Bottom Line – What Our World Needs Now

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You will only be …

… loving to the degree that you know God is loving with you.
… joyful to the degree that you know God finds joy with you.
… find peace to the degree that you know God is the peace within you.
… patient to the degree that you know God is patient with you.
… kind to the degree that you know God is kind to you.
… faithful to the degree that you know God is faithful to you.
… gentle to the degree that you know God is gentle with you.
… self-controlled to the degree that you know God is self-controlled with you.

These are the statements that we have been asked to contemplate over the last few weeks. Take a moment to reflect on them and ask yourself where you think there may be room for improvement. Pray over each statement and ask the Spirit to cultivate the ones you are led to focus on.

If I look at them altogether, I am overwhelmed! That’s why I am glad that I was only asked to focus on one. Honestly, I can say that none of the fruit of the Spirit comes naturally to me. I need to practice and refer to, study and pray on them. I want to exhibit them all, always, but I can’t do it on my own strength. I need the Holy Spirit who lives in me to overcome my own tendency to be of self. The following passage assures me that the Holy Spirit does indeed live in me.

John 14:15-17
15 “If you love me obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”

This passage promises that the Holy Spirit can produce the fruit I desire.

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Questions:
Between now and Labor Day, which fruit would you love to cultivate?

Next Steps:
Rewatch the weekend messages from this series, and watch or listen to the podcasts in the area where you are led to focus on.  You can find all them in one place at cedarcreek.tv/world. Do a Google search and find passages in the Bible that relate to the fruit you are wanting to cultivate.

Prayer:
Father, I just can’t thank you enough for sending the Holy Spirit to help me find the truth of who you are and who I am in you. Before I found you, I was dead, but now I am alive in you! Every day brings new meaning and purpose as I grow in my relationship with you. Show me where I need to have more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control. Equip me to cultivate, harvest, and share the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I pray in Jesus’ name, 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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God Shows Up – What Our World Needs Now

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Last weekend, Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow and NFL player Sam Acho discussed gentleness—a fruit of the Holy Spirit—as something the world needs now. One of the ways God produces this fruit is through us. If God is producing gentleness in us, it should show up in every place that we show up.

As I reflect on places I show up, I’m burdened to acknowledge my workplace as a place where gentleness has, at times, not shown up with me. Working in the automotive industry, there’s definitely a stigma of foulness at times. You may have heard of “shop talk.” Recently, I’ve found myself on the receiving end of music, words, and gestures that I have turned a blind eye and deaf ear to.

Feeling called to begin my employment there, I was now questioning a few things. In the midst of the questioning, some bitter tastes began to set in. Having previously worked in a higher level position, I got a bit snippy a few times, feeling like I was being underestimated. In reality, it was heart-hardening pride.

I was looking externally. I was looking for fulfillment from my job, from a title, a position even. That only brought with it more questions, uncertainty, and the fear that comes with it. It finally occurred to me that this confusion was a direct result of not relying on who I am.

I am a follower of Jesus. A beloved child of God.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV         
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

God is calling us to heart change. He gives us a spirit of gentleness, and when I allowed that gentleness to shine through, I began to see God working in the lives of my coworkers. I finally took the time to understand and lean into what God had planned for me right where I’m at.

1 Peter 3:4
You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

A few days ago, my supervisor and I were talking about Jesus and the Bible and how he had drifted away from his faith. Through our conversations, he has expressed interest in coming to a CedarCreek service! I believe God used my gentleness to open up these conversations. Praise God!

Questions:
Where are you showing up? Are you bringing gentleness with you, or has your heart grown hard toward someone or something?

Next Steps:
Ask God to soften your heart. Ask him to open you up to his will and show you where you can lean in to him more.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for your loving faithfulness. You guide me to grow my gentleness because you have been gentle with me. You are always good. Help me to lean in to your will for me. Show me where I should be still and wait for your wonderful guidance. Open my heart, Father, that I may show gentleness to those around me and reflect the light of Jesus into their lives. In Jesus’ name, amen!


This post was written by TJ McCroskey, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Do You Remember WWJD? – What Our World Needs Now

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The phrase, “What would Jesus do?” became popular in the United States in the late 1800s after Charles Sheldon wrote a very popular book titled In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?

Janie Tinklenberg, a minister from Holland, Michigan, read the book in the 1980s and was so taken by the phrase “What would Jesus Do?” that she came up with the acronym “WWJD.” She made friendship bracelets for her youth members to wear as a reminder to make good moral decisions. The bracelets became very popular, and to date, close to 17 million bracelets have been sold. I have pondered this question several times and concluded in all situations and circumstances that Jesus would be kind, loving, and gentle.

This week, we are focusing on the fruit of the Spirit gentleness.  Gentleness is defined in Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology as: “sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior founded on strength and prompted by love.”

Jesus was very gentle with people. Read the definition of gentleness again and focus on “behavior founded on strength and prompted by love.” He was different from the Pharisees who were often harsh, hateful, unkind, and judgmental toward others. One of my favorite Bible stories as a child was of Zacchaeus. It can be found in Luke 19:1-10.

Here is a quick paraphrase: Zacchaeus was a hated tax collector who became rich by cheating people out of their money. One day, Zacchaeus heard Jesus was in town and was desperate to see him. There was a crowd of people, and because he was short, Zacchaeus climbed up a sycamore tree to get a view of Jesus. Jesus stopped at the tree and (basically) said, “Come down from that tree, and let’s hang out at your house.” People nearby grumbled, “He is going to spend time with a sinner.” (That sentence always makes me roll my eyes. DUH, you hypocrites, we are all sinners!)

Please note, Jesus stopped what he was doing and spoke to Zacchaeus gently—even though he was a sinner. Jesus went to his house and hung out with him—even though he was a sinner. Jesus saw Zacchaeus through eyes of love. He saw Zacchaeus for exactly who he was: a dearly beloved child of God. Jesus didn’t focus on his sins; he wasn’t harsh or judgmental. And because of it, Zacchaeus was changed.

Luke 19:8-10
8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much. 9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham.  10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.

Jesus looks at you and me with adoring eyes of love, kindness, and gentleness. He sees us for who we were made to be. Jesus wants to spend time with us and change us. He doesn’t see our sins or failures—he sees us as his dearly beloved. I want to automatically think in all circumstances and situations: “What would Jesus do?” and do it! What about you?

Questions:
How has your perception of gentleness changed? How has Jesus been gentle with you? How can you be gentle with others?

Next Steps:
Spend time with Jesus. Ask him to change you and fill you with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

Prayer:
Jesus, I am overwhelmed and joyful that you love me so much. You choose to see the best in me always. You are so gentle, kind, and loving to me. I praise you for all your blessings. Help me to grow closer to you and become more like you. Help me to behave in all circumstances and situations as you would. Help me to bear much fruit and for my life to bring you glory. 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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Unnaturally Gentle – What Our World Needs Now

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Gentleness. The mere reading of the word brings a hint of conviction to me. This is not something that comes naturally for me. In fact, I’ve never heard anyone say, “That Kendra, she’s so gentle,” or “She’s so sweet.” HA!

I love those people from whom gentleness just oozes, especially alongside the overlapping fruit of patience. BUT—that is OK because it is not the fruit of Kendra … it’s the fruit of the SPIRIT. As Galatians 5:22 states, “The HOLY SPIRIT produces this kind of fruit in our lives” (emphasis added). And even when gentleness doesn’t come naturally, it is something we can attain by the power of and surrender to the Holy Spirit. That gives hope to people like me.

One area in which we can display gentleness is in our speech. (Again, it’s ironic that I’m writing this for today because it’s definitely an area where I have some room for growth.) I have always revered those parents who respond to their crazy-acting kiddos in a gentle tone. Tone matters. How we say things matters. And by extension, how we type things (ie. social media, text messages) matters too. Body language can also help to communicate gentleness … or not.

Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that “a gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” Has anyone else made matters worse because you didn’t follow the wisdom in this verse? No, just me? [Didn’t think so. 🙂 ] What do we do when a gentle answer doesn’t come naturally to us? Is it up to us? On one hand, yes, it is up to us to call on the Lord for his help in those moments. The Holy Spirit, who is the ONE who produces this fruit of the Spirit, will give us power in those areas that don’t come naturally to us.

In all things, we strive to honor God in our lives, so let’s aim to honor him with gentleness. In our homes, in our relationships, in our workplaces, on social media, with friends, and even with strangers—let’s walk in the fruit of the Holy Spirit of gentleness. We can be gentle as he has been gentle with us.

James 3:17-18
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, GENTLE at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. (Emphasis added.)

Questions:
Are you like me in that gentleness doesn’t come naturally? Or is there another fruit of the Spirit that trips you up a little more than the others? What are some steps you can take to be more gentle?

Next Steps:
In moments of chaos or tension, take a breath. Whisper a prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to help you respond with gentleness. Seek forgiveness in areas where (or from people with whom) you’ve blown it recently. God can give us courage and strength for that as well.

Prayer:
God, you know this is an area of weakness for me, but thankfully, it doesn’t depend on me. Help me to seek you in those moments of chaos and tension. Remind me to take a deep breath and dig deep from the power that you offer me to walk in your fruit of gentleness. Help me to be a deflector of anger with the gentleness that you work in me. Forgive me when I try to do it on my own and mess things up. Thank you for your grace to try again. And thank you for your faithfulness to not leave me the same as I was yesterday, but fill me with the hope that, tomorrow, I can be more like you because of you. 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.


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Gentleness – What Our World Needs Now

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“Gentleness today may be the single most misunderstood Spirit-produced virtue of the nine listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Two millennia later, gentleness is often used as a positive spin on weakness. But gentleness in the Bible is emphatically not a lack of strength, but rather the godly exercise of power. Gentleness does not signal a lack of ability but the added ability to steward one’s strength so that it serves good, life-giving ends rather than bad, life-taking ends” (David Mathis, “The Strongest Men are Gentle”).

Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow and our guest speaker Sam Acho, NFL player, writer, public speaker, and humanitarian, brought us an in-depth look at the meaning of gentleness as it appears in Galatians 5:22-25.

Galatians 5:22-25 NIV
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

No one has ever accused me of being gentle. Born the third of four children, and the only girl, it was mandatory that I develop grit and take no prisoners in encounters with my brothers and their pals. It helped that our dad was a former boxer and shared his skill set with me.  As an adult, I have been described as demanding and outspoken. And when I demanded our 16-year-old son be home by 10 p.m. on school nights, I was accused of being downright cruel. My son threw in “heartless” as he watched me rolling on the floor laughing at his dramatic response.

Thankfully, Josh unwrapped the meaning of gentleness by starting with what it is not. It is not violent … and I would add, nor is it mean-spirited nor being cruel at the expense of another. It is, however, something we should seek to model as it is becoming as rare as hen’s teeth in modern society.

Fortunately for us all, gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit that is graciously gifted to every Christ follower and modeled for us by the Holy Spirit.

Gentleness is listed second to last on that list in Galatians 5:22-25 … right before self-control. I do not believe this is a coincidence because self-control is mandatory for us to exercise any and all of the first eight fruit named there—but especially gentleness—as any parent or younger sister will enthusiastically attest to.

Ephesians 4:2 NIV
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you don’t have to be violent, mean-spirited, or cruel toward others. You already possess the nine fruit of the Spirit and are equipped to live a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Questions:
Are you sheathing your strength in kindness, humility, and gentleness, or is your pride loudly and harshly insisting you must be recognized as “right” and demanding compliance in the encounters you have with others?

Next Steps:
First and foremost, become a child of God by acknowledging and accepting there is only ONE God—it’s not you and it’s not about what you want. Tell God you are sorry for your unbelief and your sins. Thank him for sending Jesus Christ, his only begotten son, to pay the necessary price for our sins (because the wages of sin is death and separation from God for eternity), and then ask him to accept you

as his own child, sending the Holy Spirit and the aforementioned gifts to live within you.

Second, tell your campus pastor about your decision and ask him to guide you as you begin your walk with God through Christ.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for your love and for providing the one and only way for me to have fellowship with you from now through eternity. Please help me to live out the fruit of the Spirit all the days of my life and to lean into you through your Word, the Holy Bible, because it promises: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). Teach me how to live my life for you. 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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God’s Kids, God’s Power – What Our World Needs Now

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In last weekend’s message and throughout this week’s LivingItOut, we have seen ways we can be faithful. Hopefully, that has propelled many of us to initiate some changes and take some small, intentional steps to start moving toward a goal. However, it may have also stirred some feelings of regret or failure in areas where we may not have been faithful. Jud Wilhite, the lead pastor from Central Church in Las Vegas, powerfully touched on this at the end of his talk last weekend.

Jud reminded us of our identity—that it is rooted in CHRIST, not in what we have done or haven’t done, but in what HE has done. He conveyed that we are MORE than any failure, pain, mistake, or shortcoming. He declared that “we are God’s kids, and he has a future for us.”

1 John 3:1   
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!

Galatians 3:26 also points out that we “are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

God’s love is displayed in his faithfulness, so in return, we aim to be faithful to God. We heard previously in the series, “You will only be ____ (fill in the blank) to the degree that you know God is _____ with you.” Let’s plug in the word faithful here: You will only be faithful to the degree that you know God is faithful with you.

One thing for certain: God is faithful.

He is faithful to provide, to heal, to help, to repair, and to enable. When we surrender to Jesus to let him lead our life, we have forgiveness of all of our sins and shortcomings. But we also have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, enabling us to take steps in the right direction continuously. This week, we have heard many suggestions regarding steps to take or small changes to make toward more holy living and toward an abundant life in and for Christ. We are not left to do this on our own. The Holy Spirit gives us the strength and ability to complete his will in our lives because we’re God’s kids, and he has a future for us.

Questions:
Do you feel frustrated with past failures, shortcomings, or pain? Do you find your identity rooted in those things or rooted in Christ and who HE says you are?

Next Steps:          
If you haven’t already, identify one or two areas where you can grow in faithfulness. But, instead of relying on yourself to achieve these steps or goals, take a moment before you start to PRAY. Ask God for his Holy Spirit to give you strength (It’s available to you and me!), to give you discipline in the area you’re focusing on, and grace to push through when it gets difficult or seems impossible. Remember, “I can do EVERYTHING through CHRIST who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Prayer:
God, we thank you for this message and the encouragement that we received last weekend and throughout this week. We call out to you for forgiveness for where we’ve fallen short and beg for your strength and grace as we take steps in a direction that is honoring to you. You are SO faithful! Please help us to be faithful in these small yet intentional steps before us. We TRUST you for what you’re going to do in us and through us. In Jesus’ name, 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.


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The Great Finisher – What Our World Needs Now

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Lead Pastor Ben Snyder extended a challenge to commit to something with faithfulness: relationally, spiritually, or personally. Whatever that may be, submit to it by praying and taking the next step. So often, when we commit to doing something, we take on the challenge all by ourselves. If we try hard enough, we believe we can get ourselves to the finish line.  Instead of trying to accomplish things independently, though, God invites us to receive from the Holy Spirit. He is the one that produces faithfulness in our lives.

This summer, I have some lofty goals that I want to accomplish. I want to get back into a good routine and have fun. So, to reach this goal, I decided to start a young adult volleyball group. It was easy for me to plan, but I had to start sending invites to young adults to be faithful to the plan.

I have not had as many people come as I’ve invited—it’s been less than 10. It can be disappointing when you reach out, and not many show up, or when you are faithful to something, and you do not see the results you wanted. So as I move forward, I must remember that the Holy Spirit produces the faithfulness I need to carry out his plan.

Knowing God has been so faithful in the past, I trust he will be faithful with this goal. I trust the Holy Spirit will guide and work in our hearts through this Group, and I rest on God’s faithfulness to me. As Ben shared this weekend, we will only be faithful to the degree that we remember God is faithful with us.

Philippians 1:6    
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

As I remember that God is the great finisher and has been faithful to me, I am empowered to be faithful in showing up every week to be a part of the work that God has started.

Questions:
How has God been faithful to you?

What do you want to accomplish by Labor Day?

What transformative work have you seen the Holy Spirit produce in your life when you have been faithful?

Next Steps:          
Challenge yourself to make a goal.

Be a part of something, whether it’s a Group, serving during a weekend service, or on Serve Day next month.

Prayer:
God, you are so faithful! Thank you for the certainty that you will continue the work you have started in my life and in others. I pray that the Holy Spirit will produce in me what I can’t do on my own. I know there are times when I forget or doubt your faithfulness—remind me of this as I take the time to pray about a goal that I am challenging myself to achieve. Help me put aside my striving efforts and remember how faithful you have been in the past and will be going forward. I trust you, God, and believe you will finish what you started. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Rebecca Roberts, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Habit is Ten Natures – What Our World Needs Now

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British educator and educational reformer Charlotte Mason said, “Habit is ten natures.” She believed that when we develop good habits in our children, and ourselves, we will have “smooth, easy days.” Our modern sensibilities may have trouble with her quote, but basically, she says that it will overcome your natural tendencies when you develop a good habit. I don’t know about you, but my natural tendency is to lay in bed and hit snooze when my alarm goes off. I also prefer reading a book to exercising, but that does not mean that those natural tendencies are best for my family or me. Mason goes on to say, “Habit is inevitable. If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right acting, habits of wrong thinking and wrong acting fix themselves of their own accord.” (The Philosophy of Education, p. 101) In other words, when we fail to develop good habits, we will fall into bad habits, for creatures of habit are we.

Developing a habit is hard work. Last weekend, Pastor Jud Wilhite said it takes between 14 to 200-plus days to establish a habit. That’s quite a range; however, other experts on habits say it takes about 21 days to develop a habit. So why should we put forth the effort to go against our natural tendencies to create a good habit? Because, as Jud said, “What you do every day determines who you will become someday.” So who do you want to be next month, next year, or in ten years? Do you want to be known for your habits of prayer and reading your Bible? How do you want to feel? Do you have children or grandchildren who look up to you? Who do you want them to see you as?

I used to be great at getting up early to exercise and read my Bible. I developed the habit of getting out of bed when my alarm went off at 5:30 to catch a few quiet moments before my children got up. However, somewhere between child number five and now, that habit has disappeared. I am lucky to be out of bed and functional by 6:30. I set my alarm for 6, but I inevitably hit the snooze button and wake up closer to 7. It does not start my day off well. I’m usually rushed and then annoyed when my children are up and ready for breakfast before the coffee has even been ground. Admittedly, after five children in seven years, I was horribly sleep-deprived, and I needed sleep. But now, my youngest is three and sleeping through the night. At this point, I’m either going to bed too late or being lazy.

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder challenged us to pick a small habit and stick with it for the next 21 days. For me, I’m going to get out of bed when my alarm goes off without hitting snooze. My goal will be to do it every day during the week. I know that my days start better when I have that time alone in the morning. So what is it for you? Do you need to develop the habit of reading your Bible every day? Start with one chapter each day. You will eventually finish reading the Bible with that plan. Do you need more physical activity? Make a goal to spend 15 minutes outside most days, rain or shine. Do you need to cultivate the habit of joy? Choose to sing one hope-inducing song every day.

The change doesn’t have to be huge. Instead, make it something so small that it would be hard not to do it. I guarantee once you begin with a small habit, it will grow—and instead of one chapter, you will be reading two chapters or more. You will find yourself looking for ways to get outside more or find yourself singing throughout the day.

Luke 16:10
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”

When we develop small habits, they add up. Whether or not you choose your habits, you will develop them. You can intentionally choose to bring yourself closer to God through good habits or unintentionally choose to drift away by not mastering yourself. It’s your choice.

Questions:
What do you want to be known for in one year? In 10 years? What habits can you identify in your life? Are they habits that bring you closer to God and your goals, or are they pushing you away?

Next Steps:          
Choose a practical and simple habit to develop over the next 21 days. Ask someone to help keep you accountable.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for caring about how we live our lives. Thank you for giving us the ability to develop good habits and to change bad habits. Please give us the strength over these next few weeks to choose a habit that will draw us closer to you. Give us your power to follow through on our commitments and develop faithfulness. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her five young children.


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Simple, Healthy Daily Habits – What Our World Needs Now

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Last weekend, we continued our series What our World Needs Now with the fruit of the Spirit of faithfulness. The bottom line was: God’s BETTER FUTURE is made possible by today’s FAITHFUL ACTIONS.

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder said that what we do every day determines who we become someday. He also noted that faithfulness is the key to moving toward the better God has for us.

Luke 16:10 
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”

In this passage, Jesus warned the disciples to be faithful in the small things. As Christ-followers, we must realize we are answerable to God and that faithfulness in small things will result in permanent riches. If we are not faithful with small things, there will be no reward!

Guest speaker Pastor Jud Wilhite said that simple, healthy, daily habits are an aspect of faithfulness because, whether good or bad, habits run our daily lives.

Habit is defined as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” It was once thought that it takes 21 days to form a habit. However, new research suggests it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days, with an average of 66 days, for a new behavior to become an automatic habit.

Pastor Jud shared some advice from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, offering three levels of change and how to move through them.

Levels of change:

  1. Goals: “I want…”
  2. If there is something you want to accomplish, start simply by setting a goal. Some of us are good at setting goals but aren’t necessarily good at keeping them. It is easy to set a goal, but the desired outcome will not be accomplished if there is no follow-through (faithfulness).
  3. Habits: “I will…”
  4. A habit is one small change you can make with a big dose of faithfulness. Faithfulness is the key to this step—it adds commitment to the goals you’ve set. You need to break the goal down into small daily activities that will lead to accomplishing the goal. Sticking with these daily activities leads to the third level of change.
  5. Identity: “I am…”
  6. This level of change takes your daily automatic habits and makes them part of who you are. You are no longer just someone doing daily tasks toward a goal; you become the goal that you set. This is the most powerful level of change. Clear states, “You don’t rise to the levels of your goals; you fall to the levels of your systems.” Pastor Jud added, “You fall to the level of your habits as well.”

2 Chronicles 15:7           
But as for you, be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded.

Questions:
Would you describe yourself as a faithful person? If not, what is one small daily change you can make and carry out with faithfulness?

Are you good at setting goals? If so, are you good at following through with those goals?

Next Steps:          
Look at your life over the last year and determine any core habits that helped sustain you. Now, review Clear’s levels of change and set one or two new goals.

Check out cedarcreek.tv/world to access this series’s weekend messages and mid-week podcast on the Fruit of the Spirit.

Prayer:
Dear Father in heaven, open my eyes to see where I need to grow in faithfulness. Keep me steadfast in my daily habits, so they become part of my identity—my identity as found in you. Grant me wisdom to hear the changes you desire so that I may live out your plan for my life. Please help me to trust that you will produce in me what can only be produced through the Holy Spirit. Keep my heart pure in the small things so that I will be entrusted with greater things. In Jesus’ glorious name, amen.


This post was written by Jennifer Macke. Jenn has a son, daughter, granddaughter, and grandson, and she thanks God every day for them. She is enjoying retirement and feels blessed to be writing for LivingItOut. She was raised in an Evangelical Church, but her spiritual life awakened when she started attending CedarCreek.


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Back to Normal (Better) – What Our World Needs Now

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Normal. It’s probably been the most popular word of the last sixteen months. In the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, all the talk was about the “new normal.” Then, as the crazy year of 2020 continued, many started clamoring to “return to normal.” Now, all the talk is about how we are “finally getting back to normal.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m pumped to return to sold-out concerts and (not-so-sold-out) Detroit Lions games. I’m excited to give handshakes and hugs again. And I am relieved to finally see faces in stores and at weekend services! But I also think that, in our quest to return to normal, we run the risk of missing what God wants to teach us—and the fruit he wants to produce in our lives during this season.

In last weekend’s message, Pastor Jud Wilhite asked, “How tragic would it be if we went back to normal without changing at all?” Later he said: “I don’t want to get back to normal; I want to get back to better.”

How do we “get back to better” spiritually? Should we try harder to do more good and be better people? Nope. If you’ve ever tried that (like I have), you know it doesn’t work. So instead, the way we “get back to better” is by living from God’s Spirit and allowing him to produce faithfulness in our lives.

What is faithfulness? Jud put it this way: “Faithfulness is often defined as faith—placing faith in God and others. In this instance, though, it appears to be a faith that allows others to rely on us. It’s not trust, but it’s trustworthiness—the solid dependability of those that keep their promises and finish their tasks.”

A faithful person is one who can be counted on and trusted. They are diligent, they complete what they start, and they always come through in critical situations. Who wouldn’t want to be a person of faithfulness?

No matter how much we might want to be a faithful person, the reality is we can only ever be faithful to the degree we understand and internalize how faithful Jesus first has been to us. He is the ultimate example of faithfulness. Jesus was a trustworthy friend and leader to his disciples. He could always be counted on in times of need. And in his greatest display of faithfulness, he dutifully carried out his mission: to die on a cross, take our sins upon himself, and defeat all our sins once and for all!

When we recognize how faithful Jesus has been to us, we can begin allowing the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of faithfulness in our lives.

Galatians 5:22-23           
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Questions:
How would your life be different if you become more faithful?

How would our world be different if we all became more faithful?

Next Steps:          
Spend five minutes reflecting on how Jesus has been faithful throughout your life.

Identify one area of your life where God’s calling you to grow in faithfulness.

Pray, asking the Holy Spirit to continue to produce the fruit of faithfulness in your life.

Prayer:
Jesus, thank you for giving us the ultimate example of faithfulness when you died on the cross and took our sins. Please continue the good work you began within us so we can display your faithfulness to our world. Amen.


This post was written by David Hammack Jr., a first-time contributor to the LivingItOut.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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