Saturday, April 29, 2017

Failure and Success

by Tim Howard                                                               

In every sporting event where two opposing teams face off there is a loser and a winner. Someone fails and someone succeeds. The feelings are quite different and the contrasting emotions can be seen in the demeanor of each player.

Imagine how the New England Patriots felt in comparison to the Atlanta Falcons when the Patriots came back from what seemed to be an insurmountable lead to win Super Bowl 51! Success feels great and failure – Not so great!

After all these years, I can still remember the first ‘F’ I received on my report card when I attended Junior High School.  Up until then – I had been a straight ‘A’ student but when I saw that ‘F’ on my report card – It was like branding a very large ‘L’ for loser on my forehead.

Since that time – My view of failure has changed. Here are some quotes I’ve picked up along the way that have helped me evolve.

1. Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill.

2. “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” Confucius

3.  “A man may fail many times but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” John Burroughs

4. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” J.K. Rowling

5.  “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein

6. “Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” Robert T. Kiyosaki

7. “Success builds character, failure reveals it.” Dave Checkett

Here’s a bit of wisdom, taken from a giant, named Goliath. You may remember – He’s the guy everyone thought would surely win the battle with his opponent – David. Much like those who chose Atlanta to win when it was 28 to 3 in the last few minutes of the 3rd quarter. The story of David and Goliath is in the Bible – 1 Samuel 17.

When reading the record it seems impossible that a more powerful, more experienced and much larger man in stature would fail to win this battle?  But he did! Why? The answer is found in three decisions Goliath made as he entered the battle.

 1. He chose to depend upon his own strength, his own wisdom and his own abilities rather than God. When human insight trumps heavenly wisdom and you act upon your intuition rather than His instruction, you are in trouble. (Check out what Solomon said in Proverbs 3:5-8)

2. He distanced himself from people and stood alone. No one reaches success apart from the help of others. Learn to love and value people. If you don’t, be prepared to fail. 

3. Lastly, Goliath despised small things but it was a small smooth stone, shot from a slingshot that brought about his demise. It’s the little things in life that matter most. Take care of the little things and you can avoid failure in the big things.

If you want to succeed – Learn the truth about failure – Put God first – People second and take care of the little things.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Broken…or Just Cracked?

by Sylvia Gaston

Are there any areas in your life that feel broken or maybe just a little cracked?

Maybe it’s a relationship that has fallen apart?  Or that ‘thing’ that has you under its control – gossip, addiction, criticism, control, apathy, laziness? Or depression? Or anxiety? The list is endless. There are so many ways that we can become broken.

Today, as some of our staff prayed for our community, my heart was squeezed tight as I thought about all the areas of brokenness that many of us face. It’s sad. It’s heart wrenching. It can destroy lives. But, it doesn’t have to define who you are and it doesn’t have to be that way forever.

We have a saying at our church. We adopted it from some author that wrote some book that many of us read some time ago and it goes like this. “It’s OK to get stuck; it’s not OK to stay that way.”

So how do I get unstuck? Where do I go to fix my brokenness, you might ask.

There is only one person who can move heaven and earth, for whom nothing is impossible. Only one person knows all and loves you more than you can imagine. That person is God.

I honestly do not know how people stay married without Jesus. (Well, more than half don’t, actually). I don’t know how people raise children without Jesus. I don’t know how people deal with siblings, finances, co-workers (not mine), death, the DMV(!) without Jesus.

Unfortunately, I have attended the funerals of both Christians and non-Christians. There is a noticeable difference between the two. When you know that the physical death of a loved one is not truly The End, there is a peace and assurance that you will one day be with them again. There is hope that often is missing from the memorial of one who did not live a life belonging to Him.

If only I had the space here to relay the countless times God has shown up and helped me when I needed it most. Prayers answered, resources provided, wisdom given, healing received and on and on. More than coincidences – supernatural interventions and divine encounters that do not occur by chance. My life is richer, I am more content, and I see Him at work in me every single day.

Don’t get me wrong…just because you choose to follow Jesus, doesn’t guarantee a pain-free, easy life.  I have encountered the struggles of parenting, the challenges of marriage, and the excruciating loss of loved ones. But, as promised in Isaiah 43:13, He will be with us through it all. And we will grow.

If you desire wisdom, comfort, purpose, and help, God offers that. If you want peace that is beyond your understanding, He offers that.

Are you in a season of brokenness or just have some cracks that need to be fixed? This Easter season, as we celebrate Jesus, God on Earth who came for us, you might want to consider turning to Him. He waits for you to do so.

“For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” - Isaiah 41:13

Saturday, April 15, 2017

You Are Invited!

by Tim Howard

As I re-read the life of Christ this past week several things caught my attention. One of the interesting facts I underscored had to do with the way Jesus interacted with people. Even during His last week of life, before the crucifixion and resurrection, He never demanded anything from His followers nor did He seek to control their lives in a dictatorial way. In one of His darkest moments while in Gethsemane, He didn’t demand that His disciples stand alongside Him but merely asked them to join Him in prayer. No pressure, no pushiness and no strong-armed tactics. He simply gave an invitation.

In the early days of Jesus’ ministry He approached people and invited them to become His partners. He said in Matthew 4:19: “ … Follow Me, and I will make you into a fisher of men.” His promise to them had to do with transformation. If you follow me, I will make you, shape you and show you how to become a person who develops meaningful and lasting relationships.

Jesus is a different type of leader. He doesn’t merely talk about doing something but actually shows a follower how to walk and how to live a fruitful life. While many today wax eloquent in mere rhetoric and pontificate specific dogma that sways people, Jesus practiced a ‘Show and Tell’ mentality.

On that Friday when He was crucified He showed His love for us and on Sunday when He arose from the grave – He showed His power. Today Jesus tells us that there is power available to all who believe in Him.

Rom. 8:11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. NIV

I am a follower of Christ because I accepted His invitation over 55 years ago. The road isn’t always easy for those who accept the invitation to follow Him because sometimes Christ leads those who choose to follow through darkness and difficulty. At other times He leads them into the unknown where uncertainty flourishes.

Regardless of the path, however, Barren or Fruitful – Dark or Bright – Mountain or Valley, God is using all things to shape, make, mold and prepare us for the destiny He has designed for us.

The invitation doesn’t promise a road paved with roses. Nor does it assure a life of ease but it does promise resurrection life and no one is exempt. All are invited.

Matthew 11:29-30, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you will recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep Company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." MSG

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Room For More

by Candace Cortez

Confessions. On my drive to work, I get a text saying my article is due today at noon. I have it on my calendar that it is due this time next week. After getting over my first set of emotions, total annoyance, then denial (it’s not even my week to write this!), I quickly settled into a wonderful sense of panic. How in the world am I going to fit this article into my overly packed morning? I have meetings, I have phone calls, I have emails, and that’s all before 11:30 when I need to bring the birthday treats to my daughter’s school! WHAT?!

Fortunately, the Lord is good.

I was quickly reminded how none of those things are life and death. Sometimes we are given opportunities to rise to the occasion and love someone or serve someone even if it takes away from our own pre-planned agenda. However, if we are so focused on what we are doing or what is so important to us, then we will miss those opportunities for extra.

You may be familiar with the story of the good Samaritan. I always imagine what that man was doing before he became aware of the beaten man. We can observe that this particular Samaritan was at least well off enough to own a donkey. He probably had a job somewhere that gave him the means and reasons to travel. What was he “giving up” in order to love his neighbor?

If our lives are too packed and too important, we may miss the people and opportunities God places in our lives to love like the good Samaritan. If we have no margins for interruptions, then we may pass our community by with a blind eye. We may never position ourselves for the random tugs of the Lord to step out, speak up, stay longer, do more.

For me, this is not easy. I love order, control, and predictability. But that is not always how the Lord decides to work. He loves to work in the passing moments from one “important” task to another. This is why so many of Jesus’ miracles happened while Jesus was on the way to another location. Serving people was before His agenda. Actually, His agenda was to serve people. Therefore, even in travel, when His disciples and friends were in a hurry, Jesus was ok with the interruptions. He made time for the people on the side of the road. He made time for the people who were not on His to do list.

Today, this is literally my first interruption. My prayer for all of us is that we would have a heart for the interruptions. The people in your office who need an extra moment of your time, even if it’s for personal reasons. Your child who is requesting extra cuddles when the dirty dishes or laundry are looming. The person in the grocery store who is walking extra slow in front of you. The pedestrian who decides to jaywalk as slowly as they can in front of you. If we have no room for others, even if they don’t “deserve” it, our lives will be more frustrated and less used by God. 

Let’s make room today. Let’s look for an interruption.