Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 Decisions for 2012

by Tim Howard

Someone said: “You are today where your decisions have brought you and you will be tomorrow where your decisions take you.” All of us make hundreds of decisions each and every day. What we choose to wear, when we start our day, how we will get to work, what we will eat and on and on and on…

Many decisions will not alter you in a dramatic sense but there are some decisions that will shape you and your destiny in profound ways. Events, experiences and other occurrences don’t have the power to shape you. It’s not what happens to you that matters most but the decisions you make regarding how you will respond to those happenings.

Here are 10 decisions that prove to be anything but stupid.  They have been used by God to shape many individuals into people of substance.  If you’re looking for a Top Ten list, for 2012 you might want to consider some of these.
10. I will leave everything a little better than I found it. Putting it another way: I will give more than I take. If you make this decision, a promise follows: “Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity." Luke 6:38
9. I will listen and think before I speak.  Maybe that’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth. James 1:19 everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak
8. I will measure people by the size of their hearts, not the size of their bank accounts. Don’t be impressed by what you see. Like the Pharisees in the Bible, What is seen externally is not always a good indication of what’s really going on below the surface. Check out Matt 23:25-27.
7. I will not give up on anyone because miracles happen every day.  Parents especially need to hear this regarding their children. I personally thank God for parents who didn’t give up on me.
6. I will work on my own inadequacies before I critique and criticize others.  “It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” Matt 7:3-5 The Message
5. I will work for what I get rather than expect others to give me a handout.  When you do this you do away with a spirit of entitlement.
4. I will take responsibility for my own life rather than blame someone else. 
3. I will praise God at all times.  David penned these words in Psalm 34 because he knew that God is at work even in the difficult moments of life.

2. I will love my neighbor as myself. Matt. 22:39
1.  I will Love the Lord with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind and with all my strength.’ Mark 12:30

 These 10 decisions for 2012 may not be the ones you choose to follow but they will shape your life for the good if you do. Whatever you’ve decided to do in the upcoming year, make sure you don’t do it alone. Allow God to participate and partner with others. You will be glad you did.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Unexpected Gifts

by Andrew Cromwell

Many gifts will be given this season. Some will be beautifully wrapped, some will be expensive and some will be hand-made. There will be big gifts and little gifts, toys and trinkets, gadgets and gizmos and everything in between. For many of us, there really won’t be too many surprises this Christmas season. We’ve been through it all before, and many times.

And while we will open our gifts with a smile on our face, we don’t anticipate being greatly surprised. There will be the obligatory clothing items, the gag gifts, the cute hand-made trinket from the kids and the gift we really wanted that we told them to get for us. We don’t anticipate anything will be out of the ordinary and we have already decided in our hearts that our true enjoyment will come from watching the littlest ones open their gifts.

But every once in a while, we are surprised by an unexpected gift. You know the gift I’m talking about, it comes from a loved one and it comes out of left field. We didn’t specify the make and model and it doesn’t conform to the standard gift giving routine. But this gift really knocks it out of the park! As we open it, we realize the time and thought that went into the selection of the gift and we feel so appreciated and loved.

Unexpected gifts have a way of doing that to us. They interrupt the routine for a moment and remind us that we can be surprised after all, no matter how jaded we are. That’s why unexpected gifts are often the best of all. It’s not about the wrapping and it’s not about the size of the gift—instead it is about the insight and creativity of the giver.

These days even the story of that first Christmas has become so routine—so frequently recounted through nativity scenes, stories and Christmas plays—that we forget how truly unexpected it was. God’s grand plan for the salvation of the world came wrapped in very inauspicious packaging and in a size impossibly small and fragile. And yet, it was the best gift of all.

This Christmas, I pray that you would be surprised by God in an unexpected way. I pray that His presence would surprise you and your family on Christmas morning and that you would rediscover how much insight, creativity and love He has for you.

We have placed a Christmas devotional for you and your family to enjoy on Christmas morning on our website at On behalf of all the pastors in Kings County, Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Spend Less, Give More

by Tim Howard

How are you doing with regards to your Christmas shopping?  Have you purchased something for your children yet?  Are you still frantically looking for that perfect gift for that perfect someone in your life?  What about your friends and co-workers?  Are you running from store to store and checking online prices to find a great gift for a great deal?  In all your activities, have you ever stopped to think there might be a better way to celebrate Christmas without spending a lot of your hard earned money?  If I could show you how to spend less yet give more, wouldn’t that be good news?

This year I’ve decided to join the ‘Advent Conspiracy.’  I am conspiring with others to find a way to celebrate the Advent of Christ without yielding to the spirit of consumerism, which is very much alive in our culture.  I’m not implying we should spend nothing! It’s not about being stingy, miserly or acting like a scrooge.  Share nothing, have nothing or give nothing.  NO! It’s all about giving gifts BUT giving gifts that mean something and make a real difference.  Spend less and give more!  Sounds impossible unless you realize that the greatest gifts we can give people cost nothing at all in a monetary sense.
Three of the greatest gifts came to us through the birth of Jesus Christ and you can give these three gifts to others.  He came to reveal the Father’s love.  He came to give us joy and He came to offer forgiveness and freedom from our past.
A Doctor by the name of Luke makes mention of these three gifts by recording the announcement of Christ’s birth in the Bible.  He says in Luke 2:10 -11, “the angel of the Lord said to them, ‘…behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” 

Did you notice that Jesus came for everyone and not just a few?  The very fact that God decided to live among us reveals His great love toward us and when you add joy and forgiveness to the equation you have three pretty awesome gifts. That’s not only good news, that’s great news! 
The spirit of consumerism can too easily blind us from seeing the real message of Christmas. If we miss out on what’s truly important the Christmas season can be a burden to endure rather than a blessing to be experienced. 
I invite you to join the ‘Advent Conspiracy’.  Return to the true meaning of Christmas.  Decide to celebrate God’s presence rather than focusing on getting more presents.  Give more of yourself by serving rather than spending. In doing, the people you encounter will be energized and see your love.  Forgive those who have hurt you and they will experience great joy - So will you! Many gifts can be given to people this Christmas but Love, Joy and Forgiveness are among the best. 
If you join the Advent Conspiracy, you will have more money in your pockets and more life in your heart at the end of the season.  You will honor God by exalting His son Jesus Christ and that’s extremely important since it’s His Birthday.  He is the reason we say: Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Red Bearded Pitch Fork Carrier

by Andrew Cromwell

We do not live in a vacuum. Neither do we live in the realm of the purely physical. There is an unseen world that has direct impact on our lives. We would be wise if we did not ignore this fact. Regrettably, our culture has become convinced that the supernatural does not exist (except of course, vague references to a “higher power” and anything paranormal and associated with horror movies).

I am convinced that reality is in fact rife with the supernatural. This is not because I see disembodied spirits or “dead people” behind every rock and around every corner. Instead, I am convinced of this because I am convinced of the truth of the Bible. And if the Bible is true, then we are unwise to live our lives in ignorance of the fact that there is more to the world than what we can see with our eyes.

In 2 Corinthians 2:11, the Apostle Paul tells us that we should not be ignorant of the strategies of the Enemy.  The devil is real. He is not the bearded, pitchfork carrying, two-horned, red-skinned cartoon character depicted so often. He is instead, a created being—an angel—who was once in heaven, but because he decided to rebel against God, has now been thrown out of heaven and his domain is now here on the earth.

He is a powerful creature, but he is not like God. He is neither omnipresent (everywhere) nor omniscient (all-knowing). Instead, he attempts to overcome these limitations by cooperating with our own fallen nature. He has spent a great deal of time and effort on setting up systems within the world that stand against God and that enslave people to their lowest desires.

Wherever you find deceit, hatred, bitterness, injustice, abuse, moral depravity and murder, you have found the fingerprint of the devil. He may never have actually been present in that situation, but his strategy and influence most certainly were. Usually, we play right into his game when we begin to pursue our own selfishness and personal gain. Love, forgiveness, peace, joy and all the gifts that God has given to humankind are never the result of selfishness and self-centeredness.

The devil’s strategy is to keep you from becoming the incredible person that God created you to be. He will do anything that he can to distract you from that wonderful destiny. And because each of us was created with unique interests and abilities, the Enemy manipulates us all a little bit differently, but always with the same goal in mind.

One of the more famous quotes about the devil is that the greatest trick he ever played on mankind was to make them believe he didn’t exist. If he does exist, maybe you and I ought to be familiar enough with his plans so that we can avoid them!  

This weekend the pastors in Kings County would love the opportunity to talk to you about your destiny and how you can avoid the traps the Enemy has laid out for each of us.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Born Free

by Tim Howard

Since the inception of our country many wars have been fought. All of them remind us of one very important fact: we have an enemy! This enemy is often illusive, controlling and very deceptive.
The Bible makes us aware of a spiritual enemy and this adversary seeks to influence us for the bad, control us in order to thwart freedom and deceive us into thinking that good is bad and bad is good.
One person said to me, “ If you believe in God you must also believe in Satan.” I couldn’t agree more! That’s one of the many names given to our spiritual enemy. Other names are: The devil, liar, deceiver, accuser and the list goes on. Each name represents something of our enemy’s nature, character and strategy.
Being born into freedom is different than living a life of freedom. To ‘get free’ from the tyranny of another is one thing, but to ‘remain free’ requires wars to be fought, battles to be waged and skirmishes to be won. There is no victory without a fight and freedom is definitely worth a fight.
Knowing your enemy is a key to victory. Whether it’s in Afghanistan, Iraq or a spiritual battle, we must have certain Intel to be successful. The enemy doesn’t want you to walk in freedom. Here’s 5 ways Satan seeks to keep you imprisoned.
1.              Ignorance. I didn’t know the speed limit was 35 mph officer! Sorry about that, here is your ticket. Isaiah. 5:13 … “My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge...” Paul the Apostle said: “ we are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes.”  Ignorance is not bliss! What you don’t know can hurt you.

2.              Negligence. Luke 6:49 …"the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed…” Many marriages and relationships unravel, not because of what one does but because of what one doesn’t do.

3.              Disobedience. Proverbs 21:3 “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” God’s laws are not meant to restrict us, but to keep us from bondage. Our Father is not so interested in slapping you on the wrist for failure to follow His directives, as He is desirous to keep you free from the snares of the enemy.

4.              Arrogance. Proverbs16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Your enemy loves to see you filled with pride. It hinders God’s work from happening in you because God draws near to the humble but opposes the proud.

5.              Un-forgiveness. This can be likened to a Hydra monster. Hydra was a multi-headed serpent or monster in Greek mythology, slain by Hercules. Similarly (but unfortunately, it is no myth; it is hard reality) un-forgiveness will manifest in multiple ways - resentment, vindictiveness, scornfulness, bitterness, anger, passive unresponsiveness and a host of other unproductive things. When you walk in un- forgiveness you are playing into the strategic plan of the enemy.

You were born to be free. If you are to remain free, however, you must close the door to these 5 entry points and open the door to wisdom, participation, obedience, humility and forgiveness. God sent His Son to set us free. That’s why He came! Why not visit one of the many church families in Kings County as you enter the Christmas season. You can celebrate His birth and the fact that you are born free in Him.