We Just Wanna Have Fun! – Preach Off 2022

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I love the Preach Off because it reminds me that being a Christian can be a lot of fun. I remember thinking the first time CedarCreek hosted this event, “Well, this is different!” Every year, it gets better and better.  The commercials, the commentaries, the random words—it’s hilarious!

Today, most of my friends belong to a church and have a relationship with Christ. It wasn’t always like that. There was a time in my life when most of the people I surrounded myself with, including me, thought things like:

  • I’ll try that religion when I get older. Right now, I’m having too much fun.
  • I can’t go into a church; the ceiling would collapse!
  • Going to church is boring—it’s all blah, blah, blah.
  • Church people are so fake. All they want is your money!

It’s true that when I became a Christ-follower, I gave up a lot of the things that came with my sinful nature.  At first, I felt like I had to, but as I grew closer to Christ and began to realize the incredible sacrifice he made for me, I wanted to! Today, I will gladly forgo a little extra sleep so I can spend time in study, meditation, and prayer. I want to turn on the TV to watch church, or better yet, make a date with some friends to go to a live service.

Last fall, I had three, amazing Christian adventures: Some friends and I had the privilege of going to the Unity Fest in Muskegon, Michigan. My husband and I went with a few other couples to a Christian marriage retreat called “The Shack” in White Cloud, Michigan, and I attended a women’s retreat at Grace Adventures Christian Campground in Mears, Michigan, with some close friends. All three events were awesome fun, and they were things I would never have gotten to do if I hadn’t become a Christian.

It turns out that what I gave up when I became a Christian is minuscule compared to what I’ve gained. I have real friends whom I can count on, purpose in my day, and my B.I.B.L.E. (a.k.a.: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) to guide me!

1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.

As followers of Christ, we have an incredible reason for hope and joy!  Events like the Preach Off, and our upcoming series, Get Me Outta Here, offer wonderful opportunities to invite others into the fun, life-changing adventure with Jesus.  Who will you invite?

Questions:
Can you remember what it was like before you accepted Christ into your life?

Are you prepared to give reason for the hope that you have?

Next Steps:
Think about the adventure you’ve been having since you gave your life to Christ. Consider sharing your story on the CedarCreek App.

Practice giving reason for the hope that you have.

Invite someone to the next series, Get Me Outta Here.

Prayer:
Father, I am so thankful that you called me into this great adventure with you!  When I cried out to you, you rescued me! You got me out! You lifted me up and set me on solid ground. Though I still have days of pain and heartache, I no longer have to fear, because you have already overcome the world. Help me to know you more with each passing day and to wait in joyful hope. Amen.


This post was written by Julie Estep. Julie loves her husband John and their combined five adult children and four grandchildren. Her favorite activities are walking their two dogs and golfing. She loves sharing her faith and is grateful for the chance to be a LIO contributor.


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Courage, Dear Heart – Preach Off 2022

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In one of my favorite books, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, there is a scene in which the main characters are sailing near the island where dreams come true. Not the good kind of dreams—nightmares. The main characters all begin to hear terrifying noises. They row as fast as they can but seem unable to get out of the dark mist surrounding the island.

Then Lucy, one of the passengers on the ship, prays to Aslan, the Christ-figure of the series. Moments later, a small spot of light pierces the darkness, and an albatross-like creature flies down, circles the mast, and leads the boat out of the darkness.

But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, ‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.… Almost before they dared begin hoping, they had shot out into the sunlight and were in the warm, blue world again. And all at once everybody realized there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been.

In one story from the Bible, Jesus tells a large gathering of people a parable and asks, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6:27). As much as my mind wants to tell me, “Yes, all of that time I spend worrying definitely helps,” I know in my heart that fear doesn’t do a single, positive thing.

Matthew 6:31-33
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Jesus offers us a different way. Instead of focusing on all of our worries and concerns, seek God’s kingdom.

John 16:33b
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus doesn’t want us to become stuck in our fears. He has conquered all of them and invites us into a life of courage. Look for his purpose, and trust him to provide. Jesus promises to give us everything we need—and he can see our needs better than we see them ourselves.

Questions:
How do you deal with worry? Is there a way you can direct your thoughts away from fear and toward the God who loves and cares for you?

Next Steps:
Next time you begin to panic, pray right away, trusting God will provide. Then get out a life-giving book, movie, or favorite song to take your mind away from the stress. Join us via our App on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7:30am for Morning Prayer to start off your day seeking God’s kingdom.

If you have persistent fears, consider writing them on a piece of paper. Then find a way to give them to God, maybe by throwing the paper in a fire pit or giving it to someone you trust.

Prayer:
Father, I get so caught up in [put your worries here]. I give each one to you. Thank you for coming alongside me. Please give me courage when I start to worry. Help me to be brave enough to turn away from my fears and toward you and your glorious kingdom. I love you, Savior. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Lydia Snyder. Lydia has been a story-lover for as long as she can remember, often found reading books or writing. She is thrilled to be making a difference by inspiring others to take part in the best story ever – God’s story. Lydia lives with her three wonderful siblings and two amazing parents.


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Pure Heart, Clean Voice – Preach Off 2022

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Last weekend, we were privileged to witness another epic battle of biblical proportions (pun intended) between The B-Team and Team Jandy.

Being a sports enthusiast, I love Super Bowl weekend and always have. But three years ago, I realized that weekend held another fun and entertaining option. That was when I first discovered the Preach Off, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The pastors all do a great job! (I was sorry to have missed the first year of the event.)

The Preach Off combines many of my loves into one fun and entertaining hour: God, sports, music, stadium food, and funny commercials. I love the opportunity to invite friends who don’t regularly attend church and to show them that Christians can still have a lot of fun. It intrigues me to watch each speaker take an unbeknownst verse and build it into a story, complete with a bottom line and next steps. On top of that, they artfully work in the random words in such a way that highlights the importance of their entire message.

The Bible has a lot to say on the importance of our words. Today, I want to focus on one verse in particular.

Psalm 19:14
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

The first thing this verse brings to mind is how the tongue can be a double-edged sword, lashing out with words of anger, hatred, and vulgarity. If you’re like me, you can probably think of a few times when you’ve blurted out words in one or more of these categories. When it happens, I immediately feel ashamed and inadequate as a Christian. But I can honestly say these incidents have become very rare since I started attending CedarCreek, surrounding myself with good, Christian friends, and developing a closer relationship with God.

Looking at the second part of that verse reminds me that what we say in haste truly reveals what is in our hearts. The good news is that as Christians, we can relinquish control of our hearts and allow Christ to fill them with all that is good. He is truly our rock and our redeemer.

If what you meditate on in your heart is good, kind, and loving, the words that come out of your mouth will not only be pleasing to those around you but to God as well. Notice the verse does not say “words of my mouth OR the meditation of my heart.” You cannot have one without the other.

Questions:
What do you hold in your heart?

Are your words those that build others up through kindness and love?

Next Steps:
Explore Proverbs 27:19 and Matthew 15:18, and look for other verses in the Bible regarding words and the heart.

Join a Group or develop a circle of Christian friends to help you build a good foundation.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I am so ashamed when the evil in my heart exposes itself through the things I say in anger. Please, fill my heart with your love and grace. Help me to not speak in haste but to instead allow your example to be reflected in all I say and do. Help me to speak in a manner that builds up those around me and does not tear them down. Oh, Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you always. Amen!


This post was written by Ned Miller. Ned loves serving through writing on the LIO team, prayer team, group leader and as a greeter. He loves spending time with his family and working on his model railroad.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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Cancel Your Revenge Tour – Preach Off 2022

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The world is full of revenge stories. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Jaws: The Revenge come to mind.

How about in real life? My Michigan Wolverines once went on a revenge tour that ended in a 62-39 defeat. Personally, I grew up wanting revenge against anyone who didn’t call me by my name.

To take my revenge, I turned to the only method I’d been taught: my fists. The “lesson,” however, only produced more fear and shoved the hate deeper into the recipient. The experience was never as satisfying as I had hoped.

I still remember one kid who not-so-nicely reminded me for weeks that I was new to the neighborhood and classroom. His words cut deep, so we went to blows. It continued every week because I wanted revenge until the fights forced him to stop.

Thankfully, I had someone in my life who helped me understand that my way wasn’t the best way. I quickly learned that my tormentor had a taught expression, too. He learned the use of hateful words from an influence in his life.

Together, we relearned a thing or two and found common ground that turned into a life-long friendship.

Leviticus 19:18 (NIV)
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Building a friendship instead of throwing punches was much easier and way more fun. My peer taught his friends about his human error, and I did the same on my end. Deep down, I never wanted to fight, but I thought I had to. I believe God knew what it was doing to me. He helped move the right pieces in my life to figure out a better way.

Seeking revenge still enters my mind on occasion, but I think about the cost, foolishness, and stress that comes with getting even. Instead, I pray for all parties to peacefully resolve the conflict.

Questions:
How has revenge played a role in your life?

Do you trust God to right the wrongs against you?

Next Steps:
Dig deeper into Leviticus 19:18 and look for other verses about revenge and loving others in the Bible. Go to biblegateway.com and type those keywords into the search.

Prayer:
Lord, it is hard to step to the side when hurt and anger enter my life. Help me to pray and listen to find the best approach in difficult situations. Remind me—and help me to teach others—that my tongue can be as violent as my fists. It’s essential to surround my thoughts in your spirit before speaking in stressful moments. 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.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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The Gift of Joy – Preach Off 2022

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What words come to mind when you think of the attributes of God?  Perhaps holy, which of course he is. Or maybe you jump to those big, long churchy words that start with an “o”—omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. Again, you are spot on! Our God is indeed mighty and all powerful!  But our Abba Father, our daddy, also has another side: joy! Did you know there are over 300 occurrences of the word “joy” in the Bible? Yet, for some reason it can feel foreign or, dare I say, improper to experience laughter and joy at church.

Each year at the Preach Off, we take time to have a little fun—to laugh and enjoy. This year, The B-Team and Team Jandy returned to battle it out for the best bottom line and work-in surprise words while they crafted messages on the spot. The purpose was to create a memorable and enjoyable experience to remind us church doesn’t have to be a stuffy or somber affair. We can laugh and have fun in church while we learn about God’s word! It is always a good time, and this year didn’t disappoint.

Laughter, as Lead Pastor Ben Snyder pointed out, is like a glue that connects us and is beneficial to our mind, body, and spirit. As we’re reminded in this verse:

Psalm 19:8
The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.

God’s word is definitely to be taken seriously, but it should also bring joy.  Many of us are quick to root for our favorite sports teams, often screaming in a passionate display of emotion when our team scores. But for some reason, church and worship don’t evoke that same expression of joy and enthusiasm, even though Jesus is the most amazing gift ever.

One way to express this joy to God is through singing. Pastor Ben reminded us how it’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate and show God our thankfulness. God isn’t worried if you’re pitch perfect or can keep a beat. It’s about celebrating what God has done for us through Jesus!

Psalm 59:16
But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.

Questions:
How do you feel about expressing joy and laughter at church?

Do you view singing at church as an opportunity to celebrate the gift of Jesus?

Next Steps:
Read and reflect on Psalm 100.

Turn on some worship music and sing out like Jesus is your savior, not a stranger.

Make plans to join us for our next series—Get Me Outta Here—which will highlight the hope-filled story of Daniel.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for your love and for the gift of laughter that brings us together. Help us never forget that you are holy, but remind us that you want us to experience joy in your love. Let us sing out with gladness about who you are and what you have done for us. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Kelly Pagel, the Director of the LivingItOut.


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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John Reading Plan