Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sometimes a Little Change Makes a Big Difference

by Andrew Cromwell

Our lives are steered like sailing ships headed across a vast ocean. The destination is far ahead and it will take many weeks, if not months, to arrive. At the beginning, it is important simply to get headed in the right direction—there is plenty of time to make adjustments since the destination is so far off—but as time passes it is increasingly important to make small corrections to our course. The longer we wait to adjust, the more miles we traverse and the father off course we steer. If we wait too long, we find that we may have to go backwards if we want to end up where we were headed.

Charting the course of our lives is very similar. We know we want to get from point "A" to point "B" but they are far apart. We want to get an education so we enroll at a local college, but the destination—the diploma—is years (and many classes and term papers) ahead of us. We want to raise a healthy and whole family, but the destination—the kids leaving the nest as well-adjusted individuals ready to take on the world—is two decades into the future. We want to lose 30 pounds, but the destination—that favorite pair of jeans that we can no longer wear—just seems beyond our reach.

We all know that if nothing changes, nothing will change. We all know that we have to get started if we are ever going to get to where we want to go. But something about the size of the task ahead freezes us in our tracks. Sometimes it is because we have tried and failed before. Sometimes it is because we just can't believe that our destination is even possible for us to reach. Whatever the reason, we delay. We talk ourselves out of the changes necessary to accomplish our goals. So instead of making a course correction, we continue to sail. And the longer we wait, the harder it is to make the change.

Let me encourage you, there is still time. But also let me urge you, there will not always be time. While the destination is often many months or years ahead of us, if we do not make the small course adjustments today, we will delay and may even miss our goal.

The great news is, often a small correction is all that is needed today. A little change makes a big difference when you have a long way to go. And once you have made one change, the next one gets a little easier. Before you know it, you are well on your way.

So maybe, for this week, you don't eat that extra portion at meal time. Don't starve yourself, don't go on some crazy diet. Just do something measured and attainable. Maybe, if you haven't been to school in 10 years but you know you want to complete your degree, just enroll in one or two classes (not five)! You get the idea.

What change are you going to make today? Don't talk yourself out of it, don't delay any longer, don't be overwhelmed by the size of the goal. Remember what Psalms 119:1 says, "You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God."

The pastors in Kings County would love to help you make the changes needed in your life. Why don't you make a small change and get your family in church this weekend?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spiritual Alignment

Pastor Tim Howard
December 26, 2009

If you have ever suffered from back problems you surely know what it means to be ‘bent out of shape.’ When this happens to a person, their walk is altered and the way they stand is more crooked than a lifetime criminal. People who’ve experienced what I’m describing are very thankful they know a good Chiropractor. A visit to his / her office may be a bit painful and you may hear a few cracks in your skeletal system during the visit but more often than not you leave feeling better. Why did you need to visit the Doctor? Most of the time it’s because you were out of Alignment.

Chiropractors are not the only ones who realize the importance of maintaining proper alignment if we are to experience a joy filled existence. Mechanics will tell you that tires need to be aligned and if you ever try to open a safe that uses a combination lock, you’ll discover you need the right numbers to be in the right order. If they aren’t aligned it will not open. Alignment means to put things into correct or appropriate order so they can function at their maximum potential. Every once in a while we all need to check our alignment. By doing so we insure we will reach our God designed goals.

The Bible says God has a goal for each and every one of us, each and every day of each and every year. He has created us for good reasons and for a wonderful purpose. We are also told in the Word of God that this goal will only be reached if we order our priorities around His vast knowledge, character and understanding. If we align ourselves with Him by putting Him first in all things, life can function at the maximum.

It may help if I share five signs, which indicate you are in proper alignment with God by using the acrostic F.I.R.S.T.

F. Your FINANCIAL decisions will include a willingness to contribute to some charity work so peace and goodwill can reach out to mankind. You will not spend all you earn on today but invest in people for a bright tomorrow.

I. Your INTEREST will begin to change. When you spend time with the Lord, He gives your heart new desires. You’ll acquire a taste for the things of God and what’s important to Him.

R. Your RELATIONSHIPS with others will be strengthened and restored if broken. You may have to leave some relationships behind but are willing to do so in order to pursue healthy ones.

S. Your SCHEDULE will make time for Jesus. You will invest time in studying God’s Word, visiting with other Christians and helping those in need.

T. Your THOUGHT and TALK will be changing. People will notice you have a new way of thinking because they see you have a new way of acting. You will start talking about the positive stuff rather than the negative stuff.

As 2009 comes to a close it would be wise for all of us to stop, reflect, inspect our lives and see if we are aligned properly. There are some great things ahead in 2010 and God doesn’t want you to miss out on anything. I encourage you to visit one of the many Church families in Kings County this weekend. They would love to see you and will help you get an alignment if needed. Happy New Year!

The Power of a Promise

Pastor Tim Howard
June 5, 2009

Several weeks ago my 3½ year-old grandson (Drew) awakened in the middle of the night and began to scream. Not knowing what had happened, I quickly made my way to his room and did what any concerned parent or grandparent would do. I picked him up, held him tightly, caressed his head and began to rock him. As we connected, I began to speak words of comfort.

What did I say? Well, I can tell you I didn’t lecture him about sleeping through the night nor did I tell him how insensitive he was for waking me up in the early morning hours. (Even though that crossed my mind!) I simply began to softly speak various promises into his ear. I said things like this: It’s going to be o.k. Drew because Poppy is here. I’m not going anywhere, I will protect you. You can go back to sleep because I will take care of things. I love you and I’m here to help you. As these promises were pronounced in his hearing, an amazing thing happened. Not instantly but very quickly his trust in the promises brought calmness to his mind and renewed sleep to his body.

When you read the Bible, you realize that God has made many promises to you and me. We are told that these promises are very precious and very powerful to anyone who trusts in Him. They can actually help a person rediscover hope in the midst of darkness and restore joy in the midst of difficulties. Just like my promises brought calmness to my grandson, God’s promises can bring light and life to you.

One of the greatest promises I have personally discovered in the Bible is found in 1 John 1:9. It says: “If we admit our sins—make a clean break of them—Jesus won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.” Let’s face it, we all blow it! We all need forgiveness!

While singing at a service some time ago, my wife began to sing a song but quickly discovered that the accompaniment track was the wrong one. She stopped the song, looked up at the control booth, and said, “Guys, let’s start over again.” That’s what forgiveness does. It gives a new start. Life isn’t like a television program where they tape it in advance. We’re all doing a live performance. If you blow it, you blow it. You can’t take those words back, no matter how much they hurt someone you love. You can’t undo what you did in anger. You can’t take back the lies you told, you can’t undo the wounds you’ve left, the people you’ve hurt. You said it; you did it, and there’s no rewinding the tape to do it over. The only solution is forgiveness.

It is forgiveness that releases you from the past and allows you to enjoy the present. Many people are experiencing a miserable existence today simply because they are chained to the past by un-forgiveness. You don’t have to be one of them. You can put your trust in God’s promises. You can admit your sin and decide to make a clean break from it. You can forgive others. When you do, God will be faithful to forgive you. I’m glad God included forgiveness in His many promises to us.

Living Happily Ever After?

Pastor Tim Howard
May 16, 2009

I can’t remember the first movie I ever saw, but I do remember the kind of movie I liked to watch as a kid. There had to be a lot of action, a lot of suspense and a superhero was indispensable. You know the kind I mean! Everything looks hopeless, evil is winning, darkness is setting in and the end is sure to bring disaster, when out of the blue, a superhero appears! Maybe it’s Mighty Mouse who shows up to save the day or Superman who comes just in the nick of time to defeat the opposing forces and free the people. I loved that kind of movie because they always ended on a positive note. Do you remember that familiar phrase: “They lived happily ever after?”

Recently I have experienced some dark moments and today I read a verse from the book of Isaiah found in the Bible. It cleared the air and brightened my outlook. Here’s what Isaiah 3:10 says: “Tell those who seek God that it will go well with them and they will receive a reward.” This verse expresses the Christian equivalent of “they lived happily ever after”… it shall go well with them! In the original Hebrew, the word well can be translated by many other English words. It means that which is “good, gracious, prosperous, pleasant and precious”. It’s actually speaking about a state of wellbeing or happiness. It can also be used to speak of the state of an individual who has suffered financial reversal, but whose fortune has now been fully restored. Isaiah, the old prophet of God paints a picture of a bright future for all those who put their trust in God. He assures believers that they may be knocked down but they will not be knocked out. They may be persecuted but they will not be forsaken. They will surmount the obstacles in their paths, overcome current difficulties and ride out the storms of life. Even though they go through the valley and shadow of death they need not fear evil because there will be a happy ending.

Even though superheroes and Santa Claus don’t really exist, there is a Savior who is willing and able to turn your life around. Jesus is more than a superhero. He is supernatural and when He comes upon the wreckage of our lives, in the natural realm, things are altered. It doesn’t matter how broken, bruised or devastated we are. Things may be bleak and dark but Jesus can save the day. Your future doesn’t need to be bleak. You don’t have to expect the worst. You can expect the best! In difficult times, remember this promise: “Tell those who seek God that it will go well with them…” The Bible even tells us there is life after death. If you put your trust in Him, you really do live happily ever after.

The End

Pastor Tim Howard
May 30, 2009

I was seventeen years old and a senior in High School when my mother became ill. That was a difficult season for the whole family and especially hard for a teenager like myself. Even though the doctors did everything within their power, they confronted a battle that they would eventually lose in the physical realm. She died in 1969 at the age of 51 years.

If you have ever had a close friend or family member ‘pass on’ then you know the myriad of emotions that make you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster. At times you may experience deep pain because of the loss and shed many tears. A feeling of disbelief and denial may overcome you because it seems so surreal. Then out of nowhere, a sense of great joy may arise because you realize how special that person has been to you personally. Emotions are powerful and very real. When Jesus went to the graveside of Lazarus, a dear friend of his, we are told “He Wept.” Something emotionally stirred within him that revealed how much he loved this man.

When death happens, one of the emotions that often visits people is fear. It comes in all different shapes and sizes but frequently it is a fear of the unknown. It doesn’t only visit when a person faces the possibility of physical death because the life and death cycle go far beyond the physical demise. Death signifies THE END of something. It happens whenever something comes to a conclusion. When your marriage ends in divorce, when your job comes to an end, when a child leaves home at the age of 21 to begin a new season apart from the parents. Experiences like this, suggest that an ending of something is at hand and fear of the unknown will often try to take root. When allowed to grow unchecked, life becomes a struggle; ‘letting go’ becomes very difficult and trouble begins to set in.

Maybe that’s why Jesus said in John 14:1-3, “Don’t be troubled (afraid). You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

Simply stated, you don’t need to be troubled or ruled by fear when everything around you screams it’s ‘The End.’ Why? Jesus has prepared a future for you. The future is not unknown. God has a plan for you and it is a good plan. From God’s perspective, the end is really an opportunity for a new beginning.

If you have reached the end of your rope in a relationship or possibly you’re involved in a dead-end career. Maybe voices keep telling you it’s over. Please hear the words of our creator. This isn’t the end it’s only a new beginning. The best is yet to come! These words are spoken in loving memory of Dee Felleke, a woman of faith who is beginning a new season in the presence of Jesus Christ. She went to be with her Lord and Savior on Wednesday, May 20, 2009. She wants you to know the best is yet to come.

You've Got To Believe

Pastor Tim Howard
January 23, 2010

I like to watch the Arizona Cardinals play football. Kurt Warner is a quality quarterback who provides a great example for people to follow and he knows how to win in the playoffs. I believe in that team! When they defeated the Green Bay Packers a couple of weeks ago, however, I had my doubts. The score was tied at 45 to 45 when regulation time ran out. Both teams had shown tremendous resilience and both offensive units were able to score at will. The referee flipped the coin when overtime was about to begin and Green Bay won the toss. My heart sank and my mind quickly succumbed to doubt. Then, in the stands I saw a sign held up by a Cardinals fan that said: “YOU’VE GOT TO BELIEVE”.

In the game of football, our beliefs are rather harmless but in the weightier matters of life, what you believe will deeply affect you and others. A person makes decisions on the basis of their belief system. What you believe will direct your steps and determine your future reality. If you believe the truth and act upon it, the Bible tells you that you will experience freedom, life and fruitfulness. If you believe a lie and act upon it, you will reap other consequences that can lead to devastation.

Adam and Eve believed a lie. Read Genesis chapter three and you will discover that their decision to disobey God’s commandment was rooted in their failure to believe His words. God had created a garden for them to live in and enjoy forever. They were allowed access to every part of this wonderful creation with the exception of one small area. If this directive wasn’t followed, they were told to expect serious consequences, which included death. It would seem to be more than gracious and loving but even though they heard His instructions Eve was the first to disobey and Adam followed. Both yielded to the voice of temptation.

Have you ever heard the voice of temptation? It always conveys a lie and leads you to believe in something that will hinder your progress and derail your life. It always promises more than it delivers and causes more problems than solutions. Lies come in various forms but the voice of temptation will say and sound something like this: “Go ahead, no one will ever find out! It’s a good thing, everybody is doing it! What two consenting adults do is nobody’s business and it won’t hurt anyone! The goal justifies the means! If it feels good, it must be right!” This voice is being heard every day.

Some people insist on believing what they want to believe regardless of the truth. In the comic strip called Born Loser I laughed when one man was speaking to another man and said: “I’ll say this for you, my boy, you are a man of conviction, even when you are absolutely positively flat out wrong, you refuse to recognize it!”

YOU’VE GOT TO BELIEVE but make sure your beliefs are rooted in truth since your actions follow the path of your beliefs. There was a television game show years ago called Truth or Consequences, which was enjoyable, but life isn’t a game and there are consequences when you don’t embrace truth. When you base your decisions on God’s directives, however, you will build a bright future.

Pay Up Already!

by Andrew Cromwell

Romans 13:8 gives us some incredibly practical advice when it says, "Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law."

The first thing we see in this verse is that we are to owe nothing to anyone. This simply means we need to pay our debts. As Americans, we have a terrible habit of getting ourselves into financial debt. The Scriptures say that the debtor is the slave to the lender. How well most of us know that feeling! Every day as we head off to work, we are spurred on by the pressing realization that, if we don't, our creditors—our credit card company, our mortgage company, our furniture store, our home improvement store, our car loan—will hound and harass us until we pay up. We have handed our freedom over because of our inability to say "no" to our list of wants.

But it is not only money that we owe. We have made promises and commitments. We have given our word. We have said things and our utterances have become promissory notes that remain outstanding and require payment. Too often we let things slide off our tongue without realizing that we are actually creating emotional and relational debt. If we do not "pay up" then we leave a wreckage of relationships scattered in our wake.

The second thing we see is there is a debt we can never hope to repay in its entirety. It is a debt we will pay on for the rest of our life. This debt is our call to love others. We owe it because of Jesus Christ's love for us. His love makes it possible for us to once again have a relationship with Father God. He gave His life that we might have life, both in the here and now and also forever into eternity.

Paying off our financial debts is a piece of cake compared to this debt. To love others requires us to put others first. It requires us to set aside our personal wishes and put the wishes of another in their place. It requires us to die to our selfish desires and motives.

Choosing to really love other people is the hardest thing you will ever do.

Love requires us to forgive again and again.
Love demands that we see others with God's eyes.
Love screams self-sacrifice.
Love is tough.

You and I are not here on this planet just for ourselves. If we spend our lives seeking our personal goals and fulfilling all of our desires, then we will come to the end of our lives empty and we will walk into the next world sorely lacking. Real happiness can only be obtained if our goal is not happiness in itself. Don't seek happiness, seek service and you will find happiness on the way.

It's time for all of us to pay up. As we do, we will suddenly find that we have "fulfill[ed] the requirements of God's law".

The pastors of Kings County would love to help you get your accounts in order. Why don't you pay one of them a visit this weekend? You might just discover that true joy meets you on the way.

God's Dream for Your Marriage

by Andrew Cromwell

We all know the statistics about marriage. They say that half of all marriages end in divorce. For those that remarry, the percentage that divorce are even higher. Recent studies show that you actually increase your chances of divorce if you live together before saying "I do."

It seems that everything in our world conspires against strong marriages. We are no longer surprised when the marriages of the rich and famous blow up. Marriages that go for the long haul in Hollywood are few and far between, and it's not much better for us regular folk.

Marriage is not an easy thing, but deep down inside we all know that it is an incredibly important thing. In the Creation account in Genesis, God looks down at Adam and says, "It is not good for man to be alone." In the midst of all the wonder of creation Adam still had a vacuum in his life. God saw that emptiness and created Eve to satisfy it.

Husbands and wives need each other. There is a strength that comes from the unity of marriage. There is a satisfaction that comes from having a partner in life. And there is nothing quite like the joy that is present when the two are united and one in mind and purpose.

God is the one that thought marriage up! He did so because He knew what was best for us. Your spouse is part of the expression of God's love toward you. This also means that God is for your marriage. He wants to see you and your spouse flourish and become the people that He created you to be.

But many of us have lost hope for our marriage. We have forgotten that God is committed to us and never loses hope, even if we do. We have been hurt and we have built up walls between us and our spouse. We have said things and done things that have deeply hurt our partner. We have created messes that seem impossible to fix.

Let me encourage you, don't lose hope. Don't settle for less than what God wants to see in your marriage. Don't just "get by". God can take even the worst, most impossible situation and make it into a thing of wonder. He not only can, but He loves to! The moments when God shines through the brightest are when we have reached the end of our rope and don't know where else to turn.

He can revitalize a broken marriage. He can breathe love back into a cold heart. He can help you learn how to love and forgive. He can break strongholds of bitterness and open channels of communication.

God is committed to your marriage, are you? Will you believe that He can help you? Will you dare to hope once again? The road might be long and the path difficult, but He is willing to be there every step of the way.

The pastors in Kings County would love to help you see God's dream for your marriage. In their toolboxes, they have counseling resources, classes, and so much more. You've tried other things, why don't you give God a chance?

In Parenting Perspective is Key

by Andrew Cromwell

Not too long ago one of our boys took the opportunity to relieve himself in the grass in front of the church after service one Sunday morning. Fortunately he was no older then three. Unfortunately it was his mom that was with him and not his yours truly. Dads understand such things. It is even possible that this particular dad would have congratulated him at exhibiting great wisdom at choosing the grass over the concrete. Come to think of it, maybe it was better he was with his mom and not me, it seems he actually learns something useful when he is with her.

As parents, we are faced with dozens of such issues every day—things our kids do that they shouldn't, things our kids don't do that they should, and everything in between. It is overwhelming. We are tasked with what often seems impossible. We are called to navigate the difficult waters of daily life while at the same time training these little terrorists that have taken our lives hostage into whole, healthy and vital adults.

If we are not careful we can easily loose perspective. I know I do. I am so focused on my kids—what they are doing and what they aren't—that I loose my ability to differentiate between the big stuff and the little stuff. I know what they say, "don't sweat the small stuff." But I find myself reacting to everything that my kids do as if it were all "big stuff".

We have to remind ourselves that parenting is a long process. Raising a child takes years and today's battle is only one of many in the long campaign we are waging to see our kids be victorious as fully functioning adults. It is not that today's issues are unimportant—because more than likely they are—but we must remember that some things are more important than others.

In our house, we are trying to remember that the way that we treat other people is on the "things of major importance" list. It is crucial for our kids to learn how to relate to other people and to treat them with respect. How we talk to others—our parents, our siblings, other adults and other kids—is key. Too many people walk around thinking the world revolves around them because their parents were not able to instill this principle into them.

But relieving oneself on the front lawn....we'll that's just funny.

The pastors in Kings County would love to encourage and support you as parents. It is so wonderful to have a community of people who are also seeking to raise families that love God and love others. Don't go through life thinking you're alone!

In Marriage, Communication is Key

by Andrew Cromwell

As a pastor, I do my fair share of counseling, both with couples that are preparing to get married and with those who have already crossed that golden threshold into nuptial bliss. Without fail, every couple I meet with says they need to improve their communication skills. To you, dear reader, I have no doubt this is not a novel piece of information. For all of us, when it comes to those we spend the most time with, those we have committed our lives and hearts to, these are the ones with whom we often are the most challenged in the area of our communication.

The sad thing is that instead of getting better at communicating over the years of marriage, what we often do is simply reinforce our bad communication habits. We fight about the same old things in the same old unsuccessful ways. Our positions become so entrenched and so immovable that we no longer fight about the issue. Instead, whenever we begin to get close to the landmine that is the issue, we are distracted by all the barbed wire, camouflage netting and machine guns that are our past arguments, bitterness and judgments.

We've all seen the couples on Oprah or Dr. Phil who are asked to practice assertive communication and active listening. The memorable ones go horribly wrong. The wife says, "When you don't come home from work until after 9pm every night, I feel like you don't love me." The husband replies, "I heard you say that you hate my work and you think I don't love you." We all cringe slightly because we know that is not what the wife said, but at the same time we all wonder how much our own arguments are just the same.

Building new communication skills and breaking through old communication patterns is not easy, but then again nothing worth anything in life is easy. You and your spouse may have come to a place where you have forged an uneasy peace and in order to move forward in your relationship, things are actually going to have to get uglier before they get better. You are going to have to face issues that are uncomfortable and even explosive, but if you are committed to walk through it together then you can come out on the other side with greater intimacy and a stronger relationship.

If you want to see your relationship grow, I would suggest you do the following: First, talk with your spouse and agree together that you are not going to seek a stronger, deeper relationship. Second, get some help! Take a marriage class, go to a marriage retreat or seek some counseling. At Koinonia, we have a marriage class called Building a Successful Marriage starting There are so many good resources available, but we often starve our relationship while surrounded by a wealth of resources. Third, work, work, work! Your marriage is worth it!

The pastors of Kings County would love to help you grow in your relationship with your spouse. Many of us offer marriage counseling services and hold marriage classes at our churches. Why don't you make a decision that you are not going to settle for the same old, same old?