Saturday, October 30, 2010

God Gives You Space

by Andrew Cromwell

One of the arguments that I hear frequently against God’s existence sounds something like this: If God exists and He wants to have a relationship with us, then why doesn’t He simply show Himself? There are a whole bunch of things wrong about this argument, but my guess is that you have heard some version of it many times. Sometimes it is used when people are angry because they feel that their life has somehow been unfair and “if God were real, why would He let this happen?” Other times, people use it as a way to supposedly prove that God isn’t out there.

And while this argument is very common, it is just not a very good one. The reason God doesn’t frequently appear in visible form just to prove His existence is because, God gives you space.

Here’s the deal. If God wants to have a relationship with us, an authentic, real, two-way relationship, He has to give us the ability to say “no.” For us to be able to say “no” to an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving Being is pretty difficult if He is standing right in front of us. Frankly, that would be nearly impossible. Even if we wanted to say “no”, we would find it extremely difficult.

You can see the way this works in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Before they ate of the forbidden fruit and sin entered into the world, the Scriptures tell us that they walked with God and that they were “naked and unashamed.”

But when they sinned and ate of the fruit, an interesting thing happened. Adam and Eve hid from God. It’s a little comical because, after all, how do you hide from God? You can’t! That is, unless God allows you to. And that is exactly what we see happen. God called out to Adam and said, “Adam where are you?”

You see, God was giving Adam space. He was allowing Adam to hide because something had entered into their relationship that separated them. No longer was there free and open communication without any shame. Adam’s relationship with God had been changed by his sin.

And so in our world today, it is the same way. God calls out to us and asks, “Where are you?” It is up to us whether we answer Him or not. He wants to have a relationship with us, but He has decided to not force Himself upon us.

The question we all have to answer is not “where is God” but “where are you?”

This weekend the pastors in Kings County would love to help you reconnect with the Father who calls out to us. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating how much difference a real relationship with Father God will make in your life.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

One Another

by Tim Howard

In the Bible, the New Testament records 50+ scriptures that include the phrase “One Another!” Here’s a sampling: People are told to “Be devoted to one another”, ”Honor one another above yourselves”, “Accept one another”, “Care for each other”, “Serve one another”, “Don’t judge one another”, “Be patient with one another”, “Forgive each other”, “Encourage one another”, “Confess your sins to one another”, “Pray for one another”, and the list goes on…

One of the verses found in John 13:34 is the overarching statement that Jesus gives to his disciples and could be used as a summary for all the other teachings. It says: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you…”

This statement wasn’t new in the sense that it had never been spoken before but it was new because it was founded upon and motivated by something totally different. In the Old Testament this commandment was based upon the Law. It was something required and mandated. Something you had to do, ought to do and should do. As good as that may be, the new commandment Jesus gave was based upon gratitude and not duty. People were encouraged to love each other because Jesus had loved them. They could extend mercy, grace and kindness not because it was mandated but because they were recipients of God’s mercy, grace and kindness. They freely received so they could freely and gratefully give.

A Biblical Commandment is like a road map. It provides information that will lead you to God’s provision and protection when you follow it. For you and I to experience a full flow of God’s life, we can’t divorce ourselves from this commandment, which involves loving people. If you say you love God and yet treat people like dirt, you deceive yourself. In actuality, your spiritual progress will be revealed in the way you relate to others. Not just your immediate family but also those you encounter on your daily journey.

Loving people our way may be attractive but loving people God’s way will always be more challenging. Jesus said it’s easy to love people who are lovable. Anyone can do that! But what about the people, who complain, criticize, whine, talk too much and don’t listen? What about the sarcastic, cynical, crude and intolerant? Here’s where you need an extra dose of grace. It’s not as easy as you may think!

Everyone has his or her own idiosyncrasies, quirks and odd nuances. John Ortberg in his recently published book says: “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them.” In other words, we are all difficult to love at times yet we all need to be loved by someone.

To love people the way Jesus loves each of us means we will have to sacrifice something. You may have to sacrifice some of your time to serve others. It may cost you something in a monetary way to help one another like it cost the Good Samaritan. You may be required to sacrifice your opinion or sacrifice some sleep in order to help others but what is that when compared to the sacrifice Jesus made for you on the cross.

What might happen if we all take this commandment to heart? What if our love becomes more than a feeling that is rooted in the emotions? What will happen if we really accept one another - serve one another - stop judging one another and forgive each other? What if Jesus becomes our prime example and we emulated Him on a consistent basis? Why don’t we try it and find out?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Leader Inside

by Andrew Cromwell

I believe that everyone has a leader inside them. I don’t mean that everyone is destined to lead thousands, but rather that all of us have within the capacity to lead ourselves and influence others. John Maxwell says that leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less. He identifies leadership with influence because everyone has the potential to influence those around us.

The most powerful leaders are able to challenge people to stretch and grow not because they have the authority to hire and fire, but because they have earned people’s trust and have painted a picture of possibility. Think about it, some of the greatest leaders of the last century didn’t hold formalized positions of authority. Martin Luther King Jr., wasn’t an elected official and he didn’t lead a large business organization. Mother Teresa didn’t sign anybody’s paycheck. And Gandhi didn’t carry the keys to any boardroom (I’m not sure he had any pockets in that robe anyway).

Successful leaders first lead themselves and then invite other people to be and do something better too. It doesn’t matter if you have a formalized position of authority or not. All of us live in relationship with others and every encounter that we have with another person is an opportunity to influence their thoughts and feelings.

If you don’t think I’m right about this, take a moment to consider a person you know. I’m talking about that one person who, wherever they go, they just suck the air out of the room. Whenever you talk to them, you find that you are depressed and bitter. When you walk into a room, you know they have been there because everyone in the room is about to go jump of the nearest bridge.

We all know people like this, they are leaders in the area of negativity. They always have the perfect comeback phrase that brings rain clouds to any celebration. They influence people all around them and everywhere they go. But their influence points people in the wrong direction.

But it is a lot easier to be a downer then it is to be an encourager. It takes very little energy and effort to criticize a creative idea. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to calculate how you can destroy another person’s dream.

Encouraging people, on the other hand, takes energy and effort. It is hard work to get someone to see potential in themselves and inspire them to take positive steps. But each one of us can do it.

You see, in any given room the leader is not necessarily the smartest or the brightest. Often, they are not the most naturally gifted. But a leader has a burning desire to see people’s lives improved.

So whether or not you have the title “leader”, you can be a leader. Simply seek to add value to other people. Speak possibility into lives. Don’t raise a complaint, raise the standard. Carry joy around with you and sprinkle it on everyone you meet. Lead yourself first and others will follow.

The pastors in Kings County would love to add value to your life this weekend! Getting yourself and your family in church is a great way to either start or continue your leadership journey.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stop Putting It Off

by Andrew Cromwell

There are always things in our life that we do not want to do, so we put them off. We tell ourselves that we will do it tomorrow. We think about how the thing is going to take a long time or be painful to do. And in this way another day passes, another week, another month, and another year. And still the thing is not done.

We all have things we put off until a later date. Sometimes these things really are large tasks — getting back in school to finish a degree, painting the house, or tackling that big project at work. Other times, the tasks are actually small, but they feel large to us because they involve emotional investment or the potential for conflict — having that difficult conversation, visiting relatives, or balancing the checkbook.

Whether big or small, rational or irrational, we delay doing these things, and we usually do so to our own detriment. More often than not, the things that we put off are actually important. But instead of focusing on the value of getting these things done and on the (generally) wonderful results which would flow from doing them, we instead fill our time with doing other less important things.

We have all had the experience of finally doing the thing we were dreading for so long. When we do it, we generally discover it wasn’t as difficult as we had imagined. We also usually end up asking ourselves, “Why didn’t I just get this done sooner?” We wasted so much time worrying, delaying and talking ourselves out of it, when we could have just done it.

I remind my kids the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. We would all do well to remember that little adage. Start focusing on what needs to be done and do it. If the task is overwhelming, focus on the first piece. To finish your college degree, you must first sign up for one class. To fix your marriage, you must first write your spouse a note (or take them out on a date). To become the Karate Kid, you must first paint the fence.

We often miss the best things in life because we waste our time worrying about how difficult they are going to be. Instead, let’s focus on doing the things that are going to make a difference in our life.

So what are you putting off? Don’t delay any longer, get started today!

Isaiah 55:6 says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him while He is near.” The pastors in Kings County would love to help you build the One relationship in all of our lives that we must NOT put off. Why don’t you stop putting off getting in church, it might not be quite as painful as you had imagined!