Swirling Thoughts – Haunted

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I don’t know about you, but I can be so stuck in my head sometimes that my thoughts swirl and I forget my existence for a moment. This happened to me a couple years ago—consequently, I almost hit something as I attempted to pull into Panera! I was stressing about some personal things, my thoughts started swirling, I zoned out, and all of a sudden, I’m veering off course and heading toward a small fence. Fortunately, I snapped out of it before it was too late.

Here’s the bottom line: Deal with your emotions before your emotions deal with you.

My story shows what can happen when you don’t address your emotions. I was letting my anxiety and stress get the best of me. Before I got behind the wheel, I should have taken the time to pray and address my emotions. It’s a very effective way to release my stress, or whatever I am feeling. It helps me find freedom from toxic thoughts and prevents me from getting stuck in my head.

Today, we’re going to look at how David dealt with his emotions through prayer. How he identified them and gave them to God. Prayer is a time when we can unmask how we are feeling and ask God to work in us, no matter what.

David wasn’t perfect, but he consistently lived a life of humility. God considered him “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). What’s amazing is that we get a picture of David and his prayer life. David was authentic in how he prayed. To release his emotions, he was honest about his heart.

Here are some examples of David’s Prayers:

Psalm 6:3
I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me? 

He’s not faking. He’s telling God exactly how he feels—not because God doesn’t know, but because when we tell God, it also reveals to us how we feel.

Psalm 104:5
You placed the world on its foundations so it would never be moved.

David was praying for consistency when he felt uncertain.

Psalm 6:6
I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears. 

He was saying, “I am sad and depressed.”

Psalm 17:8
Guard me as you would guard your own eyes. Hide me in the shadow of your wings. 

David was saying, “God, I don’t feel safe. I’m being attacked. Protect me.”

Do you feel this today? There is hope! When you pray, tell God what is on your heart. Say it out loud. Journal about it. Express it in the way you connect best with God. It is not easy, and it can be uncomfortable at first. But once you unload that weight, you will experience clarity. And hopefully, you’ll avoid crashing by freeing yourself of those swirling, toxic thoughts.

Questions:
When was the last time you became stuck in toxic thoughts? What happened?

What emotion do you struggle to release?

What holds you back from being authentic with God about your emotions?

Next Steps:
Here are a couple of journaling practices that you can try to release emotions:

  • Write a verse that resonates with you and pray about it.
  • Name your emotion and then tell God about it.

Take 5-10 minutes this week to sit in silence and solitude to pray.

Prayer: 

Heavenly Father, thank you for being a God I can be honest with and release my emotions to. It is not easy, God, but when I am real about my emotions, it keeps me from crashing when my toxic thoughts try to consume me. I want to deal with my emotions before they deal with me. I am taking this time to release my emotions and find freedom from toxic thoughts. David prayed that surely we will see your goodness while we are in the land of the living. I am looking to you, God, in the middle of whatever I am feeling today, to find your goodness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 


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


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Emotions Run Amok – Haunted

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Last weekend, Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow stepped into a message focusing on the “haunting” of emotions that have run amok. No doubt, more than a few of us could share in great detail a personal “horror” story of being on the receiving end of emotions run amok— possibly one that still haunts us at times. Looking through the lens of King Saul in 1 Samuel 18-31 illustrates how emotions that had run amok cost Saul his life, and the lives of others too. I am hard-pressed to think of anything sadder than that!

The story of Saul explains what happens when there is a failure to “deal with your emotions before your emotions deal with you,” as referenced by Josh in the weekend message.

1 Samuel 18:5
Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike.

Saul promoted David because of his successes. Yet in record time, extreme anger consumed King Saul based on the lyrics of a song that infuriated him: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” (1 Samuel 18:7). Jealousy came alongside that extreme anger to accomplish its mission—the eventual demise of Saul and others.

To be clear, anger did not need jealousy to accompany it in bringing down Saul. Anger, by itself, had the capacity to play havoc within Saul. But the stake of extreme anger ran much deeper within Saul’s soul when jealousy appeared. It is no different with us. It takes only one out-of-control, negative emotion to destroy someone. The irony is, we become its victim, too, via extremely bad behavior and/or embarrassing outbursts (whether or not there are witnesses to the crime committed).

For me, it takes zero effort for memories to surface that tell a variety of stories based on emotions run amok. The stories in my emotions-run-amok arsenal include both types—receiving and delivering. This is a case where it is more blessed to give than to receive, but neither is good—EVER!

Thankfully, managing our emotions is possible. Failing to invite God into the process is foolhardy! Some of my steps to recovery are self-awareness, identifying the triggers, owning the feelings, and forgiving others and myself.

It is never a waste of time to identify the reason(s) negative emotions erupt within us. While it has never been a pleasure to dig in the dirt of my emotional pain, I have never regretted having done so.  It is so worth the effort—for others and me.

Questions:
Do you struggle with acknowledging emotional problems those around you are on the receiving end of?

Do you suppress your emotions or deal with them?

Next Steps:
Step into RightNow Media to access online resources—Dr. Henry Cloud’s “Changes that Heal” and “Overcoming Emotions that Destroy,” by Chip Ingram.

Listen to the Focus on the Family Broadcast, “Controlling Anger So It Doesn’t Control You.” It is a two-part broadcast.

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/episodes/broadcast/controlling-anger-so-it-doesn’t-control-you-part-1-of-2/

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/episodes/broadcast/controlling-anger-so-it-doesnt-control-you-part-2-of-2/

Prayer:
Lord, empower me to better understand and manage my emotions. Guide me with your strength and your truth as I intentionally seek to identify and resolve past experiences that trigger me. I desire to grow in you and your purpose for my life. Thank you for generously offering grace and mercy each new day. It surpasses what I could ever expect or request. May I generously offer genuine grace and mercy to others. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Karen Peck. Karen retired in March 2018 from Lucas County Information Services. She has been married to her husband, E. Michael, for over forty years. Karen is extremely grateful retirement has afforded her several soul-fulfilling opportunities to engage in deeper, meaningful relationship with Him and others.


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Be Here Now – Haunted

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Matthew 6:6 (NIV)
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow hit me where I live with his sermon last weekend. Since February 22, 2020, my life has been full of endless illnesses, deaths, losses, and increasing difficulties.

The presence of the one true God in my life is the one and only reason I am still functioning. He continues to hold my hand and guide me through this difficult time, and he provides all the answers.

Unfortunately, my husband and I had COVID-19 in December 2020 and continue to have a myriad of symptoms that won’t go away, the worst being brain fog and fatigue. It was then I became a heavy user of YouTube animal videos and began to spend a lot of time napping or fretting over the end of the world as I know it.

Josh talked about white noise—those distractions we interject into our lives to avoid a reality we have trouble coping with. That is exactly what I have been doing since last December. I am now a white noise addict to avoid facing my fears. I am addicted to podcasts and puppy videos. I’ve developed a pain in my left elbow and fingers from clutching my phone so often.

Thankfully, Josh also spoke about the practice of mindfulness or as it is known in the dojo, Be Here Now. But how do you put those distracting thoughts and behaviors away and find the peace of the presence of God that mindfulness brings? It’s not easy, but it is worth it. Beware! Your mind will fight you as you start this practice. But through the presence of the Holy Spirit, you will prevail, and it will change your life in ways you cannot imagine.

Go into your room, close the door, and set an alarm for 15 minutes the first few times you do this. Sit cross legged on the floor or in an armchair—but no slouching, shifting, or wiggling. Rest your hands in your lap, and close your eyes. Begin taking deep, slow breaths. Keep your eyes closed, and focus on your breathing, counting how many seconds you breathe in and then out. After 10 deep breaths, continue to breathe steadily, and focus your closed eyes in the direction of that space between your eyebrows.

If it hasn’t already happened, it will now: You will begin to itch or a hair will suddenly tickle your face or you’ll wonder if you let the dog out. The white noise will demand you stop what you’re doing and let it back in. Instead, gently refocus your mind and attention to that space between your eyebrows. Eventually, the external cues demanding your attention will fade away—the itch you refused to scratch, all those intrusive thoughts—gone. And as you steadily breathe and sit in stillness, you will become silent. At that moment, you will realize you are in the presence of God and are ready for prayer. It is a beautiful place to be, with the one who loves you most.

Psalm 118:19-21
19 Open for me the gates where the righteous enter, and I will go in and thank the Lord. 20 These gates lead to the presence of the Lord, and the godly enter there. 21 I thank you for answering my prayer and giving me victory!

Questions:
Do you want to be free to enter the presence of the Lord?

Are you willing to be uncomfortable to achieve his peace, which surpasses your understanding?

Next Steps:
Spending real time in the holy presence of God will change your life in unimaginably good ways. Prioritize this practice at least once a day, every day.

Prayer:
Dear, Lord, thank you for loving me when I still hated or simply ignored you as insignificant in my life. I’m so sorry, Lord, please guide me and guard me. Please draw me ever nearer to you and give me the strength and self-discipline to exercise mindfulness so that I can continue to seek you more every day. In the name of your Son and my Savior, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.


This post was written by Martha Smith, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study. Martha describes herself as a lover of Christ who likes to share faith with others.


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Be Still – Haunted

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Last weekend, Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow spoke about dealing with unwanted emotions. He said some people cannot deal with silence, so they use white noise to mask unwanted sounds. In the same way, we often use white noise to mask unwanted emotions (e.g., fear, anger, boredom, anxiety, loneliness, inadequacy, and hurt).

Sometimes it is easier to suppress our emotions than to deal with them. What are some of the white noises we use to hide from our emotions? Facebook, Instagram, Apple TV, Netflix binging, fantasy football, exercising, shopping, reading, busyness, substance abuse, and eating.

Josh’s bottom line was: “Deal with your emotions before your emotions deal with you.”

If you don’t deal with your emotions, you become a slave to them. You will become filled with fear, anxiety, and worry. God doesn’t want us to suppress our emotions; he wants us to surrender them to him. He wants us to pour our hearts out to him so that he can heal us. He wants us to have a pure heart.

Matthew 5:8
God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.

Hearts are not pure when they’re filled with anger and fear. Over time, these negative emotions will harden the heart, and prevent us from being loving and kind. But we can soften our hearts by being still with Jesus.

Job 6:24 (ESV)
“Teach me, and I will be silent: make me understand how I have gone astray.”

Being still or silent takes practice but can help us heal our hearts. Find a place that you love. My place is my family room. It is very cozy and filled with things that I love. I light candles, turn on my salt lamp and diffuser, and if it’s cold, I light my fireplace. I sit in a comfy recliner with a cup of tea beside me.

Put away your phone. Take a few deep breaths. If focusing is a problem, have some index cards with your favorite verses to meditate on. Read your Bible and pray. Ask God to help you deal with any unwanted emotions, and ask him to soften your heart. Pour your heart out to him and surrender your emotions. Be real and honest with him—he can handle it.

If the idea of stillness overwhelms you, start with five minutes. Pretty soon you will look forward to this time each day, and you will want to increase the time you spend with Jesus. It will be like having a cup of coffee with a dear friend. You won’t want the time to end. Spend time with Jesus, and he will heal your heart. He will fill you with his peace and joy.

Questions:
What emotions do you try to mask? How do you mask your emotions? How can you have a pure heart? Where can you go to be still?

Next steps:
The next time your emotions start to spin out of control, stop and take a deep breath. Pour out your heart to God, and ask him to help you understand your feelings. Surrender the emotions to him. Meditate on verses that touch your heart. Carve out time each day to spend quietly with God.

Prayer:
Jesus, I am overwhelmed that my Savior and Lord wants to spend time with me and heal my heart. Help me to make you a priority. Help me to have a pure heart. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along a path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24). Change me Lord and fill me with your love, peace, and joy. Amen.


This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.


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This Is How We Fight Our Battles – Haunted

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Throughout this week’s LivingItOut, we have been learning about the spiritual battle highlighted by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-18. After writing about relationships in Ephesians 5:21-6:9, Paul goes on to tell us that our battles are not against flesh and blood enemies but against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Many go through life and give little thought to this unseen world, but it is real. Not only do we need to be aware of the battle we are in with these evil forces, we need to equip ourselves to win. Last weekend, Pastor Ben taught us about the armor of God that protects us from attacks and allows us to fight back. The full armor of God includes the belt of truth, the body armor of God’s righteousness, shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.

After instructing us to put on the armor of God, Paul tells us to pray all the time in the Spirit. Prayer is vital to the success of our battle. Ben perfectly illustrated the importance of prayer by likening it to the oxygen tank a firefighter carries. A firefighter is protected by his pants, coat, helmet, boots, and gloves, but it is the oxygen tank that provides the fresh air he needs to breathe in the smoke.

Ephesians 6:18
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

In our spiritual life, prayer provides the fresh air we need in the midst of our battle. When we connect with God, his Spirit is like a breath of fresh air to our souls.

Perhaps you are realizing that you are in a spiritual battle and your prayer life isn’t where it needs to be. Today is a new day, and you can begin to change that by making prayer a priority in your life.

At CedarCreek, we often say, “Pray First.” This is an encouragement and call to pray first in everything we do. Pray at the beginning of each day, and pray at each transition throughout the day. Pray before you enter your place of work. Pray before your meeting starts or before that important phone call. Pray before you get back home and before you interact with your kids or spouse. In the midst of your battles—before you try to win them on your own—stop and pray first. This is how we fight our battles.

Questions:
What place does prayer have in your daily life?

How can you make prayer a priority throughout your day?

Next Steps:
Commit to “pray first” each morning and as you transition from one task or event to another throughout your day.

Download the Personal Prayer Guide, and check out other prayer resources at cedarcreek.tv/prayer.

Prayer:
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for this opportunity to come before you, talk to you, and connect with you through prayer. It is a privilege that I sometimes take for granted. Forgive me for the times I don’t come to you first and when I try to win the spiritual battle on my own. You are all I need. You are my strength, and you’re the breath of life that my spirit needs. Thank You. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.


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


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Bring a Sword – Haunted

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We are all in a battle. But in this battle, “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Many people today fail to realize there is a spiritual realm and, therefore, fail to acknowledge there is an enemy which has set himself up against God and his people. It’s important for followers of Jesus to acknowledge this reality and take heed of Paul’s command to put on the full armor of God. If we go through life without the full armor of God, we are vulnerable against the temptations the enemy presents us with and the accusations he lobs against us.

We have already discussed the belt of truth, the body armor of God’s righteousness, and the shield of faith. The final piece of God’s armor that we will cover in this week’s LivingItOut is the sword of the Spirit, which Paul talks about in Ephesians 6:17. Paul tells us to “Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Paul’s first-century audience in Ephesus would have been familiar with Roman soldiers and their gear. They would have known that no good soldier went into battle without a sword, his primary weapon. In the same way, it’s vital for followers of Jesus to always be prepared by knowing what Jesus says is true about them—so that when temptations and accusations come, they’re able to fight back against them.

Another first-century letter (possibly written by Paul) also describes the word of God like a sword. Here’s what it says:

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

As we take up the sword of the spirit and allow what Jesus says is true about us to be our primary weapon against the temptations and accusations we face, we can begin to get to the root issues—the things beneath the things—in our lives. The word of God exposes our deepest desires and brings to light so many deep-seated issues within us that we would otherwise fail to recognize.

The word of God also brings truth (and light) to the dark places of our minds. I don’t know about you, but I have plenty of thoughts that intrude on my mind that are completely untrue. A regular connection to the word of God helps me to fight back against those intrusive and unhelpful thoughts.

A Roman soldier wouldn’t have gone to battle without a sword. He would have considered his sword an essential piece of his armor. In the same way, we must consider the word of God an absolutely essential part of the spiritual battle we fight.

Questions:
What temptations have you been presented with recently?

What accusations has the enemy made against you?

Next Steps:
Take time today to read a chapter of Scripture to remind you of God’s truth.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for giving me the armor I need to fight against the temptations the enemy presents me with and the accusations the enemy lobs against me. Please help me to connect with your word so I can be better prepared to defend myself and fight back against his attacks. Amen.


This post was written by David Hammack Jr., a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Shield Yourself – Haunted

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So far this week in our talk about the armor of God, we have discussed the belt of truth and the body armor of righteousness. Today we will discuss the shield of faith.

Ephesians 6:16
In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.

Here, Paul is talking about the protective quality of a shield. As you are faced with the fiery arrows of the devil’s temptation, you can raise your shield of faith to deflect the attack. Protection is good, but in a battle against evil, there are times it is necessary to fight back. As such, the shield can become a weapon to protect or even aggressively fight back the devil’s lies he uses to attack us.

I am a huge Avengers fan, and one of my favorite Avengers is Captain America. His whole persona represents truth and justice—from his red, white, and blue uniform to his starry shield. If you have ever seen an Avengers movie with Captain America (The Winter Soldier is my favorite.), you know that he not only uses his shield as protection but also as a deadly weapon to push back, strike, and even throw to defeat his enemies.

We too can use the shield of faith to push and strike back at the temptation of evil. One of the cool things about Captain America’s shield is it is faithful to him. Even when he throws it at his enemies, it comes back to him. In the same way, as Christians, when we embrace God’s truth with faith and trust, the shield of faith will not leave us.

Last weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder used another analogy—he explained how the hose nozzle a firefighter uses can be like a shield. The nozzle has two distinctive spray patterns. One is a fog-like mist that is used to push back the heat and protect the firefighter as they advance toward the fire. The other spray pattern is a strong stream that is used to attack the actual flames and knock them down. I have huge respect for the firefighters in our country that put their lives on the line each day to protect and rescue those in peril from fires. While they can protect us from physical harm, it is up to us to use the armor of God to protect ourselves, spiritually and mentally. We do that by faith and trust.

Faith reminds us that there is more to life than the fleeting moment of satisfaction when we give in to a temptation. Faith reminds us that Jesus came to invite us into an abundant life. Faith reminds us that Christ forgave us, that our past does not define us, and that the old is gone and a new life has begun.

Questions:
Do you struggle handling the daily attacks of temptation and accusation that the devil throws at you?

Do you make a conscious effort to gird yourself in God’s armor each day through faith and trust?

Next Steps:
Make it a point to learn and understand each piece of God’s armor so that you are fully prepared when tempted by the devil.

Attend GrowthTrack to discover your gifts and strengths, which will better prepare you to experience the abundant life God has planned for you.

Prayer:
Lord God, I am so grateful that in this world of sin and trials, where the devil has the full freedom to attack me through temptation and accusation, that you provide me with your holy armor for protection  and to allow me to fight back. Please give me the strength and wisdom to use these tools with faith and trust so that I may not be defeated. Amen.


This post was written by Ned Miller, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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Guard Your Heart – Haunted

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Nobody wants to believe they’re wrong.

Of course, we know nobody is perfect; we all think, do, and believe things that are wrong. But we don’t think the things we believe are wrong—otherwise we wouldn’t believe those things, right?

Here’s what I’m trying to say: It’s one thing to admit we’re all imperfect people who make mistakes; it’s quite another to take an honest look at ourselves as individuals, our personal thoughts and behaviors, and admit: “Here’s where I’ve made mistakes. Here’s where I’ve behaved poorly. Here’s where I’ve fallen short of who God has called me to be.”

I’m not advocating for legalism here—we’re allowed to make mistakes. But if we don’t acknowledge them as what they are, we will never learn from them.

Proverbs 12:1
To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.

So how do we evaluate our own behavior honestly? Ephesians 6:14 says, “Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.” Yesterday, we talked about the belt of truth. Today, we’re going to talk about the body armor of God’s righteousness.

Last weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder illustrated how body armor protects our hearts and guts (and all the other important stuff in our torsos). Similarly, God’s righteousness protects our hearts, emotions, and gut instincts. Although we live in a world that encourages us to follow our hearts and trust our guts, the truth is our emotions and instincts are easily led astray.

The enemy wants us to listen to our emotions and instincts, because they will often find ways to defend and rationalize our behavior. If we’re being honest, as humans, we’re great at coming up with “good” reasons for the decisions we’ve made. When in reality, it was simply because we wanted to. We’re tempted to rationalize sin as virtue. For example, when we’re angry with someone, we say we’re “passionate about justice.” We think our anger is righteous and deserved. But what does Scripture say?

James 1:20
Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

And so is true with many of our emotions and gut reactions. But when we measure ourselves honestly by God’s righteousness and acknowledge that we fall short of it, we can see the truth of our behavior more clearly and protect our hearts from the enemy’s schemes.

Proverbs 4:23
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Questions:
Romans 3:23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Where have you fallen short recently? What shortcomings have you rationalized as virtue? What is one area where you can admit you need to grow?

Next Steps:
Put on the armor of God’s righteousness. Make time in your daily life to study his Word so you know the way he calls us to behave. Invest in relationships with godly people who can help hold you accountable and gently point out if you’re rationalizing bad behavior. Remember—the enemy loves when we’re isolated, because that’s when we’re easiest to attack.

If you’re struggling to decide whether your behavior—past, current, or instincts you’re thinking of acting on—measures up to God’s righteousness, consult a godly friend.

If you feel God is pointing out an area where you’ve been rationalizing sin, ask God for forgiveness and confess it to a trustworthy friend who can help you grow.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, we praise you for your righteousness. We all fall short and sin, but we know you do not. You can always be trusted and relied on. Thank you for your forgiveness, that we don’t need to live in shame of our sins—we can always confess them to you and receive grace. Help us to put on the armor of your righteousness, to live the lives you’ve called us to. Help us to see and repent when we fall short of your perfect standard. May your will be done in us and through us. Amen.


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


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An Unseen Enemy – Haunted

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This past weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder continued our series, Haunted. He gave us great insight into how the full armor of God equips us to win the battle of spiritual warfare throughout our lives. He used firefighting equipment to bring this first-century concept into current times to make it more relatable.

Ephesians 6:10-12
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

The Apostle Paul wrote these words to a group of Christians in Ephesus while he was imprisoned in Rome. He wants to let us know that there are more than flesh-and-blood battles that we’ll find ourselves in. There are struggles against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Pastor Ben said that we can see this in racism, wars, poverty, greed, and abuse. Paul said there is a force behind these visible battles in our natural world. There is a supernatural world that clashes with our everyday lives. This active, upside-down world affects all of us as multi-dimensional beings. There is a tendency to overvalue our physical being and to be oblivious to how the spiritual dimension affects us.

We attempt to fight these spiritual battles with our earthly wisdom alone, but when we do so, we lose. Pastor Ben said that earthly tools cannot resolve or win spiritual battles, which brings us to our bottom line: A helpful TOOL on the WRONG PROBLEM is not helpful. Instead, the Apostle Paul tells us to put on all of God’s armor to help us stand firm against the devil’s strategy of temptation and accusation.

The devil’s scheme is cyclical. It begins with temptation—when we desire to do something we should not. The devil baits us by saying that we should do it anyway; it will make life better. Unfortunately, the temptation of the devil shows us the bait and hides the hook. The short-term pleasure is alluring because the long-term misery is hidden.

Then, once we take the bait, the next step in the cycle is accusation. We become so ashamed by our actions that our shame keeps us from doing what we could or should do. The devil then says: “Shame on you!” “You are such a screw up!” “You never get it right!” Once we feel shame, we retreat and conceal it from others.

This cycle continues again and again. The only way we can break free is through the truth of what God says about us and himself. We need to trust his words, his grace, and his process.

Ephesians 6:14
Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth …

The first piece of equipment Paul describes in the full armor of God is the belt of truth. Why would Paul start with the belt?

The belt was not only used to carry Roman soldiers’ weapons but also to keep their cloaks in place, close to their bodies. Pastor Ben compared the Roman soldiers’ belts to the suspenders worn by firefighters. Suspenders are essential to hold all of their equipment in its right place and within reach.

Paul associated the belt of a soldier with truth because God’s Word is truth, and God’s truth keeps everything in our lives in its proper place, serving as the foundation we need to win spiritual battles.

Questions:
What battle(s) are you facing today? What does God say is true about what feels good in the moment? Have you fallen for temptation only to be ashamed of it?

Next Steps:
Invite others to join you for the last week of our series—Holloweekend. This promises to be an exciting wrap up with some interesting surprises. Kids are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes so they too can experience the fun.

Prayer:
Dear Father in heaven, grant me wisdom to hold your truth close so that it will surround me like a belt. Keep me in your word so that I may be able to distinguish what is true from what is untrue. Allow me discernment so that I may be equipped for spiritual battles. Embrace me so that I may know your truth. In your son’s glorious name, amen.


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


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.


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Fun, Fun, Fun – Haunted

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This school year was the first year I’ve sent BOTH my kids to school. My youngest went off to kindergarten! Since I am a stay-at-home mom with an at-home business, my days shifted from sheer chaos to eerie silence overnight. When the school year started, I had so many plans for those seven hours without children. I would put a lot of time into my work, the house chores, the meal plans. The dog was going to take so many walks. I was finally going to be one of those moms who had it all together.

By around week four, I was pretty tired. But I was driven by that ever-familiar sting of guilt that every parent has experienced regardless of work status. I wanted to pull my weight, waste no time, and avoid transforming into the TV trope housewife who binges Netflix or shops all day. I suppose I felt the subconscious need to prove myself. But by the time the kids got home and my husband finished working, I had nothing left for them. I had left no time for fun, and it was causing me and my family unnecessary stress.

But did I need fun? Isn’t that just fluff you add once the work is done? How can fun possibly fit into a busy schedule?

If you had the opportunity to hear Lauren Snyder speak last weekend, you already see exactly how my logic was flawed. Of course I need (and deserve) fun! The bottom line of Lauren’s message is “Instead of wallowing in the MEH, welcome the meaningful.” My self-assigned workload was only bringing me “meh,” but as I began introducing moments of fun within my day, I ended up with energy and pep that I could share with my kids after school.

Ecclesiastes 8:15           
So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.

Earlier in the week, we addressed our mental and spiritual selves. One way for our physical beings to welcome the meaningful is to cultivate meaningful experiences, and that means looking for fun. Here are some steps to help you cultivate fun in your life:

  1. Define your fun: What experiences are life-giving to you?
  2. Give permission for fun: You deserve it! And if you take care of yourself, you are better equipped to care for those around you.
  3. Schedule the fun: Make it a priority!
  4. Continue having fun: What is something you enjoy doing so much that you lose track of time?

Questions:
Do you struggle fitting fun into your day? What barriers keep you from prioritizing it?

Describe the last time you had a lot of fun. Did it involve big belly laughs, other people, alone time? What can you do to make those moments a regular part of your week?

Next Steps:
Plan something fun for this week. Literally, that’s it. Put it in your calendar. Do it!

Prayer:
Dear God, while I know not every moment of my life will be perfect and happy and FUN, I also know you want my life to be filled with joy and fulfillment. Help me to find joy in both little things and big things. As you fill me with this joy, let it overflow into those around me. Amen.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee is a blogger at GratefulSheep.com and a stay-at-home mom and wife. She loves writing for this team, and she hopes to help convey God’s message through this study.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


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:

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More Resources

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