Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

by Tim Howard

Some folks like to use the phrase Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. This suggests that many people love to celebrate the season, yet do so for a variety of reasons. I personally like the phrase Merry Christmas because it keeps the name of Christ prominent and helps me remember that He is the central reason for all our festivities. After all, it is His birthday we are celebrating.

How did you do with regards to your Christmas shopping? Did you purchase something for your children? Did you frantically look for that perfect gift for that perfect someone in your life and finally find it? What about your friends and co-workers? Did you run from store to store or check out the online prices to find a great gift for a great price? In all your activities, have you come to Christmas day ready to Celebrate or ready to Collapse?

This year I personally decided to make a change and joined the ‘Advent Conspiracy.’ I conspired with others to find a way to celebrate the Advent of Christ without yielding to the spirit of consumerism that is very much alive in our culture. Allow me to quickly add that I’m not implying we should spend nothing! It’s not about being stingy, miserly or acting like a scrooge. Share nothing, have nothing or give nothing. NO! It’s all about giving gifts BUT giving gifts that mean something and make a real difference. Spend less and give more! Sounds impossible unless you realize that the greatest gifts we can give people cost nothing at all in a monetary sense.

Three of the greatest gifts came to us through the birth of Jesus Christ and you can give these three gifts to others. He came to reveal the Father’s love. He came to give you joy and He came to bring hope by extending forgiveness and freedom from your past.

A Doctor by the name of Luke makes mention of these three gifts by recording the announcement of Christ’s birth in the Bible. He says in Luke 2:10 -11, “the angel of the Lord said to them, ‘…behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” His presence among us brings hope and joy and is good news to the ears of those who will believe.’” Did you notice that Jesus came for everyone and not just a few? The very fact that God decided to live among us reveals His great love toward us. That’s not only good news, that’s great news!

Unfortunately, many who were caught up into the spirit of consumerism this season enter Christmas day ready to collapse rather than celebrate. Christmas day can too often becomes a burden to endure rather than a blessing to be experienced.

I invite you to make three decisions today. 1. Decide to celebrate God’s presence rather than focusing on the presents you receive. 2. Decide to love each other by serving those with whom you gather. 3. Forgive those who have hurt you and they will experience great joy - So will you! Many gifts can be given to people on this day we call Christmas but Love, Joy and Forgiveness are among the best.

If you make these three decisions and act upon them, you will honor God by exalting His son Jesus Christ and that’s extremely important since it’s His Birthday. He is the reason we say: Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Gift that No One Wants

by Andrew Cromwell

As we enter the Christmas season much of our attention is focused on the gifts we will be giving to friends and family. Whether you are the type of person that wakes at an ungodly hour to crash the stores on the day after Thanksgiving or the person that waits until the last minute to fight for parking spaces and wait in line, all of us want to match up the right gift to the right person.

And each year we both give and receive a myriad of novelty gifts — the tie that blinks and sings, the chachki that was oh so carefully selected in the dollar aisle, the dreaded and much lampooned fruitcake. No one wants these gifts. And yet we continue to give them because we feel obligated to go through the ritual even if the gifts have long ago ceased to be significant.

Do something different this year! Break the mold, save money, and instead write a card or a note. Take that five or ten dollars and give it to charity in the name of that person who would normally get a junk gift. Our church has helped people do this for the last couple of years and we have discovered that people LOVE to receive these types of gifts. You can find out more info on what we are doing this year at our website at

There is one gift that no one wants, but we all need. This is a gift that communicates true love and concern but is one of the most difficult to give. It costs no money. It involves no trips to the mall. You don’t even have to wrestle with the scotch tape and wrapping paper.

It is the gift of honest conversation.

For a close friend or loved family member, an honest conversation can be the most difficult and yet the most rewarding gift that you can give. The truth is, honest conversations are uncomfortable. They usually involve talking about things that we would rather not bring up. It might involve talking about the person’s bad behavior or their inability to see the way their actions are damaging to others. It might mean telling a spouse the way you really feel and revealing a part of your heart that hasn’t been shared in a long time. For all of these reasons and more, honest conversations are usually avoided at all costs.

And yet, when we avoid having honest conversations with the people we love, we actually keep our relationships from growing deeper and more significant. We avoid talking straight with people because we are afraid of hurting their feelings and damaging our relationship with them. But when we do that we actually refuse to believe that a deeper relationship is possible.

What we forget is that honest conversations are the key to growth. We need each other to speak truth so that we can get better. The question is, do we love someone enough to tell them the truth? I believe if we all took time to have some serious conversations this Christmas, we might actually learn something and grow deeper.

The pastors in Kings County would love to get a chance to help you have an honest conversation with Father God. When is the last time you two talked? Grab your family and get in church this weekend, there’s no better time than the present.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

God's Ultimate Gift

by Tim Howard
In the early years of my marriage I did a lot of foolish things and I wasn’t a very good husband to my wife. I could blame it on youthfulness since I was only 22 years old, immaturity, stress, difficult times or I could simply acknowledge the truth. I was self absorbed and totally selfish! In 37 years of marriage we have had our share of bad times! The word divorce has crossed our minds but one word has proven to be more powerful than the desire to go our separate ways. That word is FORGIVENESS!

The Bible tells us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God forgave you in Christ.” Forgiveness is the foundation for everything God does in our lives. Jesus offers forgiveness to those who choose to follow him. He offers forgiveness to those who fail and choose to do unwise things. He even offers forgiveness to the ones who hate him, choose to rebel and don’t believe He is God.
You cannot have a long lasting, growing, ongoing, in-depth, healthy relationship without forgiveness. Something will happen, your relationship with stall, something will take place, someone will do something unintentionally or intentionally, it will break down, and the relationship will end. And when it does, more often than not, forgiveness is the one thing and sometimes the only thing that will get you going again.
Forgiveness cuts the cords to the past and gives you the possibility of a bright future. It’s one of the top five tools you need in your toolbox in order to maintain a growing relationship. Un-forgiveness locks a person into the past and provides a great environment for bitterness, resentment, hatred and anger to flourish but forgiveness is the key that sets you free.
The issue of un-forgiveness or forgiveness comes into play and becomes prominent when we experience hurt. Everybody hurts! We hurt physically. We have our cuts, scratches, bumps and our bruises. We hurt emotionally. That's a little more hidden and may be more difficult to deal with than physical pain. Fear, worry, anger, guilt, shame and depression are all expressions of emotional pain. We hurt relationally. The most difficult type of hurt to deal with is the hurt that's caused by other people. When this happens forgiveness is one of the best tools we can use to bring about healing and restoration.

It seems natural to become angry and un-forgiving, however. Have you noticed how easy it is to get angry and stay mad for long periods of time when you’ve been hurt by another person? Have you recognized how easy it is to nurse a grudge and how difficult is it to offer grace and mercy? If you keep putting wood on the fire by focusing on the negative, playing the DVD of past hurts over and over again, the fires of hate will continue to burn brightly.

Forgiveness is definitely not the easiest choice to make but it is the best! Holding a grudge, getting even, remaining bitter and choosing to walk in resentment may feel good and right for a season but it will ultimately destroy you. These remedies don’t work and only make things worse.

God demonstrated His love toward us by offering forgiveness through Jesus Christ. He is our example for the relationships we have with each other. As you work your way through the month of December and celebrate the Christmas season remember that forgiveness is the ultimate gift to give someone. It will be more valuable than any material item you could purchase.