The Importance of Humility.

21 Days of Prayer: Day 20

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”

  • S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

What is pride?

Many would define pride as the “sin of sins” or the root of all sin, or the rejection of the wisdom of God because you think you might know better.

In James 4:6, James writes, God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. You should not be prideful because this sin will kill you forever.  This sin will keep you from having an intimate relationship with Christ, and sin hurts God.

James continues in verses 7-10:

7So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  8Come 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.  9Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.  10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

These verses are instructing us to live a life where we have a relationship with God and resistance to Satan. God is not the only force that is trying to work in our lives.  We must not compromise with the enemy of our souls; we must resist him and submit to God.  It is human nature to drift away from our faith and blame God for the bad things that happen to us.  God is always trying to teach us something, and if we put our faith and trust in him, he will draw near to us.  When we resist Satan, he will pull away from us.  We should also repent and confess our sins.  We cannot live both a Christ-like life and a worldly life. We need to be broken-hearted for the distance that our sin has caused between God and us. Just imagine if you go to heaven and God asks why you should be admitted. The prideful person would say that I did this and I did that; I did, I did, I did. That is not being humble. That is saying that we did all the good things we could do to earn our own way to heaven. We do good works because we are children of God, but our salvation is based on grace and grace alone. He needs us to get down so that he can lift us up.  The ultimate show of humility is that we believe in the one whom God sent.

Matthew 23:12:

1But those who exalt themselves will be humbled; and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

What struggles in your spirit or circumstances in your life you can attribute to the Evil one?

We’ve all heard the word “hypocrite,” when discussing Christians. Does your life reflect the life of humble Jesus, or does it look more prideful? What step can you take toward humility?

It is important to show the next generation that God is the controller of our lives. We can make plans, but ultimately God is in control of every circumstance. They are the future of the church and should be shown the importance of humility. At the 2017 Global Leadership Summit, Bill Hybels stated that leaders must set the example without demonizing. I am in a previous generation, and it is my responsibility to show the next generation how to win, and winning is entering the kingdom of God.

Prayer:

Dear Great and Glorious God, thank you for the gift of salvation.  Help us to release all our anxiety and go to Christ for rest.  Give us wisdom that you are the way to eternal life if we accept Christ as the Savior that died for our sins. Help us to fight pride in every way we can and to know that we are not in control. We realize we need to confess our sins and feel remorse for them because they separate God from us. Please forgive us of these sins.  It’s in your precious name we pray, Amen.


This post was written by Jenn Macke, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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When You Don’t Want to Forgive.

21 Days of Prayer: Day 19

Ah, forgiveness. Do we really have to do that? It’s certainly not something that comes easy for the majority of people.

On September 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked, two of which crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. As a result of the horrific events on that single day, more than 3,000 people died, and many more lives were forever changed.

I’ll never forget that moment. I was in class in Dam Neck, Virginia at the Navy Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center (NMITC), when someone turned on the news, and we watched as the second plane collided with one of the towers.

I was shocked, burdened, and sick all at the same time. How does someone even begin to forgive something like that?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:14-15:

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Ouch!  Jesus is saying that if we can’t forgive others, then he won’t forgive us. While this doesn’t mean that we lose our salvation, it does mean that we will experience the negative results of our choice to withhold forgiveness from someone here on earth. When we choose not to forgive, we are ultimately hurting ourselves. Bitterness eats away at our hearts. It festers and oozes out of us like foam from the mouths of rabid dogs.

We start to talk and act like Mama Fratelli from the Goonies. We just can’t let go, and eventually, it takes a toll on us.

If we really want to understand forgiveness, we have to look at the life of Jesus. His only mission was to die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. He knew how wretched our hearts were going to be, and he knows all of the things we are still going to do, and he forgave us anyway.

Chris Tomlin sings these lyrics in his song “Indescribable”:

You see the depths of my heart, and You love me the same

When we choose to forgive, we might see or understand the depths and destructiveness of what a person is capable of and choose to love them anyway.

At the end of Jesus’ life on earth, he said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

Even on the cross, after being beaten, speared, nailed, betrayed, cursed and asphyxiated, he still wanted us to be forgiven.

When we see forgiveness through the eyes of Jesus, then we can forgive.

Today, think about the people in your life you need to forgive. Spend time praying for them.

Prayer:

Lord, you are the author of forgiveness, you designed us for the capacity to love others as you love us, and to forgive others as you forgive us. Help me view others through your eyes. Amen.

Last weekend, Josh Whitlow challenged us to think about how we – depending on our generation – can either step up, or show up. On top of the prayer above, pray for God to reveal to you how you can do one of these two things.


This post was written by Stephen Dull. Stephen is a Continuous Improvement Engineer, Triathlete, and Blogger. He is passionate about Faith, Finances, Fitness, and helping men to discover their God-given dream. He has a lovely wife and 2 beautiful daughters. You can follow him on twitter @360manproject or on his website: www.the360manproject.com


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Living Free Requires This:

21 Days of Prayer: Day 18

Have you ever tried to lift weights that were too heavy for you? So heavy that you couldn’t even get them off the ground, or caused you so much trouble that you needed someone to help you? Well, that is what it is like to carry around your sin. Without confession, we can feel trapped under the weight of our sin, unable to move, unable to lift.

Growing up Catholic as a child, my experience with confession included the dread of having to tell a priest all the things I had done wrong and then waiting for my penance, which to a 10-year-old boy seems a lot like a punishment. My perception and understanding of confession changed drastically once I entered into a relationship with God.

Confession is the acknowledgment of our sin – the recognition that we have done something we should not have done. It is simple but often terrifying. When we sin, the last thing we want to do is tell someone about it. Many people live in fear of someone else discovering the wrong they have done because of the consequences that may be associated with it. They carry their burdens like a weight around their neck, dragging them down and preventing them from living the life God has given them.

The thing is, God already knows what we have done. We can’t hide it from him. Fortunately, he doesn’t dwell on those wrongs because he loves us, but he also wants us to understand that we have gone against his will.

Romans 10:9-10:  

9If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Professing our faith goes beyond saying that we are Christians or going to church, or even telling others about Jesus. It includes the confession of our sins, both to God and to others. In the same way, we can’t lift heavy weights alone, and we can’t carry the burdens of our sin alone.

James 5:16:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Living this command out from James can have incredible results. I attended a men’s retreat several years ago with 30 men I had never met. It was well out of my comfort zone even to go to an event where there would be no familiar faces, and I quickly realized this was a weekend getaway unlike any I had ever attended. In 48 hours, I grew closer to many of those men because we spent a majority of the time confessing our sins to one another and praying for each other. We told complete strangers things we had never told anyone else. Grown men cried like children, not out of sadness, but out of the joy that comes with freedom from captivity to sin.

How does confession affect future generations? As Josh taught from Psalm 78, each generation is called to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done” so that “they would not be like their ancestors – a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.”

Exodus 34 refers to the “generational sin” where unconfessed and unforgiven sin has an effect not only on that individual but their children and grandchildren as well. (For more on this, click here to read John Piper’s teaching.) By admitting that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we are welcomed by our Creator with open arms. Jesus did the hard work through his sacrifice, and now we can reap the benefits. But it does require us to deal with our sin and bring it into the light by telling someone else, or even through an audible prayer to God.

Today, we are praying prayers of confession:

Prayer:

God, I confess that I have sinned against you. I have done what is evil in your sight, and I was wrong. I have done unspeakable things that I am ashamed to admit, and even more afraid to tell anyone about. But you already know that, and you love me anyway. Amen.

Last weekend, Josh Whitlow challenged us to think about how we – depending on our generation – can either step up, or show up. On top of the prayer above, pray for God to reveal to you how you can do one of these two things.


This post was written by Ryan Cook. Ryan is the business director at Chick-Fil-A in Toledo. He enjoys spending time with his wife, son, and daughter, and watching Cleveland sports as much as anyone can. Follow him on twitter @cookfila


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What You Should Pray Each Morning:

21 Days of Prayer: Day 17

Protection Prayer is so powerful and so necessary to our walk with God, especially these days with so many distractions and diversions to help us stray off of the righteous path. There is so much lying and deception, so much wrong, impure, ugly, and deplorable behavior in this world, it is easy to fall into it without really realizing it. I mean, if everyone, including many of the world’s leaders, is behaving this way, why shouldn’t we?

One of the things I love the most about reading the letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to the early churches is that so often they prove to me that we are not much different than those early believers! Even though we have changed a lot since Paul wrote this letter, and we differ from generation to generation, all in all, we are still fighting the same demons, and we need God.

In these verses from Philippians Chapter 4, Paul tells us that one of the best ways to protect ourselves from the evils of the world is to fix our thoughts on the positive. In verse 4:7, he says that if we pray these prayers of protection, God will guard our hearts and minds.

When we focus on what is good, our perspective improves because the God of peace will be with us. To keep that focus, Paul gives us a clear list. When I find myself worrying or brooding over some problem, I can turn to this list and ask myself if it fits. If not, I need to give it to God and let go. Moreover, if I find myself talking about someone, or talking to someone about events in my life, I can use this list. If my speech does not line up with it, I should be quiet! Before I do or say anything, I can look at this list for guidance.

When I start my day by praying a prayer of protection, it helps me to move forward positively. When I look at this list from Philippians throughout the day, I can realign my thoughts if they start to turn negative. I have written out Philippians 4:8 on sticky notes and posted them in places that I can see throughout the day.

Philippians 4:8-9:

8And 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. 9Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

The other directive Paul gives is to put into practice all the other things that he taught, “everything you heard or saw me doing.” This is the role of the church now –  to show the love of God to everyone we encounter. We do that not only through the weekend message but by helping people to connect with each other on a deeper level. That is why we talk so much about serving, not just because the church needs volunteers to run well, but mostly because it is a great way for people to connect.

This is why we all need church! From generation to generation, there are lessons we all need to learn to live a better life. We need church to help remind us of the lessons in the Bible and to help us hold one another accountable for those lessons. But we also need it as a community of fellow believers to connect us in deeper, more meaningful ways.

 

What action can you take to realign your thoughts if they start getting negative?

 

How can you remember to pray prayers of protection to start your day and guard your heart and mind?

 

What next step can you take to become more involved with the church body and to serve out God’s purpose for your life?

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us your word, for the instruction that it contains and for helping us to live a better life. Thank you for your Son, who lived out your word perfectly as an example for us to follow. Father, thank you for your church that gives us community with one another, helping each other live out your purpose for our lives. Help us to remember to pray prayers of protection when we are feeling negative or overwhelmed by the evils of this world. Help us to focus on the positive, to be a light for your glory. Amen.

Last weekend, Josh Whitlow challenged us to think about how we – depending on our generation – can either step up or show up. On top of the prayer above, pray for God to reveal to you how you can do one of these two things.


This post was written by Kelda Strasbourg, Kelda is a grateful member of the LivingItOut writing team. She has a love for Jesus and the desire to help others find that same love. She has her own business and a border collie named Emily.


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Weapons of War Are Not What You Think.

21 Days of Prayer: Day 16

Religion and warfare make strange bedfellows, or at least they should.  Unfortunately, religious fervency has been at the root of most of many atrocities. However, God’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) is clearly in direct opposition to the very notion of waging battle against our fellow man.

The motives and merits of earthly war are topics for another time (and forum). But the subject of spiritual warfare is front and center in this week’s portion of our 21 Days of Prayer journey.

Yesterday’s edition of LivingItOut introduced the topic of spiritual warfare through a discussion of the Armor of God. In Ephesians 6:13-17, the Apostle Paul employs the metaphor of a soldier’s armor as a means of helping us “resist the enemy in the time of evil.”  Donning the Armor of God, Paul suggests, helps us to appreciate the existence and value of God’s many protections against the evils we face every day.

God’s armor – the belt of truth, the body armor of God’s righteousness, the shoes of the Good News, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit – provides a worthy defense against our enemies. Today, we pivot from defense to offense as we consider God’s mighty weapons.

In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, Paul exhorts the people of Corinth to use God’s weapons to defeat the forces that seek to derail us from our walk with him:

2 Corinthians 10:4-5:

4We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

The weapons Paul references are not weapons of man, but spiritual weapons to defeat forces such as pride, human reasoning, and false arguments that can undermine our faith in God.

The Life Application Study Bible suggests that these spiritual weapons – prayer, love, faith, hope, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit – are both powerful and effective:

“We, like Paul, are merely weak humans, but we don’t need to use human plans and methods to win our battles.  God’s mighty weapons are available to us as we fight against the devil’s ‘strongholds’… When dealing with people’s proud arguments that keep them from a relationship with Christ, we may be tempted to use our own methods.  But nothing can break down these barriers like God’s weapons.”

When I step back to consider the obstacles that I encounter in my own walk with God, a number of items quickly become apparent.

First, I must acknowledge that spiritual warfare is, in fact, real.  This is to say that many of the issues with which I contend – pride, spiritual laziness, temptations, and other obstacles – are not merely the result of my own failings; they also involve forces beyond my earthly experience.  This is not always an easy, or even natural, step for me.  I can be too easily drawn into thinking that the worldly issues I face are my responsibility and thus mine alone to solve.

In her Bible study titled, “The Armor of God,” Christian author and evangelist Priscilla Shirer examines the reality and the deceitful ways of Satan, the enemy. “The enemy’s attacks are always wrapped in the packaging of deception, always designed to manipulate the truth about God, and about your value in him,” she writes.  “He [the enemy] desires to lead you into sin so that fellowship is broken between you and God – this way you’ll be disconnected from the source of true power and strength.”

In acknowledging that the spiritual battle is real, I must also recognize the identity of the enemy.  I will freely admit that I find it disturbing to even consider the existence of Satan and his forces of evil.  I find it far more appealing to devote my thoughts and energies to worshiping and serving a loving God.  This is not surprising as my God has given me life in this world and the salvation to be with him eternally in the next.  At the same time, I must realize that I cannot hide from the enemy.

And this leads me to a final, and more comforting reality: I am not alone in this battle.

The 2015 faith-based movie, “War Room,” explores the power of prayer in virtually every aspect of life.  The movie’s central character, Miss Clara, is an elderly woman who constructed a prayer closet, or “war room.” in her home to help deepen her relationship with God and combat the forces of evil. One of the movie’s pivotal scenes involves a conversation between Miss Clara and Elizabeth, a younger woman played by Priscilla Shirer (as mentioned above), who is experiencing struggles in her life and marriage. In endorsing the power of prayer, Miss Clara tells Elizabeth, “God showed me that it wasn’t my job to do the heavy lifting.  No. That was something that only he could do. It was my job to seek him, to trust him, and to stand on his Word.”

As we trust the 21 Days of Prayer experience is demonstrating, prayer is not only an invitation to dialogue with God but a powerful weapon for overcoming challenges in both the physical and spiritual worlds.

Author Max Lucado drives this latter point home with emphasis in his book Before Amen.  “Prayer slaps handcuffs on Satan,” Lucado writes.  “Prayer takes problems out of the domain of the devil and into the presence of God.  Prayer confesses, ‘God can handle it.  Since he can, I have hope!’”

Prayer:

Father God, I thank you for granting me the gift of this life and the accompaniment of your love and companionship. As I walk with you, I ask that you give me the ability to recognize the enemy when he crosses my path and the wisdom to call on your mighty weapons of prayer, love, faith, hope, your Word, and the Holy Spirit to prevail on your behalf. Help me also to leverage the gifts you have afforded me as I seek to make an impact for your kingdom and to serve as a worthy example for the next generation. Amen.

Last weekend, Josh Whitlow challenged us to think about how we – depending on our generation – can either step up or show up. On top of the prayer above, pray for God to reveal to you how you can do one of these two things.


This post was written by Todd Romain. Todd is a regular contributor to and editor of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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To Live a Life of Faith, You’ll Need This:

21 Days of Prayer: Day 15

“It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

  • Uncle Screwtape, The Screwtape Letters.

The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, is a series of letters from one demon to another explaining how they interact with a human – the patient – in attempts to draw him away from God. The “attacks” the demon levels against the human aren’t what we’d imagine. Instead, this “warfare” seems to be a subtle one. While it is a work of fiction, it interestingly explores what spiritual warfare might look like.

While many have different thoughts about what “spiritual warfare” means, what we can know is that Scripture clearly teaches there is a sort of spiritual battle going on that we can’t necessarily see, and it’s important that because of this truth, we seek God and ask for his help. This will be our focus for the third week in our 21 Days of Prayer.

This week, we’re going to be looking at different prayers that help us stay focused on God in the midst of the many struggles, spiritual or otherwise, that we will face on this earth. Some might call these “warfare prayers.” Today, we are going to look at a passage from the book of Ephesians. In chapter 6, Paul writes:

Ephesians 6:13-17:

13Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

In this passage, Paul describes what he calls “The Armor of God.” Here’s what the pieces of this armor include:

The belt of truth

The body armor of God’s righteousness

The shoes of the Good News

The shield of faith

The helmet of salvation

The sword of the Spirit (the word of God)

No matter what we might face in life, these are the elements of our “armor” we need to “resist the enemy.” When we are tempted to sin, we can know the truth that it is not our righteousness that saves us, but God’s. When we feel like we’re stuck, we can take one step forward knowing the Good News that Jesus died and rose for us to live in his kingdom is true. When we feel under attack, we can rely on our faith in God to protect us, our salvation to guide us, and the Word of God to defend us.

This past weekend, Josh Whitlow spoke about the different generations and how whether you are the current generation or the next generation, you play a pivotal role in the church. For those of us in the “current” generation, we can live our lives with this armor, showing the next generation that no matter the situation, we rely on God and his promises to guide us in our lives. It doesn’t matter what stands against us, we are fully covered in the love of Jesus and have all that we need. For those in the next generation, when you want to step up, you’ll need to rely on the armor we talked about today and the examples that those ahead of you have set.

Today, we are going to pray that we would live our lives with this armor, that we would all don the elements of the godly armor so that we can live out the faith that God has so graciously given to us.

Which element of God’s armor do you need to lean on more (do you need to remind yourself of the promises of God, or the salvation he’s given you, etc.)?

 

Prayer:

Gracious and Heavenly Father, you are so good to me. I know that you’ve given me all I need to do your will here on earth, and I also know that there are forces outside my control that want to stop me from following you. Help me to wear your armor and rely on your promises so that I can grow closer to you and help others to do the same. I ask all this in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy is the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study. He has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people, for Christian Apologetics, and for the Cleveland Indians. He is married with two young children. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.


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Pray for Everyone… Even Your Enemies?

21 Days of Prayer: Day 14

The Holy of Holies. The sacred, innermost part of the Tabernacle, was widely believed to be the place God dwelt, in addition to containing the Ark of the Covenant (the Tabernacle is described in detail in Exodus). Only the high priest could enter this section of the temple, as it was separated by a veil. It was in this place that the priest would offer his requests to God – known as intercessory prayer. The priest would enter into the presence of the Lord, and pray for other people, as well as himself.

Jesus taught us how to pray with what is known as the Lord’s Prayer, which we have been studying and praying through. Paul gave us further instructions on how to pray for others, and for whom we are to pray:

1 Timothy 2:1-4

1I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Who are we to pray for? Just ourselves? Our friends and family? No. We are to pray for all people. Yes, we should be praying for our friends, our family, and those close to us. But we also need to pray for our enemies, our church, our leaders, and those in authority – bosses, government officials, and yes, even the president.

It seems like it should be easy to pray for our own family, the people we care about the most. We want the best for them, especially for our children. Last week, I got to pray for my son as he went to kindergarten for the first time, and my kids never fail to remind me that we need to pray before bedtime. We ask God for provision and thank him for our friends and the blessings he has given us. On the other hand, consider your typical response when you’re on your last nerve from a long day at work, the children are arguing as you walk in the door, and you need to get dinner on the table as soon as possible. Tensions can quickly run high, but with a simple breath and a prayer, your night could be a lot different.

Praying for our friends and people we care about might be easier. We want them to succeed, to be well, and to experience the love of God. When we pray for others, we can see transformative change. In college, I was a volunteer Young Life leader tasked with starting a new ministry at a local high school. I didn’t know the students at the school, but I cared about them. I got a sports program and started praying for them by name, looking at their pictures and asking God to change their lives. While not all of those students came to know Christ, those hours of prayer laid the foundation for a ministry that is going strong more than a decade later.

The leaders of our church, as well as the leaders of our country and world, need our prayers, too. Wait, pastors need prayer? A lot more than you think. In 1 Timothy 3, leaders are charged with being “above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach… gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money,” in addition to managing his family and being worthy of respect. Certainly a tall order, especially if they are trying to do it alone. Fortunately, we can help, through the power of prayer. For the church itself, we can pray to be like the first church, discussed in Acts 2, where people “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer,” as well as praising God together, opening their homes, and sharing their possessions with anyone in need.

It may seem odd to pray for those in authority. Why do they need any help from us? For one thing, many of them do not know Jesus. They need guidance as much as anyone else. And do you want to follow someone if they are going in a direction you don’t want to go? Think about your boss. He may stress you out, but consider the pressure he may be under. How would your relationship, and even your job satisfaction, be different if every time you wanted to complain about him to your spouse or co-workers, you prayed for him instead?

It is easy to treat others well if they treat you well. “Even the pagans do that.” But when we are mistreated by people who don’t like us, it is far more difficult to turn the other cheek. Matthew 5 encourages us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. How can we turn those people into friends? There is a (cheesy) saying that a stranger is a friend you haven’t met. Well, an enemy is a person you have yet to pray for.

We all need God’s help. Ask him who you can be praying for specifically. Consider the strained relationships in your life – enemies, friends, family – and how they could be different if you prayed for those individuals instead of griping about them. Commit to praying for a different person every day this week, and then reflect on them later in the week.

Prayer: God, help me to identify those around me who I should be praying for. When I want to complain about people, help me to pray for them. I know I need your help in this, and I know that people matter to you. I want to be a source of positivty and prayer for those around me. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

This past weekend, Ben challenged us to pray about the step we might need to take in our spiritual journey. Of the four steps Ben outlined (Know God, Find Freedom, Discover Your Purpose, and Make a Difference) which do you need to take?

Who can you help take their next step?


This post was written by Ryan Cook. Ryan is the business director at Chick-Fil-A in Toledo. He enjoys spending time with his wife, son, and daughter, and watching Cleveland sports as much as anyone can. Follow him on twitter @cookfila


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My Words are Sweet Incense to God?

21 Days of Prayer: Day 13

It was going to be a busy day; he could see that already. The outer courts were full of people milling about with animals ready to bear the price for the people’s sins. The people came into the outer courts praising God that their sins could be forgiven. This forgiveness came at a cost, though: the death of an animal.

As he reflected on his job as a priest, he wondered if there was another way. As he stood up to take the next animal to the Brazen Altar, he could feel how this animal was going take the punishment for this family. After the blood was shed, he walked to the Laver and cleansed himself.  To enter into the presence of God, one needed to be clean.

Upon entering the Holy Place, he stopped to allow his eyes to adjust to the light from the menorah. The next stop was the Table of Showbread. This was a special place as it demonstrated that God desired to have fellowship with him – a priest, a sinful man.

The final place, the Altar of Incense, was his favorite. This was the place where all of his senses came alive. His eyes were now well-adjusted to the lamplight, the sounds of the people and animals in the outer courts were muffled by the curtain, he could feel the thick air of the enclosed tent, but what transported him was the scent of the incense. It carried him from the hot, dusty desert into the presence of God. This altar was his favorite piece of the Holy Place. It was a small altar about 3 feet tall and 1.5 feet square. It was made of acacia, a strong and enduring wood, overlaid with gold. It had four horns representing the four camps of Israel. The construction of the altar was beautiful, but what transported him to intimate worship with God was the aroma. The incense was to be burned twice a day, morning and evening, while the burnt offerings were being made. The incense was a mixture of three precious spices and frankincense. It was holy and symbolized the prayers of the people going up to God, a sweet aroma. It was in this place he knew that his God was different from the gods of the peoples around them. This God wanted communion with his people and provided a way for them to be made right with him. He did not know that this ritual he performed twice a day was foretelling a sacrifice that God would one day make to atone for the people’s sins once and for all.

As we think about what the Altar of Incense meant for the people in the Old Testament time, we can see how it becomes meaningful to us as Christians today. The Altar of Incense provided the people an opportunity to offer up to God a sweet aroma of praise in the form of incense that was only used on that altar. We too can offer up our prayers to God as a sweet aroma when we worship him with our entire being. When we enter into the presence of God, worshiping him by name – Sanctifier, Healer, Provider, Peace, Righteousness, and Savior – our words become sweet incense before him. While these people had to perform a particular ritual to come into God’s presence before Jesus’ death, we can come boldly into his presence and worship him. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we do not need a priest to intercede for us; we can communicate directly with the God of the universe and experience true intimacy with the God who made us. We can sing with David in Psalm 141:2, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Our praises bring us into the presence of God to commune with him and find rest and a safe place.

Proverbs 18:10

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

We can run to God and know that he is a safe place.  Our worship should transport us from the cares of this world into the presence of God. We can come before him and know that we are safe in his presence no matter what we have done and can freely worship him with our whole being.

Think about what it would mean for you to view your prayers as a time when you are stepping into the presence of God. Think about the incense that our priest burned before the Lord and how it transported him from the desert into the presence of God. Think about how Jesus became our sacrifice and, through the shedding of his blood, we can now freely enter into the presence of God without fear or shame. Does it change how you pray?

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, Sanctifier, Healer, thank you for allowing me to come into your presence. Thank you for coming down from your home in heaven to give your life for me, a sinner, so that we can boldly come before you, the God of the universe. Thank you that I may come before you a sinner and leave cleansed by your blood. I pray that the words of my mouth are a sweet aroma before you. I pray that my worship blesses your name and as the Psalmist says, “Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.” Amen

This past weekend, Ben challenged us to pray about the step we might need to take in our spiritual journey. Of the four steps Ben outlined (Know God, Find Freedom, Discover Your Purpose, and Make a Difference) which do you need to take?

Who can you help take their next step?


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 four young children.


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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This is Essential to Your Spiritual Health:

21 Days of Prayer: Day 12

One of the most necessary things for life is energy. We humans cannot function without the proper amount and type of energy. The primary source of our energy is the food we eat. Though it can look different depending on culture, time of day, and mood, food is a necessity. If you’ve participated in an extended fast before, you know how it feels to be deprived of this essential source.

In fact, food is such a necessity, which no one questions the role it plays in our lives. We might debate what type of food to eat or how much, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone arguing that we should stop eating altogether.

Physical food is a necessity for our natural bodies to survive, and we all know this. What about our souls? What is the food that we require to thrive in our soul? God is clear all throughout the Bible that it is his word we require for our souls. Even more important than the health of our physical body, our soul’s health requires a constant diet of God’s Word. When Jesus fasted from physical food for 40 days and nights, he was hungry. The Devil began tempting him telling him to turn stones into bread to satisfy his physical appetite. Jesus’ response, though often overlooked, is striking.

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4)

We need the word of God to live. It is a necessity.

We are in day 12 of our 21 Days of Prayer, and for this week, we have been exploring what the Tabernacle and how it relates to our prayers.

Yesterday, we read about the Lampstand and how we needed to rely on the Holy Spirit every day. Today, we are going to focus on the table of Showbread. On this elaborate table, there were 12 loaves of bread situated into two piles of six. Bread, representing the essential item for physical life, was a gift from God. The priest was to eat the bread, and in this act, show fellowship and peace with God.

The Israelites were to remember – through the sacrifices and worship in the Tabernacle – that God had given them peace and forgiveness. They were also to remember that all their needs would be provided by God alone.

It’s no coincidence that Jesus equates bread with the Word of God. As Christians, we are called to feast on God’s word and also realize that it is the source of sustenance for our souls. In the Old Testament book of Joshua, we see a prescription for how we should do this:

Joshua 1:8

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and fruitful.

 

What do you think God means when he tells Joshua to meditate on his word day and night?

 

Do you have a daily time for reading God’s word scheduled out? If so, what does it look like and how could it improve?

 

If not, what can you do to set that up? Whom can you ask to help?

 

When we pray, we are communicating with God, when we read the Bible, God is communicating to us, which means that reading the Bible – though something we do naturally – requires God’s supernatural help.

Today, pray that God would speak to you through his word and that his word would become more and more central to your life.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for your word. I know that your word is my daily bread, that it is necessary for the health of my soul. Help me to feast on your word daily, so that I can experience the peace and prosperity you promise.

This past weekend, Ben challenged us to pray about the step we might need to take in our spiritual journey. Of the four steps Ben outlined (Know God, Find Freedom, Discover Your Purpose, and Make a Difference) which do you need to take?

Who can you help take their next step?


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy is the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study. He has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people, for Christian Apologetics, and for the Cleveland Indians. He is married with two young children. You can follow him on twitter @andyrectenwald.


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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The One Thing You Might Be Missing:

21 Days of Prayer: Day 11

I have a friend who I’ve known for many years, and as our friendship was growing, she began to ask me more about my faith. She had a church background, but many of the fundamental truths of the Bible were unfamiliar to her. Although I loved being a person in her life who was able to speak the truth of God to her, it came with an obvious amount of pressure. I wouldn’t dare want to lead someone astray. I had considered myself a growing Christian at the time, and a lot of our conversations were allowing me to do some growing as well.

One particular conversation involved the topic of salvation: one of the most important conversations you could have. My friend was laying some whammies on me, really getting to the nitty gritty, and I began to stumble a bit in my answers. For one of the first times in my Christian life, it dawned on me hard, like a baseball smacking me in the face. PRAY about it. Duh!

I prayed for the Holy Spirit to speak through me and answer this sweet girl’s life-altering questions. It was too big for me to answer alone. As our conversation continued, a significant shift took place, and I said things to this girl that I didn’t even think I knew myself, things about salvation and Jesus that were biblical, but also totally not from me and my brain. God was teaching me in that moment just as much as he was teaching her! The fact that this pre-talk prayer had to “occur” to me rocked me a bit. I thought I was a maturing Christian, but praying for the Spirit to guide me was not yet a regular part of my life. The result of doing this before this one conversation changed my whole walk in faith. It encouraged me to make it a habit to say an intentional prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide me on a regular basis.

As we go through the symbols in the Tabernacle, we get to the seven-branched candlestick, otherwise known as the golden lamppost. This candlestick was the only light source in the Tabernacle, so it was essential for the people to approach God. For us, the fire represents the Holy Spirit. Every day, you should invite the presence of the Holy Spirit. The light provided by the Holy Spirit guides us so that we don’t have to walk blindly in life. We can see where we are meant to go, and how to go about doing so.

Isaiah 11:2

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him-

the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and of might,

the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

The Holy Spirit is there, just waiting for you to use him! Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, to give you the words, the right responses. The small amount of time it takes to invite the Holy Spirit and center your thoughts on God can be life-altering. If you allow the Holy Spirit to work in every part of your day, asking him at the beginning of the day and throughout, you will see your days begin to take a different course. You will be using your spiritual gifts in the way God intended. You will be better at avoiding sin and your most difficult temptations. Think of it as an essential resource that God has gifted to us, as important as light is in navigating a dark Tabernacle.

Is calling on the Holy Spirit something that comes naturally to you, or is it something you need to work into your routine?

 

Can you recall a time that you felt the Holy Spirit working through you?

 

Prayer:

Dear God, thank you for the Holy Spirit. I invite you today to lead me in everything I do. I invite the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding, the Spirit of counsel, the Spirit of might, the Spirit of knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. I ask you to give me spiritual gifts to be used for your glory. Allow me to feel your Spirit spring to life in me, and let us walk together in everything I do. Amen.

This past weekend, Ben challenged us to pray about the step we might need to take in our spiritual journey. Of the four steps Ben outlined (Know God, Find Freedom, Discover Your Purpose, and Make a Difference) which do you need to take?

Who can you help take their next step?


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee loves anything arts-related, and really enjoys writing for the LivingItOut. She is married and has a little girl and boy.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

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