Saturday, September 29, 2012

Soul Food

by Andrew Cromwell

If you believe in God, then you must believe in the existence of a part of us that cannot be seen. No amount of weighing or measuring or searching with microscopes will reveal this part. You can cut us open and look inside, you can draw blood and run tests and you can even make us stand in front of that x-ray machine thingy at the airport, but you will not be able to see our soul.

Our soul is that invisible part of us — being invisible makes it no less real — that governs and directs and makes us truly who we are. Some have called it “the ghost in the machine”, although no matter how we try, we have not been able to build a machine and summon the ghost. And while our physical body connects us with the world around us and serves as the intermediary through which we taste, touch, smell and sense it — it is the soul that gives these experiences their texture and weight. No amount of neurons firing in the brain can ever hope to explain this thing we call consciousness — it is soul-territory.

Without the soul, the body dies (let us save the ever popular zombie discussion for another day). The experiences of virtues like love, courage, joy, hope and vices like lust, cowardice, anxiety and hopelessness cannot happen without the soul. It is only through the soul that we can communicate with God, and it is our soul that endures long after the physical body dies.

Now even though we all have a soul, we also have a body. This physical part of us is very useful. It is through this body that we move around, communicate with others and generally get things done in the physical world. Without this body, we would be ghosts — and ghosts cannot be particularly effective in our world.

But as useful as this body is, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Let us say it this way, the body makes a wonderful slave but a terrible master. The body must be fed and cared for and if treated well can be wonderful. But if the body’s appetites are over-fed, it can become like a ravenous dog restlessly searching for its next meal and not caring particularly from where it comes.

The natural order of things is for our soul to direct our body. If we want to become more loving, we direct our body to do things that are kind and put others first. If we want to become more courageous, then we order our body to stand and do what is right in situations when we feel afraid or timid.

When our body’s appetites for food, sex, entertainment, and busyness — among many others — become the driving force in our lives, we flip things upside down and our soul is diminished. Solomon, the wisest man in the world, said when this happens: “We work to feed our appetites; meanwhile our souls go hungry” (Eccl. 6:7).

So the question is, whom are you feeding more frequently, your soul or your body? People who consistently feed themselves healthy soul food — a regular diet of God’s Word and giving oneself to others — discover true joy. But those who only feed the lower desires of our body increasingly lose the capacity for true greatness.

The pastors of Kings County are serving up soul food this weekend. Perhaps you need a change of diet?

Saturday, September 22, 2012


by Tim Howard

When I was a little kid my mom used to give me commands. She would say things like: “Go clean up your room - go brush your teeth, go take a bath.” I’m reminded of my reluctance and reticence to respond to her directives every time I give a similar command to my grandson.

Just last night I said to him: “Go get ready for bed.” “I don’t want to go to bed,” was his reply. Again this morning: “Go get your shoes on or we’ll be late for school.” He responded: “Do I have to? I don’t like school! 

Why don’t we want to obey? 

Maybe it’s because we are self-centered and don’t like having anyone tell us what to do. We believe in being autocratic. Possibly the command doesn’t fit with our preferences or we simply may have a built-in rebellious streak. You can see examples throughout the Bible.

In the book of Exodus we are told of a time when God talked to Moses. It was in a desert area far from the view of anyone else and Moses was reluctant to obey.

The conversation went something like this: God Speaks: Moses, I’ve set myself to help a whole lot of people who are in need. They are experiencing sufferings; addictions, hardships, injustice and I want to free them because they are asking for my help…  Even though it doesn’t record it, I’m sure Moses was elated because this is something he had desired for over 40 years.

In Chapter 3 verse 10, however, God said something else that caused this jubilation - this euphoria and this ecstasy to evaporate. He said:  “…Go!   I’m sending you…” by the response given by Moses we see his reluctance to obey. It reminded me of this statement: “Anything can be done as long as someone else does it.” We want God or others to do the stuff but we too often don’t want to get involved ourselves.

Moses gives 4 reasons as to why he didn’t want to obey.
Ex. 3:11 I’m a no-body - He had an identity issue to solve.
Ex. 3:13 I won’t know what to say or do - A confidence issue.
Ex. 4:1 I’m not sure people will listen - A fear issue.
Ex. 4:10 I don’t have any skills or abilities - A competence issue.

Excuses, excuses and more excuses!
What Moses didn’t understand was this: When God asks people to obey, it is for their own personal benefit not to mention the welfare of others. If a parent shouts a command to STOP when a child is getting to close to a cliff, it is for the child’s safety not for the parents need to establish authority.

Identity issues are real. Someone said: “God doesn’t make Nobody’s, He makes Somebody’s!” We discover our value only when we are connected to Him and our identity issue is solved when we know God is with us. That’s why God answered his identity question by saying: “ I will be with you” The important thing isn’t who you are but who God is in you. Check out Romans 8:31! 

Confidence issues, fear issues and competence can be dealt with when you trust in God and entrust yourself to him. The issues facing Moses are the same issues facing us. Don’t let them keep you from obeying God’s commandments. They are for your benefit and the welfare of others. Quit making excuses and follow God’s lead. You won’t be sorry and people will be blessed.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Stuck In The Middle

by Andrew Cromwell

You are at this very moment, standing right in the middle of your own ‘acres of diamonds.’ —Earl Nightengale

All of us know what it is like to be stuck in the middle. We have baked this idea into our language, with sayings such as “stuck between a rock and a hard place” and “out of the frying pan and into the fire”. We love new beginnings and spend time celebrating or lamenting the endings in life (endings of relationships, jobs, projects), but most of our time is spent doing life in the middle, somewhere between the beginning and the end.  

Most of us don’t particularly care for the middle. If you happen to be a middle child, you understand the challenge of being in-between older and younger siblings. You’re neither the golden first born nor the can’t-do-wrong baby of the family, and it seems that you always have to fight to get noticed.

Whether or not you are a middle child, the reality is all of us must become comfortable with living in the middle. Few of us will ever be the “big boss” of the corporation and have the final say. So we have to learn how to thrive somewhere between the top and the bottom at work and in life.

Most people don’t like where they are in life. They are always looking for the “next thing.” And while ambition can be healthy, it can keep us from excelling and succeeding right where we are. So very often, instead of thriving in our “middle” position, we instead waste time and energy dreaming about being somewhere else.

Whether you are in a “middle” at work, in your family or in your social setting, isn’t it time to start thriving right where you are? Saint Irenaeus said “man fully alive is the glory of God.” You and I will only be fully alive when we make the decision to fully embrace our current place. Yes, God might have different things for us to do in the future, but for right now, He has put us exactly where we are.

Here are three decisions you can make that will help you thrive in the middle:

First, choose to enjoy it and play the role well! Middle children learn how to solve family disputes and bring people together. They are usually the peacemakers in the family, acting as interpreters between warring parties. You can do the same thing right where you are. Help the “higher ups” understand the “little people” and vice-versa.

Second, choose to be the best right where you are. Find fulfillment in helping the team win. See your position as an opportunity to gain experience that will be valuable in the future. As you excel in your place, you will also rise to the top.

Third, choose to be an influencer for the good in every direction. If you’re in the middle of your work organization, you can still lead others by influencing them to make the right decisions. Far too many people take themselves out of the game because they say, “it’s not my job”. Instead, step up to the plate and make a difference!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Take Responsibility

by Tim Howard

My family consisted of 5 children and two parents when I grew up on the east coast. With that many people living under one roof, there was always some mess to clean up, something broken in need of being fixed or some job to finish. If everyone did their part, things went pretty well.

Problems, however, began to surface when one or more of us would slack off and let others do the lion’s share of the work. Notice I included myself in the equation! We all have a tendency to avoid responsibility rather than accept it.

Paul the Apostle writes a powerful yet very short book in the New Testament called Ephesians. It’s only 6 chapters long and can be divided into two clearly defined sections. Chapters 1-3 focus is all about our relationship with God and how rich we are because of our connection with him. He informs us that from his perspective, we are chosen, forgiven, included, gifted and loved. Then in Chapter 4 there is a noticeable shift.

Just like the shifting of a gear in an automobile, Paul shifts from focusing on our relationship with God to our responsibilities we have been given in lieu of God’s goodness. To those who have received much, much is required. 

My dad and mom taught us about responsibility. They convinced us we all play a part in life and we cannot live as spectators without serious consequences. We need to be participants in life not merely observers. You are responsible for your actions and if you blame others for the choices you make, maturity will pass you by. When you avoid rather than accept responsibility, your growth is stunted.

Accepting responsibility means you are willing to become a participant. When you fulfill your responsibilities, others are impacted for the good. You, yourself will benefit as well. My slothfulness in the early years put pressure on my siblings to carry a burden I should have shared. Because I wouldn’t, they suffered to a greater extent needlessly. 

That is happening every day in our culture in a variety of ways. We all know that much of our tax dollars go toward helping those who really need assistance. That is a good thing. A whole lot of financial aid, however, is given to those who could be and should be participating in the work ethic. When this happens, we ALL suffer to a greater degree. Simply because some decide they will not do what they can do.

Paul said ‘be’ responsible! We are all blessed to live in the USA. The rich and the poor have something to be thankful for. Both the rich and the poor have a significant role to play.  The rich, poor and all those in-between are responsible to do their part. If we all accept the role we have been given, the duties we have been assigned and the job we are called to do, this world will be a better place. Everyone doesn’t need to do everything but everyone needs to do something!

Don’t let others pull your weight. Fulfilling your responsibilities will produce a healthy sense of value and self-esteem in you and lighten the load for others. Hear the words of Paul in Eph 4:15. “As each person does his or her own special work, it helps the other people grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

Saturday, September 1, 2012

You Are A leader

by Andrew Cromwell

Most of us don’t feel like leaders. When it comes to the “L” word, we believe that it must apply to someone else, but certainly not to us. We think of leaders as the people who have an important title and are in charge of lots and lots of people. We think of them as the ones who are always sharply dressed, super smart and walk around with a take no prisoners attitude.

And while these things might be hallmarks of a leader (emphasis on “might”), the truth is there are leaders of all shapes and sizes. True, we are not all called to be leaders of thousands, but I do believe that we all can be leaders.

First, we must lead ourselves. This, above all is probably the most challenging of all leadership tasks. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.” The day we stop blaming others for our lot in life and start taking charge of our own emotions and actions is the day we start taking up the role of a leader. 

People who lead themselves are constantly seeking to understand themselves more so that they are not hostages to their own out-of-control emotions. They seek out new experiences so that they can grow. They ask others to give them constructive feedback. They learn how to identify the warning signs of anger, depression and worry long before these destructive emotions have taken over, and they stop them dead in their tracks.

Second, we must lead the people around us. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the only leaders are the ones that have titles on their door or business card. Leadership is simply the ability to influence those around you. You don’t need a title to influence your friends -- you just need their trust.

I can’t emphasize this point enough. Too many times, we take a backseat in situations that are crying out for leadership because we say something silly like, “it’s not my job.” We take ourselves out of the game and sit on the bench without ever taking a shot. 

This world is begging for people who will stand up and speak the truth. People who will say what needs to be said. People who will row against the current rather than just give up and float downstream. 

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room (actually, all the research shows that it is not great intelligence that makes for great leadership). You don’t have to be the person with the biggest paycheck. And you certainly don’t have to be the person wearing the nicest suit. Instead, you need to be willing to step out and take a swing. 

The pastors in the Kings County would love to help you influence your family and community for the good.  Why don’t you give them a chance this weekend?