Monumental Moments – Closer

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On January 20th last year (my birthday), I went on a 24-hour sabbatical. For me, it was an intentional time to connect with God. During my sabbatical, I believe God used a symbol to remind me of who he is—a well. I was reminded that with Jesus, I am satisfied.

In the frigid cold, I found some stones and built a small circle with the rocks to represent a well. At that moment, I connected with God through tradition. A traditionalist shows their love of God through ritual and symbol, using the physical world to embody non-physical, spiritual truths. For me, on that day, it was something that I built. It could also be the observation of a holiday every year or something that you wear everyday as a reminder of God’s promise.

These practices are seen all throughout the Bible to mark significant moments where God showed up. In ancient days, people would build monuments or wear physical reminders, such as blue tassels (Numbers 15:37-40), of who God is or to obey his commands.

Tradition is also a way to look back at what God has done. In Joshua 4, God commanded the Israelites to collect 12 stones, one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel, and construct a memorial to mark “where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground” (Joshua 4:22). The stone monument would serve to remind the Israelites not only of how God helped them cross the Jordan River but also of the many other times God had saved them—like during the parting of the Red Sea.

Today we wear crosses, practice holiday traditions, take communion, and, yes, build symbolic wells as physical reminders of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection. These are what I like to call monumental moments that serve to remind us that Jesus took away our sins and brought us back into relationship with God. For me, I picked up a stone before I walked away from the well I built. Sometimes I still pick it up when I need a reminder that I am satisfied by Jesus.

If you are someone who best connects with God through ritual and symbolism, what can you do to create monumental moments to remember who God is and how he shows up in your life?

Questions:
Do traditions and symbols appeal to you as a way of worshiping God?

What do you need to remember about God? What’s a good way to do that?

Next Steps:
Begin a new (or pick up an old) routine practice, like morning prayer or daily Bible reading.

Publicly declare your faith by getting baptized.

Read Scripture out loud. Here are some verses that relate: 1 Samuel 7:3-17, Isaiah 12, and Isaiah 58.

Wear something that reminds you of who God is.

Prayer:
God, I don’t want to forget about who you are. I pray for physical reminders of your love and truths. This is my way of expressing my faith to you. I don’t want to go through the motions; I want to remember. I mark today as a monumental moment to remember. Amen.


This post was written by Becca Roberts, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut.


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The Magnificence of Sense – Closer

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Ezekiel 1:24-28 NIV
24 When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings. 25 Then there came a voice from above the vault over their heads as they stood with lowered wings.
26 Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Close your eyes and imagine what the prophet Ezekiel was experiencing. Can you begin to grasp the glory and awesomeness of the vision? When the Lord is described through Scripture, the human authors cannot fully account for the way he entirely engulfs their senses.

This week, we have been looking at the different pathways we use to draw closer to God—to more fully experience his presence in our lives. Sensates use their senses to draw closer to him. Flashback to elementary school when you learned you have five senses: sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste. God has provided us with opportunities to use each of these senses to engage with him on a deeper level. We are all familiar with using sound to engage with God. We do it every time we sing or listen to music to glorify God. But we should not limit our sensory experiences to just the auditory system.

Many of the classical artists used Scripture as inspiration for their masterpieces. It is hard to look at such marvelous works of art, as Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam on the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, and not be moved to worship by the way he translated words from Scripture into images.

When you hear Handel’s Messiah or a Bach cantata you are almost transported into the presence of God. These gifted artists and musicians used their God- given gifts to invite their audiences to experience God through their senses in a new way.

Incense has been used in worship since God established the tabernacle. The high priest burned incense to draw the people toward God. The sweet smells of burning incense and even the animal sacrifices became a fragrant offering to the Lord. Today, some formal church traditions still burn incense to engage the sense of smell during worship.

When we touch the rough wood of a cross or sharp point of a nail, we are transported to the cross and can remember what Jesus went through for us. Participating in communion with real bread and wine engages our sense of taste. The sensation of the wine on our tongues lingers and reminds us of the blood Jesus shed for us.

Not everyone is as impacted by their sensory experiences as Sensates, but we can all use our senses as a means to more fully engage in the worship of the God who called us and redeemed us. I cannot wait to experience God in all of his fullness when he draws all of his children back to him to sing with all creation.

Revelation 4:2-6
2 And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it. 3 The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow. 4 Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God. 6 In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal.

Revelation 5:13
And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

Questions:
Have you thought about how your senses allow you to engage with God in a more intimate way? What makes you feel closest to God? How can you intentionally engage all of your senses when you worship God?

Next Steps:
Sometime today, watch this video. Allow the words of the song and the beauty of the setting bring you into a place of worship. If possible, sit outside and allow the wind and sun to engage your sense of touch.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the many ways you have given us to experience you. Thank you for the gift of our senses that allow us to see your glory, feel your presence, sing your praises, smell your fragrance, and taste your goodness. Help us to engage our whole selves in worship of you on every occasion. Reveal yourself to us in the senses you have given us so we may get a glimpse of  your holiness. 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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The Nature of God – Closer

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I have trouble focusing and resting in dead silence. It’s like my mind can’t turn off. I use white noise through rain sounds app to help me sleep. I can choose from rain on the leaves, peaceful water, ocean rain, thunderstorms, etc. A selection of ocean rain mixed with wind and thunderstorms calms me the most. It takes me to a place where sleep restores me, instead of leaving me restless.

During the day, I open the front door and listen to the birds chirping. In California, I’d sit on my porch with a cup of coffee and feel the ocean breeze traveling from a few miles away, then I’d sit with my wife for a daily devotional. The sounds, sights, and presence of nature prepare me to get closer to God. It’s a reminder that God never stops speaking.

Psalm 23:2-3
2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. 3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.

We don’t always know or understand what we need in our lives. It’s also true that we don’t know all of the things we should avoid. The noise of the world and the busyness of our minds makes us susceptible to being led astray. God’s desire is to lead us to righteousness. He restores what we previously lost.

From the moment God said, “Let there be light,” he has never stopped speaking (Genesis 1:3). Sometimes, it’s difficult to hear him because we don’t know how to be quiet. For some of us, using God’s creation to quiet the noise of our busy lives is the most effective way to connect with him. He speaks the loudest when we’re quiet.

Questions:
Do you feel that there’s a distance between you and God? What steps have you taken to strengthen your relationship with him?

Do you connect best with God through nature?

Next Steps:
Try starting your day by opening yourself up to hear God’s voice.  Take a walk without any distractions to appreciate the natural world around you. Use that time to rest and restore before jumping into the daily grind. Read your Bible to see how God took the time to speak through creation.

Prayer:
God, thank you for the beauty in the world you gave us. I hope I continue to appreciate the wonders of your creation and use them to relax my mind and restore my soul when necessary. I ask that you continue to guide me to a life of purpose and lead me away from the loudness that can deafen me from hearing your voice. 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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Abide in the Vine – Closer

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It is amazing to me how much Jesus has changed me in the last several years. For many years, I strove harder and harder to earn Jesus’ love and approval. I tried to do everything “right” and constantly fell short. This was so frustrating, and it made me feel bad about myself. Slowly, I started to abide in Jesus. I began to connect with him, to love him dearly, to trust and depend on him, to obey him, and to let him change me.

A close relationship with God begins with spending time with him and getting to know him. This is accomplished through Bible study, prayer, meditation on verses, praise and worship, gratitude, and fellowship with other Jesus followers. As you grow closer to Jesus, he fills you with his hope, peace, and joy, and he helps you to fulfill the purpose he has for your life. In other words, he helps you to bear fruit.

Jesus commands us to abide in him.

John 15:4-5 ESV
4 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Just as a branch cannot bear fruit without the vine, we cannot bear fruit without abiding in Jesus. As we abide in him, our faith grows, and we are able to trust him more.

We learn to rely on him instead of ourselves. We are able to bask in his presence and let him change us. We begin to understand how much he loves us and that we don’t have to earn that love—we just need to accept it.

Over time, we become so peace filled and joyful we want to serve him. And as we serve him and tell others about him, we bear his amazing fruit.

Questions:
What does it mean to abide in Jesus? How are you abiding in Jesus?  What fruit are you bearing?

Next Steps:
Carefully read John 15:1-11. Meditate on these verses, and think about what Jesus is trying to tell you. Journal your thoughts.

Take part in the text campaign by texting “summer” to 419-419-0707.

Complete your spiritual pathway assessment.

Prayer:
Jesus, I am overwhelmed that you, the King of kings, want to have a deep relationship with me. I am so thankful that you love me so much and that I don’t have to earn your love. I just need to accept it. Help me to abide in you at all times and to love others as you have loved me. I praise you for changing me and filling me with your love, peace, and joy. Please work through me to bear much fruit. 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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Up Close and Personal – Closer

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This past weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder kicked off our new series Closer to remind us that God wants us to know him as intimately as he knows us. What does it mean to truly be close to God, and how do we accomplish this in a world where, at times, he can seem so distant? Is it even worth the effort?

Let me ask you this: Knowing that God is the Creator of all we enjoy each day and loves you so much that he sent his Son to die for your sins, wouldn’t you want to be as up close and personal with him as humanly possible? I believe he has things he wants us to know about him.

While it is true, on this Earth, we cannot physically see him, hear him or reach out and touch him, there are still many ways we can draw close to him. For the rest of this week, you will learn about abiding in God—to remain or stay close to him—and some of the pathways people use to connect with him more deeply.

For example, we humans tend to stay in places we feel connected to, like a favorite chair or couch where you gravitate to relax. Or a favorite place or room you head to when you want some alone time. Or what about a favorite vacation site you frequent because you feel connected to something or someone there?

I like to take a drive now and then to the area where I grew up—because I still feel a connection there, and it makes me feel good to reminisce. Similarly, if you find your best method to connect with God and use it to draw closer to him, you will be more likely to remain, or abide, in him. Only then will you truly know him, which is the most fulfilling way to live.

Ben described 9 pathways people use to connect with God. Realize what might work for you, may not work for someone else. We each have to find the pathway(s) that works best for us. This doesn’t come naturally; it takes a conscious effort and a choice to move towards him and away from things not of him. But in the end, it will result in a closer relationship with the Lord.

James 4:8
Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

The bottom line is: Connect his presence to your present.

God wants an up-close and personal relationship with you right now. Shouldn’t you want the same?

Questions:
How close are you to God?

Do you abide in him or just make an occasional visit?

Next Steps:
Learn more about the 9 pathways to connect with God. Take this assessment to see which one fits you best.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me so much that you want an up-close and personal relationship with me. I believe there are things you want me to know about you, and I want to know everything I can. Please help me to find the best way for me to connect, draw closer, and abide in your fulfilling presence. 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.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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