Saturday, August 27, 2016

What’s Most Important

by Andrew Cromwell

Recently I came across a passage in the Bible where Jesus is telling off the religious leaders of the day. He described how they were inventing things for people to do to get close to God, but these things were only driving people further away from Him. They offered people a list of to dos, when they should have offered them a relationship with the right who.

Have you ever noticed that the only people Jesus really got mad at were the religious? He didn’t get mad at sinners, He encouraged them to change. He didn’t yell at His disciples when they asked Him silly questions, He explained. And He didn’t even lose it on Judas, the very one who betrayed Him. But He was always ticked at the religious teachers! Frankly, as a pastor, it makes me a little nervous.

And right in the middle of the passage, Jesus makes this very interesting statement. He’s talking about giving a designated portion of all of the money you earn to God (the Bible calls it tithing). This was something that the religious leaders were really good at. And Jesus told them, “it’s good that you do that, but don’t forget to do what is even more important.”

And then He listed three things that Jesus clearly thought were incredibly important: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

Jesus said, go ahead and give, but don’t forget to be just. In other words, don’t forget to be honest and fair in all of your dealings. Don’t rip people off. Don’t have unequal standards. Don’t try to cheat in order to get ahead of someone else. Treat everyone with respect. Stand up for the little guy.

And don’t forget to practice mercy. Mercy forgives when forgiveness isn’t required or even deserved. It doesn’t force people to live up to an impossible standard but recognizes that everyone fails. My dad called mercy the “two scoops for free” virtue. When he was a kid, he went down to Thrifty drugstore with his brothers every Saturday. They each had fifteen cents from their dad. They’d go to the movies with ten cents and then to Thrifty for ice cream with the remaining nickel. One Saturday, they all had their ice cream and as they marched out of the store, my dad tripped and his two beautiful scoops of mint chocolate chip spilled onto the hot asphalt and began to melt. He looked to his brother Steve. There was no mercy there. He looked to his brother Mike. Nope. And then he heard a tap on the window. The cashier inside the store had seen it all. She motioned him back inside and gave him two scoops for free. Undeserved. Unpaid. That’s mercy.

And finally, Jesus said, don’t forget to practice faithfulness. Faithfulness to God and faithfulness to people. Faithfulness doesn’t quit when the going gets rough. Faithfulness says, “I’m committed for the long haul.” Faithful people are the people that make a difference in their community. They’re people who figure out how to make their marriages work. They’re the ones you love to serve with because they show up time and again.

Justice, mercy and faithfulness—they are the qualities the Jesus said we all should not neglect. And, wouldn’t you know, they’re the qualities that are often the most difficult for us to follow. All too easily, we find ourselves cutting corners for personal gain. We refuse to forgive because “they did us wrong.” And we find ourselves faithless, because we just couldn’t stick it out.

And yet when we do practice these things, our lives are sure to rise to the top. After all, I want to be around these kind of people because we know these kind are the best kind. And when we start practicing these things in our life, they make a different kind of life. A life of significance. A life that leaves a mark.

The best news of all is that Jesus loves to help people who are committed to living lives marked by these qualities. It’s good news because we all need His help if we’re going to get very far!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

If It’s Broken – Let God Fix It!

by Tim Howard 

There are many different kinds of hurts in life but a broken heart stemming from a broken relationship is among the most painful. 

Just talk to a young man who has been told by his girlfriend that she doesn’t want to date him any longer and you will hear the pain in his voice.  Visit a mother of two toddlers who has just been told by her husband that he wants a divorce. You will quickly see the devastating effects of this soon to be broken relationship.

You and I live in a world of brokenness.  Marriages are breaking up at an unprecedented pace.  Broken families are everywhere and our society is experiencing long lasting ramifications as a result – much like the aftershocks of an earthquake.

In the midst of this dismal climate there is hope and good news and it’s found in the Bible – Luke chapter 4.

“God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor. Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind,

To set the burdened and battered free – to announce, “This is God’s year to act!” MSG

Those words – spoken by Jesus – help us to understand the purpose for which He came. Because of His life and death – our broken lives can be put back together with His help.

All of us experience broken relationships at times and some of them will never be restored – Not because reconciliation is impossible but because one or both people are unwilling to work through it.

In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us to take the first step if we are experiencing a broken relationship. Many of us would rather wait for the other person to make the first move rather than being intentional about things and seeking a solution first.

Here’s some advice to follow if you desire reconciliation.

1.  Go the person in humility. 
1 Peter 5:5 says “… dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another”, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

If you go in humility, God goes with you and can prepare the way for a positive response.

2.  Go to the person in private and meet face to face whenever possible.  Making a phone call, sending a text message or an e-mail may seem easier but it will not produce the same results. 
Matthew 18 confirms the importance of this approach by saying:  “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you.  If he listens, you've made a friend.”

3.  Don’t focus on what they have done to you, but keep your comments focused on your part in the broken relationship.  The process of reconciliation will often be aborted if you stop repenting and start blaming them.

4.  Ask for their forgiveness and don’t be surprised if they ask for forgiveness as well.

5.  Let your words be few.  The more you talk, the more chance you have to sin. Check out Proverbs 10:19, When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

6.  Last but not least – leave the results in God’s hands.  Romans 12:18 makes it clear that everyone does not want to be reconciled but you need to do all you can do – to see this desire become a reality. 

If you have a broken relationship – follow His advice and Let Him fix it!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Too Comfortable

by Andrew Cromwell

Francis Schaeffer, the widely-read Christian theologian, said that there are two values that the western world has adopted. He referred to the values as “impoverished”, which is to say they are lousy. The two values are comfort and affluence.

First, let’s talk about comfort. Here’s the deal. We all like to be comfortable. It’s part of our basic human nature. Babies cry because they’re uncomfortable. They yell because they are either hungry, wet, have a stomach ache, are teething, or just want to be held. Parents scramble to do whatever they can to make baby comfortable so they shut up. As baby grows older, she becomes more sophisticated about communicating her wishes to those around her, but it’s largely the same story: the baby, now an adult, throws a fit when something’s not right in their world and keeps throwing it until it is.

We all like our comfort. We avoid people who make us uncomfortable. We buy cars that make us comfortable. We love clothes that make us comfortable, and so on. We will do whatever we can to organize our lives in such a way that discomfort is minimized. Some of us go to ridiculous lengths and spend ridiculous amounts of money in the quest for comfort.

Affluence, the second impoverished value, goes hand-in-hand with comfort. Affluence is simply the means to afford the comfort we so desire. The more affluent you are, the more power you have over your time and the more money you have to spend. Americans are pretty affluent. Even those who don’t think they are affluent, generally are vastly more affluent than the other 95% of the world.

The problem with these values is that they’re generally good things that become bad things. It’s not bad to be comfortable and to be affluent, but when these two things become major goals in life (which happens really easily) then our lives tend to be largely empty of meaning.

We could say it this way, comfort and affluence are often enemies of the truly good life. A life that is good is full of rich relationships, depth of moral character, and a meaningful legacy. These things don’t generally happen when our goal is comfort and affluence. This is because the best things in life require us moving out of our comfort zone. The best things in life require risk.

I read a story recently about a monk who lived all his life dedicated to prayer and fasting. He was so committed to God that he never married, lived in a remote monastery, had few worldly possessions and was widely respected by the community as a holy man. When the man died at a very old age, He was welcomed into heaven, but the reception he received was not what he expected. God asked him why he had removed himself from the very relationships and life situations that would cause his character to grow. He had missed countless opportunities to be refined and shaped into a better soul.

What does this have to do with comfort? Everything. The holy man had organized his life in such a way that the most difficult things in life (relationships) didn’t bother him. As a consequence, he wasted his opportunity for growth.

So where is your life too comfortable? Where are you taking the easy road that feels better in the moment so that you don’t have to have that difficult conversation, be around that difficult person, or generally not be inconvenienced with someone else’s drama? Perhaps these are the very areas that God has put in your life to provide you with an opportunity to grow and change (and be a blessing to others to boot)!

Andrew Cromwell is the executive pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford. E-mail him at or call 582-1528.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Take Out The Trash

by Tim Howard

Recently, while praying for our city and county, I became very thankful for the many services provided by our governing authorities.

There are programs to help children at risk, young adults struggling with anger, people in need of financial assistance and a full array of educational opportunities to name only a few.

One service that might be taken for granted by many is the waste management department that is seen each and every day on streets throughout the city. When my wife and I moved to Hanford 13 years ago we received a brochure containing some information and instructions.  The brochure described how we should separate the recyclable materials from the regular trash and gave directions for throwing away larger items like furniture.  It went on to discuss many frequently asked questions and then gave the specific pick up days for our neighborhood.  The instructions were simple:  Take your waste container to the curb on the proper day and someone will come to take it away.  WOW! That’s a needed service at a reasonable price.

Don’t laugh!  Every house has trash that needs to be removed and that’s true for our personal lives as well.  We all have some garbage laying around due to unhealed hurts, disappointments, painful memories, wounds, broken promises, broken hearts, unmet needs and unresolved issues.  It can also produce an odor that offends rather than a fragrance that makes life enjoyable – if not dealt with. Simply stated; life stinks when we don’t remove the trash.

What needs to be disposed of in your life?

Does your attitude stink and desperately needs a fresh update?  If that’s true for you, ask for God’s help. He said these words in Ezek. 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give a heart that is pliable.”  Let God help you with this because a Bad Attitude stinks!

Maybe your actions or words are hurting people rather than helping them. Maybe there is some trash talk going on and your words have a stench surrounding them.  Why not fill your mouth with words of praise rather than words of criticism.

I guarantee – if you do, the atmosphere will change and the aroma will be like a sweet smelling bouquet of flowers.

So, it’s time to take out the garbage!  We know what to do with the practical stuff but what about the personal garbage?  The city tells us to bring our stuff to the curb but the Bible tells us to bring our personal trash to the cross.  The cross is the place where Jesus died for you.  The cross is the place where sins are forgiven.  The cross is the place where you can exchange the old for the new. The cross is the place where you can confess without the fear of being criticized or attacked.  

 God can deal with your garbage!  He can even recycle some things and restore them to new condition. By the way… the city only sends a truck once a week but the cross is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Does your life emit a fragrance or an odor?