Show Up – Nah, I’m Good

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What a series “Nah, I’m Good” has been! I have found it both challenging and encouraging. Frankly, this journey has been like some vacations. You know, the vacation with a daily itinerary packed so full, a period of recovery is required when you return home. This message series has offered much spiritual meat to process. Whew!

Thankfully, we have finally reached its end. Now we can wrap up the weekly lessons in a sturdy box, tie a lovely bow on it, and place it on a shelf.

After all, isn’t that how many of us live life? We step into our daily ritual, leaving no room for God. Sure, we may spend five minutes reading the Bible and offer a quick “bless my family and me” prayer as we rush into the new day. But then, it’s off to the races!

There is no measurable amount of room left in our schedule for God to show up—in big ways, much less small ways. We are hard-pressed to find any wiggle room in our day-to-day living. Would God expect any less of us? To be busy from sun up to sun down trumps the do-nothing couch potato! Right?

W-R-O-N-G!

When we slow down and choose to notice those around us, God often shows up. Such was the case as I interacted briefly with a young man in an elevator at Toledo Hospital years ago. Sleep deprivation had caused noticeable confusion. He briefly shared his great concern for his mother. He was staying by her bedside, escaping periodically to sleep in his van in the parking garage. Upon asking, he quickly allowed me to pray with him that morning. What an honor! We parted ways—he, to the van to sleep, and me to work.

It was a refreshing encounter when God arranged our paths to cross again two days later. It was profound to hear him report that his mother was significantly better. God had generously shown up!

Those memories remind me of God’s goodness—to me and to others, especially when I have a helpful mindset. Sadly, there remains within me an overabundance of self-centeredness and stinkin’ thinkin.’ I must choose each day to medicate these chronic conditions.

A daily dose of this week’s bottom line is a great place to start: “God’s WAY is to go out of OUR WAY.” Another powerful antidote is found in Isaiah 55.

Isaiah 55:8-9 NASB
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Questions:
What keeps you from getting involved when a genuine need presents itself? What keeps you from altering your schedule to meet the needs of another? What determines the number of times you are willing to reach into someone’s life mess?

Next Steps:
Make a deliberate decision to get involved with someone in need when it is not convenient to do so. Be willing to leave the path you planned for the day to step into someone’s messiness. Join a Group. Extend an invitation for someone to join you at church.

Prayer:
Father, purify my heart. Cultivate the hardness within me. I want to be pliable in your hands, putting your goodness and your love on display. Help me see opportunities to go out of my way, boldly stepping into your way. Help me step into relationships where undeniable differences exist. Continue to equip me with the courage necessary to step past my comfort zone into the lives of others. Help me differentiate between the wisdom of silence and the weakness of cowardliness. Help me see opportunities where others see roadblocks. Give me gentle words to say when harsh words easily surface. 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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Roadside Miracles – Nah, I’m Good

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Have you ever seen anyone on your way to work broken down on the side of the road? Perhaps you contemplated helping them out, but that cup of coffee sounded better, and you thought: “Nah, they’re good. They probably have someone coming to help.”

They say it’s the thought that counts, but in a situation like passing by someone in need, the thought doesn’t really help. The thought doesn’t help them change their tire or call for help if they don’t have a phone.

I’ve been one of those people on the side of the highway. I had a tire explode while I was going 70 mph, and I thank God I didn’t crash or hurt someone else.

It was Christmas night, and I surely thought someone would see me, struggling, cold, wet (Did I mention it was raining?), and scared. I lit a flare, but either no one saw it or they didn’t pay attention. I was trying to hurry, but when you hurry, mistakes can happen.

Luke 10:33-35
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’”

We often think the people who stop to help stranded drivers fall into one of two types of people: good or bad. I personally wouldn’t have cared if an axe murderer had shown up that night if they helped me get off the side of the highway faster. I would have accepted any help.

Put yourself in the beaten man’s shoes in Jesus’ “Parable of the Good Samaritan” (assuming they hadn’t been stolen). You’re lying on the ground after you’ve been robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Now imagine your worst enemy sees you like that, and … they pick you up, take you to the hospital, and pay your medical bills. I bet that is how the man felt when he realized it was a Samaritan who helped him.

Matthew 5:44-45
44 “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike”

Even someone in this world who you thought would never help anyone can have compassion. God amazes us every day by putting people in our lives when we least expect it, and he works on his time, not ours. Remember how God arranged for Jonah to be on a ship with pagan sailors? By choosing to disobey God and going in the opposite direction, Jonah led the pagans to God, and they were saved.

So maybe the next time you think about stopping to help someone, say “Nah, I’m good” to that cup of coffee. Instead, show that person on the side of the road that they matter to you, and they matter to God.

Questions:
Have you ever been stranded and in need of help when someone stopped to do just that? Did you accept it, or did you say you were ok when you weren’t? Is accepting help from a stranger difficult? Would you rather be the one offering help?

Next Steps:
Volunteer your time to help others. Join an outreach group and let people know they matter. Take GrowthTrack and learn your gifts so you can serve others.

Prayer:
God, show me how I can help others within my capabilities. Guide me in gaining the courage to stop to ask if someone needs help. Father, open my eyes so I can see those in need, and allow me to use any situation I come across to lead others to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Casey Stengel, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut.


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Comfort or Compassion? – Nah, I’m Good

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Growing up in a Christian household, I was very familiar with “The Parable of the Good Samaritan. I have always been quick to judge the priest and the Levite—why didn’t they help the man who was brutally beaten and battered? How could they pass by such a heartbreaking scene in good conscience? Had they no compassion?

Luke 10:31-32
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.”

The priest and the Levite were familiar with ancient Jewish Law: one of the earliest commands God gave his people was to love their neighbors as themselves. This is a command that still stands for us as Jesus followers today. This sounds simple on the surface; most of us would agree that we would step in if we saw someone desperately hurting and in need of help. However, when we come across these situations in our daily lives, do we live it out?

Leviticus 19:18
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

I am not someone who likes to be the center of attention. Unfortunately, there are times when I feel called to help someone, but I hesitate because I’m afraid of what others will think. I will also admit that sometimes I feel hesitant because going out of my comfort zone is scary. It is much easier to stay in my own little social bubble and turn a blind eye to the suffering of those I may not have a lot in common with.

I look back on these situations and grieve for the missed opportunities that I had to show the love of Jesus, instead, choosing my own comfort and protecting my pride. It is easy to think that we cannot make a difference in the lives of those in need and walk away, convincing ourselves that it doesn’t matter. However, we are called to take up our crosses (Luke 9:23) and follow the example of Jesus who laid down his life for you and me, people bruised and battered by life.

Jesus could have walked by and ignored our suffering, yet he didn’t. Just as the Samaritan showed kindness and compassion to the Jewish man, Jesus did the same for us, reflecting the immense love and grace of God.

Let us strive to follow the example of the Samaritan and exude the love and grace of Jesus to our neighbors, even when it means sacrificing our comfort and time.

Questions:
How does the love and compassion of the good Samaritan relate to the love and grace of Jesus?

Has there been a time that you passed by someone who was struggling? What do you think stopped you from stepping in to help?

Next Steps:
Ask God to open your heart and eyes to those in need. Pray that he gives you an opportunity to be the “Samaritan,” and then graciously give your support to someone in your life who is struggling.

Make it a goal this week to get out of your comfort zone and intentionally perform an act of kindness for a stranger or someone that you don’t know very well. Use this opportunity to spread the love of Jesus to those whom God places in your life.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for providing us with an example of how to say “yes” to your will even when it is uncomfortable. Give us the courage to leave our comfort zones and stop walking past those in need, showing them the same love and compassion as the good Samaritan. Please provide us with opportunities to help those who are hurting and struggling, and guide us on how to help them in the way you call us to. 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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We Are All Neighbors – Nah, I’m Good

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Admittedly, I like to add my interpretation to some rules, instructions, or orders by twisting the meaning to fit my wants. I did this as a kid more times than I should’ve.

Sometimes I wanted to ride my bike to the Findlay Mall to go to The Barrel of Fun Arcade, even though my mother and grandparents told me, “I better not catch you at the arcade.” You might have heard I wasn’t allowed to go, but I heard I could go to the arcade if I didn’t get caught.

We don’t always read the rules and laws of humanity the way they were intended. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of understanding, but quite often, it’s because we’re attempting to keep the focus on us alone.

Luke 10 clarifies the true meaning behind the most important commandment.

Luke 10:26-27
26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

I had fun manipulating the instructions, but explaining why I went to the arcade after getting caught didn’t work in my favor.

This past weekend, we learned that we often justify who we love and connect with and who we choose to distance ourselves from because our interpretation isn’t the same as God’s. The neighbor who looks like us, votes our way, or goes to CedarCreek is probably the person we don’t have any issues with when it’s time to “love your neighbor as yourself.” But why do we shy away from extending that love to someone who looks different, votes for the opposite party, or believes God is part of a fairytale?

God doesn’t choose to love. He is love, so why do we continue to believe we love God while ignoring the rest of his commandments? It’s more accurate to say we like God when we only live for ourselves.

Questions:
What are you doing to love God’s people? Do you know it’s okay to disagree with others? Do you take the time to show people you’re living out God’s word?

Next Steps:
Invite people to church who don’t think like you. Pray that God reveals that one person to you. Take the time to understand the differences in other people.

Prayer:
Lord, help me reach those looking for you who don’t know where to start. Grant me the patience to develop relationships with people who don’t have faith in you, and keep me mindful that patience isn’t always easy. Remind me of those who showed love to me when I wasn’t willing to be loved. 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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The Cost of Investing – Nah, I’m Good

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It was so nice to have Pastor Shawn Bellner from the Whitehouse campus speak this week.  He challenged us to pray at work for God to show us someone we can help. What a wonderful concept!

I understand the inner battles though. I get busy at work, there are constant interruptions, and then one more person walks through the door needing something. Yes, I really could help, but instead, I say, “Nah, I’m good,” and send them on to look for help elsewhere.

After all, wouldn’t helping someone else take time away from my own responsibilities? Am I willing to pay the cost of spending what little I have on someone else?  What’s in it for me?

Selfish and self-centered is often our way. God’s way is to go out of our way.

Putting others’ needs above our own always comes with a cost, but think of it as an opportunity to join God in the work he’s doing. In Luke 10, we learn of a Jewish man who had been attacked and left for dead.

Luke 10:30
Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

If you had been traveling that day and came upon the man, what would you have done? Would you have helped or looked the other way? Would it take more energy to love or to hate?

God gives his commands out of love. He asks us to go out of our way, and when we do, the reward is so much greater.

Leviticus 19:18
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

We teach our children not to bully, to stand with a friend against bullies—not because it’s the easy thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s God’s way of doing things. We should go out of our way to do the same.

Leviticus 19:16b
“Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened. I am the Lord.”

Questions:
Where are the everyday, ordinary opportunities for you to make a difference in someone else’s life? Can you name at least three?

Next Steps:
Get to work a little early this week and take time to pray for God to bring you someone who needs your help.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for taking time for me today. Help me to see that person who needs to know I care. Remind me that the people who need my help are opportunities to reflect the love you have for me, not interruptions.  It may not be convenient, and it may cost me, but I know it’s a good investment. 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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God’s Greatest Desire – Nah, I’m Good

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Every day I pray for my loved ones and other nonbelievers to surrender their hearts to Jesus and become his followers. Spending eternity with Jesus, my loved ones, and all his children is the biggest desire of my heart. It fills me with peace and joy, knowing that our God’s greatest desire is for all of us to be saved.

Last weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder finished up the book of Jonah in the amazing series, Nah, I’m Good. Jonah’s story shows how great God’s love and forgiveness is for all people. Our God desperately wants to save every single person, and he will do almost anything to accomplish this purpose.

The “Parable of the Lost Son” (Luke 15:11-32) is another example of God’s great love and forgiveness. We are going to focus on the father and the second son, who was spoiled and selfish. He had the audacity to go to his father and ask for his share of his father’s estate while his father was still alive. This would be similar to telling his father, “I wish you were dead.” I imagine the father was deeply hurt, but he gave his son the inheritance, and the son left.

The father waited patiently for his son to come to his senses and return home. I am sure he would have been praying for his son. I imagine the father went to the city gates every day, hoping to see his son again.

Meanwhile, the son wasted all his money on wild living. A famine struck, and the son hit rock bottom, starving. He got a job feeding pigs and was so hungry even the slop he fed the pigs looked good to him. One day, he came to his senses. He remembered how loving and kind his father was to his servants, and he was ashamed of the way he behaved. He decided to return home.

Luke 15:18-21
18 “‘I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ 20 So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father I have sinned against both heaven and you and I am no longer worthy of being your son.’”

After all that the son had done, the father ran to him and embraced him. The love the father showed his wayward son was highly unusual in that culture. It would have been considered humiliating for an elderly man to run. The son’s behavior had disgraced the father so badly the son probably wouldn’t have been allowed back in the city gates, and the community would have disowned him.

Yet, the father ran to his son so that he would be allowed back into the community, demonstrating great love, mercy, and grace. He was so overjoyed that his son had returned, he threw him a welcome home party.

Like the father, our God is so full of grace, mercy, and compassion for us. He will forgive and restore us if we return to him with a repentant heart. He wants us all to be saved. He waits patiently for us to return. He will do almost anything to bring us back to him, yet we each need to make that choice for ourselves. He doesn’t force it, but there is a huge celebration when one of his lost children returns.

Luke 15:7
“In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away.”

Questions:
What have you learned about God from this series? What did you learn about God from the “Parable of the Lost Son”? How will you live out what you have learned?

Next Steps:

Read Jonah and Luke 15. Meditate on what you learn about our awesome God. Pray for unbelievers in your life. Invite someone to church. Join a Group.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for loving all of us so much. Lord, I praise you for saving me. I am overwhelmed by your grace and mercy. Use me to bring others to you. Help me listen and obey you. All glory to you, our amazing and loving Daddy. 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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Definition of Humility – Nah, I’m Good

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What is humility?

Our world teaches us it’s having a sense of unworthiness, or not focusing on ourselves. You hear about it everywhere: A fighter’s devastating loss humbled him. Or the popular girl wearing a zit in her prom photo gave her a sense of humility. It seems to me that those scenarios are more humiliating than anything else.

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder mentioned there are many misconceptions about humility. While it’s often assumed humility is about making yourself small, others define it as “not just thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”

In Hebrew, however, they teach a different meaning of humility.

Humility (Adavah): Occupy your God-given space in the world.
We shouldn’t try to play the role of God, whether it be for our own benefit or to fix the lives of others; rather, we need to step into the role he has uniquely called each of us to. This requires trusting God and his invitation to be a part of his work in our world. We can be confident that he runs to both the rebellious and the self-righteous. God both welcomes us into his arms and invites us to do his work regardless of where we are on that spectrum. But it takes humility.

You offer or accept humility when you step into God’s invitation—you humiliate yourself when you don’t.

In Jonah 4, we see Jonah’s anger at God for showing mercy to Nineveh. He threw the worst temper tantrum, wishing for his life to get snatched and crying about a plant’s death.

Jonah 4:10-11
10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

Jonah, the blessed prophet of the Lord, wanted his pride more than he wanted to trust in God. This reminds me of a quote by Paulo Freire: “No one can be authentically human while he prevents others from being so.” Instead, we should set aside our pride and clothe ourselves in humility because rescued people rescue people.

James 4:6
And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Philippians 2:3-4, 8
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. … 8 [H]e humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Humility isn’t putting yourself down to build others up. Sometimes, it’s pulling others to your level and propping them up, and sometimes, it’s allowing others to pull you up. It’s all part of being human.

Questions:
Does your pride get in the way of trusting God? How are you helping others build a relationship with God?

Next Steps:
Read “Have the Attitude of Christ” in Philippians 2:3-4, 8.

Focus on building relationships with non-Christians. Invite those new friends to church and talk about joining a Group. Open yourself up to also living life outside of CedarCreek so others can see what you’re all about.

Prayer:
I’m living proof of what the mercy of God can do. I am thankful that my steps continue to move toward the invitation God extended. Lord, I am equally grateful for your running toward me when my doubts, hurts, and pride steer my feet from the path. Thank you for promising to never give up on me and for the people you’ve put in my life who lift my spirits when the days seem too long. 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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By His Grace – Nah, I’m Good

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God gives us what we need, not what we want.

This can be a tough pill to swallow at times. There are plenty of times when we ask God for a new car … a nicer house … more money … (insert your want here). When life is going great, we have the tendency to become complacent in gratitude for the things that God has already given us.

I am reminded of when my dad passed away from cancer. I was so angry with God for taking him. I ran from the pain any way I could back then and, in turn, ran from God—just like Jonah did when he got on that ship to Tarshish.

I remember wanting to talk to my dad so badly after he was gone—to tell him about his new granddaughter and all the good things that were happening in my life. It caused me to suffer from depression for a few years, especially when it came to holidays and parties where my dad should have been included. I was sitting in that hot desert like Jonah—miserable and only thinking of myself—upset that I couldn’t have what I wanted.

If I hadn’t found CedarCreek and accepted Christ as my Savior, I would have never known God’s grace. In the oddest way, my dad’s death led me to Jesus, and he welcomed me with open arms.

Luke 15:22-24
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. 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.’ So the party began.”

My dad wasn’t a spiritual man, but he did accept Christ before he passed, and I know we will meet again. Even death can have purpose. I have come to realize that even as I ran from the pain (and God), God never stopped pursuing me. Lead Pastor Ben Snyder said, “You can’t go where God can’t reach you.” We can’t outrun God! No matter what we are facing in life, we shouldn’t run from God—we should run toward him because he is running after us, all the time.

I think my dad unintentionally lived out this week’s bottom line: rescued people, rescue people. My dad was rescued, and I was rescued through him. I accepted faith because of the huge impact his death had in my life.

God showed me grace even when I was rejecting him.

Ephesians 2:8
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

Questions:
Have you ever been so mad at God you ran from him? Does the book of Jonah show you that even the most wicked can be redeemed through faith?

Next Steps:
Read the book of Jonah, and put yourself in the story in his place. Journal what it would have looked like if you were in the story. Enjoy the grace that God graciously gave you.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for your precious gift of grace. I don’t deserve it, but you give it to me anyway. Please allow me to show your grace through me and my actions. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Casey Stengel, a first-time contributor to the LivingItOut.


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Trusting God When It Seems Unfair – Nah, I’m Good

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Ask anyone in my life, and you will find that I am a Type A personality. It is in my nature to take charge of situations and achieve my goals. While this go-getter attitude has its benefits, it also causes a desire for me to always be in the driver’s seat of my life. Too often, letting go of my own desires and what I think should happen in life takes a backseat to trusting God’s sovereign plan.

Jonah knew and trusted in God’s unchanging nature; he knew that he served a compassionate, patient God. However, he still did not trust God to bring about the outcome that Jonah himself wanted. Jonah knew all along that it was in God’s character to invite people to repent of their sins and experience an intimate relationship with him. Knowing this, Jonah was still so resistant to God’s decision to forgive the Ninevites that he would have rather died than watch God have mercy on them and lead them to repentance.

Jonah 4:1-3
1 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. 2 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 3 Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.

When first reading the story of Jonah, I quickly became frustrated by his inability to trust God to know what is best instead of stubbornly being controlled by his own will and desires. But then I realized that there is a little bit of Jonah in me—whether that be choosing a college, career, or relationship—things do not always go as we first planned. Even though, in my heart, I trust God and know that his ways are higher than mine, I still try to be God and chase after what I think is right rather than what God desires.

Let us not forget that we have a trustworthy God whose ways are higher than our ways, and whose purpose for us is greater than our own plans.

Isaiah 55:8-9
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Questions:
Has there been a time in your life when you resisted God’s will and direction to follow what you thought was right? In what direction was God calling you, and in which direction did you want to run toward instead?

Why do you think it is so difficult to trust God at times, even when we know and have experienced his trustworthiness?

Next Steps:
Prayerfully ask God to help you give up your own will when it contradicts his. Ask him to search your heart for resistance to his will and to develop your trust in his plan.

Read the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-22). Reflect on how the stubbornness of the older son relates to Jonah’s (and our own) tendency to resist God and, instead, trust in what we believe is the right and just outcome of the situation.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us to experience an intimate relationship with you. We make mistakes on our walk with Christ every day, yet you still extend us your compassion and mercy. Thank you for being our sovereign God and not leaving us to deal with the outcomes of our decisions on our own. Please help us to give up our own selfish desires and truly listen to you, giving us the desire to go where you are calling us instead of resisting your will. 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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Trusting God’s Grace – Nah, I’m Good

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I’ll be honest, the “Parable of the Lost Son” has never sat easily with me.

There’s always a flicker of indignation and a sense of injustice whenever I read it. The older brother stayed by his father’s side, faithfully working, striving to never put a toe out of line. Yet the prodigal son receives a more lavish party than his brother ever had.

How is that fair?

My struggle to swallow this story reveals something about my own heart—the same thing the older brother and Jonah both wrestled with: an inability to accept both God’s judgment and his compassion.

This past weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder unpacked the similarities between the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son and Jonah. In the final chapter of Jonah, we see Jonah’s petulant response to God deciding to have mercy on Nineveh.

Jonah 4:
So he [Jonah] complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.”

Jonah didn’t trust God’s verdict of mercy, preferring to rely on his own view of justice. It’s the same complaint the older brother had against his father in the parable.

Luke 15:29-30
29But he [the older brother] replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

Jonah and the older brother would rather see punishment than forgiveness. They trust their own sense of indignation in the face of mercy. But in their bitterness, they don’t acknowledge the compassion they have been shown. Jonah was saved from the belly of a fish, and the father willingly shared all he had with the older brother.

We can do the same thing. We can render judgment or resist serving “those people” while secretly being glad we’re not as bad as them. We can rely on our own sense of justice instead of trusting God’s. In doing so, we not only miss God’s heart for the lost, we also lose sight of the fact that we were once Nineveh and the prodigal son, in desperate need of grace.

When we remember that we are rescued people, it prevents us from getting stuck in self-righteousness and, instead, invites us to trust God’s justice and his mercy.

Questions:
Do you ever resist God’s grace when it doesn’t fit your idea of justice?

Do you trust God’s sense of justice?

Next Steps:
Take time to write out how you first learned about Jesus—who you were before and who you are now.

Read Jonah 4 and reflect on God’s compassion.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, thank you for being merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry, and filled with unfailing love. I’m so grateful for the grace you have shown me. Please keep me from becoming proud, and instead, help me to trust your justice. Show me who I can help rescue because you have rescued me. In Jesus’ name, 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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