Looking to Be Noticed

Today’s Scripture: Luke 19 & 20

As a young boy, I grew up going to church almost every Sunday morning. I remember my family putting on our Sunday best and heading to Sunday school to start our day. Children’s church was always a highlight of my week, and I loved singing songs and making the motions that accompanied them.

If you grew up with a similar church experience, you probably remember singing songs like Father Abraham, I’ve Got the Joy, and My God is So Great. One of my favorite songs was entitled Zacchaeus. This song captures the story of a small little man and his encounter with Jesus.

It is short and simple and goes like this:

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
And a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see.
And as the Savior passed that way
He looked up in the tree and he said,
‘Zacchaeus you come down, For I’m going to your house today!’
For I’m going to your house today!
Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
But a happy man was he,
For he had seen the Lord that day
And a happy man was he;
And a very happy man was he.”

As a young boy, I was one of the smaller kids, so I liked the idea that God would call out someone who was small to have lunch with him. I missed that there is more going on in this story though than the happy little song mentions.

We read in verse two of Luke 19 that Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector for the Roman government. At this time in history, Jews were under Roman rule and had to pay taxes to them. A fellow Jew would be appointed to collect these taxes, and it was well known that they often took more money than required. In essence, tax collectors were stealing from their Jewish neighbors and keeping it for themselves. No doubt, at the time of this story, the Jewish community that Zacchaeus was a part of did not like him. They viewed him as a traitor, a thief, and a sinner. Zacchaeus’ height was not his most significant issue. His biggest issue was his selfish and sinful heart because it was hurting those around him and isolating him from his community.

Zacchaeus finds himself at the beginning of Luke 19, rich in resources but poor in spirit and friends. I believe he was desperate for a change and a solution. No doubt, he had heard about Jesus’ miracles, his teachings, and his inclusive nature. Perhaps Jesus had the answers he was looking for, and he wanted to see it for himself and thus made every effort to get a glimpse. In the end, he received more than a glimpse. He received an invitation to connect, and it changed him forever.

Luke 19:8-10
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Questions:
Zacchaeus did all he could to get a glimpse of Jesus, what are you currently doing to connect with him? What emotions might Zacchaeus have been feeling when Jesus called him down from the tree? How have your encounters with Jesus changed you?

Next Steps:
Take a moment and think about your current circumstances. Write down the ones that seem overwhelming and present them to God. As a church we will be in a season of prayer and fasting throughout January. Commit to participating in this and connecting with God as we start a new year. Visit cedarcreek.tv/21days for resources.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for pursuing us and for inviting us to be in a relationship with you. Just like Jesus invited Zacchaeus to experience life change, you also invite us to know you more, to find freedom, to discover our purpose, and to make an eternal difference. Help me see how I can grow in those areas and give me the strength to trust you more each day. In Jesus’ name, I pray, 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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Persistent in Prayer

Today’s Scripture: Luke 17 & 18

Our youngest daughter, Sarah, has been tenacious since she was a little girl. She was never afraid to ask for something. Our girl is persistent. She would ask and ask, even if we told her, “No.” Sometimes she would drive my husband and me crazy. Eventually, we would have to threaten punishment if she asked for something again.

She became more creative at asking for things as she got older. We got into this pattern. She would ask me to do something, I would discuss it with my husband, we would think about what was best for her and our family, then we would make a decision. (Usually what she asked for involved travel and was very expensive.)

If I said “no” to her request, she would frequently pester me to let her do what she wanted to do. At times she would drive me nuts. Finally, I would tell her to go talk to her dad. She would talk to him and he would listen. He loved her enough to really think about what was best for her.

I remember once she wanted to go to a leadership conference that was very expensive. (We had already paid for many expensive adventures for her.) We went through our normal pattern. She asked me, I talked to my husband, we agreed the answer was no, I told her no, she pestered me relentlessly, and I sent her to talk to her dad.

This time when she talked to her dad, she had a well thought out plan on how to raise money to help pay for the conference. I have to admit, I was proud of our girl. My husband was very impressed. He told her, “If you follow through with your plan to raise money, I will pay the rest.” Sarah went to the leadership conference.

We both deeply love our daughter. We want her to always feel free to come to us with her needs and wants. Sometimes the things she asks for are not good for her and we have to say no. Other times we decide we want to bless her. It always makes us joyful to bless our children.

I thought of Sarah when I read about the persistent widow. Luke 18 starts with Jesus telling the disciples to pray and never give up. Part of praying is asking God for what you want.

Luke 18:1
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should pray and never give up.

Jesus told the disciples about a judge who was very selfish. He didn’t care about people or fear God. There was a widow who wanted justice on an issue. She went to this judge constantly and asked for justice. She was persistent and would not take no for an answer. The widow drove the judge crazy. Finally, he ruled in her favor. He ruled this way because he was sick of her bothering him. He didn’t care about what happened to the widow or about justice. He wanted her to leave him alone. Luke 18 goes on to say:

Luke 18:6-8
6 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. 7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on earth who have faith?

I am so thankful that our God is merciful, loving, and kind. He wants the best for us and he wants us to ask for what we need and want. Sometimes he says, “Yes,” and sometimes he says, “No.” I am positive he has a good reason for the no’s and has something better planned for us. He is our loving daddy. We can trust him because he is faithful.

Questions:
How often do you pray and ask God for what you need? How persistent are you? Do you trust God to answer your prayers in the ways that are best for you? Explain.

Next Steps:
Think about the longing of your heart. Ask God for what you need and wait for him to answer you. Journal your prayer and his answers. Trust him.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I am in awe that you, Almighty God, want to hear my prayers. I trust you with all my worries, my cares and my difficulties. I am so grateful that you have a perfect plan for my life. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that you care so deeply for me and want to have a deep relationship with me. I trust you! I praise you for your faithfulness. Amen.


This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.


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Everlasting Father

Today’s Scripture: Luke 15 & 16

Matthew 1:23
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’

Today, we celebrate Jesus’ birth. The extent of God’s love for us was demonstrated through the birth of his son. Our relationship with God is restored through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Today’s scripture reminds us just how much God desires to be in relationship with us. In Luke 15 we read the story of the prodigal son’s disobedience to his father, his brother’s jealousy, and the unexpected reaction from his father upon his return.

Luke 15:20-21
So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

His father was filled with compassion, joy, and love. His son was home, and he, as his father, had much to celebrate.

Luke 15:32
“We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!”

As Christians, we must remember God views us as his children. And he goes to great lengths to save us from our disobedience and bring us into a relationship with him.

1 John 1:9
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

This parable also shows the extent of God’s love for his children. He never gives up on us, regardless of how far we stray.

Psalms 118:2
Let all Israel repeat: “His faithful love endures forever. “

We need to remind ourselves that we were once the ones who were lost and God came in pursuit of us to save us by his grace. Remember your own desperate need for grace? How wonderful that all of heaven rejoices whenever a sinner repents and returns to God.

Luke 15:7
“In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!”

James 1:18
“He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”

Questions:
How do our own life experiences and values influence our understanding of what is going on in Jesus’s story? What does that tell us about ourselves?

Next Steps:
Keep your mind open this Christmas Day while among friends, relatives, and/or strangers who are searching and waiting to be found. Invite them to watch services on January 5-6 or attend your campus on January 11-12, 18-19, 25-26.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for loving me so much that you sent your one and only son to make a way for me to have an everlasting relationship with you. Amen.


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


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The Narrow Door

Today’s Scripture: Luke 13 & 14

Luke 13:22-24
22 Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He replied, 24 “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail.

This passage caught my attention because Jesus’ response to the question is to “work hard.” “But salvation is a gift,” I thought. “I know I’ve read that somewhere!” So, I googled it! And sure enough there it was.

Ephesians 2:8-10
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Sometimes I run into passages that seem to contradict others. Further reading and investigation, however, lead me to a better understanding. The true meaning lies not so much in what we do, but in why we do it!

If I teach Sunday School, serve dinner at a homeless shelter, or write for the LivingItOut Bible Study in order to be seen by the world so I can brag about what a good Christian or person I am, my motives are wrong. Doing these things are good, but they can’t offer you salvation! Only Jesus can.

In giving my life to Christ, I felt like a new person, because I was! I started to work hard on changing old habits and attitudes that didn’t reflect my new life. I had to give up some of my old friends and old hangouts. For a while I was lost, but God took me to new and better places. He’s filled my heart with joy, love, and a peace that surpasses understanding.

My motives for doing good have really changed! Writing for the LivingItOut gives me an opportunity to explore the Word of God in more depth, and hopefully it helps deepen the readers’ relationship with God. My motivation comes from my relationship with Jesus, rather than a desire for selfish glory. I promise, if God can do that for me, he can do it for you too!

Questions:
What is your motive for doing good? Are you in a relationship with Christ? Do you find yourself bragging about the good that you’ve done? Do you expect to get something in return for your kindness or good works?

Next Steps:
This Christmas season show kindness to someone each day and then check your motive. Read Luke 13 and 14 and look for ways that Jesus showed kindness and do likewise. Journal the experience.

Prayer:
Jesus, you are God, and you came to us as a human, a precious gift from the Father. Each day I celebrate and sing praises to your name because you are worthy. Thank you for coming to Earth to live among us and teach us your ways. I offer my life to you. Lord, fill me with your Spirit. Meet my needs to do your will. Help me to be forgiving. Not my will, but yours be done. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Julie Estep, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Door #1, 2, or 3?

Today’s Scripture: Luke 11 & 12

Looking ahead to next year, I am excited for the doors God is opening in my life. I will be finishing my first year of college. I am turning 21 and I have an opportunity to travel. Even though I am excited, it has been hard to focus on God. I tend to force doors open instead of seeking God and waiting to see which door he will open for me. In Luke 12:31-32, Jesus tells us to pursue his kingdom above all else and he will give us what we need. God will provide direction and tell us which door to open. It may not be what we think we need because our scope is limited, but God’s scope is unlimited. God allows us to open any door because we have free will, but he wants us to choose the right door.

How do we seek him? By being persistent in prayer and reading the Bible. Through scripture, Jesus taught us that fasting can help us to focus as we pray, read the Bible, and seek God’s will.

In Luke 11:8, Jesus tells a story about shameless persistence. When you keep knocking, (that is asking or praying), God provides. God wants you to enjoy things because he loves you. It may mean the door you were pursuing has closed, but God is there and will ultimately open a door that you never knew existed. Be persistent in prayer so you are ready when that door opens

Questions:
What door are you waiting for God to open? Did you pray for guidance, or were you trying to force the door open? Is there something that distracts you from seeking God’s kingdom? Are you persistent in prayer? If not, why not?

Next Steps:
Take time to think about where you are focusing your attention. Encourage yourself to pray daily if it’s not already a habit. If you are seeking direction, then lean on God by fasting and persistent prayer.

Prayer:
Jesus, being persistent in prayer is hard, but it is well worth it. Please continue to provide direction to the doors you are opening. I am sorry that I am guilty of trying to force doors open. I pray for patience and that during this uncertain time you will provide me with what is needed. You know what needs are required for your kingdom. Please open my hands so I can receive what that is. Thank you for what you are doing in my life and what you are providing. I am keeping my eyes fixed on you because I want to walk through the right door. For in doing so, I hope to live a life that’s worthy of your calling. In Jesus’ name, amen!


This post was written by Rebecca Roberts, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Live a Balanced Life

Today’s Scripture: Luke 10

Today’s reading contains one of Jesus’ most famous parables, that of the Good Samaritan (v. 25-37). This parable teaches us that we should actively do good deeds out of compassion and not because we expect something in return. It therefore teaches us how to serve and love others through our actions. Verses 38-42 balance the Good Samaritan parable by pointing out the dangers of getting so caught up in the acts of loving and serving others that we forget the all-important relationship of listening to Jesus.

Luke 10:38-42          
38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” 41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The tale of two sisters, Martha and Mary, took place in a culture in which women were expected to be hospitable by preparing food and serving guests. Martha fulfilled the culture-driven role while Mary assumed the role of a man by sitting at Jesus’ feet and receiving his teachings. Martha was so consumed by the tasks of entertaining and exasperated by Mary’s lack of help that she lost sight of the fact that spending time and listening to Jesus was the most important activity at that point in time.

We know from several verses in the Bible that Jesus had a close relationship with Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus. John 11:3 tells us that Jesus loved Lazarus so much that when he was sick, the sisters sent a message to him stating that “your dear friend is very sick.” There was no need to mention his name, Jesus knew who they had written about. John 11:5 tells us that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Their home was a place where Jesus and his disciples could feel safe. This close relationship with Christ may have given Martha the self-confidence to interrupt his teachings and complain about Mary’s lack of help. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Martha-type. I cannot imagine interrupting Jesus and demanding that he should force someone to help me! Martha did what everyone expected from a host and Mary did not. To Martha it appeared that Mary was the one out of line, however, Jesus rebuked her. He reprimanded her for being distracted and not for her hospitality. It was not wrong for Martha to serve others; it was wrong for her to be concerned about what Mary was doing.

It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the busyness of serving others that we get distracted. We need to stop serving, sit at his feet, and listen to him.

Questions:
Whom are you serving in your serving? What should be the highest priority in our lives? Do you need to stop worrying about others and sit at Jesus’ feet?

Next Steps:   
Reflect on your serving. Are you balancing your active and passive roles by the appropriateness of the situation? Journal times when  serving others felt correct, but it caused you to lose sight of why you were serving them. Pray that God will show you how to handle the situation the next time it arises.

Prayer:
Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for your word that gives us guidance on how to live a balanced life. Help make our spirits rich through fellowship and prayer. Thank you for instructing us to be both doers and listeners. Help us to discern our service to be out of grace and not anxiety. Thank you for all you have given us. 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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Your Cross

Today’s Scripture: Luke 9

In our Christmas series, we are unwrapping some topics essential to the craziness of the holidays, and applicable to daily life. The theme verse is Romans 15:13 which says, “I pray that God, the source of HOPE, will fill you completely with JOY and PEACE because you TRUST in him…” In Week 1, we learned that remaining in his love and trusting his way of life will bring JOY because the source of our HOPE determines the depth of our JOY.  This week we learned the source of our HOPE determines the depth of our PEACE.

Luke 9 reiterates two points when he says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way.” (v. 23). Trusting and following his way brings JOY and PEACE. The next line reiterates what it means to follow Jesus when it says to “take up your cross daily.”

What does it mean to take up your cross?

A cross is something you willingly take up. While Jesus wants us to follow him, he will never make anyone follow him. Following Christ is a daily act of worship to give every area of your life over to him (Romans 12:1) and let him transform you into the new person he’s creating you to be (Romans 12:2). Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:7 that when we follow Christ (pick up our cross), we “will experience God’s peace … and his PEACE will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

In her book Girls with Swords: How to Carry Your Cross Like a Hero, Lisa Bevere emphasizes that it is YOUR cross, unique to YOUR journey. The cross stands for forgiveness, love, gratitude, mercy, safety, hope, faith, victory, righteousness, and so much more. It’s a demonstration of all that Jesus has done for us personally. And because of what he has done for us, we can “have peace with God” (Romans 5:1). When we pick up our crosses, it is a way of carrying all that Jesus has done for us to others.  Lisa says that “The cross I carry is all that Jesus has done for me, just as the cross you carry is YOUR gospel, or witness, of what he has done for you.”

Maybe this Christmastime (and beyond) we can pick up our cross and follow Jesus and let the work he’s done, through the cross, be evident in the cross that we carry to others. May our crosses carry JOY and PEACE to those around us. We have this “light shining in our hearts …” and we are like “clay jars containing this great treasure” (1 Corinthians 4:7). There are people around us who need this joy, who need this peace and who need this HOPE.

Questions:
What keeps you from picking up your cross daily? How does this perspective of your cross as a personal witness tool differ from how you’ve heard this verse taught before?

Next Steps:
Reflect on all Jesus has done in your life. Commit to carrying your cross daily—as a daily witness to those around you of the joy, peace, and HOPE that we have from walking with Jesus. Invite someone to church so they too can experience this joy and peace.

Prayer:
Father, I confess I have not carried my cross daily. Please forgive me and help me to carry it daily. Thank you for this reminder that the cross is a picture of all that Jesus accomplished on the cross and all he has done in my life. May my life be a reflection of you, and may I be a vessel, a clay jar, that shares this hope with others.  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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Fertile Soil

Today’s Scripture: Luke 8

As a child, I so loved visiting my grandfather’s Schrebergarten! A Schrebergarten is a small parcel of land right next to the railway lines in the big cities in Germany. Due to the intermittent noise and not so great view, land next to the railway lines is not used for housing but instead is divided into rows and rows of these little private, fenced gardens. Land is very valuable and thus very expensive in Germany, so people do not generally live in houses with backyards (or even front yards). Therefore, a Schrebergarten is a place to retreat to and be close to nature.

My grandfather grew incredible amounts of fruit and vegetables on this small piece of land. Huge carrots, plumb heirloom tomatoes, sweet cherries, bushes with currants weighing down their branches, mouthwatering strawberries, and wonderful potatoes, just to name a few. People who own a Schrebergarten really cherish what their hard labor and love for the land can do with the fertile soil there.

Today’s chapter includes the Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed. This made me instantly think of my grandfather’s garden! Not only is this parable a wonderful allegory about the seed that Jesus’ message planted and how people responded to it so differently, but it is also a reminder of how we need to be mindful as to where we plant our seeds of love. We have only a finite amount of time available to us, so we need to think about where we invest that time with people.

There are people who will always be unreceptive to our love for whatever reason (like the seed landing on the footpath). That does not mean we should not treat them with kindness and respect, but they are not fertile soil for our love. Then there are people who initially respond to our love, but their vanity and selfishness chokes out that love and lets it wither because no true love is returned (like the seed landing between the rocks, growing initially but wilting because of a lack of moisture).

But when we give our love to people who return our love with the same selfless love from a deep place in their heart, the seed can grow into something wonderful, just like the seed that fell onto the fertile soil.

Luke 8:8 (NIV)
Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.

So if we choose wisely and share our love with the right people, we can grow something truly beautiful together. A wonderful bloom that will magnificently reflect God’s love for us. And surely this would please God immensely.

Questions:
Whom are you investing your love and time with? Are they responding in kind, or are they using your love for selfish motives? How does it make you feel when someone responds to your love in a positive and reciprocate way? Is someone investing their love into you? How are you responding and why?

Next Steps:
Make a list of people you are investing your time and love in. Divide them into groups as to how they respond (or not respond) to your love. Decide which people you would like to continue to give your love to or would like to allocate more of your love to. List the people that are investing their love in you and contemplate whether you are returning that love in a true and selfless fashion.

Prayer:
Dear Father, thank you so much for the love you show me on a daily basis. I do not know what I would do without it. Please show me which people I should share with the love that I have inside of me heart! Please show me how to best respond to those who show me their love. Please let me grow your seed of  love into a bountiful crop. Amen.


This post was written by Cordula Mora. Cordula is a neuroscientist who currently works in the Provost office at Bowling Green State University. She was born and raised in Germany, then spent many years living in New Zealand before settling in the US almost 16 years ago. She was raised in a German Protestant church but feels blessed to have been spiritually awakened when she was introduced to CedarCreek Church. She thanks God every day for all the blessings in her life, including two amazing daughters. She is currently looking for someone who would like to serve the Lord with her.


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Do You Surprise Jesus?

Today’s Scripture: Luke 7

In today’s reading, a Roman officer was seeking Jesus’ help to heal his servant. When Jesus approached the officer’s house, the officer felt unworthy of having Jesus in his home and knew that Jesus could instead heal his servant just by saying the words. This faith impressed Jesus, who said he had not seen such faith in all of Israel!

In most of the Biblical tellings of Jesus’ miracles, we see people astonished and amazed at his power. Even his closest friends and followers continued to be shocked at just how much he could do. But before Jesus healed his servant, the Roman officer knew that Jesus could do so in a supernatural way. Because of his knowledge of authority in the military, he had an understanding that Jesus’ followers did not. He knew authority when he saw it. Instead of being surprised at Jesus, he saw that Jesus has authority over the spiritual world.

We sometimes feel entitled to God’s blessings, but we always seem to be caught off guard by Jesus’ workings in our lives. But what if we lived the way the officer did: humble, yet expectant of what Jesus can do?

Luke 7:6-10
6“Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. 7 I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. 8 I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” 10 And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed. 

Jesus enjoys delighting in us. He took a moment to delight in this officer. He values true faith over the religious acts we put in our routines. We don’t see Jesus surprised often. But here, a man who was not one of his followers demonstrated more faith than his followers often did. I wonder whether I surprise him? If so, I hope it’s for my abundance of faith rather than my lack thereof.

Questions:
In what way do you think you surprise Jesus? Is it with an abundance or a lack of faith?

If it’s an abundance, how can you share that gift with others?

If it’s a lack of faith, how might you change that? What barriers are keeping you from going all-in with your faith?

Next Steps:
Identify and write down the areas in which you are clinging to control in your life. These are likely the areas that Jesus is surprised at your lack of faith. Make a plan to let go of control and put your faith in Jesus and his authority.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, I pray that we can all have faith like the Roman officer did. I want to be able to recognize your authority and do so in a humble, not entitled way. I hope to delight you in how big my faith is. Thank you for your grace when my faith is lacking. Amen. 


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee is 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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Flipped Upside-Down

Today’s Scripture: Luke 6

Did you know Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God more than any other topic during his ministry? God’s kingdom is so central to Jesus’s message that he mentions it 106 times in the Gospels. He often proclaimed that the kingdom of God is here and that it is here in Jesus.

Matthew 4:17
From then on, Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Luke 17:20-21
20 One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. 21 You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.”

For those who were in the crowds listening to Jesus, the idea that God would one day come back to take control of the world he created and restore Israel to their place as God’s chosen people was not a new idea. They believed this would happen because the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who lived over hundreds of years before Jesus, predicted it (Isaiah 40:9-11). The crowd was waiting for a savior who would free them from their oppression (Isaiah 42), so there is no doubt when Jesus said that the kingdom of God was here, they leaned in to hear what Jesus was saying.

What they heard Jesus saying wasn’t what they were expecting though. They had thought that the arrival of God’s kingdom would usher in peace, freedom, and prosperity through acts of power and force, but Jesus’s message flipped that completely upside-down.

As we read in Luke 6, Jesus’s message wasn’t about establishing God’s kingdom through force; it was the opposite. The creative writer and director for The Bible Project, Tim Macke, shares that if we want to see what God’s kingdom looks like, we simply have to pay attention to what Jesus did. Macke points out that “he forgave prostitutes, he healed lepers, and he restored social outcasts to community. He brought life-change to those who thought they could never be restored or forgiven.”

In God’s kingdom, there are blessings for those who are poor and hungry. In his kingdom, those who weep will laugh again. In his kingdom, blessings are waiting for those who are insulted, mocked, and hated. Jesus taught us that we should love our enemies and forgive others because this is what God’s kingdom on earth looks like. It is different than any other kingdom that has ever been established on earth. It is a humble kingdom that put others first and is marked by forgiveness and love. Jesus didn’t only teach about what God’s kingdom looks like; he modeled it to the point of death.

Philippians 2:5-11   
5You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 9Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God’s kingdom arrived through Jesus, who came into our world as a helpless baby boy. His name was Emmanuel, God with us. He came to heal, serve, and show us what it looks like to be a part of God’s upside-down kingdom and to make a way for us to be a part of it.

Questions:
How would you describe God’s kingdom?

What about Jesus’s message is upside-down from the world’s beliefs or way of living?

What verses in Luke 6 are most challenging for you to live out? Why?

Next Steps:
Take a moment and write down a few observations of what God’s kingdom looks like?

Prayer:
Dear God, your kingdom is unlike anything this world has ever seen. Your kingdom is marked by putting others first. Being humble and serving others. It is a kingdom full of forgiveness and love. It heals the sick, restores the broken, and transforms lives. Thank you for bringing it to us through your son, Jesus, and for making it possible for us to be part of it. Today I worship you for who you are and praise you for all you have done. In Jesus’s 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.


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We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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