They’re Back!!!!

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I have a great life! I live in a beautiful condo on a golf course across from Maumee Bay. I am married to a generous, funny, supportive man. I get to spend winters in Florida near my daughter and her family. But this morning I woke up and saw a mayfly on my window and none of that mattered! All I could think about was the upcoming two weeks of messy, stinky, swarming bugs that descend upon those of us who live near the lake once or twice each summer. They had arrived! Seriously, is this what I’m going to focus on today? In the midst of my 1,000 blessings (actually, I’ve only gotten up to 210 so far), I’m going to focus on mayflies?

Well, scientists tell us that the presence of mayflies indicates the lake is healthy—so maybe mayflies are actually Blessing No. 211! See that? I just changed my perspective! Now instead of viewing the mayflies as a nuisance (well, they still are!), I am grateful because they are a sign of something good.

During the weekend service, speaker and author Barb Roose told us that we all have a “negativity bias.” We can’t help but see all that is wrong in our lives and the world. We don’t focus on the blessings, big and small, that we have. It takes intention and work (sometimes really hard work) to change our perspective—to look on the sunny side of life! I am grateful to God that I am generally an optimistic person. I feel sorry for those who have fallen into the habit of only looking at the negative side of any situation. It hurts my heart to know that they live under a cloud of negativity, which often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Gratitude is giving thanks and passing that sense of appreciation along,” Barb said. Sometimes it is difficult to find something to be grateful for, especially under our current circumstances and in light of recent events. We need to change our perspective—take the focus off ourselves and put it back on God! By training ourselves to see God’s blessings in everyday things, we will also train ourselves to give God glory in all things.

Gratitude gives life. As Christians, we have so much to be thankful for, even when the day doesn’t seem so sunny, or should I say, summery.

John 16:33
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Questions:
What good gifts has God given you? How can you show your gratitude for them?


Next Steps:
Fill out the Monday’s section of the Summer Side of Life Journal.

Begin a gratitude journal. If you have been marking your moments this week, you already have a great start.

Listen to “Another in the Fire” by Hillsong United.

Prayer:
My dear Jesus, as I think about the song, “Another in the Fire,” it reminds me of how good you are to me, that you have stood with me every day of my life. You love me, you guide and protect me, and you bless me with wonderful gifts. When I look at where I was when you found me, and where I am today, how can I not fall on my knees in grateful worship? “Should I ever need reminding what power set me free, there is a grave that holds no body, and now that power lives in me.” I am grateful, Lord. Let my praise be a fragrant offering to you. 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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The Most Significant Moment

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In our new series, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder takes us to the book of Joshua in which God chose Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River to the land God promised them. Some of you may be thinking that you don’t care about all those “Old Testament rules,” so this doesn’t have anything to do with you, right? However, Ben transitioned to a couple thousand years later and discussed John the Baptist, baptizing people in the Jordan River (Mark 1:4-5). We were reminded that the God of the Old Testament is the same God as in the New Testament. The Israelites had strayed from God since their journey across the Jordan River, and John was calling them to turn back to God. God is always faithful to keep his promises!

Matthew 3:6
And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.

At the time John was baptizing the Israelites, they were mentally going back to the moment God led their ancestors across the river. They were acknowledging they had lost their way since then and were recommitting to follow God. It was a new beginning.

Remember Ben’s bottom line? “Life is better when you can relive meaningful moments.” Jesus recognized the importance of marking moments and reliving them. He was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist and designated John as the greatest man who had lived until his time (Matthew 11:11). They were cousins in the flesh—John would recognize Jesus and see with his own eyes the one he had been proclaiming.

Matthew 3:13-15
13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” 15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

In Jesus’ final words to his disciples, he gave the great commission, including the command for baptism. This was a call for followers of Jesus to mark their moment and relive what Jesus did on the cross for us. Baptism is both a picture of Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. It signifies our life of sin dying and our new life in Jesus beginning.

Matthew 28:19-20
19 “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Questions:
Are you spending regular time searching the Old and New Testaments for truth and direction? What times in your life do you consider to be “wilderness wanderings”? What valuable lessons did you learn during those times of struggle?

Next Steps:
God gave the Bible to us because he wants us to know him, love him, and serve him. Most of all, he gave it to us so we can become more like Christ. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Only then will you be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8). Make the Bible part of your life, join a Group, be a DreamTeam member—begin today.

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

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the example and command of baptism. It teaches us the importance of marking the significant moment of salvation in our lives. It also shows us the importance of sharing this moment with others. Help me this week to be bold and share my meaningful moments with others and to point others to you whenever I have the chance.


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


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Been Nudged?

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Lead Pastor Ben Snyder’s bottom line for last weekend’s message was, “Life is better when you can relive meaningful moments.”

Memories truly are a gift when you relive them and share them with others! The irony of writing for LivingItOut this week is truly surreal for me as one of my closest friends is struggling with losing her memory. That reality causes me to reflect on countless, meaningful moments shared with her over the years. It is clear to me that God arranged our decades-old friendship—a genuine friendship. I can’t label it as a one-time event with one fabulous photo to share. No, it runs much deeper, as genuine friendships should. Now I have a new mission, one of not taking for granted my ability to remember as I wrestle with navigating this precious friendship with much sensitivity intertwined with genuine love.

One of my memories of my friend is how she used her sewing skills to serve my husband and myself on each mission trip we took to Choluteca, Honduras. She provided us with separate sleeping bags created from king-size flat sheets, keeping us as bug-free as possible while we slept. My husband and I can relive this memory when we talk about it with each other or tell someone else about it. Sharing this memory is a gift to all that hear of her love and service toward my husband and me.

That memory leads to yet another reflection of a meaningful Honduras mission trip moment. While every day on a mission trip to Choluteca is memorable, I’m thinking about our final, full day in Honduras in late October 2014. I had volunteered to lead our morning discussion that day. Off-and-on throughout the week, I pondered about what topic to touch upon scripturally. Ultimately, I leaned into a spiritual nudge from God to pose this question to the team: “What is your “go-to” when your life hits turbulence, similar to that experienced when flying? You know, when the pilot advises everyone to return to their seat and fasten their seatbelt.”

The question generated multiple responses and discussion, leading to me sharing how a book called Fool-Proofing Your Life, written by Jan Silvious, became my go-to as I navigated a very difficult family relationship. It helped me see how God was with me in that “murky” place—the same as he was with the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant in the Jordan River, as referenced in Joshua 3:8. God was also ahead of me—the same as he went ahead of the Israelites by parting the waters of the Jordan River.

Indeed, the turbulent events in my life created by an alcoholic family member did not surprise God. He walked alongside me through it, and now it was my story to share. His nudge to share it was likely more for me than my fellow team members. Nonetheless, reliving what God was doing in my life with my team was a gift to all of us.

As you go throughout your day, consider what meaningful moments you have to share with others. And when God nudges you to tell your story—be courageous and do it. God can use your story as a gift to you and others.

Questions:
What event(s) has God allowed to get your attention? What “bad” event(s) has God transformed into “good”? Have you shared these experiences with those closest to you? If not, why?

Next Steps:
Reflect on meaningful moments when God placed specific people onto your spiritual path. Write down the names of three people who have made a positive impact in your spiritual journey. Share the story of how those people made a difference in your life.

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

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, you have been more than generous to me. If you do nothing more for me, I have no right to complain. When I reflect on the countless moments you had your hand on my life before I acknowledged you as Lord, I stand amazed at your goodness! It is impossible to explain the love you offer. No one is worthy of it, yet you freely offer it. I choose to worship you and adore you this day and every day. 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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There’s Time, and Then There’s TIME

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I have to be honest. Something really stirred in me when Lead Pastor Ben Snyder said, “How can we make summer meaningful?” How many times has summer flown by? Maybe I took a vacation or did a house project, but usually, it’s autumn before I know it. Can you relate to that?

I have concluded that if I am going to have a memorable summer, I need to make the most of my time. But what does that look like? How do I make the most of my time, and more importantly, what does the Bible have to say about it?

First, I’m going to make sure I use the time God has given me—seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years. That is chronological time, or in the original Greek “chronos.” It is just the measure given to time. Picture your own personal timeline from birth until today. That is the chronological order of time for your life.

The other Greek term used to measure time is “kairos.” As you’re picturing your chronos timeline, I want you to put a big, RED DOT on the timeline to symbolize a very special moment that you will never forget. That appointed time is what is referred to as a kairos moment—when God interrupts our routine and touches us so deeply that we are forever changed.

Who better to illustrate this difference than Jesus?

Acts 1:6-8
6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” 7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

In Verses 6 and 7, Jesus is referring to chronos time, but in Verse 8, he is undoubtedly referring to a kairos moment that will forever change the lives of his disciples and the church. That is the difference. There’s chronological time and then there’s a moment like the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost in Acts 2. That’s a really big difference!

My friends, how are we going to make summer meaningful? The simple answer is that we’re going to make an effort to recognize those God-appointed kairos moments in our summer. When someone says, “I was just thinking about you” or “funny you should call” or when you get to spend time with someone you lovethose are God’s invitations to make a kairos memory. Recognize them for what they are—divine opportunities to be a part of God’s will and purpose—and seize the moments!

Let’s use chronos time to make kairos memories and experience God in a very special and powerful way.

Questions:
What is a kairos moment in your life?

What about that memory makes it special to you?

Next steps:
Have a game plan and a mindset going into this summer. Be determined to make the most of the moments you are given. Whether they are with friends, family, or at church—be determined to be in the moment and recognize that God has a will and purpose for your life. Capture the moment by writing it down!

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

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, don’t let me miss the special, divine moments you have planned for me. I want to live this life with purpose and make kairos memories. I want to experience your blessings in all of the opportunities put before me. Help me to stay determined. Please grant me the strength I need to seize the moment. Keep my eyes fixed on you, and help me to fight the temptation of allowing time to just slip away. Amen.


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


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Do You See What I See?

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It was a cloudless, scorching hot, summer day. I was standing on the edge of my friend’s pool, vacuuming the deep end. And sweating. Across the treeless yard, he was digging out weeds. For no reason at all and without turning to look at him, I asked, “What do you think is the most important thing about a woman?” Without hesitation he answered, “That’s easy, her faith.” I had never before heard any man say that, and as a woman of faith, it provided the revelation of a lifetime.

God orchestrated that moment to change the trajectory of both our lives. We were married six months later, pledging to be the two weaker strands of the mighty three-stranded cord, with Christ at the center of our lives as described in Ecclesiastes 4:12.

That was last summer.

We all have moments in life that are monumental—for better or for worse. Moments that change who we are and what we do with our lives. So ask yourself:

“What will this summer bring?”

“How can I make it memorable?”

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder gave us a way to do just that. He taught us that we need to become mindful of the moment. We need to see the moment, preserve it, and then share the experience with others.

But how? We are incessantly bombarded with information—our minds flit from one thing to the next in the deluge of our ever-increasing distractions and responsibilities. So how do we focus on the moment at hand? Ben’s advice: “Be here now.”

Since childhood, it’s been the only thing that rescues me from the fall out of ADHD. As an equestrian, trust me when I say, there’s no time to think about anything else when you’re galloping a 1,200-pound horse up to and over a solid wooden or brick obstacle. You stay in the moment.

The same is true for a martial artist. When your opponent is throwing kicks and punches your way, you don’t look away to check your news feed.

In Joshua 3, after taking 40 years to make a three-day trip from Egypt to the Promised Land, the Israelites find themselves in an “exclamation point moment” as the priest’s feet were about to step into the water of the last obstacle between them and the fulfillment of that promise. But instead, God brought the Jordan River to a halt so two million people could cross, simultaneously, to the land he promised to give them so long ago.

Talk about memorable! We need to look for the exclamation point and turning point moments in life and remember them.

Watch for all the times God shows up and offers to change your life, then gives you opportunities to change the lives of others. Be here now, absorb, remember, and pass that moment on for his glory.

Questions:
Do you allow distractions to rule your life? Do you ever truly spend time alone with God? If not, why? What could be more important?

Next Steps:
Every day for a week, put 20 minutes aside to turn off your phone, television, computer, and if possible, even your family members. Try hiding in your bedroom. Sit up straight on your bed or in a chair with your hands resting in your lap. Close your eyes and focus on taking deep slow breaths. At first it will be hard, but at about the 5-minute mark, you should settle in. Then listen for God and ask him to show you his will and his way for your life that day. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving and record the results.

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

Prayer:
Dear Lord, in this world we have made so chaotic, I pray you will teach me to be still. To learn how to truly hear your gentle, small voice and see you in the events of each day you bless me with. Please lead me in how to make my life and choices memorable and valuable to you. In the name of our matchless savior, Jesus Christ, 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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It’s a Cruel, Cruel Summer

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Ah. Summer! The crisp hot air, the gentle blue sky. Brightly colored flowers have emerged from the winter soil! And we are all set and ready—to stay home. Cue the wamp-wamp, right?! How do we have a meaningful summer when we feel as if we can’t actually do summer?

My family and I had planned a vacation to Phoenix to visit my sister and her family. We planned to go to water parks, take a drive to California, and maybe visit Las Vegas. It was going to be our first big vacation as a family of four! We were preparing to book a flight just as the country went into the stay-at-home order. Needless to say, many people in our family were very upset. We were on the verge of making great memories!

But why can’t we cultivate meaningful memories right where we are? Lead Pastor Ben Snyder spoke about Joshua and how he allowed God to go before him as they journeyed into the promised land. God is, and has been, going before us as we venture through the new normal. Not only is he ahead of us making way for the plans we would like to do one day, he also follows behind us to encourage us as we step into the many uncertainties of life.

Joshua 3:10 says, “Today you will know that the living God is among you.” I often have to remind myself that even in the chaos, the cancelled plans, and the disappointment, God is with me.

Joshua 1:9
This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

As we go through our new normal, are we missing the meaningful moments that are happening right in front of us by being too focused on what we wish we could be doing? Are we missing the opportunity to create something genuine and exciting because we are disappointed? Pastor Ben tells us to not ignore our feelings of disappointment but to not let them drive either.

Romans 5:5
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Ben’s bottom line for the week is: “Life is better when you can relive meaningful moments.”

This week in our daily LIO BibleStudy, we’ll be exploring how to better appreciate the meaningful moments in our lives by seeing them, marking them and reliving them.

Questions:
Do I believe this summer will be great? Why or why not?

How can I recognize “the meaningful” to make the memories?  What are some ways that I can mark the moment?

Next Steps:
Choose a way to capture and share your meaningful memories this summer. Find new activities to try with your family or close friends and create a scrapbook or Shutterfly calendar of the summer that was completely different. Make meaningful memories of the new normal!

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

Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for being with us in our new normal. Thank you for going before me, and for following me.  Thank you for giving me so many ways to create new and meaningful memories. In the moments when I miss your work, I ask that your Holy Spirit would help me to slow down, to see through your lens, and to not miss what’s meaningful. And in all things, help me to see you. In Jesus’ name, amen!


This post was written by TreVe Carter. TreVe is a housewife. She loves taking care of her two daughters and Mother. When’s she is not beating her husband in Jeopardy, she serves at Cedar Creek on Brew Crew. She loves Jesus. She also loves to cook and bake and one day would love to compete on the Holiday Baking Championship.


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Hope and a Future

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I am so grateful to have a relationship with Jesus and to have a home church. I’ve been able to lean in and hold on to some truths that others don’t have. Recently, I’ve been trying to help a loved one who is struggling with a variety of issues. I’ve prayed, shared my faith, and invited this person over and over again to watch a sermon with me—but to no avail.

In our current series, Joseph had dreams about success. I’ve tried to encourage my loved one to keep dreaming and to focus on what’s meaningful, not easier. “Keep your eyes ahead on what will come when businesses open again.” But this was a challenging task for someone who saw their life crashing around them.

Then our series progressed to show how Joseph’s character grew when he was sold into slavery. “Use this time to keep growing,” I said. We found a program to address some of the issues to get better. There was no follow through.

Just as Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, my loved one was tempted to do things differently than the counselor recommended. “Keep your character” was the theme, and I wanted to share Lead Pastor Ben Snyder’s message. I could see unacceptable behaviors spiraling out of control.

The next sermon unveiled that even in prison, Joseph didn’t think of himself—he still cared and noticed when other prisoners were upset. I was being pulled to distance myself from someone I loved, but the message was to keep caring. Then Ben asked, “What’s the wise thing to do?” I leaned harder on my faith and my support group and let God take control of my loved one.

So that brings us to Joseph’s family who shows up during the famine asking for food. Joseph was welcoming and forgiving, something Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow pointed out was a behavior he witnessed as a child when his Uncle Esau forgave Jacob (his father) for a betrayal. Joseph says in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

I choose to forgive. To believe that the best is yet to come. I trust that my decision to lean into my faith and keep pointing to God will determine the future of my loved ones tomorrow. I know that God is with me, for me, and he is moving on my behalf. It may not be in my time, but God’s got this, and as much as I love God, he loves me more. Faith can move mountains!

Questions:
How can you show honor to someone who has influenced your faith? How can you show your faith to others?

Next Steps:
Send a card of thanks to someone who has influenced your faith. Invite someone to tune in to an online service this weekend. Review all the notes from this series and keep growing!

Prayer:
Father, you are all-knowing, and powerful beyond comparison. In Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), you say, “For I know the plans that I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I am thankful that promise from you Lord, is for myself, my family, and those that I love. It is for everyone! I have faith that one day, we will all be together in your kingdom. I know the best is yet to come, and I give thanks and praise to you for it. In Jesus’ name, 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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I Want S’More

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Have you heard of the “Marshmallow Experiment”? No, it was not the “Chubby Bunny Challenge”—putting as many marshmallows in your mouth as possible—performed at summer camps everywhere but a psychological test performed on 4- and 5-year-old children in the 1960s. Here is the gist: A group of children were placed in a room with a researcher and one marshmallow. The researcher told the child he was going to leave the room and then come back. The children were given a choice: If they waited and did not eat the marshmallow before the researcher came back, they could have a second marshmallow. Or, if they ate the marshmallow before the researcher returned, they would not get another marshmallow.

As you can imagine, there were a variety of responses from the children. Some ate the marshmallow immediately, some waited for a while but eventually ate it, and some really did wait for the researcher to return. The team then followed these children over the next 40 years and discovered some interesting things. The children who waited for the delayed gratification had higher test scores, lower substance abuse and obesity problems, better social skills, and in general, exhibited a more positive quality of life.

In his weekend message, Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow recounted the family history of Joseph. He discussed how Esau acted like the children who thought one marshmallow now was better than two later. He essentially traded his future stability and happiness to satisfy his current (apparently insatiable) hunger.

Genesis 25:29-32
29 One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. 30 Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!” (This is how Esau got his other name, Edom, which means “red.”) 31 “All right,” Jacob replied, “but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.” 32 “Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?”

How often do we do that in our daily lives? We feel something so strongly in the moment and only look to satisfy that need “now.” We exaggerate our needs and thus forfeit a greater blessing in the future. Esau was probably very hungry, but he was not starving to death. He traded his and his family’s inheritance for a temporary pleasure.

We do have legitimate needs. We need to eat, but the choices we make now will remain with us. It’s okay to have a bowl of ice cream now and then, but when it becomes a daily occurrence, we may suffer the consequences. We need reliable transportation, but it does not have to be the brand-new vehicle your neighbor owns. It’s not fun to be single, but isn’t it better to be lonely a little longer than to enter into a bad relationship? It’s not always fun, but often our success in life is determined by “just saying no” in the moment.

Questions:
How is your self-control?

Have you suffered from giving in to your immediate desires? How did that decision affect you, your relationships, and/or your future?

Do you have a hard time saying no to something now while ignoring the knowledge that doing so would be better for your future self?

Next Steps:
Think of a decision you made on impulse. If someone other than you was injured in that decision, apologize to them.

The next time you want to gratify an immediate need, stop and think of the impact it could have on your future.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the lessons we can learn from your people through Scripture. Help me evaluate my daily decisions in light of the future. Forgive me for seeking to gratify my own desires without thinking of how they affect those around me. Thank you for giving me the power to exercise self-control now so I can live a better life in the future. 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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Choose Forgiveness

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Several years ago, I gave some unsolicited advice to an extended family member. This person was in a dark space, feeling victimized by their circumstances. I thought that helping them to acknowledge their responsibility for their situation, to recognize that they had the ability to move out of it, and to be grateful for the many blessings they had would be helpful. After a very negative response, I apologized profusely and asked for forgiveness. I don’t know that my apology was ever accepted, nor that forgiveness was extended. It is still painful for me. We seldom speak, and I have very little interaction in this person’s life. My family member doesn’t live close by, so the pain is less because of distance, but it is painful nonetheless.

Our series continues this week with the story of Joseph’s father, Jacob, and how he was guilty of betraying his brother. Jacob swapped his (older) twin brother Esau’s birthright for a pot of stew (bad choice, Esau!) and later conspired with his mother to receive Esau’s blessing from their dying father, Isaac, thus robbing Esau of his blessing and rightful inheritance.

Jacob fled to avoid Esau’s wrath and went to work for his Uncle Laban for 20-plus years. More drama ensued: Jacob ended up with two wives—Rachel, the mother of Joseph, and Leah, whom he was tricked into marrying. (Ironically, Laban turned out to be a bigger miscreant than Jacob!) After lots of scheming by both Jacob and Laban (Genesis 29-31), God tells Jacob to return to his relatives in Canaan.  Jacob has no idea how he’ll be received by Esau! Has Esau’s pain festered over the years?  In front of Jacob’s family, including a young Joseph, “Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept” (Genesis 33:4).

Esau’s forgiveness must have made a tremendous impression on Joseph. Years later, Joseph also made the difficult choice to extend forgiveness. Joseph, as we know, ends up in Egypt with all the dreams of his youth coming true. His brothers show up one day in the second year of the famine, bowing down to him (just as Joseph predicted all those years ago) in order to get provisions for their families. How would you feel? How would you respond?

Genesis 45:1-5
1 Joseph could stand it no longer… So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. 2 Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace. 3 “I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. 4 “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. 5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.

In their book, Boundaries, Henry Cloud and John Townsend write, “Forgiveness is something we do in our hearts; we release someone of the debts they owe us … only one party is needed for forgiveness: me. The person who owes me a debt does not have to ask my forgiveness. It is a work of grace in my heart.”

It’s time for some of you to make a phone call.

Some of you have been hurt—no one is denying that, but it’s time to forgive. For others, you are responsible for hurting someone else, and it’s time to ask for forgiveness. Unfortunately, like in my situation, reconciliation isn’t always possible—that takes both parties to agree. But God calls us to forgive.
Forgiveness takes one: you!

Questions:
Who has hurt you and requires your forgiveness?

Who have you hurt and whose forgiveness do you need to seek?

Next Steps:
Pray. If you honestly ask God to reveal the answers to the questions above, he will. Then it is up to you to act. Ask a trusted friend for wisdom on how to proceed. Then do it, lovingly and with respect. You will release something in yourself, and you may bring healing to someone else.

For further insight into this process, check out Celebrate Recovery Online every Friday night at 7 pm.

Prayer:
Father, never let me forget the forgiveness you have shown me through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Help me extend the forgiveness that I have received from you to those in my life who have hurt me. Give me the courage to ask for forgiveness from those I have hurt. Help me expect no reward but that which comes from doing what you ask. Help me to rest in your peace in my relationships, as long as they bring honor and glory to you. Give me the strength I need to obey you, because I love you, and you love me. 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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Somebody’s Watching Me

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Over the years, I have acquired a set of principles that have tremendously helped my walk with God. They’re my default settings. No matter what the situation, these guidelines for my life keep me doing the things I know are right, and honoring to God.

A long time ago, I learned that there are consequences for my actions—good and bad. This is Principle No. 1 in my unofficial Book of Principles. Here’s why: thinking about the consequences keeps me on the straight and narrow. I have a fear of causing unintended consequences in my future.

(Unofficial) Principle No. 2 is to do life like someone is always watching. When I became a Christian, this principle took on a whole new meaning. I believe that God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. He sees everything I do! That completely rocked me 20 years ago when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Last but not least, is Principle No. 3 (still unofficial)—the Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do to you (Matthew 7: 12). It’s that easy! Treat people like you would want them to treat you, even if they don’t repay the favor.

Please keep in mind that these life lessons weren’t all learned from my own experiences. As a matter of fact, some of my greatest life lessons came by watching others and learning from their examples—good and bad. And most importantly, I started to read the Bible. Reading the accounts of Jacob, Joseph, and Esau solidified the way I need to live my life.

My friends, you never know when a defining moment is going to make a huge impact in your life or even impact someone around you. Like Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow said, “you never know who is watching” and “the best is yet to come.” These two phrases sum up how a forgiving Esau impacted a young Joseph’s life. In Genesis 33, we read that Esau forgave his brother Jacob and greeted him with a huge hug years after a terrible betrayal by Jacob. That moment was completely absorbed by a young Joseph, who no doubt feared the worst for his father, Jacob. Fast forward to Genesis 45—Joseph, a man who was rejected, kidnapped, enslaved, and imprisoned through the actions of his brothers, is now demonstrating the forgiveness of God that was displayed by his uncle Esau. Joseph remembered the mercy shown to his father and showed that same forgiveness to his brothers.

We can’t control everything. Try as we might, there are times, like this pandemic, that are just out of our control. However, we can control how we respond to our circumstances:

Act like someone is watching.

Treat others as you want to be treated.

Consider the consequences of your actions.

By our behavior and words, we reflect who God is! By acting according to God’s standards, we may  influence how others will respond tomorrow.

Questions:
What life lesson have you kept with you?

How did you learn this lesson? How have you applied it to your life? How might it change your future or the future of someone else?

Next Steps:
Read about the lives of Jacob, Esau, and Joseph (beginning with Genesis 25:19) and then discuss the decisions you can make today that will influence your future and those around you.  

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the life example of Joseph. Help us to model a life that honors you and inspires those around us. Help us to do the right thing and make good choices in the face of crisis. Give us the confidence to know you love us and you are with us. And let us remember that, no matter what we’re facing, the best is yet to come. Amen.


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


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Tuesday evening. 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.


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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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