Saturday, January 30, 2016

Keep The Faith

by Tim Howard

We all have faith! Whenever you get on an airplane – you exercise faith by putting your confidence in a pilot you have never met. When you invest in a retirement fund you exercise faith by believing there will be a significant profit – to assist you in the future. The question isn’t if you have faith but where do you place your faith and in whom do you trust.

The author of Hebrews – a book in the Bible – tells us that faith is not optional but essential to pleasing God.

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.” NIV

 To have faith in God you must believe He exists and that He is actively involved in your ongoing welfare. He has been in your past – He is in your present and will be in your future. He not only exists but also rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

God is more interested in giving than taking – People who put their faith in Him and earnestly seek Him – discover this truth to be real. A familiar verse – known to many people, is found in John 3:16. It starts by saying  “For God so loved the world He gave…” 

Love is God’s motivation for giving rewards.  Behind every act there is a motive and the motivating factor behind every act determines the ensuing results.  When things are done out of anger, bitterness, pressure, guilt or duty, they reap negative results but when people do things out of love, kindness, mercy, grace and compassion he or she makes a positive impact.  Motives are very important – and God’s motive is love!

He is not a respecter of persons and does not show favoritism.  His blessings and rewards extend to all mankind but those who believe in Him and seek Him – experience what is available to all. 

I’ve heard people say they have faith in God but when they describe their faith they talk about a ‘Higher Power,’ a ‘Force’ or an ‘Energy.” Something impersonal.

Jesus came to reveal God to be very personal. He does not sit in the heavens watching things unwind but is very aware of what goes on and partners with those who call on Him.

I like what David wrote in Psalms 139:1-3

“You have searched me LORD and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are intimately acquainted with my ways”

In other words, He is not aloof – out there – up there – somewhere.

He IS here. He IS present. He IS actively involved in the lives of those who seek Him and rewards them now and in the future.

When you believe, trust and put your confidence in that truth – You are expressing faith!

We all have faith but our faith is only as strong as the object of that faith. Trusting people can sometimes backfire. Putting confidence in your accumulated wealth can prove disastrous since no one knows what tomorrow holds. Just keep an eye on Wall Street to see how things can change.

God can be trusted and Jesus revealed Him to us.  Those who seek, believe and trust in Jesus will be rewarded. You can take that to the bank!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Have Courage

by Andrew Cromwell

There may be one or two valuable things I have gained from the social media site Instagram besides peering into the lives of friends and web-celebrities and wondering how in the world they got their pictures to look so good. Well, two might be a stretch, but for sure I have learned one thing. That is, there is a lot of negativity out there in the world and in order to combat it requires a continual decision to move in the opposite direction of the natural flow.

A constant theme of many of the “successful” instagrammers is that they have stopped worrying about what other people think and have decided to focus on personal growth and positive thinking. You see this theme echoed almost verbatim from all kinds of people, from the fitness fanatics to the business builders  to the stylish savants.

Why this common thread? Is it possible that all these people have a shared media playbook that is advising them that encouraging posts will garner them more followers? And what’s more, how can I get myself a copy?

While I don’t really believe there is a secret book on how to become a social media celebrity, I do believe this common thread is a reaction to the experience of this life that we all share in common. All of us face disappointment, negativity, broken dreams, and tragedy. Life is corrosive in that way. It is a natural result of the broken state of the world we live in.

Once upon a time we were full of hope and expectation for the future. We believed that we could achieve great things. We had in our mind’s eye a picture of what our life would look like -- the perfect spouse, family, and job. But somewhere along the way our fairytale bubble was burst and now we are guarded, jaded, and even fearful.

As a result of this common experience, some have fought back by seeking out encouraging words and focusing on the positive. This is a great response, but there is an even better way.

That better way goes deeper than positive words of self-affirmation because it focuses on a person who actually can and will help. Someone who is powerful enough to actually make a difference. That person is Jesus Christ and he offers more than positive energy..

The historical accounts in the Bible record how the disciples were often afraid, doubt-filled, anxious, and confused. We deal with those same emotions and same reality today. The answer Christ offered His disciples, is the same He offers today. Jesus said to His disciples, “Take courage for I have overcome the world” and “fear not little flock, your Father wants to give you the kingdom.”

When we put our trust in a person that doesn’t ever fail then we don’t have to be fearful and anxious. We can have courage. He promises a better tomorrow. Today might be difficult and broken, but tomorrow He will put things right. This life is only temporary and He offers strength to overcome today’s weakness and a new and brighter day after.

So are the things you are afraid of too big for Him to deal with? I don’t think so. Be encouraged, He answers those who call.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


by Tim Howard

A couple of weeks ago I set some time aside to plot a personal course for the New Year and to develop a plan for Spiritual, Intellectual, Physical and Relational growth.

I do not want to yield to the status quo, become complacent and focus on past accomplishment because that leads to stagnation, deterioration and lifelessness.

Four words came to mind and throughout 2016, I plan to recall these words because they will guide me in every decision I make – every goal I set and everything I seek to accomplish.

These four words can be a good guide for those who want to influence others in an every-increasing way throughout the New Year.


The word hypocrite in the Bible refers to someone who is ‘acting.’ They are pretending to be something they are not! There’s a lot of that going on and it’s not only happening in the movies or on television.

Many people take on a persona that isn’t real. Possibly because they want others to view them as great but are not willing to work on actually becoming great. Getting people to think you are great is a lot easier that actually becoming great!

Being real has to do with authenticity. It’s foundational for influencing people over the long haul. I am committed to being the “Real Deal.” People who make this decision refuse to be a fake – They are people who choose transparency even if others view their flaws. Do you want to have a positive impact on people? Commit yourself to being the Real Deal!


Someone said: “It’s not enough to be on the cutting edge – we must be on the bleeding edge.” In other words we must be closely connected to what’s happening in our culture – We can’t afford to have our head’s stuck in the sand.

The Bible talks about people from Issachar who understood the times in which they lived and had wisdom as a result. This year you might want to consider doing away with that which doesn’t fit any more. Some things may have worked in the past but they don’t now. They’re not relevant today. Seek to be current without compromise.


Growth and influence happens in the context of relationship. God wants your year to be filled with growth and this will happen more consistently when you connect with people. I’m convinced – We should not do life alone – It’s not healthy! When God created Adam He said: “It’s not good for man to be alone.” That is a philosophical statement that goes beyond the marriage union. A person will impact and Influence others more greatly when he or she makes relationships a priority. Don’t be a silo this year – connect with others!

The last word I thought about was the word: REMEMBER! It’s as though the Lord impressed on me to recall certain things and not forget. Here’s a few things worth remembering as we move through 2016 together.

Over-night success usually takes about 15 years.                                             
Live beneath your means.                                                                                        
Never give up on anybody. Miracles happen every day.                       
Take responsibility for every area of your life.                                          
Your attitude is an odor or a fragrance.                                                         
The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is greener where you water it.
Success is not permanent, and failure is not final. God is greater than any giant you may face.

These four words can set some guidelines for all of us to follow – if we so choose!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

New Year, New Goals

by Andrew Cromwell

I was recently reminded that I should do more than just talk about new year’s resolutions, and actually make some. Of course, everyone knows that most new year’s resolutions are quickly and easily cast aside. We fail with these resolutions so frequently that it is easy to give in and decide that there is no use in making them to begin with. But this is not the right conclusion by a long shot.

Setting goals and making plans is not only a powerful tool but a necessary exercise if we are going to grow into the kind of people that we need to become. Proverbs says, “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” Isn’t it interesting that in this description, God guides us as we move forward. This requires us to first make plans, then to submit them to the Lord and finally to put them into action, allowing Him to make course corrections all along the way.

So what plans do you have for this year? How will you be different? In what areas will you change and grow? What obstacle will you overcome and what hill will you conquer? Do you need to grow in your marriage? Perhaps your walk with God is cold and distant and needs some attention. Or perhaps you’ve allowed yourself to get out of shape. The first thing you have to do is to set a goal.

But remember, setting a goal is not enough. Far too often we set goals that are too general or, on the other hand, are completely unattainable. A goal that we are going to accomplish needs to be specific enough that we know when we have actually reached it and it needs to be something that is within the realm of possibility. Make sure the goal is specific and attainable.

We should also remember to set a deadline for our goal. Far too often we fail to make this easy addition to our goal, when all we need to do is write a date next to it. There is something about a date that solidifies the goal. It also focuses our energies. When there is no specific timeline then there is no reason to really move towards that goal when things are convenient and easy, and things are never convenient and easy!

Making specific plans that give concrete steps to how we are going to accomplish those things we are striving for is also essential. As it has been said, a thousand mile journey begins with the first step. Any goal, no matter how lofty, is only attainable if we make strides toward it. As my high school teacher would frequently remind us, “You eat an elephant one bite at a time.” If you don’t put any details down as to how you are going to accomplish your goal, then it is nothing more than wishful thinking.

Finally, you need some accountability. You need to find some people that will encourage you to keep going when you are down and celebrate with you when you make successful strides. While it may be possible to accomplish all that you want to by yourself, I would argue that if that is possible, your goals are too small.

The journey is always better with others.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Live Out Loud

by Tim Howard

On this second day of the New Year I pray for God to bless your life in 2016 and continue to help, guide and reveal His wisdom – in practical ways.

One such piece of wisdom God spoke to me through a friend – years ago, was this: ‘Live Out Loud!” Don’t conceal things but reveal them. Don’t keep secrets because the results can be devastating.

When I was in grammar school my sisters found it amusing to speak with each other in some unknown language. I later learned it was called Pig Latin, which is a language game of alterations played in English. It was their way of keeping secrets from me. They were so frustrating!

The Bible talks about both good and bad secrets. Sort of like a good cholesterol and a bad cholesterol.  A good secret is something positive you do and wonder if anyone notices. Jesus alluded to this type in Matthew chapter 6 when He talked about some religious people who liked doing things for human recognition. He explains the value of not emulating this approach to good works then clearly states: Every good secret will be rewarded.

Bad secrets, however, are things you want no one to discover. When dark secrets are allowed to lurk in the back of your soul, in the shadows of your mind and outside the view of others – they will eventually consume you and have debilitating effects. 

David, the second King of Israel is a good example of why we shouldn’t keep bad secrets.

He was a great man but he had a weakness for women. He committed adultery with a woman name Bathsheba and after discovering she was pregnant with their child, he tried to cover his tracks.

His secret led to murder, then chaos and ultimately the death of this child. David thought his secret was safe but soon learned 4 lessons.

Lesson 1:  You can’t hide from God! David might have kept his secret from everyone else — but he didn’t fool God. God knew! God always knows!
In reality there are no secrets with God – so stop fooling yourself by thinking you can hide. Decide to ‘Live Out Loud.”

Lesson 2: Your secrets will be revealed. Luke 12:1-3 makes this abundantly clear. We all know about David. It is no secret to anyone who has read the Bible! He should have ‘Live Out loud’ 

Lesson 3. Bad secrets, when kept inside, cost dearly. Listen to how David puts it: Psalms 32:3-4 “When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable; I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.” Bad secrets grow in power when we refuse to confess and ‘Live Out Loud.”

Lesson 4. Living in the light brings the greatest dividends of all. When a man named Nathan confronted David about his secret sin, he finally came clean and exposed the evil that lurked inside. He chose to ‘Live Out Loud’ and the result was Forgiveness! And Freedom! 

As you live out 2016, I encouraged you to walk in the light! Let no evil live inside! Join me and together let’s: ‘Live Out Loud.”