He is Worthy – For the Win

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This past week, we have been diving into the story of Abraham, focusing on his near sacrifice of Isaac. If I am honest, I still shrink away from that story. As a child, I was aghast that God could even ask Abraham to do such a thing. I knew it worked out in the end, but it seemed so barbaric. Now, as a mother, I see this from a different perspective. What was Sarah thinking when the small group set off early that morning? I shudder to think of the dread she felt as she watched her son being led away to his execution.

There was another mother who watched her Son walk to his execution. What emotions must she have felt as she watched his tattered body being paraded through the streets like a vile criminal?

Just as Abraham led his son up the mountain, there was also another Father who led his Son to his execution. A Father who knew that the only way to reconcile the people he loved to himself was through the death of his beloved Son.

Just as Isaac willingly followed his father up to the mountain, so this Son willingly followed his Father up the hill. Isaac was bound, this Son was nailed.  Isaac was saved by a ram, this Son became the lamb.

John 3:16
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

The story of Abraham is a powerful example of stewardship, but it points to a far greater story. It is the story that is woven through the entirety of Scripture. It is the story that points forward to Jesus, God’s beloved Son, given for us. Through this story, we see what real love is. We see what great lengths God went through for us. We see that no matter what, he is worthy of our trust. We can trust him because he did not shrink from the cross. It is through this sacrifice that we find freedom, peace, and hope. Without Jesus, our lives have no purpose.

But just as Abraham and Isaac’s story did not end on that mountain, the cross was just the beginning. I can only imagine the joy on Sarah’s face as she beheld her beloved son, returning alive. Go with me to that other mother, Mary, on that first Easter Sunday morning, when she realized that her Son, Jesus, had conquered death and provided a way for all people to receive eternal life through him!

John 3:17 (ESV)
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Questions:
Which character in our story can you identify with the most? Think about the trust each one had to have to continue on their journey. Do you have their faith? Do you trust God the way they did?

Next Steps:
Listen to “His Heart Beats” by Andrew Peterson. Think about how amazing it is that we have a risen Savior that put death to death.

21 Days of Prayer

Day 12 Prayer Focus – To Live in Fearlessly (1 John 4:18-19)

Dear God, thank you for being a God of perfect love. Thank you for loving me first—before I accepted your salvation, before I even knew you, while I was still living in sin. Teach me to love as you love, without fear or condemnation. Help me to offer grace to those around me, just as you first offered grace to me, Amen.

Parent Prayer


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.


Day 13 Prayer Focus –  To be like Christ in my Relationships (Philippians 2:3-4)
Dear Lord, please help me be like you in all of my relationships with others. Please help me humble myself and think of the needs of others before my own. Teach me to see how I can serve those around me. Please show me the places in my life where I can make others feel like they matter and let them know that they are not alone. Amen.

Parent Prayer

 

Day 14 Prayer Focus –  To Worship Him (John 4:23)
Dear Father, I worship you with all my heart and soul. I want to sing your praises from early in the morning, when the sun rises, until late at night, when the day has passed. I am so grateful to be allowed to be your child as your love fills my heart again today. Amen.

Parent Prayer


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It’s a Gift, I Don’t Own It – For the Win

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We are in the second week of the series, For the Win. When I considered what a day-to-day win looks like for me, it took me a moment. After much contemplation, I came up with my answer—making people laugh. I feel such joy when I can make someone laugh. Occasionally, after I’ve said something extremely funny and we’re all laughing, I like to add … “It’s a gift, I don’t own it.”

Matthew 25:29
To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing even what little they have will be taken away.

“It’s a gift, I don’t own it” is what Ben’s message was all about. The bottom line was: winning within starts with stewardship. Stewardship sees all our gifts as blessings from God. It is a grateful attitude and a deep desire to use God’s gifts in ways that honor him. It means putting our trust in God, obeying him, living open-handedly, and sharing our gifts with others.

The opposite viewpoint is ownership, in which the “owner” believes “It’s mine, and I can do whatever I want with it.” It is having a stingy and closed-fisted attitude, not wanting to share our gifts with others.

If we want to live in God’s peace, love, and joy, we must live a life of stewardship. We must trust God first to provide for us. We must put all of our blessings, fears, and worries in his hands. We must not withhold anything from him.

The way we use our time, talents, and treasures indicates whether we are living a life of stewardship. Let’s look at ways to be good stewards:

TIME: Focusing on what God wants us to do with our time. Trusting and obeying him and using our time to bless others.

TALENT: Using our gifts and experiences to fulfill God’s purpose. Realizing that God has given us unique personalities and spiritual gifts to help others and choosing to use our gifts to make a difference in other people’s lives.

TREASURE: Surrendering what is most important to us to God and trusting him with it. Proper stewardship is based on a belief that God will provide for us, that he blesses us so that we can bless others. It’s the principle of firstfruits or tithing—giving God ten percent of our treasure.

Living the life of a steward is so different from the culture we live in. Our culture is focused on keeping up with the Joneses or making it to the top. Many people forget what is really important; instead, they live a life focused on themselves. This leaves a big hole in their hearts and results in never being satisfied. They want more and more.

But when we choose to follow Jesus, we change. We find joy, contentment, and peace by living a life of stewardship. We are so grateful for what he has done for us that we want to share his love with others. We start to trust him and want to surrender everything to him.

We are so grateful for God’s blessings that we use them to help others and honor God.

Proverbs 3:9-10
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. 10 Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

Questions:
How are you using your time, talents and treasure? What are you trying to control? What do you need to surrender to Jesus?

Next Steps:
Use your time, talent and treasure to help someone. Attend GrowthTrack. Join a Group.

21 Days of Prayer

Day 11 Prayer Focus – To Live in Freedom (Galatians 5:1)

Thank you, God, for freeing me! You have freed me from sin and from shame. You have freed me from the law and from striving to earn salvation. You have freed me from death itself! For all those things and more, I praise you. Help me to live as someone who is free. Don’t let me fall back into the posture of a slave, to fall back into serving the things that used to control me. May you be the only one I serve, for you bought my freedom and loyalty at a high price on the cross. In gratitude I ask, may your will be done in my life. Amen.

Parent Prayer


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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It’s My Life!? – For the Win

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When I think about ownership and stewardship, they fall in the same category, for me at least. Hear me out—I know the difference between owning something and taking care of what’s not mine, but when it comes to my life, it’s not mine. It belongs to the Lord. Everything I own can be reduced to just mere possessions that I have gained by living the life I have been given. As we gain more in life, with it comes more responsibility, and we should steward it accordingly.

Luke 12:42
And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them.”

I was watching 1923—it’s funny! Elsa Dutton said something that completely goes hand-in-hand with Abraham’s story: There are only three answers to a prayer: ‘Yes,’ ‘Not yet,’ and ‘I have something else in mind for you.’

I find it amazing the way God speaks to us.

Many times I have prayed, “Please, let me have this,” or “I want that,” but I think God was trying to teach me how to steward my own life by replying “Not yet,” or, “I have something else for you.” Every time I tried to take the outcome into my own hands, I failed. When I stop and pray to God, “This isn’t my life I’m living, it’s yours. Guide me with what you would have done,” I don’t get what I want. I end up either being completely surprised by what comes into my life, or I realize what I wanted to happen was never meant for me.

Galatians 5:22-23
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. There is no law against these things!

I like the way Lead Pastor Ben Snyder put it into perspective,

  • OWNERship—It’s mine!
  • STEWARDship—It’s God’s.
  • I-DON’T-GIVE-A-ship—Who Cares!?

Living open-handedly and not idolizing either a possession or what we think is ours is stewardship. When we realize that everything we do points to God, it changes how we do life. When we mess up, we will likely be judged by others, and in turn that judgment can be aimed at all Christians (even when we own up to the mistake ourselves). On the other hand, we can make better choices with the gifts we have been given and lead others by example.

Leading by example—what a great way to steward the life we’ve been given and also praise the most loving owner I know, God.

Questions:
Which of the three “ships” are you living out: ownership, stewardship, or I-don’t-give-a-ship? Have you ever prayed for something, and God said “Not yet,” or “I have something else in mind”?

Next Steps:
Take some time to thank God for all he’s given you to take care of. Invite someone to church with you so they can learn to be in it to win it.

21 Days of Prayer

Day 10 Prayer Focus – To Connect with God Relationally (Romans 8:15)
Father, I come to you in prayer today thankful that I am your child. You have forgiven me and adopted me as your own. You have made me righteous and restored our relationship. I am so grateful that you are my Father. Thank you for loving me. I love you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Parent Prayer


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.


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Revealed Faith – For the Win

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Sometimes God will put you in a difficult position—not to test your faith but to reveal it.

In the middle of a game, you might have to make a move that’s not recommended, but if you don’t take the risk, there’s no chance of victory. I played the game Risk for the first time over New Year’s. The goal of the game is to strategically take over the world. In the middle of the game, I made an ally. But then another player forced my ally to betray me and take me out so that someone would gain victory. While betrayal is part of this board game (and not something I would have recommended), this risk led to victory. In the same way, sometimes we need to take a risk with God for victory in life.

This is the experience Abraham had with his son Isaac. God told him to take the risk and sacrifice the very son God promised to him on the altar. This is not something that Abraham would have chosen, but he trusted that God would somehow provide. Abraham knew God and trusted him first, so he was able to tell his son that God would provide.

Genesis 22:8
“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

When they got to the mountain, there was no animal to sacrifice. In obedience, Abraham began to prepare for the sacrifice of his son.

God intervened.

He told Abraham not to continue, because Isaac was not meant to be the sacrifice. At that moment, there was a ram stuck in the thickets. God provided the sacrifice, revealing the faith that Abraham had in God.

Genesis 22:13-14
13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

We gain victory in God by knowing who he is. Significant moments in the Bible were marked by giving them names to recognize the win in God. It is why Abraham named the place, Yahweh-Yireh (Jehovah Jireh is another way of saying it). It means the Lord will provide. Abraham won with God by trusting in who he is.

Abraham’s faith brought out the greatest victory, because if he had faltered, the story of the Bible might have been told differently as Jesus is a descendant of Isaac (Matthew 1:1-16). That moment of trust on Abraham’s part birthed a nation that would eventually lead to the Messiah, the real sacrificial son. God knew what he was doing at that moment to reveal Abraham’s faith.

Abraham was confident in God’s name, Jehovah Jireh—the Lord provides, and he won.

God knows what he is doing in your life today to reveal your faith. Like Abraham, it is important to remember God’s name to claim victory.

Questions:
Do you know God by name?

What is one area of your life in which you are winning?

Is there a choice God is calling you to make even if you don’t prefer it?

Next Steps:
Mark a moment of victory by naming it. Write it down or make a post on social media.

Here are some names of God with the Hebrew translation. Choose one that resonates with you and use it in a prayer thanking God for his goodness.

  • Father: Abba
  • The Beginning and End: Alpha and Omega
  • The Ancient of Days: Attiyq Youm
  • The Anointed One: Christos
  • The God Who Gave You Birth: El Chuwl
  • The God of Knowledge: El Deah
  • The God Most High: El Elyon
  • The Everlasting God: El Olam

Think of one step you can take even if it wouldn’t have been your first choice.

  • Tithe
  • Serve
  • Ask God to reveal your faith

21 Days of Prayer

Day 9 Prayer Focus – To Live Confidently (1 John 4:16-17)
Father in heaven, thank you for loving me. I know I can trust you with all I am. I am confident in the salvation you have given me. Help me to abide in you, to become more like your Son every day. Show me how to live like him, according to your will, and working for your kingdom in all I do. May my love for you and others be perfected through your love for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Parent Prayer


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


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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“Worked Hard All My Life…” – For the Win

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I don’t know about you, but once I decided to do things God’s way instead of mine, it started feeling like work instead of winning! At my age, I’d just as soon drift along the dwindling streams of my life with the least amount of work and stress I can manage. After all, I’m retired!

“Worked hard all my life, no help from my friends! O Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?”  I’m still channeling Janis Joplin!

What else can God expect of me? Well, then I stumble across Abraham, who began his adventure with God when he was 3 years older than I am right now. I think I would be pretty grumpy if God told me to leave my country and my family with the promise that at some point in the distant future, my descendants would become a great nation. From a human perspective, that’s a big ask with a very uncertain pay-off.

Genesis 12:1-3
1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

Abraham trusted that God wanted him to win, to be victorious. So Abraham went. I think we can agree that Abraham accomplished all that God had for him. He did indeed become the father of many nations, and through Jesus Christ, a blessing to them all.

This wasn’t an easy journey. There were many trials and challenges along the way. Abraham didn’t always get it right. But he trusted (for the most part) that God could and would do what he said he would do. Finally, God entrusted Abraham with the son he promised, a boy who would begin the legacy. God gave Isaac to him and Sarah well past the time when they would have physically been able to bear children. (I’m afraid I would have been grumpy about that too!) He was obviously a gift God gave them to steward because they had tried for years to get it done themselves without success.

And just when it seemed like all was going according to plan, God made another big ask:

Genesis 22:2
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

I imagine Abraham is thinking: “Wait! What? This is the kid I’m supposed to build my nation with, to be a blessing, etc! How can that happen if he’s dead?”

But by now, maybe after 40+ years of following God, Abraham knew that what God gives is only on loan to us. We are to steward the gift and be willing to let it go if God asks. I read this passage, and I wonder if I would have been able to match Abraham’s unquestioning obedience with my children. But Abraham trusted God and came to know him in a new way: Jehovah Jireh—the God who provides—when an alternate sacrifice was provided in Isaac’s place.

In the trials and sacrifices that come from choosing to obey God, the pay-off is always greater than it would have been had we tried to accomplish things on our own. All we have has been given to us by our gracious and loving Father, our Jehovah Jireh. The gifts he provides are ours to steward, to care for with an open hand, should he require them of us.

God wants us to win, to be victorious. We have a choice: will we try to hold on to his gifts, or are we willing to be stewards of all he has provided to further his work? And if we trust in him, we are ready to win within. It’s pretty amazing that he has decided to use us to accomplish his plan for planet Earth!

I want to make the most of all he has given me for all the time he has planned for me. My win will come from being a good steward!

The Bottom Line:  Winning within starts with stewardship.

Questions:
What gifts have you received from God? How are you stewarding them for kingdom use? Does doing things God’s way seem hard to you?

Next Steps:
In your journal, make a list of gifts you have received from God. Offer them back to him in prayer with thanksgiving, and wait to see how he tells you to use them. Share this list and your plans with your group or trusted friend and ask them to hold you accountable.

21 Days of Prayer

Day 8 Prayer Focus – To Know my Calling (1 Peter 2:9)
Dear Father, as a follower of Jesus, you have given me the right to be your child. You have set me apart and called me one of your chosen people. I can now show others your goodness and be a light to them

Parent Prayer


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.


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.


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