Thursday, March 27, 2014


by Tim Howard

Packing for a trip can result in a lot of baggage and with current prices extremely high for extra luggage, it’s beneficial to pack light.

On one trip we arrived at the airport and a pleasant young man approached us to see if he might help us with our bags. Since we didn’t pack light…the smartest thing would have been to say yes. Thinking of the cost and yielding to the frugal side of my nature, however, I said No Thanks. That was a mistake!
Vacations are not the only time we get stuck carrying too many bags.

All of us accumulate baggage over the years as we travel on life’s journey. Our past decisions create baggage that has present ramifications and future consequences.

A mother tells her teenager that she is stupid and didn’t want her when she was born. The girl is deeply wounded and begins to carry pain around with her wherever she goes - That’s baggage! A few years later a friend betrays her and she again experiences agonizing painful emotions - more baggage.

Before she knows it the hurts pile up and she carries the suitcases of anger, resentment and bitterness. Her thoughts become cynical and condemning. She begins to think, I am not good enough. I’ll never be able to trust anyone ever again. Life becomes a constant task of moving baggage from one place to another. Fatigue and exhaustion set in and the baggage continues to grow…

We all have a tendency to pick up baggage in similar ways. Before we know it we are investing so much energy in carrying and coping with the baggage that it gets in the way of everything else. Some baggage is like trash. We need to take it to the curb on a regular basis so it can be disposed of.

The good news is that Jesus, just like the pleasant young man at the airport, offers to help you with your baggage. Listen to His invitation from Matthew 11:28-30, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." The Message

Here are three things Jesus says about baggage.

1. Whatever baggage you carry is yours and you must acknowledge it. Others may have helped you pack the stuff but it’s still yours.
2. When you accept responsibility for your baggage, you have authority over it.  You therefore, don’t have to carry it around or remain isolated from others.
3. If Jesus is asked to help you, He will show you how to repack your bags so your load will be a whole lot lighter. According to Galatians 5, He will also lead you to people who can help you carry your burdens.

You aren’t alone! We all have baggage! Some is good and some not so good. Jesus is asking if you would like some help with your baggage. I encourage you to not follow the example I set at the airport. You will be further ahead if you say YES, I would love some help rather than No Thank You.  Whatever the cost – it will be worth it. The price will be far less than what you will pay if you don’t allow Jesus to help.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Just Be Fair

by Andrew Cromwell

Have you noticed our culture is obsessed with fairness? If you can get a group of people to utter the words, “that’s just not fair”, then any discussion on the point (it doesn’t even matter what point) is simply over.

And fairness is generally a wonderful value. It speaks of equal opportunity for all despite creed or color. It champions the idea that the world is a better place if even the least advantaged are given a seat at the table.

But fairness is not always what we think it is. We make the mistake of thinking fairness is being treated just the same as everyone else. This is what my kids tell me when they are unhappy one of their siblings was treated differently. They whine “he got 30 minutes on the Xbox and I only got 25!” One of my children in particular is acutely aware of the ways that he has been treated unfairly and is constantly looking for ways to even things out.

My son believes fairness is equality. But it isn’t. There are many times when I treat my children differently, not because I am being unfair but because they are different people. For one child, if I spend an hour just hanging out with them it fills their love tank. For another, that same hour doesn’t mean much, but if I give them a gift, you would think heaven itself had opened up. I treat them differently because they are different.

This sounds obvious when put in this way because we all know that everyone is different and sometimes fairness looks different in different situations. But we lose this truth so quickly. As soon as our personal feeling of entitlement is threatened, we immediately get an attitude and declare, “That’s not fair!” Suddenly we start to act as if the world revolves around us and we forget the bigger picture.

In the bigger picture, sometimes fairness has to take a second seat to other things. Jesus tells us a story in Matthew 20 that completely turns all of our notions about fairness upside down. There was a man who had a vineyard and who went out and hired workers to work the field one day. He went out in the morning and found some workers and promised them one silver coin for their day’s work. Then three more times throughout the day, he hired more workers and promised them a fair wage. At the end of the day, when everyone went to collect their wages, the owner paid everyone the same amount: one silver coin each.

Well, as you can imagine, the workers who got hired early in the morning and who had worked all day long started to complain. They said that it wasn’t fair for them to work more and get paid the same. The owner reminded them that they had agreed to work a day’s labor for a silver coin and then went on to remind them that it was his money and if he wanted to pay the others the same amount, he could.

How’s that for fairness! Jesus then closed the story by telling the crowd that there are times when God will move those from the back of the line to the front of the line and vice versa.  Why? Don’t miss this. Because He’s God and He can be gracious and kind to anyone He wants even if they don’t deserve it in other people’s opinion.

The point is this, God is willing to move people from the front to the back of the line in order to express His love to those who are waiting at the back. He will do whatever it takes to make an entrance for people who have given up on their chances of ever getting in to the party.

And if you’re one of those people who feel like you’re at the back of the line and you’re not sure if you’ll ever “get in”, then you remember this story. God wants you in the party too! No matter how late it is in your life, no matter how long you have waited to change your ways, it’s not too late to join the work party!

Thursday, March 13, 2014


by Tim Howard

We all have friends, especially if you are on Facebook. At last count I personally have nearly 700 friends. That number would increase if I responded to all the requests from people I don’t even know. In saying that, I think we may need to redefine the term ‘friend’ because we all need them.

We live in a world that’s crowded and busy, full of activities, but people are still very lonely. We’re desperate for friends and there’s no better example than Jesus Himself who said, “No longer do I call you slaves … but I have called you friends” (John 15:15).

The more we become like Him, the more we become someone who others may call “friend,” because the best way to find a good friend is to start being one. 

The first quality of someone who is a godly friend is pretty simple. They are first a friend with God and bring people closer to God. In Mark chapter two, some men were carrying a friend who was paralyzed. They were trying to bring him in and set him down in front of Jesus. Someone who is a friend with God is going to usher you to God because they know God. If you want to be a godly friend, you need to be growing in faith and favor with God. If you choose to have a godly friend and be a godly friend to others – You have made a great decision.

One of the most important decisions or choices you’ll make in your lifetime will be choosing friends. Someone said you can tell a lot about a person’s future by looking at the friends they spend time with. I think that’s accurate.

The second quality of a godly friend is based on choice. A person who chooses to be your friend with no strings attached is a rare find. It’s not hard to find people who will choose to be your friend if you have money but when selfish, ulterior motives dictate the choices, something’s wrong. Jesus chose to make us His friend and He only had us in mind.

If you ever find yourself thinking: “I need better friends”, remember it starts with you! If you want a good friend, be a good friend. When you put others and their needs before your own you’re on your way to becoming a godly friend.

The third quality of a godly friend is that they focus on your potential. They look beyond your faults but don’t ignore them. They are willing to speak the truth to you because they want you to reach your potential. We all have flaws and we all make mistakes, but for some reason, these friends have the uncanny ability to look beyond that and focus on the potential they see in you. God does that for us and that’s what a godly friend does for others.

 We need friends like that and we need to be a friend like that to others. With friends like this, how can we lose?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Little by Little

by Andrew Cromwell

Some things in life seem to take a while. That doesn’t often sit well with our “instant” mentality. We have done everything we can in our world to arrange things so that we can get them quickly. I know this because of the level of frustration I experience when things are not as fast as I expect them to be.

When I have to wait in the drive-thru lane for more than five minutes, I know something’s wrong. When I have to actually go into the bank because I can’t do what I want either online or at the ATM, I know something’s wrong. When I can’t find a grocery or convenience store that is open 24 hours, I know something is way wrong. When the doctor isn’t able to tell me what is wrong with my body AND give me a pill to fix it (or at least fix the symptoms), that’s not just wrong it’s unacceptable. Oh, and most frustrating of all, when something is not available on Amazon Prime so I can order it online and get it in two days to my door.

The level of ease and speed we have become accustomed to in receiving our goods and services is incredible. We live in an amazing world and an amazing country. And I certainly am not suggesting that being able to obtain things quickly is a bad thing, but to have all these things at our fingertips tends to make us a little impatient when things don’t go our way.

Because there are so many things in life that are nearly instantaneous and effortless, we make the mistake of assuming that everything can be that way. But some things simply take time.

A little bit less than a year and a half ago, my seven year-old suffered a stroke that affected the right side of his body and his speech. When he first woke up from several weeks in intensive care, he couldn’t smile, he couldn’t talk, and he couldn’t move his right arm or right leg. The doctors told us that it would be a long recovery but that because a young child’s brain is so flexible that his chances of a full recovery were very good.

Eighteen months later, we are still learning the virtues of both patience and hope. There are days when we have been so frustrated, wondering if we were doing the right things. Some days we ask ourselves, should we be doing more therapy? Should we be pushing harder? Is it our fault that he is not farther along? And then on other days, we remember to look back to where he started and contrast it to where he is today. Today he is talking better and better and he is starting to catch up to where he should be in reading. Today he is using his right hand more than ever, sometimes even without thinking about it.

Sure there is a long way to go, but we are seeing that little things are adding up. We are learning that sometimes little by little is the best way because it teaches us to rely on God daily. It teaches us that we don’t need to have everything right this instant. We are reminded that sometimes it is better to wait.

But I would not be honest if I told you that we don’t still get frustrated. We still get impatient. We still would prefer to have everything right now. But then we remember what God told His people in Isaiah, “one line at a time, a little here and a little there!”

So the next time you are discouraged that things are taking too long, remember that sometimes the best things take a while!