Make Your Story God’s Story – It’s Just a Phase

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We recently celebrated my aunt’s (my mother’s older sister) 80th birthday via Zoom. Her lineage directly connects to Harriet Tubman, which has always been awesome to know. My wife and children’s bloodline can be traced back to Pocahontas, which excites our daughter Imani. It’s fantastic how my family fits into these historical stories that technology has rewritten. I was hoping that discovering my own DNA roots would present similar results, but knowledge of my narrative, like many African-Americans, doesn’t run as deep.

Although those spectacular family discoveries detail unimagined inspiration, those accounts aren’t perfect. Mother Tubman’s faith walk produced many dark chapters that we find difficult to read. Disney’s tale of Pocahontas is a friendly betrayal of the truth. The real stories aren’t perfect, but that’s OK. Lead Pastor Ben Snyder said, “God is not into perfect pictures; he is into better stories.” The people we celebrate in the Bible weren’t a perfect picture, but they were a better story of faith.

Everyone knows the story of David and Goliath. The tale is miraculous, but we often forget about David’s glaring flaws. He had lows and highs, but he remained a man after God’s own heart.

2 Samuel 2:4
Then the men of Judah came to David and anointed him king over the people of Judah.

But the boy who became king messed up quite a few times, like when he impregnated Bathsheba, his soldier’s (Uriah’s) wife.

2 Samuel 11:4-5
4 Then David sent messengers to get her, and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home. 5 Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.”

Or when he knowingly ordered Uriah into a battle too dangerous to survive.

2 Samuel 11:17
And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers.

But in the end, King David’s story matched his faith.

1 Timothy 6:14-15
14 that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 15 For,  at just the right time, Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.

I said before that my narrative doesn’t run as deep as other family members, but it has strong roots. There’s a house outside of Cambridge, Maryland, that sits on land that my eyes have never seen where the property ends. My Great-Grandfather, Josiah Cephas, started a legacy there because of his faith walk. From Cephas Day to the Moon landing to working on the COVID vaccine, Josiah’s strong faith in God turned into a better story.

Questions:
What is your idea of a perfect story? Do you see how your faith throughout the hard times has produced a better story for your family?

Next Steps:
Read the stories of the Bible and see how flawed characters turned into beautiful stories through faith. Lean on your church family during difficult times.

Prayer:
Dear God, thank you for the stories that show us what your mercy and grace can produce. Many of us are living proof that struggles turn into victories if our faith in you continues to push us forward. Let non-believers or those who turned away from you understand that there is a path to freedom that releases hate and restores hope. Amen.


This post was written by Jaron Camp, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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What Matters Most – It’s Just a Phase

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Lead Pastor Ben Snyder kicked off a new series last weekend, Just a Phase. The focus is to help families intentionally move toward God and each other, no matter what phases they are going through.

My husband and I are empty nesters now, but I fondly remember all the different stages I experienced with my family. Some years were more challenging than others. My advice to parents experiencing a difficult phase is to get a puppy. Puppies are always happy to see you, they always love you, and they don’t talk back.

Our difficult phase was the teen phase. I learned to enjoy the little things in the relationship and not take their behavior so personally. Today, I look back and miss those years! It is a real challenge going through all the phases of life. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and focus on all the wrong things. Life can be so busy and challenging at times.

Ben asked a question that I found very thought-provoking: 100 years from now, what will matter most?

I think when we meditate on this question, our priorities will change. We will realize a relationship with Jesus is what matters most to our families, loved ones, and ourselves.

How do you have a relationship with someone? You spend time with him. How do you spend time with Jesus? Reading and studying the Bible, praying, sitting quietly in his presence, going to church, and spending time with other Christians. As we do these things, Jesus slowly begins to change us. We will want our lives to bring Jesus glory and want his love and light to shine through us to lead others to him. All of our priorities will change. We will be filled with his peace, love, and joy. Our priority will be Jesus!

In the words of John the Baptist:

John 3:30
“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”

So, what can we do now to make an eternal difference in 100 years for our families and loved ones? Share the love of Jesus with others by loving each other as he has loved us.

Jesus says it best in this verse from the book of John.

John 13:34-35
34 “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

I desperately want Jesus’ love to shine through me. I want to be a light in the darkness. I want to be remembered less for myself and more for being a follower of Christ. I want to make an eternal difference in my family’s and loved ones’ lives, now and in generations to come. And I want them to make an eternal difference too.

Questions:
What will matter most in 100 years? How does this change your perspective on what’s really important? How do you spend time with Jesus?

Next Steps:
Read the Bible. Pray with your children. Teach your family about Jesus. Love others as Jesus loves you.

Print out the Family Faith Plan for each of your children at
cedarcreek.tv/familyfaithplan to see what you can learn and implement.

Prayer:
Jesus, you are what is most important—yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Help me to follow your commandment to love others as you have loved me. Help me to be a light in the darkness. Help me show your love and grace to all people. I beg of you to change us to be more like you. Help us all to make an eternal difference. 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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Let the Little Children Come – It’s Just a Phase

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Sometimes I look at my three kids and wonder how God can be so creative in making them so unique. One of the very unique things about each of my children is how they like to connect with God and learn.

When I tuck my youngest, Chase, into bed, his favorite thing to do is sing “Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here,” and he sings for all he is worth. At the age of 8, that is where he finds God. My 10-year-old is more of an intellect and enjoys reading his Bible with me and asking pressing questions about how it applies to his life. Ever since my 16-year-old was younger, she has always expressed herself to God through drawing and painting.

This is why the church is so important as we raise our families. While we might not be sure how our kids will connect at certain phases in their lives, CedarCreek provides a place where they can experience worship, instruction, loving people, and a place where they can belong.

Mark 9:36-37
Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

This verse reminds me that when we welcome the little ones, we welcome God. The church is the light of Christ, and when the church and families work together, amazing things happen—we are no longer in the battle alone. The support that can be found in our church community is necessary to provide space for our families to grow at different phases.

You might be saying I don’t even know where to start with my kids. Or you might be brand new on this journey yourself. If that’s the case, you are reading this for a reason, and I am sure God is going to meet you right where you are. CedarCreek has a great resource to help you find out what phase your children are in and start the journey of walking with them into their future. Check out the Family Faith Plan today!

Questions:
Are you ready to be more intentional about helping your children connect and grow with God?

Ask each of your children when they have felt closest to God. Ask yourself as well.

Next Steps:
Print out the Family Faith Plan for each of your children at
cedarcreek.tv/familyfaithplan to see what you can learn and implement.

Find another family that would like to do this too, and support one another as you use it.   

Prayer:
Jesus, we thank you for always meeting us right where we are. Help us to raise our families to love you and be free in Jesus. Thank you that we are loved, accepted, and forgiven. Help us know this truth in a deeper way today. 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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Raised by Wolves – It’s Just a Phase

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My parents were intelligent, funny, and devoted to our family. They taught us to never embrace the title of victim, to play hard but work harder, to be honest, and to keep the Ten Commandments. They also had a very strong sense of what it meant to be a family. For example, when mom was sick of listening to us “kill” each other, she would say “you can always make new friends, but you only have one family, so protect each other like wolves protect their pack mates.”

We were raised in church and parochial schools with an enthusiastically enforced strict moral conduct code … then at 15, I discovered the lure of sin and thought, “This is fun!” Thankfully, God used those sin-filled years and the self-inflicted pitfalls brought by that sin to turn me back to him at 25. Not long after, I married, and we were blessed with two sons.

I was determined to make sure our boys wouldn’t turn out like me. I wanted them to know Jesus long before I did, so they could stand strong in Christ and reject the sin I had embraced as a teen. From the time they were born, we had Christian everything, every day, all day. By the age of 11, they were begging me, “Please, Mom, no more Vacation Bible School. No more Christian schools.”

Unfortunately, we let them have their way, and Christ stopped being the center of everything. They are grown now—intelligent, funny, courageous adults. But not Christ followers. Not yet.

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder’s sermon on influencing the kids in our lives leaves me asking myself: How do I influence these 33 and 31-year-old successful businessmen that reject Jesus’ offer of relationship and salvation ?

I pray for them every day. I stay in touch by text or phone weekly. I invite them to church on holidays, albeit unsuccessfully. And every day, I turn them over to the Lord who loves them more than I can even comprehend, much less equal. And I serve him where he has planted me—here at CedarCreek.

So whatever phase you are in with your kids, and wherever they are on their walks with Christ, know one thing: The one true God, loves them even more than you do, and he continues to call your children to him. Your job is to be the hands and feet of Christ to whomever he has given you to serve. You may not see it today, but God is writing a bigger story in your family than you think.

When you get discouraged, remember to be like the father of the prodigal son from Luke 15:11-32. It was no coincidence he was standing on that hill watching down the road for that wandering boy of his. I’m guessing he paused there every day to pray for his son’s return, and his son did indeed, remorsefully, come home.

Luke 15:20-24
20 “So he returned home to his father … 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. 22 But his father said … 23 We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’”

Questions:
What phase are you in? Have you recognized the important role God has gifted you with as parent, mentor, and teacher to your children?

Are you teaching and modeling for your children that God is the center of a life worth living? If not, why? How can you prioritize growing their relationships with God over the day-to-day distractions of life?

Next Steps:
Check out Right Now Media for advice on ways to center your family on Christ instead of the world. Then switch your focus and energy on living a life that pleases the Lord and guides your children to him.

Check out is this Family Faith Plan offered by CedarCreek. The Family Faith Plan gives you developmental and spiritual tools to engage with your child and help them take steps on their own spiritual journeys.

Prayer:
Father God, I praise you, Lord. Thank you for your patience and forgiveness of my sins. You are my source of life, light, and love.  Please help me focus all my choices on serving you and guiding others to you. Help me to trust you and your plans for my family. It is in his powerful 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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If Not Us, Then Who? – It’s Just a Phase

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This weekend we started a new series called It’s Just a Phase, So Don’t Miss It. Chances are if you have been around kids, you have heard those words used to describe the actions and attitudes they are displaying. Often it is said to give a parent hope. “It’s just a phase” is almost always followed up with “they’ll grow out of it.”

They certainly will grow out of it … and right into the next phase. That’s why it is important to not miss the opportunity to give children what they need spiritually during each phase they go through.

In his weekend message, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder shared that when it comes to being a parent, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Boy, can I relate to this! Our “kids” are 19, 21, and 22 years old (yes, that means at one point they were 3.5, 2, and a newborn!). The long nights with a fussy baby, the struggles with a teenager, the long days of middle school homework (or homeschool), and the drama seemed to never end. And then POOF! The last one is graduating, and you’re on to the next phase—parenting adult children and possibly navigating an empty nest. (Our nest was empty for a couple of months last fall, but some birdies have returned. Ha!) All of this to say, some days were L-O-N-G, but man, those years flew by!

Kevin and I gave our lives to Christ shortly before Julia was born and were in the thick of being discipled (learning the Word with trusted mentors and growing in our relationship with Christ). By the time she was born, God had pressed it into our hearts to raise this little life that he had blessed us with (and the two that followed) for his glory. While we didn’t do everything perfectly, not even close, we were intentional about sharing Jesus with our kiddos and the hope that we have in him.

That’s the basis of the theme verse for this series:

Psalm 78:5b-7
He commanded our ancestors to teach them (the Lord’s instructions and truth) to their children, so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands (emphasis added).

Through every phase of raising children or being around young people in some capacity, we are called to teach the next generation about the hope we have in God—about his instructions for life, about his love and grace through it all, and about what joy it is to know Jesus personally.

The question is, if we don’t do it, who will?

Questions:
As a parent or someone who has influence on the next generation, what are some ways you can help kids know God, find freedom, and discover their purpose? Are you being intentional with the opportunities that God has brought to you? How can you get involved in being a godly influence for the next generation?

Next Steps:
Parents, one resource you can check out is this Family Faith Plan offered by CedarCreek. The Family Faith Plan gives you developmental and spiritual tools to engage with your child and help them take steps on their own spiritual journeys.

Consider serving in CedarCreek Kids or Student Ministries to help reach the next generation for Christ. Whether or not you’re a parent, we can all play a significant part in the life of a young person.

Prayer:
Father, we lift up this next generation. Help us to be intentional in sharing the HOPE that we have in you. Give us opportunities to tell them about you. We pray that they will come to know you and live a life surrendered to you. May we be an example of surrender, obedience, and purpose, displaying the joy that we have in you. The battle is fierce, and the enemy wants us to fail, but in you, Jesus, we have victory for this generation and the generations to follow. In your precious name I pray, amen.


This post was written by Kendra Grubinski. Kendra is passionate about her relationship with Jesus and loves studying and sharing God’s Word. During the week, she is a Spanish Teacher at Findlay High School. She also enjoys spending time with her family and pups, reading, traveling, drinking good coffee and being active outdoors.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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