Subscribe to E.S.P.N – Closer

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Have you thought about what it might look like to actively live out the E.S.P.N. acronym that Lead Pastor Ben Snyder discussed in his message last weekend?

How do you weave this into everyday conversations and interactions with the people God brings across your path? The most obvious answer is just explaining that it isn’t about a sports channel! That would work if you’re simply telling someone about the Sunday service you attended. But what if you want to use it in a practical way—one that adds salt to your relationships?

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

E is for encouragement.
I recently had a conversation that turned to doom and gloom. A young man was telling me how he, his dad, and his grandpa had all decided that the present state of our world is the worst it’s ever been. They believed there was no hope of things getting better.

Colossians 3:16
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

I simply replied, “People have said that throughout history, but we always make it through, and things always get better. Besides, if they don’t, that means Jesus is coming back. I’m ready! Are you?” He told me he appreciated my optimism.

S is for scripture.
I keep a little pocket card carrier filled with scripture cards on my desk at work. It’s always open to a verse that speaks to my current situation. It’s encouraging to me—and the lady who covers for me during my lunch time finds it helpful too! Sneaky, right?

P is for prayer.
This one takes practice! At first, I would pray for people who shared their woes with me—after they left (and sometimes I still do). But now, with practice, I’m feeling comfortable enough to pray with them. Nobody has objected so far! God is good, and because we’re created for him, people are more open than we think.

N is for next step.
This one is easy if I’m trying to get someone else to take the next step. I encourage them to come to church with me, join a Bible study, get involved with a Group, and so on. But what about when God wants me to take the next step? I definitely procrastinate on that one! Eventually, I do give in. (Between you and me, God never gives up!) He knows us better than we know ourselves, and I’ve never regretted taking the step God is calling me to.

Questions:
What is God calling you to do today? Is it Encouragement? Scripture? Prayer? Taking a Next Step?

Next Steps:
Take the Spiritual Pathways Assessment and find the path to God that suits you best. Try it every day for a week. At the end of the week, ask yourself what you gained or lost and if you want to continue. If that path wasn’t the best fit for you, try another one, and so on.

Prayer:
Father, my heart is filled with gratitude for the blessings I have today.  I am so glad you brought me to CedarCreek. The message helps me grow in practical and meaningful ways. Thank you for loving me and for your grace and patience as I journey along the pathway to a closer relationship with you. Lord, open the eyes of my heart, show me where I am, and lead me to where I am meant to be. I pray all this in the name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior. 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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Pass the Salt – Closer

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Throughout my life, I have craved deep conversations. Recently, I have learned that deep conversations are one of the best ways to form lasting connections with others. In October 2020, I joined a young adult group that changed my life. One thing that struck me from the very first day was the members weren’t afraid to share their deepest thoughts and struggles. By having these thoughtful, intentional conversations, I was able to form the deepest friendships I’ve ever had. This group has been the salt of the earth to me.

Matthew 5:13
You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

Some of you are wondering “what does ‘salt of the earth mean?” It’s a phrase used to describe “an individual or group considered as representative of the best or noblest elements of society.” Salt is a valuable mineral and necessary for good health. And just as salt flavors our food, Christians are the salt of the earth, capable of “flavoring” or blessing those around us through our words and deeds.

Unfortunately, salt loses its value if it sits on our spiritual shelf where it does not serve a purpose. It can be so intimidating to act as salt to those who do not follow Jesus. Additionally, most of us were not taught how to share our faith. In last weekend’s message, however, Lead Pastor Ben reminded us that, “You may be the only Jesus that someone will ever see.”

The church has the responsibility and privilege of sharing the love of Jesus with others. How do we, practically, act as salt in our daily lives?

First, we can encourage discussion through the way we live our lives. We have many opportunities in our workplace, school, and local communities to show others love, grace, and gentleness. This includes practicing forgiveness, extending patience, and actively listening to others’ struggles.

Another way to be the salt in others’ lives is to intentionally seek out opportunities to have deep conversations with them. Ask meaningful questions and gain their trust.

Most importantly, as Pastor Ben stated, we must love others “with no strings attached.” Just as God has provided us with the gift of salvation, we also must boldly and selflessly spread the gospel, not expecting anything in return.

It is so important to share the love of God with others. This is a gift that is too good to be kept secret! By following Jesus’ command to be the salt of the earth, we can make an eternal impact by leading others to him. I encourage you to be bold and courageous in sharing your faith with others. We must step out of our comfort zones, because the gift of eternal life is too good to be left on the shelf.

Colossians 4:5-6
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Questions:
How have you personally shared the love of Jesus with others in your life?

Who has acted as the salt of the earth in your life, strengthening your relationship with Jesus?

Next Steps:
Join a Group. Pray for discernment for God to lead you to the right group, where you can form life-changing relationships with other Christ-followers.

Practice being the salt of the earth by performing an act that shows others the love of Jesus in your workplace, school, or personal relationships.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for sharing your free gifts of love and salvation with us. Please help us be bold and courageous in our relationships so we can show others your love and grace. Provide us with opportunities to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships with those around us so we can lead them to a personal relationship with you. 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.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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Leave a Comment?

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.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


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A Pinch of Spiritual Salt – Closer

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I don’t look back at high school or my early 20s as the best parts of my life. Those moments were fleeting, and placing more value on them than necessary seems disingenuous. Those friendships and their impact on my life lost their flavor over the years.

Matthew 5:13
You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

Those longtime friendships became stale because we were all attempting to preserve the relationship we’d always had. We continued to play basketball, barbecue on the weekends, and listen to music. Slowly, I drifted away as my need for more became a priority. Eventually, I left the comfort of that small circle as it became more and more mundane. I thought it was only natural because of my need for growth. But why couldn’t we grow together?

Sometimes we have to move on when our good efforts aren’t received. However, in hindsight, I moved on without trying to add flavor and value to a group of friends that I cherished. I may have even missed an opportunity I was called to.

The older I get, it has become more important to me to have a preserving influence on black, spiritual, and human culture. Thankfully, some of those old friends have taken notice. And now I know to sprinkle a little salt on those conversations to encourage growth and to keep them from losing flavor.

Questions:
What are you doing to add value and flavor to your daily life? Do you acknowledge your own shortcomings before you point them out in others?

Next Steps:
Be true to your calling by embracing the meaning of Matthew 5:13.

Complete the Spiritual Pathways Questionnaire to learn how you best connect with God.

Text SUMMER to 419-419-0707 to take part in the summer text campaign.

Join a Group to start having spiritual conversations.

Prayer:
God, I am thankful that you have inspired me to influence those around me even when I don’t always see value at work. I appreciate the people who continue to enter my life and become friends and family. May I never lose sight of the spiritual connection created by taking the time to grow these relationships. Help me reach those who don’t have a relationship with you. 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

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.


Leave a Comment?

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.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

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More Resources

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John Reading Plan


The Power of Words – Closer

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After introducing “sarcasm” as the topic during an Al-Anon meeting, I made a confession. “I admit I am powerless over my mouth—that my life has become unmanageable.”

This confession paralleled Step 1 of AA’s Twelve Steps, specifically: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” (Al‑Anon is a community resource that provides support to anyone affected by a relative or friend’s alcoholism.)

“What does that intro have to do with the weekend message?” you ask.

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder wrapped up the Closer series by teaching that sharing God with others through our words can bring us closer to him. Our words have power.

Ephesians 4:29 NIV
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Matthew 12:36
And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.

Back in 2003, during a phone call, I met a woman needing technical support. A faux pas on my part resulted in a sharp-tongued, rapid-fire response from her. I knew immediately I had encountered my kind of woman!

Although sarcasm doesn’t necessarily bring glory to God, in this case, he used it to connect me to someone who ultimately became a dear friend. As our friendship developed over time, I was blessed to share Christ with her, which hopefully was a blessing to her life, too.

Since her death in January, I have reflected on the countless conversations we had over the years with much resolve. I have an undeniable assurance that God was elevated through our conversations.

One such instance occurred in 2014. She stood by, supporting me via genuine friendship when life battered me with one hardship and difficulty after another. Only my unrelenting belief in God carried me through, and she witnessed it firsthand as I leaned into Jesus. (Because for me, no other option existed!)

Ephesians 2:4 says it quite well: “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much…” I truly believe that God arranges for his children to have deep relationships with those lost in sin—to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-14) in their lives. It is in those deep relationships that we are given opportunities to speak truth into their lives—truths about God and his faithfulness—especially in the midst of great difficulty.

Although the relationship I shared with my dear friend may have begun with a mutual love of sarcasm, it fully exuded the truth of this week’s bottom line: “Sharing God with others amplifies God’s work in us.”

Questions:
What spiritual conversation(s) have you missed having with those around you because you didn’t speak up? Is having a spiritual conversation in your wheelhouse? What impactful spiritual conversation(s) have you been on the receiving end of? How might “your story” benefit someone else conversationally?

Next Steps:
Reflect on how God’s faithfulness has carried you through life. Consider ways to share the experience(s) God has brought your way. No experience is trivial— give him glory by sharing his goodness to you with others. Offer the hope others may be desperate to hear.  Chose to be closer—with them and God!

Experience impactful spiritual conversations by joining a Group.

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

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, you have richly blessed me with friendships on multiple levels. Those in my inner circle have walked beside me through difficulties, reminding me of your faithfulness and your steadfastness. Give me the courage and wherewithal to be that friend to others, both acquaintances and strangers. Empower me to be aware of those within reach needing the assurance of a personal relationship with you. As I choose to be closer to you, may you be glorified. 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 to her husband, E. Michael, for over forty years. Karen is extremely grateful retirement has afforded her several soul-fulfilling opportunities to engage in deeper, meaningful relationship with Him and others.


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.


Leave a Comment?

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.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

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More Resources

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RightNow Media
John Reading Plan


The Full Value of Joy – Closer

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When I first started running, I went alone. I didn’t play any music, and I ran the same path every time. It was good for me physically and emotionally, but I never really cared for the exercise. I had no one to share it with.

We are drawn to share the things that bring us joy. Whether it is my dad’s perfectly cooked steak, a poetic description in a book, or an awesome experience—we desire to include others. As Mark Twain said, “To get the full value of joy, you must have someone to divide it with.”

God is the same way. He wants to share heaven with us; he sent Jesus so we could spend eternity together. He inspired people to write the Bible so we could hear about the incredible works God has done, and continues to do, to get us back.

John 1:16
From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.

Psalm 16:11 NKJV (emphasis added)
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Our heavenly Father doesn’t want us to keep this Good News to ourselves. He wants us to share it with others, as he shares it with us. God asks us to do this because it not only reveals his life changing love to others, but it also amplifies God’s work in us. God wants to bring us on an adventure, and adventures are best when we share them.

Proverbs 18:21 NKJV
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.

In every conversation, we have the choice to share God’s joy. God’s work in us multiplies when we speak encouragement to and pray over others. We find more joy in sharing the Good News than in keeping it to ourselves.

It wasn’t until I started running with my mom that I realized just how torturous my previous runs had been. I still dread getting out of bed, but now I have someone to dread it with. We are in it together, sharing in the sweat, aches, and the accomplishment once we finish. Running with my mom helps me find more enjoyment in the workout.

God invites us, and he asks us to invite others. He wants us to share his joy so that we can experience the full value of it.

Questions:
How can you share God’s joy with someone today? What words can you use to have a life-giving conversation? Who can you invite to church?

Next Steps:
Find someone to share God’s joy with. They can be an old friend or the cashier at Walmart, a life-long Christian or someone uninterested in church. Pay attention to how God will grow your own faith in the process.

Prayer:
Father, you share your joy with me. You want to be with me, and you made a way for that to happen. Thank you! Show me how I can invite others to experience this joy. Give me the right words to share your love and life. Don’t let me miss an opportunity! Adventures truly are the best when shared with others. Amen.


This post was written by Lydia Snyder. Lydia has been a story-lover for as long as she can remember, often found reading books or writing. She is thrilled to be making a difference by inspiring others to take part in the best story ever – God’s story. Lydia lives with her three wonderful siblings and two amazing parents.


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.


Leave a Comment?

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.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

Click Here


More Resources

Series Theme Verses
LivingItOut Podcast
RightNow Media
John Reading Plan