Grow in His Light – Church at Home

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2023 is here, and it will take some getting used to. The further we get away from 2020 and its bizarre cousins, 2021 and 2022, the better off we are. Right? No one wants to live by the memory of  the chaos, death, and destruction that overwhelmed much of the world over the past three years, especially the parts camped out in our backyards.

But is taking a torch to the nightmares the best approach? Remembering previous mayhem, mistakes, and heartache can help navigate future storms. It lets you know what you’re fighting for and will, hopefully, lead you to discovering what it takes to shed your cocoon and grow into a butterfly.

2 Peter 1:3
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.

Discovering how to grow is easier than you think. God has graciously provided us with a way to move forward in a new life as he intended. You achieve this by building a personal relationship with him—a bond unlike any other you formed before you made the choice to accept and live by his promises.

A way to remember what awaits us is to intentionally and purposefully take steps to grow your faith. Communion is one of those ways. Taking Communion reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice to shine a light on God’s selfless love for humankind.

Committing yourself to regular prayer is another opportunity to grow closer to God and better understand his deep love for us. This month as a church we will be kicking off our 21 days of Prayer and Fasting. Will you join us?

Our Savior has never broken a promise to us. On the other hand, New Year’s resolutions are promises we all tend to break within a few weeks. Why is that? Are we doomed to fulfill our new year’s resolutions because we continue to run from our past instead of walking a path of God’s righteousness to the future he has prepared for us?

Take the opportunity in 2023 to grow your faith. Write the next chapter of God’s story for you instead of closing the book altogether.

Questions:
Have you ever been left feeling empty from your resolutions?

What steps have you taken to grow in your faith?

How do you want to grow in 2023?

Next Steps:
Be proactive in growing your faith in 2023 by participating in the 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting text campaign—text “21 Days” to 419-419-0707. Make an effort to live out your purpose by joining a Group this January. Invite others to join one as well.

Prayer:
God, Communion is a chance to remember your sacrifice that saved us all and to look forward to your promises for eternal salvation. Thank you for providing us with your undeserving love and grace. Each day, month, and year reminds us that a life with you in eternity is only a moment away. I pray that each of us sees how special that is. 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.


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Yeah, It Hurts – Church at Home

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Man, last year flew by!

Reflecting on it, I can say my biggest regrets are the hurts I may have caused others. Yes, I’ve had my own share of getting hurt, but when I cause someone else pain, it feels so much worse for me. One thing I always try to remember is hurt people hurt people.

Earlier this year, one of my past hurts came back to haunt me, and I really considered dropping out of school. One of my classes was giving me such a hard time. I struggled through every assignment. A memory from junior high played over and over again each time I turned my computer on to do my schoolwork.

When I was in the 8th grade, a teacher told me I would never amount to anything, that I would always fail.

At the time, it didn’t bother me, but it stuck and continues to resurface in certain situations, like when I struggle on an assignment or get stuck on an everyday problem. I hear that voice in my head utter:

“You can’t.”

“You’re failing.”

“You’ll never.”

Matthew 11:28
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

At times, the hurt takes control of everything.

And that is when I need to be careful not to hurt others. When the frustration of failing comes back to haunt me, sometimes I lash out. I say things that get completely misunderstood. So in a misguided attempt to avoid a bad situation, I retreat into myself, isolating myself from others. I figure, “Why not? I’ll just end up hurting them.” So I stay away, which in itself, hurts others.

Instead of hiding inside myself, I should run to God—that is where my help comes from, after all.

2 Corinthians 12:9
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

If I could give up my hurts to God and not take them back, my stress levels would go down and I’d be capable of helping myself and others more. Sometimes it’s just easier to hold on to them. Those words resonate within me: “You can’t.” “You won’t.”

Recognizing what or who caused the hurt and forgiving them is how we are released from the control it still has over us. It is essential to achieving peace with God.

Without forgiveness it’s hard to hear God’s words:

“You can.”

“I love you.”

We’re not meant to do life alone. We need life-giving people in our lives with whom we can share our hurts and hangups. I’m writing to my whole church family right now, which gives me a sense of peace, and I thank you all for that.

Questions:
What hurts are you still hanging on to? Have you talked to anyone about them?

Next Steps:
Talk to someone about one of your hurts so you can get it off your chest. Write it out like you’re writing a letter to God. Putting it into words and getting it off of your chest may be the first step you need to find peace.

Join a Group and surround yourself with life-giving people. The Winter Groups directory opens January 7, 2023.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for always being there for me when I need you most. I know that whenever I need help, I can turn to you. I know you love me and won’t fail me. Give me the confidence I need to show others the love you give me, even when I am frustrated and feel like I can’t. What I can’t do alone, I can do with you and those who are close to me. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Casey Stengel. Casey is a follower of Christ, a dad, and an avid Chicago sports fan. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with family and friends. He works in recovery and loves to help people however he can. He is also working toward his Associate Degree in Biblical Studies.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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Narratives – Church at Home

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A few weeks ago, Sarah Bucher introduced us to Jon Acuff’s book Soundtracks, which is about the stories we tell ourselves about our lives.  She said that 80% of what we think is negative! Can you imagine? This really piqued my interest, because for me, I think it’s true.

Looking back over the last year, I admit I have regrets.  I won’t go on about how I should have exercised more, spent more time reading my Bible, or spoken up about how I was feeling. It does no good to “should” ourselves.  Christ has given us freedom from physical, spiritual, emotional, and other regrets.  We are no longer bound up by these.

James 5:16
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

I was blessed with an accountability partner eight years ago.  We get together a few times each month to check where we are on our spiritual journey.

We share our trials and triumphs and pray for each other and others. It’s a 10 out of 10 stars, highly recommended experience! In sharing my burdens and praying through them with another, I saw the potential lies I was basing my narrative on falsely.  (Things are often not as negative as we initially believe!)

This year was a life transition for me. I went from a job of 30 years to retirement.  Changes going on around me led me to believe I was not a valued employee and was being pushed out of my position before my retirement date. No matter how much I wanted a strong finish, I felt I wasn’t going to make it. I held tight to Paul’s advice.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 

The truth? The changes happening had more to do with preparations for a smooth transition than me as a person.  My value is not rooted in who I am as an employee but in who I am as a child of God.  I am HIS, and he knows and values the impact my time at work has had. God is good! He values me so much that he sent his only son to earth to experience life and to die in my place to cover my sins.

The same is true for you!

Questions:
Is there someone you can share your spiritual journey with?

Do you have regrets about the past year?

How will you adjust in the new year to create a strong finish?

Next Steps:
Find a spiritual accountability partner and make a commitment to meet regularly to share each other’s faith journey.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for the gift of meeting with other believers in worship, prayer, and life. Help us to encourage each other as we journey along. Place in our paths those who do not yet know you and give us courage to share the Good News so that all people will come to know the blessings you bring. Let everything we say and do point to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Julie Estep, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut, who is grateful for the opportunity to reflect, write, and share what God is doing in her life. She’s glad you came today!


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Great is His Faithfulness! – Church at Home

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When you reflect upon 2022, what do you think of? During times of reflection, many different feelings may arise. For some of us, this year was a year of trials—a year that we faced mountains or experienced hurt. For others, 2022 was full of joy and excitement.

No matter what season we are in, God brings us blessings, both seen and unseen. Although each year has its ups and downs, there is always something to celebrate.

For me, 2022 was a year of refinement. Although there were times of sorrow, there were also times of rejoicing and giving thanks. In this time of reflection, I realize just how much God has worked in my life this past year. He brought some of my greatest blessings from my deepest aches.

He blessed me with life-giving relationships, led me to graduate from college, and helped mature my faith. Even when I didn’t realize it, God was working behind the scenes in my life to set the stage for so many things to celebrate.

Psalm 107:21-22
“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.”

There are so many things to celebrate each year! We can celebrate the big things, such as the beginning of life-giving relationships, graduating college, or a big job promotion. However, we do not have to have undergone a life-changing experience to celebrate and give thanks to God. We can celebrate the kindness of a stranger, the forming of a new friendship, and how God provides for our daily needs.

Even if 2022 was a year of trials and tribulations, there is always one thing that we can celebrate—the greatest gift of all! We can celebrate who God is, how he has walked with us through the highs and lows of our lives, and his tremendous love and grace for all of us.

It is so easy for us to get caught going through the motions of daily life that we forget how much there is to be thankful for. As we begin the new year, let us step into it knowing that God is always with us and he has wonderful plans for every one of us.

James 1:17
Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

Questions:
What did you celebrate in 2022?

How can we strengthen our “gratitude muscle” and thank God for his blessings?

Next Steps:
Begin a gratitude journal by writing down 3 things you are thankful for each week.

Participate in the 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting, and listen to where God is leading you.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for walking alongside us throughout 2022. We praise you for every blessing and gift that you give to us. Please guide us as we begin a new year. Remind us to pay attention to each blessing that you give us and to celebrate life in every season. 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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The Spiritual Discipline of Reflection – Church at Home

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The start of a new year is packed with excitement and anticipation—making resolutions, attending holiday parties, and spending time with friends and family. But amidst all that busyness, it’s also the perfect time for reflection.

This past weekend, Pastor Ben unpacked a way for us to look back on 2022 and see the way God has been working in our lives. He shared that reflection is not just a useful tool to help us reach our goals—it’s also a spiritual discipline.

Throughout the Bible, we see God calling his people to remember. In Exodus 12:17, he institutes Passover, a festival to commemorate the Israelites’ freedom from slavery in Egypt. In Joshua 4:1-3, God tells the Israelites to craft a stone memorial after he stopped the Jordan River, allowing them to cross. In Luke 22:17-20, Jesus introduces the sacrament of Communion, a way for his followers to remember his sacrifice for them.

All of these leverage something tangible in order to help people reflect on God’s goodness and faithfulness. And while the New Year celebration does not  have spiritual origins, it offers a similar opportunity to slow down, think back over the past year, and witness God’s fingerprints in ways we might not have noticed in the thick of things.

Psalm 143:5
I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done.

That is why the spiritual discipline of reflection is so important. Looking back provides us a different vantage point, and seeing God’s provision in the past helps us trust him more in the future. We can grow from past mistakes in a way that is grace-filled instead of shame-producing in order to make course corrections moving forward.

As we embark into 2023, use this as an opportunity to pray and reflect on the past year. Remember God’s faithfulness and the way he’s shown up in your life. You might be surprised by the encouragement and insight you discover.

Questions:
What are some ways that God showed up for you in 2022?

Do you notice any ways you grew spiritually over the past year?

Are there any next steps you want to take in 2023?

Next Steps:
Take 15 minutes each day to journal through the questions following each LivingItOut devotion. Share some of your answers with a trusted friend.

Find a tangible way to commemorate God’s faithfulness over the past year—light a candle, sketch a picture, or write out a prayer to do just that.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for leading me through 2022. Through all the ups and downs, you were faithful. As I start this new year, help me pause and reflect more. Give me spiritual vision to see what you are doing in my life. I want to draw closer to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Sarah Pagel. Sarah is passionate about weaving stories pierced with beauty, light, and sehnsucht. She’s an avid reader of everything from dusty classics to modern fantasy. When not living in worlds made of words, she can be found spending time with her family, taking long walks, or practicing yet another Vivaldi piece on her violin.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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