Sunday, December 15, 2002

Christmas Giving

by Blake Cromwell

Christmas roars upon us with its demands and joys. Kids will be out of school seeking adventure and the latest PlayStation game. There will be Christmas parties and family gatherings. There are gifts to buy and special Christmas programs to attend. Every year there is a tremendous pressure to keep alive the real meaning of Christmas.

Giving gifts is an expression of our desire to do as Father God did and give to others. It is always a delight to bless family and friends with an expression of love for them. But to increase the Christmas miracle we must give to others less fortunate than ourselves.

The simple and profound message of Christmas is that God gave what we all needed and couldn’t obtain for ourselves. His gift was His Son who provides salvation for whosoever will trust in His birth, death and resurrection.

Adopting a family in need, giving to a orphan or working at a soup kitchen are all ways to bring the spirit of Christmas to others who are not as fortunate.

Recently I told a true story of giving to our church and I’d like to share it with you in the hope it will inspire you to be like God and give to others that which they cannot get for themselves.

Joel Morgan planned to visit missionaries in Eastern Europe. So he asked some friends what to pack. They said snacks for yourself because there isn’t much to eat in the rural villages of Eastern Europe. As he walked through the grocery store, he prayed “Lord, what might make it through customs.” He picked up Reese’s peanut butter cups, some tapioca pudding, some hard candy and gum, and some malt, some small cans of fruit cocktail. When Joel arrived in Romania, he stayed with a missionary family who were living in very harsh conditions, often without heat and electricity, they enjoyed a very good evening of conversation and prayer together. And as Joel started to leave, he remembered the snacks he had brought for himself and he had an idea. He thought, you know it is only October, but why not use these snacks to celebrate an early Christmas? So he got out his backpack and began to play Santa Claus in their living room. He asked the missionaries’ two teenage daughters, if you could have one thing from the U.S., what would it be? In unison, they said “candy!” “What kind?” Joel asked. The mother chimed in, “the girls love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. But they are not available here.” With a lump in his throat, Joel pulled out the king size package and the girls began jumping up and down laughing as they held their gift.

Wiping away a tear, Joel asked their mother, “Well, what item from back home would brighten your day?” Now, this was a big risk. I mean what if she asked for a side of beef? She said sheepishly, “I miss fruit, especially citrus.” Reaching into his bag, Joel pulled out a can of fruit cocktail and mandarin oranges. Now everybody was laughing, and everybody was wiping away tears.

After a time of celebration, Joel turned to the father and he thought about pulling out the few remaining items left in his bag and letting the dad make the decision, two out of three miracles ain’t bad. You know, why press your luck? But something deep down inside Joel shouted, “Go for it!” And before he could argue with God, he heard himself ask, “Gary, what is your favorite dessert?” The dad smiled and said, “you know, it’s something nobody else in the world likes…tapioca pudding.” Joel nearly injured himself pulling out the snack pack of tapioca pudding that God had prompted him to buy seven days earlier and 4,000 miles away.

In reality Christmas giving should be a way of life. Love is seeing a need in others and helping to meet that need. The Pastors in the Kings County want you to know that God loves and has a plan to bless your life.

Monday, December 2, 2002

Shooting Up Christmas

by Blake Cromwell

Christmas morning was ruined. In utter disbelief, my parents surveyed the damage my brothers and I had created. It might not have been so bad had my parents not planned to sell the house just after Christmas.

As I viewed the hundreds of tiny holes in the sheet rock of my bedroom wall I realized Christmas Dinner wouldn’t be pleasant for any of us. At the not so tender age of ten, it was certainly going to be the worse Christmas of my life. Now Dad was sending us to his room to lay over his bed and wait for you know what.

As I lay waiting, I rehearsed the morning’s events. My brothers and I had awakened very early that Christmas morn to quietly whisk our Christmas gifts out from under the tree and creep back to our rooms for closer inspection.

With great joy, we unwrapped three of the most beautiful Red Ryder BB guns you ever did see. Just weeks earlier our dad had told us that BB guns would make fine gifts since we would be moving to Hanford just after Christmas. Year after long year we had begged for BB guns only to hear that LA wasn’t a good place for them. We ripped them from their thick, protective cardboard packaging and hoisted them into the air in triumph —three “Great White Hunters.” Discovering that the BBs served as that year’s stocking stuffers, we commenced to fill our rifle chambers.

To be honest, I don’t remember whose idea it was to set the remains of the cardboard packaging against our bedroom wall for target practice, but I am very sure that once discovered, I told Dad that it had been my brother, Steve. He was the oldest and still to this day I blame him because I can’t face the fact that I was just so stupid. Stupid, to think those boxes would stop a BB. We lined up all three boxes side by side and began to blast away with glee. It wasn’t until we were almost out of BBs that Dad appeared.

As Dad moved one of the targets to reveal the damaged wall I could feel the tears begin to flow. We really did feel bad because we knew that we had let Dad and Mom down. Dad never did spank us that morning, but he told us something that has stayed with me to this day. He told us that he forgave us and that he would fix the problem. That ten-year old boy just couldn’t see how the wall could ever be fixed. For the next week, every morning I awoke to see the results of my actions on the bedroom wall. But Dad was true to his word. Within two weeks the old sheet rock was removed and replaced. The wall was painted over and all evidence of that terrible Christmas morning had vanished.

That sight was a better Christmas gift then my BB gun. It showed me that a bad situation could be turned around. All one needed was the help of someone like my dad.

All these years later I have found that in the Bible we have a Father who will help us in our hour of need, just like my dad did that Christmas. The Bible refers to God as “Father” hundreds of times. In one place Scripture declares, “If you, as earthly fathers, who are imperfect, know how to give good gifts to your children how much more will your Father in heaven give the help of the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”

At ten I didn’t understand how my dad could fix that wall, but he told me he could and he did. Now at fifty I still don’t know how God can fix some problems I get myself into but He has promised to answer when I call. If you are facing difficulties, even impossible situations, why don’t you call out to your Father in heaven to help you. Romans 8:28 declares, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” One version of the Bible quotes this verse like this, “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives is worked into something good because we love God.”

During this Christmas Season the Pastors in the Kings County would love to tell you how much your Heavenly Father loves you and that He can work something good out of a bad situation. We want you to know God’s greatest gift to you is His Son Jesus.

Friday, November 1, 2002

Hidden Potential

by Blake Cromwell

There is an old story that tells of Michelangelo, the great sculptor, pushing a block of granite down the street. A curious neighbor sitting lazily on the porch of his house called out to him and asked what he was doing with the old piece of stone. Michelangelo is reported to have answered, "Because there is an angel in this rock that wants to come out.”

The hidden potential of the people all around us is incredible, but we are often deceived by their rough exterior. If we could only see each person’s God-given destiny it would motivate us to do all we could to help them fulfill it. When people truly discover their destiny everyone benefits.

My belief is that all we need to live wonderful lives is now here on planet earth. God has gifted us with all the tools necessary for success in life. I believe the cure for cancer is hidden inside the mind of a child who is waiting to be developed. I believe that if you and I help others, then all of us can begin uncover and enjoy God’s gifts to their fullest. Like the story of Michelangelo who chipped away at the stone to uncover the angel in the rock, we too must seek to unlock the potential of people all around us.

When we help others we bless ourselves and our Father in heaven. No service is too small. Jesus said even “a cup of cold water would be rewarded” if given in His service.

Several years ago two teenage boys tried to come into a church service one evening only to find it packed out and with no empty seats. The two boys turned to leave because they couldn’t find a seat. A concerned usher stopped them and escorted them down towards the front of the auditorium and found them two seats. That night both of those boys accepted Christ. One of them was Billy Graham. Do you think that usher is going to get any credit in heaven? I’ll say! We have no idea of the significance of the small acts of service we do for others.

Jesus died for our sins and started the church that is to be His physical witness on planet earth. He has given us the responsibility to be His hands and feet to those around us. Our job is to see the potential in others and point them to Christ where their true fulfillment can be found. When we live self-centered lives we miss God’s highest.

This week I am asking the Father to give me His eyes to see what He sees in the people in our Valley. The Bible teaches us that people can have a hard heart yet there are God given gifts in every hard heart. That hard heart needs someone to help it find the great sculptor, Jesus, who can unlock that great gift.

Just think, this week in our churches in the Kings County another young man like Billy Graham might be looking for a seat. Let’s all do an S-O-S (scoot over some) and help to unlock the greatness in every heart.

Wednesday, October 2, 2002

Heated Communications

by Blake Cromwell

Communication breakdown is an oft-cited culprit in marital problems. If you sometimes feel your mate just doesn’t understand you (who doesn’t feel that way now and then?), maybe the problem lies in the way you talk. H. Norman Wright offers 10 tips for communication:

1) Be a ready listener and do not answer until the other person has finished talking.

2) Be slow to speak. Think first. Don’t be hasty in your words. Speak in such a way that the other person can understand and accept what you say.

3) Speak the truth always, but do it in love. Do not exaggerate.

4) Do not use silence to frustrate your spouse. Explain why you are hesitant to talk at this time.

5) Do not quarrel. It is possible to disagree without quarreling.

6) Do not respond in anger. Use a soft and kind response.

7) When you are in the wrong, admit it and ask your mate for forgiveness. When someone confesses to you, tell them you forgive them. Be sure it is also forgotten and not brought up again.

8) Avoid nagging.

9) Do not blame or criticize your mate, but restore them, encourage them and edify them. If someone verbally attacks, criticizes or blames you, do not respond in the same manner.

10) Try to understand the other person’s opinion. Make allowances for differences. Be concerned about your mate’s interests.

The Bible is the greatest handbook on marriage. Within its pages there are practical principles for marital harmony. In addition to these 10 guidelines, here are some scriptures worth reading and remembering: Job 19:2, Proverbs 18:21, Proverbs 25:11, James 3:8-10; 1 Peter 3:10-11.

Why not commit to memory these 10 guidelines of communication? Cut them out and tape them on your refrigerator or your appointment book. The next time you feel the conversation turning intense take the time to read through the list with your spouse and attempt to adhere to God’s wisdom in speech.

For more helpful guidelines for marital bliss check with your local pastors in the Kings County, they are opening the pages of God’s Word this weekend.

Monday, September 2, 2002

Sea of Forgetfulness

by Blake Cromwell

This year I will turn 50 and I am not lamenting the loss of my youthful strength or stamina, but my loss of short-term memory. All my life I have had the ability to remember little details such as numbers and dates. Now I find that not only can I not remember what I did last night, but I keep missing appointments too.

My children tease me that my “senior moments” are really senility setting in. They have encouraged me to sign over my bank accounts before I can’t remember their names. The only good I can see as a result of this problem is that I no longer can fixate on small problems. How can you worry about something when you don’t remember it?

God has a good forgetter too. But His forgetfulness is based upon a decision He makes not a sign of age. The Bible teaches us that, “He remembers no more our sins.”

Bruce Larson tells the true story of a Catholic priest who lived in the Philippines, a much-beloved man of God who carried a secret burden of long-past sin buried deep in his heart. He had committed the sin only once, many years before, during his time in college. No one else knew of this sin. He had repented of it and had suffered years of remorse for it, but he still had no peace, nor inner joy — no sense of God’s forgiveness.

A woman in his parish who had a deep love for God claimed to have spiritual dreams in which she spoke with Christ. The priest, however, was doubtful of her claims, so to test her visions he said asked her, “The next time you have one of these visions, I want you to ask Christ what sin your priest committed while he was in college.”

The woman agreed and went home. When she returned to the church a few days later, the priest said, “Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?”
“Yes, He did,” she replied.
“And did you ask Him what sin I committed in college?”
“Yes, I asked Him.”
“Well, what did He say?”
He said, “I don’t remember.”

God wants us to realize that His forgiveness includes His forgetfulness. We all know people who say they have forgiven but their forgiveness is only verbal. They still resent and silently mistrust. They hold on to it, which creates a wall between them and the person who has sought their forgiveness.

But God’s forgiveness is perfect. There are no walls between you and Him because He refuses to remember the sins you confess. You have a clear record, for He has placed your sins in the “Sea of Forgiveness.” One preacher said, “God has thrown your sins in the Sea of Forgetfulness and put a sign there that reads, “No Fishing Allowed.”

I don’t know about you, but I have some history that I want to be thrown in the “Sea of Forgetfulness.” The good news of Jesus Christ is that He can and will place your sins in that sea, all we must do is ask

Sunday, September 1, 2002

A Good Place to Raise Kids

by Blake Cromwell

In the early 60’s my father left the LA basin and moved his family to Hanford. He announced that Hanford would be a good place to raise his boys. Of course, being in the 5th grade, I was fascinated with Hanford — Moe’s Toy Store, Superior Dairy and the vast countryside. That first summer I swam in the canals, shot jack-rabbits and hunted pheasant. My father was right. Hanford was and is a good place to raise a family. The Kings County is a better place for kids than many parts of our nation.

Churches are also great places to raise a family. Over the years as a pastor, I have witnessed a generation of kids grow up in our home church, Koinonia Christian Fellowship. When I first began pastoring in Hanford I was 30 and this December I will turn “The Big Five O” (December 1st if you want to send some reading glasses and Rogaine).

Over the last twenty years, I have seen toddlers grow up, graduate from college, marry and start families of their own. The vast majority of these kids have been blessed and are productive young adults making a positive impact on their communities.

Most churches provide great role models for children. Men and women raising families and living moral lives impart a visible example for kids to follow. The first experiences in drama, singing, musical instruments and the art of public speaking are often in the local church. Church programs help kids develop strong faith, healthy self-esteem, and love for song. Kids clubs, vacation Bible schools, Christmas plays, father and son outings, father and daughter dinners, and many more — all are found within the community of the church.

My own children grew in interest for musical instruments as they weekly watched the worship band in church. Every week they saw and heard piano, drums, guitars, percussions and stringed instruments making joyful music. My son’s interest in philosophy and theology was inspired by the gifted speakers he was exposed to through the church. He also was awakened to how beautiful girls are because everyone knows the best looking girls are in churches.

I think of Sean who at age 7 was involved in a our kid’s choir and drama team. They sang in churches in Hanford and traveled to many places including Jamaica to minister in churches and public schools. Sean today is in the film business in Hollywood. He attributes his love for the Fine Arts and his calling to Hollywood because of his experiences in church.

On a short mission trip to Mexicali, Rhonda at age 11 witnessed medical care being given to children in the city dump. She now attributes her profession as a nurse to her experience in that Mexicali dump.

My own personal experience of finding positive role models occurred at a local church here in Hanford, the Glad Tidings church. There at age 16, I was impacted by a man named Vernon Rogers. He was affectionate, friendly and enthusiastic about his faith in Christ. I watched how he treated his wife and said deep within myself, “I want that kind of relationship with my future wife.” There is a memory embedded in my mind of Vernon praying in church with tears upon his face as he thanked God for His goodness. I found good role models in many of the men of that church. I believe it is the same today.

In our churches in the Kings County you will find a healthy place to raise your family. The Bible promises parents, “raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” If you chose Hanford to raise a family please remember there are some great churches here waiting to help you.

Thursday, August 1, 2002

Renewal for Your Marriage

by Blake Cromwell

Recently I was reading through a few of the marriage ceremonies I have done over the last ten years and decided to send the ceremonies to the individual couples and encourage them to re-say the vows they made on their wedding day. I am going to send the ceremony to the husband with a cover letter encouraging him to surprise his wife with a night out and then end the evening with a restatement of his vows to her.

Most marriage days are so filled with stress that couples barely remember the words spoken on their wedding. Yet those words are sometimes the most profound of their marriage. Over the years my wife, Rena, and I have renewed our wedding vows in the privacy of our home. I believe these times of renewal have bought a special grace from God upon our marriage.

It is my belief that Father God delights in doing miracles when a couple renews their wedding vows. Jesus preformed His first miracle at the wedding of Cana. There Christ transformed water into wine. He took what was natural and common and made something wonderful out of it. In like manner, God can take our ordinary lives and transform them into something wonderful.

Of course, as with every miracle we must do our part. Jesus told them to bring him six stone waterpots and out of that action Christ preformed the miracle. In the same manner, we need to bring our marriages to Christ and ask Him to bring His miraculous power to it.

Let me encourage you to renew your marital vows to your spouse, believing that Christ will add His blessing to your marriage. Go ahead and take the following martial vows I have used in scores of wedding and set a date with your spouse.

Then turn to her and make this profession of faith:

I, (your name), take thee, (her name), to be my wedded wife; to care for you, to watch over you, to bring out your best, to allow you to reach your God given purposes in life. I won’t leave you alone to do the difficult task of life, I will be there for you. I cherish you and vow to always do so. No matter the adversities of life I will love you in every circumstance of life, in sickness and in health, in abundance and in lack. I’ll do my best, I will give 100 percent so that you and our family will have an active and engaged husband and father, I will love and cherish you till death parts us, according to God’s Word I make these commitments.

Ladies, then it’s your turn:

I, (your name) do take thee, (his name) to be my wedded husband; to care for you, to watch over you, to bring out your best, to allow you to reach your God given purposes in life. I won’t leave you alone to do the difficult task of life, I will be there for you. I cherish you and vow to always do so. No matter the adversities of life I will love you, in every circumstance, in sickness and in health, in abundance and in lack. I promise to walk with you every step of the way in life and if it gets to a point where you can no longer walk I will pick you up and carry you, I will love and cherish you till death parts us, according to God’s Word I make these commitments.

Of course if you really want to make points with your wife, give her a gift that represents your renewed vows. A watch, ring, maybe flowers but please no irons or washing machines.

Know this, that the pastors in the Kings County want to help you not just on your wedding day, but everyday to help you find that supernatural wine Jesus desires to place in every marriage.

Friday, July 5, 2002

Missing Ingredients

by Blake Cromwell

During the 70’s I worked in a home for teens. Once a week the boys’ home would have dinner together with the girls’ home. It was always a fun filled time with laughter and smiles.

One night we celebrated the birthday of one of the boys. One of the girls from the girls’ home who had a crush on the birthday boy made him a cake. It was her first attempt at baking a cake and she labored diligently to impress her potential boyfriend.

When she rounded the corner that evening the 16 candles illuminated the dark chocolate cake and all of our mouths began to water in anticipation. As she portioned out the cake piece by beautiful chocolate piece, we couldn’t wait to taste this marvel. In unison we slid the first fork-full into our mouths and instantly knew something was wrong. The cake was tasteless. Something — sugar, salt, eggs — something had been forgotten.

She was embarrassed, we were disappointed, and the potential courtship was over. And all because she had missed one ingredient.

One ingredient can make or break a family just like it can make or break a cake. I meet with people often in the midst of crisis. Many times they are struggling with their kids because they’ve left out one important ingredient from the recipe for raising a healthy family. They concentrated on making money and forgot communication. They taught their kids how to study but not how to say no to peer pressure. They eat well but neglect exercise.

I read a story recently about a young social worker who had just graduated from college and taken her first assignment in the inner city. It was there she met Danny.

The boy was curled up against a wall watching his friends play stickball. Danny couldn’t walk and he couldn’t run. So the young social worker decided she would find out what was wrong with Danny. She discovered that about a year before Danny had been playing ball with his friends. He chased after a fly ball and into the path of an oncoming car. His arms and legs were broken and there was damage to his back and ribs.

Some of the children took Danny to his mom who neglected to take him to the hospital. So when the bones began to heal they healed crooked. He couldn’t walk and he couldn’t run, so his friends would carry him down and lean him up against the wall of the building so he could watch them play ball.

The social worker determined to help Danny. She took him to a hospital and there over a period of months Danny underwent 17 separate operations on his legs, arms and back. Finally that day came when once again Danny was able to play stickball…to walk and to run. After months of operations and physical therapy, they had taught Danny to walk again.

Years later the social worker was standing in front of a large gathering of other social workers from all over the country. After telling the story to the group, the social worker asked, “What do you think Danny is doing today?”

Someone said, “I bet Danny is a social worker just like you.” Another guessed Danny was a teacher. Others guessed he was a coach or a pastor of a church.

The social worker shook her head, “Today, Danny is on death row in prison for having, committed murder. You see, we taught him how to walk; we just never taught him where to walk.”

One ingredient can make all the difference in the world. This week the Pastors in the Kings County would love to add an essential ingredient to your life. That ingredient comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 3, 2002


by Blake Cromwell

Most of us have seen the Steven Spielberg movie Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark and remember the golden Ark of the Covenant that Indiana discovered. Near the end of the movie the Nazis attempt to unlock the power of the Ark and make a deadly mistake. They looked into the Ark in hopes of understanding it’s great power. But when they slid the Mercy Seat off the Ark (the Mercy Seat is the lid of the Ark of the Covenant), fire came from it and destroyed all who were looking on.

Believe it or not, the movie isn’t that far from what actually happened in the Old Testament when a group of men slid the Mercy Seat off the Ark to look inside. When they did, God became very angry and struck down over fifty thousand men. Why? Because judgment falls when the Mercy Seat is removed from the Ark. You see, God would look down upon the Ark of the Covenant constantly because it was the representation of His presence on the Earth. Inside the Ark were contained, among other items, the Ten Commandments (remember Moses’ stone tablets?). The Ten Commandments were the Law of God. The Law represents judgment. This is why the Mercy Seat covered the Ark, because God wanted His mercy to cover judgment. So when the Mercy Seat was removed, God looked down and saw only the Law, and we ALL stand guilty before God’s Law.

God’s plan is that mercy would cover judgment. That is why God sent Jesus, the ultimate expression of mercy, to the world. Christ is the Mercy Seat for everyone who has placed their confidence in Him as Savior and Lord.

When I was seven years old I learned my first lesson on mercy. It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the scene in Indiana Jones or the story of the Ark of the Covenant in the Bible. Neither was it from a Sunday school teacher or a pastor. I learned mercy from the clerk at my local Soda Fountain. That lesson has stayed with me to this day and helps me understand God’s mercy.

My dad would give his three sons thirty-five cents every Saturday. With that huge allowance we would buy an ice cream for a dime and then go to the school matinee for a quarter.

One hot summer day my brothers and I ran to the local Thrifty’s store. I got my regular, one scoop of vanilla and one scoop of strawberry. As I left the store I bumped my arm and dropped both scoops on the hot sidewalk.

My heart melted as I watched my ice cream do the same. In the middle of my pain I heard a knock on the store window and the clerk beckoned me back in. There she mercifully gave me two scoops for free.

That’s mercy – two scoops for free. I realize that this definition of mercy may not be the most profound, but I must admit it has comforted me many times. When I have fallen and am feeling bad I try to remember that God has also given me two scoops for free. He’s covered me with His Mercy Seat, Christ.

If you are feeling beat up by failure or personal sin let me encourage you to learn more about the Mercy Seat of Christ. The pastors in the Kings County can guide you to the Mercy Seat.

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

An Irrecoverable Moment

by Blake Cromwell

We all have one thing in common, each day holds only twenty-four hours. On an average we sleep and rest eight hours. Our work demands at least eight hours and it takes three hours for meals and family time.

There still remains five precious hours for recreation, prayer, family time and serving others. Someone has said that the difference between one person and another lies largely in how they use those five hours.

Everyday we must look for opportunities to touch our children and community. The parent who understands how precious time is will set down the paper or turn off the TV to spend one on one time with their kids.

In his autobiography, Just as I Am, Billy Graham tells about a conversation he had with John F. Kennedy shortly after his election:

“On the way back to the Kennedy house, the president-elect stopped the car and turned to me. ‘Do you believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?’ he asked.

“ ‘I most certainly do.’
“ ‘Well, does my church believe it?’
“ ‘They have it in their creeds.’
“ ‘They don’t preach it,’ he said. ‘They don’t tell us much about it. I’d like to know what you think.’
“I explained what the Bible said about Christ coming the first time, dying on the Cross, rising from the dead, and then promising that he would come back again. ‘Only then,’ I said, ‘are we going to have permanent world peace.’
“ ‘Very interesting,’ he said, looking away. ‘We’ll have to talk more about that someday.’ And he drove on.”
Several years later, the two met again, at the 1963 National Prayer Breakfast.
“I had the flu,’ Graham remembers. “After I gave my short talk, and he gave his, we walked out of the hotel to his car together, as was always our custom. At the curb, he turned to me.
“’Billy, could you ride back to the White House with me? I’d like to see you for a minute.’
“ ‘Mr. President, I’ve got a fever,’ I protested. ‘Not only am I weak, but I don’t want to give you this thing. Couldn’t we wait and talk some other time?’
“It was a cold, snowy day, and I was freezing as I stood there without my overcoat.
“ ‘Of course,’ he said graciously.”
But the two would never meet again. Later that year, Kennedy was shot dead. Graham comments, “His hesitation at the car door, and his request, haunt me still. What was on his mind? Should I have gone with him? It was an irrecoverable moment.”
“An irrecoverable moment,” what a statement. In the life of our families let us strive not to have “irrecoverable moments.” Time is ticking and eternity is in the balance for those around us. Let us make the most of the opportunities we have today.

This Sunday the Pastors in the Kings County are praying that you will come to church and that you and your family will be marked for eternity.

Tuesday, June 4, 2002

God's View of You

by Blake Cromwell

Everyone is loved and valued by Father God. This is a bold statement when you consider how bad you and I can act at times. Yet, the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.”

There is a word in the Bible that declares God’s love for man. It is the word, “Beloved.” It literally means, “One who is worthy of attention and affection.” It describes the visionary eyes of God that see the potential in every person. He sees what He can make out of the raw material of our lives if we only surrender to His will.

Not too long ago, we were throwing out old office equipment and furniture here at the church. One of the items marked for disposal was an old rickety desk with a formaica top. One of the pastors on staff began to rave about how nice the old desk was, and how it was a rare find. All I saw was an old desk, but he saw something I couldn’t see. He saw potential in what I saw as a problem.

I have to confess that I had a hard time envisioning the desk in any other state then what it was. I don’t do yard sales, go junk shopping, or buy un-restored items. In art classes I tend to stare at the blank sheet of paper and see a blank sheet of paper. In pottery class all I saw was a lump of clay while others saw pieces of art.

One of my favorite stories is about a married couple out one day for a drive. Suddenly, the husband spots a 57 Ford T-Bird sitting behind an old barn. He tracks the owner down and offers a sum of money so large his wife thinks he has lost his mind. What she sees is an old car with peeling paint, no tires, dented doors, no fenders, and broken windows that have allowed rain to ruin the inside of the vehicle. Before she can protest the two men are shaking hands and the deal has been made.

The husband hauls the wrecked and rusted car to the clean garage of their home. His wife is so frustrated, she refuses to visit the garage at all. Meanwhile, he disappears into the garage every evening like clockwork. Finally, he walks in and announces he has finished the car. She tells him, “Good, now I can have my garage back and you can get our money back!” He smiles and invites her to come and see.

As he opens the garage doors and the light shines on the new paint she is speechless at its beauty. He invites her to be the first one to drive it. She sinks down into the refinished bucket seat, places the car in reverse and takes it for a spin. She falls so deeply in love with the classic, her husband seldom gets to drive the car.

What is wonderful about this story is that the husband saw the potential of the car when no one else could. He had visionary eyes that saw beyond the rusted hulk of metal.

Many times I have felt like an old car that has been wrecked and had turned down the wrong streets. My failures threaten to paralyze me until I remember that God loves me and looks at me with visionary eyes. He calls me “beloved” and finds me worthy of attention and affection.

Last week I saw that old desk that had been rescued from a trip to the dump and barely recognized it. It had been so transformed into a thing of beauty that I offered to buy it back. The pastor wouldn’t hear of it, he loves the desk too much to let it go. He is one of those rare individuals who sees with visionary eyes.

This week in the churches in the Kings County there are Pastors who long to tell you how Beloved you are to God and how He can take your life and transform it into His masterpiece.

Sunday, June 2, 2002

Keeping What's Yours

by Blake Cromwell

It is distressing to constantly hear that we are still losing the war against drugs, especially among our children. Reports indicate that, as a nation, we have suffered a severe setback in recent years. What progress we made in the 90s now seems to be lost.

It seems the moral landslide is all around us — higher divorce, children being abused, gambling addictions, teen suicide, are only a few of the signs of decay. In the 50s the main reasons high school students reported to the principal’s office were for talking back to the teacher or not throwing trash in the waste basket.

We have much ground to recover, and losing ground once in our possession is always discouraging. But it is far from unusual.

The Old Testament recounts an occasion when David and his warriors returned from battle to find that while they were away, another enemy had invaded their unguarded camp and made off with everything —wives, children, and livestock.

Understandably distraught over their great loss, David prayed and God said He would help. But David and his men would be required to fight for the return of their loved ones. Ultimately, the enemy, and all of David’s possessions were located. A battle ensued that lasted all day and all night. When it was over, the people of God were completely victorious.

I like that story. Satan has come to rob, kill and destroy, but it is always encouraging to see how God comes to the rescue for His people.

But there is also a certain sadness to the story. After all, did David really gain anything? In real terms, we would have to say “no.” Yes, he and his men got their wives, children and possessions back. But think of all the energy expended to simply get back what was already theirs. All because they failed to protect that which was already theirs while they focused on other conquests.

We now face the same dilemma with the war on drugs. Having made progress, suddenly we have lost ground, and will now as a country presume to spend substantial energy and money to recover our recent losses.

In all of this, though, there is a good life lesson.

Think of someone you know (it may be yourself) who lost his or her health because they wouldn’t pay attention to good nutrition or who smoked or damaged themselves with alcohol or drugs. Now they must endure pain and costly medical payments while attempting to recover the good health they once had.

Or think of the good child that goes bad because of neglect. Certainly he can make a turn around, but it usually takes a lot of tears and major sacrifices to return him to the place he once was.

You may recall an old FRAM Filter commercial that demonstrated the costly affects of an abused engine. The spokesperson reminded us, “You can pay a little now, or a lot later.”

This is that way it is with the spiritual training of our children. Isn’t it easier to take them to Sunday school now, than visit them in jail later? Isn’t it easier to read the Bible with your children now, than reading the 12 Steps to alcohol and drug recovery with them later? Isn’t it easier to pray with them now, than to have to pray for their return after they’ve run away?

Think about it. Regaining lost ground takes more energy and work then a little preventative maintenance. The Pastors in the Kings County would love to see you in church this weekend and help you to hold onto what you already have.

Thursday, April 4, 2002

Devastated by Divorce

by Blake Cromwell

As a pastor I have heard many marriage-ending clichés like, "You would be better off without him," or "You'd be better off getting a divorce than subjecting your kids to so much fighting." But the reality is that most serious sociological studies reveal that these clichés are incorrect. There costs of divorce are very high indeed.

Judith Wallerstein did thorough research on the impact of divorce upon men, women and their children. Her research showed that ten years after their divorce, half the women studied were diagnosed as being clinically depressed.

Divorced men also suffer serious negative consequences. It is true that 83 percent of divorced men remarry but 75% of them will divorce again. The harsh reality is that divorce many times leads to more divorce. Both men and women suffer great emotional payments for divorce.

Divorce is also financially destructive for both men and women. The norm for a woman is that her standard of living will go down 70 percent.

Wife number two who has married a divorced man with children must work to help cover the bills for their family plus the child support payments of her husbands’ first family. This extra financial obligation complicates the new marriage and brings enormous financial stress.

Annually, 1.5 million children are subjected to the upheaval of divorce. Shockingly, one third of these precious kids never see one of their parents again after the divorce takes place.

There is so much emotional stress on the parents that many times they are not able to tune into the pain their children are facing. It seems everyone becomes disconnected and is left to fend for themself.

One study revealed that nearly half of the children from divorced families become involved with alcohol and drugs.

In the Bible God declares, “I hate divorce.” Malachi 2:16. This statement doesn’t say God hates divorced people. No, He hates the results of divorce on everyone who pays the high price of low living. God loves all people and seeks to help them.

Churches have a bad reputation of rejecting those who are divorced or who are in the process of a divorce. As a pastor it saddens me that those who are going through such a difficult time often cannot find the support they need. In reality most of the churches in the Kings County are seeking to strengthen marriages and to help all who are going through the negative results of divorce.

At Koinonia Christian Fellowship one concerned couple started a Divorce Care support group for the purpose of helping hurting people find God’s help in the midst of their pain.

Of course, our main goal is to be a pillar of support to all the marriages in the Kings County, but when a divorce has taken place Koinonia Christian Fellowship and other churches in our community want those who are suffering to feel that our arms are open in love and healing.

The Pastors in the Kings County invite all to come in for counseling before you go down the path of divorce. Please, for your sake and the sake of your children, take the extra effort to try again to make it work.

Tuesday, April 2, 2002

Get Into the Huddle

by Blake Cromwell

Jack Kisling, a Denver Colorado columnist wrote the following;

Two prosperous middle-aged business partners, along with thousands of others like them, attend a big National Sales convention in Chicago.

It’s five hectic days of meetings, reports, seminars and panel discussions and by the end of the second day both of them are dazed, weary and eager for diversion. One suggests they go out on the town, have dinner, a few drinks and a little fun.

“We could catch a show,” he says. “Maybe one of the topless joints.” Then with a wink, he adds: “Maybe hit one of those pickup places you know. Check out the broads.”

His partner looked puzzled, “You’d try to pickup women?”

“Yeah something like that,”

“No thanks. And by the way, I’m starting action tomorrow to dissolve our partnership.”

The other’s jaw drops. “Huh? Are you out of your mind?”

“No” replies his partner, “I’m telling you I don’t want to be in business with you anymore.”

“I don’t get it. What are you talking about? Why?”

“Because it just occurred to me that a man who would cheat on his wife would cheat on his partner.”

There is a mentality that says loyalty to marriage vows and faithfulness to a business partner are not the same. But I think most of us would disagree. Faithfulness, or lack thereof, to one’s spouse reflects a person’s character just as much as faithfulness to one’s business partner. A person’s character effects everything they do and say.

How’s your character? Is it consistent in all areas of your life or do you make exceptions in “special cases”?

In my opinion the church is the best place to build character. It’s a place where we receive encouragement, instruction and help. Church is actually a lot like a football huddle in that sense. In football, the huddle is just one part of the game, but it is an essential part. Games are won and lost in that circle. Many have gone into the huddle tried and ready to throw in the towel. But within that circle words are spoken that inspire weary men to go out again and give it all they’ve got.

After the huddle it’s application time. The huddle just encourages the player to do what they know is right, after that, they’re on their own.

So it is within the huddle of the church. We receive encouragement, instruction and help; then we go back to our family and our jobs and apply what we know is right.

Too many in our community don’t do to well in the areas of honesty, faithfulness and even justice. They loose their values and principles under the pressures of temptation.

What our world needs is a holy huddle. This weekend at one of the churches in the Kings County there are pastors waiting with words of instruction and encouragement especially for you. So get out there and do what’s right!

Monday, March 4, 2002

Honk for Others

by Blake Cromwell

I wanted to express my support to my brothers and sisters who are members of the Catholic churches in the Kings County. As a Pastor who has served in this community for 19 years I have observed the devotion of these Priests and have been challenged by their commitment to their flocks.

Over the years I have been a member of the Ministerial Association of Hanford and worked together with all denominations and churches in our city. Currently the President of the Ministerial Association is Father Dan of Saint Bridges Church. He is doing a wonderful job as our current President. I have come to appreciate him for his love for God and people.

On occasions I have shared with Father Dan responsibilities in funerals and community projects. I have found Dan to be a man gifted to serve the church and this community. I know of no other minister in town who is as busy as he is and still he keeps a joyful attitude about his work.

It seems in the last few weeks every time I pick up a paper or turn the news on there is talk of the problems within the Priesthood. No doubt we all are glad that those who have done wrong are removed from places of influence. The Bible says, “Judgment must begin at the house of God.”

My concern is that those who have devoted their lives to God not be judged with those who should be. The simplistic solution given that the problem is a Priest’s vow of celibacy is just foolishness. The fact is those who are sexual predators are more often married than not. The Bible clearly states that an unmarried man can serve the Lord undistracted and that celibacy is a high calling.

I have just read a book on unselfish teamwork that used the example of geese flying in a V formation. These insights can help us stand with others who are going through difficult times.

First, it has been learned that as each goose flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird following. Flying in a “V” formation adds at least 71 percent greater flying distance than if each bird flew on its own.

In other words, people who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another. I appreciate all the churches in Hanford that believe that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. Each church is headed in the same direction and in that we help each other.

Secondly, geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. As for myself and my church we desire to be cheerleaders to the other churches in Hanford. To often Christians become critics instead of encouragers when accusation and gossip is flying.

Thirdly, when a goose gets sick or is wounded and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly again or until he dies. Then they launch out together again. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone were as committed as geese. It is an infamous saying that Christians are the only people who shoot their wounded.

The church is all about bringing people to Christ. Jesus prayed that Christians would be supportive of one another and through that mutual commitment to each other the world would have a witness of who Jesus Christ is.

As for me I am going to keep honking to all those who are humbly serving in churches in the Kings County. Why not give a honk to your local church this weekend and encourage your Pastor?

Friday, March 1, 2002

Dealing with Warts

by Blake Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell addressed the famous French painter, Peter Lely, declaring: “I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all, but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts and all; otherwise I never will pay a farthing for it.”

Cromwell’s words contrast with the common attitude in all of us to be real but not too real. Too often Biographers (especially biographers of Christians) reveal only the shinning highlights and accomplishments while leaving out the valleys of failure and discouragement that are normal to every life.

In contrast to this, the Bible is the most honest of all books. It reveals the true nature of man, “warts and all.” There is no sugar coating the failures of those who God used to do great things. I have always found it encouraging to read of weak men who became strong through God’s grace and patience.

In the book of Proverbs it says, “A good man will fall seven times and rise up again.” The Bible is very clear that life isn’t always victory to victory rather it is “three steps forward and two back.”

The Bible is realistic and it encourages us to be realistic about others and ourselves. If you beat yourself up emotionally and won’t forgive yourself for failure maybe you have an unrealistic view of man. Maybe you should take another look at God’s Book on humanity. The Bible doesn’t see man as a demon or as a deity. No, man is created in God’s likeness and has great capacity for good or evil. He needs a Savior because he is imperfect and needs saving.

A good Bible search reveals the ups and downs of those who God used. Noah after building an ark and being delivered from the flood fell to the temptation of drunkenness. Moses lost his temper and murdered a man. Adam and Eve took a perfect marriage and turned it into a nightmare. Peter the Apostle revealed his racial hatred and even lied about knowing Jesus Christ.

The question is, “Did God reject any of those who fell?” No, all those who sought God have been forgiven and found grace to be different. All of the men and women of the Bible are examples of God’s forgiving grace.

Of course, there are some who use forgiveness as an excuse to never change. They call themselves Christians but they are not striving to be like Christ. The Bible calls that hypocrisy. God’s forgiveness is not provided as an excuse to sin. His forgiveness is there if we sin as we attempt to be godly.

The great encouragement to all sincere people who are wanting to be Christ-like yet find themselves once again in the pit of failure is that God sees you, “warts and all’ and still loves you. Father God isn’t discouraged with you and you have not shocked Him by your pitfalls. He desires that you would bring yourself to Him, confess your need for Him, and trust Him to transform you into the image of His Son.

Our change will happen but probably not as fast as we and others we would like. Don’t give up because of failure, reach up to His forgiving grace and begin again. This weekend why not take another step forward and attend a church in the Kings County.