Recharge Your Spiritual Battery – Christmas 2022

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The Christmas season is one of the busiest times of the year. Sometimes, it seems like we have such a long to-do list that it is nearly impossible to finish. Having family and friends come to town to celebrate the holidays, finding gifts to give your loved ones, and trying to make Christmas the best it can be for your family can be mentally exhausting. While Christmas is a time to reconnect with others and spread joy, it can also be draining.

As an introvert, I can admit that when the holiday season is over, I breathe a sigh of relief and cherish the quiet moments that God gives to us. I am no longer pressured by things that need to be done, and time finally slows down. The time to reflect and reconnect with God is an often-overlooked gift that is beneficial to both our spiritual and mental health.

The week after Christmas offers us the perfect opportunity to reflect on our year and reconnect with Jesus. It is so easy to get caught up in worldly things and stressors around Christmas that we forget to take a moment to breathe.

The calm after Christmas provides us with quiet moments where we can let go of our burdens and take them to the Lord. It gives us time to focus on God, meditate on his Word, and reflect on the trials and triumphs of the past year before we begin a new one. It is spiritually cathartic to intentionally spend time with God and listen to what he is  telling us, whether that be through Scripture, prayer, or godly conversations with other Jesus followers.

Psalm 62:5
Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.

Next week, many of us will start a new semester at school or return to work after the holiday break. So let’s use the time we have this week to focus on clearing our heads and letting go of the stresses and pressures of our daily lives. This quiet time will renew our strength to begin the New Year spiritually and mentally refreshed.

Questions:
How can you use the quiet moments to connect with God?

What is your favorite way to reflect and rest during this time of year?

Next Steps:
Set aside 15-30 minutes each day this week to spend alone with God. Use this time to connect with God through prayer, worship music, Scripture, or just by sitting still in the quiet moments.

Take time this week to journal about 2022 and write down your hopes and wishes for 2023. If you did something similar last year, go back and reflect on what you wrote.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of the holiday season. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my daily life that I forget to reflect and rest. Let me use this week to center my heart on you and to surrender any burdens that I have carried this past year. Thank you for giving me this time to reflect and recharge after the busy holiday season. Please bless this new year and help me to grow in my walk with Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Isabelle Billnitzer. Isabelle is a regular attender of CedarCreek and serves in the children’s ministry. She is passionate about writing and loves spending time with her family and friends. Her goal is to show people the love of Jesus Christ.


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Be Still – Christmas 2022

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Who is glad Christmas 2022 is in the rear-view mirror?

The holiday season can be kind of crazy and exhausting, especially if you celebrate the holidays with cookie baking, parties, and buying, wrapping, and exchanging gifts. So now, take time to relax and enjoy the stillness and refresh yourself before the storm of the new year hits.

This week is a great time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and what it means for the future. Hope was born at Christmas and his name is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Jesus was born, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, rose again, and now lives in Heaven to intercede with Father God, on our behalf. Hope can be celebrated not only at Christmas but throughout the entire year and into eternity!

Psalms 46 was written by the Sons of Korah, and it contains the well-known verse, Psalms 46:10. This verse is quite popular and well loved, but its true meaning may surprise you.

Psalms 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world” (emphasis added).

When I read this passage, I noticed something interesting. The act of putting a comma after “still” is the grammatical way of telling us that these are two separate commands, as they were fully intended.

“Be still” is a direct command from God.

He is telling us to stop our pointless efforts trying to control things that only he can control. Stop fighting with our own strength and surrender to him to guide and guard us through whatever battles come.

If you only looked at verse 10, it may appear to mean that we need to quiet ourselves and listen to God. However, it is necessary to look at the context of the full book to find the true meaning. Psalms 46 is about the greatness of God and his power that can deliver us from anything! That’s powerful!

“Know that I am God.”

Not only is God omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere), and omnipotent (all-powerful), he is also loving and faithful. We can trust that God’s plans for us are good (Jeremiah 29:11). That means no matter what we are going through or facing, he can bring us through it. There is no hardship or struggle that will prevent us from living out God’s plan for our lives if we put our trust in him.

Singer/Songwriter Jack Cassidy  put it this way:

“He [God] is willing to meet us in whatever place that we’re in,” says Jack. “And that varies for everyone. But for me, the darkest moments I walked through, He wanted to meet me and redeem me in that place. And He came with a spirit of kindness, a spirit of love, and a spirit of ‘I just want to help you,’” says Jack. “He’s willing to do that in whatever scenario people walk through” (CBNNEWS.COM, 5-9-2022).

Be still, and let go. Or better yet—be still, and let God. Then and only then will we learn that God is in complete control and fully understand the meaning of Psalms 46:10.

Questions:
What are you carrying that  you need to surrender to God?

Do you understand the command in Psalms 46:10? Have you tried being still and leaning on God during your times of trouble?

Next Steps:
Listen to Jack Cassidy’s “Let Go, Let God.” This song is a great example of what Psalms 46:10 conveys. Listen closely to the words to discover what happens when you lay down your life like Jack did.

Prayer:
Dear Father in Heaven, please help me surrender control of my life to you. Grant me eyes to see your omnipotence and unfailing love for me. Thank you for Jesus’ birth at Christmas and for the hope that only he can provide. Thank you for the Holy Spirit that is ever present in my heart. Please grant me protection and deliverance from my daily hardships. I pray this 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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Remain Calm – Christmas 2022

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Well, the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holiday is now in our rearview mirror. I truly hope it was a blessed and joyful time for you and your family. Yes, Christmas is over, and the New Year will soon be upon us. For me this one-week span between chaos and craziness is the perfect time to unwind a bit. It is a great time to just let a peaceful calmness come over your very being. I like to reflect on what Christmas was like for me and my family. I also find a reassuring calmness in hoping for what the coming new year will bring.

It is true that this time between the holidays can still be hectic with gift returns, after-Christmas sales, and planning New Year’s Eve celebrations. For some, it can also create worry and fear of what the new year will bring. I encourage you to remember that with God, you needn’t stress.

Zephaniah 3:17
“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Remembering the reason for the Christmas season and knowing and trusting God is with you always can bring that calmness that most of us desperately need, especially this time of year.

Exodus 14:14
“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

What is the best way to find that calmness? I imagine it is different for everyone. For me, I find it by taking a walk on a quiet, moonlit winter night, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and a relaxing book, or spending time in reflective prayer. What works best for you may be different.

Thankfully, there is one sure universal way for everyone to discover a serene calmness now and anytime—just make sure your heart is right with God. Lean into him, and allow his grace, love, and mercy to provide the peace and calmness that surpasses all understanding.

This is the last week of the year, why not just stay calm?

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

Questions:
What does your “after Christmas” look like for you?

Do you take time to allow yourself to just be still and let God calm you?

Next Steps:
Actively find ways to help you relax and focus on bringing some calmness into your daily schedule.

If you are struggling to find the peace you need, spend time in prayer.

This is also a good time to seek out a CedarCreek Group to start out the new year. The Groups directory opens January 7, 2023.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the perfect gift of your Son, Jesus, on that very first Christmas day. Help me to always remember the true reason for this holiday season. Help me to find the calm within the storms of life in this crazy world. Help me to always be mindful of others I may encounter during this time—-those who may also be struggling to find peace and calm. Show me ways to be of service to them. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Ned Miller. Ned loves serving through writing on the LIO team, prayer team, group leader and as a greeter. He loves spending time with his family and working on his model railroad.


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Eternal Peace – Christmas 2022

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The Christmas season can be stressful. Parents probably feel it more than most, but we often invite the distress ourselves. I know I’m not the best at managing my children’s seasonal expectations, and I might catch a side glance from my wife if I attempt to manage too much. We usually do more than we should. Winter concerts, our “magical” elf, shopping, serving, and cooking the feast of the seven fishes are all constantly draining. The amount of coffee and EPIC bars consumed this season was my secret to finding “the strength of ten Grinches, plus two.”

I hope you and yours enjoyed December 25th. The tiresome dance to get there always ends with a reminder in our house. My wife reads a version of The Nativity Story each year before the kids open presents. It’s a needed moment of peace for me.

For most of us, a stressful Christmas is our reality year after year. And for far too many, a stressful Christmas is the least of their worries. I’ve been there before, and I don’t know what the outcome would have been if I hadn’t known there is peace to be found both within and after the storm.

John 14:27
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

The birth of Jesus as well as the other accounts of his life in the Bible hold many truths to lead us to eternal peace right here, right now. Our world has always needed peace, but humans are incapable of delivering such tranquility on our own. We must remember, and act upon the fact, that letting Jesus into our hearts is the only way to dispel the disturbances in our lives.

Seeking and accepting Jesus is the one true eternal peace.

Questions:
Do you feel more stressed during Christmas? How do you try to bring peace into your life?

Next Steps:
The next semester of Groups starts January 21st. Find a Group that fits your needs to help find some peace. Spend time in prayer to find answers and build a better relationship with God.

Prayer:
Father God, the gift of peace is possible thanks to the gift of Jesus. His sacrifice offers a way to remove trouble, doubt, and hatred from our hearts. Thank you for choosing to love us more than we deserve. We can never repay that sacrifice, but I choose to remember it always. Amen.


This post was written by Jaron Camp. Jaron is a storyteller and a professional ghostwriter who enjoys using his gifts to write for the LivingItOut. When he’s not developing fictional worlds, researching, and writing, Jaron enjoys watching sports, participating in family game night, and spending time with his wife and four kids.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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The Best Gift – Christmas 2022

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Last Christmas, my husband and I had the perfect gift for our children. We were finally getting the puppy they had been begging for all year. I was so excited to give them this gift, but there was a catch—they had to wait for it.

On Christmas morning, they were gifted a box full of puppy things.

Their reply? Silence. They didn’t get it! I only saw blank looks on their faces. And when they finally realized what the future held for them, they barely managed an unenthusiastic “yeah” before moving on to open their Pokémon cards.

It was a knife to my heart. I had prepared this gift with such love and time and knew that they would love it, but instead of being excited about the better future gift, they were drawn to the immediate mediocre gift.

This is what the ancient Israelites did when, through the prophets, God told them of his future Messiah. He knew that the gift he was giving them was the gift they needed, but they wanted immediate gratification instead. They saw the glitter of the nations around them and chose the present over the future.

Isaiah 9:6
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor,  Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

When the gift arrived, they didn’t recognize it. It didn’t look like they thought it should. So many ignored it, thinking that a Messiah is a king, not a servant. A Messiah will help tear down the walls of oppression, not tell us to love our enemies. So many rejected God’s perfect gift—the gift all of humanity needed.

Now, over 2000 years later, we stand in the same place. Since we just celebrated Christmas, we can see how God graciously came down to Earth as our perfect gift. Yet, we often still choose the instant gratification of the world around us.

We reject the giver of life itself in favor of trinkets. We settle for the perishable when we have access to the eternal.

When we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating the gift of eternal life with God our Creator. We are remembering that apart from Jesus, there is no peace, no love, no hope. Apart from Jesus, we are dead, hopeless, and wretched. But we have a choice.

We can choose life—the best gift of all.

John 3:16 (NIV)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Questions:
Have you ever given a gift that was rejected by the receiver? How did that feel? What are you doing with the gift God is offering you? What are some steps you can take to embrace the gift of Jesus in 2023?

Next Steps:
Reflect on 2022 this week. Ask yourself what steps you have taken to deepen your relationship with Jesus. Set aside time every day to read your Bible and pray. If you are not participating in a Group, make a decision to join one next semester.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for being the giver of life. Thank you for coming down among your people to offer yourself as our perfect gift. Forgive me for rejecting the eternal in favor of the temporary. Give me the wisdom to prioritize my relationship with you over the temptations of this world. Make me part of your holy and set apart people. 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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