Saturday, November 26, 2011


by Andrew Cromwell

Just a few short days ago we celebrated Thanksgiving. Many of us gathered together with our families and paused to say “Thank You” to God, echoing the prayers given by the pilgrims so many years ago. Oh, and we ate too, we gorged ourselves with turkey and fixings or with tamales or ham or whatever it is that your family prepares.

Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday. It seems it is of little use to the retail machine that drives our economy. The marketing possibilities at Thanksgiving seem to be somewhat limited to turkey decorations and food. Sandwiched between Halloween—the fastest growing retail sales holiday at nearly $7 billion spent on decor, costumes and candy—and Christmas—at a whopping $465 billion—poor, sad, neglected Thanksgiving offers little in the way of sales. That is, unless you consider Thanksgiving merely the doorstep to Black Friday, but then we are back to Christmas.

In one comic satire being passed around this season, the Thanksgiving turkey is shown angrily lamenting that he doesn’t really even get one measly day anymore! The moment Halloween is over, the stores are redecorated with reds and silvers, Christmas carols are playing at top volume and “leaked” Black Friday ads are everywhere. This Santa guy has really overstepped his boundaries!

Maybe the reason Thanksgiving is overlooked is because it stands for something that is in direct opposition to the consumerism that makes this world go around. To truly be thankful, we must hit the pause button. We must take a break from the frenzied shopping and spending and stop the complaining about how we are unhappy with what we have. Instead, we must take a look at what we do have and turn our hearts in gratitude to the One who has made it all possible.

Truly saying “thank you” does not come naturally to us. That is why our parents had to teach us to say it (any parent will tell you there is no child that didn’t need a lesson on saying “thank you”). But being thankful is not just words that we say, it is an attitude of the heart. Scriptures says in Ephesians 5:20, “Always and for everything, give thanks to our God and Father in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

I find it interesting, that the more grateful I am, the less that I need to “keep me happy.” When I am aware of how good my life really is, of how much God has given me, then I am less and less concerned with my next purchase or my current reason to be dissatisfied with my life.

Maybe that’s why retailers don’t spend too much time reminding us how much we have to be thankful for?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Optimist or Pessimist?

by Tim Howard

When you examine your life would you view yourself as an optimist or a pessimist? I was asked this question recently and my response was simply: “Neither; I consider myself to be a realist.”

A pessimist has a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believes the worst will happen. The ones who also hold to a fatalistic view of life often convey a very negative outlook of the future.

An optimist has a tendency to view life with hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something, even though the present reality might convey something very different.  

A realistic adopts an attitude or practice of accepting a situation as it is and prepares to deal with it accordingly. They seek to see things, or situations accurately or in a way that is true to life.

The reality is this: Life is full of positive and negative things. When you marry someone, you will experience a combination of good and bad. Marriage is a commitment for better or for worse. You will have ups and downs. You will have highs and lows. You will experience times of confidence and times of confusion.

What’s true in marriage is also true for those who follow Jesus Christ. No amount of faith will make your life into a path without problems. There are hundreds of promises in the Bible, but between the person and the promise there will always be a problem. When Jesus spoke to the disciples in Matthew 16, He told them they would experience some struggles, opposition, obstacles and challenges. He used the metaphor ‘gates of hell’ to illustrate this truth.

When you set out on the Christian journey, the Apostle Peter said: ”…do not be surprised at the painful trial you may suffer, as though something strange were happening to you.” It happens to everyone who pursues Christ with his or her whole heart. They will encounter ‘gates’ created to block their entrance into God’s promises. That’s pretty pessimistic isn’t it?

Well here’s the optimistic side!  Jesus continues in Matthew 16 and declares: Even though you will have trouble in the world, I have given you the Keys to the Kingdom of heaven. No ‘gate from hell’ can keep you from experiencing the promises of God if you use these keys to access heaven.

Keys give a person access. When we purchased our last automobile back in 2004, the dealership gave us a key that granted us access to that vehicle. Whoever has the key has access.

No one knows exactly what the keys actually refer to in this metaphor but we do confidently know they represent three levels of privilege. 1. Authority 2. Power 3. Confidence. To those who know Christ, follow Him with his or her whole heart and seek His assistance they have been given a position (authority) that carries clout (power) and releases confidence. A child belonging to God has access to heaven and confidently knows their Father will help.

Romans 8:28 says: “…we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Armed with these truths, you don’t have to pretend everything is wonderful nor do you have to embrace a belief that everything is terrible. Why? Because when you turn to Jesus, he takes the good, the bad and the ugly and makes it work out His purposes in you. That’s the realistic view. Get real!  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

An Investment That Pays

by Andrew Cromwell

A few weeks ago, there was a story in the major news media about a couple who had been married for 72 years and died within one hour of each other. As a nation, we collectively stood amazed at the longevity—not only in years, but in commitment—of these two people. These days, marriages lasting twenty years seem to exceed the norm.

I believe people want to stay married to the same person. The couples I meet with who are in the midst of relational crisis, would rather patch things up then split up. But staying together seems to be incredibly difficult. So many things conspire against marriages that are strong and unified—work, communication style, personality conflicts, finances, and the list goes on and on.

The truth is, marriage is tough work. It is a clash of cultures (the way things were in her family and the way things were in his). It is a communication landmine (what he hears is not what she means and vice versa). It is an exercise in self-denial (not my will but thy will be done!).

I’m convinced that the people who stick it out and stay married to the same person for decades fall into two categories. Either they are too stubborn to give up but they are miserable all along the way, or they have learned the secret of continually finding beauty in their spouse. Of the two, I’d rather fall into the second category—I don’t find stubborn misery particularly appealing.

There are so many reasons why we should fight for our marriage—especially men. All the studies show that men live longer and are healthier and make more money when they are in a long-term committed, monogamous relationship. Both men and women report that their sex lives get better and better the longer they stay married. And lets be honest, the grass isn’t really greener on the other side.  The minute we think things would be better if we just got out of our marriage and into another, we have simply bought into a lie.

So what are we to do with this most difficult but most rewarding of institutions? We must invest wisely. We must utilize a buy and hold strategy with continual reinvestment.  We must be willing to wait out the highs and lows while we keep our eyes on the prize. We must keep adding to our initial investment little by little. When we do, we will have plenty to live on when it is time to retire!

We don't invest in our marriages with cash deposits (although I have seen it to be useful), but with steady deposits of love. These deposits are made through little acts like writing your spouse a love letter, taking them out on a date, and helping out with the chores around the house. They are also made by the difficult acts of putting your spouse's desires first, choosing to speak their love language instead of your own and deciding to believe the best always. Invest in these ways and hold on and you'll be ready to enjoy the fruits of your investment.

So my question to you is this, are you using the right strategy for investment for your marriage? Are you investing for the long term or are you jumping in and out and can't decide what positions to hold from one day to the next? The pastors in Kings County would love to help you learn to invest in your marriage wisely and then maybe we'll be reading about you and your spouse holding hands after 72 years of marriage.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Change From the Inside - Out

by Tim Howard

When I was born on February 13, 1951 I weighed approximately 8 lbs. 2 oz. My hands were only an inch or so long, my hair didn’t exist and my skin was all shriveled up like a little old man.  Even though my parents used the term ‘cute’ to describe me, I’m not sure that was absolutely true.

If you were to compare some of my old baby pictures with some current photographs, you would immediately notice some major changes. I’ve grown to 5’8” tall, my hands are much larger, I’ve managed to put on 160 lbs, and I don’t want to talk about the hair thing because it seems like I’m regressing back to my infancy in that area…

I’m very thankful for is the possibility of change! I know God loves us too much to let us remain the same but His interest in changing us is not only connected to the external realm.

Back in the day Jesus confronted the Religious leaders about their emphasis on external change without any focus on what was happening internally. He states it very bluntly and forcibly in Matt chapter 23.

 "You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something… You're like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it's all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you're saints, but beneath the skin you're total frauds.” (The Message)

God desires a heart change and not mere behavioral modification. Even though one can change a specific behavior for a period of time, when the heart is not connected to the change, it is only temporary. The ultimate result is hypocrisy.

People in general and religious people specifically can look good externally but be very corrupt on the inside. Isaiah the Prophet puts it this way: “ They draw near to me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” In other words: Some proclaim they are Christians but don’t practice what they proclaim. They seem to be religious but don’t have a personal, ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ. They conform externally but aren’t changed internally.

God wants to change us from the inside out. Yes, He is concerned with your behavior, Yes, He is concerned with your beliefs but He is ultimately concerned with your heart and attitudes because all your actions flow from your heart. Maybe that’s why Solomon said: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Changing from the inside out will require God. You can’t do it yourself! You need a heart transplant. The old heart is deceitful, disingenuous and untrustworthy. That’s where God comes in. Ezekiel 36:26 says God will give us a new heart if we ask. Christianity is not about conforming to certain spiritual laws but being transformed into God’s likeness by the power of Jesus Christ. Just like a skilled doctor who is able to do heart transplants for those in physical need, Jesus can give you a new heart.

Some people try to change by searching for some key hidden in their past. Some seek to change their lives by working harder, praying longer or attending church more often. Various approaches to change may be helpful but only Jesus can change you from the inside - out.