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.

Samson’s 20-Year Career

By Jesse Becker

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I polled our Sunday School class to find out what we thought could have been Samson’s age when he brought down the house on Philistines and killed them and himself. I hadn’t thought much about it myself. As it turned out, most of us imagined Samson to be in his late 20’s or early 30’s. A lot of us imagined that he was reckless young man and kamikazed his life from an early age. Then I read the last verse in Judges 14:

And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.

So, between slaying a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey and tearing off the city gates and meeting Delilah, Samson did his job for 20 years. It seems that he lived without getting himself in trouble during this time. He actually did the job God called him to with some degree of success. He at least didn’t suffer any notable negative consequences.

Knowing the character of Samson, though, I would believe that he wasn’t living entirely right. Judges 15 starts by telling us that Samson saw a harlot in Gaza and went in unto her. The Gazites were planning on killing him when he took the doors of the city gate to the top of a hill and escaped. Samson was apparently living a secret life of sin and getting away with it.

After this event he met Delilah, and we know the rest of the story. The last verse of Judges 16 tells us that his family came an buried him, and reminds us that Samson judged for 20 years.

I believe Samson always lived on the edge of destruction. He played around with sin and figured out how to get away with a lot of it. He apparently relied on his strengths – physical and mental – to get him out of sticky situations. But, as we know, we reap what we sow. Samson was sowing the destructive seed of sin and deception, and he eventually reaped the horrible crop.

Many of us are living Christian lives that seem to be clean and free from consequences, while the truth is that we are constantly involved with sin. It could be lust; it could be disrespecting our spouse; it could be a bitter spirit. We think we can handle it because we get away with it for years. But God is not a liar. We will reap what we sow. We need to regularly examine our life and deal with sins that we think we can handle, asking the Holy Spirit to help us change. Time is not on our side.

Peter: Failure is not Final

By Carol Becker

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Proverbs 24:16 – For a just man falleth seven times, and rises again…

None of us are immune to the sting of failure. Even after we are saved, living with our old nature makes sure of that. Knowing that we will experience failure, that we will make unwise decisions and choose to sin, we find ourselves questioning if there is any hope for us in our failures. We don’t have to look any farther than Peter to see what God’s grace can accomplish in the midst of failure. From the life of Peter we can learn some helpful lessons on how to avoid and handle the failures of life.

1. Learn from the Past.

Matthew 14:22-33 tells the story of Peter’s great faith when he stepped out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. We would no doubt classify this as a great success in Peter’s life, and even Jesus was pleased with Peter’s faith. Peter also must have realized in the midst of this success the central figure was Jesus. Success comes through Christ’s power alone. When Peter took his eyes off Jesus he began to sink. That’s when failure comes. Peter had many other times in his life where Jesus gave him instruction. Like Peter, our past contains valuable lessons. Instead of wasting past successes and failures, we should use them as a catalyst for growth.

2. Learn to heed warnings from God and others.

Peter had the extraordinary benefit of getting to be with Jesus almost 24/7 for three years. Imagine the wisdom and instruction he received from Christ during those years. Peter even had the benefit of an especially close relationship with Jesus as he, James, and John were often called aside for greater instruction, revelation, and responsibility. Scripture records several times when Jesus patiently instructs Peter when he speaks or acts without thought. In Matthew 26:34 Jesus tells Peter that he would deny and forsake Him that very night. Jesus was warning Peter. Peter does not heed the warning. Instead of a humble response, Peter essentially tells Jesus he is wrong. But many times we are no different than Peter. We have the extraordinary benefit of God’s completed Word that guides and warns us. Once saved, we have the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives Who also provides instruction. Countless times God sends His warning through other Christians who are truly concerned for us and our walk with Christ. We need to heed the instruction and warning God places in our life. They are meant for our good.

3. Guard not only your weaknesses but your strengths as well.

Most of us are at least somewhat aware of our strengths and weaknesses. It’s wise to evaluate them often. While we tend to guard ourselves in areas where we are lacking and even concentrate on growth in those areas, we leave our strengths wide open for attack. Peter was a man of passion, a go-getter, zealous in all his endeavors; all commendable qualities. Yet this is where we find Peter attacked. In his last zealous act before Christ’s crucifixion and his denial of Jesus, Peter swung his sword cutting off Malchus’ ear as they were about to take Jesus away. Jesus healed and restored the man’s ear and then warned Peter concerning his zeal. Many of Peter’s failures actually stemmed from his unchecked, unbridled strengths. Our weaknesses keep us humble and our knees, but our strengths can often lead to pride and self sufficiency. Proverbs 4:23 “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Wisdom tells us to guard all aspects of our heart.

4. Failure is not final.

Peter must have experienced great torment the three days between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Sorrow and guilt is a needed response to our sin, but after we have repented and forgiveness has been given we can, at times, be our own worst critic. We may be able to give grace to others for their errors, but we don’t allow any grace for ourselves. We cannot bring ourselves to accept the gift of grace God freely offers. That grace was offered to Peter when the angel told Mary Magdalene to tell Peter that Jesus was risen from the dead. (Mark16:7). Later after Jesus’ resurrection, he met the disciples on the shore for breakfast. There he asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep. (John 21:15-17). He wasn’t done with Peter. God used Peter greatly at Pentecost when he preached the gospel and three thousand were saved (Acts 2:41). God worked through Peter’s life, his successes and failures, using him to accomplish His plan. Living perfectly and without failure is impossible. God never asks us to be perfect, but to always grow into Christ’s likeness. The key word is grow. Peter was a success for the Lord, because he continued to grow in grace. And God blessed him for that.

 

Peter failed. We will too. However, Peter was not a failure, and neither are we if we will learn and grow and do all for the glory of God.

Trusting God In a Changing World

By Pastor Dorrell

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It’s amazing sometime how quickly life can change. We live in a face-paced and busy world, and the life we live can be very unpredictable. Circumstances can change, people can change, and of course we all know how quickly the weather can change. But, with sudden change often comes a sense of uncertainty or insecurity. For the most part, people like things to be the same and to know what to expect. When circumstances or people rock our world, we often worry and fret, or—even worse—we become angry and unhappy.

The 7 Sayings of Jesus on the Cross

By Jesse Becker

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A person’s dying words are often some of the most important words a person will say. There are seven last words of Jesus recorded for us in scripture. Nothing Jesus ever said was trite or insignificant, but these seven sayings hold some very precious truths for us.

Father, Forgive Them

Luke 23:34

The forgiveness of sin was the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross. The soldiers who drove the nails into His hands and feet and who cast lots to claim His garments were for the most part ignorant of whom they were dealing with. They probably thought of Him as just another criminal. But in spite of their ignorance, Jesus wanted them to be forgiven, too. What a tremendous picture of God’s mercy, grace, and compassion. God has forgiven us of our sins, also. Let us be careful not to take such a gift for granted.

To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Luke 23:43

There is a powerful truth in this statement given by Jesus to the criminal on the cross next to Him. The criminal believed who Jesus was when in faith he asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus would enter His kingdom. Jesus’ response tells us that there is no other way to be saved than faith. The criminal had no chance to get baptized, give money to the church, feed the poor, or deny himself in any way. He had no other recourse than to fully trust in Jesus. And that is the place anyone must come to be forgiven and saved from their sin—an all out faith in Jesus and Jesus alone.

Woman, behold thy son! Behold thy mother!

John 19:26, 27

In this moment we see two things. First, Jesus was a caring a responsible individual who took great care of those He loved. His mother would no longer have Him physically near to take care of her needs, so Jesus saw to her wellbeing by giving her to John. Second, Jesus’ relationship with Mary was going to be different now. Jesus had been her son for 33 years, but now He would be her Savior for eternity. Mary was blessed to have birthed the Son of God, but she was as much in need of a Savior as any other person ever born. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world including yours and mine.

My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken me?

Mathew 27:46

Perhaps this was the agonizing punishment that Jesus was dreading the most. Never in all eternity had Jesus and God been apart. The Holy God had to separate Himself from His only Son, because at that moment Jesus became sin for us, and God could not fellowship with sin. Because of that moment, we can fellowship with God by believing that Jesus died for us.

I thirst.

John 19:28

Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. There can be no doubt that Jesus was physically exhausted. His human body would have been in great need of many things including a great thirst. But some time before, He told the woman at the well that if any man thirst for God they need to drink the Living Water. It may be that Jesus at this moment of separation from God knew for the first time what it was to thirst for God. Jesus knew all our sin and all its consequences including the void that exists in the heart that cannot fellowship with God. Jesus thirsted so we would never have to thirst again.

It is finished.

John 19:30

What an incredibly important statement. Finished. Complete. Paid in full. Jesus satisfied the holiness of God so that the wrath of God would be spared. It is impossible to fully grasp what Jesus did for us. If we could even comprehend the desolation of our own sinful hearts we could begin to understand, but we can’t even do that. How can we ever appreciate something so vast? As far as the east is from the west, that is how far He has removed our iniquity. It is finished. There is nothing left for you or me to do. It was finished on the cross.

Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.

Luke 23:46

Jesus was absolutely alone on the cross. None of His friends or disciples were up there with Him. God had turned His back on His Son. Darkness cloaked Calvary’s hill. He was alone. Then Jesus said this with a loud voice, perhaps in desperation for God to hear, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” He felt that He must yell these words because God was so far from Him. Then Jesus was silent. He laid down His life and gave up the ghost. He had fully obeyed and done the work of His Father, and now He trusted His spirit into His Father’s care believing that God would raise Him from the dead.

God’s plan of salvation is so wonderful and so amazing. Everything Jesus said on the cross helps us appreciate what He went through for us. Then to think that it was all done because God so loved the world—because God so loved me—my heart is filled with gratitude and worship.

Thomas – Friend of Jesus

By Carol Becker

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While writing the script for this Easter’s dramatization I knew I wanted to study the life of Thomas. You see, I think if most of us are honest, we see ourselves in Thomas maybe more than any other character in the resurrection story. What comes to mind when you hear Thomas’ name? We all know Thomas’ label – doubter…doubting Thomas. He earned this reputation based on one incident in his life. I’m not sure that we should be so quick to label others. A label dismisses a person’s other positive character traits and diminishes the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in their life. A negative label defines and devalues a soul for whom Jesus gave His life, a soul He loves. I spent many hours reading about Thomas and studying the different times he is mentioned in the Scriptures, and I found out there was a lot more to the man Thomas than just one label.

God’s Word records three separate times that Thomas speaks. We can learn much from the life of Thomas and his relationship with Christ.  

Mary Magdalene – Lessons from a Servant’s Heart

By Carol Becker

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Who was Mary Magdalene? We do not know much about her past. Luke 8:2 does mention Jesus had healed her from evil spirits and infirmities, but that is about all we know. What we do know is that was her past; it was her old life. It did not look anything like her new life in Christ. Once she believed on Jesus her past no longer dictated her future. Thankfulness now filled her heart, and Mary desired to serve the Lord. She served her Lord because of her love for Him. We can learn some important truths from Mary’s heart of service.

Mary – Surviving the Sword

By Carol Becker

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Luke 2:34-35

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his Mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.