Be His Church – What Our World Needs Now

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People tell me I’m a peacemaker—“a calming presence”—that just having me around can help defuse tense conversations. I like to think that’s because I have a strong inner peace that comes from my faith and trust in Jesus. But if I’m being honest, there are days when I’m not full of peace. There are situations that leave me anxious and unsteady, where I start to take my eyes off the source of my peace.

In those moments, the Life-Giving List we talked about yesterday really can help. For me, this can be activities like going for a walk, reading, journaling; it can mean places like my favorite parks, libraries, and coffee shops. But on my worst days, it’s my favorite people—my friends and family, especially those who have the same source of peace as me, that help guide my heart back to the right path. Because on my worst days, when my inner world is shaken, my own faith and efforts are not enough to fix it. I need someone to lovingly refocus my gaze on Jesus and his truth.

In short, when I’m struggling to be full of peace, I need the church—because on my own, I’m weak; but with other Christ-followers, I am strong.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

We’re not designed to walk this spiritual journey alone. The Holy Spirit is at work within us, producing good fruit in our lives, but he also does this through other people speaking into our lives, encouraging us when we’re doing well, and helping us refocus on him when we’re struggling. We’re also meant to help make a difference in the lives of other Christians by doing the same for them!

Hebrews 10:25
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

So if you want to experience God’s presence and peace, reach out to and spend time with other believers. The Holy Spirit is always with us, but he shows up in powerful ways when we gather with other believers as his church.

Matthew 18:20
“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

Questions:
Whom can you turn to when your inner peace is shaken, to point you back to the source?

We need these life-giving relationships even when we’re not at our worst, to help keep things from getting that bad and to strengthen those relationships for when things are bad. How are you making life-giving relationships with other believers a regular part of your life?

How can you help encourage the other Christ-followers in your life?

Next Steps:
Continue to meet with other followers of Christ as his church and build authentic relationships. This could look like committing to attend church in person every weekend (health allowing), joining a summer semester Group, serving on the DreamTeam with other Christians, or making plans to hang out with another believer.

Think of someone in your life who might need encouragement, and reach out to them.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the supernatural peace you make available to us through your Holy Spirit. We’re not meant to walk this path alone—help us to turn to others for strength and encouragement when we need it, and to offer strength and encouragement to those in need. I pray that we would be the church—peace-filled, life-giving representatives of you—both to other believers and to those who do not know you. Help us to turn to you for all we need and keep our gaze focused on your Son. May your will be done in us and through us. Amen.


This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton is currently the apprentice copywriter at CedarCreek. In her spare time, she freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.


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Chain Breaker – What Our World Needs Now

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Last weekend, our campus pastors and guest John Ortberg spoke about peace as one of the fruits of the spirit. When it comes to peace, boy, do I need some tutoring!

There is a constant dialog in my mind and so many decisions to make. What should I do? How should I do it? When should I do it? Am I doing it right? Which way did that chicken cross the road?

That’s how it starts. No, I’m not talking about O.L.A.S. (Oh look, a Squirrel). Nope. Anxiety. Racing thoughts with no place to put them can really take a toll. It’s like carrying a chain with a link for every anxious thought. It gets heavier. It hurts. But that’s where God invites us to trust him and let him bear the weight for us; let him break our chains.

We don’t have to do it alone. God not only helps us but also puts people in our lives to lift us up.

Matthew 18:20   
“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

Philippians 4:7-8           
“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

I love the bottom line for last weekend’s message: “Peace is a byproduct of God’s presence.” Sometimes God uses people, places, and activities to help us experience him.

That is why we were challenged to make a Life-Giving List. A list of things that we love. The people, activities, places, and things through which we experience God’s presence. Below is my list. Check it out and then think about the people, places and activities that help you connect with God.

People (Reach out more often.)   

1.         Ray – Leads Production at the Whitehouse Campus. I am a DreamTeam Member on his team
2.         Mike – He and his wife, Connie, led my wife and I through pre-marriage mentoring. Mike sends me daily devotionals.

Places

  1. My porch (outdoors in general)
  2. Church

Activities

  1. Music
  2. Art
  3. Sports
  4. Camping
  5. Driving

Questions:
What does your list look like? Where is God leading you this summer?

Next Steps:
Get involved in a summer group with like-minded folks who share your interests. Make a Life-Giving List and share it with some people you trust.

Prayer:
Father God, as we step into summer, may we be in awe of your creation. Lord, you’ve created so many ways through which we have opportunities to connect with you. May we be bold enough to step into these things and accept the breath of life you’re offering. May your peace be with us as we seek you daily. Thank You, Father. In the name of your wonderful Son, Jesus, we pray. Amen.


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


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OWN It! – What Our World Needs Now

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Philippians 4:4-7 NIV

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

These were the first verses I ever memorized after I became a Christian, and boy, have they been put to good use in the years since! I loved listening to our guest speaker and one of my early mentors Pastor John Ortberg unpack these verses last weekend. (I used to listen to his messages over and over on my cassette player!) He reminded us that Jesus did not live a peaceful life, but he always lived at peace. I think we all realize it’s impossible to live without conflict, difficulty, and sorrow. But if we focus on God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to abide in the peace offered through Jesus and his example.

When feelings of discomfort, fear, and insecurity come—and they will—Ortberg said to “own them, not enthrone them.” OWN is the acronym he used.

O – Observe It

What is going on in your mind? Pay attention to what’s going on between your ears and ask yourself some questions:

  • What am I saying to myself about this particular situation?
  • What am I saying to others?
  • What is the truth about this situation?
  • How do I feel about it?
  • Is what I’m feeling the truth?

These are really important questions. As I go through this exercise, sometimes I have to give myself a time-out until I get to the bottom of my feelings and assess their validity. Feelings don’t go away by stuffing them. As Andy Stanley has said, those stuffed feelings go into the basement of our hearts and lift weights until they emerge much stronger and more destructive than they started out!

W – Welcome It

James 1:2-4 NIV
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Our trials are not going to go away while we live on planet Earth, so look at them as an opportunity to grow and to learn. No one wants their faith tested, just as no one wants to work out for an hour every day. But those who willingly enter into that discipline know that the pain results in gain!

N – Name It

Name it for what it is. Ortberg reminds us that the psalmists were really good at naming pain—theirs and ours. So many of the psalms begin by crying out to God about poor circumstances: grief, illness, abandonment, physical pain, loss of friends and loved ones.

Similarly, we should name our feelings and share them with God. Take the time to write out your grievances and tell it like it is, just as you’re feeling it—the unfairness, the fear, the joblessness, the loneliness. Write your lament, or find a Psalm that is reflective of your feelings. You will find, almost without exception, that those laments turn into remembrances, and even celebrations of who God is.

So in your trials, remember to name the God who is with you, the God of peace. Pray your words to God, and thank him, knowing he is with you, he hears you, he is for you, and he is good. Then rest there with him. He will give you peace, no matter what your circumstances may be.

Questions:
When trouble comes, what is your first response? Do you pray as a first or last resort?

Next Steps:
Use OWN to work through the problems confronting you today. Observe what it is, welcome it, and name it. Then look in the back of your Bible (or do a word search in your Bible app) to see where that feeling or problem appears in Scriptures. Read those passages, and let the Spirit of God speak to you through them. Abide with those thoughts, and thank God for his presence in your life’s circumstances.

Check out this week’s LivingItOut Podcast as our Lead Pastor Ben Snyder leads a roundtable discussion on patience.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, forgive me that prayer is not usually my first response to the challenges of my life. But thank you for always being present for me. Help me to believe that you are for me and will never forsake me. Thank you for the gift of peace that dwells with you in my heart. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.


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The Joy Of The Lord – What Our World Needs Now

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The ball bounced against the blacktop about four or five times as I stared at the hoop. Then, finally, my breathing slowed, which allowed me to focus on the task. I was only 5’9 at the time, but I had hops. Before I knew it, my eyes were closer to the rim, and the ball flushed through the net. The elation from dunking the first time never equaled the others.

That’s how I used to describe joy, but there was a moment in the winter of 1997 when time slowed down long enough for me to witness pure joy. I strapped my niece into her car seat. She was less than 2 months old, and my sister had trusted me, an 18-year-old senior, with her care. I reached the nursing home, carried the delicate bundle inside, and watched as my sister gently placed my niece into my mother’s arms for the first time.

What comes to mind when you think of the word joy?

In last week’s LIO podcast, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder said, “Joy is living from the place that my life is worth living.” Even when you feel empty, there is something so wonderful that can breathe new life into you. When the weight of the world is on your shoulders, God can provide you the necessary strength to keep going.

Philippians 4:4-5
4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Nehemiah 8:10c
“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

James 1:2-3
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.

Theologian Dallas Willard defines joy as a pervasive sense of well-being. We are invited to not just rejoice but rejoice in the Lord—to have a pervasive sense of well-being because the God of scripture, Father of Jesus, is watching over us.

I think back to my mother holding my niece for the first time. She experienced everything in such a small moment. She figured out a way to work through the hard times because she found her strength in God. The joy she experienced that day was because she knew life was worth living.

Questions:
Where do you find joy? Are you empty if your joy comes from things?

Next Steps:
Find a way to work through the hardships in life. Seek counseling, pray, and live life with other Christians to keep you moving in the right direction. Watch last week’s LIO Podcast to gain more understanding about joy.

Prayer:
God, thank you for each new day. The fact that I’m here is a reason to experience everything to the fullest. I pray for those who feel like life is too much to handle. Let them see that you already know that life is too difficult to do it on their own. Finding our strength in you provides encouragement and allows us to experience a joy greater than any material thing can provide. Amen.


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


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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The Only Source of Peace – What Our World Needs Now

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Peace is a byproduct of God’s presence. This weekend, Pastor John Ortberg said, “Peace is the byproduct of a soul that abides with God.” I believe most would define it differently. Instead, it would go something like this, “Peace is the byproduct of a life free of struggle and conflict.” But is that achievable?

Our struggles and conflicts often create anxiety in us. Ortberg shared that “anxiety tries to get us to predict the future and worry about it.” When we begin to think that way, the worst possible scenario and imagined likely outcome takes away any chance of finding peace.

While we want to experience more peace, we can’t have peace if we constantly worry. But how can we stop worrying when our world is filled with uncertain outcomes, fear, failure, and great loss?

One of the big takeaways from this weekend was that becoming a peaceful person requires living with unpeaceful feelings.

To make this point, Pastor Ortberg shared a few of Jesus’ life circumstances that would undoubtedly have caused unpeaceful feelings. In his first years on Earth, his family fled their home in Bethlehem to escape King Herod the Great’s command to slaughter  all the boys aged 2 and younger. This was in an attempt to eliminate Jesus.

Later, throughout Jesus’ ministry, he experienced hunger, thirst, and exhaustion as he served the multitudes. He grieved when loved ones died. Those close to him betrayed him, and ultimately, he was rejected, mocked, beaten, and crucified by those he came to save.

Yet, Jesus was a man of deep peace through it all. Theologian Dallas Willard said that if he had one word to describe Jesus, he would use the word “relaxed.” I am not sure that is a word people would use to describe me.

I currently have circumstances in my life that are causing unpeaceful emotions. These circumstances range from having a house that needs multiple major home repairs to having family members experiencing health issues. Anxiety has me thinking about everything that could go wrong. I realize that worry does nothing to improve these circumstances, so I tell myself to stop. That doesn’t work, though, because simply trying harder to experience peace doesn’t actually produce peace.

We learned this weekend that the answer to experiencing more peace in our lives isn’t to remove the feelings of uncertainty, fear, failure, or loss, but instead, to learn to have peace even while having these unpeaceful feelings. Over the next few days of the LivingItOut, we will look at Philippians 4:4-8 and how we can receive peace.

Philippians 4:4-8
4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Where it starts, though, is with your connection to God. Peace is a byproduct of God’s presence. As Ortberg said, we are invited not to try really, really hard but to learn, instead, to abide in the presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and today he offers you peace no matter what you’re experiencing.

John 14:27 NIV
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Questions:
Who in your life would you describe as a person of deep peace?

Can someone experience a peace-filled life even if life’s circumstances are not peaceful?

Where does peace come from?

Next Steps:
Read Philippians 4:4-8. Write this verse down and carry it with you throughout the day. Then, ask God to open your eyes to what your next step is to experience the peace he offers.

Commit to reading the LivingItOut everyday this week, and be open to receive what God shows you through it.

Prayer:
Dear heavenly Father, you are the provider of peace. I praise you because you bring calm to the storms in our lives. Forgive me for the times I try to gain peace out of my strength instead of letting it be a byproduct of my relationship with you. Thank you for being patient with me and for offering me the peace I need. As I go throughout this week, help me see how I can best connect with you and live out the truths from your word.


This post was written by Ben Bockert. Ben is a proud husband and father of three beautiful daughters. He is honored to serve as the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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.


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We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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