Peace vs. Turmoil – Irresistibly Free

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In 1984, I accepted Christ’s life-giving, love-filled offer.  I was so excited to realize I could stop trying to be perfect. I could put it all in God’s hands, confidently knowing he would grow me in my faith and, eventually, lead me home to eternity with him.

There have been stumbles and face plants along the way, but thankfully, God has continually picked me up, dusted me off, and placed me back on the narrow path of growing in his will and his way…

Then in February of 2020, my circumstances became exceptionally challenging. My best friend of 39 years unexpectedly died, my brother sustained a traumatic brain injury, my husband and I had COVID for Christmas, and we’ve since lost at least a dozen friends to its ravages. Simultaneously, in my eyes, our beloved democracy was under attack by extremists.

The continuous stress made it extremely challenging to trust God, and far too easy to think I had to fix everything on my own.  Unfortunately, I began to suffer from ever-worsening anxiety, depression, and fear. It pushed me to the brink and, consequently, as a salty, opinionated Irish girl, has led to some less-than-grace-filled discussions.

Thankfully, Ben’s message reminded me that Christian life is not about fixing this ravaged, failing world and worrying about whether Christianity is “winning” the culture war or not. It IS about being the hands, feet, and voice of Christ and spreading his message of salvation through faith in the One True God to save as many lost souls as possible, especially in the midst of chaos. That’s why we’re here.

(In this scripture, Jesus is speaking about his disciples.)

John 17:20-23 NIV
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Ben stated, “Focusing on and obeying Jesus is like a bright light shining in the world, country, and our culture. But when we become politicized, we simply add to the darkness of this lost world.”  So, instead, I suggest we take the apostle Paul’s words to heart and stop worrying about how “wrong” others are and, instead:

1 Corinthians 9:22-24
22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!

Questions:
Ask yourself: Has your need to express your opinions about the state of the world and our country brought anyone to Christ? Or have they alienated them from him and you? And, finally, what is it God tells us is the right path to take as his disciples?

Next Steps:
Put down your fear, anger, and anxiety—they are not from God.

Pick up your Bible daily and do as this song suggests:

Find a Group and connect with other Christ-followers regularly.

Spend time daily in prayer.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for bringing us this message, at this moment in our church’s and country’s history. Thank you for using it to provide me with real and growing relief from anxiety and depression through your Word and this message. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


This post was written by Martha Smith, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study. Martha describes herself as a lover of Christ who likes to share faith with others.


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Everyone Can Win – Irresistibly Free

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I often ponder the lack of response by individuals engaged in a disagreement, or as Pastor Ben likes to call it, “heated fellowship.” It raises the question—is the lack of response wisdom or cowardliness? Not participating in heated fellowship, out of wisdom, requires enormous self-restraint.

If we were to make a list of topics to avoid conversationally, for the sake of relationship(s), it would be extremely long! Unless you have been living under a rock, you know this is true of relationships—both outside and inside the walls of church. Unfortunately, more than a few people purposefully engage in rhetoric at the expense of others. One-upmanship is the name of their game. It should not be so for the Christ-follower. Our posture, tone, and approach should reflect Jesus—in everything we do and say.

When we accurately portray Christ in our day-to-day activities, we win, as does everyone. One approach is by refusing to participate in placing personal interests above the interests of others. On multiple occasions, Jesus modeled stepping into social issues by lovingly interacting with one-and-all. He offered no preferential treatment, and he had no biases or agendas against any class of people.

In Mark 11, a direct political statement that Jesus made was recorded.

Mark 11:15-17
15 When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

Paul also demonstrated how to operate as an agent of God.

1 Corinthians 9:19-21
19 Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.

When we place others before ourselves, as Paul stated above, we all will win!

Questions:
How do you navigate heated fellowship? How do you manage conflict? Do you purposefully engage and enrage the other participant(s) in order to “win” the battle? What matters most to you—winning or being Christ-like in both word and deed?

Next Steps:
Examine the motive(s) behind avoiding heated fellowship—whether it is wisdom or cowardliness. Pray for clarity in identifying your personal strengths and weaknesses as a Christ-follower. Ask a genuine friend to identify character flaws (hindrances as a Christ-follower) that you possess. Strengthen your character flaws through the daily meditation of applicable Bible verses.

Join a Group.

Participate in our summer text campaign by texting SUMMER to 419-419-0707 to help you draw closer to God and become more like him.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, you know me better than I know myself. Grant deeper understanding to me in identifying self-defeating habits and routines. As I step into the freedom offered through Christ, may your light shine in me and through me, especially in the relationships most challenging. Empower me to offer grace and mercy to those seeking a deeper connection, as I lean into you daily. Nudge me, keeping me from missing opportunities to bring glory to your name. Diminish me as I exalt you. 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.


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Living in Contrast – Irresistibly Free

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Recently, a coworker commented about an immigration issue that was troubling her. Instead of getting curious and trying to understand her concerns, I got caught up in my own prejudgments on the issue. And rather than meeting my coworker where she was—feeling the need to belong—my reaction caused division. In retrospect, my approach to the conversation should have been focused on living in contrast to the world, to let the light of Jesus shine.  But I focused on winning.

As Christ-followers, we are called to live in contrast to the way the rest of the world lives—we should stick out. The church was never intended to reflect the world. It’s supposed to look different. We should not be focused on serving our own interests but, rather, the interests of the Kingdom of God. When the church comes together for the Kingdom of God, it shines a light on the rest of the world. Winning is never the goal, because the light of Jesus cannot be overcome by the darkness of this world.

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

The church isn’t fragile. We don’t have to live with the fear of losing. The Kingdom of God is stronger than we can imagine because we are under the authority of the King. When we come together, we are free to rely on King Jesus to overcome the darkness. We don’t have to be in it to win it.

Over and over again in the Old Testament, when Israel thought they could win without God, they lost. They did not live in contrast but lived like the people they were trying to conquer, causing the Israelites to lose sight of what they were really fighting for.

When we allow our faith to be superseded by political issues, we can lose sight of the truly important task of reaching people for Jesus.  Unfortunately, that is what happened in the conversation with my coworker. It wasn’t about her comment—I love that in America, there are so many different cultures and backgrounds. I tried to win the “battle” on my own, instead of relying on the King. I was more concerned about being right and missed an opportunity to be a light in her life.

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

We are called to let our light shine through, responding differently than the rest of the world does. It’s an opportunity to represent Christ to others and give him the glory.   By living in contrast, the church shines a bright light that the darkness cannot overcome.

Questions:
What battle are you trying to win on your own?

Why do you think it is important for the church to be the light?

What are you afraid to lose?

How can you be a light for God’s Kingdom?

Next Steps:
Employ these tips when you’re involved in a controversial discussion:

  1. Have a conversation not an argument—the aim should be to get to know someone, not to prove a point.
  2. Get curious and ask questions to better understand the other person’s perspective.
  3. Seek to find common ground.

Prayer:
King Jesus, I believe that it is by your authority that you will overcome the darkness. I am sorry for the moments I have lost sight of the real battle. It is not about the interests of the world but for the sake of your Kingdom. It is not for me to win but to be a light to the world. Show me how to live in contrast to glorify you. In Jesus’ name, amen!


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


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Shine – Irresistibly Free

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I have very strong political opinions. In the past, it was very easy for me to get bent out of shape about things going on in the world that I didn’t agree with. I tend to complain, argue, and become irritated when I am focusing on the wrong things.

My amazing mentor, Zonnie, gently points me back in the right direction. She reminds me where my focus should be—on Jesus. Unfortunately, I am a very slow learner, so she reminds me over and over again. As I continue to read Scripture and study Jesus’ life, I’ve come to realize how right she is. It is impossible to live in Jesus’ peace, love, and joy if I’m focused on the world and offended by everyone who has a different opinion than I do.

Paul similarly talks about the importance of not grumbling and arguing in Philippians 2.

Philippians 2:14-16 NIV
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

I don’t know about you, but I am more apt to behave badly when I’m focused on my problems and the problems of this world instead of Jesus. I think when we become angry and let that anger fester, we are more apt to say or post hurtful things on social media, or even make blanket statements about people we don’t agree with. This is very hurtful to others and can easily ruin relationships. As Christians, our behavior is a reflection on Jesus and other Jesus-followers. We can expect this type of behavior from the world but not from followers of Jesus.

Before COVID hit, I realized Jesus was calling me to change. I needed to be more compassionate, loving, kind, and grace-filled, so I made some big changes in my life. I went off Facebook, stopped listening to political podcasts, and stopped watching the news. I started reading the Bible and listening to Christian podcasts more. I started praying regularly, counting my blessings, and praising God. These changes made a huge difference in my life. It’s easy to see now that God was preparing me for what was ahead.

Over the last two years, our country has been divided over many issues. Sadly, many of our churches have followed. As a result, some of us have taken our focus off of Jesus—and let’s face it, that is a horrible way to live. If that’s you, it’s time to adjust your focus back to him and your blessings. It’s important for all of us to show more love, grace, and compassion to those around us. We can shine like stars if we allow Jesus’ light to shine through us.

I admit it is a struggle every day to remain focused on Jesus. It is easy to get irritated and upset. Recently, I had a conversation with someone who has different views than me. We expressed our own opinions and listened to each other. It was hard not to get angry. I wanted to be right, but I knew that’s not what was important. We ended that part of our conversation with, “We just have to trust God!”

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:
What are you focusing on? Do you trust Jesus? Do you need to change your focus or change any of your behaviors?

Next Steps:
Pray about the things that upset you, and ask Jesus if he is calling you to do something about it. Make a decision to not complain about things—be part of the solution.

Prayer:
Jesus, you are such an amazing God. You love me so much. You have a perfect plan. Help me to focus on you at all times. Increase my faith and trust in you when I struggle with the challenges of this world. Let your love and peace radiate through me to others, and let me shine like the stars in the sky. Amen.


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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In It To Win It – Irresistibly Free

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About six months ago, I was talking with a client when the topic unexpectedly swerved to politics. My whole body tensed as I realized she wanted my opinion on a hot-button issue. I fumbled for an answer that wouldn’t lose me business. I knew of my tendency to get swept away in an argument, trying to prove why I was right and win over the other person. But if I let that happen, there would be consequences.

The “in it to win it” mentality is so easy to slip into. We have reasons for our opinions, and we feel there would be a positive outcome if everyone held the same view. The problem is, when we get wrapped up in our stances and try to persuade others that it’s right, the conversation often winds up angry, judgmental, and unproductive. In our vehemence, we can misrepresent our own views and refuse to understand others’ views.

Thankfully, Jesus offers us a different way to navigate political situations with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), the Great Commandment (Mark 12:28-34), and the Great Conduct (Matthew 20:25-28). Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus step into hot-button political and religious issues with words of grace and truth. We have to focus on Jesus’ example to escape endless political skirmishes.

Ephesians 4:15
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

The more we dig into Jesus’ words, the more we’ll recognize the victory he has achieved. He conquered sin, he conquered death, and he told us how the story ends. Because of that, we can enter every political conversation with hope and assurance, knowing that ultimately God is in control. Jesus’ victory frees us from the anger, anxiety, and despair that a glance at the news can bring.

By focusing on Jesus and living from his victory, we can keep everything in perspective when talk turns to politics. We don’t need to win the argument—our goal is to win hearts for Christ. When we follow Jesus’ example, our mission shifts to match his heart for serving others. We listen with the intention of truly understanding, we seek unity instead of division, and we strive for peace and grace.

James 1:19
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

When I finally provided an answer for my client, I tried to explain my view as calmly and diplomatically as possible. We ended up having a polite and productive conversation about politics (imagine that!), and I walked away relieved.

When we imitate Jesus in our approach to politics, we’ll be amazed at the way God transforms the situation.

Questions:
How do you react when politics enter the conversation?

How do you want to imitate Jesus’ example more closely?

Next Steps:
The next time politics come up while talking with a coworker, at a family dinner, or on social media, take a moment to pray before you respond.

If you haven’t already, join the DreamTeam to show Jesus’ love by serving.

Prayer:
Jesus, thank you for the perfect example you have provided to navigate political situations. I confess that I sometimes let my own emotions and opinions drown out my goal of introducing people to you. Please fill me with your grace and peace, and help me to speak the truth in love. Help me to prioritize glorifying you and spreading the Gospel over my desire to win. Amen.


This post was written by Sarah Pagel. Sarah is passionate about weaving stories pierced with beauty, light, and sehnsucht. She’s an avid reader of everything from dusty classics to modern fantasy. When not living in worlds made of words, she can be found spending time with her family, taking long walks, or practicing yet another Vivaldi piece on her violin.


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Sunday Dinner – Irresistibly Free

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Family reunions and holidays brought the Cephas family together like never before. Maryland crabs and oysters were the foods of choice, and distant cousins became the best of friends for an entire day. The only thing that topped those moments were Sunday dinners.

Sunday was the day when everyone came together, and the stress of life took a break. We always looked forward to the food—a mix of southern soul and eastern shore seafood. Yet, more importantly, everyone benefited from our togetherness.

The generation that showed me what family meant has dwindled in size. Many of the siblings and cousins I grew up with in Ohio have moved away from each other. The Maryland family remains large, but even they don’t connect as much anymore. COVID is easy to blame for separation during the holidays, but it seems the importance of gathering and the meaning of family was lost long before the pandemic.

Admittedly, I tried to avoid the Cephas Christmas gatherings and our annual Cephas Day celebrations while we were busy raising our family in the DC area for almost seven years. But it felt like home each time I did attend. Those elders who remained always brought the family necessities. It was always the same for those occasional visits throughout the years. Their happiness always let us know how much we were missed. 

Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Pastor Calvin Sweeney said the family is a mixture of the ingredients that make a salad. Each part contributes to the flavor, but you don’t have a salad without the lettuce. And you don’t have a family without the “let us.” Let us is the essential ingredient in the pursuit of God’s community of family.

To be part of God’s family, you have to let us gather in worship. Let us encourage one another through difficult times. We need to know our family is there for us. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to love all people. Let us hope without wavering in the promises of God.

Psalm 68:6
God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

God’s family is there when our families aren’t available. We’re missed without knowing, so let us come together to experience the freedom gained through Christ’s love. What are you bringing to Sunday dinner?

Questions:
Are you an active member of God’s family? How do you contribute to bringing others to God’s dinner table?

Next Steps:
Start finding freedom by joining a Group for the summer semester.

Start building a relationship with God by attending weekend services.

Invite others to join you on your adventure.

Prayer:
God, let us all be more purposeful in creating family bonds with all of your children. Thank you for showing us what it means to be part of your family and the freedom of walking in faith. Let us never forget the ultimate sacrifice that offers everyone a seat at your table. 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.


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Family is like Salad – Irresistibly Free

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Freedom that comes from one’s self isn’t true freedom. Selfish or sinful freedom only brings decay and deceit. True freedom comes from Jesus—he chose to free us to be part of his family. Think about that for a moment! God chose us, and Jesus gave his life so that we could be free.

You and I were chosen!

What a blessing to be invited into a family of unearned blessings. We get the benefits—but it comes with some responsibilities too, as others are blessed by our contributions. Family isn’t what you get, it’s what you give.

Colossians 1:13-14
13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

When my husband and I first started dating, I was invited to his sister’s home for Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family. I was nervous because I had never met them, and John was nervous because they’d never met me.

We arrived, we ate, and we left. The whole visit took 45 minutes! When we got to the car, I couldn‘t help but laugh! “That was the fastest dinner I’ve ever eaten!” I said.

1 John 4:11
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

Turns out, John didn’t want them telling me stories about him, so we left before they could! We’ve been married for over 10 years now, and I’ve certainly heard some stories, but we still laugh and tease about that dinner!

I’m reminded of Pastor Sweeney’s salad analogy from last weekend. I love our family gatherings because we all bring something a little different to the table. There is a mixture of flavors—some are cheesy, others sweet, some bitter, hard, soft, and so on. Separately, we’re just a list of ingredients in the salad, but together, we create a taste of love, kindness, family, and home.

Proverbs 11:25
The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

John and I have had the joy and opportunity to share our faith. Our grandsons have come to church with us. My father-in-law, at 81 years old, was baptized this past year!  My daughter and her children’s father came with us to the couples’ night.

I think the perfect salad recipe is: Lettuce [Let Us].

Let Us…

  • Gather—be present with one another
  • Encourage—or bring courage to one another
  • Motivate—move others into action
  • Hope—without wavering

Questions:
Do you believe that Jesus died to free you from the bondage of self?

Are you able to speak freely about the faith you have in Jesus?  Why or why not?

Next Steps:
Join a Group and start practicing conversations about faith, freedom, and family. Make a plan and take action to gather, encourage, motivate, and hope without wavering.

Prayer:
Father, I am so blessed to be chosen by you. Help me to inhale more of you and exhale more of myself with each breath of my being. Let me be so filled with your spirit that it spills over. Give me the courage and strength to bring your flavor into my gatherings. Gently remind me to be a blessing, as I myself have been blessed. In Jesus’ name, 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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“Abba, Father!” – Irresistibly Free

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At 22, I still view my dad as the same hero that I did when I was a child. Each Father’s Day, I have the chance to celebrate my dad and reflect upon everything he has sacrificed for me. He has been my greatest comforter and supporter. He first taught me about Jesus, and he still encourages me to constantly grow in my faith.

Throughout my life, my dad has provided me with unconditional love, despite my shortcomings. He portrays the grace of God by providing me with love and support that I do not have to earn.

This past weekend, Pastor Calvin Sweeney taught us that “we are adopted into a family of unmerited favor.” God pours out his immense grace and compassion on each of us—not for what we did—but because of who he is. Without a relationship with God, we are hopelessly enslaved to sin and the ways of the world. We fall into the endless cycle of following our own desires, falling into sin, and facing the consequences of our wicked ways.

However, God still looks at us fallen, broken humans and intentionally chooses us to join his perfect family. No amount of good works can earn more of God’s love—he already fully loves each of us, imperfect as we are.

Galatians 4:6-7
6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

Pastor Sweeney emphasized that in God’s family, there is no “second-class status.” Each of us is chosen and called by God despite our backgrounds or pasts. He longs for his beloved children to live in community with one another as brothers and sisters, lifting each other up and sharing our triumphs and sufferings with one another. He is a good father, who invites us into an eternal, life-giving family.

In honor of Father’s Day, let us remember that we all have a heavenly Father who looks upon his children with unmerited favor and gives us blessings far beyond what we could ever earn. Like our fathers here on Earth, God is there for us whether we are singing praises or sinking to rock bottom. Despite our struggles, let us not forget that we have a God who wants us to cry out “Abba, Father!” and provide us with blessings far beyond what we could ever imagine.

Questions:
What are some of the traps that you fall into to try to earn God’s favor?

How can you show others the love and grace of God in your daily life?

Next Steps:
Join a Group to get connected with a supportive family of Jesus followers, who will uplift and encourage you.

Identify ways in which you have tried to earn God’s blessings. Ask God in prayer to remind you that he provides his children with unmerited favor and that there is nothing that we must do to earn it.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for providing each of us with your unmerited favor. You are such a good father; you freely adopted us into your family and called us to be heirs of your kingdom. Thank you for freeing us from the enslavement of sin and evil, and for giving us freedom through your son, Jesus Christ. Help us to show this grace and mercy to others in our daily lives. 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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No Way Out – Irresistibly Free

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As I sat down to ask God what I should share for this devotional, my youngest son, Chase, came and joined me at the table. With his tongue hanging out, he very diligently began to cut identical squares out of tissue paper and placed them on the table.  My heart exploded with love as I watched him, so happy and content, just cutting tissue paper. Then I heard God speak to my heart, “April, I love him even more than you[do]!”

This got me thinking of the amazing blessings that come with being a part of God’s family. As Pastor Charles Sweeney pointed out in his message, we are born into a family of unconditional love when we belong to Jesus.

There are not very many days that go by that I am not disappointed in myself for not being a better wife, mom, sister, Christian, etc. But as I looked at Chase, I realized he has Jesus—and Jesus covers all the places that I fall short. Nothing and no one can ever take that away from him.

Romans 8:38-39
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If you are feeling inadequate today, and life is beating you down as the enemy whispers that you are not good enough, remember this truth: You were born into a family of unconditional love—no person or thing can ever take that away from you!

Questions:
Do you wake up most mornings feeling inadequate because of the enemy’s whispers?

Do you truly believe that you are forgiven of your past, present, and future sins? Do you think God has a plan for your life?

Next Steps:
Confess your questions and fears about your relationship with Jesus to a trusted friend.

Speak Romans 8:38-39 out loud and claim this blessing for yourself and your family.

Prayer:
Abba Father, please help me accept the blessings that you have freely given me! I ask that any lies spoken over me be revealed and healed in the name of Jesus. Father, thank you for your peace that transcends all understanding and for your mercies that are new every day! Amen.


This post was written by April Willer, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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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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Free at Last – Irresistibly Free

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John 8:34-36
34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”

This weekend, Pastor Calvin Sweeney told a story about a group of slaves living in Texas who didn’t find out they had been freed until two years after the actual Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. All that time, they had technically been free but didn’t know. They continued to act as slaves—as someone else’s property.

It’s impossible to put ourselves in their situation, but there was a time in my life when I chose to remain a slave to my sin rather than accept the freedom Jesus offers. I abused the freedoms and misused the blessings I received from both my earthly father and my heavenly one. Coming of age in the late 60s and early 70s, my friends and I were busy throwing off the cultural traditions of our stuffy, proper parents. We were anxious to engage the world on our own terms and thought very little of the potential consequences of our self-centeredness.

Fast forward 20+ years and I found myself a slave to “my freedoms,” which I believed entitled me to live as though I was an island unto myself—my actions weren’t hurting anyone. Let’s see … two kids, bankruptcy, two divorces, too many jobs, extramarital relationships, and the alienation of my family.

Gosh, you have to wonder what my idea of hurting was, don’t you? Well, that was the point. I just lived life for myself, but I was not free! I was enslaved to the idol of me. There was freedom to be had—I just didn’t know it! The religion of my childhood was full of rules and commandments—I really didn’t want that! But then, at a very low time, someone told me about developing a relationship with Jesus.

I had a choice: I could continue to be a slave to a very fickle and cruel master (me!), or I could give my heart to Jesus and enter into his family. I realized I needed Jesus to be set free.

Just like the story of those slaves in Texas, my freedom was waiting for me. I just had to accept it and learn to live in the truth of that freedom. I learned the hard way what Pastor Sweeney told us: “Freedom doesn’t come from sin—sin only enslaves us. Nor does freedom come from self—self will only deceive you. Freedom comes from a relationship with the Son of God, Jesus.”

Jesus invites us to be sons and daughters, to be co-heirs to his kingdom. Jesus sets us free to become a permanent part of his family and to receive all the blessings included in that relationship! That, my friend, is the best news ever!

Bottom Line:  Jesus sets us free to belong permanently to his family.

Questions:
Do you ever feel enslaved to something you wish you could let go of? What do you do about it?

Next Steps:
Join a Group.  It’s a great way to be encouraged in your battle with sin. Confessing to other Christ-followers often opens the door to healing.

Explore Celebrate Recovery, a consistent, biblical approach to dealing with your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me so much that you sent Jesus to set me free—free to be in your family with all the benefits and blessings of dearly loved children. Help me to honor our family—the church—and to serve it with my best offerings of self, resources, and love. Help me to lovingly celebrate the glorious differences in the way you created each one of us to be our own unique selves.  Thank you for giving me a purpose that only I can fulfill. Thank you for being my good and gracious Father. In the beautiful name of Jesus I pray, 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.


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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