Thursday, October 31, 2013

How’s Your Water?

by Andrew Cromwell

Jesus said in John chapter 7, “whoever believes in me shall have rivers of living water flowing from within.” 

This begs the question: What kind of water do you have flowing from you? I believe that every interaction we have with others can be compared to a water exchange. You know how it is, there are some people in your life that when you talk with them, you leave feeling refreshed. It is as if you have received a cold, clean drink of water. These are the kind of people that you want to spend time with because they add value to you life, they encourage you when you are down and they inspire you to keep going.

On the other hand, there are some interactions with people where instead of offering you a nice, cool drink, they instead spew filth all over you. These conversations leave you feeling like you need to go and take a shower. People like this, you tend to avoid because instead of adding value to you, they actually hurt you. 

What kind of water are you offering to people? Are you refreshing or are you poisonous?

Water is life-giving by its very nature. Where water flows you will find trees, grass, crops and animals of all kinds. Wherever you have a river that provides a consistent source of water you will find all kinds of life next to the river.

That is, unless the water is polluted. 

James says “can bitter and fresh flow from the same fountain?” The answer, regrettably, is, “yes, it can and yes it does.” But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you find that the water you are offering to others is polluted and unfit to drink, then maybe it is time to get back to the source of the living water. The good news is that if we are connected to Jesus Christ then He will pour into us a river of fresh, clean water and it will wash out all the nasty muck and make us suitable for life-giving interactions with others once again.

Maybe you have never taken a drink from that fountain of living water. Or maybe it has just been a long time since you have been connected to the source and you are dry. Wherever you have been and however you are, Jesus today offers His living water. It will fill you and transform you from the inside out, if you allow it to.

Sometimes a simple prayer is the most effective. I encourage you to simply ask Jesus to fill you with His living water and to wash away the muck of the past. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Seasons of Life

by Tim Howard

I’m preparing to travel out of the country in a few months and have begun to think about what I need to pack. When packing for an excursion to another country, one of the first questions a person should ask involves the season. If it’s summer, you will pack one set of clothing but if winter a totally different set.

The Bible makes it clear that God established 4 distinct seasons. "As long as the earth remains, there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night."  Genesis 2:22 (LB) This is also true for our human existence. There are different seasons of life and when one yields to the next, you will find it needful to repack your bags.

One writing from Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst mentions the morning, afternoon and evening of our lives. He says “we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning – for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.”

All of us carry some baggage from the morning of our lives into the afternoon and evening. If you don’t unpack and repack your bags along the way, you will discover the truth Mr. Jung mentioned. What worked in one season may not be appropriate or helpful in the next.

Unpacking simply means taking a long, hard look at what we’re carrying and why. Seeing if our possessions, perspectives, attitudes, responsibilities and relationships are still helping us move forward or if they are dragging us down.

Repacking then is the ongoing activity of reevaluation and reinvention. Leaving behind what is not needed and choosing to carry only those things that will help you discover a renewed sense of life.

What do you need to release in this season of time? What have you been carrying around that is no longer beneficial? What do you need to hold on to? What things do you need to add to your life in this upcoming season that will help you get to the next level?

Are you in a season of grief? Loss? Waiting? Celebration? Anticipation? Maybe it’s a season of self-doubt? Confidence? Dryness or Rest. No matter what season you are in, remember this:

God has a purpose for every season. Some can be brutal but God can even use those to develop character. It’s not enough to merely ‘grow up.’ One must also ‘grow down.’ Without roots, you won’t be able to weather the storms of life and roots only grow deeper in difficult seasons. I personally like the fun, joyful and easy seasons but the hard ones produce substance and every season should be embraced.

There’s even a promise in the difficult seasons for those who put their trust in Jesus. Rom. 8:28 “…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

I’m not a gardener by any means but I do know that in order for plants to flourish, they have to have changing seasons. The same is true for our lives to be healthy.

Eccl. 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” Don’t hold onto what’s old and unproductive. Make sure to repack your bags for the next season. It is a season of great possibilities if you hang with Jesus.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A New Partner Won't Fix You

by Andrew Cromwell

We love the idea of a “match made in heaven” and “soul-mates”. Our movie industry makes millions rehashing this idea over and over. The romantic comedy movie genre churns out movies eagerly gobbled up by a public who is fascinated with the notion that people are made for each other and must be together. These movies are full of cheesy lines like “you complete me” and “death cannot stop true love, it can only delay it for a little while.”

The problem with this notion, that there is one other person in the world that perfectly matches you, is that it is bogus. Honestly, the reason we like this idea so much, is because we are so incredibly selfish! We want a relationship that is exciting, romantic, sweet, and passionate — and who wouldn’t — but we want it to be easy. We tell ourselves that if we were married to the right person, love, care and concern would just flow out of us. Our partner would make us want to be a better person because they would meet all of our needs and we would make them a better person as we meet all of theirs. And this beautiful love cycle would just self-reinforce as we live on in bliss until the end of time.

Have you noticed that these movies are all about finding the right person and overcoming all the obstacles until they finally get together? Once they are together, the movie ends. It is as if the greatest challenge in the world is to just find the person whose soul fits perfectly with yours and once you have done that, the rest is easy!

Just remember, movies are made to entertain, not reflect reality. But this idea is so powerful, that we adopt it, sometimes without even realizing it. And when we hit difficulty in our marriage, we cannot help but begin to question whether or not we found the right person to begin with! After all, had we found the right person, we wouldn’t be having this kind of challenge.  And before long we have decided that the answer is to get unhitched from this partner so that we can find the one that completes us.

And the cycle goes on and on.

The sad reality is that we are selfish and lazy and we give up too easily. We blame our partner, we blame the circumstances, we blame the stars, but rarely do we stop blaming and buckle down and do the hard work of love. We talk about love, but we forget that it means that we have to forgive, think the best of our partner, and keep loving even when we don’t want to.

I’ve heard lots of definitions of love, but none is better than the source. As you read it, ask God to help you actually live this out with your spouse and to stop looking for a way out:

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything, trusts God always,
Always looks for the best, never looks back,
But keeps going to the end (1 Corinthians 13:3-7).

Thursday, October 10, 2013


by Tim Howard

I am fascinated with advanced technology, how about you? The other day my wife and son went for a 5-mile walk and they were able to track their route, speed and distance by simply connecting to a satellite system.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth. The system provides critical capabilities to many but practically it is very useful in mapping out a destination and giving clear directions  – With this system you don’t need to be lost. You can find your way! 

One name given to Jesus in the Bible is ‘Immanuel.” The name means: ‘God with us.’ God does not stand aloof from His creation nor watch things unwind from a distance. He never has and never will. He is with us! He guides, helps, comforts, corrects, encourages and shows us the way to live. We may lose sight of Him because of darkness but He never loses sight of us. Jesus is our G.P.S. He is God’s Presence surrounding us.

Before G.P.S. was invented a friend named Ron lost his way as he was trying to find a small country church where he had been invited to speak. He left the hotel room early to assure a timely arrival but not being familiar with the country roads and landmarks he ended up totally and completely lost. Even though it was humbling for him to admit he needed some help, he decided to stop at the first country store he found. 

After asking directions the owner said: “First you take Rural Route 18 -- that’s this road here -- go south to the big red bran with black trim. Black trim and not white! The white-trimmed one is the old Wilkerson place and the Timmitville Bridge is out, so you don’t want to go that way, trust me”.  Ron nodded to acknowledge he was listening. “Anyway” he went on, “after you get to the barn, head due east on Berrybriar road until you come to a creek. Turn north on the unmarked road and go -- maybe two, three miles till you get to the big aluminum grain silo. Turn south there till you see the big herd of Guernsey cows”…

To Ron’s surprise a man interrupted the conversation and said: “Pardon me, my name is Lyle. Didn’t mean to listen in, but are you the visiting pastor speaking at the church on Petersburg Road?” “Well yes, I am” Ron said. “Well, pastor, why don’t you just follow me to the church. I know the way.”

Sometimes you can lose your way in life and it’s a lot easier to follow someone than to figure things out with your own intellect. You don’t have to keep track of barns or silos or Guernsey cows. All you need to do is follow Jesus. He won’t just tell you where to go and what to do, He will actually lead you and show you the way.

Psalms 139 makes it clear that He “goes before us.” He charts a path for us and knows where we should stop, when we need to rest and the best route for the journey. You don’t need to be lost!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Stop Taking Yourself Out Of The Game

by Andrew Cromwell

You see it all the time in professional sports. A player who has all the talent, all the ability and all the coaching, but they just can't get out of their own way. Sometimes it is because their life off the playing field spills over into their ability to function athletically. Other times, there is a mental game going on in their head and they are losing.

We see it happen in sports, and we see it happen in life in general. Because of the script running inside people's heads, they take themselves out of healthy relationships, keep themselves isolated from healthy human contact, stay silent when they should speak up and generally sabotage their own ability to move forward in life.  Until we learn to tame the inner critic and change the recording that constantly feeds us negativity and self-destructive thought patterns, we will withdraw instead of moving forward in life.

This happens spiritually too. Most all of us have done it at one time or another. We start thinking about getting closer to God or getting back into church (or going for the first time), and immediately we think of all the reasons we are not good enough and why we don't have a chance. We remind our self about how messed up we are and all the reasons why God wouldn't want to have anything to do with us. And before we've even moved one step in that healthy direction, we have taken ourselves out of the game.

It is part of our human nature. When we feel less than worthy, we hide. Whenever we feel tension, we tend to withdraw from a relationship, rather then pushing forward and dealing with the cause of the friction. We play this same unfruitful game with our Father God. The moment we fail Him, we decide we have no right to be close to Him, and we take two steps back. Even worse, sometimes we figure if we've already messed up, we might as well just go all the way, and we end up running in the other direction altogether.

We do it because we have a false belief that God is waiting to smack us down when we fail. We might believe this because of the way our own dad acted with us or because some authority figure in our life walked away from us when we failed. But this is just the opposite of what we should do. Jesus gave us a perfect picture of Father God when He walked here on earth, and what He showed us was that He is not afraid of our failure. Jesus told Peter (who would shortly betray Him), "I have prayed for you, that when you have failed you will be strengthened and then strengthen others" (Luke 22:32).

This is what God wants to do when we mess up. He wants to strengthen us. Remember, He knew we were going to mess up in the first place! So even though we are surprised when we mess up, He isn't! He doesn't step away from us because we mess up, we step away from Him. His desire is ALWAYS to fix us!

And this is the sad irony of it all. The very moment we should be drawing closer to Him and asking Him for help, forgiveness and restoration, we instead are moving farther from Him. We are taking ourselves out of the very relationship that is the most healthy and healing for us.

So the next time, that inner voice inside your head starts to tell you that you're not good enough to step closer to God, you tell it to shut up and take a bold step forward into the arms of a Father who is waiting to heal and restore. Don't wait to be good enough for Him (we never will be on our own), instead ask Him to help you and fix you. He always answers "yes" to that question.