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May 13, 2016, 12:00 PM

Family Ties

by Sandy Holt


   Family is one of the many wonderful gifts that God has given us.  While thinking about the gift of family, I came to the realization that family isn’t always blood.  It’s also the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept your flaws; the ones who go out of their way to make you happy!  They think you’re a good egg even though they know you are slightly cracked!  Those people are called friends.  Charles Dickens said, “Family not only consists of those whom we share blood, but also those whom we’d give blood.”

   There have been times in my life when I’ve sat with a friend and couldn’t come up with even one word to say, but I was there for them if they wanted to cry or be silent or just not be alone!  I’ve also had friends in my life that have done the same thing for me.  You can’t buy that kind of friendship.  That kind of friend can make you laugh when you don’t even want to smile and they understand your tears even if you don’t say a word.  I’ve been blessed in my life to have lots of close friends that I love dearly!  So take time today to thank God for those friends in your life who are part of your family.


Sandy Holt

May 12, 2016, 12:00 AM

What Are You Hungry For?

by Steve Reese


I am sure that this question brings many things to mind. Maybe fresh fried catfish, a rib-eye steak, fried okra or chocolate lava cake. But people can be hungry for many things besides food. If you ever watch any of these televised talent shows, you'll hear the judges talking about how they are looking for contestants who are hungry. This brings to mind a person who desperately wants something, they want it so bad that they feel like they have a hole in their soul that only this particular thing can fill. A businessman can be hungry for success, a performer can be hungry for fame, an elderly person at a nursing home can be hungry for companionship and some people are hungry for money.  


So now, given that context, let me ask again, what are you hungry for? What is it that drives you? What makes you want to get up in the morning? What is that one thing that you think can fill the void in your life? 


Funny thing about being hungry, I can eat a big scrumptious meal, steak, baked potato, grilled onion, and corn, I can fill up until I can't move, yet tomorrow I'll be hungry again.  The same is true for other types of hunger, you can never get enough success to make you happy, enough fame to satisfy you, or enough money to make you complete. Even companionship is a fleeting thing. 


But Psalm 107:9 says, For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. Of course, this is a different kind of hunger. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." True fulfillment can only come by seeking after things that are eternal, not things that are temporary. Being hungry for the things of God is the only way to find true and lasting satisfaction. Jesus also said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.


It is not always easy to seek after the things of God. The things of this world have a huge pull on us, and to make it worse, the things of this world have made a major impact on many churches. Things like sin, personal feelings, and political correctness have invaded many churches and even threatens many of the mainstream denominations to the point where some are considering adopting positions that are contrary to God's word. Sadly, a few have already accepted things that were never meant for God's people (read Ephesians 5:1-7).


We have to be wary of false prophets and false teachings. We can not be distracted by the things of the world. In order to be truly filled, we must hunger for the things of God, not the things of this world.  

By Steve Reese

May 11, 2016, 12:00 PM

Choose Life

by Haley MaKenna Hardman


Has God ever asked you to do something that didn’t make a whole ton of sense to you at the time? He has me… God is a wonderful mystery to me. No matter how much I learn from Him, there is infinitely more to discover throughout the rest of eternity. Over my short span of life, I’ve found that His ways are abundantly beyond mine and His thoughts far greater than my own. So, when God asked me to do a negative word fast for the entire month of February, I tried to keep this in mind. This kind of fast was new to me- quite frankly, I had never heard of anyone fasting words- but God led me to a couple verses and gave me a revelation and I’d like to share it with whoever may be reading this today.

Now, before I get too deep into it, you must know the back story: there’s this conference called Winterfest that my church (and several other churches) goes to. The particular one we attend is called Frontier Winterfest and it’s located in Arlington, TX. We had all just gotten back from this amazing conference when God laid this fast on my heart. Now, in the past when we have come home from Winterfest, we have tended to act differently because of the experience that we’ve had with God, but after a couple of weeks at home, we all kind of just stop acting differently and go back to the comfortable “normal” that we are all used to. The fire dies off, and everything goes dark. Every year we tend to say that it’ll be different: “This is the year for God to change everything in my life, and I will really give everything that I have to Him!” I’ve discovered that that’s not how it works, and although God is an amazing God and He can do miraculous things, at some point we have to make a decision to choose life or death or we’re simply not living.

             You see, I’m a very hard headed person, and when I get something in my head, it’s very hard to get it out. This past year at Winterfest I watched, and experienced, choices being made to sincerely chase God. The atmosphere was not quite the same, because in all honesty, there really wasn’t a whole lot of emotionalism going on- which is wonderful in my opinion. Basically, if you went in and truly sought God out, you found Him, but if you just went in expecting Him to do a work within you without truly seeking His face, you missed it. I had a genuinely impactful weekend and I experienced a Psalm 143:6 moment that I’m almost positive I will never forget. As soon as our bus left the hotel parking lot, though, I found myself preparing for the downfall- the moment where everything goes dark. God kind of slapped me in the face on that ride home, because as good as the weekend was, I’d have to say that the conversation on that church bus made all of the difference. It was during that two hour and sixteen minute ride home that I decided that the fire was not going to go out like it has in years past. I didn’t know how it was going to keep burning, but I knew within the depths of my soul that God had a plan… And when God has a plan, nothing and no one can keep Him from doing it.

            So, that Monday I started to school and everything was going great until I realized that I had completely forgotten where I had been the past weekend. I immediately had let the stress of school and the busyness of life drown out the voice of God leading me forth. In turn, I became what I was so worried about becoming the minute I woke up the next morning. To say the least, I repented and I sat in the floor that Monday night at Prayer Meeting with my Bible open and pencil ready. During that Prayer Meeting, God brought forth a word in my heart and I watched it come to life before me. He led me to Ezekiel 3 first…


Ezekiel 3:10-11, 24-27 (NLT)

Then he added, “Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully yourself. Then go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Do this whether they listen to you or not.”… Then the Spirit came into me and set me on my feet. He spoke to me and said, “Go to your house and shut yourself in. There, son of man, you will be tied with ropes so you cannot go out among the people. And I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be speechless and unable to rebuke them, for they are rebels. But when I give you a message, I will loosen your tongue and let you speak. Then you will say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Those who choose to listen will listen, but those who refuse will refuse, for they are rebels.


Then He led me to Ezekiel 37


Ezekiel 37: 4-10 (NLT)

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so that they may live again.’” So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet- a great army.


And then He led me to Proverbs 18:21


Proverbs 18:21 (NLT)

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.


It was then that all of this came together in my head, and in that moment, I knew how the fire was going to keep going: we were going to speak it into existence. Our tongue has so much power, and it’s our choice to use it to bring life or to bring death. Just think about it for a second: God spoke our world into existence; He spoke us into existence! Ezekiel spoke to a valley of dry bones and they literally became living humans again- a great army. Jesus spoke and a dead man named Lazarus came out of his tomb alive again. Peter spoke and about 3,000 people came to know Jesus as their Savior in one day. You cannot convince me that our tongue and the words that come out of our mouth do not have eternal effects on those that hear them.

God presented me with a challenge that day. He told me that I was not to speak one death bringing word for the entire month of February because He had put a message inside of His people, and it needed to come to life inside of us. Honestly, I didn’t know how much I complained and spoke death over things/people until I couldn’t anymore. I suddenly had a whole lot less to say, but I have never felt so good about what came out of my mouth. During the month of February, it was not easy to bite my tongue at times, and I’ll be completely transparent and let you know that I did speak death a time or two (or three or four), but the words that burned inside of me never stopped flaming and that’s exactly what I had been praying about. The fire never went away when I didn’t throw death at it. Not only inside of me did I see sparks, but in people that I never would have thought could want to know God (that sounds really bad, but I promise I don’t mean it in a bad or demeaning way). Seriously, I sat at lunch with people that I barely know, not saying anything about anything, and all of the sudden- literally out of nowhere- a conversation about God started up, and I got to have an opportunity to tell a person that doesn’t believe in anything about life with a purpose and experiencing a love that is like no other. I watched as two families who have been battling for nearly eight years, made steps towards restoration- on several accounts. I watched my church take steps toward reaching out to the community around us. I watched a seemingly broken team of people come together and do great things for the glory of God.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well, I’m writing this in the middle of March, and I’ve had a lot of time to let the words that God gave me at the beginning of February sink deep into my heart, and I have listened very carefully. Now it’s your turn. I am by no means telling you that you have to fast negative words; I am by no means telling you that you have to do anything. I am just giving you a challenge to choose life- for real- whether that be in your speech, your actions, your thoughts, or your relationships. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

-Haley MaKenna Hardman

May 9, 2016, 12:00 PM

Four Prayer Streams

We have been discussing the importance of a disciplined personal prayer life. Yet, there are four prayer streams in the life of the people of God that are critical.
  1. The congregation gathered in and for prayer. Not preaching. Not teaching or training, but in prayer.
  2. Smaller prayer groups. Not the entire congregation gathered, but slices of church life gathered for prayer. For example, at the heart of every ministry and group in the congregation, there should be a developing prayer culture. To isolate prayer by framing it as 'prayer ministry' and placing it there; having youth and children, men and women, singles and seniors, a dozen other ministries here, all undergirded by the prayer ministry there - is fatal error. To assign prayer to a few, even a significant but detached team is to attempt to use prayer as a kind of engine for church ministries, and yet, separate from them. That makes prayer pragmatic, utilitarian, and that is a flawed equation. Every ministry, to be New Testament, is to be humbly dependent on God in prayer. At their heart, must be a culture of God's Presence, of holiness and humility and that necessitates prayer. The goal is to press prayer into the seams of congregational life. If church activities and ministries are to be animated by the breath of God, they must be praying ministries - the Spirit is breath and prayer is breathing.
  3. The family altar. Currently, only 5 to 8 percent of Christian homes have anything resembling a family altar. That must change. If prayer is foreign to daily life, we declare to ourselves and our children, that we have learned to live without family gatherings in which God is at the center of our lives and activities, our daily relationships, in a formal and openly affirming manner. God must not be ignored. Our children, having learned from us to live without engaging God in an intentional manner six days a week, soon forego the seventh - not continuing church attendance as adults. Tozer bluntly declared, "If you will not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship Him on one day a week."[1]
  4. Personal prayer. Daily prayer. Relentless praying. John and Charles Wesley, when traveling together, had the habit of rising early to spend time with God, and then meeting together, often for an hour or more, before they began their day. Spurgeon would rise early for personal prayer, and then gather his family for prayer before they met the day.
Without personal prayer, without family altars, without small groups in which we are all active in prayer, the corporate prayer gathering lacks the roots that cause it to flourish. Yet, without the corporate prayer meeting, that models prayer, that offers teaching prayer experiences that become templates for personal, family and small group praying, the other corollary elements don't develop. Each feeds the other, and none can replace another. They are interdependent. The most conspicuous of the four is the corporate prayer meeting, the congregation gathered for prayer. Without these, church is a ceremony, not a celebration of lives lived out God's Presence.
Welsh pastor, Geoffrey Thomas, asserted, "There is no way that those who neglect secret worship can know communion with God in the public services of the Lord's Day!"[2] D. A. Carson notes, "The person who prays more in public reveals that he is less interested in God's approval than in human praise. Not piety but a reputation for piety is his concern."[3]

We are not to go to church to worship, but to go worshipping - out of a life of worship. The form of corporate worship feeds the informal - confession, praise, offering, preaching, prayer, the reading of the Scriptures, repenting, professing, singing, sharing, the bread and the cup, baptism, the blessing. All these feed the personal, informal daily prayer times; and they in turn, feed the public.
[1]       Tozer.
[2]       Geoffrey Thomas, "Worship in Spirit," The Banner of Truth, August-September, 1987, p. 8.
[3]       D. A. Carson, Matthew, Expositor's Bible Commentary, 12 volumes (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 8:165.


May 5, 2016, 12:56 AM


by Steve Reese



There were two men walking down a street. One was talking non-stop about something that he was passionate about while the other was listening politely occasionally nodding his head.  The man talking was so into his what he was saying that he was not paying much attention to the walkway ahead. He took a step and his foot found no hold. He felt himself falling then nothing. He awoke to find his friend sitting at his bedside in the hospital.

"What happened?" He asked his companion. "The last thing I remember is falling."

His friend patted him on the arm. "You took a terrible fall. Somebody moved a barrier that was covering a hole in the walk. The doctor said you will recover, but you may be in the hospital for some time."

The man was grateful that his friend had stayed with him during this terrible time. He was moved with compassion by his friends loyalty. He smiled at the man by his bedside. "I am just glad that you are okay. It is lucky that you did fall down the same hole."

His friend shook his head, "Oh it wasn't luck, I saw that hole when we were a block away."

The man was shocked! How could his friend have seen the hole yet did nothing to stop him from falling? "You knew the danger was there and yet you said nothing?" He asked incredulously.

His friend shrugged his shoulders and looked embarrassed, "You were talking and I thought it would be rude to interrupt. I didn't want to offend you!" 


You read that story and you think, "Impossible! How could someone not warn their friend that they are in danger!" Yet, this same scenario is played out every day. How many people claim to be Christians, claim to believe in hell and eternal judgment, yet say nothing to their non-believing friends because they don't want to "offend" them. Is this not allowing them to fall into a hole that will last forever? And what about our Christian brothers and sisters who are living destructive lifestyles or not having the relationship with the Father that they should?

We have been led to believe that, if we love somebody, we should let them live their own life, their own way. Love means accepting people the way they are and not expecting them to change. We are to let people live their own life, we do accept them as they are. But we are all on the never-ending road to perfect. God expects us all to change and grow beyond what we are today. When we see somebody who needs to know God or somebody who has wondered off the path, we should not be afraid to share our faith with them, to show them the way back to the path.

That doesn't mean we try to badger, to argue or to force them. This means we tell them how we feel and what we believe in the most kind and loving way possible, then leave them alone and let the Spirit work in them. If you love someone, not telling them of the danger they face is not an option. It might be uncomfortable, it might even be embarrassing at times in some situations, but are we willing to let the people we care for blindly walk into that hole and say nothing?

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