Friday, January 15, 2021

How Do I Process This?

Feeling confused, frustrated, mad, anxious, sad, afraid? Regardless of how much or how little
you know about what is happening around us, you are certainly aware of what is happening in
your own life. It’s crazy town! Navigating all of the emotions you may be experiencing can make
you feel tossed back and forth like a boat without a motor – or even oars.
I have found myself so saddened at the division that is happening in our nation. That sadness
has turned into anger at those who I perceive to have created the horrible circumstances in our
country.

How am I supposed to process and behave during uncertain times? What do I do about all of
the unsure, unknown, and unwanted things around me?

To start, I need to not to let my emotions call all the shots.

It’s important to know that we are made up of 3 parts. They are all very different; all very
important:
1. Our body
2. Our soul (mind, will, emotions)
3. Our spirit

Our body will process physical danger: fight or flight. If we’re not being physically attacked, we
can move on to the role of our soul. The soul is where we take information into our mind and
begin processing. Sometimes this process is intellectual; but often, it is emotional. Lastly, we
access our will to determine what we will do next.

But wait, what about our spirit? If we are Christ followers, we have God’s Holy Spirit living
alongside ours. We have direct access to the smartest, calmest, bravest, most compassionate
person ever! God is all knowing, all powerful, and everywhere. Perhaps we should begin there –
within our spirit.

When life seems out of control, we can respond better by asking God’s Holy Spirit to replace
our emotions with faith. Reliance on the higher power and authority of God is where we need
to be. It is actually where God wants us – completely and utterly dependent on Him.
He also promises us wisdom. In James 1:5-8, we are promised, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he
should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault”.

In recent days, as I navigate and process, I have asked God for wisdom. He has reminded me to
be still, breathe deeply and remember what I know to be true. He has reminded me how much
He loves the people on this earth, even the ones who are behaving badly. He reminded me that
I am not their judge. He reminded me that I need to realize the real enemy here is Satan. The

king of lies and hater of mankind is at work stirring up havoc, confusion, division and hatred
amongst us all.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. It hurts to even write these words because I see and feel so little
peace right now. I can do nothing better than to model the example of my Savior and invite His
peace into my body, soul and spirit. Then, I can spread that peace, by my thoughts, words and
actions, to others who are as undeserving as I am.

So, how do I process this current turmoil? With a great deal of prayer, perspective and peace –
never forgetting who I am and to Whom I am utterly dependent.

I encourage you to join a community of Christ followers to pray and process together and to
encourage and comfort one another. If you need help finding such a community, email me.

Sylvia Gaston
Connection and Development Pastor

Friday, January 8, 2021

The Shape Of Your Gut


Whenever I take a moment and evaluate my style of leadership, or try to determine how I make decisions, I quickly realize that I am a gut-led leader. Some people make decisions with their head. They are rational and more thorough in thought. Some people make decisions with their heart, following the leaning of their compassion or emotion. Some of us are more gut oriented, meaning we allow our gut instincts to help direct that decision rather than our head or heart.

When I first learned this, I was freaked out, because these decisions are not housed in rationale or compassion, but in instincts. It made me wonder, what’s the quality of my gut?

Walking around a flowing river, I always notice the smooth shapes of the rocks. River rocks are unique because of their proximity to the river. The river has determined their shape. This is my hope for my gut. My hope for my gut is that it would be shaped by proximity to my Jesus. This shaping of where our choices are made can be had of your heart and mind as well, and we should be shaping all three.

Here are a few ways to stay in the river of God’s influence and presence. This way, we are easily identified as believers, we are filtering our world view from a heavenly perspective, and we are consistently developing the qualities that help bring other hearts, minds and guts into the Kingdom.
 

  • Consistent time. I thought about just writing the singular word ‘time’, but we all know that we can start something in January and be done with that new idea by February. Time is needed, yes, but consistent time is actually more likely to smooth away the parts of us that are most opposed to God’s guidance. Do you spend consistent time with Jesus? Five minutes, every day? If you start, with a consistent 5 minutes every day, in the river, you will begin to feel a shift of focus.
  • Guard your plate! As a kid, my sisters and I used to try to steal each other's fries when they were not looking, so we would guard our plates! I feel this same way when it comes to what information I allow to sit in my spirit. I am watchful of what I consume in media and how much I dwell in areas that are contrary to how God would have me think about myself or others. This simple act of consecration is not always an easy one. A lot of things that are incredibly popular, and even fun or entertaining, are not actually beneficial for having the right-shaped gut, heart or mind.
  • Solid biblical foundations. This idea is actually connected to consistent time. We build a solid biblical foundation by reading, studying and memorizing scripture on a regular basis. This helps us know the character and nature of God. We get the best image of Jesus, whom we are trying to look and sound like. We begin to know His promises, and the way the Holy Spirit operates within us today.

When we’re in a place of needing to make a big decision, is our ability to make that choice marked by our relationship with Jesus? Or do we take our cues, parenting styles, understanding of justice, dating relationships, and how to do our jobs, from the people and media around us?

Let the shape of our guts, our hearts and our minds be easily identified as ones that are shaped by time with God!

Candace Cortez
Executive Pastor

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Real Me

Every morning, I have a tradition of opening up the book of Psalms and reading a chapter. I love this book because it’s a book of prayers and songs to God. It’s filled with emotion and raw descriptions of the challenges people face. This morning, I opened the book to Psalms 32 and as I read it, I began to get a little emotional.

The writer, David, begins to describe how blessed it is for a man to confess his sins before God. In one part, David describes his turmoil of keeping his sin a secret. He writes, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” As I read that, I remembered all the times I’ve kept secrets and all the times I put on different faces and tried to keep up certain pseudos to co-workers, family members and friends.

I thought of all the times I was filled with anxiety because of the lies I was juggling, about the times I couldn’t look my friend in the face because I wasn’t living how I knew I should, and all the times I felt insecure because no one knew the real me. Just like David I know the agony of not being an open book. I know how it feels to pretend, be a liar, and to hate myself.

It’s heavy to keep up pseudos and I was emotional this morning because I was thankful- thankful that I don’t live like that anymore. Just like David, I realized that to be fully awake and to be fully loved, I must open up and show people the real me, warts and all.

Jesus thought this was important, too. In Luke chapter 18, Jesus tells a story about two men. One is a tax collector and the other is a religious leader. Jesus says both of these men approached the temple to pray. The religious leader went first and said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” Even if that wasn’t a lie, how arrogant.

Here is this “holy man”, filled with religious pride, thanking God for something that was not true. This man was blinded by the appearances he was trying to keep up. And this isn’t just speculation. Jesus often rebuked the religious leaders in His day and for doing the very thing this guy prayed he didn’t do.

This religious leader was not open before God. He was not truthful about who he was and the sins he committed. Isn’t that what happens to us? We keep up appearances so much that we actually don’t know how to have a healthy relationship? We can’t even have a conversation without lying or exaggerating the truth. We don’t know how to put our walls down, even before God?

Next up was the tax collector. These guys were known for swindling and lying to people to get what they wanted. They were known for ripping people off and getting away with it. But this man’s prayer was much different than the religious man. Jesus goes on to say this about the tax collector, “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his chest and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

Jesus finishes His teaching by saying, “which man do you think was accepted by God?”

He was teaching people about being open before God. Jesus continues to teach that God does not look at the outside of man, but at the heart of man. If a man would humble himself before God and confess, God would accept him.

Isn’t this true with people, too? Aren’t people more inclined to accept someone who is open and truthful rather than someone who is fake? Without this quality, it’s impossible to experience true love.

Doesn’t true love see the good, the bad and the ugly and still say, ‘I accept you’? I’m glad I have relationships like this. That I’m not hiding who I am, but I’m loved, quirks and all. I’m fully me and I’m glad I’m fully known.

I often ask myself why I used to live life like this. Why did I pretend that I had money when I didn’t? Why didn’t I tell the truth when I was hurting? Why did I lie about my shirt size? Or about how much I weighed? So many things I’ve lied about or hidden from people that was unnecessary.

I realized that this tactic wasn’t protecting me the way I thought it would. I was fooled by my insecurities that if I opened up and shared with people how I truly felt, what I truly thought, or how I truly lived, no one would love me. But all it did was bury my sense of worth.

In the book of James, it says, confess to your brothers so that you may be healed. Today, stop hiding behind the fear of what people think. Stop hiding behind the idea that God doesn't want anything to do with you. Let people see who you really are.

Chad Fagundes
Outreach and Men’s Pastor

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

What I Owe You

It’s not what you owe me, it’s what I owe you.

 

This phrase popped into my mind while processing a betrayal with a friend. The betrayal was real and, by all accounts, the friend had every right to take their pound of flesh in exchange for the wound received.

 

Of course, living the Jesus way means this kind of vengeance is unacceptable. We know that. But living it out is another thing entirely. 

 

Something about the way this particular phrase came to me, struck a chord. 

 

It's not what you owe me,

but what I owe you.

 

As humans we love to think in terms of who owes what. It helps us know our place. Are we the lender or the debtor? We love to keep accounts in our relationships, carefully measuring whether we have given more or received more and whether it has been too long since "they" have made a deposit! 

 

Personally, I don't like to be in another's debt. — I scramble to get out of it. I'll beg forgiveness. I'll pay extra to make it right. I'll go out of my way until I feel that the deficit has been sufficiently back-filled.  

 

The problem is that it is a totally wrong way to live.

 

Because it’s not about what you owe me, but what I owe you.

 

The Apostle Paul said it well, “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another.”

 

There is one bill that can never be marked zero. One bill that can never be sufficiently back-filled no matter how much remorse, regret, or relief I give. Measuring how much I have given is meaningless! 

 

The reason we have an open debt is because of what Jesus did for us. On the Cross, He covered our debt with God the Father. He made a way where there was no way. He opened the door that no man can shut. He invited us into heaven to spend eternity with Him. 

 

And He did that before we even knew Him. We certainly didn’t deserve it! If His gift was based on our deserving it, we wouldn’t have a chance. This kind of love is almost impossible for us humans to understand. It is a love that gives the best even when others do their worst.

And that is why we have to ask Jesus to help us to love others in this way. It is only through His power that we can do it! 

 

Who do you owe forgiveness?

Who do you owe patience?

Who do you owe a second (or a 100th chance)?

Who do you owe a listening ear or a kind response?

 

I owe, I owe, so it’s off to work I go! 

 

Andrew Cromwell

Lead Pastor

Friday, December 18, 2020

It’s The Little Things...


Often, the smallest things grow into something HUGE! Whether it’s a habit, a routine, a legacy, a tradition – they all begin with one small step.

 

You probably have Christmas traditions that you have created and practiced over the years. They may have even started with your parents or grandparents or several generations of your family.

 

In our family, we have some familiar ones:

·      We go to Christmas Eve candlelight service together.

·      We open one gift on Christmas Eve.

·      We bake a ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ cake.

·      We try to stay in our pajamas all day long and do as little as possible and just be with one another.

 

None of these traditions are handed down. We created these ourselves – little by little, over time. We started by doing them once, enjoying the experience, and repeating it again year after year. I am certain many of these will stay with my kids as they raise their own kids.

 

The same is true of our relationship with God. You may have some pretty solid habits in place when it comes to worshiping and serving Him. Or you may not even know where to begin.

 

Someone recently shared this quote with me about God and becoming aware of His presence:

 

“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”

 

It is from a book of teachings entitled, “The Practice and Presence of God”. These are teachings from Brother Lawrence, born Nicolas Herman, a 17th-century friar. The basic theme of the book is the development of an awareness of the presence of God.

 

This struck me as a very pleasant sentiment about our interactions with God. Whether we don’t know Him at all, find ourselves too busy, or have a great habit of spending time in His presence, it is nice to hear that He is always near and any little thing we give is pleasing to Him.

 

This is an encouragement to begin a new tradition with your friends or family or even just for yourself. Begin a holiday tradition that includes God. It can be any little thing. A prayer before a meal, a quick ‘thank you, Jesus’ before opening gifts, a reading of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2:1-20 or may even bundling up and joining Koinonia Church outside, under the stars, for a quick candlelight service.

 

Do these things as a way to connect and celebrate the birth of the Savior.

Perhaps it will become the small thing that becomes a big tradition that you want to continue for years to come.

 

It’s the little things. These sayings exist because they are SO TRUE! It IS the little things! It is the small things that add up to become something incredibly wonderful.

 

I pray your Christmas is full of love and peace. I pray that you draw closer to the one who created you. I pray that you begin, or continue, doing a little thing that adds up to a big wonderful thing.

 

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy…” -Psalm 16:11

 

Merry Christmas.

 

Sylvia Gaston
Connection and Development Pastor  

Friday, December 4, 2020

Buggin’ Out

In 2012, the show, “Doomsday Preppers”, debuted and introduced the American mainstream to the prepping lifestyle. You’ll find preppers all over America and I’d bet there is probably at least one in your own neighborhood right now. Preppers are people who are actively preparing for the worst. If the power grid goes out, they’re ready with portable solar panels. If the city water plant fails, they’ve got water in their garage and kits to filter out even that nastiest bacteria. If anarchy breaks out, they’ve got a backpack that is ready to go at any moment so they can bug out and head for the hills.

2020 has been such a strange year that it has made us all feel insecure about the future. Maybe things aren’t going to melt down completely, but I have to be honest there have been days when I’ve wondered if I should have my own bug out bag packed and ready to go!

What I am 100% certain of is that all of us need to think about what is in our spiritual bug out bag.

Whether the economy swings up or swings down, whether we go into another shutdown or we change tiers from purple to hot pink, you need to think more about what you have in your spiritual locker more than anything else. Because the time you take to pack your spiritual toolkit will make the difference the next time you and your family hit a bump in the road.

It’s nice to have an extra roll (or 10) of toilet paper (and most of us have made sure that we do), but even more critical is having something to offer to your teenager who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or your neighbor who just had their spouse walk out the door or your best friend who is so deep in debt that they don’t even know where to begin. The answer to all of these challenges is more spiritual than physical. And if we haven’t packed correctly, we won’t be of much value in times of crisis.

The Apostle Peter encouraged his audience to “always be prepared.” He wanted them, and he would want us today, to be ready for the questions, the needs, and the challenges that come our way. Being prepared doesn’t happen by accident; it requires time and attention.

I believe he would challenge each one of us to spend time making sure that our spiritual bags are packed so that we can be of use when the time comes.

How are your spiritual bags? Many of us are unprepared. We’re holding on by a thread. The good news is that you don’t have to stay that way!

Preparation begins with acknowledging that you need to make a change in your life. Perhaps you need to open yourself to the God of the universe and invite Him to speak to you. Perhaps you need to turn off the screens, the social media, and the noise and tune into a more heavenly channel? Packing your spiritual bags means taking care of spiritual business: saying yes to God more often than you say yes to the lower parts of your nature.

Like everything else, it all begins at the beginning. The pastors of Kings County are always available to help you pack the right things in your spiritual bags! If you need help getting started, check the series, “Preppers: Are You Ready?” at kchanford.com/preppers
 

Andrew Cromwell
Lead Pastor

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Struggling For Perspective

I’ll be honest, I’m frustrated.

But maybe not in the ways you might think. Sure, I’m feeling the stress of the pandemic and of the state of U.S. politics. And, of course, my heart breaks for all the division, hatred, and ugliness we’ve seen around us. It’s been taking a toll on me, affecting my disposition, and sometimes making me cynical or hard-hearted.

 

And that’s what frustrates me. But I’m not frustrated with the things that are causing me to feel this way. I’m frustrated with myself for letting them. 

 

Because as a follower of Christ, my hope, my joy, and my peace are not dependent on the circumstances around me. At least they shouldn’t be. So why am I struggling to keep my perspective? Why are these temporary things living rent-free in my heart and mind? Why are they becoming the biggest, most significant things to me?

 

The answer is simple, even if it’s hard to admit. These things are determining my emotional health because these things are where I have placed most of my focus. Do you see now why I’m frustrated with myself?

 

I’m the one who chooses what I will fill myself with each day. And whatever I put in will determine how I feel and how I function. It’s no wonder I’m angry, cynical, and hopeless. All I’ve been doing is looking at the here and now. And yeah, things aren’t so great. But what does the here and now have to do with my hope for the future? If I keep myself filled with God’s word by reading my Bible, and I keep myself filled with His Holy Spirit by spending time alone with Him, then my perspective becomes much bigger than all that.

 

The things of our Father’s eternal Kingdom should make up the majority of what we consume and dwell on. But it’s so easy to get out of balance because of the sheer volume (in this case, meaning both the quantity and the loudness) of competing sources. And it’s not enough just to say “well, I’ll have to read my Bible a little more” because when I look at my phone’s battery usage statistics I can see that as of 12pm today I’ve already consumed almost an hour and a half of the world through news websites, videos, and social media! Have I prayed or read my bible for 90 minutes today? 

 

I don’t think we even realize how much we’re taking in. It’s deceptive because it comes in small doses divided over multiple sources and spaced throughout our entire day. But there’s no way we can bring it into balance simply by upping our time with God. We also need to silence a huge amount of the other stuff, or we’ll never keep up in this battle. And make no mistake, this is a battle - for your time, your attention, the condition of your heart, and the health of your mind and emotions. All of these things are what ultimately determine the course of your life, the closeness of your walk with Jesus, and the fruitfulness of your faith.

 

Where is your focus? And how is it working for you?

 

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

 

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2

 

Bryan Vickers
Worship Pastor