Saturday, May 20, 2017

Stand Your Ground

by Tim Howard

Everyone is tempted! That’s one thing all of us have in common! 

The correct question isn’t – Are we tempted – but how does a person deal with temptation? Do you say YES and yield to the strong desire within or say NO and stand your ground?

The answer you give will affect your future in a variety of ways.

C. S. Lewis made these insightful observations about temptation: “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. That is an obvious lie. But only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is... Christ, because He was the only Man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only Man who knows to the full what temptation means.”

According to the dictionary, temptation is the act of enticement with the purpose of causing you to do something wrong or unprofitable by promising something positive.  

Temptation motivates you to do bad by promising you something good. According to the Bible, every temptation that seeks to entice and entrap mankind is designed for ignoble purposes. It is very important that we learn to say NO when temptation comes our way.

Adam and Eve were tempted to disobey God in the Garden of Eden and set up his and her own autonomy. Guess what? They yielded to the voice of temptation by saying YES and suffered long lasting ramifications. Their disobedience ultimately resulted in death and a whole lot of pain throughout their lives.

Yielding to temptation will cost you! It will distance you from God, distract you from the goal He has designed for you and erode away the very integrity of your lives.

An article in Discipleship Journal recorded a top-ten temptation list that affects most people. They were tempted to be greedy rather than giving; Selfish rather than selfless; Lazy and not productive; Apathetic rather than caring! And let’s not forget the temptation to take the easy road rather than the right road when things get difficult. Gluttony, envy, lying and sexual lust also ranked in the top ten.

What temptations are you facing right now? Have you been sober for a few months but things aren’t going so well and a drink sounds pretty good? Are you in a marriage that doesn’t seem to meet your needs and you’re tempted to seek out another relationship? Possibly you have been caught for doing something wrong and lying seems to be the best scenario.

Whatever the temptation you’re facing, please hear the good news that’s recorded in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

“ … temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.”

There is a way out for those who seek God’s best. Growth cannot happen without encountering temptation but if you are to succeed you must learn to stand your ground. The two-letter word NO may sound negative in our English vocabulary but it will produce positive, long-lasting results when used in connection with temptation. It will be the most positive thing you can say in the midst of any enticement to do wrong.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Finding Healing

by Candace Cortez

I remember about a year ago, sitting at a Christian worship conference and listening to a known, followed, and respected pastor speak candidly about his mental breakdown the year prior. I remember sitting there in tears, so thankful for his willingness to demonstrate that mental health issues, anxiety and depression are not absent within our church walls. It is scary as a leader to admit that you are struggling. It’s even scarier to admit that you needed more than prayer to get you through your dark time. But for most people, this is truth. 

Recently a series came out on Netflix called “13 Reasons Why” which has caused a lot of talk (some may say controversy) over the explicit nature in which the series displays suicide. The show follows the story of a girl in high school named Hannah who ends her own life after many instances of bullying, sexual molestation, and situational tragedies. She then depicts her process of choosing suicide and the 13 people who were involved in pushing her towards her sad end. 

I’ve watched the series and as a youth pastor I am encouraging parents with teenage students to also watch the show, ESPECIALLY if their student is already watching. I do not however, encourage young students to watch. The show has earned its rating of TV-MA for its language, drugs and underage drinking, multiple rapes, nudity, violence, and a graphic and very realistic suicide scene. 

Now that that disclaimer is out of the way, I can write about what I actually want to focus on: healing. 

The Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why has brought suicide prevention to the table in a way that is being heard and received by so many. I do not believe the Church can sit this one out. We need to be in the conversation. Why? Not to gain momentum on another social platform. Not to gain favor in the eyes of the community. Not to prove that Christianity is the best way. But because love heals, and God is love. 

I believe faith is not the absence of awareness. Yes, we can pray. But we are not limited to just praying. We can do more. 

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of prayer, and that God hears when I talk to Him. But I also know He has not limited His process of healing to that one mode. As the church, we can be a part of opening the door to the several different avenues that healings manifest themselves. 

God can and does heal brokenness. Sometimes it’s the unexplainable type of healing. Sometimes healing comes through close friendship and intimacy with another of God’s creation. (I believe friendship is such a miraculous gift!) Sometimes healing comes from medicine. Sometimes healing comes from wise counsel. 

It’s ok to get help. It’s ok to seek treatment. It’s ok to pray. It’s to ask God for healing while also taking medication. 

As Christians, we need to be sensitive to the role we play in bringing light to the dark hours of the people within our circle of influence. Here are 3 simple ways we can begin to increase our sensitivity to those around us who may be struggling, so we can step in and take their hand for this journey towards health and healing. 
  1.  Pay attention! God gives the gift of discernment to see through the faces people wear when they are in public. Most people will give signs that they are struggling. Some common signs are substance abuse, social withdrawal, extreme emotional responses (either too much or too little), sudden changes in appearances or hygiene habits and excessive internet use. 
  2. Ask the question. It’s ok to ask one more question than “hey how are you?” It’s very easy to say ok and force the conversation to move on. Being in community with people means getting past the pleasantries and growing an interest for knowing others well. Especially if you suspect someone is struggling, ask and keep asking to create that open door for someone to reach out. 
  3.  Know that you are not alone. You absolutely should be praying for those who are struggling around you. A lot of people who are going through darkness will need professional help. Most people will need more than one person to be in their corner. You are a great start, but should not try to carry the burden of walking alongside someone alone. 
If you are struggling today, I am praying for you. I pray that you know the church is available to you. You don’t have to be “whole” to walk through those doors, because none of us are. We do not have all the answers, but we for sure know the One who does. 
  •   National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (
  •   Suicide Prevention Resource Center (
  •   American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (
  •   American Association of Suicidology (
Candace Cortez is the Youth Pastor at Koinonia Church. Any comments can be sent to:

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Get Your Mind Right

by Andrew Cromwell

Life is frustrating. Just about the time things appear to be in order, something goes wrong. Often it seems as if all we do is crisis management, running from one fire to the next, just trying to keep our head above the water. And then when everything is going smoothly, we start to worry because we know something is about to go wrong. So even the enjoyment of these moments is robbed from us.

If this describes your situation, then I have a suggestion. Instead of worrying about what could go wrong and instead of being overwhelmed by the impossible task of trying to fix and control everything in your life, give that up. Seriously. Stop trying to fix and control the things that you can’t.

We don’t like this suggestion because we generally prefer to live in the fantasy where we are able to control and carry everything. We tell ourselves that if we just keep moving, keep talking, keep working, and keep fixing, then things won’t fall apart. But we need to remember that very often we are just afraid of being still as we obsessively nag and manipulate those around us in order to create the world that we want.

Sorry if I stepped on your toes there.

So stop focusing on the things that you can’t control in the first place. Stop worrying about all the stuff you can’t even do anything about. The Bible’s advice is to take the things you are worried about and turn them into prayers and God will give you peace in exchange for anxiety:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:6-7

Instead of focusing on things you can’t do, focus on the things you can do! We often ignore the things we actually can do, failing to realize the incredible power these things have. Instead of worrying about whether or not you are going to lose your job and being paralyzed by it, you can talk to your boss, show up earlier and work your hardest. Instead of worrying about your marriage or your relationship with your kids, you can plan a date, write a note, or do something special for them. And instead of wishing things were different so you could finally do “x”, maybe it’s time do actually do something about it.

Above all, we should never think prayer is not doing something. Very often prayer is exactly the thing we need to do, but because prayer involves us slowing down and talking to God, we feel like it doesn’t really “do” anything. Prayer has the power to change both us and the situation. It is the process of inviting the supernatural into the natural.

We should never underestimate that.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Failure and Success

by Tim Howard                                                               

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Broken…or Just Cracked?

by Sylvia Gaston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

You Are Invited!

by Tim Howard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Room For More

by Candace Cortez

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

Fortunately, the Lord is good.

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

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

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

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

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

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