Who’s On First? – Blessed

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“Is God first?”

That is the question Lead Pastor Ben Snyder asked during his weekend message. The question struck me harder than I expected. I am a faithful follower of Christ. I make time for prayer and Scripture every morning (well, almost). At work, I get to see the way God is using my gifts to make a difference, and outside of work, I have authentic, life-giving relationships where I can feel God working in my life and in the lives of my friends. I joyfully give God a lot of my time and energy.

But lately, I haven’t been giving my first to God—and that makes a difference. I’ve been giving the first of my thoughts, the focus of my attention, to the things that are wrong in my life and how I can fix them. (Spoiler alert: I can’t.)

Ben talked about the Principle of First: what you do first matters. We all know this is true—ever start something off on the wrong foot, and the rest of it seems to go downhill from there? The bottom line for the week is that we experience God’s best when we give him our first.

God is, by nature, first. He is preeminent: existing before anything else, more knowledgeable and powerful than everything else. It only makes sense to put him first—when you do, you’re submitting to the natural order of the world, as he designed it, and it’s going to help the rest of your life fall into order.

However, if you’re not trusting God by putting him first, the alternative is resisting his order and doing things your own way. Speaking as someone who’s tried to do things my own way many times, it doesn’t work out well. I’ve been giving God my time, thoughts, and energy—but only after I’ve used them to try to fix things I’m not able to fix. I’m giving to him, but I’ve only been giving him my seconds.

God loves you. He wants the best for you—his best for you, which doesn’t always look the way we expect it to. However, if we want to receive his best, we must start by giving God our first and putting him first in our lives. For me, that means focusing on him and giving my problems to him before I try to solve them.

Over the next few days we are going to look at ways we can put God first in our lives and live out this principle.

Questions:
What does giving God your first and putting him first in your life look like right now? Are you putting him first?

Next Steps:
Look at where you invest your resources: your time, money, energy, thoughts, etc., to help determine what you’re putting first. Then, consider what it would mean to put God first in those areas, and start living that out. It’s OK if you don’t do it perfectly at first—reordering our lives according to what God wants for us can be challenging. Be patient, but don’t give up.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 8 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 make it whole. I come to you in repentance, knowing I need you. Heal me, God, and teach my heart to break for what breaks yours. In your Son’s name, I pray.

Today’s Parent Prayer


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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The Blessing of Reflection – Blessed

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As 2018 drew to a close, an impulse to creatively commemorate the year took hold of me. I dug out a sketchbook, and smudging graphite on the page, I drew images representing the important events of the past year—the good, the bad, the hard-won victories, and the painful moments. I still have that sketch, and a quick glance at it reminds me of many cherished memories, some of the most powerful being those that felt raw and challenging in the thick of it. When we intentionally pause to remember our best and worst times, we glimpse God’s blessings running through our lives.

God, in his wisdom, invites us to reflect on instances of hardship and heartache in our lives. It’s not for the intention of stewing on our unpleasant feelings, but rather, so we can see God’s redemption and, ultimately, find joy—even at our lowest points. God’s command to the Israelites displays this.

Deuteronomy 15:15
“Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you! That is why I am giving you this command.”

God called them to remember their slavery—an experience undoubtedly filled with sorrow—so that they could dwell on their miraculous redemption. When we look back on some of our hardest times, we see that God is always with us, that he can redeem all things, and that he has a plan for our lives. The realization of these truths is a huge reason for gratitude.

James 1:17
Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God, our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

Every blessing, each good moment along with the redemption of the bad ones, is a gift from God. For most people, 2020 proved to be a mixture of disappointments and silver linings. But God allows us to look at both sides and see his powerful, gracious hands at work in our lives. We can delight in the happy times, but we’re also freed from the fear of hard circumstances, because we often find God’s power woven through those moments in marvelous ways. That, dear friends, seems like a blessed life to me.

Questions:
Do you tend to see blessings only in the comfortable times? As you think back on 2020, what were some of the unexpected blessings? What challenges were the hardest? How did God show up in the midst of those trials?

Next Steps:
Take a moment to thank God for the gifts that he has given you. Make a list of three to five blessings in your life, even if it’s something as simple as a cup of morning coffee. Take time to reflect on the ways you’ve witnessed God working in your life, and preserve them through journaling, drawing, or some other medium so that you can look back on those moments in the future.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 5 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.

Day 6 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 praise you for your power and presence in my life. You are my God, and you are worthy of all praise.

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.


This post was written by Sarah Pagel, a regular contributor to the LivingitOut.


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All for Arleena – Blessed

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A few days before Christmas, I was getting ready to go out to do some last-minute shopping with my 16-year-old daughter, Arleena. My boys, ages 10 and 7, were left with a room full of craft items and a list of people that they might want to make gifts for. I told them that they could only make gifts while we were gone and explained how it is better to give than to receive. A few hours later, we returned home and I examined the progress they had made. My oldest son, Bowen, followed the list, doing exactly what was asked and leaving no one out. His homemade gifts had already been placed neatly under the tree.

Then I asked my youngest, Chase, if he had made gifts for everyone on the list. To which he replied, “I did them all for Arleena.” While I tried to reason with him that all five of the gifts he made (including an elf with his face on it) did not have to go to his sister, he insisted, “Yes, they do.”  I reminded him that we had already made her gift the day before, so these new gifts could go to others. Again, he insisted, “No, they are for Arleena.” At that point, I quit arguing and let it go.

On Christmas morning, he delivered his many gifts to Arleena. The look on her face was priceless! Tangible joy filled the room, and it was clear that his generosity had resulted in a little miracle that morning in our family.

Only God knows how many little miracles we could be a part of when we have the freedom to be generous. Just like Chase, we should give even when others don’t understand our logic. I have learned in my life that a closed fist creates fear, and life is not found there. When I open up my life and willingly and generously pour out, God is always faithful to take care of me and bless me. And through me, he blesses so many people around me.  To develop a blessed heart, it is important to develop generosity in our lives.

Questions:
Is there someone in your life that has a need you can meet? Is there someone who you know is at home alone because of COVID that would love to hear from you?

Next Steps:
Ask God who you can bless today with your time or money and act on it. Make the time to call someone who is on your heart.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 4 Focus – To Place My Trust in God (Psalm 62:8)

God, in your Word you invite me to pour out my heart to you. You are my refuge. I know that anything I think, feel, or do is okay to bring to you. Knowing you are a safe place for me, I come to you and give you everything (talk to God about the specific things that are on your heart today). From what worries me to what delights me, to what I hope for, to what I’m afraid of, I bring it all to you because I can trust you. Help me and guide me in every area, in Jesus’ name.


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


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Deal with GREED and Release the GRUDGE – Blessed

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Yesterday we looked at the importance of knowing the giver—GOD—the giver of everything. Today we will talk about how this helps us to deal with greed and holding a grudge.

Last weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder asked, “Why do you think God created giving?” The truth is God did not create giving for his sake. He created it for our hearts. You see, giving is a way to work selfishness and greed out of our lives.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8
7 But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard hearted or tight fisted toward them. 8 Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need.

God wants us to give because he knows a blessed life starts in the heart, and a selfish heart can’t handle more blessing. A selfish heart just wants to keep all the blessings for itself.

So, when does greed and grudge-holding show up in our lives? Greed rears its ugly head before we give the gift, casting doubt on whether we should even follow through. And grudging comes after giving the gift, as we grieve its loss.

For example, I have a rather expensive model railroading hobby that I’m able to primarily finance through an incentive program at work. We earn points from perfect attendance and standout performance in our jobs, which can then be redeemed for all sorts of items, including Visa gift cards. Well, I worked hard and earned two of these gift cards before Christmas. I had planned on using them toward my hobby, but then as a last-minute thought before Christmas, I decided to give them as gifts to family members.

Greed could have set in and said, “No, those are mine!” I worked hard for them, and admittedly, that thought briefly crossed my mind. Or, I could have given the gift cards only to be filled with loss and regret, and then develop a grudge because I gave away a precious opportunity to further expand my model railroad. But, thankfully, God’s love in my heart won out.

I knew in my heart that these gift cards were not truly mine in the first place. They were a blessing from God. I’m blessed to have a job right now—when so many do not. I’m blessed to be healthy enough to work—when so many are not. And I’m blessed that my employer offers such great benefits—when so many do not. All blessings come from him, and knowing all this enabled me to be joyful in my gift.

It’s important to realize that the greed/grudge scenario doesn’t only apply to monetary gifts. It applies to all aspects of the heart. We may be called to give our precious time to serve others. Greed may say, “But that’s during the big game.” Or perhaps you chose to serve during the game but didn’t receive the recognition you were expecting. Your grudge starts to set in and says, “I missed a really good game, and they didn’t even appreciate it.”

These are the times when we need to remember that God wants to give us a blessed life, but it starts with our own hearts and blessing others. When greed starts to creep in, take a moment and count your blessings. Say a prayer of thanks and give cheerfully. Remember that what you gave was not truly yours in the first place. It was given to you by God, so release the grudge.

Questions:
What are your first thoughts when you have an opportunity to give? Does greed rear its ugly head in your heart? When you give, is it cheerful? Do you release the grudge?

Next Steps:
Learn God’s guideline for developing a blessed life by reading Deuteronomy 15:4-11. Remember all that you have been given the next time you have the opportunity to give.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 3 Focus – Search My Heart (Psalm 139:23-24)

Heavenly Father, search my heart. Find anything in me that is offensive, 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 eternity.


This post was written by Ned Miller, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Know the Giver – Blessed

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Happy Tuesday! If you’re new to LivingItOut this week, WELCOME! We’re so glad you’re here.

This week in our series Blessed, we heard that there is an uncommon path to a blessed life. Many people seek different paths to be blessed, such as climbing the corporate ladder, gaining more education, or growing a family. While all of those paths do typically lead to some blessings, they do not lead to a fulfilled or blessed life. A truly blessed life is one that is filled with hope. This uncommon path filled with hope is through knowing Jesus. Our theme verse for this series is from Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 17:7 (emphasis added)
But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

When we trust in the Lord, trust Jesus with our lives, and make him the center of our hope and confidence in this world, we are truly blessed.

We also looked this week at Deuteronomy 15:4 (NIV): “However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.”  Knowing Jesus fills believers with hope—and God the father is the giver—is the beginning of a blessed life.

Whether you are new to this journey of trusting Jesus or have been following him for a long time, there is a spiritual discipline mapped out in the Bible called “prayer and fasting.” At CedarCreek, we start every year with 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. If you’re new to this concept, don’t worry, we have it all mapped out for you if you’d like to participate with us. This is an intentional and impactful step in knowing God more. Check out our website cedarcreek.tv/21days for more information. Each day there is a daily prayer focus (we started yesterday, but it’s not too late to catch up :)). There’s also a daily prayer focus for parents. If you’re new to the idea or practice of fasting, check out these resources to learn more and choose a fast that you feel led to.

Questions:
What blessings have you been pursuing in life? Have you trusted in Jesus as the hope and confidence of your life?

Next Steps:
If you don’t already, maybe it’s time to trust Jesus. Surrender yourself and your life to him. It’s as easy as saying, “God, I surrender my way, and I want to follow your way. I’m sorry for trying to be in control of my own life, and I’m turning from my own way to your ways.”If today, you made the decision to surrender your life to Jesus,  let someone know. You can even tell us by texting “connect” to 419-419-0707. If you’re ready to know God in a deeper way, join us on our journey of 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 2 Focus – For My Love for God and Others to Grow (Matthew 22:36-39)

Dear God, you said the greatest commandment that I can follow is to love you with all of my heart, soul, and mind. Equally important is to love my neighbors as much as I love myself. As I connect with you over these 21 Days of Prayer, grow my heart so that I will love you more. Then, as my love grows for you, help me to love those around me more and more each day.


This post was written by Kendra Grubinski. Kendra is passionate about her relationship with Jesus and loves studying and sharing God’s Word. During the week, she is a Spanish Teacher at Findlay High School. She also enjoys spending time with her family and pups, reading, traveling, drinking good coffee and being active outdoors.


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It Starts with the Heart – Blessed

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During the weekend service, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder stepped into our new series titled, Blessed. We could all use some blessings in 2021, and he believes that God wants to bless our lives. After an unusually difficult 2020, the idiom “hindsight is 20/20” now seems like an oxymoron!

Jeremiah 17:7
But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

This is the theme verse for the Blessed series. The challenge for us is knowing what blessed really means. We all have different ideas and images of its significance—money, success, health, beauty, friends, family, etc. The dictionary defines blessed as “made holy; given divine protection; bring pleasure or relief.” In the Bible, Jeremiah gives us this wonderful illustration.

Jeremiah 17:8
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.

No matter what happens in 2021, be it drought or prosperity, God wants us to experience a blessed life, and we can experience his blessings no matter the circumstance. Over the next few weeks of this new series, Pastor Ben will be sharing how that’s possible. This weekend, we started the conversation with a principle that comes from Jesus.

Luke 6:37-38
37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Verse 37 sounds like karma, or you reap (receive/gather) what you sow (give/plant), and verse 38’s subject matter has often been mistaken for money. These verses go much deeper—the principle Jesus is discussing is our hearts. Whatever your heart is full of, it gives, and what you give, you will receive. If your heart is judging others, you will be judged. If your heart is condemning others, you will be condemned. If your heart is full of forgiveness, you will be forgiven. If your heart is full of blessings, you will be blessed.

This brings us to our Bottom Line: A blessed life STARTS with the HEART.

So, how do we develop a blessed heart? That is exactly what Ben shared with us this weekend and what we will be looking at for the next four days in the LivingItOut. As we start this new year, take a look at your heart and see what it is full of, what it is giving, and what steps you need to take to develop a blessed heart.

Questions:
What does blessed mean to you? Does it involve physical looks, success, material things, or quality time with family and friends?

What fills your heart? Judgement? Condemnation? Forgiveness? Giving?

Next Steps:
Reread Luke 6:37-38, and apply these verses to your own heart. Consider  the principle of sowing and reaping—expect whatever fills your heart back in return. What are you sowing in your marriage … with your children … at your job? Take steps to remove the negativity from your heart so that you can begin experiencing a blessed life.

21 Days of Prayer:
Day 1 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 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.


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.


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Still in Control – This Year

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The beginning of 2020 doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago. If you concentrate and listen closely, you might still hear the faint whisper of Barbara Walters saying, “Welcome to 2020.” Does it seem that way for you? Where were you on January 1st, 2020?

I remember the start of last year well. I was living with my in-laws last January 1st because our house was being repaired from a pretty significant electrical issue. I remember checking the 10-day forecast each day, praying the temperatures wouldn’t dip below the freezing line of 32°. I had no control over the weather and little control over much of the overall situation. It was not a great feeling. Little did I know that issue with our house would pale in comparison to what was ahead.

As 2021 begins, I am aware that this year, like last, will go by quickly. I am also mindful that this year will bring all kinds of unexpected challenges that I can’t imagine or see today. If I am not careful, these two thoughts can be a little overwhelming. With time seemingly moving faster than ever, it is easy to start believing the lie that I don’t have time to accomplish anything of significance this year. My day-to-day tasks consume too much of my time and energy. Secondly, it can be frightening not knowing what is around the corner. Often when we don’t know, we worry that the worst is coming and believe there is nothing we can do about it. We want to have more control than this.

Thankfully, we have a God that is in control of all things. When time is seemingly slipping away, God is there. He is at work ready to connect with us and help us grow in every moment of our daily lives, even in the mundane, seemingly insignificant ones. When we can’t see what’s ahead, we can find confidence knowing nothing surprises God. He knows what 2021 has in store and invites you to trust him through it all.

At the end of this past weekend service, we heard a song that started with the question, “How can I say it is well? When my voice can barely speak?

How can I sing You a song In the midst of suffering?” The answer to the question is the title of the song—“Still in Control.” The lyrics can be a prayer and reminder for us to carry with us into 2021. 

Teach my soul to sing
My God is still in control
And still He reigns on His throne
Though mountains may tremble and sea billows roll
I’ll sing it is well with my soul
My God is still in control
You have not left me alone
Though the world has let me down
All of my sorrow and pain
I will trade it for a crown
Thank You for staying with me
When the night was closing in
Whatever my lot, You are still God
I will sing again
My God is still in control

Songwriters: Mack Brock / Jesse Reeves / Ricky Jackson / Ran Jackson

Questions:
What do you remember about last year’s New Year’s Day?

In what ways did last year challenge your faith in God’s control?

How did you take steps of trust this past year?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how prepared are you for 2021? Explain your answer.

Next Steps:
Write down the lyrics to this song, and place them somewhere  you will regularly see them, maybe on your bathroom mirror or in your kitchen. Thank God that he cares about you and is in control of everything that will happen in 2021.

Next to it, write down Philippians 4:6-7 and give your worries to God.

Philippians 4:6-7
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Prayer:
Dear God. Thank you for this new year. Not just because it means 2020 is over, but because it has the potential to mark a new beginning. As this year starts, I want to declare my trust in you. I know that no matter what 2021 has in store, you are in control. Guide me and help me see every blessing and challenge to come as an opportunity to know you more. God, this year, I will sing that you are still in control, reigning on your throne. Amen.


This post was written by Ben Bockert. Ben is a proud husband and father of three beautiful daughters. He is honored to serve as the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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You New Creation, You! – This Year

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The Apostle Peter had been Jesus’ “Right Hand Man” from the beginning of Christ’s ministry. The one renamed “the Rock.” At the Passover supper, the night before Jesus died, Peter said to him, “Even If everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you” (Matthew 26:33). Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me” (Matthew 26:34). But Peter insisted, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” (Matthew 26:35).

Yet a few hours later, when confronted by Jesus’ enemies, Peter lied about even knowing Jesus—THREE times—then ran away and wept.

Have you ever felt you failed Jesus so badly that there was no way back to him? Peter did. He was in such despair, he couldn’t believe he would ever work for the Lord again. So in John 21, he left Jerusalem and went back to fishing. It appears, he considered himself unworthy to serve the one true God, our Savior.

What happened next is so beautiful and so like Jesus … and so like Peter, too. Jesus goes after his wayward child and asks, “Peter do you love me?” Jesus asks not once but three times. Why three times? As I researched this story, I learned that Peter answered the Lord with a different variation of the word love each time.

The first love was more like, “Of course I do. You’re my pal.”  The second was like a brother, “Of course I do. You’re my bro.” It wasn’t until the third time that Peter was able to get past his shame of failure and blurt out the word for unconditional love, “YES! Completely!”

Jesus’ responses in turn? “Feed my lambs.” “Take care of my sheep.” Then the third time, “Feed my sheep.” It was then Peter realized he was no longer a fisherman but rather, as Jesus had promised, a fisher of men. Peter also realized he was never going to be “good enough,” and it didn’t matter because it was not about him.

Are you good enough to be the hands and feet of Christ to the world? You are if you have put down your pride and self-will and accepted God’s invitation to a meaningful and eternal life. This can happen if we accept Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the only way to have a relationship with the Father and a life of great worth. You can’t earn it, and you can’t lose it—even when you spiritually fall on your face. Just like Peter did.

Ephesians 2:9-10
9Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10For 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. 

Questions:
Why do you think you are here? Will your life really matter in the eternal scheme of things? How has your focus been affecting your life?  For better or for worse?

Next Steps:
Take your focus off the world, and turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Listen to Turn Your Eyes to Jesus by Shane and Shane and Reflect on what Jesus told Peter to do if he loved him (John 21:15-19).

Prayer:
Thank you, Lord, for allowing trials as the way for us to grow in our understanding of you and your relationship with us. I wish we could learn about and embrace your grace without the pain that comes from enduring trials, but our selfish sin nature makes those corrections inevitable as we stumble toward a closer walk with you. Thank you for caring so much that you allow them in order to grow us in our love for and service to you. Please give us the patience, insight, and determination to be your faithful servants all the days of our life, and throughout eternity. 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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No Turning Back – This Year

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John 21:7
Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore.

I can’t help it. When I read this verse I picture a scene from Forrest Gump. Forrest is on his shrimp boat when he sees his hero, friend, mentor, and leader on the dock—Lieutenant Dan. Remember that? And without hesitation, Forrest just jumps off his moving boat and swims to Lieutenant Dan. To me, that is an amazing, touching scene. A man was so overwhelmed by the presence of his leader, that without thinking, he jumped into the water with reckless abandon.

Was Peter much different? John barely gets the words out, “It is the Lord,” and Peter is off the boat and swimming to shore. It’s beautiful! He was alone, dejected, and feeling regret, but then there was a turning point for Peter: Jesus! He can’t get to Jesus fast enough. When I read this verse, I feel so much excitement and empathy for Peter.

John 21:8
The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore.

What a simple verse this is, but I find it almost comical. Who among us hasn’t sped by someone in our vehicle only to be stopped at the next light and have that person pull up right next to us? It is kind of humbling and humiliating, right? Where’s our patience? I can totally imagine the other disciples in the boat watching Peter swim for 100 yards, wondering why he isn’t in the boat helping them. What they didn’t fully understand was how life-changing that swim was for Peter—more on that in a bit.

John 21:9-12
9 When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. 10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn. 12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.

That’s right, Jesus was on the shore preparing breakfast. Think about that. The savior of the world, the resurrected King, the son of God was making breakfast! Throughout the Bible, we consistently read about Jesus serving others and making people feel welcomed. I imagine it is exactly the situation that Peter (who had just denied Jesus three times) needed.

My friends, this is the turning point for Peter. This is that moment when Peter changed from fisherman to “rock.” Peter dedicated his life to Jesus and transformed into a full-time evangelist. Peter jumped into that water and swam toward Jesus—and he never looked back! I pray for that kind of peace and purpose for all of us.

Questions:
What are some of the ways you could move toward God this year?

How might you be able to serve others before you serve yourself?

Next Steps:
2021 is upon us. It is a start to a new year. Develop a plan and establish goals on how you might be more purposeful in moving toward God in 2021.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the examples you have given us. Help us to put these words and messages into action. Use us to make change. Show us how capable we are, and give us the courage, faith, and strength to follow through. It’s not easy to deny ourselves, so we pray that your example may inspire us to impact your kingdom in a supernatural way. Amen.


This post was written by Mike Bilik. Mike is a father to 3 amazing daughters and one awesome son. Spare time is rare, but given the opportunity, you are likely to find him with friends hiking, hunting, or fishing.


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God’s Power – This Year

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My mom’s side of my family, the Cephas side, is from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I grew up enjoying crab cakes, oysters, Ocean City, and occasionally, Maryland basketball. Maryland served as a nice escape from the Ohio summers during my childhood. So at age 21, I naturally welcomed the idea to recreate those summer memories when a couple of friends invited me on a trip to Ocean City.

It was a large family vacation, and I was prepared to spend some time with strangers, which didn’t really bother me. However, one red flag unsettled my nerves during the drive from Ohio to Maryland. My friend told me that her grandfather had quite a few prejudices against black people, and we would be staying a night at his house in Baltimore. This information wasn’t something I had been given before packing my bags and hitting the road.

The story is too long to share all the details, but I left that trip with some new friends, one notable friend being the grandfather. He had gone most of his adult life without speaking to a person of color, and in one week, we had five mornings of coffee and conversation. Any feelings of a façade were dispelled when he wrote his granddaughter a letter thanking her for bringing me along. I was myself during that vacation, but the grandfather could have chosen not to see the authentic me as he had done with so many others over the years. The power of God’s love and truth were on that trip. When was the last time you experienced God’s power?

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder taught from John 21 over the weekend. We were reminded of Peter’s denial of Jesus and his ascension into heaven a few days later.

John 21:3-6
3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”
“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.
4 At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. 5 He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”
“No,” they replied.
6 Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

Peter was already feeling down. If you recall, Peter had denied Jesus, his teacher and friend, three times before he was crucified. No doubt, Peter was suffering from shame and looking for an escape, so he went fishing. And he couldn’t even find success at one of the few things that brought normalcy to his life. But God showed up and showed his power in a moment of uncertainty and doubt.

When I think back to my earlier story, I am reminded that God continues to show up in difficult and uncertain circumstances. Up to that point in my life, I had never encountered such a prejudiced adult who allowed God’s love to reverse their hatred. That day, I experienced God’s power to reveal what is true, and the experience allowed me to hope for more.

Questions:
What makes God’s power personal for you? Do you drift in moments of uncertainty? Do you know your faith in God grows stronger when you  recognize his work in your life?

Next Steps:
Be open to allowing God’s work to move within you by joining a group. Attend GrowthTrack to unlock the spiritual gifts God gave you. Dive into your Bible and read the daily LIO to dispel feelings of uncertainty or shame in your life.

Prayer:
God, as we say goodbye to 2020, let us be reminded that it was you who brought us through a challenging year. Let our faith intensify, knowing that you will continue to navigate us through 2021. When we feel so down that our shame questions our walk as Christians, let us remember that we cannot be perfect, but through Jesus, you called us to be holy. Amen.


This post was written by Jaron Camp, 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.


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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Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

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More Resources

Series Theme Verses
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RightNow Media
John Reading Plan