God, Rich in Mercy – Advent

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LIO Advent Edition: Day 10 of 15

Today’s wow-inspiring truth about God: God is merciful—he is compassionate and kind.

“The most important thing about you is what comes into your mind when you think of God.” —A.W. Tozer.

It will affect your whole life.

When I was in third grade, we had a Christmas assembly at school. My part was to read Luke’s recounting of the birth of Jesus, God’s only begotten son, sent to save mankind from the eternal punishment of sin. No pressure.

It should have been terrifying, but I was coached by my parents, who were television performers. More importantly, it was the first time I had ever read the Word of God. I fell in love with God and learned just how much God loves me.

Luke 1: 30-33

30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Even at the tender age of eight, it was reassuring to know that, even though I was doomed to disobey (daily) and deserved punishment for being disobedient, God still loved me. Why? Because God is merciful!

John 3:16 (NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

What does mercy mean? It means God forgives us, even though—through our own efforts—we can never earn and don’t deserve that forgiveness. He washed our sin-filled slate clean with the blood of Christ. That is mercy.

 

Ephesians 2:4-5

4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

Jesus, who is sinless and divine, and therefore, God, left heaven to take our place, to suffer and pay the price we all owe for our sins. Only a perfect sacrifice was enough to pay that price. And as long as we are here on Earth, our sinful nature prevents us from ever achieving perfection, so God intervened on our behalf.

Because of God’s mercy, he sent Jesus to us on that Christmas night so long ago. Now that’s worthy of celebration, don’t you think?

Questions:

What comes to mind when you think of God?

Where have you experienced mercy in your life?

When have you experienced God’s mercy?

Next Steps:

If you have doubts about the validity of the birth of Christ and his role as Savior, consider reading Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus.”

This year, celebrate Christmas as the arrival of Emmanuel, God with us, and meditate on what he came to do for us.

Prayer:

Thank you, Lord, for saving me from my rightly deserved eternal punishment for sin and unbelief. You chose to exercise your mercy and grace on my behalf by sending your perfect son, Jesus Christ, to pay that terrible price once for all.  Please help me to live a life that reflects your love for me and my belief in your sovereignty. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Family Advent Activity:

Throughout this Christmas season, CedarCreek’s Family Ministries will be providing us with some fun ways to connect with the Christmas story through Scripture readings and engaging activities. This will help prepare our hearts for Christmas and create great Christmas memories for you and your family. These Family Advent Activities will be located at the end of each LivingItOut devotional.

 

Today’s Activity:
Read Luke 2:10 together as a family. Make Christmas cards for anyone in your life who might need a little joy today, from the mailperson to the crosswalk guard. You could even add a gift card or small treat.


This post was written by Martha Smith, a regular contributor and editor of the LivingItOut.

 


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Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men – Advent

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LIO Advent Edition: Day 9 of 15

Today’s wow-inspiring truth about God: God is good—he is full of goodwill.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a 19th century American writer and lyricist, composed a poem on Friday, Dec. 25, 1863, as he sat tending to his son, who was recovering from a serious battle injury. Not only was Longfellow dealing with this great tragedy, but he had also lost his wife two years prior and the Civil War had been raging for over two and a half years. As he listened to the church bells ringing Christmas tidings, he struggled with their angelic meaning of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

Within ten years, Longfellow’s poem, “Christmas Bells,” was set to music by John Baptiste Calkin, an English organist and became the timeless Christmas carol we all know as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

“I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old, familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!”

But what Longfellow saw all around him was anything but peaceful. He saw discord between the world and the sweet sound of hope that the bells rang out.

“And in despair, I bowed my head:

‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,

‘For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!’”

The sentiments he penned captured the feelings of many people of that day: despair, hatred, unjust, and a general feeling of a lack of peace.

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.’”

As dreadful as Longfellow’s life was, his inspiring reply to his despair still holds true today. God’s not dead, and he is not sleeping!

The Advent season begins four Sundays before Christmas day and is the period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of buying and receiving presents, gazing at Christmas lights, singing carols, and attending parties that we miss the true meaning of Christmas.

Luke 2:13-14

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

How can God grant peace to those on earth? In Apostle Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus Christ, he told us that the angels declared that God is offering peace/goodwill with him through the birth of his son. Christ is the only solution to Longfellow’s question.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19

18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

Christians who have made peace with God, who have experienced his goodwill, are charged to extend goodwill to others—that’s the true meaning of Christmas.

Questions:

What do you think is the true gift of Christmas? Do you get caught up in the earthly traditions of the season and lose sight of the true meaning?

Do you extend goodwill to others all year long or only during the Advent season?

Next Steps:

Gather the family and read Luke 2 out loud to hear of the account of the birth of Jesus Christ. Discuss the true meaning of Christmas as you see all the promises God has fulfilled with Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. Christmas is also a reminder to point toward the second coming of Christ when he will establish his kingdom on earth.

Prayer:

Dear Father in Heaven, thank you so much for sending your son to bring goodwill to my life. May I be filled with the wonder of the true meaning of Christmas. Thank you for being the Prince of Peace. I am so grateful that you love me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Family Advent Activity:

Throughout this Christmas season, CedarCreek’s Family Ministries will be providing us with some fun ways to connect with the Christmas story through Scripture readings and engaging activities. This will help prepare our hearts for Christmas and create great Christmas memories for you and your family. These Family Advent Activities will be located at the end of each LivingItOut devotional.

Today’s Activity:       
Read Luke 2:9 together as a family. What would you do if a brilliant angel from God appeared in your home? Share how you would react.

 


This post was written by Jennifer Macke, a regular contributor to 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!


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John Reading Plan


The Perfection of God is a Blessing – Advent

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LIO Advent Edition: Day 8 of 15

Today’s wow-inspiring truth about God: God is holy—he is infinitely, unchangingly perfect.

Holy and perfect. Holy is defined as sacred, divine, or set apart. Perfection is being free from faults and defects … or being as free as possible from faults and defects. When you place these attributes on a person, it gets confusing. It makes it necessary to add the distinction as much as possible—because our sin makes perfection impossible.

The Biblical and spiritual meaning comes with a unique perspective to show us who God is, as much as we can understand. He is perfect goodness without limitations. He is holy, which is why God had to set himself apart from us from the very beginning.

Exodus 15:11
Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

So why are we called to be like him?

1 Peter 1:16

For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

God understands that we are flawed. Our humanity can never compare to his holiness. We take things too far because we don’t have the power to stop ourselves. How often have you ended a personal relationship because of any slight? I know I’m guilty of such things. We are stubborn, petty, and, too often, unforgiving. Look at what we do to one another because of war, greed, and selfishness.

God’s holiness will not allow sin in his presence, but his perfect holiness loves us despite our flaws. When God flooded the Earth, he could have let that be the end. But, his mercy prevailed over his wrath, and that continues to be the case. God is the only one who could’ve accomplished that, which proves his holiness.

God sent Jesus to save us from our unholiness. Jesus went to the people. He joined us instead of separating himself, as was common for the religious leaders of that time. “Be holy because I am holy.” Doing so didn’t place Jesus in sin. It showed the world how we can join Jesus in life. His way demonstrates how to bring all people to God.

Our Christmas celebration serves as a reminder of what God did for us when he sent Jesus. He, who is infinitely perfect, designed a way to bring us closer to him. God didn’t have to, but that’s how much we are loved.

Questions:
What comes to mind when you think of holy? Do you believe being a Christian makes you perfect?

Next Steps:
Think of others during this Christmas season by serving your community. Volunteer at shelters and soup kitchens. Invite strangers to church, and try to get to know them.

Prayer:

God, forgive me for not doing more. I don’t always answer when I am called to represent who you are. Thank you for showing me the necessary changes I needed in my life to pursue a closer relationship with you. Thank you for loving me. Amen.

Family Advent Activity:

Throughout this Christmas season, CedarCreek’s Family Ministries will be providing us with some fun ways to connect with the Christmas story through Scripture readings and engaging activities. This will help prepare our hearts for Christmas and create great Christmas memories for you and your family. These Family Advent Activities will be located at the end of each LivingItOut devotional.

Today’s Activity:
Read Luke 2:9 together as a family. Tell your child how you shared the good news of their birth (or arrival in your family) with others.

 

 


This post was written by Jaron Camp, a regular contributor to 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!


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John Reading Plan


Immutable … Huh? – Advent

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LIO Advent Edition: Day 7 of 15

Today’s wow-inspiring truth about God: God is immutable—he never changes.

Immutable … What does that even mean?

Before I came to know Jesus, back in 1994 (Wow! That seems like a long time ago!), I’m not sure I had ever heard the word “immutable.” That’s kind of surprising because I am an avid reader. Then I came across a song, “Say the Name,” by Christian singer/songwriter Margaret Becker with lyrics claiming that just saying “Jesus” provides immutable peace. I didn’t know what it meant, but I sure loved the song! When I looked it up, I found that immutable means “unchanging over time or unable to be changed” (encyclopedia.com). God is immutable. How does that knowledge inform our thoughts about God, especially at Christmas?

We can see from the first verses of Genesis that God creates in a unique way—by his word, the world was spoken into existence. He is a personal God, in that he lives in community with his son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. He creates a beautiful place for his creation to live in the same community he enjoys. Even when human selfishness broke the community Adam and Eve enjoyed in the beginning with God, he set out to restore it.

Throughout the millennia it took to prepare people for his restoration plan, God continued to intervene in personal ways to remind these chosen people of his desire for them (and for us) to return to him. He spoke through the prophets and the psalmists, describing the one who would come to restore all the nations to himself. The entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures tells of God’s immutable love for us to be expressed in the One who was to come. In the words of the Apostle Paul:

Galatians 4:4

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.

God sent his word, Jesus, into the world to communicate his love for us through a person! He enclosed his splendor in a human body so that we could maybe understand just how much he loves us and how much he wants us to return his love. Jesus was born, lived, loved, died, and rose again to provide a way for us to become right with God. That’s what God has always wanted.

Christmas reminds us of the lengths God was willing to go to get us back. It was always his plan. He has never changed it. He is truly immutable. This is one of my favorite scriptures:

Hebrew 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Say the name, Jesus. It brings peace and joy and love to this Christmas season. He is the same, and he has an immutable love for you!

Questions:
How does the idea that God never changes reassure you? Does realizing what he is willing to do to recover your love for him make you want to celebrate? Is there anything else in your life that is immutable?

Next Steps:
Spend some quiet time thinking about the unchanging, immutable nature of God. Write a note of thanks to him, or share your thoughts with another.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for your unchanging love for me! Thank you for the greatest gift we could ever receive, the precious child Jesus. I praise you because you never change—you are always good, you are always generous, you are always faithful, you are always love. Help me spread these attributes of yours throughout the Christmas season, that people may be drawn to you. I will say the name, Jesus, over all my holiday activities. May your name be honored forever. For the beautiful name of Jesus, I pray, amen!

Family Advent Activity:

Throughout this Christmas season, CedarCreek’s Family Ministries will be providing us with some fun ways to connect with the Christmas story through Scripture readings and engaging activities. This will help prepare our hearts for Christmas and create great Christmas memories for you and your family. These Family Advent Activities will be located at the end of each LivingItOut devotional.

Today’s Activity:       
Read Luke 2:8 together as a family. Roast marshmallows for s’mores while looking up at the starsthe same ones the shepherds saw! (Or make them in the oven and eat them by candlelight.)

 


This post was written by Lauri White, a regular contributor to 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:

Click Here


More Resources

Series Theme Verses
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RightNow Media
John Reading Plan


The Right Place at the Right Time – Advent

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LIO Advent Edition: Day 6 of 15

Today’s wow-inspiring truth about God: God’s timing is perfect.

Have you ever felt like you were waiting on God for something, or have you ever been surprised by something new that came into your life when you weren’t expecting it?

In Luke 1, we see these two scenarios play out in the lives of Zechariah and Mary. First, we read about Zechariah receiving word from God that he and his wife will become parents to a son.

Luke 1:8-13
8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying. 11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.

Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, had been praying to God for years for a child, but when God announced that a child would soon be given to them, Zechariah was in disbelief. He wondered why God hadn’t given them a son when they were younger. Why now in his old age? Having a child was right because they always wanted one, but the timing certainly didn’t make sense.

Soon after this announcement to Zechariah, Mary received a visit from an angel with an important message.

 

Luke 1:26-33
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” 29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Can you imagine the emotions she must have felt when receiving this news? It is one thing to be visited by an angel, but to then be told that you’re going to have a child who will save the world—how exciting and terrifying at the same time. In her understanding, the timing must have seemed less than perfect. Mary was engaged to Joseph but not yet married.

We can learn how best to respond when God’s timing doesn’t make sense to us from these two stories. In both cases, Zechariah and Mary said, “How can this be?” but the heart behind their questioning appears to be different.

Zechariah questioned his news, because how could it possibly be right? He and his wife were too old to have a son. In the weekend message, Ben Snyder described Zechariah’s response by stating that he overestimated his ability to know the right time for this blessing and underestimated God’s capacity.

In Mary’s case, she wonders too. But her wonder leads to trusting God and believing that his reasoning and timing are perfect. From her story, we learn that trusting God today positions us to be wowed by his perfect timing tomorrow.         

Galatians 4:4-5
4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.

Questions:
When have you questioned God’s timing about something?

In what area are you struggling to trust God’s timing in your life today?

What was the difference between Mary’s and Zechariah’s responses?

What step of trust can you take today so you can experience the wonder of his timing tomorrow?

Next Steps:
If you missed this weekend’s message, take time today to listen to it. From Ben’s talk, identify your next step of trust.

Prayer:
Dear God, thank​​ you for your perfect timing. You sent your son into the world at the exact right time, and you continue to be perfect in your timing today. Forgive me for the times that I don’t trust you. Forgive me for the times that I think you are late or early. Help me see you are always in control, and help me trust you more today. Amen.  

Family Advent Activity:

Throughout this Christmas season, CedarCreek’s Family Ministries will be providing us with some fun ways to connect with the Christmas story through Scripture readings and engaging activities. This will help prepare our hearts for Christmas and create great Christmas memories for you and your family. These Family Advent Activities will be located at the end of each LivingItOut devotional.

Today’s Activity:
Read Luke 2:7 together as a family. Use a nativity set or stuffed animals to act out the Christmas story as a family member reads it from Luke 2.


TThis post was written by Ben Bockert, a regular contributor and editor 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:

Click Here


More Resources

Series Theme Verses
LivingItOut Podcast
RightNow Media
John Reading Plan