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.


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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.


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


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