Saturday, August 29, 2015


by Tim Howard

Like many young children, I enjoyed learning and playing the game of baseball. One of my earliest memories has to do with ”T” ball. When it was my turn to hit the ball – at the ripe old age of 4,

I remember swinging with all my might. Believe it or not, I hit the ball very hard – I impressed myself! O.K. no one was pitching and the ball was stationary – But I hit it and I was thrilled.

Everybody cheered and shouted accolades with the sound of enthusiasm and joy until they saw me making my way to second base. I was running fast but their shouts of praise turned into a roar of correction and screams for change.

I didn’t know what they knew. You have to go to first base before you go on to the other bases! It was evident that pro ball was not going to be in my future.

What is true for the game of baseball is also true for your life. If you don't put first things first, 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 make Him their priority.

Take note of the priorities Jesus mentioned – those things you should do ‘first’ before you move on to other things.

Matthew 22:36-38 "Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?" Jesus replied, "'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the ‘first’ and greatest commandment."

To succeed in life you must make God the first one you turn to in life.

Matthew 6:33: "But seek ‘first’ his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Your first priority is to make God's business your main concern, even above your own.

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." Your top priority in life is to be willing to let God correct your life – before you make an attempt to correct others.

Matthew 5:23-24: "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. ‘First’ go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." The priority of making sure your relationships are free from anger, bitterness, resentment, envy, coveting and any damaging attitude is necessary for a healthy relationship with God

Priorities are essential for you and me to live a life of success and fruitfulness. I wasn’t aware of this principle at the age of 4 – when I hit that ‘T’ ball but I am now – even though Pro Ball is still not in my future.

You must go to first base – first! It's the way you play the game. If you are going to win at the game called life – You must set your priorities.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sometimes a Little Change Makes a Big Difference

by Andrew Cromwell

Our lives are steered like sailing ships headed across a vast ocean. The destination is far ahead and it will take many weeks, if not months, to arrive. At the beginning, it is important simply to get headed in the right direction—there is plenty of time to make adjustments since the destination is so far off—but as time passes it is increasingly important to make small corrections to our course. The longer we wait to adjust, the more miles we traverse and the farther off course we steer. If we wait too long, we find that we may have to go backwards if we want to end up where we were headed.

Charting the course of our lives is very similar. We know we want to get from point "A" to point "B" but they are far apart.  We want to get an education so we enroll at a local college, but the destination—the diploma—is years (and many classes and term papers) ahead of us. We want to raise a healthy and whole family, but the destination—the kids leaving the nest as well-adjusted individuals ready to take on the world—is two decades into the future. We want to lose 30 pounds, but the destination—that favorite pair of jeans that we can no longer wear—just seems beyond our reach.

We all know that if nothing changes, nothing will change. We all know that we have to get started if we are ever going to get to where we want to go. But something about the size of the task ahead freezes us in our tracks. Sometimes it is because we have tried and failed before. Sometimes it is because we just can't believe that our destination is even possible for us to reach. Whatever the reason, we delay. We talk ourselves out of the changes necessary to accomplish our goals. So instead of making a course correction, we continue to sail. And the longer we wait, the harder it is to make the change. 

Let me encourage you, there is still time. But also let me urge you, there will not always be time. While the destination is often many months or years ahead of us, if we do not make the small course adjustments today, we will delay and may even miss our goal. 

The great news is, often a small correction is all that is needed today. A little change makes a big difference when you have a long way to go. And once you have made one change, the next one gets a little easier. Before you know it, you are well on your way. 

So maybe, for this week, you don't eat that extra portion at mealtime. Don't starve yourself; don't go on some crazy diet. Just do something measured and attainable. Maybe, if you haven't been to school in 10 years but you know you want to complete your degree, just enroll in one or two classes (not five)! You get the idea.

What change are you going to make today? Don't talk yourself out of it, don't delay any longer, and don’t be overwhelmed by the size of the goal. Remember what Psalm 119:1 says, "You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

You Are Valuable!

by Tim Howard

What do you truly value? Is it material? Is it relational? Is it spiritual?

All of us value something and those values translate into practical decisions. That’s why a person will park their automobile a long distance from the store, requiring them to walk a great length to do their shopping. They value their vehicle – The greater the value the greater the care and concern!

People will violate knowledge on a regular basis but they will make decisions on the values they hold. I know I shouldn’t have another scoop of ice cream but I do – regardless. If I value my health, however, I will more than likely say ‘no’ to over-indulgence. Values dictate decisions!

According to the dictionary, value is to regard something highly and deem it to deserve the status of being important.

Value, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people value certain things while others see those same items quite differently. What is worth much to you may be worth little to others.

My son values baseball cards but I don’t! He bought several boxes of cards back in the 1970’s and has never opened them. I asked why? He said they would be more valuable in years to come if they are unopened. They still remain in a box – waiting for that day when the true value will be revealed.

I read a story some time ago about a man who went into an antique shop with the intent purpose of finding some old cards. Like my son, he was interested in valuable baseball cards and after looking around for a bit he asked the owner if he had any. The man proceeded to take him into the back room and showed him some cards dating back to the 1900’s. As the shopper viewed them he noticed a very rare card that featured Hall of Famer Honus Wagner. He knew this card was very valuable and beyond his price range but asked the cost anyway. To his amazement the owner said he would sell it for $200.00. Trying to hold back his excitement because he knew the true value – he paid the total sum. The story continued and said the man later sold it for $ 200,000.

Sometimes you possess certain things and are unaware of the true value. Hidden value is like gold. It is often covered with dirt and debris and is not visible to the casual observer.

God never loses sight or your value because He put it there! He looks past the hurts, failures, experiences, sins and all the dirt because of His Love. His value for you is seen in His acts of grace toward you and His willingness to sacrifice His life so you might live.
I love my family! My wife and older sons grasp to some extent the extent of my love but my 9-year-old grandson doesn’t have a clue and cannot possibly fathom my love for him. I would die for him if necessary.

Jesus did die for us! You never have to question someone’s love for you if they die in your stead.

The Apostle Paul prayed: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge”

He considers you valuable!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Who’s on First?

by Andrew Cromwell

In the old Abbott and Costello routine, the two argued about a baseball game with the central disagreement starting with the question, “Who’s on first?” For those who have never seen the bit, a quick search on YouTube will satisfy that crucial gap in your education. The two comics banter back and forth with one trying to get the other to understand the names of the players that are playing at each of the base positions.

When watching baseball, football, soccer or any other game, the first question anyone asks is “who is playing?” This question is crucial to our ability to understand and enjoy the game. If you don’t know “who’s on first” then it is very difficult to know whether you are rooting for the right team!

Let me ask you an important question. Who’s on first? In other words, who or what is in first place in your life? How you answer that question has a drastic impact on the rest of your life. It determines how you spend your time, how you treat other people, how you spend your money and what your future looks like.

This is not a question that you answer once and then move on. Instead, it is a question that has to be answered daily. This is because life changes. Circumstances can flip from one day to another and almost without thinking, we have put someone else on first.

Identifying who or what is in first place in someone’s life is generally pretty easy. Take a look at someone’s social media feed and you generally can figure out what is most important to them. For many, it is right there in their profile. For some it is dolla dolla bills and for others it is family. Some list God as their number one priority in life and some, love and kindness. Of course, there are those who say one thing in their profile, but their feed says something different. Their feed screams cars, sex, a hard body, adrenaline, or awesome vacations take first place.

What would someone say after reading your life? Maybe you don’t have a social media feed, but if someone looked in on your life from the outside and evaluated your time, money and relationships, what would they say? Who or what is in first place?

Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Colossae, wrote there is One Person who should be first in everything, Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said when anyone puts His Kingdom first He will make everything else fall into place.

For most of us, the default person in first place is self. We put ourself first -- what we want, how we want it, and when we want it. Our personal desires drive our life. I don’t know about you, but I have found that when I allow my personal desires to drive my life, I generally end up in a place I don’t really like! When I’m in first place, then my wife and my kids feel cheated and ignored. When I’m in first place, I end up wasting my time instead of investing my time. And when I’m in first place, I end up pleasing myself instead of pleasing my Father in Heaven.

So who are you putting in first place? Maybe it’s time to get out of the driver’s seat and hand the keys to someone you can trust.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


by Tim Howard

We live in a society where certain words are acceptable and others are not! The standard is difficult to ascertain because some people say certain things with no ramifications while others can say the same thing and bring about great consternation and wrath. Go figure!

One such word in our household growing up was the word – or should I say two words – ‘Shut Up!’ My parents didn’t like that expression for ‘whatever’ reason so we were creative – We came up with the word: ‘S.H.U.P” – Need I give an explanation as to the meaning?” Be quiet, be silent, hush, stop talking, close your trap or in essence – ‘Shut Up!’

Sometimes loving people is more poignant when you remain silent and do nothing.

When I think about loving people I think of doing something! It’s more than words – it’s actions as well. Love is a verb but there is another side of love that is often overlooked.

This type of love is not focused on what is done but what isn’t done. If truth is told, God’s great love is revealed as powerfully and wonderfully through the silence as well as the spoken.

Quite some time ago I was driving on a three-lane street at approximately 5:30 am. It was still dark and in front of me was a car going the speed limit and another car behind me that happened to be a Police car. We were all in the far right lane when all of a sudden – with no notice – no blinkers and no warning, the automobile in the lead crossed all lanes to make a left turn. There was no real danger since the other lanes were open but it was totally illegal. As I proceeded ahead I noticed the Police car pulling to a stop to watch the other vehicle for several moments.

Evidently the Police officer decided to extend mercy because no ticket was issued and no fines were assessed. Immediately I thought to myself – Those people who made that illegal turn just experienced love, grace and mercy but weren’t even aware of it. The Police officer had the right to give a ticket. He or she had the authority to demand payment for the wrong but chose to be quiet – to remain silent – to do nothing.
Maybe you bite your tongue so you won’t lash out or you remain quiet when you are being criticized. You could force an issue but rather than putting fuel on the fire you choose to let it go and remain silent – just like that Police officer.

Proverbs 26:20 “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.” NIV

James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, NIV
Ecclesiastes. 3:7 There is “A time to be silent and a time to speak…”

Yes, love is a verb and it is something you do and say. It is also, however, revealed when you are silent.

Psalms 19:1-4 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. NIV

Maybe we all need to do more listening and less talking. Do you need to S.H.U.P?