Saturday, April 30, 2011

You Are Invited

by Tim Howard

As I re-read the life of Christ during the Easter season several things caught my attention. One of the interesting facts I underscored had to do with the way Jesus interacted with people. Even during His last week of life, before the crucifixion and resurrection, He never demanded anything from his followers nor did He seek to control their lives in a dictatorial way. In one of His darkest moments while in Gethsemane, He didn’t demand that His disciples stand alongside Him but merely asked them to join Him in prayer. No pressure, no pushiness and no strong-armed tactics. He simply gave an invitation.

In the early days of Jesus’ ministry He began to approach people and invited them to become His partners. He said in Matthew 4:19: “ … Follow Me, and I will make you into a fisher of men.” His promise to them had to do with transformation. If you follow me, I will make you, shape you and show you how to become a person who develops meaningful and lasting relationships.

Following leaders is important if you are going to live a lifestyle of togetherness. There may not be a need for leadership if one chooses to live alone, isolated and set apart from others, but we were created to be integrated and if there is no leadership, chaos thrives.

Jesus is a different type of leader. He doesn’t merely talk about doing something but actually shows a follower how to walk and how to live a fruitful life. While many today wax eloquent in mere rhetoric and pontificate specific dogma that sways people, Jesus practiced a ‘Show and Tell’ mentality.

Jesus told those who were lost and needed direction for their lives to follow him. I won’t just tell you where to go and what to do, I will actually lead you and show you the way. Follow Me! Wow that simplifies everything. Do what He does, go where He goes, say what He says and things will work out. Jesus will get you to your appropriate destination because He knows the way.

I am a follower of Christ because I accepted His invitation over 45 years ago. That being said, I must admit I follow reluctantly at times. I don’t always like where He is taking me! Sometimes it’s through darkness and difficulty but in those times Jesus develops character in me. Sometimes He leads me into the unknown but even when I’m unable to see the future and fear seeks entrance, I develop trust in His guidance. At times it’s through dryness and a season of barrenness, but even in the dessert He provides water.

Someone recently asked me if I was going to attend a major event that was happening in the city. I expressed that it was by invitation only and I hadn’t received an invitation. Possibly you know the feeling when you discover you aren’t on the ‘invite list’. It hurts! The good news in God’s Word, however, is this: You are invited!

Matthew 11:29-30, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." MSG

I pray you accept the offer because YOU ARE INVITED!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spending Ourselves To Death

by Andrew Cromwell

According to one report, 85 out of 100 Americans have less than $250 in savings when they reach 65. If this is true, then most of us are either (a) planning on living on far less than we currently do, or (b) denying reality and sticking our head in the sand. Combine this fact with our habit of spending just a little bit more than we earn and any chance of a comfortable retirement goes right out the window.

Saving your money instead of spending it goes against the grain. Not only is everyone around us doing it, the media reports to us that if everyone were to stop spending so much and start saving their money, the economy would simply crash even further. We know in our heart that we need to be saving for a rainy day, but somehow we are never able to get around to it.

Money is a big deal. So big, in fact, that Jesus talked about it a lot. Half of the stories he told were about money. One out of every six verses in the gospels is about money. He talked more about money than heaven, hell or prayer. He obviously considered our relationship with our money to have big time spiritual implications. He said, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be.”

I believe there are three important things that we must do if we are going to run our finances instead of having our finances run us.

First, we must look ahead. Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wise man looks ahead. The fool...won’t face facts.” Where are our current money practices taking us? Am I paying only the minimum on my credit card? Am I spending all that I earn? Am I buying things I don’t need? These foolish money behaviors not only steal from my own financial future, they also demonstrate that I am a person that God cannot trust to manage His money!

Second, we must make a plan. Proverbs 16:9 says, “We should make plans--counting on God to direct us.” You spell plan, B-U-D-G-E-T. Most of us don’t have a real budget. We have an idea of where our money goes, but we don’t really know. We need to sit down and crunch the numbers. When it comes to money, you need to know four things: what you own, what you owe, what you earn and where it goes!

Finally, we must act quickly. When it comes right down to it, without action we can look ahead and make plans all day long and nothing will change. It is not enough to agree that it is good to systematically save for retirement. It is not even good enough to write down a budget. Unless we actually do it, then it doesn’t matter one bit. We need to stop telling ourselves we’ll do it tomorrow and start today.

Maybe this is all overwhelming to you. I know that when I look at the big picture of my finances, I begin to feel stressed and even a little panicked. Then I remind myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day and my finances won’t be fixed in an hour. Small decisions that are followed through on, result in big changes. So maybe you cancel your cable or eat out half as much — we all can do some small things that will end up making a huge impact on our bottom line.

The pastors in Kings County want to see you experiencing God’s freedom in your finances. Why don’t you give them the opportunity to encourage you this weekend?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Truth or Consequences

by Tim Howard

I just finished reading a narrative found in Acts chapter 5 which talks about a young couple named Ananias and Sapphira. This Biblical story is very dramatic and ultimately ends in their death. It all happened because this husband and wife team concocted a plan, which involved lying, deception and greed. Money wasn’t the core issue but it was the vehicle that revealed their flawed character.

The core issue is seen when this young couple makes a bold faced, calculated lie to the Apostle Peter regarding some financial dealing they were involved in. Their lies, their deceitfulness and their false pretense led to their demise.

You may wonder about the severity of the penalty they paid for this falsehood but you must admit that in similar fashion many long lasting, healthy relationships have experienced the same fate because someone decided to lie and act deceptively.

Lying kills! Lying destroys! Lying severs relationships! Yet we all are tempted to do the same thing for a myriad of reasons. Peter asked Ananias and Sapphira, “Why? What made you lie to me and ultimately to God? How could you do such a thing?” Any person reading this text should begin to understand that lying is not the real problem or the main issue. It is a symptom of a deeper problem. Why do we lie? What prompts us to be deceitful? Allow me to suggest three reasons:

1. We lie to COVER UP something we don’t want seen. John 3:19-20 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” Many marriages and families have suffered severe ramifications because secrets were kept and lies were told.

2. We lie to avoid CONSEQUENCES. A child will lie to his mother so he doesn’t have to take a ‘time out’. An employee will lie to their employer to avoid some punishment and some adults will lie to protect themselves from an undesirable repercussion.

3. We lie to CREATE a better self-image. This is when you lie to impress people. Proverbs13:7 “One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.” The word ‘pretends’ used in this verse is rooted in the word: ‘pretense.’ It is an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true. When you live a life built on pretense, the path is littered with lying. You're trying to create an image or cover up low self-esteem so you lie. That’s what seems to be the motivating factor behind this couple’s act in chapter 5. They wanted to be viewed by others more favorably than they deserved. They were caught in the web of conceit and pride.

So what's the solution? It starts with identifying the motivational factor. Once you understand the motivation behind your lying, then you can begin to deal with the real issue by seeking God’s help. He is the author of truth. Everything he does is based on truth and there is no deceit in him. When you fall in love with Jesus and begin to follow instructions, you start growing a love of truth. Then if you look for the truth, learn the truth and listen to the truth, you will be on your way to becoming a person of integrity. The Consequences that come from living a truthful life outweigh the ramifications of a life based on lies and deception.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Who Do You Trust?

by Andrew Cromwell

If you are anything like me, you find yourself being caught up in some of the anxiety over the economy and the future. Reading the paper or listening to the evening news is like exposing yourself to a highly infectious flu called “worry”. You may not catch the flu the first time around, but eventually if you keep exposing yourself, it’s going to move into your body and run its ugly course.

But it’s not just the news. Our own hearts conspire to make us worry about the future. We start worrying about losing our job or our house. We get nervous and start hoarding things thinking that we might not have enough.

But it’s a downward spiral. Once you start putting your trust in your bank account or your job or your inheritance, you are putting your faith in something that will always let you down and will also make you a smaller person. When you are worried about the future and put your trust in what you have, you become stingy and closed-fisted. You hold on to what you have because you believe your source of supply is small and undependable.

What is fascinating is that it doesn’t matter if you have a little or if you have a lot. We all find this infection creeping into our hearts. We are like the millionaire workaholic who was asked, “How much more money do you need?” His response: “Just a little bit more.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to be free from this “little bit more” trap? The answer is simple, but it takes a lifetime to live it out. The Bible says in Romans chapter eleven,

Everything comes from God; everything exists by His power; and everything is intended for His glory.

And here is the secret -- we must put our trust in God as our source and supply. Nothing else is truly stable and trustworthy. And when we trust Him, we don’t have to worry about the future because He takes care of His children.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. — Matthew 6:33

Putting God first is something we do everyday and in everything we do. It is also something that is easy to forget to do! Before we know it, there we are putting our self first yet again. The pastors in Kings County would love to encourage and remind you that putting God first is the only way to live worry free. Why don’t you give them a chance this weekend?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Guide to Health

by Tim Howard

When the topic of the American economy and the economic stability of our nation is broached, most would agree these are challenging times. There is a sense of powerlessness when it comes to the multi-Trillion dollars of debt we carry as a nation and the projected 23+ Trillion dollar debt by 2019. It is enough to cause fear and insecurity in any person who is trying to make ends meet. When that happens there is a tendency to hold on to what we have, stop giving to others and put a moratorium on all outflow.

Many, however, have decided to remain faithful to the giving principles taught in the Bible and I too want to be among them. I have visited impoverished countries in the past and even though they have far less than most in America, many haven’t lost their spirit of generosity.

The Bible gives at least 10 reasons why we should give at any time and in all times. If I were to note them in a top ten list they would look something like this:

10. You will receive a REWARD. It may not be the highest motivation but Luke 6:38 reveals you will receive back a great increase whenever you give. We should guard ourselves against a selfish bent toward life but at the same time not despise the reward that is offered.

9. You have a RESPONSIBILITY or to put it another way, you ought to give something. People who take but don’t give back develop an unhealthy lifestyle and perspective. It does more harm than help.

8. The Bible clearly TEACHES the principal of giving. Phil. 2:4 Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and the needs.

7. It is BETTER to give than to receive. Jesus said that and many have experienced the reality of this truth.

6. Giving puts FEET to your faith. Too many people profess one thing but practice something totally different. When you give to others, you are putting your money where your mouth is. Check out James 2:18. It’s one thing to espouse a certain philosophy but much more difficult to live it out. One person said it is easier to make someone think you are great than to actually be great. Jesus said if you really want to be great, be a server - give!

5. Giving brings BALANCE. Those who give are blessed because they give and those who receive are blessed because they have their needs met.

4. It provides an OPPORTUNITY for God to move. When you give to a person in need, you release ministry to happen.

3. It MIRRORS God to people. You can’t read the Bible without seeing God as a giver and no one will ever give back to him or others more than He has given to them.

2. God absolutely LOVES it. He loves a cheerful giver. I can identify with that. A tremendous joy comes to me whenever I see my children giving to others and helping people.

1. God has DEMONSTRATED so much grace that we would be remiss if we didn’t pass some of it on.

I grew up with a sense of right and wrong but very little explanation as to why I should do the right thing. God has a reason for every commandment He gives to us. When He says to GIVE, it’s not because He needs your money but because He wants you to be healthy.

Why not check out one of the many church families in Kings County this weekend and give God some of your time.