Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stand Firm

by Andrew Cromwell

You can tell a lot about a person by how they stand. Are shoulders slouched or held square and straight? Are eyes cast downward or looking forward confidently? Is the face open or clouded? The way you stand communicates confidence level, amount of training and readiness.

Stance is important for athletes as well. Virtually any sport that involves physical exertion is concerned with how the player stands. In football, different players use different stances so they can do their job effectively. Linemen crouch low and stand with their feet wide apart so that they are stable and powerful. The quarterback keeps his head high and feet moving so that he can move quickly. Receivers setup for explosive speed and keep their hands up and ready to catch the ball.

Baseball, soccer, tennis and golf players are all concerned about their stance too. Coaches spend lots of time making sure a player knows the optimum stance and they force the player to practice it until it becomes second nature. Everything flows from the stance.

A player that, both literally and figuratively, starts off on the wrong foot is at a disadvantage. He or she is often slow to react and cannot take advantage of an opportunity. Full power cannot be delivered to the bat or club. Worse, he or she is off balance and can fall to the ground and be out of play altogether.

But stance is not just for athletes. It is incredibly important to everyday life. There is an interesting verse in the Bible that says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

In this passage, St. Paul is directing followers of Christ to be ready for evil days. He knew that evil days are part of life. They happen to everyone. If you haven’t experienced an evil day, don’t worry; it’s in the future.

And because evil days are on the horizon, it is important to be ready for them. Paul first talks about the armor that God has given to us, and then he talks about the stance we are to take. He says, “stand your ground.”

Picture a soldier who is ready for battle. The line has been drawn and his commander has told him to hold his assigned piece of ground. The soldier prepares himself. He checks and re-checks his armor. He checks the positions of his fellow soldiers relative to himself. He stretches his muscles. And then as the enemy approaches he crouches in a state of readiness. No one looking at this soldier from afar would doubt that he is prepared for battle.

All of us are in a battle every day of our lives. We battle for our families, for our marriages, for our children, for our friends, for our faith, for our health...for our lives. Far too often, we forget to prepare ourselves like a soldier preparing for battle. And far too often, instead of crouching low and being ready, we bumble along blindly and are surprised when the enemy attacks.

Your stance can make all the difference. A stance of confidence in a God that is faithful and true. A stance of faith that believes the best in the midst of the worst. And a stance that communicates a willingness to fight to the death for that which is worthwhile.

How’s your stance today? Have you gotten lazy? Have your forgotten that you are engaged in a battle? The pastors in Kings County would love the opportunity to encourage you this weekend. Why don’t you give one of our great churches a visit and get back in the battle?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is God Dead?

by Tim Howard

If you were alive in the 60’s then you may remember the April 1966 issue of Time Magazine, which had this question on its cover, “Is God Dead?” It alluded to the widely quoted statement by a German philosopher named Friedrich Nietzsche. He wrote several articles proclaiming, ”God is Dead.”

The New Testament followers of Christ believed just the opposite. They knew that God was alive through Jesus Christ because he had in fact risen from the grave. A Doctor named Luke tells us in Acts chapter one these facts: “During the forty days after his crucifixion, Jesus appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.” Then in 1Cor. 15:6 Paul tells us, Jesus was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time after His resurrection…

One of the reasons the New Testament Church succeeded in their mission is because they served a living God. Unfortunately many people today have killed God in their mind through rationalism, a faulty understanding of science and a number of other things for a myriad of reasons. If there is no God then you can make up your own rules. If there is no God, you are not accountable to anyone for your actions. If there is no God, you can live a life of self-focus and elevate yourself to the place of being a god. It was tempting to Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis and it is tempting to people of the 21st century.

If on the other hand God is alive, you will have to give an account for the decisions you make and the actions you choose. The author of Hebrews in chapter 10 makes it clear that God is living and He will ultimately bring us before Himself to have a time of reckoning. The author goes on to say this can be a fearful thing if you have been living a life as though God is dead.

The disciples and other followers of Christ were not at the mercy of those who had an argument or made bold statements like Friedrich Nietzsche because they had a valid and verifiable experience. They knew He was alive because they were in his presence, they felt his closeness and a saw his acts. Once you have had an encounter with the living Lord revealed in the scriptures, all lies about Him lose their power.

For the present day person, it is good to know that God is not only alive but He’s actively involved in the lives of those who put their faith in Him. He is not aloof or far away. He helped Moses when he faced a crisis at the Red Sea. He assisted Noah when the rain started to pour down. He delivered Daniel from the mouths of lions when death was imminent and He will guide and assist you each and every day through every challenge.

Only a living God can do these things! By the way, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche died August 25, 1900 but God is still alive and doing quite well. He is not dead!

Why not visit one of the many church families this weekend in Kings County and encounter a living God. Don’t go as one who visits a cemetery to remember the dead but go seeking the Lord who is alive. Luke 24:6.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How Committed Are You?

by Andrew Cromwell

Vince Lombardi said, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”

All too often, we have a commitment problem. Sometimes we don’t commit to something because we want to keep our options open. We are concerned that a better opportunity might come walking by and we might miss it if we are otherwise engaged. Sometimes we don’t commit because we don’t want to feel boxed in. The idea of being restricted is uncomfortable and therefore undesirable. And sometimes we don’t commit because commitment can be difficult and we are afraid that we might fail.

Our commitments (or lack of them) define us. People that are unshakably committed to the right things make a significant difference in our world. It is easy to list famous people whose impact still echoes today because of the positive commitments they made. Political and social figures Winston Churchill (“we will never surrender”) and Martin Luther King Jr. (“I have a dream”) refused to compromise. Thomas Edison (“I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”) wouldn’t give up. And Babe Ruth decided he was going to keep swinging the bat even when it meant he held the strikeout record for decades (“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run”).

Commitment doesn’t only make a difference in famous people’s lives, it transforms everyday lives as well. The dad that makes a commitment to spend time with his kids; the husband that commits wholeheartedly to pursue the heart of his wife; the teacher that decides that no child is unteachable; the friend that chooses to believe the best and always has your back: the employee that decides they don’t just work for their boss, they work for their Father in heaven (Colossians 3:23 “work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord”).

Of course, you can be committed to anything, and it is possible to be committed to things that are just a waste of time or are even destructive. But when you commit to those things that are truly meaningful—your family, building healthy relationships, Father God, work that makes a difference, giving rather then hoarding—you sow the seeds that will result in a harvest of blessing in your life.

I will never forget the story someone told me about the day their dad made the commitment to get their family in church. Church and spirituality was not a part of the family’s life up to that point, but one Sunday, dad made the decision that it was important. He gathered his family together and they headed off. More than thirty years later, the decision that father made continues to bless that family, and there is no doubt it will for generations to come.

The best commitment you can make is to chase after our Father with all of your heart. Joshua said, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” That quality decision resulted in great blessing. Yours will too.

This weekend, the pastors in Kings County would love to have the opportunity to encourage you in your quality commitments. All over this community, pastors are invested in helping people build their marriage, their families and their relationships. Isn’t it time you made that quality commitment to get you and your family into church?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Enough is Enough!

by Tim Howard

In John chapter 6 the Bible tells us of a time when Jesus fed 5,000+ hungry people. The disciples had asked Jesus to send the people away since it was getting late and they hadn’t had dinner yet. But when Jesus told the disciples not to send them on their way but to feed the people themselves, they reacted with an attitude. They knew they couldn’t afford to purchase the necessary items and even if they did have the finances where would they find enough food to meet the needs of that many people.

Regardless of their reaction Jesus was confident and committed to meeting the needs of the moment and asked the disciples what food was available. One responded by saying: “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.”

That statement was similar to the words spoken by a mother, as she looked into the pantry for food to feed her four children. A sense of panic began to pierce her heart as she moaned quietly, what shall we do – there’s not enough!

Instantly, however, a voice within her spirit asked a poignant question. Why don’t you give thanks for what you DO HAVE rather than what you DON’T HAVE? It didn’t make sense from a rational point of view but she responded by giving thanks nonetheless. In that specific moment of time, this mother of four began to sense a peace that went beyond her comprehension. She experienced the reality of Phil. 4:6-7, which says: “ Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

On the journey of life, there are many critical moments when we discover there just isn’t enough to make it. Those times are reality checks. When Jesus suggested that the people be fed, the response of the disciples revealed their human perspective. “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish…” There simply isn’t enough!

When Jesus saw the small amount of food, however, He wasn’t intimidated or doubtful because He knew what God could do when offered even a little. He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.” Everyone ate that day.

Jesus paused and GAVE THANKS. It wasn’t much. It wasn’t impressive. It wasn’t enough to make a real difference in the human sense but He gave thanks anyway. Then, He broke the bread and it multiplied! What God takes, He breaks and whatever He breaks, He blesses. When God gets involved, whatever we have – is enough!

Giving thanks for what we do possess rather than focusing on what we do not possess will always open a door to the supernatural. It’s the beginning point for man and the entry point for God. May I suggest a threefold plan when there is not enough food or not enough money or not enough time or joy or romance etc... 1. Give thanks regardless of the shortage. 2. Offer what you have to God even though it may be miniscule. 3. Then watch God work on your behalf. You will discover you have enough to make it!