Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 Decisions for 2012

by Tim Howard

Someone said: “You are today where your decisions have brought you and you will be tomorrow where your decisions take you.” All of us make hundreds of decisions each and every day. What we choose to wear, when we start our day, how we will get to work, what we will eat and on and on and on…

Many decisions will not alter you in a dramatic sense but there are some decisions that will shape you and your destiny in profound ways. Events, experiences and other occurrences don’t have the power to shape you. It’s not what happens to you that matters most but the decisions you make regarding how you will respond to those happenings.

Here are 10 decisions that prove to be anything but stupid.  They have been used by God to shape many individuals into people of substance.  If you’re looking for a Top Ten list, for 2012 you might want to consider some of these.
10. I will leave everything a little better than I found it. Putting it another way: I will give more than I take. If you make this decision, a promise follows: “Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity." Luke 6:38
9. I will listen and think before I speak.  Maybe that’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth. James 1:19 everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak
8. I will measure people by the size of their hearts, not the size of their bank accounts. Don’t be impressed by what you see. Like the Pharisees in the Bible, What is seen externally is not always a good indication of what’s really going on below the surface. Check out Matt 23:25-27.
7. I will not give up on anyone because miracles happen every day.  Parents especially need to hear this regarding their children. I personally thank God for parents who didn’t give up on me.
6. I will work on my own inadequacies before I critique and criticize others.  “It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” Matt 7:3-5 The Message
5. I will work for what I get rather than expect others to give me a handout.  When you do this you do away with a spirit of entitlement.
4. I will take responsibility for my own life rather than blame someone else. 
3. I will praise God at all times.  David penned these words in Psalm 34 because he knew that God is at work even in the difficult moments of life.

2. I will love my neighbor as myself. Matt. 22:39
1.  I will Love the Lord with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind and with all my strength.’ Mark 12:30

 These 10 decisions for 2012 may not be the ones you choose to follow but they will shape your life for the good if you do. Whatever you’ve decided to do in the upcoming year, make sure you don’t do it alone. Allow God to participate and partner with others. You will be glad you did.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Unexpected Gifts

by Andrew Cromwell

Many gifts will be given this season. Some will be beautifully wrapped, some will be expensive and some will be hand-made. There will be big gifts and little gifts, toys and trinkets, gadgets and gizmos and everything in between. For many of us, there really won’t be too many surprises this Christmas season. We’ve been through it all before, and many times.

And while we will open our gifts with a smile on our face, we don’t anticipate being greatly surprised. There will be the obligatory clothing items, the gag gifts, the cute hand-made trinket from the kids and the gift we really wanted that we told them to get for us. We don’t anticipate anything will be out of the ordinary and we have already decided in our hearts that our true enjoyment will come from watching the littlest ones open their gifts.

But every once in a while, we are surprised by an unexpected gift. You know the gift I’m talking about, it comes from a loved one and it comes out of left field. We didn’t specify the make and model and it doesn’t conform to the standard gift giving routine. But this gift really knocks it out of the park! As we open it, we realize the time and thought that went into the selection of the gift and we feel so appreciated and loved.

Unexpected gifts have a way of doing that to us. They interrupt the routine for a moment and remind us that we can be surprised after all, no matter how jaded we are. That’s why unexpected gifts are often the best of all. It’s not about the wrapping and it’s not about the size of the gift—instead it is about the insight and creativity of the giver.

These days even the story of that first Christmas has become so routine—so frequently recounted through nativity scenes, stories and Christmas plays—that we forget how truly unexpected it was. God’s grand plan for the salvation of the world came wrapped in very inauspicious packaging and in a size impossibly small and fragile. And yet, it was the best gift of all.

This Christmas, I pray that you would be surprised by God in an unexpected way. I pray that His presence would surprise you and your family on Christmas morning and that you would rediscover how much insight, creativity and love He has for you.

We have placed a Christmas devotional for you and your family to enjoy on Christmas morning on our website at On behalf of all the pastors in Kings County, Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Spend Less, Give More

by Tim Howard

How are you doing with regards to your Christmas shopping?  Have you purchased something for your children yet?  Are you still frantically looking for that perfect gift for that perfect someone in your life?  What about your friends and co-workers?  Are you running from store to store and checking online prices to find a great gift for a great deal?  In all your activities, have you ever stopped to think there might be a better way to celebrate Christmas without spending a lot of your hard earned money?  If I could show you how to spend less yet give more, wouldn’t that be good news?

This year I’ve decided to join the ‘Advent Conspiracy.’  I am conspiring with others to find a way to celebrate the Advent of Christ without yielding to the spirit of consumerism, which is very much alive in our culture.  I’m not implying we should spend nothing! It’s not about being stingy, miserly or acting like a scrooge.  Share nothing, have nothing or give nothing.  NO! It’s all about giving gifts BUT giving gifts that mean something and make a real difference.  Spend less and give more!  Sounds impossible unless you realize that the greatest gifts we can give people cost nothing at all in a monetary sense.
Three of the greatest gifts came to us through the birth of Jesus Christ and you can give these three gifts to others.  He came to reveal the Father’s love.  He came to give us joy and He came to offer forgiveness and freedom from our past.
A Doctor by the name of Luke makes mention of these three gifts by recording the announcement of Christ’s birth in the Bible.  He says in Luke 2:10 -11, “the angel of the Lord said to them, ‘…behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” 

Did you notice that Jesus came for everyone and not just a few?  The very fact that God decided to live among us reveals His great love toward us and when you add joy and forgiveness to the equation you have three pretty awesome gifts. That’s not only good news, that’s great news! 
The spirit of consumerism can too easily blind us from seeing the real message of Christmas. If we miss out on what’s truly important the Christmas season can be a burden to endure rather than a blessing to be experienced. 
I invite you to join the ‘Advent Conspiracy’.  Return to the true meaning of Christmas.  Decide to celebrate God’s presence rather than focusing on getting more presents.  Give more of yourself by serving rather than spending. In doing, the people you encounter will be energized and see your love.  Forgive those who have hurt you and they will experience great joy - So will you! Many gifts can be given to people this Christmas but Love, Joy and Forgiveness are among the best. 
If you join the Advent Conspiracy, you will have more money in your pockets and more life in your heart at the end of the season.  You will honor God by exalting His son Jesus Christ and that’s extremely important since it’s His Birthday.  He is the reason we say: Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Red Bearded Pitch Fork Carrier

by Andrew Cromwell

We do not live in a vacuum. Neither do we live in the realm of the purely physical. There is an unseen world that has direct impact on our lives. We would be wise if we did not ignore this fact. Regrettably, our culture has become convinced that the supernatural does not exist (except of course, vague references to a “higher power” and anything paranormal and associated with horror movies).

I am convinced that reality is in fact rife with the supernatural. This is not because I see disembodied spirits or “dead people” behind every rock and around every corner. Instead, I am convinced of this because I am convinced of the truth of the Bible. And if the Bible is true, then we are unwise to live our lives in ignorance of the fact that there is more to the world than what we can see with our eyes.

In 2 Corinthians 2:11, the Apostle Paul tells us that we should not be ignorant of the strategies of the Enemy.  The devil is real. He is not the bearded, pitchfork carrying, two-horned, red-skinned cartoon character depicted so often. He is instead, a created being—an angel—who was once in heaven, but because he decided to rebel against God, has now been thrown out of heaven and his domain is now here on the earth.

He is a powerful creature, but he is not like God. He is neither omnipresent (everywhere) nor omniscient (all-knowing). Instead, he attempts to overcome these limitations by cooperating with our own fallen nature. He has spent a great deal of time and effort on setting up systems within the world that stand against God and that enslave people to their lowest desires.

Wherever you find deceit, hatred, bitterness, injustice, abuse, moral depravity and murder, you have found the fingerprint of the devil. He may never have actually been present in that situation, but his strategy and influence most certainly were. Usually, we play right into his game when we begin to pursue our own selfishness and personal gain. Love, forgiveness, peace, joy and all the gifts that God has given to humankind are never the result of selfishness and self-centeredness.

The devil’s strategy is to keep you from becoming the incredible person that God created you to be. He will do anything that he can to distract you from that wonderful destiny. And because each of us was created with unique interests and abilities, the Enemy manipulates us all a little bit differently, but always with the same goal in mind.

One of the more famous quotes about the devil is that the greatest trick he ever played on mankind was to make them believe he didn’t exist. If he does exist, maybe you and I ought to be familiar enough with his plans so that we can avoid them!  

This weekend the pastors in Kings County would love the opportunity to talk to you about your destiny and how you can avoid the traps the Enemy has laid out for each of us.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Born Free

by Tim Howard

Since the inception of our country many wars have been fought. All of them remind us of one very important fact: we have an enemy! This enemy is often illusive, controlling and very deceptive.
The Bible makes us aware of a spiritual enemy and this adversary seeks to influence us for the bad, control us in order to thwart freedom and deceive us into thinking that good is bad and bad is good.
One person said to me, “ If you believe in God you must also believe in Satan.” I couldn’t agree more! That’s one of the many names given to our spiritual enemy. Other names are: The devil, liar, deceiver, accuser and the list goes on. Each name represents something of our enemy’s nature, character and strategy.
Being born into freedom is different than living a life of freedom. To ‘get free’ from the tyranny of another is one thing, but to ‘remain free’ requires wars to be fought, battles to be waged and skirmishes to be won. There is no victory without a fight and freedom is definitely worth a fight.
Knowing your enemy is a key to victory. Whether it’s in Afghanistan, Iraq or a spiritual battle, we must have certain Intel to be successful. The enemy doesn’t want you to walk in freedom. Here’s 5 ways Satan seeks to keep you imprisoned.
1.              Ignorance. I didn’t know the speed limit was 35 mph officer! Sorry about that, here is your ticket. Isaiah. 5:13 … “My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge...” Paul the Apostle said: “ we are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes.”  Ignorance is not bliss! What you don’t know can hurt you.

2.              Negligence. Luke 6:49 …"the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed…” Many marriages and relationships unravel, not because of what one does but because of what one doesn’t do.

3.              Disobedience. Proverbs 21:3 “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” God’s laws are not meant to restrict us, but to keep us from bondage. Our Father is not so interested in slapping you on the wrist for failure to follow His directives, as He is desirous to keep you free from the snares of the enemy.

4.              Arrogance. Proverbs16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Your enemy loves to see you filled with pride. It hinders God’s work from happening in you because God draws near to the humble but opposes the proud.

5.              Un-forgiveness. This can be likened to a Hydra monster. Hydra was a multi-headed serpent or monster in Greek mythology, slain by Hercules. Similarly (but unfortunately, it is no myth; it is hard reality) un-forgiveness will manifest in multiple ways - resentment, vindictiveness, scornfulness, bitterness, anger, passive unresponsiveness and a host of other unproductive things. When you walk in un- forgiveness you are playing into the strategic plan of the enemy.

You were born to be free. If you are to remain free, however, you must close the door to these 5 entry points and open the door to wisdom, participation, obedience, humility and forgiveness. God sent His Son to set us free. That’s why He came! Why not visit one of the many church families in Kings County as you enter the Christmas season. You can celebrate His birth and the fact that you are born free in Him. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011


by Andrew Cromwell

Just a few short days ago we celebrated Thanksgiving. Many of us gathered together with our families and paused to say “Thank You” to God, echoing the prayers given by the pilgrims so many years ago. Oh, and we ate too, we gorged ourselves with turkey and fixings or with tamales or ham or whatever it is that your family prepares.

Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday. It seems it is of little use to the retail machine that drives our economy. The marketing possibilities at Thanksgiving seem to be somewhat limited to turkey decorations and food. Sandwiched between Halloween—the fastest growing retail sales holiday at nearly $7 billion spent on decor, costumes and candy—and Christmas—at a whopping $465 billion—poor, sad, neglected Thanksgiving offers little in the way of sales. That is, unless you consider Thanksgiving merely the doorstep to Black Friday, but then we are back to Christmas.

In one comic satire being passed around this season, the Thanksgiving turkey is shown angrily lamenting that he doesn’t really even get one measly day anymore! The moment Halloween is over, the stores are redecorated with reds and silvers, Christmas carols are playing at top volume and “leaked” Black Friday ads are everywhere. This Santa guy has really overstepped his boundaries!

Maybe the reason Thanksgiving is overlooked is because it stands for something that is in direct opposition to the consumerism that makes this world go around. To truly be thankful, we must hit the pause button. We must take a break from the frenzied shopping and spending and stop the complaining about how we are unhappy with what we have. Instead, we must take a look at what we do have and turn our hearts in gratitude to the One who has made it all possible.

Truly saying “thank you” does not come naturally to us. That is why our parents had to teach us to say it (any parent will tell you there is no child that didn’t need a lesson on saying “thank you”). But being thankful is not just words that we say, it is an attitude of the heart. Scriptures says in Ephesians 5:20, “Always and for everything, give thanks to our God and Father in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

I find it interesting, that the more grateful I am, the less that I need to “keep me happy.” When I am aware of how good my life really is, of how much God has given me, then I am less and less concerned with my next purchase or my current reason to be dissatisfied with my life.

Maybe that’s why retailers don’t spend too much time reminding us how much we have to be thankful for?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Optimist or Pessimist?

by Tim Howard

When you examine your life would you view yourself as an optimist or a pessimist? I was asked this question recently and my response was simply: “Neither; I consider myself to be a realist.”

A pessimist has a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believes the worst will happen. The ones who also hold to a fatalistic view of life often convey a very negative outlook of the future.

An optimist has a tendency to view life with hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something, even though the present reality might convey something very different.  

A realistic adopts an attitude or practice of accepting a situation as it is and prepares to deal with it accordingly. They seek to see things, or situations accurately or in a way that is true to life.

The reality is this: Life is full of positive and negative things. When you marry someone, you will experience a combination of good and bad. Marriage is a commitment for better or for worse. You will have ups and downs. You will have highs and lows. You will experience times of confidence and times of confusion.

What’s true in marriage is also true for those who follow Jesus Christ. No amount of faith will make your life into a path without problems. There are hundreds of promises in the Bible, but between the person and the promise there will always be a problem. When Jesus spoke to the disciples in Matthew 16, He told them they would experience some struggles, opposition, obstacles and challenges. He used the metaphor ‘gates of hell’ to illustrate this truth.

When you set out on the Christian journey, the Apostle Peter said: ”…do not be surprised at the painful trial you may suffer, as though something strange were happening to you.” It happens to everyone who pursues Christ with his or her whole heart. They will encounter ‘gates’ created to block their entrance into God’s promises. That’s pretty pessimistic isn’t it?

Well here’s the optimistic side!  Jesus continues in Matthew 16 and declares: Even though you will have trouble in the world, I have given you the Keys to the Kingdom of heaven. No ‘gate from hell’ can keep you from experiencing the promises of God if you use these keys to access heaven.

Keys give a person access. When we purchased our last automobile back in 2004, the dealership gave us a key that granted us access to that vehicle. Whoever has the key has access.

No one knows exactly what the keys actually refer to in this metaphor but we do confidently know they represent three levels of privilege. 1. Authority 2. Power 3. Confidence. To those who know Christ, follow Him with his or her whole heart and seek His assistance they have been given a position (authority) that carries clout (power) and releases confidence. A child belonging to God has access to heaven and confidently knows their Father will help.

Romans 8:28 says: “…we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Armed with these truths, you don’t have to pretend everything is wonderful nor do you have to embrace a belief that everything is terrible. Why? Because when you turn to Jesus, he takes the good, the bad and the ugly and makes it work out His purposes in you. That’s the realistic view. Get real!  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

An Investment That Pays

by Andrew Cromwell

A few weeks ago, there was a story in the major news media about a couple who had been married for 72 years and died within one hour of each other. As a nation, we collectively stood amazed at the longevity—not only in years, but in commitment—of these two people. These days, marriages lasting twenty years seem to exceed the norm.

I believe people want to stay married to the same person. The couples I meet with who are in the midst of relational crisis, would rather patch things up then split up. But staying together seems to be incredibly difficult. So many things conspire against marriages that are strong and unified—work, communication style, personality conflicts, finances, and the list goes on and on.

The truth is, marriage is tough work. It is a clash of cultures (the way things were in her family and the way things were in his). It is a communication landmine (what he hears is not what she means and vice versa). It is an exercise in self-denial (not my will but thy will be done!).

I’m convinced that the people who stick it out and stay married to the same person for decades fall into two categories. Either they are too stubborn to give up but they are miserable all along the way, or they have learned the secret of continually finding beauty in their spouse. Of the two, I’d rather fall into the second category—I don’t find stubborn misery particularly appealing.

There are so many reasons why we should fight for our marriage—especially men. All the studies show that men live longer and are healthier and make more money when they are in a long-term committed, monogamous relationship. Both men and women report that their sex lives get better and better the longer they stay married. And lets be honest, the grass isn’t really greener on the other side.  The minute we think things would be better if we just got out of our marriage and into another, we have simply bought into a lie.

So what are we to do with this most difficult but most rewarding of institutions? We must invest wisely. We must utilize a buy and hold strategy with continual reinvestment.  We must be willing to wait out the highs and lows while we keep our eyes on the prize. We must keep adding to our initial investment little by little. When we do, we will have plenty to live on when it is time to retire!

We don't invest in our marriages with cash deposits (although I have seen it to be useful), but with steady deposits of love. These deposits are made through little acts like writing your spouse a love letter, taking them out on a date, and helping out with the chores around the house. They are also made by the difficult acts of putting your spouse's desires first, choosing to speak their love language instead of your own and deciding to believe the best always. Invest in these ways and hold on and you'll be ready to enjoy the fruits of your investment.

So my question to you is this, are you using the right strategy for investment for your marriage? Are you investing for the long term or are you jumping in and out and can't decide what positions to hold from one day to the next? The pastors in Kings County would love to help you learn to invest in your marriage wisely and then maybe we'll be reading about you and your spouse holding hands after 72 years of marriage.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Change From the Inside - Out

by Tim Howard

When I was born on February 13, 1951 I weighed approximately 8 lbs. 2 oz. My hands were only an inch or so long, my hair didn’t exist and my skin was all shriveled up like a little old man.  Even though my parents used the term ‘cute’ to describe me, I’m not sure that was absolutely true.

If you were to compare some of my old baby pictures with some current photographs, you would immediately notice some major changes. I’ve grown to 5’8” tall, my hands are much larger, I’ve managed to put on 160 lbs, and I don’t want to talk about the hair thing because it seems like I’m regressing back to my infancy in that area…

I’m very thankful for is the possibility of change! I know God loves us too much to let us remain the same but His interest in changing us is not only connected to the external realm.

Back in the day Jesus confronted the Religious leaders about their emphasis on external change without any focus on what was happening internally. He states it very bluntly and forcibly in Matt chapter 23.

 "You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something… You're like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it's all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you're saints, but beneath the skin you're total frauds.” (The Message)

God desires a heart change and not mere behavioral modification. Even though one can change a specific behavior for a period of time, when the heart is not connected to the change, it is only temporary. The ultimate result is hypocrisy.

People in general and religious people specifically can look good externally but be very corrupt on the inside. Isaiah the Prophet puts it this way: “ They draw near to me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” In other words: Some proclaim they are Christians but don’t practice what they proclaim. They seem to be religious but don’t have a personal, ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ. They conform externally but aren’t changed internally.

God wants to change us from the inside out. Yes, He is concerned with your behavior, Yes, He is concerned with your beliefs but He is ultimately concerned with your heart and attitudes because all your actions flow from your heart. Maybe that’s why Solomon said: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Changing from the inside out will require God. You can’t do it yourself! You need a heart transplant. The old heart is deceitful, disingenuous and untrustworthy. That’s where God comes in. Ezekiel 36:26 says God will give us a new heart if we ask. Christianity is not about conforming to certain spiritual laws but being transformed into God’s likeness by the power of Jesus Christ. Just like a skilled doctor who is able to do heart transplants for those in physical need, Jesus can give you a new heart.

Some people try to change by searching for some key hidden in their past. Some seek to change their lives by working harder, praying longer or attending church more often. Various approaches to change may be helpful but only Jesus can change you from the inside - out. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Choose Weird

by Andrew Cromwell

One of the constant themes of Scripture is that the people of God - those who have made Him the centerpiece of their lives - are to be different. In the Old Testament the term "set apart" is used. In the New Testament the people of God are referred to as "chosen". Whatever term is used, it is clear that God desires His people to be different from the rest of the world.

Over the course of history, groups have interpreted the meaning of "being set apart" differently. Some have decided that the right response is to withdraw completely from the world and create a community unto themselves. We can think of the Amish in Pennsylvania as a perfect example of this. This group has decided to shun electricity and modern conveniences. Other groups have removed themselves from society altogether, closing themselves up behind castle walls and taking extensive vows of silence or personal mortification.

But I believe that when God tells His people that they are to be different than the world around them, He is speaking about their value system and how it is expressed in their daily lives. While there may be times for the people of God to literally remove themselves from relationship with society, these occasions are rare. Much more common is the decision to live one's life in a way that is countercultural.

It is in our heart where we decide whether or not we are going to be obedient to our Father God. The choice for obedience will mean that the way our lives are led is markedly different from the lives of those around us.

There are many value systems of the people of God that are different from the ways of the world. But one that touches very close to home is the way that God's people treat their money.

Our world is all about money. It is continually obsessed with getting more. No matter how much you have, how much you “need” is always a greater number. We fill our garages with toys, we buy larger houses and we find extravagant ways to spend money. What's more, we spend money that we have not yet earned.

One of the great curses of our contemporary world is the easy extension of personal credit. Because of personal credit lines almost all of us live beyond our means. It is impossible to quantify the number of divorces and the amount of unhappiness that has been caused by the easy extension of credit and the ensuing spending sprees that have caused people to spin out of financial control.

The people of God, however, are supposed to live differently. They live on less than they earn. They are not obsessed with getting more and more things. They believe that giving is better than receiving. They feel a responsibility for their brothers and sisters of the world who have less than they do. All of these things run in contradiction to our standard cultural value systems.

People who have discovered that true joy does not come from the acquisition of possessions are truly strange. The world looks at them and cannot understand why they have a smile on their face. They cannot understand why there is peace in their home. And yet when the dust settles and the noise from the toys dies out, the world begins to realize that their mad rush for more things does not fill the void in their heart. It is at this moment, that the people of God begin to look awfully weird.

This weekend the pastors in Kings County would love to help you be countercultural! Who says that the world has it all figured out? 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jesus Who?

by Tim Howard

Back in 1999 I had the privilege of attending a major league baseball game with my two sons. The weather was great, the teams were equally competitive and the opportunity to spend some extended time with my boys was a real treat.

While sitting in our designated seats two men walked past us and entered three rows ahead of ours. Since I was eating a hot dog I didn’t really notice their entrance except for the fact they seemed to be very tall. With emphasis on the word ‘very.’ Within a 15 second span of time my oldest son leaned over and asked if I recognized one of the two men. I responded by saying no.

He acted a bit surprised as if I should have known him and then said his name is Kevin Johnson to which I responded Kevin Who?  Then for the next 30 minutes I heard about Kevin’s prominent position on the Phoenix Suns Basketball team. His Rookie of the Year award, his Most Valuable Player awards, his All-Star Game Most Valuable player award and on and on and on…

Even though I left the stadium that day feeling like I knew a lot about Mr. Johnson, I never actually met him personally.

Like my son I might be a bit surprised if someone living in America had never heard the name Jesus. I met some people this year in Ethiopia and my wife met some individuals in India who had never heard the name Jesus or Jesus Christ, but in America, that name is prominent. Whether it’s spoken with disdain, contempt or with respect and gratitude it is a name used frequently in our culture.

In Matthew 16:16 the Apostle Peter was asked the question: Who is Jesus and he responded by saying: He is the Christ, Son of the living God. If you haven’t heard about Jesus like I hadn’t heard about Kevin Johnson, Colossians 1:15-20 gives one of the most concise, accurate and clear pictures of Jesus that brings understanding to our minds. Here’s what it says:

Col. 1:15-20  “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over all creation. Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—kings, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities. Everything has been created through him and for him. He existed before everything else began, and he holds all creation together. Christ is the head of the church, which is his body. He is the first of all who will rise from the dead, so he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and by him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of his blood on the cross. NLT.
When I left that stadium in 1999, it was good to know a few facts about Mr. Johnson but it would have been nice to meet him and talk personally. The chances of that happening, however, are slim to none. He is famous, he is out of my league, and he wouldn’t have time and a host of other reasons.

From Colossians you now know a few facts about Jesus. But the good news is you can meet Him personally. He’s famous but not too busy to meet with you. Why not visit one of the many Church families in Kings County this weekend and let them help you answer the question: Jesus Who?  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Family Responsibilities: Giving Up

by Andrew Cromwell

All of us come from some kind of biological family, even if we did not have a good relationship with them. We are a part of that family because we were either born or adopted into it. And membership in that family came with certain privileges and responsibilities. In the same way, those who are a part of the family of God also have “family obligations”.

Being part of the family of God is a wonderful thing. Membership is open to all who put the Father’s will before their own. And once we are a part of the family, we are given a new beginning. We are also given direct access to the Father along with all of His great wisdom and resources.

But we have some responsibilities as well. In my last column, I wrote about the responsibility we have to show up and be an active part of the family. This time, I’d like to talk about the responsibility we have to give up.

Anyone committed to his or her family will tell you that giving up is where it’s at. If you want a good marriage, you have to give up. If you want a lasting relationship with your kids, you have to give up. You have to give up your money, your time and your talents. You have to give up the need to always be right. You have to give up putting yourself first.

It is the same in the family of God. You and I must decide to give up and put God first in everything we do. In the Old Testament, the Israelites called this the tithe. The tithe was the practice of taking the first part of whatever income was received and giving it to God. God directed them to do this so that they would not forget that their source of supply was Him and not themselves.

It is interesting that today even large corporations are beginning to understand the importance of giving. Many of them do it simply because it is good public relations, but some do it because they understand that there is a principle of giving that is activated when resources are released rather then locked away and hoarded.

But it is not only money that we need to give, we need to give back to God in every area of our life. Doing so signals to Him that we are putting Him first in everything we do.  1 Peter 4:10 says, Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

When we put others needs before our own, we begin to look like the One who laid down His life for us. We also activate the principle from God’s word, Give and it shall be given. Members of God’s family are supposed to be the most generous people in the world.

This weekend, the pastors of Kings County would love the opportunity to teach you more about being part of the family of God. Why don’t you change your routine and get your family in church? You just might be surprised at what you discover.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Where Should You Sit?

by Tim Howard

I was born into a family of 7 children. It was back when families practiced the great tradition of eating together at least one meal a day. For us it was ‘Dinner.”

Even though the meals varied, the routine of finding a chair remained the same: When the call came from our mother to gather around the table our dad would assign chairs. Donna, you sit in that chair. Beverly you’ll be over there, Mom will be here… and so on until everyone had his or her designated seat.

That might be the reason I still wait to be seated when I’m invited to someone’s house for dinner. I pause and allow them to tell me where to sit.

Jesus addressed this issue in the book of Luke, chapter 14: 7 – 9, “When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit near the head of the table, he gave them this advice:  “If you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t always head for the best seat. What if someone more respected than you has also been invited? The host will say, ‘Let this person sit here instead.’ Then you will be embarrassed and will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!”

You can imagine the awkwardness, chagrin and embarrassment a person might feel if they chose the wrong chair and experienced this.

In 1 John 2:13, the Apostle identifies 3 life stages and there’s a chair for each stage. A chair for Children, Adolescents and Adults

The High Chair is a symbol of childhood. We’ve all had to sit there! The chair is constructed to keep children confined to a restricted area because it helps to manage the mess. Children are a gift from the Lord but they can be very messy not to mention they whine, complain and pout like none other. One of the main characteristics of childhood is the need to be fed. They are dependent. Infants cannot make their own food or feed themselves and toddlers can’t feed themselves with any notable skill.

The chair for adolescents is a step toward growing-up. When a child transitions into this chair they are able to prepare their own food and they are able to feed themselves efficiently. It’s a stage in life where more freedom is given. Along with that freedom, however, is responsibility. That may be one reason why some people don’t want to grow up. They want the freedom and privileges but not the duties and responsibilities.

The last chair around the table is the Adult chair. The Adults can make their own food and eat without assistance but are also committed to mentoring others due to their maturity. The world needs more of these adults.

Here’s the problem. People are sitting in the wrong chair!

God wants us to change chairs as we move toward maturity.  If you are a child it’s ok to sit in a high chair but if you’re a 20 something and still acting like a baby - something is wrong! It’s equally disturbing to see children trying to sit in the chair of an adult; taking control of their lives with no desire to listen to those who actually do sit in the adult chairs. To be healthy, you must identify the chair you are currently sitting in and then you can plot a path to the next chair.

What chair are you sitting in? What chair should you be sitting in?  God is calling us to grow up!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Family Responsibilities: Showing Up

by Andrew Cromwell

Families are pretty important. They are the laboratories that prepare us for the world. In our families, we learn how to play nice and how to treat others. We learn the value of a dollar. We discover our identity—where we came from, who we are related to and what expectations we need to live up to.

Normally, we don’t get to choose our family and they don’t get to choose us. But once we’re in, we’re mostly stuck for life. The first years are spent with the family giving to us. Mom and Dad cleaned our diaper, fed us when we were hungry and gave us a bath when we were dirty. They helped us with homework and made sure that we learned our Ps and Qs.

Eventually, we started giving back. We mowed the lawn or washed the dishes, did the laundry or cleaned the house. We were expected to be a contributing member of the family. We learned about family responsibilities and how everyone needs to do their part.

Finally came the day of freedom, the day when we moved out of the house and struck out on our own. But even the most independent of us were still called back from time to time—required to show up for Thanksgiving, Christmas or other sundry family celebrations.

And no matter how good (or bad) your family experience was, there is another family—a spiritual family—into which you are invited. In the New Testament, in the book of John, it says, “to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

What an amazing invitation! We can be part of THE family! You don’t have to win the genetic lottery to get into this family, you simply have to believe and accept. And there are plenty of perks when you are a member of the family. You get to speak to Dad anytime, anyplace. You are considered a favored son or daughter and given an early inheritance. You can walk with your head held high because of this special identity. And that’s just the beginning.

There are some responsibilities we have in this family as well. Just like we are expected to be a part of family gatherings back on the home ranch, we are also expected to be a part of our spiritual family gatherings. These are times when the family gets together to encourage one another and to learn more about being a part of God’s family.

And, yes, just like at our home family gatherings, there are members of our new spiritual family that are a little strange. Some of the family members talk too much or too loudly. Some always say the wrong thing and end up offending someone else. But because they are part of the family, we cut them a little slack.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about church. It’s the time when God’s family gets together and celebrates. And if you’re part of the family, you’re supposed to be there! When you’re not there, not only are you not encouraged by your fellow family members, but you are not able to encourage them. There are times when we receive (when we are children) and times when we give (when we are adults). But no matter where we are in the continuum of life, we have a part to play and when we don’t show up, we are missing out.

This weekend, why don’t you come and plug into God’s family? The pastors in Kings County would love to have you join them. Sure, there’s some weird Nelly’s in our family, but there’s some pretty awesome Uncle Dave’s too. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Finding Your Fit

by Tim Howard

Back in 1982 a television show called ‘Cheers’ debuted and ran for 11 successful seasons. It displayed a pub where people gathered frequently and revealed a camaraderie that was desirous by all who watched. It was a place where everyone knew each other’s name and a place where people felt like they belonged and ‘fit.’ It’s something we all desire!

If you’ve ever been in a place where you felt like an outsider looking in rather than an insider looking around, you know what I mean.

Finding a right fit with other people is more complicated than finding clothes that fit you properly. If you are like me, you can go shopping for clothes and find the article you need and one that fits in a matter of minutes. My wife, however, will often visit 7 to 10 stores, shop for 7 to 10 hours and spend more than 7 to 10 dollars before she finds 1 to 2 articles of clothing that is acceptable and fits properly to her specific taste. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that - Just in case my wife is reading this! Finding a right fit in the clothing arena, however, is a lot easier than finding a fit with other individuals.

Why is it so hard to find relationships that fit us, to make meaningful connections with people? To find a place where you feel like you belong? Part of the answer may be wrapped up in unrealistic expectations. Here are 5 things you can’t expect if you want to find your fit.

1. You can’t expect everybody to like you. It’s unrealistic! St. John chapter 1 tells us that Jesus came to His own people and was rejected by many. There were some, however, who received Him and to those He began a relationship. Give people the freedom to choose without coercion, force, pressure or manipulation. You don’t need everyone to like you!

2. You can’t expect to get something when you give nothing. It’s unrealistic!  There are too many takers in the world. Life is about giving - not only getting. Ephesians 5:2, “walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” When you are a giver, you become a fragrance that attracts rather than an odor that offends.

3. You can’t expect to fit in by trying to be someone else. Even if you do find a place that accepts you, there will never be a sense of belonging because the one they embrace isn’t the real you.

4. You can’t expect people to embrace you when you make everything about YOU. People don’t fit because they often think life is all about them.  With one small exception, life is all about others. Philippines 2:3-4 “ Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as before yourself.  Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. 

5. You can’t expect people to care about you, if you don’t really care about them. The old cliché: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s true!
Your chances of finding a place where you fit like that which is portrayed on Cheers increases when you have expectations that are realistic.

Why not check out one of the many Church families in Kings County this weekend. You might find a place where you fit!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Family Responsibilities

by Andrew Cromwell

Being a member of family comes with privileges and responsibilities. Depending on what family you are a part of, the perks might be fantastic (think what it would be like to be a Rockefeller or a Walton) but the responsibilities might be rather serious too. Most of us are connected with a family. That family gives us a name and forms a significant part of our identity. And when it comes time for holiday gatherings or family meetings, we are expected to be a part.

The family of God is no different. Being a son or a daughter of God is full of wonderful privileges. Among other things, we get to spend time with the Creator of the universe. We are empowered with His resources. We are forgiven of our past and we are promised an incredible future. There are some amazing benefits to being part of God’s family.  

But just as there are expectations in an earthly family, there is also a part for us to play as members of our heavenly family. When we do these things we make our family a better place! If you want to be the black sheep of the family—no problem—but I tend to think that it is much better to be right in the thick of it.

Over the next few articles, I want to explore the part that we have to play in our spiritual family. My hope is that, even if you do not follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and do not consider Him to be the linchpin upon which the whole universe hangs, you will come to better understand this part of the Christian faith.

Next time we will discuss the responsibility to show up! You know you always make mom happy when you show up at family gatherings! It’s kind of the same thing when we show up in God’s house.  

The pastors in Kings County would love to have you join them this weekend.  It may have been a long time since you have connected with God’s family.  There’s no better time than the present.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Taking Care of the Environment

by Tim Howard

I‘ve followed several great men and women over my years and have been helped greatly by them in the process of maturity. They led in such a way as to elicit from me loyalty, faithfulness, a willingness to sacrifice and a strong desire to follow them.

How do you develop a team that people want to play on? A better way of putting it might be to reword the question. How do you become a leader people want to follow?

One key word is “Environment.” We all create a certain environment, atmosphere or aura if you will, that other people can see, sense and react to. How many of you find yourself rejoicing when a certain co-worker calls the office to say they won’t be in on a specific day? Be honest!  You rejoice when they are not present because they create an environment that’s not very pleasant. The opposite is true also. We miss someone because they create an atmosphere that is enjoyable.

A sign I recently read said: “All people bring me joy, some when they come and others when they leave.” That sums it up.

A good atmosphere or a good environment keeps the morale high and when the morale is high, people want to follow you. They look forward to playing on the team. Your goal and greatest challenge as a leader is not merely to complete a task but create an environment conducive to growth.
Here’s 4 ways to destroy a good atmosphere on the job, in the home, at the school, in a meeting and a myriad of other places.
1.               COMPARE people with others rather than ACCEPT them on their own merits. When you do, an environment of favoritism flourishes.  Jacob did this in Genesis Chapter 37. He loved one son more than the others and the family hated the climate this created. Whenever you compare people, you value one above the other.
2.              The environment drastically changes when you CRITICIZE people more than COMPLEMENT them. How many of you would admit: When the boss asks you to step into his office, the first thing to go through your mind is this question: “What Did I Do Wrong?” Focusing on the good and giving some praise now and then can build the morale and create a positive attitude.       
3.              TALK TO people and not COMMUNICATE WITH them. You will see how quickly things deteriorate. You can talk AT people, TO people or WITH people and it’s best to talk with them.                                                                                                                                                                   
4.              COMPLAIN about everything but don’t CHANGE anything. People don’t want to follow a leader who chooses not to deal with the ‘elephant’ in the room.
God’s looking for leaders who will accept others on His terms and not their own. Leaders who will focus on the positive and give praise regularly rather than criticize continually. Ones who communicate with people and love people enough to correct a wrong.
Why not check out one of the many church families in Kings County this weekend. You just might find an environment you can enjoy.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Solving Problems

by Andrew Cromwell

One of life’s most important skills is the ability to solve problems. Why? People have and always will have problems. Truth is, problems and challenges for human beings are like water to a fish. Without them we cease being who we were created to be.

The next time you begin to think life would be so much better without any of your problems, remind yourself of the youngster who came across an old man sitting on a bench looking lonely and depressed. He asked the old man, “What is life’s heaviest burden?” The old man sadly replied, “Having no burden at all.”

Am I suggesting that every problem is a wonderful thing? Of course not! Many of our problems are caused by our own stupid behavior and decisions. In a letter to Timothy, Paul writes “because of the love of money...many have pierced themselves with sorrows.” Many of us have created for ourselves serious problems because we haven’t been able to say “no” to the “I want” bug.

But every problem—whether created by our own selfishness, by the actions of someone else or simply by the very nature of our broken world—can also be seen as opportunities. Problems present opportunities for personal growth. They also give us opportunities for advancement at home and at work. The quickest ways to gain favor is to fix a problem!

Just remember, not every problem can be fixed. Sometimes we fail to differentiate between a problem and a fact of life. We then spend way too much time trying to fix something that is just the way things are. Your mother-in-law is just your mother-in-law; don’t expect that you can transform her into something else! Please note, this does not apply to my mother-in-law, just yours.

And don’t waste time fixing problems that don’t make a difference. Don’t polish the brass on a sinking ship. Focus instead on things that really matter. My guess is that there are a few key problems that you have in your life. These problems are big ones—they involve relationships or deep financial issues or both. These things are not easily fixed. But if you begin to address these issues effectively, your whole life will move in a positive direction.

We all face huge challenges in life. The good news is, we also have a Father in heaven who is bigger than any of them and He wants to help. He wants His children to experience life at its fullest. The question for each of us is, do we want His help?

This weekend, the pastors in Kings County would love to speak to you about the resources God has for you. So when you begin to face down those problems that keep you awake at night, you’ve got Somebody big standing next to you!