The Power of Engagement- Closer

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In last weekend’s message, Oregon Campus Pastor Andy Rectenwald discussed the importance of practicing spiritual disciplines. As Pastor Andy mentioned, spiritual disciplines are the ways we practice the presence of God. There are two types of spiritual disciplines: abstinence (refraining from a certain action) and engagement (actively participating in faith through study, worship, prayer, and confession).

While these actions may seem like a basic part of the Christian walk, it is easy to fall into the habit of going through the motions and taking them for granted. Thankfully, engagement provides us with practical ways to connect with God on a deeper and more intimate level.

  • Study involves not only reading the Bible but also meditating on it and diving deeply into the meaning of each chapter.
  • Worship comes in many forms, such as through music or connecting with nature.
  • Prayer consists of sharing our hearts with the Lord and allows us to praise him, thank him, and cast our burdens upon him.
  • Confession allows us to share our sins and burdens with fellow Christ-followers. It includes holding each other accountable and helping each other heal from our sins.

Prayer is my favorite spiritual discipline. I have grown tremendously in my faith this past year, and prayer has been one of the most influential ways I’ve grown my relationship with God. Prayer comes in all forms—just as God created each of us uniquely, he also allows us to connect with him in our own unique ways.

I am a writer at heart, and I struggle with speaking. I have learned to pray through journaling, and it has changed my life! There have been many nights that I have journaled page upon page, pouring my heart out to God. It provides a safe space where God both sees and hears my praises and cries.

 

 

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.

Whether you prefer study, worship, prayer, or confession, each of these disciplines provides a practical way to form an intimate bond with our heavenly Father. I would encourage you to find what works best for you so that you, too, can consistently and enthusiastically grow your relationship with God.

Questions:

Which forms of engagement do you feel God leading you to?

What form of engagement would be the most challenging to you? Why?

Next Steps:

Take the Spiritual Pathways Assessment to discover your unique spiritual gifts and ways of connecting with God.

Attend GrowthTrack to determine how God has wired you and how you can use your spiritual gifts to serve others.

Practice one form of engagement consistently for a week. Discuss your experience with a fellow Christian.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for providing us ways to form an intimate bond with you. Thank you for allowing us to connect with you in diverse ways that align with our individual gifts and personalities. Please help us discern which element of engagement will bring us closest to you. Additionally, please challenge us in each element of engagement and give us strength to be consistent and enthusiastic in our walk with Christ. 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 Gift of Silence – Closer

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Was it coincidence or God-incidence?

That is an easy question for me to answer. When I look in the rearview mirror of my life, it is easy to declare God arranged Janet’s and my paths to cross in 1975. With time and God, those intersecting paths grew into a friendship with deep roots. Similar to every garden, periodically, weeds would crop up, requiring attention. Yet, with careful, deliberate weeding, our friendship continued to grow and thrive.

As with all genuine friendships, an undeniable connection grew. We navigated life’s trials together—both within and without the walls of church—until the bitter end. Death is bitter.

The deep connection we shared made being silent fully acceptable as I sat within earshot while she laid in bed, day after day, for much of June and into July. Until the day she stepped into eternity on July 27, 2020.

The silence was powerful, yet serene. It offered time for much reflection. There was no real need to speak; although, periodically, there was a brief exchange of words. The solitude and silence of sitting at her bedside brought an inexplicable comfort to my soul.

It is no different with God. As Oregon Campus Pastor Andy Rectenwald shared this week, “disciplines of abstinence can connect us closer with God.” At times, it is what we do not do that connects us with God.

Psalm 46:10a
Be still and know that I am God!

Being intentional in solitude and silence can indeed be powerful in connecting with God. To reflect on the goodness of God in our thoughts and reflections is connecting with God. To remember times God has saved us from ourselves through our thoughts is connecting with God. To sit with a dying friend and reflect on our countless spiritual interactions is connecting with God. Yes, even contemplating the harsh reality that this dear friend chose death over having medical procedures done was, for me, connecting with God.

To connect with God is to experience his genuine peace. Choosing solitude over busyness allows us to ponder on the truths of his word, knowing he can be trusted in every circumstance. Even in the midst of tragedy, he longs to accompany his children—and he does—whether we acknowledge it or not.

No matter which discipline of abstinence we choose—solitude and silence, fasting from something to intentionally connect with God, or worshiping and performing good deeds in secrecy to purposely avoid praise—the opportunity to be closer to God is within our power. What will you choose?

Questions:
Which discipline of abstinence appeals to you? What is one discipline of abstinence you could practice this week?

Next Steps:
Read Matthew 6:1-18 to gain a better understanding of abstinence disciplines. Practice your selected discipline of abstinence at least 1 time this week.

Participate in our summer text campaign by texting SUMMER to 419-419-0707.

Complete the Spiritual Pathways Assessment to find out which pathways may work well for you. .

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, it is my deepest desire to be close to you. May your strength in me override temptations to not abstain from solitude and silence. Help me see legitimate needs of strangers, allowing me to step in and do in secret something that will honor you. Place Godly influences in my life, keeping me on the straight and narrow path to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Karen Peck, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut.


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Prepare to Receive the Word – Closer

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This past weekend, Oregon Campus Pastor Andy Rectenwald continued our Closer series by expounding on the “Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seeds.” He told us that Jesus spoke in parables. This was because the disciples had been blessed by God to understand his teachings and were given the secrets of the kingdom of heaven—non-believers had not.

This parable is an allegory about the Kingdom of God, and everything in this story represents something else. The farmer (sower) represents God, the seeds represent God’s word, and the soils represent the people hearing the word. Let’s look at two types of soil where seeds fell.

Matthew 13:7, 22

7 “Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants.”

22 “The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.”

This type of soil was very fertile but contained thorns. As the seeds grew, the thorns grew as well and choked them out. This soil did not produce fruit.

Even though the people knew that God loved them and that the plans he had for them were so much better than what they could have on their own, they still chose something else. Their cares for worldly riches choked out the word and separated them from God.

Matthew 13:8, 23

8Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

23 “The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

This type of soil was fertile and weed-free, which allowed it to produce fruit in differing proportions that were all bountiful.

Pastor Andy said that these people are a different type of person—someone who brings love, joy, and peace to almost every interaction. They are truly connecting to God in a deep way. By talking about their deep relationship with God, they inspire others to want the same connection. They know and live out our Bottom Line: To satisfy your soul, make God the goal.

Ephesians 3:17

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

Questions:

How close do you feel to God? Which soil type are you? If it’s not good soil, what changes can you make to move toward fertile, weed-free soil?

Next Steps:

Participate in our summer text campaign by texting SUMMER to 419-419-0707.

Complete the Spiritual Pathways Assessment and then nurture one or more of your best pathways for connecting with God.

Prayer:

Dear Father in heaven, you are omnipotent and the maker of all things for which I am very grateful. Your grace and love are unequaled by anything on this Earth. I confess that sometimes I get caught up in things that distract me from your plan for my life. Thank you for sending Jesus to this world to demonstrate true humility. Thank you for your Word that is timeless. I humbly ask that you open my eyes and heart so I may see as you see and love like Jesus loves. It’s in his name I pray, amen.

 


This post was written by Jenn Macke, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut.


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Don’t Be Just So—SOW! – Closer

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How close do you feel to God?

Did you answer that question right away with confidence, or did you have to think about it for a moment? Is God the BFF you first call on through times of joy and sorrow? Or is he your last resort, when you feel you have no place else to turn? Maybe, for you, he’s somewhere in between—that casual friend you call upon when you want or need something. The truth is God wants to be, and should be, the very first entity we turn to in every aspect of our lives.

Where you are in your relationship with God directly affects the degree of fulfillment and satisfaction you get out of life. To explore this further, let’s take a look at the parable of the farmer sowing seeds. You can read the whole parable in Matthew Chapter 13. Today, I am going to concentrate on the first portion of it.

Matthew 13:4

“As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them.”

What does this represent? Jesus goes on to explain.

Matthew 13:19

“The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts.”

These are people who have been given the Good News about Jesus but, for whatever reason, don’t understand or believe it and succumb to Satan’s evil temptations.

Matthew 13:5-6

5 “Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.”

This is the portion of the parable I would like to explore further.

 

Matthew 13:20-21

20 “The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.”

This is where your relationship with God has a direct effect on your path to peace and satisfaction. If you abide in him daily through whatever spiritual pathway works best for you, you will become deeply rooted in his will for your life. You will not fade during times of trials and tribulations. Instead, you will have the strength, through him, to overcome any obstacle and go on to live the great adventure God has planned for you in service to him.

Be sure to read tomorrow’s LIO for the rest of the parable.

Questions:
Are you truly living and abiding in God?

How close do you feel to him daily?

Next Steps:
Read Matthew 13:1-23 to fully understand what Jesus says in the “Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seeds.”

Continue to tune in to the rest of the Closer series to uncover how we can have a closer relationship with God.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I desire to be close to you and abide in your love continuously. Please help me to understand your words and put them into practice in my life. Help me to avoid being the seed on the footpath or the rocky soil. Instead, help me grow deep roots so that I may be productive in service to you. Amen.


This post was written by Ned Miller, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut


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Amazon Delivers; Jesus Saves – Closer

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Recently, I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my new glasses—I checked the mail every day. After what seemed like forever, they finally came. At first, I loved them because I could finally see clearly. Then, that excitement started to fade.

It wasn’t long after that I saw a yard sign on my way to work (Thanks to my new glasses!) that read:

“Amazon doesn’t deliver salvation, only Jesus can do that.”

The truth is that Jesus is the only thing that can truly satisfy our longings. Our desire for external things is often just a side effect of our longing to fill a need that can’t be met by anything or anyone other than Jesus.

John 6:35

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

I think Oregon Campus Pastor Andy Rectenwald had it right when he stated “to satisfy your soul, make God the goal”.

Psalm 37:4 

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.

In recent days God has been a good friend I don’t call or visit as often as I’d like. I love the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23) because it makes me contemplate my relationship with God. I see it as the story of first coming to know Jesus and the growing pains I’ve gone through to truly know Jesus. It helps me see where I’m at and where I still need the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in my life as I grow.

Galatians 5:22-23a

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.

Reaching all of them at once is a daunting thought, but I believe we can achieve every one of them if we take them a few at a time and stay connected to God.

During his message, Pastor Andy shared various ways to practice the disciplines of abstinence and engagement in order to connect with God. Studying the Bible, daily prayer time, confession, or engaging with some worship music can bring you closer to God, help you produce fruit, and encourage you to continue your journey. Or you could choose to abstain from something you normally do to intentionally focus time on growing in your relationship with God. For example, set aside time to be still and silent, fast from something, or perform a secret, random act of kindness.

There is no set-in-stone path to a fulfilling relationship with our Lord—our paths are as unique as each one of us. Mine seems to have a certain ebb and flow. I encourage you to keep trying new and different things until you find one that becomes a routine habit for life.

Prioritizing your relationship with God will change your life in ways you cannot even begin to imagine.

Questions:
Where are you in the parable of the sower?

Do you connect with God more through engagement or abstinence disciplines? Which new spiritual discipline will you incorporate into your everyday life?

Next Steps:
Choose one of the abstinence or engagement disciplines mentioned in the message and practice it at least once this week.  

Choose to light a candle, take communion, meet with a prayer warrior, or take a moment to kneel before the cross after next weekend’s service.

Prayer:

Father, you are so wise and wonderful, and you amaze me when the words preached on the weekend follow me into the week. This is a miracle that cannot be denied. So often I am prone to seek satisfaction through things in this world, but you, Jesus, are the only one who can offer what my soul truly craves. Help me to prioritize my relationship with you and draw closer. I gratefully thank you for the blessings you provide today. In Jesus’ name, amen.


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


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


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