Can You See “Norm” in this Picture? – Where’s Norm?

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When my husband and I bought our house eleven years ago, every room was the same shade of pale green except for two rooms that shared the same shade of pale blue. It was neutral but BORING. As an artistic person who loves color, I knew that the house needed to be completely repainted with big and bold colors. When I told my husband what I envisioned for the house he was skeptical. Navy in the bedroom, eggplant in the kitchen, a green ceiling in the potential nursery, and deep orange in the basement seemed a little bold for him. He couldn’t picture how it would all fit together, but he trusted my “inner eye,” and we went for it. When our friends came to visit our new house, they all loved the bold colors and said it “feels like you.” Eleven years later we still love it. We could have moved in and lived with the anemic green, but we would have been missing out on an opportunity to make the house our own and create a home that fit our personality.

During the weekend message, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder talked about the “5 P’s” involved in preparing for transitions. Yesterday we explored having a purpose. The next step is painting a picture of what we would like things to look like when we arrive at the new normal. In our Scripture passage, we explored the people’s responses to the reports of the twelve spies Moses sent out to explore the Promised Land. Upon returning, the spies painted a vivid picture of the Promised Land to the assembly of people.

Numbers 13:27-28
27 This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. 28 But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!

After that account, the people wept and trembled in fear. They saw a glimpse of what could happen, and their fear overshadowed the potential for blessing. Even though they had just experienced the power of God miraculously delivering them from the hands of the mightiest nation in the world, Egypt, they doubted the ability of God to deliver on his promises. Perhaps they still did not believe that the God of Abraham and Jacob was different from the gods of Egypt, or perhaps they felt as if they were tired of change and just wanted stability. Either way, they turned their backs on the blessings that God had promised them in Canaan.

We need to consider another part of this story. Twelve spies were sent out, and 10 brought back a negative account. However, two, Joshua and Caleb, urged the people to take what God had already planned to give them.

Numbers 14:30
But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”

We need to be like Caleb and Joshua and envision how the place we are going is a good place to be, and even if the journey is sometimes difficult, it will be worth the effort when we arrive. We need to listen to those around us who paint a picture of what is possible. God wants to take us into a place that we will flourish. We need to look at the picture of what God is painting for us and step into our promised land.

Questions:
When you think about the potential for your “new normal,” what do you envision?

What is holding you back from entering into the picture God is painting for you?

Next Steps:
Take some time this week to journal how you envision your next month, six months, and beyond.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing me glimpses into the future you have prepared for me. Help me to embrace the uncertainty with confidence and trust that you will not abandon me. Help me to listen to those around me who have wisdom and to act in a way that is honoring to you. Thank you for never leaving me to wander alone. Amen.


This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her five young children.


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Positively Negative – Where’s Norm?

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This past weekend Lead Pastor Ben Snyder stepped into Week 4 of the series “Where’s Norm?” As we apply this lesson to our daily lives, hopefully we will walk away with a deeper sense of what God wants to do in us and through us. For many of us, it would be good to focus on negativity – our own negativity, not the negativity of others.

Negativity truly can be contagious. I know for certain, I need no help with stinkin’ thinkin’! I can go to that place all by myself, quickly, without any assistance, thank you very much.

But, seriously, it takes second place to how easily I can identify the folly of others – like the leaders of the Israelites in Numbers 13.   Their negative attitude was off the charts! How clearly, they identified the obstacles before them after their 40-day exploration of the land of Canaan.

Numbers 13: 27-28
This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!”

Numbers 13:30-31
But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!” But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!”

The spies all saw the same thing, but the report Caleb gave differed from the others. Caleb saw opportunities for the demonstration of God’s power, as he looked through eyes of faith. The other spies saw obstacles.

It is as though Caleb knew the first “P” – purpose – taken from the four P’s referenced in William Bridges’ book “Transitions.” Caleb remembered the reason for the journey. He never lost sight of the purpose of the new beginning the Promised Land offered. His confidence in God allowed him to see past the obstacles. Similarly, when we look to God through eyes of faith, the obstacles before us diminish. If we fail to overcome our stinkin’ thinkin’  the obstacles overcome us! Or, as Pastor Ben shared, “Trash (Adjust) your attitude before your attitude adjusts trashes you.”

Questions:
What are the obstacles keeping you from seeing the purpose of transitioning into new beginnings? What keeps you stuck? Who are the people holding you back from taking steps into a new beginning? What voices in your head do you need to get rid of?

Next Steps:
Write down three major obstacles keeping you from stepping into new beginnings. Write down the names of people speaking negativity into your life. Identify activities stunting your spiritual growth.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for accepting me and loving me as I am. Make clear the changes most necessary for my spiritual health. Give me the wisdom, courage and strength to step away from relationships that affect me negatively. Give me the grace to speak kind words as I step away from unhealthy relationships with love. May your love and your peace penetrate my soul as I look for purpose in new beginnings awaiting my arrival. Thank you for guiding me into all truth. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Karen Peck. Karen retired in March 2018 from Lucas County Information Services. She has been married over forty years. Karen rejoices over God’s faithfulness and God’s patience in her life and in her marriage. Nothing matters more to Karen than her relationship with God and her entire family. Her immeasurable faith in Christ and His ability to restore the broken runs deep within.


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2020 Verse of the year – Where’s Norm?

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If I could, I wouldn’t write anything else for today’s LIO but these verses:

Psalm 27:13-14
13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.
14 Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

I invite you to spend 5 minutes reading and rereading them today. Tomorrow, I invite you to read and reread them for 10 minutes. By Sunday or Monday, you will have them memorized and be able to repeat them throughout your day when you are:

  • waiting in traffic
  • waiting in line
  • waiting for your kids to finish their homework
  • waiting for dinner to be ready
  • waiting for sleep to come
  • waiting for things to return to “normal”

Should you accept my invitation, I guarantee that over time, you will see the goodness of the Lord while you are here in the land of the living!

In fact, you will come to realize that the goodness of the Lord surrounds you wherever you are. Let’s face it— most of us reading this devotional live in the United States of America. For all its flaws and troubles, injustices and turbulence, it is still the number one nation in the world where people want to come to improve their lives and provide opportunities for their children. No matter what your income level is, chances are that you are richer than 95% of the world’s 7.8 billion population!

Maybe you are impatient in this time of uncertainty because you haven’t spent any time thinking about the things you have confidence in and thanking God for them. Several weeks ago, Barb Roose spoke about the 1,000 gifts list and the man who sent her a picture of the 1,000th thing he was grateful for. I imagine as he made his list, which obviously took a lot of time (and patience), he felt immersed in the goodness of God, right where he was. He took time to look back to see what God had done in his life and let that inspire him to believe in what God will do in the future. This is a form of meaningful waiting!

God isn’t done! He hasn’t abandoned us! Pastor and author Louie Giglio says, “Wait patiently, knowing that waiting is never wasted when you are waiting on God.”

“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

Questions:
What kind of wait-er are you? What kind would you like to be?

What do you need to stop trying to fix and trust in God’s timing for it? Write it down, please! Now, take that paper, offer that thing to God, and tear it up!  You’re done with that!

Next Steps:
I know you meant to start that 1,000 gifts list when Barb talked about it. 1,000 is a big number! Write down five things everyday that you are grateful for. Let’s see if that doesn’t make it easier while you wait for the new thing that God is doing, right now, in your life!

Meditate every single day on Psalm 27:13-14.

Smile! Trust God! He loves you!

21 Days of Prayer: Give Me the Courage to Make a Difference (Day 19):
Thank you, God (I Am), for saying we are. Thank you for blessing us with your love to share with the world. Please, give us the strength to step out of the shadows when so many are screaming to be loved. Give us the courage to reveal your truth, so that others can receive the knowledge and join in the fight against darkness. Speaking your name in silence doesn’t reach our neighbors, so let us shout your name in praise. Grant us the confidence to live by faith with everyone we meet. Let them see your forgiveness in us, so that they may also experience your grace. Amen.

21 Days of Prayer: Fill My Life with Your Fruit of the Spirit (Day 20):
Dear God, help me to be completely rooted in you, so that the only fruit I produce is the good fruit from you. I know that it is through the Holy Spirit that my life can be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). I want to posture myself to produce good fruit in my life and in the lives of others. I want to do this all for you, your glory, and your kingdom. Amen.

21 Days of Prayer: Fill My Life with Praise and Worship (Day 21):
God, we praise and worship you for the things you have done and will continue to do for us. It is our way to show the world how thankful we are for your love and grace. It is a time for us to share the bliss of our testimonies and be witnesses to the promises of your truth. Thank you for gifting us with music in our hearts that fills our eyes with tears of joy. Thank you, God, for allowing us to ignite our passion for you each and every day. Amen.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.


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Glass Art – Where’s Norm?

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Creating glass art is challenging and requires a high level of skill and patience. Glass is melted down at high temperatures before it’s carefully manipulated to create a new shape. The artist must have precise timing and a good understanding of the material. Once shaping is complete, the glass is allowed to cool at a controlled speed. The glass goes from a temporarily movable, shapeable substance to a more solid, long-term form.

Though God created us, he is continuously reshaping and molding us. Sometimes he needs to completely melt us down and make big changes. And boy, that can be painful. We’d much prefer keeping our original shape, even if it may be flawed. So much has changed in these last several months. At first, it was hard to “allow” it. I clung to the things that were being cancelled or changed. But since I recognized this season as a time for transformation, I have been able to determine  that some things should remain eliminated (like a tight schedule and frequent restaurant food) and be replaced with new things (taking prayer walks, new hobbies, more reading, and time outdoors).

Often when going through change, because of the discomfort it gives us, we  seek  to escape. But if we can be still, we can learn to wait with purpose. Another step that allows us to find purpose in the waiting is to experiment intentionally. Every major change brings endings and creates both problems AND unparalleled opportunities.

Most of us would agree that we’re in an in-between period. We recognize a clear “before,” and we desperately hope for an “after.” But we’re not there yet, and what we do during the waiting period isn’t meaningless. It has the potential to be life-changing and transformative. Jesus never wastes a time like this.

Romans 12:2        
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Our glass artist, the one true God, is perfect. He knows exactly what he’s doing. But part of the process is realizing we are the glass, not the artist. As I see all the change taking place around me, I recognize that God can use this time to show me life-changing, meaningful new habits, or I can use it to gain some bad habits.

But we all need to be aware that the time will come when the glass hardens: our “after” to all of this. So while you’re still malleable, allow God to do the shaping. Allow him to guide you so that when this season of change ends, and you are back to your solid, long-term form, you are transformed in his image better equipped to do his work.

Questions:
What areas of your life do you feel are being melted down and reshaped? Have you resisted this change or let it happen? How have you seen God working?

Next Steps:
Spend some time evaluating the areas of your life that have been most changed during this season. Clarify some areas in which you can experiment. Pray for God to show you the opportunities he is leading you to.

21 Days of Prayer: Clarify My Purpose (Day 18):
Dear God, please clarify our purpose. You have so generously given all of us unique gifts. I pray that we can identify them in our lives, so that we can serve you and your Kingdom. Help us to not only use our gifts, but to give you all of the glory when we do. You have said that the most important thing to do is to love you and love others. I want to use the gifts you gave me to find and live out my purpose and to follow your greatest commandment. 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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Reflect While You Wait – Where’s Norm?

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The last five months have been rough for everyone. I wish I could say I am a patient person, but I am not. I want things back to normal. It feels like we are stuck in limbo. Lead Pastor Ben Snyder defined this as being in the “neutral zone.” (Or are we stuck in the Twilight Zone?) Who would have ever thought we would be required to wear a mask to go out in public? Or that our schools, colleges, and church buildings would all be closed? The list could go on and on. We are all waiting for things to return to normal.

Psalm 27:4 (ESV)
Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

COVID-19 has given many of us a lot of time to wait. But maybe we’re looking at “waiting” all wrong. Waiting is not about stopping everything you are doing. Waiting should be about  us stopping “trying to do everything.” Waiting is hard, but it can also be beneficial when we wait with purpose.

Ben said we can wait with purpose if we: normalize, reflect, and experiment intentionally. Today, we are going to talk about reflection. Reflection is defined as “serious thought or consideration.”

God has really been teaching me that my peace and joy are found in what (or whom) I reflect on. If I reflect on everything I am missing or what is going on in the world, I’m miserable. This leads me to attempt to control the situation. It frustrates me and everyone around me, and ultimately, I lose all my peace and joy. However, when I make an effort to reflect on God’s blessings and provision, my trust and faith in him grows, and I can be confident that God’s got this. God has already determined the outcome.

Everyday, I write down three things for which I am grateful to God and reflect on those blessings. When things are especially hard, I reflect on all the times in the past he has worked miracles in my life. Instead of worrying, I choose to spend my time praising him, praying, and studying and meditating on his Word. I am reminded that Jesus understands everything I am going through, and I am his beloved daughter.

I don’t need to figure it all out—I just need to trust him and obey.

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

Questions:
How do you deal with waiting? Why is reflection important? How has God blessed you during tough times?

Next Steps:
Write down three things you are grateful for everyday.

Think about how God has helped you in the past, and write those experiences down. Reflect on them next time you are struggling.

Praise God for his blessings. Instead of watching the news or scrolling social media, pull out your Bible and read it.

21 Days of Prayer: Search Me and Know My Anxious Thoughts (Day 17):   
Dear God, the weapon for anxiety is trusting in you. Search me and know my anxious thoughts. Help me to share those with you and trust in you. Help me not to be anxious, but to come to you in prayer and thanksgiving. May your peace guard my heart in these trying times. 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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The Process of Waiting – Where’s Norm?

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During Christmas 1991, the magic was gone. I had older siblings who crushed my belief in St. Nick a few years before, but I held on to the myth (for more presents) a little longer. Unfortunately, the older bunch convinced us to methodically open the presents under the tree the week before, and take a peek. The gifts looked untouched on Christmas morning, but it’s hard to fake a surprised look when you’re a kid. I should’ve waited because I ended up messing up a priceless moment that God was building for our family. I didn’t know that was going to be the last time the four of us woke up on Christmas morning, under the same roof as our mother.

But as time quickly changed, what we once saw as usual ended. We learned to adapt during a season of uncertainty, and God gave me more opportunities to be significantly present as I realized our Christmases of old were gone. By being present in the moments with my mother, I was able to do for her what we didn’t allow her to do for us before her time on earth was done. It was only nine years, but I refused to miss out on more of God’s priceless moments.

John 12:24
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 

There is a waiting period … before the new growth begins.

After the seed falls to the ground, there’s the long wait before the harvest. Similarly, there is the long wait of winter before new life emerges in spring. In both cases something invisible is happening during the waiting.

Waiting is hard, and we all experience different types of waiting. But what we do while we wait matters more than we think.  If we are impatient, we can waste our waiting, but if we realize God is preparing us for something new, we can find purpose in it.

Questions:
Do you wait with worry or with purpose? Do you understand that waiting is part of the process of something new?

Next Steps:
Find your purpose before your next season of waiting by taking or retaking GrowthTrack. Pray for guidance and patience during your waiting process. Try stepping into something different while you are waiting.

21 Days of Prayer: Deepen My Trust in You (Day 16):
Dear God, you are miraculous! You are so powerful, you can stop a storm at your command. I pray that every day I find myself in awe of you and your glory. I want to trust you even when the storms around me seem scary and overwhelming. No matter how things are around me, you are always in control. You are good, and you are worthy of my trust. I hope to surprise you with my abundance of faith, not my lack of trust in you. Amen.


This post was written by Jaron Camp, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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God in the Waiting – Where’s Norm?

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In our series, Where’s Norm?, we have discussed how to move forward in a world of “I don’t know.” In week 1 of the series, we first learned that we need to clarify our GUIDE because it determines where we go. Last week, we talked about the need to acknowledge an ending by naming it, grieving it, and releasing it. This week, we looked at The Neutral Zone, which is the second stage of transition, according to William Bridges’ book, Transitions—Making Sense of Life’s Changes.

Bridges writes that this stage is the core of our transition to something new and is often the longest stage. He also calls this stage the “Wilderness” or the “Ambiguous Middle.” No one likes this stage, and many try to rush through it, wasting it. It doesn’t have to be a waste, though. We can find purpose in the wilderness leading to the fastest way out.

As I sit down to write, I am really struggling with what to say that is encouraging or helpful as we discuss “waiting in the wilderness.” To be completely honest, the verse that popped into my head was Psalm 73:26.

Psalm 73:26
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.          

The verse says, “God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.”  God was with the Israelites as they transitioned from being slaves in Egypt to living out God’s promises for them. He remained with them, yet it was hard for them to see and apply it to their everyday struggles in the wilderness. They grumbled, complained, and even made false gods instead of trusting. Sound familiar?

But the very good news is God knew from the start how each of them, and how each one of us, would respond to circumstances in our lives. Despite the fact that we complain and criticize, he still chose to make you and me. He not only made us and loves us but also sent Jesus to die for us so we could be forgiven and free. His love for you is far greater than how you are “handling” your waiting during this, or any other uncertain time.

That being said, I am not a victim in the wilderness—I am a daughter of King Jesus. That might be the only thing I am sure of right now, but it is enough, and it gives me purpose. Many of us are waiting for a divine answer to whether we should homeschool, select hybrid learning, or go exclusively online for school. We’re waiting to feel it’s “safe” to leave the house. Some of us are waiting to hear whether our sports season will continue. Or waiting for some certainty that it is safe to visit at-risk family members. Most of us are waiting for answers about COVID-19.

Being in limbo, waiting for answers that will never be perfect and are often divisive, is a hard place to be. But trusting the Creator of the universe to provide the answers is the place of peace we need to go to.

So today, I am going to focus on a new question: Lord, what good thing do you have for me today?

Questions:
Are the unknowns of COVID-19 taking over your thoughts?

Why is waiting so hard and painful?

Do you have decisions to make that seem impossible?

What question would you ask Jesus if you were sitting with him?

Next Steps:
Ask God, “What good thing do you have for me today?”

Share your answers to the above questions with a trusted friend, and talk about the similarities and differences of your paths.  

21 Days of Prayer: Excite My Heart for What Excites You; Give Me Spiritual Vision (Day 15):
God, you show us again and again your heart for those who are far from you. Remind me that I was once far from you. Instill deep in me this passion: to do whatever it takes to love you and others more each day. Exchange my thoughts for yours. Rearrange my priorities to be of one mind with you. Change my heart, God. Help me to see that this is how I join you in what will be and that today, right this very moment, is the greatest adventure of my life. Amen.


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


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Healthy Endings — Where’s Norm?

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There are some things in life that we look forward to ending. Personally, I like it when these things come to an end—a bad movie, a visit to the dentist, a stressful workday, a long phone conversation … a pandemic. I could go on and on, and I’m sure you could name a pretty long list without much help as well.

These types of endings are great. They are the endings we look forward to, but what about the endings that we don’t want—the end of a relationship, a job, a hobby, your health, a stage of life. These types of endings can be challenging. In fact, they might be so difficult that we don’t want to deal with them. Instead, we want to move on quickly to the next thing, believing we are okay.

Last weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder shared with us what William Bridges wrote in his book Transitions—that we’re better equipped to navigate change and uncertainty when we understand the journey of transition. This journey starts with a healthy ending.

The first step to ensure a healthy ending is to name it. It might be something significant and obvious, like a relationship, but it might be something smaller that isn’t as easily identifiable. The indicators from this weekend’s message can help us see that there may be an ending in our lives that needs to be named. If you find yourself comparing, criticizing, or catastrophizing, slow down and ask yourself if something has recently ended. Once you recognize it, name it.

The second step Ben shared is to grieve it.  Something has come to an end, and along with that ending comes a variety of emotions. Many of us would prefer to move on to the “next thing” and ignore those emotions, but that doesn’t allow us to experience a healthy ending. If you are missing “what was,” let yourself remember and reflect on the good things that are no more.

The final step is to release it by giving it to God. Surrender your emotions, your grief, and your plans for the future to him. Trust that his plans are good, even if it doesn’t feel that way. He can take whatever you are going through and redeem it, giving you hope and purpose for the future.

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Questions:
Have you recently experienced an ending?

Was it a healthy ending?

If so, were the steps of naming it, grieving it, and surrendering it present?

If not, what is the next step you need to take in order to make it a healthy ending?

Next Steps:
For fun, write out a list of things that you love (or would love) to see end.

Write about  your most recent significant ending. Take time to name it, capture your current feelings about it, and begin to grieve it if you haven’t. Finally, release it to God and trust him for what’s next.

Todays’ Prayer:  
21 Days of Prayer: Deepen Each Other’s Love (Day 12):
Dear God, in the uncertainty and unknown of this season, deepen our love for one another. Let the way I treat others be a reflection of the way you have loved me. Let the world see how great it is to follow you through the love your followers show to one another and to the world around them. Help me to treat each and every person with the dignity and worth that you have placed in them. Allow me to see others through your eyes and have compassion and love that is often hard to find in this world. Thank you for loving me. Amen.

Saturday’s Prayer:        
21 Days of Prayer: Courage to Authentically Share and Care (Day 13):
Dear God, there is no greater purpose for today than to share your story. But we confess how often we miss opportunities to share, or even turn away from a moment when we could care for another. Help us set aside anything that would distract us or take away from this great truth – it’s because you first did all of this for us that we now have the privilege to do it for you. When we are united with you, Father, our hearts grow. Give us the courage to believe what you say and then act on it. Amen.

Sunday’s Prayer:           
21 Days of Prayer: Guest Online and In Person (Day 14):
God in heaven, we pray that you would give us open hearts and open minds to receive those whom you send through our doors, be they physical doors or virtual doors. We trust that each person shows up because you ordained their presence long ago. We thank you for the incredible privilege of telling them about how much you love all of us, but especially them. Open their hearts to the message you have for them today. Give us wisdom as we continue to discover new ways to share your love, and help us to do all we do for your glory, because it is in your name that we 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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Catastrophizing – Where’s Norm?

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During the weekend message, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder continued our series Where’s Norm? and discussed catastrophizing. This is one of the three indicators that you’re either having trouble finalizing a change in your life or you haven’t even acknowledged the end yet.

The reality TV series Survivor has shown us what happens to groups of people forced to survive difficult conditions together. They can turn on one another quickly, especially if they’re hungry and thirsty, plus there’s a lot of complaining. Just like our lives today, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, helpless at times, out of control, or even stuck, and complaining is often our go-to response.

In Exodus 16:1-3, we see the Israelites have just moved from what they describe as an oasis into the depths of the wilderness where they feel like they are in a battle for survival. They are visualizing nothing but chaos and death.

Exodus 16:3
“If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”

What these tired, barely surviving people needed was a pep talk, a promise. The Israelites just could not see that they needed to put an end to their past in order to properly transition into their future—their promised land by the almighty God. All they could see were their current struggles, having  little available food and bitter water.

In 2 Corinthians 10:5, we are reminded to “destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” Most people have had rebellious thoughts their whole lives, but God is telling us to put our thoughts on trial, take them captive, and reprogram them with God’s Word.

By reading, memorizing, and using God’s Word, we can set our mind on the Spirit that brings life and peace into our lives as believers.

Ephesians 4:21-24
21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Our way of thinking is as vital to our spiritual lives as breathing is to our physical lives. We are reminded in Psalm 119:11: “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” And also in Psalm 116:2: “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!”

Questions:
Are you stuck in the wilderness of sin without a guide?

Have you let the wilderness cause you to lose sight of the promised land? Are you willing to be one of God’s sheep—to listen to his calling and let him guide you today?

Next Steps:
Avoid catastrophizing by memorizing Scriptures and meditating on God’s Word for the peace only he can give.

Focus on God today. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts—to name it, grieve it, and release it.

God’s sheep listen to his voice and follow him. He is waiting for you to transition your life into his hands.

21 Days of Prayer: Encourage Each Other’s Faith (Day 11):
Heavenly Father, we live in a world that is constantly calling us in any direction except toward you. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ to surround us with encouragement, leadership, direction, and support to help us do what is pleasing to you. So, especially in this season of quarantine and isolation, help us to find new and creative ways of meeting together. Help us to not be discouraged or undone because we can’t do things as we were accustomed, but to embrace new ways of love and encouragement. Help the world to see how marvelous you are through our responses of unity and love as we encourage each other. In Jesus’ name, amen.


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


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The Blame Game — Where’s Norm?

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I was married at 30 after 10 gleeful years as an operations director for an international oil trading company. People did what I told them to and consulted with me before changing anything regarding oil shipments. A perfect job for a “control expert”!

At 31, we had our first child. Stevie weighed 9.4 lbs and was in the 95 percentile in everything. No newborn-sized onesies for that guy.

That was 33 years ago and remains the moment of greatest change in my life. I went from being a self-important, business executive, working 18-hour days to being a spit-up covered, exhausted new mother, working 24 hours a day for a baby. That was the moment in my life that Lead Pastor Ben Snyder described in his weekend message as change.

Originally, I compared my life “then” and “now” and wondered if I had lost my mind to give up the “then.” Eventually, I stopped comparing then with now and embraced being in charge of my little person instead of big boats. So I thought all was well, and I had moved on to my new reality.

By the 18th month, I felt comfortably back “in control,” like in my old job but with diapers. I understand now that I hadn’t moved into the next phase of change called transition. I was stuck wanting my comfort zone back. That became clear when we got pregnant again, and I blamed my husband. I know, stupid, but denial is stupid. I barely spoke to him for a month. I criticized him mercilessly to my mother and friends for “his failure.”

Yes, that was really wrong, but I was unable to admit out loud that I was terrified I couldn’t love this new baby as much as our firstborn. So I chose to make this turn of events all my husband’s “fault.” It was less painful for me to make him solely responsible and me the “victim.” Thankfully, the Lord touched my heart, and I realized I had no reason to fear. He assured me that my “heart” is made of spandex, and just like my heavenly Father’s, it stretches to love every new child he blesses us with.

He was right. Since Philip arrived, I have loved him madly. Now, at 31, he is still my brilliant, funny, successful son. No less beloved by me than his older brother.

I asked my sweet husband to forgive me and never compared God’s blessings of my past with the joys and spiritual growth he gave me in this new reality.  Instead, I rest in his love as he carries me through every change. He uses change to grow us closer to him. Embrace it and close the door on your previously much-loved comfort zone. Like it or not, it’s not coming back.

I pray the Lord will continue to grow my humility. To never again think I have the answers. Instead, I pray he will continue to use time spent in his Word, in prayer, and in service to grow me away from myself and ever closer to him.

Questions:
What changes are you angry about, resisting, or trying to fit into your pre-change worldview?

How’s that going for you?

Have you considered God has a purpose for whatever that change is in your life—to experience a closer relationship with him?

Next Steps:
Be honest with yourself. Admit that in God’s grand plan you are not in charge. You did not hang the stars or tell the ocean where to stop. We serve at the pleasure of the Lord, God Almighty … and it is a pleasure when we do it with open hands and hearts.

Recognize and stop resisting God as the creator and master of the universe. Embrace him as your heavenly Father who allows all manner of events to grow us in our station as his children and servants.

Read God’s holy Word, the Bible, daily. Then pray to become more like Christ so you can move more seamlessly from change, to transition, and finally peace.

21 Days of Prayer: Marriages and Families (Day 10):
Dear God, today I lift up the marriages and families in our communities. I pray your Spirit would strengthen our marriages and families. Please give a supernatural love and grace to spouses as they interact during these stressful times. You know exactly what each marriage needs, and I pray you would meet those needs. Allow our families to grow stronger during this time. Help parents represent you well to their children and help children have a heart that grows in its love for you. I pray marriages and families would come out of this season stronger and closer to you. 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.


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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