Saturday, December 29, 2012

Enter and Exit

by Tim Howard

In many stores you see a sign on one door saying ‘enter’ and on another door a sign saying ‘exit’. Someone said: “The way you exit is the way you enter.” I don’t think they were suggesting you enter through the exit door or leave through the entry door. This quote didn’t make sense to me at first but as I enter 2013, I’m giving some thought to the way I’m exiting 2012. Do I want to exit this past year carrying a lot of baggage into this new season or do I want to enter the New Year with a lighter load.
All of us accumulate baggage over the years as we travel on life’s journey. It may come from disappointments and we carry around hurts. That’s baggage! Maybe we failed miserably and we tote memories that bring on depression. More baggage! Before you know it the pain piles up and we carry the suitcases of anger, resentment and bitterness. Life becomes a constant task of moving baggage from one place to another.

If you unpack some of the heavy burdens as you exit 2012, you don’t have to enter 2013 the same way! You can enter with a lighter load and a different attitude. Here’s what Jesus said:

Matt 11:28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
There are three pieces of baggage you need to leave behind as you exit 2012 and enter 2013.   If you don’t, they will rob you of joy.

1. Guilt
There’s always someone around who loves to point out your mistakes, failures inadequacies and sins. They are quick to scrutinize and remind you of your imperfections. When you have received the gift of forgiveness from Jesus through confession of your sins, however, your guilt gives way to God’s goodness. You don’t have to be guilty because of your past; you can be freed if you focus on what’s ahead rather than what’s behind

2. Grudges
We’ve all been hurt by others but you don’t have to ‘hold a grudge.’ You can let it go. Turn it over to God by forgiving those who have hurt you. They aren’t getting off the hook for what they have done to you – they are simply being turned over to the one who can judge properly.  It’s amazing how lighter and brighter you feel when you let a grudge go.

3. Grief
Jesus came to help us with our grief. In this world you will have trouble, the Bible says but Jesus said: “take heart! I have overcome the world.” According to Isaiah the prophet, Jesus came to help us find the gold in dirt we find ourselves mired in at times. He can help us praise instead of grieve.

The author of Hebrews, a book in the Bible says: “let us throw off  everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

If you follow his advice, you will exit 2012 differently and therefore enter 2013 better prepared to meet every Challenge.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


by Andrew Cromwell

A lot of life involves waiting. We wait in the check-out line at the grocery store, on the phone in the hopes of reaching a live person, in rush-hour traffic, at the post office and at the doctor’s office. We wait in the morning to start work and then we wait for the work day to end so we can go home. When we first get pregnant, we wait for that little baby to be delivered into our hands for what seems like forever, and then we wait for them to move out of the house for what seems like an eternity. Many of us are still waiting for our ship to come in. So much waiting.

During this season, we wait for Christmas to arrive. For our children, this waiting is laden with great anticipation of the great gifts that they hope to receive. For many adults, this waiting is full of dread lest the gifts do not live up to the expectation.

When it comes to Christmas, we often forget that there was a day when Christmas did not exist. And I’m not just referring to the holiday celebration, but the event that gave us the reason to celebrate in the first place — the birth of Jesus Christ. For all of human history, there was no Christmas celebration for that baby born in a manger had not yet arrived.

For those of us on this side of history, the event now is taken as fact. Even if you don’t believe Jesus is God in the flesh come to make it possible for man to reconnect with the Father, only a very few have the audacity to disbelieve His existence.

But those on the other side of history, did not have the luxury of choosing whether they believed Jesus as God or a mythic man-figure. And without Christ, there was no easy way to connect with our Father in Heaven. And so they waited. The Scripture says that all creation groaned in eager expectation of the arrival of One who would make a way.

Colossians 1:26-27 says that in Christ, the great mystery of the ages has been revealed to us! And this mystery is not only the person of Jesus Christ, but the possibility of Christ’s life living inside of us and making us into people who know the Father and want to do His will.

For some, this remains a mystery even to this day and they continue to wait, for they do not yet know His reality inside of them. But for all those who invite Jesus to change their heart and lead their life, there is a new day that dawns and the waiting is over.

Waiting for Christmas takes on a whole new meaning when we remember that the reasons the angels sang loudly in the sky over Bethlehem is now present among us and Christmas is more than just a holiday, but a reality every day.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Money Talks

by Tim Howard

I started the Christmas season like many others by visiting some of the local stores in hopes of purchasing a few gifts for those I love and care about.  I’m glad to say I’ve finished my Christmas shopping. As I made my way through various places, I was reminded of that familiar phrase “Money talks!”

I heard its voice: It shouted, “Spend me!” and whispered, “Save me!”
Someone said, “Money talks: mine is always saying, ‘Good-bye!’”
That phrase means money has power and influence. Money talks…and one of the things it says is: “love me.” This is the most dangerous!

1 Timothy 6:6-10 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. …We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and created for themselves many problems.” Money is intrinsically neutral but loving money opens the proverbial Pandora’s box.

I recently saw a presentation of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ which is an 1843 novella by English author Charles Dickens. Many have seen or read this great fictional and prose narrative and if you haven’t you should. The story tells of a sour and stingy man named Ebenezer Scrooge and his ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation resulting from supernatural visits from Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

Before the radical change, Mr. Scrooge LOVED money and USED people when he should have loved people and used money. When anyone confuses these two priorities, life is altered for the worse.

Jesus summed up the two greatest commands this way:  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ When a passion for God and a compassion for people become your top two priorities, you experience what Scrooge missed. Life and True Love!

Money talks, but God also talks and says: Don’t love money but rather love people and use money!  It’s a tool for helping others. In this season of giving, remember the greatest gifts can’t be purchased. You don’t need to go into debt to prove you love someone. Don’t spend more than you earn and you will be a lot happier. Loving people doesn’t require a great deal of money.

Money’s important if you want to eat but God says one thing very clearly in his Word: Money is not the most important thing!

Churches talk about giving money and businesses talk about making money. Frugal people talk about saving money while extravagant people talk about spending money. Penny Pinchers talk about wasting money, Financial Consultants talk about investing money but God talks about Stewarding His money. The Bible has over 2000 verses that specifically address these issues and we would do well to check out some of them as we walk through this season and hear the voice that shouts:  Spend, spend, spend!

Money talks but God talks as well. What voice are you going to listen to?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fa-la-la-la Focus

by Andrew Cromwell

December is here and that means the Christmas season and all that accompanies it. Love or hate the incessant and ever-present Christmas music, the cheery sweaters and the bright decorations, you certainly cannot avoid them. Some of us come kicking and screaming into the season, but come we must. Even the Grinch couldn’t avoid it in the end.

Whether you have more in common with the Grinch or Cindy Lou Who, let me encourage you to keep your focus on those things that matter the most during this season. Retailers will tell you what is important is to show the ones you love (including yourself) that you love them by buying them gifts. The key word here is “buying.” Every type of ad imaginable will tickle and taunt your senses seeking to entice, cajole or bully you into trading your dollars for their devices, your pittance for their paraphernalia and your cash for their crap. Before you know it, you will be right back where you were last year—deep in debt just because you want to make others happy with manufactured miscellany that they probably didn’t even need in the first place.

And if it is not the mad rush to shop till you drop, then you can easily be drawn into the pressure to do everything and be everywhere. There are so many family parties, gatherings with friends, holiday spectaculars, tree lightings, school plays and seasonal celebrations, that if you try and do them all, you will make yourself and your family sick or miserable (or both). In an attempt to try and do everything and make everyone happy, you will only end up hating what is supposed to be a joy-filled season.

This Christmas, why don’t you do things differently?

First, buy less. So much of what we give on Christmas is out of a sense of obligation we put on ourselves. We give things people don’t really want with money that we don’t have. And even if they really do want it, we are spending money we don’t have (hint: if you are paying with your credit card, you don’t have the money), then we are just dumb.

Second, plan more. Make a game plan with your family now. Decide which events and activities you want to do together. Make a quality decision to focus on each other. Preserve your energies so you can best enjoy the things you should do together.

Finally, focus on the real reason we celebrate Christmas to begin with.  The true gift of Christmas was found not at Sears, Best Buy or Apple, but in a dusty half-forgotten village.  It was there in Bethlehem that the world received it’s greatest gift in the form of Jesus.

The pastors in Kings County would love to encourage your family to see the real reason for the Christmas season.  You may even plan to make a family trip together to church! 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Greatest Gift

by Tim Howard

Today is December 1 and it doesn’t merely suggest a new month has begun, it reminds us of a great celebration, which is only 25 days away.
Christmas is all about giving! When I consider that statement and contemplate the greatest gifts I’ve personally received over the years, FORGIVENESS ranks highest without a doubt. 
At the heart of Christianity you will find the message of forgiveness and it’s more than simply saying: “I forgive you.” It may be conveyed in words but it must come from the heart. Matt. 18:5 confirms this understanding. Forgiveness is something Jesus ‘does for’ us and not something he merely ‘says to’ us.
A former inmate of a Nazi concentration camp was visiting a friend who had shared the suffering with him. “Have you forgiven the Nazis?" he asked his friend. "Yes," the friend replied. “Well, I haven't” stated the first man. “I'm still consumed with hatred for them.” “In that case,” said his friend gently, “they still have you in prison.” 

This story affirms that those who choose not to forgive, by default, choose to live in a self-imposed prison where anger, bitterness, and despair control their lives. The price you pay for not forgiving is exorbitant. In a parable recorded in Matt 18:21-35 we find 3 reasons we need to learn forgiveness.

1. You must learn to forgive others because God has forgiven you! The parable talks about a servant who was so far in debt, he could never get free. The king, however, showed mercy and offered forgiveness with no strings attached. It was free gift. What a king!

There is a parallel in this parable.  The Bible says I owe a debt to God and you do too.  "All have sinned."  The Bible says the debt is so big I can never repay it on my own and neither can you.  But God has chosen, in His love, to forgive us, wipe the slate clean, cancel the debts and say, "Let's start over."  That's the good news!

God expects me to do to others what He has done for me. He has forgiven my sins and I am to forgive other people.  

2. You must learn to forgive because resentment makes you miserable! Like the former inmate of that Nazi concentration camp who wouldn’t forgive, his life remained dismal. When you fail to forgive, God doesn't have to lock you up in jail.  We do it to ourselves.  We lock ourselves in a jail of torment and pain.  We rehearse the hurt over and over and it gets bigger and bigger and continues to hurt us long after it's happened.  There are millions of people who are imprisoned and enslaved by anger and anxiety and they are tormented by resentment, year after year.  The forgiveness of Christ is the key to unlock the jail.  It can set you free.  

3. You must learn to forgive because you will need it in the future!
If you're going to live the rest of your life in perfection you don't need to forgive anybody else. When we pray the Lord's Prayer, however,  "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" - it means: God, will forgive you as much as you forgive the people around you.  Is that something you really want to pray?

Is there someone you need to forgive? As you move through the Christmas season and consider the gifts you want to give, why not give some the gift of forgiveness? And while you are at it, why not forgive yourself! 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Give Thanks

by Andrew Cromwell

During this season it is traditional to give thanks. A popular activity on Facebook this month is to post “what I am thankful for” each day. The holiday serves as a wonderful reminder to us that we need to live with an outward focus rather than an inward focus.

In order to give thanks, we must first recognize that there is someone apart from us that has given us something. This recognition is actually bigger than it may sound at first because far too often we live our lives as if we are the only one in the universe. I suppose in a sick, twisted kind of way, just the reverse is also true for some people — they see themselves at the center of the universe and so they are unsurprised (and not particularly grateful) when things come their way.
Perhaps more importantly, in order to be truly thankful we must recognize that we have a need — that we are missing something. It is not that you can’t be grateful for something you don’t need (like that special Christmas sweater from grandma), but there is a whole other level of thankfulness when we receive a gift that truly meets a need (like the gift of help when we just won’t be able to finish that project all on our own).

Scripture says that every good gift comes down from the Father of lights (James 1:17). In other words, God is the origin and cause of every good thing in the universe. Without him, we could not have good things to begin with. He was the One who gave the first gift and made it possible to give every other gift. So when we give thanks this season, we should remember who is the true source of every good gift.

When we give thanks to our Father in heaven, our thanksgiving is deeper and more meaningful. Psalms 136 says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.” As we move away from Thanksgiving and into the Christmas season, let’s decide not to leave the spirit of thanks behind. Instead, live with a spirit of thanksgiving each and every day, recognizing the One and true source of all good things in our life.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Why Not Be Thankful?

by Tim Howard 

Next week many families and friends will gather for a Thanksgiving Day celebration. Our country has set aside one day on our calendar each year to remind us of the importance of giving thanks.  One day to press the pause button and say: THANK YOU GOD for all you have done.

Among many statements found in the Bible about thanks and praise, David said in Psalms. 92:1 “It is good to give thanks to the Lord.”

It’s good because it opens the door for a heart of gratitude to grow within each of us. Giving thanks is something you say and do but gratefulness is a condition of the heart. An Attitude of Gratitude flourishes when life is lived with thankfulness.

Not only that but it replaces the ugly sounds of criticism, sarcasm and complaining with the reverberation of joy, hope and appreciation. Granted, there’s much to complain about but when you realize over half the world earns less than $2.00 a day; no more than 5% of the world population owns a home and the majority don’t have a car to drive, maybe we have more to be thankful for than we realize.

People who complain and criticize continually are not fun to be around. Thankful people, however, bring a fresh perspective because they are content with what they have and don’t worry about the things they have yet to obtain. They bring joy because they choose to fill their mouths with praise rather than complaints. They create an atmosphere of levity because they accentuate the positive. A grateful heart expressed through thankful words and demonstrated with acts of love will change the atmosphere around you.

Jesus asked a very important question worth answering when he was on his way to Jerusalem. The narrative is found in Luke chapter 17. It was the time he healed ten people stricken with leprosy.  He spoke a word of healing and here’s what happened:  “And as they went on their way, the leprosy disappeared. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God, I’m healed!” He fell face down on the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done… Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where is the other nine?

Maybe the nine didn’t return because they failed to realize the part Jesus played in their healing. Why give thanks to God when it was just lucky or happenstance? Failing to realize God’s involvement stifles thanksgiving.

Then again, maybe they were so caught up in the present moment and their new found health they simply forget the goodness of God.

It’s easy to lose a spirit of thanks at any time. Especially when you experience hurricane type winds and huge amounts of rainfall that creates flooding like the recent experiences of those on the East coast.

Whatever the case may be, Romans 1:21 reveals what happens when people fail to give thanks: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their views of life, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Thanksgiving will blow the clouds of darkness away and keeps the lights on. Only then will you see life through positive lenses.

As I approach Thanksgiving Day next week, I’m going to invite family and friends to enjoy a common meal. I plan to give every person the opportunity to give thanks to the Lord. As you celebrate, why not give thanks? 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Reality Check

by Andrew Cromwell

Every once in a while it is a good idea to make sure that you are living in reality. My impression is that there are many people who don’t do this often enough and they walk around with a false set of beliefs. Sometimes these beliefs are harmless, even if wrong (like believing there’s a frog on a log on a hole in the middle of the sea). Other times, wrong beliefs can cost you great grief and suffering (like believing that the stock market will always go up in the long run).

There are a few beliefs that it is incredibly important for us to get right. If we get these wrong, we risk losing everything. Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body, be afraid only of God.” We spend a lot of time worrying and being afraid of so many things, but if we can get a few things straight, then everything else will fall into place.

There is a popular belief these days that sincere belief equals true belief. We hear this expressed all the time when people say things like, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” What this means is that people want the freedom to pick and choose the elements of spirituality that they like but they do not want to be bothered with the parts they don’t like.

People want to be able to talk to God, but don’t want to be told that they have to change their life. They want to do spiritual stuff—light a candle, spread a prayer rug, quote a verse—but they don’t want to have to do difficult stuff—adjust their behavior, change the way they talk to others, pray when they don’t feel like it.

People want to believe sincerely that God is okay with them and their life.

But what if He isn’t? What if God isn’t okay with the pick and choose, consumer oriented spirituality? What if sincere belief is just not enough? What if He requires more from us?

Well, if He does, then we had better change our perspective!

I am inclined to believe that when one reads the Bible, there is a picture that emerges of a God who is loving and powerful and who wants to have a relationship with all human beings. But in order for that relationship to happen, we humans have to hand him the direction of our life. We have to be willing to put him in the driver’s seat.

The trouble is, we like the driver’s seat. I know that I do! But I have found that when I let Him drive, the trip is always better. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012


by Tim Howard 

Lily Tomlin once said: "Why is it that when we talk to God we are said to be praying. And when God talks to us we are said to be schizophrenic?" People who struggle with schizophrenia may experience auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions among other things. Unfortunately, people who admit they hear from God are often put into a similar category. If you admit to others you hear from God, be prepared for strange looks.

The answer of course is that people do all kinds of stupid things and blame it on God. God told me this… Two days later God changed his mind and told me something different… Many who have claimed to hear God are locked away because they are self-delusional. Everyone who claims to hear God accurately doesn’t! 

Communication is difficult on a human level so it stands to reason communicating with God will require a learning curve. Just because we don’t always hear God’s voice accurately, that shouldn’t stop us from communicating with Him anymore than it would if we were communicating with anyone else.

Husbands and wives have trouble communicating! I don’t always get it when my wife speaks. I’m sure she wonders if I will ever ‘get it.’ I sometimes misunderstand, misinterpret or just simply miss her point. That doesn’t mean we stop speaking and sharing on various levels. We continue to learn each other’s love language so we can communicate on an intimate level. 

In the Bible, 1 Samuel chapter 3 records a narrative of a young man named Samuel who didn’t know how to distinguish God’s voice. The account is not only interesting but it helps us gain some insight in regards to hearing God. Here are a few things we can glean: 

1. God is speaking but we don’t always recognize his voice. Samuel finally figured it out with the help of an old Priest named Eli. It’s always wise to check with other people who have walked with God for some time when you think God is speaking. They can help you discern his voice.

2. You will hear more clearly if you stop speaking and listen more intently. The Priest told Samuel: “If the Lord speaks again say, speak my Lord for your servant is listening.” Too often we view prayer as only talking to God. A monologue rather than a dialogue. Too often we say: “Listen my Lord for your servant speaks. You can’t hear God if you don’t stop yapping…

3. Samuel was at rest when God spoke. We live in a noisy world where it’s sometimes hard to hear God above the commotion. Do you know what most of us do with silence? Fill it! We fill it with noise. God can speak through the noise, or even over it, but usually, He waits for us to be quiet. Take a time out and press the pause button in your life. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10.

4. Samuel was in the Temple when God spoke. I personally believe God can speak to you while you are mowing your lawn, fixing the car, shopping for a new dress or taking a shower but meeting with others in a Church setting is important. It is so significant that the author of Hebrews in the New Testament said: Don’t neglect getting together with those who believe in Christ.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


by Tim Howard

While growing up did you ever hear your parents or guardians say: “Do you think I’m talking to hear myself talk?” I sure did, on many occasions! The statement was voiced in the form of a question but when I tried to answer, I was told to be quiet…in not so many words. Now that I have more understanding, I realize they were making a statement and not asking for my opinion. They wanted me to “Listen”

God listens to us when we speak. Isn’t that amazing? He has called us into relationship: we speak and He listens; He speaks and we listen. This may seem obvious to some but this is the difference between Christianity and religion.

Christianity is a relationship! God calls us into a love relationship where we converse with him. It’s more than a monologue - It’s a dialogue! Religion on the other hand is about following the rules rather than cultivating a relationship. Go to church for an hour or so a week, read a few chapters in the Bible, do a daily devotional and make sure you do a couple of good deeds.  As good as these things are, God wants to have more. He desires a conversational relationship with you!  You speak and He listens.  He speaks and you listen.

God hears everything! You may say something in private like a politician but discover later that someone taped your words and everyone heard what you said. Even when you think no one heard, God hears.

God even hears what you say when you don’t say anything. After all, you don’t need words to speak. Sometimes your body language, your facial expressions and your actions speak volumes without the utterance of one word.

God hears everything you say even when you can’t hear him. If you ever pray to God in his Son’s name, and feel like no one is listening you need to know, he does hear. That’s one reason King David loved God. He said:  “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.  Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. “Psalm 116:1-2. I couldn’t agree more.

Since God created us in him image and since he listens to us, doesn’t it make sense that we should listen to him?

The word “listen” and its derivatives are used 338 times in the NIV Bible.  The word “hear” and its derivatives are used 982 times.  There is a lot of talking and listening going on in the Bible!  Interestingly the most common use of the word “listen” in the Bible is God telling us to listen. 

God speaks to us in a variety of ways, so whom should we listen to?

If you are a married man, I would suggest you listen to your wife. God speaks to us through people and he can use your mate to shape, adjust or encourage you. God speaks through experiences and circumstances. When something out of the ordinary happens to you don’t dismiss it as an aberration. God might be trying to get your attention because he wants to change something or strengthen something. Your conscience is another authority in your life. If it has been trained properly and you listen to it, your steps will be guarded from many stumbles.

Francis Scheaffer wrote a book called “He is there and He is not silent.”  He isn’t talking just to hear himself talk. I encourage you to “listen”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Keep the Faith

by Tim Howard

I began developing a passion for God when I turned 6 years old. Even at that young age, I was convinced God existed and He was good. One of the verses I learned as a young boy is found in the Bible - Hebrews 11:6. It says: “… it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek.” NLT

Even at a young age, the sun, the moon, the rivers, mountains, clouds and all of creation seemed to shout: There is a God! I recall saying to myself: “No person could create all this - there must be a God.” Solomon said: “Wisdom shouts in the streets… will we not listen?”  Well, I listened and faith in Christ has directed my steps for the past 55 years.

Faith. It’s hard to define but we all have it. Every time you step into an airplane you exercise faith. You put your confidence in a person believing they will navigate the flight and get you to your destination safely. You know nothing about the pilot; his or her qualifications, abilities or present state of mind, yet you put your trust and confidence in them. Every time you invest money through an investor you are putting faith in those who oversee the enterprises. 

Hebrews 11:1-2 “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. God gave his approval to people in days of old because of their faith.” NLT

Faith sees something beyond the material realm. When I do something kind for someone I’m hoping they will see beyond my good deed. I want them to see the kindness of God and His benevolent attitude toward them. That’s what my actions are supposed to reveal. Unfortunately, many never see God in the good that is happening. Without faith, a person who looks at a snow-covered mountain range, a beautiful sunset or the mighty waves of an ocean, will not be able to see a powerful creator behind the visual display.

Faith in God releases God to change things! There are many illustrations in the Bible, where faith opened the door for divine healing. People who were sick got healed. People who were bound got delivered. Many blind eyes were made to see, deaf ears began to hear and things designed to destroy people were turned around to develop and strengthen them. All because faith released God to move!

At other times, however, faith in God didn’t change the circumstances. Rather than removing the challenges confronting people, faith releases strength for them to go through the challenges. They endure hardship and rejoice because they have faith in God. Sometimes faith changes things around you but at other times faith changes things within you.

When you put your faith in Jesus, He is released to change something! For the past 55 years my faith has been altering me. I have a long way to go and I’m not what I ought to be in many ways but I’m sure a lot better than I use to be. At least that’s what my wife says! Faith! The real question isn’t do you have it, because we all do, but what, where or who are you placing your faith in? That’s the million-dollar question.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Soul Food

by Andrew Cromwell

If you believe in God, then you must believe in the existence of a part of us that cannot be seen. No amount of weighing or measuring or searching with microscopes will reveal this part. You can cut us open and look inside, you can draw blood and run tests and you can even make us stand in front of that x-ray machine thingy at the airport, but you will not be able to see our soul.

Our soul is that invisible part of us — being invisible makes it no less real — that governs and directs and makes us truly who we are. Some have called it “the ghost in the machine”, although no matter how we try, we have not been able to build a machine and summon the ghost. And while our physical body connects us with the world around us and serves as the intermediary through which we taste, touch, smell and sense it — it is the soul that gives these experiences their texture and weight. No amount of neurons firing in the brain can ever hope to explain this thing we call consciousness — it is soul-territory.

Without the soul, the body dies (let us save the ever popular zombie discussion for another day). The experiences of virtues like love, courage, joy, hope and vices like lust, cowardice, anxiety and hopelessness cannot happen without the soul. It is only through the soul that we can communicate with God, and it is our soul that endures long after the physical body dies.

Now even though we all have a soul, we also have a body. This physical part of us is very useful. It is through this body that we move around, communicate with others and generally get things done in the physical world. Without this body, we would be ghosts — and ghosts cannot be particularly effective in our world.

But as useful as this body is, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Let us say it this way, the body makes a wonderful slave but a terrible master. The body must be fed and cared for and if treated well can be wonderful. But if the body’s appetites are over-fed, it can become like a ravenous dog restlessly searching for its next meal and not caring particularly from where it comes.

The natural order of things is for our soul to direct our body. If we want to become more loving, we direct our body to do things that are kind and put others first. If we want to become more courageous, then we order our body to stand and do what is right in situations when we feel afraid or timid.

When our body’s appetites for food, sex, entertainment, and busyness — among many others — become the driving force in our lives, we flip things upside down and our soul is diminished. Solomon, the wisest man in the world, said when this happens: “We work to feed our appetites; meanwhile our souls go hungry” (Eccl. 6:7).

So the question is, whom are you feeding more frequently, your soul or your body? People who consistently feed themselves healthy soul food — a regular diet of God’s Word and giving oneself to others — discover true joy. But those who only feed the lower desires of our body increasingly lose the capacity for true greatness.

The pastors of Kings County are serving up soul food this weekend. Perhaps you need a change of diet?

Saturday, September 22, 2012


by Tim Howard

When I was a little kid my mom used to give me commands. She would say things like: “Go clean up your room - go brush your teeth, go take a bath.” I’m reminded of my reluctance and reticence to respond to her directives every time I give a similar command to my grandson.

Just last night I said to him: “Go get ready for bed.” “I don’t want to go to bed,” was his reply. Again this morning: “Go get your shoes on or we’ll be late for school.” He responded: “Do I have to? I don’t like school! 

Why don’t we want to obey? 

Maybe it’s because we are self-centered and don’t like having anyone tell us what to do. We believe in being autocratic. Possibly the command doesn’t fit with our preferences or we simply may have a built-in rebellious streak. You can see examples throughout the Bible.

In the book of Exodus we are told of a time when God talked to Moses. It was in a desert area far from the view of anyone else and Moses was reluctant to obey.

The conversation went something like this: God Speaks: Moses, I’ve set myself to help a whole lot of people who are in need. They are experiencing sufferings; addictions, hardships, injustice and I want to free them because they are asking for my help…  Even though it doesn’t record it, I’m sure Moses was elated because this is something he had desired for over 40 years.

In Chapter 3 verse 10, however, God said something else that caused this jubilation - this euphoria and this ecstasy to evaporate. He said:  “…Go!   I’m sending you…” by the response given by Moses we see his reluctance to obey. It reminded me of this statement: “Anything can be done as long as someone else does it.” We want God or others to do the stuff but we too often don’t want to get involved ourselves.

Moses gives 4 reasons as to why he didn’t want to obey.
Ex. 3:11 I’m a no-body - He had an identity issue to solve.
Ex. 3:13 I won’t know what to say or do - A confidence issue.
Ex. 4:1 I’m not sure people will listen - A fear issue.
Ex. 4:10 I don’t have any skills or abilities - A competence issue.

Excuses, excuses and more excuses!
What Moses didn’t understand was this: When God asks people to obey, it is for their own personal benefit not to mention the welfare of others. If a parent shouts a command to STOP when a child is getting to close to a cliff, it is for the child’s safety not for the parents need to establish authority.

Identity issues are real. Someone said: “God doesn’t make Nobody’s, He makes Somebody’s!” We discover our value only when we are connected to Him and our identity issue is solved when we know God is with us. That’s why God answered his identity question by saying: “ I will be with you” The important thing isn’t who you are but who God is in you. Check out Romans 8:31! 

Confidence issues, fear issues and competence can be dealt with when you trust in God and entrust yourself to him. The issues facing Moses are the same issues facing us. Don’t let them keep you from obeying God’s commandments. They are for your benefit and the welfare of others. Quit making excuses and follow God’s lead. You won’t be sorry and people will be blessed.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Stuck In The Middle

by Andrew Cromwell

You are at this very moment, standing right in the middle of your own ‘acres of diamonds.’ —Earl Nightengale

All of us know what it is like to be stuck in the middle. We have baked this idea into our language, with sayings such as “stuck between a rock and a hard place” and “out of the frying pan and into the fire”. We love new beginnings and spend time celebrating or lamenting the endings in life (endings of relationships, jobs, projects), but most of our time is spent doing life in the middle, somewhere between the beginning and the end.  

Most of us don’t particularly care for the middle. If you happen to be a middle child, you understand the challenge of being in-between older and younger siblings. You’re neither the golden first born nor the can’t-do-wrong baby of the family, and it seems that you always have to fight to get noticed.

Whether or not you are a middle child, the reality is all of us must become comfortable with living in the middle. Few of us will ever be the “big boss” of the corporation and have the final say. So we have to learn how to thrive somewhere between the top and the bottom at work and in life.

Most people don’t like where they are in life. They are always looking for the “next thing.” And while ambition can be healthy, it can keep us from excelling and succeeding right where we are. So very often, instead of thriving in our “middle” position, we instead waste time and energy dreaming about being somewhere else.

Whether you are in a “middle” at work, in your family or in your social setting, isn’t it time to start thriving right where you are? Saint Irenaeus said “man fully alive is the glory of God.” You and I will only be fully alive when we make the decision to fully embrace our current place. Yes, God might have different things for us to do in the future, but for right now, He has put us exactly where we are.

Here are three decisions you can make that will help you thrive in the middle:

First, choose to enjoy it and play the role well! Middle children learn how to solve family disputes and bring people together. They are usually the peacemakers in the family, acting as interpreters between warring parties. You can do the same thing right where you are. Help the “higher ups” understand the “little people” and vice-versa.

Second, choose to be the best right where you are. Find fulfillment in helping the team win. See your position as an opportunity to gain experience that will be valuable in the future. As you excel in your place, you will also rise to the top.

Third, choose to be an influencer for the good in every direction. If you’re in the middle of your work organization, you can still lead others by influencing them to make the right decisions. Far too many people take themselves out of the game because they say, “it’s not my job”. Instead, step up to the plate and make a difference!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Take Responsibility

by Tim Howard

My family consisted of 5 children and two parents when I grew up on the east coast. With that many people living under one roof, there was always some mess to clean up, something broken in need of being fixed or some job to finish. If everyone did their part, things went pretty well.

Problems, however, began to surface when one or more of us would slack off and let others do the lion’s share of the work. Notice I included myself in the equation! We all have a tendency to avoid responsibility rather than accept it.

Paul the Apostle writes a powerful yet very short book in the New Testament called Ephesians. It’s only 6 chapters long and can be divided into two clearly defined sections. Chapters 1-3 focus is all about our relationship with God and how rich we are because of our connection with him. He informs us that from his perspective, we are chosen, forgiven, included, gifted and loved. Then in Chapter 4 there is a noticeable shift.

Just like the shifting of a gear in an automobile, Paul shifts from focusing on our relationship with God to our responsibilities we have been given in lieu of God’s goodness. To those who have received much, much is required. 

My dad and mom taught us about responsibility. They convinced us we all play a part in life and we cannot live as spectators without serious consequences. We need to be participants in life not merely observers. You are responsible for your actions and if you blame others for the choices you make, maturity will pass you by. When you avoid rather than accept responsibility, your growth is stunted.

Accepting responsibility means you are willing to become a participant. When you fulfill your responsibilities, others are impacted for the good. You, yourself will benefit as well. My slothfulness in the early years put pressure on my siblings to carry a burden I should have shared. Because I wouldn’t, they suffered to a greater extent needlessly. 

That is happening every day in our culture in a variety of ways. We all know that much of our tax dollars go toward helping those who really need assistance. That is a good thing. A whole lot of financial aid, however, is given to those who could be and should be participating in the work ethic. When this happens, we ALL suffer to a greater degree. Simply because some decide they will not do what they can do.

Paul said ‘be’ responsible! We are all blessed to live in the USA. The rich and the poor have something to be thankful for. Both the rich and the poor have a significant role to play.  The rich, poor and all those in-between are responsible to do their part. If we all accept the role we have been given, the duties we have been assigned and the job we are called to do, this world will be a better place. Everyone doesn’t need to do everything but everyone needs to do something!

Don’t let others pull your weight. Fulfilling your responsibilities will produce a healthy sense of value and self-esteem in you and lighten the load for others. Hear the words of Paul in Eph 4:15. “As each person does his or her own special work, it helps the other people grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

Saturday, September 1, 2012

You Are A leader

by Andrew Cromwell

Most of us don’t feel like leaders. When it comes to the “L” word, we believe that it must apply to someone else, but certainly not to us. We think of leaders as the people who have an important title and are in charge of lots and lots of people. We think of them as the ones who are always sharply dressed, super smart and walk around with a take no prisoners attitude.

And while these things might be hallmarks of a leader (emphasis on “might”), the truth is there are leaders of all shapes and sizes. True, we are not all called to be leaders of thousands, but I do believe that we all can be leaders.

First, we must lead ourselves. This, above all is probably the most challenging of all leadership tasks. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.” The day we stop blaming others for our lot in life and start taking charge of our own emotions and actions is the day we start taking up the role of a leader. 

People who lead themselves are constantly seeking to understand themselves more so that they are not hostages to their own out-of-control emotions. They seek out new experiences so that they can grow. They ask others to give them constructive feedback. They learn how to identify the warning signs of anger, depression and worry long before these destructive emotions have taken over, and they stop them dead in their tracks.

Second, we must lead the people around us. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the only leaders are the ones that have titles on their door or business card. Leadership is simply the ability to influence those around you. You don’t need a title to influence your friends -- you just need their trust.

I can’t emphasize this point enough. Too many times, we take a backseat in situations that are crying out for leadership because we say something silly like, “it’s not my job.” We take ourselves out of the game and sit on the bench without ever taking a shot. 

This world is begging for people who will stand up and speak the truth. People who will say what needs to be said. People who will row against the current rather than just give up and float downstream. 

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room (actually, all the research shows that it is not great intelligence that makes for great leadership). You don’t have to be the person with the biggest paycheck. And you certainly don’t have to be the person wearing the nicest suit. Instead, you need to be willing to step out and take a swing. 

The pastors in the Kings County would love to help you influence your family and community for the good.  Why don’t you give them a chance this weekend?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Your Health

by Tim Howard

It has been said: “You never fully appreciate something until you lose it.” You take certain things for granted, thinking they will always be present but then something happens. Things change and you are awakened to how grateful you should have been for what you had. Loss can stimulate this type of awareness.

You should have done this. You shouldn’t have done that. You ask yourself “why didn’t I see it?” “Why did I act so selfishly?” “Why didn’t I appreciate what I had?”

I often take for granted my health. At 61 years of age, I’ve never had a surgery and only visit the doctor’s office occasionally. I seem to have a utilitarian body! It doesn’t look all that great but it keeps on ticking and running like the energizer bunny. When sickness hits and I lose my strength, however, I awaken to a new appreciation and gratitude for a healthy life.

The Bible reveals God as our healer. He doesn’t eliminate sickness from our human experience but he does want to help us recover our health when it’s lost.

High on God’s agenda is emotional health, mental health and spiritual health as well as the physical arena. He gives five words of advice through Paul the Apostle in Ephesians chapter 4 that will help avoid sickness and release wellness.

1. Make sure you are connected to a healthy church family. No one remains healthy by isolating and removing themselves from others. Church families come in all sizes but don’t be fooled! It’s not the size that’s important - it’s the balanced diet being offered. Bigger is not always better and smaller is not always better. Better is better!

2. When you connect with others in a family setting, make every effort to walk in unity. This unity will require a give and take lifestyle. You can’t just think about yourself; you must consider what’s best for the whole. If you follow verse 2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” The door to unity will open a little wider.

 3 Unity, however, is not based on conformity but diversity. Paul says: each person is given different gifts, talents, abilities, perspectives, insights, tastes and those differences are beneficial to the ongoing health of any business, group endeavor, organization, or church family. When people are allowed to be whom they are created to be rather than forced to fit some cookie cutter mold, your business will thrive. Allow for diversity yet insist on unity. It produces healthy people!

4. Truth is a good medicine when it’s given in the context of love.
Eph. 4:15 “… by speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up … .” An environment of love, acceptance and forgiveness, surrounded by truth will boost the morale of any organization and release an atmosphere of wellness.

5. Lastly, Paul tells us that everyone must participate. Do what you are called to do. Don’t let others pull your weight. If exercise is good for physical health then fulfilling your responsibilities will produce a healthy sense of value and self-esteem. Vs. 15 “As each person does his or her own special work, it helps the other people grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

If you’re not feeling healthy, you may want to consider making a connection with one of the many church families in Kings County this weekend? Follow Paul’s advice and your strength will return. You don’t want to lose your health, so appreciate it!