Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You've Got Mail

Pastor Blake Cromwell and Ross Zimmerman

I am a pastor and not a film critic, but it is hard for me to not analyze a film I recently saw that has a lot to say about romance and relationships in our contemporary culture. The film I am talking about is a romantic comedy titled, "You've Got Mail" starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I want to begin by saying that I did enjoy the film. Much of the dialogue was witty and clever, the cinematography was great, and the characters were very likable people. But I feel that it is important for me to look past the pleasant facade and seriously analyze the inner workings of the relationship in this movie and it's portrayal of romantic love.

In the movie, the two main characters meet on the Internet in a chat room. It starts out as a platonic relationship, but soon leads to romance. Witty communication inspires curiosity, which leads to both of the characters reflecting upon how shallow their current relationships are with their live-in lovers. There are missing ingredients in their romantic lives that drives them to try and fill the void with the companionship of someone else. In the movie, it is convenient that neither of the characters is married. There is no messy divorce with battles over the kids that would stir up melancholy emotions within the movie goers. With one of the characters, all we hear of the break-up is that he went home one evening and moved out. We do not have to deal with any of the confrontation, heartbreak, anger, and pain that are always present in the dissolving of a romantic relationship. In the other relationship we see the break-up, but it is portrayed as a joyous revelation between the two people in realizing that they each no longer love one another.

Even though neither of these characters is married, the pastor/counselor instinct within me was sparked concerning people who are married and feel like something is missing in their own marriage relationship. A void is felt, and everybody hates the feeling of a void within. Meg Ryan's character in fact speaks of this void. In one scene she is composing an e-mail to Tom Hanks, and she is sharing all of the unanswered questions she has concerning her life and current relationship. After completing her message, she says that she does not send it in hopes of receiving any answers, she is just sending it out into the great cosmic 'void.' The presence of a void within us indicates that we have unmet needs. This void creates a hunger within us that needs to be fed, and in the case of romantic hunger it can be dangerous if it is left untreated. Affairs, divorces, and heart break will many times be avoided if the married couple can discover the basic needs of their spouse.

There is a book by Willard F. Harley Jr. titled, “His Needs, Her Needs” that was written specifically for married couples to help them to understand the basic needs of their spouse. In his book, Harley identifies the ten most important marital needs of husbands and wives and teaches each of them how to fulfill the other's needs. Couples who seem irresistible to each other when their marriage begins may become incompatible if they fail to meet these ten very important needs.

The needs of men and women are similar, but their priorities are very different. I have a quiz for you to help you see if you are able to identify which needs are his and which are hers. Out of the ten marital needs listed here, see if you can identify those that are most important to you, and those that are most important to your spouse.

Needs: admiration, affection, an attractive spouse, conversation, domestic support, family commitment, financial support, honesty and openness, recreational companionship, sexual fulfillment.

His Hers
1._________________ 1.__________________
2._________________ 2.__________________
3._________________ 3.__________________
4._________________ 4.__________________
5._________________ 5.__________________

If you would like to find out if your answers are correct, please call the office at Koinonia Christian Fellowship at 582-1528, or e-mail me at I will send you a free booklet entitled “His Needs, Her Needs” published by Focus on the Family that will give you the answers to the quiz and further your knowledge in filling the void. Or if you prefer, stop by and visit us at 323 E. 11th St. in Hanford.

Contact me soon. I love to hear the words, “You’ve Got Mail.”

Called to Inherit a Blessing

Pastor Blake Cromwell and Ross Zimmerman
August '99

It is three o’clock in the morning, and I am lying in bed, wide awake. As thoughts of my sermon preparation for that particular week run through my mind, I find myself beginning to recall the many good days that I have seen in my life. In so many ways I can see the Lord's blessing upon my life in my family, my marriage, and in the churches I have pastored. As I am pondering these blessings, specific instances begin to surface in my mind, memories of good days.

It was a good day when I got married, when my children were born, when my wife Rena and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, and the day that I watched my son receive his Bachelor's Degree. It was a good day when I chose to forgive my dad, the day I learned to accept the things I can not change, and when I learned to laugh at myself. It was a good three weeks when I watched 8,000 people come and attend the drama Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames. There have also been good days when I have seen God heal members of my congregation from various afflictions.

As I am busily recording these thoughts, I recall Peter declaring to the church that they can "see good days." (1 Peter 3:10) In fact, he states that, as Christians, we have been "called to inherit a blessing." (vs. 9) It is the Lord’s plan for each of us that we be people who know His blessings in our lives.

As a pastor, I have seen so many people suffer through difficult days. A day in which a son was arrested, a parent lost, or a business venture failed. And yet I am challenged to the core with Peter's words, ‘You have been called to inherit a blessing.’ So the question is, how do I receive the blessing that the Lord has for me? As Peter continues to speak (vs. 10-12), he outlines five steps for our personal behavior that serve as a recipe or blueprint to inheriting the blessing. As we begin to take these steps and make changes in our attitudes and behaviors, the Lord is freed to release His blessing in our life.

DECIDE "He that would love life and see good days." Peter places the outcome of the day squarely in our power. It is really quite simple, we make the decisions that shape our destiny. The power of decision creates our attitudes, actions, and emotional health. One must make a decision to be happy, to embrace the good and bad in a day, and have a positive attitude towards life. A positive thinker once stated, "When life hands you a lemon, make some lemonade." Your happiness today is not dependent upon what happens to you, but how you respond to what is happening to you. An attitude of faith in God sees the best in every situation.

DOMINATE "Let him refrain his tongue from evil." If you want misery and heartache, go ahead and tell your boss how you feel about him in the heat of the moment. Gossip about your husband, talk bad about your mother-in-law, yell at your kid, and use profanity at your spouse. These are all important ingredients in the recipe for a miserable life. If we are to "see good days" we must harness the mighty muscle–the tongue. We must be careful with the words we say and how we say them. If we dominate it and speak kind and loving words, then we will reap the benefits of relational wholeness and "see good days."

DEPART "Let him turn away from evil". We must make a conscious decision daily to resist evil thoughts and plans. All of us have certain things within us, sinful behaviors and tendencies in the flesh that “so easily beset us.” We need to begin recognizing what those things are and make some hard decisions in growing up and departing from them. It is possible for us to grow old and never mature and God has called to be a people of maturity. We need to change. And change demands that we take an honest look at our lives. The Bible says, “resist the devil and he will flee from you,” so we must make conscious decisions daily to resist evil.

DO "Do good." We need to decide daily to do random acts of kindness. A random act of kindness is one that is motivated with the intent to please another–not for our own pleasure or selfish gain. In our relationship with Jesus Christ we have received the heart of servanthood. It could be said that there is nothing more satisfying to mankind than to serve another human being without the hindrance of selfish motives and intentions. Have you ever heard someone say how good they felt after serving food to the poor, or collecting clothing for the needy? It feels good because we have been created to do good to one another; but it takes a conscious decision on our part.

DEVELOP "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous." Verse twelve outlines three areas in which we need to develop our relationship with Jesus Christ. First, focus upon the Lord. It is hard to not focus on the problem when we are going through a cave experience. But we are told in this verse that the Lord is looking at us; His eyes are upon us. At times we may feel like God does not care. But if we focus upon Him, we will see that He also is focused upon us. Second, have faith in the Lord. His ears are open to our prayers. In the same way that a father’s ears are open to his children, to hearing their problems, hurts, and pains, so are the Lord’s ears open to us. God is not so busy that He is not listening to us. He even wants to answer prayers that we have not yet prayed because we have not put our faith in Him. Third, fear the Lord. We know that God is good all the time, but, when necessary, His goodness toward us is discipline and correction. The Bible teaches that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves, and He loves us too much to allow us to persist in our sin. Verse twelve says, "the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." God's grace does not cover sin that has not been repented of. If we are making excuses for not departing and dominating, then at some point God will put his face against us in discipline.

In this portion of scripture, Peter is speaking to a church that is experiencing difficult days. They are being persecuted for their faith and facing what appear to be impossible circumstances. You, as well, may be facing difficult days, walking through times of trial and tribulation. Peter's words ring as true to us today as they did when he wrote them. We have been called to inherit a blessing. By following God's blueprint, the five "D's," we can be assured of his peace and comfort even in the midst of difficult times.

If you would like to receive a free tape of this entire message, please contact Koinonia Christian Fellowship at 582-1528. And remember, the pastors of the King's County are waiting to see you in church this weekend so that they may encourage you and lift your eyes to the Lord.

The Value Of A Promise

Pastor Blake Cromwell
May '99

My mother had lost her $5000 ring and had searched every corner and crack of her house with no luck. The ring was precious to her not just because of its monetary value but also because it had been a gift from a loved one who had passed away.

Weeks later as she sat heartsick looking at her Christmas tree and decorations her eyes fell to the many Christmas packages under the tree (waiting there for her children to claim them on December 25). An idea came to her mind that just maybe her ring had fallen from her finger as she placed the many gifts in their boxes.

She tore into each gift searching through sweaters, toys, ties and electronic gadgets. Finally she came to a present marked for me. Tearing the box and setting aside the wool slacks, there sparkling in the corner of the box was her diamond ring - found. Her sorrow was swallowed up in joy (of course, when she recounted the story to me my joy was swallowed up in sorrow).

The story reminds me of our value system. We on planet Earth value gold, diamonds, and silver mainly because these elements are rare. You do not find gold and diamonds just lying around your feet wherever you go. Because these elements are rare we value them and they (like my mother's) provoke emotions.

As followers of Jesus we are to value what our father God values. Which provokes the question: What does God value? What is rare to God? Gold is not rare and valued by God; His streets are paved with gold. God does not value precious rubies and jewels; the foundations of the New Jerusalem are laid with jewels.

The Bible is clear about what God values in 2 Peter 1:4 "Exceeding great and precious promises that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature..." The apostle Peter gives us insight into what God values. It is His promises; "They are exceedingly great".

God who created all things does not call gold or silver great because they do not measure up to the value of a promise. Everything our God does is based upon a promise from His written voice in the Bible. He watches over His Word to perform it.

The question is how do we obtain a promise and how do we get the promise to work in our lives?

Over the years thousands of people have approached me to ask for prayer. Many times I have requested of them what specific things they desire from God. Once I have ascertained what they need then I seek a promise in God's Word that covers their need.

When I stand for them in prayer, I stand with a promise. That promise is my faith builder. It tells me God desires to do that thing and so I can pray in faith. Through the promise God releases the answer and miracles occur.

Abraham became a father when naturally he was too old to have children. The book of Hebrews tells us the reasoin for Abraham's miracle; it was a promise. "For when God made a promise to Abraham..." "he (Abraham) obtained the promise" [Heb. 6:13, 15]. Earlier in the book of Hebrews the author warns followers of Christ to be fearful of falling short of obtaining a promise of God [Heb. 4:1].

There are thousands of promises in God's word that cover every need and trial of mankind. The sad thing is that most Christians facing problems do not know enough of God's Word to find the promise that covers their need.

My mother had valued her ring, and when she lost it her tenacious attitude continued to drive her to find it. If we who love Christ and value His Word would have that attitude we would never fall short of any promise God has entrusted to us in His written voice.

All you need is sitting somewhere near you now. It is a promise from God's love letters to us called the Bible.

Pulling Ponytails in Third Grade

Pastor Blake Cromwell

I recall as a young boy reciting the nursery rhyme,

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice,
And everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of.

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails,
And puppy dog tails,
That's what little boys are made of.

Being raised in a house with four brothers and no sister I figured that rhyme was just a childhood concept. Then I began to interact with the opposite sex. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t like to get punched on the playground and why it was such a big deal when I pulled their ponytails. Today at 47 I have abandoned all foolishness of yanking on ponytails and teasing girls. I must confess part of this behavioral change is due to many black eyes and sitting in the Principle’s Office more times than I would like to confess.

In our society there is constant talk about the great differences between men and women. Popular authors such as John Gray have made a career out of observing the stark contrasts between the communication styles, needs, and desires of males and females. And while I do not believe that these differences are as insurmountable as some make them out to be, I do recognize that for men and women to understand and function together successfully, much effort and dedication is required.

A number of years ago, my wife and I and our two children moved to Mexico to do some missions work. Due to the move and the language barrier, there was a period of time when my two kids did not have many other children to play with. As I watched them play together for hours on end I could see major differences between them. Joanna, my daughter, would organize all of her dolls in a circle and tell her brother, Andrew, exactly where he should sit. Joanna would then begin to converse with all the dolls. She would speak, the dolls would speak (via Joanna), and Andrew would speak (also via Joanna). This would go on for a while, Andrew playing along quite well, repeating back to his sister just what she wanted to hear. But after a while Andrew grew tired of this game. He grew silent for a time and then would erupt in a flurry of action and sound. Toy cars crashed into houses and ran over dolls, imaginary missiles descended and engulfed everything in flames and smoke, and the shrieks of my little girl filled the house. Destruction interested Andrew more then conversation.

It’s a fact, men and women are different. They are different physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Physically, men and women have a different skeletal structure. Women have shorter legs, a longer trunk, and smaller lungs. They also have larger kidneys, liver, stomach, and appendix. Women have a more active thyroid gland which gives them a greater resistance to cold temperature and is the cause of their smooth-skinned, relatively hairless body. Women also typically outlive men by four to eight years. But women generally have a lower constitutional vitality then men because they have fewer red blood cells.

There is no doubt that more could be said concerning the differences between the sexes. Suffice it to say for now that men and women have some hurdles to overcome if true unity is to come about. Here are some simple principles I have gleaned from the gospel of Mark that we can apply to our marriages and relationships to help better understand and overcome how these great differences can be turned into great strengths.

In Mark chapter ten Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ question about divorce. The problem of divorce was a hot button in that culture as it is in ours today. Jesus stated that divorce is the ultimate expression of the hardening of the hearts of people. When one’s heart is hardened it is due to the refusal to forgive or the inability to forgive the offending spouse.

I see three things in Jesus’ answer to His generation and to our in the Kings County. There is a Practical Word, a Profound Word, and a Preserving Word. First, the Practical Word. Jesus declares the importance of forgiveness in relationships and the constant vigilance against a hard unforgiving heart. What Christ desires for your life is functional and fruitful relationships and that can only occur if we do not allow our hearts to become embittered by offenses from others. The practical word from Christ is twofold; One that we would guard our hearts and be ready to forgive those who will offend us. Secondly that we would be sensitive if we are the offending one to actively seek forgiveness and practically stopping the offence behavior.

Second, the Profound Word. Jesus notes that when man and wife are joined in marriage they become one flesh. God’s math in marriage is one plus one equals one. Through divine surgery He joins two people together physically and spiritually. The challenge is that this unity is not experienced immediately by the husband and wife. This is because God desires for people to become better through humility, confession, and patience. It is only when couples decide to learn new skills and push toward becoming the best of friends that the physical, social, and spiritual unity can be expressed in live. Marriage is a call to grow up and if one or more in the marriage decide to hold to their immaturity then the marriage becomes intolerable..

Third, the Preserving Word. After speaking of God’s "New Math" in marriage, Jesus utters a phrase that has been etched on our minds from countless marriage ceremonies: "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." But this phrase is more then just a pronouncement to be given at a wedding. It is a statement of the necessity of the preservation of the marriage relationship. It is a reminder that there will be forces which will try to separate marriages. We would be unwise to miss Christ’s point here: marriage is a sacrament that is holy and should remain undefiled. It is a union that is ordained by God and it should be protected from the forces of a society that would seek to destroy it. God declares He will defend the marriage and all couples in conflict should take comfort in the fact that "with God all things are possible." Another verse declares, "If God be for us who can be against us." Every couple can be empowered to be successful in their marital vows if they seek to have a sensitive heart, an attitude of growth, and a trust in almighty God.

These principles — being quick to forgive others, being careful to work toward unity with your spouse, being cautious to protect the wholeness of your marriage — are ones that, if applied consistently, can help to strengthen your marriage and relationships. And while these principles can be taken in the absence of spirituality, the true key here is to take one’s marriage and relationships and give them up to God. After all, He is the one who made men and women, don’t you think that it might be wise to enlist His help when faced with the difficulties of daily life?

The Pastors in Kings County would love to see you this coming Sunday and help your marriage to become the one God intended.

Guilty Regrets

Pastor Blake Cromwell

Blessed is he who’s transgressions are covered, who’s sins are forgiven. —Psalm 32:1

How often do you look back on your life and feel guilty because of something you did in the past? Wouldn’t it be nice to go back and undo what has been irrevocably done? We know that changing the past is impossible and yet we are tortured by how different choices could have lead to different results. Are you trapped in a vicious cycle of regret? There is a way out.

Regrets are a universal experience. We all have them, but we deal with them differently. It seems that some of the happiest people are those who have learned not to let regret control their lives. In this article, we want to show you how you can walk free of regret starting today. First we’ll look at how people often deal with their regrets incorrectly, then we’ll take a look at how we should deal with our regrets. Finally, we’ll look at how God looks at our regrets.

Common Reactions to Regret
There are many different reactions to regret, but most people react in one of three ways. First, we attempt to hide our regrets. Sometimes we do this by compromising what we believe in and sometimes we do it by rationalization. When we compromise we lower our standards to make ourselves feel better about what we have done. When we rationalize our behavior, we look for examples of other people acting in the same way and then tell ourselves it’s okay because everyone’s doing it. The problem with hiding our regrets is that it is only a temporary solution, we can’t lie to ourselves forever.

Second, we blame others for our feelings of regret. We tell ourselves that it is society’s fault that we are the way we are. Here we take our guilt and convert it into blame. We blame others to the degree that we feel guilty about the past.

Third, we beat ourselves up. Sometimes we figure that we need to punish ourselves because we feel so bad about the past. This self-punishment usually takes the form of an internal dialogue, but sometimes it can even go so far as causing physical harm to oneself. The problem with self-punishment is that self never knows when to quit punishing.

How to Deal with Regret
There are three steps to learning to deal with regret in our lives. It is important for us to do all of the steps in order to begin to experience freedom from the feelings of guilt and pain. The very first thing we need to do is to confess (Ps. 32:5). This is the most painful step on the road to freedom. Confession requires a willingness to open up to God and tell Him about your pain and mistakes. Don’t worry, God won’t be surprised, but He will be willing to forgive.

The second step is to receive the Father’s forgiveness (Ps. 103:3). The beautiful thing about God’s forgiveness is that it is instantaneous and complete. When we have confessed, we can receive His transforming power into our lives. We need His forgiveness.

The third step is to focus on the future (Is. 43:18-19). When we are focused on the past, we cannot reach forward to the future. We all have failed. The difference between a failed life and a successful one is the willingness to get up one more time. We must fix our eyes on the promise of the future and leave the mistakes behind us. God does and so should we.

How God Deals with Our Regrets
God is interested in more then just forgiving us for our past mistakes, He is also interested in changing us into different people. God desires to work in two areas of our life so that our healing from regrets can be complete. First, He desires to cleanse our conscience (Is. 1:18). God promises to remove our sins completely from us. We might remember the mistakes of the past, but they no longer hurt because He has dealt with the guilt and shame. Second, He desires to change our character (2 Cor. 5:17). God loves us the way we are, but His love also won’t allow Him to leave us the way we are. God wants us to grow up and become whole individuals. He will transform us into the people we need to be.

If you are plagued by guilty regrets, you can find freedom today through relationship with Jesus Christ. Why don’t you ask Him to come and wipe the pain away?

The pastors in Kings County would love to see you in church this weekend. God bless you.

The Good, the Bad, and the Pessimistic

Pastor Blake Cromwell

A pessimistic duck in Canada decided that it was too difficult to fly south for the winter so he announced to the flock that he would remain behind. As winter approached and it grew cold and snowy, the duck grew melancholy and depressed. He began to doubt his decision to stay behind and in the middle of winter decided to fly south. As he flapped along he soared into a winter snowstorm and his wings began to fill with ice. The ice on his wingtips became so heavy he could no longer continue flying. As he peered down through the clouds below him, he identified a barnyard and decided to land there. Sitting on the ground in the barnyard he thought to himself, "nothing could be worse than this."

Suddenly, a cow stepped over him and plopped on him. The duck was horrified by this indignity. Convinced that nothing worse could ever have happened to him, he suddenly became aware that the plop provided a warm blanket and was keeping him from freezing. This unexpected turn of events made him so happy he began to sing. A cat hiding in the hay heard the racket and ventured out to investigate. He found the duck, cleaned him off, and ate him.

There are three morals to this story. First, not everyone who plops on you is your enemy. Second, not everyone who cleans you up is your friend. And third, when someone plops on you, just keep your mouth shut.

The Bible is clear that it expects the followers of Jesus Christ to be optimistic. The Scriptures say, "Let no corrupt or negative word proceed form your mouth, but only what is good and useful to the hearer." Here, the Apostle Paul tells us that our words are to be useful and not negative. We are to encourage others through positive faith-filled words, instead of tearing them down with destructive pessimism.

The Old Testament provides us with a study of optimistic and pessimistic people in the book of Exodus. Moses sent out twelve spies to investigate the Promised Land. Ten of the twelve came back with a negative, pessimistic report. They declared that conquest was impossible. The remaining two spies, Joshua and Caleb, told a very different story. They were convinced that the land was ripe for the taking. What was the difference? All twelve spies were privy to the same information during their reconnaissance, they just chose to interpret it differently. The ten pessimistic spies chose to exaggerate the opposition’s forces and devalue God’s ability to take and conquer the Promised Land.

Joshua and Caleb saw the Promised Land with optimistic eyes and believed God to enable them to conquer it. They encouraged the twelve tribes of Israel to be courageous and to believe God to grant them abilities to possess what He had given them. But the tribes of Israel chose to believe the negative report rather then the positive. This resulted in the loss of their God-destined inheritance.

It is clear from the biblical record that God's original intent was that Israel would go into the Promised Land and possesses it. That is not what happened. Instead, because of the unbelieving, pessimistic report of the ten spies, the children of Israel fell prey to unbelief and returned to the desert to wander for 40 years. In this act of unbelief, they lost their connection with God and their destiny.

We are like Israel. We learn in this story that God’s destiny for Israel was missed because of unbelief. We too can miss our God-given destiny because of a failure to believe in His plans and trust in His provision. The Scriptures say, "Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek him." It is our responsibility to maintain a faith-filled attitude and trust that God can help us become what He desires. Without this optimistic attitude of faith of we will surely miss God’s highest for our lives.

Too many people wait for their ship to come in. I believe, instead of waiting for the ship to come to us, God would have us swim out to the ship. It is clear in the Bible that God is drawn to those who have a courageous optimism about the promises of God. People such as Peter, Samson, King David, the Apostle Paul, and Daniel were all rewarded for their actions of faith. Men and women of God have an optimistic faith that constantly reaches out to a loving God. The result, time and again, is His intervention in their lives.

The Bible is honest concerning the opposition against those who trust and believe in God. It does not sugar coat or hide the difficulties of life. However, God’s Word announces that in Christ we can do all things. Success is largely the result of attitude. Our attitude should be one of faith and expectancy in the purposes of Christ for our life.

Our Promised Land cannot be found on a map. Neither is it apiece of material wealth. Our Promised Land is a secure family, favor with those we work with, peace with God, and to know we are growing more Christ-like. Now is the time to evaluate our own lives and ask whether we are faith-filled or pessimistic as we head into the future. One thing that will help us grow in faith is to attend church in the Kings County this weekend. The Pastors will be looking for you this week.

Building Godly Relationships

Pastor Blake Cromwell

Have you ever placed a personal ad? Are you looking for something or someone in the pages of your local newspaper? Or are you the individual who calls "Psychic Network" to get the answers to your daily questions? Hoping that your future will bring more to you than the scars of your past.

There are many people in the world today who face loneliness. Many of them feeling that there is no purpose to their lives. We accept others into our lives without thinking about who we can really trust. We are single parents and widows/widowers. Some of us are just cut off from family by the distances between us. But we are all looking for the same thing; to fill a void.

In times of loneliness there are individuals who want to be there for you. They may be friends, or family; but we must be willing to admit our need for them. Paul was humble enough to ask Timothy to come to him, and quickly. He showed his immediate need for the company of another.

When we get into a crisis we need to be wise enough to know who our friends are and who is out to gain from our situation. Paul used good judgment in choosing who Timothy was to bring with him. Paul saw Mark as useful to his ministry. Many times loneliness can cause us to find out who our true friends are or are not.

When facing trials we realize that there are people we really can count on. There are those in our lives who have value and add value to our lives. Paul recognized Mark's sincerity and valued him as a minister even though he had previously failed in mission work. Mark was able to redeem his reputation in Paul's eyes.

Paul was searching for comfort during his imprisonment and turned to the those things he held most dear to his heart. He requested that Timothy bring him his cloak and the books he had left behind. He chose a possession that gave warmth to his body and the word of God that gave warmth to his spirit. When you are alone - read the word. When others are not there God's voice is always there.

The most lonely people in society are bitter people. They haven't set aside the hurts of the past to move on into the victory of their future. God desires for us to learn forgiveness. For some of us forgiveness is a daily chore because we face the one who hurts us daily. And for others it isn't very often that we let offenses get the better of us. When others abandon us the Lord is faithful.

Loneliness can drag us under or it can strengthen us. It can cause us to withraw unto ourselves or tell others how we have been delivered. Paul learned to receive the power of the Lord's nearness when other could not be near. And when Paul felt restored in spirit he was able to preach the gospel that all may hear.

Loneliness doesn't have to be a burden we can not bear. People will come and go in our lives; each one leaving behind something we can learn from.

Faithful Fathers

Pastor Blake Cromwell

Three executives were sitting around trying to put a definition on the word "fame". One said: "Fame is being invited to the White House for a talk with The President." The second executive said: "No. Fame is being invited to the White House for a talk with The President --and when the Hot Line interrupts the conversation, He doesn’t answer it." The third executive said: "You’re both wrong. Fame is being invited to the White House for a talk with The President and when the Hot Line rings, He does answer it, listens a moment, and then says: "Here it’s for you!"

Here in this humorous story Fame is equated with being called upon to help in a time of crisis. Fame is a by-product of making yourself available to help resolve a problem. The soldier who risk his life to save his comrade hurt in battle or the man who endangers his life while rescuing a baby from a burning house obtain fame. Five years ago a large heavy piece of furniture, violently fell on top of my four-year niece, pinning her to the cement floor. Andrew hearing her screams came running and lifted the cabinet off her pinned body. At that moment Andrew became famous to his four-year old cousin. To this day she still regards Andrew as her hero who saved her from death and torture. Andrew achieved fame that day, to at least one little four year old.

Fame isn’t something that we as Disciples of Jesus strive for but we should strive to answer the crisis’ that constantly arise around our families and community. We need to be heroic in aggressively seeking to be apart of the solution and not the problem. In the eyes of our children, wives, community and world we should seek to find a need and meet it. To be available when the Hot Line of Life rings and involve ourselves in resolving the crisis of our family, community and world. True fame is achieved through being a faithful father, husband and being there when a small or large crisis appears.

There is no doubt that our society has confused who achieves fame. The John Wayne Bobbetts, Amy Fishers, Joey Butafuccos, and Charlie Mansons have also received this title. The infamous have become celebrities for rape, murder and sleeping with minors. Current role models are an expression of the confusion in our society that reveals the crisis for correct role models, and so now more then ever, who better to be role models than Faithful Fathers?

Escaping Exhaustion

Pastors Blake and Andrew Cromwell

Feeling exhausted and overloaded? You’re not the only one. The fact is that most of us feel overloaded and overtired at sometime or another. The problem is that our lives are speeding up not slowing down, and we have less and less space for the times of rejuvenation that our souls so desperately need. In fact, we’re so busy that sometimes we ignore the fact that we’re exhausted and heading for serious overload.

For those of us who haven’t had time to evaluate whether we’re exhausted or not, let me outline a few symptoms of exhaustion taken from the life of Elijah (I Kings 19:1-16). If you find that several of these symptoms are characteristic of your life, then it’s time to take action. Many of us will discover that we’re long past the symptomatic stage and have a full-blown case of overload. If that’s you, then be sure to read on, I’ll discuss the cure for exhaustion at the end of this article.

The Symptoms of Exhaustion

1. Having a negative self-image. Ever noticed that when you’re tired, things always look hopeless? It’s as if we completely loose our perspective. Every bad decision and every negative memory suddenly return to confront us. In a moment we go from being halfway decent people, to utter miscreants. There are two ways we go about rating ourselves in a negative way during these times: through negative comparison and through self-criticism.

Negative comparison is when we choose to compare ourselves to others who are "better" then us. We might compare ourselves to someone who is more successful financially, who is better looking physically, who has better communication skills, or who has a better family life. This exercise is devastating to our personal self-worth.

Self-criticism is when the voice of that inner critic begins to speak up and pick on everything we do or say. This inner critic second-guesses all of our motivations, our emotions, and our decisions. If we allow this voice to run uncontrolled, then we loose our ability to enjoy life and be content with who we are as people.

2. Devaluing our impact. When we’re tired and overwhelmed all of our efforts seem fruitless and futile. Perhaps we can remember back to those days when we felt that our work was worthwhile, or when we felt that the time we spent with our children was actually benefiting them. But today is a different story. Today, it seems that our efforts are useless. There are two ways we devalue ourselves: by trying to control everything and by losing our ability to accept imperfection from ourselves.

When we feel overwhelmed, we also feel out of control. Our natural response is to begin to try to control everything. Of course, this is impossible and the result is only more frustration. But the cycle doesn’t end there. Next we begin to malign ourselves because we think we should be able to handle it all. The final result is not only frustration, but also a loss of self worth because we are no longer able to see the progress we’re making in our particular area. All we can see is that life in general is out of our grasp.

Burnout also leads to an inability to accept our own limitations and imperfections. When we’re tired, we over-react at mistakes that are normal. We suddenly expect that we should perform at one hundred percent capacity and excellence or else we are total failures. This skewed view is self-perpetuating because we can’t help but make more mistakes when we’re exhausted.

3. Amplifying our problems. A tired mind is not able to handle the stresses of everyday life. Little things become big things just because they pop up at the wrong time. The electric bill suddenly looks three times larger then it did last month, the kids are three times more obnoxious, and the neighbor is three times more irritating. Usually, it’s the little things that seem the most overwhelming. We tend to amplify our problems in two ways: by listening to our feelings rather then the facts and by concentrating on the negative.

Listening to our feelings instead of the facts can be detrimental to our state of well-being. The problem with our feelings is that when we’re tired, they’re one of the first things to go. We all have had the experience of staying up just a little bit too late and suddenly feeling highly elated and like we could take on the world. Most of us know that in these moments of high-spirit, as soon as we tackle that project we thought we’d be able to complete in just a few moments, we want to break into tears because it suddenly seems impossible. Feelings are often deceiving.

Concentrating on the negative seems to be the rule of thumb when we’re tired. Everything looks bleak. Any optimism that might have buoyed our spirits at another time, has been lost at the bottom of the sea. The operative word at this stage is "impossible." Everything looks impossible because the only light that shines is a negative one.

4. Losing our vision. When we’re tired we loose our focus, both literally and figuratively. And just as a loss of focus is deadly on the road when we’re driving with tired eyes, loss of focus is also deadly when we’re forging ahead with a tired soul. There are two ways we loose our vision: by embracing despair and by believing it’s not worth it.

To embrace despair is to give up. It is a choice that shuts off all hope for the future. We must be careful to guard ourselves from this level of burnout. Always remember, there is hope, there is a future, and there is promise. God is for you, not against you.

Similarly, when we believe that it’s no longer worth the effort to continue, we choose to turn our backs on hope. This too must never be an option for us.

The Cure for Exhaustion

The cure for exhaustion is a dose of R — E — S — T. Resting your body, Expressing your feelings, Staying in His Presence, and Thinking about your destiny and rewards. These simple principles come from the biblical story of Elijah in 1 Kings chapter 19.

1. Rest Your Body. There are four ways you can do this. First, do something that is joy producing. Get out and get active. Switch up your routine and inject a little joy into it. Second, rearrange your schedule. Make time for activities that are out of the ordinary. Don’t get locked in to work. Third, get more exercise and rest. We all know the importance of treating our body correctly. It makes all the difference in the world when we’re able to get enough sleep. Fourth, delight yourself in food. Hey, enjoy a hot fudge Sunday once in a while, it’ll make you feel a whole lot better. Elijah after an exhausting time of work is encouraged to rest and refuel. He sleeps and eats as God’s angel watches over him.

2. Express Your Feelings. It is so very important to talk about what you are feeling inside. Tell God what you’re feeling. God says, "I’ll listen until you run out of words." God is not afraid of your feelings, He created them in the first place. Talk to Him. Elijah pours out his bitter complaint to God. There is no rebuke from God as Elijah is brutally honest about his confusion.

3. Stay in His Presence. It is so important to stay in God’s presence and to allow Him to heal your weary soul. There are four ways you can do this. First, wait on God. Just ask Him to come. Second, mediate on His Words. Spend some time reading the Scripture. Third, praise Him. Praise is a powerful weapon against the darkness of burnout. Sing a song and feel your heart lift! Fourth, surrender to Him. Remember, He’s in control anyway! Elijah runs away from the pressures of his life and yet he always runs into the arms of a loving God.

4. Think about your destiny and rewards. If the present seems to bleak at the moment, choose to focus on the future and on what God has in store for you. He wants the best for you and He desires to give you good things. Heaven is a very real promise to those who trust in Him. In the story of Elijah, God recharges him by telling him of his future work and rewards.

The next time you feel exhausted and discouraged I would encourage you to read about Elijah and practice these simple principles from his life. Also keep this in mind you are precious to Jesus.

Stop by of the churches in the Kings County this weekend and learn more about God’s truth for daily living.

Encountering and Slaying Giants

Pastors Blake and Andrew Cromwell

Yet in all these things we are conquerors through Him that loved us. —Romans 8:37

Life is more about facing giants then we sometimes realize. This is because the giants in our lives don’t always have rotting, yellow teeth and feet the size of Volkswagens. And while our giants might not have the potential to be the poster child for Jack and the Beanstalk, they generally do threaten to knock us over the head with a pretty large club. It is for this reason that our giants are typically more threatening then anything that might come crashing out of the jungle.

Fear, depression, discouragement, divorce, financial setbacks, protecting our children from moral filth — these are some of the giants that we face everyday. Some of us live our lives in fear of these giants and what they might do to us and to our families. The truth is, though, if we allow ourselves to fall prey to these fears, then we have allowed ourselves to be defeated too easily. The giants we face, and we will face them, are to be confronted and slain. We must see ourselves as Giant-Slayers.

There are four characteristics of successful giant-slayers that we can take from the life of David (remember David and Goliath?). I believe these four principles will help you to overcome the giants in your life.

First, we must know that we are born to slay giants. We are created in the likeness of God. Within every follower of Jesus there is a Divine promise that we can slay the giants that attack us. Too many feel inadequate and suffer negative views of themselves. Facing the giants of marital conflict or raising kids to be safe from negative peer pressure are a few of the challenges for all of us. With God we can be victorious in this life.

David was the youngest in his family and the smallest. He was left out and excluded from family activities. Yet he was not marred by the rejection of others. He found his competence in knowing God. David remained faithful in the small things. He embraced the lowly job of watching the sheep. He brought God into his daily activities and learned of God’s power for daily living. When the sheep were attacked he slew the bear and lion by God’s power. The lessons David learned on the hillside with the sheep were lessons he applied when he faced Goliath, the giant. You and I need to see the place we are in as a training ground for the giants of the future. Single parents, couples in conflict, and college students all have many giants to slay. If they learn like David to engage God into the place where they are now then in the future when greater giants manifest they will be prepared. Someone once told me, “You shouldn’t attack a giant if you have never bagged a rabbit.”

Secondly, we must know that the reward is what keeps us in the battle. We all know the story of David and Goliath, but many of us never heard about the great rewards that David was promised if he defeated the giant. David was promised riches, the king’s daughter, and exemption from taxes for life! Anyone would be motivated by that list, and David was no exception. As he went out to fight the giant he encouraged himself with the thoughts of wealth and a beautiful wife. These were great motivators. Just as David did, we need to focus on the outcome instead of the problem when faced with our giants. If we keep our eyes on the goal, on those things that God has promised to us, then we can encourage ourselves to fight with confidence.

The single parent must focus on the rewards of great children and fight off the giants of loneliness and despair. The middle aged married man must not lose focus on the rewards of a good name when he is tempted by a giant impulse to have his last fling. The recovering addict must focus on the rewards of sobriety and not allow the giant of self-medication to overcome him.

Thirdly, we must know that we will face negative communication from others. Just as David was preparing to go and fight Goliath, he had to face two smaller giants along the way. These two giants came in the form of David’s eldest brother and King Saul. As older brothers will tend to do, this one decided he had to put David in his place. He used his position as a brother to try to manipulate David emotionally to keep him out of the battle. King Saul belittled David’s size and youth and thereby used his position to attempt to hold David down. But David would not allow these giants to defeat him. He refused to listen to the bitter words of his brother and the belittling words of Saul. There is no doubt that we will face similar types of attempts by others to hold us back from the battle. We must choose not to allow others to manipulate and belittle us. If David had allowed these things to convince him, he would never have made it to the real battle.

Finally, we must know that we can overcome the challenges that face us. Giant-slaying is not an easy task. This is especially the case when the giants in our lives begin to become aggressive or when they have a reputation. As soon as David went out to fight Goliath, he began to laugh in the young man’s face. He cursed and threatened. And had David backed down, it would soon have been over. But David had confidence in God and in himself. David knew that while this giant looked undefeatable, God was by his side. He knew this because of his experiences on that hillside where God had shown himself faithful so many times before.

The giants we face also have a reputation just like Goliath did. Addiction, cancer, divorce, financial collapse, mental illness — these giants loom larger then life. Just as no one had ever defeated Goliath, these things also seem impossible to overcome. Yet little David defeated him with only faith in God and a small slingshot. Our giants can be defeated in the same way.

Jesus said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." Luke 18:27

Are you prepared to face your giants? You will be if you keep you passion for God alive, keep your eyes fixed on the rewards ahead, and have confidence in God’s faithfulness.

The pastors of Kings County would love to see you and your family in church this Sunday and help you face your giants.

Contented Living

Pastors Blake and Andrew Cromwell

Ask yourself this question: Am I unsatisfied with my life? If your answer is "yes" the follow up question should be, "Why?" The truth is, we are often so used to being discontent with our lives and surroundings that we generally forget what living a life of contentment would be like. We often focus on the thing we don’t have (but would make life so much better if we did) or the situation we’re in (when I get out of this situation I’ll feel better), and fail to realize that contentment is a decision, not a response to one’s surroundings.

We learn from the Scriptures that when men and women do not know God, they are cursed with the inability to be satisfied with what they have. What a perfect description of how most of us live our lives! Here in the United States we are blessed with so much, and yet we are able to appreciate so little. We have the world’s wealth, but lack the ability to enjoy it because we attempt to fill a God-shaped hole with things made by man.

But how do we go about living contented lives? Well, first we must be clear about what contentment isn’t before we can understand how to go about obtaining true contentment. First, we must recognize that contentment cannot ever result from stuffing one’s feelings. At times there is a tendency to act as though we are content, when the truth is we are just pushing our emotions to the side. This façade usually results in a passive aggressive anger that can turn into deep bitterness. We must recognize that we cannot gain true contentment by ignoring our emotions.

Second, we need to understand that contentment does not mean standing still. In other words, we can never attain happiness by choosing not to set any new goals or cast new visions. Contentment does not equal quitting the race. It does not necessitate complacency with the current state of our lives. This type of false complacency is nothing more then a victimization mentality. True contentment always involves stretching toward higher goals and purposes.

Third, contentment cannot be won by storing up possessions. It is clear things can never make us happy. I have learned an important thing about possessions: the more stuff I own, the more stuff I have to insure, maintain, pay taxes on, and wash and wax. We’ve all heard stories about people who had everything but happiness. In general, people who look for happiness in this way end up working more hours to pay for what they’ve already bought but couldn’t afford in the first place.

As you can see, looking for contentment in all the wrong places can actually be detrimental to our emotions, our goals, and our finances. But if we follow the right steps we can achieve true contentment. True contentment is one that is long lasting and beneficial to your life and the lives of those around you.

Let me outline five steps from the Bible to help you obtain contentment in your life:

1. Know that attitude is everything. Contentment is a learned art developed in the midst of negative feelings and emotions (Phil. 4:11-12). Maintaining a positive attitude necessitates a conscious decision on our part. My wife, Rena, has thoroughly developed this skill. I constantly find her humming happily during her daily activities no matter what has gone on during the day. It is so frustrating to find her humming away happily at the kitchen sink just moments after a disagreement I am still stewing over. Rena has learned that contentment is a choice and that one’s attitude is a result of that choice. She simply chooses to be content, and she is.

2. Know that the circumstances aren’t everything. Very simply stated, one’s contentment is not dependent on one’s circumstances. Victor Frankl, the famous psychologist, discovered this truth early on. As a young man interred in a holocaust camp during World War II, Frankl made a mental decision not to let the filth of the Nazi’s overtake him. He chose to rise above the most terrible of circumstances and demonstrated that one’s internal state does not have to be controlled by what is going on around him. The truth is that we can spend all our lives waiting for our circumstances to make us happy, but without success. Instead of waiting, we must choose contentment no matter what is going on around us.

3. Know that there is gain in pain. Part of choosing contentment no matter what the surroundings, is having the ability to see God’s hand in the midst of our negative circumstances. Too often we forget that God has us in the palm of His hand and our surroundings can be part of His plan for our lives. The all too familiar adage, "No pain, no gain," applies to more then just muscles. Who we are as people, our character and our personality, undergo change when we embrace a painful situation and decide to reap the benefit from it. When we choose to look at our daily lives through "what could be" lenses instead of "what is" lenses, we gain perspective and contentment because we know that God is working in us and making us into better people.

4. Know Christ is the only true contentment (Phil 1:2). Christianity is a relationship religion. It is about relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the source of joy and peace, and He offers these gifts to you and I without hesitation or limitation. True contentment comes into our lives when we accept the free gift of Christ. He infuses us with His peace and joy as we give Him our worries and frustrations. Altogether too often we try to carry the burdens of life alone, Christ offers us His shoulder to not only lean on, but to help carry that which is weighing us down. The relationship that Christ offers is one that revolutionizes our life for it changes everything.

5. Know life is living for others (Phil. 2:3-5). There are two things in our life that we can take to heaven with us: our character and our relationships. The beauty is that the two are so closely intertwined. When we build relationships with others, our character develops and matures. But living for others is not just about having lots of friends, it is much more then that. Living for others is about dying to our self and our wants and desires. When we live for others we have to let go of all those things that make us discontent with our lives. There’s no time to be dissatisfied with the color of my car when I’m busy meeting the needs of others. Things like that simply fall to the wayside. Serving others releases a heartfelt joy in our lives. This is because we were born to serve others. Our goal in life should be to see the needs in others and meet them.

I challenge you to practice these five steps in your life and watch and see what happens. My belief is that you will begin to see a change in your heart. You will become a more satisfied and joyful person. You’ll discover what Christ meant when He said, "I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). The pastors in Kings County look forward to seeing you this weekend. God bless you.

Calm in the Midst of Terror

Pastors Blake and Andrew Cromwell

Calm in the Midst of Terror
by Pastors Blake and Andrew Cromwell

Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; For the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught. — Prov. 3:25-26 NKJV

Terror and tragedy seem to surround us. Since September 11th our nation has been forced to come to grips with a new kind of terror and a new kind of war has been born. And while physical war brews in Afghanistan, there is another war here on our homefront, it is a war for the mind. The battle now rages between fear that immobilizes us and courage that urges us forward. How is it possible to stand strong in the face of such great terror and not be moved by it? The answer lies in our ability to find the calm in the midst of the storm. Like the eye of a hurricane, our life can remain peaceful and undisturbed if we can find our center in Christ.

Terror: The Facts
One of the first things we must understand about terror is that we cannot hope to escape it. It is a part of life. Terror visits us in many ways and in many forms — a plane, a bomb, a car, a letter an accident, a misspoken word, a relationship gone awry. As a community we tell ourselves that we are safe from terrorist activity because we are small and have relatively few high profile targets. In the same way, as individuals we believe that death, divorce, cancer, financial disaster, and a whole host of other “terrorist activities” will not happen to us because we are “good people.” But terror does not play favorites, and we should not expect it to.

In the same way, we need to realize that we cannot predict the appearance of terror and tragedy in our lives. Thousands of people went to work at the World Trade Center on September 11th and expected that day to be no different from any other. But it was. Over 250 people boarded Flight 587 last week and expected to be in the Dominican Republic in just a few hours. They never saw it coming. You may not expect terror to happen in your life today, but it might.

The point is this. Terror will come no matter who we are, where we are, or what we are. It will come quickly and it will come in a way we could never have anticipated. If we know this, then we won’t have to be surprised when it shows up on our doorstep. But knowing this is not a solution, it’s just preparation. We must also have a strategy we can use when terror comes knocking.

Terror: The Response
So what do we do when terror is upon us? There are three practical steps we can take to find God’s help in the midst of darkness. First, we must choose to focus on God’s nearness. God is as close as your shadow whether it’s day or night, but when terror comes into our lives we quickly become distracted. We forget how close God is and we begin to focus on the fear, anxiety, and distress that come in times of attack. The only way to find calm in the storm is to change our focus from the problem to the solution. When we look to God, the terror around us shrinks as we gain a new perspective.

Second, we must fasten to the love of God. God’s love for us is greater then every circumstance and problem. According to the Bible, God loves us with an everlasting love. He desires our success and not our destruction, peace and not terror. This second step reminds us who God is and how much he cares for us. When we begin to understand His nature, we are then able to relinquish our fear and anxiety to Him.

Third, we must fight with God’s powerful weapons. When we truly place ourselves in God’s hands we find that He fights for us. Psalms 91:1-5 can say it better then I,

“Whoever goes to the Lord for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty, can say to him, "You are my defender and protector. You are my God; in you I trust." He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers and from all deadly diseases. He will cover you with his wings; you will be safe in his care; his faithfulness will protect and defend you. You need not fear any dangers at night or sudden attacks during the day.”

The pastors of Kings County would love to see you and your family in church this Sunday and there you can find out more keys to finding Victory over Terror.

Tomorrow Can Be Different

Pastor Blake Cromwell

Recently I was once again struck by the fact that countless people feel stuck — stuck in old habits, stuck in debt, stuck in damaging relationships, stuck in the pain of the past — and they have given up hope for the future. As human beings we have a tendency to become accustomed to whatever situation we find ourselves in and after a while we assume that life will always continue in the same way. Don’t buy it. Tomorrow can be different, and let me tell you how and why.

First, you need to trust God for personal transformation. Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation….” The very first step in finding hope for tomorrow is to find hope in Christ for today. When we trust our lives to Him, He forgives our past and gives us a new life for the future. His promise is one of complete personal transformation. That was great news back when I first accepted Christ as a hippie in the 60s and it’s still great news today as I continue to experience His transformation in my heart and mind.

Second, you need to trust God to give you the ability to overcome daily problems. Problems and difficulties are a fact of life. If you don’t have any problems, check your pulse. The key to overcoming the problems of life is allowing Christ’s power to operate in you. Paul tells us in Romans that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Paul knew the secret of living a victorious life (note, I didn’t say “problem-free life”), he knew how to tap into that same power that enabled Christ to raise from the dead and apply it to the issues of the present. True Christianity is being empowered by the Holy Spirit who enables one to overcome daily problems (“Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” I Jn. 4:4).

Third, you need to trust God to give you the ability to overcome the past. We all have a past and many find themselves crippled by it — past bad decisions and sinful actions, damaged relationships, abuse we have received and given — these are the dregs of a past we so badly want to overcome. The good news is that Christ knows all your past and He came, not to rub it in, but to rub it out. He came to change you and I so that we would no longer need to look at the past and say, “If only.” Christ’s promise is to forgive all of our sins and to make us into new people.

If you find yourself stuck in a life=situation or pattern that you know is damaging, bring God into the equation. Trust that he can give you the ability to change personally, to overcome your daily problems, and to overcome the regret and shame of the past. All you have to do is ask and allow Christ to become your Leader.

The pastors of Kings County would love to see you and your family in church this Sunday and there you can find out once again how your tomorrow can be different.

Surviving Hoof and Mouth Disease

Pastors Blake and Andrew Cromwell

We all make many mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way. — James 3:2 NLT

More often than not, we take for granted the central role the tongue plays in our lives. Did you know the average American has 30 conversations a day? This number doesn’t include the quick greetings we give to people we pass in the hallway in the office. All that conversation ends up taking quite a bit of time. So much so, that at the end of our life we will have spent one fifth of our waking hours in conversation.

It’s not just the sheer number of words that we speak that make our tongues such an important factor in our lives, but the words themselves. Our words have the power to change our life and our destiny. This is the power of the tongue — it directs where we go, what we have, and who we are.

You can tell a lot about a person by what they say. As a matter of fact, you can generally tell how a person’s life is going to end up by the types of words they use. Want to know how someone’s marriage is going to fair? Listen to the words they speak to each other. Are they critical or constructive? Detrimental or developmental? Leveling or loving? The words you use today determine the destiny you’ll live tomorrow. Don’t like the way you’re life is going today? Change the way you talk.

The great paradox of the tongue is that in one instant we can speak words of kindness and in the next, hate. On Sunday morning we go to church and worship God, and on Sunday afternoon we yell at our kids. We can speak both words of life and death out of the same mouth.

The tongue that blesses one moment and curses the next is in desperate need of spiritual medicine. The Bible says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” If we have a problem with our tongue, we have a problem with our heart. The tongue reveals what is in the heart.

If you have difficulty controlling your tongue (and if you don’t you’re a better person than I), there are four important steps to take to receive a heart transplant. First, decide to drop all bitterness and offenses. In order to be able to receive a new heart, you have to understand that holding onto bitterness and anger results in a self-perpetuating curse. Bitterness is a poison you drink hoping the other person will die. Second, develop a sensitivity to God’s Holy Spirit. If you spend time with the Holy Spirit regularly, then He will warn you before you let those damaging words loose from your mouth. Third, you must develop patience and prudence. Prudence is wisdom to deal with a stressful situation. Prudence is the decision not to pick a fight with your spouse until you are well rested. Finally, develop a positive mindset by reading God’s written Voice, the Bible. When you immerse yourself in God’s Words then your heart begins to change. It is more difficult to speak damaging words because God’s Word becomes a part of your heart.

If you find that you don’t have quite as much control over your tongue as you’d like, you need to do these four things. You need to ask God to give you a heart transplant. God can take a filthy mouth and use it, but you have to first allow Him to change you on the inside.

The pastors of Kings County would love to see you and your family in church this Sunday and there you can find out more keys to gaining control over your tongue.

Get a Job

Pastor Blake Cromwell
February '02

I read a cartoon today that spoke to me about how many of us today live without a plan of action. In the cartoon a party is taking place where men and women are sitting around drinking socially. One man said to the other, “My view is this: reality is something that you should always treat with respect, but it should not be allowed to control your life.” In other words when reality demands a wakeup call, I choose to stay asleep.

This reminds me of the vision William Booth received that catapulted him into founding the Salvation Army. In his vision he saw a people relaxing by a large body of water enjoying the day. The people were eating and fellowshipping with each other while at the edge of the water there was a great number of people in need of urgent care. In the water were men, women and children nearly drowned. They were crying for help but their pleading went unnoticed by those on the shoreline.

Booth had seen a picture of humanity without Christ screaming for help while the church of Jesus Christ partied on. The reality is that millions die without Christ and are headed for a fiery Hell. Most of the church of Jesus Christ knows this reality yet sits by and has no plan of action to turn it around.

In the Book of Nehemiah we learn how to embrace harsh reality and change it. For ninety years the Jews living in Jerusalem had learned to accept that the walls of their city were broken down. The reality was that they as a nation were constantly exposed to being robbed and plundered. To have no walls at that time was the same as having no locks on our homes and cars today. Anyone could come in and attack them. That was the ugly reality. For more than ninety years they lived with no plan of action to change the problem.

Many people today are fleeing from their personal reality of brokenness. The marriage has decayed and now it is easier to ignore the problem and act as if all is well. The same could be said of the state of our churches. Many recognize the call and responsibility to build a strong church and yet make no plan of action as to the ways they personally can fulfill this divine mandate.

Jesus told us that the “harvest is ripe but the laborers are few.” We know this reality yet we live as if that reality is not our responsibility. On the Day of Judgment God will not ask about our lawns or hobbies. No, He will ask about our selfless actions towards others.

Today as I left my office for lunch I just happened to run into a High School friend. After we exchanged niceties he opened up to me about his recent supernatural stirrings. He told me that we had driven by each other on the street a week before and he felt a spiritual tug. He boldly declared to me that our chance meetings were more than just living in a small town. His wife had told him a few weeks back, “You should go and see Blake.” Talk about white fields. As we parted he said, “My wife and I will see you this weekend at church.”

One commentator has said, "God is a great believer in putting names down in the Bible."
That is why Nehemiah put down a list of unpronounceable names. It means that God has not forgotten our name. That He has a work for every one of us to do. God loves to record the names of obscure people. He may be writing your name down in some great book right now that others will read in times to come.

We learn from the New Testament that there are two things you can no longer say when you become a Christian. The first is, "You do not need me." Everyone in the body of Christ needs everyone else. The second thing is, "I do not need you." You do need others! It is the awareness of this truth that makes a church a living, warm, vital, loving fellowship. I hope we are finding this out more and more in our congregations.

As our churches grow in Kings County I am sensing an attitude coming from long standing members that says, “The church has professionals, I am not needed.” The truth is that our churches have so many new babes in Christ and so many seekers we don’t have enough laborers. Jesus’ words come back to mind, “The fields are white unto harvest but the laborers are few.”

I would suggest that maybe this attitude is coming from the father of lies since we are entering into a time we have prayed many years for. It is time to embrace the reality that people are seeking help and not all of us are responding.

Koinonia Christian Fellowship has a whole department dedicated to assimilate each member into active ministry. We have forty plus ministries for people to be involved in and yet less than thirty percent of the church participate. I would imagine that all of our churches in the Kings County could use more volunteers.

My question for you to pray about is, “Where are you in chapter three of Nehemiah? What work are you doing? Since you are an essential part of the body of Christ, is His church weakened or strengthened by your involvement or lack thereof?

If every church member committed to do his or her part, it would get very difficult to get to Hell from Hanford. This weekend the Pastors in Kings County would love to hear from you that you are ready to do your part.

Honking for Others

Pastor Blake Cromwell
March '02

I wanted to express my support to my brothers and sisters who are members of the Catholic churches in the Kings County. As a Pastor who has served in this community for 19 years I have observed the devotion of these Priests and have been challenged by their commitment to their flocks.

Over the years I have been a member of the Ministerial Association of Hanford and worked together with all denominations and churches in our city. Currently the President of the Ministerial Association is Father Dan of Saint Bridges Church. He is doing a wonderful job as our current President. I have come to appreciate him for his love for God and people.

On occasions I have shared with Father Dan responsibilities in funerals and community projects. I have found Dan to be a man gifted to serve the church and this community. I know of no other minister in town who is as busy as he is and still he keeps a joyful attitude about his work.

It seems in the last few weeks every time I pick up a paper or turn the news on there is talk of the problems within the Priesthood. No doubt we all are glad that those who have done wrong are removed from places of influence. The Bible says, “Judgment must begin at the house of God.”

My concern is that those who have devoted their lives to God not be judged with those who should be. The simplistic solution given that the problem is a Priest’s vow of celibacy is just foolishness. The fact is those who are sexual predators are more often married than not. The Bible clearly states that an unmarried man can serve the Lord undistracted and that celibacy is a high calling.

I have just read a book on unselfish teamwork that used the example of geese flying in a V formation. These insights can help us stand with others who are going through difficult times.

First, it has been learned that as each goose flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird following. Flying in a “V” formation adds at least 71 percent greater flying distance than if each bird flew on its own.

In other words, people who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another. I appreciate all the churches in Hanford that believe that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. Each church is headed in the same direction and in that we help each other.

Secondly, geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. As for myself and my church we desire to be cheerleaders to the other churches in Hanford. To often Christians become critics instead of encouragers when accusation and gossip is flying.

Thirdly, when a goose gets sick or is wounded and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly again or until he dies. Then they launch out together again. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone were as committed as geese. It is an infamous saying that Christians are the only people who shoot their wounded.

The church is all about bringing people to Christ. Jesus prayed that Christians would be supportive of one another and through that mutual commitment to each other the world would have a witness of who Jesus Christ is.

As for me I am going to keep honking to all those who are humbly serving in churches in the Kings County. Why not give a honk to your local church this weekend and encourage your Pastor?

Dealing with Warts

Pastor Blake Cromwell
March '02

Oliver Cromwell addressed the famous French painter, Peter Lely, declaring: “I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all, but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts and all; otherwise I never will pay a farthing for it.”

Cromwell’s words contrast with the common attitude in all of us to be real but not too real. Too often Biographers (especially biographers of Christians) reveal only the shinning highlights and accomplishments while leaving out the valleys of failure and discouragement that are normal to every life.

In contrast to this, the Bible is the most honest of all books. It reveals the true nature of man, “warts and all.” There is no sugar coating the failures of those who God used to do great things. I have always found it encouraging to read of weak men who became strong through God’s grace and patience.

In the book of Proverbs it says, “A good man will fall seven times and rise up again.” The Bible is very clear that life isn’t always victory to victory rather it is “three steps forward and two back.”

The Bible is realistic and it encourages us to be realistic about others and ourselves. If you beat yourself up emotionally and won’t forgive yourself for failure maybe you have an unrealistic view of man. Maybe you should take another look at God’s Book on humanity. The Bible doesn’t see man as a demon or as a deity. No, man is created in God’s likeness and has great capacity for good or evil. He needs a Savior because he is imperfect and needs saving.

A good Bible search reveals the ups and downs of those who God used. Noah after building an ark and being delivered from the flood fell to the temptation of drunkenness. Moses lost his temper and murdered a man. Adam and Eve took a perfect marriage and turned it into a nightmare. Peter the Apostle revealed his racial hatred and even lied about knowing Jesus Christ.

The question is, “Did God reject any of those who fell?” No, all those who sought God have been forgiven and found grace to be different. All of the men and women of the Bible are examples of God’s forgiving grace.

Of course, there are some who use forgiveness as an excuse to never change. They call themselves Christians but they are not striving to be like Christ. The Bible calls that hypocrisy. God’s forgiveness is not provided as an excuse to sin. His forgiveness is there if we sin as we attempt to be godly.

The great encouragement to all sincere people who are wanting to be Christ-like yet find themselves once again in the pit of failure is that God sees you, “warts and all’ and still loves you. Father God isn’t discouraged with you and you have not shocked Him by your pitfalls. He desires that you would bring yourself to Him, confess your need for Him, and trust Him to transform you into the image of His Son.

Our change will happen but probably not as fast as we and others we would like. Don’t give up because of failure, reach up to His forgiving grace and begin again. This weekend why not take another step forward and attend a church in the Kings County.

Devastated by Divorce

Pastor Blake Cromwell
April '02

As a pastor I have heard many marriage-ending clichés like, "You would be better off without him," or "You'd be better off getting a divorce than subjecting your kids to so much fighting." But the reality is that most serious sociological studies reveal that these clichés are incorrect. There costs of divorce are very high indeed.

Judith Wallerstein did thorough research on the impact of divorce upon men, women and their children. Her research showed that ten years after their divorce, half the women studied were diagnosed as being clinically depressed.

Divorced men also suffer serious negative consequences. It is true that 83 percent of divorced men remarry but 75% of them will divorce again. The harsh reality is that divorce many times leads to more divorce. Both men and women suffer great emotional payments for divorce.

Divorce is also financially destructive for both men and women. The norm for a woman is that her standard of living will go down 70 percent.

Wife number two who has married a divorced man with children must work to help cover the bills for their family plus the child support payments of her husbands’ first family. This extra financial obligation complicates the new marriage and brings enormous financial stress.

Annually, 1.5 million children are subjected to the upheaval of divorce. Shockingly, one third of these precious kids never see one of their parents again after the divorce takes place.

There is so much emotional stress on the parents that many times they are not able to tune into the pain their children are facing. It seems everyone becomes disconnected and is left to fend for themself.

One study revealed that nearly half of the children from divorced families become involved with alcohol and drugs.

In the Bible God declares, “I hate divorce.” Malachi 2:16. This statement doesn’t say God hates divorced people. No, He hates the results of divorce on everyone who pays the high price of low living. God loves all people and seeks to help them.

Churches have a bad reputation of rejecting those who are divorced or who are in the process of a divorce. As a pastor it saddens me that those who are going through such a difficult time often cannot find the support they need. In reality most of the churches in the Kings County are seeking to strengthen marriages and to help all who are going through the negative results of divorce.

At Koinonia Christian Fellowship one concerned couple started a Divorce Care support group for the purpose of helping hurting people find God’s help in the midst of their pain.

Of course, our main goal is to be a pillar of support to all the marriages in the Kings County, but when a divorce has taken place Koinonia Christian Fellowship and other churches in our community want those who are suffering to feel that our arms are open in love and healing.

The Pastors in the Kings County invite all to come in for counseling before you go down the path of divorce. Please, for your sake and the sake of your children, take the extra effort to try again to make it work.

Get into the Huddle

Pastor Blake Cromwell
April '02

Jack Kisling, a Denver Colorado columnist wrote the following;

Two prosperous middle-aged business partners, along with thousands of others like them, attend a big National Sales convention in Chicago.

It’s five hectic days of meetings, reports, seminars and panel discussions and by the end of the second day both of them are dazed, weary and eager for diversion. One suggests they go out on the town, have dinner, a few drinks and a little fun.

“We could catch a show,” he says. “Maybe one of the topless joints.” Then with a wink, he adds: “Maybe hit one of those pickup places you know. Check out the broads.”

His partner looked puzzled, “You’d try to pickup women?”

“Yeah something like that,”

“No thanks. And by the way, I’m starting action tomorrow to dissolve our partnership.”

The other’s jaw drops. “Huh? Are you out of your mind?”

“No” replies his partner, “I’m telling you I don’t want to be in business with you anymore.”

“I don’t get it. What are you talking about? Why?”

“Because it just occurred to me that a man who would cheat on his wife would cheat on his partner.”

There is a mentality that says loyalty to marriage vows and faithfulness to a business partner are not the same. But I think most of us would disagree. Faithfulness, or lack thereof, to one’s spouse reflects a person’s character just as much as faithfulness to one’s business partner. A person’s character effects everything they do and say.

How’s your character? Is it consistent in all areas of your life or do you make exceptions in “special cases”?

In my opinion the church is the best place to build character. It’s a place where we receive encouragement, instruction and help. Church is actually a lot like a football huddle in that sense. In football, the huddle is just one part of the game, but it is an essential part. Games are won and lost in that circle. Many have gone into the huddle tried and ready to throw in the towel. But within that circle words are spoken that inspire weary men to go out again and give it all they’ve got.

After the huddle it’s application time. The huddle just encourages the player to do what they know is right, after that, they’re on their own.

So it is within the huddle of the church. We receive encouragement, instruction and help; then we go back to our family and our jobs and apply what we know is right.

Too many in our community don’t do to well in the areas of honesty, faithfulness and even justice. They loose their values and principles under the pressures of temptation.

What our world needs is a holy huddle. This weekend at one of the churches in the Kings County there are pastors waiting with words of instruction and encouragement especially for you. So get out there and do what’s right!

God's View of You

Everyone is loved and valued by Father God. This is a bold statement when you consider how bad you and I can act at times. Yet, the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.”

There is a word in the Bible that declares God’s love for man. It is the word, “Beloved.” It literally means, “One who is worthy of attention and affection.” It describes the visionary eyes of God that see the potential in every person. He sees what He can make out of the raw material of our lives if we only surrender to His will.

Not too long ago, we were throwing out old office equipment and furniture here at the church. One of the items marked for disposal was an old rickety desk with a formaica top. One of the pastors on staff began to rave about how nice the old desk was, and how it was a rare find. All I saw was an old desk, but he saw something I couldn’t see. He saw potential in what I saw as a problem.

I have to confess that I had a hard time envisioning the desk in any other state then what it was. I don’t do yard sales, go junk shopping, or buy un-restored items. In art classes I tend to stare at the blank sheet of paper and see a blank sheet of paper. In pottery class all I saw was a lump of clay while others saw pieces of art.

One of my favorite stories is about a married couple out one day for a drive. Suddenly, the husband spots a 57 Ford T-Bird sitting behind an old barn. He tracks the owner down and offers a sum of money so large his wife thinks he has lost his mind. What she sees is an old car with peeling paint, no tires, dented doors, no fenders, and broken windows that have allowed rain to ruin the inside of the vehicle. Before she can protest the two men are shaking hands and the deal has been made.

The husband hauls the wrecked and rusted car to the clean garage of their home. His wife is so frustrated, she refuses to visit the garage at all. Meanwhile, he disappears into the garage every evening like clockwork. Finally, he walks in and announces he has finished the car. She tells him, “Good, now I can have my garage back and you can get our money back!” He smiles and invites her to come and see.

As he opens the garage doors and the light shines on the new paint she is speechless at its beauty. He invites her to be the first one to drive it. She sinks down into the refinished bucket seat, places the car in reverse and takes it for a spin. She falls so deeply in love with the classic, her husband seldom gets to drive the car.

What is wonderful about this story is that the husband saw the potential of the car when no one else could. He had visionary eyes that saw beyond the rusted hulk of metal.

Many times I have felt like an old car that has been wrecked and had turned down the wrong streets. My failures threaten to paralyze me until I remember that God loves me and looks at me with visionary eyes. He calls me “beloved” and finds me worthy of attention and affection.

Last week I saw that old desk that had been rescued from a trip to the dump and barely recognized it. It had been so transformed into a thing of beauty that I offered to buy it back. The pastor wouldn’t hear of it, he loves the desk too much to let it go. He is one of those rare individuals who sees with visionary eyes.

This week in the churches in the Kings County there are Pastors who long to tell you how Beloved you are to God and how He can take your life and transform it into His masterpiece.

Keeping What's Yours

Pastor Blake Cromwell
June '02

It is distressing to constantly hear that we are still losing the war against drugs, especially among our children. Reports indicate that, as a nation, we have suffered a severe setback in recent years. What progress we made in the 90s now seems to be lost.

It seems the moral landslide is all around us — higher divorce, children being abused, gambling addictions, teen suicide, are only a few of the signs of decay. In the 50s the main reasons high school students reported to the principal’s office were for talking back to the teacher or not throwing trash in the waste basket.

We have much ground to recover, and losing ground once in our possession is always discouraging. But it is far from unusual.

The Old Testament recounts an occasion when David and his warriors returned from battle to find that while they were away, another enemy had invaded their unguarded camp and made off with everything —wives, children, and livestock.

Understandably distraught over their great loss, David prayed and God said He would help. But David and his men would be required to fight for the return of their loved ones. Ultimately, the enemy, and all of David’s possessions were located. A battle ensued that lasted all day and all night. When it was over, the people of God were completely victorious.

I like that story. Satan has come to rob, kill and destroy, but it is always encouraging to see how God comes to the rescue for His people.

But there is also a certain sadness to the story. After all, did David really gain anything? In real terms, we would have to say “no.” Yes, he and his men got their wives, children and possessions back. But think of all the energy expended to simply get back what was already theirs. All because they failed to protect that which was already theirs while they focused on other conquests.

We now face the same dilemma with the war on drugs. Having made progress, suddenly we have lost ground, and will now as a country presume to spend substantial energy and money to recover our recent losses.

In all of this, though, there is a good life lesson.

Think of someone you know (it may be yourself) who lost his or her health because they wouldn’t pay attention to good nutrition or who smoked or damaged themselves with alcohol or drugs. Now they must endure pain and costly medical payments while attempting to recover the good health they once had.

Or think of the good child that goes bad because of neglect. Certainly he can make a turn around, but it usually takes a lot of tears and major sacrifices to return him to the place he once was.

You may recall an old FRAM Filter commercial that demonstrated the costly affects of an abused engine. The spokesperson reminded us, “You can pay a little now, or a lot later.”

This is that way it is with the spiritual training of our children. Isn’t it easier to take them to Sunday school now, than visit them in jail later? Isn’t it easier to read the Bible with your children now, than reading the 12 Steps to alcohol and drug recovery with them later? Isn’t it easier to pray with them now, than to have to pray for their return after they’ve run away?

Think about it. Regaining lost ground takes more energy and work then a little preventative maintenance. The Pastors in the Kings County would love to see you in church this weekend and help you to hold onto what you already have.