Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Back Roads of Life

by Tim Howard

I’m a freeway type of person, how about you? If I’m going somewhere, I like to get there quickly. I don’t want to get behind someone going slower than the speed limit, someone who is out to see the sights or someone who isn’t in a hurry – unlike me. Imagine how happy I would be if it were legal to purchase and install some blinking red and blue lights on the top of my car. I would promise to never use them unless I was in a hurry! Then again, I always seem to be in a hurry.

Back roads are slower but God usually chooses this type of road to shape us and make us into what we are designed to be. He’s not interested in speed as much as substance and moving at a slower pace allows God to do more than a superficial work in us. 

Back roads are narrow. If you have ever driven in the mountains you know what I mean. Jesus said: “… wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matt 7:13-14. When you narrow your focus, you increase the force of what Jesus can do and open the door to life.

Back roads are dimly lit, if lit at all and Jesus uses our darkness to reveal his light. He is at work when darkness surrounds you – He works the night shift! King David said: “even the darkness will not be dark to you – the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm. 139:12

Back roads are bumpy, littered with potholes and often not paved. If you are looking for convenience, comfort and trying to avoid pain, then freeway living is a logical choice. If you want to make an impact and grow some deep roots, however, back roads are the best. Jesus intentionally uses our hurts, pains and the troubles of life to develop us rather than destroy us.  The Apostle Paul confirmed this by saying, I’ve been knocked down but not destroyed.

Back roads are where you will meet Jesus.  Back in the 60’s the Hippie Movement was in full swing and it was common to see people hitch-hiking along the road. You never saw them on the freeway, however – only roads less traveled. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus can be found on the freeways of life too but you miss Him because you don’t take time to notice.

If you are caught up in the ‘rat race’ of our culture, moving at great speeds but making little progress – If you have forgotten that the process is as important as the goal – If your busyness had blurred the significance of life then you may want to look for a back road.

I promise you this. You won’t get to your destination as quickly but you will smell some roses along the way, see some life-changing things and encounter Jesus along the way.

Pastor Tim Howard is the Lead Pastor at Koinonia Christian Fellowship. Any comments can be sent to:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Fresh Perspective

by Andrew Cromwell

I tend to see things one way. My way. Knowing this, I do my best to see things from another perspective. If I’m dealing with someone and we just don’t see “eye-to-eye”, I do my best to give them the benefit of the doubt and see things from their point of view. 

This is all well and good until my emotions get involved. Because when my feelings get hurt or when I get angry—I stop playing the part of the cool, detached “bigger perspective” person who can see the value in everyone’s opinion. Suddenly, the other person’s view not only doesn’t make much sense, it’s just downright dumb.

Even in the best of moments, I am severely limited. As much as I try to see the bigger picture, I find that my own selfish perspective keeps slipping in and clouding my view. And I get stuck there until I remember that there is another, better way. 

When I remember what God said to Isaiah—” my thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways”—it wakes me from my selfish slumber. I must admit, it is a little embarrassing when I discover that I once again have fallen into the old pattern of thinking that I could figure things out on my own. But after I get over myself and face up to the reality that if I try to get a new perspective without first inviting God into the situation, then I have done nothing but just “try”. 

Trying is nice. Doing is better. Have you ever “tried” to be a better person? It rarely works. Before you know it, you’re right back where you started, stuck back in the old thinking and habit patterns. That is because “trying” is a lousy strategy. 

Dying is much better. Yes, dying. As in, put a fork in it, it’s done. Dying means that we give up our old perspective because we realize that it is just plain lousy. We give up on “trying” to see from the other person’s point of view. Instead, we replace our old perspective with a new one. We replace our old eyes with new eyes.

God said to Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart.” That’s what you and I need. We need God’s perspective. Enough with “trying” to figure things out and “trying” to hyper analyze the situation. It’s time to realize that we are selfish, limited, broken people that can do little without God’s help. 

If we really want to see into another person’s world and to walk a mile in their shoes, we need to ask God to replace our perspective with His perspective. You see, if anyone is able to fully understand a larger view, it is Father God. 

So the next time you don’t understand your boss, your spouse, your kids, your co-workers or that crazy driver who just blew by and flipped you off, don’t “try.” Die. Die to your natural reaction of anger, bitterness or frustration. Instead, ask God to give you His perspective, His heart. Ask Him to give you His love for that person. 

And you know what? He will.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Good Thing About Failing

by Tim Howard

Everyone fails at some time! I know this to be true but it doesn’t make me feel any better when it happens. No one wants to mess up and there are a myriad of reasons. It’s painful, evokes feelings of disappointment, may have negative effects, is very difficult to see anything positive and recovery takes a lot of effort.  No one sets out to fail but it happens.
One major example is recorded in Joshua chapter 7 in the Old Testament. Joshua was a great leader of Israel and if you read his story, you will discover a massive failure that affected a whole lot of people in an adverse way. In his attempt to besiege a city called ‘Ai’, in order to capture more territory he failed in the attempt. He miscalculated some important details and didn’t have a clear understanding of the big picture.
His example should warn all of us. Whether it be an individual, a corporate business or the leadership of a nation, failure waits around the corner for those do not thoroughly investigate all the facts and clearly see the ‘big picture’ before making major decision of the magnitude that Joshua made.
When failure happens, however, I’ve learned two responses that can help greatly. Joshua did both and was able to move beyond his failure. Some people move on in life after a defeat but you must move beyond the collapse to recover totally.
1. Seek to discover the root problem so you can correct it. There’s always a reason behind any failure. What are some of the reasons we fail?
A life of secrecy and sin surely lead the list but other things contribute as well. When you put in minimum effort and expect maximum results failure is nearby. If you act upon bad advice the results can be devastating. Make sure you know to whom you are listening. The ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ syndrome is responsible for many failures and defeat happens frequently if we don’t make a commitment and demonstrate perseverance. Whatever the root reason is, it’s worth finding. It may be obscure, hazy or concealed but you can’t fix something unless you know where it’s broken?
2. Don’t react to failure but respond.
Emotions are wonderful but if you allow them to lead your decision making process in the midst of failure you will react improperly rather than respond correctly.
Here’s a few ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ when you fail.
Don’t be quick to look outside before you have taken a long look inside. This will lead to shifting the responsibility onto someone else. Others may have contributed to your debacle but that doesn’t make them responsible for what you do. Do accept full responsibility for your own life and the decisions you make.
Don’t ignore the facts and fail to recognize the ‘Elephant’ in the room. Do focus fully on the problem and seek an honest evaluation.
Don’t quit – take another swing. Someone said, “Failure doesn’t have to be final.”
Don’t blame God but pray to Him. The first thing Joshua did when failure happened was to call out to the One who could help. Some people will look down on you when failure happens and possibly reject you, but Jesus will ALWAYS work with you if you come to Him. There’s something good that can come out of failure if we call on God.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Your Fiscal Cliff

by Andrew Cromwell

There has been a lot of talk of late about our economy and whether or not we are in recovery or still in recession. The federal government has been pumping money into our financial system for the last five years in order to buoy our economy and prevent further financial meltdown. Meanwhile, all of this spending has been getting expensive and our government’s attempts to put our financial house in order came to a head at the beginning of this year. This “crisis” was averted by the same congress that had created it at the 11th hour by passing other legislation (which I will not begin to go into here).

It seems that our government lacks the will to make the real changes necessary for a long-term solution to the financial woes of our country. This is not surprising since our government is made up of people we elect and who represent our desires. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 30% of Americans actually budget their money and have long-term financial goals. The other 70% live without much of a plan except to survive the month.

So it should not surprise us that our political leaders don’t stand up and try to sell America on “tightening its collective financial belt”. If they did, 70% of us would scratch our heads and then go out and buy another Starbucks.

But we should not lose hope. Small changes in personal finances can equal big changes in your world. As Dave Ramsey says, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have some month at the end of your money?” When we do, we discover a new kind of confidence about the future. Even if the car breaks down or the dryer gives out, we know it is going to be okay because we have told our money where to go rather than watching it walk out the door.

The consumer mentality is pervasive in our culture. Earlier this week, I realized I was trolling the ads online just to see what was on sale in case I “needed” something. It is amazing how quickly I can discover something we don’t have that we “need.” And before I know it, I have pulled out my credit card and made the purchase. I make the same mistake when I go to Target just to walk the aisles.

Whenever I find myself a little out of control financially, I realize it’s time to get back to the basics. First, you and I must know where our money is going.  Far too often, the money slips through our fingers because we have not made a plan (a budget) and live by accident. That budget is the second thing that is NECESSARY if we are going to get our money in line. We complain all the time that our government doesn’t have a budget, and yet most of us don’t either. Something is wrong with that picture!

Third, we must plan for the future because we are going to need some money when we get there. You are going to need money for retirement. You are going to need money to help your kids during their college years. You are going to need money because life is going to happen. If you don’t have a plan, then you will always be surprised by everything.

Fourth, you must decide to be happy. Contentment is key if we are going to get a hold of our finances. If we are always unhappy with what we have, we will always be looking for ways to spend our way into happiness. The problem is, more stuff does not equal happiness, it just equals more stuff.