Thursday, November 28, 2013

Expect Opposition

by Andrew Cromwell

There is a principle of life that we all would rather ignore. It is similar to the “no pain, no gain” principle. But where the “no pain, no gain” principle is generally about engaging in personal effort in order to achieve a desired goal, this principle is a little different.

I call it the “Opposition Principle.” The concept is simple. Anything worthwhile in life will be opposed, and the things that are the MOST important are opposed the MOST. No one gets exempted from this principle. No one gets a pass because they are rich or famous or well educated or intelligent. It doesn’t matter where you were born, who you are related to or who you know, any positive movement forward is going to experience resistance.

Isaac Newton put it his way, “to every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.” But we are not just talking about hitting a baseball or pushing a rock up a hill. I’m not suggesting that this principle is merely a natural force like gravity.

This is a spiritual principle because we live in a spiritual world. We forget that because all we can see with our eyes is the natural world. We forget it because our culture refuses to acknowledge the validity of any truth other than those demonstrated by science and science by its very nature deals ONLY with the natural world.

But the spiritual world that we cannot see with our eyes is as important and influential as the one we can touch and feel with our physical being. The spiritual world is the world of love, kindness, courage, goodness, and hope (about which science tells us absolutely nothing at all). It is also the world of angels and demons and God and Satan.

Now I think this is where it gets the most interesting. Jesus Christ, we are told in the Bible, came into this world and was born as a human man even though He was God. He was literally God in the flesh. He moved from the spiritual world into the natural world. And He did this so that we might have a way to reconnect with God the Father and bridge the gap between the two worlds.

Jesus was the only perfect human being there ever has been and ever will be. And yet He experienced everything we experience -- all emotion, all temptation, and even limitation -- the same way we do. This is why He is our perfect model and this is why He is the One we should all follow.

Now back to the opposition principle. It says in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan and received the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in that moment (you might remember the story of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending from heaven and the voice of Father God saying, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.”). And immediately after that, Scripture says that the Holy Spirit sent Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by the Satan.

There it is. The opposition principle. This is the moment in Jesus’ life when He was beginning His ministry. He was about to go and heal the blind, the lame and the deaf. He was about to raise the dead. He was about to multiply food and feed 10,000 people in one setting. He was about to talk to the storm and tell it to be still.

But the first thing that happened was that He was opposed by the Satan. Before He did great and wonderful things, He first experienced some hard things. Before God did everything that He wanted to do through Jesus, Jesus first had to walk through opposition.

And you and I do too. God wants to do good things in you and through you. He may even want you to pray for the sick and see them healed. He may want to transform the way you tend to get angry and stab people with your words. He may want to help you heal the breach in your family. I can guarantee you that He wants to do more than you can ask or imagine, because that’s what His word says.

But first, you are going to be opposed. The moment you start to grab a hold of those things that God wants to do in you -- the moment you decide you’re going to get closer to Him, or go to church, or start speaking with kindness, or start forgiving -- that’s the moment you’re going to face opposition. It’s not going to be easy. The Enemy is going to tell you that you’re never going to make it to victory. He’s going to do everything he can to make it difficult for you to get to where God wants you to be.

Just remember, when you are opposed, it might be a sign you’re on the right track!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Someone is Watching You

by Tim Howard

I drove by an office complex last week and noticed a camera attached to the outside wall of a local business and underneath the camera – a sign stated: “You Are Being Watched.” I’m not convinced the cameras were actually real but I do know the reality of that statement.

One of the current television programs, “Person of Interest” has brought this truth to light and if one is not careful, a certain level of paranoia can set in. Just knowing you are being watched when you don’t know you are being watched can cause a growing level of discomfort.

The truth be told, however, knowing someone is watching you can often keep you on the right track and deter you from doing destructive things. In the past I’ve caught myself being tempted by something not productive, positive or profitable and would have yielded to the impulse, had it not been for my awareness that other’s were watching.

When people seek to do wrong, they generally choose darkness over light. John 3:20 “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be seen by others” For those who don’t want to live right, being seen by others is not a pleasant thought.

On the other hand, there is a very positive side to this truth. Knowing you are being watched can bring much joy and fulfillment. When I was a little boy, I recall how frequently I would shout to my parents vying for their attention as I was doing something spectacular… at least from my view.     

Dad! Mom! Look, Look, Look at me, me, me... I wanted to be at the center of their view. For some reason their glance meant a lot. This is not unique to me because I’ve witnessed it many times with my own children, my grandchildren and other’s as well.

Then there is God! Knowing He is watching you can cause fear or joy. For me, all my fears have turned to joy. Knowing His eyes are focused on me causes me to understand the value He attributes to me. Knowing His eyes are on me helps me to stop hiding my sin because it’s impossible to conceal. Knowing He’s watching me conveys a lot of comfort because I realize nothing takes Him by surprise.

Listen to David.

Psalms. 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” He’s like a coach who is watching every play in order to help the player improve.

Psalms 33:18 “But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him. On those who look to him for his unfailing love.” He loves to look you in the eye. When you seek to see Him, you will discover He is looking at you. You may lose sight of Him but He never loses sight of you.

Psalms 34:15 “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.” God does more than look. He gets involved when there is a request for help.

Someone is watching you! Your acquaintances your friends, your family, your children if you are a parent and your co-workers… Yes, even God.

Character is seen in what you do and how you live when you think no one is watching. Problem is: ‘Somebody is always watching you.’

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Close Your Mouth

by Andrew Cromwell

Don’t you love it when you put your foot in your mouth? If you have ever asked a woman how far along she was in her pregnancy only to discover that she wasn’t pregnant to begin with, then you know what that feels like! Or maybe your problem is you just say too much. What starts out as a run-of-the-mill conversation about the weather with the stranger standing in the elevator next to you, turns into a detailed description of your last medical procedure. Of course, some of us find ourselves saying WAY too much whenever we get angry. The moment we feel that our rights have been violated in some way, we launch into a tirade and rip the offender to shreds.

My mom has a wonderful way to describe this tendency that people have. She calls is "diarrhea of the mouth". Just like the real thing, this condition stinks and makes a mess. Without getting too graphic, when someone has this condition they leave a lingering odor that tends to permeate everything. When it is all said and done, someone has to clean up the mess.

But there is a simple solution. Stop running your mouth. Think before you speak. Say half of what you want (especially when your words are motivated by frustration or anger). The Bible has a lot to say about the power of words. Proverbs says that even a foolish person seems wise when he keeps his mouth shut!

Proverbs 10:19 says that when there are a lot of words, we can’t help but get ourselves into trouble! Proverbs 18:21 says that words can either kill or give life, it’s up to us what kind we serve up. James says that the tongue is the most powerful muscle in the body, even though it is one of the smallest. It has the power to steer your whole life! Through the power of the tongue we can either invite heaven or hell into our life and home.

What’s the state of your mouth? Do you find yourself spewing out too many words and leaving wounded people behind you wherever you go? Take a moment and review the impact you have on those around you, maybe it’s time to make some adjustments.

Those who study public relations tell us that it takes seven positive stories to counteract one negative one. I think it is the same with words. One damaging word is not erased by one positive word. The destructive force of words that burn, bite and tear down often seem to have greater impact than those that build, encourage and bless. That is why it is so important for us to speak words of life ALWAYS!

We need to speak encouragement into our kids and into our spouse. That person checking us out at the store? They need encouragement too. What about that tech person we try to understand when we call customer service? They’re a person too and our words can bless them (how often do we do that?).

Thursday, November 7, 2013


by Tim Howard

Neil Diamond sings a song called ‘Beautiful Noise’ and it’s my grandson’s favorite. I like it too because it’s upbeat, fun and exudes a whole lot of joy.

Some of the lyrics to this song are: “What a beautiful noise – Coming up from the street – It's got a beautiful sound – It's got a beautiful beat – It's a beautiful noise – Going on everywhere – Like the clickety-clack of a train on a track – It's got rhythm to spare – It's a beautiful noise – and it's a sound that I love…”

I remember my first time sitting in an outdoor café in Manhattan. I was having my first Latté ever, while watching all the activity and hearing the sounds of people, cars, horns, chatter and a myriad of other noises. In it’s own way, it was beautiful.

I’ve always enjoyed being in places where there’s laughter, lots of people, lots of life and lots of activity but there’s some drawbacks. Sometimes noise, no matter how beautiful, can become a distraction.

It’s possible to get so obsessed with noise that a person doesn’t know how to deal with silence. When we are in our cars we tend to turn the radio on or put in our favorite CD. When talking to strangers, we feel awkward if there is silence so we fill the space with empty verbiage. I know people who very seldom turn their televisions off at home because the sounds fill the air.

Noise can be like a drug. It can be used to mask loneliness. It can block out unwanted thoughts or used as an escape from the pressures of the day. More importantly, it can hinder you from hearing God’s voice – speaking to you!

A verse found in Psalms 46:10 states:  “Be still, and know that I am God.” If a person wants to know the Creator, there will need to be times of stillness, silence and solitude.

According to Mark 1:35 we are told that Jesus got up very early in the morning, while it was still dark, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he talked to His Father. This happened many times throughout His life.

What if our culture put into law a mandatory daily ‘Siesta’? What if we turned off the radios and televisions and stopped all the noise at specific times? What if we followed the example of Jesus, who set aside times for solitude and withdrew from the noise?  Maybe, just maybe we would hear the beautiful sound of God speaking to us. Now that’s a beautiful noise.