Saturday, December 31, 2016

This Year Tune In

by Andrew Cromwell

The new year is the time to make resolutions, set goals and revisit life plans. It's the time to shed those extra pounds, get your finances back in shape and generally get your house in order. But in the midst of the normal fitness, financial and family goals we all set as the calendar flips to 2017, let me suggest a spiritual goal that has the potential to kick your new year up to a whole new level.

This year, purpose to listen and respond to the still small Voice of Father God. It is amazing how often God speaks to us and we don't recognize it. God wants to take your life and elevate it to a whole new level filled with joy and divine purpose. The key is listening and obeying.

We have all had the experience of someone who we normally don't see everyday coming to our mind out of the blue and then within a matter of days we run into them or hear news about them. Often we chalk this up to a coincidence, but more often than not, God was speaking to us. Most often, He wants to use us to communicate His love and care to the person, other times He wants us to pray or even share a message from heaven with them.

These "impressions" generally come to us when we are thinking about something else entirely. One of the clues that God might be talking to us is that our mind is actually going in another direction and His Voice communicates something that is not in line with those thoughts. When we pause and say to ourselves, "that's weird", we should then ask the question, "Am I inspired to do something loving, caring or considerate?" If the answer is "yes", then you should very quickly pick up the phone, write a card, get on your knees in prayer or jump in the car to go visit.

The great thing about this is that you can't go wrong. You see, loving on people is always a "God-thing". Even if you make a mistake and that particular impression was not actually God's Voice, but the bad pizza from the night before, what's the worst that can happen? You have simply fulfilled God's commandment to love your neighbor. Not too bad.

And when you get it right, when it actually is a "God-thing," then look out! You will be amazed at the impact that a simple word of love and kindness can have when it is delivered on God's timing. Never underestimate how powerful of a tool you can be for heaven if you will only be willing to follow God's Spirit.

So this year, purpose to listen and obey. It will change everything.  

Now, if you're not sure God speaks to you, my advice is this. First, make sure you have invited Him to! Tell God you want to follow Him and you want to hear Him speak to you. Ask Him to fill you with His Spirit so that His still small Voice can interrupt your agenda whenever He wants. Second, trust that He will speak! God promises you and I that when we are His children we will hear His voice (John 10:4). Finally, have fun seeing what God will do through you!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

by Tim Howard

Don’t get mad at me but I plan to open my presents tonight – on Christmas Eve – Not because I couldn’t wait until tomorrow but because that has been my family tradition since childhood. As a parent, I didn’t find it too difficult to convince my children to do the same…

The Bible says it’s better to give than receive but many children seem to like receiving gifts a smidgen more than giving. I’m sure that’s true for some adults as well!

Regardless… Gifts are a part of the celebration we call Christmas and it’s possibly rooted in the fact that the Bible records some wise men bringing gifts to Jesus after His birth – to worship Him!

In our family, we do purchase gifts for each other – and will sacrifice time, energy and finances even though we don’t spend an extravagant amount of money. No one in the family, however, runs to the mall – picks up the first thing they see and buys it without some considerations.

We all ask a few questions before making a purchase. Will my brother like this? Does my sister want this? Is this something my mother will appreciate and use? Does my dad need this – is it something he would buy for himself? Why these questions? Because we want to give gifts that have meaning! We want the person to know we were thinking of them and chose this specific gift with them in mind.

God has purchased a gift and it has your name on it. It’s not generic but is specifically and especially designed for you. The sticker on the present has a ‘TO’ and ‘FROM.” Your name is listed where it says ‘to’ and where the ‘from’ is found – the name of Jesus is there.

God knows exactly what you need because according to Psalms 139 – He thinks about you all the time. He knows you inside and out. He knows everything about you and cares for you deeply. His gift is very expensive but He didn’t count the cost because of His great love for you. You can’t pay for it or work for it because His gift is free.

As you open your presents tonight or tomorrow – I can say with certainty, the gifts you will receive cannot compare to the gift God has given you through His Son – Jesus. It is the gift you need the most!  You need it more than a new house – more than physical healing or emotional healing – more than a job or a raise.  These gifts are temporal but God’s gift is eternal.

"The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23b

 Eternal life - that's what God wants to give you.

His gift is a quality of life that affects your present condition and causes your destiny to be bright. He gives you – this day – entrance into His family if you believe, receive and put your trust in Him.

“To us a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end.”

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 17, 2016


by Andrew Cromwell

During the Christmas season there is always a flurry of activity—Christmas parties, gift giving, carols, and awkward family time. As much as the holiday has become a secular tradition, it has survived the many attempts to cleanse it of its spiritual origins, “Christ” remains squarely in Christmas. He is the reason we give gifts during this season.

And He is the reason we hear the phrase “peace on earth” in songs, written on Christmas cards, and spoken in prayers. “Peace on earth” is not some clever marketing phrase invented by mad men in a smoky, New York corner office in the fifties. Neither is it an empty powerless colloquialism uttered when we don’t know what else to say.

“Peace on Earth” is a declaration. It is an announcement. It is a blessing. It was spoken by the angels who appeared to those lonely shepherds on that Nazareth hillside to announce the birth of Jesus. And it was spoken by Jesus to the wind and the waves.

It is in fact the will of our Father in heaven. He desires that peace would not only visit but inhabit the earth. Isaiah 2:4 envisions a day in the future when God’s perfect will is fully expressed. In that day, “the LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.”

Can you imagine? No more refugees fleeing from their war-torn homeland. No more bombs and guns pointed to intimidate and destroy. No more threats, curses and violence. Peace will reign.

And so when we pray for “peace on earth”, we are in agreement with the will of the Father. And we anticipate a future day when our prayers will become a reality.

But God not only wants peace in our world, He also wants peace in our homes. He wants peace between you and your spouse and you and your children. He wants to see the weapons worn smooth by frequent use to be laid down and for a ceasefire to be declared. He desires brothers and sisters to once again live in harmony and unity.

Is your home a place of peace or is it torn by war? Is it destroyed by words aimed at wounding deeply and scarring permanently or is it a place where people can find refuge, comfort, and healing?

If you find that the level of peace in your home is less than what you desire this season, then I want to encourage you. You have influence where you live.  You can influence the people as well as the very environment that surrounds you.

The first key to finding peace is to put your mind in the right place. Isaiah 26 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you.” Perhaps this is the day when you need to make peace with our good Father.

The second key is to invite His peace into your home. Have you asked God for His peace to come and live in your house? Now is a good time to do so.

And third, fight for peace. Instead of fighting with others or allowing others to fight in your home, choose to create a space for peace to live. Don’t let other people determine the environment that is created -- you create it!

May His peace dwell richly with you this season.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Make Room

by Tim Howard

The Christmas narrative begins like this – according to Doctor Luke – who wrote two books in the Bible.

“At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire… Everyone returned to his or her own ancestral towns to register for this census and because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”

Think of it! Pregnant and in the 9th month! It’s cold – the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was long and difficult. Joseph and Mary didn’t choose to travel 69 miles – they were required to because the authorities demanded it. Why else would they make this trip – at this time – on a donkey?

When my wife was in her 9th month of pregnancy she didn’t want to drive across town in a nice car, let alone – make a 69-mile trip on foot, with a donkey.

Not only were they tired – they were exhausted when they arrived. I’m sure Mary expressed emphatically to Joseph that she couldn’t go on! We must find a place to stay because this baby won’t wait any longer!

All she wanted was a room – a small place for a night or possibly two – a place to give birth – was that too much to ask?

Back in 1946 – Before my birth I might add - Don Gardner wrote a humorous Christmas song titled: “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”. It’s about a little girl who wanted to whistle a tune and wish people a Merry Christmas but had great difficulty because she didn’t have her two front teeth.

She wasn’t asking for a lot in comparison to kids in our culture today because if you ask a child what they want for Christmas (with or without teeth) you will definitely get a lengthy list of desires. There is no shortage of ‘wants.’

All God wants is a little room – a little bit of time set aside to honor His Son’s birth. Is that too much to ask?

In this Christmas season – If a person desires only temporal gifts and has no interest in eternal gifts – I suggest he or she make requests to Santa Claus and make room for him. But if a person wants something that will last forever and never wear out – something that will change them for the good and something with substance – then make room for Jesus.

Jesus is the greatest gift anyone can receive. I’ve also discovered – to those who make room for Him – He will throw in some of the temporal stuff, as well – just to bless our lives.

Jesus came to bring light and life to all mankind. He came to the helpless and downtrodden – the needy and forgotten – those disenchanted and those looking for truth. He came for you and for me.

Don’t relegate Jesus to the outside but let Him come inside. Invite Him to not only visit you but to stay with you. You won’t be sorry! Make Room for Him this season and every season.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Today’s Choices, Tomorrow’s Future

by Andrew Cromwell

H.P. Liddon once said, “What we do on some great occasion will probably depend on what we already are: and what we are will be the result of previous years of self-discipline.”

I have often marveled at how people suddenly come into the public eye. Perhaps it is an actor that bursts onto the scene and suddenly is the hottest commodity in town. Maybe it’s an author that suddenly everyone is reading. Or a comedian that everyone just can’t get enough of. These people seem to rocket straight to the top from nowhere.

But nine times out of ten, they didn’t come from nowhere. What appears from the outside to be an overnight success, was no overnight success at all. It was the result of a lot of hard work, effort, and discipline. I have no doubt, that they probably also benefited from a favorable word from a well-placed individual or an “accidental” connection made that resulted in an open door. But even these happened mostly because the person was ready!

I don’t believe in overnight successes. It’s not that they are completely impossible, but they’re more like winning the lottery than anything else. The problem with winning the lottery is that rarely are people prepared to deal with the money they win. As a result, the lottery becomes more of a curse than a blessing. According to the New York Daily News, 70 percent of lottery winners lose all of their money or go bankrupt within seven years of winning. Most people are just not prepared to be overnight millionaires.

What’s true of money, is true of success in other ways as well. When success comes too quickly, then it is usually lost just as fast. The Bible says in Proverbs that money quickly gained is quickly lost, but hard-earned money continues to grow (Proverbs 13:11).

We have all seen people rocket to the top and then plunge right back out of view just as quickly. There have to be ten “one hit wonders” to every one true success. Fame and fortune are as fleeting as the morning dew, particularly when they are based on a lotto ticket, one performance, or temporary beauty. Honestly, we all should pray that God not make us successful or rich until and if we are ready! It just might destroy us.

But true, lasting success is possible. Lasting success happens when people have put in the time and done the work. Like Colonel Sanders going door to door, when the moment came for him to finally burst onto the scene, he was ready. He had honed both his recipe and his communication skills over many years, and many closed doors.

Are you preparing for success or are you hoping to win the lottery of life? Many of us keep throwing our money away, hoping that this week’s hail mary will fix things in our life. Whether it’s our work life or our home life, our relationships, or our finances, far too often we would rather buy a scratcher and hope for the best then do the hard work of preparing for success. But if we want great marriages, solid jobs, and the respect of our family and friends, it is going to take more than a wish and a prayer. It’s gonna take some hard work.

The great news is, Father God is always willing to work with those who want to work with Him! And that is one formula for success that will always work.