Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Bottom Line

by Tim Howard

On July 8 I will begin a short series at Koinonia Church titled: The Bottom Line! Those who consider Koinonia their church home know that Loving God and Loving People is our bottom line. We call it a Passion for God and Compassion for people.

In thinking about my love for God and people – It’s been a long learning process! Understanding how to love God and people ‘His Way’ has taken decades. I am a slow learner! For example it took me years to discover that people often need the most love when they deserve it the least.

I learned a lot about loving God and people from my wife!

In the early years of my marriage, I did a lot of foolish things and wasn’t a very good husband. I could blame it on youthfulness since I was only 22 years old, immaturity, stress, difficult times or I could simply acknowledge the truth. I was self-absorbed. Life was all about me! In 45 years of marriage, we have had our share of bad times!  The word divorce has crossed our minds but one word has proven to be more powerful than the desire to go our separate ways. That word is FORGIVENESS and I’m convinced this is the ultimate proof of love!

The Bible tells us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God forgave us thru Christ.” Forgiveness reveals God’s love and lays the foundation for everything God does. Jesus offers forgiveness to those who choose to follow Him. He offers forgiveness to those who fail and choose to do unwise things and He even offers forgiveness to the ones who hate Him. That’s love!

You cannot have a long-lasting, growing, ongoing, in-depth, healthy relationship without forgiveness! Something will happen, your relationship with stall, someone will do something unintentionally or intentionally and if there is no forgiveness – The relationship ends.

Un-forgiveness locks a person into the past and provides a great environment for bitterness, resentment, hatred, and anger to flourish but forgiveness cuts the cords to the past and gives you the possibility of a bright future. It’s one of the top five tools you need in your toolbox in order to maintain a growing relationship. Acceptance, Respect, Trust, and Truth are the other four.

Forgiveness is definitely not the easiest choice to make but it is the best! Holding a grudge, getting even, remaining bitter and choosing to walk in resentment may feel good but it will ultimately destroy you.

God’s Bottom Line is revealed in the words of Jesus found in Mark 12.
Love God with everything you have and Love your neighbor as yourself. Simplified: Love God – Love people!

Yes, It’s taken me years to grow the type of love God desires and it’s still in process. I have so much more to learn but thanks to God who forgives me, my wife who is patient with me and the people who are committed to helping me, I’m making progress! 

The Bottom Line is: If we want to love God and people ‘His Way’ we must learn to forgive.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

It’s Time To Rest!

by Sylvia Gaston

Now that all the kids are out of school and the temperatures are on the rise, it’s time to enjoy the lazy, crazy days of summer.

Whether you have the entire summer off, a week or two, or even just a 3-day weekend here and there – there is great value in the practice of rest. Even God rested after creating the entire universe, Earth, and everything and everyone on it!

However, some of us take on summer like warriors – trying to cram as many trips, projects, activities and events as we can possibly fit into our available “time off”. We travel, paint our kitchen, renovate our yard, etc., etc. We come back to work exhausted and needing a vacation from our vacation.

How about this summer we plan some time to just rest? What?!? What a crazy concept!

We read in the Bible about a time when Jesus was teaching and performing miracles with His 12 closest followers. The Bible says, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” (Mark 6:31)

Doesn’t that sound so wonderful? Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest.

But what would that look like, you may ask? What would I actually DO, you might ask? Here are only a few suggestions:
  1. Reconnect: Reconnect with family or friends. Invite someone over to play a game, watch a movie, or just catch up. Relationships are the most important thing we will leave behind when we die. Why not cherish them now as the most important thing we could ever do?
  2. Walk and Reflect: If you can find a beautiful place to do this, all the better but even a walk around your neighborhood can be enjoyable. Appreciate the outdoors that God created and give your mind a chance to wander and your imagination a chance to run free.
  3. Breathe deeply. Most people don’t breathe deeply and the benefits are numerous. Deep breathing calms anxiety, is a natural pain killer, relieves stress, promotes better blood flow, increases energy.
  4. Slow down: Do something leisurely that you used to enjoy. Are there things that you never have time to do? Bake cookies, read a book, exercise, paint or write. Just make sure it’s relaxing and enjoyable.
  5. Pray: When was the last time you took time to count your blessings. Yeah, I know, life can be hard at times – mine, too – but the good always outweighs the bad.  Take time to really thank God for all that He has done for you and to appreciate all that is right in your world.
  6. Get to know God: If you don’t already attend church, try out one (or two) and learn more about this Jesus guy. If you already do, spend more time reading God’s word, the Bible. (PS-Find a version that’s easy to read and understand. You’ll enjoy it so much more.)
  7. Help others: It’s been proven that people feel so much better when they get outside their own world and help someone else. Serve at a pantry (Koinonia Church has one – wink, wink), cook a meal for someone, volunteer to babysit for a parent who desperately needs a break. You’ll be glad you did.
  8. Sleep in or take a nap: Enough said!

You don’t have to use anything on this list. You can create your own restful plan for whatever time off you may have from work or school.

No matter what you decide to do this summer, remember to do it with rest in mind. And remember what Jesus said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Falling Forward

by Tim Howard                               

While reading the Bible this past week I came across a familiar Proverb from King Solomon that caught my attention. It simply says: “Don’t interfere with good people’s lives; don’t try to get the best of them. No matter how many times you trip them up, God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet, while the wicked end up flat on their faces.” Msg. That scripture reminded me of a Japanese Proverb that says: Fall seven times and stand up eight."

The wise King and the Japanese Proverb are talking about failure and success. The road to success will always take you on a path that leads through failure. How you deal with failure will determine the level of your success. While it may be difficult to wrestle with failure, I’m convinced success is even more grueling.

For every 10 people who successfully handle failure, there seems to be only one person who can handle success. Maybe that is why we hear so many horror stories from professional sports! Young men and women in their 20’s making millions of dollars before they have developed enough character for their success to stand upon.

In every sporting event where two opposing teams face off, there is a loser and a winner. Someone fails and someone succeeds.  Imagine how the Golden State Warriors felt in comparison to the Cleveland Cavaliers last week when they swept the series. Success feels great and failure – Not so great!

Our view of failure and success must be based on truth. These five quotes might help.

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

5. “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.

When reading the story of David and Goliath 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 God’s instruction, you are in trouble.

2. He distanced himself from people and stood alone. No one reaches success apart from the help of others. Learn to love and listen to people. Even if you don’t agree with them.

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 failure will be minimized in the big things.

If you want your failures to lead to success – Make God a part of the equation – Let people have input and take care of the small things.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

What Do You Put On?

by Candace Cortez

I’m growing up! Do you want to know how I know? For Mother’s Day last month, I asked for a new pair of work pants. Like, office casual, basic professional attire. Not a new pair of headphones, or a day at the spa, but work pants! While shopping for said work pants, I came across a gorgeous pair of white wide legged trousers. YES! I would love to own these, but I wisely hung them back on the rack, knowing that I am not there yet. I do not yet live the life or maintain enough self-awareness to not totally destroy such a beautiful and vulnerable garment.  

While being a youth pastor typically places me in t-shirts and jeans, I also have a small portion of my wardrobe dedicated to more messy projects, like painting and building. Today, while working on a project for our church family, I knew I would be using black paint. This morning I decided to wear my “painting pants.” These pants have been worn while painting many times, and you can count the projects by the different color finger swipes and accidental splatters which adorn the light colored denim. I do not wear these pants to the church office not only because it’s not office attire, but because they put me in a project mood. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out.

When I’m at home, and I’m cleaning my house, I wear my cleaning rubber gloves and tennis shoes. I feel like I can tackle any grime on any surface, indoors and out. What I wear, can determine the length and efforts I will afford a given opportunity. If I was wearing my new, super cute work pants, and someone handed me a paint brush and asked me to paint, I would have to politely decline, or ask for a few minutes to run home and change. If I knew I was about to have a meeting with a family in our church, and I was wearing my work pants, I would take the time to put on the clothes that are more appropriate to eliminate distractions.

Every day you have a choice of what you will put on as you go about your day, and what you choose will often dictate the type of encounters you will be willing to have. Do you wear patience? Do you wear kindness? Do you wear a “whatever it takes” work ethic when it comes to loving other people? If we just wear a “whatever it takes to be comfortable and safe” mentality, we may be missing the opportunities God places before us because we were not spiritually dressed. I think of the story of the good Samaritan, who was the 4th person recorded to come aware of a man who desperately needed help. We do not know the exact reasons why the 3 people who passed by on the other side did so, but we can speculate. Maybe they were in a hurry. Maybe they were afraid of being unclean. Maybe they were afraid of the robber coming back. Impatience, self-centeredness, judgement, and fear are not the garments that Jesus wore. 

If I had chosen those white pants, I would most likely be overly self-aware all day, and immediately change into something more comfortable when I got home. Those fruits of the spirit and a heart of love, truth and worship are not supposed to be taken off. But it is sometimes helpful, to create an awareness that these are the garments you are choosing to wear. Because sometimes, without that pre-awareness, we may leave our house without the intention to serve God and love others, and we may miss a chance to do just that. So what are you putting on today? 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Building to Code

by Andrew Cromwell

If you have ever built or remodeled a house or been a part of some other construction project, you have had the experience of having to submit your plans to the building department. You then waited (and waited and waited) while the drawings were inspected to determine whether they met code. If there were areas where inadequate engineering was done or mistakes were made, the building department made a list of corrections.

The process can sometimes be frustrating for those of us who don’t understand why so much time is taken to ensure that every detail of the code is followed. It can seem to create unnecessary delay and expense when all we want to do is to add a simple room on to our house or cover our back patio. But the building code is designed to create safer, more stable structures that are stronger, more energy efficient, and less likely to burn down in a fire or collapse in an earthquake.

By following the code, the final product is better. The code is like a recipe for a good cake. If you use the right ingredients and follow the instructions, you will soon be enjoying a delicious dessert. But if you get things out of order or swap the salt for the sugar, your experience will not be so pleasant.

Building strong families and relationships work in the same way. If our families are built to code, then they will weather the storms of life, but if they are not, they are likely to implode. We often wonder why our marriages aren’t working or our relationships with our kids are so difficult. Frequently we will blame the difficult experiences of life. We think, if so-and-so wouldn’t have done that or if we wouldn’t have had that financial crisis, then we wouldn’t have split up because of the stress.

But the problem is not the problem. The problem is the construction.

The good news about families and relationships is that you can start making positive changes at any time. Families are living structures and while you may not be able to fix everything in a day, you can make an incredible improvement in a short time.

What is in the building code of healthy families? Among many other things, I believe you will find: soft hearts willing to admit wrong and ask forgiveness, open arms ready to extend compassion and grace, clear boundaries communicating right from wrong, kind communication seeking to understand and not just be understood, and forward vision believing tomorrow can be better.

Families built on these principles can weather the storms of life. That is because the building code didn’t come from us but from our Creator. He really does know best and He always kindly offers us corrections that will help us get back on track. 

How are your family relationships? Perhaps there are some cracks that are warning signs of coming expensive repairs. It might be time to go back to the code.