Saturday, November 26, 2016

Give Thanks

by Tim Howard

This week many families and friends gathered for a Thanksgiving Day celebration. Our country has set aside one day on the calendar each year to remind us of the importance of giving thanks.  One day to press the pause button and say: THANK YOU GOD for all you have done.

Among many statements found it the Bible about thanks and praise, David said in Psalms. 92:1 “It is good to give thanks to the LORD.”

 It’s good because it opens the door for a heart of gratitude to grow within each of us. Giving thanks is something you say and do but gratefulness is a condition of the heart. An Attitude of Gratitude flourishes when life is lived with thankfulness.

Not only this but it also replaces the ugly sounds of criticism, sarcasm and complaining with the reverberation of joy, hope and appreciation. Granted, there’s much to complain about but when you realize over half the world earns less than $2.00 a day; no more than 5% of the world population owns a home and the majority don’t have a car to drive, maybe we have more to be thankful for than we realize.

 People who complain and criticize on a regular basis are not fun to be around. Thankful people, however, bring a fresh perspective because they focus on what they have and don’t worry about the things they have yet to obtain. They bring joy because they choose to fill their mouths with positive things rather than the negative.

Jesus asked a very important question worth answering when He was on His way to Jerusalem. The narrative is found in Luke chapter 17. Jesus spoke a word of healing to ten people stricken with leprosy and here’s what happened: “And as they went on their way, the leprosy disappeared. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God, I’m healed!” He fell face down on the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done… Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where is the other nine?

Good question? Why don’t more people give thanks? Maybe the nine didn’t return because they chalked it up to being lucky or a coincidence? Failing to realize God’s involvement stifles thanksgiving.

Then again, maybe they were so caught up in the present moment and their new-found health they simply forget the goodness of God.

It’s easy to lose a spirit of thanksgiving at any time – but be warned - the consequences are not very positive. Romans 1:21 declares: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, so they became futile in their views of life, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

Thanksgiving will blow the clouds of darkness away and keeps the lights on. Only then - will a person see life through positive lenses.

As I celebrated Thanksgiving a couple of days ago – my family and friends took time to express thanks to God. I personally don’t thank God for everything because some things are evil but I have committed myself to giving thanks in the midst of everything.

This is something I endeavor to do 365 days a year – including Thanksgiving weekend. I hope you do as well.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Charismatic People

by Tim Howard

Two verses in the New Testament  always amaze me whenever I read them. The verses are found in the book of Luke chapter 15 verses 1 and 2. It says: “A lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently to his teachings. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!”

The amazing fact is that Jesus attracted so many different types of people to Himself.

They came from every walk of life and enjoyed hanging out with Him. They didn’t necessarily agree with Him on the issues, believe in His teaching or follow His instructions but for some strange reason they liked HIM!

What was it about Jesus that attracted so many people? Was it His persona? His personality? His style? Some have suggested He was ruggedly handsome but Isaiah the prophet tells us there was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance – nothing that would necessarily make Him stand out and attract us to Him.

If I was to give an answer to this question – it would revolve around the word ‘Charisma’ but not as our culture defines the word.

In the Bible, charisma is more than a person’s outward persona. It is not only about his or her charm, presence, appeal or external attractiveness.

Maybe an acronym for the CHARISMA will help clarify the true meaning.

Jesus has compassion, care and concern. People were drawn to Jesus because He really cared about them. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. That cliché may be old but it’s true! Charismatic people, in our cultural way of thinking – might be charming but all to often they only care about themselves.
A lot of charismatic people give us tons of hype, but the message of Christ was based on truth and brought people a genuine hope for tomorrow.

Jesus came not to judge but to rescue people. They saw the difference between Him and the religious leaders – who were characterized by an extreme judgmental bias. Maybe that’s one reason many of those outside the faith today choose to run from religion.

Jesus didn’t speak with religious rhetoric or verbiage but acted in real power to dealt with real problems.

He understood and dealt with the root problems of mankind and focused on the heart. He changed people from the inside out.

He speaks in terms people can understand.

Humility is His trademark and that is attractive and appealing.

There is no dichotomy between what He said and what He did.

No, Jesus didn’t influence people because He was charming, knew how to work the crowd, made promises that sounded good or displayed uncanny ability to con people. He influenced people because He was full of grace and truth. This is Godly Charisma. 

That’s what I want – I want to be like Jesus.  I hope you do as well.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Facing Your Goliaths

by Andrew Cromwell

One of the most famous stories in the Bible is David and Goliath. Everyone loves the story about the little shepherd boy who bested the nine-and-a-half-foot giant with nothing more than a smooth stone, a sling, and great faith in God. This lopsided victory has become the way we describe any uneven matchup between two people, companies or sports teams.

But there is so much more to the story and more than you can apply to your life.

One of the reasons the story resonates with us so much is we can easily put ourselves in David’s shoes. We probably have never stood before a literal giant threatening to run us through with his spear, but we all have faced obstacles or people that seem impossible to overcome. There is a vision in our hearts of the good things that God has in our future, and there are always giants standing between us and that God-given picture.

David, was the youngest in his family and was given jobs no one else wanted. He was sent to watch the sheep and run errands for his dad, Jesse. Have you ever felt like you have been forgotten and that the job that you have been given is insignificant? David knew the feeling too. And yet, David decided that he was going to do his job well, even if it did involve watching those stinky sheep. He did his job with all of his heart and trusted that God knew what He was doing. He didn’t moan and complain. He didn’t gripe. He did his job and kept his eyes open for what God was doing.

David wasn’t a formally trained soldier. When he told his brothers that he was going to face Goliath, they laughed because he had never even been in a battle. He didn’t know how to use a spear or a sword. But David didn’t let that stop him because he knew that even though he hadn’t been trained in the way everyone expected, he had in fact been trained. You see, when David was watching the sheep, he had to protect them from attacking mountain lions and hungry bears who saw them as an easy meal. He had faced enemies that were ferocious in the past and this preparation had made him ready to face the giant.

Have you ever felt unqualified? Maybe you don’t have the formal degree or the experience that others are looking for. Perhaps you don’t have the big title on your desk or the letters after your name. Some might have even looked at you and laughed. But don’t let that stop you. Because God is not limited by “formal training.” You may not be as unqualified as you feel. You have faced your own lions and bears and they have been training for your current challenge.

Finally, David used unconventional weapons. When everyone else had swords and spears, he used a sling and a stone. One well placed stone smashed right between Goliath’s eyes and the giant crumpled to the ground. No one expected it because it wasn’t the approved method. But the sling and stone worked for David because they were the weapons David knew. They were the weapons that he had been trained with.

How often do we devalue the very tools that we have in our hands because they aren’t the ones that have been “approved” by others? The truth is God has given you tools to do battle with the giants in your life. Don’t assume you need to use someone else’s strategies or methods. He has taken you through your unique experience and prepared you to face your Goliath.

At the end of the day, David had confidence he could face the giant because he knew God. He had spent time with God in the wilderness while he tended the sheep. He had trusted God when he faced the lion and the bear. He had been faithful in his work, believing that God was in charge of the bigger picture. And so when he confronted Goliath, he simply did what he had always done: trust that God was big enough to bring him through every obstacle in his path. 

Maybe you are more like David then you realize. If we all borrowed from David’s example, we would do well.