had the courage to make a big change. I graduated, moved to NYC, and earned an MBA. I moved on to an entirely different and better life, which included salvation, my husband of 30 years, and motherhood.

Pastor Ben continued unwrapping his message by explaining how the apostle Paul went from being a Christian-hating Jewish leader to a world-renown preacher of the gospel. Ben shared how Paul’s huge life-change came about and how he bravely went to places and people to preach the Good News. He trusted God versus trying to do it on his own, and went wherever God sent him.

Sometimes people received Paul’s message, but other times, he was beaten, arrested, and kicked out. While one experience is certainly preferred over the other, both offer compounding intersections of opportunity to share God’s love and the message of salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Questions:
How did you get where you are today in your life, and how can you use your life to tell others about God’s love for them?

Are you afraid of sharing the gospel because you don’t know how it will be received? What can you do to get over that?

Next Steps:
Attend GrowthTrack to help find answers to those questions and to help you move into being the hands and feet of Christ to a world that is desperately lost and in need of him.

Join a DreamTeam at your CedarCreek campus to engage with other followers—your forever brothers and sisters in Christ—and serve God together. By doing so, you’ll grow deeper relationships with them.

Read your Bible every day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.

Join a Group.  Summer session begins June 11th.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for the gifts of your love and your Son. Through his suffering and death on our behalf, he has given me access to eternity with you, who loves me most of all.  Please help me to be braver and to share your message of love better and more frequently. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


This post was written by Martha Smith, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study. Martha describes herself as a lover of Christ who likes to share faith with others.


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