Saturday, April 26, 2014

God Is

by Tim Howard 

If someone asked you asked you to fill in the blank: God Is _________? What would you say? It would be difficult because explaining God is impossible. If you could explain Him – He wouldn’t be God. 

Last weekend many people celebrated Easter and the truth that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead by the power of God and lives today. 

If God is dead then there isn’t anything worth worrying about. If He really is alive, however, everything changes. The author of Hebrews said: “it’s sobering to discover that God really is alive.”  If God isn’t alive then ‘nothing matters’ but if God is alive ‘nothing else’ matters. 
You may know very little or nothing at all about God. You may not be able to articulate what you believe about Him or you might call Him a ‘higher power’.  Wherever you find yourself – there are 5 truths about God that every person on this planet needs to know. Lies, misinformation and opinions abound but these 5 truths are found in the Bible and are true for all people, at all times and in all places. 

These 5 truths have the power to change a person’s life.
1.    GOD IS! It may sound simplistic but the starting point for knowing God begins with this simple belief.  Heb. 11:6 “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” When God created the heavens and the earth, he revealed His existence. Romans 1 tells us that the creation is His primary way of revealing His existence. 
2.    GOD IS all knowing. My grandson at age 7 thinks he knows everything but he doesn’t! When my sons were teenagers, they thought they knew everything but they didn’t! The theological term is ‘omniscient’ and it only refers to God because He really does know everything.  He knows your name. Everything about you. All you have done, all you haven’t done – that you should have done, all the pain you’ve caused. All the good you’ve accomplished. Nothing escapes His notice. He knows you are broken and can’t fix yourself. He knows about your dreams and desires and how many of them haven’t been fulfilled.
3.    GOD IS compassionate toward you. Even though He knows all the good bad and the ugly – Even though He knows what you will do tomorrow and what you did yesterday He still cares for you. And He wants to invest in your life.
4.    GOD IS able to fix what is broken. He can put you back together! Broken relationships, broken dreams, broken marriages, broken families – No problem, God is able to do the impossible
5.    GOD IS committed to helping you discover His destiny for you.  Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

We’ve heard great speeches like Martin Luther King’s: “ I have a dream… We’ve heard about the American Dream but God has a dream for you and He’s committed to walking with you so you won’t get lost along the way.

John 11:25 - 26 “You don’t have to wait for the end. Jesus said - I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?” Do you believe GOD IS?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday: An In-Between Day

by Andrew Cromwell

Life is full of moments of great joy and celebration as well as moments of great sadness and mourning. If you haven’t had both intensely good days and bad days, then you just haven’t lived long enough! Wait a few more days and you’ll see what I mean.

But there are also moments of great doubt and distress. These “in-between” moments generally occur in-between the joy and the sadness. Life is full of “in-betweens”. I would argue that “in-betweens” actually make up most of our life. We tend to remember the highs (graduations, promotions, anniversaries) and the lows (flunked tests, the time we were fired, the ugly divorce), but we live daily life somewhere in the middle (eternal study sessions, the daily grind, the daily grind).

Because so much of life is made up of “in-betweens”, what matters most is not how we deal with the up and downs but instead how we deal with the day to day. That is not to say how we respond to the mountains and valleys of life is unimportant, for these moments are pivotal. But because these highs and lows of life come infrequently compared to the everyday in-between, it is the way we live in the in-between that actually defines our response to the wonderful and terrible moments of life.

On our calendar, today is the Saturday before Easter. It is the day after Jesus’ crucifixion and death. It is the day before His resurrection. It is an in-between day. It is a day when Jesus’ followers faced doubt and discouragement. They had watched their Hope was nailed to the Cross and now they wondered if it was all a pipe dream. Jesus Himself had told them, “tonight you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”

Saturday was a difficult day. It was an unprecedented day for the disciples. And while the Biblical account does not give us much information on what they did during this in-between day, it is safe to assume that they gathered together and worshipped just as they had every other Saturday before. For them, Saturday was a day of rest, worship and prayer. So what did they do on that day that was the worst day of their lives? They rested, worshipped and prayed. 

I have no doubt that their prayers were tear-filled and perhaps even anger laden. They didn’t understand and they didn’t know exactly what to do. They were in uncharted territory. But what they did was what they had done in every other in-between day, they talked to God about it. And because they did, they were in the right place to receive the news about Christ’s resurrection.

You and I would be wise to follow this same strategy in our own lives. Establishing a routine of worship and prayer in the in-between will carry us through the worst days and it will prepare us for our best days. It starts with today and it can be as simple as a conversation with Father God.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Leaders Needed

by Tim Howard

There are many leaders but not all are worth following.

The Bible has many leadership stories – some talk about great leaders and some not so great. From a Biblical perspective, Godly leaders are instructed to treat people with dignity, lead with integrity and set the ‘bar’ higher for themselves than they do for others. In the New Testament we are told: “Don’t be in any rush to become a leader, my friends. Teaching others the way to live is a highly responsible work. Leaders are held to the strictest standards.”

If one does aspire to become a leader, however, he or she ought to know some of the advantages and disadvantages.

When you are a leader you have three advantages. First you have a POSITION that allows you to become more recognizable and affords a greater opportunity for growth. Second: with position comes POWER, which means he or she can do more. Third: A leader has certain PRIVILEGES, which means he or she can have more. With position you can become more – with power you can do more and with privilege you can have more.

 These are great things but attached to these three advantages are three temptations. Thomas Carlyle once said, "For every one hundred people who can handle adversity there is only one who can handle prosperity."  I think most people can't handle being at the top.  When they get into a leadership role it changes them.  In fact, success destroys some people.

Three Temptations Great Leaders Recognize and Overcome

1.  Leaders will be tempted to misuse their position. 
Have you ever had a friend who got a promotion and suddenly became a little dictator. You thought you knew them but their position went to their head and they started to think more highly of themselves than they should. They were nice until they got the promotion.  Then they start treating everybody in a demeaning way, making excessive demands on people. They are guilty of misusing their position.

2.  Leaders will be tempted to abuse their power.
In the Reagan administration there were over 200 government officials that left office because of ethical problems.  They abused their power! How many times has that been repeated over the past 25 years since his presidency – not to mention the centuries preceding? "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  When leaders misuse their position and abuse their power, everyone hurts. None of us likes to work for a domineering leader - the ones who never take time to explain why they've asked us to do something.  The favorite phrase of a domineering leader is "You do it because I've said so!" 

Mark 10:42  “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” Jesus said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads.

Mark 10:43  It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.”

3.  Leaders will be tempted to profit from their privileges. 
In our society, "Membership has its privileges." So does leadership.  Usually they're paid more, have more benefits, exercise more freedom with their schedule and have an expense account.  Maybe that’s why the Apostle Peter said to not allow monetary gain be your main reason for leading. 

If you are a leader: 1. Don’t think more highly of your self than you should. 2. Remember the power given you is to serve others – not yourself. 3. Hold yourself accountable to the people who provide your current privileges. We need some good leaders!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Little Foxes

by Andrew Cromwell

One little change can make a big difference. We all know it’s true. A little change in tone can turn a compliment into an insult. A little change in attitude can turn a negative experience around. A little adjustment to your pace of life can mean the difference between crashing and burning and lasting for the long term.

Little things turn into big things. That’s just how it works. Little babies turn into big strapping adults. Little puppies, so cute and cuddly one day, become ugly, slobbering yard destroying beasts the next. And little expenses (think Starbucks, $0.99 app store purchases, and bank fees) turn into big money problems.

King Solomon, known as the wisest man who ever lived, once cautioned the vineyard owner to take care to keep the little foxes out of the vines (Song of Solomon 2:15). Foxes are little animals that generally seem harmless. But in a vineyard, the foxes eat the grapes and thus destroy your profit. Left unattended, one little fox turns into a colony that will eat all the grapes and leave you with nothing.

The solution to a fox problem, of course, is to get rid of the foxes (or never let them get in to begin with). But foxes look cute, they have a way of disappearing underground whenever you go searching for them and they just don’t cooperate with attempts to send them on their way. That is precisely why the vineyard owner will often ignore the foxes until they become a major problem; because by that time enough profit has been lost that they become unavoidable. But once you are infested, the solution is neither easy nor inexpensive.

What little foxes have you let live in the vineyard of your life? Perhaps the little foxes are cute and cuddly now, but if left undealt with, they will turn into a destructive force that will threaten to ruin your life. Perhaps there are financial foxes that keep you from getting a hold of your money because every time you go out you find you have spent more money and you just never seem to be able to get ahead. Or maybe there are relationship foxes that come in the form of bad attitudes and selfish behaviors you have allowed yourself to get away with and as a result the good fruit in your relationships are being threatened. Or it could be the foxes of addictive behavior that, for the moment, is under control but down the road will cease becoming a choice altogether. 

If we are wise, we will take Solomon’s advice and deal with the little foxes now, before we have to rip out the entire vineyard just to take care of a simple fox problem.