Rooted in Christ – Why Prayer…

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Perseverance. Endurance.

James 1:2 NIV
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds …

James begins his letter to the worldwide church with an apparent contradiction. He calls Christians to joy in trials. Joy is defined as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” Trials are defined as “a person, thing, or situation that tests a person’s endurance or forbearance.” Here in America, we will do anything to avoid pain or difficulties. Suffering and trials are something to be avoided at all costs, yet James says to consider it pure joy. Thankfully, he does not end that thought with a period but continues.

James 1:3 NIV
… because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Here he connects trials with the testing of our faith. Somehow being tested by the trials of life is good for us. Through trials, our faith has the opportunity to be tested and proven true. We develop perseverance. Perseverance is defined as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Through the struggle, something happens in us that makes us stronger. James continues:

James 1:4 NIV
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

So it is through this testing that we become “mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” We become stronger the more we endure testing, and we grow.

There is a type of Juniper tree that grows in seemingly impossible situations. They can be seen hanging off of a vertical cliff, face-rooted in rock. They are often small, but they’re strong and very long-lived. How does this tree apply to our life as Christians? Well, this tree is rooted in rock, often unprotected by the whipping winds. Mountain storms rage, and the sun beats down on them, and yet, they endure.

As Christ-followers, our lives mirror that tree. We are rooted in Christ—our rock. We experience trials that seem like they will rip us apart from our bedrock, yet we persevere and are stronger because of them. Normal trees would not be able to endure the harsh climate the Juniper tree thrives in, because they are not rooted in the rock, they have not endured the wind of the mountains. The same is true for those of us who are rooted in Christ. We have strength to persevere through the trials in this world, and through these trials, we develop the strength we would not have under any other circumstances. Our faith is made complete, thus we can consider it joy when we face trials, knowing that through them, we are being made mature and complete.

Questions:
What trials have you faced in the past? Did they make you a stronger person? What trials are you facing in your life right now? Are you running from them or embracing them as something that is making you a stronger person?

Next Steps:
Write down some of the trials of your life right now. Ask yourself how these trials are making your faith stronger. Think back to a time when you endured trials and reflect on how they grew your faith.

Join Lead Pastor Ben Snyder as he leads Morning Prayer. You can participate by visiting any of our church’s social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

21 Days of Prayer: Day 12       
Father in Heaven, thank you for loving me. I know I can trust you with all I am, and I am confident in the salvation you have given me. Help me to abide in you, to become more like your Son every day. Show me how to live like him, according to your will, working for your Kingdom in all I do. May my love for you and others be perfected through your love for me.

21 Days of Prayer: Day 13       
Heavenly Father, thank you for working in me. I am in awe of the changes you make possible in my heart and how you continue to grow me to love you and others more. I praise you for saving me, for making salvation possible through your Son. Help me to share this gift with others. Teach me to desire what you desire. I trust you to give me the power to do all you ask of me.

21 Days of Prayer: Day 14
Dear Father, I worship you with all my heart and soul. I want to sing your praises from early in the morning when the sun rises until late at night when the day has passed. I am so grateful to be allowed to be your child as your love washes over me again today.


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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Raised Praying – Why Prayer…

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Last weekend, Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow continued to unwrap why we need prayer—to know God and grow the strength and effectiveness of our faith while we are sojourning here on Earth. When we pray, James promises that we connect with our Savior:  “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world” (James 4:8).

Josh masterfully explained that (in my words) God is neither Santa nor a vending machine. He is not here to make our lives comfortable and safe. On the contrary, we are here for him. God created us because he loves us and wants to have fellowship with us now and into eternity. This is not accomplished by calling on him only when things aren’t going our way—although that is usually a good tool to drive us into the dialogue he desires to have with us.

Matthew 6:33  AMP
But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.

I was raised praying. It was mostly, “lay my lamby down to sleep” praying as a kid, but as I grew, my prayers became conversations with God my Father whom I love and rely on.

Then high school started and so did unbridled pride and rebellion. I thought that the errors of particular church leaders meant God was not to be trusted either.

I spent years indulging myself and hurting others before realizing, through many trials, that my arms are too short to box with God, and I needed to repent and submit. But even as I was drawing nearer to God, I refused to give up headship over my own life. That caused more self-inflicted trials and pain as it sent me spinning into a deeper sin trap.  Repentance without a change of both heart and actions isn’t repentance or submission at all. The Lord sent many lessons during those years, and through his mercy, my attitude changed. I began to draw ever nearer to him, albeit in stumbling fits and starts.

The lessons continued. In 1999, I became my mother’s caregiver for the next 10 years. A month after her death, my now late husband was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Together we navigated through the next eight years of his decline and eventual death, clinging tightly to our Lord.

What was the blessing of these lessons? I finally embraced the fact that my life belongs to my Father—it is his to mold as he sees fit, for whatever purpose he determines. Since I have accepted this truth, I have found strength and have even learned to (mostly) maintain my joy as I work through my trials. I spend more time on my knees praying and listening to my Savior because I know his hands are on the reins of my life, now and forever.

Keep praying. Keep leaning in and growing your reliance on and relationship with God. He will bless your endurance with an inspired and inspiring life here and into Eternity.

James 1:5
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

Questions:
If you pray, why do you pray? What do you know about prayer and its purpose for your relationship with God? What do you see as God’s role in your life and the universe?

Are you growing closer to God through prayer? If not, why do you think that is?

Next Steps:
If you don’t have a personal relationship with God or you’re ready to take your next step on the spiritual journey, fill out the online connect card so someone can help you take that step today.

Go to cedarcreek.tv/groups and check out next semester’s offerings, such as new believers groups like Starting Point. Sign up for our Fall semester, which begins Aug. 28!

Check out CedarCreek.tv/21days for prayer resources you can use throughout this season of prayer.

21 Days of Prayer: Day 11       
Dear God, thank you for being a God of perfect love. Thank you for loving me first—before I accepted your salvation, before I even knew you, while I was still living in sin. Teach me to love as you love, without fear, without condemnation. Help me to offer grace to those around me, just as you first offered grace to me.


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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There’s No Cheat Code for God’s Tests – Why Prayer…

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Over the weekend, Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow said that he would have preferred if James told us to run away when troubles cross our paths. I’m guessing all of us have done that a time or two. Running seems like a safer and quicker way to avoid life’s obstacles.

Think about how simple and less complicated things were as a kid when you were able to find a way around childlike deterrents. If you were a child of the 80s, and an avid Contra player on Nintendo, you knew to press Up, Down, Up, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, A, B, A, B, and Select to “earn” unlimited lives in the game. I’m not admitting to using a cheat code, but it actually worked! I mean, it would’ve improved my chances of winning Contra on multiple occasions if I had.

How many of us would use a cheat code in life for an easier experience or to avoid the tests each chapter brings?

I have a picture of my father in our dining room. I saw him a handful of times in the 90s. I even stayed with him for a week after turning 13, but I never saw him again after 1999. The kids see his picture and ask, “Who is that?” I say, “That’s Stevie, your grandfather.” I forgave him for his absence in my life years before I had a family of my own, or at least that’s what I told myself. In October 2008, God put my claim to the test. I received a phone call from an unknown Dayton number as we brought our newborn daughter, Imani, home for the first time. Instead of letting the call go to voicemail, I answered it, and Stevie’s voice was on the other end.

James 1:2
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

After that week I spent with him at 13, I thought of my father as an obstacle. So when I heard his voice on the phone, great joy didn’t come to mind. I could’ve viewed his call as an obstacle to run from. I could have hung up on him or disrespected him because I allowed his voice to trigger my own insecurities of being a father. Instead, I took a deep breath and had the best conversation I had ever had with him. He wanted to congratulate me on the birth of Imani. We probably spoke for over an hour.

“Every test is not an obstacle but an opportunity to grow closer to God as he works in your situation,” Josh said. My test was an opportunity to show that I truly understood what it meant to forgive someone. Maybe the call allowed Stevie to see that his absence didn’t wreck everything and allowed him to heal. He passed on a few months later. Stevie’s picture is in our dining room. There aren’t many stories to tell the kids about their grandfather, but two people choosing opportunity over obstacles created a good ending to our chapter.

Questions:
How do you handle God’s tests? Do you look for opportunities to learn and grow from life’s trials?

Next Steps:
Pray for God to guide you through tests instead of asking him to remove them altogether. Don’t cheat yourself—put in the work to grow through the process. Make room in your life to fully experience a God opportunity by living life instead of running from it.

Join Lead Pastor Ben Snyder as he leads Morning Prayer. You can participate by visiting any of our church’s social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

21 Days of Prayer: Day 10
Dear Lord, when things become difficult, I know you walk beside me. You will cross the desert with me and weather any storm with me. When things become unbearable, I know you will carry me to the other side. Today, I declare my dependence on you. Amen.


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


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What Would David Do? – Why Prayer…

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Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow made a statement that really made me think:

“Where you worry the most is where you trust God the least.”

After serious contemplation, I realized I worry most about my family and friends. When I am worried about them, I have the tendency to try and fix difficult situations or make suggestions on how to solve a problem. My family loves this. (Okay, that’s not the truth!) They get really irritated with me. This type of behavior hurts my relationship with them, and most importantly, it hurts my relationship with God. It is very prideful behavior, and God hates pride. I always need to pray first and surrender the difficulty to God, trusting him with the outcome.

Josh spoke about how deeply David trusted God. When David experienced difficult times, he poured his heart out to God in prayer. He would exalt and praise God, ask for what he needed, and repent of his sins. Many of David’s prayers were written in poem or song form and can be found in the book of Psalms. He is credited with writing over half of the Psalms.

Psalm 63:6
I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.

Psalm 119:147-148
147 I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words. 148 I stay awake through the night, thinking about your promise.

David, like us, was a flawed human being who had real struggles. Yet, in all his humanity David trusted and revered God. He turned to prayer during his trials and spent more time focusing on God than his difficulties. I believe this is why David was referred to by God as “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).

Questions:
What do you worry about most? How can you be more like David? What do you need to pray about?

Next steps:
Write out your prayer in a journal. Take a deep breath and pray next time you are struggling. Read a Psalm daily.

Check out CedarCreek.tv/21days for prayer resources you can use throughout this season of prayer.

21 Days of Prayer: Day 9        
Heavenly Father, thank you for all you have given me: all the time, resources, relationships, and abilities. I now give them back to you. I surrender it all. I am only a steward—it all belongs to you. God, guide my actions. Teach me to use what you have given me according to your will. Help me to listen for and obey your directions. May your will be done in me and through me.


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.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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Test Me – Why Prayer…

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I remember a time when I tried to cheat on a test. I hated tests, especially spelling tests. In second grade, I would come home crying because I struggled to remember how to spell a word. At one point, I was sitting in Mrs. Leach’s classroom after the hardship of taking a spelling test when I finally got my results back. I should have been proud. I only misspelled one word, but thinking I could short-cut it, I took a pencil, erased the letters I messed up, and boldly told my teacher she made a mistake in her grading. I was so anxious about messing up that I chose to cheat. Unfortunately, the lined paper betrayed me, and my teacher noticed the line had been smudged.

I broke trust, and consequently, I received a detention. On top of that, my parents made me write front-to-back on a piece of paper: “I will not cheat.” Even though I still hate tests, I know not to cheat.

Why? Because tests reveal what is true.

When you take a test, it reveals your knowledge, or lack of knowledge, on a subject. (My spelling test revealed that I lacked knowledge on the subject.) Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow pointed out that we may not like to be tested, but we are happy that things are tested.

Consider a driver’s test or a restaurant health inspection. We are happy that those tasks are tested, because it ensures the people are knowledgeable about what they are doing. It builds trust. Trust on the road and when we eat out.

This concept can also be applied to our prayer lives, to knowing God more. If we want to have a vibrant prayer life, we need to consider David’s prayer in Psalm 139.

Psalm 139:23-24 NIV
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me (emphasis added) and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

David prays to be tested by God. Why? Because bottom line: A faith that is tested can be trusted.

Ironically, if I had known that one day I would decide to be a writer, I don’t think I would have short-cut a spelling test. I broke trust in that moment instead of using my struggle as an opportunity to build trust, to become a better writer. When God tests you, it’s because he wants to build trust.

Are you ready to make that your prayer today? Test Me.

Questions:
In which area of your life are you being tested? How are you building trust in the midst of it?

If you’re ready to pray for God to test you, how do you think it will affect your prayer life?

Next Steps:
Pray first in the midst of your test. Surrender your worries to God, and keep going. Don’t avoid the test or try to remove it from your path.

Join Lead Pastor Ben Snyder as he leads Morning Prayer. You can participate by visiting any of our church’s social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

21 Days of Prayer: Day 8
Dear God, I have missed the mark of righteousness many times. Yet while I was still separated from you, you loved me and sent your Son to die for me. Thank you, Lord. Today, I offer my broken spirit to you, for you alone make it whole. I come to you in repentance, knowing I need you. Heal me, God, and teach my heart to break for what breaks yours. In your Son’s name, I pray.


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


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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