Saturday, September 26, 2015

What’s Your Focus?

by Tim Howard

Back I my mid-forties, I noticed a change happening in my vision.  Things that were once crystal clear became blurred, distorted and difficult to see.  Being somewhat of a pessimist, I must admit the thought of blindness entered my mind.  Unable to discern what was truly happening I shared my experience with my wife and children, who diagnosed the problem rather quickly.  They simply said, “You’re getting old and need glasses!”  They were right – even though I rejected the ‘old’ part!

Whether you are old or young, the need to see life and maintain a clear focus is extremely important.  Without it, you will spend endless amounts of energy engaging in things that are very unproductive.

Your schedule will be busy but progress will be minimal. We all know people whose lives are always on the go but the answer to the question: ‘Where are they going’ – remains elusive.

People like this remind me of an airline pilot who once said to the people on board: “I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is – We have lost our sense of direction and don’t know where we are or where we are going. The good news is – we are ahead of schedule and making great time.”

Paul the Apostle described his focus this way in Phil 3:12-16 “ …I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus.  I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.  So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us.  If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you'll see it yet!  Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it.”

As a hunter sets his sights on his prey - your and my sights need to be set on those things that are worthy of attention.  Paul made God’s purpose the focal point of his life and by doing so, was able to see with 20/20 vision.  He didn’t need glasses because God opened his eyes and gave clarity.  If it happened for Paul, it can happen for us!

I encourage you to make God’s Word a focal point. It has some great and wonderful words of wisdom for those who follow Him and for those who haven’t made that choice.  Amazing thing happens when you read, research and reflect on the Bible.  Your insight begins to develop and your perspective begins to change.  God’s Word is like an airplane, it lifts you up to an altitude where the view of life is radically altered.

I also encourage you to make others a focal point. A child’s nature is self-centered and self-seeking. They focus on themselves and want others to focus on them as well. That’s called immaturity! God’s call for us is to become mature and the only way to break immaturity is to change our thinking and focus. Self-centeredness is never a good focus.

1Cor. 14:20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil but in your thinking be mature. NIV

1 Cor. 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child – I thought like a child – I   reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. NIV

 Remember, what gets your attention and focus will ultimately get you!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

What Are You Spreading?

by Andrew Cromwell

Our world is full of things that spread. There are viral infections that can kill you like Ebola or the Avian Flu or non-life threatening but very uncomfortable stomach flu and common colds. But infectious diseases are not the only things that spread. Take yawns for example. Have you ever tried not to yawn after someone in the room just did? Smiles are that way too, and so are frowns. Attitudes are also incredibly contagious, one buoyant optimist can lift the environment of an entire room.

Ideas are contagious too. Recently, the movie Inception capitalized on the concept that it might be possible to plant an idea deep in someone’s mind by entering into their dreams. By doing so, that idea would change the entire way that person viewed the world and consequently the way they lived their life.

You have undoubtedly had the experience of having someone share an idea with you that flipped your whole perspective. Perhaps someone pointed out the shortcomings of your car and suddenly, your royal chariot was transformed into a despised beater. Or that relationship you thought was on solid ground, suddenly is called into question because a friend shares their suspicions that things might not be as good as they seem.

Ideas have the power to change everything. People will give their life for an idea if they believe it is worth it. Ideas about what happens after we die may be the most powerful of all. The idea that there is an afterlife and the way we live our life today affects what happens after we pass into the great beyond, has the power to influence the actions of entire nations. Civilizations have gone to war, and still do today, over the idea that their actions echo into eternity.

What do you believe about eternity? Jesus had quite a bit to say about it. He made it clear that the decisions made on this side of the equals sign had a direct impact on the nature of what was on the other side of the sign. And because this idea was so powerful, the twelve men He left behind to carry His message gave their lives to do just that.

Philip was tortured and crucified. Matthew was beheaded. Peter was crucified hanging upside down. Andrew was hanged. Thomas was burned alive. The list goes on. All of these men lived and died in a manner that demonstrated their deep belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This idea was so powerful that it didn’t stop with them but continues to transform the lives of millions.

What ideas govern your life and are impacting those around you? Are you spreading love, patience and kindness or fear, jealousy and anger? Are you living with purpose and destiny, looking forward to the future, or with pettiness and selfishness, looking only at the moment. What are you spreading today?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Is Your Hearing Aid On?

by Tim Howard

I met a man who wore two hearing aids. We became close friends and he disclosed to me his ongoing struggle with an audiological condition that prohibited him from hearing sounds clearly.

With the help of technology and a sophisticated hearing aid – he was able to hear sounds again, which enabled him to communicate on a different level.

One day we went out to lunch and as we were waiting for the food he was talking on the phone. After he hung up I asked him a question and noticed he didn’t respond. I spoke again with the same result. I then proceeded to reach out to touch him – in the same way someone would lightly honk a car horn to inform the person in front of him or her that the light was green.

When he felt my touch, he reached up to his ears – touched something  - and then said: “I’m sorry, what were you saying? I was just talking to my wife and she went on for so long – I turned my hearing aid off – and forgot to turn it back on.”

I discovered he had a sense of humor that day?

At times we all have moments when we aren’t listening. We may hear but aren’t necessarily paying attention. We don’t practice active listening – we choose turn our hearing aid off.

Francis A Schaeffer wrote a book titled “He Is There And He Is Not Silent”. 

God isn’t silent and He really wants to talk with you! His preference is to talk ‘with’ you and not ‘at’ you or ‘to’ you because He’s genuinely interested in your feelings, your thoughts, your concerns and your words. When you speak – He listens! When He speaks, He wants us to listen!

While watching a newscast recently of a returning military man from a long-term deployment – one of his children jumped for joy when she heard his voice – even before she set eyes upon him.

When you walk with God on a consistent basis you become acquainted with the sound of His voice and when you hear it – life happens – just like that little girl.

Jesus said: Matt. 4:4 … “It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” He also said on several occasions: “If you have ears - then hear!”

Having ears that actually hear and listen to God’s voice is crucial – if we want to experience true life.

God has given you His ‘Word’ as an aid to help you hear. When you read it and study it – you turn on your hearing aid.

He has also invited you to join with a church family of your choice each week as an aid to help you hear. When you set aside some time to meet with others – you turn your hearing aid on.

My mother use to say: “ I’m not talking to hear myself talk!” And neither is God. He wants you to turn on your hearing aid.

He has some great things to share with you. He wants to tell you how to face the challenges confronting you. He wants to tell you how to dispel the confusion you are currently experiencing. He wants to tell you where to find life and purpose. He is speaking good news!

When you speak to God – He listens!

When He speaks to you – do you listen?

What is He saying to you?

Is your hearing aid on?

Saturday, September 5, 2015


by Andrew Cromwell

There is an old Spanish story about a father and son who fought bitterly and became estranged. The son disappeared into the night and the father was left broken-hearted. He searched high and low for his son but could find him nowhere. Finally after more than a year and on the brink of giving up all hope, he placed an ad in a Madrid newspaper. “Paco”, the ad read, “this is your father, all is forgiven. Please meet me at the offices of this newspaper this Saturday at noon.” At the appointed time, the father arrived at the newspaper’s offices only to find 800 Pacos lined up down the street.

We all desperately need forgiveness and reconciliation. There is something deep inside of all of us that craves for someone to release us from the burdens we carry. We can’t help but walk through this life and say and do things that are hurtful to others. We made promises we didn’t keep. We opened our mouths when they should have stayed shut. We lashed out when we should have reached out. And now we owe.

We owe debts to our children, debts to our spouse, and debts to our friends and family. And these debts cannot be repaid like one pays the tab at a restaurant. We know that we can do more and try to make it up to the person, but more often than not, what is required is their forgiveness. We cannot force forgiveness, it is either given or withheld. It is not found in words alone, but in the invisible work of the heart.

We seem to be in the business of creating debts that require forgiveness. And, honestly, there really is little hope for us to be truly forgiven if we look to humanity alone to offer it. For humans are fickle creatures, often unwilling to forgive even if forgiveness is “deserved.” And, God forbid, what happens if we owe a debt to someone and they die before offering forgiveness to us? Can the debt ever be forgiven?

I am convinced there is no way to solve the problem unless we come into contact with the Divine. Only One who is truly higher than us can absolve us completely of our sin against each other. But what must we do so that Heaven will forgive us?

The answer is found in Jesus Christ. The One who is fully human and fully divine. The One who offers forgiveness to all who are willing to receive it. The great news is that His forgiveness is not based on performance, it is based on His love. He does not offer it to only a select few, but to all. There are no hoops to jump through, no religious rites to practice, no divine checkboxes to tick.

Forgiveness comes through relationship. John, one of the great authors of the New Testament, writes that “To as many as received Him [Jesus], to them he gave the right to be called children of God.” Receiving Jesus means putting Him in the driver’s seat of your life. It doesn’t mean that you live perfectly, it means that you are continually seeking His way rather than your way.

When we receive Him in this way, then He gives us “the right” to be God’s children. That means that we have His full acceptance and His full forgiveness. Just as the greatest Father you could ever imagine would always, always, always be ready to receive His children with open arms no matter what. So too, God is ready with open arms today for all those that receive Jesus.

Need forgiveness today? The first step is to find it in Christ.