The Gift of Grace – Advent 2022

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

“You need to give yourself grace.” 

… If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that, or something similar, I could afford some very nice gifts for my loved ones this year.

I don’t think there’s a harder gift for me to give myself than grace. Maybe you feel the same. Why can it be so hard for us to forgive ourselves when we feel we’ve messed up?

Personally, I struggle to offer myself grace because when I mess up, I want to make sure I learn from it. I constantly tell myself what I should have done differently or could have done better so that next time, maybe, I’ll get it just right. At the end of the day, it’s pride. I rake myself over the coals when I fall short—because part of me believes, if I really applied myself, I actually could do things perfectly.

I know how crazy that sounds written out. The moment I get that thought out of my head and actually see/hear it, I realize that kind of thinking doesn’t line up with reality. We all have lies that seem reasonable in our heads, but if we speak them aloud and share them with others, these thoughts often don’t hold up to scrutiny.

We all fail, fall short, and sin. It’s part of being human. Fortunately, God wasn’t content to leave us like that. Christmas marks the start of a story: God’s plan to make us all right with him through his Son.

Ephesians 1:7
He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.

Grace is a gift we can give ourselves because God has already given it to us. If you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, that means the perfect creator of the world has already forgiven you of everything—past, present, and future. He offers us an abundant, limitless amount of grace, and we don’t have to do anything to earn it. We just have to accept it.

God has already forgiven you. He holds no mistakes against you. This Christmas season, amidst all the plans and stress and shopping, I hope you will take the time to accept the gift of grace that God is offering you, every moment of every day.

Ephesians 2:8-9
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

Questions:
Where can you offer yourself grace this Christmas season?

How can you give the gift of grace to those around you?

Next Steps:
The next time you find yourself struggling to show grace—to yourself or to others—pause, and remind yourself that no matter what mistake has been made, God has already forgiven it. There may still be consequences and next steps that can be taken, but when we offer grace to ourselves and those around us, we are able to take those steps and bear those consequences with mercy and compassion.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the grace you offer me. I know I could never have earned it; instead, you love me so much you sacrificed your Son so that I might experience your love and grace. Help me to receive your grace with humility, and to offer it compassionately to those around me. May your will be done in me and through me. Amen.

Parent resource:
Read Luke 2:10-12 together as a family. Make Christmas cards for anyone in your life who might need a little joy today, from the mailman to the crossing guard. You could even add a gift card or small treat.


This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton is currently the apprentice copywriter at CedarCreek. In her spare time, she freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.


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


Got Compassion? – Advent 2022

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The month of December presents various forms of traditions—including cultural and generational customs. For Christians, the season of advent has different parts. It is a time for communities of faith and families to embrace the true meaning of Jesus’ birth. For many, that is where faith in God takes its first step.

If not for God’s undeniable demonstration of compassion, possessing an undying hope would be impossible. It is, for me, a perpetual hope made possible through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

It’s obvious to me that God gently led me to focus on the word compassion in this writing. Undoubtedly, it is the underlying reason writing this piece has been unlike any other challenge I have recently faced. To be honest, there is someone in my life who is in genuine need of compassion—God’s and mine. While God’s supply never experiences a shortage, the well I maintain is quite another story.

Please join me now as my rawest emotions, along with the untreated emotional and spiritual immaturity of my soul, are fully exposed in prayer. The personal challenges I face this month likely pale in significance to the challenges others face. Knowing that, however, does not decrease my emotional turmoil.

Remind me, again, Lord. Taking the high road is the God-honoring response where precious relationships seemingly have been kicked off the face of the earth.

Compassion.

Give me the courage and determination, Lord, to face the enemy of my soul and to extend genuine love, your love.

Compassion.

Empower me, Lord, to always remember, “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). 

Compassion.

Lord, help me remember Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses.” 

Compassion.

God, remind me regularly of the dilemma Joseph faced with his hateful, jealous brothers and his response to them: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” May Joseph’s response become my default response, every time evil appears. 

Compassion.

God, thank you, for offering compassion to this (old) soul countless times. Help me cling to this verse: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NASB).

God, you powerfully demonstrated your compassion by urging me to choose the word compassion to focus on in this writing. Thank you. This personal lesson has helped me—more than a little. It is my prayer that this exercise benefits others with similar struggles.

Questions:
Do you struggle with accepting compassion from others? Do you struggle with accepting compassion from God? Do you struggle with offering compassion to others?

Next Steps:
Increase your understanding of advent by reading “The Beautiful Meaning and Purpose of Advent.” Choose to offer compassion to others. Increase your understanding of God’s compassion by reading, “What are some Bible verses about compassion?” and “What does the Bible say about compassion?”

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me get it right when it comes to compassion. Help me understand the “whys” when gaping holes exist in my capacity to offer compassion to others. Please continue to arrange circumstances that offer opportunities to step into life’s messiness, allowing all involved to be stretched and moved in God-honoring ways. Thank you for repeatedly demonstrating and offering compassion. Empower me to quickly recycle life’s hurts into sincere understanding and compassion for others. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.

Parent resource:
Read Luke 2:9 together as a family. What would you do if a brilliant angel from God appeared in your home? Share how you would react.


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:

Click Here


More Resources

Series Theme Verses
LivingItOut Podcast
RightNow Media
John Reading Plan


The Gift of Humility – Advent 2022

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Humility has always been a difficult word for me to define. Webster says it’s the “state of being humble, which is modest or meek in spirit; not proud or assertive.”

The Gospel of Luke tells the stories of when the Angel Gabriel delivered unimaginable birth announcements to the aging Zechariah and Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s parents) and to the Virgin Mary. Zechariah asked Gabriel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years” (Luke 1:18). His doubts left him literally speechless until after baby John was born. Then he was filled with the Holy Spirit and given a prophecy.

Luke 1:76 & 79
76 “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. … 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”

Gabriel’s visit to Mary was to tell her she would be the mother of Jesus, the Son of the Most High. Confused and disturbed, she asked “But how can this happen?” (Luke 1:34). Unlike Zechariah, Mary did not doubt—she submitted herself to the Lord’s will.

Luke 1:38
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Mary was engaged to be married. Imagine the controversy her pregnancy would have caused. In those times, she could have been stoned to death!

Yet, how exciting for them to be noticed and blessed by God in such a manner! Even so, they didn’t brag about the special gifts they received from God. They gave God glory and spoke of his kindness, goodness, and mercy.  This is what God asks of us all.

Micah 6:8
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. 

Christmas can be a hard time of year to be humble. Our budgets don’t always allow us to buy the expensive gifts we’d like to give. It’s also hard to accept gifts that can’t be equaled. “It’s the thought that counts” can be a hurtful expression. However, staying within a budget honors God more than overextending and going into debt. God has blessed each of us with our resources and the responsibility to steward them wisely. He has also given us a warning about coveting our neighbors’ blessings.

Let’s be reminded that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our Savior, not a celebration of consumerism. I hope your Christmas is especially blessed because you have received the greatest gift of all—Jesus.

Questions:
Can you imagine what it must have been like to be visited by an angel? Would you find it hard to believe an angel promising a miracle to you? What is your most cherished Christmas gift?

Next Steps:
Read Luke 1-2. Ponder these chapters in your heart. Invite five people to come to a church service with you at CedarCreek, and be prepared to tell them why they should accept the invitation.

Prayer:
Father, you have given us a priceless gift in Jesus, your Son and our Savior. We did not earn this gift, nor do we deserve it, but we accept it!  Help us to keep our eyes, our ears, and especially our hearts focused on Jesus this Christmas season.  Give us the courage, the strength, and the opportunity to share our faith with others and invite them in. Thank you, Lord, for being the most precious gift that I can receive and give!  In Jesus’ name, amen.   

Parent resource:
Read Luke 2:8 together as a family. Roast marshmallows for s’mores while looking up at the stars – the same ones the shepherds saw! (Or make them in the oven and eat them by candlelight.)


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!


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


A Loving Sacrifice – Advent 2022

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Sacrifice is something we are all familiar with and likely do on a regular basis in our day-to-day lives.  We’re all willing to give something up for what we love more—it’s in our nature.

Sometimes the sacrifice is noble. Other times it’s done from a more selfish angle. Either way, we make choices based on priorities, even though everything comes with a price. Have you ever sacrificed sleep to get more done? Or perhaps you worked more hours to increase your income so you could better care for your family.

That’s one I wrestle with. I tend to give my time away without even realizing that it can hurt people. When I give too much of my time to work, I feel good about being a loyal employee and helping others. But then I realize that extra time at work was at the expense of spending more time with my children.

Sacrifices aren’t unique to humans. Even God made sacrifices. Because of his love for us, he gave up his perfect son for us decidedly imperfect beings (John 3:16).  And Jesus willingly came to earth to die for our sins.

John 1:14
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

He left the perfection of heaven to offer us a way to be with him forever through his death on the cross. That’s a huge sacrifice! And if we only believe in him, we gain eternal life. What a gift!

So how do we respond?

Hebrews 13:16
And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

These good works don’t earn our salvation—only our faith in Christ’s resurrection does that. We are called to be more like Jesus, who gave the ultimate sacrifice. We can do that by demonstrating his love to others, and this Christmas season is the perfect time!

This can be a hard holiday for some people. There are those who don’t even have the funds they need for basic necessities. If you have extra, perhaps you can sacrifice a little to provide someone with much needed assistance and hope. Sacrifice isn’t only made through gifts or tangible items. Some will be spending their first holiday without a loved one. That always makes me want to try harder to bring them joy. What about you—are you willing to sacrifice a few minutes of your time to help someone?

We all need to remember that the greatest bringer of hope and joy is Jesus. So the best gift we can give this Christmas is to sacrifice a little of our time to help someone realize what Jesus has done for us. That gift has the potential to help so much more!

Questions:
What do you, or will you, sacrifice in order to follow and live more like Jesus?

Is Christmas a tough holiday for you? Have you talked to someone about it?

Next Steps:
Make time in your schedule to sacrifice for a good cause.

Attend GrowthTrack to find out how your skills and personality are best fit to serve at CedarCreek.

Prayer:
God, I am so thankful for the sacrifice you gave to me so that I can be with you forever. Show me how I can sacrifice the time that you give me to do good for others and, hopefully, turn their hearts to you. In all the sacrifices I make, I have my full faith in you, Lord. You have not failed me yet, and I know you won’t. I will do my best to do the same and help others follow your son Jesus. In his name, amen.

Parent Resource:
Read Luke 2:6-7 together as a family. Use a nativity set or stuffed animals to act out the Christmas story as a family member reads it.


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

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


Amazing Love – Advent 2022

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I am one of those people who listen to Christmas music and watch Hallmark Christmas movies before Thanksgiving. (My family makes fun of me for this.) I love spending time with my family and friends, and I treasure going to Christmas Eve service.

CedarCreek does an amazing job celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am alway overjoyed as we sing Christmas carols and hear the message about God’s great love. I am filled with awe and wonder as I am reminded that love isn’t just a word or even a feeling—it’s an action.

God showed his great love for us by sending his one and only Son to Earth to rescue us from our sins. Jesus didn’t arrive as a rich or powerful king. No, he was born to a poor, engaged virgin in a dirty stable, wrapped in strips of cloth, and laid in an animal feed trough (Luke 2:1-6).

After Jesus’ birth, an angel of the Lord appeared first to shepherds in a nearby field. Shepherds! A group of people who would have been considered lowly and looked down upon. The angel told them the Savior—the Messiah—had been born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:8-16). The shepherds were the first to go and worship Jesus.

Jesus didn’t come just to love and save the rich, powerful, or perfect. He came to save us all. He loves us all—the sinners, the downtrodden, the suffering, and the lonely.

He came as a humble servant with a great purpose: to demonstrate God’s love—to be a model for us all on how to love people just as they are. In an act of love, Jesus willingly died on the cross for us. And three days later, he was resurrected so that all who believed in him would be saved.

John 3:16-17
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 everlasting life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

Truly Good News! So during this Christmas season, let’s focus on God’s great love for us and the amazing gift of Jesus. Let’s strive to share his amazing love with others at Christmas and all year long.

Questions:
What is Christmas to you? How has Jesus shown his love to you? How can you spread Jesus’ love to others?

Next Steps:
Read Isaiah 9:6-7 which prophecies the birth of our Savior. Read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1:18-25; Matthew 2; Luke 2:1-40). Meditate on the amazing example of God’s great love for us.

Make plans to attend a Christmas Service to celebrate his birth. Invite a friend who doesn’t know Christ to join you.

Prayer:
God, you are so amazing and I am overwhelmed by your great love for me. You sent your only son, Jesus, into this world to save me. The King of kings came down to this world as a humble servant. Thank you so much for Jesus and all he has done for me, is doing for me, and will do for me. Help his love flow through me to others. Help me share your great love with others this Christmas and at all times. Amen.

Parent Resource:
Read Luke 2: 1-5 together as a family. Parents, share about a particularly special or unique Christmas that you experienced as a child.


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.


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