Saturday, June 27, 2015


by Andrew Cromwell

Of all the advice offered on how to succeed in life, yielding is not commonly found on the list. Almost anyone will tell you “be true to yourself” and always be sure to “pay yourself first.” Then there is the ever popular, “stand up for yourself” and “don’t let them see you sweat.”

In Christian circles, there is frequently a strong emphasis on the teaching that the man is in charge and should lead his family. This seems to imply that the man should have the final say in every area of family life, how the money is spent, the activities in which they engage, the children’s discipline, the family’s spiritual life, and everything else. Wives are told they should “submit to their husbands.”

This teaching is a distortion of what the Apostle Paul was saying in his letter to the church in the city of Ephesus. It is only half the story. But the directions given to the husbands are often de-emphasized or ignored completely.

Here are the two relevant verses side by side, Ephesians chapter five verses 22 and 25:

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.

Wives submitting to their husbands is only half of the story. The other half is that husbands are supposed to love their wife the same way that Christ loved the church. Specifically, Christ died for the church! That’s how much He loved her.

Paul was not advocating actual physical death for husbands (at least in most cases). But he was definitely advocating for a kind of death. This death is death to the self and to selfish motives and desires.

Christ died for the church so that the church would have everything it needed in order to be the best and most beautiful that it could be. The only way for that to happen was for Him to give His life. In the same way, husbands should so love their wives that they are willing to do whatever needs to be done to help their wives be the best and most beautiful that they can be inside and out.

And this is where “yield” comes in. Very often, what is best for a wife is not what is most convenient or easiest for the husband. It requires the husband to yield his desires to the greater desire required by love.

We yield to demonstrate our love for them. We yield to serve them. We yield because our preferences don’t always need to be in first place.

When we choose to yield to the other out of love, then we are giving up our desires for their good. The goal isn’t to make someone happy, the goal is to love them in a way that demonstrates to them how much they matter.

The difficulty is that we don’t like to yield. We like to be the boss. We like it our way. We have saying’s like, “my way or the highway.” This phrase communicates power, authority, and determination.

Yielding is not about losing, it is about releasing. When we yield out of love, we release the need to always have our way. We give up the need to always be right. We gain freedom from our own selfish desires as we yield to the desires of another. We also gain relationship capital with the other person for we have demonstrated that we actually care about them.

What will yielding do to you? Hurt your pride? Make you feel second? Force you to wait? I can’t think of a better reason for you to yield.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


by Tim Howard

Have you ever met someone intriguing? Someone who made you feel better – just for being around them? You may have encountered them while things were dark and difficult but their presence, their words and their actions cheered you up. I’ve met people like that and they were a joy to be with.

John Maxwell – in one of his books talks about the “Elevator Principle.’
This principle says people are like elevators. Some bring you up and others bring you down. I can’t speak for you but I enjoy being with those who are going up and tend to bring others along with them. When you are with that type of person you are encouraged, enlightened and elevated to a higher place.

The Apostle Paul met a man like this when he first started to follow Jesus. His name was Joseph but the Apostles nicknamed him Barnabas because of his characteristics. He was a man who encouraged people and influenced them to see things in a positive light. He lived out the admonition found in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up ...”

As a young man I struggled with Dysthymia, which is sometimes called chronic depression. It seems to be less severe than deep depression but still has long-lasting symptoms. I liken it to putting something on the back burner. You can still function in life but there is always something in the background that keeps dragging you into a state of discouragement, which triggers depression. If it weren’t for caring and compassionate people encouraging me along the way – I don’t know where I would be today!

Discouragement in the dictionary means to lose confidence and enthusiasm. In fact, it is closely connected to the word courage. When you lose courage to move on and pursue life to its fullest – you are experiencing discouragement.

Throughout the Bible we see this happening to people over and over again. They lose their courage and people come to their aid with a specific word, a helping hand, a letter or a visit that brings encouragement. The Apostle Paul might have learned this art form from Barnabas because he modeled this form of motivation throughout the New Testament.

Many doors allow discouragement to enter into our personal world. Failure is one of them. It is a major reason for discouragement and when it knocks on your door watch out – especially if the door is open and it finds easy access. The level of failure will greatly determine the depth of discouragement. Loss of something or someone – Chronic pain – Betrayal – Broken relations and grief are just a few of those experiences that fuel discouragement but many more exist.
Sometimes we hurt and it has nothing to do with us personally. We haven’t failed – we haven’t been a contributor – it just happens! We may hurt because our children hurt. Possibly a friend is going through a difficult time and because of our closeness to them, we feel their pain. When pain comes in it’s various forms  it helps to have an encourager by your side. Why? Because encouragement is the antidote to discouragement and we all need a shot of support now and again.

The author of Hebrews tells people not to neglect meeting together because connecting with others is a great source of strength. You will be amazed at the number of people desiring to be with you if you are an elevator person who likes to go ‘up’

People called Joseph – Barnabas because he lifted people up. What do people call you?

Saturday, June 13, 2015


by Andrew Cromwell

Understanding is a valuable commodity. If there was a way to miraculously increase the amount of understanding between people, it would certainly result in drastic improvements in our world. Because misunderstanding is universal it is hardly necessary to point out examples of the way this affects all of our daily lives. But we will nevertheless.

Misunderstandings are so common we take them for granted. In business, we put clauses in our contracts and endorsements on our insurance policies to help cover the very real costs that accompany failures to communicate. Universities offer degrees in conflict resolution and counselors all over the country have thriving practices because people can’t seem to figure each other out.

If only there was some easy way to solve the problem. If there was an “understanding” pill, we’d swallow it daily without question. Or if there was elective surgery that fixed relationship misunderstandings, it would be more popular than chin tucks and mommy makeovers, guaranteed.

But there is no simple solution to this challenge! Understanding, real understanding, requires sustained effort, deep humility and a sense of humor. The great news is that it is possible. Like any skill that can be honed and improved upon over time, the skill of communicating for understanding is one that can be learned and improved upon.

As with so many other important parts of life, this one functions best if our launching pad is love. When we are grounded in a true and deep loving concern for others, our goal is to understand and not just to dominate.

Whether we are communicating with our children, our spouse, our boss, our best friend, or someone we just met, getting to understanding should always be our goal. And while we may never score a perfect ten when it comes to understanding, following these simple reminders will certainly keep our scores improving.

...keep the goal in mind. If your goal is to win every conversation, then getting to understanding will always take second place. The goal is understanding. Don’t make the conversation about you, but instead about good communication. Worry less about image management (looking good to the other person) and more about understanding management (connecting with the other person). If this is our main goal, then we will naturally slow down and take the time necessary for good communication.

...listen for what they are trying to say, not just how they are saying it. There is no doubt that how something is said is very important, but when listening if we fail to take into account the whole picture, we will constantly jump to the wrong conclusion. Especially when it comes to meaningful, emotion-filled communication, often people use the wrong words or the wrong tone. But a skilled listener focuses on the heart of the communicator and seeks first their meaning and intention, not their tone and word choice.

...assume the best and stop being suspicious! Too many of us pre-judge the person we are listening too. We listen with an ear that is already full—full of preconceived assumptions, judgements, and prejudice. It is a wonder we can hear anything except what we expect to hear! Our condition tends to be the worst when we are listening to people that we have a history with. History tends to clog the ears because “we’ve heard it before” and we expect history to repeat itself.

Next time you approach a conversation, especially one that you know will be emotionally charged, take a moment to clean your ears. Intentionally wipe the slate clean and decide to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Actually decide to think the best about them and about what they are going to say to you. This simple act will go a long way to help you actually “hear” what they are saying.

If we are motivated by love and we follow these simple principles, then we can certainly grow in our ability to both understand and be understood!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

X-Ray Vision

by Tim Howard

When I was I grammar school I loved Superman. He was my favorite Super Hero. He could jump tall buildings; run faster than a locomotive and best of all – he had x-ray vision, which gave him the power to see through almost everything.

I wanted that ability!  Since my hormones were in transition, however, I’m not sure the rationale behind this desire was all that noble.

Technology has advanced greatly over the years and now we have the ability to see with x-ray vision in some areas. My grandson had an x-ray some time ago because of a broken arm and it was amazing to see how different the view is when a person looks beneath the surface.

In the real world people tend to look at the outward and ignore the inward. Too often they draw conclusions on the basis of what they see rather than investigating all the facts. If the car looks pretty they buy it – not checking to see if the engine needs attention. I know this to be true because I’ve done it – more than once. Shame on me!

This isn’t a new phenomenon because back in Old Testament times God spoke to Samuel when he was searching for the next king.

1Sam. 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance but the LORD looks at the heart. NIV

Life is not just about the external. A tennis star of years past said that ‘Image is everything’ but that statement is not true.

Jesus said: Matt. 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

Character is to be the foundation for life and it starts on the inside. People may be drawn to a person’s outward charm or the magnetism but if there is no character fueling the presentation – shallowness exists. Beware!

To build character and a firm foundation you must take some time to look inside – you must examine yourself – you must look beneath the surface – you must take an x-ray.  Real beauty is more than skin deep!

This is a difficult assignment because what we see inside isn’t always pretty. As mystifying and perplexing as this may be – it must be done because living a full life – demands an awareness of what’s going on inside.

There are people walking around today unaware they have a ticking bomb inside them. A tumor that may be cancerous – a aneurism that is ready to explode or a heart condition that needs attention. Without an X-ray they can’t deal with the problem because they are not aware a problem exists.

The Apostle Paul tells us to test ourselves.
2Cor. 13:5 “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.”  MSG

We all need teachers to teach us and test us. We all need doctors to examine and check on our well being from time to time but you must not wait for others. You must test yourself! If you know how to take a ‘Selfie’ on your phone – You must learn to take an X-ray of your heart.