Saturday, October 29, 2011

Choose Weird

by Andrew Cromwell

One of the constant themes of Scripture is that the people of God - those who have made Him the centerpiece of their lives - are to be different. In the Old Testament the term "set apart" is used. In the New Testament the people of God are referred to as "chosen". Whatever term is used, it is clear that God desires His people to be different from the rest of the world.

Over the course of history, groups have interpreted the meaning of "being set apart" differently. Some have decided that the right response is to withdraw completely from the world and create a community unto themselves. We can think of the Amish in Pennsylvania as a perfect example of this. This group has decided to shun electricity and modern conveniences. Other groups have removed themselves from society altogether, closing themselves up behind castle walls and taking extensive vows of silence or personal mortification.

But I believe that when God tells His people that they are to be different than the world around them, He is speaking about their value system and how it is expressed in their daily lives. While there may be times for the people of God to literally remove themselves from relationship with society, these occasions are rare. Much more common is the decision to live one's life in a way that is countercultural.

It is in our heart where we decide whether or not we are going to be obedient to our Father God. The choice for obedience will mean that the way our lives are led is markedly different from the lives of those around us.

There are many value systems of the people of God that are different from the ways of the world. But one that touches very close to home is the way that God's people treat their money.

Our world is all about money. It is continually obsessed with getting more. No matter how much you have, how much you “need” is always a greater number. We fill our garages with toys, we buy larger houses and we find extravagant ways to spend money. What's more, we spend money that we have not yet earned.

One of the great curses of our contemporary world is the easy extension of personal credit. Because of personal credit lines almost all of us live beyond our means. It is impossible to quantify the number of divorces and the amount of unhappiness that has been caused by the easy extension of credit and the ensuing spending sprees that have caused people to spin out of financial control.

The people of God, however, are supposed to live differently. They live on less than they earn. They are not obsessed with getting more and more things. They believe that giving is better than receiving. They feel a responsibility for their brothers and sisters of the world who have less than they do. All of these things run in contradiction to our standard cultural value systems.

People who have discovered that true joy does not come from the acquisition of possessions are truly strange. The world looks at them and cannot understand why they have a smile on their face. They cannot understand why there is peace in their home. And yet when the dust settles and the noise from the toys dies out, the world begins to realize that their mad rush for more things does not fill the void in their heart. It is at this moment, that the people of God begin to look awfully weird.

This weekend the pastors in Kings County would love to help you be countercultural! Who says that the world has it all figured out? 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jesus Who?

by Tim Howard

Back in 1999 I had the privilege of attending a major league baseball game with my two sons. The weather was great, the teams were equally competitive and the opportunity to spend some extended time with my boys was a real treat.

While sitting in our designated seats two men walked past us and entered three rows ahead of ours. Since I was eating a hot dog I didn’t really notice their entrance except for the fact they seemed to be very tall. With emphasis on the word ‘very.’ Within a 15 second span of time my oldest son leaned over and asked if I recognized one of the two men. I responded by saying no.

He acted a bit surprised as if I should have known him and then said his name is Kevin Johnson to which I responded Kevin Who?  Then for the next 30 minutes I heard about Kevin’s prominent position on the Phoenix Suns Basketball team. His Rookie of the Year award, his Most Valuable Player awards, his All-Star Game Most Valuable player award and on and on and on…

Even though I left the stadium that day feeling like I knew a lot about Mr. Johnson, I never actually met him personally.

Like my son I might be a bit surprised if someone living in America had never heard the name Jesus. I met some people this year in Ethiopia and my wife met some individuals in India who had never heard the name Jesus or Jesus Christ, but in America, that name is prominent. Whether it’s spoken with disdain, contempt or with respect and gratitude it is a name used frequently in our culture.

In Matthew 16:16 the Apostle Peter was asked the question: Who is Jesus and he responded by saying: He is the Christ, Son of the living God. If you haven’t heard about Jesus like I hadn’t heard about Kevin Johnson, Colossians 1:15-20 gives one of the most concise, accurate and clear pictures of Jesus that brings understanding to our minds. Here’s what it says:

Col. 1:15-20  “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over all creation. Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—kings, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities. Everything has been created through him and for him. He existed before everything else began, and he holds all creation together. Christ is the head of the church, which is his body. He is the first of all who will rise from the dead, so he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and by him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of his blood on the cross. NLT.
When I left that stadium in 1999, it was good to know a few facts about Mr. Johnson but it would have been nice to meet him and talk personally. The chances of that happening, however, are slim to none. He is famous, he is out of my league, and he wouldn’t have time and a host of other reasons.

From Colossians you now know a few facts about Jesus. But the good news is you can meet Him personally. He’s famous but not too busy to meet with you. Why not visit one of the many Church families in Kings County this weekend and let them help you answer the question: Jesus Who?  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Family Responsibilities: Giving Up

by Andrew Cromwell

All of us come from some kind of biological family, even if we did not have a good relationship with them. We are a part of that family because we were either born or adopted into it. And membership in that family came with certain privileges and responsibilities. In the same way, those who are a part of the family of God also have “family obligations”.

Being part of the family of God is a wonderful thing. Membership is open to all who put the Father’s will before their own. And once we are a part of the family, we are given a new beginning. We are also given direct access to the Father along with all of His great wisdom and resources.

But we have some responsibilities as well. In my last column, I wrote about the responsibility we have to show up and be an active part of the family. This time, I’d like to talk about the responsibility we have to give up.

Anyone committed to his or her family will tell you that giving up is where it’s at. If you want a good marriage, you have to give up. If you want a lasting relationship with your kids, you have to give up. You have to give up your money, your time and your talents. You have to give up the need to always be right. You have to give up putting yourself first.

It is the same in the family of God. You and I must decide to give up and put God first in everything we do. In the Old Testament, the Israelites called this the tithe. The tithe was the practice of taking the first part of whatever income was received and giving it to God. God directed them to do this so that they would not forget that their source of supply was Him and not themselves.

It is interesting that today even large corporations are beginning to understand the importance of giving. Many of them do it simply because it is good public relations, but some do it because they understand that there is a principle of giving that is activated when resources are released rather then locked away and hoarded.

But it is not only money that we need to give, we need to give back to God in every area of our life. Doing so signals to Him that we are putting Him first in everything we do.  1 Peter 4:10 says, Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

When we put others needs before our own, we begin to look like the One who laid down His life for us. We also activate the principle from God’s word, Give and it shall be given. Members of God’s family are supposed to be the most generous people in the world.

This weekend, the pastors of Kings County would love the opportunity to teach you more about being part of the family of God. Why don’t you change your routine and get your family in church? You just might be surprised at what you discover.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Where Should You Sit?

by Tim Howard

I was born into a family of 7 children. It was back when families practiced the great tradition of eating together at least one meal a day. For us it was ‘Dinner.”

Even though the meals varied, the routine of finding a chair remained the same: When the call came from our mother to gather around the table our dad would assign chairs. Donna, you sit in that chair. Beverly you’ll be over there, Mom will be here… and so on until everyone had his or her designated seat.

That might be the reason I still wait to be seated when I’m invited to someone’s house for dinner. I pause and allow them to tell me where to sit.

Jesus addressed this issue in the book of Luke, chapter 14: 7 – 9, “When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit near the head of the table, he gave them this advice:  “If you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t always head for the best seat. What if someone more respected than you has also been invited? The host will say, ‘Let this person sit here instead.’ Then you will be embarrassed and will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!”

You can imagine the awkwardness, chagrin and embarrassment a person might feel if they chose the wrong chair and experienced this.

In 1 John 2:13, the Apostle identifies 3 life stages and there’s a chair for each stage. A chair for Children, Adolescents and Adults

The High Chair is a symbol of childhood. We’ve all had to sit there! The chair is constructed to keep children confined to a restricted area because it helps to manage the mess. Children are a gift from the Lord but they can be very messy not to mention they whine, complain and pout like none other. One of the main characteristics of childhood is the need to be fed. They are dependent. Infants cannot make their own food or feed themselves and toddlers can’t feed themselves with any notable skill.

The chair for adolescents is a step toward growing-up. When a child transitions into this chair they are able to prepare their own food and they are able to feed themselves efficiently. It’s a stage in life where more freedom is given. Along with that freedom, however, is responsibility. That may be one reason why some people don’t want to grow up. They want the freedom and privileges but not the duties and responsibilities.

The last chair around the table is the Adult chair. The Adults can make their own food and eat without assistance but are also committed to mentoring others due to their maturity. The world needs more of these adults.

Here’s the problem. People are sitting in the wrong chair!

God wants us to change chairs as we move toward maturity.  If you are a child it’s ok to sit in a high chair but if you’re a 20 something and still acting like a baby - something is wrong! It’s equally disturbing to see children trying to sit in the chair of an adult; taking control of their lives with no desire to listen to those who actually do sit in the adult chairs. To be healthy, you must identify the chair you are currently sitting in and then you can plot a path to the next chair.

What chair are you sitting in? What chair should you be sitting in?  God is calling us to grow up!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Family Responsibilities: Showing Up

by Andrew Cromwell

Families are pretty important. They are the laboratories that prepare us for the world. In our families, we learn how to play nice and how to treat others. We learn the value of a dollar. We discover our identity—where we came from, who we are related to and what expectations we need to live up to.

Normally, we don’t get to choose our family and they don’t get to choose us. But once we’re in, we’re mostly stuck for life. The first years are spent with the family giving to us. Mom and Dad cleaned our diaper, fed us when we were hungry and gave us a bath when we were dirty. They helped us with homework and made sure that we learned our Ps and Qs.

Eventually, we started giving back. We mowed the lawn or washed the dishes, did the laundry or cleaned the house. We were expected to be a contributing member of the family. We learned about family responsibilities and how everyone needs to do their part.

Finally came the day of freedom, the day when we moved out of the house and struck out on our own. But even the most independent of us were still called back from time to time—required to show up for Thanksgiving, Christmas or other sundry family celebrations.

And no matter how good (or bad) your family experience was, there is another family—a spiritual family—into which you are invited. In the New Testament, in the book of John, it says, “to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

What an amazing invitation! We can be part of THE family! You don’t have to win the genetic lottery to get into this family, you simply have to believe and accept. And there are plenty of perks when you are a member of the family. You get to speak to Dad anytime, anyplace. You are considered a favored son or daughter and given an early inheritance. You can walk with your head held high because of this special identity. And that’s just the beginning.

There are some responsibilities we have in this family as well. Just like we are expected to be a part of family gatherings back on the home ranch, we are also expected to be a part of our spiritual family gatherings. These are times when the family gets together to encourage one another and to learn more about being a part of God’s family.

And, yes, just like at our home family gatherings, there are members of our new spiritual family that are a little strange. Some of the family members talk too much or too loudly. Some always say the wrong thing and end up offending someone else. But because they are part of the family, we cut them a little slack.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about church. It’s the time when God’s family gets together and celebrates. And if you’re part of the family, you’re supposed to be there! When you’re not there, not only are you not encouraged by your fellow family members, but you are not able to encourage them. There are times when we receive (when we are children) and times when we give (when we are adults). But no matter where we are in the continuum of life, we have a part to play and when we don’t show up, we are missing out.

This weekend, why don’t you come and plug into God’s family? The pastors in Kings County would love to have you join them. Sure, there’s some weird Nelly’s in our family, but there’s some pretty awesome Uncle Dave’s too.