Friday, August 1, 2003

God is For Us

by Blake Cromwell

Too often I meet people who doubt that God is on their side. Deep inside is a pocket of sad memories of personal failure or sins for which they have never been able to forgive themselves. They either don’t know or have forgotten that Christ was nailed to the cross so that they can stop constantly nailing themselves for mistakes and sins.

For all who struggle with personal condemnation, please help yourself by reading and re-reading Romans chapter eight in your Bible. This chapter starts with the wonderful proclamation, “Now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and ends with, “nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.”

On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” This means the debt for ALL sin was paid in full. Every other world religion is based on what you do to please God, but Christianity is based on what Christ has already done for you.

Towards the end of Romans chapter eight the writer ask the question, “Who would dare even to point a finger?” He is talking about the tendency we all have to feel guilty, condemned and accused even if we believe that Christ forgave our sin. This is because we haven’t dealt with the voice of accusation that is inspired against us.

Our inner critic agrees more with what the evil one says about us than what the Holy One of Israel says about us. Churches, Christians and even family members are too ready to condemn when someone has failed rather than being God’s instrument of acceptance and forgiveness.

Years ago Woody Hayes, the Ohio state football coach, was fired for striking an opposing player on the sidelines during a game. The press had a field day with his firing and really tarred and feathered the former Buckeye. Few people in America could have felt lower than Woody at that time. He not only lost control in a game and did a foolish thing, but he lost his job and the respect of the country.

At the end of that season, a professional athlete’s banquet was held for the top players and coaches in the league. Of course, Tom Landry, the famous coach of the Dallas Cowboys, was invited. Guess who Tom Landry invited as his honored guest? Woody Hayes, the man everyone was being encouraged to hate and criticize. Landry knew that although Hayes had made a mistake, it was not the end of the world.

My hope for everyone in the Kings County is that they could find a Tom Landry to help them in their time of need. Let me assure you that as you place your faith in Christ, He promises to take you as His special guest to a banquet in Heaven. Until that special day comes, why not visit one of the pre-celebration parties being held in the local churches in the Kings County.

Thursday, May 1, 2003

Reignite Your Spiritual Flame

by Blake Cromwell

Many who read the next several paragraphs will closely identify with the embarrassing misadventure of Harley Sheffield.

Sheffield, a 32-year-old resident of Redmond, Washington, was one of the 10,000 people selected to help transport the Olympic flame across America to its summer resting place in Atlanta, Georgia. As he rode across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge with the torch nestled in a holder on the back of his bicycle, Sheffield’s rear tire caught an expansion grate on the bridge.

For bicycle travel, the torch rests in a Plexiglas holder over the rear tire. The tire blew out. So did the flame.

Sheffield couldn’t believe it, “The torch,” he later recalled, “had shattered all over the ground.”

According to Alexis Davis, spokeswoman for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, torches have gone out before. “But,” she adds, “the mother flame is kept within yards.” On those occasions, the “sacred” flame, which is kept in a lantern for just such purposes, ignited a replacement torch, and the 15,000-mile trip continued.

Using this story as a modern day parable, I offer a spiritual application for our lives.

Sociologists tell us that there are hundreds of thousands of people who are searching for a spiritual flame that once burned in their lives but has long since “burned out.”

Our story, the life and times of modern America, has become a common one. As children, or teenagers, God and His Church were very large, very real and very important to many of us. All was well as we pedaled across the wide and wondrous bridges of life.

But then there was a bump in the road. We left home to strike out on our own. We went to college, entered the military, or got a job. We got married, had kids. Some did drugs, or involved themselves in countless other distractions.

And some how, in some way, people by the hundreds of thousands began to sense they had been separated from the flame. People who study such things tells us that many of those same people are now searching, looking diligently to again find the fire, that once burned so brightly in their lives.

If that is you, know this. The “Sacred Flame,” the Spirit of Christ has always been close by, ready to reignite and burn brighter in you than ever before.

All of us, at one time have had our lives jolted by unexpected and unwanted bumps in the road. But such moments need not be the end of the journey.

Having said all of that let me take this moment to encourage you with the realization of God’s continuing love for you; and to invite you to His house, His Church this weekend. This is a great weekend to reignite your spiritual flame. Come again to feel the warmth and see life in the brightness of His Flame. It will be a great day for you and all the churches in the Kings County.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Healing the Past

by Blake Cromwell

Recently I finished a series of teachings about God’s desire to heal us from the wounds of the past. My premise was that we all carry around memories that rob us of joy and sour our disposition. People are affected by hurtful memories of ridicule, of severe criticism or of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. These memories cause oppression that drains us of the abundant life that Christ desires for us.

Where do these hurtful memories come from? Many times they come from those nearest to us—our family members, our siblings, and even from our past playgrounds. In a moment of cruelty, someone near to us unleashed an assault of wounding words or physical blows. After pastoring for more then twenty-five years, I have discovered that everyone has hidden emotional wounds and they take longer to heal then physical ones. The good news is that Jesus desires to heal us of all the bruises of yesterday.

For all those who have gone through a war or lived in a home that was a war zone, God says, “I heals the brokenhearted and bandage their wounds.” For those who are brokenhearted over the death of a loved one or over someone walking out, this verse says God wants to heal your heart. Let me share with you four steps God uses to heal our emotional scars.

First, bring your hurts into the light. The worst thing you can do is to shut down, retreat, and rehearse the offense over and over. This mistaken strategy only amplifies the emotional wound and enlarges the problem. Psalms 32:3 says, “When I kept things to myself, I felt weak deep inside me, I moaned all day long.” Constant fatigue can be a sign of an unhealed emotional wound. If you find yourself moaning and sighing throughout your day you might need to deal with suppressed emotional wounds. Find someone you can confide in and begin bringing these hurts into the open. It’s the only way you’ll truly find freedom.

Wednesday, March 5, 2003


by Blake Cromwell

As Israel left Egypt and headed towards the Promised Land, God led them through the wilderness to teach them to trust Him. He used the wilderness as a training ground to improve the character of His people. In the wilderness, Israel lacked sufficient water, they missed the Egyptians cuisine and they resented their leader. Israel was constantly disappointed and they allowed their disappointments to control their destiny. We can learn a better way.

In life there are three common disappointments. If we can identify these areas early, then perhaps we won’t fall into the trap Israel did. First is disappointment with things. The toys our kids just had to have last Christmas are now stacked in the closet and the kids are on a quest for bigger and better stuff. Things are great, but they break and rust, and if we aren’t careful we will begin to be controlled emotionally by them. Things can enhance our lives but they can never totally satisfy.

Second is disappointment with events. Reservations are lost, jets delayed, hotel rooms are smaller than we expected and the kids are bored with the selection of TV stations. Most of us need a vacation after the vacation. We plan a date with the wife and the babysitter cancels at the last minute and leaves us at home disappointed. Events have a way of falling apart, and if we aren’t careful we become frustrated and bitter because “it just never works out.”

Third is disappointment with people. People let us down, they cop out, they don’t follow through and then they criticize us for not being more understanding. You loan out money or a lawn mower and never see it or the person again. People just have a way of falling short of our expectations. The trick is not to let our disappointment make us cynical, for then we will forever be caught in a vicious cycle.

These common disappointments test our reactions, our attitudes, our faith and our character. Like Israel whom God lead into the wilderness where they faced disappointments, we too face daily disappointment that test our character. The question is do we see God in the common disappointments of life or do we just become frustrated and anxious?

Israel’s response to a lack of water or a delay in the journey was to gripe, grumble and criticize. That kind of response is called immaturity. One minute Moses is their hero, the next minute he is a zero. Israel reminds me of children who quickly forget the labor and love of a parent. Did you know the average homemaker prepares 30,000 meals and makes 40,000 beds in a lifetime? Have you ever taken this for granted? I know I have.

Our life is not meant to be controlled by “things, events and people.” Life is a gift we have from God. In life, we make the choice to be happy or miserable. God gives us a free will to embrace what we will face today with either excitement or dread. What we do with things, events, and people is up to us. If we choose to make the best of them, we will begin to develop the character that God is looking for in each of us.

Today don’t be fooled by disappointments, rather look at them as opportunities to develop good character. All of life is a decision. What choice will you make today?

Saturday, March 1, 2003

Touch of Heaven

by Blake Cromwell

The Elephant Man is a film based on the true story of John Merrick. If you have seen the movie you know why John Hurt was nominated for an Academy Award for his part in playing the disfigured on the outside but beautiful on the inside, Merrick. You see, John was afflicted by a rare disease that caused tumors to grow all over his body.

Throughout the movie Merrick is tormented by his fellow human beings. We watch as he travels as the main attraction in a circus freak show. The film’s director shows us life through the eyes of Merrick. Women and children scream in horror at his grossly deformed body. Others laugh and mock him as if he is beyond feeling.

Doctor Frederick Treves is introduced to John Merrick and begins to uncover the hurting man trapped in this terrible cycle of abuse. The intervention of the doctor is a touch of heaven in a man’s personal hell. A permanent home in a London Hospital is provided for John. The Doctor and his friends begin to pour into Merrick the gift of unconditional love and a transformation begins before their very eyes.

The Elephant Man is a tremendous film, yet it is difficult to watch. Each time I watch it I am moved emotionally and I cannot help but reflect at this modern day parable. It is a parable about how we should reach out to the scores of John Merricks that are all around us who are scarred emotionally and relationally. My passion as a Christian is that we all would help others discover that everyone has personal dignity and purpose in the person of Christ.

I want to commend those churches in the Kings County that are opening their doors to meet the practical needs of people in our community. These churches view their services as places that people can find shelter from the rejection and disdain of others. Churches that are bonded together not by common race or wealth or social status, but bonded together by the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the common goal to help others know Christ.

Thank God for Beans and Rice in the Park that New Beginnings Church provides every week. Thanks for the Soup Kitchen that is there every day and is provided by the Episcopal Church. Thanks for the tutoring program for students struggling with literacy provided by our friends at the First Presbyterian Church. For the Champions Recovery Program provided by Sue Braz for those overcoming alcohol and drug addiction, and for the numerous programs provided for the needy by Jerry Bloom at the Salvation Army.

Many of these churches and others offer life skill programs: classes for parents, for those in grief, for those struggling with emotional problems, for managing finances, for those going through divorce, for overcoming sexual abuse, and just about any other problem present in our community.

Thank you to the churches in the Kings County who are rising to the challenge to meet the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of our hurting world. All of these (and there are many I am not aware of) are expressions of a touch of heaven to the personal hell many are experiencing today.

If you would like to help provide that touch of heaven in someone’s life, why don’t you volunteer at one of the many programs available in our community.

Saturday, February 1, 2003

Coincidence or Destiny?

by Blake Cromwell

I believe our steps in life are more than just chance and that there is a divine design for our lives. The Bible teaches us that God plans our lives and selects for each one of us good works to do in life. “We are God’s master piece, He plans our lives and creates good deeds for us to do in life” (Ephesians 2:10). I don’t believe we need search hard and long to find good deeds to do, God has already planned to put them in our path. Our part is to open our eyes and see the divine destiny in the normal routines of life.

Over the years I have become more aware of God’s hand on the details of my life. I am excited about what is going to happen next because of all the wonderful “coincidences” that have happened in the past. Some of these coincidences have been small and almost unnoticeable and others have amazed me.

In 1980, I took my first trip to Mexico to visit friends I had meet while attending Bible College in Dallas Texas. Xavier and his wife Darlene were starting a new church in Guadalajara and another friend Chan was helping a small Mexican church in Colima.

That first trip lasted less than a week but after twenty-two years that week still affects my life. The contacts I made and the people I met are still a large part of my daily life. The decision to go and visit two Bible School friends now seems more than a coincidence to me, it seems like destiny.

That first trip would be so significant that in the eighties my family and I would move to Mexico. We struggled and learned Spanish. I am sure that my Hanford High School Spanish Teacher would have told you, ‘If Blake ever learned Spanish it would be a miracle.’ While in Mexico we helped to pastor a local church and develop a Bible Institute in Puebla.

On that first trip, I also met a Mexican pastor, Nahum Gutierrez who we would later help to start homes for abandoned children. One of the blessings for our church every Christmas is gift each child in these homes a new set of clothes and a special toy for their enjoyment.
Nahum sends us a picture of every child and then we arrange each photo as ornaments on a Christmas tree. Every year I see the miracle of generosity unfold before my eyes as these kids’ pictures are taken home and gifts are sent out. I remember that first trip and there is a knowing that life is more than chance, it has divine destiny.

Three weeks ago there was an earthquake in Colima, Mexico. You may have read about it in the Sentinel or seen it on the evening news. I called Nahum to ask about the children’s homes and the city. He told me that the quake didn’t damage any of the children homes but that the city didn’t fair as well.

He is spearheading an organization of local churches and assessing the needs of poor families whose homes have been badly damaged. Already eighty families have applied for assistance. I asked Nahum how much money had been given to this project. When he told me that he only had $1600 for this project, I had that inner knowing that the trip I had taken so long ago had been part of God’s plan for my life. He didn’t have to ask me to help, God had already planted that in me long before.

I guess some would say it was just natural to call a friend after reading about an earthquake in his city. No doubt most of our lives are natural decisions that lead to a good deed God has planned for us to do. We mustn’t miss the supernatural in the natural.

That morning I began to call family, friends and churches to see if they would join me in giving to repairing these homes. After a few hours on the phone a handful of people had given a thousand of dollars towards repairing these homes. The money is still coming in and everyday I realize this all is destiny and not chance.

Destiny from God awaits us all. It may come in helping someone in a stalled car or by running into an old friend who has been though a divorce and needs our love and encouragement.

How we respond to these coincidences really does matter. If we simply brush them off we will miss an opportunity to fulfill a “good deed” God prepared for us long ago. In 2003, begin to believe that God has already planned for you “good deeds” to do. Be on the look out for them and be ready to ask Him to help you be a blessing to others.

Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Gaining Confidence

by Blake Cromwell

A little boy was overheard talking to himself as he strode through his back yard, baseball cap in place and toting ball and bat. “I’m the greatest homerun hitter in the world,” he said with confidence. Then he tossed the ball in the air, swung and missed. Undaunted, he picked up the ball, threw it into the air and said to himself again, “I’m the greatest homerun hitter ever!” He swung at the ball again, and again he missed. He paused a moment to examine bat and ball carefully before throwing the ball into the air once more and saying, “I’m the greatest homerun hitter who ever lived.” He swung the bat hard and again missed the ball.

“Wow!” he exclaimed. “I am the greatest pitcher in the world!”

Unlike the boy who “missed the ball” and turned failure into success, we often take “missing the ball” as a severe blow to our self-confidence. More often then not, we become fearful when faced with failure and allow the circumstances to rob us of our spirit.

Our lack of confidence affects how we view ourselves and the challenges we face. If you are tired of being fearful, let me assure you that you can learn how to capture the confidence our Lord. He was confident as He faced the challenges of life and He promises to make His Followers as bold and “confident as lions.”

We see this confidence when we study the people of God. After the crucifixion the Disciples of Jesus were whimpering and fearful men, but when the resurrection occurred these same men were strangely different. Instead of hiding, now they were “going where no man had gone before.” Once afraid in the garden to be counted with Christ, now they were willing to risk everything for Him. So real was their confidence, they were fearless even when martyred for their faith.

In the story of Moses and the Children of Israel, we see how God gave His people great confidence. Israel had been in slavery in Egypt for over four hundred years and they had learned to bow their eyes in submission. Their will had long been surrendered to the stern orders of their masters. All personal pride, security and confidence had been crushed out of God’s people. They were slaves — broken, defeated and insecure around their Egyptian masters.

But when God visited Egypt with the Ten Miracles the browbeaten Israelite slaves were strangely transformed into God’s confident people. They suddenly knew God could do anything. Since He overthrew the Egyptians they were confident that whatever they would face in the future God would be with them.

The key to the transformation of the Disciples and the Israelites was that both groups meet with an All Powerful God. The Disciples saw and spoke with a resurrected Lord. The Israelites had the presence of God in the center of their camp and were made confident by the visible evidences that God was with them.

As the Prophet Daniel declares, “They that know their God shall be strong and confident doing exploits.” A natural by-product of communion with God is an inner boldness. The last promise made to the Followers of Christ is that they would receive the Holy Spirit and He would fill them with confidence and power to be witnesses for Christ.

The Pastors in the Kings County would love to minister to you this weekend the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Just remember, “Those that wait upon the Lord shall have renewed strength.” Why not gather with us and others this weekend in a church, waiting upon the Father to send us our Helper, the Holy Spirit.