Saturday, June 28, 2014

You Be The Judge

by Andrew Cromwell

One of Jesus' more familiar quotes is, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged."  I am convinced this is one of the most abused and misunderstood passages in Scripture.  You hear it used all the time by those who don't want to be told their behavior is inappropriate.  "Don't judge me," they say, "cause Jesus said you have no right!"  I have even heard it used repeatedly as an excuse to get dismissed from jury duty.  "I can't judge," people say, "because I'm a Christian and Jesus said not to."  

This passage is found in the seventh chapter of Matthew and when you read the four verses that follow the oft-quoted phrase, you discover that Jesus is neither giving people a pass for bad behavior, nor a lame jury excuse.  What He is saying is that we have a problem with putting ourselves into God's shoes and trying to be the ultimate judge.  We love to criticize, tear people down to size and generally put people in their place.

It is not that there is any problem with encouraging someone to come out of an addiction or be faithful to their spouse or not cheat on their taxes.  On the contrary, these things are desirable and Christ wants us to be a help to our fellow human being.  The problem is the way we do it!  

The truth is that we all have areas in our lives that do not measure up to God's standard. And when we judge and criticize another with an attitude that says, "I have a right to judge you," we are sorely mistaken.  Even Christ Himself said that He didn't come to judge in that way, instead He came to save.  

The difference is love.  It is said that love covers a multitude of sins.  It is said, because it does.  Jesus came to cover us with His love so that we could once again have an open relationship with Father God without separation or distance.  Jesus' love was so obvious to people that even the worst sinners flocked to Him. 

We, on the other hand, have a difficulty with that kind of love.  We get love confused with approval.  We are afraid if we love someone they will get the idea that we approve of their bad behavior.  So we do what is easy and shut off the love and bring out the judgment.  

Judgment is so much easier than love. It knows only right or wrong without grey. It requires no relationship. It demands no sacrifice. It costs you nothing.  

Love on the other hand, can cost you everything.    

Saturday, June 21, 2014


by Tim Howard

My coach use to tell kids that learning the basics is a priority if you want to win games. That’s true of soccer, basketball, hockey and other sports. When you hit a baseball, you will lose the game if you don’t go to first base – First!

That’s what a priority is. It’s putting first things first!

A priority regards one thing as more important than another and makes whatever adjustments necessary to fulfill the most important issue at hand.

We have all, at one time or another, yielded to the ‘Tyranny of the Urgent!’ We live in a culture that creates constant tension between what seems to be urgent and what really is important.

When the urgent wins you lose!

Leaders must be intentional about deciding what things are important and he or she must devote time and energy to those things – even though the  “good” or “urgent” is shouting for attention. The ‘good’ can become the enemy of the ‘great.’

To succeed in life you must first decide what is important. Your priorities should be guided by your sense of purpose. What are you here for? Why did God give you life? What does Jesus want to accomplish through you? Who are you called to influence? What is your plan? How can you make a positive difference? Questions like these will help you determine your purpose and then you can set priorities.

Jesus set priorities and they were directly connected to His understanding of His purpose. He also defined for us some of the priorities we should hold as significant and proper.
Matthew 6:33: Seek first God’s kingdom and what he wants. When you do, other things will fall into place.

Matthew 7:4-5: "How can you think of saying, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye."

Matt. 22:37-39…  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

Once you have set priorities – make sure you take the second step. Follow Through! Setting priorities is the first step but without the follow through – you will lose.

And no one wants to be a loser! 

No one makes plans to end up bankrupt and lose their business, reputation and possessions. Who marries someone with the desire to be divorced? Losing is not fun, and losing is not what God intends for those who seek His wisdom.

When you follow Christ and set your priorities in accordance with His directives, you will experience fruitfulness, fulfillment and success.

 If you don't put first things first, you join the losing team. God wants you to win!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

An Ode to Dad

by Andrew Cromwell

Fathers, it is sad to say, seem to be an increasingly rare species. Oh, there’s plenty of men who have contributed to the existence of the next generation, but to be a “father” requires much more than that. And if fathers are a rare species, it can feel like good fathers are unicorns — fantastic, mythical and conspicuously absent.

And, I have to be honest, the way fathers are often portrayed on TV and in the movies — often absent, at worst abusive, at best mildly comical and totally powerless — gives us a sense that dads aren’t all that important. And, we all know plenty of people who didn’t have dads that have turned out to be wonderful people. So we might be tempted to believe the “traditional” view of dads is outdated and unnecessary. 

If we have come to that conclusion, we are sorely wrong.

Study after study reminds us of the importance of fathers. Today in our country, 1 in 3 children live in biological-absent father homes. 90% of all runaways are from fatherless homes. 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. 85% of children who show behavior disorders, 71% of high school dropouts, and 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes. And the list goes on.

Dads are a big deal. 

I not only had a father but I had a GREAT father. And while I would never want this column to digress into a smackdown contest of “my dad is better than your dad”, in the spirit of Father’s Day, I would like to offer this description of fatherhood that we might all strive for (and that my dad did pretty darn well on).

A great dad captures the heart of his kids. It’s not terribly hard to control your kids’ behavior, what is much more challenging is to win over their heart. But if you get their heart, you also get their behavior. My dad was more interested in the motives of my heart than he was on just what I did with my hands or said with my mouth. While my actions were very important, he realized that everything flows from the heart (Luke 6:45).

A great dad knows the value of time (Ephesians 5:16). Parenting is such a challenge because while you know that every moment is important, most days you just feel like you can barely make it through the day (especially when the kids are little). But a great dad pushes through the fatigue and the selfishness and spends time with his kids. My dad understood the words of encouragement he spoke when we were small echoed into the future and formed destinies of success and beauty for his children. He recognized the minutes spent being interested in what his kids were interested in were investments that would pay long-term dividends.

A great dad puts God first (Proverbs 3:6). Great dads have their priorities straight and they have a correct perspective. Nothing else can substitute for a dad who puts the Greatest Father first and foremost in his life. My dad knew Father God. He went to Him first when he didn’t have the answers. He chose to look at his children and at all people through the eyes of the Father — eyes that always saw the value in people. He knew true strength was not found by forcing his way, but rather by yielding his heart to the King. 

Thanks dad for leading the way and giving me a model for strong fatherhood. I’m seeking to follow your example and put God first, know the value of time well spent and capture my kids’ hearts. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014


by Tim Howard

As a kid, I remember visiting New York and looking at the Empire State Building. The first words out of my mouth were: “Wow, that’s big!” When I visited the Grand Canyon as an adolescent, the first words out of my mouth were: “That’s enormous!”

As an adult, whenever I look at the stars and the Milky Way I use a variety of words. Huge. Big. Awesome. Unfathomable. Immense. Vast and Incomprehensible, to name a few.

Our galaxy is beyond big and when you look into deep space as they did in 1996 through the Hubble Space telescope you discover the magnitude of what we call the Universe.

According to scientific data there are 200 billion to 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone. In 1996 they discovered at least 3000 more galaxies beyond the Milky Way when they focused the Hubble Space telescope onto one dark patch in the constellation – Ursa Major – right next to the Big Dipper. 

In 2004 they opened the lens of that same telescope for 11 days and focused it on another spot in the Orion constellation. They discovered thousands and thousands of other galaxies. Imagine how our data would increase if they could focus on all 88 current constellations and not just in one or two spots. That is gargantuan and beyond perception. That’s BIG.

The very first verse in the Bible says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” He is not enamored with the galaxies as we are because He made them.  He’s not surprised by our discovery of a measureless universe because He is the one who brought it into reality.  The Grand Canyon may impress visitors but its small potatoes when compared to His ability and greatness. As the Creator of this massive and astronomical universe – He is obviously greater and bigger than the creation He brought into being.

No wonder David said in Psalms 139 “this knowledge is beyond my capability to comprehend. It is too lofty for me.”  In view of God’s immensity, Paul the Apostle said in Eph. 3:20 “He is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” As creator He is all – powerful. More powerful than anything we have ever seen or known – because He is big!

He’s big enough to help you find your way when you get lost. And we all get lost now and again. When I lost my way and experienced severe depression in my senior year of High school and contemplated suicide, God showed His greatness by helping me to find a way through.

He is big enough to help people who have lost hope and bring healing to people who are broken. He’s big enough to extend mercy and withhold judgment for a season even though we deserve it. He’s big enough to love you even though you may not love Him. That’s BIG!