Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Fight: Round 12

by Tim Howard

Those who don’t give up win title fights. Three things are needed to win the battles of life. Jesus commended a woman who was experiencing tremendous difficulties and in need of legal assistance. She was battling an arrogant Judge who resisted her pleas. Continuing to persevere, however, she won him over and received justice. 
I’ve seen a lot of fights won in the last round. The fighters may have led on points according to the judges but going into the 12th and final round they were knocked out and lost the battle. Why? The contender persevered! It’s reminiscent of Ecclesiastes 9 that says: the race is not always won by the fastest or the battle to the strongest nor does wealth always come to the most brilliant. Sometimes other factors come into play. You need PERSEVERANCE to win.
It’s not how you begin a fight that’s most important but how you finish and you won’t finish if you aren’t prepared. Being PREPARED for battle before the battle begins is the second key to obtaining victory. Many times we lose because we are taken by surprise and not ready for what’s ahead.
Paul in Ephesians Chapter 6 gives us seven directives that prepare us for the challenges ahead.
  1. Make sure your head is screwed on straight. Know whom you can depend upon. If you are in need, Jesus is the one who can save you. He alone rescues. 
  2. Commit yourself to doing what’s right. You may not always do things the right way but you can do the right thing. 
  3. Determine to be truthful. Lying will undermine what God wants to do in you and through you. If you want to finish the fight, every round must be founded upon truth.
  4. Pursue peace and not war. Blessed are the peacemakers.
  5. Don’t’ fight the battles of life without faith in Christ. We all have faith but the question is: Who or where do we put our faith? Some put confidence in their financial wealth. Others depend upon their skills and abilities but those who finish strong put their faith in Christ. 
  6. Don’t let people’s opinion have more power than God’s word. Realize and recognize God always has the final word.
  7. Don’t fight battles alone. Keep in contact with the coach. Jesus! Pray at all times in a variety of ways. Don’t settle for only talking to others when you face difficulties. You have a Heavenly Father who listens whenever you call. 
Paul calls these seven directives the armor of God. They will protect you and lead you to victory. When you prepare yourself in these seven ways, you can stand against anything that comes across your path. 
The third key to victory is being PRO-ACTIVE. You must live life on purpose! Be intentional. Paul, who gave these directives, said: “Fight the good fight.” Get involved! Don’t be passive. Press on to victory. Many fights aren’t worth fighting but others must be fought and you must win. Don’t wait for victory to come to you, go after it.
When all is said and done the Apostle Paul penned these words: 2Tim. 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”    God wants to equip you to become a championship fighter. You may be fighting depression, hopelessness, sickness, chronic pain or some other battle. God says: John 16:33 … “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Fight: Round 3

by Tim Howard
One of the greatest fights recorded in scripture is about a man named Goliath and a boy named David. Here’s the Biblical record.
“A giant nearly ten feet tall stepped out from the Philistine line into the open, Goliath from Gath. He had a bronze helmet on his head and was dressed in armor—126 pounds of it! He wore bronze shin guards and carried a bronze sword. His spear was like a fence rail—the spear tip alone weighed over fifteen pounds… Goliath called out to the Israelite troops, "Why bother using your whole army… pick your best fighter and pit him against me.” … Hearing the Philistine's challenge, they were terrified and lost all hope.” MSG 1 Samuel 17.
You may be asking: How could anyone stand up against someone like that and win? Evidently others were wondering the same thing, because no one dared to accept his challenge except a boy named David.
David told the King he was prepared to do battle with this Giant even though he was small in stature. God was with him! He would use weapons, which included 5 stones and a sling. Here’s what the record says: “David reached into his pocket for a stone, slung it, and hit the Philistine hard in the forehead, embedding the stone deeply. The Philistine crashed, facedown in the dirt. That's how David beat the Philistine—with a sling and a stone.” MSG
A better question might be: How does a much larger man, a much stronger man and soldier with much more training in warfare fail to win this battle?
Let me give you three reasons:

1. Goliath overestimated his own strength and underestimated God’s strength. David didn’t! His confidence wasn’t in his own abilities but in the promises and power of God. David didn’t lean on his own understanding. He fulfilled Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight…” NIV

2. Goliath devalued, disrespected and disdained David because he was small. David, however, used five small stones to do the impossible. If you are going to win the fight against your giants, you’ve got to know that every little bit helps. It’s the little things that are important and it’s the little things that add up to a lot. Rick Warren said: “One snowflake can’t do much but if you get enough of them, you can stop traffic.” Don’t look down on the little things of life. If you do you will lose the battle.

3. Goliath didn’t take into account his weakness. Even though his armor almost totally covered his body, he was still vulnerable. Pride can blind you to your weaknesses. David walked in humility and it proved to be the key to his victory. Humility is a powerful weapon. James said it best: “God gives us more and more strength to stand against…evil…. God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.” St Paul puts it this way: 2 Corinthians12:9  “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” 

What giants are you facing and fighting today?
Don’t depend upon your own abilities but trust in God. Don’t wait for the 15th round, hoping to get a KO. Keep throwing the little punches every round. They are paving the way to victory. Make sure you walk humbly before God. He will help you win the fight.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Fight: Round 2

by Tim Howard

Have you ever had someone come at you with harm as his or her intent? If so, you’ve been confronted with a very important question. Is this a flight or fight situation?
I’ve heard people say they are lovers and not fighters. They want peace, not war. King David was that type of man. Psalm 120:7 clearly reveals his innermost desires. The problem however, was simple.  Those who wanted war surrounded David. They wanted to fight!  They didn’t want peace! David’s story reveals he was a man who loved God but was also a great warrior. He was both, a lover and a fighter!
I’m a promoter of the ‘flight’ response if at all possible but realize there are times when the ‘fight’ response is necessary. I say this not out of cowardice but wisdom. If a fight can be avoided and the right goals succeed, it is best. 
When you must fight, however, the right weapons can bring victory. 
Paul the Apostle addresses this issue in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. “The world is unprincipled. It's dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn't fight fair. But we don't live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren't for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God…Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” MSG
The tools or weapons God uses aren’t your typical type. They aren’t designed to help you carry out revenge like Dirty Harry. They won’t help you to fight fire with fire and they can’t be used for your own personal vendettas. The weapons given by God will bring forgiveness, freedom and fullness when used properly.
Of all the weapons we have received, I think ‘Truth’ is among the top ten. In Ephesians 6 when Paul is talking about warfare he tells us to make sure we have truth on our side whenever we encounter opposition and need to fight. He likens it to a belt which when buckled around the waist keeps everything together and in place. 
A marriage between a man and woman will fall apart if truth doesn’t reign in the relationship. A business venture will fail if it isn’t based upon truth. An argument founded upon a lie will never turn out well. 
“Speak the ’truth’ in love” is what the Bible tells us to do. When you speak the truth, it has the power to break through the opponent’s facade. When you speak the ‘truth in love’ it has the power to build the opponent’s character. Everyone wins.
Truth can hurt but in the end it’s worth embracing. A doctor’s knife may cause pain but when the cancer is removed, the joy is overwhelming. 
When you speak the truth at the right time, in the right way and with the right attitude the results will be freedom. It may not stop the battle but it will free you in the midst of the battle.  
We all live in a world that requires us to fight. You must fight against depression, which comes frequently. You must fight the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness that comes when you hear the daily news. You must fight to keep your head above water when your dreams are shattered and disappointments abound. When you fight, make sure you know the truth about God. He’s on your side.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Fight: Round 1

by Tim Howard

Back in the day my dad and I would watch the ‘Friday Night Fights’ on our 19-inch black and white television set. We would sit in the living room watching guys like Rocky Marciano, Sonny Liston, Archie Moore and Sugar Ray Robinson step into the ring and box for 10 to fifteen rounds. My father actually watched more than I did because my assignment was to keep adjusting the rabbit ear antenna to get a clear picture. Those were the days!

In the early 1960’s a guy by the name of Cassius Clay came onto the scene and caused a paradigm shift in the world of boxing. Muhammad Ali, as he later would be called was unique. He could dance and weave around the ring like none other and was extremely difficult to hit. One of his famous quotes when he fought against George Foremen was this:

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can't hit what his eyes can't see. Now you see me, now you don't. George thinks he will, but I know he won't. “

Paul the Apostle was a fighter too! Even though he never stepped into a boxing ring, many people took shots at him with the intent of knocking him out. God, however, was on his side and he ended up a winner. He may have lost a few fights but he won the championship.

He records one on his experiences in 2Cor. 4:8-9. “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.”

Life is a fight! Jesus said: ‘ “… in the world you have tribulation but take courage, I have overcome the world” You can’t live a joy-filled life and be a pacifist. The bible tells us there is an enemy who doesn’t want you to be free. He doesn’t want you to experience peace, joy or love. He wants you to be self-centered, self-focused and self-willed. He wants to destroy you.

Jesus, on the other hand fought the ultimate fight against sin so we could in fact, experience a quality of existence called eternal life.

When you hear things like: “I’m sorry but we have to lay you off.” “It’s malignant.” “”Your son’s been arrested.” I don’t love you any more.”” “Mom, I think I’m pregnant.” “I’ve found someone else.” “Your wife didn’t survive the surgery.” You know a ravaging blow has hit you. The vibrancy of life can be knocked right out of you if one is not careful.

Something always attempts to rob you of eternal life but with God, a level of living that's full of joy is possible. It’s a dimension of living that’s affected by the hits but not destroyed.

Paul learned the art of fighting and became a champion. Romans 8:37 tells us that he not only won the war with a narrow margin but won in a convincing way. He overwhelmingly conquered and so can you. Mr. Ali said: “If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.” God wants to make you into a champion fighter.

In the next few articles we will give some lessons in the art of fighting.
You may want to check out and read Eph 6:10 -18 because every fighter prepares for battle before entering the ring. Get ready, the bell is about to sound…

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Never Quit

by Andrew Cromwell

There is a story about an old man who owned a small store in a run-down area. He was the last open store in a failed commercial development and he just refused to quit. A young commercial developer saw an opportunity to buy cheap property in a decent location and formulated a plan. He bought all the property surrounding the small store and made the old man a generous offer for his property too. But the stubborn man wasn't interested. He wouldn't sell no matter how much money was offered.  

The real estate developer was forced to move forward with his plans without the old man's property. After two full years of development the time neared when the new shopping center would open. The new buildings towered over and completely surrounded the old man's small shop. Those that had watched the David-and-Goliath-like struggle between the old man and the developer shook their heads knowing that the coming of the new shopping center would surely sound the death toll for the old man's business. 

But when the day came for the big opening, the old man still had a trick or two up his sleeve. Gigantic, beautiful banners hung from all sides of the new construction proclaiming, "Grand Opening!" and "Best Prices in Town".  Not to be outdone, the old man strung a banner of his own right across the little store that stood at the very center of the new shopping center. His banner read "Main Entrance". 

That's bulldog tenacity. The never-give-up-mentality that believes that for every challenge there is a solution—we would all do well to have a little bit of that same spirit inside us. Far too often we find it is easier to give up when the going gets rough. 
This life is full of challenges, opposition and disappointments. The Scriptures tell us that we will be offended by others. The question is how we will choose to respond to those offenses. 

The book of James says it this way:
When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 

Has your faith ever been tested? Have you ever been tempted to give up? James reminds us that it is in these moments of pressure and difficulty that we are most ready to grow—but only if we grab onto that which is solid and hold on with bulldog tenacity. 

The people that I admire and respect the most are those who have learned that life is simply a training ground for eternity. These precious people have decided that no matter what the challenge or trial, they won't quit and they won't allow their circumstances to dictate their reactions. They have an unfailing trust and faith in the One who is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).  

So let me ask you, how's your tenacity level? What are you holding on to? What is going to keep you going even though the massive towers of life surround you on every side? Those who have found their stability in Father God find that He has a way of turning impossible situations into "Main Entrances" for His activity and blessing. 

The pastors in Kings County would love to encourage you this weekend, why don't you gather your family and friends and go somewhere that will remind you that life's challenges look so much better through God's eyes?