The Power of Our Words

​By Andrew Calabrese

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Our words are incredibly powerful. In fact, Solomon said this about our words in Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue:” To summarize, Solomon was saying that the words we speak can be life-giving words or they can be life-taking words.

3 Ways to Get Excited About Your Salvation

By Jesse Becker

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What excites you? Ask any child that question and they’ll often reply with my birthday or Christmas. Those are exciting times for them for a couple reasons. First, they will most likely receive gifts. Who doesn’t get excited about a gift! Second, these days come only once a year, so they are more special than other days.

As Christians there is an exciting day in our life where we received God’s gift of eternal life and forgiveness from our sins. No gift could ever compare to that. If that day was more recent for you, you may still be able to recall that feeling when you knew that your sins were taken away. For many, that day was years ago and those feelings have been overshadowed by countless days of worry, stress, and fatigue. That’s OK. Life happens. But the neat thing is that we can restore the excitement of God’s miraculous gift in our heart with these three steps:

  1. Sanctify – Read Psalm 51 and see what this looks like. David sincerely asked God to cleanse his heart and restore the joy of Thy salvation.
  2. Sing – When participating in corporate worship, make a conscience effort to earnestly think about the words of the songs you are singing. These good songs hold awesome truths that can excite your heart about what God has done.
  3. Share – Just imagine having been cured from cancer and excitedly telling others how they can be cured. That’s what sharing the gospel is like.

Sanctifying, singing, and sharing. Reignite your heart today!

 

Had a “Divine Appointment” Lately?

By Jim Ramsey

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It’s amazing how God takes care of every little detail of life! The sad thing is that oftentimes I never even realize or acknowledge when He does it! There have been numerous times when I have been “out and about” and “accidentally” ran into someone I never expected to meet. Sometimes it’s someone from the distant past, sometimes someone from a recent connection, but always someone with whom the conversation seemed to benefit us both. God help me to see such “divine appointments” as opportunities that I must not squander.

Creative Excellence

By Pastor Troy Dorrell

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Over my tenure as pastor of Eastland Baptist Church, we have done many creative and innovative things. Each one has been organized and planned with a specific purpose and goal in mind.

A number of years ago, we organized a creative outreach effort one summer called “Family Tract Team,” which involved taking busloads of adults, teens, and children to various neighborhoods for door-to-door canvassing, inviting people to church, and handing out gospel tracts. The innovative part was the pre-meeting skits and fun times, and then we followed the events with a special and unique time of fellowship afterwards. Through this effort we were able to get hundreds of people involved in outreach who had never been before.

Over the years we’ve enjoyed annual “I Love My Church” Sundays, which have to been seen and experienced to be appreciated. This is a day we promote extensively and create a lot of enthusiasm for. During the event itself, we take a special offering in a unique and memorable way for a designated church project. We also take up our Vision/Building offering pledges for the coming year on that day.

Among the other creative things we do outside of our normal church services are a 4th of July fireworks display that attracts a myriad of people and a family ice skating night each December, where we rent an entire ice arena downtown for our church family and guests.

Like many churches we have a fall Festival Day, with a host of carnival and family-friendly games after the morning service, concluding with a giant tent service.

Our church has also highly invested in a drama ministry where special productions on Christmas, Easter, and other occasions involve many of our people in ministry, production, and set up. It is one of our varied outreach efforts to minister to many in our community.

I could go on by telling of other special events and creative ideas we have had used through the years for outreach, ministry, community service, and building the church body. I think all these things have had their place and contribute both directly and indirectly to our purposes. Through some of these events we have not only reached souls or raised money, but we have also built precious, happy fun-filled memories that have endeared the hearts of our people … both young and old alike … to the church and the Lord’s work.

In my opinion, in all these “ideas” we have done no harm or violation to the Scriptures and have been guarded not to develop an expectation of entertainment. We measure these events out with calculation and much thought, endeavoring to consider all of their pros and cons.

With all that said, I think the thing we give the most time and attention to and that has grown our church the most and is appreciated by our people more than all of these things combined is an effort to conduct our church services with excellence. While I am a proponent of the careful use of creativity and memory building I don’t think creativity or special events should ever be a substitute or take away from giving our very best effort each week in how we conduct our services and how we present ourselves to our community.

Of course, want to be authentic, real, spirit-filled and conservative in philosophy, but we also want to do things well, to be “sharp” and on point. We endeavor to do all things to the glory of God and with all of our might and use the best of our abilities in everything we do.

That is reflected in having a service that is planned, discussed, and thought through each week, giving attention to details, transitions, and preparation of everything that is said and done. We expect our music to be thoughtful and well prepared, for our special music to be done with excellence and grace, and for the preaching to be labored over and prayed for.

Since we live in a visual and graphic world we endeavor for our bulletins and all our literature to be done with excellence. We produce new tracts for each season and special event; we make sure they are well done, proofed, and attractive.

We also endeavor to make sure our property is well maintained inside and out, that the facilities are clean and presentable, that things are in good repair and touched up.

It is very important to us that we have well-prepared greeters at the doors, that our nurseries stand out as excellent, and our Sunday School classes have teachers who have prepared both themselves and their classrooms to receive both members and guests.

The point and principle is this: preparation and excellence can look like and even surpass creativity and are better starting points for most of us in trying to build a church. People tend to universally appreciate things done well, and being creative is a bonus.

I hate to BRAG, but…

By Jim Ramsey

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A Kentucky woman boasted to a Texan that there was so much gold in Fort Knox that you could build a wall of solid gold 10 feet high all around Texas. The Texan answered, “Well you go ahead and build it, little lady, and if Ah like it, Ah’ll buy it!” I’m a Texan, but I’ve never been that much of a braggart!

Nobody likes people who constantly brag, but the Bible actually encourages the right kind of “boasting!” The critical part of scriptural “boasting” is that it is directed toward Him Who alone is worthy of it! Bragging on myself is actually “misplaced affection,” and steals glory from the One to Whom I owe everything!   I want to made a determined effort to practice Psalm 34:2 “My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.”

Fake News

By Jesse Becker

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It’s been exhausting listening to the media (both main stream and otherwise), and hear all about “fake news.” What is fake news? It’s any news reporting that is fabricated either entirely or partially to make a political statement or influence people’s thoughts about a topic or person. Fake news is nothing more than varying degrees of lies with the intent of misleading. I, for one, am tired of it. It is becoming nearly impossible to distinguish fake news from real news. Unless you are personally connected with a person or an incident, I advise great caution on what you believe.

In a world of “fake news” I am so grateful that I have the Good News of the gospel. Whatever is spewed out around me, I know that I know that I have a written record from the One who holds all truths. God’s truths are absolute. They are as true today as they were when those Godly men penned them. The true news of God tells us of a holy, just and good God who created this beautiful world for us. The true news of God shows us that we are all sinners, and that our sin separates us from God and requires a payment for us to ever be able to fellowship with Him. The true news of God informs us that there is absolutely nothing we can do in and of ourselves to make such a payment. Then the true news turns to good news as we learn that God loves us in spite of our sin, and has made that payment through the death and resurrection of Jesus, His only Son; that Jesus’ blood can cleanse us from our sin; that all we must do to be saved is believe this good news!

But God doesn’t stop there. Verse after verse we learn that God cares about us in every way and works continually to mold us and shape us into the person He wants us to be. He promises to meet our needs and bless us when we submit to His ways.

I would lose all hope if all I had was the fake news in the media. Praise God for the good news—the true new—found in His Word. Be sure to read and listen and heed it. It is best news you’ll hear all day.

What it Means to be a Good Citizen.

By Oklahoma State Representative Tom Gann (District 8)

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First, you have to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This sparks the desire to love your neighbor as yourself. If that is your foundational belief, everything you do from there helps you be a good citizen. You love God, which means you seek to learn His will for your life. You learn your spiritual gifts, talents, strengths, which show you the role you play in His body, the church. As the church fulfills its role in bringing about the kingdom of God – God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven, that changes society – from the individual to the family to the schools to the marketplace to the community to the government to the media… If you are loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself, you will do everything from that motivation, which means you will serve others but speak the truth in love as Paul did, correcting wrong behavior when encountered, helping set people on a right path to learning the love of God for them (expressed in the sacrifice of Christ) so they can repeat this pattern of serving others, bringing others into the knowledge of the love of God.

Once you know what you believe and why you believe it, you need to understand your local, state, and federal government and how they work. We live in the most blessed and exceptional country ever on the face of the planet. You should be familiar with how we govern ourselves. I would suggest studying the founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers. Read about our founding fathers to understand their perspective and what they believed, why they believed and why they were willing to risk all for their freedom.

One of the best books to read about the founding of our country is “The 5000 Year Leap” by Cleon Skousen. President Ronald Reagan said every high school student should read this book in order to graduate. The founding fathers did not see liberal versus conservative but rather liberty versus tyranny.

For local governments, understand your city and county governments and school boards. Find out who your local elected officials are and get to know them. Attend meetings and become involved. Listen; ask questions; send suggestions. Many laws start at the suggestion of a citizen who sees a better way to do something or a protection that needs to be added. A good book to read about the responsibility and importance of local governments and why they protect our freedom is the book “The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates: A Proper Resistance to Tyranny and a Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government.”

Finally, Christians make the best citizens. Romans 13 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. It instructs us that all powers in place are there by the will of God.” We are to be good citizens to bring glory to God and do good in our communities. God established three institutions, the family, the government, and the church. This shows He is interested in the affairs of men and their governments, and it is our calling and duty not to neglect our understanding of our role as a citizen in our country.

Three Ways You Can Pray for America

By Daniel Fleet

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There is no doubt that America was founded as a Christian nation. Despite the secular movement taking place in our country today if we look back at the original compacts, covenants, and constitutions it easy to see that the principles of God’s Word and Christian teachings are at the center of our history. In 1892 the Supreme Court determined that “this is a Christian nation.”

The Bibles says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.” Because God has been our Lord we have been blessed from sea to shining sea. America is arguably the most blessed nation to have ever existed.

However, the Bible also says, “If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do?”

It doesn’t take long for things to change in a nation and we are always only generation away from become a pagan nation removed from the blessings of God.

For those of us who are Christians it is imperative to pray for our nation. The Bible instructs us: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). If we want what is good and right for our country then we must learn to pray before we cry, complain, and criticize.

I want to challenge you to pray for three specific things:

1. Pray for wisdom for our leaders

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting with Oklahoma Senator James Lankford. I asked him how we could pray for him and he specifically said pray to for wisdom. He said that Washington D.C. is obsessed with the shiny object of the day and it is difficult to tune out the noise and focus on what really matters. Our leaders need our prayers and we need to be praying for them.

Paul wrote in the New Testament “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

2. Pray for grace for our nation

The famous song, America the Beautiful, says, “America! America! God shed His grace on Thee.” We don’t deserve God’s love, goodness, and blessing but God gives them to us because of His grace. Pray for God’s grace to continue and pray for more of it.

3. Pray for God’s intervention

In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we read, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” God made this promise to the Jews thousands of years ago, but we as Christians must pray for the fulfillment of this promise in our nation too.

If you don’t pray for our nation, who will? Would you take a moment right now and pray for God’s wisdom, grace, and intervention for our country?

3 Steps to Kicking a Habit

By Jesse Becker

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Samson’s first recorded action in Judges 14 was seeing and desiring to marry a woman in Timnah among the Philistines. In his parents futile protest they asked Samson, “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?” (emphasis mine)

The word “never” jumped out to me as I read this. It seems from that word that Samson’s desire for companionship with people outside his own countrymen was not something new. It must have been a reoccurring issue. For whatever reason, Samson wasn’t attracted to the ladies among his own people. If we allow ourselves to speculate, Samson may not have found them exciting or a challenge, or perhaps he simply wanted to rebel against his parents and God. At any rate, we can be sure that this was not the first Philistine girl he desired, nor would it be his last. Samson apparently had a habitual attraction for the forbidden.

We all struggle with sins of habit—those things we know are wrong, but over which we never get lasting victory. What are the things in your life that you habitually do or think or say that are against God’s will? Are there harmful attitudes that you harbor? Do you have the same reaction to certain situations?

Chances are that you have dealt with these sins before. We know we are to confess and forsake and ask God for help. But many times these sins find their way back into our lives. After identifying and confessing a sin, there are some practical things we can do to beat them.

  1. Identify the trigger that usually occurs right before you give in. Once you know what triggers that attitude, that sharp tongue, or that wrong act, then you can get one step ahead of it. Make that trigger your cue to pray for help, recite a verse, or take another action. Along with identifying the trigger, try to avoid it if at all possible.
  2. Replace your habit with something good. Once that trigger occurs, you must already have another action, thought, or reaction ready to use in place of the bad one. This will take forethought and practice. Write down your trigger and your best response.
  3. Don’t give up on yourself. As with practicing anything, nothing is perfect the first time or stays perfect. But as a wise preacher once said, “Stick and stay, and make it pay.” We are all growing in certain areas of life. Give yourself grace and time to get better at defeating your habit.

God wants us to have victory. We must believe this and remind ourselves of this, then put a plan into action to kick that habit.

One Handful Living

By Andrew Calabrese

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“Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.” Ecclesiastes 4:6

I love skittles! They are probably the best candy made of all time (in my opinion). However, my love for skittles taught me a very hard lesson to accept. Back when I was in the sixth grade, I went to the movies and I brought two packs of Skittles with me. I ate through the first pack one by one, a red one, a green one, a yellow one, a purple one…I ended up eating a whole pack in one movie!

So, I opened the second pack. I ate and ate and ate, and I got down where I had three left. Then suddenly, my body had a violent reaction and kicked back. To be polite, I remember having a “technicolor yawn”—a “rainbow” come forth out of my mouth right then and there in the theatre! Looking back on that moment, I realize God was trying to teach me a very important lesson.

Our culture teaches us that if one is good, then is two is better! If you’re like me, I bought in to this lie many times over the course of my life. I always thought if having one dollar is good, having two is better. If having one donut is good, two is better. If having one pack of skittles is good, two is better!

God teaches us from His Word that quite frankly the opposite is true. According to Ecclesiastes 4:6, God explains that it is actually better to have less. Come again? You didn’t just say what I think you said, did you? Yes, God says it is better to have less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does.

Better is one hand full with quietness (with tranquility, with peace) than two hands full with travail and vexation of spirit (toil and striving and stress and chasing after the wind.)

Jesus hit this principle head-on in the New Testament. In fact, He was very aggressive with His words. This is what Jesus said in Luke 12:15. He was talking to a group of people and He said: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

What was He saying? He basically says, “Watch out! Be on your guard. More is not always better. Watch out for covetousness and greed because your life does not consist in what you have.” And then He told a parable…something along these lines:

Once upon a time, there was a guy that had a very successful business here and the guy said, ‘Oh man, I’m going to tear down my old barns and I’m going to build new ones, bigger ones, better ones, more! I’m going to kick back, and I’m going to take life easy. I’m going to drink; I’m going to be merry; I’m going to be happy!’ And Jesus said, ‘On that very night your life will be taken away from you.’ Why? Here’s what Jesus said, He said in verse 21:

“So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)

This will be what it’s like for anyone who just goes, “More, more, more!” You’ll be chasing after the wind, and won’t have what matters most—an intimate relationship with God

I’m convinced God doesn’t care so much about what we have. He doesn’t want what we have to have us. He wants us to be rich in that which really matters. That’s why it’s better to have less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does.

How can we live a “one handful” life?

1)    LET GO OF WHAT DOESN’T MATTER.

The writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 12:1 said: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us,” Why? So that we can, “run with patience the race that is set before us,”

Let us lay aside anything and everything that hinders. This is interesting: the Greek word that is translated as “lay aside” can also be translated as cast down. It’s kind of a violent throwing down. Like if you get a June bug that flies into your hair, what do you do? He meets concrete when you throw that baby down! That’s what you do—you cast off, you throw down, and you lay aside everything that hinders or gets in your way of the race marked out for you.

I hope you’ll always remember that there is a race that God has marked out for you. God put you here on earth to do something significant, and your spiritual enemy is going to say, “Hey, what about that? You don’t have that!” And before long, we’re chasing the wind, something that doesn’t matter. You have to have the discipline to lay that aside, and cast down anything and everything that does not matter.

Now, here’s three quick phrases that I believe will help us let go of the things that do not matter:

  • CUT BACK

What are we going to cut back? I don’t know what you need to cut back on, but most people I know need to cut back on spending and their schedules.

Let’s start with your spending: Better is one handful; better is less with tranquility and financial margin than two handfuls with a financial noose around your neck. Better is one handful with money left over at the end of the month than two handfuls with fights and worry and financial fears.

How stupid is it in our world that we buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like? And then we worry and we’re anxious about, “I don’t have enough money! I don’t have enough money!” Better is less with room to breathe.

Consider your schedule. For some of you it’s time to get very prayerful and very aggressive in cutting back on society’s pressure to say yes to everything. In fact, what is the most common answer to the question in our culture when someone says, “Hey, how you doing?”

What do most people say?”I’m really busy!” Right? “I’m busy!” And if they don’t say that, then they’ll say, ”I’m tired!”

Do you really think that God who says, ‘Come to me all who are weary and heavy and I will give you rest’ (paraphrase) meant our lives to be lived out that way? Culture has lied to us: “More is better, more is better, more is better!” It’s time to say no to some things that everybody else says yes to.

  • THROW OUT

Some of you need to throw out a lot. Clean the clutter out! A friend of mine told me a couple years ago, “We’re throwing out!” And he said, “Throw away as if your life depends on it, because it does!” I love that phrase! I’ll never forget about it! He said, “Throw away as if your life depends upon it because it does!”

And that’s kind of become a motto for me. It’s, I mean, I want to get rid of everything all of the time. Katie and I get rid f things all the time. Here’s the deal, you haven’t worn it in a year, give it to somebody who can use it, get it out of your closet.

  • TURN OFF

I don’t know what you need to turn off, but some of you need to turn something off. I don’t know what it is, turn the television off. You may spend more time watching the television than you do in God’s Word, or playing with your kids, or serving in your church, and if that’s you…I’m here to tell you that you’re wasting your life! Here’s the deal, you will never change the world watching reruns. So, why would you waste your life spending hours doing something that doesn’t matter?

For many of us, our cell phones have become an idol! You go out to dinner, and watch a nice family of four sitting there at the table. Everybody’s talking to somebody else, reading whatever, words with friends, you know, it’s ridiculous!

One reason I’m so passionate about this is because Katie told me early on in our marriage, “You’re on your phone too much!” And my response was, “Hey, I’m changing the world on my phone baby; I’m talking to people!” And I thought it was important, but I am beginning to realize it actually affects our marriage and our family in a negative way. Some of us need to get real serious and throw down, cast off, let go of what doesn’t matter.

2)    FIGHT FOR WHAT DOES MATTER.

I love the way Nehemiah said it whenever Sanballat and Tobiah were trying to talk God’s people out of rebuilding the wall. Nehemiah said: “…remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” (Nehemiah 4:14)

Fight for what’s important! Draw your swords and fight; fight like a man; fight like a man of God; fight like a woman of God! Fight for it! And don’t let the culture lie to you. Don’t waste your life, fight for what matters. Less of what doesn’t matter, more of what does.

My life is too valuable, my calling is too great, and my God is too good to waste my life on things that don’t matter! And your life is too valuable, your calling is too great, and your God too good to waste your life on things that don’t matter.

God created you and put you on earth to glorify Him, to make a difference, to make Him known, to love Him, and to love people! Don’t sell out chasing the wind—“more, more, more!”

Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

“Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.”

Better one handful and a good marriage.

Better one handful and children that you know.

Better one handful and making a difference in life.

Better one handful and intimate friends.

Better one handful and a great relationship with God.

Better one handful and influence.

Better one handful and margin.

Better one handful and love, than two handfuls with toil, stress, panic, greed, and more and more—chasing after the wind. It is infinitely better to have less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does. Commit today to “one handful” living.