New Life – Halloweekend 2022

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Your brain can trick you into believing you’ve mastered something when you’ve been doing it long enough. That’s how I felt about forgiveness and facing the past. Those tasks were difficult at first, but they became easier with time, right up until the circumstances changed and I found myself needing to relearn a thing or two.

After God has done work in an area of your life, you don’t expect to have to persevere through that darkness again. While I’d learned to forgive attacks directed at me, I realized that forgiveness is much harder when it’s your loved ones who have been hurt. And who knows what future events will need to be faced head-on and worked through? I came to understand that God never stops sending invitations for growth and new life.

Ephesians 2:4-5
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

We ask for mercy and love, but how often do we pray for those who need the same thing? We forget that we all need God’s forgiveness—a chance to be alive in Christ.

Just as God gave new life to the dry bones we read about in Ezekiel 37, he offers us new life through the forgiveness of sins when we believe in Jesus. He then calls us to forgive others. This isn’t always easy. Some people are hard to love, so we don’t want to offer them forgiveness. We don’t face what they’ve done to us or how our actions and reactions have contributed to the situation. (Yes, don’t forget about the part you play in your story.)  Yet, as Christ forgave us, we are to forgive others.

Ephesians 4:31-32
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Remember what you’re like in the moments when you don’t love yourself. Like Mr. Miyagi said in The Karate Kid, living can be worse than death without forgiveness in our hearts. Even when we’re hard to love, God has granted us mercy and new life through Jesus.

Romans 5:8
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Questions:
What do you need to trust God with? How has God’s mercy changed your life?

Next Steps:
Ask God to teach you how to forgive. Find stories in the Bible about forgiveness. Join a Group where you can live a new life with other Christians and invite others to join.

Prayer:
God, may we all come to you when the past, our fears, and hopelessness stop us from moving forward. Guide and walk with us as we continuously enter new seasons of life. I pray that our faith is strong enough to allow mercy to prevail over our wrath during the darker days. Amen.


Special Invite:
During our At the Movies series, in addition to the regular LivingItOut, we have four special flash fiction stories that will be released just for you, our LIO readers!  To opt in for the flash fiction series, text FICTION to 419-419-0707.  You will receive daily installments of 1 story each week based on the theme of the Movie from the previous weekend.   Don’t miss the fun!


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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Trust God – Halloweekend 2022

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One evening when I was a teenager, I was watching the movie, “Friday the 13th,” with a friend and her family. When you watch a scary movie and it hits its climax, your pulse quickens, your respiration increases, and you feel your fight-or-flight response awaken. Once the villain is destroyed and the victim is safe, you can finally start to relax.

I thought I was at that part of the movie: Jason appeared dead, the heroine was in a rowboat and appeared safe … then all of a sudden, Jason jumps out of the water and lunges for the boat. At that same moment, my friend’s mom grabbed me from behind. I jumped up and started screaming like a maniac. I will never understand why some people love to be scared.

Last weekend during our Halloweekend service, we explored a scary story from the Bible. In it, God turned a bunch of dried up human bones into people. (Are you thinking about zombies?)

What is so amazing about this story is that God and Ezekiel are in a valley filled with human bones having a discussion (very creepy). Imagine yourself in Ezekiel’s place. Would you be freaked out? Would you be focusing on the bones or God? I don’t think I would have been able to concentrate on the conversation myself. Then God asked Ezekiel a crazy question.

Ezekiel 37:3a
Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

I’d be freaked out, thinking is that possible? Can God really turn those bones into living, breathing people? Who knows how long I would have stood there, trying to figure out the answer. The Bible doesn’t give any indication about what Ezekiel was thinking or what emotions he was experiencing. It just tells us how he answered the question.

Ezekiel 37:3b
“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Next, God told Ezekiel to speak prophetic messages to the bones and then to the winds, and Ezekiel obeyed.

Ezekiel 37:10
So I spoke the message he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.

I am amazed that Ezekiel trusted God enough to immediately obey him. He didn’t question God. He didn’t run away screaming. As Pastor Ben said during his message, “He just stepped into the mess.” He stepped out of his comfort zone and trusted God. He didn’t understand what God was doing, he just obeyed him.

I want to be like Ezekiel. I want to trust God at all times, especially when life doesn’t make sense. I have a tendency to try to figure things out on my own, but I am learning to trust God, surrender my concerns and worries to him, and seek his will.

I’d like to share one of my favorite verses with you.

Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Questions:
Where do you need to trust God? How do you respond when God calls you to do something hard? What fear/hardship is preventing you from obeying God?

Next Steps:
Read Ezekiel 37:1-14 if you haven’t already. Think about how you would have acted if you were Ezekiel.

Join us next week as we begin our new series, AT THE MOVIES! Better yet, consider inviting someone to attend with you.

Prayer:
God, you are such an amazing and loving Father. Help me to trust you in all situations and not to depend on my own understanding. Help me seek your will in everything I do. Lord, I surrender all my concerns and worries to you. I know you have a perfect plan. I trust you, Lord! Amen.


Special Invite:
During our At the Movies series, in addition to the regular LivingItOut, we have four special flash fiction stories that will be released just for you, our LIO readers!  To opt in for the flash fiction series, text FICTION to 419-419-0707.  You will receive daily installments of 1 story each week based on the theme of the Movie from the previous weekend.   Don’t miss the fun!


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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You Will Come to Life – Halloweekend 2022

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In retrospect, 2021 was one of the most difficult years of my life. I struggled mentally, physically, and spiritually. I experienced extreme depression and anxiety, and battled chronic illness. I found myself isolated and alone. Some days, it was too difficult to leave the house because of how anxious I felt. I isolated myself and became incredibly lonely, which only worsened my depression as the year went on. I felt completely alone, like I had no hope left.

I slowly succumbed to bitterness. I became incredibly angry at my circumstances and wondered if God truly saw and cared about what I was going through. I imagine that this is how Ezekiel and the Israelites must have felt in exile after being conquered by Babylon—incredibly alone and hopeless.

I felt conquered by my circumstances and had lost sight of God’s word. While I considered myself a Jesus follower, I focused on my pain rather than on God’s promises to redeem and restore us, even during situations that seem impossible.

Ezekiel 37:4-6 (NIV)
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

In this passage, God does the impossible: he breathes life into lifeless bones! He showed the Israelites that, while they may temporarily feel lost, he would restore their nation and bring about hope.

In 2021, I felt spiritually depleted—I was among the dry bones. I needed someone to fulfill me and breathe new life into me. Thankfully, God did just that. He is the only one who can fulfill us and restore us back to life. I remember one night in my bedroom, crying out to God and finally surrendering my despair to him completely.

I quickly saw my life start to change. His Word and promises gave me the inspiration to move forward and face my depression and anxiety. He gave me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and face my fears. I went back to church regularly and was given the precious gift of meeting many new godly friends and mentors. When I reflect upon how my life changed so drastically in one year, I see how God revived my soul and gave me a new life.

Let us never forget that we serve an awesome, powerful God who can bring us back to life, no matter what we are facing.

Questions:
Was there a time in your life when you felt like you were in the valley of the dry bones? How did it affect your relationship with God?

How does Ezekiel’s story relate to the hope we have in Jesus?

Next Steps:
Read the full passage of Ezekiel 37:1-14 as a reminder of how God can bring about hope when it seems like all hope is lost.

Reflect upon a time when God breathed new life into a situation where you felt hopeless. How did God’s work and spirit help you face that experience?

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for reminding us that you can breathe new life into lifeless things. Just as you brought the dry bones back to life, you also renew us with hope through your promises every day. Help us to surrender to you any challenges that we are facing and trust you to bring about hope in these lifeless situations. You are a good God who can overcome the impossible. 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.


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Life in Those Old Bones – Halloweekend 2022

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For some reason when I hear about bones coming together, I think about an old episode of Mickey Mouse, called Haunted House, where skeletons came into a house that Mickey had stumbled across in a storm. It was scary as a kid to think that could even happen (I didn’t know about Ezekiel’s story in the Bible then), but after rewatching that episode as an adult, I see it a little differently. The skeletons probably knew Mickey could play the piano and wanted to have some fun dancing and scaring him. They knew what they wanted from Mickey, and they got it.

If we think about it, the skeletons saw a shot and aligned their lives with Mickey to get the music going. What if we did the same with God? What if we trusted him enough to align our lives to his word to get through some of the struggles we face?

God told Ezekiel to preach to dry bones, so he did. And the bones listened. The bones started to come together and flesh began to cover them. That sounds way scarier than Mickey’s experience, but both would freak me out. Pastor Ben told us over the weekend, “When your imagination is alive, it’s over.” I can only imagine what Ezekiel saw as the bones and guts came together—similar to the gore we see in movies but in reverse—forming the bodies made by the Creator, right before his eyes.

Ezekiel 37:4-6 (NIV)
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

Could you imagine seeing, I mean really seeing, the Creator work? Imagine him giving you a message to speak over bones of all things. (If you have a fear of public speaking, the beginning of that message wouldn’t be too bad.) If it were me, I would probably either pause at the beauty of witnessing creation or run away from the gory scene in front of me.

Matthew 4:4 (NIV)
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

When Jesus was tempted, he replied to the tempter, “We cannot live on bread alone.” We need to live however God tells us to; we are all his creation, spoken into existence. Jesus knew this because he was with the Father when it was spoken—in fact, Jesus is the Word! Therefore, we follow the Word by obeying Jesus and honoring him with what we do with our lives.

Questions:
Do you see the story of Ezekiel align with any other stories in the Bible? Read the story again, and put yourself in Ezekiel’s place. How would you feel about watching creation take place before your eyes?

Next Steps:
Share the story of Ezekiel! Show your family and friends that the Bible has so many stories that are entertaining as well as life-giving.

Listen to the Father in prayer.

Speak life-giving words into the people who haven’t met Jesus yet so they can see the amazing things God has done by speaking life into us all.

Prayer:
God, show me ways to speak your life into people I meet, whether they know you or not. We all can use life-giving words throughout our day. Father, you know who needs to hear it and when—please give me the courage and strength not to shy away from the opportunities you put before me to share your Word, your Son and my Savior, Jesus. You have given me the breath in my lungs to live so that I can spread your life-giving message. I thank you for it every day I’m alive. In Jesus’ name, amen.


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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Dry Bones Rattling – Halloweekend 2022

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I hate scary movies and all other things scary. I refuse to read scary books, listen to scary stories around a campfire, or participate in anything else that is creepy. Which is weird when I think about it, because in real life, I’m not afraid of much—not blood, spiders, heights, closed spaces, walking in the dark, or wild geese (that’s a real thing!). I think it’s the lack of control that bothers me about scary stories, so I exercise control by refusing to participate in the first place.

The story of the dry bones from Ezekiel 37 doesn’t seem so scary, until you really try to put yourself into Ezekiel’s sandals. Then things get pretty freaky!

Ezekiel 37:1-6 (NIV)
1The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

Finding yourself in a place where all you can see is dead, dry human bones would freak anyone out, I think. Imagine watching Ezekiel carry out God’s instructions to speak to and then breathe on the bones. Imagine the sights and sounds of the bodies as they began to reform into viable human beings! Wow! To watch God actually bring new life to dead things would really be something!

But then again, that’s exactly what God did for me.

I knew what God’s Word said, but for years, I chose to live like I didn’t. Like the nation of Israel, I turned my back on God and on the people he sent to help me, deciding that I knew what my life should look like better than God. For years, I ran from place to place, person to person, faster and faster, trying to outrun myself! But every place I went, there I was! I existed in that valley.

My bones were desiccated … lifeless … breathless … dead.

I had been trying to live life without my Creator, and that left me spiritually dead. But at some point while I was in that death valley of my own making, the Lord called me back to him, and I listened. God, through his servants, my sisters and brothers in Christ, helped me face all that was dead and dry in my life. I let him breathe new life into me. Out of my desperation, I finally trusted him to do that, and he did!

As I’ve said before in my posts, my favorite phrase in the Bible is, “But God…”

Ephesians 2:4-5
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

God brings new life to dead things. Ezekiel’s vision is a foreshadowing of what God offered us through Jesus Christ. Here is what precedes “But God” in Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:1-3
1 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

We have all tried to live our lives apart from our creator in some way, and many of us have paid the price for it. But God can and will breathe new life into the dead things in your life—your marriage, your job, your family, your relationships. I’ve seen him do it again and again!

As followers of Jesus, we know the end of the story, which takes away the suspense and all the fear! I like that!

Questions:
Into what dead thing(s) do you need God to breathe new life? Are you afraid to ask? If so, why? If not, when will you ask him?

Next Steps:
Join a Group! This is where you’ll find brothers and sisters in Christ who will help you identify the dead things in your life and then help you gain the courage to ask God to breathe life back into them.

Listen to the song: “Rattle” by Elevation Worship.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, your power amazes me every day! But even more than your power, I am astonished by your love for us, your wayward children! Your patience and your loving kindness for us when we are so casual in our attitude and allegiance toward you leaves me breathless.  I am in awe of you, my sweet Lord, and more grateful than I can ever express! Listen to my heart, Lord! It is full of love for you! Guide me, lead me in your ways, O Lord, for you are my God, my Savior, and my King. Thank you for your many mercies! Amen.


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.


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