Saturday, June 25, 2011

Christmas in June

by Tim Howard

I recently returned from a trip to Ethiopia where we visited the poor, ministered to the sick and tried to encourage those who were depressed, discouraged and disenfranchised. Our 12-day excursion was based upon Luke 4 where Jesus said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

It was my first visit to a developing nation. I must say it was an eye opening and heart altering experience. The receptivity of the people, however, the warmth they exuded and the joy they demonstrated upon receiving some of God’s gifts made me feel like it was Christmas in Spring. As I left the country with fond memories and a renewed desire to help hurting people I purchased a couple of small gifts for my family. My wife said she liked the two scarf’s and my grandson expressed great emotional euphoria when he received his new T-shirt with a picture of an elephant on it. I figured if you visit Africa you ought to have a picture of a giraffe or an elephant or something. Once again it felt like Christmas in Spring.

Presents are a part of Christmas, birthdays, special events and other significant occasions. The word ‘Present’ can refer to both the act of giving a person something such as: the top executive will present an award to the top employee, or an actual item such as a Christmas gift.

In Romans 12:1 the Apostle Paul uses this word ‘present’ and combines the meaning of both. He urges us to ‘present’ ourselves to the Lord as though we are offering something to Him and that something is our own life, which coincidently is the actual gift or present.

You too can experience the true meaning of Christmas throughout the year by bringing to God four ‘presents’. I personally do them each morning after I rise and start my day.

1. Present’ yourself to the Lord through praise and thanksgiving. Psalms 100:4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. “ It’s amazing how different your day can be when you start with a thankful heart rather than a critical and complaining spirit. Seeing God’s goodness in the beginning of the day sets your course for the following hours.

2. ‘Present’ your heart to the Lord. Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” It’s not just your actions that count but your attitude as well. Your deeds will never be greater than the motivation or attitude that precipitated them.

3. ‘Present’ your day to the Lord. Invite Him to help, guide and assist you in all your planned activities. While you’re at it, why not ask Him to change your schedule if it needs some adjusting.

4. ‘Present’ to the Lord your sphere of influence. We all are connected to other people and have a level of influence. Pray for your family, relatives, friends and co-workers. Seek to be a blessing.

When these four presents are brought to God each day, you position yourself for a celebration. Are you ready to celebrate? Could you use a little joy? Then start presenting yourselves to Jesus. Begin Today! Who said you can only experience Christmas in December?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Collision Course with Conflict

by Andrew Cromwell

There are some things in life that you are just not going to be able to avoid. On this list are things like problems, weird relatives and people who won’t stop talking about their iPhone. And not to be forgotten, is the inevitable reality—conflict.

No matter how much you try, you will not be able to avoid conflict. It could be argued, that even if you were to live in total seclusion, you would still be in conflict because of the ever-present battle that wages inside between our heavenly and earthly natures.

This is not to say that every conflict that happens in your life is inevitable. Not by a long stretch. Many of us seem to go out of our way to create unnecessary conflict and contention because we can’t control our tongue. Are you the kind of person that always likes to have the last word or that always has to be right? If you are always in conflict with your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers, then wake up and smell the coffee. You are probably a bit too vocal and you need to stop blaming everyone else for all the drama in your life because it’s you.

But there are some conflicts that are absolutely essential. The battle for your personal destiny, the fight to protect your kids’ innocence, the struggle to keep your marriage—these are just a few. These important conflicts take time and attention. You can’t shortchange them; if you do you always lose.

Are you embroiled in too many conflicts? Maybe it’s time to stop taking yourself so seriously and allow someone else to win an argument once in a while. Those who always have to be right end up being right by themselves. Decide to give up on things that are not essential and make amends.

Have you given up on fighting for the things that matter? It’s time to get back into conflict again. Get back on the horse and start fighting for your marriage again. Sometimes the easy thing (avoiding the difficult conversation) is not the best thing!

This weekend, the pastors in Kings County would love the opportunity to help you settle the conflict between you and God. Once that conflict is settled you can use the strength He gives you to deal with every other conflict in your life!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Keep It Simple

by Tim Howard

Many, if not most people have heard of the Ten Commandments, even though they may not be able to quote them verbatim. Exodus chapter 20 records them for us and they go like this. “Do not worship any other gods besides me. “Do not make idols of any kind, … “Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God. “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God… “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God will give you. “Do not murder. “Do not commit adultery. “Do not steal. “Do not testify falsely against your neighbor. “Do not covet your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s wife … or anything else your neighbor owns.”

These Ten Commandments are also called the 10 Laws of God. They are given to guide and help us discover the best way to relate to Him, others and the world around us. Someone said these are not the 10 Demand-ments from God but the 10 Commandments because He doesn’t force anyone to follow His ways.

In the course of history, religious leaders have added to these 10 commandments more and more laws, numbering in the 100’s and in doing so created a complex system and complicated things greatly. Jesus, however, comes to us in New Testament times and brings us back to simplicity. In response to a man’s question about what is the greatest law, Jesus made this reply: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

He sums up the whole law, whether it is 10 divine commands or 100 man-made ones, and brings life back into focus by giving two clear, concise, simple and yet profound truths.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, before he died at the hands of the Nazis, said, “To be simple is to fix one’s eye solely on the simple truth of God at a time when all concepts are being confused, distorted, and turned upside down.” That was the Apostle Paul’s prayer for certain people, which is recorded in 2 Corinthians 11. He prayed for them to maintain a clear view of God and not be removed from the simplicity of the gospel.

Jesus lived a simple life and advocates a simple lifestyle, even in the 21st century. He did not intend to promote a simplistic way of thinking nor a shallow way of living because life can get twisted, tangled and downright difficult at times. Easy and simple are not always synonymous terms. Even though life is not always easy, the answers to all of life’s challenges can be found as you simply look in one direction. “Up”

David said it well in Psalms 121. “I will lift up my eyes … where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

You may not be able to quote the 10 Commandments to someone who asks but maybe you could remember, recall and repeat the two Jesus gave. Love God with all you have and love your neighbor as yourself. Keep it simple!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


by Andrew Cromwell

In the Bible in Matthew 16:19, Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” Much has been said about what Jesus meant by this statement. Some scholars believe that at that moment, Jesus made Peter the head of the church. I am persuaded that Jesus was doing something slightly different.

When you have a key, you have the ability to open or close access to a locked location. Now, if everyone has a key, then it is not particularly special—you just have one more copy. But if not many keys have been made, then you become the gatekeeper. You have the ability to grant access because you hold the power in your possession.

Now, if you have the keys to the kingdom of heaven, you become a gatekeeper. Either you can welcome people in or you can keep people out. At one point during Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 23:13), He has a conversation with the religious leaders of the day and tells them, “Woe to you...for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men....”

The religious teachers of Jesus’ day were good at making rules that kept people away from Father God. This is just the opposite of what spiritual leaders are supposed to do. Their whole job is to help people connect with God. But there is something in human nature that is twisted by knowledge and power. Isn’t it amazing that as soon as someone goes to school and gets a degree, he or she immediately starts to divide the world up into those worthy to hear their great wisdom and those that are not?

Peter’s keys were not to be used in this way. They were to be used to open the doors wide to all those who were seeking to reconnect with the Father. Later in Peter’s life, we see that he is instrumental in opening these doors to three distinct groups—first to the Jews (Acts 2), then to the Samarians (Acts 8) and finally to the rest of the world (Acts 10). Because Peter was generous with the message of God’s love for people, because he opened wide the doors to the kingdom, we today benefit from that message.

I believe we can draw two conclusions from this. First, if you don’t know God personally, the door is wide open. The Father has made a way for each of us to return back to him. The Bible says, “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Second, if you do know God, you are also a gatekeeper. You can make it difficult for people to connect with Father God (just like those religious leaders in Jesus’ day did) or you can make it easy. You can unlock and swing wide the doors and shout the good news of a God that loves the world, or you can bury the key and keep your mouth shut.

This weekend the pastors in Kings County will be seeking to help people reconnect with God, make sure you’re in church and that you bring someone along!