The Poster Child of Adventure

What is your idea of living an adventurous life? Does the thought get you excited or make you cringe? For Nate Cook, high adventure included stripping off his clothes and every convenience, abandoning all comfort, and giving up control of every element in his environment. Me? I’m afraid of dead fish, so even the thought of spending time in “the wild” eating them freaks me out.

Why an adventure? Is it for fun? A change of scenery? To find out what you are really made of? Or is it bigger than that?

David, son of Jesse, was the youngest of eight sons and the overlooked runt of the litter. He was the shepherd of the family’s flock of sheep and goats. His job included guarding, guiding, and sitting around watching the flocks day after day. Alone. (See 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 Kings for his story.)

David’s closest companion was the one true God. Nothing came between them with David’s shepherding lifestyle. He spent hours talking to God, writing him love letters called Psalms, and praying for the ability to serve and understand the Creator of the universe.

David was hardworking, a deep thinker, and fearless in a fight—think about taking on a lion or bear with a club to protect your sheep. And he was obedient to his father, Jesse, and his Lord.

One day, God sent his prophet Samuel to Jesse’s house to find and anoint the man God had chosen to be the king of Israel from among Jesse’s sons. God told Samuel that man would be, the seemingly least likely choice, David. Because he had a servant’s heart, David was God’s man. God was always at the center of his obedience and motivation.

You might say, from that day forward, David became the poster child for living a big, adventurous life. Sometime later, Jesse sent him to the front lines to deliver food to his brothers who were in King Saul’s army. When David arrived, he saw the king and the entire Israeli army standing on a hillside, overlooking the Elam Valley, paralyzed with fear while a giant of a man, named Goliath, taunted them every morning and night. Goliath was defying the army of the Living God of Israel.

David was furious that this pagan soldier would insult the Lord and defy the army of God and demanded to be allowed to fight Goliath. And so the adventure began! Ever since, the amazing career and life of David—described by God himself as “a man after my own heart” in Acts 13:22—have been immortalized in literature.

For the rest of his life, David continued risking life and limb against the enemies of God and Israel. His motivation? Serving the one true God.  Did he ever fail, ever sin? You bet. But he also begged God for forgiveness, turned from his sin, paid whatever price the Lord demanded as the cost for that sin, and continued to love and serve God until the end of his life. In other words, a life of great worth is one lived for the glory of God. Now that’s an adventure.

What’s your adventure?  I hope mine doesn’t include dead fish …

Questions:
Have you ever considered the possibility that serving God could be the greatest adventure of your life?

If so, how is your life reflecting that viewpoint?

If not, why?

Next Steps:
Ask God to give you clarity as to what he created you for by checking out the lives of some of the great heroes of the Bible. Pray for God to lead you into your own adventure serving him.

If you need help, call one of our campus pastors.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for making life about so much more than chores, jobs, and the day-to-day. I pray that you would help me live a life worthy of a child of God. Focus my perspective on you and whatever adventure you have for me, and give me the ability to be your servant all the days of my life. 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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Who Am I?

The daughter of Pharaoh found Moses floating down the river in a basket and adopted him. Although Moses was born a Hebrew, he grew up in the home of Pharaoh. As a young man, Moses witnessed an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. Moses killed the Egyptian (Exodus 2:12). Fearing he would be found out, he ran away to Midian, leaving behind the convenience, comfort, and control of being the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. In Midian, Moses married, had a son, and lived a good and simple life.

Then one day, God spoke to Moses in the form of a burning bush. God told Moses, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt” (Exodus 3:7). Moses listened and was amazed by the bush that didn’t burn up. God spoke many things to Moses and then said, “Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).

Moses didn’t want to go. He protested to God that the people wouldn’t believe him. But God promised to be with Moses, to convince the people and Pharaoh. So Moses decided to leave his life, again. He had faith in the power of God—Moses knew God would honor his promise.

Because Moses had witnessed the Egyptian cruelty imposed on the Hebrews, it likely made a significant impact on his decision to, once again, leave the convenience and comfort of his life and his family to venture out in faith. Moses once had enough compassion for the Hebrews that it caused him to take another man’s life. Now, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob was promising to be with him so that he could approach the situation with more power than he had ever known before. Although Moses didn’t cross over to the promised land, God was with him all the way, and the Hebrews were freed from slavery.

Being in a relationship with God makes all the difference when you’re faced with uncomfortable inconvenience or about to embark on an adventure. I look back over my life and remember situations in which God asked me to give up something in order to be a blessing to someone else. God’s blessings and bounty in my life are undeniable. I don’t deserve any of them, but Jesus made me worthy by dying on that cross for my sin. He can do the same for you and anyone who calls on his name!

Questions:
Is God calling you to give up some comfort or convenience to make a difference in the life of someone else? Do you have faith that God will fulfill his promises?

Next Steps:
Read the stories of Moses in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers. Think about the comfort and conveniences Moses had to let go of to follow God’s will. Meditate on what God has asked you to let go of to bless your life or for you to be a blessing.

Prayer:
God, you are my Father, most holy and worthy of my praise. Thank you for the courage it takes to let go of my own desire to make a difference in the life of another. Help me to see where you are at work in my surroundings and strengthen me to join you there. Open the eyes of my heart Lord, that my legacy would be as a servant of the most high God. This world, this country, these people need you. I lift them up to you Lord—have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and lead us in life everlasting.  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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Noah Was a Hero

When I hear the name Noah, the first thought that comes to mind is that he was the builder of the ark. Although this is true, Noah was much more—he was the only righteous man living on Earth. Because of Noah’s unwavering faith in God, God spared all living animals, Noah, and his family (eight people), and the planet itself. Can you even imagine living in a world where EVERYONE is evil to their core? How did Noah remain faithful? He walked closely with God.

Genesis 6:8-9
8 But Noah found favor with the Lord. 9 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on the earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

Hebrews 11:7
It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

Noah’s righteousness did not come from his character or self-control; it was his faith. Faith resides in your mind and heart but shows up in your walk with God. Even though experience was against the probability that the flood would occur, Noah was faithful. He left convention behind and embraced adventure as he followed the Lord’s commands.

During the weekend services, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder interviewed Nathan Cook, a participant on the show Naked and Afraid. He was dropped off in a jungle with nothing, not even the clothes on his back. He left everything behind to go on an adventure of survival.

In contrast, the adventure on which Noah embarked involved risk and had no guarantee of success, but he simply obeyed God. What did Noah leave behind? At the onset, he left the comfort of his daily routine to undertake the back-breaking task of building the ark. Once on the ark, he then left behind the comforts of his home, the conveniences of having necessities at his fingertips, and the control of everything he knew thus far in his life. By accepting the invitation to step into a bold and risky adventure Noah experienced something very meaningful and significant. Noah’s adventure was like no other and allowed him to experience God’s faithfulness and saving grace in an amazing way.

Questions:
Would you go on an adventure like Nathan? Would you go on an adventure like Noah? Was your response different? If so, why?

Next Steps:
Read Genesis 6-9 for the complete story of Noah and the ark. Pay close attention to how God’s heart changed from broken (Genesis 6:6) to compassionate (Genesis 8:21).

Prayer:
Dear Father in Heaven, give me wisdom to be like Noah. Thank you for the rainbow as a sign of your covenant to Christ followers. Thank you for sending your Son to die on the cross for my sins. Help me to seek out unbelievers so I can introduce them to the life-changing adventure with you! In Jesus’ name, amen.


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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A Life-Changing Adventure

During the weekend service, Ben interviewed Nate Cook, a CedarCreek attendee who experienced quite an adventure on the television show Naked and Afraid. CedarCreek’s mission is to introduce people to Jesus and the life-changing adventure with him. But what is an “adventure”?

An adventure, as Ben defined, is “a bold undertaking, usually involving danger and unknown risks, that leads to exciting new experiences.”

If adventures usually involve danger and unknown risks, that means there’s no guarantee of success or safety when you go on them. It’s enough to make some of us wonder, “Why should we go on an adventure at all?”

Personally, I’ve struggled with perfectionism most of my life. There have been times when I felt it was better to not try something at all, rather than risk failing at it—so part of me recoils at the idea of success not being guaranteed. Maybe you’re like me, or maybe the idea of safety not being guaranteed makes you anxious.

But you know what? The times I’ve decided to do something adventurous have led to some of the most life-changing experiences for me—experiences that shaped who I am, helped me grow in ways I couldn’t imagine, brought me closer to God, and honestly, completely altered the path I was on.

For example, in my senior year of high school, I applied for my college’s “Freshman Irish Studies Program.” I had lived in the same house, in the same small town, since I was three.  I had known many of my friends since elementary school, and some even since kindergarten. But if I was accepted into this program, I would spend my first semester of college (which was already a big shift for me) in a foreign country with a group of students I’d never met before.

I was accepted, and that experience changed my life forever. My own family still says I came back changed (in a good way), and nearly seven years later, the people I met on that trip are still some of my most trusted friends. Applying was scary, but it was the best decision I’ve made in my life, so far.

However, if we are looking to have adventurous opportunities following Jesus, there are things we need to surrender:

  • Convenience
  • Comfort
  • Control

Spending my first semester in a different country was not comfortable; it definitely wasn’t convenient; and there was a lot outside of my control. I had no idea what to expect. But looking back, I wouldn’t exchange that experience for anything—definitely not for those three Cs.

When you see that surrendering those things can lead to adventurous opportunities, it changes your perspective on uncomfortable, inconvenient, or uncontrollable experiences you might have previously avoided.

You start to realize what you might have thought of as an inconvenience, a threat, or underlying anxiety before is really an invitation to step into the bold and risky adventure in front of you—which can lead to experiences that are truly meaningful and fulfilling.

Over the next four days, we’ll look at four characters from the Bible and how they surrendered areas of convenience, comfort, and control by choosing to live by faith—and as a result, lived full and meaningful lives.

Questions:
Think of a time God called you into an adventure. Did you follow? What was the result?

What opportunities are you avoiding for the sake of your comfort, convenience, or control? What would it take to get you to take the step God is calling you to make?

Next Steps:
Read Matthew 16:25. Reflect on this verse and what it means to give up your life for Jesus’ sake. Write it down. Memorize it.

The next time you find yourself avoiding something for the sake of your comfort, convenience, or control, pause and ask yourself if God is calling you into an adventure. Pray and seek God’s direction.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the life-changing adventure you call us into. Thank you for being faithful and trustworthy—we know that no matter where you lead us, you’ll be there with us. Help us to listen for and follow your guidance. Teach us to surrender comfort, convenience, and control so we can follow the exciting plans you have for us. May your will be done in us and through us. Amen.


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 First and Greatest Commandment

Boy, this has been a year! And we’re not even halfway through it. Like all of you, I have been forced to realize I have WAY less control over my life than I once thought. And as a white woman, I am turning inward again and assessing the harsh truth that there are many people who don’t share what I have taken for granted my whole life. This inward analysis is a start, but it, by no means, is the end of my role.

Matthew 22:36-40
36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

During the weekend service, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder and his wife, Lauren, had a conversation about racism with the lead pastor of The Tabernacle in Toledo, Dr. Calvin Sweeney, and his wife, Christine. Ben and Lauren asked the question, “What does love require of me?” Calvin and Christine gave us some places to start:

  • Look for opportunities to connect with people who don’t look like you.
  • Listen to understand, not just respond.
  • Learn about racial injustices.
  • Leave behind false narratives.
  • Come with a posture of humility.

Galatians 6:2
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.

Jesus carried our burden of sin, even though we can do nothing to return the favor. He is the perfect model of love, and part of loving others is to carry each other’s burdens. The weekend message closed with a song called “Let Love Lead” by Terrain. Take a look at the lyrics.

“Let Love Lead” by Terrain

If we are in Christ
There’s no black or white
There’s no left or right
God give us your eyes
Help us to erase
The bitterness and hate
So there is only love

We have seen how wicked our ways are without God at the center of our lives. We tend to create reasons to divide instead of looking for ways to unite. The only way to help and genuinely change is to invite God in, allowing him to reveal to our hearts the prejudices that we may not even be aware of. Only he can erase them and put his love in their place. Don’t take a backseat role in this one, friends. If you find yourself unaffected by what is happening, recognize it as the privilege it is. Those who don’t share it aren’t able to set this problem on the back burner.

Questions:
When it comes to showing love to others, you can live it out today. You can live it out in your neighborhood and in your daily life. Where do you have an opportunity to love others who don’t look like you?

Next Steps:
Take a moment and listen to “Let Love Lead.” Really listen to the lyrics, and invite God to examine your heart.

Prayer:
God, please reveal to me the prejudices I have. Take them away. I pray that you put your love in their place. Please help me to understand what people who don’t look like me are going through. Help me to listen to their hurts and empathize with their struggles. God, I pray that I can love others like you do. And help me to do so from a humble stance. Unite us, God. We need you so badly. 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.


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Grace-Filled Conversations

In 1972, a song called “Black and White” by the group Three Dog Night contained the lyrics:

The ink is black, the page is white
Together we learn to read and write
A child is black, a child is white
Together they grow to see the light
And now, at last
We plainly see
We’ll have a dance of liberty

This is far from what we really see happening today. During the weekend service, Christine Sweeney from The Tabernacle said that relationships need grace. Grace allows open communication, honest communication, and imperfect communication. If conversations had to be perfect, we would never have them.

Ephesians 4:2
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

At one time or another, most of us have been offended by the words and actions of others. These offenses hinder our spiritual growth and are a trap by the enemy to cripple and ensnare us. An offense can become an obstacle that inhibits our ability to hear God’s voice, a roadblock that prevents us from experiencing the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

The opposite of offend is love—when you fill your heart with love, there is no room for bitterness, rejection, and unforgiveness. What (or should I say who) is the source of this love? Jesus. We must accept Christ as the perfect sacrifice who suffered and died on the cross, only to rise again. He is the only bridge sinful men can cross to receive forgiveness and the Father’s love. It is there we learn to love each other, as Christ loves us.

The commands to love one another (John 13:34) and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) were given and modeled by Jesus, who was extremely compassionate. Now, these commands are expected of his followers.

In the words of Lead Pastor Ben Snyder, “Being ‘not a racist’ is not enough. Be an anti-racist.” He told us that we need to speak out—even when it’s uncomfortable—or racism will never go away.

James 4:6
And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Questions:
How comfortable are you talking about race?

What does love require of us when it comes to the injustices of racism? Is there something you need to start doing? Is there anything you need to stop doing? How will you check yourself and hold yourself accountable if you notice you, or someone else, is being racist?

Next Steps:
We waste our time waiting for a path to appear, but it never does. We forget that paths are made by walking, not waiting, and we forget that there’s nothing about our present circumstances that prevents us from making progress, one step at a time. Look for an opportunity to connect with someone who doesn’t look like you today.

Prayer:
Lord, examine my heart and root out the racism hiding there. Show me my blind spots and help me to see the truth, even when it is uncomfortable. I want to know the truth that will set me free. Help me to treat others as I would like to be treated. Give me opportunities today to demonstrate your love for all people. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


This post was written by Gary Schnabel, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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It Takes Humility and Empathy

In yesterday’s devotional, we read eight ways to open the door to honest conversation. Today, I want to look at the first three:

1)         Simply be a listener.
2)        Don’t try to fix them or the situation.
3)        Be present.

So often in our conversations (with anyone), we don’t really listen—we just wait for our turn to talk. Instead, we need to listen to understand, not just respond—especially when their perspective is very different from our own.

Unfortunately, some people, including Christians, “have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2).

It’s tragic, because that’s simply not how Jesus would respond—and as Christians, we’re called to respond as he would. Jesus  often sat across the table and shared meals with others who were different from him.  Jesus listened with genuine empathy. The heart of Jesus is to love all people on earth, and you can’t do that if you’re not willing to take a step outside of your bubble, engage with people who are different from you, and listen with humility and a genuine desire to understand.

We know Jesus would respond with humility and empathy because he does it time and time again. One example can be found in John 11 where we see an interaction between Jesus and Mary after her brother Lazarus’ death.

John 11:33-35
33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept.

Jesus wept—it’s the shortest verse in the Bible, but it’s powerful. It reveals God’s heart. Jesus knew he would restore Lazarus’ life, but even still, it caused him great pain to see Mary’s and the mourners’ despair. He listened, he heard the hurts of others, and he responded with empathy.

Unlike Jesus, we don’t know everything and we can’t see everything. Our all-knowing, all-powerful God stopped to understand those around him, be present in the moment, and be humble enough to feel genuine empathy instead of immediately trying to fix the problem—so who are we to think, when others share their perspectives with us, that we have the answers and solutions? We need to enter difficult situations with humility: having “a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.” If God himself isn’t too important to show humility, clearly neither are we.

It takes humility to have difficult conversations, especially about racism, and to genuinely listen—to understand and not just to respond. Hear their hurts. Have empathy. It may not be easy, but know that Jesus is with you, weeping with you. He wants us to heal, to mend our broken relationships. If we are willing to take that first step of humility, God will change our minds and open our eyes to the kind of relationships only love can rebuild.

Questions:
Do you usually listen to respond or to understand? What does it look like to listen with the goal of understanding?

What humbling step do you need to take to mend a relationship with someone who looks and speaks differently than you do?

What does it reveal about God’s heart that he weeps for broken relationships?

How do you think God would change your mind and open your eyes if you were to take that step of humility?

Next Steps:
Put yourself in situations to meet people who look differently than you. Take a step to better understand or grow a relationship with someone who doesn’t look like you or may have differing viewpoints.

Journal about your pride and what keeps you from humility. Instead of turning away from someone who looks and speaks differently than you do, respond differently—treat them like Jesus would.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, it excites your heart when you see the people of the church love different people of the earth—when they have conversations with others who have different perspectives and experiences than they do. It is a hard thing to step into. It takes letting go of pride and stepping into humility to sit across from different people. I pray that you will search my heart and reveal any root of pride that I refuse to let go of. I pray for a spirit of humility to take a step to mend a relationship with someone who is different. I pray that I could respond differently and be like Jesus and that this step of humility would change my heart and my mind. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by the LivingItOut team.


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Begin the Conversation

Several months ago, I was volunteering at GrowthTrack and met a wonderful and amazing woman named C.C. She had a smile that warmed my heart, and I was instantly drawn to her. She has such a heart for God. Occasionally, we would see each other at the Creek, where we would hug and chat for a few minutes. We hadn’t seen each other since the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, so we arranged to get together. We had a wonderful afternoon sharing stories, laughing, and really bonding. A few days later, I noticed on Facebook that she was torn up about what had happened to George Floyd. I called to offer her support and let her know I was praying for her.

I admit, I have really struggled with my feelings about racism in the last few weeks. In the past, I was falsely accused of racism, and the accusation tore my heart out. It is very hard for me to articulate my feelings about this—I feel I need to be really careful about what I do or say so I don’t offend anyone. Even though I believe that any form of racism is completely evil, I almost passed on writing this devotional. In the end, I decided that I needed to step out of my comfort zone.

I called my beautiful friend and asked for her help writing this piece. She told me that she was very happy to hear CedarCreek was focusing on such a tough topic as racism. It is her belief that “the church has been divided a long time over racism.” These are her thoughts in her own words:

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a black woman. Marsha has become one of my dear friends, and we have honest conversations about the topic of racism. As we are becoming better friends, I know she has a kind and teachable heart and wants to learn more about my culture—and love me through it—just like many of my black brothers and sisters who have experienced racism firsthand. Some of my white brothers and sisters want to know what to do to help, which is good. For true Christian love and understanding to occur, we must first be willing to open the door to honest communication.

1)         Simply be a listener.
2)        Don’t try to fix them or the situation.
3)        Be present.
4)        Put yourself in their shoes and view the world from their perspective.
5)        Offer to help. Ask, “What would you like me to do for you?” By offering to be a friend and help, grieve, or rejoice with a black person (or other minority group), you open the door for healing.
6)        Keep politics or divisive topics out of the conversation.
7)        Seek to educate yourself about their experiences, and seek to understand them more. This is what Jesus did.
8)        Be lovingly responsive and not reactive.

These eight steps for honest communication will be tough to accomplish. It is hard to remove the mask and be vulnerable with another person. But we as friends are choosing to love each other as Jesus loves us by staying committed to him and each other through this process.

John 13:35 (NIV)
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Questions:
How comfortable are you talking about racism? What do you think about these eight steps of honest communication? Which ones do you struggle with most? Which ones are you good at?

Next Steps:
Hang out with a friend who is different than you. Visit their house and really get to know them. Share your stories with each other. Go to cultural functions with them. Have fun and enjoy each other. Be willing to have open conversations about difficult topics, including racism.

Prayer:
Father, we are all sinful. The sin of racism has caused so much hurt, pain, and division in our country. I pray that we would be like you, Jesus. Help us to show people your love—by being kind, listening, and realizing we need you to heal our hearts and our communities. Teach us our part and what we need to do to be agents of change and reconciliation. Forgive us for our prejudices—for, at times, continuing to perpetuate the sin of racism. Help us to love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Help us to embrace our differences and learn from each other. Make us one, Lord. Thank you for your love and forgiveness, and let us extend that to those who are different from us. Amen.


This post was written by Marsha Raymond in conjunction with C.C. Eichelberger. 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. C.C. Eichelberger loves to lead others and help them grow closer to God. She is a worship leader at CedarCreek, a prayer warrior, and a group leader. Her smile is as beautiful as her voice.


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On the Journey

We are all on a journey. Our life’s journey includes twists and turns—and through each one, we learn, grow, and even change course. I’m thankful for the bold and courageous decision our church leaders made when they chose to open the door for a conversation about racism. Racism is messy, but as Lead Pastor Ben Snyder said, “The church should be the safest place on the planet to talk about anything.”

Across our CedarCreek campuses, a variety of races, cultures, political views, and a myriad of other unique types of diversity are represented. That diversity may not create an environment where everyone agrees on everything, but that’s OK—because the truth is found in the messy middle. Talking about racism can be painful and uncomfortable. However, racism is a part of ALL of our journeys in some way, shape, or form. It’s important to hear viewpoints that are different from our own, look introspectively, and see where we each have room to grow and learn.

During the weekend service, Dr. Calvin Sweeney (author, speaker, and lead pastor for The Tabernacle in Toledo) defined racism as hatred based on skin color, believing one is superior over another, and having racial prejudices. Each of those definitions packs a punch that is worth reflecting upon. What can I learn? Where can I grow?

With such an emotionally charged topic like racism, it is easy to get lost in the back and forth dialogue, in the insults and accusations, and in a spirit of defensiveness. But that is not how Jesus wants us to respond. In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (emphasis added).

Admittedly, this is hard. When insults are hurling on social media or when arguments break out at a family dinner—it is HARD to be loving. Through the LivingItOut Bible Study this week, we are going to delve into practical, biblical steps we can all take to learn, grow, and reflect the light and love of Jesus during this emotionally charged season and beyond. If we exist to introduce people to Jesus and the life-changing adventure with him, then it’s imperative we learn how to embrace our differences and truly listen to each other. Thanks for joining us on this journey!

Questions:
Where are you on this journey? Have you experienced racism? Do you believe you have room to grow in regard to racism? Would you consider yourself anti-racist? Finally, what do you base your opinion on?

Next Steps:
Ask God to open your mind and heart to show you areas where you have room to grow in regard to racism. Look into some resources you can watch or read that may help you explore other perspectives. RightNow Media has a number of studies on the topic. Ask God for wisdom, patience, and grace as you move forward. We are all on a journey, and the next step is up to you.

Prayer:
God, you are so gracious to us. Help us to be gracious to each other, and even extend grace to ourselves, as we journey along life’s twists and turns. Show us where we can grow, learn, and be more like Jesus. Help us to embrace a posture of humility and surrender to you. Thank you that each person reading this matters to you and that your love supersedes race, political views, and our shortcomings. Help us to love others like you love us. You are so wonderful. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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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“How can we live in such a place?”

This weekend, Barb Roose quoted Corrie ten Boom, who said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.”

We can all learn from Corrie ten Boom’s life. She loved people and had compassion for those around her who were being persecuted. So much so that she put herself at risk to help them. Corrie and her family helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II by hiding them in their home. Eventually, the Nazis discovered the Ten Boom’s house and arrested them. Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to Scheveningen prison, and then from Scheveningen to Herzogenbusch (a political concentration camp also known as Kamp Vught), and finally to the Ravensbrück concentration camp (a women’s labor camp in Germany).

We get a glimpse of how Corrie and her sister were able to live in the awful conditions at Ravensbrück through the story of a powerful conversation had by a group of women prisoners. One day, Corrie had had enough of the fleas biting her legs and said, “How can we live in such a place?” Betsie responded to her sister by sharing that God had given her the answer to her question in the Bible verse she had read that morning. Betsie’s proclamation gained the women’s attention, so they quickly took out their Bible and read from 1 Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

After reading the verse, Corrie looked around at her awful surroundings. She saw a dirty room with wooden bunk beds full of cold, hungry, and sick women. She took in the terrible smell that couldn’t be escaped, and she felt her legs full of flea bites. But then, as she thought about that verse, she started to see all that she had to be thankful for. She saw her sister, who was there with her. She thought about the fact that there wasn’t an inspection upon their arrival, making it possible to smuggle in the Bible they held in their hands. And she saw a room full of women, hearing and learning about Jesus for the first time through that Bible.

After reading this verse, Corrie’s perspective completely changed. Her focus moved from the negative things about her surroundings to the many blessings she had. This shift was the answer to her question, “How can we live in such a place?” This weekend, Barb challenged us to put on our “gratitude glasses.” She asked us to look around our world and our surroundings and to begin choosing to see all the things that we have to be grateful for.

At first, you may not see it, or you may not see much. But the longer you wear your gratitude glasses, the more things will become evident to you. You will begin to see that there is reason to rejoice, no matter the season or circumstance you find yourself in. After all, if Corrie ten Boom could rejoice and be grateful in a place like the Ravensbrück concentration camp, surely, we can find a reason to rejoice today.

Questions:
Do you find yourself giving more weight to the negative experiences in your life or the positive experiences?

How can you take steps to change your perspective and put on your gratitude glasses?

Next Steps:
List three things that happened today or yesterday that you are thankful for, and share your answers with someone.

Read more about Corrie ten Boom’s story and how she learned to be grateful for the fleas.

Fill out the Friday’s section of the Summer Side of Life Journal.

Prayer:
Dear God, I have so much to be thankful for today. Because of you I have a reason to be grateful in every season and every circumstance. Forgive me for the times that I only see the negative around me, and help me to put on my gratitude glasses today so that I can see my many blessings. Father, use me to be a light and voice of thanksgiving to others so that we can rise above today’s challenges and honor you in the midst of them. I pray this in Jesus’ name. 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.


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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